photo by Landon Norderman for

photo by Landon Norderman for

Dear Michael,

Last week a friend of mine invited me to go with him to a sex party that he heard about on Adam4Adam. It was in someone’s hotel suite and there were a lot of naked men there. I’ve been to bathhouses before, but this was more intense. Guys were having sex with each other all over the place. There was no privacy anywhere, and that made me uncomfortable. The worst part is that lots of the guys were having unsafe sex, even though there were jars of condoms available. What do you think of this kind of sex?

Like a virgin 

Dear LAV:

After receiving your email, I am curious what you mean by “this kind of sex”? Do you mean anonymous sex, public sex, or sex without condoms? However, before jumping into that, here’s my definition of good sex:

Good sex is physically healthy (no one seroconverts or gets STDs as a result) as well as spiritually and psychologically healthy. You can tell you’ve had good sex because when it’s over, you feel good about yourself, your partner(s) and life in general.

Good sex can happen anywhere: bathhouse, sex party or bedroom. That’s the good news. The bad news is that good sex isn’t always easy to find. Sure, you can get off, but is that good sex? For many of my clients, anonymous sex isn’t very fulfilling. Sure, you get off, but often you feel lonelier and sadder than before.

Good sex involves your heart, head, and genitals. If your genitals are the only part of you really involved, then don’t be surprised if you feel a release of tension and then a letdown. You may feel lonelier than ever…this is your heart and head saying, “Hey, why didn’t you let us in on this?”

When your heart, head, and genitals are all involved, you have a good chance to experience what the Body Electric calls a full body orgasm and psychologist Wilhelm Reich called orgastic potency. This is sex at its best; it leaves us not only feeling in love with our partner(s) and with life, but physically more alive than we were before. This is sex as a melting away of “you” and “me” and embracing “us”.

Reich insists that you can’t go there alone, that the best sex needs to be between two people whose hearts are open to each other, minds are secure enough to “surrender” to the other, and genitals are highly aroused.

Is a partner really necessary for good sex? From attending Body Electric workshops, I came away with the experience that, while great sex with another person is wonderful, you can also have a full body orgasm from conscious masturbation. I think Reich and Body Electric are both right: great sex can take many forms.

Too much has been written about unsafe sex for me to have anything new to add. Unsafe sex is a choice we make. Rather than condemn people who don’t use condoms, it seems more helpful to use them ourselves and to encourage others to do the same. It’s great that the condoms were available at the sex party you described, so why didn’t everyone use them? Drugs? Alcohol? Denial?

If you want privacy during sex, you probably won’t get it when having sex at a sex party. Some men enjoy watching and being watched, some don’t. We’re all different; know yourself and take care of yourself so you can relax and enjoy good, safe sex.

I applaud you for being open to trying new experiences. I don’t have any judgments about sex parties, bathhouses, orgies, threesomes, and so forth. I tell my clients that it’s not about the place or situation in which you have sex; it’s about the quality of the experience.