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Back in the day, I went to a Lesbian Sex Mafia party at Hellfire, a BDSM club in the meatpacking district. The deal was, we women had the place to ourselves until 11 p.m., and then the "general public" would be allowed in. Well, I was in the middle of paddling some ass when the clock struck 11, and since no alarm went off or anything, I continued my scene until around 11:30. When I was finished, I remember turning around and seeing dozens of dudeswho had surrounded my plaything and medrooling with their dicks out. I have to admit it was disconcerting; I began my scene in a sex-positive, safe exhibitionist environment and ended it in the middle of a circle jerk. "Damn wankers," sighed another female partygoer.
Wankers are usually heterosexual guys who go to sex clubs and parties alone to watch the activities and jerk off. If there is no wanker population control plan in place, the space can become overrun with them, like what happened at Hellfire. The problem of wanker overload has led to an unfortunate phenomenon in the world of alternative sex organizations and events: Single guys are treated with automatic suspicion. I spent Easter weekend organizing sex workshops, an erotic egg hunt, and a dinner banquet at the biannual event I co-produce that brings together sex, BDSM, and spirituality. Holding it at a hotel, we transform banal ballrooms into fantasy spaces for people to play, and some attendees hold smaller parties in their rooms. My friend Mark e-mailed a woman who was hosting a Sunday night swinger shindig in her suite to see if he could attend. His wife was leaving early that morning, but he was staying through Monday. The party hostess replied with: "You're a single guy and I don't know you, so I am not going to say yes off the bat. I need to meet you. We'll see." He responded politely and reminded her that he was a presenter at the event and had attended six of the eight biannual gatherings. He promised he was a responsible orgy attendee, well versed in sex-party etiquette. In fact, Mark is one of the gentlest, kindest, most respectful men I know. His gender politics are right on as far as I'm concerned and I've never seen him behave inappropriately at an event. But his solid standing within the community didn't matter to this hostess. She needed to size him up for herself.
Men unaccompanied by a woman are unwelcome at nearly all swinger events and often excluded from (or barely tolerated at) other kinds of sex-positive gatherings. Like Ladies' Night at a bar, this rule first came about in order to achieve gender parity. The theory (and the reality) is that if you hold any sort of sexually themed party, single guys come in droves and outnumber women and couples; a gathering that's 75 percent single men is usually not desirable. So to balance things out, solo men must pay a higher entrance fee (as much as five to 10 times what single women pay, if those gals pay at all), have to be referred by another member in order to attend, or just can't enter period. It's not always just about the door policy: I went to a swingers party (for couples and single women only) where men were not even allowed to walk around without a female companion in certain areas.
Part of me can appreciate the anti- patriarchal revenge of a world where single women are prized and single men are treated as second-class citizens. Why not make them jump through some hoops in the sex world for a change? However, when it comes down to it, I want to challenge people to rethink the exclusionary policy.
The truth is, single, voyeuristic, masturbating men are not the problem for me. I don't appreciate anyone at a fuck fest who is loud, obnoxious, drunk, high on drugs, crossing boundaries, or some combination thereof. I don't like folks who don't understand the concept of personal space, who hover closer than they should to a scene, who don't take no for an answer, and who don't ask permission to touch. Are these people predominantly single men? A lot of the time they are. I've experienced firsthand how lots of men feel entitled to take up too much space, to insert themselves into other people's scenes, and to make their presence known even if all they are doing is watching. It's like they start thinking with their cocks and any manners they have fall out of their brains. In a space meant to be freeing and comfortable, these particular offenders can be predatory as they wave their dicks around, literally and figuratively, in a way that makes other people uneasy.
But simply a cock in a fist does not a wanker make. Solo men who are shy, polite, well-behaved, rule-abiding, respectful voyeurs get lumped together with those who have no boundaries. And that doesn't seem fair, especially within alternative sex communities where we actively challenge sexual norms. As an event organizer, I want people to explore their sexuality and experiment with different kinds of sexual expression by creating a safe, nonjudgmental, open environment where they can do that. Other event producers claim to have a similar mission, but how can they truly achieve such a welcoming environment for everyone if they say, "Please feel free to come, unless of course you're a man attending alone and your form of sexual expression is voyeurism and self-pleasure"? By excluding single men, plenty of groups do just that, and I think it's counterproductive and hypocritical.
"Wanker" is a derogatory term, but if we strip it of its judgment and redefine it simply as "a man without a partner in attendance who likes to watch and jack off" then all wankers are not the same. We must make room in our communities for wankers who respect boundaries. We must not assume that all single men want to do is jerk off in public sex spaces. If some do, we have to stop shaming them as we simultaneously encourage women to do the exact same thing; this only reinforces narrow stereotypes about male and female sexuality. To create a truly inclusive community, the rules need to be reframed to be about people's behaviornot their gender, relationship status, or fondness for touching themselves.
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