In January of 2020, the advice for attending a playspace party was pretty straightforward. The assumption being, that by being informed and practicing basic etiquette, any adult could safely and easily have a decent kink experience at a party. After all, what could go wrong?
A year later, we’re all aware of what could go wrong in ways we couldn’t imagine. One year ago, few could conceive that news stories about a novel coronavirus would have any impact on our lives, so let alone our kink lives. A year later, in January of 2021, COVID-19 has had a profound and devastating impact on all of our lives, including kink.
When Foxxy and I conceived the Dungeon Basics series on this blog a few years ago (well before Covid) it was intended to be a guide for someone that was new to the world of dungeons and play parties. Those “basics” are fundamentally changed and have to be considered, when it comes to thinking about playspaces. Usually, our first post of the year is devoted to encouraging people to explore kink. Exploring play parties and going to dungeons is often a big part of that.
Those old standards no longer apply in the time of Covid, when it comes to attending parties. With that in mind, let’s take a look at where we go from here, when it comes to spaces, parties and the new realities of the dungeon experience.
Dungeons are closed
It’s a safe bet that your local dungeon or play spaces are either closed or the capacity is severely restricted. There’s a good reason for this. Kink is an intimate, close up activity, one where it’s difficult to practice social distancing. The hard truth is, if your hope is to attend a dungeon party, that’s not really an option right now.
The reality is, play spaces aren’t going to reopen for a while, certainly not until Covid numbers go down and vaccinations have a chance to be effective. That unfortunately, won’t happen until late summer or fall at the earliest, according to estimates.
This is profoundly disappointing, yet necessary. With everyone doing their part and not holding or attending dungeon parties, we’re able to slow the spread of the virus. The people that are choosing to keep their venues closed and who aren’t hosting events complying with the law in many cases and ultimately acting to help keep people healthy and safe.
If you’re able, support venues if you can. Buy T-shirts and merchandise. Renew your memberships or make a donation. Purchase an online class that helps the venue to make money. Every little effort helps and ensures that dungeons will be around in the future to enjoy.
Play parties will be different in the future (Covid will a part of your etiquette)
At some point, dungeons and play spaces will reopen. Parties in the post Covid era will look very different than what parties have looked like in the past. How you and others deal with the risks associated with Covid-19 will absolutely be a part of your dungeon experience in the future.
One of the cool things about play parties is the mixture of people and energy that comes together in spaces. If you’ve never experienced it, it’s similar to attending an amazing concert or show, one you’re allowed to participate in. It’s astonishing to see hundreds of people dressed in kink gear and feeling like you’re stumbled onto the world’s best playground.
Parties will return, but they will look very different. I strongly doubt you’re going to see an event with hundreds or thousands of people in 2021. If events do return this year, they are going to be much smaller affairs, with much smaller groups. Even when we begin to get the ok for events, people are going to be reluctant, until they feel it’s safe. It won’t be a magical return to what was known before.
Wearing masks, using hand sanitizers and additional cleaning will be a part of party protocol in 2021. Play stations will be set up for social distancing. It’s possible you may be playing inside a plastic bubble that covers your equipment. Or that it’s required for you to reserve time on said equipment in advance.
If people do attend events, they’ll most likely play with people who are considered a part of their Covid bubbles, whom they feel they can vet properly. Pick up play will happen sporadically, if at all. Questions about exposure risk, quarantining and vaccinations will be a part of negotiations. For some people, this will be tolerable. For others it won’t. However you feel, personal attitudes and practices regarding Covid will be a determining factor in how people engage with each other.
Near the end of 2020, a swinger event in New Orleans occurred. The organizers promised that Covid safety protocols would be enacted. The event became a superspreader event, with at least 41 attendees contracting Covid and generating national bad press.
Private parties will emerge, for better or worse
Back in 2013, Baltimore lost two play spaces in the course of a year. The only alternative was 40 miles away from the city if you wanted to play in a dungeon. At the same time, a lot of private play parties popped up, often held in private homes. These parties ranged from decent to highly problematic in some cases. Eventually, public dungeons reopened and private house parties slowly faded away.
The truth is, people will gather to play privately if dungeons are closed or limited. Some of these affairs will mitigate risk, people will play in small bubbles and no one will get sick, hopefully. This still carries an element of risk. For someone new to kink, this adds an extra layer of risk when it comes to meeting and playing at private parties. It’s also less likely that someone will play with someone they don’t know and don’t feel they can vet properly, because of this added risk of inviting someone into a private venue.
During Covid, private play parties haven’t had the best reputation. Mostly, they’ve been a means to circumvent the mandated closing of public play spaces. If it’s hard to socially distance in a warehouse, it’s impossible when it comes to a group of people in someone’s basement.
Even more troubling are the people who are holding private parties because they want to skirt quarantines and Covid restrictions that are intended to keep people healthy and alive. A lot of the people doing this talk a great safety game (complete with hand sanitizer). But they don’t really have any concern except for their own bottom line. Stepping into a space where safety and risk awareness are afterthoughts aren’t the dungeon experiences you want. Because I promise they won’t be good in the long run.
Rethinking dungeon basics
It’s tempting to want to attend any and every event. Especially if you’ve just discovered kink and you’re trying to learn this new world. Or if you’ve been to events in the past and you want to have the experience again. Thinking about the limitations and challenges of where we are can be exhausting and discouraging, but there are things you can do.
As I mentioned earlier, there are opportunities to learn and socialize, new ways of connecting that emerged as a response to the pandemic. Do they take getting used to? Yes, they do. Can they perfectly replicate the energy and sexiness of a night in a dungeon? No, because it isn’t intended to. When we connect in new ways, outside the dungeon, we’re balancing out kink needs and desires against safety and concern for others, which is more important than a seamless experience.
It’s ok to be disappointed that play parties are hard right now, along with everything else. But consider the long game. The lives and health of our family, friends, partners and even complete strangers is far more important than even the hottest play party. By wearing a mask, social distancing and not going to events, we’re supporting a safer kink community. By doing so, you’re saving lives.
Are there any easy answers? No, there aren’t. But we’ll work through this. In 2021, we’ll use the Dungeon Basics series to explore the new world of play parties and events, as shaped by Covid. Hopefully, by this time next year, the conversation will be all about what we can do, without restrictions or concern. We’ll emerge from Covid battered and worn down, but also wiser and stronger as a community.
I can’t wait to welcome you back. Until then, be safe and kinky.