Welcome to 2019: we don’t shave, we get tattoos, and we’re curious about sex clubs. And even if you’re not particularly interested in checking out a sex club, if you’re a sexually active human who strives to give and receive pleasure ethically, there are a couple of things that safe sex play can teach you. Implementing widely used techniques and strategies around safe play, consent, and revealing your sexual history can enhance your sex life as well as your connection to self and your partners. We saw the beginnings of the sexual revolution in the 1960s as feminists used their voices to challenge the gendered roles within sex and fight for equal sexual freedoms. Today we continue to shift (slowly) towards more progressive values around sex and intimacy, and through these see more people open to having a conversation, and more access to information to increase pleasure, yes, but also safety. That being said, there still exists deep cultural shame and fear around those that practice sexual freedom.
Who better than someone who lives, breathes, plays and works within the sexual sphere to educate on sexual safety and smash the sex/pleasure stigma? I spoke to Fatima Mechtab, the co-owner of Oasis Aqualounge, Toronto’s best-known sex club to compile this guide for anyone and everyone looking to sharpen their consent and safety game.
First things first though, let’s cover the basics.
Consent is a clear, voluntary, and enthusiastic agreement to engage in sexual activity given by a conscious human. Consent is not constant- it can be withdrawn at any time and is never implied. It can be given both verbally and non-verbally like in giving thumbs-up, nodding or pulling someone in closer. While body language is different for everyone, non-verbal consent can be tricky, but always remember than passivity or silence is not a yes. Engaging in any type of sexual activity without receiving consent first is assault.
A sexually liberated, clothing-optional space for humans of all identities and orientations to play, watch, and participate. Different sex clubs cater to different people and different nightly events may restrict access to certain groups.
No, 100% no. There is absolutely zero expectation for you to have sex or participate in any sexual activity at a sex club. You are always welcome to come watch (given you ask permission first), to ask staff and guests questions, or to simply share space with sexually liberated humans.
Do get tested beforehand if you plan to play, wear something that makes you feel confident (you do NOT have to be naked), and be prepared to see and hear things you never have before. Different clubs have different policies in place, but passing any sort of judgment on another is generally not tolerated. Condoms and lubes are generally provided, but don’t hesitate to check online or call the club ahead of time to be sure. If you plan to use any implements like a flogger or a whip, you’ll need to bring your own.
Now that you’ve learned the basics or gotten a refresher, let’s chat with Fatima from Oasis Aqualounge to get a deeper understanding of how to play safe.
Fatima: Personally, I feel that consent can be discussed and practiced in a multitude of ways; depending on the individual, the circumstances, etc. I think there is a dangerous notion that consent (or asking for consent) can only look a certain way; ‘no means no,’ for example. But consent also means ‘only yes means yes.’ Consent can also be non-verbal. I think it is important to look at ways in which various people can/do/are able to communicate and to integrate consent into that language.
Fatima: I feel that Oasis Aqualounge has an amazing waiver and etiquette process. Our management and staff are always looking at ways to further improve and educate when it comes to behaviour and consent. One of my favourite points would be our ‘ask once and only once’ policy. This means that if a guest approaches you to play and you say no, that guest cannot ask you a second time. We have also developed policies in the club when it comes to voyeurism, to ensure that everyone feels comfortable expressing their sexual selves in a respectful and non-judgmental environment. Sex club etiquette also goes beyond expressing consent. We have a zero-tolerance policy for body/sex-shaming. We want all of our guests to feel free to fully express their desires and in particular, we support a woman’s right to choose to embrace her sexual fantasies.
Fatima: In visiting other sex clubs in Canada and in the States, I do believe that practices and etiquette differ. I think it can depend on the core demographic of the business, geography, the size/capacity of the club and other factors.
Fatima: First, I want to state that I believe in allowing consenting adults to choose their own ways to practice ‘safer sex.’ I do not believe it is a one-size-fits-all situation. I think it is important to provide access to the tools but also to know adults can then decide for themselves what works best for them and for their relationship. Communication, understanding non-verbal cues, using your words, patience, safe words, condoms, lube, gloves, latex, and non-latex gloves, dental dams are all useful tools. Perhaps regular and/or semi-regular sexual health check-ups. Volunteering for sexual health organizations and staying up to date and keeping informed. I believe that sexual health is an ecosystem that involves both physical action and an openness to learning.
Fatima: I believe that there is still a lot of stigma around (enjoying/communicating) sexual pleasure and past experiences. I feel that conversation would only be awkward if you do not feel confident in your own sexuality or if you have been made to feel shame around your sexual history. I feel that the best way to combat against ‘awkwardness’ is to fully embrace and reclaim your sexual freedom, with pride.
Fatima: Over the years, I feel that there has been a lot of conversations around deconstructing what consent actually looks like and to understand it as an ongoing process. A term I really like is ‘active consent.’ Obviously, the #MeToo movement had an important impact on the sex-positive community (and beyond). At Oasis Aqualounge, we really support and encourage this evolution through activities and education via our events.
If you’re keen on liberating yourself from sex-negativity and basking in the infinite possible pleasures that may come, there is a certain amount of work that you must do first. This is so that you can feel confident and equipped with your newly attained knowledge, but also to prevent harming yourself and others. Ethics are at the forefront of the sexual revolution (fun toys and chains second), and the responsibility to know and then practice them is up to you. For more information on consent and advice and on how to share your sexual history, visit Planned Parenthood and Reachout. To get tested, use this link to find a Hassle-Free Clinic near you.
*** Whether or not you plan to go to a sex club, this information around consent and open communication can be applied to all of your sexual encounters. If you’re looking for birth control to add to your sexual safety at clubs, you can get a prescription and free home delivery through Felix.
The views expressed here are those of the author and, as with the rest of the content on Active Ingredients, are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider.