The Rise of the Online Orgy in the Age of Quarantine

The Rise of the Online Orgy in the Age of Quarantine
Written by
SOPHIE SAINT THOMAS

I sat on an all-white bed, wearing a cheerleader costume and a high ponytail. A photographer set up lights to make me look as pretty as possible. No, it was not my first porn shoot.

The photographer is my boyfriend and quarantine partner. We were attending a friend’s birthday party last weekend, despite a drastic change in venue.

“I had originally planned a decadent dinner-fetish-play party in a Manhattan penthouse,” says the birthday boy, Joe Hart, a 35-year-old DJ in New York City. The party wasn’t canceled but moved to Skype. It would be my first online orgy, complete with Joe’s signature goth aesthetic. The name of the party was Passion or Death.

“It was less about celebrating myself and more an excuse for an evening of debauchery, and I think it did so in a way that was both unique and pleasurable for everyone,” Joe says.

Have you ever had something devastating happen to you, such as a breakup or the death of a loved one? When you wake up, there are a few minutes, the transition from dreaming to waking life, when you forget. And then you remember. Life is not as it was. We’re each experiencing this grief, every morning, on a global scale.

As I picked out my black cheerleader costume—purchased for my best friend Martha’s birthday party, which was postponed due to quarantine—I wondered if this was the future of group sex. Are online orgies a thing now? When I got a text inviting me to a second, the same night as Joe’s, I had my confirmation. We are the revolutionaries of the online orgy your parents warned you about—or would have, if they’d known of its existence.

We signed in. While my partner and I opted for professional lighting in order to look as hot as possible while boning, most of the dozen or so attendees had sexy red mood lighting. My partner wore a luxurious robe and sipped a glass of wine while I smoked weed.

We started chatting with others in attendance, focusing on a girl we both had a crush on. When the brave first couples started to fuck, we got turned on, as you do. Then it was our turn.

He went down on me as I watched the other couples enjoying one another’s bodies. He gradually peeled off the cheerleader costume, taking his time, enjoying the role-play. At times I’d forget about the camera and just let myself become engulfed in my partner, his arms, his cock, his kisses. Then I’d remember the camera and perform, arching my back, amping up the dirty talk and extending my exhibitionist side for others to enjoy. I fucked like a goddess, like a porn star. The camera was on for others to watch, but he and I benefited the most from its presence.

We both came. We kept going. I sat on his face. We came again. Eventually, we wore ourselves out and just wanted to go home—or, in this case, turn off the cameras and cuddle. We signed off.

It turns out attending two online sex parties in one night is as tricky as it is in real life. The one I missed was held on Zoom and had about 70 cameras in the chat, complete with online performances.

“Everyone was putting on a show for the camera, and the moderators used the videoconferencing features to pin certain cameras that were in full exhibitionism mode,” says Ray, a 28-year-old in Brooklyn, describing the experience. It’s okay. There will be more.

NSFW, my New York cannabis and open-love club, is having weekly online playdates through the Vocal platform. “We could just pause and not do anything for two months, but we need to do something good,” says founder and “chief conspirator” Daniel Saynt. “It’s been two weeks since my last orgy, and I’m very much feeling the difference.”

The fear of death is more apparent in our world than ever before. There’s the fear of death from coronavirus, of course, but for many of us death through depression, loss of livelihood and diminished quality of life is just as pertinent and likely. Can we still be happy? Sex is one of the fullest expressions of life, and love, that there is.

I worry about access to birth control and abortions. I worry about the quarantine’s effect on my relationship. Being a problematic bisexual through and through, I mourn the days of picking up chicks with my boyfriend. We’re all searching for ways to remind ourselves that life is still worth living. An online orgy is an attempt at just that.

Virtual playdates have their downfalls. We have yet to find a way to send smell electronically; my partner and I can’t bond over the scent of someone’s pussy or how it tastes on his tongue. The touch of someone else’s hand is reserved for those quarantined with a partner. Singles can watch and masturbate, but single men remain jerking off alone, like at orgies in real life.

The same awkward moments can happen. You still need to flirt and make conversation with someone you had a threesome with and haven’t seen since. You can’t, however, scoot next to her at the sex swing and ask for a kiss. And there’s the elephant in the room far bigger than the fact that you fucked the girl in the digital box next to you: We’re attending online orgies because we can’t see our friends and don’t know when we will see them. But as with Skype knitting circles, Zoom reading groups or 4:20 FaceTimes, not having one at all is far more depressing.

In many ways, online orgies are undeniably safer than IRL ones. A few weeks ago, I admittedly laughed over news that sex parties were being canceled because of coronavirus concerns. So everyone is willing to risk HSV, HPV and all the other STIs still transmissible even when you use a condom? Catching a cold or the flu was always a concern at these events, but coronavirus has canceled them. Now I’m not laughing. I’m proud of my community.

To someone who has never been, I’m sure sex parties sound wild. They are. They’re a full expression of human existence, of denying yourself nothing, of feeling everything. And they’re most often thrown by communities who know how to protect themselves. The queer community survived the AIDS epidemic. Dealing with crises isn’t new, and safety guidelines reflect that. Any community has its bad apples, but I always feel safe. I go with a partner. We agree to sleep only with each other, and if we do play with others, we adhere to strict safety guidelines. I’ve never contracted an STI at a play party. (My biggest scare in that regard came from a cheating partner many years ago.) There’s honesty in orgies.

But there are also new risks in virtual ones. Anyone can take a screenshot. That’s just a fact. The threat of revenge porn is real, but the prevailing attitude is one of trust. Of course, as a sex writer, I’ve already ruined my reputation, and I’m not afraid of a coronavirus screenshot. Others have adopted a different attitude: What’s the worst that can happen that isn’t already happening?

The entire world’s fear of death is front and center in our quarantines and on our digital screens. Sex is the enemy of death. It gives us pleasure, it gives us union with another, it gives us orgasms. It provides a singular thrill of normalcy in a time of upheaval. Until we reach the other side of this, it’s important to have a reason to put on a cheerleader uniform.