Nice girls don't go sniffing like beasts around warehouses full of men with erect cocks, other women decked out in lingerie and smelling of hot pussy. That was the threshold I had to cross into my first Jack-and-Jill-Off party.
* * * *
An undistinguished-looking loft in San Francisco's South-of-Market district with a large door and a small sign that says "Ring Bell." The door opens. A man with a dog-snout mask and bright orange clown wig bears warm greeting. Beyond a series of long fabric panels hanging from the high ceiling is a woman dressed as a fairy godmother sitting at a small table. Names are given and checked against a membership list.
A long, narrow loft with an overhanging L-shaped balcony, the starkness of the cement-block walls and concrete floor only partly softened by plants and party balloons. A scattering of wood benches, aging sofas covered with sheets, sheeted foam pads around the floor. A large table with snack vegetables, crackers, dips, sodas, wine. Smaller tables stocked with assorted condoms, rubber gloves, dental dams, lube, saran wrap, handiwipes. Background music that shifts from Beethoven to Motown to African chants. A huge heater working hard to take the chill out of the air. People change from street clothes to more or less elaborate costume, an understated rite of passage from the world outside to the world that once a month evolves within these four walls.
* * * *
Any kind of sex can benefit from negotiation. The night of my first Jack-and-Jill-Off Party I made a deal with myself: I would go with permission to just watch, to leave if I felt to uncomfortable, or to stay and play to my heart's content if my anxiety ebbed. Two hours later I was perched on a woman's knee, playing with one of her breasts while her male partner played with the other, her right hand on his cock, her left on someone else's who had one of his hands on a third guy's dick and the other on me. [Yeah, I liked it enough to stay!]
Later I sit spread-legged on the edge of a sofa, jilling off furiously. Men and women gather around me, their hands everywhere. A gay man in white boxers with red smooches all over is pillowtalking wild things in my ear. I come eight times in ten minutes, ejaculating a small fountain -- and up until then I'd been a one-orgasm-at-a-time girl. When I open my eyes and come back to earth I see a semi-circle of gay men standing around, jacking off and marvelling that "women really can do that!"
* * * *
JJO's are safe sex playpens of the highest order. Rules are few but strictly enforced: no fucking, no oral-genital/anal contact without a barrier, no rude behavior. Rude is defined as nosing around where you've not been invited to play: Ask before touching, with a corollary (harder to enforce): say no when you don't want a particular kind of attention. The idea is full consensuality, as best it can be arranged. An atmosphere of emotional safety for all participants, reserved and outgoing alike.
The first party was held November 7, 1987. People were growing tired of the way the AIDS crisis had made sex fearsome. A few brave, curious women pestered their gay male friends for entree to one of their now-regular jackoff events. "Just let us watch!" the women pleaded. Finally the whole group decided: this calls for a new kind of party. Word went out all over the Bay Area sex community: "You're invited to The World's First Jack-&-Jill-Off Party, a night of good clean fun when women and men will come together to prove that safe sex can make the earth move." Over 100 people showed up, and had such a fine time that six months later, they decided to have another party: "The Second Cumming." The parties now happen about once a month.
It is a new form -- a forum for radical sex in uncertain times. Gays, lesbians, bi's, heterosexuals, men, women, transvestites, transsexuals, s/m, vanilla -- people ranging from their early 20's to their late 50's -- all together in one sexual playspace, equal and relatively phobia-free, combining creative and sexual energies and discovering that hot safe sex can be more than a slogan. Men in drag, dicks hard and poking forth from spandex or ruffles, stroking off while they watch a merry-faced lesbian paddle her rhinestone-collared girlfriend's ass til it's pink. A sexy, expensive whore getting her fantasy-come-true: suspended in air by a dozen man's hands, all coming on her as she squeals her pleasure.
There is a surprising innocence, unique it seems to these parties. Betty Dodson, longtime sex explorer, visiting from New York, is amazed and delighted. "In New York," she says, "sex is still dirty. Here people talk about sex as 'playing.' I love it!"
A heterosexual man plays with another man's cock for the first time in his life. A gay man masturbates and watches intently while two women explore each other's breasts. "I decided to use this evening to see if there are ways I get turned on by women," he later explains. A woman who has been exclusively lesbian for eight years enjoys having her body played with by five men at once. "I thought all you guys were just insensitive bastards," she laughs, adding that her primary relationship would be over if her lover knew she was being sexual with men.
One woman, who has come halfway across the country, becomes a party favorite. It is incidental that she only has one leg. A deaf man and woman arrange steamy connections with hearing partners who know nothing of sign language, gesturing to the people they want to come join them. A heavyset woman, self-conscious about the size of her body, attends tentatively and quickly finds herself the center of attention for half a dozen men who are attracted by her infectious laughter and, later, the intensity of her aroused passion. "I thought you had to be thin for guys to find you sexy," she marvels later. "I'm going to have to reconstruct my whole idea of what it means to be sexually attractive."
* * * *
I met my lover at a JJO party. His gorgeous smile and natty ringmaster's outfit -- Erotic Circus was the party theme that night -- caught my eye. He'd brought his own black, opera-length latex gloves. "Show me how you like to be touched," he murmured in my ear, placing my hand over his and guiding it to my pussy. After melting into a to-die-for kiss, I did.
We attend the parties as partners now. One night half the room watched him stroke into me with gloved fingers, teasing my g-spot until I was begging to come. When he nodded, I sprayed his leather pants, then licked them clean. (There's no rule against ingesting your own body fluids!) A woman standing nearby with her legs apart picked up the energy we had set in motion. She held a vibrator to her clit while she gazed into the eyes of a fierce man with tattoos and a dozen body rings. The rings in his cock jingled as he stroked himself forcefully. The energy between them was so electric that we were all mesmerized. When the tension was almost painful, they came simultaneously -- the man tossing his cock in a final gesture of such perfect joyful defiance that we all burst into laughter and applause.
* * * *
A couple attends their first party. They have never witnessed each other being sexual with other people. The woman, attractive and shy, inevitably becomes the focus of several men's attention. One stands inches in front of her, masturbating aggressively, almost angrily. Another shyly asks "May I play with your breast?" and responds with an almost devotional "Oh, thank you!" when she says yes. Another plays softly with her labia; yet another caresses the backs of her legs and her ass. Her partner stands behind her, arms around her waist, watching as she tests with both excitement and fear how much of this energy she can absorb. Later he is enraged that she could enjoy being surrounded by a group of "sharks and piranhas." Their several-year relationship ends within a few months.
One man, familiar with other group sex scenes, comes to the party hoping to find lots of hot sex. He is visibly unnerved to be surrounded by a dozen men jacking themselves and each other off. He leaves quickly after a man comes up to him, ostrich feather in his hand, twinkle in his eye, offering to fluff his aura.
There is more to these parties than fun and games.
* * * *
Two women climb onto a massage table, face each other, begin masturbating casually, laughing. A circle of people gathers, watchful, curious, expectant. A few men play with their cocks as they watch. A vibrator buzzes.
A man lightly strokes the shoulder of one of the women on the table, pauses, catches her eye to see if this is all right with her. She smiles and nods. His hands move down her arms, stroke her breasts. A man sits on the table behind one of the women so she can move without having to support her weight. His hands slide down her body to her crotch, press her labia together while she rubs her clit. Other people ask permission to join in, as they find ways to join the flow without interrupting it. It is a pick-up jazz jam: people do individual riffs, paying attention to the collective phenomenon at the same time. Soon the women are on opposite ends of someone's double dildo, moving into each other while being encouraged in various ways by many hands. A second ring of people forms, watching without touching. Some masturbate as they watch, quietly or vigorously, themselves or their neighbors.
On the table, one woman wants a hand inside her. Someone on the periphery goes for rubber gloves, passes them in to the center. A man puts one on, slips his hand inside. He shares a grin with the woman next to him, who is watching with rapt attention. She leans up against him, strokes his back, reaches between his legs from behind to cup his balls. He nods permission to her. She plays with him, slowly, sweetly.
Back on the table a man squeezes one woman's breast hard, bites her nipple, testing to find the level of intensity she wants. Her shoulders and neck are being massaged attentively by an older woman. A man (a friend) comes up, begins pulling her hair, softly at first, then more and more strongly. He whispers something in her ear. They kiss. He leaves.
She asks the man whose hand is in her cunt to push into her deeply, steadily. He does. He notices that the hand massaging his crotch is no longer the woman's, but belongs to the man on his other side. For a moment he is visibly shocked. His eyes meet those of the man touching him, connect, and soften. He relaxes into enjoying the touch, turns his attention back to the woman on the table, whose contractions he feels building around his hand. When she comes, soaking the table and filling the room with sound, the discharge ricochets through the entire group. A half dozen other people come as well. There is a large group sigh, much laughter, a smattering of applause, renewed conversation. Someone shows up with handiwipes and antiseptic to clean the wetted table.
* * * *
The parties offer a new group of buddies, long on warmth, short on pre-judgment. A chance to confront sexual/social bugbears: Is it ok to watch/be watched? To masturbate proudly? Am I really desirable? Can I say no and be heard? A chance to watch others do sex differently, maybe get some new ideas. A chance to clarify sexual wants and needs, expectations and fears -- individually and with partners. A chance to celebrate sex in all its diverse incarnations openly, enthusiastically, publicly, collectively. A breadth of permission that unearths sexual personnas people never suspected as their own.
Who are we, really, when it comes to sex? Do we ever really know? If we had a chance to strip away the rules, the moralisms, the early childhood training, the internalized raised eyebrows, what might we find underneath? Pat Califia notes that, for anyone who breaches the sexual uniformity demanded by mainstream culture, the fear of being sexually discovered "stifles the nascent erotic wish before the image of what is wished for can be fully formed." At the JJO parties, an expanding community of people are in the process of clarifying those very images.
The Realist 1991
Copyright © 1991 David Steinberg
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