On Friday October 13th I attended a Killing Kittens party.
For those of you unfamiliar with KK, the front page of its website proclaims:
“With Killing Kittens, you can explore your innermost fantasies and deepest sexual desires in a safe but sexually-charged environment.”
In short, KK organises sex parties, something about which I have been curious for a while. Additionally, KK is proudly and unapologetically female-focused. The rules that govern its parties prioritise female comfort and control at all times and there are no unaccompanied men allowed (other than at certain specific events for singles).
I consider myself sex-positive and believe whole-heartedly that a safe, consensual and liberated environment can only be a good thing.
That said, it is an unfortunate truth that the labels of sexually liberal/advanced/open-minded are often used by men as an excuse to pressure and coerce women in to sleeping with them. As I have written about before, there is no question that during the sexual revolution of the sixties and seventies a lot of men manipulated the situation by targeting young women; getting them high well past the point of consent and then taking advantage of them. These things happened under a warped banner of pseudo self-expression. They were of course not the fault of the sexually liberal ideas, nor of the women exploring them – but they are a real and present danger within such communities to this day.
So when I wrote to Emma Sayle, the founder of Killing Kittens, to ask whether I could attend a party and then write about it, I was doing so with one major question in mind: has KK managed to build an environment free from the toxic masculinity that stalks at the heels of any woman who dares explore her sexuality?
Then, a week before I was scheduled to attend, the Harvey Weinstein story broke. Two days after the party itself, Alyssa Milano tweeted #MeToo.
There is no way I can write about my KK experience without referencing what has been happening in the world. This is because I have come to view the space I entered as an oasis, and how does one describe an oasis without the context of the desert?
I have no desire to titillate you with detailed tales of specific acts. Suffice to say that it was a sex party, and yes, I had sex.
What I wish to discuss is that I did so in an environment unlike anything I have ever experienced before. In a place filled with sexual tension, with a roughly even number of women and men, there was something absent. Through that absence, I experienced something truly special.
One of the fundamental tenets of a KK party is that men may not approach women.
That simple rule, coupled with a membership screening process known only to KK itself, resulted in an environment entirely devoid of one thing: men overtly or covertly pressuring women for sex.
I don’t mean to say it wasn’t clear if a man wanted to sleep with a woman, nor do I mean to say that every man I encountered was some paragon of new-wave masculinity woke to his privilege and ready to discuss allyship. No, there was plenty of peacocking and overcompensatory confidence on display – but there was zero pressure.
I watched a man talking to a woman in whom he was clearly interested, and who seemed interested in him until someone else caught her eye. She excused herself and walked away. The disappointment was clear on his face – but he gave no sign of protest, verbal or non-verbal. He simply accepted the situation, and went about his evening.
Using my own experience as an example: I was in an intimate situation with another party-goer and we had paused to catch our breath. During our hiatus a third person (with whom my partner had been flirting earlier in the evening) approached us.
Cautiously, respectfully, they moved towards us looking for any sign that their attention or presence might be unwelcome. Finally, after a brief conversation, they both turned to me and – again with no hint of pressure – asked whether I would mind if our two became a three.
Take a moment to truly picture this. In a spectacularly sexually charged environment, surrounded on all sides by graphic and uninhibited displays, everyone took a moment to pause and explicitly seek consent.
Importantly, the question was genuine. It was clear that they would have taken no for an answer.
I am still digesting the ways in which such an environment affected me.
I should also mention that I knew no one before I arrived. Walking in, I was of course worried that I might not be chosen, as it were. What if I found myself stood alone at the bar, ignored by all and sundry?
I needn’t have worried, because the KK community is a friendly and supportive one. No one will be on their own for long without someone approaching them, if only to introduce themselves and have a chat without any sexual intent. This is clearly a group of people who understand and appreciate how rare and valuable this environment is, and want to share it with others. People are happy to help, advise, discuss and chat.
Perhaps this is one of the most important aspects of a KK party from the male perspective: it will be okay.
One of the main drivers of toxic masculinity is the fear of not being chosen. Men are conditioned from an early age to believe at a guttural level that nothing is worse than the humiliation of rejection. This is a truly dangerous thought pattern: you can’t be rejected if you don’t take no for an answer.
KK challenges that precept by its very structure. Not only was I forced to let go of the fear of not being chosen, but when I was chosen I had the space to enjoy that fact. There was no question; no “do I actually deserve this”; no self-doubt. Simply in-the-moment enjoyment.
It is worth mentioning here that I do not mean to recommend sex parties for everyone. That’s simplistic. I happen to be something of an exhibitionist, single, and very sexually liberal: my personality is well-suited to them. I do not think that makes me better than someone who identifies as asexual or is simply uninterested in such an experience. If the very thought of a sex party makes you cringe – well, it’s probably not for you and that’s absolutely fine.
The point I’m trying to make is that I walked in to a crowded space where the only definition of consent was enthusiastic and which was utterly devoid of pressure and coercion. In so doing I realised I had never been in such a space in my life.
That needs to change.
How? In a world where a proudly unapologetic sex offender occupies the most powerful position on the planet, where do we even begin?
Everyone who identifies as male: stop it. Just stop it.
Stop being scared of rejection – it’s not that big a deal and you’ll be fine. I promise. Understand that anything less than enthusiastic consent is not consent. Take responsibility for the mistakes of your past, and yes – you have made them. Stop hiding from that fact. Accept it and start doing the work required to be better moving forward. The first step in fixing any problem is acknowledging there is one, and the first step in acknowledging this problem is understanding that you have been complicit in it.
You may well have been a victim yourself. That doesn’t excuse past mistakes. If anything it should be added motivation to change, because no one should have to go through what you did.
Learn the difference between confidence and pressure. If in any doubt, leave women alone until you’ve learned the difference. In fact, that’s a pretty good rule of thumb: if in any doubt, leave her alone.
KK parties are also self-policing. Attendees keep an eye on goings on, and if they see anything that may be out of place they speak up about it and report it to one of the organisers.
So speak up. As you become aware of the problems in yourself, it will be easier to spot them in others. Don’t keep your mouth shut. Say something. Call out your friends.
Everyone who doesn’t identify as male: you can expect more of us.
I have seen many of the people in my life become so exhausted by the general substandard behaviour of men that they will accept appalling things, from partners and strangers alike. I have seen them accept the unacceptable because relative to the rest of our gender it seems almost insignificant. I have seen abusive behaviour be tolerated under the banner of picking one’s battles.
That is successful gaslighting on a sociological scale.
It is never acceptable. You are not crazy. It is not your fault. You are not alone. You are seen. You are heard.
You are believed.
Things change when we change ourselves, and I will forever be grateful to KK for providing me with a vision of what a better version of sexual interaction looks like.
So I leave you with a final thought: