Group sex and pandemics: an enduring duo

Photo credit: Alexis Orosa

Throughout history, bacchanalia and pandemics have gone hand in hand – and so it is in Sydney in 2020, writes Alexis Orosa. 

“I was fairly certain I wasn’t going to live past twenty.”

Lucas smiles and blinks his long lashes as he recounts his first experience of group sex in Sydney at the age of 18.

“I figured, why not make the most of what little time I had left and live out my wildest dreams?”

He sips a latte while I grip my blanc de blanc. We couldn’t be more Sydney. 

“I’ve moved on completely from that mindset, but I still enjoy group sex and participate in orgies often,” he says.

Openly gay and in his mid-twenties, his most recent group sex jaunt was two weeks ago through a website that specialises in bareback (condom-free) sex.

“In a group environment, all the bullshit of the outside world falls away … none of my past baggage comes with me in that room. It’s a relief from all the craziness that goes [on] in my life and in the world more broadly – particularly these days.”

The heady combination of a year-old pandemic, sealed borders, the consuming spectacle of the US election and rising inequality have opened every social, racial and political rift imaginable. Sounds like the perfect time to get laid. 

Indeed, coronavirus be damned, group sex is alive and well in Sydney; so much so, that I’ve had more group sex within the shadow of Covid-19 than I’ve had previously. 

Perhaps it’s the exhausting uncertainty of being trapped in Sydney, or perhaps, it’s the search for novelty. History shows that sexual adventurism flourishes in apocalyptic times. A pandemic can lend itself to bacchanalia – with the right people and the right attitude. But pleasure isn’t automatic.

The worst pandemic orgy I attended was the stuff of nightmares. I stumbled into a dark 1930s apartment, completely devoid of furniture, and – in some rooms – lighting fixtures. No food. No bed. No condoms, wipes, music or lube. Just 10 young people teetering on window sills overlooking Sydney Harbour with only the sigh of ferries in the distance to punctuate a disconsolate silence. 

Funeral vibes. Or, perhaps, demonic sacrifice.

“Look at this place. When are we going to murder someone?” my friend queried sardonically.

Two people promptly left. They were the clever ones. 

Between the darkness, the murder house aura, my constantly receding erection and the gritty sound of SOPHIE’s remix of Sonikku’s Sweat blaring from my iPhone (at my insistence), swift exits ensued until one by one, all the figures had receded into the darkness – it was all over in 90 minutes. 

We later learned it was hosted by an 18-year-old Year 12 student, mid-HSC and that some of us ended the night in varying degrees of existential questioning. Exactly the kind of ill vision I assured my friends group sex is never like.

“It’s not like porn at all,” I promised my friend beforehand. I planned on that statement being ironic, not unnervingly true. 

Photo credit: Alexis Orosa.

Yes, group sex – or orgies, if you have a penchant for ageing lexicon – are not the seamless, slick production of porn. They can be much better. At their best, they’re hours-long, intense expressions of exploration, acceptance, vulnerability and pleasure. 

All the best things in life; the things that for many of us in our current sexual and romantic relationships, remain elusive.

“The best thing about [group sex] is the freedom to explore without shame,” Tahlia professes to me. 

Corporate, in her mid-20s and bisexual, Tahlia began attending and hosting group sex in her second year of uni whilst dating a sexually curious man. 

“At first, I was mostly having sex with guys and it was the same three positions every time. With girls, I was always just the first college experience. It became a pattern,” she explains to me over rum cocktails.

“In this group setting, it was easier to find out what you liked. One on one, there’s a lot of pressure to not say ‘no’ to a kink or to ask for what you really want. In a group, if someone says ‘no,’ you’ll find someone else!”

Lucas concurs, “I just love the atmosphere and having guys find pleasure in my body. Anytime I go to a group event, I always end up being the centre of attention and getting the most action – just the way I like it!”

Yet sex, no matter the social progress made, is still stigmatised in Sydney. Group sex even more so. 

“I haven’t done any group stuff here. Berlin is the place,” Sara, a bisexual practicing artist, informed me. 

“It’s a scene of pros.”

Lucas is clearly a pro. “I’ve had 27 guys fuck me in one night … I had cum running down my legs,” he smiles. 

My nightly record is far more modest. But the amount of people isn’t the point or the purpose – it’s the ability to explore kinks and sexual desires in an inclusive, shame-free environment that constitutes the real pleasure.

“Candle wax, heating up oils, BDSM, things I wouldn’t have thought to do one on one,” Tahlia concurs. A group is the ideal setting to experiment, where all desire becomes accepted.

“That’s the surprising thing about group sex. How normal it was. If I’d known, I wouldn’t have been nervous,” Tahlia relates. 

I nod and agree. Like them, I’ve made friends and lovers from group events, demystifying the culture of shame around sex in all its forms. 

If the pandemic is an opportunity for change, then exploring group sex can be considered one of the few welcome transformations wrought by our circumstances. 

When nothing is ‘normal,’ it forces us to re-examine what is essential to our lives – in this case, our pleasure. 

Like all sexual activity, it requires connection, safety and a place for vulnerability and acceptance. Core needs that we as a people and society deserve to explore and experience more.

* Some names have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.

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