Photos: Victoria Dawe courtesy of Skirt Club
Australia’s first private, women’s only sex club is throwing its inaugural play party in Sydney on Saturday. Skirt Club began in London three years ago and has outposts across the US. Sydney’s sold out soiree, held at a private residence in the CBD, will host 50 women, many of whom will dress up and use a pseudonym throughout the evening. Daily Life asks director and co-owner Renee Nyx and Sydney host Jessica Wilder what the underground community has come to mean to women – and how it is changing relationships around the world.
So, non-straight women only?
In short, no. While many members are bisexual or gay, Nyx says the highly discreet club is open to any and all adventurous, open-minded women.
Sydney will host its first Skirt Club weekend play party on Saturday.
“A lot of women say identify as being straight on the Kinsey scale. Some of them have never kissed a girl,” she says. That can change before the night is out, of course.
Nyx, who works in an office by day, says her sexuality is “fluid” and hard to pin down, and is determined by individual attraction. Wilder, who runs the Sydney club around her career in events management, places herself at two on the Kinsey scale.
The underground community now has over 5000 members globally and is opening new clubs in the US and across Europe.
Ok, but definitely no men.
Founder Genevieve LeJeune had the idea for Skirt Club after experiencing a play party with an ex-boyfriend and feeling that her role was more about his enjoyment than her own.
“She asked, ‘Why can’t I experience a woman without a man being there to influence or dominate?'” says Nyx.
With nothing else like it on the market, the club was something of a leap of faith, she says.
“It’s about putting women and the desires of women first. Women explore their desires and do it in a really relaxed and comfortable environment without the prying eyes of men or the expectations of other people. It is completely up to your own desires. Some people like to come along and have a cocktail and mingle and have a chat with like-minded women and nothing more, that’s absolutely fine,” she explains.
“It is exciting to be part of a team that women feel empowers and liberates them”, says co-owner Renee Nyx. Photos: Victoria Dawe courtesy of Skirt Club
How many “like-minded” women are we talking?
The uptake has been “really surprising” says Nyx. With 5000 strictly vetted members around the world, the community has relied upon word of mouth alone to swell its numbers and attract newcomers. Los Angeles debuts this month followed by a Berlin chapter opening in October, with other locations on the cards next year.
“We went from 15 to 20 to 30 women and now we’re selling out. It happened really organically,” Nyx says.
Members are aged between 18 and 45 and are from a wide variety of backgrounds and religions. They are professional women who are “well established or on their way to becoming well established,” she says.
“We do this because we believe in it. We know how exciting it can be to be part of a team that women feel empowers and liberates them.”
She recounts meeting a member who said that because she feels she can be her authentic self at Skirt Club, she is more confident in other parts of her life. She went for a job that she had wanted for years and apologised that she hadn’t been at Skirt Club because a promotion meant she had been travelling.
“You just naturally do better don’t you, if you are living as your authentic self?” muses Nyx.
But you may well be a little more in touch with your bi side before the night is over…
A night at the club can “absolutely” force members to rethink their place on the Kinsey scale and their relationships, says Nyx. “I think that sometimes their sexuality takes them by surprise as well. Sometimes it’s about facing yourself – it’s not just about friends and families.
“There’s not always a need for people to come out, so to speak, it’s personal. And some will come along and realise ‘It’s not for me. It’s really fun and I had a fantastic time but I’m actually very straight.'”
But more go the other way, she says, to the extent that “a few relationships have emerged from this. Five that I know of personally. A few identified as straight beforehand and met a women they fancied and surprised themselves,” she says.
Which is surprising, given that it’s not rare for men to gift their partners a play party.
“It’s interesting how many partners encourage their wives or girlfriends to go. They sometimes pay for them,” says Nyx. In Sydney, tickets cost from $120 to $180.
“The women may be in a relationship with a man and they say they are interested in discovering more about sex with women. Most men don’t see it as a threat and also I think they get off on the stories that they tell when they get home, the naughty stories are a bit of fun.”
But, she stresses, it’s a very personal thing – and she does not even begin to make assumptions.
Saturday’s event is a longer, more intimate evening than the “Mini Skirt” parties held as tasters, usually in public bars.
“We use a private home and start at 9pm. There are welcome cocktails or bubbles, then we do a quick intro before our dancer or performer begins for the evening. Each party is themed, for example, bellydancing, burlesque, dominatrix. The performance usually ends at around 11pm,” says Nyx.
“After that, we play some games – there might be a naughty dice game or truth or dare or Twister that we make a little bit naughty, that’s a nice way to get girls to connect and feel more relaxed about each other.
“Over the next few hours, you see girls peel off into surrounding rooms, they might kiss or do more, there is that opportunity if they want to. It ends at 3am and that’s when everybody leaves. Most people do stay until the end.”
It sounds nerve-wracking, even for those who have had sex with other women before.
“The role of the team is to make everyone relaxed and see what happens,” says Nyx. Hostesses introduce women and make sure they are happy and relaxed. “They are there to calm and reassure, there are a lot of people who feel nervous, probably everyone. I guess it’s about putting their nervous energy into excitement rather than fear.”
Newcomers are given a bracelet with a key charm on it to signify their status – key wearers often gravitate towards one another, she says. At the London club, 60 per cent of women are new and 90 per cent attend alone. At Mini Skirt events, 80 per cent of guests are newcomers.
What sets Sydney skirt club members apart?
“A lady never kisses and tells!” says Wilder.
What we can reveal, however, is that Sydney women have long been under-catered for in this area.
“Sydney has been exceptionally hungry for the idea of skirt club, there is more of a gap in that element of life than there is, perhaps, in other locations,” says Nyx. “It’s a community feel, so many women are putting their hands up to help and be part of it.”
It’s not your average club – or job.
“I was at the first ever play party, I still remember it very fondly,” says Nyx. “I found out through a friend and I had just come through a break-up of a long term relationship.
“She said ‘Come along.’ I had no idea what this was going to be about, I didn’t know what to expect. It was something new and exciting and around liberated people.”
“I had never even so much thought about the idea of a sex club or a party environment like this before I attended, so that fact that I’m here three years on running events is surprise.
“I’ve been able to explore elements of my own sexuality that I might have if I wasn’t a member of Skirt Club. I’ve met amazing, empowered women who have taught me a lot about sex but also about life.”
Wilder says she “was intrigued at first and curious” after meeting founder, LeJeune. “I feel what she has created is exciting and something I have not seen done before. I wanted to help her bring her vision to other parts of the world, giving more women the opportunity to experience what Skirt Club has to offer.”
Family and friends might be none the wiser.
Nyx’s family aren’t aware of her work at Skirt Club, unlike some of her friends. While Nyx and Wilder are both in relationships, their approaches to sex have been honed by their experiences in the club.
“I think in life you often pander to your partner’s sexual pleasure more than your own,” says Nyx. “It’s important to really tune into your fantasies and what you’d like to explore, and to get out of the way of thinking ‘What do they want?'”
All photos by Victoria Dawe, courtesy of Skirt Club.
Source: The Sydney Morning Harold by Daisy Dumas