Sex Clubs Have Consent Monitors—Here's What That Means
Sex clubs are places where people can go live out sexual fantasies, such as swapping partners, voyeurism or even an orgy. However, it's not anything goes.
In fact, clubs hire consent monitors to ensure patrons feel safe and comfortable in this vulnerable environment, and help open a dialogue for people who feel violated.
Another day on the job
"I've actually really enjoyed the conversations I've had on these phone calls," they said. "It is really difficult to be told that you violated someone's consent, especially if you weren't aware that that happened….The only way to move forward from that is to talk about it so we can do better in the future."
Additionally, to keep people safe after a violation, Playscapes explains two levels of offenses and the repercussions that follow. Level one is a "yellow card" and level two is a "red card" (yes, like in soccer). More severe offenses are the latter, in which violators are banned from future events and outside event planners are notified of their behavior. Yellow card offenses may require reparations, such as an apology letter, redoing the consent workshop, seeking therapy, sitting out of the next event, talking with a staff member and more.
Besides having discussions with people who have violated someone's consent, Bush has several other roles. They train other consent guardians with their fellow lead guardian, oversee mandatory consent workshops, handle conflicts, and offer ongoing support and resources to people who have committed consent infractions and those who have been violated.
Above all, Bush finds these experiences deeply rewarding.
"Despite its difficulty at times, it makes me really happy when people give us feedback that they felt so seen and supported when they've come forward to report something," they said. "You build a community's trust through long-term, consistent action, so every time we uphold our values as a company and a community, the people who we are responsible for protecting feel that much safer. And that's the best feeling in the world."
"As an Aquaflirt, my job was to be a friendly face and be available and present if anyone had anything they needed support on, or anything they needed to report," she said. "Depending on the severity of what occurred, I would either give the offender a lesson on our policies and consent, paired with an official warning, or connect with security to have them removed."
She enforced other club rules, too.
"On certain days, unaccompanied men were allowed to enjoy the facilities, but were not allowed in one specific play zone without a woman-identified person with them," she said. "I had a station at the entrance to that play zone and reminded these unaccompanied men that they were not allowed to be in that area without a woman-identified person."
If it wasn't obvious…
Consent monitors play a crucial role in sex clubs.
"When you commit to hosting a large-scale event that is open to the public—after being vetted, of course—you have to also commit to doing everything in your power to keep people safer," Bush said. "We can't cut corners or make exceptions for people…and that's ultimately how we've been able to keep this party going."
In fact, 154 clubs in the U.K. have been shut down because of sexual assault and harassment issues occurring without being addressed. Consent monitors want to empower and encourage participants to keep coming if they want to. They work to ensure new people feel as comfortable as veterans, and vice versa.
"People know that if something happens to them, there will be a response," Bush continued. "And more importantly, the person who was harmed will be centered in the aftermath. We always look to survivors as our guides for how to move forward in order to empower them as much as possible."
Consent monitors are heavily appreciated and play a strong role in how participants feel.
Szereszewski added how inadequate sex education comes into play.
"Unfortunately, many people who go to sex clubs did not receive great sex ed and have received the wrong cultural messages around unwanted contact, such as 'no means try harder,'" she said.
Consent monitors are heavily appreciated and play a strong role in how participants feel. When Szereszewski went to sex clubs with friends, she noted they all felt more comfortable being fully nude in a hot tub there than at a bar, because they knew they'd be believed regarding any unwanted contact. This is especially important at sex clubs when people are exploring new sexual interests and meeting new people.
Is it hard to maintain consent regulations in the club?
Bush often hears sex-positive organizers talk about the difficulty of maintaining consent policies, in which others feel overwhelmed or unsure by "he said, she said" issues. But Bush doesn't feel the same way.
"I vehemently disagree that it is hard to maintain strong policies around consent," they said. "You just have to enforce them, which means, yes, there will be people who will be banned."
What's especially great about these kinds of places is that many participants are passionate about consent and look out for each other. Szereszewski shared how a man engaged in "stealthing," a type of sexual assault (that's infuriatingly not illegal in many states yet) involving the removal a condom without the woman's explicit consent. While the woman wasn't aware, other patrons stepped in, explained the situation to her and reported it to the Aquaflirts.
Getting kinky in a sex club might sound intimidating, which is totally understandable. But if you're looking to spice up your sex life with something new, you can rest assured in the fact that vetted, passionate consent monitors believe survivors and work hard to keep the space both comfy and sexy.