Finding Your Local Sex-Positive Culture

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This guide illustrates how to search for what is available in any given city.

A few tips:

Swing Clubs

Male/female couples who are comfortable with the idea of sex or flirtation with other couples as a social activity may find clubs like these to be exactly what they're looking for.

To find them, just check the NASCA club listings.

Note that almost all swing clubs sharply curtail participation by single males, and that female bisexual activity tends to be an accepted part of the swinging social milieu while male bisexual activity rarely is.

To learn more about the modern swing community, read The Lifestyle: A Look at the Erotic Rites of Swingers by Terry Gould if you want history and background, Together Sex by Dana and Ed Allen if you're interested in how swing events are hosted, or Swinging for Beginners: An Introduction to the Lifestyle if you just want to learn the etiquette.

BDSM Events

The term ``BDSM,'' as used here, includes a wide variety of consensual activities ranging from the erotic application of ``pain'' to a willing recipient, to erotic role playing (e.g. Dominance and Submission), to bondage and sensory deprivation.

To find clubs and organizations devoted to BDSM play in your area, try the following customized Google search (where you replace [CITY] with the name of your city):

For more information on BDSM practice and safety, start with the current editions of The New Bottoming Book (by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy), Sensuous Magic (by Patrick Califia), or Screw the Roses, Send Me the Thorns (by Philip Miller and Molly Devon); from there, you can move on to some of the more specialized books published by Greenery Press.

Spiritual Sexuality

The current standout in this type of education is the Body Electric School, which offers a nationwide schedule. Also, see both the teacher and workshop listings at, and the results of the following Google search:

One popular book about this kind of stuff is The Art of Sexual Ecstasy: The Path of Sacred Sexuality for Western Lovers.


``Polyamory'' has been defined as ``the philosophy and practice of loving or relating intimately to more than one person at a time with honesty and integrity'': in other words, it's an openness to being involved in more than one romantic and/or sexual relationship at once, with the knowledge and consent of each partner.

To find local organizations browse the groups list, the alt.polyamory support list, and the Loving More resource pages.

Two excellent books on the subject of polyamory are Opening Up: A Guide for Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships by Tristan Taormino and The Ethical Slut: A Guide to Infinite Sexual Possibilities by Dossie Easton and Catherine A. Liszt (the former book covers an entire range of non-monogamous relationship styles, while the latter deals more specifically with polyamory). The print magazine Loving More also may contain helpful advice.

As a side note, the question of what truly distinguishes ``polyamory'' from ``swinging'' has been the subject of considerable online debate within the poly community. However, an outside observer would probably be most struck by the following distinctions:

  1. The swing community is largely based on the participation of male-female couples, and protecting the existing relationship of each couple is accorded prime importance. The poly community tends to be much more fluid than this.
  2. Forming ``triads,'' or any other arrangement where new relationship bonds are of the same strength and priority as one's ``primary'' relationship, is common in the poly community but comparatively rare in the swing community.
  3. Organized participation in social/recreational sex at gatherings and clubs created specifically for this purpose is a fundamental characteristic of the swing community which is not fundamental to the poly community.
  4. Some of the modern poly community's major cultural influences (e.g. internet culture and sci-fi fandom) have far less prominence in the swing community.

Gothic Dance Clubs

These are not about sex per se, but if you like gothic or industrial music they're a wonderful opportunity to dress up in fetish-style clothing and dance. See the International Gothic Club Listing.

GLBT Resources


As a practical matter, if there is a GLBT newspaper covering your city then you'll probably find its events and resource listings to be more comprehensive than anything you could read online.

Failing this, pick up a copy of either Damron Men's Travel Guide or Damron Women's Traveller.


BiNet USA currently offers a directory of bi support groups.


The GLAAD web site maintains a good resource guide.

For Gay or Bi Men


The Daily Xtra travel guides include these.

As a practical matter, if you have unsafe sex at places like these (ESPECIALLY anal intercourse without a condom), no matter what the guy you met there looks like or what he tells you, then you may be clinically insane: safer sex is always important, but here it's particularly important. Also:

Etiquette tips are available online at Bathhouse Blues, and information about the history of the baths may be found in the book Policing Public Sex.

Radical Faeries

Directories of Radical Faerie organizations are available through check the "Local Circles" link.

Sex Toys

At this point, probably because it's so easy to just order toys online, there don't seem to be any web sites which review sex toy stores city by city.

But along the West Coast, four of the best storefront shops (all of which also do online sales) are Babeland in Seattle, Womyn's Ware in Vancouver BC, She-Bop in Portland, and Good Vibrations in San Francisco.

Body Piercing

See the "Locate a Member" section of the Association of Professional Piercers web site.

Fetish Fashion

See the print magazine Skin Two for information on both events and designers.

Health Care

STD Testing and Prevention

Call the National CDC Hotline (800-232-4636) for HIV/STD information and testing locations. Other health-related hotlines include the Emergency Contraception Hotline (888-668-2528) and Planned Parenthood (800-230-7526). Basic safer sex supplies like condoms and water-based lube (and if needed, Saran Wrap or disposable gloves) are now available at most drug stores.

Other questions may be a good candidate for the San Francisco Sex Information hotline (415-989-7374).

Counselors and Sex Therapists

See the Kink Aware Professionals List (for alternative sexuality of all types) or the AASECT List (for mainstream sex therapy).

National Conferences and Conventions

Multi-focus: The Dark Odyssey and Paradise Unbound annual retreats offer events and workshops of interest to BDSM players, swingers, Tantra enthusiasts, etc. Of the two, Dark Odyssey has a fuller class schedule, while Paradise is less expensive and possibly a little more laid-back.

Swinging: See NASCA's events page for a current list.

BDSM (all genders): A few examples are TESFest (New York), Black Rose (Washington DC), Folsom Street Fair (San Francisco), Thunder in the Mountains (Denver), and KinkFest (Portland). A museum rather than a conference, the Leather Archives and Museum in Chicago is well worth visiting. A calendar of BDSM conferences, including mixed-gender, men-only, and women-only events, is maintained at The BDSM Events Page.

Polyamory: Options include the Loving More conferences, as well as the NFNC Summer Camp.

Scientific and Medical: The Kinsey Institute Conference List is the most comprehensive right now.

Artistic: The Seattle Erotic Art Festival is the best place to see good art and often purchase it at bargain prices.

Having a Good Time at Events

Planning Ahead

While You're At An Event

After An Event

Resources for Founding a New Organization

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