Obviously before the COVID-19 PANDEMIC!
Skirt Club was created to give women a place to comfortably explore their sexuality – but what happens when a queer party plays into hetero norms?
FEBRUARY 23, 2017 7:47PM ET
The invitation to Skirt Club, a women-only, bisexual and bi-curious sex party, tells you one thing, loud and clear: This may be a girls-only orgy, but it’s not lesbianism as you know it. This is Katy Perry singing “I kissed a girl and I liked it.” This is an Agent Provocateur window display. This is the kind of awkward, lighthearted, lesbianism many women either had – or wished they’d had – in college. It’s “lesbianism” that lesbians will recognize, but have a hard time endorsing without some irony. It’s lesbianism as a side piece. It’s lesbianism: our little secret, for women whose bi-curiosity has become too overwhelming to ignore.
I received the invitation to Skirt Club’s San Francisco launch party on a cold Saturday in January. I’d never heard of Skirt Club, or a bisexual women’s-only sex party, though I’d certainly been to a number of “play parties,” where people across the gender spectrum did everything from cuddling to coitus. Skirt Club Founder Genevieve LeJeune had been to such parties, too, and was inspired to create a sex party where women, in particular, could focus on their sexuality “away from the prying eyes of men.”
The result, at least according to the video on their website, was somewhere between Eyes Wide Shut and a Victoria’s Secret commercial. Hot, feminine women in four-inch heels with artfully mussed hair strut like models, dance alone in feather boas and masks, gyrate desirously and mount each other for suspenseful kisses. Glitter-rimmed mouths oh soundlessly, long legs circled with garter belts stretch into the frame, taut bellies emerge from black panties and breasts are suspended in BDSM-reminiscent bras. In the background, behind a table with a bottle of champagne, the curtains are conspicuously drawn.
“When your man is not enough, seek adventure outside – where men are not invited,” the video urged.
I asked my girlfriend Courtney, whose shaved head makes her much more obviously queer than me, if she’d be interested in going.
“Would they even let me in?” she asked.
Skirt Club is open to all women, but “very few” Skirt Club members are lesbians according to founder Genevieve LeJeune, who identifies as predominantly heterosexual, though definitely interested in sleeping with women – a two on the Kinsey Scale, if you will. LeJeune says that based on information that women give Skirt Club when they sign up, most partygoers have the same sexual inclinations as her, or are more heterosexual.
LeJeune, who speaks four languages and is a certified yoga and pilates instructor, created Skirt Club in London in 2013 after taking a sharp left turn from her corporate career. She worked as a journalist and producer at Bloomberg TV in London, and in international markets as a branding consultant. She asked that her privacy be respected – LeJeune is not her real name, though she posts photos of herself at Skirt Club events, and out with her husband on her Instagram page.
“It’s taken me a lot of courage to… put my face on the front of the company that says, ‘Being bi is OK,’” she says.
Skirt Club doesn’t screen out lesbians, but it does screen. Before attending a party, women must join its network by uploading a full-length photo, disclosing their profession and offering proof they’re between the ages of 21 and 49.
LeJeune says the company accepts “the high majority” of applicants, while remaining “focused on building a femme membership of career driven women.” But she wouldn’t give more details about why some women weren’t allowed in.
Tickets to the launch party and other “Mini Skirt” parties, like the one being thrown to celebrate their San Francisco launch, set the stage for kissing and fondling, but don’t encourage actual sex. They cost $60. Full sex parties, hosted in private homes, cost up to $180 – which naturally weeds out women in less lucrative jobs, or those unable to volunteer in exchange for a free ticket. The ticket price is significantly higher than other sex parties in the Bay Area, which are typically between $10 and $65 – though are significantly lower than the thousands charged for male-friendly hedonistic masquerades.
But what LeJeune is offering is more than just a velvet-draped orgy – it’s a chance for women to explore the blurry line of sexuality. “Leave your man at home, relay stories on return,” reads their website, an invitation for otherwise straight women to indulge in their fantasy, even if they aren’t quite sure what that fantasy is. LeJeune sees herself inhabiting the huge gray area between straight and gay. “I started this club for people like me,” LeJeune tells Rolling Stone. “I’m not looking for a relationship with a woman, I’m looking for something less tangible.”
LeJeune says that when she was looking to experiment with her sexuality, she couldn’t find a space where she felt comfortable. She didn’t want to go to lesbian parties because she worried women there might be looking for a relationship, while she was not. She concedes that she may have been wrong, but she felt too intimidated to find out. So, she started her own event.
“I’m not a gay woman ,” she says. “I’ve come from the only place I know, which is my own. I’m targeting the bi-curious woman who has a boyfriend and wants to try this for the first time.”
Hayley Quinn, a London-based dating coach who’s spoken at multiple Skirt Club events, says it isn’t your typical sex party – lesbian or otherwise. “There’s always an educational element and some form of performance, cocktails and chocolate tasting,” she says. “The event isn’t just about sex. The theater of it helps women relax their inhibitions.”
In some cases, Quinn says, women saw Skirt Club events more like a networking opportunity than a sex party. At the last London party she attended, a number of women wanted to network.
“I got a lot of young women in their 20s asking me how they could run a blog,” she says. “What I really noticed about Skirt Club at the beginning was that rather than just being hedonistic, it was a great social opportunity to meet liberal, like-minded women. And it’s typical to how women express sexuality. It’s not just nudity and sex.”
So at 7:30 on a Thursday night, Courtney and I arrive for the party at a club in the South of Market neighborhood. It’s cold and drizzling, the kind of weather that’s more encouraging of Netflix and chill than sexual adventures. A male bouncer lets us past the door into a bar area warmed by tungsten glow and furnished with afghan rugs, ample seating on red velvet-covered chairs and inexplicable, charming typewriters. Women mill about the room.
One of the half-dozen Skirt Club volunteers – a tall woman in her 20s wearing a black lingerie top, tight black pants and heels – greets us, champagne flute in hand. Smiling and ebullient, she shows us where set down our coats and starts to introduce herself, before remembering that she’s supposed to be using a stage name.
“I keep forgetting that my name tonight is Layla,” she says. “We all choose our names. I got mine from that Eric Clapton song.”
LeJeune refers to the volunteers as “hostesses” and they play the part in exchange for free entry, helping to break the ice and encouraging attendees to participate in the night’s flirtatious games.
“They’re not employees and I don’t want them to act like employees,” LeJeune says.
Eying Layla’s drink, I head to the bar for my own glass and strike up a conversation with a striking Polish DJ named Ivana. Her face is feminine, with lined eyes and red lips, but her plaid shirt – an obviously different choice for anyone who looked at the Pinterest board of suggested outfits – signals that she’s at least a little queer.