Dear Humpday,

My girlfriend and I have been participating with a group of friends who have lingerie, swimsuit and dare parties. It’s all been relatively innocent up until the last party when some people hooked up with others. All involved at the party were OK with what happened, but our question is whether most “experts” consider this a form of a healthy relationship? What draws the line between normal sexual fantasies and enjoyment and relationship killing practices ultimately likely to erode the emotional connection between two people?

Happy Voyeurs

Dear Happy Voyeurs,

Lingerie and dare parties make for some interesting possibilities. It’s not surprising that your party turned into a shag fest. There is nothing wrong with that outcome. As long as everyone is consenting and happy, go to town!

Enjoyment of all sexual fantasies is normal, as long as those fantasies do not harm anyone. That means being aware of not just physical but also emotional harm. It seems that the hookups and the watching were consensual, and in talking about it afterwards, you ensured that anyone that might have felt uncomfortable had a chance to speak up. 

Typically the best practice of hooking up with others is to discuss the ground rules well before any action starts. Things like what condoms do people prefer, has everyone been tested and aware of any STIs, what sex positions or body parts are off-limits, which variations people really want to try. Since the hookups in this case were unplanned, having lots of condoms on hand, as well as communication before and during, is essential.

Watching other people hookup follows the same lines. Consent is mandatory. 

In this case, since it was more spontaneous, if the individuals involved started playing in front of others, you can assume they didn’t mind the attention. If someone in the room had a problem with public sex, that person needed to communicate that and everyone should comply, whether by stopping or moving to the next room. Since your friends all seem to have been on the same page, and you all received enjoyment out of watching and/or playing, congrats are in order for being a part of a successful multi-person scene. 

The fact that you have friends that are open, trusting and willing to explore friendship and connections at another level is quite exceptional. To ensure that you all continue to trust and feel comfortable with one another, make sure you discuss whether this was a onetime thing or something that everyone is interested in exploring further. Being supportive of every friend’s feelings and decisions on the matter is vital in keeping your friendships healthy and thriving.

Is this part of a normal and healthy relationship? That’s for you and your partner to decide together. Forget those ridiculous rules and constraints created by individuals who never knew how to enjoy themselves. There is nothing wrong or unusual about getting aroused by watching other people have sex. Or having sex with other people, for that matter. This is your relationship. What makes you happy? What would your girlfriend like to experience?

Most experts would agree that communication is the foundation of all relationships. As long as you and your girlfriend are on the same page with watching consenting adults having sex, I don’t see what the problem is. 

What makes for a relationship killing practice is if you didn’t make sure that you both were happy with the experience. Having a frank discussion about why the party turned you on and what you both liked and didn’t like can be a great way to determine what further pleasures to explore. 

Discuss questions like: was this a onetime thing? Do you both want to experience watching and/or playing again with your friends? What are some ways that the experience could have been made better? More lube? A front row seat? If the occasion arose again, what would you like to be a part of? Continuing to watch? Having sex with each another? Kissing someone else? If you both agree that it was only a spur-of-the-moment event, it makes for a great story and fantastic role playing.

Being in a healthy relationships means determining together what you both want to experience and discover, whether in the bedroom or in your friend’s living room.

This article was written by Nicolette Pawlowski. Nicolette is a trained sexual health educator and a graduate student in EPS. All questions are from real readers. Keep ’em coming! Email [email protected]