Dive into the Mile High City’s growing sex-positive community to better understand how to improve your, ahem, nighttime activities.
• 5280 February 2019
Denver is full of gorgeous, fit, adventurous adults having lots of sex. But is it always good sex? That’s debatable. We can say with authority, however, that when it comes to making love there’s always room to improve. Fortunately, our city is home to a growing sex-positive community. We asked them to explain—often in NSFW detail—how our sex culture is evolving, and how we can learn more about a natural act few of us are naturally good at.
Illustration by Zohar Lazar.
Let’s Talk About Sex
It’s true that Denver’s attitude toward lovemaking is trending progressive, but creating an erotic utopia requires more than just flirting with the spectrum of human sexuality.
More from our February 2019 Issue
It was 2015, and sex was making headlines nationally. There was the Ashley Madison hack. Former NBA star—and Kardashian by marriage—Lamar Odom collapsed in a Nevada brothel. And Ben Affleck was allegedly sleeping with the nanny. Here in Denver, the local reportage was similarly scintillating; however, the narrative skewed less Hollywood scandal and more romantic comedy. According to two studies published that year, the Mile High City was among the five most sex-crazed towns in the country. Both surveys based their rankings largely on the number of condoms sold, and considering locals’ aversion to safe sex, one can deduce that the amount of fooling around occurring within city limits may have been even greater than statistics suggested.
Despite recent reports that say American teenagers and young adults are having less sex than they once did, there’s little reason to believe Denver’s sexual appetite has declined dramatically over the past four years—not with a steady stream of Tinder-equipped transplants pouring into the city. But just because we’re getting busy regularly doesn’t mean everybody’s getting exactly what they desire. “There’s not a lot of good sex happening,” says Tory Johnson, who co-owns Awakening Boutique, a sex shop in RiNo. “Women come in all the time and tell us they’re experiencing difficulties having an orgasm.”
Issues in the bedroom, of course, are not unique to Colorado. “Our culture gives us ridiculous expectations,” says Laura Deitsch, licensed clinical professional counselor and resident sexologist for Vibrant, a Denver-based sex toy company. “Porn, religion, politics, body image—we’re set up to fail.” Beyond the shame that’s often associated with sex, there’s a fundamental lack of knowledge about the act itself. In high school health class, we get the basics of reproductive biology without being taught that sex can be (gasp!) pleasurable. “When you learn how to drive, you learn how to turn right and you learn how to turn left,” says Angela Wells, Vibrant’s founder. “When you take sex ed…you only learn how to turn right; how much more of the world are you going to miss because you didn’t learn how to turn left?”
If local sexperts are correct, quite a lot. Which is why a resident cadre of sexual guides is eager to lead you to new destinations—and, perhaps, new heights of delight. From swingers to BDSM (that’s bondage, dominance, sadism, and masochism) devotees, Denver has long been home to a passionate, albeit small, community of kinksters. Recently, though, a sexual awakening has begun to spread though the city, with established kink groups seeing their ranks swell and new organizations—including female-oriented sex shops, an erotica production company, a bondage-focused studio, and a wealth of titillating seminars and workshops—popping up around town over the past half-decade or so. Our goal is to introduce you to many of them, not in order to transform Denver into a den of dommes and polys, but to do away with stereotypes, eliminate misconceptions, promote candid dialogue, and engender “sex-positivity”: the idea of being open to and accepting of all sexual proclivities. “The more a person moves toward sex-positivity,” says Jenni Skyler, a certified sex therapist at the Intimacy Institute in Boulder, “the healthier their sex life.” We don’t expect everyone will be wooed by all of the options increasingly available in Denver. However, having an open mind might just help you boost your intimate moments—so you never have to choose between quantity and quality.
Quiz: Are You an Einstein of Eroticism?
We spoke with local sex therapists to put together this quick entrance exam into our larger study of Denver’s sex scene.
1. What did you think of Fifty Shades of Grey?
a) Terribly written, but the sex scenes piqued my interest.
b) Terribly written, and the sex scenes are nothing new.
c) It’s the work of a deviant, a manual for Satan—and also, it’s terribly written.
2. What most closely reflects your mood during sex?
a) Comfy—like watching a rerun of Friends.
b) Excited—like watching the opening credits of the newest Star Wars.
c) Insides-quaking anxiety—like watching The Shining.
3. How soon do you tell your sexual partners your bedroom desires?
a) Once we know each other well.
b) During our first sexual encounter or soon thereafter.
c) Never. What if my partner thinks I’m a weirdo?
4. If things go bad in the boidoir (e.g., erectile dysfunction, inability to orgasm), you respond by:
a) Ignoring it. It’s embarrassing, and these things tend to work themselves out.
b) Talking about what went right.
c) Feeling shame or placing blame.
5. Your goal during sex is:
a) Orgasms, for both of us.
b) Pleasure. Orgasms are great, but I’m really seeking physical and emotional enjoyment through sexual intimacy.
c) Orgasm, for me.
6. When you’re in a relationship, when does your best sex occur?
a) Within the first 18 months; then the excitement wanes.
b) Throughout: Once the initial thrill ebbs, we start exploring beyond the standard checklist of making out, foreplay, and intercourse.
c) Uh…best sex? We’re doing OK if there’s any sex.
7. What do you think about during sex?
a) Too often, it’s work, or the kids, or the bills….
b) Keeping open lines of communication so I know I’m responding to my partner’s desires—and, well, how damn good it feels.
c) How my body looks in this position.
8. How do you talk to your kids about sex?
a) “So you, uh, put the ‘winky’ into the ‘hoo-ha’ and…er…you can ask your mom more tomorrow. Good night.”
b) “Sex is amazing and there are many different ways to enjoy it. But two things are non-negotiable: Sex must be safe, and it must be consensual.”
c) “Keep touching yourself and I’ll cut it off, you little perv.”
9. If you had to describe sex in one word, what would it be?
b) Wonderful and exhilarating (its greatness cannot be captured in a single word).
10. What do you know about clitoris?
a) That it’s different than the G-spot—I’m just not quite sure how.
b) That it has more than 8,000 nerve endings, twice as many as the penis.
c) That I really don’t want to talk about it.
Mostly A’s: It’s possible that—like many Coloradans—your sex life could us an infusion of education and excitement. May we suggest reading on, maybe with a regular partner?
Mostly B’s: Congratulations! You are a sex-positive savant. In this feature, you just might learn some new moves to add to your healthy repertoire.
Mostly C’s: You may be dealing with some negative feelings related to sex. It can’t hurt to keep flipping the page, but you also might consider speaking with a certified sex therapist.
Awakening Boutique’s Rose Kalasz (left) and Tory Johnson. Photo courtesy of Jessica Christie Photography.
Babes in Toyland
Ladies, shopping in Denver just got even more euphoric: Two new female-focused sex shops curate products just for you.
Good news: One initial step toward sex-positivity encourages you to be a little selfish. “The first thing we always recommend,” says Angela Wells, founder of Denver-based online sex store Vibrant, “is for people to explore their own bodies.” In the past, that was difficult for women. But both Vibrant, founded by Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains as a fundraising arm in 2016, and Awakening Boutique, which opened in RiNo in mid-2018, aim to upgrade the sex-toy-shopping experience for women. That begins by exclusively stocking products that are safe for lady parts. Because the industry is unregulated, mainstream toys often contain chemicals—such as parabens and phthalates—that can leech into the body from certain rubbers and plastics. To ensure your gadgets don’t leave unhealthy stowaways behind, Wells advises purchasing toys made of medical-grade silicone, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene plastic, or steel. (P.S.: Many lubricants contain elements commonly found in brake fluid. Boulder-based Foria’s Awaken arousal lube, on the other hand, only comprises natural ingredients—including CBD, which could help reduce muscle tension and elevate sensation—and smells like Thin Mints.) Then there are the stores: Traditionally, adult retailers featured bad lighting, offensive packaging, and furtive customers rifling through DVDs. “We wanted to make it feel like shopping in a sex store was in step with the rest of their lives,” says Tory Johnson, co-owner of Awakening. So Awakening’s vibe hews more hipster-candle-shop chic than sex-store sad. For its part, Vibrant has an online chat platform; its employees spend hours helping customers find the right products for their particular desires. “Nothing is more empowering for an individual,” Wells says, “than when they are able to identify what type of pleasure, how they would like pleasure, when they would like pleasure, and whom they would like that pleasure with.” Vibrant and Awakening can help you with the first three. For that last part, you’re on your own.
The Case for: Mary Jane in the Bedroom
By Spencer Campbell
I enjoy getting stoned—just not in front of other people. It makes me way too paranoid. Even when I’m alone with my wife, if she doesn’t laugh at one of my THC-induced jokes, I think, Are we going to get a divorce?
So I was dubious when Jenni Skyler, a Ph.D.-credentialed therapist at the Intimacy Institute in Boulder, explained some of her patients were inviting Mary Jane into the bedroom. In the bedroom? A space already teeming with insecurity? None for me, thanks. Then the guy who was supposed to write this essay bailed.
Studies show that marijuana can ramp up frequency with daily use and heighten arousal. But it was the promise of a stronger bond—created by weed’s capacity to relax the mind—that most intrigued me. Like many, I’m guilty of disassociation during sex—my mind wandering because it can’t stop worrying about the minutiae of life. I was skeptical, though, that pot would sharpen my focus. Skyler explained that it accomplishes this through an “increase in our sensory capabilities.” That’s all I had to go on as I stepped onto my porch to light a joint.
I soon discovered what she meant: First, I got giddy. Experts call it euphoria, and it’s only the preamble. Pretty quickly comes the full, rising bloom of heightened sensation. Let’s just say soft feels softer. Warm feels warmer. Tinglings feel tinglier.
Marijuana didn’t conjure a mind meld with my wife—that’s what LSD is for—but it established connection through sensation. When my brain wandered, it was quickly called back by that “increase in our sensory capabilities.” In short, pot helped my brain focus on just how amazing my wife is, and the moment absorbed us. For a short time—but not too short!—nothing mattered to me except for her. Well, her and Mary Jane, of course.
Denver’s nudie bars are often panned as low-rent. Why? Well, we don’t have that many per capita, making selection slim. And state laws governing alcohol sales and city ordinances related to sexually oriented businesses are more puritanical here than in some other states. (In Colorado and Denver, full nudity and contact lap dances are off-limits if the bar has a liquor license.) That’s a buzzkill for broad-minded folks who find a night spent among pole dancers to be an aphrodisiac. But does that mean there are zero crisp-singles-worthy spots? We found out.
Upsides: Intimate, sensual space with a long bar; adept bartenders; gorgeous dancers who understand the art of the strip tease; no smoking allowed; downtown location
Downsides: The club is relatively small, meaning you might not see someone you like right away
Upsides: Neighborhood-bar-like scene; friendly barkeeps; chatty, beautiful talent; raucous special events, like the Valentine’s Day Large Lady Strip Off; alcohol service until close (typically 4 a.m.)
Downsides: The decor and furniture skew a little too Texas Roadhouse for a strip club; smoking is allowed
Upsides: Elegant room; experienced dancers; walk-in humidor with quality cigars; private suites for one-on-one dances at Diamond After Dark upstairs; downtown location
Downsides: Borderline stuffy atmosphere; smoking is allowed
Upsides: Diverse clientele; dancers who don’t all look alike; a year-round patio with a stage and dedicated bar; plenty of low-slung bistro tables for small groups; a kitchen that turns out bar snacks to soak up the booze; no smoking indoors
Downsides: Somewhat sluggish bartenders; far-flung Federal Heights location
Upsides: Upbeat atmosphere with good tunes; acrobatic, diverse, and flirtatious talent; male dancers on at least one stage; all-nude room upstairs
Downsides: $7.25 Coronas; a rougher crowd; smoking is permitted
Upsides: Decent drink specials; discounts for students, military, and industry folks; unintimidating location on Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall
Downsides: Overly aggressive security; poor diversity of entertainers; clientele can be fratboy-ish at times
Upsides: The only gay male strip club in Denver; comfortable dive bar atmosphere; Baker neighborhood location
Downsides: Dancers don’t start performing until 10; there aren’t enough entertainers to engage with customers; bachelorette parties can kill the vibe for gay patrons
Mile High Men’s Club
Upsides: Dramatic room; lots of privacy nooks; big-screen TVs
Downsides: $10 cover, even on off nights; shocking lack of dancers during weekday happy hour; smoking is allowed
Upsides: No cover; lax supervision when it comes to those no-contact lap dances; tongue-in-cheek (we think) marquee declaring, “This is a non-grimy establishment”
Downsides: Cavalier bartenders; no doors on the stalls in the women’s restroom; apathetic dancers; disconcerting pat-down for weapons upon entry
The Cruise Room. Courtesy of the Cruise Room.
It’s no secret that booze and sex can sometimes combine to disastrous results. Then again, therapists say a little liquor can inject some impulsivity into couples’ intimacy routines by acting as a disinhibitor. And while getting disinhibited at your nephew’s bar mitzvah isn’t a great idea, there are places—super sexy places, in fact—where a little tipsiness plays just fine. Exhibit A: Denver’s lineup of seductive bars conveniently situated in beguiling hotels, where you can sip on liquid spontaneity, flirt, and then slip a room key into your date’s hand.
Get that funny feeling at: B&GC, a sexy, sleek, just-dark-enough-to-drag-your-fingers-up-your-date’s-thigh speakeasy below the Halcyon hotel in Cherry Creek. Order the house martini and feel your inhibitions start to disappear.
Get a room at: The Halcyon. Book a terrace room so you can “experience” the couch, the
bed, the big walk-in shower, and (if the fear of facing some serious trouble is your thing) maybe even the large outdoor balcony. From $239 per night
Get that funny feeling at: The Cooper Lounge in Union Station, whose worldly elegance is reminiscent of a romantic ride on the Orient Express. Catch the eye of the alluring stranger at the bar. He looks a lot like Steve, your partner of a decade. But after a few Champagne cobblers, he becomes Jean-Claude, a Parisian ex-pat with a mysterious past.
Get a room at: The Crawford Hotel. Keep the fantasy going by dashing into one of the rooms right off the second-floor landing, which are designed to resemble original Pullman sleeper cars. From $189 per night
Get that funny feeling at: The Cruise Room, a red-light-aglow institution that has been providing super close quarters for Denver’s lovers since the end of Prohibition. Vanish from prying eyes into a dark booth seemingly designed for dark deeds.
Get a room at: The Oxford Hotel. Pass from the Cruise Room through the lobby of Denver’s longest-operating hotel and into a premium classic room—complete with a claw-foot tub big enough for two. From $159 per night
Get that funny feeling at: Hearth & Dram, a dark-wood-and-iron-dressed, Edison-light-bedecked room with a long bar that serves more than 500 varieties of whiskey, which, as everyone knows, is simply foreplay in a rocks glass.
Get a room at: The Hotel Indigo Denver Downtown. All of the rooms—accessed by the lobby elevators just steps from Hearth & Dram’s bar—come decorated with stunning large-format photographs of Colorado above the beds. But only the junior suites come with double shower heads in the bathroom. Just something to think about. From $180 per night
State statutes you should consider before getting busy in public.
The charge: Public indecency
What you probably did wrong: Had sexual intercourse, lewdly fondled or caressed another person, or knowingly exposed your genitals in public or where the conduct could cause alarm to an unsuspecting passerby.
The penalty: A class 1 petty offense, which carries a maximum sentence of a $500 fine, six months in jail, or both.
The charge: Indecent exposure
What you probably did wrong: Exposed your genitals with the intent of arousing or satisfying another person in a way that might cause affront to an uninvolved onlooker or performed an act of masturbation in a way that exposed that act to an unwitting person.
The penalty: A class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by six to 18 months in jail, a fine of $500 to $5,000, or both.
The Case for: Sex in the Outdoors
By Kasey Cordell
There are sound arguments for not having sex where the wild things are. Chief among them: dirt, twigs, rocks, insects, and other rash-inducing things no one wants in their crevices. But that little bit of risk is part of the thrill. After all, in our helmet-outfitted, knee-padded, safety-glassed world, a small dose of danger can amplify that other dose of excitement you’re hoping for.
Besides the rush of playing Russian roulette with your nether parts when canoodling in a questionable patch of ivy, having sex outside takes you beyond your comfort zone. The aforementioned twigs and rocks preclude any notion of going missionary. That means you have to get creative—bent over a beetle-killed pine, up against some smooth Colorado granite, or maybe even beneath the surface of a secret San Juans hot spring—positions you might be less inclined to try when there’s easy access to a pillow-top mattress.
And a funny thing happens when you step outside of your bedroom routine. Sex becomes more thrilling. Science even backs us up on this one: The potential for getting caught, preferably by some small woodland creature and not a hiker—hello, public indecency charges!—activates the sympathetic nervous system. That’s the one in charge of the fight-or-flight response, for those of you who slept through high school biology. What you probably didn’t learn from Mr. Clarke is that increased sympathetic nervous system activity can also be responsible for sexual arousal, specifically in women.
Add that stimulated system to the sensory overload that comes from fresh air and the scent of the spruce that’s occasionally tickling your booty and pretty soon, the wild won’t be the only thing calling.
Image by Allessio Bogani/Stocksy.
What mainstreamers can learn from the kink community about committing to the notion of consent.
Four years ago this month, Fifty Shades of Grey hit American big screens and did two things. First, it made BDSM acceptable in American culture in a way it never had been before. And, second, it made the entire kink community scream a collective, “Oh, my God, nooooooo!”
It wasn’t the eyerollingly bad screenplay or the one-dimensional characters or even the unattainably perfect bodies that set kinksters off. Instead, it was the disregard for consent (Ana clearly was hesitant; Christian didn’t fully communicate his intentions) that made them abhor what could have been a coming-out party of sorts for the BDSM world. “In our community, consent starts from a place of safety,” says Ali Wyles, technical and media director of A Kink in the Cure, a Boulder organization that explores how the practice of BDSM can help those with sexual trauma. Wyles explains that, for obvious reasons, it’s imperative to know if someone is OK with being spanked or tied up. “It’s so important we sometimes use the phrase ‘informed consent.’ ” In short, BDSMers make sure that not only do their partners really want them to do something, but also that they are completely aware of what exactly is going to happen, even if that sometimes means fully explaining it beforehand.
In light of the recent parade of high-profile perpetrators of nonconsensual sexual activities (and the legions of no-name creeps in their shadows), the kink community’s no-means-no, maybe-means-no, and only-a-very-audible-and-enthusiastic-yes-means-yes ethos is something the rest of America should consider adopting. Like, immediately. “The problem is we don’t like talking about sexual assault,” says Karmen Carter, executive director of the Blue Bench, a Denver nonprofit that supports sexual assault survivors and provides prevention programming to the community. “That makes it really difficult to talk about consent.”
Whether it’s due to the shame we learn to feel about sex as we grow up or the notion that sex should happen as seamlessly as it does in the movies, Americans tend to sidestep what they think might be clumsy conversations. Although some experts say it doesn’t necessarily have to be awkward—a well-placed, “I’m so into this—are you? Is this feeling good to you?” can be enough—it may be that we need to accept a moderate amount of inelegance. “Consent is the conversation we have to have to make sure no one feels an obligation, that there’s no objection,” says A Kink in the Cure founder Tim Murray. “If it has to be a little logistical, that’s worth it to know where the line is.”
Despite the signed submissive-dominant contract and Ana’s timid agreements, Christian should have keyed in on his submissive’s obvious equivocations and discomfort. In a real-life kink community, Christian would’ve been shunned as the guy no one wants to play with. “Being intimate with someone is about being attentive on more than one level,” the Blue Bench’s Carter says. “Is there good eye contact? Do you see hesitation or fear? Is there utter silence? Is your partner responding to you? If you’re not sure, check in. Even if you think you are sure, check in anyway. We really do have to commit to the idea of consent.”
CAL’s Jordyn Amstutz and Isaac Cross. Photo by Caleb Alvarado.
In September 2015, Jordyn Amstutz and Isaac Cross founded the Colorado Center for Alternative Lifestyles (CAL), a nonprofit that “supports consenting adults who engage in alternative relationship expressions and structures.” Translation: CAL gets real about nonmonogamy and kink. During CAL’s quarterly Beyond Grey/Kink 101 and Beyond Monogamy/Poly 101 courses, the duo defines terminology, dispels myths, explains etiquette, and generally shines a light on practices that have for far too long been cloaked in darkness. Although we suggest you sign up for one of their free classes, we asked them to tell us a few things their audiences can expect to glean from each.
Beyond Grey: Kink 101
- Kink can be defined in a lot of ways, but a common interpretation is that kink comprises unconventional sexual and/or physical practices that sometimes incorporate discomfort into the pleasure.
- People assume that kink is all about whips and chains, but it can be soft and sensual as well. Gentle intimacy—soothing strokes, erotic tickling—can be just as kinky as breaking out the flogger.
- Kink doesn’t always mean there’s going to be sex. Kink doesn’t even have to be a prelude to sex. You can have BDSM experiences that are 100 percent nonsexual.
- Even when you negotiate a relationship dynamic—such as a dominant and a submissive—that looks like ownership or the relinquishment of authority over yourself, keep in mind that this is all fantasy. You always maintain your right to have boundaries and the ability to end the relationship. Pointedly, you can always say no.
Beyond Monogamy: Poly 101
- Although this is a difficult lesson for many people in traditional relationships to grasp, this course explains that people in relationships don’t own each other. No person ever has the right to prevent you from being happy—no matter if you’re married, no matter how in love you are, no matter what kind of relationship you have or how long you’ve been in it.
- Jealousy is just as common among the nonmonogamous as it is for monogamists. Feeling envious doesn’t mean nonmonogamy is untenable or that you’re “doing it wrong” or that you’re not enlightened enough to handle it. Jealousy is a normal human emotion that becomes manageable with practice.
- People often think polyamorous people are irresponsible or immoral—or both. In most
cases, nonmonogamists are open with their partners about their activities. This isn’t sneaky sleeping around. The biggest difference between monogamists and nonmonogamists is generally that the polyamorous set rejects the societal expectations of what relationships have to be.
- You may not get everything you need from one person. In the view of CAL, it’s OK to have à la carte relationships: sex from one person, cuddling from one person, emotional intimacy from one person, living with another person. This class asks you to think about what removing exclusivity from your relationships would look like.
Porn with a Purpose
Kama and Urvashi have no problems with graphic sexual imagery. The Larimer County residents, who asked us to use their stage names, own an erotic photography business and are active in the local swingers community. It’s adult videos—the kind that depict women more as tools than humans—they take issue with. “Porn upsets me as a female,” Urvashi says. In addition, pornography, they believe, too often has become a replacement for sex. So, four years ago, the couple launched a production company called Spark Erotic. Their videos, available for $10 each, feature real couples doing real couple things, like making dinner or getting ready for bed. Even without the aid of an unexpectedly chiseled cable repairman, things take a turn toward the sensual. The resulting vignettes are explicit but not gratuitous, often educational, and always respectful. The pair hopes lovers use the scenes as mood-setters. Says Kama: “We want people to feel comfortable watching as a couple.”
STD PSA: 43%
That’s the increase in the overall rate of sexually transmitted infections—specifically, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis—tracked by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) between 2013 and 2017. And yes, that percentage is adjusted for population increase, so you can’t blame the Texans. Who or what can we fault? “There’s no smoking gun,” says CDPHE’s Dr. Daniel Shodell. “You can point to unsafe sex, geo-social dating apps, inadequate treatment, poor diagnosis rates, the opioid epidemic—it’s all part of it.” How to remedy the problem? Get tested at Denver Public Health’s walk-in STD clinic (denverpublichealth.org). Then: Use a damn condom.
When it comes to unconventional sex, Denverites are much less prude than one might think. In fact, local sex therapists say swinging, polyamory, kink, and hotwifing (yeah, it’s a thing) are all…well…hot and heavy here along the Front Range. That doesn’t mean we’re immune to the misconceptions surrounding less-vanilla lifestyles. Here, we separate fact from fiction.
You might think BDSM (bondage, dominance, sadism, masochism) means that one partner gets off on torturing the other.
But typically kink play is about consensual, erotic power exchanges, not the complete control of one person over another.
So… if one partner is spanking the other, it means the spankee has not only consented to it, but also is probably enjoying it.
You might think being tied up means that you deploy that pair of fluffy pink handcuffs you keep in the bottom of the closet.
But typically in the kink community, being bound entails intricate and detailed rope work, from basic wrist ties to dynamic suspension setups.
So… should you like the feeling of jute fiber against your skin, consider Googling “kinbaku,” a Japanese style of bondage that’s as much an art form as it is a sexual fetish. Disclaimer: Don’t try this without instruction. Injuries happen. The experts at Denver Rope Bite or Denver Bound can help.
You might think polyamory means that a person is married to more than one person at the same time, kinda like that TLC show called Sister Wives (that’s “polygamy,” by the way).
But typically when people identify as “poly,” they believe in being able to be in love or romantically involved with—although not necessarily married to—more than one person at a time.
So… really, that can mean a bunch of different things—including having a primary partnership that’s open or being in two completely separate yet equally important relationships—but a core tenet of polyamory is that all involved know that everyone else has other partners.
You might think “Hotwifing” (aka, a husband giving his wife the go-ahead to pursue sexual relationships with other men) means that they might as well call the divorce lawyer now.
But typically this scenario—a husband either knowing his partner is having extramarital sex or actually watching her do so—is something both of them have fantasized about.
So… married couples—and that, of course, includes nonheterosexual pairs—aren’t necessarily headed to mediation, so long as sex isn’t their primary means of connecting.
You might think going to a swingers’ party means that you’re rolling into a big, sweaty ball of bodies, where nothing—and nobody—is off-limits.
But typically people in “the lifestyle” don’t all dig the same things; many couples are there to swap, sure, but others are there to flirt and then head home to ravish each other.
So… do your best not to gawk. Sante Suffoletta, founder of Denver lifestyle community Menage Life, says people sometimes get kicked out of their parties for staring uncomfortably. So, while there aren’t too many rules at swingers parties, a good one to remember (in life, too) is: Don’t be a creeper.
Denver Mardi Gras. Courtesy of Dave Wood.
Talking about sex can be a total turn-on, yet most of us avoid the subject, even with our SOs. If you need an unintimidating way to jump-start the convo, want to learn more about your lovemap, or just have some sex-positive fun, consider these local events.
Sign up for a retreat with Ecstatic Intimacy
Taught by Joanna Shakti, an advanced certified tantric educator, the Conscious Relating (February 22 to 24) and Conscious Sexuality (May 17 to 19) retreats differ in their curriculums. However, both foment conversation, help participants unpack attraction, explore the differences between the needs of men and women, and rewire the expectations surrounding sex in a fully clothed, welcoming atmosphere.
Attend the Radical Love Summit
This annual one-day conference (April 27 this year) at Denver’s PPA Event Center wants to “revolutionize your experience of love and relationships.” Delivered by roughly 20 presenters, the seminars and workshops run the gamut from “The Evolution of Relationships” to “The Power of Loneliness” to “Online Dating.”
Party with Kevin Larson Presents
People come from all over the country to get freaky at the erotic galas put on by this Denver event designer. While the White Rose Gala on New Year’s Eve, the Naughty Ball on Halloween, and next month’s Denver Mardi Gras on March 2 aren’t play parties (read: you can’t get that freaky, so keep your pants on), they are seductive (themed dress is encouraged), sensual (there’s plenty of alcohol-fueled dancing), and the perfect place in which to give your partner that come-hither look.
Mix it up at Denver’s Social Slosh
Three times a month, the Colorado Center for Alternative Lifestyles puts on these alternative-friendly gatherings, where kink-curious, LGBTQ, and nonmonogamous folks can get acquainted with Denver’s community in a fully clothed setting. The free-to-attend sloshes rotate between Blush & Blu, Platinum 84, and the Ginn Mill.
Check out Talk Sexy
This nearly four-year-old sex-positive education group believes in the freedom of sexual expression. Talk Sexy’s speaker series, held on the second Tuesday of every month at Studio Friction at 7 p.m., tackles subject matter such as body image, jealousy, polyamory, safe sex, kink, female ejaculation, oral sex, and BDSM topics like spanking and fire play. The free workshops, which sometimes include live demonstrations (sometimes involving naked people), draw anywhere from 35 to 175 people. Learn about future Talk Sexy events at meetup.com, fetlife.com, and kasidie.com
The Case for: Pretty Panties Under Your Patagonia
By Lindsey B. Koehler
I was 15 and living in the balmy South when my friend gifted me one of the new lacy thongs her bawdy aunt had bought for her. The barely there black G-string was the first piece of noncotton lingerie I had ever owned—and I loved not only the way it looked, but also how it made me feel. Which was equal parts beautiful and coquettish, especially when I wore a skin-dusting sundress. At that age, no one else was seeing those undies. The exquisite shape of the satin triangle, the delicate lines of the ruched bands, the way the “V” in the back sat just below those little feminine indentations…it was all just for me.
Fast-forward oh, about 25 years, add a few booty indentations that cellulite-free teenagers don’t have, and throw in a Colorado wardrobe resplendent with figure-hiding chunky wool, blue jeans, and micro-fleece, and I still believe in the power of pretty panties. Beautiful bras, too. At 40 years old, I do have someone who enjoys the occasional glimpse of my frilly underthings, but I do not wear them for him.
To be clear, I’m not a five-foot-nine underwear model. I also don’t live in a city—like Miami or Atlanta or LA—where the climate encourages scant clothing and even scanter undergarments. In short, as a regular woman, it’s not always easy to feel sexy—and it’s even more challenging in Denver. So, before I go full-on Marshmallow Man with my jeans and sweater and puffy coat, I pull on something that makes me want to tell Miranda Kerr she isn’t the queen of demi cups. Yes, I’m aware that sounds preposterous (Miranda Kerr is a goddess); however, I will double down by saying I think everyone knows the feeling of putting on a favorite outfit. Instant confidence, right? Fancy undies have a similar effect, but with an added perk: the devilish pleasure of being the only one who knows about them.
Mile High Dungeon’s Domina Elle. Courtesy of Terry Ratzlaff.
Homework: Check Yes or No
If and when you decide you’re ready for some real-life experimentation, you’re probably going to need to consult your partner. (If you’re single, just go for it!) A painless way to do that is a worksheet, a tool sex therapists often employ. Each partner fills it out, accepting or rejecting opportunities based on comfort level. Where there’s common ground, there might be room for further exploration. We suggest walking through these options and seeing which of Denver’s sex-positive offerings interest you both.
This Denver lifestyle group is a great resource for adults exploring swinging as well as other alternative pursuits. The organization hosts monthly meet-and-greets, where you can speak with members and “play” is relegated to certain areas, like Menage Force One—an old-school bus outfitted with beds perfect for quickies. If you decide the lifestyle is for you, Menage also hosts parties at private residences around the metro area. The only requirement? You can’t attend alone, so bring a buddy.
You’ll have to sign up to become a member before you can take part in the erotic events (glow and body-painting parties, bondage nights) at this 21-and-older community. The upscale swingers club is located on a highly manicured property—with a mountain-resort-style lodge, dance stages, outdoor cabanas, and fire pits—in Littleton.
Mile High Dungeon
Think of the owners of this three-year-old outfit as trained therapists—in leather and latex. Domina Elle and Mistress Victoria each have nearly 20 years of experience in BDSM, and one of their mantras, says the former, is “Are you ready for the next level?” Their warehouse in west Denver contains implements to help you reach your goal, whether that’s learning to navigate bondage or having all of your power taken away by being stuffed inside a 70-inch balloon.
With a clothing-optional indoor pool as its centerpiece and tacky, mirror-bedecked suites straight out of ’70s pornos for overnight stays, this adult-only swingers resort in Aurora is an accessible and reasonably priced way to dip your toe into swinger-filled (and hopefully highly chlorinated) waters.
Temple of Ishtar
Nearly 600 people have signed up for this six-year-old Meetup group, which, through hands-on workshops and play parties, helps people understand their sexualities and harness their sexual energies with a goal of having intentional, spiritual orgasms. In practice, that means founder Amy McBain invites paying, registered guests to her Nederland home studio where she leads groups in sessions that might include meditative activities, masturbation, or sensual tantric massage.
This 32-room Denver institution remains a men’s-only haven for hedonism. A private suite costs $28, while admission itself runs $7 for the day or $20 for a six-month membership. The grounds include a sauna, steam room, and whirlpool—as well as a dungeon. Whenever you roam, the manager makes it his mission to ensure you’re never out of reach of a free condom, and Denver Public Health is present during all parties to offer free PrEP meds and HIV/AIDS testing.
The Denver Sanctuary
Tucked into a warehouse-y district near downtown Denver, this hush-hush BDSM dungeon (operated by a very nice human who answers to “Love Slave” via text at 720-989-3283) takes on the pragmatic personality of its plainspoken owner. The dungeon hosts relaxed workshops (like how to be a better “top”), newbie nights with orientation, TNG (“the next generation”) parties for the 19- to 35-year-old set, and full-membership play nights where the dungeon is open for…whatever.
At 15 months old, this Lincoln Park nonprofit social club looks like a cross between a fancy gymnasium (lots and lots of straps hanging from the ceiling) and a spare but oontz-oontz-oontz-y Las Vegas lounge. Depending on the membership tier you choose—which range from Wrapped to Tied to Bound—you have the ability to attend classes, workshops, parties, and practice spaces, all of which are generally geared toward bondage. Rope-curious? Sign up for a trial membership.
Lindsey B. King, Deputy Editor
Lindsey B. King is 5280’s deputy editor.
Spencer Campbell, Senior Editor
Spencer Campbell is 5280’s senior editor.