Advice on Hosting Balanced SM Parties
Yeep! I decided that I had had enough regarding controversial topics for awhile, and now this one comes along. Because information was requested, I'll share what I know and my opinions, but I'm not signing on for extended debate. (I already spend too much time doing writing that doesn't pay the rent.)
For the past 2 & 1/2 years, I have run the Bay Area SM club called Petruchio. I put on 12 play parties and 12 socials a year. Before that, I ran the organization called the Rod Club and, back in the 70's, I ran the Gemini Society. In total, I've put on about 70 play parties, plus over a dozen other events. I also know the folks who put on the parties and other events at Janus, La Madrona, Links, Serpent's Lair, Gemini, Differences, and a few other places.
I think the basic reality here is that party givers learn that balance is important. Anything that throws off any aspect of the balance of the event, such as the ratio of men to women, the ratio of tops to bottoms, the number of attendees versus the size of the play space, etc. is disruptive and unpleasant. Many people will just simply not return, ever, to an organization that puts on events that are unbalanced in these respects -- thus further increasing the imbalance, often to the point where the events become just simply "ungivable."
In particular, women are not likely to return to events that have a heavy imbalance of men thus, again, adding to the imbalance. (I know of one case in which the group got such a bad rep that no women at all showed up for an event.)
With the exception of Janus, all of these organizations, in one way or another, regulate their gender balance. Experience has taught them that having a noticeably unequal balance of men and women at a party with "a significantly heterosexual component" can be toxic to the event. A lot of people, particularly men, who state they are bisexual turn out to be no treally all that interested in playing with their own gender if people of the opposite gender are available. Because, in almost every case, more men than women want to attend an event, this usually means limiting the number of single men in some fashion or other.
As to how they do it:
One club has a "committed couples only" rule. It's not enough that you bring a date of the opposite sex. That person must be your primary partner. Singles of either gender are just simply not welcome.
One club (La Madrona, a strictly female-dominant/male-submissive group) only invites women. The women can bring whoever they want to the event, provided they are responsible for how their guests behave. In particular,every man at the party must be under the "supervision" of a specific woman.
One club used to have a rule that straight, single men could attend only if dressed in "femme drag" but I believe that they now just simply have a "no single men" rule.
Janus has an "open door" policy, and they do tend to have more men than women at events, sometimes quite noticeably so. They only give three to four parties a year, however. At Petruchio, I let a limited number of single men (that I already know fairly well) attend. I keep my m/f gender balance at my parties at no higher than 6/5, and have had no problems. Everybody invited must RSVP, so I can track total size and gender balance. (Sometimes, because of space considerations, I have to limit the total number of attendees.) Single men are encouraged to RSVP early. If the balance is greater than 6/5 then they RSVP, they are placed on a waiting list and added if the balance improves. At the (non-play) socials, gender balance doesn't seem to matter as much, but it's still something I have to watch at least somewhat.
Subpoint: The gender balance matter is very rigidly enforced in the Swingers world. Parties are usually open only to couples and single women. Men must arrive with or after their female companions, and depart with or before she leaves. While single men in the SM community may have a few doors closed to them (i.e., they can attend educational programs and socials, but not parties), single men in the Swingers world are just basically pariahs.
There are at least two related issues: Having too many women at a party isn't all that great either. I once gavea party to which I invited more women than men (yes, I admit that I let my fantasies get a bit out of hand) and the result was several women leaning up against a wall, looking very much like girls at a high school dance waiting to be asked to dance. They were not having much fun, and I haven't done that again. Seeing as how there's a lot of trans-gender energy these days, it has become necessary for people putting on "gender balanced" events and "single-energy" events (male-top/female-bottom or female-top/male-bottom) to define who is a man and who is a woman. There seem to be many more M-to-F people than F-to-M folks, so the question is usually who is a woman and who is not.
Some events only consider "natural born females" as women. Some allow post-ops. Some allow pre-ops if they routinely live full-time as women -- wear dresses in public, use women's rest rooms, etc., some allow people who are cross-dressed for the evening.
I put this question to my group in the annual questionnaire I do (a practice I highly recommend) and most of them were comfortable with natural-borns, post-ops, and pre-ops who live full-time being considered women, so that's the policy I use. (I believe it is the one in most commonuse, at least locally.)
I had thought about starting a "lets define a woman" thread just to get to viewpoints of other people, particularly other people who put on play parties.
In general, I'm quite satisfied with how I handle the gender balance issue. It's something of a compromise between the "open door" and "rigid exclusion" stances and, overall, works pretty well. Furthermore, because the women on my list know they won't be overwhelmed by men if they attend, they generally feel very comfortable coming to a party or social. Moreover, many bring their women friends who are SM-curious with them, thus allowing me to (gradually) add in some single men. I've even seen people meet at some of my events and go on to become primary partners, and it's a great feeling to have played a part in that. Never thought of myself as a Yenta, but hey...
Footnote: I should mention that I have a standard charge "per head" at my events. Men do not get charged more than women. Couples do not get charged less (per person) than singles. Also, my events aren't given with commercial intent.
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