Credit: Nick Karvounis
Sometime a few months ago, a friend was commiserating with my complaints about the lack of queer women‘s spaces and hookup culture. She told me she had thought about going to Our Secret Spot, a Sydney swingers club, to try and meet other women who were looking for casual girl-on-girl sex. The idea of trying to negotiate that in a room full of men definitely wasn’t going to fly with my lesbian partner, Kate, and probably wasn’t my idea of a good time either. So I ignored it.
Until a few days later ,frustrated, searching for women’s events online, when Our Secret Spot appeared, with a women’s only play party, Femme. In comparison to the much-lauded Skirt Club (which hosts expensive parties solely for femme-presenting bisexuals while turning away applications from lesbians), Femme sounded as though it had more potential, even if the name slightly missed the mark.
As lesbian nightlife has died in Australia, and queer spaces are intensely contested (and in contrast to gay male cruise culture, often mostly non-sexual for women), this felt like an incredible and exciting opportunity. After expressing initial apprehension, Kate happily surprised me by buying us tickets. In the weeks before the event, we negotiated our boundaries and preferences (what do we wear? what if someone is only interested in one of us? What if it’s full of unicorn hunters?), and booked all the other logistics.
So we turned up at the Darlinghurst terrace house not quite knowing what to expect. We were greeted by a bouncy American hostess who showed us to the bar and gave us a locker for all the clothes we probably wouldn’t be needing. The club was a bit of a rabbit warren, large enough to find your own nook but small enough to run into others. Downstairs was for mingling, upstairs was strictly lingerie or less, with a series of rooms, massage tables and a hot tub.
One of the first things I noticed was that the crowd was almost evenly divided between lingerie-clad regulars who initially made me feel overdressed, and visibly queer women, mainly still in their clothes. Many of the former had been dropped off or sent out by their husbands, and their enthusiasm ranged from ‘I’m indifferent being here without him’ to being thankful to spend a night enjoying women’s bodies without it being co-opted for their partners’ pleasure.
Kate had had more reservations about the event, so it was much to her amusement then that as soon as we walked in the door, I suddenly became nervous and forgot how to talk to women, leaving her to pick up the slack for both of us. There was a mix of couples who had come together and women who had come solo, ranging in age from their early 20s to 50s, and from high-femme to delightfully butch.
We made liberal use of the bottle of vodka we had brought in an attempt to relax, stayed downstairs and chatted for a while, and were both glad when the obligatory burlesque performance involved a liberal dose of humour and a live python as opposed to anything more serious.
After unsuccessfully propositioning another very nervous couple, Kate and I dressed down and headed upstairs ourselves to one of the plush, dark private rooms. Couples were making out in the hall, and a combination of moans and contented laughter emanated from the rooms around us. It felt thrilling and relieving to have left the small talk, and I was turned on as hell. We had left the door open in case of visitors but regretted that decision when our bed was taken by a pair too into each other to remember to ask before joining, so we left.
Next, we tentatively entered a room next to the bar referred to as the dungeon, a well-equipped kink-den, where a femme was being happily spread out and flogged by a grinning companion. We didn’t stay, but it was a nice nook, with the option of being viewed from the outside or closing the blinds to turn it into a more private sanctuary.
At this point, one of the hosts began to suggest that those left downstairs make their way up to the purpose-named orgy room, a separate upstairs space with multiple b turned into one, and a hot tub in the corner. Soon the bed was full, and the whole room smelled like sex; Kate and I had one of the more unabashedly butch women sandwiched between us, while also intermittently kissing and nibbling a gorgeous young couple we had been chatting with who was now fucking with abandon right next to us. The room had turned into everything I had hoped: queer women here to appreciate and fuck each other with no pretence.
Kate and I got lost in each other at the same time more women came upstairs either to watch or to try and find an empty corner of the bed to join in. Listening to everything happening around us and locking eyes with a few onlookers was intensely hot. By this point, a few strap-ons had emerged, and their wearers were in high demand. After luring one in my direction and coming so hard I think I forgot where I was, we headed back downstairs and finished up the night with just half an hour to spare before the club closed at 3am.
Our Secret Spot tried pretty hard to make the party feel friendly to queer women. There were no male staff, and apart from a slightly out of place slideshow flickering on one wall with a significant amount of penises and het sex scenes cycling through it, it was easy enough to forget that this was a straight venue trying to discern whether lesbian and bi women made a financially viable side-market. While we experienced it differently – for example, Kate still felt the intrusion of “straight expectations” from the number of lingerie-clad women who watched but didn’t participate in the orgy – we both agreed that it was a worthwhile experience.
It was refreshing to be reminded that away from the male gaze and female socialisation away from casual sex that there is a community of bi and lesbian women looking for these opportunities to be passionate and free with each other. While I hope (perhaps naively) for more events like this run not just for but also by queer women (and not just those lower than a 3 on the Kinsey scale), we will both definitely be going back to Our Secret Spot for their next women’s only night.