WORDS: Lauren DeGaine
LEAD IMAGE: AllieKat Photography via Bass Coast
Part 2 of Festivals In Relation, our article covering intimacy within the festival environment. Betty and Kora talks with professional relationship coach, Mel Mariposa Cassidy – founder of Radical Relationship Coaching, writer of the blog, Polysingleish, and co-founder of the Consent Crew. Read Part 1, “Festivalling in Partnership: A Guide for Couples,” here!
Being single and going to a music festival is a wonderful opportunity to have new experiences with no strings attached. But how can you do that responsibly?
If you’re a single person who wants to hook up or find your festival soulmate, how do you talk about sexual health in a transparent and drama-free way? How do you navigate intense feelings? What about the transference of festival euphoria into a new relationship?
We’re here to help! Follow along while we walk you through a classic frisky scenario.
CONNECTION. It’s the first night of the festival, and you head out onto the dancefloor. You’re in the zone, and suddenly you lock eyes with someone. They’re hot, you’re hot — things are gettin’ steamy…
CONSENT. Especially when we are in altered states of awareness, it’s really easy to assume that the other person wants the same things that we do. But with a complete stranger, you don’t know what’s okay and what’s not.
This goes for non-sexual stuff, too! Mel explains, “Things like kissing, cuddling, hugging, touching, stroking, massaging — even things like hanging out, coming back to your camp, or following you onto the dance floor, or dancing with you — is stuff that’s worth having a conversation about. And if the other person hasn’t shown enthusiastic interest, then don’t engage with them in that way!”
INTEREST. You’re having the most majestic time dancing with this new sexy soul, and you desire to take things further. Express your interest! One of Mel’s favorite “conscious pick up lines” is, “Would you be interested in taking this dance from vertical to horizontal?”
*Pro tip!* It’s worthwhile early on in the interaction to ascertain if/what substances the person is on. Know for yourself what substances you are comfortable navigating and which ones you’re not. Familiarize yourself with the way different substances affect people, and remember that, by law, someone who is intoxicated cannot consent to sexual activities.
INVITATION. Take a moment to get really clear with yourself about what it is that you want to do with this person. In the moment, it’s easy to get carried away. A brief check-in with yourself is all it takes.
“Knowing what you physically and mentally have the capacity for, in terms of sobriety and consent, is essential,” Mel advises.
Then you can create an invitation: “I’d like to get to know you better, would you be interested in going to Ekali’s set with me, or sharing some tacos with me, or talking with me under the Wishing Tree, or riding your bike with me?”
“In general, people avoid talking about their desires because if you ask for something, you run the risk of being told no, and then you have to deal with the feeling of rejection,” Mel says. “If you can ask for what you want really clearly, you have a better chance of getting it.”
SEXY TIME. You’re connecting with this new person in a really pleasurable way, and together you decide to take it back to your tent/Delica/hammock (good luck!)/RV/carefully chosen crop of bushes (pun intended!).
Mel says, “I have this rule that before anything goes below underpants, let’s talk about our STI’s.”
If this conversation is fun for you, then you are a sexual health hero. If not, stick to the “elevator pitch”: disclose your health status, last test date, risk factors, if you’ve recently had unprotected sex, and then ask if they have any questions.
*Pro tip!* Get tested a few weeks before the festival so you have time to treat anything, if necessary. And always carry some condoms and individual packets of lube! (We get dry and dehydrated out there, folks!) Mel recommends stashing a couple of these in any small zippy pockets you have, along with individually wrapped wet wipes
*Pro tip!* Discuss “Fears, Desires, Boundaries and Aftercare.” Do you want no strings attached fun? Do you want to potentially hang out after this? Are you concerned that they’re going to notice that you haven’t showered in two days and smell like a banshee? Do you really like being spanked with inflatable flamingos? Is glitter-play is a hard no? Those kinds of things!
The actual conversations don’t have to be drawn out when you can get straight to the point.
Mel admits that these conversations can sound like a lot of work. “When people hear this, they think, ‘Ugh that’s a lot of talking — how do I do that amount of talking when I’m high?’ It’s actually surprisingly easy to say, ‘I wanna f*ck, no strings attached, and maybe cuddle after, what do you want?’”
The real hard work of being an ethical and responsible slut happens at home, when you get educated about consent and communication, and do some soul-searching to figure out what you want and why you want it.
POST-COITUS. Before you even get in full-frisk mode, talk about what the aftercare might look like! Obviously things shift as you go with the flow, but you can ask questions like: Do you want to snuggle and have breakfast, or do you want to go out and dance again? Do you want to meet my friends? Do you want to spend the rest of the festival together?
This is all about reducing the amount of emotional labor that you have to do! It can seem like a lot of work, but having these conversations before getting into intimate or sexual situations can save you from fall-out later.
Post-fest, you might be tired and strung out. That’s not a great state to have to deal with things like: feelings of remorse about an experience you shared, or finding out that you actually weren’t on the same page about what being spanked by inflatable flamingos meant! Or dealing with an STI test coming back positive, and then having to have follow up conversations.
There’s a level of emotional labor that we can’t avoid; that’s part of interacting with other human beings. However, there’s a lot that we can do to reduce emotional labor by focusing on having pleasurable experiences while maintaining communication and consideration.
*MORE PRO TIPS!*
— IF YOU’RE NOT SURE, DON’T ACT. Mel says: “What I have learned both through my own personal experiences, and through relationship coaching, is that if something’s a really good juicy connection, you don’t have to explore it in the moment. You can wait. Whether that’s waiting till the next day, waiting till next year, or waiting two hours! Give yourself some time to breath and process. There’s so many things that are stimulating you at a festival, and all these new experiences can skew our ability to make clear decisions — even if we are totally substance sober.”
— DO YOUR WORK BEFORE HAND SO YOU’RE SETTING YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS. Get comfortable talking about your expectations/desires by having those conversations with friends. They want to support you having a great experience! And ideally, they’ll end up being your cheerleaders, too!
— WATCH OUT FOR NRE! Because there is a lot of romance around festivals, some people go there with the expectation that they’re going to meet their life partner.
“As human beings, we respond to stimulation and novelty,” Mel explains. “Sometimes it hits that erotic part of our brain, and that can get transferred onto the person who’s in front of us… But it’s the titillation of the whole event that’s actually sort of getting funnelled into this one person.”
NRE, or New Relationship Energy, is a biological experience that occurs at the beginning of many sexual and romantic relationships, when your brain is flooded with serotonin and oxytocin. NRE typically involves heightened emotional and sexual receptivity and excitement, and this can affect your judgement and ability to give informed consent.
“People can get into fast and furious romance mode with NRE because they had really good sex with someone at a festival,” Mel says, “and that’s not to discount having really good sex with someone at a festival — just remember that they aren’t necessarily your soul mate.”
— WHAT IF YOU NEVER SEE THAT PERSON AGAIN? Mel says: “Remember that that doesn’t diminish any pleasure that you got out of the experience. You don’t need someone else to be there to remind you of how special something was.”
Mel sums it all up by adding, “The atmosphere of a festival can be an amazing place to make new connections. When the communication is clear, and you know you’re doing pleasurable things that you’re mutually enthusiastic about — that can lead to some of the sweetest experiences ever! Memories you’ll cherish for years to come, even!”
Special thanks to our expert consultant, Mel Mariposa Cassidy. Please feel free to contact Mel for a coaching session if you want to dive deeper into any of the subjects presented in this article. Happy (and consensual!) shagging, party people! XOXO, Betty and Kora.