We Met In An Orgy In Nogales

by Chimney Wimpus

 Illustration by Jacob Thomas

Illustration by Jacob Thomas

Several weeks ago, I found myself at The Cock, an East Village gay dive bar that miraculously avoided closure during the Giuliani and Bloomberg eras. Descending the bar’s stairs into the sticky basement— which smelled like a frat party mixed with a horse stable—I soon found myself engaged in a sex act with several strangers and onlookers. I felt exceptionally calm in the taxi home, sandwiched between two sweaty and bewildered college friends. I even shocked myself with my own calmness. How is it, I asked myself, that in almost five years I have transformed from a prudish, 19-year-old to a 23-year-old comfortable with receiving semi-public blow-jobs from a pack of strangers crouched at my knees. Indeed, the past four years of my young, gay life have been marked by increasingly debauched and sleazy encounters.

One constant in my sexual life, however, has been group sex. Unlike a sex act between two people, group sex has a completely different, animalistic, hedonistic rulebook. Any pretext of romance, intimacy, or love is cast aside for the duration, and a new, completely debauched dynamic takes form. While one-on-one sex has the possibility of leading to interpersonal and emotional connection, group sex is detached and depraved. It is purely frivolous, and rarely (if ever) leads to deep emotional bonds between participants. Indeed, it’s a time to turn off emotions and completely and unabashedly objectify your sex partners. It’s a very disorienting dynamic to get used to. Herein lies the double standard; we in the gay community place wildly different expectations on sexual situations. The “rulebook” for sexual encounters—whether with one or multiple partners—is not intuitive and full of contradictions.

And these double standards come out in even more obvious ways regarding group sex. Whether with intimacy, partner selection, or general human decency, group sex brings out new and unfamiliar sexual situations. Group sex is statistically uncommon, yet it dominates the gay sexual psyche. A veritable exercise in human psychology, group sex can bring out very complicated aspects of human nature. My last boyfriend, for example, was disgusted to hear that I had participated in a foursome, but happy to tell me about the instances he cruised for sex in public parks. To give you a better idea of the complicated human psychology behind group sex, I am going to share a few significant and memorable moments of my group sex odyssey with you.

I grew up on TV, movies, and the social environment of an expensive liberal arts college that taught me that group sex was completely ordinary and common. While statistics on group sex are not that reliable, only about 18% of Americans have participated in group sex in their lifetime. A far lower number, less than 1%, has group sex on a regular basis. While these statistics do not account for sexual orientation, they are telling of the relative scarcity of group sex in an average American’s life. Despite this, I was almost embarrassed at age 20 that I had not yet had my first threesome. I knew nothing of the statistics or of the emotional acrobats of group sex, but I did know that I wanted—that I needed—to have a threesome. It seemed like a rite of passage, and it happened quite naturally while I was studying abroad.

I had befriended a couple in their late thirties, who had what seemed to be a semi-open relationship. They would invite me to their intensely campy apartment (John Waters posters and Victorian bric-a-brac) in an even more intensely kitschy building (space-age themed lobby and elevators, complete with floating astronaut wallpaper and twinkling stars on the elevator ceiling). Aesthetically, I thought the couple was living like queens of a much-older generation. Both would aggressively flirt with me when the other left the room. As a naïve, 20-year-old, twinky, liberal arts student, I wanted desperately to respect what I thought was the sanctity of their decade-long relationship, and never responded to either’s advances.

But one night after attending a Blondie dance night with both men, I was invited for a “nightcap” at their apartment. One thing led to another, and we were soon clumsily rolling around on their double-sized bed. I was extremely nervous and didn’t want to “play favorites” with either man. This was not difficult, as both were terrible in bed, and had a serious cocaine problem. Because of this, both were highly energetic at first, biting and licking me and each other with theatrical aggression. I was amused but was not really enjoying myself. The pace suddenly slowed down, and the two men collapsed on each other, exhausted from too many drugs and brandy over the course of the night. I was neither high nor particularly drunk, so I clumsily got dressed and left—confused, tired, and unsatisfied.

In the early-morning taxi home, I wondered if I had done something wrong to lose the couple’s attention. Had I offended them? Had I proved myself to be inexperienced? Had I destroyed their decade-long monogamy? My anxieties were not quelled when a week later I found out the couple had broken up. It must have been me, I dramatically told my friends. I avoided the couple for months afterwards. In retrospect, I had nothing to do with their break up. They had clearly invited other “thirds” to their apartment before. I was, as I came to realize, interchangeable. I was physically included in their relationship only to amuse and please the couple. Maybe they assumed I knew this, but I was caught off guard. Of course, I was just a symptom of bigger relationship problems, but I had much to learn.

Having lost my “threesome virginity,” so to speak, I felt more comfortable exploring the novel and unfamiliar world of group sex. However, I was not comfortable enough to physically seek out other couples or willing partners in person. So, I compromised with Grindr. From my experience, Grindr and other dating applications have significantly lowered the opportunity costs for having group sex. Before the application-era, people had to actually meet in person, making sordid proposals in bars and cruising spots. Nowadays, a bored couple can simply import a willing third partner (or partners), without fear of rejection or shunning. Now, group sex still happens naturally—my first group sex experience, for example—but I believe apps have really cornered the multiple-partner market. And as group sex via apps has become the new norm, it has distinctly changed interpersonal relationships between participants. While proposing a threesome in person usually requires some kind of intrigue and flirtation, with an app it suddenly goes from total strangers to double-penetration.

I started slowly with Grindr threesomes, trying to learn the script that goes along with an app-facilitated ménage-a-trois. Late one night while on a family vacation in London, for example, I found a couple on Grindr looking for a “friend” to join them for a “nightcap” (why is it always a nightcap?). The couple—a French financier and his live-in twink—invited me to their loft apartment in a converted East London chocolate factory. After drinking some rosé, we started kissing and undressing, and then moved to their bedroom. After a few minutes in bed, during which I received the toothiest blowjob imaginable, the twink seemed to completely lose interest. He left the bed, whistling a song from Rigoletto as he got dressed. I carried on uncomfortably with the banker. Other experiences followed this template. I would be invited by couples to be their transient and replaceable third. I don’t mean to say this is entirely negative—casual, emotionless sex can be a completely satisfying and enjoyable thing. But it is a different experience to be completely objectified within the context of someone else’s already-existing relationship. In New York, for example, I was having sex with a couple that started arguing about who would walk the dog later that night. Both men were tag-teaming me for the duration of the argument. It takes a while to get used to these disorienting and absurd situations.

Yet, the most defining moments of my group-sex odyssey happened when I moved to Mexico City. It’s a city full of gritty dark rooms, sex cinemas, bath houses, and very tired drag. Everything gay and gritty feels like an anachronism poorly concealed by Catholic guilt. It was in this debauched city I learned how to pick up multiple people at once. And where I learned how to reconcile and curtail my emotions during a group-sex encounter.


Soon after moving to Mexico City I started dating a guy who, from the start, was open about being non- monogamous. This was no problem for me, until one night he invited me to Teatro Garibaldi, an infamous afterhours place in the city’s historic center. Best known for its live sex, sloppy drag, salsa dancing, and open prostitution, Teatro Garibaldi is a drunken gay phantasmagoria in a former cabaret theater. Upon arriving, my date ordered a bottle of gin and set to wrangling a pack of men. Handily, he found three decent-looking guys, whom he invited to my apartment for “drinks.” I knew what drinks euphemistically meant and tried to go along with it.


We all got in a taxi, with me in the front seat with the four others squeezed in the back. I noticed movement in the back, and saw my date’s head in a stranger’s lap, moaning. I panicked and opened The New Yorker on my phone, trying to make the taxi driver think I was a respectable young man while my friends were homosexual degenerates. I was getting increasingly nervous and sober; I had slept with couples before, but four other men! How does that even work? And was I feeling jealous? I liked the guy I was dating, and though I had no problem with non-monogamy, this felt different. I generally preferred not to know who this other person was sleeping with, but this was hard to manage when he was blowing two strangers in our shared Nissan Versa. We arrived at my apartment, and the four others immediately undressed. I became even more nervous, puttering around my apartment offering drinks and condoms to my “guests.” I was ignored. Out of fear of missing my opportunity, I hastily undressed and dove in, so to speak.


An important detail I forgot to mention is that I am generally coded as a bottom during sex, since I am skinny, pale, and young. Indeed, most gay men have little imagination. While I certainly do enjoy being fucked, the idea of being penetrated by four large drunk men was, well, daunting. I was also feeling uneasy about seeing my date be intimate with two other men. I was trying to play it cool, but the confusion and anxiety I was feeling killed any passion. This was more than an open relationship; it was complete emotional detachment. It was like we were all apathetic animals with absolutely no regard for one another. I hastily made an excuse about being too drunk and scurried off to the kitchen. While the other guys finished fucking each-other, I finished reading a Zadie Smith story on my phone. Yet, something changed within me after that night. The idea of multiple people—more than three—no longer scared me. Maybe I just needed to be broken in. Or maybe I needed to learn how to turn off most human emotions and only follow animal instinct. Whatever it was, it took practice. Several months later I participated in a very successful foursome. I knew none of the other participants beforehand. We all watched a movie afterwards, said our goodbyes, and never saw each other again.

Thinking about my past several years of sexual experiences, I am reminded of a conversation I had on the Metro North line from New Haven to Grand Central Station. I was 19, living in New York for the summer, and coming back from a weekend with my boyfriend. We had been together since I was 14, and, naturally, we were starting to grow apart. The train was full of aspiring creative writers coming from some sort of university conference. I sat next to a woman—who was wearing a felt beret—returning from the conference, and we started making conversation. She told me she had been giving workshops, so I asked her, “what is an essential life experience to be a good writer?” She responded, completely seriously, “I sleep with all sorts of people, and as many as possible. It gives me all kinds of material. If you want to be a good writer, do the same.” I giggled, but upon realizing she was serious, steeled my face.

I broke up with my boyfriend later that year and started exploring with my sexuality more and more. Five years later, I completely disagree with the beret woman’s advice. My sexual experiences have been largely fun and enjoyable, even with group sex, but they are generally meaningless and ephemeral. While every group sex experience I had was totally consensual, they were not all exactly pleasant. To be brazenly objectified for sex can impact your view of yourself. Feelings of longing, romance, and desire are completely crushed. There is no emotional build-up, just a sudden and chaotic release. Indeed, people’s wildly differing standards for one-on-one vs. group sex can be very confusing. Group sex has decidedly not enriched my personality, or my world view. My best sexual experiences have been with partners I’ve had feelings for, been intimate with, and seen many times. While I think that sex and love are independent, they are certainly complementary. Maybe I’m romantically delusional, but I’ve never been emotionally satisfied by a group encounter. Almost all of the casual sex I’ve had can be reduced, at best, to funny anecdotes. And I think I just used all of them up.


Written by Chimney Wimpus