This post is the second in my series on throwing parties. Again, it’s not a nostalgia trip. It’s an instruction manual.

By the mid-nineties, the Biohazard parties had taken on a distinctly different tone, and we had refined a new technique that created an exciting environment wherein you were never sure what was going to happen or (more interestingly) who would be involved.

In order to create a transformative space, there were certain useful patterns that emerged.

  1. When guests step through the door, they must be made to feel a distinct separation from their everyday selves.
  2. They must feel secure; that their boundaries will be observed even as they stretch them
  3. They must not fear accountability
  4. There must be opportunities to stretch their own personal boundaries
  5. There must be good food and good music and clean bathrooms

By now many of you are noting the distinct correspondence to the rules in BDSM. This is not an accident. The parties were not necessarily about sexual exploration, just exploration of self in general. However, sexuality is usually the most fertile ground for exploration, and it came up a lot. We were more than happy to oblige. But more on that later.

In order to create this environment we added the following elements:

  1. Themes, and costumes. The parties were always themed, usually costumed, because it’s easier to step outside of your own self if you’re dressed as something else.
  2. Entering the house must be a distinct threshold. The party was not allowed to spill out front to preserve the distinctness of the boundary between reality and our fabricated environment. We went to great lengths to create this, sometimes with a vulgar literality (for example, stretching a couple of deflated weather balloons vertically across the doorway, side by side, so that to enter you had to step through a giant vagina and be reborn within). Once inside, there was some kind of ritual if we could manage it; for example, we would keep a warming tray by the door with perfumed oils, honey etc. and greet our guests with a choice of which substance they would like to be anointed with, and where they would like to be anointed. (This yielded surprising results.)
  3. Sometimes we’d issue individual safewords to everyone who entered. It had the intriguing effect of setting the stage for exploration while at the same time offering an out. This was not as off-putting as we thought it might be, and it was fun to come up with all the silly safewords.
  4. Heaven save us all from enforced icebreakers. But we came up with a couple of good ones, like serving only finger food and making a rule whereby you were not allowed to feed yourself.
  5. Video cameras that were shown to NOT be recording. This was really interesting. We’d set up a camera in one room, and pipe the signal in to monitors in other rooms. There were things people would do in front of a camera that they would never do in front of a crowd. And of course there was a good deal of titillation as people realized what they were seeing was going on in a room nearby. The results of this were highly unpredictable and always entertaining. It was important to make people understand that it was not being recorded (and to have the self-discipline to not record it). I was always surprised at how many people were disappointed that there was no recording of their little performance, but it was important to observe the accountability rule. It was also interesting what people chose to watch on TV instead of going into the room and watching it in person. (William Burroughs had something to say along these lines.)
  6. Compartmentalize. We had rooms that were dedicated to different exploratory activities. Once people crossed that threshold, that was half the battle to get them to try it.
  7. Mixing exposure and privacy was not limited to the video cameras. One of my favorite things ever was setting up a giant backlit sheet in the back yard. Behind the sheet was a gynecological table. Whatever happened on this table was projected in giant silhouette on this sheet by a cheap Home Depot halogen worklight. Deelish.
  8. Enforced lounging. Filling a room with futons, pillows and sheets and so on worked very well with the middle-eastern-fuck-beat music I was playing at the time, and had a knack for loosening up inhibitions. I should take this moment to point out that we never had an orgy exactly, at least not that I know of. I would have liked that — not because I wanted an orgy, but because I would have been thrilled that I had created the environment where everyone would get to that point.
  9. Always have a good dom on hand, and a professional body modder. Look for a dom who’s gentle with the newbies, happy to tie them up, blindfold them and do the whole rabbit-fur/slapper/nerve wheel/crop treatment and leave it at that. (If the dom has a horse, that goes in front of the camera. Trust me.) The piercing/tattoo artist must have the proper sanitary accessories and good lighting. Have someone who will perform some oddly intimate or private thing in front of the camera. I had one guy who was just shaving guests’ legs, which turned out to be a lot of fun.
  10. Costume tips: You want to reward people who have the most transformative costumes. Never permit vampires, Crows or Marilyns, let’s start right there — it’s a total cop-out, at least for my crowd. Offer prizes — good ones — for “most outrageous” and “best overall.” “Sexiest” is fun but turns into “sluttiest” too easily, which is really lame. (It’s too easy to be slutty — you can just buy any off-the-shelf costume at a Spirit Halloween store these days.) As for the host’s costume, it must photograph well and be good to greet guests in, of course. I tend to shy away from elaborate constructions unless it really adds to either the photo or the greeting.
  11. Food: Tidy finger food is best. Messy finger food can be good in concept but in practice it’s too much of a hassle and can even lead to disaster. (Having a dip made mostly from honey seemed like a great idea on paper. Never again.)
  12. Booze: Add exotic variations where possible. Don’t get Bacardi, get Captain Morgan’s. Don’t get schnapps, get Midori. Don’t use ice, buy dry ice. It’s cheap, easier to get than you’d link (any carbonics supply place will set you up; there’s even a drive-thru in San Jose!) and VERY dramatic. I find there’s usually one shy person who’s happy to spend the whole party making drinks, or one drink they’re really good at. (I miss my Lemon Drop Bitch. That was great.)
  13. Music: Party music has never been easier than in the age of the MP3. Jesus I wish that had been available back then. I was a slave to the stereo. But it’s important to keep the music coming, and make sure you have a specific party mix — or two. I had one mix loaded down with lots of sexy grindy music, and another one with really upbeat stuff from a lot of genres — swing, 80’s, whatever the girls responded to — for when they want to dance.
  14. Boundary check. Make sure you have some empathetic soul who cruises the party making sure that no one is uncomfortable. Someone who can read the body language — some people just aren’t assertive enough to use the safeword, know what I mean? This is a delicate operation but I never seemed to have trouble finding someone to assist in this capacity. People can really shine here, too, by simply being able to disengage a hapless victim from an uncomfortable encounter; it’s a kind of heroism.

Sadly, age and domesticity has largely robbed me of my clientele, and without anyone to pass the torch to, it was lacking in younger blood. As a result, I fear a Biohazard reunion party would be pretty hopeless; if I could get decent attendance (doubtful) it could end up looking like some creepy middle-aged swinger’s party from a Real Sex episode. Yuk. But these guidelines were dead reliable and can be a secret formula for a series of truly memorable parties.