Relationship Diversity Podcast

All About Play Parties with Chez Jennings

February 15, 2024 Carrie Jeroslow Episode 87
Relationship Diversity Podcast
All About Play Parties with Chez Jennings
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Episode 87
All About Play Parties with Chez Jennings


Ever wonder about play parties?

Join my awesome guest, Chez Jennings, co-founder of Friends With Benefits and Gaze, as she gives you a 101 course all about play parties - what they are, all the different kinds of parties, how to find one, how to prepare for your first one, as well as how to create an after-care plan.

We talk about how people in diverse relationship structures can get the most out of the experience. So regardless if you are monogamous, soloamorous or non-monogamous, play parties have something for everyone.

And even though there is a lot of stigma around play parties, they are many times about connection, curiosity, exploration, fun and yes, a great workout!

Connect with Chez:
Friends With Benefits | Gaze | Instagram

Listen to Dr. Eli Sheff and I talk about The Bonding Project, another of Chez's creations.

Bonding Project Website

This is Relationships Reimagined.

Join the conversation as we dive into a new paradigm of conscious, intentional and diverse relationships.
 
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Please note: I am not a doctor, psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist, counselor, or social worker. I am not attempting to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any physical, mental, or emotional issue, disease, or condition. The information provided in or through my podcast is not intended to be a substitute for the professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment provided by your own Medical Provider or Mental Health Provider. Always seek the advice of your own Medical Provider and/or Mental Health Provider regarding any questions or concerns you have about your specific circumstance.

Chez Jennings:

There's such a stigma, which is crazy, because these environments and I'm talking about the parties that are safe and have a really strong code of conduct some of the safest sex you'll find. That's safer than doing a one night stand, for sure. These environments are meant for connection and for facilitation of fantasy and being able to fulfill fantasy in a safe way, and it's so interesting to me that there's a stigma. I understand why there's a stigma because a lot of it is coming from religious folks who feel that this type of thing is immoral. But I will tell you, you meet so many churchgoers at these swing parties.

Carrie Jeroslow:

Welcome to the Relationship Diversity podcast, where we celebrate, question and explore all aspects of relationship structure diversity, from solaramary to monogamy to polyamory and everything in between, because every relationship is as unique as you are. We'll bust through societal programming to break open and dissect everything we thought we knew about relationships, to ask the challenging but transformational questions who am I and what do I really want in my relationships? I'm your guide, Keri Jarislow, bestselling author, speaker, intuitive and coach. Join me as we reimagine all that our most intimate relationships can become. Today's episode is part of our Conversation Series. I'm just one voice in this relationship diversity movement and it's important to bring more unique perspectives into the conversation.

Carrie Jeroslow:

Today I'm talking with the awesome S Jennings, an entrepreneur and community builder. All about play parties, what they are, how they work, how to find one that resonates and how to prepare yourself to try one out. But first a little about her. Shay is a founder, coach and entrepreneur based in Los Angeles. As a long time relationship nerd, she advocates for representation of relationship diversity and marginalized communities. Through co-founding gays and friends with benefits, she facilitates safe spaces for women and LGBTQ plus people to express themselves. Let's get into the conversation.

Carrie Jeroslow:

Hello everyone and welcome to this episode of Relationship Diversity Podcast. Oh, I've got a great one for you today. I am so excited to have h Jennings with me today to talk all about play parties. I'm so excited about this conversation because I don't have any experience with play parties. If you don't either, let's learn together from S, who has a lot of experience, and not only in play parties but in lots of community building, to bring together people who maybe feel like an outsider for their relationship, structured choices or even their curiosities. And what I love about what Shay does with all of her projects is this bringing people together in a space of inclusivity and diversity and acceptance. So with that, s, thank you so much for being here with me.

Chez Jennings:

Thank you for having me, Carrie. That was such an intro.

Carrie Jeroslow:

Well, so I met S with the bonding project, and if any of you don't know what the bonding project is, please go back and listen to my episode with Dr Elizabeth Sheff. I will tag it in the show notes, because we're not going to talk about that very much with this. We've got so many other things to talk about. So, shay, let's start with you telling us a little bit about yourself.

Chez Jennings:

Yes, thank you. So I'm a Southern California native. I grew up in Orange County in a Christian household, conservative household Definitely a nerdy Christian kid. It's funny to be talking about this because up until I graduated high school, I literally thought I was saving myself for marriage. I was so religious moved to Los Angeles in the early 2010s for work and for folks that are aware of the Orange County to LA, it's close, but the cultures are very different, so that felt like a big move to me.

Chez Jennings:

I moved to Los Angeles. I had worked in corporate jobs and then tech for the majority of my career, mostly in recruitment, hr, adjacent type roles which is also funny to be speaking on these things now because I would never talk about any of this stuff in a work context. And yeah, 2016 really was a transformative year in terms of falling into a completely different world. I moved to Los Angeles fresh out of a long-term monogamous relationship that was very on again, off again, very passionate, but also very not meeting my needs in terms of what I was looking for and at the time I didn't realize some of that was relationship structure. But when I moved to LA, this was like a big time for Tinder and so I got on Tinder and was swiping like crazy and basically saying yes to any date that I was asked on. I joked that I was dating full-time. I'm on top of my full-time job at that time.

Chez Jennings:

And met a guy that kind of hinted at an open relationship in his profile and I was in my yes era just trying to figure out what I liked and he also was 6'5". So like, come on, you're going to go on that date. And his partner was also very attractive. So I was curious and we went on a date and he was talking about non-monogamy and how in love they were but the freedom that they were able to afford each other being open, and I just knew I wanted to know more. I wasn't sure at that point if I was ready to dive into that world, but I was still interested. There was a lot of chemistry there.

Chez Jennings:

We went on a second date, which was my first group date with him and his partner, and I still remember them walking me to my car. Like it was yesterday, Like are we allowed to kiss? Like can you kiss two people at the same time on La Brea? Like I'm not sure and I don't think we kissed. I don't remember, but I feel like we didn't because I was so nervous. And for our third date, third meetup, they invited me to a play party that ended up being at Jess's. So it's like a very quick progression.

Carrie Jeroslow:

Yeah, I can only imagine coming from a conservative Christian world in Orange County going to LA and then having this experience that there's so much processing that happens during that and it sounded like it was in such a short period.

Chez Jennings:

Yeah, I basically didn't have time to process. I thought it was good.

Chez Jennings:

I think it was good because I'm normally so type A, so analytical, little anxious. So I don't think, if I hadn't been in that mindset of just say yes, I might not have ended up on this trajectory. I think I still would have ended up here. It would have been a different path. But I wasn't questioning anything and I knew I felt safe with these people who had invited me and I told myself if I don't like it, I can leave. At the time, Jess was branding her parties as a networking party with an optional orgy.

Chez Jennings:

So, even just that right. Like I'm a corporate person, I'm like, oh, networking, okay, I'll go for the networking and if I don't want to stay for the orgy, I can leave.

Carrie Jeroslow:

Yeah, so what was your first experience at that play party like oh, my goodness, it was a whirlwind.

Chez Jennings:

So I think I remember being overwhelmed initially by the quality of people that were there, just in terms of attractiveness. They were interesting, they were curious, everyone seemed really kind and courteous. But you know that you're in this environment that's going to turn into something. So it's like I think with these people I might be open to it. There was one creepy guy that tried to make a move on me in the beginning and luckily there were other folks there that were able to intervene. But the night ended up being pretty fluid in terms of there was conversation and mingling in the beginning and then I think folks started out with vlogging, which in general I feel like is one of those warm up party trick things because the noise gets people's attention. So there was some flogging happening and play started moving to more sexual. I had my first MFM that night. Oh, okay For those who don't know?

Chez Jennings:

MFM is a male, female, male threesome. So that could be anything from like an Eiffel Tower situation or something where, basically, you're sandwiched to males as the female. So that happened. I remember that being really beautiful and the energy was just so high. In these environments your senses are so heightened. And then the kind of pivotal moment where I think I knew Jess was my person. We were both being flogged on her patio and just like looked into each other's eyes and it was. I'm such a romantic.

Carrie Jeroslow:

What amazing love story. We were both getting flogged and we look in each other's eyes. I love that.

Chez Jennings:

Yeah, and I told the story so many times and I love it, but I just remember feeling like I don't know what this is Because at the time I came into this party a straight person. So it's like I don't know what this is. I know I've met my person. This is a big moment and I don't really care what that means right now. It just was so lovely in the moment. I also liken it to the movie stepbrothers. You know where they're? I don't know that movie. So it's a World Feral movie and John C Riley plays his brother and they're hanging out and they're not happy to be stepbrothers. That's like the early premise of the movie. But they hit this moment where they're rough housing in the house and then they look at each other and they're like, did we just become best friends? And that moment I'll send you the clip. But it's like you know that instant.

Carrie Jeroslow:

Yeah, I have had that moment many times in my life where I've looked at someone and I just know there's something really big there and whether that has turned into something romantic or a friendship, a really like deep soul connection. So I know that moment and I have an amazing visual in my mind of you and just having that moment over being flogged, I love that.

Chez Jennings:

But Sal, just gazing into each other's eyes, it really was so romantic.

Carrie Jeroslow:

Yeah. And so, from your first experience in a play party, what did it look like from there?

Chez Jennings:

Yeah, I joke that I fell down the rabbit hole and I'm still in it because it really is like it's now eight years long. I basically showed up at this party and I feel like I never left in terms of the energy of still wanting to be there. So during that era Jess actually hosted over 200 parties in about 18 months. So the frequency was I basically was there at every party after I met Jess, so sometimes that was three or four a week and at that time we were living two blocks from each other. So imagine the convenience of like you can walk to the orgy, you're going to be there pretty often and that's your bye.

Chez Jennings:

So yeah, I fell in and I think that experience really helped me in terms of my discovery of what I wanted, of my own relationships and how I wanted to revisit my identity in terms of just myself and my sexuality. But also relationship orientation and really polyamory struck a chord with me again as a romantic. The idea that I could have crushes for the rest of my life and be able to pursue them was just like what. But I think I got a lot of value at that time out of meeting other people who were going to parties older than me, my same age, different life experiences, being able to have conversations and be really vulnerable in that space and also just be so open to learning. That really helped me chart a course for where I ended up today, where so much of my life revolves around this world.

Carrie Jeroslow:

Yeah, it sounds like such an awakening eight years of this, awakening into more of the truth, of who you maybe always were, but it just took you time to find that, which I think is really beautiful. What I'd like to ask you is go back just a little bit and talk about what a play party is, and I know there's got to be lots of different kinds of play parties out there. So can you lead me through just more explanation of what a play party is, or different kinds of play parties that there are?

Chez Jennings:

Yeah, totally and the term is actually for folks that are new to this space like very general because so much falls under the umbrella of play. So play could be a cuddle party where no sexual or kink interactions are happening and it's just more sensory and touch focused. It could be a kink party at a dungeon, where it's very BDSM focused, or sex parties. Even within the umbrella of sex parties too, there's swing parties and different types of parties depending on relationship dynamic and demographic and things like that. So price point really varies.

Chez Jennings:

My joke in Los Angeles is we basically have a range and it's like at the low end, the Craigslist gang bang where it's one guy looking for a gang bang for his wife, which is honestly super common.

Chez Jennings:

If you look on Reddit and Craigslist you will see these posts where they're like we're open to six guys, write us, tell us who you are, if you're respectful. And then on the high end there's what I call the celebrity hot or not, which is some of these parties are tens of thousands of dollars to get into very strict approval process. Often they have a lot of paid performances and masks and what's a little bit more, eyes wide shut, as we like to say, which honestly, a lot of parties pull from this reference. And then you've got everywhere else in between. So there are swing clubs that couples can go to that are more public, where you can apply online and pay an entry fee and kind of you can decide to go same day. And then you have more referral based networks where maybe they don't host as often but they are still requiring some sort of vetting process to get in and attend.

Carrie Jeroslow:

What I find really interesting is once you start this is what I found is, once you start exploring this, you find that there are a lot of people doing it that don't ever talk about it. It is in the shadows a lot, but once you work your way into that, or, like you say, the rabbit hole, I've realized that a lot of people do it and a lot of people keep it quiet, which is why I appreciate you coming on here and being so open and vulnerable to talk about your experience, because I think the more we bring this out into the open, the more people will feel maybe a little bit more comfortable talking about it, exploring it.

Chez Jennings:

Yeah, there's such a stigma, which is crazy, because these environments and I'm talking about the parties that are safe and have a really strong code of conduct some of the safest sex you'll find that's safer than doing a one night stand, for sure these environments are meant for connection and for facilitation of fantasy and being able to fulfill fantasy in a safe way, and it's so interesting to me that there's a stigma. I understand why there's a stigma because a lot of it is coming from religious folks who feel that this type of thing is immoral. But I will tell you, you meet so many churchgoers at these swing parties. I don't believe that it's a binary of just because you attend a sex party, you're a bad person, so it's unfortunate.

Carrie Jeroslow:

Well, yeah, and I think a lot of deep religious people repress that anyway and so it comes out in unhealthy ways and it sounds like a vast majority of play parties is a healthy way to explore what is normal and natural in a lot of people and I think that there are these perceptions of play parties being just this raucous. I think just people have very negative pictures of what play parties are. But it sounds like there's so many benefits. You've talked about connection, community. What are some of the other benefits of play parties?

Chez Jennings:

Oh my goodness. Well, one of the fun ones I feel like for people that are very active is it's a great form of exercise.

Carrie Jeroslow:

You can cancel your gym membership.

Chez Jennings:

I was in some of the best shape of my life when I was the most active. Because it's like you go, you see your friends, you get up 30 minutes to four hour workout in, you're drenched in sweat, it's a full body workout. So that's really great. It's actually good for you. But I think beyond that, I talked about connection and community. People are showing up so vulnerable in these spaces and I found that it's a lot easier to make friends and make meaningful connections with people at these parties, regardless of whether or not we even hook up. Just being able to show up and be aligned on just this thing that's not that common usually opens up the floor to have some really fulfilling connections, conversation, insights, perspectives. When you're dealing with meeting anywhere from a small party, 10 people, to 200 people in a night in this sort of space, it's pretty magical.

Carrie Jeroslow:

Yeah, there's such a freedom. I just went to a gathering of non monogamous folks and it was so free to be able to just go in there and be open and honest with hey, what's your relationship dynamic? And there was just an overwhelming feeling of acceptance and freedom and that is really magical. So if someone is interested in exploring play parties, how would someone even begin to find something that they would feel safe going in? I know that there's different dynamics in terms of a single woman going and finding a play party, then a couple finding a play party, then a polycule finding a play party. There's different dynamics and different people have, I'm sure, different desires that they want to experience. But let's just say in a general way, someone has never experienced a play party and they want to experience one. How would someone go about finding something like that?

Chez Jennings:

Yeah, great question. So it can be a struggle depending on where you live. I'm not going to lie to you. It's a lot easier than it used to be, but still requires some work. Most people go the route of online searches. So putting the name of your city and either sex party play party or GKINK party whatever your niche you think you might be interested in is which will likely lead you to either your most active local Swinger website, which they do a lot of cross promotion of parties, and also FetLife as well, which is going to be more for the Kink leaning folks. But I have found that generally there's a good amount of parties posted on FetLife which, for folks who aren't familiar, fetlife is Kink Facebook. Basically, it's pretty old school. I'm not on it. I feel like it's a little bit too. You can't control what you see. A lot of people have very intense profile pictures and I'm too tender for that.

Chez Jennings:

But I think, beyond the online searches, there's also postings on Reddit. So you've got what's called R for R, which is Redditor for Redditor. Sometimes there will be posts for Threesomes or things like that on there. Or, honestly, if you're open to it and you have a friend group that you can trust asking around because chances are you're better off finding something through word of mouth, through friends then going the online route, which can be a very mixed bag. Usually the referral based are your best option.

Carrie Jeroslow:

And maybe it's even helpful to, before you even do a search, think about what do I want to experience? Do I want to have an intimate little 10-person play party, or am I interested in going to maybe a bigger club or experience where I can observe and feel the vibe out? What's important to me always is being able to feel the vibe before really entering into any kind of experience. I just need to vibe with it and understand on an energy level what this whole thing is about, and so maybe it's really first understanding what it is that you want and then being able to be clear on how to search for that, and I know that there are some places that do a vetting process and then others that don't. Can you talk a little bit about what a vetting process would look like?

Chez Jennings:

Totally, and I did leave out. Also there's some apps for this. So, like any sort of non-monogamy focused app, or the Bloom app is an events app that's newer Okay.

Carrie Jeroslow:

There's lots of postings on there.

Chez Jennings:

But in terms of the vetting process, I would say most public clubs are still going to have at least an apply online. Create an account. Who are you? Send a photo, make sure you're a real person and that you can pay type situation Most places you're not going to be able to pay at the door and then the vetting beyond that really varies. There are some places where the application is it. There are other places where it's application in a phone call or a video interview. Other places where they may require some sort of orientation. Probably the orientation would be before a party starts day of. So, like you apply online, you might do your call or interview. Then if you're a newbie, they say a specific arrival window and you're there in the arrival window to talk about house rules, code of conduct, any general sort of where things are, where to go, who to flag, if you need something. Type orientation.

Carrie Jeroslow:

I love that because that makes me, would make me, feel safer going in, knowing that there is attention to safety, especially as a woman going in and not wanting to be just feeling vulnerable in terms of interactions and just wanting to feel good, and that I can say no if I don't want. That, which is a process. I am a recovering people pleaser, but I'm learning to be able to say no. So how do you go into those kind of experiences? Since you've had that and you're saying I'm also recovering people pleaser, how do you go into those experiences? I think that that would be also a learning experience to feel okay saying no to someone, right?

Chez Jennings:

Yeah, I would say one of the biggest parts, both owning your know and respecting other people's know. So I think these spaces work best when the baseline culture is to be gracious when giving a no and be grateful when receiving it, because someone's being honest with you and especially if you are people pleaser, it's hard to say no. Sometimes you're like maybe I should. They seem lonely, I don't know and being able to own it. And a lot of places do recommend enthusiastic consent, which also helps, where they'll say if it's a maybe, it's a no and then, you know, or if it's not a yes, it's a no.

Chez Jennings:

If you really ground your intention. But I think, having some key ways, especially if you are a little bit nervous, a little bit anxious, a little bit of a people pleaser, that you know you're comfortable saying no, I'm not feeling it, no, thank you, I'm not sure I want to play tonight, but it's a no for now. Like you can figure out if you need to soften it for yourself to be comfortable fully owning it, or if it's just hand wave no, depending on the environment. I do feel that different types of knows are appropriate. If you're at an intimate party, it's probably a little bit gentler than if you're at a club and someone's grabbing for you and there's hundreds of people on your life.

Carrie Jeroslow:

So no, I definitely had to nudge people away with my foot before because like they're not close enough that they can hear me like Well, this is so great because this brings me to my next question, which is, let's say, someone has decided this is what I want my experience to be. They've gone out and they have found the play party that they are going to go to, and it is the week of it. How would you recommend a person preparing themselves for this experience? And then also, how would a couple prepare themselves for that experience?

Chez Jennings:

I think, there's a couple pillars that I've learned through experience are great to focus on, depending on where you feel like you need the most support or have the most needs. So, mental, just thinking through what you might be comfortable with, what you're not comfortable with, especially if you're attending with a partner, what you're comfortable with doing with others, what those boundaries are after care. If you're driving home, if you're driving together, are you driving home together? What does it look like if somebody wants to go home early? What are your safe words? I think all of those things are really important. And just figuring out how you want to feel supported and safe, because it is such a highly heightened state to be in, I think physical. So, knowing your status and getting in the regular habit of STI testing, I'm really happy that there are a lot of parties that are way more inclusive and talking about If you have something that's chronic. You're not unwelcome here, but you need to communicate with others and the informed consent culture.

Chez Jennings:

I really love that. But being in the habit of getting tested regularly, I think is really critical If you think you're going to play at all. Being hydrated, having something to eat before it's an elevated version of going to a gym or running a marathon. Some of these parties are six, eight hours.

Carrie Jeroslow:

I wouldn't even have thought about that, so I love that perspective.

Chez Jennings:

Yes, hydrate and make sure you're fed well, yes, exactly, even thinking about we get this question a lot with the parties that we host like what to wear, what are you going to be comfortable in, both for play, for after play, what do you want to go home in? Thinking about those things and really just, I think, generally setting expectations for yourself and any partners that you go with. But it's not especially if you're new. There are going to be things that come up that you didn't know to prepare for, and that's okay too. So, acknowledging that there may be some debrief to be had afterwards, depending on the type of night, yeah, that leads me to aftercare, because I didn't even think of aftercare, but of course, yes.

Carrie Jeroslow:

what are some of the ways that you can care for yourself? And if you go with a partner, your relationship how can you care for yourself afterwards?

Chez Jennings:

I think setting time to reconnect either with yourself or with your partner after play. I'm super introverted, so usually after these it's like I need to get into my cave and decompress and yes, I'm waving my hand.

Carrie Jeroslow:

I am that way as well.

Chez Jennings:

I have my at home self care day even if it's been an amazing event, I think with a partner, being able to talk through the highlights and lowlights, if there were any, and discussing any potential changes that you want to make for the future, if you're planning on returning, or for partners that I've explored with where we went somewhere that wasn't a fit. Why wasn't it a fit? So that we can adjust our search for something better suited to our needs at that time? It really is going to depend on what you identify as like feeling like a core need afterwards and just checking in with yourself.

Carrie Jeroslow:

Yeah, those are all amazing tips and I want to move to. You're such a relationship diversity advocate and how would people in different relationship structures come to a play party? So I talk about there's so much in between the structures, but I talk about the main structures as soloamory, monogamy and non-monogamy and I know there's a ton in between there. But how would someone in a monogamous but maybe curious-ish relationship come and then soloamorous and non-monogamous?

Chez Jennings:

It's so common to want to explore in a monogamous relationship and I don't think a lot of people talk about these things. I think setting clear boundaries with your partner of what is allowed especially if you're monogamous right, because if you step over the line you're cheating. So finding that alignment on what do we both agree still allows us to be true to our relationship. And for some people that's only playing together. So as a couple they're only interacting in threesomes, foursomes, morsomes, where they're both participating at the same time or very closely to each other, or maybe it's in the same room but they're not actually playing with other people. They're just existing in the same space in whatever that might look like.

Chez Jennings:

And there's also what's called in the Swinger community swapping. So there are soft swaps and full swaps. So a soft swap is for a couple that is only allowing oral and kissing with other people, and then a full swap would be you can fully trade partners and do penetrative sex. So there are a lot of guardrails already in place that people have been using who are in monogamous relationships. But I think the biggest thing because no one relationship is the same is just getting on the same page with your partner about what you are comfortable with and making sure that that's aligned before you go.

Carrie Jeroslow:

Yeah, and continually talking about it, because with each experience maybe something opens up within us, within our partnership, that will most likely lead to more conversations about wanting to explore maybe other things that like these experiences our relationships. I think the best relationships grow and evolve, and when we try to keep it the same because we're scared to try other things, we can sometimes choke the relationship and keep it stale when there's a whole option on the other side of fear of a lot of other possibilities. And so how would someone who is solo, single, how could and I think that it would be a different experience, not to generalize, but a different experience for a man than a woman to go into a play party. Any tips on that?

Chez Jennings:

Yes, and a lot of groups starting off with single men solo men won't even allow solo men at all, so you already have a much smaller pool to work in. I don't necessarily say I agree. We do allow solo men, select solo men at the parties that we host, but there is a standard that we want to set and I think if you're wanting to have the best experience as a solo man, I think you need to go in really expecting to just observe and be as respectful as possible on maybe your first handful of experiences, because so many folks, men and women have a lot of trauma associated with men, unfortunately, and I think going in being mindful of that is really key. And I think the guys who end up being creepy or potentially booted from these parties as a solo man is because you're hovering without consent, is because you're touching people without consent, is because the respect was not fully felt by the person that you were engaging with. So I think, really taking a step back and almost sometimes waiting to be invited in because there are some solo men who will go to these parties and there are couples that are looking for those types of things, but allowing them to connect with you or allowing women to connect with you instead of being as aggressive as you typically would be or are socialized to be.

Chez Jennings:

I think is my recommendation, as a solo woman, I think, doing a lot of research on where you're going, because unfortunately it can be dangerous and you're in a space where you know that there's just more risk associated with being a solo woman in these spaces. So I think the referral method, of asking around or doing a lot of research on where to go, or finding someone to escort you, it's pretty easy to find a friend that is just willing to go with you, whether or not they're actually going to play at all. So I do recommend that if you're feeling a little bit extra anxious. But I really enjoyed when I was first starting out the act of unicorning, of like going after more couples, because I felt more secure in that there's a woman there, especially if you're like a baby queer. It's like this little toe dip.

Chez Jennings:

You know yourself a couple that's going to take care of you, one that's experienced in the scene, and you can ask them some questions about how they've interacted in the past with thirds and find out your kind of boundaries for what you're comfortable with. But I always feel like that helps a lot just having a little bit of a safety net.

Carrie Jeroslow:

Yeah, and for anyone who doesn't know what a unicorn is, can you explain that?

Chez Jennings:

Yeah, so a unicorn can be any gender, but a solo individual who is interacting with a couple. That could be more dating or sex or cake focused.

Carrie Jeroslow:

Yeah, and then I want to move to people in nonmonogamous structures, because one might think, if I'm already nonmonogamous, I'm going to these play parties is going to be way easier and there probably are some aspects that are easier, but I don't think it's all completely smooth sailing. So how could a nonmonogamous couple or triad or quad go into play party?

Chez Jennings:

It's almost my same recommendation, similar to monogamous couples, about making sure that you're on the same page as your partners. I remember early on in my poly journey and I would bring partners to a party and I remember one distinct experience where I was waiting for my date that I brought to jump in even though I had played with most of the party before. I really wanted to have the experience together and I thought I had communicated that, but maybe not explicitly enough, and he had said he wasn't ready, he needed more time. Okay, I'm hanging out, I'm socializing, but I'm like it's sounding pretty good in there, are you ready? And I go to the bathroom and I come out and he's going down on someone else and I was so devastated because in my mind it was like I was waiting for you.

Chez Jennings:

If we were going to do our own thing, I would have been in there two hours ago. Even if you're a solo poly person, if you're there with a partner in any capacity, you might have expectations or assumptions and if you don't voice them, you leave the window of opportunity to potentially have your feelings hurt. So I think communicating what your expectations and assumptions and needs are not to say that your partners have to agree with them. But if you don't voice them, they can't support you in meeting them.

Carrie Jeroslow:

Right Communication, communication, communication. It helps all relationships. I'd love to move on to Friends with Benefits. This is your club, right With Jess, and tell us more about this. Tell us more about Friends with Benefits and where it is, and more about it.

Chez Jennings:

Yes, of course. So Friends with Benefits is really our kind of reinvention of Jess's first experience, hosting parties back in 2016. So we've taken our learnings from that the experiences from the scene more broadly and applying that this time around to a more member-based community. So our goal was really to create an experience and aesthetic that we felt like was missing, both in the environment and how you're able to show up, and our tagline is come for the orgy, stay for the friends.

Chez Jennings:

So we really do emphasize the community, but we're a member-based community based in just Los Angeles right now, founded by queer women for open-minded people to meet, explore and play, and we facilitate sex-positive play, social kink and educational events. We're really excited by the programming that we're offering, but, reading from our website, I think this sums up who we want to bring into the fold and who we're excited about. Our members are creatives, professionals, artists, entrepreneurs, scientists and executives who embody our community values, and when we evaluate members that we think would be a great fit for our events, we're looking at things like life experience, interests, industry vibes, contributions to the community, and we are really centering women, queer people and people of color in this experience as well, which has been really fun to just see the types of folks that we're attracting.

Carrie Jeroslow:

Yeah and needed right. You were saying that it fills a need that you are seeing in this community or in the play sphere and really serves that population, that demographic and the people that need a safe space to explore what can be a very vulnerable experience for some people, but also lots of fun where people want to feel loved and accepted. I love the educational component. Can you talk a little bit more about what that looks like?

Chez Jennings:

Yeah. So we're really excited to expand into this because I think that even just from a play curiosity about what are KinkBest practices we're going to do a Kink 101 so people can learn some of the techniques for Kink Play to be able to do it safely. But also from a relationship context, we're doing our first workshop this month on navigating non-monogamy. So facilitating a group workshop for people who are questioning their relationship identity or want some more support, just to be able to open the floor and really share some of our learnings as well. We're going to have Dr Eli help us with that. So really excited, but beyond that, I think, just really supporting people in their exploration, because sex party is like a downstream of so many different things, whether it's identity, relationships, identity positivity, general wellness it touches everything. So we're excited to just support people in holistically all things play in the exploration.

Carrie Jeroslow:

And it's so important because the education I think is such a big part of moving into something that is unknown is that there are a lot of us, a lot of people have just figured it out as we've gone along and there's been lots of really challenging moments. And not to say that with education you're not going to have challenging moments, but the support with the educational component and then the community sounds amazing. And you also have another community called Gaze. Can you tell us a little bit about Gaze?

Chez Jennings:

Yeah, and I just feel like there's this ecosystem where all these things are kind of orbiting each other. But Gaze G-A-Z-E is a hub for queer community. This is also a project that I'm working on with my partner Jess. We work so well together.

Carrie Jeroslow:

Yeah, it sounds like it. We just keep creating new businesses.

Chez Jennings:

I love it.

Chez Jennings:

We can't help ourselves, but we wanted to do more purposeful work. I, up until the summer, had been working a corporate startup job and when I left, I still wanted to work on something that was community focused, online and trying to figure out what was the intersection of our skill sets and our passions. That felt like the right fit, and for a while, jess and I have been struggling with the state of social media right now and all of the different things. It feels like a world of trade-offs where social media is not meeting people's needs the way it was designed to. So we really wanted to create a hub where folks feel like they could connect in a safe space with other queer community members and allies, just having a space.

Chez Jennings:

That's for us, by us, that's not focused on dating. That's a resource for people to be able to use. So we have a couple pillars that we're focused on. We initially really wanted to focus on monetization and just found that discovery and finding queer affirming businesses and queer owned businesses was more of a need. So we're working on features to support that. We're working on features to support community groups really focused on online safety and privacy, with discoverability and being able to help communities organized more easily.

Carrie Jeroslow:

I have been on the Gaze app and it is such a welcoming community and it's a free app, so you can go and download it right now. I'm going to have the link in the show notes because if you're looking for something that is supportive, that is affirming, that is welcoming this is such an incredible community that you and Jess are building. And if you happen to be in Los Angeles, check out Friends with Benefits. I'm on the other side of the country, but maybe I'll get to explore it when I I don't know take a trip over to LA sometime.

Chez Jennings:

Yeah, or maybe by the time we expand, we'll be in your area soon.

Carrie Jeroslow:

Yes, I love this. So lots of visions for expansion.

Chez Jennings:

Huh we're excited to just see where it goes. Honestly, I think that there are a lot of other cities that would really benefit, but we want to get Los Angeles good. This is our home turf.

Carrie Jeroslow:

That's a good place to start too, because LA is like an anything goes places. That's the least been my experience. I've never lived there, but I used to go there a lot when I lived in Vegas and it just seemed to be. There's these little communities everywhere that cater towards anything.

Chez Jennings:

Yeah, yeah. There really is something for everyone here. That's great yeah.

Carrie Jeroslow:

Well, Shay, I am so grateful for you and for your work in the world. I do feel like this is what this world needs is expansiveness and openness and diversity and acceptance. You are walking your walk and I am just so grateful for your work and for knowing you. Thank you so much for spending this last hour with us Everyone, please go check out Shay. I have all of her information in the show notes. Thank you, Shay, for being here.

Carrie Jeroslow:

Thanks so much for listening to the relationship diversity podcast. Want to learn more about relationship diversity? I've got a free guide I'd love to send you. Go to wwwrelationshipdiversitypodcastcom to get your sent right to you. If you liked what you heard, please subscribe to the podcast. You being here and participating in the conversation about relationship diversity is what helps us create a space of inclusivity and acceptance together. The more comfortable and normal it is to acknowledge the vast and varied relating we all do, the faster we'll shift to a paradigm of conscious, intentional and diverse relationships. New episodes are released every Thursday. Stay connected with me through my YouTube channel, where I'll give you even more free resources and information all about relationship diversity. I'm super excited to go deeper into YouTube because I'll be able to connect and have conversations directly with you. You'll find the link in the show notes.

Carrie Jeroslow:

Stay curious. Every relationship is as unique as you are. Are you wondering why you never seem to find lasting fulfillment in your relationships? Or do you create the same kinds of relationship experiences over and over again? Can you never seem to find even one person who you want to explore a relationship with? Have you just given up hope all together? If this sounds like you, my recent book why Do they Always Break Up With Me is the perfect place to start. The foundation of any relationship, whether intimate or not, is the relationship we have with ourselves. In the book, I lead you through eight clear steps to start or continue your self-exploration journey. You'll learn about the importance of self-acceptance, gratitude, belief, shifting and forgiveness, and given exercises to experience these life-changing concepts. This is the process I use to shift my relationships from continual heartbreak to what they are now fulfilling, soul-nourishing, compassionate and loving. It is possible for you. This book can set you on a path to get there, currently available through Amazon or through the link in the show notes.

Exploring Play Parties and Relationship Diversity
Exploring Play Parties
Preparing and Navigating Play Parties
Polyamory, Friends, and Queer Community
Relationship Diversity Podcast and Book Promotion