Photos courtesy of Broken Glass Photography / Sinful Living
Smoking weed at sex parties is nothing new. Hell, we've probably been blazing dosia at orgies long before Rome threw its first erotic bacchanal. But, in possibly the first legal event of its kind, a 420-friendly, "clothing-optional" event took place on January 13 at a licensed cannabis social-use club, the Speakeasy Vape Lounge in Colorado Springs, CO.
And in the conservative, evangelical city of Colorado Springs, that's a pretty big deal.
For one, this town is surrounded by four military bases, and it's home to over 100 evangelical Christian organizations, including two of the nation's most prominent right-wing, sex-negative, anti-cannabis groups: Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council.
Second, despite being Colorado's second-largest city, Colorado Springs' city council banned recreational pot shops before Amendment 64 went live on January 1st, 2014. Over four years later, the city still hasn't lifted the ban, even as Denver, Pueblo, and even nearby Manitou Springs reap record tax revenues from legal cannabis sales.
Furthermore, Colorado Springs is one of the state's last bastions for social-use clubs. Weed clubs have been practically phased out in Denver (although Denver's new social consumption permits may reverse that course), and until last year there were nearly a dozen pot clubs operating in the Springs. Most of those clubs closed due to a city council-ordained catch-22: to remain open, all clubs needed a shiny new license from the city. And that license not only forces the clubs to shut down in the next seven years, but they had to stop providing weed to their customers, too.
This all adds up to an incredibly hostile environment for pot clubs to operate. Since they can't provide weed, the clubs have lost a ton of income and need to think outside of the stash box. So, when the Speakeasy Vape Lounge announced they'd be hosting a sex party at their weed club, everyone took notice.
It was a risky move, one that brought a little heat on Speakeasy. One comment came from the owner of a competing weed club, who joked that sex-party patrons used the club's bongs as dildos. (That did not happen, according to the people who were actually there.) Other critiques on Facebook included one Springs resident decrying the event as "dishonorable" and "perverse." Another thought the party would reflect badly on the cannabis industry and Colorado.
Mary (not her real name) attended the Speakeasy event, and she thought the combination of cannabis with kink paired well. "I feel [cannabis] definitely enhanced it," she told MERRY JANE. "I'm a shy person, but I love to explore a lot of things and hate when my anxiety interferes with me trying to enjoy the fun things in life. When I smoke, I can be more outgoing." She noted that the staff stressed hygiene, even providing cleaning supplies for wiping down tables, counters, furniture, and presumably bongs, too.
When asked if she'd return to the club's next "clothing-optional" event, Mary replied, "Oh, absolutely. I'd go every month if I can."
Jaymen Johnson is the owner of the Speakeasy Vape Lounge, which opened its doors five years ago. While the club has also served as a music venue, featuring past performances by the likes of Three 6 Mafia, Mobb Deep, and Sublime with Rome, Johnson says the first sex party was successful from a business perspective. "It was the equivalent of a better Saturday, if you would," he said. He expects future erotic events will bring larger crowds.
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Sarie Elayne Randazzo is the Director of Lust at Sinful Living, a sex-friendly events company. She says she's been a member of the kink community for most of her adult life. Last year, she and Johnson came up with the idea to host a weed-and-sexy party at Speakeasy, to foster intersection between the kink and cannabis communities. To learn more about how a sex party operates within a social-use cannabis club, we spoke with Randazzo about the sexy, stoned event.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity
MERRY JANE: How'd you react to the community's responses to this 420 kink party?
Sarie Elayne Randazzo: We'd been advertising it for a couple of months, and then one day it just suddenly blew up. We had news contacting us that day. It was posted all over sites with people's comments about how it's "gross" or "disgusting," or they were asking, "how is that even legal?" We were like, "Oh, wow, you guys don't know anything about this."
Despite the uproar, there's equally been as much support, too. And that's been really reassuring to us. It was a little bit surprising because there are clubs that exist [in the area] that don't have cannabis options but perform those same services, and they're not getting the same uproar or attention. It's been interesting to see that response.
I'm surprised something like this hasn't happened sooner – a licensed pot club hosting a kink or swinger-friendly event. How'd the actual party go?
It was good, though we had about half the people show up who RSVP'ed. I'm not sure if something just came up, or if the news kind of made it seem like the event wouldn't have the discretion that they wanted it to.
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But people had a good time. The cops weren't there. We didn't have any protesters. I was totally prepared for protesters [laughs]. Everything went smooth from the start. People were respectful, our check-in process was effective, nobody had any objections, and everybody signed the waivers. People did partake in some playing, although that wasn't mandatory.
As for smoking, dabbing, or vaping weed, what was available?
It's a consumption club, so the Speakeasy doesn't provide any marijuana or dabs. People have to bring their own cannabis [BYOC]. But they do have e-nails, so you can dab at the bar. Or you could use bongs or pipes, papers or blunt wraps. People were allowed to bring their own pieces, too. Most people rolled joints, walked around, shared their joints, and mingled.
You mentioned people could bring their own pieces. Do you allow people to bring their own sex toys, too?
Yep, people can bring their own toys. But we do not allow urination, defecation, or blood play inside of the facility – at all – for sanitary and health reasons. We provide condoms, but guests are not allowed to bring cellphones inside the event at all.
For our readers unfamiliar with the kink or erotic party scene in Colorado, could you explain how consent and safety work at an event like this? How do you keep people from acting out or crossing the line?
To start, we have everybody sign a waiver. Even though it's open to the public [to anyone over 21], we do have an RSVP on our website that's required to get in. We lock our doors [from the inside], too, so there's no way anyone's randomly coming into the club. After everyone is inside, we ID them, and we write down their ID number, so if there are issues, we already have their information for the authorities should we have to call them at any point.
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Then we go through the orientation and the three-page waiver: we talk about etiquette, consent, only-ask-once, no-means-no… all of the incredibly important things that may seem like common sense but definitely need to be stated.
Can you talk more about consent at your play parties?
As far as safety and consent are concerned, that's our biggest priority. We have people sign the waiver – and its very detailed – so everybody knows we're very specific, and we're watching out. We're walking around and keeping an eye on everybody. And we tell people to please talk to us if you're having an issue with somebody. We can't catch everything all the time, so if someone came up to you more than once, we'll kick them out.
We're very adamant about the etiquette and the rules, and if people don't agree to it or they don't sign for it, they're not allowed to stay. A lot of people who aren't in the lifestyle aren't aware of how much respect and consent goes into being part of this. It's not like hooking up with a stranger at a bar. There are rules you discuss with your partner that permit you to play. It's not like people rip off each other's clothes and just start fucking on the floor.
The news reports stated local law enforcement would investigate complaints concerning the legality of the event, but you were fully compliant, correct?
A lot of people don't know that our legalities are in check. There aren't any permits or licenses required to hold these kinds of events. A lot of people are concerned and ask, "How is this legal?" But it is. It's totally legal.
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And people made comments about things we were doing with bongs. "God knows where those bongs have been." The bongs have been the same places they've always been! [laughs] It was really amusing to see some of these comments. They just don't know. Hopefully, with exposure, they can know and understand there's a whole community out there of safe, respectful, responsible members of society that just like to have a good time.
Sinful Living organizer Sarie Elayne Randazzo, courtesy of Broken Glass Photography
A lot of the hate you received came from the local cannabis community. Could you talk about that a little bit?
[Speakeasy owner] Jaymen Johnson has done a lot for cannabis clubs in the Springs, but unfortunately a lot of the clubs that weren't holding up the standards set by the city have been shut down. A lot of them blame Jaymen for that because his club is still standing. It wasn't even necessarily that they wanted to attack the sex event; it was that they wanted to attack anything his club was doing, and they threw our event under the bus because they knew it would cause an uproar.
There's definitely been a lot of ignorance, in the cannabis community in particular. [It's surprising] that they'd stigmatize something [like this] in the same ways the cannabis community has been treated for many, many years. We're just an extension of a different type of community that wants to do its own thing without harming anybody.
There are plenty of private kink events, such as those held at people's homes, that allow weed. Why organize this one at a legitimate club?
Many of us are heavy cannabis users, and we thought there could be an event with crossover [appeal]. I wanted to bring out more of them. Sometimes we're the lone stoner at the party, outside by ourselves smoking our bowls while everyone inside takes their shots [of alcohol].
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On that note, how did alcohol play a role at your event?
There's not any alcohol allowed in our facility. We are located next to a bar, and people were allowed to leave and go there for shots or a beer if they want to. We had to lock the door behind them, so they had to call us to reenter. But most people spent the night smoking weed.
Based on your experiences with sex parties, did you notice a difference in the vibe between Speakeasy's event and home events with alcohol?
The Speakeasy event was a lot more chill. People were relaxed and easygoing. As far as the activities, there was a bit of a slow-build in that sense, as opposed to just taking a shot and saying, "Let's go!"
But it's harder to moderate yourself when you drink. It can be difficult to keep up when a bunch of people want to do shots. But we had people who didn't even smoke. They were OK with it, though. They just came, hung out, and once we found out they didn't smoke, we just skipped them as we passed it around. They behaved in that matter instead of feeling the pressure to smoke because that's what everyone else was doing.
Honestly, doing it in a cannabis setting instead of an alcohol setting is a lot safer. I can't back that up with studies or anything, but people must be sober in order to consent. If they're not of sound mind, they can't consent.
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Your company's name is a bit contrarian in a city obsessed with Christian virtue. If readers had one takeaway from this interview about your company, what would it be?
I want to make sure people understand Sinful Living is an event organizer company. Just like our name says, we're really just trying to throw events for people who are a little more discriminated against, a little more risqué or taboo.
That's why we hold cannabis events, fetish events, swinger parties, those kinds of things – but that doesn't mean we believe what we're doing is actually wrong or is sinful. We're just trying to reveal the hypocrisy behind that idea. It's all stuff that unites us as humans. It's part of our nature. Sexuality is ingrained in who we are. These kinds of parties provide a space where people can be who they are and express things about themselves that they don't always get to. That's a really important thing to provide to the community.
People wonder, "Why can't you just do that at home?" Our guests are your average people. These are your teachers, your doctors, your next-door neighbors. These are just regular, everyday folks who want to meet up somewhere judgment-free and just be themselves.
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