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The Orgy Dome

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Getting It On, Voices

The Orgy Dome

Burning Man is a festival — really a temporary city — that appears for one week every summer in the Black Rock Desert of Northern Nevada, and then disappears. Started in 1986, it’s a lot of things — at the very least a hugely wild art and community gathering, a place where exchanging money and commercialism of any sort are prohibited. Participants (70,000 last year!) live in tents and trailers amid fierce dust storms, ride around on bikes, and admire ginormous sculptures on the playa. Clothing is optional, electronic music blares all night long, and drugs and alcohol are plentiful (if kept hidden from the police, who are there to keep everyone safe). Imagine Mad Max meets Alice in Wonderland, and you’ve pretty much got it covered. Of course, these ingredients lead to some wild adventures…

The 10 Principles of Burning Man are:

  1. Radical Inclusion
  2. Gifting
  3. De-commodification
  4. Radical Self-reliance
  5. Radical Self-expression
  6. Communal Effort
  7. Civic Responsibility
  8. Leaving No Trace
  9. Participation
  10. Immediacy

With Burning Man 2018 coming up on August 26th, we thought we’d give you a glimpse into one Woolfer’s unforgettable experience:

Nina Lorez Collins at Burning Man.

On the third or fourth day, biking around in the hot desert, we passed the famous “Orgy Dome,” a place we’d both heard about, but never discussed. We stood, we stared, we felt uncomfortable, and then we rode on. But that night he kept bringing it up (as in “If we one day went to one of those sex tents”) and it evolved into a kind of sexy, teasing conversation. Soon we found ourselves doing a little Internet research and, boom, the next night we snuck away from our friends and headed over to the dome, with a clean sheet, some lube, and a little tequila stashed into our Camelback. Mind you, we had never even remotely considered doing anything like this back in New York, this was definitely a “we’re not in Kansas anymore” moment.

As we waited on line (a very long line. We waited over two hours! To get into an Orgy Dome!), my man was visibly nervous. I felt pleased with myself, like I’d called his bluff and was being super adventurous, and I tried not to think about what lay before us. Then we showed ID to prove our ages (forty-six and fifty-eight, hello!) and were ushered into a giant waiting tent, with other couples and groups sitting around staring at each other. Would we be having sex with these strangers soon?!  

We’d read up, so what we knew the gist of what lay before us. Visitors are asked a few questions about consent, and told the basic rules: you have to disrobe in the ante-tent, where you are given a bucket to store your essentials (water, etc.) and the dome provides extra condoms and lube should you run short. Then you walk into the main area and enter into the middle of the dome. You then have the option of going to “the left” or to “the right.” “The right” is where no one can approach you, so it’s a room full of people having sex in couples (or triples or however you come in together) on their own discrete piece of Orgy Dome real estate (a futon, a couch). You can watch (although not stare), but you can’t touch or approach anyone else. “The left” is more of what you might think of as an orgy. On the left, anyone can approach you and ask for your consent to do things to you, get involved in what you are doing, to have things done to them.

The first guy who explained the rules to us was really chill, and we sort of just blankly nodded like the mortified newbies we were, and said OK. When he walked away (we were still clothed at this point), we looked at each other like, “What the hell are we doing?!” but we just sat there until they called our number (as if we were casually buying sliced turkey at the deli counter), and then we had to walk to the next chamber, where we disrobed, and left our clothes on a shelf. So yes, now we were naked, and being ushered along. Bucket, check. Then the entry to the main room. The big moment. This could have been disastrous, a moment of paralyzing fear, but a very suave maitre d’ of sorts approached us and asked what we’d like to do, go left, or go right? We both shrugged and giggled nervously, and were saved when he pointed out a newly vacant couch on the “right” and we hustled our naked asses right over.

Ok, so the three things you have to know straight off are: 1. the place was super clean, 2. the lighting was perfect, and 3. everyone was super good-looking. And I was not stoned or drunk. It was a perfect night and the other orgy-goers were gorgeous (they just were, it’s true! Although I admit I had been living in an RV in the blazing desert for four days, so a hot dog might have looked gorgeous). We whipped out our sheet and started having sex, right there in front of everyone else having sex, and I gotta tell you, it was awesome. We must have stayed for two hours. We had sex in various positions, did oral, and watched people do all sorts of things you can probably imagine. There were two women using a dildo, someone who was getting mildly spanked (as was I), and lot of regular, steamy sex in all sorts of positions.

Going “to the left,” which is where anything can happen, has now become code in our relationship for that tantalizing thing we may never experience. But who knows? Only time will tell. My husband teases me because more than actually doing anything, I like to talk about doing things. Like maybe we should swing? I’ve looked into sex clubs and sex parties in New York, but so far feel like it might just be too creepy, dirty, or unsafe. That said, five years ago if you had told me I’d go to an orgy dome in the middle of the Nevada desert, I would have called you crazy. Who knows how much more exploration I still may do?

I think the bottom line is, as super sexy Lenny Kravitz says, “It ain’t over til it’s over.” I’m doing things now I never did when I was younger, and I’m more comfortable about it than ever before. My breasts are sagging and he may not always be as hard as he once was, but sex can be as intimate and delicious as always, and I imagine will stay that way for a long time to come.

Excerpted from Nina’s book, What Would Virginia Woolf Do? And Other Questions I Ask Myself As I Attempt to Age Without Apology, published by Grand Central and available on Amazon.

Want to share your own Burning Man story?

Tell us in the comments section below. (Photos welcome!)

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Nina Lorez Collins

About the Author

Nina Lorez Collins a lifelong New Yorker, born there in 1969. She graduated from Barnard College in 1990 and got a Masters in Narrative Medicine from Columbia in 2013. She has four kids who are mostly launched, is the founder and author of WWVWD, and serves as a trustee on the board of the Brooklyn Public Library.