Thursday, March 26, 2009

What’s haram about a play party?

I used to live in a house that hosted monthly play parties, which I attended and helped to hostess. I have also attended play parties at other locations. A play party is a gathering of people, usually in a private home or hotel suite, in which people engage in various kinds of consensual BDSM play. Different parties have different rules, but every party has some kind of rules to ensure the safety of the guests and the space and the enjoyability of the party. Some parties allow and encourage sex, and such parties usually require latex barriers and other such safer sex practices for sexual activities at the party. Most play parties do not serve or allow alcohol, but some of them do. Most parties have a “party safeword”, which guests can use to alert the other party guests around them that something is going wrong and they might be in need of assistance. A play party can be a place to meet new people, to flirt, to play with old and new friends, to socialize with other kinky folks, and to observe others playing.

I moved out of that house. Since moving out, I was invited back to a play party there. I decided to attend that party, but I wore hijab, chatted with friends and some new acquaintances, did not play at all, did not directly watch other people playing, of course did not drink alcohol, and left the party early after spending less than two hours there. I do not regret attending the party. Indeed, I appreciated that I could move through that space and talk to people there without doing anything that I would consider extremely haram. Wearing hijab served primarily as a reminder to myself that I should be modest and that I am trying to navigate this path of an Islamic (or at least Islam-inspired) way of life. I expect that others who are more strict Muslims would find much that was wrong about my actions that evening. However, at least for me, I think my participation in that manner was both an important intervention into that play space as well as an opportunity for me to struggle with reconciling BDSM and Islam.

So what exactly is haram about a play party? I consider a few factors.

--Gender mixing?
Well, what if it’s a play party just for women? I’ve attended several play parties that are for women only (or women & trans only) and do not allow non-trans men to attend.
Even if the party welcomes all genders, a multi-gender context is nothing special for me. I am an unmarried self-supporting woman living in the United States. I’m in multi-gender environments every day in school, at work, at cafes and other vanilla social contexts, etc. A play party is not uniquely worse in that respect than anything else in my daily life.

Many play parties are places for people to wear “fetish clothing” such as leather, latex, corsets, and extremely high heels. Many of these outfits, are very revealing and/or tight. However, even parties I know of that have dress codes for parties would allow someone to wear hijab. At the last all-genders play party I attended, I wore a headscarf, a skirt over long pants, long sleeves, and a loose shirt. My clothes were opaque, not form-fitting, and covered everything except my face and hands.
If it’s a mixed-gender space, then the standard requirements for covering the body would apply. What does that mean? I'm no scholar, but I think as long as keep my hijab on, then there is still a fair amount of play in which I could engage. Would wearing hijab limit or modify the kinds of play that would be feasible? Being covered would not physically restrict or change any kind of topping I would do. As for bottoming, wearing clothing would lessen the intensity of impact play. Bondage can occur virtually the same on a clothed person as on an unclothed person—minus the rope burns, which I could do without anyway. The visual is different of course—a clothed person looks different from an unclothed person, so it would change the body as an object of voyeurism. Of course, voyeurism of clothed people can also exist.
If it’s an all-women’s space, then a Muslim woman would be required to cover at least the area between the navel and the knees, according to most scholars:
“The Hanafis and the Shafi'is say: It is wajib for her to cover the area between the navel and the knees in their presence.
The Malikis and the Hanbalis observe: She must cover the area between the navel and the knees in front of women, and in the presence of her maharim, her whole body except the head and the arms.
Most Imamis state: It is wajib for her to cover her rear and private parts in the presence of women and her maharim; to cover other parts as well is better though not wajib, except where there is a fear of sin.” Source:
Not surprisingly, Salafis argue that there should be even greater covering among women:

According to Dr. Saalih as-Saalih, the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) has forbidden a woman to look at the awrah (translated as “private parts”—I think this means genitals but might be more broadly construed) of another woman. Source:
That would mean that, even in all-women contexts, watching any kind of genital play is not permitted.

Most play parties don’t allow alcohol or at the very least do not provide alcohol. I do not drink alcohol.

Sex between a man and a woman outside of marriage would of course be zina and very much haram.
I’m guessing that public sex even between married people is also prohibited, but I don’t know what scholars have written on that matter.
Lesbian sex seems slightly more open to debate, as it is not addressed explicitly in the Quran or in any cases from the time of the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh). However, following the clothing restrictions (covering navel to knee among women) seems de facto to rule out genital contact among women. I’ll address this issue in more detail in a subsequent post.

--Dry play
“Dry play” (non-genital BDSM play, such as bondage or impact play like spanking and flogging) is arguably permissible , if done clothed. I am no scholar, but I do not see anything in the Quran to indicate that consensually hitting someone else (of the same sex) in the context of BDSM is any more haram than, say, wrestling or other contact sports. Indeed, I have read many places that activities not explicitly prohibited by Allah are permissible.

Therefore, I think that attending a play party could be permitted as long as I keep my clothes on.


  1. Play parties are very much an issue for me. On the one hand, I want to attend them when I can. On the other, that lingering religious issue always occurs in my mind.

    My issue, being gay, is that gay male parties tend to be much more sexually charged. You can avoid sex if you want to, but the pressure to do so is pretty powerful, and I have been known to give in (blushes). And, there will be nudity, period!

    Also, additional issues of mine are my fetishes, things such as exhibitionism, forced nudity, humiliation, genital torture, etc. I want to either show myself off or force a guy to show himself off to the whole darned crowd! Certainly, genital torture is problematic if you are going to stick strictly to scholarly consensus. Plus, I just like the male body, my own and others'.

    The big takeaway is, I have to wrestle with it. I really appreciate the fact that you brought up this issue and wrote about it. :-)

  2. I find your article very interesting. I do seem to be only "hijabie" or "Muslim" when I attend play parties, munches, or anything to do with bdsm. Its good to know that I am not alone on this one.

  3. Omg! I can't believe what I am reading. I know this is an old post but I can't keep quiet with this rubbish! Most of your reasonings are completely ubsurd and don't solve the issue. Being in an environment that leads to temptation and sexual desire will tempt you. Before you realise you will be joining them in their haraam activity. You can't justify this behaviour and play parties are haraam. End of!!

  4. This is the most stupid thing I have ever read. You want to attend play parties good for you but that doesn't give u the rite to twist and turn Islamic teachings and misguide other people

  5. Hello,

    I'm curious about this topic as it has affected me through media, books and movies. I see where you have given limits in an honest manner but even after going through your points I'm still questioning the idea of play parties being permissible. Isn't the concept to play and interact with others wrong? I have attempted in RP online and it was disturbing for me, who is new to this lifestyle. However for someone trying to remove themselves entirely, giving up on this may become better if you keep permissible practices within the relationship of spouses.