Women-only sex club makes its Asian debut in Shanghai, doing its bit to reduce gender inequality
Skirt Club’s Hong Kong-raised founder says city is too small and ‘safe’ for her sex parties, and confesses she’s been blown away by how open women in Shanghai are about their sex lives
Hong Kong may like to think of itself as more liberated than China, but Shanghai is way ahead when it comes to open-mindedness about sex, says Genevieve LeJeune, the founder of Skirt Club, a series of women-only parties where guests are invited to explore their sexuality.
Tonight, to mark International Women’s Day, Skirt Club will hold its inaugural Asian event in China’s biggest city.
“Hong Kong tries its hardest to be safe; I don’t believe it’s a place where sex is on the agenda, whereas Shanghai has that grit, an underbelly; it’s got an edge to it,” says LeJeune.
Since launching in London in 2014, Hong Kong-raised LeJeune, 36, has expanded Skirt Club to venues in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami, Berlin, Vienna and Sydney, and is now venturing into Asia for the first time, having seen a growing interest in, and openness about, sex in China.
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“I never expected what I’m encountering here, I’ve been absolutely blown away,” she says over the phone from Shanghai. “Women openly talk about their sex lives with me on WeChat. They just want to talk to somebody and understand that the way they’re feeling is normal.
“Women are often discouraged from talking openly, so it’s a relief [for them] to find a group of people who have similar feelings. I’m giving women an outlet to be open and not to feel ashamed.”
Each event is organised around a theme – talks, demonstrations, decor – and what guests are asked to wear. Popular themes include shibari (rope bondage), chocolate making, corsetry, and burlesque dancing.
“We have a dominatrix theme where everyone’s wearing latex and a dom comes and does a spanking demonstration, which is usually quite interesting. There are always so many volunteers,” LeJeune says with a laugh.
Prospective members must be older than 18 and complete an online profile to be approved by the club before they are admitted to any events. Once registered, clients must adhere to “club etiquette” – a list of rules which include a ban on filming, photography and men. The club also warns against “pushy and unwelcome advances” and urges its guests to “be nice and be graceful”.
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To date, LeJeune has 10,000 members on her books. The typical Skirt Club client is a cisgender woman who has a male partner and is a high-flyer in her career, says LeJeune, who has observed that law, nursing, acting, and teaching are the most common professions among members.
“Coming to Skirt Club isn’t necessarily about the sex,” she insists. “Women talk about searching for a place just for them, a sanctuary, where they can make their own decisions and not feel pressured. What they’re really saying is a place where there are no men, because, unfortunately, men put that pressure on women whether they realise it or not.”
LeJeune, who lives in Miami but regards Hong Kong as her second home, founded Skirt Club in London in 2014 as a place for her circle of female friends to experiment sexually and discuss sex frankly without the fear of being judged.
“There simply was nowhere at the time that a woman could confidently explore her sexuality and feel what it’s like to be with a woman, without wanting or needing to please her male partner, or partners,” she says.
LeJeune has no plans to bring Skirt Club to Hong Kong – partly because of the city’s small size, which risks making for awkward encounters.
“It’d be very likely that you’d meet someone you’d met before,” she says. “In the US, we have a lot of members who will fly from Los Angeles to New York for an event because they’re guaranteed not to meet anyone they know.”
By instilling its members with sexual confidence, LeJeune hopes to help reduce gender inequality.
“My motto is ‘Confidence in the bedroom, confidence in the boardroom’, because the two are linked,” she says. “Confident women will reach out for the more senior roles in their companies and demand equal pay and take the CEO position. There can only be good come from that.
“Women are caring creatures, they tend to run companies in a more thoughtful way. Speaking long-term, this is a cog in a greater wheel,” she says. “I love being a part of it.”