Sex and the Single (or Married) Burner

Sex is a frequent subject when it comes to Burning Man.  There’s an openness to discuss matters of sex at the Festival, sexual references throughout the playa, naked people and dress that would be called – in the default world – provocative.

My wife once entered a Miss Black Rock City pageant and won in the best-dressed category – principally because she was the only candidate who actually had clothes on.

There’s a great divide between age groups in society, which is also at least somewhat true about those who attend Burning Man.  Sex seems to have less significance for people who grew up in the 90s than it did for those of us who grew up in the 60s.  That really came home to me some seven years ago when my wife and I attended our first Burn together (I had gone to my initial Burn with my son the year before).

Judie and I decided that Burning Man would be the perfect place to “get married” in honor of our 40th anniversary.  So we made arrangements to hold the wedding ceremony at the Ashram Galactica Hotel International.  Everyone in the bar/disco that night became a guest at our wedding.

Exchanging vows at our Burning Man wedding.

Exchanging vows at our Burning Man wedding.

After the ceremony, one girl – probably barely in her 20s – came up to me and said, “Can I ask you a question?”

Naturally, I answered “yes.”

Her question:  “Have you been monogamous for all those years?”

My answer:  “Why, yes, I have.”

Her response:  “Would you please talk to my boyfriend?”

I turned down her request suggesting that the conversation needed to be between the boyfriend and her, without the intervention of some old codger who lacked a therapist’s license.

I’ve since heard stories (possibly apocryphal) about couples that go to Burning Man and get a temporary divorce, or at least a release from their marriage vows for the week.  There may even be a camp that issues such short-term documents.  I know of individuals who go without their spouses and enjoy of week of sexual pleasures with the winking acceptance of their wife or husband.  Everyone’s entitled to his or her own approach to sexuality at Burning Man (or anywhere else, for that matter), but what I find healthy and pleasurable while remaining committed to my spouse is the recognition of sex as a life-force and the permission that Burning Man gives to keep that life-force out in the open and fully alive.

I’ve written on more than one occasion that the openness of sex at Burning Man is one of the reasons I feel younger after attending each Festival.  It’s good for me personally and for us as a couple to live in that environment once a year, to revel in our own and the world’s sexuality, and to remember how much we enjoy each other physically as well as emotionally.