“Do you think you might get on the body tequila table?” asks Geneviève LeJeune. The founder of the all-women networking society Skirt Club, LeJeune is with about 75 female professionals on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles at a bar called Mmhmmm, a thoroughly appropriate name considering the goings-on inside. One of the barely clad attendees stretches herself out, and lines of salt are spread down her legs, the red bottoms of her Louboutins reflecting in the mirrored walls. The fastest woman to lick the salt and down a tequila shot will be rewarded with a slice of lime, transferred via kiss.
The scene isn’t quite as scandalous as it sounds. Although Skirt Club bills itself in press releases as an “underground ‘play party’ for bisexual & bi-curious women,” no sexual contact or “heavy petting” are allowed. And it isn’t just about tequila-soaked fun. Skirt Club’s motto is “confidence in the bedroom leads to confidence in the boardroom.” The way LeJeune sees it, leaning in to take a lime out of a woman’s puckered lips makes a woman more likely to lean in at the office.
LeJeune, 34, started Skirt Club as an experiment—the first event was held in her living room. She’d been exploring versions of these parties in her native London three years ago, but all she encountered was “men grabbing and pushing and insisting and putting pressure on women to fulfill their fantasies,” she says. “I didn’t see women asking to fulfill their own.” That was because, she realized, they weren’t in a comfortable environment: Women today regularly convene at conferences and kibitz online about gender politics, not to mention attend women-only social clubs, such as the Wing in New York. But gatherings that provide a safe space for women to support and learn from one another while also embracing their sexuality are rare.
There are now Skirt Clubs in London, New York, Miami, Sydney, and Berlin, with plans to expand to San Francisco, Chicago, and Toronto. More than half the club’s membership of 5,000 lives in London, where it’s growing an average of 14 percent per quarter; in the U.S., where the clubs were introduced earlier this year, growth is at 22 percent per quarter.
Skirt Clubbers are often professionals with entrepreneurial leanings, though the largest group is lawyers. On average, members self-identify as twos on the six-point Kinsey scale—one is exclusively heterosexual, three is perfectly bisexual, and six is exclusively homosexual. “Some of them are in a relationship, too,” LeJeune says, “and have come with the consent of their partner.” One L.A. attendee, a therapist, heard about it from her boyfriend, who paid her admission—$50 for the event at Mmhmmm, though occasional educational workshops cost more. While each event features some kind of central activity such as the body tequila table, more of the women seem to use the party as a networking opportunity than an erotic escape—of course the argument could be made that, in L.A., networking is eroticism. (If you’re wondering whether I exchanged business cards with a charming Englishwoman who described me as Jodie Foster-esque, I did.)
Much has been made of the monetization of empowerment, but LeJeune has profited little from Skirt Club so far. After paying venue fees, hiring all-female bar staff, and purchasing “hundreds of bottles of Champagne” for each event, she says she feels as if she’s “running a charity.” Starting next year, she’ll impose an initiation fee for new members, who are vetted for the legitimacy of their interest. Her goal with Skirt Club is simply to provide a safe space for women to enjoy one another’s company under the liberating rubric of sexual exploration. While that aspiration may not be as filthy as the images that some minds might conjure, it’s more powerful. “We’ve had gentlemen’s clubs for centuries,” LeJeune says. “It’s high time we have our own.”