Rave Filter: am I going in with the right expectations?
November 5, 2012 3:27 PM   Subscribe

Rave Filter: am I going in with the right expectations?

Here's the low-down on my life these days:

Unhappy, but stuck, with a poor living situation. It's bearable.
Unhappy, but stuck, with a crap job situation. It's bearable.
Overworked, run down, fairly isolated--and when I do get to see friends, I find it increasingly difficult to switch gears to perform the rituals of casual conversation after 5 grueling days of 11-12 hour work shifts.

All I want to do is let go, relax, have fun... but, I do not want to do this alone.

The other night, I stayed over an ex-girlfriend's house (she has heat in her apartment and, due to Sandy, I don't). Over the years we've had a colorful, positive history of dating, being friends, fooling around, remaining platonic thereafter, and all around providing intimate, caring companionship for one another. I hadn't seen her for months, and last night sharing the bed with her... it just felt so nice to have some casual human contact, warmth, and to give and receive affection without worrying about conventions or obligations. Platonic or otherwise, we enjoy having this type of chill, respectful and caring experience, and it's great to have her in my life, with no wants or worries.

But, she's not really in my life. She lives rather far and out of the way, and we're both very busy with our own routines, and in general, I'm really not looking for a girlfriend or a friends with benefits situation, though loneliness does creep along... I just want an opportunity to experience positive, care-free, human-to-human, perhaps sexual (but not necessarily or even ideally), interaction. An environment that promotes warmth, respect and just letting yourself go with other people around you, being weird, being active.

As an outsider looking in, this is the conception I've come to form of the typical rave experience. However, I know that there isn't really a typical *anything* experience, and perhaps living in NYC as I do, there is a very, very wide range of potential experiences, from venue to venue, neighborhood to neighborhood, music genre to genre. Yet when I browse pictures online and of my raver friends' escapades, there seems to be an awful lot of touching, happy-go-lucky, making out-y going on, not to mention all the awesome costumes, dancing and smiles. I think I would enjoy it. Chance encounters with strangers, not afraid to be weird, shameless flirting, holding, grinding, making out, letting go, exploring elsewhere--letting off some steam and, ideally, feeling that you've made other people happy as well, in the process.

Is this at all a realistic expectation?

And just a disclaiming aside: I'm very aware of the importance of consent, and am not fishing for invitations or excuses to throw myself upon drugged out girls who have no idea what's going on, or do anything that would generally be considered rude, unsolicited, abusive or otherwise f***ed up.

The thing is, I would be going to a rave with one main desire, which would be to experience this kind of "free love"--non-sexual, or, perhaps, sexual--that I found to be really healthy the other night with my special friend. And in particular, during this dark, cold, post-hurricane period of my life. Please, mefite rave veterans, share with me your experiences, bring some reality check into my reverie, and if it seems a good thing to do, recommend me a venue, an event, or a DJ to steer me in the right direction :)

*apologies for my hopeful excitation, which has resulted in fairly consistence abuse of commas
posted by Sine_Agraphia to Society & Culture (27 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Back in the 90's when in theory I may have ingested certain things, I can tell you that hands down the best setting for such "extracurricular activities" was a rave. Friends of mine used to stay at home and sit in beds and stare at ceilings all night - that wasn't for me. A few of us ventured out and explored the Chicago-Cleveland-Detroit nexus which to me represented the core of the Midwest rave scene.

I really have no idea how things have changed. However, based on my experience, I would strongly suggest going with friends. The first time should be a magnificent experience, best shared with others. However, to each his own, and it's possible you will experience a wide range of feelings, perhaps to the extreme, and not all necessarily positive. So it's good to go with people that you know.

Your post however, includes some very specific background information which I think needs to be addressed. Raves are about the music first and foremost. Certainly if you are under the influence of ecstasy you will feel immersed in free love. The music will engulf you and your connection with others nearby will feel very strong. However, if you try to initiate sexual contact with strangers, whether you are high or not, it is entirely possible it will be taken the wrong way. There isn't hippie orgy type shit going on at raves. At least not in the US and to my knowledge.

Furthermore, if you are a paranoid person and kind of uncomfortable in groups and decide to take ecstasy, this could strengthen your paranoia, as opposed to lessening it. This can come and go in waves. You might find that you enjoy being by yourself and observing things. But if you force yourself on others to compensate for this disconnect, again, this may end up in a misunderstanding. How you choose to immerse yourself in the moment is really up to you, and part of the trip.

But some of your comments about experiencing something like the romantic relationship you have with your friend with a complete stranger may or may not happen, and is certainly not the point of raving. And furthermore, you should not treat drug-fueled dancing as a solution to your living situation outside of raving. I certain remember certain moments, but they were just that: moments. It's just an experience, and it will end when the sun rises. And God willing you will feel rejuvenated and see the world in a different way.

More connected people than I can probably suggest specific spots in the NY area. But I suggest you go to something big with some really great DJ's. You'll have a shitload of fun on just that alone.
posted by phaedon at 4:04 PM on November 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

I don't know what the scene is like where you are, but unless you are at a party where a lot of people are on ecstasy and you are also on ecstasy, your are not going to find the cuddle puddles you're looking for. A lot of parties, at least where I am, are not like that any more. These days, it's more about the music and dancing.

Also, depending in how old you are people might find someone going to a rave with that kind of expectation as creepy.

That said: just go to a party with as few pre-conceived ideas as you can. They might suck, or they might be the best night of your life.

An alternate suggestion would be to just score some Molly and have a party with your friends at your house. Put on some dance music, play some twister, whatever.

As far as my own experiences, going to raves changed my life massively for the better. Within four years of going to my first rave, I went from a lonely D&D playing nerd in the suburbs, still living with my parents, to having a huge network of 'friends' and being the opening dj for the most popular DJ in the world, and found IT jobs from people I was partying with that doubled my salary in a few years. I haven't gone to parties for years, and I still rely on the network of people I met at parties for finding me jobs and so on. I basically threw away everything that defined me as a person and started over from scratch. I also ran up a huge amount of debt and wrecked relationships with family and probably did some damage to my brain, but you take the bad with the good.
posted by empath at 4:11 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding going with friends the first time. You really benefit from having someone who is already in the scene showing you around. Most nightclubs have Facebook pages or forums, if you find one your interested in, introduce yourself, read the posts to see what the culture is like and see if there are meet ups. There can be huge differences in vibe between different parties, even when the music is almost the same. One party might be full of underage kids from the suburbs trashed on drugs and another might be mostly young professionals from the city who mostly drink and dance. It really helps to research ahead of time.
posted by empath at 4:16 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, just some key facts, in light of phaedon's response:

I actually don't have an interest in doing any drugs. If I were to go, it would be going sober, especially for my first experience. On the other hand, I'm curious what it's like to be surrounded by people who are, perhaps by and large, on some sort of hard drug. Even sober, I'm disposed to feeling calm and uninhibited, and if that's the kind of state of mind which an ecstasy rave promotes, then I think I would enjoy myself among that crowd.

But I don't want to give the impression that I'm planning to fix or ignore the difficulties in my life through partying. I know that's not an answer, and I'd consider it akin to self-medication in a bad way, even if going sober. The idea I wanted to give is, like... imagining running for 6 miles, and then afterwards, starving, you finally get to eat, and you feel rejuvenated and resolved. I feel like I've been running a marathon the past couple months, and my intuition tells me that the stress and loneliness I've been experiencing would provide a nice off-set for a totally wild, free, relaxed, friendly party experience :)

As far as going with friends is concerned, though... right now, I want to experience a social experience where no one has any hard and fast preconceptions about my personality. This isn't to say that I don't feel confident and secure among my friends, but, I think going alone would help me enter into an unprecedented, novel state of mind, or persona for the moment :)
posted by Sine_Agraphia at 4:21 PM on November 5, 2012

A few random comments:

In my experience, doing MDMA while in a crappy / unhappy / negative frame of mind can backfire VERY badly. I used E casually for a few years, and had a marvelous time … up until the time I used it to "fix" my mood rather than enhance the (good, positive) mood I was already in. I experienced a massive panic attack that lasted for hours and felt like the closest thing to death I've ever had. I haven't touched the stuff since. E is a nice mood-enhancer, but if you're feeling any serious anxiety, or repressing powerful emotions, be aware that it reeeeeally might not go the way you want. And being in a chaotic and unfamiliar public environment like a rave could make it even doubly so.

E was never great for sex, in my opinion. I've never had a strong sexual feeling with other people on E, just a very warm, intense, and communal loving feeling. I've had sex on E a few times and it never really did anything for me, and it didn't make me feel any closer to that person than when we were just dancing and playing. If anything, it made the experience a little cheaper to me, like I was trying too hard to make the moment into A Moment.

Also, just be careful that you're not "chasing the dragon" w/r/t your feelings of closeness to your special friend. It's a crappy idea to start taking drugs to try to recapture a feeling that may or may not have existed before. I don't think you ever feel the same exact feeling twice in life, whether sober or intoxicated, and it's not an awesome road to go down if you're convinced that adding something like E to the menu may bring you closer to it. I've always been happiest on E when I was just plain happy, and it's impossible to achieve that if you're hoping or expecting some other thing to come along.

Speaking of chasing the dragon, there is evidence to suggest that your body builds up resistance to the effects of E over time, so your subsequent rolls will never be as good as your first or second. Just be aware of that if you choose to pursue a casual relationship with MDMA. Also… KNOW YOUR SUPPLIER. There is so much shit passing as MDMA these days, ranging from merely ineffective to dangerous. I wouldn't buy from the first guy that comes along without getting a SERIOUS rep check from others, preferably from a community of people rather than putting your trust in a sketchy anonymous cell phone or pager. If you don't feel like you have a choice in the matter, at least buy yourself a DanceSafe kit and test before you ingest. If your supply ends up failing the test, it's better to have wasted the money than to send yourself to the ER.
posted by mykescipark at 4:27 PM on November 5, 2012

And on preview, some of my advice may be irrelevant, but it's there for the record.
posted by mykescipark at 4:28 PM on November 5, 2012

Going to a party full of people on drugs while sober, and expecting to hook up is beyond creepy, IMO, and I think people will not react to you the way you are hoping if you go there with that expectation.
posted by empath at 4:30 PM on November 5, 2012 [11 favorites]

Reality check - you seem to be confusing raves with singles hook-up parties.

This is a bad idea and you should rethink everything.
posted by mannequito at 4:39 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

In response to empath:

It's not so much the idea of hooking up that appeals to me (although that could be fun, if it happens naturally), but rather all this stuff I keep hearing on about e-puddles and giving people massages and being, generally, physically affectionate, without people readily on guard to take offense. There aren't many avenues in life where it's generally accepted and expected for there to be spontaneous physical contact, which is something I believe I would enjoy. I have to stress, though, that I don't equate sexual intimacy with physical affection, or believe that the latter necessarily invites or justifies initiating the former.
posted by Sine_Agraphia at 4:41 PM on November 5, 2012

Alright maybe I misunderstood the question a bit then, but wouldn't it make more sense to seek out an actual organized cuddle party than go to a rave hoping to stumble into one? Seems more direct.
posted by mannequito at 4:47 PM on November 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

If such a thing were so easy to find (or to organize, without seeming a weirdo to your less understanding compatriots), I'd agree with you :)
posted by Sine_Agraphia at 4:54 PM on November 5, 2012

Let me tell you, it's not easy to find at a rave either. People go to DANCE. It's rare that you'll find e piles any more, and if you aren't rolling, people are not going to be comfortable with you even if you do manage to find one.
posted by empath at 5:01 PM on November 5, 2012 [4 favorites]

Yeah, I assume you're talking about organized city raves here? Throughout my party days I rarely found what you're looking for at those. The parties with full cuddle rooms were more in the low-key, hippy bush raves I somehow wound up at here in BC.

As for an actual solution to your problem ... you could just put the word out (discretely) about what you're looking for, through any friends who might know about those type things. It wouldn't hurt to put up a Craigslist ad, but I'd be extra careful about who your respond to and where you end up.
posted by mannequito at 5:12 PM on November 5, 2012

I have never taken drugs - beyond some tea or coffee - to any of the raves I've been to. They vary a lot, like empath says. They are tremendous fun, and the good ones have an atmosphere of non-judgmental "everyone's here to have fun and dance" vibe that I find really pleasurable (note: have not been to a rave since mid 2000s).

Like, Empath, I would Nth, that everyone is there *to dance*. And if you are there to dance, you will have a great time. Nobody's feeling self-conscious dancing at a rave and you can really go nuts.

I have never physically touched someone I did not know at rave, nor invited anyone to touch me. That would be... hmmm, just not great.

That being said, I feel that people on e's certainly do produce a different vibe to people drinking, for example. At the raves I went to, compliments were always flying thick and fast. Someone says they love your dancing, your blue-dyed hair, your LED shoes (god I really am turning this into a cliche, what I can say? It was fun). People don't knock into you as much (if they do, they apologise) I never saw a fight break out.

That atmosphere was quite different to lot of live music gigs I had here-to-fore been to, where people are drinking, aggressive, only 5% of the audience are dancing and 80% of them are awkward and self-conscious about it - and so are you.

Nthing go with friends. They can be a wonderful experience of non-judgmental fun, and just rocking out with people who want to rock out, too. In that sense a rave could certainly give you some of the feelings that your looking for. However, if those feelings are intextricably wedded to a tactile and literal physical contact, with a focus on connecting with individuals and feelings of affection etc, I don't think they will be what you are looking for.

This said, don't underestimate how much a six or seven hour stretch of dancing your arse off will make you feel good and "connected" - without any drugs at all. Just watch out for sore ribs the next day, what a killer!
posted by smoke at 5:13 PM on November 5, 2012 [4 favorites]

Chance encounters with strangers, not afraid to be weird, shameless flirting, holding, grinding, making out, letting go, exploring elsewhere--letting off some steam and, ideally, feeling that you've made other people happy as well, in the process.

This is not really anything like raves I went to. People didn't grind, for one. They didn't really flirt, either... most folk tended to be earnestly friendly, it's not really a hookup scene (mostly because people on E, mushrooms, and Acid don't really do that in the same way). You would probably hug and cuddle your friends, but not usually random people, especially if they weren't friends-of-friends. Personal space on the dance floor was pretty inviolate. The primary reason to go was to have fun with friends, make more new friends, and dance. If that's your goal, you'll be fine. If your goal is physical contact, you should go with a posse of friends. If you go alone, don't get high, and still try to cuddle people, I think you might be seen as a creep.

Then again, there are all kinds of events called raves, so who knows? Go to a massive or a club with booze, and things are different.
posted by oneirodynia at 5:38 PM on November 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Please don't go to a rave (or, really, anywhere) expecting that it will be an ideal venue in which to encounter free love with strangers, or that casual exchanges will turn into intimate ones just because of the venue. As someone who was once very much a part of that world, and who was probably in plenty of photographs like the ones you've seen (but, importantly, with my friends, not with strangers), I want to stress that the rave scene is not the magical place you seem to be searching for. It can be an amazing and wonderful scene to be a part of, but that is largely because of the music, the dancing, and the people you actually meet and become friends with, not because of the way it allows you to interact with strangers.

Moreover, being a sober dude who is trying to make out or even just be super physical with girls (or boys, or anyone) who are on drugs is both ethically problematic and not going to make you any friends. It sounds like what you need, honestly, is not to go to a rave, but to have some friends who you are comfortable and happy and affectionate with (even, maybe, the kinds of friends you'd be comfortable going to a rave with).
posted by dizziest at 5:40 PM on November 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

Another option for getting some platonic physical contact: partner dancing. I come out of a swing dancing class feeling like I've been hugged for an hour, and is a large part of why I do it. (Obviously don't be sleazy and let people pull back if they aren't comfortable being so close to you - oh, and make sure you're clean)

Also, get a massage.
posted by kjs4 at 5:40 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Mostly dancing, drugs, deafening music. This can be perfectly fun too, but isn't what you're thinking. Cuddle piles anywhere outside a tent in an outdoor festival are fond, distant 90s memories.
posted by ead at 6:05 PM on November 5, 2012

Not quite a cuddle party, and maybe a bit more hedonistic than you're looking for, but Lip Service is a kissing party, but cuddling does happen. I think that they do an occasional cuddle only thing to if I remember correctly.
I'm not sure if it's going to get you that general everybody is just happy and chill and touchy feely because it's nice and not necessarily sexual feeling that you're looking for.
I think I get what you're looking for, and it's not creepy. It's out there but not really predictable where it pops up. I get a warm fuzzy feeling from the massive burner parties (parties thrown by burning man camps) I go to on occasion, but while there is a huge sense of everybody just being happy with everybody else and being really positive and upbeat and friendly, it's more about the music, the costumes, the dancing, and of course for some the drugs.
I definitely get a feeling good glow for days after dancing to the wee hours at one of these, but it's never about hooking up.
posted by newpotato at 6:17 PM on November 5, 2012

Oh, just some key facts, in light of phaedon's response:

Yeah, I didn't mean to come down hard on you. I had a friend who was sober who used to come with us to raves and he had a great time dancing. I just think that if your expectations are to cuddle and stuff - or whatever, that's just shorthand - raves are probably not the scene to do that in.

Why? Well raves have been going on for a while. They are a business operation, a lot of illegal drugs are done there, sometimes they are organized with permits and sometimes they are not, there can be a lot of really great people to meet but also some really shady people. They are places with a low bar for entry where a lot of people of varying ages who don't know each other and don't necessarily have anything in common congregate to pretty much listen to music and get high, in that order.

I mean, I'm not saying anything objective here, but raves certainly went downhill for me personally after a couple of years of going to them. Then again, I say that having totally missed the boat on mega-raves like EDC and choose not to participate in Coachella or Burning Man.

So maybe what you're looking for isn't at mainstream raves but is available somewhere else. I am totally out of my element talking about this, but my understanding is that you might want to look into a "local chapter" of Burning Man or maybe even Suicide Girls in your area and see if there are any Tribe boards that hold year-round events that are similar to what you are looking for. Maybe you can even propose an event to a particular group. It might be a little bit more of an investment than you are looking for, but my feeling is if you're looking for something totally out there, there's going to be at least a few people in those communities that have already entertained something similar. Also depending on your sexual orientation there may be a number of sex clubs in your area that do some of things you talk about. How do you find them? I'm not sure. Maybe try craigslist or adult friend finder.

Sorry if these suggestions miss the mark. Just trying to be helpful.
posted by phaedon at 6:58 PM on November 5, 2012

Another option for getting some platonic physical contact: partner dancing.

Yeah, go contra dancing! It's like what you're describing except also super-cute and innocent, and hypnotically geometric, and you get 400% DV of non-sexual touch.
posted by threeants at 7:28 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

I suggest befriending some "hippies" to find that touchy-feely, affectionate "free love" atmosphere. I became friends with a girl who was big into the local hippie community and I found myself in many situations like you describe.

Just my two cents. :)
posted by sarahgrace at 9:10 PM on November 5, 2012

Perhaps you are actually looking for a cuddle party?
posted by eviemath at 9:44 PM on November 5, 2012

I have to say, I found this a little creepy. You are equating a nice, carefree night with someone who knows you well but that you don't have a current romantic relationship with to a rave - that you would go to sober - just to feel close to people? I understand not wanting a lot of strings, etc., but this sounds really mechanical to me.

Is it that you just want platonic, carefree physical contact? If so, then yes, any kind of dancing might be great. I just feel a bit skeeved by the fact that you want to go somewhere where others are on drugs and you are not. I recommend that you take some of these other recommendations to heart and go for them. Anything else is kind of gross, in my opinion.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:04 PM on November 5, 2012

I don't think you've specified your gender, but I'm assuming your male. Is your perception totally off base? Not at all. Ultimately most people who go to Raves are looking for a similar experience as you describe, although the making out and "grinding" element is where I think this goes off the rails. I'm not saying that to chide you or something, but it's a mindset I've seen before.

There's a few different kinds of parties that get lumped under the label "Rave." There is the commercialized, pay a zillion dollars to go to a huge venue with tens of thousands of other people Rave and the underground, you have to know someone to find it sort of Rave. You seem intelligent and reflective, so my guess is your looking for option 2 since usually your going to find a more eclectic, vibrant group of people there. That said, most of these circles are somewhat insular and you usually don't get the full spectrum of connection and access that you are describing from the get go. Why? Because the participants of these parties are still normal people with feelings and all the complicated crap that comes with them. They may seek to have this sort or revelry and embrace a different sort of social environment, but it requires a lot of work and trust to create it and even more to maintain it.

Lots of men show up at these events with the goal of having this experience and sometimes it's really obvious and off-putting. If you happen to find yourself at a really great event, sometimes it's so exciting that a new participant can almost seem like they are gawking at the whole thing instead of participating. Fire eaters! Lasers! Ladies dancing in their undies! If you don't have much access to these things, it can be sensory overload and, if you're not careful to keep your head on straight, you can really misread the social signals that people, particularly women, are sending. Ultimately, no matter what, you still have to gain some credibility and trust before you get to jump into the middle of it.

You also may find yourself at a lame party that never gels and go home totally disappointed.

Basically, if you're looking for a quick fix, you may have some luck, but you also may find yourself feeling MORE isolated at the end depending on where you go and who you encounter. I'd recommend going in with the hope of meeting new people and being open-minded and curious but keeping your expectations low. If you're willing to put in some time and energy, you may make some amazing connections with time, but you'll need to invest to get.

Basically, a lot like the real world, but more shiny.
posted by amycup at 11:15 PM on November 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

when i'm at a rave, i'm pretty cuddly with my friends. a guy recently saw a bunch of us hugging and laughing and hanging out and came over to get some of the action, generally trying to hug and touch and sweat all over us and being completely overfamiliar. he was swiftly BOUNCED, and I have no doubt that he felt kind of shitty about it afterwards, but unfortunately that is what you get when you make people feel uncomfortable.

you can't fake knowing someone, trusting someone and genuinely feeling free with them, drugs or no drugs. that's why it's so nice.
posted by f3l1x at 3:52 AM on November 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't think you or your question are skeevy. But I do think you are misunderstanding the photos you have seen. Those happy, huggy folks in the photos are friends. They are part of a scene together.

I agree with those who are saying that a rave is about the dancing and the music. I personally think being in that environment by myself and not knowing anyone would be hellish.

I have been to parties (word of mouth, "underground", dozens or a couple hundreds rather than thousands of people) that have had a general, overall touchy-feely make-out vibe, but that's because nearly everyone there was a friend or a friend of a friend. The only cuddle puddles/make-out rooms I've seen have been at the smaller end of this kind of event, and were almost exclusively Burning Man related.

So, in my experience touching and cuddling and making out happens either in a small knot of close friends at a big event, or among a wider circle of people at a small event where folks have more or less been "pre-screened" by the very nature of the event. In either case, unfortunately, you are going to have to put in some time to build the trust.

For what you are looking for I would consider cuddle parties, kissing parties, swing or latin dance lessons (the less formal kind that are in bars or halls). There's a bar where I live that hosts slow-dance nights, with dance cards and everything, that might be what you are looking for, they are pretty specifically about creating a safe, non-sexually harassing space.
posted by looli at 9:45 AM on November 6, 2012

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