Our content lead tackles the loss of a popular kink-inclusive event.
This content includes non-graphic discussion of sexual violence/crimes, sexual acts and kink. If this could be triggering for you, please take care when reading.
A few months ago, one of London’s most popular queer and sex-positive parties, Crossbreed, closed down following rape allegations against the founder, Alex Warren. Even though Alex was no longer running the event per se, the management team made the decision to dissolve the brand and event altogether. The overwhelming majority of Crossbreed regulars I have talked to agreed with that decision and expressed their support to the victims who spoke up.
But while they shared the sentiment of support towards the victims and indignation that sexual assault could take place in the very space created to foster safety, exploration and consent, I experienced mixed emotions. Closing down was the right thing to do. But it didn’t mean I wasn’t feeling sad for having lost that space. I had bought tickets to some upcoming parties, I was looking forward to going with different people and it was disappointing to accept it wouldn’t simply be postponed. I took to different group chats of Crossbreed regulars to seek support and be able to hear people’s thoughts. Many people also felt sad and lost to no longer be able to attend this regular event which had set the tempo of their life.
Having been to a few Crossbreed parties over the course of 2022 myself, I was curious to understand the impact of its closure on the community. Why did people go to this event in the first place? What was it that had been created? And which elements would need to be present to emulate such a party?
In order to share different perspectives, I asked these Crossbreed enthusiasts to request that they answer a few questions around those parties and what they mean to them. Five people reached out and shared their thoughts, feelings and reflections around the topic. Several common thoughts and themes emerged which I wanted to explore.
A queer-centric experience.
The first thing that stood out to me after receiving people’s testimonies is the sense that Crossbreed was a special space for the queer community. Suki, a Sapphic Trans feminine/demigirl, explains “Crossbreed was fantastic for me [...] I could dress and be fully feminine and literally dance like nobody was watching.” These parties gave people a space to explore and do things which aren’t always allowed or approved of in mainstream society.
One of the strengths of the event was also that the management team endeavoured to keep the prices of entry as low as possible to enable marginalised people with lower incomes to attend. Charlie, who describes themselves as ”a non-binary femme hairy trans person“, remembers “The first time I went was through their free ticket scheme for trans bipoc cuties”. A lot of these parties theoretically agree with inclusivity and accessibility but Crossbreed actually implemented concrete ways to make that happen.
Being open to people with differing identities also meant it was a place where people who had recently come out or who didn’t yet feel very confident in their daily life could come and explore that side of themselves.
A safe space to explore play and relationship to one’s body.
The space was unique because of the fact that it included a wellness sanctuary within its various rooms. A strong emphasis was placed on wellbeing and wholesome exploration, not necessarily on sex, which may come as a surprise. I asked each participant the question “What do you get out of such a space?” George, who is non-binary and queer, replied “A lot of people imagine someone who goes to play parties is constantly horny. I’m the least horny person you will ever meet. I’m not a very sexual person! Play parties are for play, which can be sex but does not have to be sex. I’m keen to figure out different ways of feeling good about your body, that could include anything from massage to sensual touch to other types of sensations. It’s difficult to figure this out by yourself and doesn’t really have space at other parties and communities.”
For others the sex element is also something that ties in with expression and creativity, as Andi shares “I mostly enjoy these parties for the creative expression they offer me. There aren't a lot of places I can walk around in latex or little more than a harness and not be kicked out.” It is indeed quite magical to be around so many bodies in revealing or very little clothing and yet not feeling sexualised or threatened. Mary points out that they love the “childishness and innocence of Crossbreed”. They always stayed away from other places deliberately because Crossbreed brought such a unique atmosphere for everyone to explore their expression and identity without having to act or look a certain way. The dress code is not as strict when it comes to kinkwear as it can be at Klub Verboten, which is more of a kink-centric party, for example. The vibe is way more colourful and fun in a sense, which also invites socialising and chat.
A special space to build community and make friends.
Another element which came across very clearly from those conversations was the need and desire to build a community gathering of queer people who struggle to find belonging and understanding in day-to-day society. Even other parties can feel very normative when it comes to expressing your gender identity, sexual orientation or even kinky dynamics.
George explains “I go more for the community to be honest. I’m queer and polyamorous and most people in the world are not. Most people at play parties are. Personally, I don’t like to go to play parties where there is no space to socialise or dance, and there is only space to play.”
Crossbreed took place every Sunday - a very symbolic day in traditionally Christian societies as a time to foster and nurture community around common values - and played that role of bringing together people who face similar issues but also enjoy and desire similar things.
This is something very relatable: meeting queer people who lead a similar lifestyle can be an incredibly empowering experience. It helps combat loneliness, feelings of confusion and isolation. And to meet people who you match with on so many levels can be very hard. The Crossbreed space filled that gap, before its shutdown left it open again.
These conversations highlight the need to create such an event in a new form. None of the people I met or had the opportunity to talk to questioned that Crossbreed closing down was the right thing to do. At the same time, there is recognition of the many positive elements this party brought to people’s lives. George commented that they “did not feel good about Crossbreed closing down”, but also thought that “the night would probably be replaced by something else” pointing out that “The community does not die, it just moves somewhere else.”
Others do feel somewhat more apprehensive for the future of the scene and of the community. Andi stated that “Since I came out as queer, nearly every event I've gone to has either diminished in scale or died altogether (Klub Verboten is probably the one exception).” There is a strong desire for “affordable nights coming directly from marginalised groups in the community” adds George. Charlie added that they would like to see “trans focused places” and that “Lots are inclusive but that doesn't guarantee you'll feel good there as non-binary.” Mary highlights, speaking about the founder Alex, that “that person’s behaviour is not a reflection of what the community is” and that a space which would have all those qualities is possible.
It is appalling to hear that the founder of a party describing itself as a queer utopia and promoting self-exploration and sex positivity was accused of sexual abuse. There is something very cynical about someone being so vocal about those values and then sexually assaulting people within that community.
In a way, interviewing these people was a way for me to reconnect with what the idea behind that party was and how it could be recreated in a safe way. Educating each other and also calling each other out seems to me like the key to building spaces that are genuinely safe and nurturing for everyone. If the allegations against Alex are true, I believe this is the result of a severe abuse of power and a sense of impunity. It may have nothing to do with a lack of understanding of the fundamentals of consent and kink. In a response, Alex invited “people they may have harmed directly or indirectly" to raise the issue with them. As we can all imagine, speaking directly to the person who made you feel uncomfortable or sexually abused you is far from ideal. This is why being able to question and call out everyone’s behaviour, regardless of status within the community, is crucial. There needs to be a system of “checks and balances”. No one should be considered untouchable and someone refusing to be called out should probably be a red flag in and of itself.