I never wanted an audience. Several enthusiastic boyfriends have asked for private shows, and I noticed that the way I masturbate when I'm trying to turn someone on is very different from the way I masturbate when I'm alone: There's more dramatic moaning, showy movements, and breathy statements of how wet I am.

When I heard about an event called the Masturbate-a-Thon, I expected it to be full of elaborately made-up women with manicures shoving glass dildos in their orifices as a room of slavering dudes watched them. It sounded like a misogynistic mainstream pornfest, and I was totally uninterested. Then a friend of mine said she wanted to go. She knew the people who ran the space it would be in, and they'd reassured her it would be above board. There would be safety measures in place, room monitors to prevent untoward ogling, and DJs, presumably playing "I Touch Myself" on a continuous loop.

My friend, who I'll call Angela, said, "I really want to go, will you come with me?"

"Come with you or COME with you?" I texted back, snickering.

"It's 10 dollars cheaper for women," she responded.

My love for a bargain won out. "Fine," I told her. "I'll go, but I probably won't come."


Silver bullet vibrator

Sexy underwear

50-60 masturbating strangers

Doughnut (1)

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Angela and I talked over what we wanted to bring in excruciating detail beforehand. It was an alcohol-free event, presumably to stop people from getting drunk and jerking on strangers without permission, so booze was out.

We finally settled on a bagful of necessities: magic bullet for me, gold standard Hitachi for her, some hand towels, lube, and a box of doughnuts (in case we felt peckish mid-orgasm. Plus, doughnuts). The event rules said voyeurism was both allowed and encouraged, so I packed some sexy panties, too.

At the venue, there was no sign to indicate we'd come to the right building, and I briefly imagined knocking on what might turn out to be a dance studio and asking if they knew where the masturbators were. Instead, we just marched in and were greeted by a festively dressed woman. She checked our names off the list and offered us a souvenir bracelet with "GIRL JUICE" spelled out in plastic beads.

Eventually, the crowd trickled in until there were about 50 or 60 people milling around from room to room, fully clothed. The starting whistle had not yet been blown, but people were claiming spots around the room by laying out towels and pillows, and, in one case, a large pump bottle of lotion.

"Let's grab that couch," I said to Angela, and we scurried over and dropped our toybag on the sofa by the DJ booth. The DJ was a blue-haired young woman who gave us a professional nod as we pulled out our vibrators, as though she was used to people brandishing sex toys.

The organizers gave a brief talk about the rules and pointed out who the room monitors were, then one did a brief reading of an erotic masturbation story. After the applause had subsided, the other one grinned, whipped her pants off, and shouted, "Okay, get jerking!"

I found myself surprised by how fast everyone got undressed: People were actually masturbating furiously before I even got my shirt unbuttoned. I looked around surreptitiously to see what everyone else was doing (and, admittedly, gander at some cocks); I wasn't sure if I should rush into it, or face the wall while I undressed, or what. I felt incredibly shy, and then depressed for feeling shy. I pride myself on being both open-minded and exhibitionistic, and had been happily telling people about my plan to masturbate in public.

Now here I was faced with a room of naked folks who clearly had no qualms about waving their junk around, and I was balking. Even Angela had jumped ahead of me: she was already sprawled back on the couch with her fingers doing the walking. I took a deep breath and flicked the button on my vibrator.

At first, I slipped into familiar show-giving habits. There was barely anybody just watching. The room was packed wall-to-wall with men enthusiastically masterbating. I spread my legs wide and started going to town. After about 20 minutes, I noticed that, while people were watching me, it wasn't the kind of focused attention I got when boyfriends did the same thing. It felt less goal-oriented. Usually when I'm playing by myself or with my boyfriend-du-jour, coming is the reason for the season. Lying on the couch at the Masturbate-a-thon, I actually felt much less pressure to have an orgasm and my movements got more languorous and sensual as I relaxed and settled into the sensations.

It was surprisingly quiet in there, although there were occasional muffled grunts or groans and, of course, fapping noises. Directly across from me was a guy wearing a blond wig, cut-off shirt, and babydoll skirt: His rigid cock was peeking out from underneath the hemline as he twisted his nipples. To my right was a small group of young men with mohawks, their heavily chiseled bodies in a semi-circle as they all stared intently at each other's rapidly moving hands. I saw a polite-looking older man in the corner wave a room monitor with a clipboard over: He'd said earlier that he was entering the "number of orgasms" competition, and wanted her to log his progress. My own fingers started to feel incredibly wet, and I could hear Angela's heavy breathing next to me.

The room started to feel a bit humid, as sweat filled the air. The buzz of my magic bullet was starting to feel REALLY good. There were a series of erotic photos and masturbation porn being projected on the wall of the space. One of the guys across from me spasmed and curled forwards over himself as he came, shooting jizz onto the towel he'd respectfully placed on the ground in front of him. The general atmosphere was super hot (literally and metaphorically), and it didn't take long before I came.

After a few more hours — including a women's distance ejaculation event — the evening eventually wound down, at least for us. Angela came a couple of times. I came a couple of times. Voyeurs had a look at me every now and then, but overall, I was left to my own devices. Eventually I took off my sexy panties because they were all sweaty, and nobody seemed to care. The DJ kept spinning good music, and the older man in the corner kept racking up orgasms (we heard later he won the contest by coming seven times in a three-hour period). As we sweatily shrugged into our clothes, I turned to Angela and said, "That was the most comfortable masturbation party I've ever been to."

"It was like being in my own living room," she agreed. "If my living room was full of naked dudes jerking off."