Circuit parties are a huge part of modern queer culture—especially, gay male culture. However, for younger gays and those recently coming into the LGBTQ2+ fold, circuit parties can be, well, kind of intimidating.
For starters, they tend to be uber-gay. So a certain confidence in one’s own sexual orientation is necessary.
Second, fashion and style play a fairly big role in circuit parties—even if the majority of the clothing comes off as the night roles on.
Finally, circuit parties tend to feature a lot of skin. From go-go dancers barely wearing underwear to a crowd of mostly shirtless (if not nearly naked) men.
Should you choose to go to a circuit party, you’ll find an exhilarating culture that’s extremely similar to mainstream raves. Albeit, gayer.
Here are my (a 30-something gay with lots of experience at circuit parties) top tips to get the most out of your first experience.
What is a Circuit Party?
Long story short, circuit parties are really just gay raves. They’re big, loud dance parties often featuring EDM and techno music (though the music changes depending on the DJ and theme). There tends to be a lot of entertainment throughout the night, including rotating DJs, go-go dancers or strippers, and a drag queen or two. Oh, love it or hate it, they tend to be fairly sexualized spaces with a liberal view on substances.
If you care to get historical, circuit parties are the natural evolution of earlier queer gatherings such a tea party in the ‘50s/’60s and discos in the ‘70s. But for all extensive purposes, circuit parties are really just giant gay dance parties.
Ten Tips for First Timers
1. Lean into the theme.
When you buy your first ticket, be sure to read the poster for details about the party. Specifically, check if there’s a theme. If there is, I highly recommend leaning into the theme when planning your look—I assure you, almost everyone else will. If there’s no theme, my general recommendation would be to wear something that makes you feel sexy: a tank, crop top, some mesh, or even just a simple tee that shows off the guns is fine. Heck, you’ll probably tear it off within the first hour anyways.
If you need a few circuit party outfit ideas, check out our new Pride collection.
2. Bring a backpack to store your normal clothes.
Unless you’re happy looking like a $20 prostitute on the street, you likely don’t want to walk to the club in your circuit party outfit. To avoid this common issue, wear your outfit under your normal clothes. Bring a backpack with you and when you arrive put your clothes into your backpack and check it at the door.
3. Lace up your dancing shoes.
Rhythmically Challenged Beware: Circuit parties are primarily dance parties. While there’s usually space near the bar to chill between tunes, the music and atmosphere isn’t ideal to relax with a beer and friends. To best enjoy a circuit party, you’ll want to hit the dance floor and show off those dancing shoes.
4. Go with a group—but be open to making friends.
Circuit parties tend to get a bad reputation for being cliquey. Specifically, people often assume the sportier or more muscular gays aren’t particularly welcoming to outsiders. However, in my experience, everyone at circuit parties tends to be extremely friendly and open to meeting new people. I always recommend going to a party with a group of friends but never shying away from introducing yourself to strangers.
5. Practice Safe Drug Use
I’d be doing you a disservice if I didn’t mention drugs at least once in this article. Circuit parties tend to have very liberal views about drug use. In most instances, the vast majority of attendees will be on one substance or another.
In no way, shape or form am I encouraging anyone to partake in party favors. However, if you choose to sample a substance, please practice safe drug use. In other words:
- Know what you’re taking,
- Don’t mix drugs,
- Never accept drugs from strangers,
- Ensure your friends know what you’ve taken,
- Do NOT overindulge, and most importantly,
- If you ever feel sick, unsafe, or you’re just having a bad trip, immediately speak to a staff member. While venues try to prohibit drug use on premises, they are well aware it still occurs and staff are trained to assist anyone in need.
6. Practice Safe Sex
Okay, okay, okay. I’m not here to give you the whole birds & the bees speech. But like my last tip on drugs, I’d be doing first-timers a disservice if I didn’t at least remind them that safe sex is always a good idea.
And hey, in my experience, it’s very easy to get caught up in highly sexualized environments and forget some basics. So without getting too general practitioner on you, please try and remember the following:
- Be respectful of others and yourself—if you’re not feeling a sexual connection, it’s okay to say no. And if someone else isn’t interested in your advances, please respect their decision.
- There’s been a large movement away from condoms since the launch of PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis)—a daily pill that makes users nearly immune to new HIV infections if taken correctly. However, condoms are your best means of protecting yourself from STIs of all stripes. Have the sex you want, but also don’t let anyone pressure you into unprotected sex if that’s not your thing.
- Speaking of things, if for any reason you do happen to unintentionally have unprotected sex, PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) is a daily pill you can take for one month after potential exposures to severely mitigate your chances of contracting HIV. But note, you need to get it as soon as possible after exposure—ideally, within 24-hours of the exposure.
7. Chug water.
One of the most common mistakes first-timers make at circuit parties is forgoing water for vodka sodas and other alcoholic beverages. Big mistake. Huge. In my experience, you’ll be sweating your rump off and you’ll need water to replenish all those electrolytes. Folks who neglect hydration tend to experience dizziness, feelings of exhaustion, and devastating hangovers. Don’t be one of those folks.
8. Tip the bar staff.
In the USA and Canada, tipping bartenders is second nature. But depending on where you’re from, you may not be accustomed to it. Bartenders and bar backs work hard, late hours to ensure you have a fantastic time. They often have to handle highly stressful situations that are far above their pay grade. So please, show them you appreciate their work by tossing them a few extra bucks after each drink you order. They’ll greatly appreciate it.
9. Treat performers with respect
Just like the bar staff, go-go dancers and drag queens are working hard to help you have a great time. If you see them in the crowd after their performance, by all means go over and say a respectful ‘hi’. But do not—I repeat do NOT—treat them like objects for your amusement. Do not grope them, touch them, or say anything uncomfortable or unwanted. If you’d like to show your appreciation, please tip them while they’re performing.
10. Let loose and have fun.
Last, but far from least, try and approach circuit parties like a place to let your hair down and let loose. Go with an open mind and a positive attitude. The more open you are to the experience, the more fun you’ll have.
See you on the dance floor!