new faces of nightlife

London party promoter gives the Side community a helping hand

Nick Woof
NIck Woof, found of London’s Side-positive Bator Bros party.

Gay sex has long been reduced to a simple binary: top or bottom. But in the past couple of years, queer eroticism has expanded to include the nascent notion of “sides,” which encapsulates those who enjoy sex, just not anal sex. This consists of any non-penetrative intercourse such as oral and rimming, as well as mutual masturbation. Bator Bros, the popular London-based jerk-off party founded by Nick Woof, strongly grasps this concept, both figuratively and literally.

“For people who’ve never experienced something like this before, it’s a place where men can choose to what extent they would like to pleasure themselves,” said Bator Bros creator Nick Woof, “either with their own bodies or with other people. It’s a safe space for you to explore your sexuality. This is about new forms of intimacy that you may not have experienced before with another person. And it happens to be touch and sensuality.”

Hosted at London’s Bunker nightclub, this monthly event embraces several facets of the side community in addition to bators, such as kinksters, exhibitionists, voyeurs, and especially edgers. For those uninitiated in the kink terminology, edging is prolonging a sexual act, such as jacking off a partner, for as long as possible before letting them orgasm. In fact, Nick encourages these extended experiences over the wham-bam-thank-you-sir vibe inherent in mainstream hook-up culture.

“We focus on the art of edging,” Nick explained. “I would say compared to the other parties, where people may come quickly and disappear, we want people to stick around for as long as they can to really enjoy the entire journey. And also, coming is optional. We don’t feel like we need to give you the pressure or a sense of obligation for you to orgasm. That’s not really where we’re trying to pursue.”

Beyond normalizing alternative sexuality for London’s sides, Bator Bros also strives to foster a sense of camaraderie.

“I like the culture of brotherhood a lot,” said Nick. “Role-playing the Brotherhood, doing things together as a communion, as a ritual, and having that continuous conversation with someone and feel like there’s a reliable community.”

Nick knows firsthand the importance of inclusion in the gay club scene. His nightlife career aims to not only create a sanctuary for sides and kinksters, but also promote racial diversity.

“I spent a lot of my time trying to find my tribe. I also didn’t feel quite welcome in the gay scene. So when I came out in 2003, I felt really pigeonholed as a person of color. And I just didn’t feel like I could fit in. And over time, I decided to also start my own nightI wanted to create my own space.”

The creation of Bator Bros continues a current trend of normalizing sides within mainstream queer culture. Although the term “side” was coined back in 2013 by sex therapist Dr. Joe Kort, it didn’t gain traction until 2020 when he created the Side Guys Facebook group page. Currently boasting over 7k members, the page serves as a forum for those in this community to communicate and foster acceptance. A major win for this alternative form of sexuality occurred in 2022 when the preeminent gay hook-up app Grindr, which boasts over 11 million users, added side as one of their position categories, further normalizing this sexual niche. For the many men who believed their aversion to anal sex made them outcasts, this public embrace of side culture was a boon towards discovering their true sexual identity.

“Whenever I’d look at those choices I’d think, ‘I’m none of those things,’” said Shai Davidi, a Grindr used from Tel Aviv, during an interview with The Guardian. “I felt there must be something wrong with me.”

Davidi’s feelings of being a sexual outcast reflect the restrictive binary imposed on homosexuality by a heterocentric society. When mainstream culture was trying to understand the mechanics of gay sex, they filtered it through the prism of their own sexuality. And in turn, the gay community began to see their own sexuality through that lens. Anyone who’s ever been asked by a straight friend, ‘Are you the guy or the girl in bed?’ should be able to understand.

Dr Thomas Ellis
SF-based psychologist Dr. Thomas Ellis

“I do think there’s something heteronormative about it,” explained Dr. Thomas Ellis, a psychologist based in San Francisco.” If you ask people even just what is sex, it’s typically intercourse. I’m trying to help people broaden their definition of sex. And it’s not just penetration. Historically speaking, people when they think about sex, it’s been penis and vagina. And so there’s sort of this translation, well, then sex is about penetration, which for gay men would mean the anus. But that’s really a limiting definition of sex, because there are so many people in the world who aren’t able, for whatever reason, or don’t have penetrative sex, and they still find pleasure and connection.”

“There’s a multitude of reasons why somebody may not want to engage in penetrative sex,” continued Ellis. “And it could be anything from psychological and emotional reasons, to spiritual religious reasons, to pain reasons, physiological reasons, all kinds of things. And, in the gay world, we have sort of come into this idea of top and bottom, submissive dominant.”

Nick’s goal for Bator Bros doesn’t end with just adding side culture into the larger realm of gay sexuality. For him, it’s a jumping-off point for a larger expansion of alternative eroticism.

“For me, Bator Bros is going to expand the idea of sensuality and sensory sexual experiences into smell, into touch into particular body fetishes over time,” said Nick, “because the idea is you want to create more collaborators into it and not just normalize, but like really celebrate the entire body. If you want to go in-depth down the tantra route, there’s also that.  I would really expand the kink play into holistic body awareness. We have a whole body to play with. Why are we stuck with the same old body parts? There are so many other things.”

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