Community is at the core of LGBTQ culture. From the HIV/AIDS pandemic to oppressive political regimes, we’ve seen how our connections give us the power to survive, heal, and thrive. And now, as COVID-19 closes the bars, clubs, parties, and events that have traditionally brought us together, our community seems to be threatened in a totally new way. Entrepreneur Sarah Massey observed the cancellation of affirming events, like Pride, and realized that queer tech could save the day.
Massey, who runs a PR firm in Washington, D.C., found herself in Paris as quarantine orders began to lock down travel across the world. Removed from her entire queer community, Massey created Joie De Vivre, a confidential video platform for body-positive and LGBTQ individuals. Joie De Vivre, which translates to the “delight of simply living life,” provides the LGBTQ community a safer space to embrace every part of their identities. Home to naked dance parties, yoga lessons, and naked poetry readings, among other events, the platform utilizes strict rules to ensure all participants have an affirming experience. Enthusiastic consent is required for private interactions, all attendees must be 18+, and recording and photos are prohibited.
Massey enlisted members of the LGBTQ community to aid her in creating a platform that catered to untethered expression. Where Facebook censors bodies, forbidding users to publish images of nipples and genitalia, Joie De Vivre celebrates nudity. Where Zoom lacks security, Joie De Vivre makes every effort to ensure it—requiring all users to agree to the platform’s privacy policies.
So what’s it like to attend a virtual dance party? Well, it’s a lot like attending a physical one. A DJ spins popular songs as participants dance to the beat, partygoers are able to chat privately or with the whole group, and fun costumes are encouraged and celebrated. What Joie De Vivre contributes that differs from queer culture pre-COVID is a near-universal level of accessibility: participants can enjoy cocktails or remain as sober as they please, physical ability doesn’t determine if one can enter the party, and finances don’t automatically stop anyone from attending.
Joie De Vivre is a business in which everyone wins. In creating the platform, Massey prioritized creating a model that allowed LGBTQ community members to care for one another. Organizations partner with Joie De Vivre to host events, splitting the profits earned from ticket sales. Ticket buyers have the option to buy another ticket for someone who otherwise couldn’t afford to attend. With such a positive start, Massey strives to ensure Joie De Vivre’s sustainability. She’s now seeking socially responsible investors in order to develop the project into a triple-bottom-line business.
“What I’ve learned from the older queer community is that we have a resiliency that keeps us going,” says Massey. “After a protest, a sit-in, or a big win, we party and build up our communities and ourselves so we can continue to fight. Joie De Vivre provides the virtual space to keep that tradition alive.”
Joie De Vivre will host a weekend of kink workshops and parties called Joy @ Folsom: Biker Babes in Space as part of San Francisco’s Folsom Street Fair.