With skimpy outfits and the famed orgy dome, it's no wonder people think Burning Man is a raging sex-fest. But you're missing the point.

It's known as one of the "wildest" festivals on the planet.

But despite the nudity and barely-there outfits, the idea that Burning Man is place where sex is on tap and where bonking occurs before your eyes, couldn't be further from reality.


For the last three years, I've been one of the 70,000 attendees who've made the annual pilgrimage to Black Rock City, Nevada, to take part in one of the most outlandish, life-changingly rewarding experiences.

Forget Coachella or Splendour In The Grass, there's nothing familiar about this. There's no headliners, no VIP areas, no money and most importantly, no mobile phone reception. The forced digital detox threat is enough to scare many away, but there are many who flock to it for this reason alone from around the world every year.

This is an arts festival, where everything you see, do and enjoy has been provided and built by the people who pay for the $650 entry tickets.

For nine days, you're part of a community, one that opens your eyes and hearts to the magic of human kindness through volunteering, gifting, experiences and even survival. After all, there's nothing natural about life on a dusty, water-barren plain. You can have some brutal, tough days out there. I certainly have.

So if you're heading to "The Playa" — the name the area is known as by its citizens — purely to take part in wild orgies where limbs are flying everywhere and bodies melt into one, then you're probably going to be left bitterly disappointed. Soz. Let me explain why.

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Now I'm not saying you can't get laid while you're there, because of course you can. Pop a group of people in a confined space — even though The Playa is so insanely massive, you need a bike to get around — with alcohol, no restrictions and next level music, and sparks will undoubtedly fly.

Burning Man is a place where literally anything you can imagine exists thanks to its participants. I've stumbled across a "Bacon & Beyonce" camp before, where they literally play Queen Bey tunes and serve crispy rhinds. I've also been offered Vegemite on toast, which is pretty random out the arse-end of Nevada — and I've found myself in piano classes and taking a tarot card workshop.

So if you're feeling particularly horny, you can find sex. There are camps dedicated to niche sexual interests; think BDSM, fetishes and erotic parties. Then there's the infamous orgy dome too, that in complete contradiction to its name, is usually the place where couples go to get it on because it's dust free and there's aircon.


According to friends I've met that have been inside, most couples rarely participate in "extras", but the safe and open space makes it a possibility, as long as everyone consents. But if you're single, you'll be met with a swift — but smiley — refusal of entry. As it's a strict couple's only zone.

So no, Burning Man isn't the raging mad shag-fest the rest of the world has hyped it up to be, sorry to disappoint.

The festival has earned this reputation from the fact we live in a culture now where the mere sight of bare flesh seems to automatically equal sex — and there is lots of flesh to see at Burning Man.

But the nakedness can be put down to one of Burning Man's core values, which is embracing and indulging in self-expression.

In the real world, many Burners describe feeling restricted by clothes and the way society tells us we "should" look and behave. So for just one week a year they can be completely free, ditching the image that's expected of them.

Even those who wouldn't normally ever dare to go bare feel safe to do so at Burning Man, as there's an air of anonymity to surviving in the desert. At the bare minimum, you need goggles and a scarf to fend off breathing in the dust and see where you're going.

And honestly, part of the reason so many people are flashing the flesh is just down to the scorching heat. It really does get toasty out there.

In fact, in 2017 the event was hit with a wild heatwave that saw temperatures hit almost 40C, meaning it wasn't just "The Man" — the famous wooden structure that's set alight in a meaningful ceremony at the end of each event — that was burning up that year.

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Even with boobs, butts and penises on full display, there's something quintessentially unsexy about it, probably down to the fact that everyone has their bits out, it instantly loses the attention it would usually attract.

If anything, it's a liberating experience to slip into a body harness that offers you no coverage — just a useful tool to hook all your #desertlife essentials on, a torch, some goggles, and of course sticky back plastic covered photocopy of your drivers' licence because even in Black Rock City, there's no getting served booze if you're under 21.

Undoubtedly the impression of it being a sex-crazed festival is fuelled by the flocks of "influencers" who now infiltrate the event in the name of scoring some Insta-worthy shots for their feeds with wild fashion piece — brace yourselves for the underboob this year Burners.

But even when I tell people Burning Man really isn't that raunchy, I'm shocked by how many times people ask me about the sordid sex they think takes place, as if it's some weird cult that comes together once a year to get each other's rocks off.

"But isn't it just one massive orgy?" No. No, it's not.

The true purpose of Burning Man, in my opinion, is about being the best version of yourself. You get to leave all your baggage at the front gates and just be in the moment, none of your usual daily stresses, no work playing on your mind.

My favourite memories from my last three Burns come from simple things, like working behind a bar as one of my campmates played his heart out on the decks to strangers strolling by.

Another was taking a frothy shower with 50 strangers after six days of baby wipe washing — honestly, there was nothing kinky about it just sharing a moment of sheer happiness as clean water trickled over your dust-covered skin.

Then there's the annual sob sesh I have at "The Temple" — the lesser known effigy that is set alight in a more sombre, spiritual burn than The Man, which is kind of the Burning Man equivalent of New Year's Eve.

It is a normal occurrence for a stranger to give you a hug or stop and have a conversation. Many people you'll spend the day, night or even whole week with. It's these special encounters that make us Burners feel human and feeds our souls.

Romantic connections can easily develop. On my first visit to The Playa I met a guy the moment I opened my RV door and we were joined at the hip the entire time.

I even flew to Nashville after the festival finished to spend more time with him. The next-level human connection is what draws me and so many others back year after year and why the 12,460kms journey is totally worthwhile.

So as the photos of the wild outfits start to flood our social media feeds once the festival kicks off this weekend, don't be fooled by the apparent sex-fest scenes unfolding before your eyes.

Because this experience is purely about the magic of humans, ones who quite probably like to get laid every now and again too.