Swinging has come out of the dark and more easily accessible, leading to a rise (ha!) in sex clubs and sex parties, reports Richard Bevan. Meet the mid-lifers ramping up their sex life
Swinging usually evokes images of bowls of car keys, mutton chops and Ann Summers soirée. But since the advent of instant communication, this once underground playground for adults has evolved into something more common and less scandalous.
Twenty-five years ago you’d be hard pressed to find clubs, bars and venues where married couples and singles would meet for extra-marital frolicking. Word-of-mouth or subscribing to an obscure adult magazine would have been the most obvious routes to discover like-minded souls curious about threesomes, exhibitionism or group sex. The internet has changed all that.
Whether or not there has been an increase in 50-somethings itching to let it all hang out at ‘anything goes’ spas and private clubs is a matter of conjecture. But many venues (such as the husband and wife-owned La Chambre in Sheffield) are attracting mature couples, and it’s likely that similar venues around the country are frequented by members who have grown-up children, more time on their hands and a desire to spice up their sex lives.
Swinging still may be what ‘other people do’ but over the past decade it’s become an increasing part of ordinary people’s lives due to accessibility, online information and the means to investigate – almost like a Trip Advisor for swinging – from the comfort of your own chair.
Felicity, 54, and Malcolm, 58, who live in Huddersfield, never imagined that in their ‘mature’ years they’d be daring to be so sexually adventurous outside the ‘norm’ of marriage. But they reached a point where they both felt they wanted to experiment.
“I think we both thought, hell, we can’t be doing this when we’re 70, so why not now?” recalls Felicity.
“We’ve been together for 21 years and we know the difference between love and sex. If you can grasp those fundamental facts and are secure in your relationship, it shouldn’t harm what you have together but, rather, can re-activate passions and all kinds of sexual interests.”
Malcolm was the one who was initially apprehensive about witnessing his wife making love with other people. “That ‘will she fancy them more than me?’ kind of thing did run through my mind at first,” he says.
“But what made me feel more relaxed was meeting people like us; other couples in their forties and fifties who are pretty solid in their personal lives and marriages and know this is just about sex and having fun.”
Phil, 53, a New Zealander living in Muswell Hill, London, believes that clichés and stereotypes about ‘swinging’ are gradually eroding due to both the media and technology making it less secretive.
“I started out on the ‘dogging’ scene,” says Phil, “which was pretty tacky and in many ways physically uncomfortable and cold. Some of it felt a bit icky, too animalistic, and I wanted to enjoy something a little more friendly, something that has a sense of camaraderie to it.
“You do get all that with private clubs, especially when you’re a regular and see some of the same faces every week or month.”
Phil began by dipping his inquisitive toe in a popular spa venue, Rios in Kentish Town. Despite the “appalling decor straight out of a 70s sitcom” it provided a safe environment with Jacuzzis and wet rooms where he could enjoy both participating and watching with couples and single men and women.
He says: “I’m bisexual so I wanted to experiment more, and safely. That’s one of the reasons why swinging clubs are appealing to me and other bi men.”
Like other single men with a bi-curious nature but either married, divorced or widowed, he discovered a welcoming “non-judgemental” arena to experiment at The Paradise Spa in Essex.
“I’m mainly straight and enjoy threesomes with couples normally. This exploring has given me the ability to discover more about myself, which you can certainly do with a liberal-minded couple!”
Most clubs catering for swinging couples and singles are usually strictly straight. In some cases they control the amount of single men allowed in. Some, such as Paradise in Dagenham, welcome couples and single bisexual men on designated nights.
There are basically two worlds of swinging. One that for the most part is associated with professionally managed venues, be it clubs, one-off nights and weekenders at a variety of venues. Or the ‘private party’ events, which can be anything from the enthusiastic married Surrey couple putting on a racy cheese and wine party to arranged group ‘sessions’. They are mainly community based and where the participants may know the host and some of the other participants.
Michael and Carla, both professionals in their mid-fifties from Teddington, Middlesex, have been enjoying ‘alfresco’ sessions near the Thames. “There’s something more intimate about meeting up with people you’ve met before in a social setting on a lovely summer’s day or evening,” says Carla.
“Wine, music and genial people generally all go to make it a sexy and erotic experience and one where I think women like me feel safe and less intimidated than say being in a dark, music-thumping club.”
Michael talks at great length of how, somewhat ironically, manners and a sense of propriety are more prevalent in swingers clubs and sex parties than say the average city club, disco or pub, where drunkenness and intrusive behaviour often go unchallenged.
He says: “You will get kicked out of a private adult club if you start fondling someone without permission or acting like a lewd jerk. There are rules and policies that everyone respects and adheres to.
“They’re actually quite civilised places, certainly more so than the average pub. No is no and you only assume you can participate or watch when invited.”
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