Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice – Good Weekend Magazine.
Extramarital affairs can spell disaster for many a relationship. But what if there were some sort of licensed adultery which both parties shared a passion for? Well, break out the bubbly, the baby oil and the satin sheets, because swinging is back.
IT IS A GLORIOUS MONDAY AFTERNOON in the hinterland above Noosa and Louise is fussing around the house, getting ready to pick up the kids from school. Her husband Marcus is in the study, clicking away with the mouse and explaining how he organises their “little fun adventures”, when a picture of his wife pops upon the computer screen. “Oh my God,” exclaims Louise as she comes into the room and takes a look at the monitor.”Look at my back! It looks shocking. I’d spent the entire day in the sun and was really burnt. Look, you can see where my swimmers were.” Louise’s sunburn, and the contrasting white bits aren’t exactly the first things that leap out from the screen, considering she’s locked between the thighs of a naked woman, while a naked man, the woman’s husband, looks on. Marcus was manning the video at the time. “I really like this one,” he says proudly, admiring his camera work.
Welcome to the world of swingers. It’s a world where the old rules and conventions of marriage and monogamy have been turfed out the window. A secret place where etiquette demands that sex be separated from love. Where couples live out their fantasies with other couples, and then retreat together back to their children and their mortgages. For some it is liberating, for other sit appears to be a sad search for meaning. Partner swapping is on the rise across Australia, moving on from the key parties of the 1970s – a sexual lucky dip in which guests dropped their car keys into a bowl and the women went home with owner of the key they picked.
In the late ’80s and early ’90s, fear of AIDS slowed down what its participants like to call a “lifestyle movement”. But with anxiety about the disease dwindling, and withy Internet providing a new forum for meeting like minds, swingers are back.
Every capital city sports several clubs and they’re also springing up in many provincial centres. In Brisbane, there is even Club Cuddly to cater for the larger-sized swingers. In Cairns, Australia’s first swingers’ resort, ClubBelavista, has opened its doors to “discerning couples that are already involved or who would like to become involved in the swinging lifestyle”. When it held an opening party recently, 70 couples from the Cairns area alone turned up for a night of debauchery.
Sex industry lobby group the Eros Foundation conducted a survey of swinging magazines across , Australia – Searchlight in Sydney, Australian Vixenin Melbourne and Australian Rosie in Brisbane – and scanned the growing number of contact sites on the Net. By its count, 10,000 new ads were being placed across Australia each month for couples seeking couples. “Swinging,” says Eros’s Robbie Swan, “is the hottest thing in sex at the moment.”
A BIG STEEL DOOR AND A STREET NUMBER in bold letters greet you at the entrance to the Couples Club in Sydney’s Surry Hills.
There’s nothing else to indicate what goes on inside this small converted warehouse. Almost anyone into swinging in Sydney eventually finds his or her way here. Upstairs, there’s a tasteful bar with lime washed walls, open fireplaces and a pool room. Two of the club’s regulars are long-term swingers Laurie and Tanya. They have never told any of their friends or family about their involvement in the scene, but, after some deliberation, agree to allow me to go with them to a party at the club.
A few days before, I visit their house in Sydney’s sprawling west. Laurie is anxious as he greets me,kicking a child’s soccer boot from the doorway. Their three children have been sent to their rooms early and Laurie gets up every few minutes to make sure they stay there. “For us,” he says,”it started about 10 years ago when Tanya was working in a news agency and she brought home Searchlight [a swingers’ contact magazine] and said, ‘Darl, do you reckon people really do this?”‘
For them and some of the other swingers I spoke to, it’s as if it’s a hobby that binds them together, much as other couples might have a shared interest in going to antiques auctions or playing mixed tennis on Sundays. Laurie says they’ll keep going for as long as they are still enjoying it and, while he’s in the room, Tanya agrees.
But later, on her own, she admits, “I locket when I get there but, to be perfectly honest, I’d be happy if it was just me and him for the rest of our lives. I really only keep going for him.”
ONE OF THE BIG DIFFICULTIES SWINGERS FACE is finding legitimate venues. Many couples arrive at supposed swingers’ clubs only to find them filled with single men and prostitutes.
The Couples Club seems to be one of the few genuine outfits in Sydney. No single men are allowed.Single women are welcome, but they never call. – It’s all pre-booked and very discreet.
The club’s owner. Peter Cohen, has run it every Friday and Saturday night for 10 years for an entry fee of$150 a couple, $100 for members. “My philosophy is that the women need to feel comfortable,”Cohen says. “If they don’t feel comfortable, I go out of business. People are welcome to come along and have a look, and if it’s not their scene they can go. There’s no pressure to participate.”
I arrive at the club at 10.30 on a Saturday night to meet up with Laurie and Tanya. It is chilly outside, but pleasantly warm once I’m inside after being buzzed in through the steel door. Appropriate heating, I am to learn, is conducive to good swinging. Upstairs at the bar, a dozen or so couples are taking advantage of the complimentary drinks, reclining on couches or sitting at the bar.
What do these people talk about? Most of them seem to be trying to be amusing and clever without revealing too much about themselves or their true identities. The air is thick with nervous energy, it’s like the awkward excitement of an inter school dance. It could be any inner-city bar,except that the music is at a level that allows conversation and there’s enough seating.
Tanya, at the bar with Laurie, is wearing a white, low-cut peasant blouse. Laurie is in a blackskivvy. They are chatting to another couple about football. Three or four younger couples, all dressed in black, are in a room out the back, playing pool. Laurie pulls me aside for a chat, to make sure I feel comfortable, and looks back at the pair talking to his wife. “We have been with this couple before.She is sensational.”
As the night wears on, people disappear downstairs until no-one is left.”Come on,” says Peter Cohen. “I’ll show you downstairs.” class
At the base of the stairs is a lukewarm where the last of the couples are getting undressed. To the right is a room with a massive spa. Eight naked people are in it, bugging and kissing. There’s not a lot of talk.Cohen leads me down a hall, through the Kama Sutra Room which has a bed in the middle unduly couches around the side for the comfort of those who like to watch. It’s empty.
All the action tonight is in the Bedouin Tent Room. Big red pillows cover the floor, red silk sheeting hangs from the ceiling, to give “that Arabian effect”, but unlike your average Bedouin tent, bowls of condoms are positioned around the perimeter. The dim light that penetrates the silk casts an infra-red hue across the naked bodies – it’s like observing the scene through night-vision goggles.
Everywhere I look, people are having sex. It’s quite sensual, not the wham-bam sex of pornographic movies. Cohen gives me a nudge. “What do you think? Pretty amazing,eh?” I don’t know what to say.
I simply don’t know what to make of it. It is more fascinating than arousing. About 20 people are lying on the floor in different groupings, all nude, some the same sex ,some mixed.
The room is strangely quiet, apart from the occasional groan of pleasure. A ingestion couple are squatting off to the side, not really knowing what to do, but smiling enthusiastically nonetheless. Laurie and Tanya are kissing each other in the middle of the room. After a few minutes, she reaches over and touches a stray breast in a foursome nearby. The woman looks across at her, smiles, and when Tanya’s hand is not brushed aside, it is taken as an invitation to join in. That’s the protocol. She and Laurie slide on over, and soon it’s a six-some.
Back upstairs. Cohen’s girlfriend is tidying the empty bar. “They normally stay down there for an hour or two and then come back up for a few drinks to recover before getting back into it,” she says.
I mention the empty room off to the side which has bondage equipment in it. “That never gets much use,” she says, wiping clean an ashtray. “I think by the time they’ve come here they’ve fulfilled most of their fantasies without having to get into that.”
Downstairs, Cohen is waiting for the spa to empty. He changes the water a couple of times during the night. After a while, the swingers start to drift back upstairs, dressed in the club’s blue robes – nudity is not allowed in the bar. The mood has changed, tensions have been released. Laurie and Tanya are leaning on the bar with two of the six-some.
How was it? “Sensational,” says Laurie, as if he’d just won a grand final. “Absolutely sensational.” He’s been going at it for two hours but is hanging around for more.
How do you do it? “Viagra,” he says, grinning and giving me the thumbs-up. “Viagra is big in this scene, mate.”
Tanya looks tired: “Yeah, I had a good time. But as I said before, I could take it or leave it.” As I am leaving, Laurie and Tanya are heading downstairs again, him with a beaming smile, her looking like she’d rather be at home, tucked up in bed.