Anyone for group sex? There’s a new trend in town; partner-swapping has moved from suburbia to the fashionable world of young professionals. A world where ‘orgy’ means just another fun night out among friends – or complete strangers. Meet the people who call themselves ‘the players’.
It’s Saturday night and Beth, a 27-year-old publishing assistant, pulls on her coat and calls to her boyfriend, 29-year-old sales rep Adam, to get a move on. The couple, who have been happily living together for five years, are getting ready to visit friends for a dinner party with a difference. As they leave their home, passers-by don’t give them a second glance. But Beth and Adam have a secret. Beneath Beth’s long coat she wears a black satin bustier and micro-mini, her suspenders peeping through a slit that runs to her hip; while Adam carries condoms, rather than a bottle of wine, to present to their hosts. Both Beth and Adam are swingers. They form part of a chic new breed of ‘wife swappers’, now known as ‘players’, who party at fashionable houses in exclusive postal areas, and frequent swinging dinner parties to indulge in group sex.
The fashionable face of swinging is a growing phenomenon that has hit the UK in recent years after holidaymaking professionals discovered the joys of swinging on the continent. In countries such as France, Holland and Germany, ‘wife-swapping’ isn’t stigmatised – it’s something the beautiful people do. And now Britain has caught the buzz.
“We started swinging a couple of years ago,” explains Adam. “A friend suggested going to a swingers party. He said a lot of people he knew were into partner-swapping and the idea appealed to Beth and me. We’re both sexually adventurous and wanted to find out more. But when we went to the party, we just giggled a lot with nerves. It was pretty obvious we were first-timers. But after a couple of drinks we met a couple we quite liked. The feeling was mutual so we arranged another date with them for dinner – no strings, no pressure – and we all ended up in bed together!”
“Adam and I are sexual extroverts,” says Beth, “and swinging was something we both wanted to do. Our only worry was that we thought everyone would be unattractive, but that wasn’t the case at all. Most people are exactly the same as you might find in your average bar. Our first experience was electric,” continues Beth. “We were both on a high for weeks, and we had lots more sex between us as a result.”
Partakers, traditionally seen as bored middle-aged couples, are now just as likely to be young and glamorous, and ‘the lifestyle’, as it’s called, no longer hides behind the net curtains of suburbia. Swinging is happening in cutting-edge clubs, trendy bars and house parties near you.
“There has always been a swinging market,” says Jean, 34, a self-confessed swinger from London and Founder of Sharers.co.uk. “But the great liberator has definitely been the internet. Until sites such as ours kicked off, it was difficult to find other people interested in the same recreational pursuits. The site’s only been running for four months and is already getting 1000 hits per day. And they’re mostly from people in their 20s and 30s.”
But why has the internet brought swinging into the forum of the young. and trendy? “Young people today are more likely to own computers,” says Dougie, a co-founder of Feverparties.com. “And, as a demand has been created by affluent young professionals who visit swinging clubs abroad, the internet is a more important tool for fun-seeking young couples here than almost anywhere else in Europe.”
Conner, 31, a sales director from London, and his fiancée Sally, 33, a sales manager from Bournemouth, have been together for four years and use the Net to indulge in swinging.
“I think it must be every man’s fantasy to share a bed with more than one woman. I’ve known that since I was 15, and now I’m online I can make my dream come true,” explains Conner.
Sally is also more than comfortable with their arrangement. “I’d often thought about swinging but never had the nerve until Conner and I got together. I like being watched and Conner is a self-confessed voyeur, so it seemed like a good idea to act out our fantasy.”
Sally and Conner discussed their secret sexual desires at length before approaching anyone. “I was nervous the first time, of course,” says Sally, “but I still wanted to give it a go. It was about a year ago and Conner was chatting online to a girl who lived only half an hour away from us. She sounded perfect, so we arranged to meet in a pub we both knew. We decided on the ‘ground rules’ and initially agreed Conner would only watch. But after the first kiss, the nerves disappeared and he ended up joining in with us. She was so gorgeous, I couldn’t see how Conner didn’t want to run off with her,” admits Sally, “Eventually, though, I realised that even though he fancied the pants off her, he wanted to be with me. Now I know he really loves me – how many other women can say that?”
Another way the swinging elite meet via the Net is by attending parties advertised online. Swing2Us.com, founded by prominent UK players Dean, 39, and Matty, 27, is just one of over 100 websites that organise and promote private parties in Britain.
“We’ve been together for two and a half years, and started swinging three months into the relationship,” laughs Matty. “The first night we met, we both agreed we don’t believe in monogamy. I’d never tried swinging but had always been unfaithful, and the guilt really ate away at me.”
“Our first experience involved a friend of mine,” says Dean. “He thought Matty was gorgeous and I asked if he would like to sleep with her?’ He came round that night but was so nervous he couldn’t perform. The second time, we met a couple through a personal ad, and that was a disaster too. We decided to try the internet and found a couple we clicked with. We’ve now set up a website and organise our own parties.”
“The venue for a swingers party is really important – nobody wants to go anywhere sleazy,” says Matty.
“Once a venue is located, it’s divided into separate ‘play areas’,” explains Dean. “The entire downstairs area is usually just a meeting area. Like any party, there’ll be dancing, food and drink, but there are usually porn films playing in the background and the occasional female walking around in her underwear. But most people just turn up in normal clubbing gear.”
“Our ground rules are pretty simple,” says Dean. “We never separate. In other words, we don’t pair up in different rooms. I’m totally straight and Matty doesn’t like anybody coming in her mouth or face – but that’s about it.”
Once parameters have been set, action generally takes place on upper floors – in rooms labelled accordingly as ‘couples area’, ‘singles area’ or ‘fun area’ (where anything goes). And rather than trays of hors-d’oeuvres, hosts are just as likely to pass round trays of lubricants, paper towels, wet wipes, condoms and dental dams (to protect all orifices from transmission of STIs), and small manila envelopes (for the disposal of said items once soiled).
“Parties seem to attract a lot of single females because they feel safe in that kind of environment,” explains Matty, who until she started swinging, had never had a bisexual experience in her life. “My mother has strict views about heterosexuality, so I grew up thinking anything else was dirty, but my first time with a woman was excellent.”
Dean agrees that women dominate the scene. “Single men aren’t allowed to attend most parties, whereas single women are always welcome. And in couples, women have the last say about which couples they hook up with – never the men.”
While swinging has been prevalent from ancient times, and in many cultures from Eskimos to Egyptians, its origins in western society are rumoured to date back to the 1950s. At house parties, husbands would allegedly toss their car keys in a bowl and then wives would select a set of keys at random and have sex with the owner.
Admission to upmarket swinging associations and clubs is dependent on strict vetting processes, thus ensuring the standard of players is high. Making an application often involves supplying a full name, age, address and a recent photograph. A panel of members then considers applicants. “At Fever, the criteria for selection is a combination of appearance, age, personality and any personal recommendations,” says Fever co-founder, Dougie. “We look for happy, attractive, sexy couples between the ages of 18 and 40 who we think will enjoy Fever and enhance the enjoyment of others. And all are judged in light of the sheer volume of applications.”
Tickets to swinging events can cost anything between £10 and £45 per couple (depending on running costs and whether alcohol is included in the ticket price). An entrance fee is non-transferable and some form of ID is often required on the door.
With such stringent measures, the swinging youth market is guaranteed rich pickings. After eight months on the swinging scene, Jenny, 25, a bartender, and Paul, 32, a computer programmer certainly think so.
“We’d been together for nearly five years,” says Jenny. “Then one night, after we’d had sex, Paul and I started talking about our fantasies. He said he’d like to see me with another man, or another woman. I wasn’t offended, just surprised. He’s normally quite a jealous person. So we went online, found some swingers sites, and placed an ad. Straight away we received loads of responses from all sorts of people and it didn’t take long to find a genuine, good-looking young couple we both liked.
“They were both very experienced and totally took charge, which was great as neither Paul or I had done anything that adventurous before,” says Jenny. “It was a bit of a shock to see Paul with someone else, but I just went with it and afterwards there were no regrets. In fact it was a great buzz. We went home and had sex again. The only real concern I had was whether we’d been good enough for the other couple.”
Within weeks, Paul and Jenny had already arranged a second liaison on the swinging circuit. “I was surprised at the standard of people on the scene,” admits Jenny, “I’d always thought swingers would be the sort who had trouble meeting people, but that’s not the case. We found one guy who was a fireman; tall, dark and really handsome. And the main problem I have with the women is that a lot of them are too pretty.” Paul agrees, “There’s a lot of choice. Everyone we link up with is in their 20s or 30s; most are professional and attractive. Some of the women are really beautiful and I used to get nervous about measuring up to the other guys. But, ultimately, swinging is an ego boost. You become more confident about yourself because you can compare yourself with real people, rather than the people you see in porno films and magazines. I’m not jealous anymore because there would be no real point in Jenny cheating on me.”
So does swinging make you better in bed? “Yes, because you pick up a lot of new techniques from swinging,” says Jenny. “We always stay in the same room where we can see each other, and someone will do something to Paul or me that we’ve never even thought of before. Then we’ll take the idea home and master it when we’re alone together.”
To pick up tips from friends or watch other people bounce the bedsprings in educational videos or porn flicks is one thing, but to watch another woman have sex with your man before your very eyes is another matter. Not everyone is capable of controlling the jealousy and insecurity that is born of the swinging lifestyle, and this is where problems can arise…
“At a certain point in many relationships, men and women have fantasies which they choose to carry out in order to spice up their sex lives. It’s the lure of the unknown, the unexpected,” explains Glasgow-based consultant psychiatrist Dr Prem Misra. “But in two to three per cent of the cases I’ve seen, the issue of swinging has become very problematic. Eventually, one partner can no longer be sexually fulfilled solely by the other. Or in other instances, a partner starts to feel jealous and insecure because they feel their partner is deriving more sexual pleasure from a total stranger.”
For newly fledged swinger Fran, a 28-year old medical secretary from Nottingham, the cracks are starting to show. “I’ve only just started dabbling,” she says. “It’s all my partner’s doing. He said he wanted to try swinging and I went along with it. I hated it the first time. I cried for days after my first experience. It was only when I saw I would lose him if I didn’t continue with it that I managed to overcome my feelings.”
But it seems Fran hasn’t overcome her feelings. She’s merely ignoring them for fear of losing her man. “It’s so hard to share my anxiety with friends, so I keep it all to myself – I even suffer dizzy spells because of it,” admits Fran. “But I see it as the cement of my relationship with my partner. This con-sensual adultery is a necessary part of our life together as a couple, I suppose.”
“The fact that Fran refers to swinging as ‘adultery’ – a term devoted swingers simply don’t use – shows her lack of commitment to the lifestyle,” says Janice Hiller, psychologist and specialist in psychosexual therapy. “However, with the deceit and guilt taken out of the equation, swinging could actually benefit some couples – so long as it’s something they both want.”
Research by Edgar Butler, Professor of Sociology at the University of California backs this theory. His studies show that the divorce rate among committed swingers is actually lower than the norm and, although swinging is an under-researched area, no other study since has shown otherwise.
But Relate counsellor Julia Cole has one final word of warning for couples who may be contemplating joining the swinging scene. “Younger people involved in swinging may find as they get older that they either want to start a family or long for more security with a stable partner. Also, the pursuit of sex for its own sake is something people do at a certain stage in life, but often grow out of. Those who don’t may have issues over intimacy.
“In my experience of counselling couples involved in the swinging lifestyle, after a little digging, I’ve often discovered that one partner is less enamoured than the other with the practice. And, as well as the dangers of meeting people over the internet and issues of sexually transmitted diseases – even for those who practice safe sex – it has been shown through research that it’s difficult for humans to separate sex and emotion. As a result, in some cases, it is possible for either spouse to become emotionally involved with a swinging partner and could feel the need to meet that person in secret – in other words start an actual affair.
“The idea of swinging paints a false picture of what sex within a relationship is all about. If a person isn’t satisfied by their partner, they should work together to improve their sex life. Or perhaps they should just concede that they aren’t suited – and move on…”