I’m not sure which is stranger ― that in my late 20s I identified as bisexual and was in an open marriage and never visited a nudist swingers resort or that 20 years later, when I had come to identify as a lesbian and was a month into a closed relationship, I made plans to go to one.
The resort I chose doesn’t discriminate or limit who can make a reservation but it draws a clientele that consists of mostly heterosexual swinging couples. So it might seem strange that a lesbian in a brand-new relationship with a woman who made it very clear that she had zero interest in non-monogamy would want to go to a resort like the one I was headed to. But I felt I had to go.
I have spent much of my life writing and giving talks about sex and sexuality and visiting this kind of resort was something that remained on both my professional and personal bucket lists. And, if I’m being completely honest, I also wanted to see if the trip might make me question my new commitment to monogamy after more than a decade of being in open relationships.
Still, no matter what I might encounter or feel while at the resort, I pledged not to play with other people. Luckily, my now-wife understood my motivations and trusted me completely, so with her blessing, I booked a solo vacation and prepared to take a plunge into the unknown.
My journey began with the odd task of standing in front of my closet trying to figure out what you pack when you go to a nudist resort, all the while wondering whether this was going to be one of the most foolish decisions of my life. What was I thinking ― a 40-something monogamous lesbian mom who’s had a lifelong love affair with sweets going to a resort that bills itself as somewhere you can explore and enjoy all of your desires? Was this one of those adventures that were better off left, well, unadventured?
Spoiler alert: it wasn’t.
I decided to pack a couple of sundresses, a bathing suit, some cutoffs and a tank top or two. The resort does, after all, have a nude side and a “prude” side (portions of the property where clothing is required) and being at least minimally “covered” (and they use that term very loosely) is required in the dining room. I also packed a wild array of accessories ranging from oversized hats to bold statement necklaces encrusted with giant stones. I think I believed they might either distract viewers from certain key areas of my body ― or perhaps enhance the view. Either way, I’m sure that’s not what Kate Spade and Betsey Johnson had in mind when they designed the baubles I was slipping into my suitcase.
In the days before I left for my trip, I found myself constantly imagining what I would encounter once I arrived at the resort. I’m not entirely sure what I expected. Perversion? Lawlessness? Raucous public orgies? Spending all of my time fighting off couples in search of their mythical perfect third? Feeling like leering eyes were always on me? As it turns out, none of that awaited me.
I arrived on a Monday evening and checked in as one would at any beach resort. I was shown to my room, which wasn’t fancy but was clean and quiet and beachy. After unpacking the few garments in my bag, I did exactly what I went there to do: I took off my clothes. All of them. Then I put on a massive necklace and equally massive hat, grabbed one of the trashy paperbacks I brought with me, momentarily puzzled as to where, with no pockets, to stow my room key (I finally decided to tuck it into my book), and left the room with what I hoped looked like an air of confidence but felt like those embarrassing moments as a kid when you wished the ground would open up and swallow you whole.
As I walked outside and felt the breeze and sun on my skin ― all of my skin ― for the first time, I quickly found myself nodding and waving hello to other naked travelers on their way to the pool or the beach. I relaxed and even felt a little silly about my own unease. How different was this really from being at a topless beach, which I’d done at least a dozen times, or even a regular beach? I mean, how much does that string bikini actually cover?
When I got to the pool, I did have the “how do you sit in a lounge chair naked without looking or feeling like you’re at the gynecologist” conversation with myself. But I soon squared that away by stretching my legs out along the length of the chair and crossing one over the other. I felt strangely comfortable.
That feeling of not just calm but contentedness never left me while I was at the resort. It wasn’t just a matter of summoning up some sort of internal “you got this, girl” mantra (though those mini-pep talks certainly helped) ― it was the people around me.
The other guests and the staff at the resort were friendly and I was constantly asked my name and what brought me there. When I told people I was both a lesbian and in a monogamous relationship, they not only listened ― they heard me. One couple offered to take me under their wing, show me around and introduce me to their friends. I wondered briefly if that was just a sly way of seeing if I might be swayed from my monogamy but I was happy to learn it wasn’t. Not even a little.
They showed me the “playroom” and warned that if I went there alone, it would be easily misread as a willingness to play. They told me I might want to skip the Thursday night foam parties, too, because at 5 feet tall I would be almost entirely below the foam line and things get “interesting” down there. Those were two places at the resort where your presence, although not the equivalent of giving consent, does imply that you are likely interested in consenting to at least some sexual play.
They also advised me to steer clear of the hot tub at night. It was another place where one’s presence, in and of itself, could be read as a statement of at least interest. Although the resort didn’t specifically mention consent or rules, they assured me that I would always feel safe and comfortable and that if at any point I didn’t, all I had to do was let someone know.
But I never needed to. I never felt uncomfortable, even walking to my room naked and alone at night. It was as if no one wanted to ruin the good thing that we had going there. It was obvious that if consent weren’t the name of the game, there’d be no way for this game to exist. It was the opposite of nearly every straight club I’d ever been to. It wasn’t an “anything goes” atmosphere ― I think the guests actually liked the rules. We all knew where we stood and pushing someone after they told you no wasn’t tolerated. I have never been more acutely aware of “no” truly meaning “no” ― full stop ― and I loved it.
In fact, the only time I witnessed any bad behavior was when I saw a man getting handsy with a woman who had already told him no. The other guests near them in the pool came to her aid and told the staff about his behavior, and he was sent packing. There was no room for bad apples in that bunch.
During my stay, I learned more about the swingers’ lifestyle. I discovered that couples have their own rules and share them with others interested in engaging sexually. Some couples stay together when they play. Other twosomes will split up, each partner playing alone with another person or couple. Some couples agree not to have penetrative sex with others but are up for everything else. For some, kissing is off-limits. The one rule that everyone seemed to follow, though, was communicate, communicate, communicate. You ask. You listen. You respect. That’s it. The through lines of the entire week were honesty and consent and it was a beautiful thing to witness, even if I wasn’t personally taking part in that kind of fun.
It made me wish the whole world worked that way.
I quickly became known as “the funny lesbian” and often found myself surrounded by guests who wanted to be regaled with my stories of doing research about the female orgasm at a masturbation workshop and navigating airport security with a suitcase full of vibrators. I could not stop giggling the night we all left the dining room, where we were clothed, to drop off our clothes in our rooms so we could get pizza on the nude side of the property. In that moment, stripping down in front of strangers to grab a late-night slice was as natural as meeting at a bar for drinks.
Every night, the resort offered a different theme with different activities. For instance, Tuesday was the “bare as you dare glow” pool party with everyone decked out in all kinds of glowing, blinking and flashing accessories. Wednesday night was “fetish night” when everyone donned their most outrageous costumes of leather and lingerie and fetish gear. No manner of dress seemed to be off-limits.
The other guests came from many walks of life. I met CEOs and craftsmen. As far as sexuality goes, a number of the women identified as bisexual. I didn’t meet any men who identified as anything other than straight. Of course, as many people as I spoke to, I certainly didn’t talk to everyone ― so who knows? There were a lot of people in their 20s during my vacation because it was designated as “Young Swingers Week,” but I was told the crowd at the resort generally skews a bit older, and there were still plenty of 40- and 50-somethings there. I met people from Canada, Europe and plenty from the U.S.
The whole thing felt like grown-up summer camp. And I love going to camp. Aside from the nakedness and the sexy vibe that filled the place, it was really just a bunch of people wanting to have fun and be their genuine selves. And, just like camp, the resort offered all kinds of things to do. There were water activities like sailing and snorkeling and scuba diving. There were sports like tennis and beach volleyball, as well as giant lawn chess and hammocks and cabanas to hide away in. I spent my days at the pool, my early evenings walking the beach, and my nights hanging out with new friends.
As far as how it felt to be surrounded by genitals just hanging out in the open, I will note that I saw a lot of penises ― a lot ― and that’s not something I’m used to. The thing about penises is that when they’re there, they’re so … well … obviously there. And hard to miss. But, interestingly, very few were actually hard. That was something I was not expecting but was very grateful for because I think seeing erect penises would have been too aggressive for me. But after my first couple of hours at the pool, the view became perfectly normal, really. It’s funny how much time and energy we spend covering ourselves in our everyday lives only to discover that not covering ourselves isn’t such a big deal after all.
My last night at the resort was bittersweet. I was excited to get home to my future wife. But just like when I left summer camp as a child, I was also sad to say goodbye not only to my new friends but also to this little universe where everyone played nicely together and there was always someone to hang out with and no matter what you were into, there was an activity for you. This nudist swingers resort was marked with more kindness and compassion and honesty and communication than I see most days in the world I usually encounter.
Still, I’m not sure that I’ll ever return to the resort. My wife certainly wouldn’t be interested. Public nudity isn’t her thing and we don’t swing. As much as I enjoyed myself, I feel as though I had an itch of curiosity and now I’ve sufficiently ― and pleasurably ― scratched it. Ultimately, my experience confirmed that monogamy was the right decision for me and, though I wasn’t looking for this, it also cemented my identity as a lesbian.
But more than anything, my stay at a nudist swingers resort reaffirmed my faith in people. We can be good to each other and ourselves ― even when we’re supposedly being bad.