WE ALL understand what it means to swing these days but what is less clear is what drives people to open their relationships in the first place? Is this just out of boredom, in search of spicing things up, an excuse to sleep with lots of people or being open and free? And what type of people swing? Is there a stereotype? There was only one way to find the answers — newbies night at ‘Our Secret Spot’, a swinger’s club.
The club is hidden discreetly down a back alley in Darlinghurst, in inner-city Sydney, and looks like any other narrow terrace house, with a few modifications of course. Inside this house are multiple rooms with beds for more than two, open showers, massage tables with extra gaps for genitalia and a hot tub.
Owner and fellow swinger Lawrence puts my mind at ease straight away about what I might experience and see.
“You can expect to be safe, expect the venue to be clean and sexual in way but not in your face and not pushy,” he said.
“So you can have fun with each other between yourself or if you meet people you like you can do things with them, but it’s all about consent and negotiation with other people about what you are into not being forced into anything.”
As I continue to talk to Lawrence and his partner Jess, my eyes are wandering trying to find a stereotype and fascinated by the couples walking around partly clothed. They were young, old, different body shapes and different attire (all minimal of course).
Some arrived in their corporate best and others quickly stripped down to underwear and a harness. But they all had one thing in common — they didn’t believe in monogamy.
“I think it’s just human nature really that we can’t help it. We crave that sexual bond with more than one person through our life,” Lawrence said.
“That monogamous institution is a social construct that we have created that is not innate to our true selves.
I’m not sure if I believe we are naturally meant to be monogamous or non-monogamous, but I do believe it’s a choice. Do we allow our internal desires to lead us in everything else we do or do we call the shots?
(If we gave in to internal desires all the time I would be eating chocolate and drinking wine most days).
Walking around the club I wondered if those here were just the brave ones wiling to test this theory out. Should we fight against those sexual urges or act on them naturally with our partner by our side?
In my quest for newbies, I met Trixie*, Crystal* and their partners. They were both younger couples, smartly dressed and appeared somewhat nervous and unsure of their surroundings.
“I’ve heard so much about it, coming here seeing it with my own eyes will give me a better perspective. Once you are open minded you are open to everything. There is no point in judging something where everyone is different and everyone has their own fantasies. I’ve always had a fantasy to do this stuff,” said Trixie.
But what about her thoughts on opening up the relationship?
“It’s easy once you know that you are on the same level because everyone has those thoughts whether you pursue it or not. Deep in the back of your mind you think what if. If you are open about it and honest about it and trust each other you can tell them your thoughts and fantasies and what you are thinking. Our trust is stronger.”
But her other reason that didn’t sit so well with me was the defeat of infidelity. “Everyone cheats anyway, so why not do this with your partner?”
I personally was more curious as to how someone would feel seeing their partner for the first time being sexual with someone else.
Trixie admitted her own concerns: “What if she is better than me? But obviously, he is going to be there reassuring me.”
Crystal, having been in a threesome with her partner previously had a different take.
“I haven’t thought about that I’ve just thought he is loving this right now, I’m enjoying it, we are all in it together. I didn’t think about that. I didn’t think about me I just thought this feels good, I’m happy and he’s happy and she’s happy.”
I have been to clubs and parties like this before (for research of course) but always as a single woman. On this night as I was recording for my podcast Sex & Life, I had my producer, his partner and my own partner with me.
At first this was done out of respect, but later added a different element to the night. My producer and I were left both asking ourselves, ‘is this something we could do in our own relationships?’
Part of the privilege of being a Sexologist is that you are open to all types of lifestyles and often have had prior experience or access to it. I agree with Lawrence that monogamy just might be a social construct, but there are many other social constructs I and many others live their lives according to.
We shower regularly in order not to smell, wear clothes, makeup and do our hair often to look nice and neat. We don’t go around verbally attacking strangers in the street, we say please, thank you and bless you when someone sneezes (I hope).
These are also social constructs. Just because they might not be innate doesn’t mean I’m going to reject them from my life. I don’t believe you should be in an open relationship because it’s not natural to be monogamous, rather choose a lifestyle that is right for you.
The issue I do have with the monogamy versus non-monogamy debate is that often we accept a script of how a relationship should be (often monogamy) and don’t challenge it to see if this is the right choice for us.
How do you know if you like something or don’t like something unless you have given it a go or at least entertained the possibility? You need to make a choice on a better understanding not social expectations and norms. (Which is the aim of most things I do).
I’m not suggesting that swinging is for everyone, but consider how you might feel and why you do or don’t believe it’s’ right for you.
Challenge this role that has been handed down to you as to how a relationship should be so you are able to create one that is the right fit for you.
On a personal level, I choose monogamy and having my partner there with me that night reassured this for me, but that is just me and that is just us. It doesn’t mean that I think monogamy is necessarily the way everyone should go.
I didn’t feel I got great answers as to why people were so ready to have sex with others outside of their relationships, but at the end of the night I also realised that people were there for different reasons as well.
The type of couples I found at newbies night were those that were brave enough to step outside of the social construct and really try and test the traditional roles that have been taught as norms. There was this element of freedom in the air, like people were able to be who they wanted to be and act on those often hidden desires and fantasies.
Everyone was out in the open. No secrets, no lies — something refreshing from the outside world.
If you are thinking about testing this out, before you do I suggest dipping your toe in the water to work out without risk if this is for you.
You will never know how you will feel until you are really faced with the prospect. Whether you chat to other couples, swap numbers or have a play of naughty Jenga (yes they offer that at Our Secret Spot too), test it out because jumping over that line might see you respond in a way you weren’t expecting to.
Why do people swing? I’m still not entirely sure, but the same could be asked as to why people don’t.
Dr Nikki Goldstein is a sexologist. She goes deeper into the topic of straight men who have sex with men in her new podcast Sex and Life on PodcastOne.
*Names have been changed