What I learned hanging out with swingers
The sun beats hot on my skin, enticing the hairs on the back of my neck to stand up. I can feel my flesh prickle with the first flush of a burn.
I've come to celebrate a friend's birthday on Bondi Beach, where plastic flutes overflowing
with bubbles are guzzled to the hum of waves crashing on the sand.
For all intensive purposes, this is an ordinary celebration - except for one specific detail.
The guests are all swingers.
I first met the birthday girl when I was filming a docuseries for my YouTube channel about the sex community. She was organising X-rated parties at private penthouses around Sydney and invited me to come along and interview a few of the attendees.
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We developed an unexpectedly genuine friendship, and I found myself having brunches with her and people who appeared to be completely average, until you asked them what they did in their spare time.
Here are just a few of the most eye-opening things I've learned, in my time hanging out with swingers …
1. Don't call them swingers
I was corrected on my language early on, at the very first event I attended, when I jokingly inquired, "So are swingers parties really like that scene from Eyes Wide Shut?"
"We don't call them 'swingers parties' and we don't refer to ourselves as 'swingers' either, because the term has a very outdated, negative connotation attached to it," the host politely explained, as we stepped into the lift to ascend to the penthouse.
"We prefer to label the parties 'intimate adult events'," she continued.
"And if you don't refer to each other as 'swingers', then what do you call yourself, exactly?" I asked.
"A human being," she replied without hesitation.
2. Orgies happen
Until you see it, you just don't quite believe it's real. To be fair, if a friend had recounted this tale to me, I'd have questioned her commitment to truth-telling. But orgies do in fact break out at "intimate adult events".
The best way I can describe my own experience witnessing one is: one moment my boyfriend and I were chatting with a fully clothed couple over cocktails; the next, they were naked and in the throes of a human pretzel with several other party goers right in front of us. I wasn't limber nor body confident enough to join them, but I didn't say no to the live porn.
3. They're boringly normal (well, sometimes).
Most of the friends I've made through this community are married couples with kids who work corporate jobs and will just as happily converse about the weather over drinks as they will plan their next threesome.
Though, even their regular social events are probably a bit more interesting than most people's.
The friend sitting opposite me at the beach party I attended began spontaneously kissing the woman beside her before making out with her husband, who, after telling her it was time to go pick up the kids from soccer, said goodbye to one of the other female guests by locking lips with her.
No one at the event raised an eyebrow (although a few people on the beach sure did).
4. Many of them live double lives
Think you don't know a swinger? I did, too. Until I stumbled into their world and realised they're everywhere: at school pick-ups, in line at the coffee shop, and stocking up on toilet paper and Moccona at the grocery store.
Chances are high you know at least one couple who have sex with other couples; you're just
not aware of it. That's because most of the people who live this lifestyle lead double lives.
I was surprised to learn this wasn't exclusive to the older, married couples with kids and
community reputations to uphold; it's equally widespread among the young 20-somethings who are part of the scene, too.
At the birthday celebration in Bondi, I met a woman in her early twenties who told me she has a group of friends she's "out" to, and a group of "vanilla" friends (a term used to refer to people who live conventionally monogamous lives) who have no idea this part of her even exists.
5. They don't believe they own their partners
One of the most enlightened conversations I've had to date, was with a man who attends sex parties with his wife; a strikingly beautiful woman who's a professional model.
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IT’S MY BIRTHDAY! I’m 36 years old today. At least, I am physically. Mentally, I’m quite sure I’m still 21. 😜 If the battles I’ve been through this year have taught me anything, it’s to treasure each moment and the people in your life who make it worth living. Thank you to all of you for joining me on the journey so far. I hope you’ll stay for the rest of the ride. Now, it’s time to celebrate and eat cake! 🎈🎂🍾🎉
"The whole idea that when you partner with a woman, she's your property, is wrong. Men need to stop treating women's bodies like things to be owned and conquered," he told me.
"She comes back to me because she wants to be with me, not because I control her. She's a model, she could have any man she wants. But she chooses me, because I'm secure enough in myself as a man not to feel the need to do that," he told me.
Incidentally, they'd been together for over a decade and were easily the most affectionate couple I've ever come across.
6. They still experience jealousy
"How do you do it? How do you not get jealous when your partner is having sex with other people?" I asked a friend in the community.
"Oh, I get jealous. I'm still a human being with feelings. It's just that I recognise there's no value in me acting on that jealousy," she explained.
"I recognise it for what it is: a feeling, just like anger. You don't have to act on your anger every time you feel it, and likewise, people in this lifestyle consciously choose to accept but not act on the jealousy when it inevitably arises.
"Also, we've discussed the boundaries with our partners before anything has taken place. And at the end of the day, it's just sex."
Originally published as What I learned hanging out with swingers