10 Things to Know Before You Start Swinging

Note: Sex isn't as easy as it looks on TV.

Every so many years, swingers clubs, sex parties and orgies find their way back into the national spotlight, as happened recently when Nightline aired a segment about a high-priced, invite-only affair in Manhattan. Here in Philadelphia, swinging destination the Trapeze Club has reopened after a long battle with the city over its right to exist.

Here are 10 things you should know before stepping foot in the door of a swingers club.

Full Swap vs. Soft Swap
Most beginners in the scene start off with the soft swap, which essentially means that you and your partner don’t want to “go all the way” with another couple. The boundaries of the soft swap are not exactly etched in stone, but it is generally understood that penetration is a no-no. The full swap usually has its own rules as well, with some swingers having a “no kissing” limitation while everything (and I do mean everything) else may be on the table. Swingers tend to be very clear in communicating rules and expectations for each new “relationship” they find themselves in, so expect to have an awkwardly frank conversation before things get going.

Swingers Are (Halfway) Homophobic
Bisexual women are not just welcome at swingers clubs, they are in high demand, with most paid clubs letting single women (who they hope go both ways) in for free or at a deep discount. Meanwhile, although it is not exactly a written policy, man-on-man activity is generally understood to be verboten.

On Premises vs. Off Premises
These are the two types of swingers clubs. An off-premises club is essentially a bar with a dance floor where strangers with inclinations towards swinging can meet, drink, dance, and—once their inhibitions have been sufficiently lowered—go elsewhere to engage in their libidinous activities. If that doesn’t sound exciting enough for you, seek out an on-premises club, where you’ll see people doing all sorts of dirty things pretty much wherever there is space available.

Sex Is Not as Easy as it Looks on TV
Many men have dreamed of having a threesome, and these are easily had at swingers clubs. But many men also have problems satisfying just one woman. Why they think that two would be any easier, I’ve never been able to understand.

It’s a Swingers Club, Not a Beauty Pageant
If you’re expecting to see a bunch of great-looking people getting down to business, you will be sorely disappointed. Although some of the clubs and parties out there prescreen based on looks, many do not, and even with those that do, the bar is not exactly set very high. Got most of your teeth? You’re in! A love of adventurous sex is what ties swingers together, not beauty. Whatever you do, don’t believe the photos that clubs put up on their websites. Like movie trailers, they only select the best of the best.

Swingers Segregate
There are white people swingers clubs. And there are black people swingers clubs. The two do not typically mix. Hey, I don’t make the rules. As that Bruce Hornsby song that you wish you had forgotten about goes: That’s just the way it is. Some things will never change.

Caveat Emptor Is Applicable to Swinging, Too
Swingers clubs do not do FBI background checks. And swingers clubs do not screen for STDs or other communicable diseases. Watch your back. And front, for that matter.

Wear a Mask
A lot of clubs offer masquerade nights, where you’re encouraged or sometimes required to wear a mask. This is good for two reasons. First, if you go to enough parties, you will bump into your neighbor, boss, dentist or former high-school teacher (believe me), and a mask will give you plausible deniability at your next teeth cleaning. Plus, with the way they’re making webcams these days, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if some 14-year-old neighbor has gotten wise to the sex parties down the block and is cataloging the whole thing for fun and profit. Imagine your horror when you rent Candid Camera: The Sex Party Edition.

Be Careful What You Wish For
Some people watch a little too much porn and think that it would be fun to turn onscreen fantasies into reality. But sex with strangers can be dangerous stuff, in more ways than one. Swingers say their relationships are stronger because of their swinging, and I’ve known some couples where that seemed to be the case. But I’ve also known perfectly happy couples whose lives were turned upside down—in some cases ruined—as a result, whether direct or indirect, of “the lifestyle.” Sometimes all you need to spice up your sex life is a trip to a sex shop and a weekend at a hotel. Know what you’re getting yourself into.

There’s Always a Guy With a Mustache