How swinging can go very wrong

By Dr Nikki Goldstein

Sexologist Dr Nikki Goldstein explores the behind-closed-doors world of sex clubs.
At best swinging clubs can be great places to explore your sexuality, but it also takes a special type of couple to be able to survive it. Photo / iStock
At best swinging clubs can be great places to explore your sexuality, but it also takes a special type of couple to be able to survive it. Photo / iStock

Standing on the side of the road at 1.30am with the rain pelting down, I was shielded from the wet weather but drenched from tears of the woman in my arms.

I was consoling her because her boyfriend had just walked off in a fit of anger after witnessing her erotically massaged by another man at a private sex club.

Ill-prepared couples often jump into this world of swinging, where there are many misconceptions and false fantasies and a high risk of someone ending up in tears. Sometimes hearts, sexual confidence, egos and relationships are broken.

It is still taboo to talk about sex and the subject of swinging or attending sex clubs is probably not one discussed at the office water cooler. It is a world protected by privacy and anonymity, something that is also responsible for those eager to check it out first hand.

However many party goers do not understand what really happens - it's not all a scene from Fifty Shades of Grey.

If we were more open about sex, maybe we would make our decisions from a more informed place rather than a desire to explore unknown taboos for all the wrong reasons.

The problem is, how will you ever know what it feels like to watch your partner with someone else until you see it? The catch is that once you enter this environment, even if
it's just for a look, you might be faced with a reality you are not equipped to handle or ready to deal with. This is why preparation, communication and education are a must.

Swinging clubs are not all a scene from Fifty Shades of Grey. Photo / Supplied
Swinging clubs are not all a scene from Fifty Shades of Grey. Photo / Supplied


Most clubs in Australia are exclusive but still open to the general public and are either for couples or single females with some having all singles nights. They are hidden and off the beaten track and are BYO.

When you enter there is often a room with lockers where you can safely store your possessions and clothes and nearby there might be a hot tub or spa where you can meet some couples you want to "mingle" with.

There are also common areas where you can hang out and chat with others and areas such as dance, bondage and "play" rooms where the real action take place. Some have rooms full of mattresses and swings and others couches or beds. Some even look like hotel rooms with showers.

Many of these places from the outside would seem to be just normal apartments, town houses or factories and you might not even know if one was next door to you.

At best they can be great places to explore your sexuality, but it also takes a special type of couple to be able to survive it.

Inside, there can be a lack of seduction and people are often treated like a piece of meat with sexual play being done as easily as you would shake hands. You can see people going through the motions of sex like it's mechanical. There are of course some scenes which can be sexy and entertaining but I am often disheartened on how sex no longer seems to be special at these clubs and is viewed as just another thing to do on a Saturday night.

I have also found at times a lack of respect for the people that have engaged in "play" together. When the fantasy bubble is bust and the tears come out, sometimes those involved back away very quickly.

I have been encouraged to explore these clubs and have been greeted by all personality types from the experienced swingers who love everyone and sex with everyone to the ego males using this as an excuse to bed more women and the poor partners going along out of fear their partner will cheat behind their back if they don't agree.

There are the exhibitionists and those wanting to have their sexual desirability validated by the multitude of wondering hands and advances. There are also just the people that really want to play and engage in sexy fun.

But there is also a culture that surrounds these clubs that is one of severe alcohol and drug usage. In order to stay up all night having sex with strangers or people you have just met, some often feel their inhibitions need to be lowered chemically.

I personally find sex itself a high and my inhibitions are there as a common sense barrier to protect me, but unfortunately that is not the case for everyone. And with increased alcohol and drug usage comes the decrease chance of protection being used. Condoms, lubricant and wet whips line the walls but at the end of the day, no one can make you use them. (One day I will invent the condom police).

I might seem negative, but while there are many couples for whom this lifestyle has worked and is still working for them, I want to give a warning. These clubs are not for everyone and I only hope people can work that out before they enter the doors and play.


But if this is a strong sexual desire or something on your sexual bucket list, here is my checklist for what you need to know before to entering a world that can be exciting, sexual but also relationships suicide.

1. Ask yourself and your partner why you want to do this. Is it a sexual fantasy or relationships rescue? If it's the first, then proceed, but if this is an attempt to patch things up in the bedroom, you could be putting yourself at a higher risk.

2. Communicate with your partner and discuss this situation A LOT. What would your boundaries be if you did this and what would it look like? You might just want to go for a watch or lightly play with someone else. Just being there doesn't mean you have to have penetrative sex with other people. It's also vital to discuss signs and signals for when you are not comfortable

3. Be creative with labels. If you want to explore this world it doesn't mean you have to call yourself swingers or fit into a category of what you think this looks like. You create your own label (if you even want one) and your own rules.

4. Do your research. It's good to look online and find out what clubs are in your area and how they work

5. Talk to other people. If you don't know someone who is in this lifestyle jump on various chat rooms and ask what it is all about and maybe some tips for how other couples make rules and boundaries.

6. Use fantasy to test it out. When you are next having an intimate moment with your partner, talk as though you were in a club and what you might see around you. It's good to gauge how you feel about the presence of others around you being sexual and wanting to be sexual with you. How would you feel?

7. Just go have a look first. Sometimes go and have a look one night to see how you feel. Make the rule that you will not participate that night no matter how much you want to and discuss what you saw and how you felt when you return home.

8. If at any time you feel uncomfortable leave.


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