It's Friday night and I'm en route to a swingers club for the first time ever. The night's theme is feet. I hate feet. "What does that even mean?" a girlfriend asks. "I have no idea. Foot-rubbing orgies?" I laugh.
It's a nervous laughter. I've acted as though this will be no big deal. I'm all "RIOT GRRL!!!" until the moment of truth arrives. I'm so nervous, I could yack. Is this dress sex club worthy? Should I have waxed instead of shaved? What if I run into someone I know? *Gasp!* What if they want to have sex with me? I raise one hand off the steering wheel. It's shaking.
My first glimpse of a swingers club was on HBO's "Real Sex" while in junior high. The details of the episode have since faded, but the memory of the feelings I felt while watching it have not. Everyone seemed free. The club looked glamorous, like Eyes Wide Shut, without the creepy masks and music. I knew instantly: I want to go there.
Still, I was aware I should not divulge my fascination to friends, family, or romantic partners. "Would you like to go to the movies?" is what normal people say. "Would you like to go to a sex club?" is what freaks say. I determined it was best to keep my inner freak in the closet, lest I be ostracized or deemed non-girlfriend material. But still, the allure of a swingers club remained in the shadows of my subconscious, like a monster under a child's bed waiting for the lights to go out so it could come out and play.
Aside from my expressed interest in them, I decided to visit an Atlanta swingers club because of a 2001 Creative Loafing cover story about the local swingers scene, one of our top online stories more than a decade after it was published. There's something to be said, or at least, interpreted, by the popularity of the story: Atlantans are really curious about swinging.
I pick up my date, a gentleman with a handsome face and an even sweeter ass, whose looks even leave my straight guy friends in awe. "The women are going to eat you alive," I tell him. He laughs. Before we leave his house I tell him he has to change his selected attire. "There's a dress code at Trapeze," I say. "No jeans, no sneakers." He puts on a button-down long-sleeve shirt with dress pants and shoes.
It might sound unusual, but someone who is handsome, clean, and well-dressed is not completely out of place at swingers club — they resemble a cross-section of the city more than you may think. Granted, it is hard to determine what percentage of the American population swings. One reason is basic semantics; the other is fear or suppression based on socially constructed norms. A swinger is a person who is emotionally monogamous, but rejects sexual exclusivity. While swinging implies a lifestyle, a person or couple who participate in a threesome can be considered swingers, although they may not necessarily identify themselves as such. It may be something a person does not actively seek out, or what the lifestyle calls an "opportunistic swinger." Whether a person identifies as a swinger or not, chances are his or her way of life is something that will not be openly discussed, for obvious reasons, such as rejection by friends, family, partners, or the risk of it negatively affecting his or her job, and thus financial security.
According to a 2009 research study published in the Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality, it is estimated that 2 percent to 4 percent of adult Americans are swinging couples, with at least 25 percent of U.S. married couples having engaged in swinging at least once (76 percent in the survey were male, 24 percent were female). On average, the swingers were mostly middle- to upper-middle class white married couples in their late 30s who attend church on a regular basis, are more likely to identify politically as moderates or conservatives, and showed a more progressive attitude toward topics such as sexuality, divorce, pornography, homosexuality, premarital sex, and abortion.
These stats made me feel comfortable that I could actually go to a club, have a good time, and report back to those who are curious just what has (or hasn't) changed in the decade-plus since CL visited the sex club scene. But being comfortable with statistics is a whole lot different than taking your clothes off around strangers. Trust me.
Activities involving such clubs fall under two categories: "on-premise" refers to sexual activities conducted on-site; "off-premise" means the venue is used as a place to facilitate the meeting of other swingers, but sexual activities are conducted elsewhere.