I Went Undercover To Explore The Secret Life Of Suburban Swingers

Alex Alexander, Blogger

Welcome to Swingtown.

The 1970s are over, but some things are making a comeback: lava lamps, wallpaper, Donna Summer’s concert tour and… swingers.

“The lifestyle” (as swingers fondly call it) is seeping into suburban, upper-middle-class social scenes, and people are taking notice. Over drinks and dessert, discussions once focused on home renovations and restaurant openings are now giving way to talk about wife-swapping and tales of key parties down the block.

Last month, I attended an end-of-the-elementary-school-year family barbecue in my woodsy suburban neighborhood outside of Washington, D.C. Sitting with four other couples as the kids played Wii downstairs, the parents’ conversations turned from second-grade teacher reputations and fourth quarter grades to the rumored “swingers” parties one community over.

Those of us who had heard it before had a twinkle in their eyes. It shocked those who hadn’t — then sparked their curiosity.

Is this curiosity a throwback to the free-feeling 70s or are 30- and 40-something married couples getting restless?

Determined to unravel the mystery, I scored myself an invitation to an underground swingers club. For one night, I gained access to the entire club and got introduced to women who could answer my overriding questions of “why do you do it?” and “how can you do it?”

Tucked behind a nondescript building and a 7/11 is The Tabu Social Club in Catonsville, Maryland. Once you see the blue awning with a fancy “T” you know you’re in the right place. I remember marveling at how their elaborate black iron gate gave the entryway an almost regal quality.


The outgoing owners looked like people I might run into at a health club or local take-out joint. They greeted me warmly and introduced me and first-time member couples to our “tour guides.”

A nice, friendly couple happily approached us and calmly began the tour as if we were checking out a model home or tourist attraction. When they suggested we start downstairs, the newbies and I followed them down a well-lit but long and narrow stairway full of fear.

I imagined what sights I would see at the end. Some kind of orgy? Group sex rooms in full force? Whips and chains? Some scene out of a movie? Not quite yet.

It was still early — 10:45 PM — and the tour began with trips to every “room.” Theme rooms, swing rooms, voyeur rooms — you name it, there they were. Red lights above each doorway indicated what was free, and you had to schedule with the hostess.

From round beds that people outside the window could rotate by pushing a button for an optimal view, to a structured system that involved staffers scheduling rooms and changing sheets, the smoothness of the operation surprised and impressed me.

When they suggested we head to the group room, I tried to feel gusty. Sneaking up on a group of people actually having sex? Peering in, I saw all the beds were empty at this point. The guides informed me things would heat up later.

Couples of all ages and races gathered on the sofas near the “observation rooms” drinking and chatting. Many greeted each other warmly, like old home week. They told me about seventy percent of club members meet up on popular swingers’ websites such as Club Voodoo.

Back upstairs, at first glance, the sprawling bar could have been a regular bar anywhere. The club’s policy was BYOB, and the moment you walked in the bartender smoothly took your bottles and put them on ice. But looking a little more closely, I could see signs this was no ordinary bar.

One woman who looked like she could have been a parent volunteer at my son’s preschool suddenly thanked the female bartender with a passionate kiss instead of a dollar tip. A bartender took his shirt off and accepted five dollar bills down the front of his pants from virtual strangers.

I swear several nicely dressed women smiled right at me instead of at my husband. By far, the most action occurred on the dance floor.

The club planned a “blackout” for midnight (the staff distributed glow sticks throughout the night). They assured me security would be good and nobody would grope anyone without an OK. I would have liked to stay later to see if more action happened, but my husband was anxious to go.

Three things struck me about the club atmosphere and clientele: everyone was in a great mood (and this is before the night’s real action began), lots of people seemed to know each other, and everyone seemed pretty relaxed.

The owners ran their underground swingers club like a business, socialized like a host and hostess would anywhere, and seemed proud to preside over a club that so many people in the swinglifestyle called home on weekend nights.

As for the swinging and social scene? Strange, yes. Sexual? Absolutely. Sleazy? Only a few people who were so scantily dressed my head spun. Surreal? You bet.

People may not understand it or condone it, but perhaps they ought to respect the choice.

Whether you are a woman swept up in thinking about the swingers phenomenon or curious to explore it, the big question on your mind must be this: Why do married women do it? How can they actually step into this world? I spoke to five happily married women swingers to learn more.

Risque Accessories to Ring in Memorial Day Right

After seeing these patriotic pasties by Etsy artisan Alana Ryan (maxineintrousers), I’m convinced that if you’re not celebrating Memorial Day with these red-and-blue tasseled accessories, you’re not doing it right.

Alana Ryan has every reason to be patriotic–according to her Etsy profile, she was born on November 4, Election Day. Check out some other burlesque features below.

Implications – Whether it’s a birthday, a holiday or a wedding, people are letting loose and celebrating events in a wilder and crazier fashion. Party planners can capitalize on these bizarre celebrating themes by coming up with ways to enhance and push boundaries even further, creating memorable events that will have customers coming back for more.

Grab your Memorial Pastease now.

Red, White & Screw

Sunday, July 1

Red, White & Screw

Wear your most patriotic panties to our venue for both.  Join us for traditional cook out food and non-traditional Independence Day activities.

Couples and singles welcome and enjoy complimentary valet parking.

Arrive early and receive a personal guided tour of the club.

Don’t miss:
4-course Dinner Buffet
Late-night Breakfast Buffet
Unlimited non-alcoholic beverages

Hours: 8 p.m. – 3 a.m.

Couples: $50 | Single Ladies: $15 | Single Men: $75

*Membership to Trapeze required.

Back to calendar.

Red, White & Screw

Sunday, July 1

Red, White & Screw

Celebrate your country’s independence by banging a small portion of it.

Wear your most patriotic panties to our venue for both.  Join us for traditional cook out food and non-traditional Independence Day activities.

Couples and singles welcome and enjoy complimentary valet parking.

Arrive early and receive a personal guided tour of the club.

Don’t miss:
4-course Dinner Buffet
Late-night Breakfast Buffet
Unlimited non-alcoholic beverages

Hours: 8 p.m. – 3 a.m.

Couples: $40 | Single Ladies: $15 | Single Men: $75

*Membership to Trapeze required.

Back to calendar.

Have A Sexy Adventure: 4 Reasons You Should Attend A Swinger Club

It’s time for a night out on the town, but what one you never thought of before!

Swinger clubs are fun and sexy spots that are becoming more and more popular everyday. Each and every year, more swinger clubs are opening worldwide. Here’s some of the reasons they have become the talk of the town.

Swinger Clubs Build Stronger Relationships

Real world results prove it. When it comes time to spice up a relationship in an open and honest way, where everyone has more fun, a great swinger club is impossible to beat. Fantasies get fulfilled in a way where communication is enhanced and both partners are brought closer together.  And it’s all while having the time of their lives!

Swinger Clubs are Far Beyond Fun

The whole atmosphere of a good swingers club is about having maximum amounts of fun. There’s nothing that matches them for a good night out for many couples. Talk about a true adventure in all the best ways. Sometimes all the usual social events just get boring and dull. That’s not so with swinger clubs where there’s always something new for a pleasant surprise every time you attend.

Swinger Clubs are Safe and Secure

Most swingers clubs put a big emphasis on safety. This means a night out can be enjoyed without any fear or risk of danger, due to the club investing in its trained security presence to make sure nothing gets out of hand. It’s never a bad idea to double check these things at a resource like swinglifestyle.com, who have the latest lists of clubs and information.

How do you pick the right club for you?

Different swinger clubs have different feels and sometimes nights that focus on the fetish scene too. You really have a whole open menu when it comes to exploring the things that add excitement and spice to your sex life. Where and when you choose to go is up to you and your partner and the information is available to you.

All this knowledge can be worth its weight in gold. Who knows, if you time it right and go out soon you may be able to go to one of your favorite themed parties.

Check out the website Swinglifestyle.com in the swinger club section for all the latest lists of clubs broken down by location, news and even tips on how to make the most out of your swinger experiences.

The Swingers Next Door

By Ms. Scarlett, Kasidie

For newbies and many experienced people, the greatest fear of swinging is being found out by vanillas. That’s not surprising since it would subject one to at best judgment, possibly condemnation and potentially the loss of a job or even one’s children.

The second biggest fear is running into someone you know. I know people who have run across their siblings and yes even parents in profiles, blocked them and run fleeing the other way without letting the other party know that they know. I know a person who ran into her cousin at a hotel takeover. Awkward. “Uh, hi cuz?!?”

I also know people who are out and totally fine with family or colleagues knowing. I even know a few who have played with their bosses or higher ups at a company though I can’t imagine doing that. Ok, I can fantasize about it during really boring meetings, but I don’t think I’d do it even if the opportunity presented itself.

I have yet to run into a family member. But recently I ran into something almost as awkward.

Mr. Scarlet kept talking about this couple that he wanted to meet up with. I had no idea who they were but he kept telling me that we had met them before and would show me their profile and I was still convinced that I’d never met hem. Besides they lived in the same town he said so it would be convenient to meet up.

Ultimately we decided to get together for drinks.

The couple starts talking about our neighborhood. Not our town. Our little neighborhood section of it. Ok, that is a little interesting. We don’t really know anyone here. Plus Mr. Scarlet said they lived nearby. Then they bring up some personal things. WTF??!? Who are these stalkers?

But, by this point, I am completely creeped out and not turned on at all. It’s not clear to me if these people are newbies or fakes or what.

Anyway, the evening comes to a close and the second I get home I’m googling them. Oh my god. They live next door. Not down the street or across the road but literally fifteen feet from our house. They apparently knew that we were next door neighbors so I’m actually still wondering how my husband originally met them. After the initial freak out, I have since gotten people I know to vouch for them.

Some swingers think that living next door to swingers would be awesome and super convenient. I’m not sure if I agree. It seems too prone to drama. I have enough of that in my life without swinging with the neighbors.

Is Psychiatry Getting Kinky?

By M. Gregg Bloche, M.D., J.D.

So slip into those tight leather jeans. That dog collar would look fetching. Add a piercing in a place your mother wouldn’t imagine. Or take your lover to a trendy erotic play-space and make lots of fast friends.

Your therapist says it’s OK. In fact, she or he might be there. (I know a few therapists who partake.)

The American Psychiatric Association has gotten kinky. Well, not quite — its annual meetings each May are pretty buttoned-up affairs. But its newest catalog of mental illnesses, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (known as the DSM V) does some unzipping. You can now do whatever, with whomever (consent required, please), on your own or in groups, and be in the pink of mental health — so long as you don’t suffer “clinically significant distress or impairment.”

Credit cultural change, kinky lobbyists (the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom pressed the APA to stop diagnosing edgy pleasures), or — who knows. But the committees of psychiatrists who rethink disease categories when the APA revises its diagnostic manual dropped “fetishes“ sans “distress or impairment” from their list of disorders.

If your style of kinky fun is fetish-free (the APA defines “fetishism” as sexual use of “inanimate objects“), the new erotic liberation still has you covered. The DSM used to treat all “paraphilias“ (APA-speak for “atypical” sexual practices) as sicknesses; not any more, so long as the fun is distress-free.

So what Christian and Anastasia do in Fifty Shades of Grey is (mostly) healthy, as of the DSM V’s May 2013 release date. So are sex parties of the sort enjoyed by Dominique Strauss-Kahn — the next president of France, until his alleged doings with a hotel housekeeper undid him.

Psychiatry’s new sexual willingness came along just in time to save the field from embarrassment. If millions of Americans are getting kinky (or want to), diagnosing kink as disease would expand the ranks of the mentally ill implausibly.

Inanimate objects have become quite the rage. More than half of American women under 60 use vibrators, according to a 2009 Kinsey study, and sellers of more hard-core sexual hardware have had trouble keeping up inventory in the face of the Fifty Shades surge. Threesomes are becoming more fashionable, according to sex surveys (though the data are sketchy). Playing well in groups has come out of the sex tent at Burning Man and into the lives of power professionals.

I live in Washington, D.C., that most frumpy of towns, but plenty goes on here besides public policy. I was invited more than once, while single, to play triples (or more), and I’d guesstimate that about a quarter of the women I dated told me they’ve either done this or want to.

I don’t travel with a particularly racy crowd: I’m talking about law professors, lobbyists, regulators, trade negotiators, and Senate staff. You’re likely to find such folks, also, at a club called Entre Nous, which parties weekly at an upscale lounge, next door to the League of Woman Voters, the American Enterprise Institute, and “Edible Arrangements.”

These parties are “off-premises,” swinger-speak for staying on second base. But join Entre Nous, and you’ll get invites to their “underground” events — “on-premises” parties where you can do whatever with whomever is willing. Or go underground literally: Fly to Paris and find the subterranean passage from rue du Cherche-Midi to L’Overside, where you’ll run less risk of encountering officemates. Across America’s heartland, local options abound. “There are no hook-ups,” the Idaho White Rose warns about its campsite, but this refers to RVs, not their occupants.

Psychiatry’s retreat from these play-spaces is strategic — necessary to preserve its credibility as the bounds of culturally-permitted pleasure loosen. But this retreat from the cultural politics of sex is partial. What you do in a play-space or at home, with or without “inanimate objects,” is sick if it’s “atypical“ and causes “distress or impairment.”

So dressing in latex and tying down your lover isn’t illness — if your lover likes it and you don’t feel guilty or anxious. And putting your vibrator to happy use is a healthy pleasure — because vibrators, however “inanimate,” have gone mainstream.

The APA, in other words, is still in the business of telling us what kinds of sex are healthy and what kinds are sick, based on their social acceptance. That’s the business it purported to quit in 1973, when it famously announced that homosexuality was no longer an illness.

The APA keeps a hand in this unscientific business by cataloging “paraphilias” and “fetishes” even when it doesn’t label them “disorders.” Leather and latex are fetishistic, the DSM V says, if they’re used to arouse. But what about, say, wet denim (not mentioned in the DSM V) — is it “normal” because Taylor Swift writhes in the sea in skinny jeans for Rolling Stone? Should psychiatry answer such questions?

And what of “distress” as a criterion for calling a kink a disease? The APA makes a point of not counting distress that’s due to conflict with cultural mores; to qualify, angst must ensue from unhappiness within. But this distinction often dissolves for a reason psychiatrists well-understand: Our beliefs about what’s right and wrong are shaped by social cues. Angst within, over sexual feelings, commonly reflects condemnation from without.

So treating kinky desire as disease because it comes with some distress smuggles in social rejection as reason for diagnosis. Psychologist Suzanne A. Black, whose clinical practice, in New York and Paris, includes patients with kinky inclinations, says their sexual angst is inseparable from their upbringing. “It’s an underworld of desire because it goes against the morals they’ve learned,” she told me last month.

Does this mean psychotherapy has nothing to offer those whose unconventional cravings bring them distress? To the contrary: A caring, insightful therapist can help such a person to better understand inner conflicts — and perhaps to let go of a puritanical belief or a kink that goes too far.

But psychiatry ought to retreat more fully from clinical classification of our erotic lives. Categorizing kinks as “paraphilias” wounds, to no purpose. Diagnosing them as disease when a person experiences “distress” humiliates — and isn’t necessary for therapy to help.

Some breaches of sexual convention that psychiatry calls “paraphilias” must be kept beyond-the-pale: voyeurs, pedophiles, and the like harm people who don’t or can’t consent. But criminal law, not the APA, should draw these boundaries.

We should welcome all that psychiatry can do to help those whose desires push them to act in ways that wound others. But the APA had the right idea back in 1973, when it began its withdrawal from the policing of our erotic lives by de-medicalizing same-sex desire. If you play well in groups, with or without “inanimate objects,” psychiatry should let you alone.