Guest writer The Secret Swinger lifts the curtain of one of Merseyside’s most intriguing spaces, and wonders why partner-swapping is still an alien concept to many.
There are around fifty swingers’ clubs in the UK. Offering seven days-a-week escapism, I’ve had sex in many of them. And one of the best venues, you may be surprised to learn, is somewhere in the nether regions between Birkenhead and Bromborough.
A relatively new phenomenon, swinging clubs evolved during the mid 1990s from specialist nightclubs such as London’s Sex Maniacs’ Ball which were initially introduced as an outlet to allow voyeuristic and exhibitionist lovers of fetishwear to dress up and admire one another. In a short time, the night had become a thinly-veiled excuse for all and sundry to turn up and behave naughtily with each other in dark corners.
By the mid 1990s, I was vaguely aware of so-called ‘libertinage’ clubs in Paris – deliciously Bohemian venues which provided consenting couples a safe place in which to socialise and then swap partners; which of course couples had been doing at those car-key house parties since provincial permissiveness had become socially acceptable in the early 1970s.
Changing public perceptions over the last decade have more or less very quietly decriminalised certain brothels and other selected ‘places of ill repute’, so that hosting a club where people get naked and have sex with one another has moved into the realms of hushed acceptability.
Birkenhead’s Townhouse has been open for swinging since 2005 with themed nights. You’ll find over 50s specials, BDSM, ‘radical desire’, uniforms and more. But what does that actually involve? People really do actually have sex and swap partners here, right?
Husband & wife managers (and swingers themselves), Lee and Kat, burst into laughter. “Oh yes!” they agree in unison.
Er, but people don’t just turn up and dive straight into an orgy, do they?
“No, not at all,” explains Lee. “Swingers enjoy the social aspect of swinging as much as the sex, and so it would be a typical night where people often just spend the first few hours catching up with friends and meeting new ones. Then maybe after, say, 11pm, people might begin disappearing upstairs. Our nights are very friendly and very social so strangers to the club tend to fit in pretty quickly.”
I must personally admit that the social aspect of swinging surprised me at first. I recall that being a newbie is nerve-wracking beforehand, but once you’re there, swinger clubs are actually surprisingly friendly and welcoming places.
Lee smiles broadly. “We get newcomers all the time. Some may just want to watch other people in action and be voyeurs. Some may want to just hang out around the bar and soak up the sexually charged atmosphere in the club together, and others may feel so comfortable on their first visit to actually take part. But the main thing I will say is that nobody is ever expected to do anything or coerced into doing anything if they don’t want to, and that’s not just the case for new members.”
Does that mean some of your regular swingers don’t actually swing?
Kat’s already shaking her head. “Not everyone who goes to a swingers club is into full swap (both partners having sex with other people). Swinging is multifaceted and members might typically start off with gentle play, like sitting naked in our hot tub while chatting to other members, and then push their boundaries little by little over the course of a few visits. A swinging relationship evolves like any other relationship, and I would definitely recommend that new members talk openly before they arrive about their boundaries.”
I have to agree. I suspect swinger couples tend to be excellent communicators because you really do need to talk before you swing. So, let’s assume a couple has chatted about their dos and don’ts and have decided to bite the bullet. What can they expect? How many other people will be there, for a start? Kat beams.
“We have lots of different nights at Townhouse and the numbers really do depend on the event. We have quieter nights for those who want something more low key, and then busier nights for those who like more of a party atmosphere. So, for example, our Fridays and Saturdays are busiest, with maybe 40-plus couples coming to our end of month party Saturday. Just over 100 people came to our Halloween party night, comprising over forty couples with a few single males and females too.”
That’s a point. Swinging isn’t just about couples. What’s your policy on single men and single women attending the Townhouse?
“We generally restrict the numbers of single guys because supply can be high, and having too many single guys in attendance would upset the balance and atmosphere of the club,” says Lee. “Single ladies do attend the Townhouse but there aren’t quite so many of those. Even so, the Townhouse is a popular swinging venue and we may get up to five or six single ladies on a busy night.”
One thing I’ve always wondered is, are swinging clubs actually legal? The thought has never stopped me from going, but I guess I’ve always had it in the back of my mind. Kat goes all business-like and efficient on me for a second. “Yes, swinging clubs are legal, as long as they have local authority permission for a club to operate. So it depends on the local area. There are some cities in the UK which have swinging clubs in abundance, whereas others don’t have any at all.”
Speaking of a permissive-based society (kind of), I figure Lee and Kat are well placed to comment on the effects of swinging on people’s relationships. There must be risks to relationships, surely? Or do they subscribe to that dusty old adage, ‘couples who play together, stay together?’
“I would say that can be true if the couple are absolutely secure,” says Kat. “I reckon any swinging couples who have been on the scene for a long time are most likely very much in love and have got their boundaries sussed.”
Lee agrees. “Both parties must want the same thing and the relationship has to be solid, I think. There is no way in the world that swinging would help a relationship that was already in trouble.”
“Swinging is a recreational activity,” adds Kat. “It brings a new dimension to a relationship and can be very exciting indeed. But swinging should never be tried to replace something that is missing in a healthy relationship. It works best when it’s an addition to a strong and loving relationship. Oh, and we actively promote safe sex for our members if they’re going to swap, and provide free condoms.”
Wise words, indeed. I recollect that when I’ve swung with my long-term partners in the past I have, perhaps paradoxically, felt closer to them afterwards. They sneak a look at each other.
“It’s made another connection between us,” says Kat. “The way we see it is, we have an amazing sex life and we can share that with other people who equally have amazing sex lives. Swinging can be a wonderful experience for people who are connected, horny and love sex… it’s a no brainer for us.”
And what about jealousy?
“We are solid in our own relationship,” says Lee. “If Kat is having sex with someone else and having a good time, then so am I. We share that experience with honesty and respect for each other. And that works both ways; we know that the other couple are enjoying us as much as we are enjoying them. When we go home after a ‘meet’ we have the best ‘after sex’ ever. It’s a huge turn on.”
I logged on to just one of the big UK swinging websites and searched for men, women and couple swingers aged between 21 and 70 looking for a swinging meet, and who were registered as living within the Liverpool postcode. About 1,000 profiles were returned in my results.
So why is swinging such a taboo hobby to admit to? And why do some people look down on us if they find out we do it?
“Swingers aren’t bad people,” says Kat carefully. “We’re living our lives to the fullest, being true to ourselves and not hurting anyone else in the process.”
The Secret Swinger is the author of the “I am the Secret Swinger” trilogy, currently available on Amazon for Kindle and Kindle apps, with free chapters available in the Look Inside feature. Adults only.
For more information on the Townhouse, click here