When couples first become interested in swinging, they start exploring their options. Most seek information from the Internet, with many of them landing on their local swinger club’s website. At this point, the couple may decide to visit the club as a first step. This allows them to get their feet wet with relatively little risk. Visiting a swinger club for the first time may be less intimidating, for example, than joining a swinger dating site or meeting a veteran swinger couple for drinks; however, it can still be anxiety inducing for first-timers. Claire and I have witnessed many an apprehensive newbie couple with crossed arms, peering at half-nude swingers on the dance floor or sitting in a remote corner of the club where they can gawk without drawing too much attention to themselves. This standoffish behavior is understandable given the uncharted waters the newbie couple has entered.
When my husband and I (Audrey) first visited a club, negative stereotypes of swingers swirled in our minds, producing an anxiety cocktail spiked with every weird scenario imaginable. The least frightening scenario: my boobs being fondled without my permission. The most frightening scenario: being roofied, stripped naked, and then offered at the buffet, as some kind of new swinger satanic sacrifice. The most likely scenario: being befriended by a couple who seemed “normal enough,” only to be dragged into a play room, prompting us to run out half naked and screaming. Thankfully, none of those scenarios came to pass. We visited the club for the first time on a Thursday night. It turns out that swingers save their satanic rituals for Saturday night. Only kidding.
In the interest of full disclosure, our first visit was not without incident. I did have to deal with a pushy bi-sexual woman who wasn’t able to read from my body language that I wasn’t interested in playing with her. Looking back, it’s easy to see how I could have dealt with things differently. At the time, I found myself frozen in an unfamiliar situation, unsure of how to rebuff her. The thought of being rude or hurting her feelings was an affront to my Midwestern upbringing and its excessive emphasis on politeness. If I could do it over, I would have simply said, “No, thank you. I’m not interested in playing right now.”
I (Claire) had a slightly different experience. Unlike Audrey, my husband and I had a friend, who had been a swinger for several years previously, give us advice about the Lifestyle. It turns out it was very particular to her situation. The advice was that she needed to remember that if she talked to people, she would wind up having sex with them. At the time, however, I thought this must be some general rule of how swinger clubs operate, and since I wasn’t yet ready to have sex with strangers, we didn’t talk -- to anyone. People approached us and I gently rebuffed them all. The reality is that talking to strangers at swinger clubs is a lot like talking to people you don’t know at vanilla clubs or bars. Yes, some people may approach you because they find you attractive and possibly hope you will have sex with them, but most people are not pushy. They would rather get to know you first and see if there is a mutual connection before bringing up the idea of play.
Any new couples reading this article, please do not get the wrong idea. In Claire’s and my experience, what I (Audrey) encountered my first time out is not the norm. Most swingers are obscenely normal couples with traditional families and jobs. They aren’t the human equivalent of Pepé Le Pew. You’re no more likely to be grabbed by a stranger without your permission at a swinger club than you are at a regular club. However, in light of my experience and with a full understanding of what it feels like to be new at a swinger club, I offer this list of tips:
1.) Communication: Communicate to both others and your own partner if you are uncomfortable with something. A polite decline (as mentioned above) is all that is required if you are uninterested in play. When it comes to your own partner, you should come to the club having discussed comfort levels beforehand. You can always change the rules (either to make them more or less restrictive), but it’s helpful to come in with guidelines. It’s easier to amend the Constitution than write one on the spot. Having guidelines will also decrease the chance of misunderstandings and conflict. Some couples are eager to take the plunge into swinging on the initial visit, while others prefer going more slowly, with even flirting with others being open to negotiation. Communicate before visiting and during when necessary.
2.) Dress: Wear something that makes you feel good. Sexy is in the eye of the beholder, but for women, common dress is fitted clothing closely tailored to the body, along with high heels. Think short, body-con dresses; tight jeans and a top; or even lingerie. A dress that you’d wear to a regular club is fine attire for a swinger club. For men, jeans or pants and a button down shirt is generally appropriate. Before visiting, you should check the club’s website for any restrictions on dress. Some clubs may have dress code restrictions on items such as tennis shoes, baseball caps, or shorts.
3.) Alcohol: Many swinger clubs are BYOB. Do your research and find out what the club’s policies are on drinks.
4.) On or Off Premises: On-premises clubs allow sexual activity in the club. Off-premises clubs do not permit sexual activity inside. Know what type of club you are visiting before you attend and follow their rules. An off-premise club is a great place to meet other swingers and arrange for play elsewhere. An on-premise club may have a designated play area where you are required to wear a towel or lingerie to enter. At these clubs, lockers are provided to store your clothing after you change. Some guests bring flip flops for the play areas, especially if the club has a pool or hot tub.
5.) Running Into People You Know: This is a common fear, and it does happen. If you do run into someone you know, keep in mind that they are also visiting the swinger club. As a friend of ours commented, you both have “skin in the game.” You will have to use discretion regarding whether and to what degree you communicate with them. In any case, keep in mind that they are likely just as concerned with privacy as you.
6.) Cost: Call in advance or look online for pricing. Many clubs have membership fees and nightly entrance fees.
7.) Meeting New People: Many first-time couples prefer to stick to themselves and not engage with anyone, even in conversation. If that’s what you are comfortable with on your first outing, there’s nothing wrong with that. However, if you are approached by a couple, especially a veteran one, keep in mind that this may be an opportunity to get the “inside track.” Swingers are characteristically a very open and friendly group; most of them enjoy making friends and are happy to make new couples feel welcome. Many veteran couples enjoy showing new couples the ropes and are glad to answer questions and tell stories about their experiences. Explain to the veteran couple that you’re new to swinging and the club. If you so desire, the veteran couple can introduce you to other couples as well. If couples you meet are interested in playing with you, their strategy will not be to drag you into a room or otherwise trick you into swapping. Most couples will gauge your interest by asking you directly: “Would you like to play with us?” Or indirectly: “What are you guys looking for tonight?” Or by flirting and seeing how you respond. How you respond will depend on your interest and what you’ve agreed upon with your partner.
8.) Tour: Ask for a tour of the club on your first visit. This will allow you to get the lay of the land.
9.) Wallflower at the Orgy. In this case, you and your partner may want to play or engage other couples, but there may be a veteran group of swingers who appear very cliquish. It seems like everyone BUT you is having fun. You feel like they all know the "secret handshake" of how to get things going, while you and your partner are clueless. First of all, don’t worry. Most people have had this experience at some point in their lives, whether or not it was connected to swinging. This is what is going on:
Yes, there may be a group of people at the club who already know each other. That prior social connection and their experience as veteran swingers is the equivalent of the “secret handshake.” While every group has its outliers whose attitude is that they are “too cool for school,” and are unwelcoming to newcomers, this is not the norm among swingers. Per Audrey’s previous observation, swingers are more typically friendly, outgoing, and happy to educate newcomers about their culture.
Also, it is worth noting that veteran swingers may be as afraid of newcomers as newcomers are of them. Veteran swingers’ fear, which is occasionally justified, is that the new couple will be “drama.” What this means is that the two people in the new couple may not be on the same page regarding whether they want to be there or what they want to do. Sometimes one half of a new couple drags their reluctant partner to the swinger club, which makes it awkward and uncomfortable for everyone involved. This may not be your case, but veteran swingers have no way of knowing the reason for your nervous manner, and they may be afraid that you are simply a time bomb waiting to have a freak-out.
If nobody at the club approaches you, just treat the experience the way you would a vanilla cocktail party where you don’t know many people. Identify a couple who look interesting, go up to them, and introduce yourselves. As opposed to a cocktail party, the very nature of swinging forces people to be more outgoing when it comes to meeting and interacting with new people. Just remember that if you are shy other people probably are too, and most people appreciate the self-confidence and friendly gesture of somebody who comes up to introduce themselves.
10.) Have realistic expectations. If you are coming to the club with the idea that your very first night you will live out a Penthouse Forum fantasy, keep in mind, that like all human experiences, much depends on the chemistry of the given people present on any given night. This starts with you and your partner both being in the mood to play, being on the same page about the other couples you like and what you want to do, and the luck of engaging other people you are attracted to, who feel the same about you. While the stars may be aligned and some couples dive right into play their first time at the club, it is far more common for a couple to “dip their toes in the water” for the first visit or few visits to a swinger club. What this means is that they start to talk to people and become comfortable with some of the veteran couples, while also getting used to the environment. A good stepping stone is engaging in exhibitionism and voyeurism as you play with your partner and watch other couples play with new partners or with each other.
Swinging has a lot to offer -- sexual liberation and a way to explore non-monogamy in a safe, honest manner, but also a community of relatively open-minded and friendly people. Like much in life, what you get out of it is often proportional to your attitude going into it.
Good luck and we hope to see you there one day.
Audrey and Claire