Laws: Sevens rugby an adult-only party

Last updated 05:00 03/02/2013

Sunday Star-Times columnist Michael Laws: The partners of all criminals should be held liable if they know of their spouse's illegal activities.

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It's called "the lifestyle" and it is, without question, this country's favourite middle-aged recreational sport. No, it's not golf nor bowls nor cycling. It's swinging, and New Zealand's biggest swingers party is under way - the Wellington Sevens.

Although the event is paraded as a sort of creepy costume party - Halloween in the sunshine - the truth is that the sevens is an adult-only party where the rugby is completely incidental. Those families that do stray in, soon stray out.

Many of the costumes possess an overt sexual theme and although the first instinct is to flirt, New Zealanders don't do flirt well. We have no intermediate button between attraction and sex . . . unlike Europeans and South Americans who have centuries of dirty dancing, New Zealanders just do dirty.

I'm not going to get judgmental about this - the sevens is all about consenting adults wilfully putting themselves in harm's way. That's their choice.

But the rise and rise of swinging in New Zealand has become something of a social phenomenon, as bored couples look for excitement in the arms and beds of others. Swinging and cheating websites do huge trade in this country and for good reason.

We live in the age of ennui: there are no wars or revolutions, politics is dying, public debate is an exchange of Twitter messages and current affairs TV is either someone getting dreadfully earnest about migrant cows or a collection of light entertainment pieces.

Little wonder then that any excitement is grabbed. As a nation of drinkers and drug takers, we have a long tradition of keeping boredom at bay by artificial means. Quite why we are the bingers that we are, I will leave to future psychologists and historians.

But the rise of swinging in New Zealand is huge, even if it is mainly off the mainstream radar. Middle-aged and generally middle-class/working couples seeking to spice up their sex lives by including others.

That the middle-aged have a sex life continues to amaze me. But then I am a single dad, and I have a theory that all small children have an unerring instinct to ensure that there can be no competition for the inheritance. So at any moment that their caring parent looks even slightly frisky, they will manufacture their own mini-crisis.

Swingers don't have small kids. They have an empty nest and a career or job that is completely linear. But one thing I've observed: they are almost all overweight. And the initiator is always the male, determined to swap his larger wife/partner for someone's younger/slimmer one. In most cases, she is delighted to go.

I suppose the only question that is relevant though: does it work? Does cheating openly keep relationships together? There's a Marsden Fund project for next year.

In the meantime, we have the sevens. An annual event of excess everything - this very Wellington debauch that has frozen out families in favour of drink, drugs and parties. The imperfect riposte to that old biddy gathering otherwise known as the Wearable Arts Awards.

And just one step away from the biggest swingers convention in the world.

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- Sunday Star Times


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