The controversial swinger story

April issue

COLLEEN SIMPSON
Last updated 10:19 03/04/2009
John McCombe
Swingers in Club SE

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Do you know how popular swinging for couples is in Christchurch?

Christchurch is the swinging capital of New Zealand! Avenues sent Colleen Simpson to Club SE, to talk to swingers and check out the scene.

The short trip up the elevator to Club SE is a jolty one, but then a bumpy ride is just what many people come here seeking.

Discreetly positioned near Manchester Street and just a stone's throw from SOL Square, Club SE (Sensual Events) is Christchurch's only swingers club for couples. It offers visitors the opportunity to have sex with a person (or people) other than their partner, while their loved one does the same.

Swinging has long been the subject of late-night conversations between friends after a few wines, but for a surprisingly large group of people it is a regular pastime; even a lifestyle.

A quick online search shows hundreds of Christchurch couples are already in the swing scene and hundreds more are keen to have a go. On one website, more than 200 Christchurch swinging couples had been online in the previous 24 hours, while another had more than 300 registered users from the Garden City.

Club SE hosts Lance and Michelle have checked out the swing scene in other cities and say Christchurch is generally accepted as swing central. They're happy to talk about the nocturnal activities of the club's patrons, saying there are many misconceptions about swinging they'd like to lay to rest.

Club SE opened its frosted glass door in August 2007. Michelle says it provides a non-threatening, open-minded environment for swingers or people just wanting a drink - although even the thirstiest of punters might baulk at the $60 casual entry free charged after 10pm.

"Sometimes we get a lot of sexual tension happening in here," Michelle says. "And the regulars can get pretty loud catching up on their news."

On average, the club sees about half a dozen first-time couples each weekend. Some take advantage of the free entry before 10pm, have a look around and decide to pay up. Some return to the club; others don't.

"There are people who are in a happy relationship who just can't understand why we'd want our partners to swing," Lance says. "But I don't think people see it as a perversion."

Michelle's particular annoyance is the belief that inside the club all clothes and inhibitions are immediately shed and group sex begins.

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While some members are undeniably keen to get down to business, most swingers go to the club to relax in a sexually open place. They enjoy a few drinks and a catch-up with friends before stepping through the floor-to-ceiling black curtains to the play zones beyond.

"In actual fact, the bar area is a no-play zone," Michelle says.

Going through the club's black curtains is not for the timid or for those with heart problems. Behind the curtains all manner of things take place between people in all manner of ways.

Lance says what happens in the club is similar to what you'd see in anyone's boudoir and most patrons "aren't into kink". But in most people's beds there are just two participants, while at Club SE threesomes and foursomes are the norm. Group sex involving as many as 10 people is not unheard of.

"You might find two guys and a girl. Or you might find someone getting a very gentle whipping - something very tame like that."

Lance is irked by the "keys in the bowl" idea that swingers will randomly sleep with anyone.

"It's a buffet, as opposed to pot-luck," he says.

First-timers who want to go beyond the bar area, but have a few jitters, might be encouraged to ease their way into the scene by donning a robe. They could then make their way to the massage room or take a dip in the spa, before progressing to the porn room.

If they want to go further, there are group rooms (complete with one-way mirror glass), the Sybian room and a custom-made sling. A Sybian, for those who don't know, is an autoerotic device that bears some resemblance to a saddle and is designed for women.

Lance and Michelle say it would be near impossible to describe an average patron. Members, who pay $60 a month for a minimum 12-month term, range from young married couples to others nearing retirement.

Lawyers, doctors and other professional people frequent the establishment, but no more or less than bus drivers and beneficiaries.

The dress code - women dress sexily, men come in smart attire - is perhaps one thing that lets these people from diverse backgrounds come together. After all, when that pin-striped skirt is replaced by a corset it doesn't really matter what your job is. And when the corset hits the floor, the people you're engaging with are unlikely to be thinking about your profession.

Saskia, not her real name, is a bisexual thirty-something who likes to "play" with her husband of one year. Her preference is not to have sex with other men, so when swinging with another couple, she makes this clear from the outset.

Swinging makes her feel beautiful and she feels members of the swing community are far less judgmental than those outside it. Club SE is not the realm of the body beautiful, she says.

"There are a lot of different body shapes up there," she says. "I'm quite small and I've got no boobs. When I was going out on The Strip, I would stuff my bra and wear a tight top, but up in the club I'm happy to walk round in a bikini top."

Jane (not her real name) has been in Christchurch's swing scene for the best part of a decade. Dressed head to toe in black, Jane is attractive, intelligent, well-spoken and bisexual. She has been married for almost 20 years, is a loving mother, and has a day job.

She describes herself as a highly sexual being and has, unsurprisingly, a very matter-of-fact attitude to sex. While some people would find watching a lover having sex with a third party tough, Jane has no qualms.

"I find it a real turn-on," she says. "To me, sex is just sex."

Her husband, Matthew (not his real name), is also highly charged and lost his virginity at the age of 12, during his first week at secondary school.

The couple had their first swinging experience together after Jane told another couple she was interested in exploring her bisexuality. Soon, the friends were lovers and continued to be for some years.

Both Jane and Matthew credit swinging with saving their marriage and are adamant it has strengthened, rather than damaged, their relationship. They say they trust each other implicitly.

"Realistically, if we hadn't found swinging, we probably both would have strayed," Jane says.

The internet has made the swinger's life a bit easier. Jane and Matthew connected with swingers online before Club SE made its debut, but do it less now, as Jane prefers to meet others in a non-pressured situation. Meeting contacts online inevitably led to an expectation of sex or a tricky situation to get out of, she says.

In the past, the couple have held swing parties at home, inviting as many as 40 people they had identified and screened online. The sex parties drew people from as far away as Nelson and Timaru.

"But (Jane) got a bit sick of it, so we stopped," Matthew says.

It is this respect for each other that seems to make the lifestyle work for the couple. They have swinging rules they never compromise.

"If we did break them, we'd be cheating," Matthew says. "There's a saying people use and that's 'couples who swing together, stay together'."

*Pick up the April issue of Avenues for more*

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