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ydney is 28 years old, a natural blonde-haired beauty with big hazel eyes. Her skin is golden bronze, courtesy of summers in the sun and upscale tanning boutiques when the days grow colder. She is the living embodiment of a sorority girl, or perhaps a cheerleader. Vivacious, one can imagine a Spartan team logo meticulously applied to her cheek, shouting rehearsed cheers while network TV cameras pan the sidelines during a bowl game.
Despite a steady diet of junk food, caffeine, alcohol and cigarettes, she has the smooth complexion of a teen who’s faithfully visited the best dermatologists . She thinks it’s in her genes. “I still get carded at clubs,” she remarks. In another life, and with an extra inch or two, she could have been a model. “I don’t think I’m short,” she says, lighting a Newport and blowing a stream of white smoke into the air. “But a nice pair of heels makes me feel better.”
If she’s self-conscience about that or anything, you wouldn’t know it. Instead, she carries herself with ample confidence, detectable in how she walks, speaks, and slowly moves her eyes around the room, taking stock of her surroundings.
“Another.” She says, smiling as the server walks by. She stirs what’s left of her Mai Tai and ice before taking a last sip. “My husband and I have been drinking here since before we got married,” Sydney states. “They know us pretty well.”
It’s a beautiful fall Friday evening on the patio at O’Keegan’s Irish Pub as friends of hers file by to speak.
“Love the shoes, Syd.”
“Hey Sydney, where’s Tanner?”
“Hope to see you guys later.”
Tanner is Sydney’s husband of four years. He decided not to make the 20 mile drive with us to the bar, knowing he’d have his turn to talk tomorrow night. Instead, like most aspects of their social life, the young couple prefers to party away from the prying eyes of neighbors in the small suburb where they live.
“We lead double lives,” Sydney remarks mischievously. “We party with our friends from college and work here but have a whole different set of acquaintances elsewhere….”
She and her husband are swingers. Though many think of sex-partiers as middle-aged folks who are bored stiff by years of marriage, today’s swingers are often under 30 and part of a change that researchers have noted in younger couples’ attitudes toward infidelity in recent years. Younger generations are marrying later and come to the marriage with habits acquired over years of dating — among them, sleeping with other partners after the initial attraction wears thin.
Sydney downs her second drink and stubs out her cigarette.
“People back home would be surprised to see me smoking and drinking,” Sydney observes, though she fits right in with the women her age tonight. The home she refers to is the small conservative town she grew up in, where church twice a week is a lifestyle, and couples are still told to save room for the holy ghost if they’re swaying too close to each other at high school dances.
“We both grew up as church kids,” she remarks and explains they expanded their horizons in college.
The rest of the evening is spent doing the typical things in a bar: Drinking, shooting pool, a somewhat too loud political discussion on the idiocy of Donald J. Trump, and fighting off advances of drunk men.
“Tomorrow night, I won’t protest nearly as much,” Sydney quietly says to me as she pushes a guy’s hand away from her tight denim-covered ass. She smiles at the man before flashing her diamond solitaire at him. He mildly protests but gets the hint.
“Oh, I’d fuck him if it were tomorrow night at the club,” Sydney says, still glancing back at him as we walk back to our table. The look in her eyes is the same one guys often get when they’re mentally undressing you. “But Tanner and I have a rule about crossing boundaries. I wouldn’t want him taking someone home from here, and I won’t do it, either.”
Sydney begins explaining what the rules are in their open relationship. Chief among them is no sexual play with others without each other’s consent or knowledge, though she admits to breaking that rule now and then. “If I’m far enough away that no one knows us, say 50 miles or so, and the opportunity presents itself, I might indulge.” She says with a sly smile.
“The Fifty Mile Rule” is a well-known concept among couples in various states of non-monogamy. Made popular by writer Judith Brandt in her book of the same name, extramarital lovers should live and work at least 50 miles apart, preferably a state or two away. “People are so lazy,” Brandt said in an interview with the LA Times. “They go for proximity and don’t think about what happens when you dump this person then have to see them at work every day. What happens when your former lover sees your husband at the company picnic?”
Other rules Sydney and her husband follow are no social contact with sex partners outside the swinging environment, condoms are always a must, and no anal sex. She’s adamant about the first one. “If you’re attracted enough to fuck someone, you’re attracted enough to fall in love with him. So limiting social contact with your sex partners helps keep your relationship with your significant other strong.”
It’s now close to midnight, and Tanner has texted Sydney twice, wondering when she’ll be home. “He misses me,” she giggles. “I guess it’s time to return to Leave It To Beaver land.”
Sydney and Tanner live in an impressive yet modest home in Naperville, a suburb of Chicago. It was recently named the wealthiest city in the midwest though Tanner is quick to say he and his wife aren’t rich.
“We make a good living together, but being an accountant, I know how to work the system, I guess,” he confesses but immediately backpedals a bit. “I mean, I have a home office and write it off and do other things like that. We don’t do anything at tax time that anyone else couldn’t do.”
Their house is a three-level McMansion in a small sea of similar residences purchased with the intention of filling the extra space with a kid or two at some point. It sits on a well-manicured lawn that is still bright green despite the early onset of fall. Hardwoods are throughout the main floor. A mix of antique and modern furniture is placed strategically in the foyer, dining, and family rooms, an assortment of art and family photos on the walls. Pious portraits of parents and grandparents stare out at you, oblivious to what the children are doing but ready to judge and condemn just the same.
“I think Sydney missed her true calling,” Tanner observes. “She could have been an interior decorator.”
He’s a tall, blonde frat boy type, thin but with a swimmer’s build. Tonight he’s wearing a dark blue suit, no tie, with a decadent open collar. It’s sharp-looking and well-fitted. Precisely the sort of thing that a woman would pick out for her man to wear to a social event. It makes him look very handsome. He has a confident air about him, not snobby, but like a man who knew he’d achieved a lot with his young life and was proud of that fact.
“Sydney is still getting ready,” he remarks, checking his watch. “It takes her a little longer.”
When he speaks of her, his tone betrays his love and devotion. It permeates from him and is refreshing to see. He inquires about the night before, partly so the same ground isn’t covered during conversation and as a partial fishing expedition. He wants to know if Sydney revealed anything he doesn’t, himself, know.
A little insecurity from a guy is sexy.
“I’ll bet she didn’t tell you swinging was my idea.”
She hadn’t. But this was no revelation. According to research published by Psychology Today, the husband introduces swinging to the skeptical wife about 75% of the time. In addition, Edward Fernandes Ph.D. has researched the topic extensively and observes that once women are involved, things seem to change. “After the very first swinging experience, many women have stated that their husband looked at them with ‘fresh eyes’ and showed a higher level of sexual desire for them. For women, feeling desired is a great confidence builder, and most women reported enjoying being seduced and desired.”
Ironically what often starts as a nerve-wracking challenge for many women becomes an emboldening opportunity to explore aspects of their sexuality that society has otherwise tried to control. Once involved, women often resist ending the arrangement, even when their men want the activities to stop.
“Yeah,” Tanner continues, almost bragging. “I dragged her kicking and screaming to the first party, and now she can’t get enough.”
“And then you tried to end it after two visits when you saw I was getting more action than you.” The voice came from Sydney as she slowly descended the stairs. She looked like a different person than she did just twenty hours ago. She was now wearing a clingy black lycra dress and black patent leather heels. Her blonde hair was wild and teased and her makeup was impeccably done. If his eyes were any indication, Tanner approved.
She slid an envelope from her Tory Burch silver leather clutch and handed it to Tanner. “Our invitation.” She said,
“We can’t get in without it,” Tanner added. “Even though they know us, the invite proves our dues are up to date.”
At most on-premise swingers clubs, couples dues range from a very affordable $60 a year to over $1000 a year. Like any club, the money is made at the bar and the tables. Swingers clubs and vanilla dance clubs are remarkably similar save for one crucial difference. Most of the people in a swingers club will be getting laid later that evening, while a majority of the people in a vanilla club will be going home alone.
Sydney lights a cigarette and, despite Tanner’s disapproving glance, whispers, “let’s party.”
The drive east into the city takes about an hour, and Sydney and Tanner are very forthcoming with their story. College sweethearts, they met at a frat party that had gotten a bit out of hand.
“Sydney wasn’t used to partying,” remarks Tanner, smiling at his wife and squeezing her hand. “I rescued her twice that night, once from an overbearing guy and then when she was worshipping the porcelain god.”
“I can outdrink you now,” Sydney interrupts, laughing at the memory before adding, “He was such a gentleman, holding my hair back as I puked my fucking guts out.”
Sydney was the classic college sorority girl gone bad, rebelling from her conservative upbringing. Some describe it as freshmanitus.
“Even after that night, I went through several men over the next couple of semesters before realizing Tanner was the one.” Again, she smiles over at her husband, and this time she squeezes his hand.
The valet stood ready as Sydney and Tanner’s black Lexus pulled into the parking lot. They’re greeted at the door as both friends and guests but, as formality dictates, offered the invitation anyway.
“Oh, she’s with us,” Sydney says, looking back and handing the doorman a fifty.
The club is fantastic. It rivals any mainstream dance club with two full bars, dining areas, multiple levels, and a full-time DJ spinning dance and hip hop to keep guests on their feet. Sydney is swaying to the music, already scanning the room for friends and potential conquests.
“She likes this kind of music,” Tanner says, “I’d prefer more rock and alternative.”
“Come with me,” Sydney says and heads toward a group of women in a lounge area. Tanner moves to a bar and takes a seat.
“We hunt separately,” Sydney says, clarifying why she almost immediately ditched her husband. “He doesn’t mind. He wants to get laid but is more into me having a good time.”
One rule many couples have in the swinging scene is no sexual play unless they’re both involved. Every couple starts with rules designed to deal with their insecurities, but the rules become irrelevant as trust and comfort levels increase. Sydney and Tanner have long moved past feeling they have to supervise each other’s sexual proclivities.
Sydney’s friends in the lounge, like her, have been in the scene for a while. They’re married or involved, but their significant other is nowhere to be seen. They are, in fact, like a group of girlfriends at ladies night in any club. They all greet Sydney, exchanging hugs and cheek kisses.
“Here’s a quick summary of swing club politics,” Sydney says. “We’re the in-crowd, the desirables.” Her friends nod their agreement. She’s no Regina George, but her small posse might be comparable to the Mean Girls who prowled the halls of Northshore High School in the 2004 feature film. They’re a diverse group, ethnically speaking, and know full well the privileges that come with their beauty.
“Over there are the newbies,” she adds, diverting her eyes to a leather sectional across the room. “A little scared, clinging to their husbands. They want to look at the man-flesh parading past them but are worried their husbands will get jealous.”
“But isn’t that what they’re here for?” I ask.
Their explanation makes sense. In ‘the lifestyle,’ there’s a weeding-out process. Men, at one time gung-ho to drag their women into the scene, start having second thoughts when they realize it’s their wives who become the center of attention, often leaving their husbands to awkwardly ride a couch or lean against a bar while their wives disappear down hallways with McSteamy-types. Most couples who venture this far into swinging never make it past two or three parties because the guys suddenly can’t handle their girls getting banged by someone else.
Off to the side of the lounge area, several men have begun to assemble, hungrily eyeing Sydney’s clique. The girls stare back, smiling.
“They’re waiting for us to signal that it’s ok if they approach, but we’re going to make them wait it out a little.”
One thing you’ll notice right away in any swinging environment is that experienced women control what happens. Women have the final say, and that decision is strictly enforced by club security or bouncers. If the woman isn’t interested, she politely declines, and experienced men in the scene understand and respect that power. Dr. Fernandes reveals women in swinging score very high on the self-determination scale, meaning they are in absolute control of their decisions and are unlikely to be easily swayed by others.
“Well, ladies, see anything you like?” one of Sydney’s friends asks, and they all nod. The ladies shift on the leather sofas as she then directs the men over with her eyes. They pair up with incredible speed as if each group made prior plans with the other. But, of course, they all know each other, at least in passing, and some have hooked up previously.
Sydney nuzzles her face into a tall black man’s tattooed neck who is now seated next to her. He puts his arm around her shoulders, and she slides her hand, first to his thigh, then lightly over his crotch area. Her boldness is impressive, and she glances over. “I like black guys.”
Among the many aspects of swinging, one of the more attractive ones for women is to do things they might never consider in their daily lives. Hooking up with a variety of men is such a thing. In a recent study, Bergstrand and Williams (2000) found in their sample of swingers that 90.4% were white, 4.9% were black, and 3% were Latino. This makes it easy for African American women to sample white men. But a white woman who wants to hook up with black or Latino men doesn’t have it so easy. It may be valid that, next to women, back and Latino couples hold the most power in an environment where the ultimate goal is great and diverse sex.
Sydney and her new friend get up from their seats and start walking, arm in arm, towards the private rooms. She glances back over her shoulder at her husband who’s negotiating an encounter with a redhead at the bar. He raises his bottle to her, and she flashes him a sexy, knowing smile. Then she looks at me. “OH MY GOD” she mouths, with a big grin.
He gives me a quizzical look, then glances over at Sydney.
“I’m doing a magazine interview on the lifestyle,” she volunteers to her first conquest of the night, who seems a little curious about the third wheel tailing them. “Don’t worry, no names and no pictures.”
He seems at ease with that explanation. Swingers are pretty private about their extracurricular activities outside the scene despite their uninhibited behavior among like-minded souls. Relationships can be ruined and jobs lost on the strength of just one well-placed rumor in a society that still judges alternative sexuality harshly.
“This is Goliath,” Sydney coos as she wraps her arm around his neck and grinds her body into his. She plants a long soft kiss on his lips, then reaches down and gently rubs the growing bulge in his pants. His cock is impressive, if that bulge is any indication, and it’s immediately obvious how he got his nickname.
“G is one of the few single men allowed in the club,” Sydney explains as she breaks her embrace of him and closes the door of the bedroom we’ve found ourselves in. It’s furnished sparingly, with a king-sized bed taking up most of the space. A small vanity sits against one wall, ostensibly there for ladies to touch up their hair and makeup after being fucked. A black leather wingback chair is catty-cornered from the bed, and I take s seat there. Next to the bed is a nightstand with a glass bowl of condoms and a sign warning of the dangers of unprotected sex. A Victorian-style lamp provides the only light in the deep burgundy painted room. It casts long shadows of us on the walls and ceiling.
“He’s also involved in the Mandingo scene,” Sydney continues. “Which is why he’s a valued member here.”
Mandingo parties are parties where single black men sexually service married and single white women. The term ‘Mandingo’ referred to the people of a particular African tribe and was popularized by a mid-70s film of the same name set in the Antebellum Southern United States. Apparently, the name stuck for the biggest and toughest of slaves who allegedly had secret affairs with the white wives of plantation owners.
The black men who hold such parties give off the epitome of big dick energy. And as Sydney expertly unfastens his pants and slides them down, any pretense of political correctness vanishes in my mind. He’s beautiful and quite large.
“I met G at one of those parties,” Sydney whispers. “Shh. Don’t tell Tanner.”
What unfolds next is like a porn movie, and I’m the audience. Two people more beautiful than anyone should have the right to be go through motions as if scripted. Sydney is kneeling now, wrapping her lips around his cock. It’s a bit too large to fill her mouth but she does an admirable job coating it with saliva, sliding about three-quarters of it in and out, bringing it to full attention.
They quickly peel each other’s clothes off, and she then leads him to the bed. Sitting at the foot of it, she wiggles her finger in a ‘come here’ motion. He reads her body language perfectly and kneels in front of her. She wraps her hands around his head then guides his face between her legs. He laps her moistness lovingly.
“You can tell a lot about a man by how well he eats pussy,” Sydney states, grinning as his tongue probes her anus then slowly slides up to her clit. She moans in an ever-increasing cadence, and I can tell she’s close to cumming. G can, as well, which is his cue. He climbs on top of her, sinks his dick into her, and begins an almost obscene grinding. Less than thirty seconds of this, Sydney blasts into orbit, cumming hard while digging her nails into his back. The scratches on his back are immediately visible, and G grimaces. The pain is real, yet he continues pumping her, increasing his rhythmic gyrations.
If he’s close to cumming himself, he’s showing no signs of it.
I’m lost in the scene before me and, I’ll admit, quite turned on. I’m fighting to avoid the cliche of the secret voyeur who pleasures herself while watching a decadent lovemaking session when Sydney whispers something to G I’m not supposed to hear.
And then she motions for me to join them.
I met up with Sydney and Tanner the following day for brunch at one of those trendy farm-to-table spots. Young couples with toddlers in tow, fresh from early church services, shuffled in behind me, eager to ravage the faux-healthy options. Sydney looks at me and arches one eyebrow, a smile playing at her lips. She doesn’t break eye contact with me as she places her order with the server who is acting a bit too impatient for someone just starting a morning shift.
“May I have the garden scrambler?” she asks. “Hold the mushroom and add some extra spinach and tomatoes if you can.”
Tanner goes completely carnivore. I ordered a tall glass of orange juice.
“So, I didn’t get to ask how your evening went,” I say, watching Tanner cut his breakfast steak into several bite-sized pieces. “Did you… score?”
“He spent the night at the bar talking about college football with the guys,” Sydney smirks.
“It’s all about her anyway,” Tanner concedes. “You got exactly what you wanted last night, right, Syd?”
She nods her head enthusiastically before turning her gaze to me again. “How does your story end?” She asks, wondering if I’ll leave the readers who eventually read this piece hanging.
“Let’s just say it will end exactly how it was supposed to.”