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group sex, fourth floor
When swingers throw a party, everyone comes

The guy had barely started telling me how he got into the lifestyle when his wife, who was kneeling on the bed, began to fondle the breasts of a Hispanic woman sitting nearby. A tall blonde slipped between us to make out with the wife, leaving the Hispanic woman happily between them, caressing whatever flesh she could reach. Silent voyeurs shuffled into position like extras from Café Flesh. Nursing his drink, the husband continued talking, oblivious, until I stopped him. "Man, your wife. . . ." He glanced at the tangle of bodies, then smiled and shrugged-a been-there, done-that shrug. "I'll see her later," he said.
Welcome to the orgy, circa 2001.
I had been invited to be the dinner speaker at a swingers' convention held at an airport hotel in Chicago. Four hundred couples — mostly Midwesterners, but some from as far away as Hawaii — paid $600 each to attend the weekend, and about 200 came to dinner. That's a respectable 50 percent turnout among people who could otherwise be having sex. I wasn't surprised by the numbers — there are an estimated 3 million swingers in North America — but it still felt odd to be surrounded by people so openly enthusiastic about — and comfortable with — sex. No one here had questions; they were answering them. Who are these people? More important, what fuels their interest in this curio from the Seventies that somehow negotiated AIDS and Meese and middle age? In a time when you can arrange almost anything you desire online, a swingers' convention seems almost quaint.
Glancing around the room, I saw ordinary folk: aunts, uncles, neighbors, co-workers. Not mine, but somebody's. Imagine walking through O'Hare Airport, corralling the first 400 straight couples you pass, and placing them in a room for a bacchanal. One of the cutest women I met was Sharon, in her early 30s, who had been assigned with her husband, Dave, to greet newbies. I don't remember Dave too well, but Sharon turned out to be a vixen disguised as a PTA mom. She explained that the security guards posted at the entrances weren't swingers themselves, but they were regulars. Sharon and her friends lusted after one guard in particular, and she pointed him out. Then she mentioned casually but triumphantly how she had blown him the previous night.
"The others were upset, because I got him first," she said. "But it was easy. I asked when he got off duty. He told me, 'One a.m.' So I said, 'You're getting off at 1:10, too.' "
Dave smiled at the story. I was beside myself with lust. I couldn't help thinking that if Sharon would blow a guard, surely she'd have sex with the guy who spoke at dinner. But I was in a boat without an oar: That morning, like so many other mornings, I had forgotten to ask my wife if I could fuck other women.
That's the problem for most guys who wish they could become swingers: You have to convince your girlfriend or wife, and she's not playing. Without a date who's ready to ride, you won't get through the door. Most couples I spoke with said they had been married at least 10 years before the topic came up — long enough to know they had a solid relationship, and also long enough to be bored to extremes. Plus, many of the wives are bisexual, which eases the transition (if the men are bisexual, they keep it to themselves). One woman told me how, after her divorce, she began to explore. She met a nice guy and, when things began to get serious, sat him down for a heart-to-heart. "I told him, 'I'm bisexual, I like to go to swing parties and I want us to have sex with other people.' I was so afraid he was going to leave." I asked the guy, now her husband, what his reaction had been. He said, "Thank you, God."
After talking with Sharon, I was ready to play the unreluctant voyeur. Because I didn't have a date, I couldn't visit the fourth-floor orgy rooms without an escort. Ron, a club owner who organized the weekend with his wife, Sue, asked a guard — another guard — to take me upstairs. We exited the elevator and turned to the right, toward a suite filled with bondage equipment. Inside, a couple took advantage of a large wooden X. The guy — a heavyset biker with a long white beard — stood behind his old lady, who faced the wall. He slapped her ass so hard it shook. She moaned with pleasure. Eventually he released and hugged her, and I could see them telling each other, "I love you." I couldn't dispute that. Stephen, who supervised the room, was eager to introduce me to two lesbians, one of whom was wearing a Canadian Mountie uniform, a fetish we discussed for some time. The women said they were both tops, meaning they prefer to be in control during sex. I asked how they worked that out. "We find a bottom," the Mountie said, matter-of-factly. That turned me on almost as much as Sharon had, but I wasn't sure which one to ask for a number.
My escort had disappeared, so I headed toward the other end of the hall on my own. Along the way, many couples opened their doors to allow passersby a peek. (At one point I turned my head briefly and came away with this image: a supine white woman, her head at the edge of the bed, deep-throating a burly black man as he balanced himself over the gulf between the mattress and the dresser.) The party rooms intended for general audiences were situated on opposite sides of the hall. On the left, smoking. On the right, nonsmoking. Swingers filled the corridor, socializing. A few men and women greeted each other with deep kisses and quick gropes — what elsewhere would be a casual hug. A woman loosened my tie. One guy wearing nothing but a Speedo with little hearts on it approached potential partners good-naturedly to ask, "Want to see my heart-on?" All swingers have a little Vegas in them.
When Sue arrived on her rounds, an old friend delighted her by dropping to his knees and burying his head under her skirt. Another guy who looked vaguely familiar told me that he once had been arrested for selling Playboy. It turns out he had been nabbed in my small hometown; I was about 14 at the time. He went on to buy an old motel in the area, add waterbeds and ceiling mirrors to every room, stock the lounge with gag gifts and X-rated greeting cards and get busted more than 30 times on every morals charge, zoning law and sign ordinance on the books. I was surprised to see him, but Ron later told me that spotting familiar faces isn't unusual. That very weekend, a woman and her husband had bumped into her mother and her mother's boyfriend. The couples retreated to the hotel bar to sort things out. Ron said that almost every large lifestyle gathering leads to surprise encounters between doctors and patients, lawyers and clients, teachers and students.
Inside the nonsmoking suite, the beds had been pushed into a row against a wall. At first glance the room resembled any Saturday night party. The lights had been dimmed and people stood talking and nursing drinks. A few danced or made out. But then, as people stepped this way or that, you spotted a wife on her knees, licking her husband's balls, or a couple fucking against the wall, or a man penetrating his wife (I assumed) as she knelt over a chair. Television monitors displayed silent porn; the room had its own soundtrack of music, moans and the low buzz of voices. At the center of the room, a woman climbed aboard a demo-model bungee swing as her partner struggled to pull his cock from his jeans. Through the doorway into the next room, a lamp burned like a spotlight on a pair of women who were sitting on a dresser with their knees spread, fingering themselves. Behind me, through another door, a pile of retired Americans pleasured each other on twin double beds. I caught the eye of a white-haired, barrel-chested man as his lover of the moment, whose ass was as wide as his pillow, fellated him. He winked.
I soaked in the aura of the room for an hour or two — I wasn't checking my watch — before stepping back into the hall for some air. It was almost two in the morning, and the party was still heating up. As the women who passed by introduced themselves, I was surprised at the number among this "average" crowd who I wanted to fuck — women who, had I seen them on the street, I would not have glanced at twice. The longer I spent talking with them, the more desirable they became. These women loved sex, they wanted sex, they didn't mind talking about it and they were wearing lingerie. More than once, while laughing with some uninhibited housewife or accountant or crossing guard, I found myself thinking, Sleeping with her would be a blast.
That was my humble lesson for the evening. Besides the variety it offers, the lifestyle is appealing because it gives you a chance to fuck your friends. At dinner, Ron and Sue and two other couples had swapped tales of exchanges among them like my parents and their homies discuss trips to Florida. "Remember that time — was it at your house or ours? — when the wives all seemed to disappear?" Ron asked. "I walked around and found these three in the back room. They wouldn't let me join in! They made me just sit there and watch." The women laughed at the memory.

By Chip Rowe. This first appeared in Playboy, September 2001.
© 2001 Playboy. Reproduced by permission.

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