Constance & Eric Photography
Sex. No matter how you present the subject matter, it always seems to come across as being lecherous or highly inappropriate. There is no easy way to evade the lewd sniggers or snorts, amongst daggers of disdain, and shudders of shock. So for the next part, reading this may come as quite a blow (pardon the pun).
If you were to ask me a month ago if I could ever have conceived of the idea of becoming a swinger, instantaneously, my answer would have been an abrupt NO! Naturally, all sorts of smutty and seedy thoughts might come to mind when you think of swinging; whether you envisage a satanic orgiastic cesspit, or a demonic dungeon of rampant twosomes, there always seems to be a common theme- but what if there is more to this than meets the eye?
The spectacle of swinging, or at least its wider discussion and practice, is considered by some, to have ascended from the upsurge of carnal activity, during the sexual revolution of the ‘swinging’ sixties. This era became synonymous with its novel, radical and subversive tendencies that continued to cultivate throughout the seventies, eighties and beyond.
This brings us to now- the 21st century. What was once a social taboo is now a thriving watering hole for the amenably minded and sexually curious. One area in particular where this audacious marvel flourishes, is the metropolis of Manchester. Following my move to the region it became prevalent that this contemporary city had a lot to offer- far more than I had originally bargained for. Granted, in a bustling and vibrant area like Manchester, it is not uncommon to see the odd gentleman’s lounge and perhaps strip joint strewn about, however, a seedier underbelly lurks in the city’s suburbs.
If you were to gaze past the solid skirting board that shields the city so boldly, you would discover a mystery that still remains uncovered. Past the periphery of Manchester lie the secrets of the swingers. Little did I realise Greater Manchester is home to six (that I know of), well established swingers clubs. Now on this occasion, curiosity really did kill the cat.
So here my journey begins. On a dank and dreary Saturday evening I entered the realm of the Manchester swingers. Like most, I anticipated the establishment to be off the beaten track, perhaps even ensconced into the depths of a gated suburban community- wrong! Me and my adopted beau for the evening were dropped off in a taxi on a main high-street. ‘This can’t be our stop’, we pleaded, ‘please let it not be our stop’- but it was. We were officially exposed. It was as though they had nothing to hide, almost as if they wanted all walks of life to wander in off the street and give this outlandish wonder a go. For a moment I questioned whether or not this was a good idea. Dare we enter? What sights will be thrust upon us? Might we walk in to a writhing mass of naked flesh, accompanied by a cacophony of squelching and moans of climatic ecstasy? There was only one way to find out!
Suited and booted in nothing but a pair of stockings and negligee, I finally plucked up the courage to ring the bell. Much to my dislike the faint ‘ding-dong’ was met with the uproar of applause, and hullabaloo of screams- it would seem the party was already in full swing. ‘Fifteen pounds please?’ said a cheerful chap at the reception. ‘Is this your first time?’ Presumably the droplets of sweat dripping from our pastel-like complexions, were a certain giveaway that we were completely and utterly out of our comfort zones. ‘Yes it is. We figured there’s a first time for everything, so no time like the present’, was our surprisingly assertive response. He replied, ‘brilliant- come on in let me show you around.’ Clunk! The entrance into this seemingly exotic abyss was open and hungrily awaiting our arrival. An unnerving sense of anxiety began to fester. What if we are met with aloof looks of disdain and bemusement? Might we be perceived as the outsiders of this wanton cult? Questions loitered, whilst answers escaped- before I knew it we were inside.
From the minute we stepped into the room there was a real sense of composure and calmness about the place. Heads quickly gyrated as we entered, but strangely enough this erected a sense of emancipation within us both. For starters we were the youngest ‘couple’ there, most were of the forty’s to fifty’s age bracket, so as you can imagine we felt a little out of sorts, not to mention the majority of folk there were dressed as either raunchy doctors or scantily clad nurses (we, on the other hand, failed to receive the dress code memo). For a split second I felt as though we had hijacked an oddly themed reunion party, where things had turned a little ‘lary’, and guests had supped on one to many pink cadillac’s. However, much to my amazement, this mentality swiftly escaped me and bizarrely enough, I hastily found myself becoming intoxicated by the aroma of lust. We had only been in there a mere five minutes before I felt this euphoric erotica deeply consume me.
On arrival we were given a tour of the establishment. Now I would imagine most places are keen to show you around, maybe point out the nearest access points in the event of an emergency, or perhaps display where the various wash-rooms are located. This tour however, was unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed. We were met by a curvaceous middle-aged lady, wearing little but a thong, PVC nurse’s hat and stethoscope (which might I add, was strategically placed to hide what modesty she had left). The club was spread across four floors. The ground level was the busiest by far; here lay a Jacuzzi, sauna, pool table, bar and unique chill-out lounge (or at least that’s what I was told). In reality we were confronted with a dingy chamber filled with plasma TV’s, showcasing innumerable explicit adult movies. The first floor was home to a massage boudoir and four playrooms. Now here the clue really lies in the title. This area predominantly consisted of copulating couples amongst fornicating foursomes playing the salacious game of sexual musical beds, although this seemed tame in comparison to the clandestine levels that lurked below.
We were taken down a narrow flight of stairs which lead to the depths of the basement, a set of stairs which were immensely difficult to navigate down, let alone trying to do so whilst tip-toeing behind an utterly starker’s unchaste ‘nurse’. In this ominous moment my stomach decided to take to the stage and perform its very own acrobatic routine- I felt ridiculously nauseous at the thought of what was to come. A group of single males congregated at the bottom of the landing. It didn’t take much fathoming, as to guess what they were desirously ogling at.
After pushing our way through a seething mass of undulating flesh, we found ourselves with front row seats to a full blown orgy. It was like watching a perpetual conveyor belt of bodies, one after the other entering this burning bed of passion. In one corner stood a group of men shadily masturbating, in the other you saw a carnivorous jungle of animalistic torsos riving at one another. Without a shadow of a doubt this has to have been one of the most surrealist moments I’ve ever found myself in- watching porn is one thing but switching into 3D (or should I say 36DD) is a whole other ‘ball game’, only then does it truly become X-rated.
The majority of what we witnessed appeared somewhat sordid, lewd and vulgar. This however, bared no relation towards the people who we met along the way; it was their stories that held the beacon over this conceivably dim reality.
It came as an absolute surprise to discover much of the evening rested on socialising with other couples and singles, granted the style of conversation was extremely forthright (people’s intentions to become involved in a threesome with us was pretty evident from the get up and go). But otherwise everyone was willing to talk openly about sex, relationships and such like.
One of the most remarkable points which I took away from the experience of swinging, was the people’s ability to detach the act of sex from the emotion of love. The first couple we met in the changing rooms, (‘Simon’ and his girlfriend) made it extremely clear that it’s all about talking as a couple, setting in stone those crucial boundaries of what you may or may not be comfortable doing, or more importantly seeing your partner do. I seriously began to question the mentality of westerners, or more importantly how prudishly judgemental the English society has become towards sex, and specifically how it seems a given that it has to go hand in hand with emotion. Simon and his girlfriend where very clear on what their limitations where – he isn’t allowed to get with other women, yet still favourably participates in threesomes with other men and her. His girlfriend explained to us that even though physically, she was having sex with other men, her emotions would still remain with Simon- she would take comfort from the fact she knew she would be going home with him- solely him.
The most thought provoking part of the evening was spent with Michael (for the purpose of the piece this is not his real name). Michael appeared to the naked eye as another androcentric male, looking for a bit if fun. It wasn’t till after we had sat down and evoked in conversation with him, that we truly understood his pain. Michael has been a Manchester swinger for over twenty years now; he used to come along with his wife, or at least did, before she fell ill. Now the name of her ailment escapes me, but what I do know is that it steals what many would deem a vital element of any relationship- the sense of touch. She feels pain if he touches her, she has lost all sense of sensation, yet their relationship remains strong. Despite the sexual playing an important part in both their lifestyles, they still stick together. She knows that her husband still goes along to their former swingers stomping ground, but willingly accepts that it once was a part of her life and will continue to remain a part of her husbands. It was shocking to see someone in that environment essentially laying all their deepest and most despondent feelings onto someone they’d just met (but then again, I didn’t anticipate a lot of what went on that night). One comment that Michael did say struck a chord with me and that was; “She is my world. I wouldn’t change her for anyone. And I never will”. This comment reiterated the ‘swinger mentality’ of the physical being so dissimilar to the emotional – in a strange way it was me seeing a relationship so strong on an emotional level that compromises can be made on the physical.
Arguably the most interesting character of the night was Edward, a single macho male, with the desire to ‘bed’ anything with a pulse. Edward (not his real name) had signed up to be a swinger just a mere year ago. You could tell from the minute he introduced himself to us that his intentions were palpable from the word go. ‘Fancy a shag?’ came shortly after the initial introductions. Although, I guess such frank behaviour is to be expected in such a place. Now what was unusually interesting about Edward, that made him prominent above the rest, was discovering he worked with children as a teaching assistant. Imagine if parents were to find out? It would be met with colossal uproar; I would imagine most would brand him a pervert and I very much doubt he would remain in his job. He himself confessed he could never tell anyone at work he’s a swinger, he would feel wholly emasculated at the thought of doing so. Much to my surprise Edward explained how, despite his need for sex, he does in fact seek courtship and love; however, I fear his high libido and consuming desires will almost certainly prevent him from ever finding courtship, let alone finding himself.
So there it is- the secrets of Manchester’s swingers. Before entering this world I questioned people’s motives. Why they would chose to do something so eccentric? I was perplexed at the thought of people wanting to have sex with strangers, and in doing so, adopt such a blasé attitude. For many the phenomenon of swinging adds that little bit of spice into their otherwise conventional lives. Some couples perhaps live by a monotonous nine to five day job, and maybe, just maybe, the thought of swinging eases that overbearing weight of day to day humdrum. I guess some unearthly enigmas will always remain a mystery, but if you truly are still curious, the only way to expose this secret realm, is to go and live it for yourself- only then will you really understand what goes on behind closed doors.