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Issue No. 16 - Chaos

The Cheeky Shag

The Cheeky Shag

Image above: ©Brian Steinhoff, "Love in the Time of Chlamydia" Digital Media 2012. Courtesy of the artist. 

Image above: ©Brian Steinhoff, "Love in the Time of Chlamydia" Digital Media 2012. Courtesy of the artist. 

Bobbing in a sea of fucking, sweaty, naked bodies, there is perfume in the air and it's not shame, secrecy, or scandal. It’s the whiff of ecstatic indulgence and no one is asking for the lights off. Is this innocent exploration or would someone lose an eye before the night was over?

There in my little black dress and stilettos I had made it past the unmarked doors of Bowery Bliss, New York’s largest underground swinging party and people were having fun. Not the debaucherous "what the hell happened last night" kind of fun, the kind of fun had at a dinner party with your favorite friends. The company was good, the wine was flowing, everyone brought their favorite dish to share and when you think of it the next morning you feel satisfied. Except unlike your average dinner party sex is on the menu and this is an all out smorgasbord.

Jack, the man behind the curtain of these events is happy to set the record straight about a few misconceptions. The “lifestyle” is absolutely not about cheating on your partner. It’s about sharing a sexual experience together with a goal of deeper intimacy. The primary relationship is protected at all costs and as a rule, couples don’t split off, exchange information, or see anyone else outside the context of an organized party. Anyone who is too high or drunk gets kicked out and it’s always ladies choice which is non negotiable from the outset. The biggest challenge, Jack says is trying to get “newbie” lifestylers: a problem he is tackling by hosting weekly “Swinger 101” information sessions, special meets for women only, a weekly radio show and a YouTube channel. In fact, Jack has brought so much attention to the lifestyle that several producers hoping to start a reality series have approached him. “The problem is, they’d have to script in all the drama because frankly, there is none. Plus, it goes without saying, swingers like to be discreet.”

This isn’t your average nightclub where, in any dark corner a woman can be randomly felt up by a complete stranger or have their drink spiked. Jose, a muscle bound, tattooed, straight-faced veteran paces the floors with an eagle eye on the action and there are absolutely no drinks allowed in the main play area. Also, there is no skeevy activity. Everyone is coupled up so the men all have a vested interest in making sure no one is sleazing on to women. The staff is friendly, the name of the game is having a good time, and they are there to make sure the patrons are enjoying themselves and yes, it is all happening. Blow jobs, group sex, cunnilingus, analingus, light bondage, all types in all positions and it’s a welcoming crowd. For the most part, you won’t have to ask to join in twice.

I settled at the BYO bar where Jonsie, an apple cheeked, talkative bartender who also hosts Jonsie’s Lair, another swinging event, was happy to serve me a mixed drink. Looking around me, I saw many fully clothed couples sitting quietly on the couches and at the bar behaving as though they were at any bar socializing in ordinary circumstances.

Being the only “unicorn” --an unattached woman, I was instantly approached. Not by a man, by a friendly young Latina wearing only a robe, Jessica*. Jessica was keen to start a conversation about why we were all here and what she hoped to get out of her night. Several months ago, Jessica’s boyfriend, John*, had convinced her to attend a swinger’s party but he had since changed his tune and kind of wasn’t so open to Jessica being with another man. Jessica however, excited by the prospect of new experiences, wasn’t about to abandon ship so easily.

Bowery Bliss is organized like a hierarchy of the soul. Earth is on the ground floor, Transition to enlightenment is the second floor, and Heaven is the third. I decided to wander upstairs. Only moments ago I was surrounded by couples mildly conversing on Earth and here in Transition people were getting busy. A four-poster bed took center stage, and beyond it were various types of sex furniture with the addition of a bondage cross near the far wall. To the right were private rooms and near the entranceway there was an ensemble of chairs and loveseats. In this area, most couples were making out while hands were grabbing various fleshy bits belonging to whoever happened to be nearby and one woman was furiously fellating a man. I eyed her technique and took notes for future reference.

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 1.07.05 PM
Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 1.07.05 PM
©Brian Steinhoff, I Stole Your Love, 2014. Courtesy of the artist. 

Finally venturing to the third floor, again I saw a seating arrangement for voyeurs. Beyond that, there were beds lining the wall. I watched a particularly cute couple to see how they initiated participation. Do you politely ask to finger bang the curvy brunette or is it up to you to interpret a matrix of symbols? I couldn't imagine anything killing an erection faster than flat out rejection but that didn't seem to be an issue here. The vibe was more fast and loose than picky and uptight.

They started on the couch with a bit of French kissing. She slowly started to take her clothes off and, topless, they made it to third base on the love seat. Then she eyeballed a couple on one of the king beds, took her partner’s hand and sauntered over. They exchanged a few words and viola! Licking, sucking, and fucking.

I never heard anyone say, "What do I do now?" "Where do I put it?" or "You want me to do WHAT?" I did hear "She loves that." "Oh my God that feels good" and "Fuck that pussy baby." The couples looked at each other intently and often exchanged whispers and soft kisses. It was mutual masturbation with a live human instead of a sex toy. Or maybe sex toy could be redefined in this case. I’ve never considered myself a voyeur but all of this was deeply fascinating and I didn’t once feel uncomfortable, as I sometimes do watching porn. In fact, this is far better than porn because the sex isn’t simulated. I tried to remember the last time I saw a real female orgasm. Reminded of Cindy Gallop’s work “Make Love Not Porn” it occurred to me that if more young people watched live sex in an environment like this, there would probably be less confusion in general with the added bonus that they would have much more fulfilling sex lives.

Activities were winding down and I found myself out on the regular street where regular people do regular things. On the way home, I suddenly realized no one had lost an eye but I had lost my shoes. I was wearing someone else’s stilettos instead of the ones I had arrived in. I laughed to myself; it was a small price to pay for the experience of a lifetime.

Cindy Gallop/Make love not porn: http://makelovenotporn.com/

By Naomi Williamson

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