“You won’t believe what happened last Friday night!” My newly-married wing-woman-for-life sounded very excited over the phone. She has started to appreciate the small joys of matrimony — I keep getting photographs of matching His&Her towels and the like in my inbox. What had she found this time? Matching salt shakers?
“We got asked out!”
I sat up. “You got asked out? By who?”
“Not me!” she screamed. “We! We! Him and me!”
“By whom?” “Another couple!” she giggled.
Every time someone says that India is close-minded about sex, I laugh. India is the second largest market for all social media platforms. India is one of the top five global subscribers of dating apps like Tinder, Grindr, OKCupid, TopFace and Woo. According to Pornhub, Indians are the second-most frequent visitor to the website. Close-minded about sex? Tell me another one. What I do find puzzling is our schizophrenic attitude to sex and sexuality. On the one hand, we chop off harmless kisses from films, while 18-year olds swipe left and right frantically every night under the covers. The government bans porn sites (and then dim-wittedly releases a list of 800+ links for all of us to try out), while ex-pornstars are accepted as lead actresses and reality shows like Bigg Boss thrive on titillation.
Everyone is curious about sex, that’s for damn sure. We want to talk about it, try out something new every day and are in the unending pursuit of the best orgasm of our lives (often fearing that it is already behind us).
This brings me to the phenomenon of swinging. In the last five to eight years, a small (but growing) set of people in cities like Mumbai and Delhi have been actively participating in sexual activities that involve people other than their partners. While young couples are increasingly bending the rules of commitment and monogamy, older couples are searching for new forms of excitement, because — well, boredom. Many couples, of all ages, are of the view that spending their whole lives with just one person may become claustrophobic and stifling. This strain, of being emotionally and physically invested in just one person, is leading to younger couples laying down easier rules for themselves, while older couples are opening themselves up to possible options that might spice their lives up.
All this has a lot to do with the change in attitudes towards sex and monogamy. Casual sex is not a big deal any more — as long as it can be ignored. While the fear of being judged still hovers, mostly in women, it also runs parallel to an increasing curiosity and need for sexual satisfaction. In the last decade, sexual performance has become a common topic of discussion, and that is extremely empowering in itself. Thus if satisfaction is such a priority, is it a bad thing to acknowledge boredom and dissipating sexual chemistry? Should we ignore the fact that we are often attracted to other people, or, quite literally, want fresh meat? What if couples decide to look for individuals who can become a part of their sexual experience, with one overarching tenet in operation — honesty? Can you shed inhibitions, lose the fear of being judged and embrace your inner need for pleasure?
Like I said, swinging is not new in Delhi and Mumbai. If you check out websites like Craigslist and Locanto, the list of people wanting to indulge in threesomes, foursomes and group sex is unending. Couples search for other couples, depending on their preferences. Some might even ask for just one person, for threesomes. While some might indulge in a foursome, others might choose partner-swapping. The combinations are, well, left to your imagination.
“As a generation, we have become more impatient. There is this constant stress on instant gratification, which is not a bad thing if no one is getting hurt in the process,” says Dr N. R. Sahu, one of Delhi’s most reputed psychiatrists. He points out that “compromise” is not seen as a requirement in marriage any more, and couples are openly discussing what they want out of a marriage. Having children soon after marriage is not a prerogative any more, either. “So what do you do when you want to have fun after work or on weekends? Invariably, you have been dating your spouse for years before getting married, so sex is not a novelty. And soon, you become impatient for new stimuli in your relationship. That is when something like swinging becomes an exciting proposition.” Sahu concludes.
“I think couples can do whatever they want, as long as they are both aware of what is going on. Inherently, no one wants to cheat on their spouses. Hence, swinging and partner-swapping works for a lot of people,” says Dr. Madhura Bose, psychologist and couples counsellor. “Also, human beings are visually-driven. Watching their wives having really good sex with someone else turns many men on. It might just heat things up between the couple. A little bit of jealousy might just be a good thing,” she laughs. Yes, envy might just be the world’s most powerful aphrodisiac.
Still, all this research is useless without first-hand experience. While just joining a couple for a threesome or foursome sounded like an interesting idea, I had heard enough about swinger parties to want to figure out a way of getting invited to one. These are usually clandestine and rather fancy affairs. Event organizers secretively make arrangements — often at a farm house outside the city if it is a large group, so that permissions are not an issue — and give a sex party the respectability of a social do. They send invites to couples they know, or those who have attended their parties before or have been referred by someone else. The need to maintain sophistication and like-mindedness is paramount.
After some digging, I found a friend who agreed to refer me and a close friend, who would pose as my better half. The two of us had to cook up a story about how we met and got married, for a phone interview and a Skype chat. Post this, we were asked to meet at a city pub, and I realised that this was for easy ice-breaking over alcohol (which we paid for, as a part of the ‘registration fee’). Everyone was dressed in their weekend best, laughing a tad too loudly and showing a little too much interest in basic small talk and introductions — I suppose they were testing the waters, trying to figure out possible companions for the night. We were the youngest couple in the group and were getting a fair amount of attention. An older lady sitting across from us at the table ran her stiletto-ed foot up my thigh, looking at me pointedly with an inviting smile. My “young wife, college sweetheart and light of my life” was happily enjoying a forty-something gent’s hand between her legs. I dropped a fork to see what under-the-table looked like – it was a footsie bacchanal.
After everyone was adequately glassy-eyed, our hosts — a flamboyant middle-aged couple — shared an address where the party was to move to. Excitedly, everyone jumped into their cars, some with other couples they might already have set their sights on. Our hosts’ massive terrace apartment was a 10-minute drive away, and they politely pointed out where the various rooms were and asked us to enjoy ourselves. The bar was well-stocked – as were multiple bowls of condoms and lube. Candles, dim lights and soft music — the set up reminded me of Eyes Wide Shut.
Then the mating game began. People began walking up to each other quite uninhibitedly, starting a conversation and moving off to darker corners. We were standing at the bar and decided to take our pick from the crowd. My friend disappeared with a handsome 35-year-old doctor, and a somewhat predatory older woman decided to pounce on me as soon as she slid away. The rest of the evening was, well, quite enjoyable. Some basic rules were implemented — safe sex only, no camera phones and no exiting the apartment with someone else’s partner — you left alone or with the person you brought. When the two of us were leaving that night, we could hear the apartment moan in delirium, and the living room was a Rubik’s Cube of limbs and torsos.
The morning after, the walk of shame — this is what can be a real buzzkill. Both of us were spared that experience, because we were not emotionally involved with each other or the people that we had just had sex with. How do couples react afterwards, though? “It was exciting while we were at it,” says Ajay (name changed), a 35-year-old banker. I had decided to befriend a bunch of people on Facebook who are a part of swinger groups and communities. “You lose yourself to the moment, the experience of a new body. I could see how much my wife was enjoying herself too. But then, the next day, I felt a little guilty. I don’t know why. Even though my wife was there with me, it felt like I had cheated on her. We decided to talk it out, and she felt the same way too. That helped. We realised that as long as both of us were into it, we were good. The second time wasn’t uncomfortable at all.”
Rubina, a 40-year-old writer, was surprised by how much she enjoyed the experience of her husband watching her with another man. “I never knew I had a fetish for exhibitionism in me!” she laughs. “My husband had a blast too. We love foursomes more than group sex, because it allows you to concentrate on the person, and them on me.” But does this not affect their emotional connect? “That depends on how well you can compartmentalise,” says Ankit (name changed). “For people who need an emotional connect for sexual intercourse, this is not the right deal. They will not even think about this. But for those of us who can clearly differentiate between love and lust, heart and skin, swinging is a refreshing option.” And how does it affect their individual sex lives with their partners? “The memory of those evenings is enough to get us going. Just talking about what we did with other people, or what they did to us, is really hot. I am 40. I don’t think I should be judged for how I get turned on as long as my husband is cool with it,” says Rubina.
Access to these parties and groups depends on what you’re looking for, and where. All the fancy parties work through invitations and referrals. “We do this to ensure a certain kind of person,” my host for that night said, during some casual banter. “Our guests have to feel safe. That is why we don’t even ask people to share their real names with each other. Choose anonymity if you want. If you really like someone, you will stay in touch. It is important to maintain this atmosphere of maturity and consent. Most people might not understand this. They might judge it, talk to random people about it, unnecessarily shame other guests. We just want to have some fun, man. As long as I am not dragging your wife out of bed, how does it affect you?”