It was way past my deadline. The realisation that it was impossible to
cover London’s swinging scene in a single article had come too late. A
scene so vast and diverse would be difficult cover in a single book.

The thousands of Londoners who choose swinging as a lifestyle won’t be
neatly packaged into a little box. They’re not Sloanies, chavs, goths,
ravers or some other easily defined subculture.

I’d found no stereotypical swinger, no clear cut demographic. The only
thing the people Iíd interviewed had in common was that while involved
in a relationship, they would, either with, or without the approval of
their partner, engage in sexual activity with a person or persons
outside of their relationship. That’s it, that’s the glue that binds.

Article after article was written and discarded. My relationship with
020’s usually good-natured editor was threatening to boil over into
outright hostility. With my back firmly against the wall I made one
last valiant attempt to complete the assignment by breaking the
information down to the most rudimentary elements of any journalistic
enterprise: who, where, why, what, when and how.

I’d already established who in the opening paragraphs. The next step
was to address where people indulge in a bit of partner swapping.
Where? Where!? Everywhere! Anywhere! In private homes from Hackney to
Hampstead Heath.  On luxury country estates on the outskirts of
the city, for weekend long parties involving mass orgies with dozens of
couples. In plush Mayfair hotels and kitsch swingers B&Bs.

Then of course there are the clubs. And by that I mean nightclubs, not
organisations, although there are a fair amount of those too.

London is home to no less than five permanent swingers clubs, and even
they have very little in common aside from providing a place for
couples to meet, and if desired, to engage in sexual activity, alone or
with others, on the club’s premises.

On one end of the scale are "naturist spas" along the lines of Club
Raquelís, where punters are welcome to shag their bird, or their
mate’s  – or both –  on the pool table, in the Jacuzzi, or
bizarrely, on the rowing machine. On the higher end are to
purpose-built establishments like The Cockatoo Club, boasting themed
rooms, dance floors and cocktail bars. In addition to these permanent
venues, there are dozens of promoters hosting parties at various venues
around the capital on a weekly basis.

How is all this made possible? Through the miracle of the internet –
that’s how. Websites, each with thousands of singles and couples,
neatly catalogued by age, sexual preference and geographical area are
in abundant supply.  Newbies and old hands, are all ready and
waiting to make a prospective coupleís wildest dreams come true.
Picking prospective partners for a liaison from an on-line line-up may
seem about as erotic as ordering a new shower door from Argos on the
net, but thousands of happy customers swear by it.  Thrown into
the mix on the sites is advice for couples thinking of trying swinging
out, codes of conduct, offers for swingers package holidays and
comprehensive listings for swingers clubs around the world.

Why would happy couples want to engage in no-strings attached sex with
complete strangers you ask? Each person I interviewed had a different
reason. To 32 year-old Frenchman Dominique, who only swings with
partners he’s in a casual relationship with, it’s a way to explore he’s
wildest fantasies.

For fortysomethings Andy and Julia, from Clapham, it’s a way to put the
zing back into their sex life after 13 years of marriage. For 32 year
old Zoe, who along with former college flatmates Michelle and Jayne,
runs swinging website connect4fun, it’s just about good clean fun.

 "Couples that are exploring sex for recreation are doing so as a
means of enjoyment for multiple experiences free of any expectations or
commitment," she says.  "My own partner can’t give me the
enjoyment I get from having sex with a woman and likewise a woman can
not do things that my partner or any man can do for me."

Fair enough.

Even the ‘what’ part of the formula, usually covered by a word or a
single sentence, could fill volumes. If you think that swinging is just
about swapping partners you couldn’t be more wrong. Variations on
partner swapping and group sex are endless. There are soft swingers,
who just want to have sex with other people in the room, hard swingers,
people into watersports, voyeurs, active, passive, role playing, people
who want to be videotaped, people looking for straight or bisexual

Then there’s ‘when’. For some people swinging is an occasional
indulgence, others get cranky if a week goes by without it. If you live
in London, and swingingís your bag, it’s available whenever you want
it. A serious minded swinger could easily find an event on any given
night of the week without too much trouble. The ingenious fellas who
run Limelight have even managed to find  a solution for those who
can’t wait till after dark. They offer a service where, for a small
fee, clients can book a place at venues in Fulham and people hook up,
and have sex with, other like-minded people during their lunch break
(if taken at 2:30pm).  Canapes and non-alcoholic beverages are
thrown in to the deal free of charge.

Even though with those basic elements covered, there was still so much
that had to be left out. There was no way to sum up the scene in a
thousand words or less, with a clever closing paragraph that neatly
tied everything together at the end.  I could write and research
and interview forever and I would only just scratch the surface.

The crux of the matter is that swinging is not a spectator sport. 
Anyone with a real interest in what it’s all about is not going to
grips with it by reading or even by talking to people and writing
articles about it. If you really want to know what it’s all about your
best course of action is to go ahead and get stuck in – so to speak.

Just ask Zoe. "Most that have explored the lifestyle have enjoyed their
experiences, although some do not mainly as one or the other partner is
unable to cope with the others enjoyment of it  –  those
people are usually in an insecure relationship to start with," 
says the lovely green eyed nymph. "As for those who haven’t experienced
the lifestyle – well they’ll just never know!"

Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s almost half two, the wife and I have a
lunchtime engagement in Fulham, and we want to get there before the
canapes are finished.