Swinging Demographics

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As the Beatles put it (or nearly) 'All the swinging people - where do they all come from?'

Swingers are largely an invisible breed who don't want to publicise their pleasures outside the comfort-zone of their chosen clubs. SS Bal talks to the scene's owners and organisers about their guests' profiles - and why they visit.

It's getting to that moment. Animated chatting with the occasional outbreak of laughter. The clink of sparkling glasses and guests slouched back into comfy chairs.

Ahead of us, a twenty-something couple leans in to another couple at least ten years their senior. Miss twenty-something is cooing over Miss thirty-something's black silk Marc Jacobs cocktail dress. Miss thirty-something responds, stroking Miss twenty-something's Christian Louboutin high-gloss heels. Their men refill the champagne flutes from the bottle of Bollinger nestling in the ice-bucket before them.

Chinawhite? Amika? Crystal? No. This is no swish London members' club. Actually, we're in Leicestershire, at Liberty Elite swingers' club on a busy couples' night. The couples in view typify Liberty Elite's mix of age-group, background and, in short, the demographic of its members.

Making people happy...

'We attract the sort of people who are looking for a venue that has a touch of luxury and is decidedly upmarket,' says John Enis, our host and the owner of Liberty Elite. 'This encompasses people from all walks of life.We have people who are extremely rich, chatting comfortably at the bar with people who have to be very careful with their finances. The reason we're successful is that this is not just a business - this is something we all enjoy doing. Importantly, we enjoy making all our club members happy.'

There's certainly plenty of happiness about, as we move beyond the cosy confines of the lounge/bar area to the main group-room, where couples are entwined on the numerous beds provided. The babbling of water can only mean a spa - very Roman and very full. Its occupants are an interesting blend. A young Asian couple snorkels with a white middle-aged couple, while a size-zero Oriental girl nets an athletic black guy and his generously proportioned partner. Other couples simply enjoy the invigorating current of the water and atmosphere. All of life seems to be in this spa - a swirl of nationalities, physiques and ages... in fact, a microcosm of society.

Comfortable clientele

'Geographically, most of our guests live within a one-hour drive, but we attract people from as far afield as Scotland - and quite a few members fly in regularly from Ireland to spend a weekend with us,' Enis says (before explaining that the Jacuzzi filter operates on an impressive four-minute cycle). 'As you can see, we have every race, colour and creed under the sun, and they all enjoy each other's company immensely. Our records showed that we had at least twenty per cent of members in from what could be called "ethnic minority" origin.We also discourage the predatory male behaviour you see in other clubs, and the majority of single ladies come along on Fridays when we are open to single gents.'

Whether it's in the bar, the spa or the cosy bedroom-simulated playrooms upstairs, no-one seems to be at a loose end. That's not to say that it's cliquey. Quite simply, the club's been designed to invoke a laid-back, sociable atmosphere in which strangers quickly become acquaintances, and its recent £500,000 refurbishment seems to have paid considerable dividends.

Getting acquainted

Early in the night I return with drinks to find my partner talking animatedly with three girls who, just moments ago, were three strangers. The subject... the hotel-style opulence and scrupulous cleanliness of the ladies' loos.Well, it was early in the night - and once a club's passed the 'bathroom test' it can only bode well for the rest of the night - and it did! We discover that our new-found friends are in relationships ranging from 'married' to 'fuck-buddy', with only one couple living in the club's Lutterworth vicinity. Another couple, from Surrey, had decided to book a Liberty Elite hotel room and make a night of it. The vocations range from aircraft engineer to aspiring actress.

No doubt, this diverse group would be welcome at Chameleons club in Darlaston, near Birmingham. Chameleons is acknowledged by many as the benchmark for swingers' clubs and owner, Nick Griffiths, is a veteran of some twenty years' standing.

Laid out over three levels, the club's capacity is notable and Griffiths reports a membership of 16,000 couples, 10,300 singles guys and 350 single females. 'They make up an A-Z of professions and backgrounds - government officials, the police, factory workers, lawyers and teachers,' he explains.

Anyone who's visited a busy Chameleons cannot fail to note the club's kaleidoscope of swinging variety. Griffiths points out a buxom size-16ish lady in caress with her younger size-8ish companion to prove the point. 'It's what makes Chameleons work.We don't discriminate against shape, size or upper age, and our members enjoy the variety. Tonight - it's Friday - we have ninety couples in and seventy singles. You don't have to be Ken and Barbie to enjoy Chameleons although, as you can see, there are some very attractive people about.'

He's not wrong. A bevy of beauties holds court by the aquarium. One might expect these girls and their young male partners to be out dancing in Birmingham's club-land with their peers. Instead, they seem more fulfilled exhibiting their lithe frames in what look like semi-sheer, spiral-boned corsets from Agent Provocateur's 'Kate' range.

Chameleons is a preening palace for all, irrespective of age or shape. According to Griffiths, lithe or large doesn't matter here. So, does it matter all? It seems it does, as indicated by a growing outcrop of private parties for swingers.

Indulgent parties

Hedonism UK is an established locus for swingers' parties and club-nights which are held every weekend in Greater London and throughout the UK, for up to 150 guests. Venues range from luxury houses with swimming pools and spas, to classy onpremises clubs. Hedonism parties feature a mix which includes couples and exclusively bisexual female parties.

With Hedonism's current membership topping 3,000, director Derek Bromwich has an interesting vantage point over the scene. 'We see Hedonism as a broad church, where everyone can find their niche,' explains Bromwich. 'We are membership-led, and it is entirely up to the party hosts or club organisers to decide how inclusive or exclusive they wish their parties or club nights to be. Most club venues are inclusive, mainly owing to commercial considerations.'

However, where hosts wish to attract a more defined section of the demographic to their parties, the entry criteria are more stringent. 'We have noted a growing desire from some party hosts to invite a certain type of guest to their parties,' he observes. 'Approximately twenty percent of house parties have either strict age- or physicalprofile restrictions, or both, and require photos from prospective guests.We do not discourage this. However, this generally applies only to the smaller selective parties for up to twenty couples.'

Nothing personal...

He outlines the rationale for this in health and social terms. 'Levels of obesity in the country are becoming an issue. Obese people may not be offended by slim people, but many slim people are offended by obesity.

This is now a political, social and health issue, which far transcends the swing scene. The majority of swingers, in my experience, are a cross-section of Middle England, with the same prejudices and concerns as nonswingers.

They cannot be neatly packaged up into liberal, left or right - look at our stats!' Indeed, Hedonism's statistics make interesting reading (we include a sample table overleaf). Its professions category shows the self-employed leading the list and membership of females (25-29 age-group) exceeding that of their male counterparts.

Niche party recruitment

This statistic probably wouldn't surprise Nottingham-based Freja Kensington, whose parties are aimed primarily at females. Her Belle Baise parties admit only the young and attractive, as decreed by Belle Baise's judging panel. 'It is exclusive and it is elitist,' says Kensington, 'but I make no apologies for that. People who come to Belle Baise aren't looking to meet the love of their life or make deep spiritual connections. They want an erotic experience with other beautiful young people.'

Her first parties crystallised after Kensington's disillusionment with the swinging scene when she decided that it needed to be more female-responsive. 'I began to go to fetish clubs and swingers' clubs in my early twenties and, although I had great fun, I never felt particularly sexy in those environments,' she says. 'They were seedy and sometimes even grubby, and I didn't like how out-of-place and leered at I felt as a young woman. I later found myself organising parties for a small group of friends who persuaded me to try it on a larger scale.'

With this in mind, Belle Baise set about creating its sexual Utopia in which idealised perfection and fantasy indulgence were nurtured to life. 'Not many people fantasise about ugly people,' she explains quite reasonably. 'When most people fantasise about orgies, they imagine them to star a cast of good-looking playmates.What is wonderful about Belle Baise is that if you are involved in a pile-up of beautiful bodies you don't have to worry if you can't see the face of the person touching your thigh, because you know that they're attractive. This allows people to be much more uninhibited and relaxed.When people apply, they have to fill in an application form and email us a few pictures.We do this to make sure that our parties really are for the young and beautiful.

Anyone whom we feel would not be popular with the other guests is gently turned down.'

Passing the 'gorgeous' test

In her twenties also, Kensington is at particular pains to make young female guests feel at home with the environment. 'My parties are aimed at bisexual women, and I didn't want women to feel they had to wear PVC nurses' uniforms or tacky lingerie to turn on the men,' she explains. 'I wanted them to wear something that made them feel sexy and confident. I also wanted an environment that made people feel comfortable, even if they were new to swinging and weren't sure if they wanted to get involved. It's intimidating for newbies if they feel they have to wear something ultrasexual or even strip to a towel when they arrive. That's why I decided to make the dress-code cocktail- or party-dress for women and suits for men. The women dress to impress the other women rather than the men! Belle Baise is all about celebrating female sexuality. Most of the single girls who attend are interested in exploring sex with other women and relish the chance to be the centre of attention.'

Physical attraction tops the Belle Baise membership conditions, with age a close second. So, in theory, there's no reason why a thirty-five-year old Adonis shouldn't get in. 'The average age of Belle Baise guests is twenty-seven, and we aim membership at the under-thirty-fives,' says Kensington. 'The majority are under thirty, and some as young as nineteen. We don't have a strict upper age-limit, as we go on attractiveness rather than age, but it is rare that people in their late thirties or early forties are accepted unless they are exceptionally attractive.'

An elite female niche

This youthful membership displays a demographic mix of location and backgrounds - 'Guests come from all over the country - and they even fly in from Europe to be with us,' she reports. 'They are mostly well-educated - but because they are young, not all of them are wealthy. This is why I keep our ticket-price as reasonable as possible - we want the young and beautiful, rather than the rich, to apply for our parties. Many of our guests are students or professionals, early in their career. If entry was expensive, they might feel pressured to get involved to 'get their money's worth'. I like to feel that even if you don't get involved in the play, you'll still have had a great night. The value is in our beautifullyfurnished penthouse apartments, lit with dozens of candles, scattered silk cushions, fresh flowers and chilled champagne."

Evidently, drawing from such a defined sector of the public has not limited Belle Baise's guest and variety quota. 'We attract a large number of first-timers because of the low average age,' says Kensington. 'However, we have a large number of guests who frequently return, so everyone at the party is either new - or remembers what it was like to be new. I like to make sure that there are no more than around forty guests at each party. Our parties sometimes sell out months before the dates, and we have a waiting-list of people wanting to attend. I never realised that people would travel across the UK to spend the weekend in the East Midlands in order to attend an orgy!'

The good news is that, no matter where you're from or who you are, the country's swinging clubs and parties have a distinct Quality Street factor - every one is someone's favourite!

What Sort of People Swing

Hedonism UK gave us an interesting insight into the make-up of their membership from figures compiled over the last year... Take a look and draw your own conclusions - but one thing's for sure, those 'middle years' people are having a good time...

Out of the current membership:
66 per cent are couples
28 per cent are single men
6 per cent are single ladies

- At 35.71 per cent, the largest group of members were in business or self-employed.
- Almost 12 per cent of members came from the media, arts and entertainment.
- The next greatest group was banking, insurance and finance (7.68 per cent), followed by computing and IT (6.54 per cent), and advertising, marketing and sales (6.24 per cent)
- Then came construction and property (5.28 per cent), education, science and academic (5.22 per cent), and catering and services (4.98 per cent)
- The next groups were engineering (3.96 per cent), medical (3.66 per cent) and transport (2.46 per cent), law (1.8 per cent), civil service and admin (1.56 per cent each), and sport and leisure (1.48 per cent)
- Farming/agriculture and other occupations accounted for the rest of the membership

Age groups
From the total number
- At 10.48 per cent, the largest number of women are between the ages of 35 and 39
- The next largest group of women are between 40 and 44
- The figures are reversed for men, with 12.52 per cent aged 35 and 39, and 15.14 percent between 40 and 44

Of the couples
-With over 26 per cent, women between the ages of 35 and 39 were by far the largest group, followed by just over 21 per cent between 40 and 44
- At 19.3 per cent, men between the ages of 35 and 39 were the second largest group, the greatest number (29.9 per cent) were between 40 and 44

Of the singles
- There is a similar balance to the couples among women - 20 per cent between 35 and 39, and 30 per cent between 40 and 44
- Younger men come into the picture with almost 24 percent between 30 and 34 and almost 25 per cent between 35 and 39 (the figure for 45-49 year-olds drops to just over 17 per cent)