SHARE MAR­KET

THERE IT’S NOT JUST THE VOT­ERS WHO SWING IN QUEENS­LAND. WHILE THE MURDER OF MEL­BOURNE BUSI­NESS­MAN HER­MAN ROCK­E­FELLER UN­DER­LINED SWINGING’S SLEAZY SIDE, ONE BRIS­BANE CLUB IN­SISTS IT’S ALL JUST GOOD FUN.

The Advertiser - SA Weekend - - CONTENTS -

Will Storr tries to make sense of the wife-swap­ping busi­ness at a Bris­bane swingers club.

SWING

STATE

W I L L S T OR R

are a sur­pris­ing num­ber Aus­tralia’s only “coun­cil ap­proved” swingers’ club, an or­gan­i­sa­tion en­tirely de­voted to ro­man­tic an­ar­chy. The moment you walk into Cou­ples In­ter­na­tional, a two-storey con­crete unit in a small in­dus­trial park in Bris­bane, you’re con­fronted by a long list of reg­u­la­tions. You’re not al­lowed to stand too close to oth­ers; you’re not al­lowed to open doors; you’re not al­lowed to “talk nasty or hor­ri­ble of peo­ple”. To my vague dis­ap­point­ment, pa­trons are not even per­mit­ted to walk around naked.

It’s an hour be­fore open­ing and CI’s man­ager, Leesa Horn – a 45-year-old grandma with a heavy black fringe, dusky eye­shadow and a low-cut leopard print dress – is show­ing me around her in­ner-city Wool­loongabba club, open Fri­day and Satur­day nights. She takes me up to the sec­ond floor and down a red-lit cor­ri­dor lined with rooms, each of which con­tains a low bed with a pas­tel blue hand­towel folded into a pretty but­ter­fly shape on the edge. There are no locks on the doors and any­one who opens or even knocks on a closed one will be evicted. “But if it’s open, you can go in,” Horn says. “Peo­ple might be play­ing. You don’t talk. They want to be watched – they don’t want to be in­ter­rupted.” She turns to me with ac­cus­ing eyes. “OK?”

I feel un­ac­count­ably ashamed. “Yes, yes,” I say. “Of course.”

As we make our way back down­stairs, Horn points out the mas­sage ta­ble; the we­b­cam room; the bondage mez­za­nine. “It’s not all about sex, you know,” she says as we de­scend into the main club, with its non-stop pornog­ra­phy tele­vi­sion screen and its stage with two steel writhing-poles. I don’t know quite how to re­spond. “It isn’t?”

of rules in

DAV I D K E L LY

“Of course not,” she says. “It’s about go­ing out, hav­ing fun, meet­ing other cou­ples, and go­ing home again.” To me, this whole place is so strange and con­trary that right now I’m will­ing to be­lieve al­most any­thing. Ex­cept that it’s not all about sex. Swinging is be­yond my com­pre­hen­sion be­cause I sim­ply can­not imag­ine any sce­nario in which I’d feel com­fort­able leas­ing my fi­ancee out to a stranger. And in this, surely, I’m typ­i­cal. In most cul­tures, the very ma­chin­ery of love is built on the idea of sex­ual ex­clu­siv­ity.

That’s the dream, the goal, the beau­ti­ful ideal. That’s the prom­ise we make one an­other when we fall in love – you, for­ever, and no­body else. I don’t think I’d re­cover if I was made to watch an­other man be­com­ing bi­o­log­i­cally in­volved with my part­ner. My heart would sim­ply fail.

Horn and her shaven-headed hus­band of 18 years, 58-year-old Bryan, have owned CI since 2003. Sit­ting down with them, I’m dis­ap­pointed to dis­cover their proud boast of be­ing “coun­cil-ap­proved” refers to a suc­cess­ful zon­ing ap­pli­ca­tion, and not to the coun­cil some­how for­mally ap­prov­ing of sex par­ties. When I ask how long they’ve been swingers, Leesa frowns. “We don’t re­ally cat­e­gorise our­selves as swingers,” she says.

I rub my eyes, the con­fu­sion bub­bling gen­tly in my brain. “I don’t un­der­stand,” I say.

I turn to Bryan. “Are you a swinger?” He gives me a with­er­ing look. “Look, I don’t even know what ‘swinger’ means,” he says, fold­ing his arms. “You’re putting a mean­ing on it. You’re think­ing we all put our keys in a bowl . . .”

“I’ll tell you what I mean by ‘ swinger’,” I say. “You in­vite other in­di­vid­u­als to share in your love life.” There’s a si­lence. Then he bright­ens. “That’s ex­actly right.”

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