The In­dus­try of Sex­ual Fan­tasies

The low-key world where sex­ual fan­tasies are ful­filled is more com­mon than we per­ceive. We ex­plore its jar­gon, rules of trade and more


Sex clubs are not a new con­cept. The rev­e­la­tion in Jackie Phamotse’s con­tro­ver­sial book, Bare, about Joburg ’s ‘Hockey Club’ – where South Africa’s pow­er­ful men act out their sex­ual fan­tasies by re­cruit­ing young men to sleep with their wives, and also sleep with those young men – is a win­dow into the lo­cal un­der­world of var­ied sex­ual life­styles that many are obliv­i­ous to.

By def­i­ni­tion, sex clubs are for­mal and ca­sual groups that or­gan­ise sexre­lated ac­tiv­i­ties or es­tab­lish­ments that al­low their pa­trons to en­gage in sex­ual acts with each other. These vary from fully li­cenced club businesses of­fer­ing sex par­ties, so­cial gath­er­ings of peo­ple ex­plor­ing their sex­ual fetishes to on­line adult dat­ing web­sites con­nect­ing like­minded in­di­vid­u­als look­ing to sat­isfy their kinks.

It’s im­por­tant to note that a sex club is dif­fer­ent from a brothel in that, while pa­trons and in­di­vid­u­als may pay an en­trance fee or an an­nual sub­scrip­tion fee, they only have an op­por­tu­nity to have sex with other like-minded peo­ple, and not sex work­ers. This is espe­cially im­por­tant in the South African con­text where sex work and broth­els are crim­i­nalised.

There are many sex clubs in the US and Western Europe. One of the most prom­i­nent and main­stream sex clubs in the US was Plato’s Re­treat, opened in 1977 in New York and at­tract­ing many US celebri­ties. This cul­ture was thrust into the pub­lic spot­light with the Tom Cruise and Ni­cole Kid­man erotic film Eyes Wide Shut. Most re­cently, the Hol­ly­wood re­al­ity se­ries, Naked SNCTM, let cam­eras into the work­ings of the mys­te­ri­ous SNCTM, an elite mem­bers-only sex club in Los An­ge­les that now has es­tab­lish­ments in Lon­don, Moscow and Cannes.

Lo­cally, Gaut­eng is home to a num­ber of es­tab­lished sex or swinger clubs that cater to var­i­ous sex­ual fan­tasies and life­styles with the likes of Club Rome, Pharoahs and Club Poizon and oth­ers. There are nu­mer­ous adult dat­ing web­sites that cater to South African com­mu­ni­ties hop­ing to in­dulge their sex­ual ap­petites with swing­ing, BDSM, dog­ging or three­somes. There are also on­line dat­ing clas­si­fieds and so­cial me­dia plat­forms that al­low these com­mu­ni­ties to con­nect.


The sex­ual life­styles of sex clubs chal­lenge het­eronor­ma­tive ex­pe­ri­ences and of­ten em­brace con­sen­sual non-monogamy. Be­cause of the non-con­ser­va­tive and ex­plo­rative na­ture of these sex­ual fan­tasies and fetishes, sex clubs op­er­ate on a low pro­file and thrive on be­ing strictly pri­vate to en­sure the safety of their pa­trons and to pro­tect them from judge­ment and ex­po­sure — they usu­ally have strict codes of con­duct.

Joburg’s long­est-run­ning sex club, Club Rome, es­tab­lished in 1996, at­tracts high pro­file busi­ness­men, judges, and work­ing pro­fes­sion­als like teach­ers. It spe­cialises in swing­ing, BDSM and group sex par­ties. Sex is not al­ways guar­an­teed and voyeurs are wel­come to watch. No cam­eras and cell phones are al­lowed.

The sex­ual life­styles of sex clubs chal­lenge het­eronor­ma­tive ex­pe­ri­ences and of­ten em­brace con­sen­sual non­monogamy.

Ladies are the only ones al­lowed to ini­ti­ate sex. To at­tend a party at Club Rome, you have to get an in­vi­ta­tion. And to get an in­vi­ta­tion you have to pass a screen­ing test when you reg­is­ter on­line. Be­ing a mem­ber is free, but there’s a cover charge to at­tend the dif­fer­ent par­ties, which ranges from R350 per cou­ple; R250 a sin­gle gent to R100 for ladies. In­ter­na­tion­ally the in­dus­try of sex clubs, which has been op­er­at­ing a lot longer than lo­cally, can mean big busi­ness. The much-pub­li­cised SNCTM op­er­ates on an en­try level pack­age of $20 000 (about R290 000) for a year’s mem­ber­ship. The Vi­o­let Key Pack­age is a once-off pay­ment of $1 mil­lion (R15 mil­lion).

Tak­ing this fur­ther, Reuters re­ports swingers boost the busi­ness growth of US firms. Life­styles Or­gan­i­sa­tion, the US’s largest swinger ser­vices com­pany, has an­nual sales of about $15 mil­lion (R225 mil­lion) where work­ing pro­fes­sion­als spend more than $10 000 (about R145 000) a year to at­tend con­ven­tions, ho­tels and clubs where cou­ples can have sex with other part­ners, ac­cord­ing to Reuters.


Adult dat­ing web­sites, like Three­somes South Africa or No Strings Dog­ging SA, work on a mem­ber­ship and sub­scrip­tion ba­sis. You can reg­is­ter as a mem­ber to use the ser­vice for free. As a mem­ber, you have ac­cess to some but not all of the fea­tures and func­tion­al­ity of the web­site. For ex­ten­sive ac­cess to the site and its ser­vices, in­clud­ing the abil­ity to com­mu­ni­cate with other mem­bers, you must be­come a pay­ing sub­scriber.

The web­sites are af­fil­i­ated with other sim­i­lar net­works to in­crease their trac­tion and make money out of the ac­tions from their traf­fic.The terms and con­di­tions on these web­sites out­line their le­gal stand­ing in­clud­ing ad­her­ing to pri­vacy poli­cies, copy­right laws and age re­stric­tions. A num­ber of these web­sites, how­ever, are op­er­ated by com­pa­nies in the UK, US and Ger­many, who have more ex­pe­ri­ence in run­ning these kinds of businesses, and who abide by laws from their re­spec­tive coun­tries. This may have some­thing to do with the fact that South Africa is cur­rently in the process of im­ple­ment­ing leg­is­la­tion around on­line con­tent based on the Film and Pub­li­ca­tions Act 1996 (Act 65 of 1996) and the Film and Pub­li­ca­tion Board (FPB)’s on­line con­tent reg­u­la­tion pol­icy.

The Film and Pub­li­ca­tions Act of 1996 fo­cused on clas­si­fi­ca­tion and reg­u­la­tion that would pro­tect chil­dren from abuse, specif­i­cally look­ing at ex­po­sure to child pornog­ra­phy. This fo­cus also spread to new me­dia like the In­ter­net and in­cluded pro­posed en­force­ment from In­ter­net Ser­vice Providers (ISP).

The Act went through a process of amendment, and the Na­tional Assem­bly passed the Films and Pub­li­ca­tions Amendment Bill in March this year. The Bill is now with the Na­tional Coun­cil of Prov­inces for ap­proval, following which it will be signed off by the Pres­i­dent and signed into law. The Bill gives the FPB the power to prop­erly clas­sify and reg­u­late on­line con­tent dis­tri­bu­tion.


US re­searcher and so­cial psy­chol­o­gist, Dr Justin Lehmiller re­cently con­ducted a com­pre­hen­sive study in Amer­ica on sex­ual fan­tasies and pub­lished its find­ings in his book, Tell Me What You Want: The Science of Sex­ual De­sire and How It Can Im­prove Your Sex Life. The top fan­tasies re­vealed by the study in­clude:

Group sex: Rang­ing from three­somes, or­gies to gang bangs Con­trol/wild sex: In­clud­ing BDSM and light bondage

Nov­elty, ad­ven­tur­ous sex: Hav­ing sex some­where un­usual or with a new part­ner

Ta­boo and for­bid­den sex: This can in­clude voyeurism and ex­hi­bi­tion­ism Non-monogamy: Sex with some­one who is not your part­ner Pas­sion­ate and ro­man­tic sex: Feel­ing loved and ap­pre­ci­ated

Erotic flex­i­bil­ity: This in­cludes gen­der bending and same sex eroti­cism among peo­ple who don’t iden­tify as queer Some of these sex­ual fan­tasies fea­ture

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