By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
NEW ORLEANSI've been to swingers' parties before but never to a full-scale swing convention. When I was invited to teach sex workshops at the fifth annual "N'awlins in November" (neworleansinnovember.com), I checked out the website: It promised four days of classes, themed dance parties, and the world's first and only Swinger's Pride Parade down Bourbon Street. Over 1,600 swingers were set to take over an entire hotel and invade Louisiana: How could I miss that?
While I can't pass up an opportunity to immerse myself in another sexual subculture, I had a few reservations. What troubles me about swingers is that while I consider them a sexual minority, a community whose members behave in ways outside the norm, the majority don't see themselves that way. In general, swingers are quite invested in being straight, and I don't mean just hetero. They are married, taxpaying homeowners with kids and careers and 401(k)'s. They are normal folks who happen to enjoy having sex with people other than their spouses, which, according to them, makes them fun loving, not radical. While some who swing consider themselves polyamorous, most are very committed to monogamy: They're emotionally monogamous and sexually non-monogamous. There is also an insidious double standard when it comes to homo activity: The girls can do other girls, but the guys cannot do other guys. If there are bi men, and there have to be, they are closeted. I want swingers to be more politically conscious and active than they are. I want them to see their commonalities with queer people, cross-dressers, and leatherfolk, all of whom can and do face discrimination when "outed" to conservative neighbors, employers, and communities.
When I first arrived at "N'awlins in November," I wanted to put my assumptions aside, meet people, hear what they love about their lifestyle, and embrace the experience to its fullest. Bob and his wife, Tess, the festival's producers, represent the new generation of swingers, and they are spearheading the movement to join forces with GLBT and leather communities to create an activist coalition. I was hopeful that the event would reflect the fact that they get it. But my idealist wishes faced a few roadblocks. First, this was for "couples only," and although I am part of a couple, it's not the swinger-defined heterosexual kind. I'm a queer girl with an FTM (female to male) trannie boyfriend. Most people there assumed that my partner was either an underage boy ("Son, you shouldn't be here, you're not legal!") or a butch dyke ("Are you two from San Francisco?"), neither of which made sense to them. Second, although the crowd was much more attractive and stylish than the typical stereotypes, the median age of most people there was about 45. I was beginning to feel like Paris Hilton on the farm in Arkansas.
The transforming moment for me came in my class on G-spot stimulation and female ejaculation when over a hundred people crammed themselves into a small room to hear me talk. I took advantage of the venue and offered a hands-on section at the end of the class. The next thing I knew, women were dropping their drawers, lube was being passed around, and I was moving from one pussy to the next. One woman in her sixties confessed that orgasms eluded her most of the time. When I got done with her, she was coming like a banshee, and her husband was taking notes on my technique. I located the G-spots of more than two dozen women, and made sure to show their partners how to find them. During these encounters, the best of swinghood emerged. I was surrounded by people open enough to be naked and sexual in a room full of friends and strangers; to ask important but sometimes embarrassing questions; to learn and try new things; to delve head first into their own erotic self-discovery. They demonstrated their skills in honest communication and negotiation, which, for the record, lots of people don't have when it comes to sex. (In fact, all were very polite and respectful. Of everyone I met, only one guy out of 800 was a creep with no boundaries.)
Later that night, I ventured into the hospitality suites. Ordinarily at conventions, the hospitality suite consists of a bowl of pretzels, some flat soda, and a volunteer in a hotel room. At this event, hospitality suites were a euphemism for sex playrooms. Everyone had to check their street clothes at the door and change into underwear or birthday suits. I opted for my black patent leather open-toed platforms and a magenta boa I wore to the Mardi Gras-themed dance. I ambled down the hall and peeked inside each door; some were large conference rooms with several beds lined up next to one another, others were smaller, with one or two beds. Although it was still early, there was plenty of action going on, fucking in every position imaginable. Even Bob, the producer of the event, said to me, "I've never seen this much sex happen at this event or any other. It's amazing!" That came as a surprise to me since I'd just assumed there was a crazy amount of shagging at swing events, but evidently they are usually much more social, and if sex does happen, it's usually in people's hotel rooms, not in the public spaces.