Partner-swapping is more mainstream than you think, yes even in Malaysia, and the couple you are about to meet swears it helped their marriage.
I brace myself as I walk up to the door of the upscale apartment block. Elaborate scenarios play through my head. Will I be greeted by a naked person? If so, I mentally note to stare at said person’s teeth to survive the interview. What if I’m initiated into a circle of hooded figures standing in a dark room surrounded by candles à la Eyes Wide Shut? Before I can plan a believable escape route, the door opens.
“Come on in, make yourself at home. Would you like some water?” says Joan*, who’s wearing jeans and a T-shirt as I step into her (thankfully) well-lit living room. “Or would you care for a drink? We have soft drinks and tea,” says her husband, Adam*, who looks like he’s just come home from the office in a smart shirt and trousers. They are unassumingly welcoming even though I’m about to grill them on their sex life and look socially obtuse as all of my idiotic presumptions go out the window.
At first glance, it’s hard to imagine these two stripping down and getting it on with complete strangers. Joan, at 33, is beautiful and chic but in a wholesome way. With her long wavy hair and killer smile, she looks as though she’s usually the subject of guy crushes. And it wouldn’t be unfathomable if Adam inspires office gossip. At 40, he is six feet tall and in better shape than most guys half his age. He comes off as caring and straightforward as he sits next to Joan on the sofa and lovingly slips his arm around her as she nuzzles into his shoulder. I’m confused. They look like any happily-married couple, which makes what I know about their sex life even more baffling. Why would two contented, married people need to have sex with other married people?
“A few years ago, we started having problems in our marriage,” says Adam, who has been with Joan for 12 years and married for six. “We’d been together so long that we stopped appreciating each other sexually.” Joan agrees, “I experienced an all-time low in my libido. I didn’t feel sexy even though he often told me I was. Sex became a chore for me, and I’m sure for Adam it was difficult to see me so unattached.
Lack of bedroom activity led to cracks in other parts of the marriage: they started having petty arguments and spending more time apart. “I love Joan so much it would break my heart to cheat on her. Yet I felt I wasn’t getting what I needed,” confesses Adam. Realising they were on dangerous ground, they broached the subject of revamping their sex life, which led to webcam sessions and watching others online. When they agreed it was helping and wanted something in real life, they set some ground rules before they had their first meeting. Since then, they have been inching their way into ‘swinging’, only having recently contemplated intercourse (so far, they’ve engaged in oral sex and foreplay). “It’s rejuvenated our marriage,” explains Joan. “We’ve seen a lot of our friends’ marriages end because they got stuck in a rut. I think it’s important to try something new together, whatever it is.” Adam adds, “Swinging does sound crazy to most people and we are not promoting it. We have seen couples who couldn’t handle seeing their partner with someone else, which worsened their problems. You have to be clear on boundaries and to commit to it 100 per cent. We don’t have any children so it doesn’t feel weird. If we have feelings for someone else, we stop immediately. It’s made us brutally honest. We also do everything together or not at all.”
So, how does one get swinging? “The Internet,” answers Joan. “We checked out ads posted on websites and went from there.” Swingers website adultfriendfinder.com claims more than 42 million accounts worldwide, with 380,458 members in Malaysia alone currently. Profiles are categorised even by state and partner preferences. A Google search for ‘swingers in Malaysia’ comes up with 4.36 million hits. For an underground movement, it doesn’t seem highly secretive. Yet Joan and Adam are only willing to let me interview them if I don’t disclose their real names and address. They claim this is to protect their identity. And none of their family or close friends are privy to their unorthodox lifestyle. “They think we’re just another boring, married couple,” says Joan, laughing. “And for the most part, we are.” Adam tells me he is a business owner and his wife works in marketing for a large fi rm. Still, they admit to having worries of bumping into someone they know at one of these gatherings, so tourists or out-of-towners are preferable.
They assure me it’s not Gothic couples or people with leather outfits who constitute the participants. In fact, it is mostly professionals, successful business people or prominent corporate fi gures, who are responsible, courteous and open-minded. Sometimes it’s a private meeting between two couples, but usually after being confirmed in a swingers club, there can be up to 10 couples at a time. Health and safety are strictly regulated and condoms and towels are compulsory at every meeting. ‘Items’ like toys, drinks and finger food are allowed. They tell me it’s usually held at hotels, with the costs split among them. Every couple initiated into a club has been referred and been approved by the organiser. Most importantly, etiquette is paramount. “Anytime anybody is not comfortable, you can always say no. You can be as passive or active as you want,” adds Joan. Adam relishes their secret swinger status. He talks about the guys at work being “sex-starved” and how they go nuts when a hot girl walks by. “I don’t act like them because I’m satisfied,” he says, looking at Joan, who blushes.
*Names have been changed.