For the first time since a naturist spa in Kent announced it would be hosting an orgy-cum-cancer-research-fundraiser, Britain's swinging community has hit the headlines. On Wednesday, it was reported that a man named Roy Maggs had unsuccessfully attempted to sue the annual three-day sex festival, Swingfields, after they refused him entry to the event in July of last year.
Turns out that although Maggs had shelled out £127.85 for an "Earlybird Gentleman's Ticket", he had failed to read small print stipulating that would-be single male punters needed to provide two character references to guarantee entry.
The thought of a disappointed Mr Maggs skulking off from the Swingfields site, crestfallen, the pockets of his leather coat weighed down with unused lube and rubbers, is a very sad one. So sad, in fact, that it felt necessary to compile a guide to swingers etiquette, in the hope that no other unfortunate soul ends up committing a sex party faux-pas and being turned away before they can even take their clothes off.
1: BE HYGIENIC... A no-brainer, surely? Apparently not. There are people out there – grubby bastard people – who step out of the house in search of indiscriminate sex without showering first.
"Freshening up your bits is essential," says Charles, a man I met last year while researching an article on Club 487, the South London porn cinema. "Here's a tip: bring a can of talc with you and dab it on before you hit the venue. It'll dry you out and make you smell of lilacs. Lovely!"
2: WRAP UP AND BRING YOUR OWN TOYS Another no-brainer. Most clubs have condoms discreetly placed around the place in handy bowls, so you should be OK, but make sure you bring your own stash just in case. There's no point in going to a sex party if you can't have sex with anyone. Another note on preparation: don't rely on the venue to supply vibrators, nipple clamps or any other paraphernalia you might require. Bring your own. And don't get too eager. As Nina, a regular attendee of swingers events in Manchester and London, says: "Toys have their place at an orgy, but always ask before using them on anyone."
3: HAVE A HIGH DISAPPOINTMENT THRESHOLD Don't go out expecting Eyes Wide Shut, or, for that matter, anything resembling the idea you have in your head; you're much more likely to find a room full of people who look like your aunts and uncles. While there are many very beautiful people into swinging – and upmarket events that cater to them, such as Killing Kittens and Elite Parties – chances are your average local sex party will be a little more low-key. Realise, too, that group sex is not always what it's cracked up to be. Dave, another swinger friend, says: "I had a threesome on two occasions, both of which rank very high on my list of most profound regrets."
4: GET THE MOST ATTRACTIVE PARTNER TO APPROACH OTHER COUPLES Assuming you go as a couple (going as a single guy isn't a great look, and going as a single girl will invite mass attention, which you may or may not be comfortable with), it's a good rule of thumb to get the most attractive of you to approach the other couples in the room. "Ange always goes in first," says Charles of his wife. "Charms them. She's not a bad looker still, and that reels them in."
5: LEAVE YOUR SMARTPHONE IN THE CLOAKROOM Perhaps unsurprisingly, devices with inbuilt cameras and social media apps are not at all welcome at swingers events. Photographing and then sharing a scene – even if it's one you are involved with – is not OK.
"Even putting out a clip on Snapchat is a no-no," says Charles.
6: LEAVE WHEN YOU'RE DONE The whole point of anonymous sex is that it's anonymous. After you've finished with another couple, don't make the mistake of trying to hang out with them. Familiarity breeds contempt, after all. And also: it's just kind of awkward and weird – nobody likes a hanger-on, especially when they're naked and grinning at you.
On the same note: don't let your conversations before or after get too deep – much better to leave things shallow and superficial, according to swinger Bern.
7: NO MEANS NO The final rule, but quite obviously the most important. Swingers events may be populated by people who are generous with the physical expression of their sexuality, but they are never a free-for-all. Unless you get unequivocal consent, then back the fuck off. As Nina says: "I'm always in a good mood at parties, but try to touch me without my consent and I will Chinese-burn your balls