The Showdown: Hedonism II vs Desire Pearl

Picassso LE SAUVETAGE 1932

Pablo Picasso, LE SAUVETAGE, 1932

HER: If you’re a regular consumer of lifestyle podcasts and blogs, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Desire is the only swinger-friendly resort out there. When Hedonism does get mentioned, it’s quite often in a dismissive fashion. It’s as if all the cool kids are hanging out in Cancun, Mexico while the wannabe’s are relegated to Negril, Jamaica.

HIM: I have to admit, that attitude makes me feel a little defensive of Hedonism. Of course it has its weaknesses, but we have so much history there. However, after ten trips to Jamaica in four years, even I had to admit it was time for a change. So, instead of spending New Year’s Eve at Hedo this year, as we usually do, we opted to book a week at Desire Riviera Maya Pearl.

HER: After all, we’re swingers: our life is about trying new things. If we aren’t willing to be monogamous sexually, we certainly aren’t going to be faithful to a single resort.

HIM: And, while we tried to enjoy the experience on its own terms — just as we would a new partner — comparisons were inevitable. We were definitely keeping score.

WEATHER

HER: Let’s face it: weather is a big deal when it comes to a beach vacation. So I wondered at the wisdom of our choice when we arrived at the Cancun airport. It was windy, cool and very rainy. We spent the whole first day in our room, waiting out the storm.

The weather when we arrived in Cancun was less than ideal

HIM: It’s not like we don’t see rain in Negril; however, it tends to roll in with lots of warning, and stay for only a couple of hours. And it never feels cool, even at night. While we spent a wet, windy week in Cancun, with only one truly hot day, Negril is dependably hot, dry and calm.

Hedo: 1, Desire: 0

SERVICE

HER: I do have to credit Desire with having very good service, and that was evident from the moment we arrived. We were checked in immediately, with no waiting like we often have at Hedo. We were even brought glasses of champagne while we completed the process: a nice touch. And we saw that attentiveness all week long.

HIM: But I can’t help but wonder if all that courtesy was designed for one purpose only: to get us to buy an expensive, ten-year vacation membership at Desire. This is seriously a big, big problem. As soon as we were assigned our rooms, we were handed off to a young gentleman whose only job was to get us to agree to sit through a one-hour presentation on the merits of  making a major financial commitment to the resort. It was as if they were saying ‘now that you’ve been here for 20 minutes, surely you would like to return again and again and again’. When we tried to decline, he made a heart-tugging appeal, stating that it would be better for him if we just said yes. We wanted that hour for ourselves. We didn’t want to have to be any given place at any given time on our precious week away.

HER: Ironically, in a place where consent is touted as ‘the golden rule’, where ‘no means no,’ ‘yes’ was the only answer the young man would take, and we bowed to the pressure like the guilty minded first-worlders we are. To use the word coercion would not be out of place. Two days later we sat through what turned out to be a two and a half hour hard sell of astonishing complexity. The bottom line was that they wanted us to make a $34,000 commitment on the spot.

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The (mainly decorative) main pool at Hedo

HIM: Even though I have an MBA, I felt incapable of assessing the value of the membership without creating a multi-tab spreadsheet. The deal had more moving parts than a cross-jurisdictional corporate merger. And then it occurred to me: any deal that requires that much math is never good news for the customer.

HER: The verdict on this one is tough. I’d say the daily service at Hedo is not as consistently attentive as it is at Desire. But, importantly, there’s never any pressure to sit through an organized up-sell. This is a huge factor. Another point in Hedo’s favour is that tipping is not allowed there. On the other hand, it is encouraged at Desire, which becomes a hassle when you have to carry small bills around with you all the time, and then you have to decide who gets a tip for what. So, I think Hedo gets the point here.

Hedo: 2, Desire: 0

 

FOOD

HER: I’d heard that dinner at Desire was an upscale affair. But I was disappointed when I arrived in my little dress and heels at the Aphrodite restaurant by the beach. It was nearly empty, and those guests who were there were in shorts and flip flops. This was not the look I had expected, and I felt a little self-conscious that I had bothered to curl my hair.

HIM: Sweetie, looking good is never a crime. And that mild awkwardness is just part of figuring out a new environment.

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The seafood course at Hedo’s New Year’s Celebration Dinner (pictured above) was pretty comparable to Desire’s offerings

HER: I guess. Our special New Year’s Eve dinner the next night, however, was spectacular. Served at tables artfully arranged around the pool, the food was tasty and well-presented (in spite of the hair that kept getting blown into my face by the non-stop wind).

HIM: I agree. In fact, I’d have to say that the quality of food at the a la carte restaurants at Desire was consistently higher than Hedo. As for the breakfast and lunch buffets, they were probably equally good quality, with Hedo offering more options (like the always popular omelette and pasta bars).

HER: Well, I’ll take Jamaican food over Mexican any time, but that’s just a personal preference. For me, it’s just not a lifestyle vacation until I’m eating jerk chicken naked on the beach. One other thing I really missed was my late-night chicken wings at the beach grill, a staple of our post-debauchery routine at Hedonism. The room-temperature taco I had at Desire at 3:00am didn’t have the same kind of comfort food appeal. Still, overall, I think this point has to go to Desire.

Hedo: 2, Desire: 1

 

PROPERTY

HIM: One of the things we hear a lot from people who love Desire is that the accommodations are far better. But again, the reality did not live up to the hype. The room was clean and adequate to our needs, but neither more spacious nor luxurious than the rooms at Hedonism. I think people who make these judgments must be basing them on the condition of Hedo’s rooms at the lowest point of management neglect many years ago. Since the new owners took over, many of the rooms have been completely renovated, and all of them have at least been refreshed.

HER: I do have to say that Desire has bathtubs, and Hedo doesn’t. So if you are the type of person who likes to have a long soak in your room (after spending the day soaking in the pool and the night soaking in the hot tub), well, Desire is your place. And, if you really enjoy baths (and paying extra for things), Desire does offer a range of accommodation options. Master suites have two baths and are the size of two regular rooms. And the penthouse suites have luxurious stone soaker tubs and private rooftop jacuzzis so you can be submerged every waking hour. That variety of accommodation simply isn’t available at Hedo. However, with prices already sky-high at New Years, we opted for the entry-level room and just had sex with people who had the bigger suites so we could experience the full range. 😉

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The view from the landing outside our room at Desire Pearl.

HIM: It’s also worth mentioning that the grounds are noticeably better groomed at Hedo. The layout is more spacious and open, and there are gardens to explore. We were surprised to find that when we left our room at Desire each morning, the view from the top of the stairs included a gigantic septic tank (or something resembling that) and other mechanical infrastructure. This stuff is all kept modestly hidden at Hedonism.

HER: For us, Hedo edged ahead of Desire in this category.

Hedo: 3, Desire: 1

BEACH

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The beach at Desire Pearl

HER: While this may fit under the grounds/property heading, I think the beach is important enough to warrant its own section here. I love the ocean. I love sitting in lounge chairs watching the pelicans dive, the sand between my toes; I love floating in the salty water, snorkeling, kayaking, swimming through caves, and catamaran cruising. All of these things are part of what I love about the sheltered Seven-Mile beach that Hedonism sits on. And none of these things were possible at Desire. The beach is heaped with seaweed, which also makes swimming unappealing, and the rough waters are not conducive to snorkeling or boating. I thought this could be a function of the season we visited, but repeat guests admit it’s a weakness of the resort.

HIM: Hedo wins hands down here. They’ve been gifted with a fabulous natural beach, and they work hard every day to keep it pristine.

Hedo: 4, Desire: 1

A quarter of the calm, pristine beach at Hedo

POOLS/HOT TUBS

HIM: I, on the other hand, am not much of a beach (or water) person. However, I have learned that, at lifestyle resorts, it’s all about the pool and hot tub scenes. These are where connections are made.

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Lounging by the massive main pool at Desire Pearl

HER: In this respect, Desire Pearl is the clear winner. Hedo actually has four pools, but the pool and hot tub areas at Desire are definitely bigger and nicer than the nude pool at Hedonism. The pool attendants find you chairs and manage the umbrellas at Desire, which is a welcome change from the competitive chair wrangling we’ve often had to do on our own at Hedo. And the beds beside the hot tub are very convenient for a quick hook up when you meet an amazing couple in the hot tub who you just can’t let escape (we used them for this twice!).

Hedo: 4, Desire: 2

PLAYROOMS

HIM: Speaking of sex (this is all about sex, right?), one of the recent additions to Hedonism that we love is the couples-only playroom. They have transformed the spa, which has an open air courtyard with shallow pools, by lining the floors with mattresses. They also have a separate room for a mild ‘dungeon’ with a sex swing, a spanking horse, tiered beds, and a shower. We’ve spent many nights there, either with other couples, or just the two of us, enjoying sex under the stars surrounded by other people doing the same thing.

HER: The ‘playroom’ at Desire, however, is a tiny, horseshoe-shaped storage closet off the bar at the disco. It’s lined with deep couches (not beds). We only went there once. We were one of three couples, and it felt like that was pretty much as many as the room could handle. When we talked about the playroom with our fellow guests at Desire, most did not know it even existed.

Hedo: 5, Desire: 2

DISCO

HIM: We love to dance, and it’s always been a source of disappointment for us that the disco at Hedonism is rarely used. It’s a sad sight most nights: the music is pounding and the lights are flashing, but like a scene from the ‘Left Behind’ movie, there are no human beings in sight. At Desire, the disco is popular, which is a welcome change.

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The dependable Hedo sunset

HER: True. One of the things we’ve always heard about Desire is that, because the resort is relatively small, people tend to travel together and follow the same schedule, and the disco is part of that circuit. On the first night, I was thrilled to see so many people dancing. The problem came when we returned night after night to hear the same, tired playlist. You know the one: Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ “Can’t Hold Us,” LMFAO’s “Sexy and I know It,” Big and Rich’s “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy,” and then every song ever released with Pitbull in it. Every sex club we’ve ever been to seems to have pulled from the same online ‘sexy playlist’. Unfortunately, this is the stuff they played every night without variation at Desire. EVERY NIGHT. Of course, I can’t entirely fault Desire for this. It’s a universal problem. But can you imagine how great it would be if, say, the playlist were to change once in a while? Like, maybe rotate through a few different genres? And maybe get a DJ who can handle transitions between songs?! Gah! That would make such a difference! (Sorry — pet peeve) Both resorts are equally guilty of lack of imagination, but Desire gets this point for putting bodies on the dancefloor.

Hedo: 5, Desire 3

ENTERTAINMENT

HIM: Both resorts have entertainment crews responsible for the daily activities that keep guests engaged, and for performing various shows in the evenings. It takes a versatile group of individuals to cover all these roles, and they work very hard. The crew at Desire does a solid job, for sure, but they don’t have a star personality to match Hedonism’s one-in-a-million Winston, and they don’t have a show to compete with Dirty Diana’s outrageously erotic ‘Milk Dance’ (if you haven’t seen it, it’s basically an extended visual metaphor for two men coming all over a woman’s body, improbably delivered with class and style).

HER: I love that routine. Another big difference for me was the fact that there is a proper stage for the crew to perform on (and for the audience to comfortably sit in front of) at Hedonism. At Desire, we had to stand around the dance floor in the disco for the shows. It wasn’t a great set-up. So I would say that, in terms of the entertainment crews, this is an example of one competitor doing very well, and the other doing very, very, very well.

Hedo: 6, Desire: 3

GUESTS

HIM: Perhaps the number one complaint that we hear about Hedonism is that they welcome single men, something that Desire does not permit. I have ambivalent feelings about this. We have definitely encountered the stereotypical creepy single guy at Hedonism, robotically stroking his cock as he edges closer and closer to you in the hot tub.

HER: Don’t forget the vacant stare. That’s pretty sexy.

HIM: But we’ve also had some great experiences with single guys. I’m talking about the ones who play their part with humility, good humour, and respect.

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The not-so-swimmable beach at Desire Pearl

HER: We had a very sexy encounter with one at Hedonism. He was a single dad, a busy professional who just didn’t feel he had the time for a relationship at home. He told us that he treated himself to vacations at Hedo so he could enjoy some zero-commitment sexual connections in the sun. He was sweet and unassuming, with an attention getting cock. That’s not to say I haven’t felt creeped out a couple times by dudes ogling us while we fool around on the edge of the hot tub, but, now that they have the couples-only playroom at Hedo, you don’t have to give those guys a show if you don’t want to.

HIM: As for the rest of the guests, we have always heard Desire described as place for ‘more upscale’ travellers. This made us a little uncomfortable. The implication is that only ‘downmarket’ people go to Hedonism. But we were there. We’re pretty cool.

HER: And I’ve always loved the way pretensions drop away with your clothes. When you’re naked, you can only make an impression with who you are, not who you’re wearing. I care more about your kindness than what kind of car you drive. So the classist undertones of this comparison irked me. Besides, the resorts are almost equally (exorbitantly) priced, so this strikes me as another outdated stereotype.

HIM: The truth is, swingers tend to be interesting people regardless of their social status. Whether you’re meeting them at Hedo or Desire, you know you’re going to enjoy a lively conversation with a bit of naughtiness for good measure. So this is a close one, but I have to give the edge to Desire. You might miss the energy that the best single guys can bring to a lifestyle environment, but you’ll never have those uncomfortable moments.

Hedo: 6, Desire: 4

THE VERDICT

HER: We have a winner! It’s Hedonism with 6 points over Desire with 4.

HIM: But, hold on. While I agree with everything we’ve just said, I have to admit that something interesting happened over the course of our week at Desire. Once I got past all the ways it didn’t measure up to Hedonism, it dawned on me that I was having my best lifestyle vacation ever. I don’t know if it’s because of a change in me, or if there was something special about Desire that transcended our tidy categories, but I have to give Desire a lot of credit.

HER: What was the difference for you?

HIM: It’s hard to put my finger on it, but everything somehow came easier both socially and sexually at Desire. Am I delusional, or did you feel the same thing?

HER: Honestly, I didn’t feel a difference. We did make some great connections, and I think I had more sex with other people on this trip than I have in any of our trips to Hedo, but I don’t feel like the resort was the reason. I really think we’ve come a long way in terms of lifestyle confidence since last year. We probably would have had the same level of success no matter where we vacationed. The truth is, you can’t make a mistake choosing either resort.

HIM: Ok. Well, let me put the question another way: sometime next winter, we’re going to take another lifestyle vacation. If it was entirely up to you, where would you choose: Desire Pearl or Hedonism II?

HER: Neither. Let’s try Desire Riviera Maya!

HIM: I should have seen that coming. You really are all about variety, aren’t you?

HER: What can I say? I’m kind of a slut.

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Podcast-A-Palooza

AA_George Grosz Drawing

George Grosz, “Ménage-à-trois (Eva, Lotte and George)”, 1927 

HER: Sitting in the Metro Burger Bar at LaGuardia airport, we’re doing what we always do after a lifestyle event: talking incessantly about it. So while the details are fresh in our minds, we thought we’d jot down the highlights of the first ever Podcast-A-Palooza.

Wait, what was Podcast-A-Palooza, you ask?  Well, it was all about meeting and sharing and learning, to be sure, but it ultimately led to podcasters doing dirty things to other podcasters. Continue reading

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Four Crazy Weekends

Lisa Yuskavage Bonfire, 2013–15

Lisa Yuskavage, BONFIRE, 2013-15

HER: As we looked back over our last few articles, we realized there hasn’t been much sexiness. But that doesn’t mean we’ve been behaving ourselves. Quite the contrary, actually. We’ve been very busy. Last month was one for the record books – four lifestyle events, four weekends in a row. So, for our sixtieth article (trumpet flourish), here are the highlights. Continue reading

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Assault and Harassment: Every Woman’s Story

Rape of Lucrecia

Palma Giovani, THE RAPE OF LUCRECIA, 1570

HER: Like many women, I have watched in horror and awe the events of the last year. The wave of protests and #MeToo stories sparked by the Harvey Weinstein case (which broke almost exactly one year ago) seemed to crash over the rocks of the recent Brett Kavenaugh confirmation hearings. Just when we thought things were changing, that our voices were being heard and taken seriously, a three-time accused sexual offender is confirmed as a Supreme Court Judge. Continue reading

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The Hot-Button issue of ‘Hot-Wifing’

Pierre Bonnard, MAN AND WOMAN, 1900

Estimated reading time: 11 minutes

HER: You don’t have to spend much time on non-monogamy blogs, chatrooms, or podcasts to come across the idea of wife-sharing. Search #hotwife or #sharedwife, and you’ll get a myriad of videos and erotica, often including words like ‘bull’ and ‘cuckold’. We’re not fans of the shaming that is often inherent in these scenarios, but we have talked about the possibility of sending me off on a date with another man. It’s an idea that I had put off for ‘maybe someday,’ but I recently got an offer I had trouble refusing. That offer forced us to confront my fears about opening us up to new possibilities in the world of wife sharing. Continue reading

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Dick Pics

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Andy Warhol, Penis (Diptych), 1977

HIM: We recently watched the movie ‘Weiner’, a documentary directed by Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg. You probably remember the story of Anthony Weiner, the New York state congressman who fell from grace in 2011 after he tweeted a picture of his bulging underwear to a woman who was not his wife. Two years after that fiasco, he decided to stage a comeback by running for Mayor of New York City, and that’s where the documentary picks up the story. We see him leading in the polls when more women come forward with still more explicit photos, many of them sent by Weiner after he promised voters he had changed his ways. His campaign implodes before our eyes.

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Toronto, North America’s Sex Club Capital

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George Grosz, ‘Far in the South, beautiful Spain’, 1919

HER: If you’re in the market for a sexy vacation, but you haven’t got the budget for a European or Carribean getaway, please allow me to suggest something a little different. I’m talking about a city where you will find the greatest concentration of sex clubs in North America. No, it isn’t Las Vegas or New York City or New Orleans … it’s Toronto.  Continue reading

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Sex Party Etiquette

Cecily Brown Untitled 2013

Cecile Brown, UNTITLED, 2003

HER: Summer is the season for backyard barbecues and pool parties. So, if your friend group includes people who like to get naked together, it also means it’s the season for swinger parties. Thanks to the suggestion of our podcasting friends, Bed Hoppers UK, we’re going to outline some of the rules of etiquette for house parties based on our experience as both party hosts and guests.

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Pool Party IV: Perfection

Franco Fontana PISCINA 1984

Franco Fontana, PISCINA (SWIMMING POOL), 1984

HER:  If you’re a member of the lifestyle community, you may have attended events and fantasized about being the one at the centre of it all. You may even have looked around and thought, ‘If I were the host, I’d do it better’. Well, we were arrogant enough to believe that of ourselves, but, along the way, we’ve discovered that it isn’t as simple as inviting a bunch of swingers and feeding them. No, there’s definitely a learning curve. But after recently hosting our fifth Sexy House Party in three years, it now feels like we’ve perfected the recipe for an all-fun, no-drama event.

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Unprotected Sex

B Tompkins Fuck Painting no52 2014

Betty Tompkins, FUCK PAINTING no 52, 2014

HIM: The subject of unprotected sex is an open and closed case for most lifestyle commentators. Just never, ever do it … except with your long-term, exclusive partner. The risk of an STD is simply too great. It’s an easy, one-size-fits-all approach that is criticism proof. But like most easy answers, the reality is somewhat messier. Continue reading

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