HIM: Ok, for starters – I hate the term ‘lifestyle’. It seems like a terribly vague way to label the complexity of a person’s sexual choices. Just think about the inane associations conjured by the phrases suburban lifestyle or active lifestyle. But this is especially true of what was once referred to as swinging but is now simply know as ‘the lifestyle’. For better or worse, it has become a catch-all term for people with a wide variety of interests: swapping, orgies, threesomes, cuckolding, exhibitionism, bondage and domination, etc. About the only thing that unites these people is discontentment with the sexual status quo and a willingness to push the generally accepted boundaries. So, for lack of an alternative, I’m calling this whole mash-up ‘the lifestyle’ under protest. Just so you know.
HER: Are you finished your little rant?
HIM: Yes. As with any subculture, people in the lifestyle often feel isolated by their preferences and inevitably look for opportunities to be with like-minded individuals. Sex clubs or parties are one way to do that, but nothing is as immersive as the 24 hour a day lifestyle vacation.
HER: When we were planning our first beach vacation together, you suggested Hedonism II in Jamaica. I had heard of it, of course – many people have. It’s got a notorious reputation as a place of constant and unchecked debauchery. This actually sounded good to me, until I looked at the pictures of the resort and the price. The rooms looked dated and the prices were up there with other 5-star all-inclusive resorts. Why, I asked, would we want to pay that kind of money for a place that looked more like a three-star? We ended up in Barbados… and it was fine.
But on the next trip, after getting a little further into our alternative sexual adventures, and comparing the options, we decided to give Hedonism a shot. After all, if the unchecked debauchery proved to be more than we could handle, we could huddle together for safety on the ‘prude side’ of the resort. At worst, we’d have the sun and sand we craved, and some safe voyeuristic opportunities.
HIM: That’s the thing that struck me immediately about Hedo (only outsiders call it by its full name). If you want, you can choose to have a totally traditional beach vacation on the clothing optional side of the resort. Enjoy the sun and the ocean, keep your bathing suit on, and interact in a strictly platonic way with your fellow guests. You might see some people more scantily clad than usual in the dining hall, but no one will bother you.
However, if you want to step beyond the typical beach vacation, you can head over to the ‘nude’ side of the resort. There, you will have to take your clothes off (it is actually against the rules to wear anything!), but you have the option of simply enjoying the sun on your exposed skin and nothing more. You might see some sexual contact (or even some actual sex), but there will be no pressure to participate. If you decide you want to, however, you can dip your toe into the waters by joining in on a sexy game, or maybe simply greeting a new friend with a naked hug.
After several trips, I now can’t imagine why any couple would ever go anywhere else for a beach vacation. The clearest way to explain it is to compare Hedo with Sandals, a high quality resort right next door in Negril. Everything you might want to do at Sandals – lie in the sun, get a massage, participate in water sports, drink too much – can be done at Hedo. However, you also have the opportunity to experience some things at Hedo that would be frankly inconceivable at Sandals. A casual hand job on the beach. A threesome in the hot tub. A team cross-dressing competition by the pool. These are all things you could see in one afternoon at Hedo – in fact, we DID see them all one afternoon on our most recent trip. Why would you choose to have ordinary when you could have extraordinary?
HER: Another thing you get at Hedo that I’ve never experienced anywhere else is the social interaction. When you sit at a table in the dining hall, or on a lounge chair on the beach, people will actually come sit with you and strike up conversations. The oddity of having a conversation with a stranger while you are both naked wears off very quickly, believe it or not. And these conversations go way beyond mundane talk about the weather. Everyone you encounter is open-minded and is there because they are on a sexual journey.
I remember before our first visit fearing that I might be surrounded by a bunch of shallow, pleasure-obsessed individuals we have nothing in common with. The truth, however, turned out to be very different. We have met no end of fascinating individuals: surgeons, artists, entrepreneurs, professors and engineers. In addition to learning about their intimate relationships and sexual adventures — things we can rarely talk openly about in our everyday lives – the talk inevitably turns to work and family, and you realize that these very sexual people are also very normal.
HIM: I’ve had some surprisingly poignant conversations with people we’ve met at Hedo. I remember seeing this crazy guy balancing a beer on his head in the pool who shared with me the next day about his son’s struggles with addiction. Another woman I met while she was conducting a kissing contest with five different men (no, I didn’t win) told me over dinner that night of the unexpected joys of working with the local Alzheimer’s support group. You end up with a three dimensional view of some fascinating people, and you can’t help but develop very real friendships. After a while it’s the rest of the world that starts to seem a little shallow.
HER: I think a big part of the reason for this instant intimacy is that being naked together all day breaks down barriers. I was a little nervous about how I would feel about that annoying bit of cellulite on my thighs, but it was such a non-issue. Everyone is in the same boat (or pool): completely exposed, so pretensions tend to disappear. Nobody can use their designer clothes to hide the scars and imperfections we all have. That sounds scary, I know, but it’s amazing how confidence, intelligence, and flirtation can make anyone sexy, regardless of what their body looks like. While it may sound counter-intuitive, nudity seems to be a great equalizer.
So, while the appeal of the lifestyle vacation definitely begins with sex, it’s interesting how it ends up being about so many other things.