HER: Within the first year of our relationship, we decided to try something we had both been curious about for a long time: the sex club scene. I had looked into a few local clubs in my twenties. My ex-husband and I had even set out one night to find the place, but we chickened out and turned around, which was probably the best thing given our circumstances. I had real body insecurity issues, and we were both feeling more than a little unsatisfied with our sex life. We talked about it as a way to experience sex with others (potentially) without it being an “affair”. Which is akin to saying we both really wanted to have an affair, but needed permission to do so. At some level, I think I knew those two things – my body issues and our desire for something we couldn’t provide for each other – were a recipe for disaster in this setting.
HIM: It’s funny – I listen to your story and I’m impressed that you could at least discuss the subject. In my previous marriage there was NO WAY I could dream of raising the subject, except as an example of the moral decline of Western Civilization. I would love to have been honest about my desires, but our entire relationship was built on pretending we had equally limited definitions of what constituted a healthy sex life.
HER: Open communication is obviously essential — in all aspects of a relationship — but especially when contemplating new sexual adventures. You have to be honest with each other about what you hope to get out of this experience. If that honest answer feels threatening, you should probably avoid the whole thing. If you believe, as I did, you are in some way personally lacking what your husband wants, a room full of naked women is not the place to be. I don’t consider myself a particularly jealous person, but I was pretty insecure when I first contemplated the club scene. If I had seen my ex lusting after or playing with another woman, I would have felt awful. It would have confirmed my deep belief that, even though he said it didn’t bother him, my figure left him unsatisfied. I needed to come to terms with my body and be convinced of my sex appeal before I could venture into a world of high-stakes competition without self-destructing.
So, by the time you and I found each other, I had had 15 years to resolve most of my body issues, and we were so in love and thrilled with our sex life that I felt this adventure would be an extension of it rather than a cure for something that was ailing. I knew we were going to explore something exciting together, not fix something that was broken. But I was still nervous.
HIM: Now, as I remember it, I was definitely the one leading the way on this, but you never shut the conversation down. Does that sound right?
HER: Definitely. I was afraid maybe one partner would never be enough for you, which was unsettling. But we talked that through over the course of several conversations. You made me feel secure by not pushing and by reassuring me that I offered you things no one else could.
Another real fear was that I’m a people pleaser. I was afraid I’d feel pressured to do something I wasn’t comfortable with just to avoid hurting someone’s feelings — either yours or someone’s at the club.
HIM: I find that interesting – many people might be afraid that they wouldn’t be able to relax and get into it, yet you were afraid you might get into it too much. I think I got around that by stressing that we shouldn’t plan on doing anything intimate with anyone the first time.
We figured a sex club would have two dimensions. The first would be the visual: to see and be seen. We’re pretty compatible that way – we both like the idea of being watched. I guess it’s so irresistible because it seems so fundamentally wrong in our culture, where even kissing on the street can seem like an awkward PDA. I also feel like people seeing you naked and having sex somehow exposes me. Even as I write the words I know it is unclear, but that’s the only way I can describe it. We also knew it would be a turn-on to be voyeurs, to see how other people who aren’t porn stars have sex (of course, as we later learned, some of those real people would simply be imitating porn stars).
The second element of the sex club would be the ‘touch and be touched’ dimension. That was the part we would steer clear of. No touching other people on our first night. I think that was important. We would just take one little step together, and, if we liked it and agreed to go further, we might take another step. We would do it our way.
HER: So, our relationship was in a good place, we had agreed on the ground rules, and we had picked a place that was well-reviewed. But the night we planned to go was still a bit of a struggle. I remember feeling very reluctant as the hour grew near. It was more than just being too tired to head out for a late night; I was really nervous. But, in true ‘me’ style, I didn’t want to disappoint you, so I pushed through the discomfort. (I didn’t discover until later that you were almost equally unsure.) Ignoring your gut isn’t usually advisable, but trying new things is always a little scary, and I knew we’d be okay no matter how the night unfolded.