Just Before Dawn at a Berlin Swinger Club

By Leila Djamila

We’re about three gin and tonics deep when my friend Hanno and I come to a decision: We should go to a swinger club. We’ve spoken vaguely about heading over to Zwanglos III before—the way thousands of other three-gin-and-tonic-deep people have probably talked about going to similar seedy spots—but for whatever reason, this is it, tonight’s the night it’s really happening. Hanno is a psychologist and I’m a journalist, so we can both claim some vaguely professional interest in the adventure, and there isn’t anything else going on tonight anyway.

As we approach, we are both giggling nervously like—well, like a couple of people going to a swingers club for the first time, I guess. Thinking about all the sperm that’s been skeeted inside the bricked-up windows makes me feel a little nauseous. A weather-beaten sign next to the door tells us about the admission prices—it’s free for single ladies, and more expensive for single men than it is for couples, a pricing scheme obviously intended to keep the club from turning into a bunch of hairy flaccid penises hanging out with one another. 

The door opens and the barmaid—smoking, wearing a black top and plastic lacy underwear—lets us in. I can’t tell whether she’s at the tail end of her hard-living 30s or covering up the beginning of her 50s with make-up. “Have you been here before?” she asks. We shake our heads.

“But you know what a swinger club is?”

A lot of hemming and hawing on our part before we stammer out something like, “It’s our first time. We want to see if it’s right for us.”

“This is a swinger club,” the woman says, a little unnecessarily. “There are no musts, only cans, right? The lockers are here in the front. You have to get undressed. Here are your flip-flops and your towels. And these are your keys, number 21 and number 19. That’s 40 euros, please.”

I take off my top, figuring the leopard print push-up bra I’m wearing underneath works better for this environment, though I wrap a towel around my hips to avoid showing everyone my G-string. I’m not trying to actually have sex here, after all.

I glance into what’s labeled the “Bar Room” and catch the eye of a beautiful, well-built, dark-haired man who is beckoning to me. He seems delighted about my arrival. “Sweetie, give me a photo,” he says, and I wonder if swingers are actually all hot men. Maybe this will be great.

Hanno and I walk into the room arm in arm and are immediately faced with a reddish light and a bunch of cheap-ass LEDs blinking rhythmically to horrible German pop music. Everywhere you look you can see at least one television playing hardcore porn. There's a platform for dancing with a pole in the right corner in front of a faux-leather couch.

Three guests are sitting at the bar: a middle-aged woman with dyed platinum-blond hair staring into space while raising her glass to her lips; her seatmate, a woman with dyed black hair, who's slowly turning around to examine us; and a small Indian guy who gives us a smile. In the back, three women and a man fill up a couch big enough for seven to eight normal-sized people. I can hear them sing along to the music: “Shalalalalaaaa! Shalalalaaaa!”

We take a seat on the two empty stools at the bar and order gin and tonics. An old man joins us—he just walked out of the adjoining room, and he’s panting like a winded dog. He seems like he’d know, so I ask him what the sign at the bar is all about. “Gang Bang Party with Tiramisu, Monday from 10 AM to 3 PM,” it reads.

He explains that there is a lady who goes by “Tiramisu” who shows up weekly and gets it on with everyone. “But that’s not the real swinger style,” he says. “We pay a higher entrance fee and the club pays her money. She’s a professional.”

What goes unmentioned is who, exactly, is showing up at a club at ten in the morning to have a gang bang.

We get up from the bar and start a self-guided tour. Next to the dance floor, there’s a cave for couples decorated with fake wood and plastic cushions. There's also a shower and a buffet with sandwiches and pasta. Come for the fucking, stay for the finger food, I guess.

Further toward the back, we find a sauna and more rooms—one of them has what looks like a gynecologist's chair—as well as what they call the “whirlpool,” which is just a normal half-full (or half-empty) bathtub equipped with some nozzles. I itch just looking at it and wonder how often it gets cleaned. The club is open 24 hours a day, after all.

We glance into a niche that is lined with black and red fake leather and features paintings in neon colors illuminated by black light. In the middle of the room a couple is having rough, almost impersonal doggy-style sex while two men kneel nearby and jack off—perhaps hoping that the woman, who I make to be in her mid-50s, will reach out to them at some point. Later, I find out the two people shagging are a “real” couple who visit the club frequently. They only hook up with each other, but welcome voyeurs.

When we come back to the bar, one of the ladies on the couch invites us to join them. Her name is Steffi and she has freckles and short, blond braids that stick out of her head. Her look reminds me of a porn actress who left the set of a Pippi Longstocking-themed shoot for a life of easy living, ice cream, and big macs.

Hanno sits down with the group and Dirk, Steffi’s boyfriend, starts talking to him, sharing paternal advice about the swinging scene. “You see how your wife is flirting with that guy at the bar?” he says, referring to me. “You know he wants to fuck her. Not everyone is able to cope with that, especially in the beginning. If you don’t like it, you have to go over there and tell them.” Hanno assures him that he has full confidence in me, and Dirk, who has a receding chin and the physique of a fattened question mark, nods approvingly.

Indeed, I am flirting with the beautiful man I noticed when I walked in. He tells me his name is Tomas. As a teenager, he fled Sarajevo and came to Germany. In between showering me with compliments, he mentions he likes to sniff cocaine on the weekends and he’s looking for a hot chick.

Our little tete-a-tete gets broken up when a woman across the room screams, “Dude! Stop fiddling around with your dick in my face!” Hanno persuades me to sit down with him on the couch, and I get to know Dirk, who seems almost bizarrely happy and well-adjusted. He’s been with Steffi for 15 years and swinging for 11 of those—she likes to “lend” him to other women, and she enjoys watching it, which is the reverse of the way it usually is, he says. Normally, men like to see their woman with other men.

But Steffi doesn’t really seem to be looking for male partners tonight. She’s more interested in me. She tells me to sit in the tiny gap between her and the equally large 50-something drunk woman next to her and puts her arm around me, fingering my collarbone.

Dirk asks me to touch Steffi, so I put my arm over her shoulder—I can do that much. He continues his lecture on swinging 101: It is very important to have rules as a couple, and he wants to know whether Hanno and I have agreed on what’s OK and what’s not. “Always stay safe” is his credo, and a general rule in this scene. But apparently there are some situations where people ask if their new partners are healthy, trust their word, and then don’t worry about condoms, which seems extremely risky to me. Who, in the heat of the moment, is going to admit to an STI?

More rules: If a man gets a blowjob, he should announce when he’s getting close to  climax. If the blower keeps going after a warning, it’s OK to come in his or her mouth.

Steffi looks at Dirk (I’m trying to ignore the way she’s rubbing my back) and says, “My Dirk is into you. I hope he gets on well with your friend. We could all go into the back rooms together!” A shiver runs down my spine.

She takes over from Dirk explaining how the swinger scene works. There’s a whole slew of different couples and personalities. Some couples have been together forever and want to spice up their sex lives; some have just started going out and want to experience a swinger club (not a good idea, according to Steffi); others are having problems with their relationships and hope to solve them here (also not a good idea); still others show up alone. “It’s Saturday night, why isn’t there a party happening here?” I ask.

“Well, the young don’t come anymore," Steffi answers. “I don’t know why.”

“Maybe they prefer to go to a club, take drugs, and then have normal sex with new people they meet?” I ask.

“Yeah, maybe, I’ve never really thought of that before.”

She changes the subject to describe another type of swingers, called “boarders” or “lodgers.” These are women who take advantage of the free admission for single ladies and hang out at swinger clubs for most of the day, enjoying free food, free drinks, and, maybe most importantly, free showers. Many of them have little or no income. The platinum-blond lady at the bar seems to belong to that category.

The music changes to something upbeat and electronic, and Tomas comes over and asks me to dance. He bows to me—such a gentleman!—but Steffi won’t let me go. She’s clutching my bra straps and acts bitchy when I tell her how unbelievably attractive that man is. “Yuck! It’s just another Ali,” she says, using a German slur for Middle Eastern men.

That does it, I think, as I take Tomas’s hand and he lifts me up and carries me to the pole. I’ll show you. Soon the two of us are dancing around the pole, his strong arm around me, and for the first time tonight I feel like something sexy is going on. I climb on top of him, he twists me around, and then I let myself go and don’t even realize that everyone is staring at us. (Everyone except for the exhibitionist middle-aged couple, that is—they only have eyes for each other.)

“Wow, we haven’t seen anything like this before,” Dirk says, gazing rather hungrily at us. I’m a little embarrassed to have revealed a previously completely untapped talent for pole-dancing in front of an audience, and I honestly wasn’t trying to put on a show for him and the rest of the crowd. But I guess whatever happens in a swinger club at five in the morning stays at the swinger club.

Tomas and I take a seat at the bar to cool off, but Steffi refuses to accept that I’m not interested in her. Even as I’m practically sitting in Tomas’s lap and promising to go out with him next week, Steffi is kissing and stroking my shoulders.

That’s when Dirk appears, spreads her legs, and sinks his hand into her rolls of flesh. Steffi asks me to take her boobs out, but I’d rather pass her off to Hanno, Tomas, and the Indian man who has been at the bar this whole time—he, at least, is into her. As the bartender announces last call (if we want to stay past 6 AM, we have to pay the admission fee again), Steffi leans on me, wedging me against the bar. I can see the Indian’s small head pressed against her massive, fat, pale boobs; even Hanno is helping himself to some Steffi. I catch his eye—finally, the action we were expecting from this place.

Steffi wants me to touch her. She opens her lips and her tongue sticks as she reaches out for my boobs. I jump over the bar to flee and catch a glimpse of one of the men who was masturbating while watching that couple have sex earlier—he’s cuddling with the oldest and largest woman in the whole place. Everybody finds somebody at Zwanglos III.  

Just before 6 AM, the barmaid puts our locker keys on the counter and we say goodbye. Hanno and I step outside, and the sun is just rising. There’s no porn playing, no music thumping, nobody trying to touch me or trying to get me to touch them. It’s nice.

More on swingers and sex:

Bag It Up, Grandpa

Edgeplay Isnt’ Your Grandmother’s BDSM Scene

If You Build It, They Will Cum

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