This article originally appeared on VICE Germany
"In most swingers clubs, the moment a woman walks into a room, a conga line of men fondling their semi-hard cocks forms behind her. We wanted something different," says Max. At 42, he's one of four organisers of a series of sex parties taking place in Munich, called "Red Light District". Their parties take place in a pay-per-hour hotel on the northwestern edge of Munich, and only welcome young, attractive couples.
Publicity and registration for the parties are done through a portal called joyclub.de – a kind of erotic Facebook. Max and his wife Jane* operate on that site under the name "The Inner Circle," together with their married friends Lana* and Konstantin*. They all work in sales and the media, with Red Light District being a side project – according to Max, the parties just about break even. They've set an admission fee of €99 (£85) but their club isn't open for everyone. To be invited to one of their events, applicants have to submit a portrait and that portrait has to be deemed attractive enough by the four organisers.
"Our USP is that we're a swingers party for a select few," Max says. If you don't send a picture, they don't take you in consideration – and uglies need not apply. Jane, herself an athletic blonde, adds: "If you send a selfie in a baggy track suit, or if you're trying to look sexy but there's a litter box in the background of the picture, you can't come." About half of the people who apply get a message that they're not invited to the pretty people party.
"If you send a selfie in a baggy track suit, or if you're trying to look sexy but there's a litter box in the background of your picture, you can't come."
The hotel that hosts the parties is of the kind that's usually frequented by freelance sex workers and people having affairs. There are four rooms on the ground floor, while a winding staircase to the right of the entrance leads up to five more on the first floor. To the left of the entrance, a narrow hallway leads into a big room with sofa booths, a bar and a stage for pole dancing. The ceiling is adorned with a sea of fake flowers, glowing dimly in the red lights. G&T's are served in expensive glasses. There are also hot tubs, and the beds in the rooms are freshly made up.
At 8.30 PM sharp, an invitee called Alex walks in with a beautiful blonde woman – her pull-up stockings clearly visible under her black miniskirt. He's not bad to look at either, wearing suit trousers, a white shirt, black suspenders and a black bowtie. Alex and his wife have been together for 15 years, married for 10. She doesn't want to talk on the record, because she's worried that someone will recognise her. She agrees with her husband though, who explains that "coming here for us is not about sex. It's about being able to flirt with someone else without having to cheat on each other. It could happen that one of us ends up in a room with someone, but everything has to match. He turns around and puts his arm around Jane, Max's wife. She holds his hands in her lap, leans towards him and stretches her neck while keeping her chat with Alex's wife going.
The rest of the couples trickle in. Most of the men are wearing tuxedos, the women are mostly in lingerie or short, transparent dresses and heels. They greet each other with hugs and kisses. There's no official age limit to the party, but nobody is over 50. As the taxis are rolling up to the hotel by the minute, a bald man of around 60 walks up to the entrance with a significantly younger girl. He tries to book a room with Richie, the doorman, who tells him that he can't – because of the private event. Only people who've been previously approved can enter. To be fair, they probably wouldn't have made the cut anyway. Disappointed, they saunter off.
Inside, Lana is crossing the arriving guests off the list and giving them flutes of prosecco. She's wearing undone denim hot pants with the American flag painted on them. The bra she's wearing was made by her husband Konstantin out of two coconuts and some rope. She's 27 and before she got together with Konstantin, she hadn't had as much as a one night stand. But the two of them started swinging when they were 22. "After the first time we ended up with another couple, we said to each other: 'That was crazy, what did we just do?' Then we thought: 'That worked. If we can do this with each other, we're an unbeatable team.'" Lana adds: "And it was amazing how passionate our sex was the next day." She thinks it's great that she's able to have experiences that she can't have with her husband. "When you're together, fantasies aren't always comparable. I wanted to be tied up, for example. Konstantin finds that strange. But I can try that out here."
There's a DJ playing next to the bar – people dance, hug, caress and kiss. It's unclear who came with who, but everyone knows who they're leaving with. Everyone I speak to goes on about the value of marriage. Most couples have that in common: they share a commitment – an understanding that goes beyond jealousy, but allows for a more casual take on a classic monogamous relationship.
Michael is 36, tall and wears an expensive blue and white plaid shirt and horn-rimmed glasses. He's been married to his wife for 10 years, and they started swinging after a marriage seminar at their church. They were asked to place terms like fidelity, children, loyalty and trust in the shape of a tree. The trunk of the tree was for the concepts that were most important to them and the smaller branches were for the least important. In both their trees, the concept of fidelity was no more than a twig. "Something changed at that point but I used to think that some fantasies should maybe stay fantasies." A lot of passed before they ventured into the scene though. Michael wanted to have a threesome with another woman, and his wife wanted to sleep with another man. That seemed a step too far, though. The desire and the idea were there, but they didn't know how to practically go about it.
After two years of dawdling, they were ready. "When I saw her having sex with another man, I got really aroused. It was like watching live porn starring my own wife." Swinging, to him, is just a next step in their relationship. "We were always close, but everyone changes and would like to discover new things every now and then. It's nice that we can do it together in this context and aren't drifting apart from each other." Is he worried that she'll fall in love with someone she's having sex with? She interjects: "You have to be careful. If we're having issues in our relationship, we don't do it. There's always the risk of falling in love, but that same risk exists in the supermarket."
At the edge of the dance floor, a couple is sitting at the bar in silence, scanning the crowd. Occasionally one of them will whisper something into the other's ear, they nod, sip white wine and laugh. The couples here all make their own rules – some of them only trade partners without sex, for others, sex is crucial. Some couples only go together, others go apart.
Max gives the couple at the bar two shots. When I bring up that his party is a swingers party for the elite, he doesn't want to hear anything about it. But the people here are without a doubt upscale. It doesn't matter who you talk to, most of them have degrees and many occupy high positions – they're managers in the finance sector or work in other influential industries.
Like Patrick, who at 47 is probably the oldest guest in attendance. He comes to every party because he likes that they're classy, "but in terms of swinging, this is like a child's birthday party. These parties are about looking, being seen, showing off – it's a typical Munich party." Sex acts are more rare here, and happen behind closed doors. "Other parties are really about sex. My girlfriend would like to have sex with another man tonight, but everyone here is totally fixated on their own wife," he says.
But then, finally, something actually does happen. The first couples disappear up the stairs. A group of partygoers is watching what's happening in one of the rooms on the ground floor. Inside the room, two women, one blonde and one brunette, are leaning on the edge of the whirlpool with their forearms, twirling the stems of their prosecco glasses between their fingers. Their bums are facing the wall. A man with a six pack takes the blonde woman from behind, as she continues to talk to her friend. He then switches to the other woman, while keeping his hand between the blonde's legs. A second man walks up to the whirlpool with a raised glass and toasts everyone.
Caro, 28, is sat outside with her fiancé, smoking a cigarette. "It's pretty major, the intensity of friendships that form here. But sometimes swinger life clashes with normal life." The bigger this new group of friends gets, the more that becomes the case. "This scene soaks you up like a sponge. Sometimes when I'm with my other friends – who are all a bit more conservative than I am – I feel like I'm living a double life."
A brunette wearing a sort of perverse space suit – metallic silver, fake leather overalls that leave her breasts exposed – sits down at our table. She introduces herself. Caro's fiancé puts his phone in his pocket and answers, "Hello, how is life on Mars?" She smiles, "Good, I'm going back there in about five years." Everyone at the table laughs. Caro winks at her fiancé and moves her chair a bit, to make room for them to flirt.
*The names of Jane, Lana and Konstantin have been changed to protect their privacy.
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