"No mate, sorry."
It's funny how polite people are at a gangbang. In the gloom, the young lad backs away from the couch where the middle-aged woman sits, her mini-skirt hitched up, legs open, visible to an audience of ten, maybe 12, guys. They move to let him through. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he couldn't rise to the occasion. No one gives him a hard time, though – the genial attitude of everyone there implies that this is an occupational hazard on the swinging scene. Nothing to get worked up about.
It's Saturday night and we're downstairs at Club 487, a new porn cinema that opened on a quiet street in South London at the beginning of this year. Rather than face a swift demise, as many had predicted, it instead appears to be going from strength to strength, if tonight's shenanigans are anything to go by.
Jane and Mike are a couple in their early forties who have been swinging for over a decade and arranged to come here tonight on a popular sex meet-up forum. They are accompanied by Adrian, a dapper Asian guy in a black suit, and nine or ten eager acolytes, men in jeans and trainers with hungry eyes who smoke vapes and suck Red Stripe from cans bought at the newsagent's next door.
After a cursory tour by the management, who are gracious to the point of obsequiousness, as though Jane were Angelina Jolie (there aren't many female visitors to Club 487), the couple go into one of the smaller, "private" rooms. Here, they hold court beneath the beaming eye of an HD TV showing How Stella Got Her Tube Packed. One man is tasked with manually stimulating Jane while the others watch and manually stimulate themselves. Jane, who is sitting between Mike and Adrian, seems to be getting into it. But then –
"Shit! Your hands aren't half cold."
"Sorry!" says the hapless fluffer, pulling back quickly. After a moment, someone else steps in, and soon Jane is ready to entertain her fans. Trousers around ankles, pricks in hand, the men patiently await their turn.
After about ten minutes there's a break for Jane to get her breath back. People stand around chatting, comparing notes on the scene.
"Have you been to Paradise in Dagenham?" one guy asks.
"Once," says someone else. "I didn't stay long. It's moody in there."
"I'm going down later," says Adrian. "I arranged to meet three women off the forum at 11. If it is moody, I'll just stick with them."
"Cap d'Agde [a notorious nudist resort in France] is where it's at," says Mike. "Puts England to shame. Try it. Fucking everywhere. By the pool, in the sauna. Ten o' clock in the morning on the beach. It gets a bit much in the end. After a week the women can't walk and the men feel like they're passing battery acid when they piss."
There's respectful laughter. Clearly, Mike and Jane know what they're talking about. Mike and Jane have lived the life.
"Anyone been to Rio's in Kentish Town?"
"Yeah. It's a dive."
"This man's been waiting patiently. Very polite, he's been."
As they talk, another man kneels before Jane and works his magic. Soon she is sighing, her head thrown back, the sheen on her face bright in the gloom of the subterranean screening room.
"I think Jane's ready again now," says Adrian. Jane nods in ecstatic assent. Mike holds her, keeping a careful eye on the proceedings, eliciting neither signs of discomfort nor pleasure.
"This man's been waiting patiently," says Adrian, motioning towards a middle-aged gent with a Partridge-like side parting. He's wearing cords and a sensible fleece. "Very polite, he's been."
Jane nods, beckoning him forward.
Slightly grossed-out, I wander into the main screening room. A few odd-balls are there, away from the action – an old geezer with a large collection of carrier bags who looks like a very unwell Michel Houellebecq, and a guy in a quilted football manager's coat and a beanie. The movie they're watching shows a young woman wearing a dildo that looks like a cucumber wrapped in silver foil.
Back downstairs, the smell of amyl and condom rubber is strong.
While the cinema's former premises in Islington attracted a largely gay clientele, it seems the new venture has a wider appeal. No doubt the buzz on online swingers' sites has helped. When Mike and Jane write up their field report of tonight's session – which they're sure to do – it will surely only bring more punters down.
"It's word of mouth, innit?" says Danny, the manager. "I can't tell you how happy I am with the way things are going right now. Slowly, slowly, catchy monkey. Now we've got this lot coming, the sky's the limit."
Back downstairs, the smell of amyl and condom rubber is strong. A green strip light affixed to the skirting board illuminates the path from the stairwell to the private room where Mike and Jane and their friends are still enjoying themselves.
"Not in there, love," says Jane to one guy, who, full of consternation – worried that he's committed a cardinal faux pas – backs off straight away. Now Adrian and Mike take their turn.
"Oh! Mike, come on – we're a couple of straight guys. I'm not into that!"
I guess the darkness makes it difficult to see precisely what you're grabbing.
Adrian and Mike take Jane to a dark corner for a breather. It sounds like the breather she's getting is very strenuous indeed.
The respectful, almost reverent, atmosphere means there is very little conversation. Bizarrely, the on-screen porn dialogue – they're now showing Blowjob Impossible – at times seems to provide commentary on the real-life action ("Oh my, let me see what you've got... that's so big.") There is certainly no coercion here at all – only consensual, if rather grubby, adult fun.
A few minutes later, Adrian announces that Jane needs a breather again. He and Mike take her to a dark corner. Shortly it sounds like the breather she's getting is very strenuous indeed.
Finally it's time to go. Adrian leads Mike and Jane past the main room.
"Thanks guys," he says, and waves, like a publicist escorting a royal dignitary out after a Q&A session. They are followed by the guys who came in with them. The only people left are Houellebecq and two Spanish blokes drinking beer and talking football.
"Great guy, that Adrian," says Danny as I leave. "Friendly. Positive. Good to be around. Makes all the difference in a place like this."
He's right, of course. What just happened may not be everyone's cup of tea, but the whole thing was conducted with respect and decorum, and certainly looked a lot more fun for the participants than a night in front of the laptop.
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