This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.
I can't think of a scene where I would feel more out of place than a swingers' club. I've always imagined these dark orifices with potbellied 40-year-olds doing coke and (for whatever reason) lots of people wearing annoying hats. But I've also felt equally intrigued by it. I wanted to know what happens inside those dingy walls, where failing marriages gasp for air and people try to reclaim their sense of sexual adventure.
I decided to go this Valentine's Day, and went on Tinder to try to find some company to help curb the weirdness. In the spirit of polyamory, I set out to find two dates who would be down with the whole situation and go with me.
The club I settled on was called L'Orage, which means "storm"; the front page of its website featured a photograph of some guy happily biting a girl's butt by a couch. Innocent enough, right? This year's Valentine's Day theme roughly translated to "Chocolate and Titties Night," and was for couples and single women only.
Finding two girls who would be into me, into each other, and into a club where strangers bork each other under blacklights was a daunting task. After having no success, I ran into one of my old Tinder matches, Rose, at a bar and explained my predicament.
"Why don't you just take me?" she said.
Two days left and halfway there, I met up with Marika, an artist who had just arrived in Montreal and had a general "fuck you" attitude about her. We got along well, and left the café to get pizza before sharing a 12-pack in my living room. During a lull in the conversation I popped the question, and she said yes without missing a beat.
We all agreed to meet at my place at 7:30 PM on Valentine 's Day. Rose showed up two hours late with a bottle of wine and asked me what was wrong. I was visibly anxious, pacing back and forth and checking my phone every five seconds as I hadn't yet heard from Marika. Rose was amused by the whole scene but told me to get over it. "We can find someone else on Tinder," Rose said. "Let's fix this."
About an hour later, a beautiful message surfaced out of the vast sea of rejection and confusion. Her name was Daphnee. "That actually sounds really chill. I'm at a house party right now but I can meet you guys there in like an hour."
We'll take it.
We hopped in some guy's Uber jeep and sped over to the club. He dropped us in a part of town near a church with homeless people passed out in front of it. We followed the sound of cheap techno into the soft glow of the club's lobby, then walked past a group of disgruntled couples lining the wall and up to the reception desk. A stressed-out bald guy with glasses in a vertical-striped dress shirt waved his hands annoyed at us, and told us it was at capacity.
After telling him we had emailed the owner, he scrolled through his iPhone as a candle in a jar flickered beside him, then reluctantly waved us through.
What followed was a sad and confusing assault on the senses. The club, about the size of a backyard swimming pool, was packed wall-to-wall with 60-year-olds twitching awkwardly to obnoxious techno music. Middle-aged blonde women danced in cages, twisting side to side with dead eyes and botoxed foreheads. It smelled like department store perfume and old clothes. I wondered if this is what hell was like.
There was a visible shift when we walked in the room. A sea of gray hair turned to stare at us, like balding vampires they had sensed our youth and life. A 60-year-old man in a Hawaiian T-shirt and fogged-up glasses turned and grinned at us, gyrating his hips like a geriatric Steve Urkel. These weren't married couples rekindling the excitement—these were people trying to complete their bucket list right before they kicked the bucket.
In the far back you could make out silhouettes writhing on each other, like some kind of erotic silent film behind a wall of dimly lit beads.
It felt like we had just walked into a retirement home where someone had spiked the punch with ecstasy. We stood there, stunned for a second, and went to the bar to silently get a drink. The bartender, a middle-aged woman with fake everything, told Rose matter-of-factly that if she showed her tits, she got a free drink. Rose was already taking off her shirt before the bartender had finished, and handed me her beer so she could put it back on.
"No, no, no, you have to keep it off for at least the whole song."
Rose stood there reluctantly as the only girl in the whole room with her tits out, holding her beer and waiting for the obnoxious Calvin Harris remix to finish. The couple beside us—a golf dad with wispy grey hair and his heavy-set wife—had caught our scent and were chattering and cooing in our direction.
We escaped back to the dance floor before they could talk to us about Facebook and tried to get lost in the music, or something. We were quickly surrounded by more men in Hawaiian shirts and women stuffed into tiny kinky outfits. Neon lasers from the DJ booth glanced off their leathery skin as the men slowly converged on Rose. She was the youngest woman in there by at least 15 years. We shuffled from side to side in wide-eyed fear as we felt them surrounding us like a slow-moving school of jellyfish.
We then beelined it towards the back room, clutching each other and our beers. The stressed-out front desk guy was now serving as back-room bouncer, and told us we had to finish our beers before going in. We knocked them back, got a nod from the bouncer, parted the beads, and walked in holding our breaths.
We saw eight or so beds, at different heights and sizes, placed around the room. Naked and half-naked bodies were fucking like rabbits. The room had a puke-orange glow from these weird floating easter-egg lamps on the side. A soft chorus of smacking lips, genitals, and moans drifted towards us. Bowls of condoms sat on bedside tables throughout the room, like complimentary snacks in a hotel lobby. It smelled like latex, perfume, and dank butthole.
To my right, some guy was aggressively and rapidly fingering his wife's bum as she was bent over into the sheets. On the next bed was this giant Amazonian woman with a tiny latino husband who was climbing all over and biting her. In one corner, a man with a potbelly and goatee was with a heavily-done-up brunette in her 30s who we suspected was a sex worker. Towards the middle of the room, couples shuffled around together, watching the various beds like they were browsing through Bed Bath & Beyond.
A massage table was unoccupied, so Rose brought me there, undid my belt and went down on me. She took off her top and was in this black lace thong that she'd bought specifically for the occasion. I was very much aware of my semi-nakedness and could feel the browsers' eyes on me, like my dick was on display. Every so often a man would appear out of the soft glow and grab Rose's ass, but there wasn't much I could do in my state.
The big bed right beside the entrance was freed up just then, so we relocated and started fooling around as the rest of our clothes came off. A reasonably attractive couple kept glancing our way, and I glanced back with a smile. They made their way slowly to the side of the bed and started taking each other's clothes off and making out. We heard a soft chatter of Russian coming from them.
It was clear what was about to happen so we went for it. A small crowd of couples and lone men had encircled the bed to watch our foursome.
After about 20 minutes, we kneeled on different corners of the bed, pretty tired and somewhat drunk. Just then I got a call from an unknown number and ducked under the bed to answer it.
"Hey, it's Daphnee. I'm inside, where are you?"
I peered out from behind the bed and saw a silhouette of a young girl talking on her phone on the other side of the beads. She came inside and I covered my balls with my boxers as she walked up. Even though we were in a sex room, I was meeting this girl for the first time and wanted to be polite. She strode forward with bouncing red hair, dressed in a leather jacket and introduced herself.
"Yeah thanks for coming, this is… um…" and gestured over to the older woman who had just fellated me.
"Yana," said the Russian lady, leaning up from the bed to shake her hand.
"Alex," said the Russian guy, politely doing the same.
We all stood there as some guy, still fully clothed and wearing running shoes, banged his wife beside us.
"Do you guys wanna go get a drink?" Rose suggested, straightening up slightly.
Rose took her tits out for another song and we started chit-chatting by the bar. Yana sipped on her beer and smiled bashfully once in a while as Alex and I made small talk.
"No. Yeah, Montreal's really a different city in the summer," I told him. What the fuck was I talking about? This guy's wife had just been deepthroating me and now we were talking about weather and traffic like we were pals at a barbecue. I asked if they minded having their picture taken with us.
"No, we don't care," said Alex, "Yana, we are now famous!"
It was 2 AM and the dance floor had thinned out. The couples grazing around the bar weren't looking elsewhere, probably because they had swapped. The DJ was a bit younger and bobbed his head slightly looking out at the sad scene. I wondered what had happened to his life that he had ended up here. We got bored and all went back to the back room.
The sex around us had become so seemingly normal. It was no longer weird to see bare asses and wrinkly balls flopping around. I felt strangely comforted seeing the guy in the running shoes beside us, like seeing your neighbor walking his dog at the same time every day. (What was still odd were the single men—those who hadn't found anyone to swap with, or whose wives were gone with someone else—circling the room.)
We turned to each other and started having a threesome. A few single men lurked around the fringes of our three-way, testing out our receptiveness. One giant black guy walking around with a strap-on black dildo was consistently close by. I never looked up at him. I was having one-on one sex with Daphnee when this guy in a maroon dress shirt who looked like Gilbert Gottfried walked over to Rose and started petting her. She scrambled away and lay beside us. I started fingering her, somewhat for protection, as all three of our heads were clumped together and a crowd gathered.
Speaking with Daphnee later, she told me that at this point she felt her head getting stroked. She looked down at both my hands in horror and realized some other guy was stroking her head while we had sex. By the time she reeled around he had vanished.
It was 3 AM, and a lady came around and politely told us they were closing soon. She was going around to all the beds and speaking with whoever's head was visible.
We scrambled to put our clothes on, passed through the crowd, and got into a cab outside. Rose and Daphnee were chatting and bonding as I stared out the window. My head was still screaming with the intensity of what I'd just gone through, and I wondered how I would readjust to the real world. Dark flashes of flesh, black dildos, and floating easter eggs skipped through my mind. We had endured, explored, and broken through myriad sexual boundaries in the span of a few hours. Now we were supposed to go back to the world of deadlines, mindless thank-yous, and French toast brunches.
They dropped me off by my place and kissed me goodbye, and I walked up to my room. I was on way too high a gear to sleep, so I sat on my bed and played four hours straight of computer chess until the sun rose. I fell asleep to the sun filtering through my window and the smell of wine slowly fermenting out of the still half-open bottle. What a dark, creepy, amazing place, I thought.
Happy Valentine's Day.
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