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October 27, City Life Community. He and his wife first began swinging shortly after they began exploring nonmonogamy in Before the pandemic, the couple would frequent a western-suburb location every two months. Swinger parties usually have a set of rules, require an ID, cost some money, and take place in hotels or private homes. Some clubs and parties have been occurring for years, while others are simply pop-ups. But there is a looming threat of them being shut down by city officials, particularly suburban locations where ordinances impact the ease of having a party in your home without your neighbors calling the cops.
In Markham, Illinois, Mayor Roger Agpawa has been working toward closing adult swinger clubs and specifically targeted Couples Choicea popular location that has a dance floor and 18 bedrooms. In March, the owner and his son were arrested for operating an illegal business in a residential area.
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When I first started writing and researching this piece a year ago, the Couples Choice hyperlink was dead. Now, the website is back up again and explicitly states that, "This is not a business in any way and under no circumstances should be viewed as one. Couples Choice Social Club is a gathering of like-minded adults who enjoy the lifestyle. Unlike Agpawa's belief that swinging le to crime, Rachel Zar, a d marriage and family therapist from Spark Chicago Therapy and Northwestern Medicine's Center for Sexual Medicine, says just like any sexual activity, safety is key for swingers.
Clubs offer solace and community for patrons because there is "security, boundaries, and rules" within these spaces. She says, "It's interesting that there's this idea out there that sex clubs are inherently dangerous, but I'd argue that would be the exception, not the rule. I'd liken it to restaurants that don't follow health codes—they're out there, and they're worth taking precautions against, but that doesn't mean that all restaurants should be shut down just in case. Couples Choice owner Tim Geary told WGN that his guest list is made up of doctors, nurses, dentists, and police, "I mean, they're everyone," he says.
First, Agpawa told Couples Choice they had code violations. The club spent thousands of dollars to fix these concerns. Then, there was a zoning issue which turned into the passing of the "No Live Sex Act" ordinance. Peoria enacted a similar ordinance in which prohibits businesses where folks can watch or view live sex. In a city council meetingAlderman William Barron said that Markham is a "Christian-based town," and just because the club has been there for 30 years doesn't "make it right.
Mary Madrakea clinical psychology postdoctoral resident at Balanced Awakening in Chicago, says, "Much of society still views different types of kink, including swinging, BDSM, and other aspects of kink as abnormal or deviant, which can take a toll on the mental health of those who identify as part of these communities. Having a place in which individuals within these communities can express their authentic selves without experiencing stigma and judgment is really important.
By increasing the understanding of these spaces and communities, society can change their preconceived, often harmful judgements. When I ask Andrew what swinging means for him and how folks can break down stereotypes surrounding the clubs, he says it's a way for him to let loose and to "have fun with the woman I love more than anything else in the world.
If I or my wife thinks someone is attractive, we don't have to bury that feeling.
We can communicate and have fun with it. Since the pandemic, the couple has been staying away from parties.
We have heard of some groups getting together to do Zoom meetups and other online events involving some level of nudity and sex, but for us, that's nowhere close to satisfying, plus the possible security issues make that a no-go," explains Andrew. Many clubs have closed during the pandemic due to "disagreements concerning how to safely get together," as well as "disagreements about how dangerous the virus really is.
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A club in Indiana, Young Couples Partydid attempt to organize an event during the pandemic at a Roseland Hotel with participants. Even though those s were legal in Indiana, a reporter leaked the information and the organizers found that it may jeopardize the safety of their attendees.
Organizers of the party explained that folks concerned with COVID would wear different color bracelets that were ased different meanings. Red would mean "do not approach, we are social distancing," yellow would mean, "do not touch without consent," and green would mean, "you can touch me, I'm here for human contact. When I mention the closure of swinger clubs due to ordinances, she laughs and says, "There's a lot of us. Carla reassures me that there are clubs popping up everywhere. With 11 years of experience under her belt, Carla knows how to run the show.
After the end of her marriage, she began searching online for clubs, and after attending a few events, Carla says she realized what she liked and didn't like. As a result, she opened up her own club. After being in the swinger community for three months, she started hosting hotel parties. I like sex just like the next person. Why can't I have my own club? Why can't I have a space where people like me feel comfortable?
Carla was always honest with the hotel staff about hosting an adult party behind closed doors.
After some time, she decided to host parties once a month in the house where she lives near Elgin. In other clubs, women can get in free, but Carla says, "I'm providing you a meal. I'm providing you supplies.
I'm providing you a venue. There are nonalcoholic beverages and it's BYOB sloppiness is not accepted in swinger clubs. Supplies like condoms, puppy p for those who are messier than the nextlube, towels, and shampoo are all offered for the price of entry. With room for guests, her four-bedroom, four-bathroom house is converted into a sanctuary for couples and singles. However, she says those s aren't set in stone. She does see folks in their 20s and over 60 as well.
Carla lives in the house with her children, who are in their 20s and help her set the house up before each event but leave once it begins. She has security, tour guides, kitchen staff, and a front desk with a check-in. We hang out all of the time," she explains. One staff member drives three hours just to help Carla with her parties. When guests check in, they are given a colorized name tag that indicates what they are looking for throughout the evening.
A girl looking for other girls is indicated with a pink tag, bisexual folks have a purple tag, straight women looking for men will wear a blue tag, and red tags are for folks just checking things out and observing.
New folks have a cherry sticker on their name tag. They don't have a problem. My neighbors, however, don't exactly like me," she explains.
She's had issues with parking, where folks legally take up all of the spots for ten hours one day a month. Every now and then, a disgruntled neighbor will call the cops. I barely play music in the house. You can't even tell that I have people in my house other than the parking. It could be anybody on the street. So that's the slight issue I'm having currently, but that's my own issue because I'm using my own residence," she says when we talk before the pandemic.
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Before she moved into the house, she specifically checked the parking and city codes. The city is aware of what kind of parties she's throwing and they do not care as long as she doesn't violate parking or noise. In terms of ordinances, clubs have to deal with minute details to find loopholes, which means the city will also find loopholes.
Carla explains that she wasn't able to publicly share a link online for her parties, and other cities don't allow folks to run a business out of a residential space. Just like other owners, Carla is dedicated to her events. She has a regular 9-to-5 job and says that the parties do not financially sustain her. Although she invests time, money, and energy into the events, it's more of a passion project. If she's having a party on Saturday, she says the planning and coordinating begins on Tuesday and doesn't stop until Sunday.
Cook County has an ordinance regarding exchanging money when it comes to sex. Many clubs use the term "membership" as a loophole. Folks can buy a membership for an evening which blurs the idea of folks paying for sex as commerce. This is why many more clubs exist outside of the city limits where regulations and ordinances vary per city. That isn't to say swinger parties aren't happening in Chicago; they are just more private. Yates explains to me over a Zoom call that it's been a small coming-out process for her.
Last year in November, we met up at a coffee shop in Lincoln Square where we briefly discussed her experiences in the swinger community, but on our Zoom call, we got into the nitty gritty.
Now that she's started a podcast and her thoughts on sex positivity are publicly being shared, she says, "I'm so much more comfortable being like, 'I'm a sex positive babe, and I have sex. About five years ago, she attended her first swinger party as a single woman.
A partner led her through the process and explained how the parties work. It was this push-pull.
I knew enough about swingers to know that it was extremely heteronormative. The men were content to see two women getting it on, but God forbid two men actually touch," explains Yates. As a result, she found a party called Private Encounters which was held on the property of Couples Choice. Dawn and Dave ran Couples Choice in Markham for and-a-half years before it was closed down by the town's mayor.