My husband and I had an awesome night out recently. We met up with friends for martinis at a downtown bar, then shared a cab back to their house. They’ve got a cool lofted-ceiling library with one wall bare for projected movies. We settled into the leather sofa with some red wine and the film of the evening, a vintage porn number from their collection of obscure titles by auteur directors.
About a glass of wine into the viewing, there was some making out, with our respective spouses as well as each other’s spouses, then full sex, a nice glass of bourbon and then a cab home in time to relieve the babysitter.
Yes, we do our friends.
Not all the time. In fact, pretty infrequently given everyone’s work/family/other commitments, but sometimes, with some (not all) of our coupled friends, when it seems like a fun thing to add to the evening.
Being together on these romps is essential to the particular rules in our relationship. (It’s not an open marriage, and we don’t date other people on our own.) It’s also one of the most pleasurable aspects of the whole thing. It’s a huge turn-on to glance across the room or bed and see my other half using his gorgeous body to send a woman we know and care about into convulsions of ecstasy, usually whilst I’m enjoying some equally amorous attentions from her husband.
It’s not the type of swinging where you swap mates for a one-night only adventure, and it’s not exactly polyamory, which involves multiple partners as equal members of a relationship. We have dinner together, maybe even hit the dance floor, but then there's kissing.
While the recreational banging of your super-sexy friends is fun, I totally get that it’s not for everyone. We have plenty of friends who say they are happiest being fully sexually exclusive with their partner, and that’s more than OK. I’m not saying, “If you’re cool and sexy you should want this,” I’m saying, “Know what you really want, and if this is part of it, then here are some things to think about."
We got here part by luck and part by design. We met at age 30, at a point in our lives where we knew exactly what we wanted in a mate. We’d compromised enough in the past and this time around wanted the full package: nice, smart and hot. And, oh, man, I could not have imagined just how fantastic it is to be with someone who’s all those things for you.
I’m not gloating here, but trying to say that if you’re going to dip your toe into the world of sexual friendships outside of your marriage, you have to first be thoroughly happy with your own partner. Not just average or good-as-can-be-expected happy, but really over the moon, can’t believe your good fortune, ecstatic-every-day-that this-is-your-lifemate happy.
Our first exposure was at a pretty wild house party, where people were freely touching and kissing each other. This was about six months into dating each other. Something about the unrestricted, sexy vibe among the rest of the guests at that party did spark a desire that, looking back now, was probably always there already for both of us. Over the next few months, we had a threesome with a single female friend, another with a lovely man we met at a party, and eventually decided to pay a visit to our nearest swingers club, you know, just to check.
We also joined a Web site for couples looking to meet other couples, making it clear in our profile that we were not looking to meet up just for sex, but that we wanted to meet and become friends with similarly minded people. Then we could consider including sex in the friendship longer term.
We’ve ended up with a large social circle who are in the same place as us in a lot of ways. Most are in their 30s and 40s, urban professionals, in long-term relationships. All are people who are healthy and confident in themselves and their partners, and all are people who place a greater-than-average value on enjoying sex.
The foundations of these friendships are the usual stuff: we discuss career options in our various industries, seek parenting advice from those with similarly aged kids, talk about politics, vacation destinations, etc. Some of our friends from this circle we see fairly frequently, but haven’t slept with in over a year. The important thing is that the option for sex is there if the time feels right.
And the sex with friends thing is bloody great for women. I mean, everything that goes on has to be okay with all the parties involved, but often it seems the girls have the most fun, and also the most power. When meeting a new couple or when deciding that you and your partner might like to broach the idea of sexy stuff with existing friends, it’s almost always the female half of the couple who gets to decide if, how and when they want things to happen.
Not to get too deeply into it here, since this isn’t an academic paper, but there are plenty of sociological and psychoanalytical theorists whose writings point to how female-empowering alternative sexual practices can be. The common theme amongst these writers is that the ideology of romantic love equaling sexual exclusivity historically caused an imbalance of power, limiting women’s sexual expression. Where women in past were pressed to be sexually exclusive with their husbands in order to produce legitimate heirs, modern women are more and more able to separate the ideas of sex and love and as a result enjoy themselves in a much greater range of ways (with another woman, with sex toys, with two guys at once, wherever our desires take us).
Now, as much as my husband and I and our friends might fancy ourselves freewheeling libertines, flitting about from orgy to orgy with abandon, like everything in life it’s not that simple. For one thing, sexually transmitted infections are necessarily a concern. Condoms are an absolute must, of course, but even if the condom stays in place and doesn’t break, there are plenty of other bodily fluids on the fly at the typical group sex session.
Most couples we know who have sex with other people take the risks of both infection and accidental pregnancy much more seriously than the average sexually active person would.
And then there are the emotional considerations. Often people’s first question about having sex with others is, “Don’t you get jealous?” For us, the answer is no, we’ve never once been jealous of each other, mostly because we’re always together in the adventures, and also maybe because it’s just the way we’re wired.
Jealousy can crop up between couples, though. For example, you might want to set up a night out with couple X, but find out that they’ve got plans to hang out with couple Y for the second weekend in a row, and you and your partner might feel kind of left out.
Another thing is the risk of outright rejection. If you’re going to be having sex with people you really like, any rejection you face might hit you harder. It’s not the same as approaching someone in a sex club and getting turned down (maybe there was something in your teeth?). With friends, they really know you, and if they don’t want to get naked with you, it could be physical, or it could be something else about you that they’re suddenly not so into.
To steel yourself up against any negativity, you’ve got to be both super comfortable with yourself and with whom you are as a couple. It’s a team sport where everyone wins, but you’re always going to be playing on the same team, the one with your incomparable mate.
While some may worry that occasionally having some company in the bedroom is risky for the health of their primary relationship, in our experience it’s always been emotionally unambiguous, remarkably so. We love each other as committed soulmates, we love our friends for who they are: wonderful, sexy people.