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What's it like to swing in Hong Kong (and why do so many couples do it)?

Written by
Lisa Cam
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Swinging, wife-swapping, partner-sharing, trading and lending. Whatever you call it, it’s a sexual practice that’s been happening in Hong Kong for years. Lisa Cam lifts the veil and takes a peek into this secretive community…

Mention the word ‘swinging’ to anyone in Hong Kong and all fingers start pointing towards Discovery Bay. Rumours of strategically placed umbrella stands and Fairy brand detergents on window sills have been doing the rounds since the 1970s. But, these days, they are just that. Urban myths. However, just because swinging isn’t concentrated in one community doesn’t mean it isn’t happening in our city. According to a 2005 study by the USA’s Kinsey Institute, it’s estimated that two to four percent of all the married couples in North America indulge in a bit of partner-swapping. But, in the absence of any similar study in Hong Kong, our local scene remains a mystery. However, say it was two to four percent here, too. That would mean there are at least 40,000 to 80,000 couples engaged in swinging at any given time. That’s a lot of swapping. And it could be true, as our own research finds.

What leads a couple to find another person or couple and have sex with them? How do they strike up an agreement? Let’s face it, surely the main factor is that after shagging the same person for years, sex can become stale. Pepping up the fun with someone different can be one of the ways to improve your sex life. In a 2005 global survey, it was found that 35 to 44-year-olds have the most sex, averaging at 112 times a year compared to just 90 times among 16 to 20-year-olds. It’s a fair conclusion, since many people in the 35 to 44 age range tend to be married – thus enjoying regular sex – but does the quality wane? The saying ‘show me a beautiful woman and I’ll show you a man who’s tired of nailing her’ insinuates that no matter how attractive a man or woman is, sex with any one person gets boring as time goes on. So, if you’re squeamish about swinging, consider those facts. Swingers are just a certain type of couple who want some new fun in the bedroom. Now consider the scene here in Hong Kong.

Till death do us part

Nicole Chan (not her real name) is the founder of Hong Kong’s Cosy Club (溫丙會, 8209 8399; blog.qooza.hk/Q168), a referral service for those seeking other people to help them spice up their marriage. It started life as a matchmaking service 22 years ago but it didn’t take long for the business to evolve into its contemporary niche after successfully matched-up lovers returned to Chan to see if she could recommend them to other like-minded couples. The service now boasts more than 10,000 registered couples looking for others to swing with. “These people are hoping that the exchanges will stimulate their senses,” Chan tells us. “I’d say there are instances where the particular couple isn’t on good terms to begin with but, most of the time, those who do come to us are really close and have a strong relationship.”

Interestingly enough, a good relationship seems to be a common thread among those who choose partner swapping over other forms of sexual gratification. Hongkonger Xavier Man (also not his real name), who has been swinging for the past four years with his wife and uses the Cosy Club to help hook them up with other swingers, reveals that it was a natural progression in their relationship. He says it was a decision born out of love. “What we’re doing is unconventional,” he says, “and it sort of defies traditional norms. But, to be honest, even when you really love your spouse and it’s reciprocated, there will come a day when you’re both looking for something new. Cheating leads to a lot of guilt and resentment, but, luckily for me, my wife had experience with swinging and sex parties in a previous relationship. So it wasn’t hard for me to broach the subject with her. My wife and I, like other couples, communicated with each other extensively. We constantly exchange our thoughts on the matter.” Daniel White, a relationship specialist at Integrated Way, a psychotherapy and coaching service in Central, agrees. “What’s vital is that both partners feel safe,” he says. “Even though there are other people involved, the couple has to be mindful of the other’s emotions and take care of each other.”

Varying appetites

Although many couples may choose to introduce other couples into their relationship to spice up their sex life, it isn’t always about two new faces and bodies. Chan says there are instances where men register with Cosy Club to find other men to satisfy their wife’s unquenchable sexual desires. “I have husbands who look for younger and fitter men for their wives,” she says. “Sometimes the wife has quite the appetite and it takes more than one man to satisfy her. It’s quite common.”

A mismatch of sexual desires is what led Wing Cheng (yup, not her real name either) to take up swinging in her previous relationship. “After dating for six months,” she says, “we were only doing it once every month or so. At the beginning I thought it was quite weird when my ex suggested we try swinging but after going on forums and reading up on the subject, I thought it would be worth a try.” That’s all well and good, you may think, but if only one half of the relationship has a stronger urge for sex, why go for a full couple foursome to satisfy half of the relationship’s appetite? Chan actually recommends the foursome rather than a threesome. “In the cases where a husband brings another man into the bed and watches him bring his wife to a climax,” she says, “that usually leads to a lot of bad feelings and jealousy, whereas if they go into the bedroom with the mentality of ‘oh, you messed with my wife, I’ll mess with yours too’, this sort of balances and improves the dynamics between the couples, so everybody is happy.”

Experienced swinger Xavier Man agrees. “If we’re playing together, then it’s fine,” he says. “But if it was just one other guy with us, then I would find it unacceptable. That’s probably very traditional and possessive of me – I don’t even mind if she sleeps with someone else. I actually find it very exciting when she sleeps with other men and shows me a video or tells me about it afterwards. But I can’t accept a threesome with another guy. Same goes for my wife. She once got mad at me because she saw me kissing another woman at a sex party. She was jealous. But if we’re all playing together, she doesn’t have a problem with it.”

Happy endings?

Chan insists that the swingers in her Cosy Club are happy people and there are statistics to back up her claim. An internet-based study conducted in the USA in 2000 found that 59 percent of those who partake in swinging rate themselves as ‘very happy’ while only 32 percent of non-swingers label themselves the same way. What’s more, 60 percent of those who engaged in the practice admitted that swinging actually improved their relationship.

But it’s not always a bed of roses. One partner-lending experience in Hong Kong destroyed a 20-year-long marriage, according to a sad tale that we read on the all-things-sex-related 141hongkong online forum. A sexually charged and erotic foursome was all it took to sow the seeds of doubt that eventually disintegrated any element of trust between a man and his wife, ultimately leading to divorce. That’s the tougher side of swinging, a bit like Cheng’s experience. Basically, she had a good experience and her partner didn’t. They’re no longer together but she insists that they split for reasons that had nothing to do with swinging. She is now attending sex parties without her current boyfriend’s knowledge. “He’s less experienced in bed than I am and he won’t understand,” she states. “It’s not important to me to find someone who gets why I like to play with more than one guy.”

Xavier Man, like so many others in our city, thoroughly enjoys it. He’s in the process of finding other like-minded couples to play with on a regular basis. He finds going to sex parties to meet others a bit troublesome since many require regular blood and health checks. He does admit that meeting other couples through services such as the Cosy Club have low success rates but has had successful encounters nonetheless.

Finding a partner can be hard enough in Hong Kong, even with the convenience of apps such as Tinder, Grindr and Coffee Meets Bagel. But finding couples to swing with must be a nightmare, even with the help of clubs like Cosy. Considering that only two to four percent of the married population are pegged as swingers, if we share the same stats as the USA, then what are the chances of one couple finding another compatible pair to get down and dirty with? It could be as likely as winning the Mark Six.

But all that aside, it does happen across our city. Probably in Discovery Bay, too. And with swinging facilitators like the Cosy Club, the practice can only grow. Swinging might not be for everyone and it certainly isn’t the most effective way to tackle a problem in a relationship, but, hell, it sure is the most titillating option.

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