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Sex clubs also known as swinger clubs or lifestyle clubs, are formal or informal groups that organize sex-related activities or establishments where patrons can engage in sex acts with other patrons. A sex club or swinger club differs from a brothel in that, while sex club patrons typically pay an annual membership and nightly entrance fee, they only have an opportunity to have consensual sex with other willing patrons, and not with sex workers employed by the establishment.
A similar type of club is a masturbation club in which members, either single-gender or mixed, masturbate together in public or private rooms. Sexual intercourse is generally prohibited in such clubs.
There is also a very large and growing group of private sex clubs across the U.S. and around the world that do not operate in a specified location. These organizations focus on private parties in homes or rented facilities and make use of the Internet to build their membership. There is usually a small door fee and most are invitation-only. In addition to sexual orientation, these smaller groups often stratify on specific criteria, e.g., heavy men with beards or those who are HIV-positive. The first sex club of this type exclusively for African American gay men was Black Jack, started in 1986 by Alan Bell.
Many sex clubs have some form of online presence. Additionally, most adult dating and swinger social networks often provide listings of sex clubs, resorts and events. However there is no non-profit impartial over-arching organization of sex clubs such as can be similarly found with the Adult Film Association of America or other neutral associations in other industries.
Most sex clubs cater to the swinging lifestyle. Most major cities in North America and western Europe have sex clubs, many in a permanent location, but they often keep a low profile. Thousands of swinging clubs are listed on various adult websites and swinger social networks, but there are believed to be many other small neighborhood clubs, which are known among members of the lifestyle community, without a website. The rules of these clubs vary considerably, and admissions are not necessarily limited to married couples.
Most clubs are upscale and professional places that provide a safe place to meet other swingers. There are some differences however among clubs, and one should not confuse swinger clubs with social clubs, swinger groups or Meet-and-Greets. The easiest and simplest way to know the difference between swinger clubs and socials, groups or Meet-n-Greets is that swinger clubs are usually a brick and mortar physical locations where you meet other swingers. Socials, groups, and Meet-and-Greets may often meet in the same location but it is often either a residence or some space that they have secured to meet. However swinger clubs are typically permanent places that are specifically established for catering to swingers. It is estimated that there are over 3,000 swingers lifestyle clubs in North America.
One of the biggest differences among clubs is the distinction of "On-Premise" or "Off-Premise" swinger clubs. On-Premise swingers lifestyle clubs are ones that offers rooms or areas that permit couples to engage in sex either alone or with others. Off-Premise clubs are ones that allow for couples to meet and often dance or can socialize but have no areas or rooms where any sexual activity can occur. Larger establishments may include the facilities of an ordinary nightclub such as a bar and a dance floor. Each club sets the rules for activities which take place at club organised events. Some clubs organise events which cater to heterosexual couples or individuals, others to gay men or (rarely) lesbians, and others have no orientation policy. Some cater to non-conventional activities, such as gang bangs, BDSM or fetish.
Many swinger clubs will have a dozen or more rooms for sexual activity. The lifestyle clubs are also often decorated in themes with furniture to match. Rooms may be decorated like a tropical oasis to Arabian Nights to caves to rooms with mirrors everywhere. Most clubs will also have voyeur rooms that have windows where patrons can engage in sex and know that they are being watched by other patrons of the club. Some swinger clubs go as far as to have rotating beds in the voyeur rooms to continually change the view for those watching.
Most sex clubs in the U.S. and Canada do not serve alcohol because of local blue laws and legal requirements associated with a liquor license, but some allow customers to bring their own. Some sex clubs have formal membership and requirements that can include membership fees, showing proof of identity, attending a formal orientation, possibly providing STI test results or showing that one is part of a stable, long-term relationship and is attending with that partner (intended to minimize the number of single males or cheating husbands). Other clubs are open to any person willing to pay an admission fee.
Sex clubs normally do not directly advertise to the general public, but typically rely on their own websites, swinger social networking, vertical integration in the adult entertainment industry, or through affiliate promotions on other adult venues. Many clubs, websites, publications, travel agencies, resorts, and events catering to the lifestyle promote each other to their mutual financial benefit but also with the altruistic intent of encouraging the dissemination of accurate information about the swinging lifestyle.
Attitudes to same-sex activity and bisexuality vary by culture and locale, and by gender.
As a rule, female bisexuality and bicuriosity are common in swinging and tend to be the norm amongst participants; Similarly, the online swinger site Swinger Social Network demonstrates that their female membership approximates a 50% population of bisexual females. By contrast, male same-sex activity has a wider variation in its handling, and may be welcomed, accepted, frowned upon, or forbidden. One source, covering "Chicago's first and only all bisexual [club]" stated that in the founders' view "The lifestyle is pretty homophobic" and "male bisexuality was erased", although an "underground market" existed. Swing clubs and other facilities exist for gay and bisexual interests for both genders, but differ – for example bathhouses and the like for gay males, sometimes described as being "controversial" even in the gay community due to safer sex concerns, whereas women's clubs are "comparatively rare" and tend to be organized as private events, or niche clubs with high popularity for their events.
Most swingers' clubs do not bar entrance into their facilities based on race, national origin, physical appearance or age. The average swinger is married, professional, middle-class and in their 40's.
However, younger swingers seeking peer group options find this is not always possible at conventional swingers' clubs because of normal demographics. Similarly, those individuals who seek to specifically exclude others they personally view as unattractive are often disappointed at many swingers' clubs because the patrons are not screened to their standards. This desire by some has given rise to exclusive parties and clubs that exclude people based on looks and/or impose an upper age limit. Such clubs remain a minority.
'Selective swinging' events include mostly childless, unmarried young graduates whose average ages are as low as the late 20s. Selective parties are often derided by other swingers as "exclusive" or "elitist" and contrary to the open and accepting nature that they feel swinging should be about.
There are hundreds of establishments in the United States ranging from serial house parties and meet up groups to fully licensed businesses. The legal requirements and legality of such establishments varies from state to state and even from locality to locality. Zoning laws including proximity to schools or religious buildings, blue laws, local standards, and other factors have all played a role. While there have been some cases involving such establishments, there is no uniform federal law governing or federal case with precedent in regards to the legalities.
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