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Mid 40’s het/cis woman, in a nesting/primary relationship with a mid 40’s het/cis guy for three years. We’ve been open/poly to varying degrees since the beginning and are active kinksters in the BDSM community and we both have other play partners. Everything is going really well but we have one thing in our kink/non-monogamy that we're at an impasse with.

My partner has a fetish for really casual group sex—he loves sex parties and swing clubs. This is something he feels he needs to do and I'm having a really hard time with it.

I've done the three-/four-/more-some thing a few times and it was fun but it's not something I go crazy for and it has to be trusted group of friends. Having sex with strangers is a hard hurdle for me, I have to have a certain level of trust first. We're both exhibitionists, down with nudity, love public kink play and we've had sex at kink parties that allow that, all good. About a year and a half ago, he asked if I'd try a swing club with him, we'd go slow, just play together and just explore the atmosphere. I was hesitant before I went but thought going would help me see that it was something friendly and safe and fun. I was nervous nefore I went to a play party at a dungeon for the first time but everyone was welcoming and respectful and nice and I had a great time. I figured going to a sex club would be the same.

When we got there the atmosphere wasn't sexy to me. It was a little run down and seedy and the people weren't friendly and a few were kind of creepy. I'm used to dungeon-level (or decent gym-level) cleanliness, and expect that people will clean equipment before and/or after they use it. But they didn't and the place was kind of dirty (like actual dirt dirty). I'm a little germ-phobic so this was tough, but I pushed through and we grabbed some towels, got undressed and went for it, and it was OK. The sex going on around us wasn't really sexy to me but I tuned it out and focused on my partner. And then I was assaulted: full butt and genital grope by a guy walking by. My partner yelled at him and we left. And on the way out a drunk girl grabbed my boobs. My partner felt terrible about it and was very supportive and caring.

He would love it if I'd try again but he understands it's probably not a good idea, given what happened, and is fine that I'm opting out. But he still wants/needs to do this on his own. And I'm so disgusted by my experience that I'm having a very hard time accepting that this is something my partner enjoys and wants to participate in. He actually enjoys the grungy seediness.

Since then, he went to a different swing club while I was out of town visiting my family. I didn't love it but I could deal. The distance and several days between him going and me coming back and being with him made it easier. Another time he went while I stayed home and that was a lot harder. I don't want to kink-shame or be sex-negative, but this is really hard for me. I understand intellectually that if I don't participate in it that it shouldn't matter, but I still can't get past it. When he's out without me doing other things I'm fine. But I get really anxious about sex parties and thinking about my partner in that environment is a huge turnoff for me. How do I accept this or what do we do? I love this guy and everything else is really good.

Gross Group Grope

So the issue is… cooties? Not STIs (I assume your partner uses protection with others), but your partner coming back from one of these dirty and—if they’re all as bad as that one place—shitty-where-consent-is-concerned places all covered in yuck? — Dan

STIs are a fear, that's in there, condoms aren't a haz-mat suit. But I guess it's reconciling the person I know and love with someone who enjoys something I find disgusting. I have philosophical issues—swing clubs tend to be hetero-only for men, women are expected to be bi, they're really white, not very body-positive or inclusive, and there seems to be loose understandings of consent and I find supporting that questionable.

How I've gotten myself through it is a mantra of "this is the same person I know and love, this doesn't change anything." And I've asked for him not to share details with me, which has helped. But when he comes home it's tough putting it all out of my mind so we can be normally physically close. It's not like he went to a rally for nazi brown shower enthusiasts but...

So, yeah, moral ick, actual germs ick, but mostly irrational ick all rolled up together. — Gross Group Grope

What if you agreed to let him to go to these places when you're out of town (or when he's out of town), so you didn’t have to see him right before or right after, but he also refrained from telling you he was going. Basically, you would have a DADT arrangement but only where these sorts of clubs are concerned. He can go at certain times but he's not to tell you he's going or share details about it, GGG, and you’re not going to ask either. If you could suspend your disbelief and put it out of mind, you wouldn't have to work that mantra so hard.

Also, not all swing clubs are as dirty—and the better ones enforce strict rules and protocols about consent. Not because they're all run and/or overrun by people who are completely consentwoke, but because these venues collapse when women abandon them en masse. That asshole who groped you? His behavior didn't just result in you wanting to leave, GGG, but in you never wanting come back—to that or any other. Did you wind up at the worst of all possible swing clubs that first time? Are the others your partner has visited as bad? Or am i being too panglossian here? — Dan

The club we went to was one where he hadn't had issues in the past. There were ones where he had had issues—and a couple of those are now closed, so there's that.

I've come across a lot of kinky women that have had similar consent violations at various clubs. (Maybe my city is horrible at consent?) I've also talked to a few swingers that seemed to think that because it wasn't non-consensual PIV, just groping/grabbing, that it was no big deal, particularly with being grabbed by a woman. ("It was a woman and just boobs, what's the issue?" WTF?) And I've seen some handsy swingers at kink events that didn't really enjoy being reminded of the rules. Granted my sample size is small but it's a common theme. I'm sure the majority of swingers aren't consent violators but the culture seems pretty tolerant of it.

Maybe a DADT agreement would work. I'm at least willing to try it. Although kinda funny after all the work into informed consent and talking abut everything we do as poly kinky people. — Gross Group Grope

I'm sorry to hear your area swingers suck at consent—and I'm guessing that's why two clubs have closed already. Here's hoping the rest of them close and then-homeless swingers don't invade and ruin your altogether kink scene, which sounds a lot healthier.

But I don't think agreeing to do the DADT thing about this one thing conflicts with your principles where informed consent and good communication are concerned. Sometimes you inform a partner about something and their response communicate this to you: “Thanks for the info, I get that you find that hot, but it’s kind of a libido killer for me—I'm not telling you not to do it, just don’t want to hear about it." In other words, GGG, you would be saying this to your partner: "You have my consent to go do that, you don't have my consent to ever tell me about it."— Dan

Yes, about informed consent. Guess oversharing is a peril we forget about.— Gross Group Grope

Knowing when to shut up is at least as important as knowing when to speak up. — Dan

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