I accidentally posted Thursday's SLLOTD with Wednesday's date, so most of you didn't see this when it went up. So... reposting now. — Dan

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I'm a 38-year-old woman who lost my husband to cancer a few years ago. He was the love of my life, we had an overall wonderful relationship physically and emotionally, and I watched him watch himself die painfully. Needless to say, it was (sometimes still is) fucking brutal and it's been a long road to feeling like myself again. I have seen a specialized therapist since he died and got a dog. Through all the work on healing, my heart and body sort of restructured themselves and I could use some guidance.

Now that I have some time and energy to spend on exploring new relationships, I find myself wanting the opposite of what I used to. Basically, I don't currently want to plan a future with anyone, don't need exclusivity, and want to explore beyond vanilla sex. The idea of deeply loving and making a promise to another man terrifies me. (I'm working on that with the therapist.) Ideally, a friends-with-benefits situation would pop up, but it's hard to find that perfect balance and guy to do it with.

So, in the meantime, I've found myself interested in trying out swingers clubs. I never used to want casual sex, but now that's kind of all that I want all the time. Maybe it is the fact that I haven't had sex in almost four years, but I am HORNY, Dan. I visited a few clubs in a city known for them, and they were interesting but ultimately unfruitful. (Unfuckful?) The events were sparsely attended and I didn't see anyone I was attracted to. However, I was impressed at how consent was emphasized and boundaries were respected, even as dudes walked around with erections on full display. I honestly felt safer in those clubs than any nightclub I've ever been in.

Basically, since I am a total newbie at this... do you have any recommendations on how I might navigate this new landscape of swingers clubs, aside from always using condoms? Is there etiquette I should know about in terms of initiating or rejecting encounters? What are the most reliable resources for finding good clubs or events? I am mainly interested in men but would be open to an encounter with a woman, if it felt right. I don't have a fetish or kink, really, other than some light bondage.

This whole landscape is brand new to me, and sometimes I can't believe that I'm even considering casual sex, let alone in a club. But my body is telling me that grinding on strangers is what I need right now, and I'm trying to honor that safely. Any thoughts?

Widow Is Ready And Needs Advice

P.S. I hate the term "widow." Maybe your commenters can come up with something less dismal?

I'm so sorry for your loss, WIRANA, my heart really does go out to you... and I hope what I say next doesn't come across an insensitive. I also don't want to overstep and you mentioned working with a specialized therapist and you asked me about swingers parties, not love or loss, but my first thought on reading your letter was...

Actually, first let me say I'm not opposed to swingers clubs or anonymous sex (duh), WIRANA, and since the organized swingers scene would collapse if women felt unsafe, it doesn't surprise me that you felt safer at those swingers parties you checked out than you have in nightclubs.

And with that said...

I have a similar reaction to hearing "the love of my life" that I do to hearing "the one." Just as there is no "the one," singular, but rather lots of .64s or .72s we can round up to one, there is no one-and-only love of our lives. Someone can be the most important love of our lives or the most profound love of our lives or the most meaningful love of our lives... but we can love more than one romantic partner over the course of lives. Indeed, most of us have.

I'm probably telling you something you already know. Just as a lot of people are aware they're rounding up when they talk about "the one" (and aware they're being rounded up by the person who calls them "the one"), people who know they're capable of loving again—or capable of loving more than one romantic partner at a time—often talk about "the love of my life." Most people get that these are figures of speech, loving honorifics, not literal designations.

But just as I've seen a sincere belief in the myth of "the one" harm people, I've seen a sincere belief in "the love of my life" do harm too. People who believe in "the one" often end good and loving relationships because they're not sure the person they're with is "the one" and they misinterpret their uncertainty as proof the person they're with isn't "the one." (If they were "the one," wouldn't they feel that unambiguously?) What they don't know—or don't know yet—is that "the one" isn't a gift we're given by the universe. It's a gift we give someone. I've also spoken with people who were convinced that opening themselves up to love again after the death of a partner—after the death of the love of their lives—would be a betrayal. Proof, somehow, that the person they loved and lost and miss every single day wasn't the love of their lives. But just as there are lots of potential "ones" out there, there is more than one potential love of our lives.

I probably didn't need to say any of that—and I think I'll avoid the reading the comments today—since you've been working with a therapist who specializes in grief and you've doubtless discussed this. But while, again, I'm not opposed to anonymous or nearly-anonymous sex at swingers parties or anywhere else, and while anonymous sex may be the right choice for you and your body at this time, WIRANA, I hope you haven't ruled out loving someone else. (Perhaps someone who isn't interested in exclusivity right now either and is interested in swingers parties and light bondage?) I get that loving again is scary—you had to watch your husband die painfully—and that you might not be ready to risk going through that again. That's understandable. And if anonymous or nearly-anonymous sex at swingers parties is the right choice for you right now, WIRANA, because your body is ready but your heart isn't, I fully support you finding the right swingers parties and the right guys walking around nude with erections. But I hope you aren't cutting yourself off from intimacy and connection—with a potential new partner or partners—because you think loving again would be a betrayal of your husband's memory and the memory of what you shared. It isn't and it's not.

Okay! On to your actual questions...

Vice UK has a nice list of etiquette suggestions for people going to swingers clubs for the first time. While most of them seem to be for men (take a fucking shower, you dummies, ask first, no means no, etc.), everyone should take the author's advice about adjusting their expectations: "Don't go out expecting Eyes Wide Shut, or, for that matter, anything resembling the idea you have in your head; you're much more likely to find a room full of people who look like your aunts and uncles."

Your experience—going to a swingers party and not meeting anyone you were into—is a pretty common, WIRANA, but you didn't draw the conclusion many people seem to, i.e. that it wouldn't be worth your time going back. While no one who goes out to bars or clubs to find sex and/or romantic partners decides to never go back if they don't meet someone they're interested on their first night out, people—sometimes the very same people—will conclude that swingers clubs and sex parties are a waste of time if they don't find someone they wanna fuck (and who wants to fuck them) at the first swingers party they attend. Similarly, no one opens one time Tinder or POF or Farmers Only and the deletes the app if they don't connect with someone immediately.

So let's say you're at another swingers party—because you didn't draw that dumb conclusion—and you see someone walking around with an erection that you'd like to have inside you. Or someone sees you and decides he'd like to see his erection inside you. How do you initiate or reject an encounter?

Well, in a room where men and women are nude and dudes are walking around with boners, WIRANA, you can be direct as fuck. You can ask for what want, you can say no to what you don't want. And it's important to give a clear and unambiguous no when your answer is no, WIRANA; don't say "maybe later" or "not right now." This can be difficult for women, who are socialized to defer to men. (Or terrorized into deferring to men.) But you can give a clear "no" to a man in a swingers club, WIRANA, because men who have difficultly taking "no" for an answer are quickly weeded out by the organizers of swingers parties, as those men make women feel unsafe. (And when women feel unsafe at a swingers party, they leave; when women leave a swingers party, it's over. The men at a swingers party don't want that, so they're better behaved, on average, then the men at a nightclub.) If you see a man you're interested in, approach him, make small talk, then ask if he's interested in doing whatever it is you're interested in doing with or to him. If he is, be very clear about what exactly it is you want—making out? oral sex? intercourse?—and if he's there with a female partner, as most men at swingers parties are (most bar single men from attending), bear in mind they may be a package deal. (Some couples only play together.) You aren't obligated to play with a woman, but if you're interested or intrigued by the thought, you could.

Oh, and I don't have to tell you that you aren't obligated to do anything with anyone—a chief concern among newbies—at a swingers party, seeing as you already went to a couple of parties where you didn't do anything with anyone and no one pressured to do anything with anyone.

Finally, WISANA, don't rule the men you meet in swingers clubs out as potential partners—most likely non-exclusive partners, as most of the men you'll meet at swingers parties will be there with partners of their own. If having a partner while still having the freedom to grind on strangers appeals to you, WIRANA, a man you met at a swingers party is likelier to be okay with that—or crazy into that—than a man you met on Farmers Only.

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P.S. I'm not up on the best resources for people looking to attend straight swingers parties; if anyone is still reading at this point and knows of a good resources, please toss it into the comments along with your suggestions for a less dismal term than "widow" to describe a woman whose husband has died.


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