What Happened When My Wife and I Decided to Have Sex With Other People
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My wife, Rachael, and I stood by a Jacuzzi in Fire Island with a dozen gay men. We were all watching Jason have at Mandy. Again. It was sex, but it wasn’t particularly sexy — more Animal Planet than Spice Channel. Mandy had braced herself against the edge of the blue fiberglass tub, her ropy black hair spilling down in front of her. And with each of Jason’s thrusts, a swell of water cascaded over the lip of the tub to the deck below. The sound of water slapping wood blended with the couple’s moans in an oddly syncopated rhythm. It was a pretty slick groove, actually — somewhere between bossa nova and Barry White.
The men gathered around were rapt. Who could blame them? This was at least as good as any porn movie. And it involved a real man with huge muscles and tattoos. But Rachael sighed and walked by me in a huff, slid open the screen door leading to the living room and shut it loudly behind her. A sinking feeling pierced the haze of my high. Jason and Mandy showed no signs of letting up, so I headed inside to find Rachael.
It was Rachael who had opened the door to this world. Before I met her, I’d been floating through life, brooding, adrift, like the down-on-his-luck male lead in a film noir, nursing his drink in some saloon, wondering what was next. But Rachael was beautiful, smart and driven. So were her friends — witty, confident gay men who reveled in their success and flaunted it with cool cars, beautiful clothes and impeccably decorated homes. Rachael loved them, and so did I.
It was the mid-’90s, the era of Clinton, boom times and surplus. Over cocktails and cocaine, there was talk of Human Rights Coalition fundraisers, hot tech investments, the cost of kitchen renovations, vacations to Tuscany, and second homes in Rehoboth. In this world, Rachael and I were the exotic ones — the hot straight couple who partied like rock stars with the boys. There were group vacations to Provence, Cancun and Istanbul. There were parties in Miami, New York, Amsterdam, Montreal, Mykonos and San Francisco. We became a major subculture’s minor celebrities.
In one important aspect, though, we remained outsiders. Most of our gay friends, even the ones in committed relationships, were having sex like it was the last days of the Roman Empire and they were Caligula. We heard about three-ways, four-ways, orgies, sex parties at home, sex in sex clubs, sex in cabs on the way back from sex clubs, sex in public bathrooms and in truck stops.
Rachael and I were curious. Everything else about this lifestyle seemed to be working for us. Could promiscuity? Not according to our best friend, Christian.
“I’m telling you,” he said, “you’re asking for trouble.”
“You manage just fine,” Rachael said. Christian and his male partner of nearly 15 years had avoided the emotional minefields of playing the field by employing a policy of full participation when they were together and discretion when they were not. It was an arrangement I referred to as “don’t ask, don’t smell.”
“It is different when it’s boys,” Christian said. “Most of us have a knack for separating our heads from our penises. My advice: Treat it like live porn. Or a yoga class with a happy ending. Keep your emotions out of it. Set some ground rules and talk about them before you go there.”
“Damn,” I said. “Should I be writing all this down?”
Christian patted my cheek. “Laugh now, but you’re getting privileged information here. Hard-earned, too. Truth is, straight or gay, it’s a crap shoot. Everything’s going along fine, then someone sticks his willy somewhere and the damn thing blows up like an exploding cigar.”