The changing nature of Singapore’s swingers scene
Swinging has moved beyond four-star hotels to multiroom apartments thanks to Airbnb, and the internet, where couples arrange everything from swingers’ cinema nights to sex-fuelled events far racier
Singapore may consistently rank among the world’s freest economies, but the city remains highly conservative – on the surface.
Numerous pornographic websites are blocked by the state and homosexual acts still warrant jail terms. Digital disruption, however, has become the great enabler of Singapore residents whose sexual inclinations are frowned upon by Asian traditionalism.
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“Swingers” parties used to be reserved for high flyers of a certain income bracket. They were held in glitzy hotels and to get an invitation to one, you’d have to know people who know people,” explains Nina (not her real name), a Singaporean Muslim in her mid-30s. Nina says she and her husband have been sexually explorative since their courtship days, and agreed to remain polyamorous even after marrying.
Although elite private swinger gatherings are held frequently in Singapore, Nina adds spice to her marriage and sex life as a member of the Undertable Swingers Community.
Through its website (undertable.asia) she and her English husband have enjoyed three spouse-swapping experiences since posting on its noticeboards and joining its discussions roughly two months ago.
“We are a small community who wish to explore the possibilities that exist beyond hand-in-hand relationships with one’s spouse,” says Singaporean Mac Seah, 35, who founded Undertable Swingers Community five years ago, when only a handful of small swingers clubs existed in Singapore. His website now hosts more than 54,000 members, a great number of whom are in Singapore. “Apart from that, we are nothing fancy,” Seah says.
Besides notices about nude “naturist” parties, or BDSM (bondage and discipline, dominance/submission, sadism-masochism) practitioners, and feeders for like-minded enthusiasts, the pages of undertable.asia are also used by partner swappers to organise tamer activities such as nightclub outings and trips to the cinema.
“Couples who are looking to swing generally organise their meet-ups in four or five-star hotels, or host them in one another’s homes,” Seah explains. “Hosting at home isn’t as common, as not many people are comfortable with inviting new acquaintances to their homes. However, lately, with the introduction of Airbnb, it has become easier to organise swings in multiroom apartments, which can accommodate more couples. This is the latest trend that we have been seeing.
“Sadly, in Singapore and around Asia, our authorities do not allow the exploration of lifestyles like ours and we are unable to have offline clubs, unlike our Western counterparts in the swinging community.”
Seah says the demographic of the community is largely working adults, ranging from about 26 to 45 years old. “Most are in fast-paced industries, who deal with large amounts of stress or are simply getting tired of routine bedroom activities. They are the ones who are looking for that spark to reignite a relationship, or to start a journey of exploration,” he says.
Another way swingers in Singapore harness the connectivity of technology is through Feeld – previously called 3nder – which is essentially Tinder for threesomes. Operating on a similar matching system as Tinder, the London-based app has only about 100 active users in Singapore, most of whom hide their identities. The user base includes many couples who share their photos and freely post about their sexual interests.
Attitudes towards swinging in multicultural Singapore may be influenced by its various communities. About 15 per cent of the island nation’s population is Muslim, 19 per cent Christian and five per cent Hindu.
Nina was raised Muslim. Islam technically allows a man to take up to four wives – if his current wife or wives find the set-up agreeable. However, monogamy is the norm for Muslims in Singapore.
The country’s Chinese majority is largely Taoist or Buddhist, and for the most part hold Confucian values in high regard. Their faiths do not forbid polygamy, but encourage abstinence, fidelity and monogamy.
Many of Singapore’s Christians are Catholic. “Fidelity in covenants like marriage is non-negotiable in Catholic ethics,” says Brother Michael Broughton, a former principal in Singaporean Catholic schools, and an authority figure whom local Catholics look to for matters involving Vatican theology and doctrine.
Nina, on the other hand, says an increasing number of matrimonial unions have become personal and customisable agreements.
“I know a well-to-do, middle-aged Singaporean man whose prenuptial terms for his wife were that he would still be allowed to have fun on the side, so long as he provided well for her. I also know another tycoon who has two wives who are aware of each other, and has in fact drawn up a will that includes both his families,” she says.
According to Singaporean lawyer Geraldine Ong, the law is silent on swinging, although it is provided that marriage is a monogamous contract between two individuals and such is its sanctity.
“As per the autonomy of individuals, if both the man and wife agree to consensual swinging, it is merely a decision that both adults take rationally. If one party unilaterally cheats on the other, and the latter party comes to find out with evidence, only then may a claim for adultery in divorce be filed,” Ong says.
Seah says one of the biggest issues he sees in the community – something that swingers need to realise – is that they have to be realistic when it comes to the lifestyle. It’s important to manage members’ expectations when meeting new people.
“Many people are influenced by porn when they join our community. They will have to take the time to understand that the swinger’s lifestyle is much more than what porn can portray. Another issue that we occasionally come across is sexual risk,” he says.
Everyone in the community understands the importance of practising safe sex, he says, but it’s something his website continues to actively remind the community about.
“Our biggest issue is the misconception of what it means to be a swinger,” Seah says. “When I first founded the community, my partner and I were the only swinger couple there. Undertable Swingers Community was and is still meant to be a place of liberal discussions.
“The misconception here is that we are sex addicts. I cannot stress enough that this is so far from the truth.
“Many users we have joined us because they are looking for the reassurance that they are not the only ones on this journey. And many of us end up making more friends than bedroom partners. Unlike what most outsiders believe, it’s the friendship connections that matter most here.”
Another Singaporean swinger, who goes by the name Dart, says: “Today’s options for swingers include Craigslist, Undertable Singers Community’s forums and a plethora of social media platforms such as Tumblr and Tinder.
“The Undertable Swingers Community is a good place for swing-curious couples who are experimental but who are perhaps not ready to fully commit to a swing. That’s where they will find ‘soft swings’ like same-room sex with another couple, and making out with another couple without the encounter resulting in sex.”
“For the adventurous, there are also full-blown orgies that are planned,” he adds.
Dart, a man in his mid-30s, runs a blog that is also not for the faint of heart. On the site he catalogues in words, photos and videos the activities of his niche-interest community, who engage in stag-vixen relationships.
“In the stag-vixen relationship, the stag, the male, openly shares his partner, the vixen, with other men, and enjoys watching and/or participating,” says Dart, who vividly documents his adventures on the Tumblr blog.
“Exhibitionalism and voyeurism would contribute a lot to the relationship, as we love to show off. What I do does not lean so much toward swinging per se,” he explains. “It’s almost like a competition where we dare each other to make more outrageous attempts each time.”
Dart adds: “Physical intimacy and emotional engagement are integral parts of any romantic relationship. There are only 101 ways you can have vanilla sex before it becomes dull, and that typically spells the beginning of the end of any relationship.”
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A record 7,614 marriages were dissolved in Singapore in 2016, up from 7,522 the previous year. Meanwhile, the number of marriages in Singapore continues to fall year by year.
Apart from challenging the status quo, Dart and his growing community have gripes about what they feel is unjustified social stigma: a woman who sleeps around is labelled a “slut”, he points out, while a man who does so is regarded as a “stud”.
“This is the reason why many women are afraid to pursue their sexual needs,” he says.