Prince Roc is comfortable in his own skin. Right now he's wearing a backwards hat, sweatpants and a sleeveless shirt. At night those clothes come off, since he works as a stripper, performing for both men and women. And they'll soon come off today, since Prince is at a party organized by Menage Life, Denver's main swingers' event group.
Prince wasn’t always this sexually liberated. He grew up in Pennsylvania, in a household heavily influenced by Amish Mennonite culture; he wasn’t allowed to have friends or listen to music, he says, and was constantly warned about the dangers of outside society.
His transition from that world to swinging was a roller-coaster journey, but he's not alone in taking an unorthodox path into the “lifestyle,” as swinging is known. He and many of his fellow swingers want others to know that they are simply normal people who've made a lifestyle choice. And there are a lot of them.
In fact, at Menage Life's annual party in Las Vegas earlier this summer, the group attempted to set the world record for the largest orgy ever. Since the record stood at 500, the goal was to gather 1,000 participants to smash the record. But the sex gods were working against them, as pressure from local residents and politicians forced Menage Life to change venues multiple times, preventing its world-record orgy attempt from coming anywhere close to 1,000 participants. The record stands, but the group's members vow to try again someday.
In the meantime, they meet up at monthly events around Denver, including this party at a private residence in Lakewood, complete with a pool and plenty of places to relax outside.
Although the party began at noon, few came right at the start; as with any party, no one wants to be the first to arrive. One man shows up alone, not realizing that he must have a partner; this buddy system is designed so that partners are responsible for each other's good behavior. He waits outside for a few hours until he eventually convinces a female friend to head over to the party. The early-bird special was $20 per couple (and 100 tickets were sold in advance), but it’s now $40 for couples buying tickets at the door.
Wesley and Buttercup arrive, the latter clothed in a pseudonym. Before events, Menage Life receives some emails from addresses like BigHorseCock69 and WeLikeToFuk, which always provide co-owners Sante Suffoletta and Pearl Derriere with ample entertainment. Then again, Derriere chose her own alias because she likes to "accentuate her bum."
Menage Life's owners are now organizing the outdoor space while volunteers take care of various errands. Derriere busies herself blowing up inflatable balls for the pool, around thirty balls in all. Between two gasps of air, she shouts to those gathered around the pool, “This is more blow jobs than I’ve given in a year.”
Suffoletta sets up the DJ booth. Back in 2004, he was married, working in the telecommunications industry and sometimes deejaying. He didn’t know it beforehand, but one party he was booked for at a Denver nightclub happened to be a swingers' event. “I had a blast,” he recalls. At the time, Denver didn’t have much of a swingers' scene, he says.
To fill the vacuum, Suffoletta founded In Vision Entertainment, a group devoted to the lifestyle. Suffoletta divorced in 2010 and, still happily swinging, transitioned In Vision Entertainment to Menage Life, starting it with Derriere in 2016.
Suffoletta and Derriere, a former ballet dancer, now work full-time for Menage Life. The organization keeps growing; Suffoletta says that people find out about Menage Life through the email listserv, as well as on swingers' websites like Kasidie and FetLife.
The pool is getting more crowded. People are strolling into the yard, taking off their clothes and jumping in. Some throw those inflatable balls at each other, while others just float and talk.
Fara and Rusty are here to meet like-minded people. They’ve been married for decades after meeting through a mutual lover, a woman named Teri. Teri, Fara, Rusty and a friend named Jeff used to come together for sexual play on weekends, forming what came to be known as their "quad." Jeff, Rusty and Fara remain good friends. But Teri is out of the picture because, according to Fara and Rusty, she always wanted to be everyone's central love interest. Someone who is too self-centered will likely struggle in the community, Menage Life members say, since jealousy and selfishness can easily ruin a good relationship.
“It’s all about the love. Love is the most powerful energy in the world. Anger, judgment, hate, that eats you up. It’s about the power of positive energy,” Rusty says.
“We have no jealousy. Jealousy is fear,” adds Fara.
While they talk, they share a sippy bottle. “It’s called ‘Horny Sex.’ It’s Hornitos, Triple Sec and a splash of orange juice,” Rusty explains.
K-Y is not the only lubricant at a swingers' event. Alcohol, the universal social lubricant, also helps loosen people up, just as it does at most summer parties.
And finally, Prince shows up at the house. He was feeling tired earlier, but is glad he decided to come.
Removing his hat, Prince reveals his long-on-top, short-on-the side blue-green hair. He starts telling his story.
Growing up in an oppressively conservative household, he went to church three times a week and believed in the Bible as though it was God’s literal word. No other perspectives made sense. He was home-schooled and knew only Christians for much of his childhood.
When he was nineteen, he traveled to Scotland for a year abroad. It was there that he began to question his beliefs. He started drinking and flirting with girls. He also traveled to Turkey for three months, meeting Muslims for the first time. His worldview began to expand exponentially.
When he returned home, he slipped into a deep depression. Nothing about his past life made sense anymore, he recalls; he felt like he was being oppressed by his family and community. After some months, he packed all of his belongings into his car and began driving west, settling in Colorado. He lost his virginity to his future wife just before their wedding. But after a few years, their marriage turned toxic.They still saw the good in each other, but hated being together. To save their marriage, they tried swinging.
In the beginning, Prince was tormented by jealousy. But slowly he overcome it, realizing that feelings of jealousy reflected his own insecurities. And while swinging didn’t save the marriage, it did save the friendship: He and his ex remain great friends.
"The journey I took to get here was very slow," he says. "I fought it for a lot of years.” He no longer fights it, but he rarely communicates with his family members. Only his brother knows of his lifestyle choice, and like many here, he does not use his real name.
“A lot of individuals don’t talk about the lifestyle for fear of repercussions in their job or with their family,” Derriere says. Menage Life is pushing back against that culture of fear, she adds, working to de-stigmatize sex and sexuality, hoping to normalize the wide spectrum of sexual preferences.
Prince heads outside and strips down to nothing more than a bright-blue thong. With a mix of hip-hop and house music coming from the speakers, he begins dancing, showing off what he would normally only do for paying customers. Then he heads back inside, where he asks another guest to tie him up.
He heads downstairs with the woman, who says she took a months-long course at Denver Bound, where she learned the art of Japanese rope bondage. In the same downstairs room, others are "playing," the term swingers use for sexual activities. A woman performs oral sex on another woman, while a man does the same to his partner. Moans fill the room.
One woman, who won the prize of the day, a vibrator, for having an orgasm in front of everyone at the pool, starts experimenting with her new toy. Unfortunately, its battery is low and can’t do the trick.
A man with three genital piercings and googly eyes glued above his penis comes downstairs with another woman. He puts on a condom and they begin having intercourse on a bar stool. They eventually migrate to a bed and continue having sex. Condoms are dispersed throughout the room so that everyone can stay safe.
The various sexual acts do not distract Gene from telling his story. A 21-year military veteran, Gene says he was having orgasms before he could walk. “I would climb a pole when I was little and get non-ejaculatory orgasms,” he recalls.
He is here with his wife, Anise. They met at a martial arts class and married in the late ’90s. Anise is from the Philippines, where, coincidentally, Gene once set his own personal best for sexual performance. During the Vietnam War, Gene was stationed in the Philippines. On his 21st birthday, he says, he ejaculated over fifty times in that one night, having sex for eighteen hours straight with a total of 22 women, one for each year and another for good luck.
Gene and Anise still practice martial arts. On this particular Saturday, they seem more interested in watching others get pleasured than playing themselves.
One woman propositions me. I refuse, pointing out that I am happily engaged in a monogamous relationship. But then, many of the swingers here are happily married; wedding bands are everywhere.
Back upstairs, Kim, the owner of the house, moves from room to room, making sure that everything is moving along smoothly. “We have no unprotected sex here. It’s clean and more respectful than going to a strip club. It’s all about respect,” she says.
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She has a thirteen-year-old son who's at his father’s; his bedroom is off limits.
She's been in the lifestyle for four years and, on this weekend, she is free to swing. “Women rule this lifestyle,” she says. She throws parties a couple of times a year. There is no room for trans- or homophobia at these events, she says, and anyone who gets too drunk or too touchy receives two warnings and then the boot. She has only had to kick one person out of her house, she says.
But there's about to be a second. In the basement, an intoxicated man who can barely speak is staring too long at some women. One of the women calls over a male friend, Maverick, to make sure that the guy doesn’t try anything. When the guy continues being creepy, he is kicked out "due to poor behavior." He will not be welcomed back.
By 7 p.m. the party is hopping, and I begin to say my goodbyes. Maverick shakes my hand. “Good luck in that monogamous relationship of yours," he says. "If it doesn’t work out, you know where to find us.”