The term ‘group sex’ means sexual behaviour involving numerous participants. How common is group sex and who does it?
The term ‘group sex’ means sexual behaviour involving numerous participants. It’s not illegal under English or Scottish Law – provided that you don’t do it in public.
Generally, the expression ‘group sex’ implies an activity in which there are a large number of people present – perhaps 10, 20, 30 or even 40.
As a rule, the objective is to have sex with a good many of the other attendees during the course of an evening.
Often this sort of event is described as ‘an orgy’. Although group sex may be superficially attractive, it is likely to lead to sexually transmitted infections (STIs) unless the correct precautions are taken.
How common is group sex?
This is almost impossible to determine, but in our sex surveys we found that more than a quarter of all men and one-eighth of all women said they were ‘interested’ in it. Only about half that number had actually tried it though.
Our clinical impression, from talking to patients, is that group sex was probably much more common in the ‘permissive’ 1970s and early 1980s than it is today.
Once people realised the potential risk of AIDS, they seem to have become more wary of multi-partner sex.
However, fantasising about group sex remains very common. And it is well known that a great deal of current pornography is concerned with group sexual activity.
In a recent study in Canada, about half of male staff at a university had fantasised about group sex. If you tap the words ‘group sex’ into Google, you will be offered over 1.3 billion porn sites.
And in most lists of women’s ‘top ten’ sexual fantasies, multi-partner sex often figures prominently.
When asked for more detail about these fantasies, females often specify intercourse with very handsome males, in front of an appreciative audience.
Who does it?
There is a widespread belief (particularly in America) that group sex is largely an activity of young people. Every now and then, US newspapers start getting very indignant about stories of ‘teenage orgies’. But very often, these tales turn out to be untrue.
In the real world, most young people tend to be quite uninterested in group sex and swapping. They are much more likely to be focussed on romantic one-to-one sex – in other words, boy-meets-girl (or sometimes boy-meets-boy, or girl-meets-girl…).
In fact, the people who go in for orgies are mainly in their 30s, 40s, 50s or even 60s. A high proportion of them are married or divorced, and quite a few go along to these events with their current spouses. That’s why group sex activities are often referred to as ‘wife swapping’.
In Britain, it tends to be relatively well-off people who get involved in group sex action. This is probably because of the fact that in order to put on such events, it is often necessary to own or rent large apartments, or even mansions.
In recent times, notorious orgies were regularly held at luxurious houses or hotels located in London’s West End, and involved some noted professional men and women.
Similarly, in France current orgy scandals have involved rich people and famous politicians, allegedly meeting at luxurious hotels near the Belgian border.
Why do people do it?
It can be difficult to understand why people get involved in group sex, particularly if they are married. There are various possible reasons, including the following:
Desire for multiple partners
Lots of males do have a polygamous streak, and they relish the idea of having sex with many different females in one night.
Group sex offers a man the chance to spend an evening having intercourse (albeit briefly) with perhaps 10 or 12 different women.
In contrast, in our experience, many females do not have any great desire to try out multiple partners (though they may fantasise about it), but a minority do. We have interviewed women who felt that to be penetrated by many different men in an evening is some sort of tribute to their own attractiveness and femininity. This may be particularly so where a women suffers from lack of self-esteem.
A lot of middle-aged couples are rather bored with their sex lives, and they may get the idea that an occasional night of orgiastic sexual coupling would be just the thing to make life more interesting.
The failing marriage syndrome
Very frequently indeed, a couple whose marriage is going wrong may decide that the situation might improve if they got involved in ‘wife swapping’. It probably won’t.
The husband seeking approval for adultery syndrome
Frequently, a man who would like his wife to agree that he can ‘play around’ will start by suggesting group sex. After that, he may feel freer to have affairs at work or elsewhere.
A lot of men, and some women, do enjoy wandering around a room and looking at other men and women having sex.
In addition, it’s a fact that some married people get an erotic frisson out of watching their spouses ‘doing it’ with someone else.
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But it’s vital to realise that most husbands and wives are not like that; I remember a case in which a woman left her husband because she was so appalled at the sight of him having sex with another woman.
Rather similarly, a number of people get a thrill out of being watched by others as they ‘perform’. There are ample opportunities for this at group sex meetings.
What happens in group sex?
This varies a great deal. There are actually a few printed handbooks about how to organise an orgy, and it is on one of them that the following part of this article is based.
The general expectation is that men and women who go along to the ‘club’ will be willing to have sex with a wide variety of other participants. But, as with any sexual activity, consent (from both parties) is vital. No one should feel pressured to do anything that makes them feel uncomfortable.
In addition, some group sex events (especially in the USA) are designated as either ‘hard swap’ or ‘soft swap’.
In a ‘hard swap’ meeting, everybody expects to engage in full sexual intercourse with various other guests. But in a ‘soft swap’ meeting, the idea is that there will be lots of sexual fondling and kissing, but without actual penetrative sex.
Generally, proceedings may start in some large central room or hall, where the master/mistress of ceremonies welcomes people and encourages them to undress. Drink will likely be flowing freely, in order to reduce inhibitions, and these days there will probably be other drugs as well.
The set-up of the occasion can take many forms, but often there are discreet, softly-lit rooms containing beds or mattresses, where people can pair off as they wish. Some of these rooms may contain facilities for specialised sexual tastes, such as blindfold sex, bondage or flagellation.
The organiser will probably get things under way by asking people to take part in various activities.
These may include:
Ring a Ring of Roses. An ice-breaking ‘opener’ in which all the women stand naked in a circle, facing outwards. Outside that, the men stand in a circle facing inwards. Music is played, and the two circles move in opposite directions. Just as in an old-fashioned ‘Paul Jones’ dance, the music stops, and everyone stands still. The participants then give oral sex to whoever is opposite them – until the music starts again.
Daisy chains. An activity in which people lie on the floor in a circle, men alternating with women. Each person then goes in for some sort of simultaneous sexual action (generally oral) with the two people who are on either side of her/him, so that a ‘chain’ is formed.
Games and forfeits. In England, group sex has traditionally involved ‘party games’ of a sexual nature. Often, the losers have to pay a forfeit – which may involve putting on some sort of ‘show’ for the rest of the audience. In the case of women, this may be a lesbian-style display (see below).
Lesbianism. In group sex occasions, women are often encouraged to take part in lesbian-style activities in front of other people. This may be because many men find women-women sex a turn-on.
Practical problems with group sex
Group sex raises certain obvious practical difficulties. In particular, nervous men may be unable to get an erection in an orgy setting. Also, some men get so excited by all this sexual action that they climax almost immediately, presumably making them hors de combat for the rest of the evening.
I understand that these days, Viagra and similar drugs are widely used by men attending group sex parties, in order to try to ensure that they achieve and maintain adequate erections.
Women may also be understandably nervous about group sex, and might find it difficult to relax sufficiently for penetration. For that reason, copious supplies of vaginal lubricants are often provided.
Dangers of group sex
It may sound a lot of fun, and it is a fantasy for many people. But in reality, there are many serious risks of group sex, including the following:
With a lot of people having sex, it’s almost inevitable that somebody present will have an infection and could transmit it to others.
For instance, there are now (2015) some areas of Britain where 15 per cent of the sexually active population is carrying chlamydia.
If just one of those persons takes part in a group sex session, then a lot of the others are going to get it.
Supporters of group sex, particularly in the USA, tend to claim that there is little danger of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), since condoms and the little latex barriers called ‘dental dams’ are often available. But I have treated many people who have acquired gonorrhoea through having multi-person sex at parties.
A considerable risk with group sex is that it may attract unwanted publicity. There are still several newspapers which like to ‘expose’ orgy participants – particularly if they are quite well-known or have ‘respectable’ jobs.
Similarly, participation in group sex could possibly make you liable to blackmail. There have recently been some cases of this in France.
This is a considerable danger. Married couples who go to sex parties do often break up afterwards. Indeed, in my own practice almost every orgy-going husband and wife who were my patients have ended up divorced.
However, I must admit that it could be argued that they were going to the group sex sessions because their relationship was already in trouble.
Group sexual activity often sounds very jolly, particularly if you are a highly-sexed person. But it’s best to keep it within the realms of fantasy. The real thing can be dangerous.
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