"Do you know what kind of place this is?" The pretty young woman at the front desk asks us as we check in and pay the $30 "couples" membership fee.
"Yes," Best Guy Friend and I reply in unison.
Ron Jeremy is apparently an investor in the club, and therefore his name is used to promote the place: “Ron Jeremy’s Club Sesso Swingers Club.” I have to say my only hesitation in visiting Club Sesso is the Ron Jeremy affiliation. His association evokes a certain level of sleaze and creep-factor that, upon entering, I realize is not the vibe whatsoever. While doing my extensive Yelp research to find the best sex club in Portland, I discover that Club Sesso has 5 Stars and all the reviews are positive and enthusiastically written by women and men in relationships. There is a wholesome vibe to the reviews that initially attracts me, a sense that this is simply a sex-positive environment where like-minded people gather to have fun. The reviews are spot on.
First of all, when we first walk in, we are greeted by a friendly, tatted young woman who politely checks us in. Then Eileen, the “Madame” of the establishment, a petite 70-something woman with cropped blond-grey hair and a youthful spirit, materializes to give us the grand tour. She also asks if we know what kind of place this is. We smile and nod. She leads us into the small bar where several couples sip drinks and furtively glance around to see who has just walked in. There is porn playing on a small TV near the ceiling. The empty dance floor has two cages with poles inside and some multi-colored directional lighting. As new members on our very first visit to the club, our first drink is on the house. I order a Campari and soda. Best Guy Friend asks what they have on tap. I glance up at the balcony above us where one couple and several single guys stand separately peering down, assessing the fresh meat. I try not to hold eye contact with anyone for too long, but enjoy the intensity of their gazes. The sense that everyone is openly here for the same reason cuts through some of the usual bullshit of going to a bar to find someone to hook up with.
I think there are a surprising number of people here for a Wednesday night, even one guy I find pretty hot who keeps making eyes at me as he passes with his girlfriend. I hold his gaze for a beat longer than usual. Eileen assures me that “this is nothing” and says we should plan to come back the following night for Gang Bang Night or Friday for Wet T-Shirt Night.
“School Girl Night is really fun,” she says. “All the girls dress like school girls and the men dress up like professors. It’s very sexy.”
She indicates the empty dance floor.
“On Wet T-Shirt Night, all the girls get in the cages. They love it.”
She informs us that her husband, who owns the club with her, has Parkinson’s so he doesn’t make it down so much any more.
“But when he does, I get up on that pole and I fuck his face,” she shares nonchalantly. I want to be this woman when I grow up. I feel immediately fond of her, not in small part because she reminds me of my ex-boyfriend’s mother, someone who has always been one of my grown-up heroes.
Eileen shows us the “complimentary dinner buffet”, reminiscent of a janky school cafeteria and I congratulate myself for ordering us a couple apps at the bar where we pre-gamed before coming to da club. She then leads us upstairs where there is porn playing on a bigger screen behind a bar with a mattress on the floor instead of a bartender. This is the first "play area." All the other play areas are small separate rooms equipped with a large mattress, several towels, and condoms scattered on the bed like chocolates. One smaller darkly-lit room has a sex swing. There are doors for privacy and windows where voyeurs can peek inside if the couples inside are kind enough to open the blinds. No one is having sex as far as we can see, but it's only 10 p.m. We can hear some distant groaning coming from one of the private rooms, but the door and curtains are closed and uninviting.
Best Guy Friend, who has frequented sex clubs in Germany where he says the rooms are all open and people fuck anywhere and everywhere, asks Eileen about this.
“Are there any rooms where people can have sex out in the open in front of people?”
“The third floor room is all open, but it’s closed on Wednesday nights. On Gang Bang Night, people really go for it up there.”
“Do people ever have sex in the bar?”
“Oh no. But on Wet T-Shirt Night, someone might get a blow job or eaten out in one of the cages,” Eileen informs us. Apparently we’re here on the wrong night.
Eileen tells us that it’s very important to stay active at her age, and says she pole dances regularly to stay fit. She shows us her muscular thighs and encourages us to feel how strong they are. We do. She talks joyfully about sex and pleasure, and about how the city is always trying to find excuses to shut down the club.
“Really, even in Portland?” I ask.
“People hate sex in this country,” says Eileen matter-of-factly.
Best Guy Friend, being German, doesn’t understand this mentality.
“America was founded by Puritans,” I inform him.
As a fairly attractive “couple” in the club, we attract a good amount of attention, and soon a pretty and flirtatious African American woman is hovering close and smiling at me. I tell her that Best Guy Friend and I are platonic friends, and she tells me, “I want to have what you guys have with my boyfriend.” This confuses me, seeing as Best Guy Friend and I don’t have sex. It makes more sense when I realize she has clearly dragged her boyfriend to the club, probably because she wants to hook up with a girl, and he’s not really into the experience. She points him out talking to another guy that I guess is trying to pick them up. She repeats several times, meaningfully, “I would rather hook up with you than that guy, I’m actually pretty into girls.” I play a little dumb because I don’t want to get sucked into whatever weird energy is going on between her and her boyfriend.
The hot guy and his girlfriend are still meandering around, him catching my eye every time he passes. I point them out to Best Guy Friend.
“Maybe we can swing with them,” I suggest.
“She’s not interested in me,” he says. She doesn’t seem very interested in the club in general and isn’t checking anyone out, or even really looking around at all. I wonder if there’s ever a case when one partner isn’t dragging the other one into this experience.
A young heavy-set girl with a long-standing membership to the club takes it upon herself to be our hostess for the evening. She also up-sells the Wet T-Shirt Night and encourages me to partake because: “you have great tits.” Still, no one is having sex publicly, which is slightly disappointing for a sex club. I’m struck by the fact that it’s probably much smarter to bring someone you're actually fucking rather than your platonic best friend (duh) and marvel at how even the couples who would choose to come to a sex club on a Wednesday night are still shy about doing it in front of people. I think about how my ex-boyfriend and I would have cleaned up in our heyday.
An attractive, wiry Israeli Dude introduces himself. He is from Tel Aviv and works in New York and is in Portland for business. He invites me and Best Guy Friend outside to smoke weed out of his Audi. As we stand there smoking, I complain that no one’s having sex and he says meaningfully, “If you want something to happen, you have to make it happen.” Best Guy Friend raises his eyebrows at me: a challenge.
When we return from outside, everyone’s spirits have lifted somewhat because “a girl is being tied up upstairs.” Our hostess leads us up the stairs to where a big-breasted woman is standing on the mattress behind the bar, her arms over her head, tied up and blindfolded. A large man with rainbow-colored hair is smacking her ample ass. She writhes with pleasure and anticipation as he teases her, methodically perusing a selection of tools he might use on her.
“This is called a scene,” explains our hostess. “When you’re tied up and blindfolded, your senses are heightened and you have no control, leading to a feeling of euphoria.”
“You’re the hostess with the mostess,” I say stupidly. Best Guy Friend laughs and rolls his eyes. The large man lubes up a dildo and starts fucking the woman with it, and I find myself giggling like an embarrassed school girl as I watch this very private moment made public. Soon the woman is untied and the scene is apparently over.
Club Sesso allows single guys in (most swingers clubs don’t), so there are a lot of random dudes slinking around in the shadows, watching and waiting. There is a sense that everyone is waiting for something to happen, and I get impatient with this. Flirtatious woman is still hovering nearby, so I try to encourage her and her reluctant boyfriend to grab a room and have sex so we can watch. I also attempt to volunteer our hostess. She says she’s more of a “watcher.” Israeli Dude keeps repeating in my ear, “If you want something to happen, you have to make it happen.”
Finally, the hot guy and his girlfriend start getting it on in the corner of the upstairs room. Literally everyone in the club (mostly dudes) gathers around to watch. I feel almost uncomfortable watching them because everyone else is. My instinct is to give them their privacy.
“They want us to watch,” says Best Guy Friend, a sex club etiquette aficionado.
The hot guy puts down a towel on a couch in the corner of the hang out area and his girlfriend crawls on top of him and starts slowly moving up and down.
I suddenly realize that many couples must come here just to get turned on so they can then go off and fuck each other in private, rather than actually coming here to find someone new to have sex with. This idea bores me, and I decide to be part of the change.
Israeli Dude keeps casually suggesting, “we should just get a room.” I agree. We should. We start trying to negotiate which room, but I can feel every guy in the room watching me trying to pick a place to fuck, which makes me self-conscious.
“We should do the swing room,” Israeli Dude suggests.
“Okay,” I say. Go big or go home.
Flirtatious woman follows us, ingratiating herself. “Can I join?”
“Sure!” exclaims Israeli Dude. But I’m not sure I’m ready for my first public sex experience to also be my first threesome experience, and this girl’s cloying energy is kind of annoying me. She’s asked me about a hundred times what Campari is, and even after I’ve explained it to her and let her taste my drink and she’s made a disgusted face, she continues to ask: “But what is Campari?!”
“Maybe later?” I suggest.
“Okay,” she negotiates, “when you’re ready, give me a sign and I’ll knock on the door and you let me in.”
I vaguely agree to this plan and push her out the door. I open the curtains on both sides so people can watch. Immediately, a sea of male faces fill the two large windows. Best Guy Friend stands off to the side with an amused smile on his face.
We start to kiss and Israeli Dude tastes like beer and weed.
“You’re about to see a lot of tattoos,” he tells me.
He takes off my shirt and his own. We make out and try to negotiate how we’re going to have sex in this bed-less room we’ve chosen.
“Let’s get you in the swing,” he says.
Why the hell not? He puts my legs up in the straps and I’m amused by the fact that I’m now spread-eagle in front of a bunch of strange men. I can check that one off my Bucket List! He starts to eat me out, which probably looks sexier than it feels as I try to balance my ass on the straps so that I don’t unceremoniously fall out of this contraption. My skirt is still on and I try to free my legs so I can get it off. He tries to help.
“You need to take my legs out,” I inform him. I’m glad the guys watching can’t hear our negotiating from behind the glass. I imagine this is reminiscent of what it must feel like to shoot a porno. He frees me and I stand up. Skirt comes off. Now I’m standing in boots and a bra, and that’s it. I go down and start to suck on him.
Then, he gets me up against the wall and eats me out again, and he’s good at it and I much prefer this to the swing. I arch my back, aware of my audience. Best Guy Friend tells me later that at this point the guys outside were yelling for Israeli Dude to take off my bra, but we couldn’t hear them. Eventually, bra does come off and I bend over the straps so he can take me from behind. As he does this, I am facing the side window and can see many faces peering in at me. I avoid their gazes.
“What do you want me to do?” Israeli Dude keeps asking. At this point, I feel like I’m kind of done and ready to call it a night.
“I want you to come,” I say. He doesn’t.
I straighten up and we make out again. I lean into him, laughing.
“There are so many people watching us.”
He asks again what I want and I say, “I think I’m good actually.” There’s no way I’m going to come in this situation and I feel like I got what I came for.
We turn to our audience like, show’s over folks. I pull the curtains shut and start to get dressed but he won’t let me. He’s very hard and doesn’t want to stop. He starts kissing my neck and my breasts. I decide to finish him off, and I have to say the situation gets a whole lot sexier the second our audience is gone.
I hear banging on the door, which I know is flirtatious woman wanting to join in. I ignore the pounding, and he does too, or he doesn’t hear it because at some point he says, “I want that other girl to come in here and for both of you to suck me off.” Yeah, that’s not happening. Eventually I hear her being escorted away by a club employee as she pleads, “I was supposed to join them.”
I get dressed and head out. Flirtatious woman is nowhere to be found, and Best Guy Friend seems to think she and her boyfriend went off to have sex in a private room. I guess the affect of the club worked on them after all. The three of us leave the club and Israeli Dude offers us a ride back to my Airbnb. Best Guy Friend wants to walk and process the experience, so we say our goodbyes and head on our way. Best Guy Friend shares that it was interesting for him to see how I have sex. I’m pretty proud of myself that on my very first trip to a sex club, I found a stranger to fuck and did it in front of people. I find myself suddenly ravenous and so we do something I never do: stop at McDonald’s for a sirloin burger.