London isn't topping any lists for Europe's sexiest city — I blame our flabby sun-starved skin, courtesy of the climate, too much Greggs, and an aversion to exercise cemented during cross country running at school. But that doesn't mean we don't like a bit of debauchery, whether it's a "Knicker Free Friday" or rolling round in oil on a plastic sheet. So here's a (possibly exhausting, but by no means exhaustive) look at where to rev your libido in London.
The Paradise Spa in Dagenham has been described as "more akin to an Essex knees-up than an orgy." According to VICE, who term it a "top sex spa" the knees-up atmosphere is reinforced, "when the DJ drops Chas n' Dave's 'Rabbit' to the obvious delight of everyone there." There are "couples' rooms" with plastic mattresses and: "If you wanna shag, you can shag." The website was down at the time of writing but a voice on the phone (020 8598 8575) confirmed they're open.
Rio's in Kentish Town dubs itself "London's Leading Naturist Health Spa." But it's not about naturism, it's about shagging. The spa features heavily in Suzanne Portnoy's memoir The Butcher, The Baker, The Candlestick Maker. She says, "Rio's is a bit of a dive. It has no state-of-the-art equipment, no Philippe Starck-designed interior or, in fact, any design at all except for a tropical theme that would be sadly dated were it not so unintentionally ironic. But it's functional. And it delivers what I want: sex on tap." Portnoy goes on to describe the sex she has at Rio's, as well as the unwanted advances: "John had followed me from the showers to the grooming area, still wanking as I blowdried my hair."
Chariots, which describes itself as "the UK's biggest and best Gay & Bi-Sexual Mens Sauna group in London", has branches in Vauxhall and Waterloo. Keith, who's straight, went there by mistake. He says, "the bloke on the door said, 'you know what this place is?' and I said, 'yes it's a sauna!' So I got undressed and got into the hot tub –- that’s when I noticed it was all men. Then I noticed actual sex in the steam room — I couldn’t see much but I could tell what was happening!" Chariots crops up in the hook-up section of Craigslist, in ads with titles like, "Gang Bang Waterloo Chariots." "Looking to hook up for some action," says one ad and, "I'm a hairy guy with a good solid 7 inches," says another. Scott, who's gay, has been there, "loads." He says, "you just rock up and have fun for a few hours. It’s really popular 5pm-7pm if you want a married man — they don't even bother taking their wedding rings off. Saunas are perfect for them, as it's so easy to clean up after."
AbFabParties near Heathrow boasts a "SINema," hot tubs and a pool, as well as "play rooms." Parties take place five nights a week, and according to its website, it's "The UK's friendliest erotic venue" and "particularly popular amongst those just beginning to explore their boundaries." It certainly seems to have a friendly ethos, even helping swingers get home: "Need to get back into London when the party ends? That's simple with the N9 night service bus from Heathrow Terminal 5."
Kunal started going to AbFabParties three years ago, when a counsellor recommended it. An operation had left him with a scar he felt self-conscious about. He says, "I lost all my confidence so my counsellor said I should go to places where I could take my top off. She recommended swinging clubs, and naturist swimming because I'd meet people of all body shapes and sizes."
Kunal has since had sex with around 50 women, and, "I've sexually played with over 150." How does he broach the subject? "The conversation would just become very witty, talking about boobs so, 'I love your cleavage,' or 'have you got your nipples pierced?'" If he gets a green light, he goes in one of the "rooms with a view — they have glass in between so other people can see." Condoms are provided.
AbFabParties aren't Kunal's only outlet. Le Boudoir in Aldgate offers events with names like "Knicker Free Friday" and "Satisfuxtion." Like AbFab, the venue's address is only available to members, and according to Kunal it's, "becoming increasingly popular — it's where you find the best-looking people!"
Kunal goes to the sex parties with a female friend, "I don’t tell my male friends about it — I wouldn't want them to come with me and seeing me naked doing dirty things." When he's not swimming at AbFab or shagging the best looking women at Le Boudoir, Kunal goes to OurPlace4Fun near King's Cross. The OurPlace website says: "We boast real swinger folks, in a real sexy atmosphere." Guests can bring their own bottles, but, "no cans." You have been warned.
For women who want a different brand of "witty chat" Skirt Club offers a monthly women-only sex party with speakers and performers, as well as a chance to network. "Sex is certainly on the menu but it's not the sole focus," says founder Genevieve LeJeune. Anna, who is "straight but bi-curious" had her first experience with a woman at Skirt Club. She says, "I tend to find lesbian places too threatening — and at parties where men are there, being with a women feels like you're performing for guys." At Skirt Club, Anna played Spin the Bottle, did the Guided Touch Tour ("you wiggle and say hello with your bum") then went into the "playrooms." She says, "I was a bit overwhelmed but I gave it a go and never wanted to leave. For days after, I craved women's bodies. I’d always liked men's hard bodies, but this made me appreciate women!"
Skirt Club claims that "all our members are effortlessly stylish" and offers free flowing champagne. Aimed at the same end of the market, but for both men and women are Pleasure Island Parties, which take place in the suite of a 5 star hotel, with condoms, lube and gloves provided. There's a limit of 20 people per party and, "we expect all our guests to have regular sexual health check-ups."
Torture Garden which takes place monthly in London, describes itself as, "the world’s largest and most famous fetish / body art club." Scott says, "Torture Garden is amazing but I'd never have sex there — I'd just dress up, take a ton of drugs and dance. One time I was letting some girl whip me gently with a metal chain, then some guy dressed as a crazy clown took it off her and belted me across the ass with it. At the time I was high as fuck so I was only a bit sore, but after, I was so badly bruised I couldn't sit on my right bum cheek for three weeks."
Jessica has been to Torture Garden a few times. She says, "the first time, I went with a female friend just to dress up and have fun. I saw some spanking, people strapped to weird industrial-looking furniture, and a guy licking girls' shoes. The second time, I was on a first date with a guy I really liked — I desperately wanted to fuck him. I thought we'd get turned on, then go back to his. We saw a pregnant girl wearing fetish clothing, and another girl squirting tomato juice out of her fanny. I sucked my date in a corner, then he fingered me, while a guy sat there wanking next to us. Then we discovered the "couples room". We had to kiss to be allowed in, then we were pushed behind the curtain. There was a gynaecologist chair with spotlights directed at it. It was free, so we went for it. Now I look back — it was my best first date!"
Kunal also recommends Subversion and Club Antichrist. Subversion's website says it's, "Dedicated to the pursuit of kinky pleasure in all its forms." There's wheelchair access, and you can get changed at the venue. You don't need to be a member, and single males are welcome but, "NO WANKING." Club Antichrist runs six times a year, at different venues. They say: "Nudity and all consensual fetish activity are MORE than welcomed at Club AntiChrist. Solo wanking is not allowed, as it's not consensual."
Liquid Love describes itself as "a collective journey exploring playfulness and the sensuality of flowing skin to skin contact using warm olive oil." In other words, everyone rolls about naked, covered in olive oil. Anna, who's been to three events, says you start off clothed for a welcome talk, then you get as naked as you want – which tends to be pretty naked. Everyone lies down on a plastic sheet on the floor, "then the facilitator pours oil over you. You tell her where to pour it and you can wear a blindfold if you want to." Anna says there are 12-15 people at each event, and it's about an even mix of male and female. Anna describes it as, "swimming in a sea of bodies, you melt with the whole group." The event info says: "We invite you to be open to both touching as well as being touched. We particularly invite you to explore touch using parts of the body we do not usually touch with — our stomachs, our noses, our feet, our shoulders, our heads, our buttocks." Anna clarifies that there's, "no penetration."
23 Paul Street the "House of Striptease for the Discerning Rascal" runs female-only striptease events once every six weeks. They're set up to "give curious girls a chance to experience sexual chemistry with another woman where a 'look but don't touch' rule means things don't go too far." On other nights, "Ladies and Gents are both equally welcome, however Friday nights are most popular with our female guests and couples."
XXL runs twice a week in South Bank. Scott says, "It's a man-only club with good music and a good vibe. When you feel like it, you go through these doors and join in with the mass orgy — then when you've had enough, you go back to drinking with your mates. We usually take turns so we don't accidentally have sex with each other — it's pretty dark."
Samantha Rea can found tweeting here.