Swingin’ Sex? I Don’t Think So …

Candace Bushnell began Sex and the City as a column in The New York Observer in 1994; it subsequently became a book and a series on HBO. She is also the author of Four Blondes, Trading Up and Lipstick Jungle, which is being filmed as a pilot for NBC starring Brooke Shields. Ms. Bushnell is also the host of Sex, Success and Sensibility, a live weekly talk show on Sirius Satellite Radio. She lives in Manhattan with her husband, New York City Ballet principal dancer Charles Askegard.

When the eggheads at the University of Chicago released their 750-page sex survey in October, with its finding that Americans are happy to do it with the same person in the same position for years and years, New Yorkers took one look at the newspaper and said: “I don’t think so.”

Sex in New York is about as much like sex in America as other things in New York are. It can be annoying; it can be unsatisfying; most important, sex in New York is only rarely about sex. Most of the time it’s about spectacle, Todd Oldham dresses, Knicks tickets, the Knick themselves, or the pure terror of Not Being Alone in New York.

And so, while this is a column about sex, we won’t be covering much actual sex. We will try to be educational.

It all started the way it always does: innocently enough. I was sitting in my apartment, having a sensible lunch of crackers and sardines, when I got a call from an acquaintance. A friend of his had just gone to Le Trapeze, a couples-only sex club, and was amazed. Blown away. There were people naked-having sex-right in front of him. Unlike S&M, where no actual sex occurs, this was the real, juicy tomato. The guy’s girlfriend was kind of freaked out-although, when another naked woman brushed against her, she “sort of liked it.” According to him.

In fact, the guy was so into the place that he didn’t want The Observer to write about it because he was afraid that, like most decent places in New York, it would be ruined by publicity.

I started imagining all sorts of things. Beautiful young hardbody couples. Girls with long, wavy blond hair wearing wreaths made of grape leave. Boys with perfect white teeth wearing loincloths made of grape leaves. Me, wearing a super-short over-one-shoulder, grape-leaf dress …. We would walk in with our clothes on, and walk out enlightened.

The club’s answering machine brought me back to reality with a thump.

“At Le Trapeze, there are no strangers, only friends you haven’t met yet,” said a voice of indeterminate gender, which added that there was “a juice bar and a hot and cold buffet”-something I rarely associate with sex or nudity. In celebration of Thanksgiving, “Oriental Night” would be held on Nov. 19. That sounded interesting, except it turned out that Oriental Night meant Oriental food, not Oriental people.

I should have dropped the whole idea right then. I shouldn’t have listened to the scarily horny Sallie Tisdale, who in her yuppie-porn book, Talk Dirty to Me, enthuses about public, group sex: “This is a taboo in the truest sense of the word …. [I]f sex clubs … do what they aim to do, then a falling away will happen. Yes, as is feared, a crumbling of boundaries …. The center will not hold.” I should have asked myself: What’s fun about that?

But I had to see for myself. And so, on a recent Wednesday night, my calendar listed two events: 9 p.m., dinner for Karl Lagerfeld, Bowery Bar; 11:30 p.m., Le Trapeze sex club, East 27th Street.