A commentary and resource on Law and Sexuality by Professor Chris Ashford and guests
Commercial public sex spaces (public sex venues or PSVs) are rarely visible. Whilst many other spaces form part of the collective public consciousness, commercial sex spaces such as saunas, swingers clubs or brothels feature far less frequently. It is perhaps partly for this reason that negative rumours and fears can then develop as to what these spaces actually look like and the dynamics of interaction that take place within. Fear typically flows from ignorance.
Shhh is a new swingers club in North East England. Well, it’s kind of new. It shares the space with one of Newcastle’s two pre-existing male saunas, Base. Base is part of a chain also present in Leeds and Manchester (where it has two sites), but online discussion forums suggest that in Newcastle the chain has been losing out to the other sauna in recent years with a lack of punters. Given that Newcastle doesn’t have another city centre swingers club, this is perhaps an attempt to ‘balance the books’ by attracting new and different customers who will (in the case of male patrons) pay more to enter a swingers club than to enter a sauna.
Whilst the local media is often a critic of swingers clubs, it is striking that Newcastle’s local media has been almost supportive of the swingers club since it opened earlier this month. That in itself if noteworthy.
The latest article appears earlier this week and features a female worker at the venue, and reproduces an introductory video with the manager from earlier in the month. You can check those out here.
The piece is interesting for the way that it seeks to give some insights into the play dynamics, and images to show the spaces. Also striking is the way that sex is downplayed. The headline highlights that it’s a minority (40%) of visitors who actually have sex whilst the piece ends on a note of redemptive love.
Contrast that piece with one from the same newspaper but earlier in the year and the nearby town of Stanley in County Durham, in which a complaint about a ‘Child’ entering singers club turned out to be short woman (no, I’m not making this up), with the club facing a series of Police call outs in response to complaints. This venue has every appearance of being harassed out of existence by local discontents.
What we’re seeing here is not merely a new swingers venue (and any progressive sex positive individual should welcome that), but an attempt to negotiate their existence into the public discourse. This is one to watch.