Orgies and ecstasy

<strong>Swinging: the Games Your Neighbours Play</strong>

Mark Brendon

<em>The Friday Project Lt

Mark Brendon used to be only an alcoholic. Then he went off to a chemical finishing school to well, finish off. At this clinic he learned that everyone goes to a therapist, is a therapist, or is a therapist going to a therapist. He left and discovered that an orgy was the only form of group therapy he approved of.

I am delighted that Mr Brendon chose tissues over issues. Orgies are one of the few subjects I know anything about. I have been to many, both here and abroad. In fact, I have a feeling Mr Brendon and I have met before.

If you think the world swings like a hanged man, think again. It is very much alive. Mr Brendon tells us that there are millions of swingers worldwide (four million is the generally accepted estimate in the United States alone) and he seems to have had it off with most of them. "Over the past three years I have had sex or - as swingers have it - I have 'played' with several hundreds of female strangers. Sometimes they have been alone, sometimes in pairs. Sometimes there have been as many as seven or eight in one afternoon or evening." Mr Brendon makes me feel like a chaste whore.

Fortunately, he is as skilled with penetrating insights as he is at penetrating orifices. The book is divided between reflection and erection. We learn that swingers are faithful to their spouses and partners. That though they may play with hundreds of others, they do not have illicit affairs or unprotected, private, penetrative sex, save with their own partners. Swinging is not casual sex - it is rather well dressed.

The book is completely naked, unlike the rest of society. Truth can walk about in the nude

Swinging works on the premise that the only thing boring in life is a lie. It is the opposite of civilian life, where hypocrisy is the lubricant of society, the Vaseline of social intercourse. He asks us to throw off the straitjackets of religion, morality, upbringing, and to value the impulses of the heart above social convention. As a result, the book is completely naked, unlike the rest of society. Truth can walk about naked; but lies should always be clothed.

This book is genuinely exciting and liberating. Have you ever watched the person you love have sex with someone else? He has. Me, too. Trust us, it brings you closer. The terrible dragon that slays love under the pretence of keeping it alive is finally slayed. As for lust? "Swinging takes lust - the wolf that snuffles and growls at the door of every marital home - tames it, and brings it into the house as an amusing and stimulating pet," he writes.

"I am, I think, a romantic," he tells us at the conclusion. Indeed, he is. A romantic with a little "r" is someone who talks to you after sex. However, he is also a Romantic - in the immortal words of Wordsworth: "Something evermore about to be." Like an alchemist he takes the dirty mud of jealousy, possession and coercion and turns them into the transcendent gold of acceptance, liberty and tolerance.

What he may lack in clothes he more than makes up for in good prose: "Good sex makes it very easy to get on with people - a lot more effectively than getting on with people makes for good sex"; "Tenderness and worship may tentatively foster union, but the damned are united too, and they get there faster"; "Courtesy need not wait for its reward in heaven." If language is the dress of thought there is never any excuse for denim.

When we think of swinging we think of something somehow silly and squalid. This image of it has been given to us by hacks of the prurient press, with their moralising. They are the ones who are perverse. Journalists need scandal as the police need crime. Mr Brendon has refused to be a hypocrite. He has lived the truth of his life and it will make others question theirs. He is no different from them; he just chooses to be honest about it. He knows that without daring, there is no beauty. Of course, they will call it immorality and are envious because he dares to live, while they have not the guts. But that is England for you.

This book should however come with a warning. One thing Mr Brendon doesn't undress is that, once you have taken a bite of this particular apple, you can no longer tolerate saints. I am sure they are fine in heaven, but they're hell on earth. I mean, what is the point of a person who doesn't share themselves? It is like a bank without money. A lighthouse without a light. Christianity without Christ. By being monogamous, you are making one person happy but all the other people in the world unhappy. What right do you have to do that? No, you will no longer be able to tolerate the famous stiff lower lips of the British. They are but weeds in a garden whose flowers are players.

This article first appeared in the 24 November 2008 issue of the New Statesman, How to get us out of this mess