Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne?
Robert Burns, 1788
(That last line best translates as “and the good old days?”)
The chanting starts.
Ten … nine … eight … seven … six … five … four … three … two … Happy New Year …”
And there’s much drinking and kissing and hugging and laughter.
But this isn’t Times Square in New York. Or Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto where the crowds wrap up tight against the cold and double long johns are the new black.
No, this New Year’s Eve party is in the Oasis Aqualounge. And a lot of the people drinking and kissing and hugging and laughing are stark bloody naked.
Some chant the numbers from the heated outdoor pool. Others from the hot tub, steam room, sauna, play rooms, bars, “shaggin’ wagon” and dungeon.
The Oasis is Toronto’s hottest sex club. Four floors in a restored Victorian mansion. Part-owned by Jana Matthews, a former Olympic windsurfer and World Cup skier.
Here’s part of her mission statement on the website:
Her goal since starting Oasis in 2010 has been to help couples enhance their relationship and women enhance their lives through sexual understanding, exploration and growth.
When I was searching for the naughtiest, sexiest New Year’s Eve party in town to write about, it was those last words that intrigued me most.
She’s talking about feminism — a word most people wouldn’t associate with sex clubs.
But to those who know, the best sex clubs have always been about feminism. Women are in charge. Women make the decisions. Women decide what happens and how.
Men, just for once in our culture, are the ornaments, the often mysterious and sometimes extra-terrestrial other sex that provides diversity and variety when needed.
My date for the evening is club hostess MsKitty who meets me in the ground floor bar. Silent porn plays endlessly on one wall, a stripper pole dominates the lounge area.
MsKitty shows me around the four floors of the club, introduces me to a few couples. (Admission $120 a couple. Single women $40. No single men except me, the writer).
MsKitty is 5’5”, good-looking, Canadian-born, Chinese background. She wears a dazzling costume made up almost entirely of thin leather straps with perfect strategic openings where needed.
On her website, she describes herself as hetero-flexible hedonist and dominant. I have no doubt MsKitty is in charge of herself and of any tricky situation that might arise in the club.
Which likely explains why she’s the staffer in charge of the Wednesday Hot Springs gathering, only event where Oasis allows single men in to pay $50 and mingle with couples and single women. Someone has to make sure that raging testosterone is kept under some control.
Make no mistake, this is estrogen country.
Tour and introductions over I leave MsKitty to her hostessing, wander off to the unisex change room and undress next to a remarkably buxom blonde trying to fit into a too-small, black lace bustier. I consider offering to help with the zip, change my mind, grab a towel and head out.
First the showers, then the steam room where, just a few feet from me in the mist, a couple make slow, quiet love. The woman glances at me, smiles, says “hi”.
It’s surreal. Beautiful. Like a dream.
Back to the showers. Then outside to the pool, carefully skirting slabs of ice left on the deck by Toronto’s great ice-storm.
First time I’ve ever been naked in -13 degree weather. It’s a little intimidating.
Steam rises from the warm water. Half a dozen couples play separately in the pool, one foursome lingers in a corner. I float, delight in the black and starless sky.
Five minutes later, out of the pool, back to the steam room which is empty now. Only me and the mist.
Leave the steam room, gird my loins with a fresh towel, join the crowd at the ground floor bar, order a beer. MsKitty appears, introduces me to Peter and Anne, good looking in their thirties, who tell me they’ve been Oasis members since it started. Anne says “love it … we’d be crazy to go anywhere else.”
I discuss swinging with Dan and Maria, both in their sixties. When I tell her I’m a writer Maria, who wears a see-through pink blouse, insists on telling me the rules.
“Think of it as a party like any other”, she says. “You’re our guest. Don’t be pushy. Keep in mind that no always means no. That’s one of the big rules in swinging. If you’re dancing or …” she smiles sweetly “anything else …”
By 11 p.m. the ground floor bar is noisy and crowded. I take my beer, climb the narrow, twisting staircase, check on the other floors.
From the upstairs bar I watch a few couples and foursomes make love on the carnal red, shiny couches. But too much light makes it curiously unsexy.
Brenda and Jim, a couple I’d met at the ground floor bar, join me. Brenda tells me they’ve been married twenty one years. I ask her how they handle each other’s swinging. “What about your emotions?”
Brenda says it’s all a matter of balance. The balance between exploring some of the wilder shores of sex and caring about each other. Taking care to never hurt the other.
Marita joins me. Not much more than five feet tall, dressed reasonably respectably except for quite spectacular décolletage. We sit on one of the red couches next to the TV porn and talk. Turns out she’s twenty-six and “rather likes older men.”
I suspect she’s a house mole, explain I’ve research to do and head for the dungeon, one floor down.
A plump, naked brunette is tied to the St. Andrew’s Cross. A muscular naked man whips her with a flogger. She moans. Moans again.
Another couple sway rhythmically in the sex swing. There’s spanking on the spanking horse. Bondage in the bondage chair. And what I have to assume is tantra on the tantra chair.
Getting close to midnight. Back to the ground floor bar. Very noisy. Most of the two hundred people who’d registered are here. Far more than are left on the other floors.
Must be because of the New Year’s Eve ritual.
It starts. Ten … nine … eight … seven … six … five … four … three … two … Happy New Year …”
And it’s 2014.
Postscript: On New Year’s Day, MsKitty leads a group of Oasis members on a nude polar bear swim in Lake Ontario. I decline. Today she tells me with prim and classic understatement “the swim was quite exhilarating!”
You can check out a video tour of the Oasis Aqualounge posted on there YouTube channel…