Free Entry: Stop Making Women Your Product

You know that saying, “if you’re not paying for it, you’re not the customer, you are the product?” While this was originally applied to the likes of Facebook and other “free” platforms that make money by harvesting and selling data, I’ve realised it also applies to parts of the swinging and kink scenes. And I do not like it.

The gendered pricing model

Gendered pricing models are sadly extremely common in the swinging world in particular. One club I won’t name charges £35 per visit for a (cis male/female) couple, £50 for a single man, and £5 for a single woman.

For these purposes, a lesbian couple would be considered two single women and a gay male couple would be… well, a gay male couple would probably be discouraged from attending at all, to be honest, but if they did they’d be charged as two single men.

Again, this isn’t unusual. This is the norm. Some venues charge single men even more, £100 or more for a single visit. Others don’t charge single women at all, and might even add other incentives – such as free drinks – to tempt them in.

Wait, how is this fair?

Honestly, it isn’t.

If these venues want to ensure something of a gender balance, there are other ways to do that. Limiting the number of tickets for single men is one common strategy (again, remember these places are extremely cisheteronormative.)

But I don’t believe gendered pricing is the way to do it. For one thing, it creates a situation where only cis m/f couples are considered “real” couples, as I mentioned above. For another, it makes many events financially challenging or completely inaccessible for the single men on these scenes, most of whom are perfectly decent, respectful guys who just want to have some fun with other consenting adults.

But do you know what else it does? It turns women into a product.

What does “free entry” really cost?

Why are swingers’ clubs (and some kink venues) so desperate to get women in? It’s not because they care so much about being safe places for exploration of female sexuality. No – it’s because we act as bait for the higher-paying men and couples.

I’ve seen more than one situation where a man (or sometimes a couple) has paid a high entry price and now feels “owed” something – a conversation, attention, a blowjob, a shag. And who suffers for this entitlement? The women it’s enacted upon. This entitlement can lead to pressure, coercion, or even sexual assault. Suddenly, that “free entry” can come at a very steep cost indeed.

Some men feel as though they are being disenfranchised and discriminated against by having to pay high entry fees, while women get in for free or a nominal cost. What they don’t realise is how frightening it can be when you understand that you’re the product at least as much as you are the customer.

The argument for equal pricing

There are several really positive things I think would happen if we abolished gendered pricing models across these events:

  • They would become far more welcoming to trans folks, non-binary people, and queer couples.
  • It would largely get rid of the problem of some men thinking “well I paid £100 to be here so now I’m owed something.”
  • It would stop the problem of pricing out decent men based on the (extraordinarily classist and completely untrue) belief that the “right kind” of man for these spaces is a man who can afford a very expensive cover charge.
  • And… more single women would probably attend.

That last one might sound counterintuitive, but stick with me. I mostly go to events with my partner, and I enjoy doing so. But if I was going to attend events alone, I would be far more inclined to attend events that use an egalitarian, non-gendered pricing model.

Why? Because non-gendered, per-person pricing doesn’t make me feel like a product. Because I want to interact with other adults as an equal, not a commodity they feel entitled to by virtue of their entry fee.

If you’re a woman or read as a woman, have you ever felt uncomfortable when a man buys you a drink and then seems to expect something in return? This is like that only worse. If a man has paid to enter the space and I haven’t, I’m automatically in a weaker position. It creates a sense of obligation. Because even though I’m a feminist and I know that I never owe a man a goddamn thing just because he buys me a drink (or pays for entry to a club), the patriarchal programming we’re all exposed to runs extremely deep.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my years on the swing scene, it’s that free isn’t free. I’d much rather shell out £20 to get into an event than free entry and then be treated as part of the package that men are paying for with their higher entry fee.

If you enjoy posts like this, you can help me out by shopping with my affiliates (in the right hand sidebar) or buying me a coffee!

I Tried to Make Him Hit Me.

This was written as part of Smutathon 2018: #SmutForChoice edition. I’m sorry it’s not very sexy, but it’s sex-adjacent and it needed writing. If you’d like to support abortion access, please click below and donate – you can also win sex toys!

The one thing he never did was hit me.

He screamed at me, including in the middle of the night, including where my flatmates could hear, including when I had no idea what I’d done. He controlled so many facets of my life, and not in ways I’d consented to as part of a kinky dynamic. Guilting and ignoring your partner because they went for an innocent coffee with a friend who happens to be of a different gender is not fun D/s. He monitored my weight and shamed me if I gained a few pounds. I was pushed on to medication. He would even punch, kick and throw objects in front of me, just so I was in no doubt how scared he wanted me. It goes on.

I have a secret confession: I tried, a handful of times, to make him hit me. On these occasions, when he shouted at me, I didn’t cower – I sassed back, very occasionally even yelled back. I called him out on his bullshit. I even, on one particular occasion, told him “you’re abusive”. That was the time I most thought he was going to throw a punch at me.

See, I wanted permission to leave. I wanted something that would tell me unequivocally, this is bad and you can get out. The part of me that still loved him would, I thought, quiet down if he actually raised a hand to me. The part that was sure he was the best I’d ever do would snap out of the stupid trance he’d got me in. I realise now that it probably wouldn’t – I’d probably have justified it and convinced myself that I deserved it and stuck around anyway, the stupid subservient fucking lapdog that I was.

Just fucking hit me, I thought, and then I can leave and I won’t be the bad guy. Because if I left, I knew he’d demonise me. I couldn’t love him as he was. I couldn’t be good enough to make him happy. I’d be the girl who couldn’t handle it.

We teach women and girls that they should leave if a partner physically hurts them. But we don’t speak enough about emotional and mental and psychological abuse. Too often, the message women get is try harder, try harder, try harder! Love him into not abusing you! We romanticise control as being “protective”.  We play off screaming as “it’s only because he cares”. This starts in childhood, when we tell little girls he’s mean to you because he likes you, and it continues and continues and continues and the next thing you know you’re in your 20s and sobbing on some guy’s floor because he yelled at you again and you’re terrified of him but also you just love him so much you’re sure you’ll die if you leave. THEN they have the fucking nerve to say “at least he didn’t hit you.”

He never crossed that line, and in his eyes that made him not-abusive. In mine, it just meant I had to wait for the abuse to get bad enough before I was “allowed” to leave. That took a long fucking time. Learning earlier that physical violence wasn’t the only form of cruelty I should Not Tolerate might have made all the difference.

Parents, teachers, adults: we must teach our girls that they do not have to tolerate cruelty of any kind. That they don’t have to tolerate the mental torture until he finally snaps and hits them. Please let’s do better for the next generation of girls.