By Fiona Ho
Last month, Ma Yaohai, a 53-year-old college professor and 21 others in China went on trial for 'group licentiousness'.
They were members of a modern-day swingers' club in China, where people met online and then gathered in homes or hotels for group sex parties involving dozens of men and women.
The case has snagged huge public interest with its titillating details. But aside from the rampant curiosity in the swinger lifestyle, the uproar also sparked a deeper debate about sexual freedom in a nation that is trying to reshape its own modern morality.
While sexual freedom may seem like a myth in conservative Malaysia, it seems that the swingers' scene is well alive and kicking here.
According to Zimbio, an American interactive online magazine, many people are "discreetly" going about their swinging business. The easiest way to join one of these clubs, it claims, is simply by checking out ads posted on the Internet.
Interestingly enough, a Google search for "swinger Malaysia" returned more than two and a half million hits.
According to the organiser of one the most popular swingers' club in Malaysia, most people join swinging groups by invitation from other members or by paying a monthly fee of RM150 ($64). The owner of the group, or host, is the only one who can approve a membership.
"Upon joining, you will receive an e-mail asking for personal details. You must include your phone number and attach a current picture of you and your partner," states the information provided by the club.
Apparently, many members are successful business people or prominent corporate figures who place great importance in keeping their swinging activities a secret.
Most of the women are in their 20s, and the men in their late 30s or early 40s although there are handful of those in their 50s.
So what actually goes on at these so-called morally decadent parties?
According to the information provided, swingers who attend these parties are free to bring whatever "items" they want.
Items like protection and towels are compulsory, while other things like adult toys are optional. Soft drinks, beer, liquor or even finger food are welcome as well.
It seems that there is usually a minimum of four couples per session, but this club has had up to 10 couples at a party. Swingers prefer more couples because you have more choices to swap and watch.
First timers do not need to swap partners until they are ready, but being naked is a requirement. Most first timers are hesitant to swap partners in the beginning, but they tend to get more comfortable later into the night.
Swingers usually start off with a casual conversation, then proceed to card games where the loser has to strip off a piece of clothing. This goes on until everyone is naked. After that, couples take turns to shower and sometimes two couples shower together.
"After showering, we cover the room with comforters from the bed. Couples usually start the session with their own partner. Eventually they move on to other members. One thing leads to another and it goes on until midnight,", states the organiser.
The safety of female members is assured and there there is one house rule that is final. When a lady says 'no' to a guy or couple, it means 'no'.
Charges per session vary according to the hotel and number of people. The cost of the hotel room is shared and usually ranges between RM50 and RM70 per couple.
Members try to meet at least once a month but there are those who organise private meetings without the knowledge of the club by inviting selected couples.
Last minute parties also happen on occasions when a foreign couple visiting Malaysia requests to meet swingers.
Although many are choosing this lifestyle, swinging is not for everyone.
As Ma Yaohai put during his trial: "Marriage is like water. You have to drink it. Swinging is like a glass of wine. You can drink it if you like. If you don't like it, don't drink it."