I was a newlywed, married to the daughter of a man who sold sex for a living and let other men sleep with his wife.
Marriage is complicated. Not only must you adapt to sharing your life with your spouse, but you also inherit a second family.
My wife’s Mom was the quintessential matriarch, the mother I’d been longing for since my Mom died when I was a child.
Her father was an entirely different story. He lived in California with his second wife, so we didn’t see him often. His daughter was the apple of her daddy’s eye, so I did my best to stay on his good side.
Having an entire country between us certainly helped with that goal.
A year after we got married, though, we decided to head out to California to pursue my screenwriting career. We didn’t have much money, so it made sense to move in with the in-laws while we settled in on the left coast.
The Southern California lifestyle definitely agreed with me. Who wouldn’t love abundant sunshine, In-N-Out Burgers, and access to a hot tub?
What didn’t agree with me, however, was my in-laws’ lifestyle.
You see, my father-in-law and his wife were swingers.
Not the Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn movie kind, but the married couples who have sex with other married couples kind.
Not only were they a part of the lifestyle, but my father-in-law also published a porn ‘zine and ran a website that sold “adult products.”
I’m not saying that they didn’t have a right to live their lives as they did. I’m just explaining what it was like to live in a home that hosted swinger parties and adult movie shoots, while also serving as the headquarters of a mini-porn empire.
You think it’s difficult dealing with your in-laws? Well, let me tell you what it was like living with mine.
On any given day, the living room and dining room tables would be piled high with dildos, vibrators, handcuffs, whips, condoms, and lube.
There were naked photos everywhere as my father-in-law tried to determine which models should appear in the next edition of the ‘zine, and which ones should go on the website to help him sell more merchandise.
Camera equipment and lights might be piled neatly in the corner if filming was on the schedule.
And, yes, sometimes extra mattresses magically materialized in the living room.
In the garage, you had to work your way past the stacks of adult films that lined the walls. Companies constantly sent my father-in-law screeners in hopes that he would review them in the ‘zine.
Yes, he actually asked his daughter and me to watch them and write reviews.
No, we never accepted that assignment.
I had a ’67 Mustang that was in constant need of repairs. My friend, who was great with cars, was always willing to come over to work on it. You see, he liked being paid in XXX movies, and would eagerly take home several new titles any time he got the Mustang running again.
I also think he secretly hoped he’d walk in on a porn shoot and be invited to work as an extra.
My father-in-law was constantly recruiting for his business. If an attractive woman helped him when he picked up his latest batch of nude photos, he’d ask her what she thought of the pics, and then try to convince her to model for him.
Right there, in the store, where anyone else could hear his pitch.
He did the same thing when we went grocery shopping, out for dinner, or just ran into a good looking woman on the street.
He didn’t care if he came across as a creepy old man and embarrassed whoever was with him. He had a one track mind, and the train running on it was the Porno Express.
It was helping my father-in-law with his daily mailbox runs, though, that really made me question into which ring of Family Hell I’d wandered. We were living at the house for free, he was feeding us, and we really weren’t contributing much to the bills, so I felt obligated to assist in ways that didn’t involve nudity or offering my wife to another man.
He had boxes at various post offices, and every day, those boxes would be stuffed with envelopes filled with money. Guys from all over the world were writing to the models in the ‘zine and asking for photos, panties, shoes, videos, and whatever else their cash paying hearts desired.
Of course, they had no idea they were just writing to my father-in-law and the articles of clothing they got in return were items purchased at the Salvation Army and other thrift stores.
I felt bad for these men. I assumed they were lonely, and some even had genuine feelings for these women to whom they were writing. I’ve never been lonely enough to send cash to a strange woman’s P.O. Box, but I knew what it was like to be desperately single and seeking some kind of a connection.
What my father-in-law was doing was cruel, but he would laugh it off whenever I suggested that, and then use some of the cash we’d collected to buy my silence with a Double Double and fries.
I’m ashamed that I could have been bought off so easily, but have you ever had an In-N-Out burger?
Sometimes, the couples my in-laws swung with came over while we were home. If we were given money to go to a movie and grab dinner, we knew that a “party” was about to begin, and clearing out was in our best interest.
If we were asked to stay, my wife and I squirmed in silence as we tried not to mentally picture these people piled on top of each other in a sweaty mess on the beds upstairs.
Again, I tried not to judge, but I was a newlywed, married to the daughter of a man who sold sex for a living and let other men sleep with his wife. It confused me, and made me wonder if my bride would eventually grow restless and demand to be satisfied by other men.
I wanted to ask these couples how they could break their marriage vows so brazenly, and get to the bottom of why they thought it was okay to play Sexual Wife Swap every week.
I thought of marriage as a monogamous union between two people who loved each other. I got married because I wanted to spend the rest of my life with my wife, and remain faithful to her.
Now, her role model was saying it was okay to sleep with someone else as long as your spouse was also sleeping with that person’s spouse. Possibly in the same room. While being filmed.
Was marriage just a sham? Was there such a thing as eternal love and commitment? Did sex mean anything, or was it just a way to make a living and dupe lonely people out of their hard earned money?
What made this all so difficult to process was that it was the father of my bride telling me about the joys of swinging and selling sex. This was a man I was supposed to look up to, respect, fear, and promise that I would never cheat on his beloved daughter.
How could I take the guy seriously when there were naked photos of him all over the house, and he was sleeping with multiple partners?
Needless to say, we moved out of Swing Happy Lanes as soon as we could find a place of our own.
At first, that weird experience drew my wife and me even closer. We bonded over how freaked out we were by it, but something had definitely changed. Sex seemed dirty again. My Catholic Guilt was now mutating with the Swinger’s Code of Conduct and nothing made any sense.
My marriage eventually fell apart, and I was not surprised to find out that my wife had been cheating on me, but not so surprised after seeing how the man she looked up to lived his life and treated his marriage.
It took a long time for me to get past the effect it had on my marriage and my thoughts on love and sex. I’ve now met an amazing woman with whom I am madly in love. My research hasn’t uncovered any porn empires in her family history, and her bloodwork came back negative for the Swinger’s Gene.
If she asked me to marry her, I’d definitely say yes, just as long as she’s willing to take a chance on a guy who was once related by marriage to the Mini-Porn King of Southern California.
-Photo: Sean McGrath/Flickr