Whenever someone makes a promise with an extremely loud disclaimer, it should raise a red flag. So when Joe Morrone invited me to one of his adamantly no-pressure Flaunt parties, “a monthly party of sensually sophisticated couples and uninhibited single women who want to share their interest in erotic exploration”–according to the press release–I imagined glory holes and sex swings.

The theme of the most recent Flaunt was bikinis and sushi. To show some spirit, photographer Andrea Bauer and I wore modest two-pieces under trashy clothes. We walked into a private party room upstairs at the Lincoln Park joint Tsuki and were greeted by some man’s waxed bum bobbing up and down as a busty naked brunette gave him a hearty blow job.

It was a porno screening on a laptop–one of the items offered for sale by Monica Rivera, who runs a roving erotic boutique. She demonstrated the most curious item on her table of “bedroom enhancers,” a Pyrex dildo with a crank, by lubing up my cupped hands and twisting it inside.

Looking around the dimly lit room we saw a handful of well-dressed couples–I’m guessing most in their late 30s–sipping cocktails and sneaking peeks at one another. Two hot-bodied young women walked around in the tiniest bikinis you could ever imagine. They were models Morrone hired to make people feel at ease, they said. They were supposed to flirt with the couples and give lap dances and let people rub tanning oil on them.

A Flaunt membership is free, but you have to have your application approved by Morrone. It’s open to couples and bi or straight single women between 21 and 40; men can only get in with a female companion. Morrone says they’re looking for sexually confident extroverts who care about how they look. No sex is allowed, but according to the Web site (flauntparty.com) “heavy petting, kissing and touching are very common and are not discouraged. There’s nothing more erotic than going right to the edge but having to curb your desires and go absolutely wild after the FLAUNTPARTY!”

Morrone told me he’s been married 16 years and doesn’t believe in monogamy. “We’ve been through a lot,” he said, “but all the crazy shit is what’s kept us together.” He said he goes out and “has fun” twice a month but he doesn’t give his wife details because she’s not that into it. She was there that night, though. He introduced me to her and she nodded and smiled at me through clenched teeth. She was running the sushi table.

I chatted up two women, one of whom has been married for six years, the other for ten; both are stay-at-home mothers. They told me they came here for their husbands, both of whom work in sales. The two just met that night. “I keep saying we’re sisters from another mother,” said the older of the two.

They talked about being exhausted after chasing the kids around all day and what a strain it was to smile and get dinner on the table when their husbands get home. They don’t want to burden their men with more problems–they have their own stuff to deal with at work.

Plus, they add, they’re not doing their wifely duties. “My mom tells me that if I’m not giving it up he’s gonna get it somewhere else,” said the younger one. “I’m lying awake, the bed’s shaking next to me, and I feel really bad, but I’m just not into it. I’m so tired.”

“I know I’m not the prettiest woman,” said the older one, who was pretty. “I gotta keep my man.”

At least when they come to Flaunt parties they can see what’s going on. I asked them why they seemed more concerned about their husbands’ needs than their own and they said they used shopping as a release. “I’ll go out and spend a thousand dollars and my husband will come home and be like, ‘Baby, what did you do?”‘ said the older one. “And I’ll say, ‘Just pay for it.'”

I’m no fan of monogamy. Several of my relationships have gone sour because of my polyamorous ways. Almost all my friends are technically swingers–they sleep with one another and whomever, and committed relationships are rare. None of them go to parties like this.

I asked the two women why not go to a regular club and flirt, if that’s all it is? “It’s society,” the older of the two answered. “Society doesn’t say it’s OK to do this.” I wonder if that’s the same society that says shopping is the answer to heartache.

Vice Hates Chicago

Vice supposedly recruited its cool friends in town to write the guide to Chicago that circulated last weekend at Intonation, which its record label arm was recruited to curate. But only two short sections are bylined–there’s a travelogue by a New Yorker who came for a party once with Chloe Sevigny, and the other’s by Arthur Jones, who moved away in 2005. Whoever’s behind it, though, clearly wishes they were in New York–so why don’t they get the fuck out? The places listed in the 66-page booklet can be found here, but the attitude can’t.

According to Vice our music venues are lame, there’s nowhere to buy good records or clothes, everything has a dorky name, and we’re all fat. “Chicago is a totally depressing town to live in,” begins the chapter on gay nightlife. Of course they make fun of me too. They printed a photo where I look like a bony crack addict, and say I called myself “THE party girl of Chicago”–which maybe I did. At the party in question I was wasted on $300 pink champagne and could feel myself acting like an idiot.

But here’s the thing: even Vice doesn’t like Vice. Cofounder Gavin McInnes, who was in town to do stupid skits between bands at Intonation, told me he absolutely did not want to go to his own afterparty at Sonotheque on Saturday. When I said I knew of a house party, he turned up his nose. His buddy Pinky, of TV Carnage, came though, and had a gay ol’ time until the cops showed up.

That’s what’s so great about Chicago: the cops bust our parties, sending us fleeing around the corner to loiter at the taco stand, getting in friendly fist-fights and kicking it with gangbangers. Then we can insist we could’ve had tons more fun but the pigs had to ruin it, when in reality the party would’ve just gone downhill from there.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Andrea Bauer.