The institution of marriage is facing a vicious assault from the rising cases of wife-swapping, a practice once considered unimaginable in Nairobi. Also known as swinging, it involves married couples or people in committed relationships consensually exchanging partners for sexual intimacy.
It is a secretive and promiscuous lifestyle by a class of elitist couples, who have common interests â€” descent, education, profession, business interests, and friendship.
Weeks of investigation by our moles have uncovered tight-knit informal swingers â€˜clubsâ€™, whose casual approach to sexual intimacy stretches the moral fabric to levels that would shock even the Nairobians who consider themselves liberal. The small groups, whose core members are usually 10 or less people of diverse ages, are highly secretive and strictly vet prospective members on the recommendation of those already enlisted â€” making them hard to infiltrate.
While hints of the practice have occasionally featured in past media reports, interviews with multiple sources indicate a rise in swinging, especially among middle-class couples, that should set the alarm bells ringing.
â€œSome regularly hold weekly spouse swapping sessions,â€ claimed one source, a member of one of the clubs.
Our moles identified locations in high-end city residential homes, a ranch in Subukia, and a farm in Limuru favoured by some of the Nairobi swingers â€˜clubsâ€™.
The son of a prominent politician is said to be a member of one of the more notorious â€˜clubsâ€™. He is said to travel twice a month to a vast farm in Subukia, Rift Valley â€” and his travels have nothing to do with his love for farming. The only passenger in his Range Rover Sports is usually his lovely wife.
At the farmhouse he is usually joined by scions of other prominent families for alcohol-filled wife-swapping parties reminiscent of the pre-colonial wild parties that were held by European farmers that gave the Rift Valley white highlands the name â€œHappy Valleyâ€ and gave birth to a number of books.
â€œMost of them are sons of influential people in the society, and they grew up together and went to the same schools. You canâ€™t just be invited to the parties,â€ says another source, who confides in us that he got admission to the â€˜clubâ€™ after his firm did some work for an influential family, and became friends with one of the sons.
â€œThey all come with their wives. I have a wife, but I only come with my clande (clandestine lover), who is more of a second wife,â€ he says, adding that the rules of the â€˜clubâ€™ require one to come with oneâ€™sThe farm is owned by a former chief executive of a blue chip company, but it is his son who runs it.
The Nairobian was able to infiltrate four of the reportedly numerous swapping clubs in the capital. However, our mole could only go as far as talking to members of the â€˜swingers clubsâ€™ and being shown the houses where the parties take place. Well secured residences in Muthaiga, Westlands, Hurlingham, Spring Valley, Lavington, Rossylin and Kitusuru were identified as the main sites.
â€œIt is about pride; thatâ€™s why we donâ€™t go out trying to seduce girls everywhere. If I have to sleep with someone outside my marriage, it has to be with someone who is at my level with no strings attached; someone who wonâ€™t expect me to leave my wife for her,â€ says a self-confessed wife-swapper.
The swapping â€˜clubsâ€™ have rules. When you meet for a session, you donâ€™t just grab someoneâ€™s wife. Although some clubs have strict rules, others just have general ones. These include the couple having a health certificate to show their HIV status and indicate they do not have any sexually transmitted diseases. Couples must also have proof of marriage although only one club The Nairobian investigated enforces this rule. Members must also swear to secrecy. We established that at the â€˜clubâ€™ that meets in Subukia, condom use is a must.
The modes of pairing have a common thread. The couples arrive at an appointed time and venue. There is usually a container placed at the entrance of the house. All car keys are dropped in the container.
After greetings, members will dine, wine and chat. One â€˜clubâ€™ insists that during such meetings, they never call each other by name, but use the title â€˜gentlemanâ€™ or â€˜ladyâ€™. Another â€˜clubâ€™, which was not among the ones our mole got access to is said to give members masks at the entrance to hide their identity. One other common rule is that a participant is not supposed to talk about a man or woman they were paired with in the last swap. One risks expulsion for breaking the rules.
At around midnight the groupâ€™s chairperson comes with the container full of car keys and shakes it. In some â€˜clubsâ€™ paired members then proceed to allocated rooms.
But in one of the four â€˜clubsâ€™ we investigated, men leave their car keys in a container at the entrance. The women are then blindfolded and one by one they each pick a car key. They then leave the men in the house and proceed to the parking bay, where they unlock the corresponding cars and get in.
After each lady has entered the car, men will be now at liberty to come out of the house and enter their cars to find out who they have been paired with for the entire weekend.
So, from Friday to Sunday, they are supposed to go to the manâ€™s house and have a good time â€” but strictly within the swinging â€˜clubâ€™ rules. Families that still have young children ensure they are taken away for the weekend.
Another â€˜clubâ€™, where most members work for a government agency, meets twice a month at a popular restaurant on Langâ€™ata Road before proceeding to their sex dens. A separate group identified by The Nairobian is made up of white people, some of them renowned sport personalities. An expansive farm outside Nairobi belonging to one rally driver hosts most of the swinging parties once a month. The group is made up of close friends, who also share the same business interests.
Then there is an exclusive â€˜clubâ€™ of six couples, whose haunt is an apartment in Kileleshwa. A member reveals that they take turns in paying the monthly Sh40,000 rent for the apartment.
Every weekend we meet and have fun. There is nothing wrong with that,â€ he says.
Although he says there is nothing wrong with that, he, like the others we talked to, does not want to be identified by name.
Some of those involved in the practice claim that besides the fun, it boosts their sex lives and helps them to network for business and career opportunities.
Experts have warned about the long-term effects of swinging (see separate story).
â€œCouple involved in swapping are bound to have advanced psychological trauma that can later be manifested in things like killings within families,â€ warns Prof Okumu Bigambo a human psychology and behaviour expert.
Psychologist Frank Njenga, who says he is aware of the rise in swinging, points out that low self-esteem and eventual breakdown of relationships are inevitable consequences for those involved.