Swinging in the Sand: Unbridled Exhibitionism and Voyeurism in Gran Canaria

By William J. Furney

A more than middle-aged couple — she brunette and somewhat in-shape; he silver-haired and overweight — leave the beach in the late afternoon of sizzling Good Friday and meander towards the adjacent dunes, a protected area of towering sights and native wildlife mostly comprising small birds, aggressive lizards and tiny beetles. They are followed by a spattering of portly, aged men in a kind of Pied Piper procession but with the promise of something altogether different, and far more adult. 

The couple choose a spot by some sparse bushes, spread out a large, billowing sarong and position themselves across it. They are getting ready for action: a show; everyone’s invited and there’s nothing to pay. Their followers, some naked, place towels on the hot sand and sit or kneel before and alongside the couple — she in shorts and a top and he, just shorts — as if in an act, this Easter weekend, of holy homage: a carnal ritual they hope will deliver salvation. 

Call of Natural Desires: Swingers and onlookers in action in the Maspalomas Dunes on Good Friday 2022. (Photo: William J. Furney)

The woman begins caressing the man, and her initial strokes and teasing with her mouth are enough to excite their male audience, who are pleasuring themselves and drawing a crowd, some of whom join in the group entertainment while others stand by the side and watch: voyeurs, who themselves are seen. Apart from a lone, stick-thin black man, they are all white. One young man, tall and in swim briefs and with a red backpack strapped to his back, appears on the scene; he stops, stares and shifts around for a different angle, appearing beumsed by the public display of sexual action. 

A Climactic Open-Air Affair 

The outdoor performance reaches its climax around 20 minutes later, and people stand, wipe themselves off and engage in brief, grateful chat with the couple. The woman, who has a British accent, laughs and everyone seems happy and disperses, leaving the wild and picturesque area by the Atlantic Ocean to the flora and fauna once more. 

Group sex in the Maspalomas Dunes — in the southern part of the Spanish island of Gran Canaria, off the coast of North Africa — is not new, and attracts libertines and the hedonistic-minded from all over the world. A perhaps more famous location for frolicking in nature and sharing partners is found in Cap d’Agde, in the south of France, where beachgoers can expect to see practically anything right before their eyes. But Gran Canaria has a compelling advantage over the French nudist resort: year-round brilliant weather and sunshine that doesn’t limit activities to just the summer months. 

View: Pidgeons are a common sight in the protected Maspalomas Dunes. (Video: William J. Furney)

Swingers are also attracted to the island’s Maspalomas tourism hotspot for specialist hotels and clubs that cater to their partner-swapping desires. They can expect high-jinks in high temperatures and the stuff that sexual fantasies and dreams are made of. And individual services catering to swingers’ passions abound, even in the dunes, where crude fliers advertising massage and “fun” are placed under stones, so they won’t be blown away. One, from Krystyan Massage, lists “Extasy Massage” (€120 for 50 minutes); “Liberty Massage” (€100 for 90 minutes); and “Fantasy Massage for Couple — total erotic massage (threesome). Anything you want — you will not forget” (€200 for 120 minutes). 

“I don’t get many couples. They prefer sex in the dunes or swing clubs, as it’s free there,” Krystyan told Furney Times. “Not all couples have sex,” he added. “Couples come more for erotic massages.”

Maspalomas Dunes: A Big Adult Playground 

The Maspalomas Dunes are also the scene of a vibrant gay sex arena where men like to construct nest-type enclosures in which they have anonymous encounters and engage in orgies — just a short walk from family hotels overlooking the area. 

The al fresco adult playground that forms a sizeable area of the bushy parts of the dunes has become so popular that researchers, using drones and GPS equipment, have found almost 300 “crusing spots” where adults, straight, bisexual and gay, hook up for the thrill of quick, uncomplicated sex in the sun.  

The problem is not so much the activities themselves, but what participants do to the special reserve: often damaging plants and bushes, littering the area with plastic water bottles and beer cans and throwing away tissues used to clean themselves after sex. 

The authorities in Gran Canaria have been attempting to clamp down on all the dunes frollicking, threatening and issuing fines — minor offences attract penalties of €150 and €600, and as much as €600,000 for serious wrongdoing — for those environmental officers and police patrolling the area catch straying off the guided paths crisscrossing the area. New signs have gone up imploring people to stick to the paths, not litter and go to the nudist parts of the nearby, expansive beach if they want to strip off, not the dunes, but they are largely ignored. 

No Sign: The authorities are imploring tourists to obey the rules in the dunes, but their pleas often go unheard. (Photo: William J. Furney)

Frequent dunesgoers, many of them foreign residents in Gran Canaria, monitor the officers’ movements, sometimes taking photographs of them from a distance, and post updates on private social media groups. The dunes sex community, according to posts, believe the officials clock off at 2pm, after which they flock to the area. 

Sometimes, though, the agents get their man. As was a recently reported case when they encountered a German tourist who refused to leave the dunes and became hostile to them. The man was hauled into a Maspalomas court and given a suspended four-month prison sentence and a fine.

Spicing Up Your Sex Life with Swinging

Opening up to an uninhibited sexual lifestyle as a couple may have benefits, says London, UK-based sex coach Stella Anna Sonnenbaum. “Swinging is a way to allow for naturally occurring attraction to other people, and actually cherish it and take action on it,” she told Furney Times. 

“While there are couples who are both into it, usually there is one partner — often the male — who is more into this kind of open-relationship lifestyle and their partners trying it out without being particularly drawn to it.”

Gran Canaria’s swinging clubs admit single men, but for a far higher entry fee than couples (Secret Swingers Club, in the touristy Playa del Ingles part of Maspalomas, charges women €10, couples €20 and men €50), and single women may get free entry, and sometimes couples too. Sonnenbaum, who offers “sexological bodywork and somatic sex education” via Stella with Love, says swinging at clubs “often severely discriminates” against lone males, but that “some single men solve this issue by taking female friends, or paying escorts to go with them.”

Casual sex as a couple is not without risks, however, and not only because of that you might pick up from others; it can also harm a relationship and lead to a split. “[T]here have been breakups of couples due to swinging, but it can also be a stabilising factor for relationships, as it allows for transparency, and neither partner needs to cheat,” said Sonnenbaum.

“It can keep the main relationship hot and exciting, and inform lovemaking by adding erotic creativity from others. It can be very freeing too, particularly in a nice, warm climate like the Canaries, and including outdoor settings and the sea.

“There will usually be some discussion as in what other couple to pair up with, and it can get complicated when the partners’ erotic preferences are vastly different. That said, it can make for a very exciting and satisfying and varied sex life, unless casual sex is not your cup of tea, and you need more heart-and-soul connection in order to open up for a sexual encounter.”

  • Title photograph by William J. Furney.

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