Intent to Arouse

Dallas swingers learn that an ill-timed grope can lead to a date in court

Of the 15 people arrested at the Jet Set, one was subsequently fired, another was suspended with pay, and others are terrified that they'll lose their jobs if their names are tied to the arrests. In addition, the city forced the Jet Set to close its doors for five days last month as a result of the raid--all this before any of the cases even made it to court for an initial hearing.

Every other year or so, whenever a swingers' party is busted, the corresponding publicity conjures up images of a group of shifty-eyed perverts shtupping in some dingy, dark corner of the city. The truth is, apart from their views on sex, swingers are basically average Joes and Josephines: They are reliable, usually well-educated married people who hold down jobs, raise kids, and go to church on Sundays. What they do in their nightclubs might be tacky, and sometimes risque, but it really isn't all that different from what happens every weekend inside the dance clubs on Lower Greenville Avenue or in Deep Ellum.

"We're a nightclub. We just happen to cater to that clientele," Poteet says. "We supply them with a place to dance, drink, intermix, and go somewhere else. If we had as much fun as everyone thinks, we'd all be dead from overexertion."

"Franky" and "Stephanie" never considered themselves perverts, and, until they got netted in the Jet Set raid, they didn't have criminal records.

The couple, who would only grant an interview on the condition that their identities be protected, are now getting a crash course in the state's public lewdness laws and a lesson in just how far local authorities will go to police morality.

For the first time since his arrest, Franky reads over the official charges filed against him in Dallas County District Court as he sits at the edge of a beige leather couch inside the couple's modest suburban home.

In the eyes of the court, the couple stand accused of "deviate sexual intercourse," namely, that Franky was performing cunnilingus on Stephanie inside the Jet Set.

"Deviate sexual intercourse? What's that supposed to mean?" Franky asks, his brown eyes scouring the document for an explanation that isn't there. "What was I doing? I was with my wife! I was dirty dancing; let's put it that way."

"And the amount you dance," adds Stephanie, "I could put in a thimble and still have room left over."

Franky and Stephanie are hardly porno material, he with a stocky build and paunch and she tall, with average good looks and a body that's still shedding pounds after giving birth to twins a year ago.

The allegation certainly is not easy to swallow, and it is especially difficult to visualize on this frigid Monday afternoon, as Stephanie carves up a freshly baked apple pie and prepares a pan of chicken for dinner.

A living-room wall is covered with two enlarged pictures of the couple's smiling teenage daughters, taken at their first communions. One of those daughters, an honor student, is on a school trip to Washington. The other, who is autistic, is occupied with a Winnie the Pooh video upstairs.

One of the twins threatens to break free of a playpen that occupies the corner, while the other--who was born with cerebral palsy--sleeps upstairs in a room plastered with Mickey Mouse decals.

In the master bedroom, the lone wall decoration is a hand-painted picture of Pope John Paul, which carries the seal of the Vatican and a personalized blessing of the couple's 1984 wedding.

"[Stephanie] and I are so married," Franky says. "We count on each other. I wouldn't give her up for anything in the world."

In the world of swingers, Franky explains that he and Stephanie are what's called "soft-core" swingers, which means that they do not attend the private "on-premise" parties, where "hard-core" swingers swap partners and have group sex. They have, however, experimented with the harder side of the lifestyle.

"We are familiar with the hard swing," Franky says, letting a large smile freeze momentarily on his face.

One night several years ago, Franky and Stephanie were with another couple, their lifelong friends, when the evening took an unexpected but memorable turn. Franky, who declines to discuss the evening in detail, pauses as he searches for a way to describe the group experience.

"It's like if you eat vanilla all your life, and then along comes rainbow sherbet," Franky says. "If you go back to eating vanilla, then at least you've tried rainbow sherbet."

Nowadays, the couple are back to eating vanilla--mostly at "off-premise" swingers' clubs like the Jet Set, where they go to watch other couples "dirty dance." Going to the Jet Set is their weekend entertainment.

"The first time we went there, we got so hot, we came back here and had a grand old time," Franky says. "I like watching people dirty dance. I like watching two girls dance. That may be a perverted statement, but I do."

Franky and Stephanie prefer the Jet Set because everyone there is open about their sexual relationships. As a result, they say, there is no role playing, no obnoxious come-on lines, and no always means no.

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