To properly read this article in the right mood and all, you should cue your Alexa to play “Lets Talk About Sex Baby”
No self respecting magazine about Ethical Non-Monogamy would truly be authentic without discussing life on the more casual side… Let’s talk about Swinging.
What IS Swinging?
Swinging is a form of Ethical Non-Monogamy, where people engage strictly for the fun and friction and excitement of having sex with others. There are many different ways that people can go about swinging, including one-on-one, couple swapping, threesomes, foursomes, and moresomes. The only real limit there is to swinging is that emotional attachments are off the table.
Many couples prefer the security of emotional monogamy, knowing that the lovey parts of a relationship are reserved for their life partners. That said… contrary to popular belief, modern swinging is not reserved for couples. In the same way that solo’s can engage in polyamory, in modern swinging there is a place for solo people at the table as well, as long as any connections are casual in nature and not exclusive or emotionally attached. Modern swinging is literally defined as unattached casual sex between partners that is consensual, and non-exclusive.
Swingers tend to love the structured-non-structure that is involved in a swinging encounter. It means that the connection is fleeting, there are no expectations, no emotional baggage to worry about… Just fun for the sake of fun without the frills.
History of Swinging
One of the interesting things about the swing side of Ethical Non-Monogamy is that Swinging is the form of non-monogamy from which most all recognized forms of ENM have evolved. Modern swinging, dates back to the 1940’s during WWII when Air Force pilots had a very short life expectancy. Pilots started to form bonds between their families where there was an expectation that if a pilot did not return from the war, that their buddies would step in and take care of their families as if they were their own… Some of these bonds became so close, that they formed close knit bonds that sometimes, also led to the bedroom.
A lot of the history of swinging stems from war days and the military way of life. Perhaps this stems from the camaraderie and close knit friendships that go along with training together and fighting together in life or death situations… But the concept of “wife swapping” as was dubbed by the media in the post WWII days and into the Korean War remained prevalent well into the 60’s and 70’s.
Sadly the origins of Swinging have roots in patriarchal ideals that were so prevalent in the mid 20th century, hence the term “wife swapping.” In the 1960’s loose groups of swingers were secretly formed and key parties were common. A key party, was a party where couples would get together for a party and at the beginning of the evening each couple would throw their keys into a hat… At the end of the evening, the wives would pull a set of keys out of the hat and whichever man the keys belonged to, was who that woman would sleep with that night. While the idea seems novel and fun… There was not a lot of consent valued in these kinds of parties and there was expectation on the women that they would follow through with the arrangement.
As the ‘Free Love’ movement kicked in, in the late 60’s and into the 70’s, women began to find their power in their sexuality. No longer the docile middle aged women of the 50’s who complacently agreed to follow a patriarchal standard… Women started feeling empowered to take control of their sex lives. Sex for women became a means of expression beyond reproduction. For a while… Swinging would be pushed even deeper into the dark corners as the struggles with patriarchy, STIs, and an attitude toward sluttery in general. (It was apparently ok when it was male driven… But not so much when it was embraced and driven by women)
Swinging made a brief recovery in the 80’s as the idea of feminism and female empowerment started to take hold. The idea that swinging could actually be done in a way that put the power and control in the woman’s hands made it more attractive to women. Unfortunately the HIV/AIDS epidemic chased the movement back into the shadows again.
In the mid to late 90’s though, advances in contraception, STI treatment and safer sex practices, as well as easy access to the internet brought the swinging community back out of the shadows. Secret online groups and publications started popping up, which allowed couples to connect with a certain amount of discretion and privacy. Entire communities started to develop, but they would remain in the shadows as the world was not ready for the Non-Monogamy movement yet.
As we entered into the 21st century, the growth of these communities spawned sex clubs that would, at first, remain underground… Secret places where people could gather and connect. But in the wake of the Gay Rights Movement, a more accepting attitude from society was shown toward people in alternative lifestyles. Some of these communities, where before they were never heard of, suddenly became more visible. Secret websites were suddenly more prevalent and visible. Sex club’s while private, were suddenly more visible, and less secretive about what they were about, in hopes of attracting more members. The community numbers exploded as more and more people joined to see what the excitement was all about, in hopes of bringing some of that excitement to their own lives and bedrooms.
Hotel parties would become a thing… Swingers groups would buy out blocks of rooms at a hotel, (or even the entire hotel) and host parties where people could go from room to room to find sexy connections to join in on.
For decades, swinging has been about hetero normative interactions, wife swapping, partner swapping, co-binary connections, mostly by middle aged couples ready to get a second wind on sowing their wild oats, as their parental responsibilities have become more relaxed as their children get older. There has been an interesting twist in the last decade though. As the Millennial and Gen Z generations come of age, many are choosing a track of staying solo, and following a path of non-breeding… Choosing a life without children. Being raised in the times of Gay Rights, they have a much healthier attitude toward sexuality and acceptance of people who don’t identify as heterosexual, even to the point where they are exploring their own sexuality and what works for them. Even though we still have much work to do, never before in our modern history has there been an atmosphere of acceptance like we have currently, where people can openly question what is normal and accepted with such comfort… and that has brought an interesting new attitude towards swinging. My generation may forever be stuck with the creepy stigma of swingers from the 70’s with the creepy guy in the wide lapel, smoking jacket who use their wives to get what they want from other couples. The younger generation seems to be almost re-claiming the term “swinger” and redefining it to fit their new approach where swinging is more than just seeking multiple sexual partners, but also using it to explore their sexuality in ways where there is no need for an emotional attachment or the responsibilities that go with a committed binary relationship.
Why do people swing?
People are drawn to swinging for many different reasons. For some, it is about exploring their sexuality, and trying out new things. One person, we spoke to who wishes to remain anonymous says, “I approach things through a lense of learning. When attending a local swingers club, I watched a couple engage and learned a LOT about painful pleasure.” Sometimes it is easier to explore things with other people, because there are no existing patterns that might inhibit the exploration, and if you don’t like it, you can simply chalk it up to a one time experience that you can simply walk away from.
For some single people it’s about the sexual exploration without the necessity of a relationship. Thomas B. says, “As a single guy, I prefer the swinging side at the moment because it just keeps things simple! Fun times, with hot erotic sex and much less emotional drama.”
For many couples, it is about exploring fun and sexual adventures together. Sheri U. says, “I like swinging, because it’s about my hubby and I having the experience together and watching each other give and get pleasure with other people. It’s fun and a big turn on.” Indeed, many couples seem to enjoy playing together and exploring an alternate sexual experience together. When my wife and I stumbled into our first non-monogamous experience, it was literally like watching my very own personal live porn. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the experience, despite how many times that I’d been cheated on by former partners. It was an entirely different experience and I felt no jealousy or insecurity at all, I think because it was something we were exploring together with each other’s full knowledge and consent.
Interestingly, many couples find that swinging increases the quality of their relationship significantly. In a study done in October of 2000, approximately 1200 couples were surveyed from across the country. Nearly 63% of the couples said that swinging made them more happy in their relationship, where only 1.7% claimed that swinging made them less happy in their relationship. Interestingly, in relationships that were unhappy before they started swinging 90% said that swinging made them more happy in their relationship with their spouse.
While this survey was predominantly answered by men, there is still a pretty strong female representation as well… Sadly there are just not many studies out there that are reputable because swinging is still primarily a side of ENM that prefers discretion and secrecy.
There is no doubt though that modern day swinging is geared toward empowering women. Swingers parties and clubs are more social events, where consent is now the keys that get you the partner you desire. Expectation is almost a sin in most swinger circles, and everyone engages voluntarily. In regards to swingers clubs, one woman (who wished to remain anonymous) tells us, “The men bring us here, but the women keep us here. Men are drawn by the idea of swinging, but I love that I get to be the center of attention, and I get to be the one in control.” Where else, but in a swinger club, or a swinger party can a woman actually embrace the term of being a slut, and wear it like a badge of honor?
Women aren’t the only ones empowered by swinging though. Mike B tells us, “Swinging, and open life in general, have a way of laying all your bullshit bare. Personal insecurities and toxic traits have a way of all bubbling to the surface, and you can either deal with them as they come or your time in the lifestyle will be short. For the most part, people who don’t address the issues as they come, tend not to be involved in the lifestyle for very long. This also means that friends that I make within the swinger community tend to be more emotionally intelligent and interested in personal development than the average folk.”
While the idea of “emotionally intelligent” sounds almost like a concept of polyamory, a lot of swingers can relate to what Mike follows up with, “Sex can be more than an emotional connection. It can also be just a fun activity that me and my friends enjoy together.”
In as much as I would like to say that all swingers want only to have that “hit it and quit it” attitude… Many modern day swingers want just a bit more. Much like those days when modern swinging started amongst the WWII airplane pilots, who had close bonds with their buddies and that need to take care of each other’s families, a quick look on many swingers sites show profiles of couples who are looking to connect “Inside and outside of the bedroom.” It is not at all uncommon to see clusters of swinging friends who primarily stick together, and do things together and form what many would argue are casual [poly]’cules. Remember that in the ENM spectrum… very few people fall on the hard limit of strictly sex with no attachment.
Where do people swing?
I would say that swingers tend to fall into two very distinct groups. Those that frequent sex clubs, and those who prefer things more low key and private.
For those who prefer things more low key and private, they tend to stick to smaller parties and group events. Oftentimes these types of people will belong to small private groups, where one couple will host a house party. Sometimes, it’s always the same couple, but sometimes the couples switch it up. These groups can be difficult to find and get into, you almost have to know someone or get a private invite to know they even exist. For people who require ultimate discretion, this is usually the arrangement they seek. Social circles tend to be smaller, and everyone knows everyone. This works better for those who aren’t interested in the nightlife. It can be almost bi-polar for the person who struggles to connect with someone though. While the crowd is more condensed, so you may have a better shot at finding someone to connect with, it’s also possible that you may not find someone that you’re attracted to, or worse… no one is attracted to you and that can be a real bummer. The stagnancy of the situation can be discouraging.
Going to a sex club has its own advantages and disadvantages. Each club has its own atmosphere. For some clubs its all about the sex, and for others, greater emphasis is put on the social aspect, while still others are night clubs first… And not everyone is there for sex. It’s a good idea to go to a sex club the first time with no expectations to feel out the mood and the crowd, at the same time you should realize that in most clubs the mood and atmosphere will vary night by night.
One thing that is generally a given in all sex clubs, is that they tend to be a very public space within a private space, and on weekends especially they can be quite crowded. This can give the concept of nearly endless opportunities, but it is also a sea of people you can get lost and overlooked in. Most sex clubs also offer a lot of public play spaces where you can either voyeur, or if you’re lucky enough to find someone to connect with… try out your exhibitionist side too.
I find that swingers clubs are best enjoyed if you plan on going for the social aspect of it alone. Don’t go with the expectation that you’re going to have an adventure that involves sex with someone besides who you bring with you… Expectation almost always leads to disappointment. This can be especially difficult to remember after you’ve had that once in a blue moon opportunity, that seems to pop up out of nowhere. Just remember, leave your intentions and expectations at the door and focus on having a good time and being open to wherever the evening might lead you and for godsakes, if the opportunity presents itself… use a condom!
How do people swing?
This could almost be an article in itself… There are about as many ways to swing as there are people, but I will do my best to break it down, mostly because it might help you find your way through them… Keep in mind, this may not be a comprehensive list. When I say… “How do people swing?”, what I mean is what are the different arrangements, protocols, etc…
Everyone has rules and boundaries, and you should expect that there may be more rules and boundaries with people who are connecting casually. Some are quite complex and restrictive, designed to keep emotional connection at bay. For example, one rule we see in a lot of new couples is what we call the “No Kissing Rule.” For others, public display of affection at all might be considered taboo.
For some couples, they “only play together” where others “only play separately.” With some couples they prefer to only have ONE other couple whom they play with (fidelity), and others will ONLY date couples as couples, where others have no limitations.
A LOT of swinging couples will only play with a single female. OPP (one penis policy) is more prevalent and mildly more accepted in the swing community, because the connections tend to be more casual. In a lot of swinging couples, the primary reason they are swinging is so the woman might have an opportunity to explore her bisexual curiosities. I in no way condone an OPP ever… you will just see it more subtly displayed in swinging environments than you do in other more intentionally connected situations.
Sadly, these scenarios create an atmosphere where the desire for female partners by far outnumbers the gender ratios in a club on any given night. Every guy in the club is looking for that same woman you are, and some of the women are too. It can create some real challenges where in a lot of clubs a single guy is almost a pariah (and the pricing structure of many clubs reflects this because solo men only add to that imbalance in gender ratios) Again… I’m not condoning or endorsing this concept… Iit’s just a sad reality in the imbalance of what people are looking for.
None of this is to say that single men don’t have a chance or a place in the swing community, just that it can be VERY difficult for a single guy to connect. Even as a married guy… When I go to the club on my own (my wife and I usually date and play separately), I’m essentially a solo guy, and it is really hard for me, enough so that I almost NEVER go to the club without a pre-arranged date. On the other hand, when Ellie and I go to the club as a couple (and we do that sometimes too), we’re often looking for adventure, and that includes solo men sometimes. I love watching her play with other men. There are many other couples like us, it can just be really challenging to find them.
What are the pitfalls of Swinging?
Most of the pitfalls of swinging, are similar to any form of ENM. If there is something I cannot express enough… Entering into ANY Ethically Non-Monogamous arrangement in a relationship that is already broken, will only make things worse. It is something we see over and over again… Someone cheated on someone, so they decide to “open their relationship” for one it is atonement, for the other it is revenge… this NEVER ends well. Ethical Non-Monogamy only works when you’re using it to add to your relationship… Anything that involves revenge, payback, or negative feelings will only create more negative feelings. Anyone who has been around the ENM scene for very long knows what I’m talking about… these situations often end spectacularly.
Likewise… cheating is just as possible in swinging as it is in monogamy. Just because someone “could” have permission to have sex with someone else, doesn’t mean that they will wait until they have it, or that they won’t do it outside of their agreements. If your relationship has issues, the Ethically Non-Monogamous lifestyle is not a fix for your issues, fix your issues first… And then try out swinging.
Similarly, relationships that are overly controlling or abusive will only become more so when sex with others is a part of it. Swinging is about the joy of sharing your partner, and in many cases together. If the focus is on “what is in it for me?”… Yyou’re not going to have a good time, and it won’t last long and will probably destroy you and your relationship with your partner.
A lot of couples that come into the Swinging lifestyle choose to ONLY play together. This is generally accepted thing as easily half of the couples (if not more) choose this boundary for themselves. Connecting with a new partner as a solo person can be a challenge… for every additional person you add to the mix, that challenge increases exponentially. The chances of all three people in a three-way connection being fully into it, is pretty good, but there is likely someone in the mix that is going along with the situation for the pleasure of the others involved. Most of us would agree… connecting two couples so that everyone is fully feeling it and on board is fleeting at best. Most times there will always be one who is not feeling it, but, especially in couples who have that “always play together” rule… the likelihood of someone “taking one for the team” is VERY likely. This is a situation you should absolutely avoid. No one should ever feel obligated to have sex with someone they are not 100% on board with. It will make you feel dirty (and not in a good way) and the person you are playing with will know you’re not feeling it… no matter how good of an actor/actress you think you are. The couples who “always play together” that are successful have ways of avoiding these situations and would rather miss an opportunity to play than see their partner go along with something they are not fully on board with… but this IS a real sticky problem for a lot of couples who are new to the swinging scene.
Repeat after me… insecurity and jealousy is normal. Anything as beautiful and fun as sharing your partner and watching them have wonderful and exciting sex with others will bring up icky feelings sometimes. It is the price we pay, but it is also an opportunity for personal growth. You cannot create enough rules to protect yourself from feeling these feelings, and if you try, you will only succeed in making yourself and your partner miserable. Articles and books on dealing with jealousy are prevalent in our community (as well as in this publication) I will add a list of resources to the end of this article to help. The biggest thing is don’t try to prevent yourself from feeling insecure with rules that limit your partner. Instead, find ways to work through your insecurity so you can be a stronger more confident partner in your relationship.
STI’s and pregnancy are concerns we all share. I like to think that anyone who engages in ENM is hyper aware of the risks of STI’s and is vigilant in making sure that they are aware of their status and have the integrity to make the right choices. I also think it is foolish to assume that the person you are about to have sex with is that person. In casual swinging encounters, it is always prudent to have a conversation about STI status. Just a quick check in if nothing else. But anyone who is being responsible will always use a condom in casual sex (and I would consider all forms of swinging “casual sex”.)
Condoms also prevent pregnancy, but I believe in layers of contraception. Even if she is on some kind of birth control, a condom is generally an accepted and recommended requirement because hormonal birth control does sometimes fail, condoms sometimes fail, but the two combined takes the risk as close to near zero as it gets, and let’s face it, do you really want to have a child with someone who is not your life partner? What a disaster that would be.
How to get started swinging
So you’ve decided you want to give it a go… You have some homework to do first. If you’re coupled up, the first thing you need to do is talk to your partner about it. Are they on board, is there interest? Is the idea of it sweeter than the reality of it? Approach it from the perspective of something you will explore together, but be prepared for the response you may get. If you’re a solo person you get to skip this step, unless you’re really into having serious conversations with yourself…
The next thing is… Do some research. Read some books on opening your relationship, make sure you have a good understanding of what you’re opening yourself up to. Try to imagine your partner being with someone else, how does that make you feel? Talk to your partner some more… How will it make them feel to see you with someone else? If you’re solo, where is your support system? Building one should be on the top of your priority list.
Discuss boundaries and rules. Not only for your partner (if you’re coupled), but also for yourself. What will you accept? What are you looking forward to? What do you hope to accomplish? What do you want to explore? What are your limits? How will you be able to stay within those limits? This is the step in the process on which you should spend the most time. Days, weeks, even months is not unreasonable. Next to your life, your relationship with your partner is probably the single most important thing to you… And this is very much Pandora’s box… once you open it, closing it without repercussion is nearly impossible. The rewards are endless and mind blowing, but the consequences can be severe too, and communication is the most effective tool in your toolkit for survival… You’d better get used to it, you’re going to be using it a LOT! .
The most important agreement you can have with your partner is the ability to revisit your rules and boundaries. As you grow and develop in swinging and ENM, your needs will change, your fears will ease, and some of the rules that seem vitally important to you in the beginning, will no longer be a concern. You need the ability to sit down and discuss them and agree that no rule is carved in stone. Flexibility is one of the most important traits you can have in ENM.
Find and join a group… Yyou can find them on Facebook, but you might have an easier time finding people on sites like meetup, or one of many swinger sites. Before you even think about “hooking up” with someone, I highly recommend finding someone who has been in it awhile and talk to them… Find several people… and be cautious of the “fresh meat” people. (those who look for new couples to take advantage of…er… I mean, take under their wing.)
This may be as far as many of you will go… Oonce you connect with a group of people you will be off and running… One connection often leads to others. Avoid people who are territorial or possessive… Avoid harboring these traits in yourself (they are generally considered toxic traits in any form of ENM.)
If you’re looking for more… maybe you want more nightlife… check out your local clubs and maybe join some swinger sites like Kasidie, SLS, SDC or SAF Social. Feel free to connect with us on them if you can find us. I’m MichaelLovePDX and our joint accounts are LoveTribePDX. We’re always looking for new friends.
There are many resources written in support of people who are engaging in an Ethically Non-Monogamous relationship. Some of them are written by people who are more on the poly end of the spectrum, but there is still good information that will help guide you on your way. As I close, I will list a few of them here for your reference along with a few words about each one.
|Opening Up: A Guide To Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships|
By Tristan Taormino
Tristan Taormino is one of the best relationship experts in our ENM community and this book is considered one of the “must haves” in your ENM arsenal of literature to help guide and shape your ENM Life. With tips on dealing with jealousy, negotiating boundaries, time management and finding community… this best selling book has everything you need to get started and to maintain a healthy open relationship with your partner.
|The Ethical Slut|
by Janet W. Hardy and Dossie Easton
While this book doesn’t focus on swinging it does a good job of discussing some of the myths about non-monogamy. It will offer up some great tools in how to maintain good communication, emotional honesty, and safer sex practices.
|Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships|
By Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha
What fuels us as a species? Through a study of the human race from many scientific studies, we learn how the human race is not truly designed for monogamy. So many aspects of the human species will make more sense and you’ll understand why a non-monogamous lifestyle is truly a more natural life for a human to live.
|Jealousy Survival Guide|
by Kitty Chambliss
There are so many publications on jealousy and insecurity, but this one is one of my favorites. Through this book Kitty weaves together some of her own life experiences, along with bits of advice and tools she has learned from many other publications to create her own survival guide. If you’re struggling with insecurities and jealousy this is a highly recommended resource.
|My Life on the Swingset: Adventures in Swinging & Polyamory|
by Cooper S. Beckett
Cooper S. Beckett is one of my favorite Podcast hosts, and through his entertaining story you will learn a lot about swinging and polyamory and community through his story of non-monogamy.
|Swingland: Between the Sheets of the Secretive, Sometimes Messy, but Always Adventurous Swinging Lifestyle|
By Daniel Stern
Swinging told from the perspective of a man who experienced 10 years in the swinging lifestyle as a solo male. The author talks about his many rejections and missed opportunities, but when he discovered how to be more accepted as a single man his opportunities flourished. This is a great read for anyone who is struggling to figure out how to fit in to our sometimes cliquish lifestyle.
|Swingers’ Lifestyle: The Questions You Are Afraid to Ask|
by Jackie Melfi
Who else to ask about how to get along in the Swinging lifestyle than the owner of a chain of swinger clubs. In this book she offers advice and opinions based on situations she has personally witnessed and experienced in her clubs.