I’d like to clarify something from my last column on sexual orientation. There IS a difference between sexual orientation and sexual preferences. Sexual orientation is defined by whom we are attracted to. There are four general categories: asexual (no sexual desire), homosexual (same sex attraction), heterosexual (attracted to the opposite sex) and bi-sexual (attracted to both sexes). I will be adding a fifth category to this concept, which is simply SEXUAL (attracted to one sex primarily but comfortable with and able to enjoy being in sexual situations with either sex, aka “try-sexual”). Sexual preference is about how we choose to play sexually. I did blur these in the last column and want to be clear about these differences. That being said, what I will be talking about in this column is about blurring those lines between sexual orientation and sexual preference in the world of “the lifestyle,” aka swinging.
Monogamy is an interesting concept. Are human beings designed to only have one sexual partner in a lifetime? According to the Enrichment Journal’s statistics on the divorce rates in America, the divorce rate for first marriages is 41%; the divorce rate for second marriages is 60%; the divorce rate for third marriage is 73%. (See how we compare to the rest of the world.) What’s wrong with this picture? Interestingly, when you marry between the ages of 20 and 24 you have that 40% rate, but if you wait until you are between 35 and 39, it drops to 5.5%. (Please refer to my column on making sure your picker is working before you say “I do”!)
The top three reasons people give for why they divorced are: lack of communication, infidelity, and conflicting attitudes about money.
A thread of commonality in my columns are tools to enrich the communication in our relationships. Being able to talk about whatever is on our mind, in our heart and on our bucket list is what deepens our experience of intimacy. What if one of these items happens to be sexual exploration? How do you bring this up? How do you explain that you are interested in living out some of your sexual fantasies and that doing so openly would be a preferred choice to doing so secretly? We know that if your relationship is open, honest and without judgment, it is much less likely to have deceit, betrayal or infidelity. So how does anyone ever get past the fears, insecurities, uncertainties, beliefs, judgments, etc? This is what I wanted to know.
“The lifestyle” is a term commonly used to describe adults, both single and married, who seek out other like-minded adults to explore and possibly act out their sexual fantasies. There are numerous adult dating sites for people curious about the lifestyle. You can find parties, cruises, vacations, and various lifestyle events all over the world for just such a purpose. After reading the statistics (The Case of Swingers National Survey 2000)of perceived marital happiness among “swingers” or lifestylers, I became curious how this could be so. After all, the first thing many of us think about is jealousy. But I am also open minded and willing to learn. I am not advocating nor condemning this lifestyle choice, I don’t want to hear from you saying I am suggesting you do this, or if you are in the lifestyle, that you are wrong because of it. I was curious, so I thought you might be too. It’s pretty simple. I am always trying to understand what makes happy people happy, so I asked around.
I interviewed 14 couples and 10 single people participating in “the lifestyle” about their choices, experiences, initial fears and evolution. This sample group includes people living in Redding and as far away as Jamaica, Australia, the United Kingdom, Egypt and Paris. Their ages range from 30 to 70; 60 percent are men, 40 percent are women. I had a lot of questions, as I’m sure you do and will. I will post my questions and then give some exact quotes or a compilation of the answers I received. If you have unanswered questions about this way of living or the information I present, please email me directly or post your questions in the comment section. I will happily do a follow up.
Why were you drawn to this lifestyle?
“The desire to test sexual boundaries and act out some long suppressed fantasies.”
“I love my wife more than anything and was curious to explore sexual fantasies with her, and her with me.”
“We met in the lifestyle as single, recently divorced people, who were out to have fun with a variety of sexual options. Three weeks into dating we were playing with others together. We have been married for seven years and have a great marriage.”
“Some people love riding motorcycles so they join a Harley club. Others love hunting so they go on hunting trips with groups. I love sex … everything about it. So I joined a sex club.”
“Our desires lie in darkness … they need the mind to shed light, allow the body to experience, feel the pleasure … once the two begin to connect … you have growth, happiness, trust all within yourself. The Lifestyle is allowing me to expand my boundaries in the world of sexuality.”
Most describe themselves as highly sexual people who enjoy the sexual play side of life.
Many said they were curious about testing same-sex experiences but not interested in a loving relationship with a same sex partner, and could be described as try-sexual. A few I spoke with have fetishes they wanted to play out with like-minded people.
Which one of you broached the subject of getting into the Lifestyle and how?
Most couples said they began by discussing sexual fantasies and then talking about how they could fulfill those openly and together. The more open a couple is about their sexuality, the more likely this topic will come up, they said. Some couples said they knew of other people exploring this and it sparked their curiosity and opened the topic for discussion. It’s usually a very gradual and playful conversation. A few people just came right out and asked if the other person would consider this. One man said his wife’s all-time fantasy was to be with two men, so he arranged it for her very early in their dating days.
Is it true that more men initiate getting into the Lifestyle than women?
“Actually more women seek us out than men. Women are curious about exploring sex with other women –approximately 90% of those in the lifestyle — and their men are usually just fine with that.”
Many believe that people in this lifestyle are typically “sex addicts” and “perverts.” What do you say?
“Our members of over 300,000 are made up of mostly professionals who have full and busy lives who enjoy the sexual freedom our group offers. It’s a fun form of play, and it enriches and enhances healthy adult relationships.”
Is there pressure within the group to do things you are not comfortable doing?
“Never! It’s all about living out your own fantasies. So you find people that also have the same desires within the group. It tends to be self policing… where ‘No’ means ‘NO.’ Occasionally you’ll have an incident where someone didn’t get the memo … but they are quickly removed from the situation.”
“There is limited tolerance for disrespectful behavior.”
The general consensus is that women are in charge; they set the tone for what is going to happen or not happen. The men (or women) who are viewed as predators or hunters are quickly identified and either educated or removed from the scene.
Describe a Lifestyle event. I have an image of a huge orgy … is that what happens?
(Laughing) “The orgy image is a rare situation.”
Most of the time it’s a big party where people are free to dress very sexy and enjoy meeting friendly and interesting people who are sexually open and curious. They tend to be professional, white collar types. The conversations are both typical and atypical. You’ll hear people talking about their work, families, etc., but you hear a lot more provocative discussions about sex and sexual interests. People are forthcoming about what they are into sexually so they can find others who are into the same things.
“It’s the after parties, or spin-offs, that get really interesting.”
Participants often meet in smaller groups at either a private home or hotel room. The main event is where the connections and invites are made. Many times a couple will go to the main event and then just go home together recharged with new energy for each other.
What are the most common sexual curiosities within the lifestyle groups you’ve been involved with?
Besides those who just want to watch or be watched, the most common is what is referred to as a “soft swap.” A couple will invite in another woman … primarily for the wife to play with and for the husband to enjoy the show. The variety of combinations goes on from there. (I have discovered through these interviews that bisexual men are much more common in the Lifestyle group than I would have assumed — according to Todd with Lovevoodoo.com. He estimates the prevalence of bisexual men among the lifestyle groups is 15%.) Two couples having sex near each other is more common than couples swapping, and the big group orgy is seemingly one of the least common events.
Within the Lifestyle groups there are a variety of subgroups to satisfy just about every fetish known to human kind. The Internet has opened the door for people to easily find others with similar interests without the fear of judgment and ridicule.
Part 1 has been to explain, from the words of those living the lifestyle, who’s doing it, why they are, and what it’s all about. In Part 2 I will address concerns about disease, jealousy, divorce, and how this lifestyle has affected those I interviewed. The willingness of everyone I spoke with to share openly was overwhelming. Some have been in the lifestyle just a few years, others several decades. If you have specific questions you would like me to add in Part 2, please send them ASAP so I can make any addendums. You can email or add to the comment section here. Please keep your questions respectful and non-judgmental. We are just trying to understand each other — it doesn’t mean we have to agree or go there.
We all have our biases and judgments, and if we take a little time to just ask someone why or how, we learn so much. These interviews have opened my eyes and make me grateful to be alive in a time when people can be authentic … at least some of the time.
To learn more about “the lifestyle,” go to Lovevoodoo.com, an adult dating site.
Nancy Sutton Pierce RN, Health Educator is the Founding director of Nancy Sutton’s House of Yoga and Radio Talk Show Host on The Conscious Living Show LIVE every Saturday 11a-12noon on KCNR 1460am You can reach Nancy at email@example.com with your comment or questions.
As You Desire is proudly sponsored by Body Logic MD; helping both men and women restore their libido and vitality through hormone therapy, fitness and nutrition counseling. www.bodylogicmd.com