Here’s the continuation from my last column on swinging, which covered the who, why and how of partner swapping. I am using two terms interchangeably: ‘swinging’ and ‘lifestyle.’ In the ’50s, it was commonly called ‘wife swapping.’ These terms can include swapping of partners, threesomes, bisexual play, fetish exploration, group sex, etc.
I’ve listed questions used in the interviews with people from Redding to Australia, male and female, ages 30 to 70, married, single, heterosexual, bisexual, try-sexual. I asked them direct questions, for which they answered graciously and openly. Here are their responses (in italics), and my comments:
How do you keep safe from STDs, HIV, HPV, etc.?
“We use condoms 100% of the time.” -TC, age 40.
“We rarely, if ever, use protection and to my knowledge no one has gotten sick.” -Anonymous, age 69.
“We do the best we can, but there is risk, no doubt. Of course there is also risk riding a motorcycle. You can’t live a risk free life.” -TC, age 40.
“We use condoms all the time except with each other.” -SK, age 31.
“Having sex with multiple partners is risky and no one really talks about how many people have STDs. Herpes is common and nearly everyone has HPV. HIV is still rare as far as I know.” -Anonymous
It makes sense that anytime you are having sex with multiple partners you are playing the Russian roulette game. The swinging lifestyle is no different. While most say they are adamant condom users, we know how well those work in the prevention of pregnancy.
Do you get tested, and/or have to show proof of testing to be a part of the group?
“We get tested every few months and ask about that in our application to join our group.” -TC, age 40.
“I’ve never been tested and we haven’t asked anyone if they have either. I guess that would be a good idea.” -Anonymous, age 69.
In talking to several age groups it appears the younger groups use condoms regularly and are highly conscious of the risks and take necessary precautions to the best of their ability.
How do you handle jealousy and the possibility of emotional attachment?
Jealousy is an emotion that can rear up from time to time, often catching these couples off guard, they say. The difference between people who are non-swingers and those who are seems to be how they deal with and express that emotion. Generally people in the lifestyle have a very open communication and understanding of human sexuality. They understand this is part of the process and don’t let it get the best of them. After all, this is a choice and there is no betrayal happening.
“Emotional attachments happen out in the open a lot. We have become great friends with many people we have had sex with. Some we still have sex with, others we are still just great friends.”
“We don’t become friends with anyone we have sex with. That is our rule. It’s purely physical and often we don’t even know their last names.”
“We understand that sex can be emotionally charged so we keep the lines of communication wide open and stay focused on each other. It’s when the feelings have to be kept secret that problems arrise. So we just keep talking.”
Have you noticed a difference in the frequency of divorce between your lifestyle and “vanilla” (mainstream) friends?
I asked everyone this question. Unanimously, everyone I spoke with said a loud YES. They had trouble thinking of friends in the lifestyle who had divorced, and among those, the breakups had nothing to do with the lifestyle. Yet they could list many of their non-lifestyle (vanilla) friends who had divorced. Most common reason given? Infidelity.
It is well understood that infidelity is just a symptom and not alone a cause of relationship trouble, but that did seem to be the reason given most often.
How has this affected your relationship with your spouse?
“Since we have such an open relationship there is never any concern about cheating or betrayal so our trust has solidified.”
“There have been some challenging times when one person was getting more of what they wanted than the other. But we managed to talk about it and learn from it. We understand clearly that going into a sexually charged situation will present unforeseen consequences. We know we can handle them as long as we keep talking.”
“We are able to talk about everything now with a different level of trust and openness. This occurs across the board; family, money, work, health. We have a deeper understanding of each other and respect for what makes the other person tick.”
All couples I spoke with said they felt closer to their partner and more secure than they did before they were in the lifestyle.
The bottom line is that you are having sex with someone other than your partner – so how is this different from any other form of infidelity, cheating or affair?
“When you are having a sexual experience with your partner in the lifestyle everything is out in the open. There are no secrets, no lies, and no betrayal.”
When someone has an “affair,” there is a bonding between the new couple that occurs because of the secrecy. The two know something their partner(s) don’t. They start to confide in each other and often have to create a “reason” for the affair; such as dissatisfaction with their marriage(s). None of this takes place in the lifestyle. The sexual play is shared in some way so there is much less reason for concern about secrecy or betrayal.
If it’s so great, why isn’t everyone in the lifestyle?
“It’s certainly not for everyone. You can’t be a jealous person, and you really have to have a solid base for your marriage for it to work. I have met some couples who came into the lifestyle hoping it would fix something that was broken and it ended up breaking up the marriage.”
“It takes very mature, emotionally healthy people to honestly allow each other the freedom to explore their sexuality. It can evoke a lot of emotions, which you have to be ready to handle in a mature way. There is great learning to be had about yourself and your mate … but you have to be solid.”
“When you realize how many people cheat, you wonder why they don’t just open up their marriage in this way and get rid of the betrayal. It’s a very difficult thing to even bring up, but once a couple starts talking and they can put away their bias and preconceived rules and just listen to the needs of each other, magical things can happen.”
I did hear from several couples who actually did go into the lifestyle to fix something in their marriage. One couple had such a wide discrepancy in sex drive they went into it so there would be an outlet without secrecy or betrayal. The one with the lower drive found there to be a lot of extra stimulation, which helped to balance them out over time. Another couple was feeling bored and stagnant and discovered being a little voyeuristic on occasion added some much-needed spice to their life.
Is there a natural progression or “glide path” that is experienced? In other words, do you start with watching and years later find yourself needing the orgy to feel satisfied?
“It really varies. Some couples come into the lifestyle interested in watching and seeing what goes on. That is enough to reignite their sexual spark and they stop at that. Others continue to explore their fantasies, working up and down the menu of options. Not every one will end up wearing leather shackles in an orgy (giggle).”
Many people I spoke with described a tendency toward desensitization, making what was once exciting and provocative less so after awhile. The frequency people reported attending lifestyle events ranged from every weekend to a few times a year.
Is it illegal to be a swinger?
The answer is NO. Having consensual sex between adults, whether married or otherwise, is not illegal. There is a distinction made between legal and moral issues in regard to this topic. Some argue that swinging is no different than adultery. By law, adultery is defined as “extramarital sexual activity that willfully and maliciously interferes with the marriage relations.” Swinging is defined as “sexual activity with other consenting adults with the knowledge and approval of both marital partners.”
I was not able to find any laws on the books that would support otherwise. If you know something I don’t, I expect I’ll be hearing from you.
The mix of interviewees are: married couples in which both partners are heterosexual, bisexual married couples, bisexual women married to hetero men, and several sexually curious and adventurous marrieds and singles who put themselves in that fifth category I mentioned, “(try)Sexual.” Some even referred to themselves as Selective Lifestylers. As I wrote about last time, the continuum of sexual orientation and preference is broad and becoming blurred. I spoke with many people who have enjoyed a variety of new sexual experiences (for example, same-sex exploration), however, don’t have the desire to repeat those experiences.
I’m told, “It’s about enjoying the sensual pleasures happening in the moment and not getting hung up on any of the barriers our society has inflicted on us.” Just like the blending of cultures and colors, we are seeing a trend of blending sexual orientations. Individuals may categorize themselves as homosexual, then at some point in life find themselves falling in love with a person of the opposite sex. Do we really need to put a label on it? Then try to hold ourselves (or worse, each other) to that label? I’m thinking no. As I discovered when interviewing the wide variety of people in the lifestyle, in any group you are going to find variety and deviation from what was once thought “normal.”
For the swinging lifestyle to be a positive experience, people must be open-minded, open to communication, trustworthy and honest with their partners and themselves at all times. There is no room for overt jealously and mind games.
People are complicated and ever changing. We are sexual beings finding our way. Discover what floats your boat, and then find a partner who supports you and whom you can support in your overall enjoyment of life. Monogamy, Polyamory, Swinging, whatever you decide: Live your life on your own terms and find your happiness. That IS your birthright!
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