Swingers: Loving One, Playing with Many

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Swingers are mothers, teachers, brownie leaders, and car salesmen. The thing that makes swingers unique is the very fact that they are ordinary people. They reside within a realm of a normal lifestyle.

Published : Monday, February 25, 2013
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Loving One, Playing with Many
by Leah Brennan
Swingers are mothers, teachers, brownie leaders,
and car salesmen. The thing that makes swingers unique
is the very fact that they are ordinary people. They
reside within a realm of a normal lifestyle. Sex, orgies,
and bisexual encounters don’t deîne the couples in this
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subculture, marriage and parenthood do. Understandably,
this claim is provocative, and it may be hard for non-
swingers to comprehend, but swingers do have strong
marriages; they just have an interesting choice of hobbies.
These couples chose to take an unconventional path to
lead them to a strong, dedicated, and ordinary marriage.
had contact with referred to themselves as part of the
Frequently, play with these younger couples ends up
He has found that new couples are concerned with
own vocabulary. For example, many of the swingers I
have. On one message board thread, a woman shared
Young couples never fair well in the swinging world,
because they are not secure enough in their relationships
sure that their marriage wouldn’t be destroyed if they
Swingers have a complex relationship with mainstream culture. The sexual and emotional desires that they fulîll through swinging (though viewed as deviant by society) take place within the norms of middle class life, but the swinging subculture is still viewed as a threat because it challenges accepted views of matrimony and sexuality.  There is a popular saying in the lifestyle:
the lifestyle, often referred to as “the beautiful people”
‘lifestyle’ and their sexual escapades to be ‘play-time.’
these terms, and historicizes them to have been created
cheating and their relationship is just not stable enough.
in the 1980s by swingers who wanted to give validity
misconceptions about swinging that many nonswingers
gave her advice. Again, they strongly emphasized the
marriages (Gould 1).
since they are so young and there are so few of them.
“I consider [swinging] the doublediamond slope of marriage. It’s the hardest thing you can do in a marriage. And, if you can do it, it means you have a very, very strong marriage and excellent communication.”
educated and have strong
are derived from the belief that swingers participate in
Many of the questions I asked Matt centered
the couples were older (about forty years old). Swinging
relationship. Swinging can not îx a marriage. He also
deînition of monogamy and family life as well as their
what you would want to happen, and about what you’re
rules on what is okay and what isn’t” (Message Board Post).
“Swinging never made a bad marriage good” (Gould 7).
As I began my research, I questioned why the majority of
comfortable with, therefore laying down some ground
1 an email interview with Matt , a swinger from the west
involves potential risks to marital stability, which is why
around jealously and monogamy. He stressed that
swinging is not for couples with problems in their
“also, new couples with whom you connect often crash
in to this lifestyle. Swingers, in fact, are typically highly
Documentary Filmmaker David Schisgall (Secret Sex in the Suburbs)
Swingers are a close knit group with their own
and justice to the subculture of which they were a part
fantasized about it many times, it doesn’t sound like you
ever really talked about the what-if it happened, and
began to “play.” For example, he and his wife found intertext 2008
coast who provided insight regarding young couples in
it’s not for insecure or new couples; it requires trust.
Name changed for individual’s anonymity.
or with themselves to participate. I was able to conduct
emphasized the importance of setting rules before
entering the lifestyle. He and his wife wanted to make
to the play. It’s often better to avoid them and go for the
a story of a swinging date gone bad. Other swingers
other. The board is often a place where swingers dismiss
importance of communication: “although you both had
being more troublesome for him and his wife to achieve:
Scholar Terry Gould also noticed the recurring use of
(1). The negative connotations associated with “swinger”
experienced.” On a popular online swingers’ message
board, swingers are able to communicate with each
orgy-fests, are insecure, and that women are coerced
and burn because of jealousy before you even get down
swinging by the men in their lives; they too have sexual
control her and I DON’T loan her out. You see—swinging
Yet, not all swingers participate in explicitly sexual
As one user suggested, at no time should one spouse
a couple—want to share.” He explained that swinging is
the power and freedom they are able to thrive (889). A
A number of researchers have explored the adaptability
of women in the lifestyle and have found that women are
men stand by and watch while their wives experiment
culture in order to validate their lifestyle. One popular
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struggle between husband and wife. I came across an
misconception about swingers is that there is a power
recommend that couples new to the lifestyle discuss all
possible situations that might arise and set explicit rules.
that it was important for them to establish a rule that they
partake in orgies and have sex with multiple partners
each other’s partners, though they sometimes stay in a
in one night. Sometimes voyeurism takes place and the
to mind when the term ‘swinger’ is mentioned. They
advice about swinging. It discusses three types of swingers:
They may have oral sex or fondle others, but sexual
soft, closed, and open swingers. Soft swingers do not have
man feels he is entitled to and has to convince his wife to do.
room together. Open swingers are what often comes
response to this question that gained praise and admiration
intercourse only takes place between the couple. Closed
swinging and provide people with the knowledge of and
socialization toward true sexual freedom for them” (889).
isn’t about me letting other men fuck her. Swinging is about
from centuries of suppression and widely accepted sex
sexual intercourse with anyone besides their partners.
interesting message board thread titled, “What makes a
swingers typically swap between couples. There is not a
go into separate rooms and have sexual intercourse with
large party; usually it is just one-on-one sex. The couples
have to convince or persuade the other spouse to partake
dedication to the lifestyle. Actualswingers.com is a website
study in The American Journal of Sociology that might
fantasies that they have a desire to fulîll. One user posted a
as an enjoyable leisure activity (885). Henshel believes
away from the woman. Swinging relies on a couple’s joint
of premarital sex. During this time, women were liberated
development of the birth control pill and wider acceptance
only swing together, as a couple. Message board posts
sexual revolution took place a few decades back with the
explain why. It is inarguable that men have been given
talks about here is to go as slow as the slowest person.”
designed and run by swingers to break down myths about
events; as with any group, there are multiple levels of
something couples jointly participate in and not something a
sexual beings who don’t play as active a role in sex as
men do, when in fact this couldn’t be further from the truth.
that “swinging may be a more important channel of
in an activity: “one of the primary rules that everyone
from other readers. He said: “I don’t own her, I don’t
us, partners in crime, experiencing adventures that we—as
man let another man fuck his wife?” This question irritated
decision-making. The women involved are not tricked into
than men. Author Anne-Marie Henshel published a
with bi-sexual desires (Actual Swingers). Society views
often more adaptive and sexually satisîed by swinging
accepting of males’ sexuality than females’. Women have
the sexual power for centuries. Society is much more
other readers because it took the power of decision-making
been suppressed sexually for so long that when given
Mainstream culture often views women as non-
deviance as deviance, but not all swingers are the same.
Swingers must continually battle against mainstream
seek out swinging, the social contexts of
having to raise a child that is not theirs. Also, women
in the presence of the highest
two reasons, the îrst being that
for their desire for multiple partners. Mary Jan Sherfey
night, can not satisfy a woman
proved that women are not built for monogamy. So why
accepted by society, they must înd a space to play
Whether his conglomerate argument is valid or not, it is an
syndrome,” a woman’s ability to have multiple, seemingly
Association in 1966 (10). She coined the term, “Sherfey
report more powerful orgasms and
partner (Gould 8). This is linked to why many men involved
interesting biological take on swinging. Males of all species
wives have sex with other men. Tom
as the “sperm competition syndrome”
Shackleford, researcher Mary Jane Sherfey, and even
evolutionary biologists, such as Charles Darwin himself.
in his article which links the arguments of researcher Tom
with multiple men? Sherfey argues that women fear it
then don’t most women act upon their desires and sleep
will anger men, who suffer from an unconscious fear of
degrees of sexual satisfaction”
for having multiple partners for
that women are biologically built
men’s whose decline. Her îndings
(10). The second reason is that a more intense, powerful ejaculation "Couple Trouble" LA Shorts Fest April 4. 2008 . as women grow older their that arouses them (11). While <http://www.lashortsfest.com/images2007/2007FilmImages/CoupleTrou-ble-39.jpg> sexual desires grow, as opposed to biologically the sexual drive causes one to
liberates them from the suppressed sexual lives.
invest much more in raising offspring than males do (10).
why men swing. This theory is presented by Terry Gould
In fact, there is also a biological argument for
for why women participate in the swinging lifestyle and
when they see their wife having sex
with another man, which is referred to
why couples swing can not be ignored. It is their rejection
Because swingers reject a belief that is widely
in swinging enjoy participating in
They must stay behind doors in order to avoid the prying
them to be deîned as swingers, not their desire for sex.
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sexual desires, but also in which they feel safe doing so.
in which they are not only free to live out their deepest
are found to release more sperm
Shackleford’s theory states that males
Women are able to enjoy swinging more, because it
is a researcher who published her theory about female
sexuality in The Journal of the American Psychoanalytic
that is not theirs or of losing their mate to a more suitable
compete with each other because they are programmed
to have an unconscious fear of having to raise a child
own sexual pleasure achieved through
wives have sex that necessarily arouses
the men; it is the competition and their
(Gould 11). It is not watching their
they are able to have unlimited
intents and purposes, the human
Researchers have found biological explanations
of monogamy (a socially-constructed concept) that causes
unlimited orgasms. She argues
(10). One male, who can only
achieve one or two orgasms per
to save their marriages (therapy, vacations), swingers will
swingers has provided her with a way to give power back
for her depiction of the subculture. She has also documented
curtains, and swivel-chairs (known as “eros seats”) (Gould 4).
Matt mentioned his close proximity to the New
swingers make to be active in the lifestyle exempliîes the
sitters for their children and deal with cliques that form
and single men trying to enter in on the play. The efforts
is lying in a pile of bodies in front of the îreplace, with a
who are not “out.” A couple can revel in their complete
other people. Two couples can talk about work and children
and then the next minute be having sex with one another.
love and dedication to each other while having sex with
takes place in one of two places: a house party or a
man’s head in her crotch, as another woman straddles the
and normal can unite, provide a safe haven for individuals
Horizons Club, but how attending the club also brings
their wives with another partner from above the action.
for their guests and make sure to always have appetizers.
Nov 2004). There is, however one, exception: the sex.
families. On ‘Secret Sex in the Suburbs,’ an Oprah
Author Claudia Dowling accompanied world-renowned
other party thrown by middle-class American suburban
Winfrey Show episode, hosts discussed how they barbecue
Sometimes they even throw potluck karaoke parties (14
There is no fear in being discovered when surrounded by
Each couple participates in different ways and
theme across swinging situations is the difîculty a man
problems. Going to the club is expensive: couples must înd
true desire and importance that swinging holds for them.
swingers, and has gained great trust within the community
the lives of battered women in America, and following
to the women, both sexually and emotionally. The party
for a night with friends. “An hour later, our nice hostess
Within clubs, a couple can abandon all reality of their lives
potential, and they are places where swingers differ from
from voyeurism to bisexual encounters. Author Terry Gould
her article “Donna Ferrato on Libido Road”. Since the
photographer Donna Ferrato to a swinging party for
wants to fulîll different needs. The things held valuable
valuable in the “straight dating world.” One common
has holding an erection. Matt stated that one of the things
sexualized. They are a place where nothing is censored,
and nothing is viewed as deviant. Clubs are spaces where
Swing clubs are notoriously outrageous and highly
as parents and/or spouses and fulîll every sexual fantasy
the rest of society; for once they are anything but normal.
There were massage tables, waterbeds, couches, beds with
friends; for a moment, these individuals can reveal both
host” (Dowling 1). The house parties, where the deviant
North America. At this club, Gould was able to see the toys
peep rooms called “condos” where men could go to watch
also go the extra mile to fulîll happiness within theirs.
Similarly to how ‘straight couples’ will go to many lengths
these women attended together was seemingly “normal”
with the forty-six year old hostess setting out appetizers,
visited Seattle’s New Horizons, the largest swing club in
the most outrageous sexual practices reach their full
eyes of a society that views them as deviant. This typically
swingers’ club. A swingers’ house party is similar to any
his wife looks for in a partner is someone of good size
with and environment in which swingers play. There were
lighting candles, putting the dogs outside, and preparing
late 1970s Donna Ferrato has been following the lives of
in the swinging world are not necessarily what is held
sides of themselves: the soccer mom and the sexy swinger.
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ABC Online April 4. 2008. ABC.<http://arts.abc.net.au/sylvester/life/image7/img/image7a_img2.gif> Posted by Bones at 10:10 PM Thursday, May 17, 2007
who can hold an erection, and the message board
posts stated the same thing. Michael himself desires
a partner who is comfortable not only with herself,
but also with her own sexual desires: he places value
on “a good sex partner who is interested in telling me
what she wants and is willing to do different things.”
The number of male and female orgasms in
a swinging situation is quite disproportionate, and this
may be why many are turned on by voyeurism. As Skala
discussed in Gould’s article, the men are turned on and
take pleasure not in achieving an orgasm themselves,
but rather in staying in the state of arousal as long as
possible: “the men look at the women and if the women
are aroused that gives them their pleasure….they seem
to know their orgasm kills their arousal” (Gould 12). In
the interview, Matt stated that he fully enjoys watching
sex from the sidelines, sometimes not even participating
himself. Many swingers report being the most turned on
by seeing their spouse engage in sexual intercourse with
another person. It provides them with a light in which to
view their partner: “to most Americans it is inconceivable
that a person could allow his or her own spouse to engage
in casual sexual intercourse with another partner in his or
her own house. To the swinger, on the other hand, to do so
is most often seen as an aphrodisiac” (Gould 3). Instead
of being jointly involved in the sexual act and concerned
with their own sexual needs, the spouses are able to
see each other in the state of ecstasy. That is a turn on.
For all intents and purposes, swingers are normal
people who not only lead normal lives, but participate
in and add to the middle-class nuclear family ideal.
An article published in Archives of Sexual Behavior by
Richard Jenks titled “Swinging: A review of the literature”
discusses how studies have consistently discovered that
most swingers are members of the upper and middle
class, are above average in not only age but income as
well, and are white (over ninety percent) (2). Not only
are they able to live the American values of family and
marriage but also hold them in high regard: “Couples
in the lifestyle believe they live in a certain style that
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Beta Current ABC News Online Posting. October 31. 2008. Acessed April 4. 2008 ABC News.<http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://a.abcnews.com/images/Health/pd_guy_girls_071030_ms.jpg&imgrefurl=http://s.current.com/items/86363841_one_in_10_men_has_multiple_sex_ partners&h=310&w=413&sz=33&hl=en&start=9&sig2=bfdgdEXT7SVuetN9G4PyAA&um=1&tbnid=5-6SQ0Nlm2asrM:&tbnh=94&tbnw=125&ei=FWj0R7OxEJyYeaT7mHg&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dguy%2Bguy%2Bgi rl%26um%3D1%26hl%3Den%26sa%3DG>
melds conservative family values—matrimony, children,
emotional monogamy” (Gould 1). Swingers don’t
devalue the sanctity of marriage and family life, they just
înd a way to fulîll their fantasies within that. On Oprah’s
television show PhD-educated accountants freely discussed
their participation in the swinging world. They discussed
not only their battle for their subculture’s validation, but
also what effects being parents have on swinging. Indeed,
many swingers are parents. The couple on the show said
that their kids are grossed out and have no desire to hear
about their sex lives, but this can be said for most children,
whether their parents are swingers or nonswingers.
Swinging couples still have a desire to live a
normal life; they work as teachers, police ofîcers and
scientists. They marry not only to pledge their devotion to
each other, but also to raise children together. Couples
do not deîne their relationships by their swinging. They
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measure their self-worth not on their sexual escapades,
but just as any other married couple does: the strength
of their relationship, the success of their careers, and the
accomplishments of their children. Swinging is not who
the couple is; swinging is their play time: “it’s not reality,
it’s just pure fun, a comfy place where you can come with
your partner, where you can have your fantasies, and then
you can go back to your real life and your inhibitions”
(Gould 5). Swinging is not a way for these couples to act
out against society; it is a way for them to live their normal
lives and be a part of society all while fulîlling their desires.
As a member explains on the message boards, “I believe
that we pursue swinging because of how much we love
each other. To be able to trust someone so much as to
let them have sex with someone else is the ultimate show
of trust in a relationship. Trust is a key element of love.”
Works Cited
Actual Swingers. 2005. 1 Feb. 2007 < http://www.actualswingers.com/ >
AdventureUS2. “Love and sex two different things?.” Online Posting. 6 Feb. 2006. 2007. <http://www.swingersboard.com/ forums/
Swingersboard.com. 1 April
Dowling, Claudia. “Donna Ferrato On Libido Road.” Aperture Summer 2004: 40-47Ferrato, Donna. Orgy Self Portrait. 2002.
Halberstam, Judith. In A Queer Time and Place: Transgendered Bodies, SubcultualLives. NY, London: NYU Press, 2005
Henshel, Anne-Marie. “Swinging: A Study of Decision Making in Marriage.” The American Journal of Sociology. January 1973: 886-891.
Jenks, Richard. “Swinging: A Review of the literature.” Archives of Sexual Behavior.
Oct. 1998: 507-512.
Littlebit54. “Re: Dealing with a hint of jealousy.” Online Posting. 4 Oct. 2004Swingersboard.com. March 2007.<http://www.swingersboard.com/forums/ showthread.php?t=12771>.
Michael. E-mail interview. 16 March 2007.
“Secret Sex in the Suburbs.” The Oprah Winfrey Show. 14 Nov. 2004.
Spoomonkey. “Re: What makes a man let another man fuck his wife?.” Online Posting. 5 Jan. 2007. Swingersboard.com. March 2007. <http://www.swingersboard.com/forums/showthread.php?t=30485>.
Walshok, Mary. “The Emergence of Middle-Class Deviant Subcultures: The Case of Swingers.” Social Problems. Spring 1971: 488-495
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