Each sex-positive community in this country has had a different response to the AIDS crisis, and in the face of a very frightening disease it is hard for me to fault people for acting irrationally sometimes. However, I believe the time has come for a more intelligent, pleasure-positive, and long-term response to STDs (of all kinds) than “excluding bisexual men,” “inquiring about sexual histories and hoping for the truth,” “trying to reassure yourself about how few people in your community you think are infected right now,” “stigmatizing anal play,” etc.
Learning to use latex and water-based lube skillfully may take a little practice, and ultimately it is up to you and your partner whether you will follow some or all the precautions I’m going to describe. However, try to keep in mind some of the payoffs: increased protection from disease, increased peace of mind, increased protection against pregnancy when another form of birth control (such as the pill) fails, and greater ease in interacting with younger swingers who may have never known a time when they haven’t felt it necessary to use latex.
Put simply, the single most effective thing you can do to stay healthy when swinging is to use latex condoms for intercourse; this practice is now extremely common in the swinging community, and is often expected.
All condoms are not made alike; men should experiment with different brands until they find the one they like best. When you put on a condom, pinch its tip as you unroll it (all the way down!) to prevent an air bubble from forming in the reservoir tip. For intercourse, you should then put some water-based lube (such as I-D, ForPlay, Wet, or Astroglide) on the outside of the condom for comfort, mutual pleasure, and to keep the condom from tearing during sex.
For a while, health experts were recommending that people use condoms and water-based lubes with Nonoxynol-9 to help guard against HIV transmission; current evidence suggests that, in the real world, N-9 is not nearly as good at HIV prevention as it has proved to be at contraception. Also, many women are allergic or sensitive to N-9, and it tastes horrid. For these reasons I only purchase products without N-9, but of course the choice is yours.
It should be obvious that a new condom needs to be put on for each new partner. If you’re going to switch from anal intercourse to vaginal intercourse, you should also put on a new condom (doing otherwise can cause vaginal infections – similarly, you shouldn’t put any fingers that used to be in an anus in a vagina without first washing your hands with hot water and anti-bacterial soap).
Some men find that more sensation is transmitted to them if they put a drop of water-based lube in the tip of their condom before putting it on.
It’s an unfortunate fact that many ads in swinger’s publications seem to have nothing to do with swinging at all. Ads that ask for money, even discreetly, or which mention “generosity” are almost certainly ads from sex workers rather than swingers. Other ads are from individuals who are basically being dishonest, perhaps claiming to be part of a couple when they aren’t. Amidst all this, however, you can usually find some ads that end up being from actual swingers who are sincerely interested in meeting other singles or couples.
In general, you will probably waste less time by placing an ad than by responding to ads. When writing your personal ad, it’s important to be clear and honest about what your requirements are. You may find it helpful to first obtain a P.O. Box and a voice mail box which aren’t traceable to your real name or home address; it’s also a good idea to arrange the first meeting with someone new to be in a neutral and/or public place, so that if things don’t seem to be going well you’ll be able to leave easily and nobody new will know where you live.
Ultimately, however, if you have swing clubs (whether on- or off- premises) in your area you will probably be better off meeting swingers through them than through personal ads.
By including these warnings I do not mean to imply that all or even most men would ever act like this; chances are if you’re still reading this document you already have a healthy social sense and wouldn’t think to misbehave in these ways. But anyway, here goes…
Attempting to hire an escort or sex worker to go to a swinging event with you, if you don’t have a regular female partner, just so you can get in the door is a terribly poor idea; this is considered inappropriate at every club I have ever heard of, is generally sufficient to get you black-listed, and is a ruse that is highly likely to be noticed by others. A related concept is taking along someone who isn’t really your primary partner and isn’t really interested in swinging; such folks are called “tickets” (i.e. you just used them as a “ticket” to get in the door), and this practice isn’t looked upon favorably either.
If you want nothing more than to see your female partner have sex with another woman, you will probably be better off forgetting about it until she brings it up; wandering around the club by yourself attempting to find a woman who wants to have sex with her, or otherwise trying to push this personal choice into happening, is considered quite unrefined and to be lacking in discrimination and sensibility.
Finally, please remember to converse with both members of a couple you and your partner are interested in, not just the partner you are interested in having sex with; ultimately it’s your ability to form friendships with COUPLES which will determine the quality of your experience in the swinging community.
There are many different opinions about jealousy – several of the books recommended at the end of this guide devote considerable attention to the topic.
An interesting dynamic can sometimes arise in couples new to swinging, a dynamic which has inspired the community adage that “the more enthusiastic member of a couple will get the couple into swinging, but the less enthusiastic partner will keep them there.” As Carol Queen puts it in her book Exhibitionism for the Shy
“The swing community has noticed another prevalent dynamic in couples where one partner, more often than not the man, has more enthusiasm than the other. He has had terrific fantasies about freewheeling sex and plenty of it, and he finally convinces his initially reluctant partner to give swinging a try. When they get to the party, she has a great time and is high demand, while he thinks the party’s a dud… Before you pack up your sexy outfit and fistful of condoms, take some time to consider and negotiate how you will deal with the chagrin of the less popular partner if such a dismaying event happens to you.”
In other words, some jealousy may spring from insecurity: if I’m worried that I’m not valuable enough to keep my primary partner’s interest and love, or that fewer people will be interested in playing with me than with my primary partner, I may be more apt to get jealous. For the latter case, some of these fears may be alleviated by choosing, at least initially, to only swing together as a couple; this way neither partner can be left out.
Sometimes jealousy may spring from feelings of scarcity rather than feelings of insecurity: the fear is that “there’s only so much love and so much pleasure and so much intimacy to go around.” With this in mind, I’d like to quote from the NASCA Guide to Swinging,
“The Myth of the Scarcity of Love is the popular belief that ‘love is scarce,’ which encourages hoarding. Hoarding, in turn, created the very scarcity that was feared to begin with. The myth’s premises are that each of us has a very limited amount of love to give, spend, or sell; that if this is divided among several people, each will get less; that love can be saved; and that in order to be valuable, true love must be exclusive.”
If you enjoy good literature and want to explore this idea in more depth, take the time to read a short story by Amy Bloom entitled “Love Is Not a Pie” (published in her Come to Me: Stories collection). But just as food for thought for the time being, you might consider a question which Dr. Deborah Anapol poses in Polyamory: The New Love Without Limits: “Imagine a culture in which your partner’s attraction to another signified opportunities for greater pleasure and intimacy; would jealousy occur in this context?” I honestly don’t know the answer to this question, but for me swinging has been part of the inquiry.
To end this section on a more practical note, many couples find that the secrets to dealing with jealousy tend to revolve around good communication, keeping agreements, reassuring each other as to your love and commitment before and after playing with someone new, and listening to each other’s emotional concerns and taking them seriously whenever they arise. If jealousy becomes an issue for you and your partner, you might try working on some or all of these things.
In the context of swinging, “couples” need not be married. They should, however, have at least a little history together and familiarity with each others’ emotional needs, and be comfortable approaching others as a “couple.” The general rule of thumb is that swinging works best when couples view swinging as an enhancement to their existing sexual relationship, rather than as a replacement for a failing one.
As one would expect, good communication is critical in any attempt at swinging as a couple. There are many, many different forms that swinging may take, and whichever one you choose is fine as long as you and your partner are clear about what you are doing and why. Sex has the potential to be an emotionally-charged area, and the pleasures that may be found in swinging can generally be reached only when both partners are sensitive to each others’ needs, and put their partner’s comfort first. From a more pragmatic point of view, there will always be another party, another personal ad, another dance, another convention; there may not be another chance to salvage an exploration into swinging if one partner becomes overwhelmed in “the garden of delights” and forgets to treat his or her primary partner with sensitivity and respect.
It’s important to keep in mind that swinging is primarily a SOCIAL activity. The ordinary social customs of meeting people and initiating a conversation are really not that different than at any other type of social gathering, and the process by which acquaintances become close friends is not that different either. The key social traits that tend to be appreciated in the swinging community are responsibility, friendliness, flirtatiousness, open-mindedness, and most importantly stability with regard to one’s primary relationship.
As is the case with almost all human social endeavors, if you already know people in a particular community you’ll probably be happier if you attend your first few events with these people so they can introduce you to others. Waiting a little while and watching how others behave is also a good idea, as it is in almost any new social situation. Common courtesy, of course, is as welcome in the swinging community as it is in any other community; we’re all just people, after all.
There are several different styles of swinging which you may see in the swinging community. Some people may prefer not to be around when their partner is having sex with someone else (“closed swinging”), while others may insist on it (“open swinging”). The term “soft swinging” refers to trading partners just for the purposes of heavy petting and then switching back to one’s primary partner for any actual sex. It might be valuable for you to think about whether there are any potential situations that you feel you would be more or less comfortable in, and discuss these with your partner.
Although not all couples find it necessary to do this, some couples feel more comfortable having social “codes” that only the two of them know. Examples might be discreet phrases or gestures which mean a) one of you is attracted to the people or person he or she is talking to and wants to know if you are interested in swinging with them, b) a reply to the above, either affirmatively or negatively, and c) one of you is not having a good time and wants to get away from things for a while.
At most swingers clubs, it’s common for people to dress up or else wear very sexy and risquï¿½ clothing. If there’s a dress theme for a particular event, go with the theme.
By the way, it is not necessary to actually have sex with other people to have a good time in the swinging community. Activities such as dances can provide a wonderful opportunity to flirt and be flirted with in a non-threatening yet sexually-charged atmosphere, which can be fun in and of itself.
If you are uncomfortable with people being sexually attracted to you and/or flirting with you, then you might be uncomfortable at swinging events; similarly, if your relationship with your partner is on shaky ground, you might find seeing him or her flirt or be flirted with to be an uncomfortable experience. If either of you have hidden agendas concerning finding a permanent “replacement” for each other, you’re probably in for a major emotional disaster. If you and your partner cannot communicate directly about relationships and sex, you’re probably eventually in for a similarly-sized disaster. In general, sex can provoke strong feelings along with its many pleasures; if you aren’t comfortable dealing with emotions, then perhaps it might be better to wait a little while before exploring “the lifestyle.”
If you are a single male, you might actually be better off waiting until you are in a suitable relationship with a female before attempting to become active in swinging – most swing clubs allow very few if any single men to attend their events.
People may be attracted to the swinging community for a variety of different reasons. Many couples find the thought of having sex with other people to be very arousing, and may find that swinging becomes a catalyst for improving their own sex lives and relationship. Some people may feel stifled by repressive societal attitudes towards sexuality, and may welcome the opportunity to form friendships and a new social network with people of like mind. Others may simply feel that sex should be a natural possibility in any friendship in which there is mutual attraction, and so appreciate the relative open-mindedness and pleasure-positivity with which the swinging community views this subject. Although the swinging community is unfortunately not always the best place right now for het-identified men to explore their potential bisexuality, it is currently a relatively good place for het-identified women to initially explore sex with other women, and this sometimes plays a role in couples choosing to seek it out.
In the past, the swinging community has been somewhat unaware of or confused by alternative sexual practices such as BDSM or Tantra. This appears to be changing, and these days you may find many folks in the swinging community who are knowledgeable about such things (though forms of BDSM much more extreme than spanking or very light bondage may make people uncomfortable, depending on the club). If you’re interested in doing so and spend enough time meeting different people, you may actually find that today’s swinging community is becoming a somewhat fertile place to meet folks with a variety of sexual interests. It is certainly true right now that the national swinging conventions tend to host seminars and workshops on a variety of sexual topics, which seems at least somewhat indicative of broadening perspectives in the community.
Some women may find the swinging community to be a welcome dose of sanity. Our culture can be quite cruel to women who have an active interest in sex, often derisively labeling them “sluts” – a term which stands in sharp contrast to the less derogatory term for men, “studs”. The swinging community may be especially attractive to these women, who may feel their sex drives and/or sexual assertiveness should be appreciated rather than snickered about or reviled.
Some people end up learning quite a bit about themselves and their sexualities through swinging. For example, most folks find that having their partner actively enjoy and appreciate what they are experiencing during sex to be a tremendous turn-on; this is a realization which may stand in sharp contrast to the attitude that “performance” is all-important. Swinging can be an opportunity to learn to relax and appreciate sexual pleasure, and may help one view sex more as a source of pleasure and intimacy and less as a social bargaining chip or ego fuel.
Swinging is a form of recreational social sex between consenting adults, most commonly consisting of male/female couples meeting other male/female couples for sex and/or ongoing intimate friendships. Contrary to popular belief, couples that are involved in the swinging lifestyle are usually in it more for the friendship with other couples rather than the sex involved. Hence the expression, “friends with benefits”.
Swinging (otherwise known as “the lifestyle”) can take a variety of different forms. Although single women are generally welcome at swinging events, the degree to which single men are accepted is very limited if at all. Although female bisexuality is generally accepted in the swinging community, the degree to which male bisexuality is accepted also very limited. Swing clubs can be “on-premises” (which means that one may interact sexually with others at that event) or “off-premises” (which means that one would generally go back to the home or hotel room of other couples for sex, after deciding to do so at the event). Newspapers and magazines which carry personal ads for swingers also exist, and to a slightly lesser degree these publications may also be considered an aspect of “the lifestyle.” Swingers have traditionally been largely middle to upper class and tend to blend in quite easily with the general population in terms of appearance and ideology.