Sex means different things to different people. Not only that, but it means different things to individuals at different stages of their lives, or with different people, or in different settings. Sex is very rarely just one thing. It can embody a wide range of emotions, a wide range of needs and a wide range of pleasure and pain.
And it is this (fairly obvious) fact, which seems to escape most people when they ponder the world of swinging. Their reaction to the whole concept is predicated on the meaning sex has for them, at that time. Many a loved-up woman has expressed her horror at the very idea. Once the honeymoon period is over, or she has been unceremoniously dumped, or has simply gotten older, she may have a quite different reaction. But she will, in the moment, describe herself as a “one man woman” and as having strong feelings about fidelity, and how she would walk away if her partner were to ever be unfaithful. We humans do love to cling to our images of ourselves, and, despite our own histories telling us that we regularly change these supposedly cast-iron values, we can’t seem to project that into the future.
It also seems difficult for us to authentically respect others’ differing values around sex. I’ve heard many a story from swinging women about receiving judgmental, and even abusive, messages, from (usually other women) they don’t know. Things along the lines of “If you really loved your husband, you wouldn’t be in an open relationship”. The whole psychology of that kind of slut-shaming is an entire thesis in itself, I imagine. But back to swinging.
The very word itself conjures up images of car-keys in the bowl, or of the 1969 Paul Mazursky classic, “Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice”: hip and beautiful, middle-class, respectably married people, taking “turns” with each other’s wives over dirty martinis and then avoiding eye-contact the next night at the PTA meeting.
The reality might be slightly less sophisticated, but it is much more fun. As in most sexual areas, there are private plays and public events. Many swingers put up couple profiles on sex/dating sites. These couples are often life-partners, but not always. Many are just friends, or fuck-buddies, who want to play together in a threesome or foursome or moresome. Like any other date, they meet prospects for a drink or dinner, have a conversation, and see if there is any chemistry. I’ve known of many meets which have not resulted in any play, as the chemistry wasn’t there. Much of the fun is in the relative freedom these meets give, to indulge in flirtation, which would normally be taboo in a double-date.
Public events are usually in the form of parties, at a private house, or a hotel room. These are usually curated by the organizer, with attendees having to book and pay in advance, and single men being kept to a certain number. Single men are usually charged more, to reduce sight-seers and no-shows. There is also the sad fact that single men at swingers parties can often be sleazy and feel entitled. If they are not culled out during the booking process, they are soon removed and banned. This is polite, safe, consensual, adult activity and not some loser’s porno dream come true.
Swingers parties are just that: parties. There is food and drink and conversation. Sometimes that is all there is, and the action never gets going. I’ve been to some of these, and, although a bit disappointing, there is no sense of being ripped off. Again, the very fact that open flirtation is accepted, along with various states of undress, can make for a relaxing, sexy evening, even if no one gets to insert tab A into slot B.
There is lots of laughter at these events. The very openness of being flirty and able to wander around in lingerie or completely naked, allows for a relaxed silliness, which is utterly refreshing. The fact that everyone is there with the possibility of sexual play in mind, means that every interaction potentially holds a frisson of excitement. Sex is talked about openly and healthily, rather than being treated with either reverence or sleaze. Some of the most fun, humour-filled parties I’ve been to in recent times have been these types of events, whether I’ve actually played or not. And I’ve also met some amazing people, and some inspirational couples.
Of course there are pitfalls. I’ve seen some fights at parties, although not as many as one might imagine. These inevitably stem from couples not having sorted out their rules and boundaries, before they’ve come to the party, or even before they’ve decided to try swinging. If you’re in a committed relationship, you can’t just say “OOOO that sounds like fun, babe. Let’s do it.” You have to agree things like: do you only play together; do you ask permission to play with someone else; do you stay physically together all night; are there people your partner can’t play with; do you limit alcohol consumption. And so forth.
As with most non-vanilla sexual activity, the majority of those who participate are slightly older. There aren’t a lot of twenty-somethings at these events: certainly not the ones I’ve been to. It takes a certain maturity and self-awareness to indulge in the delights of swinging. No one is pressured into playing, and anyone found doing any pressuring is quickly evicted. The generally understood rule is that there is no touching without permission. It’s not a smorgasbord.
For me, the joy of these events is unbounded. I can relax knowing this is an adults only party, that it is private, and that it is discreet. I can be bold and brassy and sassy and flirtatious. I can wander around in lingerie, high-heels and a fur coat. I can get naked in the spa along with six other people. I can talk to some fabulous women, meet some delightful men and have a laugh.
I hope that, should I ever meet Mr Right, he will enjoy accompanying me to these events, he will play with some other, lovely people, and that we can then return home and have fabulous, one-on-one sex, just to top the night off.
If you’re curious about swinging, there are non-sexual meet-and-greet events so that newbies can chat to the more experienced and feel comfortable. And newbies are always welcome at parties, where their newly-expanding boundaries are respected.
Don’t die wondering!