Thanks to comedies like Saturday Night Live, when we hear the word “swinger” we tend to picture a group of under-groomed old folks swapping spouses. However, “the lifestyle”, as it’s known in the community, is more complicated than exchanging partners. Watching your S/O pounding out at a party might be exhilarating, but it takes practice to control the inevitable jealousy that comes along with it. When you do, you might realize that taking pride in someone else’s pleasure is rewarding, especially when it means that you get to play around, too.
What is Swinging?
Traditionally, swinging is reserved for non-monogamous heterosexual couples who “play” with others in open relationships. What initially gained popularity in the 70s with married men swapping wives at “key parties” has turned into a practice including various levels of kink between consenting adults of all ages. While open-mindedness is key to any modern swinging arrangement, the current playing field is still somewhat heteronormative, with bisexuality being almost compulsory for females and often forbidden amongst men.
To many people who identify as open or polyamorous, the term swinger can feel dated. “I don’t like the word,” Lily, a sex-party enthusiast, tells us. “It reminds me of a weird key party and it makes me feel old.” For others, swinging is merely an umbrella term for couples who like to engage in group sex, whatever the arrangement.
Wetting Your Feet
You might have some friends who are already involved in “the lifestyle”—but you wouldn’t be aware of it. Many swingers keep their status secret to avoid judgement from outsiders. Don’t worry though, the internet is your friend. Reddit threads are a good place to find information on swinging, and dating apps and swinger sites can help you meet like-minded people and get the down-low on upcoming events.
Taking the Plunge
Couples often get their start swinging at sex parties, where first-time attendees are encouraged to sit back and watch the action until they feel comfortable joining in. Party hosts often provide newcomers with welcome kits, answering any questions beforehand via email and introducing couples to the space when they arrive. After some small talk and a couple of drinks, women are often the initiators of group-sex. They set the mood through girl on girl interactions while the men wait for the right moment to jump in.
“The Lifestyle”—21st Century Swingers
Opening up your relationship to other people can seem scary but it doesn’t have to be, especially if you start with swinging. Unlike other monogamish relationships that favour individual pursuits of non-monogamy, swinging emphasizes the primary relationship: encouraging partners to engage in the dating process together. This might mean making a joint account on an open-minded dating app like Feeld, or taking the time to plan out group dates with your S/O.
Initially this sounds complicated, but getting to share that first date anxiety with someone you know and trust is comforting. At the end of the day you have your primary relationship to fall back on. “At first he wasn’t into the idea,” New York resident Brittany says of her first swinging relationship with a long-term partner. “We started with threesomes and moved onto group sex, it’s just way more fun being open.”
While you’ll likely make some great connections in your exploration of “the lifestyle”, swinging today is ultimately about sex. You might not be breaking down the gender binary at a sex party, but you will feel four hands on your body at once. Who’s complaining?