Swinging isn’t just a pastime for the local park. It’s a global community of people who engage in sexual relations as a recreational or social activity — and it’s thriving more than you might think.
According to Daniel Stern, author of Swingland and a 10-year swinging veteran himself, there are an estimated 15 million swingers around the globe, and you’d be hard-pressed to figure out which of your family members or neighbors are secretly swinging at first glance. “They are teachers and police officers and lawyers and business people; it’s every walk of life,” Stern says. “I posit that everyone is one degree away from a swinger; they just don’t know it.”
Stern first looked into swinging when he was in his late 20s and perceived himself as terrible at sex. He decided to seek out sexual practice before landing in another relationship, so he perked up when he heard an acquaintance mention “The Lifestyle” at a party. “Upon hearing his description of this carnal fantasy-land, I thought, ‘I want to go to there,’” he explains. “However, locating The Lifestyle and accessing all of its fruits were two wholly different achievements.” For several months, Stern had to ingratiate himself to the swingers he met in order to prove that he wasn’t just another single male looking for a quickie. “Gut-wrenchingly horrendous single male behavior is all too well known among Lifestylers — pushy, rude and selfish among the most common descriptors,” he says. It took him a while, but after six months, he was in.
Once he was inside the swinging subculture, Stern was surprised by what he found. He explains that he had preconceived notions of swingers that weren’t exactly flattering or, apparently, accurate. “The major stereotypes are that swingers are a subculture of overly libidinous miscreants that want to [have sex with] anything with a pulse,” he says. What he found, however, was that swingers are just regular men and women who may be a little more kinky than the average person, and often a lot more tolerant. “I’ve found swingers to be the most accepting and caring lot I’ve come to know in this life,” Stern says. “It’s probably because we’re all outside society’s norm, so we understand.”
He also found that The Lifestyle comes with a social hierarchy that took him some time to figure out. According to Stern, the sexual ecosystem of the swinging subculture is ruled by couples. Single women, similarly, are like unicorns and have carte blanche. In a role reversal that is surprising to outsiders, it is the single men who tend to lack power in the swinging subculture, and are the most likely to only be tolerated.
Even though Stern enjoys The Lifestyle and boasts of its sexual and social benefits, he is quick to say that swinging is not for everyone. Since outing oneself as a member of an outcast subculture can carry serious mainstream social consequences, many swingers find that they have to maintain a double-life. “You’re essentially living two lives, and that can be beyond exhausting,” Stern says.
He also cautions people against trying The Lifestyle as a way to fix an aspect of their lives. For instance, Stern says that some people seem to view swinging as an answer to a paltry sex life, but viewing swinging as a quick way to get sex misses the point entirely. “The Lifestyle is about people looking to have sex with like-minded people,” he explains. “Anyone who forgets the people part of that equation will be blackballed faster than they can disrobe.” It’s also common for couples to try swinging as a last ditch effort to save their relationships. Doing so, however, will only accelerate the relationship’s demise since trust and communication are necessary to make it as a swinging couple.
So tell us — we would love to hear your experiences of what bought you into the lifestyle so comment below …
A Guide For Beginners, Because The Most Important Thing You Do Is Probably Not What You Think
BDSM means different things to different people. Some may be pretty sure they aren’t into it, while many of us can’t help but be really curious. But what do you need to know if you’re new to BDSM? Like open relationship, kink is a term that covers a variety of activities and forms of sexual expression.
“It is a catch-all word for sexual practices and interests that are outside the mainstream — from role play to dominance and submission, a vast array of fetishes, and sadism and masochism,” says Patricia Johnson, co-author of Partners in Passion, Great Sex Made Simple, Tantra for Erotic Empowerment, and The Essence of Tantric Sexuality. We’ll explore some of the terminology of the kink world in more depth a little later, but at the outset, it’s important to take note of this diversity because outsiders often think of kink in limited and perhaps somewhat sensational terms. You may already have certain fantasies that you want to explore. If that’s the case, you can do research online or consult one of the ever-growing number of BDSM/kink-centric books that are available, says Johnson. You can also take classes online at kinkacademy.com.
When starting to explore BDSM, remember that there’s no need to rush to create your own “Red Room of Pain” a la 50 Shades! “To begin, you might simply try being blindfolded and let your partner tickle you with a feather, or lightly stroke your skin with a whipper. If that turns you on, move towards slightly racier bondage play, like binding wrists with a silk tie or handcuffs, a massage candle being dripped on your skin, or exploring the sensation of playful spanking,” says sex expert and Booty Parlor founder Dana Myers.
If you really want to take your new venture into BDSM seriously, come up with safe words for your sexy session. Safe words should be used as a way to say let’s pause, or stop. This will allow you to feel safe and have some control during this new experience. “Just as Anastasia and Christian discussed her Hard and Soft Limits, you want communicate with your partner before you bring any BDSM into the bedroom. Discuss who’s going to play the dominant and submissive roles, and be clear about what you’re willing to try and what’s simply too far outside of your comfort zone. Having this talk will strengthen your communication, build intimacy, and create a strong sense of trust so that you can let go of your inhibitions and explore some kinkier sex play safely and comfortably in your relationship,” says Myers.
Here’s what else you need to know.
1. Avoid shiny object syndrome.
That is to say, go slow and take your time, says erotic coach and sex educator Dawn Serra. BDSM is a wide network of countless activities. “From spanking and bondage to Dominance, needle play, and beyond, it’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole when you first begin exploring this new world. At first it can feel like you’re a 5-year-old let loose in a candy store. Many people who are brand new to BDSM immediately want to try all the things and end up over-indulging,” says Serra. Take it slow, go in knowing there will be endless temptations, and have fun in a smart way. 2. Consent, consent, and did we mention consent? If you don’t know the basics of consent, you MUST start there, says Serra. “All BDSM is based on this very important concept. Skipping this means you risk doing significant harm to others and to themselves. Oh Joy Sex Toy has a great infographic on consent,” says Serra. Just remember, consent must be enthusiastic, on-going, informed, and voluntary. Which is to say it’s a fully engaged, un-coerced, un-manipulated yes.
2. Have fun.
You are probably going to feel silly or awkward the first few times you try to tie a fancy knot or command someone to their knees. “You’re going to make mistakes. BDSM is all about having fun and exploring new parts of desire and fantasies,” says Serra. Keep it all in the spirit of adventure. Also remember that many BDSM activities are dangerous, so find a trusted educator (this is not necessarily the most popular, vocal, or charismatic person in your local BDSM community, either) and enlist their help, suggests Serra.
3. Determine your role
Remember that if you’re doing power play (Dominance and submission or Master and slave or Sadist and masochist), both of you have equal power when you negotiate the activity ahead of time, says Serra. “Everyone has an equal say as you decide on the framework for how things will unfold, especially in the beginning. As you get better at negotiating a scene, you’ll learn how to make it endlessly sexy and even an important part of your foreplay,” Serra says.
4. Safe words are critical
Some people like simple colors like red (stop immediately, no questions asked), yellow (I’m uncomfortable or reaching my limit or need to slow down), and green (keep going!). Other people like plain language — stop, I’m OK, etc. Just remember that any kind of “I’m unsure” or “I don’t know” in a scene is equivalent to a stop. Some people come up with really usual words for use in their scene, but just remember — if you are in a highly intense scene where it’s difficult to think or form words, simple is usually best, says Serra.
5. Know your boundaries
Just because you are doing BDSM in the bedroom doesn’t mean you need to give up control outside of the bedroom, says Cassie Fuller from Touch Of Flavor. “Some people are not interested in anything more than using BDSM as a way to spice up sex and that’s fine. In fact, most people don’t have a Master/slave style relationship and just like to have a little kinky sex. You and your partner should understand what the other is looking for and respect each other’s boundaries,” says Fuller.
6. Always be honest
Honesty is the most important aspect to BDSM. ”Your partner(s) need to know basic information about you such as past experiences, health concerns, emotional triggers, and turn-offs. Don’t expect your partner to be a mind-reader and to instinctively knows your needs, wants, and limits. If the person that you are thinking about engaging in BDSM activities with doesn’t ask you these things, make sure you speak up and tell them,” says Fuller.
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GET INTO SWINGING
So, you finally realized everything you knew about being a swinger was a complete lie. You’re welcome. And maybe after reading that story, you and your partner were like: “Well, since it’s not all old people with robes, watching you with somebody else might be kind of exciting…”Or maybe not. But either way, if you’re even remotely considering getting into it — with your spouse, a significant other, or just that really cool friend with benefits you met on Tinder — there are a few things you should know before you get started. We asked a group of swingers what those “things” are, and this is what they told us.
Make sure you’re both on the same page
You know how it’s kinda awkward when you both go to a cocktail party and YOU were planning on just “making an appearance,” but your significant other was planning to make a whole night out of it? Multiply that by, like, infinity plus one. Because fights about leaving a party early are one thing, fights about getting oral sex from a stranger when you didn’t know you weren’t supposed to are quite another.
Set the rules, but know they can change
Once you’ve made sure you’re going for the same reason, you need to make rules. Like scary-specific rules that include phrases you haven’t used since the eighth grade — like “kissing is okay, but handjobs aren’t.” And while the stakes are a lot higher now than they were during “7 Minutes in Heaven,” the rules here can also be changed depending on how comfortable you get.
Try a club or high-end party first
If you’re going to meet another couple for some maybe-possibly-we’re-not-really-sure-yet group sex, do you think it’s wiser to meet them in a large social setting complete with paid security, other people, and plenty of condoms? Or via an Internet chat room? If you’ve been in a relationship so long you forgot, the answer is never “in an Internet chat room.”
You need to be social
Many people go to swingers clubs and complain — much as they probably did in high school — that everybody there is “too cliquish.” But there are no Regina Georges in the swingers world, and nobody is going to sneer at you and say, “You can’t swing with us.” Yes, swingers gravitate towards their friends — like everybody else — but go up and say hello, and you’ll be surprised how fast people will welcome you.
Get there early
Showing up to a party sober when everyone else has been drinking is uncomfortable. Showing up to said party after everyone’s started having sex with each other? Mortifying. Show up early, chat with the bartenders or hosts, and get a feel for what the place is like. Many clubs will actually give you a tour if you ask, at which point you can talk with your partner about a plan of action.
Learn the lingo
When you hear the words “hard swap,” that’s not the swinging equivalent of “tic tac no trade backs.” It’s the term for couples who are down for full-on sex with another couple. Nor is a unicorn a mythical white horse; it’s a female who attends swingers events alone. Other useful terms include “soft swap” (couples who’ll play with other couples but won’t “go all the way”) and “the lifestyle,” which is a term swingers use to describe their, well, lifestyle.
Don’t overdo the alcohol
You know what’s a miserable feeling? Spending all week fantasizing about a threesome, getting to the point where it’ll actually happen, and then realizing you drank too much to do anything about it. Sure, you might need a drink or two to get used to the idea of swinging, but past that not only do you risk whiskey dick, you risk BEING a dick. And, much like in real life, nobody wants to have sex with an inebriated mess.
Set realistic expectations
Even if you and your partner agree to be down for “full swap,” don’t go into a swingers club with the unrealistic expectations of a pledge at his first frat party. Nobody’s guaranteeing an orgy, and sometimes you may go and not find any couples you like. Also, the action may not start until much later in the evening, so don’t get bored and leave because nobody’s getting it on by midnight.
Let the woman lead the way
Guys, if you have a woman who is even CONSIDERING participating in an activity that allows you to have sex with other women, you’ve already won. Don’t push the issue. Not only should you not pressure your lady into doing anything she doesn’t want to do, you should pretty much let her decide what YOU get to do as well. Also, let her make any and all introductions. In the swinging world, the women are the ones who give the green light, so be patient and allow her to call the shots.
Watch first, then decide
You can do all the Internet research you want, but you’re not going to really understand what it’s like to be in a swinging environment until you’ve been there. Your first time, it’s typically a good idea to just go and see how things unfold. Then, if it’s something you’re into, figure out how you fit in and go back. Make all your rules, and see where it goes from there.
You need to debrief
Kinda like those quarterly conference calls at the office where your entire team looks at what it’s accomplished, what worked, and what didn’t, do the same with your partner after EVERY time you swing; the conversation will allow you to discuss the experience and figure out if rules need to be changed or added, or if there are different things you’d both like to try next time.
Like everything in a relationship, swinging won’t work if you don’t communicate. And talking about what you did after the fact is the most important part in making the next experience just as mind blowing.