My wife and I are a typical heterosexual couple, but we have a dirty secret: We’re swingers. No, we don’t twirl and flip to music from the 1940s; we meet other couples and have sex with each other’s partners. Due to our conservative careers and even more conservative families, we keep our sexual practices to ourselves. Only a few close vanilla friends know what we’re into (“vanilla” is the term swingers use to refer to anyone who isn’t a swinger … and also other swingers who happen to be covered in vanilla).
Here’s what we’ve learned in the several years now that we’ve been “in the lifestyle” (that’s the more subtle term swingers prefer):
7. It Can Take Years Of Negotiating
We were first were introduced to the lifestyle by two married friends, whom we’d found out from common friends’ gossip had an open relationship. This couple was attracted to us, and they gradually revealed their interest via heavy flirting and questionably sexual contact whenever we’d hang out. Well, I should clarify: The flirting and contact came from only the husband. The wife was pretty ambivalent about me (probably because I’m just too awesome), and the husband was always a little more aggressive than my wife was ever comfortable with.
Eventually, we realized they were into swinging because he really just wanted to fuck other women, and in an effort to preserve the marriage, she went along with it. That marriage lasted only a few years before she finally got fed up and divorced him. Yeah, I know, imagine that. She’s in a new relationship now. They are not swingers, and she’s way happier than she ever was with her ex-husband. And that’s kind of the point here.
Due to this rocky introduction, we were initially hesitant to get into the scene. But the aforementioned couple did turn us on to websites like Kasidie and Lifestyle Lounge, where you can keep up with the scene and meet other couples (kind of like OKCupid, but for swingers). Through these sites, we found information on local mixers — discreet get-togethers at bars, where swingers can meet each other and newbies can get their toes wet (stop giggling) in a chill setting.
The veteran couples we met at these mixers were always welcoming and more than willing to offer us advice on getting started. And perhaps most importantly, they never pressured us into doing anything we weren’t ready for. In fact, we soon realized the scene is all about asking before you initiate any sort of contact with someone. That was a welcome relief for us, especially after the pressure my wife had previously received from the aforementioned husband.
As we met more and more couples who were understanding and patient, who were happy to stop the moment one of us hesitated, we realized that there are some truly good and decent people in the lifestyle. And as we got more comfortable, we started being willing to do more. That led us to three years’ worth of conversations about how far we were willing to go, what exactly we were looking for within the scene, and above all else, how we were in this together. We didn’t want to end up in a situation where one of us was like, “I’m bored. I’m going out fuck-hunting. If I get lucky, I’ll see you tomorrow, loser!”
Once we were comfortable with escalating, we realized …
6. It Can Be Just As Awkward As A High School Dance
After three years of dabbling in local mixers (without ever really hooking up with any other couples), we decided to take the next step: our first big out-of-town event. In Las Vegas, of course, because duh. This one was going to be a four-day takeover of an entire hotel, with over 1,000 swingers in attendance.
As we were packing for the trip, we psyched ourselves up for what we were sure would be a massive 96-hour orgy of writhing bodies. We had another long discussion about how far we were willing to go (“Let’s just go for it all” was our consensus this time), and we showed up with roughly every condom produced that year.
Our fantasies were dashed pretty quickly. The first night, we walked into the venue and saw a bunch of people dressed in the sexiest attire we could imagine (think Vegas nightclub, but without any rules about indecent exposure). Everyone looked smoking hot, but we couldn’t for the life of us figure out how to talk to anyone. As we walked around, we noticed that everyone seemed to be hanging out in their own cliques.
We felt pretty awkward, but we soon realized that this is just natural human behavior. People gravitate toward those they already know. And when you throw in the strong likelihood that you’re going to be exchanging fluids with them later on in the evening, then of course, you’re going to be a bit more discriminating about who you’re hanging out with.
After two hours of hapless attempts to make eye contact and smile, we finally met a group who welcomed us into their circle. But even then, we soon realized that a get-together of swingers doesn’t always end in a massive orgy. Sometimes people just want to catch up. The orgy with this group came the second night (seriously, stop giggling). The first night was mostly flirting.
And that’s the weird thing that I never expected: how often you end up hanging around, joking and chatting with each other. Because ultimately, these people are friends first (albeit friends who make each other sticky).
5. “Swinger” Is A Broad Umbrella Term
As we delved into the scene, we realized that every couple has their own specific interests. Some prefer to attend parties and participate in orgies (like my wife and I, as we soon realized). Some are more “introverted” (I know, it’s a weird term in this situation), preferring to meet other couples through the lifestyle websites.
Some couples will do everything but sex (soft swap). Other couples will have sex (full swap), but only if everyone is in the same room. Many couples get into the lifestyle because the woman realizes she is bisexual, so they’re looking for couples where the women can play with each other, but the men are only involved with their own partners, which may sound complicated or even frustrating for the man, but really is far from something to complain about. And as we’ve mentioned before, there are “unicorns” — single women who play with couples, so named because their rarity and allure are almost mythical.
Then there are the fake swingers. These couples tend to be younger. They attend all the big events, and if there’s a stripper pole in the room, you can bet they’ll be the first ones on it. But when it comes down to the actual swinging, they’re more into the exhibitionist aspect of the lifestyle and ultimately are not looking for sex with other couples.
Since each couple sets their own boundaries, when we’re out meeting other swingers, the first thing we have to figure out is what they’re into. There are so many different levels of swinging that even people who’ve been in the lifestyle for decades can’t keep track.
For this reason …
4. Your Communication And Trust Has To Be Perfect
In case the three years of negotiations I mentioned didn’t drive the point home, a lifestyle couple simply can’t have any communication barriers. You have to trust each other 100 percent and be open with each other about everything. Imagine the level of trust you need to be able to tell your partner, “I’m really attracted to this person, and I’d like to have sex with them” … and then also feel comfortable that your partner won’t slap you for saying that.
As an example of that communication and trust, here’s a story one couple we met early on shared with us:
A massage parlor opened up near his work, and he had a sneaking suspicion it was one of those sketchy ones. He told her about it, so she laughed and replied, “Yeah, you go and check it out. Let me know how that goes.” So he did. It did, in fact, turn out to be one of those massage parlors where you don’t get just a massage. He opted for the “happy ending,” but as he explained, it was by far the most mechanical, uncomfortable experience his penis had ever endured. He likened it to being in the grip of a jackhammer. But here’s the best part: She thought it was hilarious, and they both still laugh about it to this day.
Twisted as that may sound, there was something we found oddly admirable about a couple who could joke about something like this together. My wife and I agree that stories like this are a big part of what drew us into the scene — the fact that couples are comfortable engaging in these silly sexcapades and telling each other about them. We’ve only been married a few years, but seriously, we now believe this is how you 1) make a marriage last, and 2) keep it exciting for decades to come.
And once you have your communication and trust down pat, you realize that …
3. You Still Have Standards
Just because we’re swingers doesn’t mean that we’ll fuck any random genitals that people whip out. But that’s kind of the impression outsiders get, right? Even when we’re ready for sex, we have to respect the other couples, and we definitely don’t want to be the awkward aggressive one. So there ends up being a lot of “feeling each other out,” so to speak. OK fine, you can giggle at that one.
No matter how excited we get, we have to recognize when our partner is 1) uncomfortable with the person we’re hooking up with, 2) uncomfortable with the person they’re supposed to be hooking up with, or 3) just plain not in the mood. A failure to do so is the surest way to jam a spiked butt plug into your relationship.
In fact, this was something we noticed about our now-divorced friends. It didn’t matter how clearly not into another couple she was, he would keep going and even berate her for not being in the mood. Remember how I mentioned that the wife was pretty ambivalent about me? That never stopped the husband from trying to hit on my wife. And in the end, that only made all three of us (my wife and I, as well as his wife) uncomfortable.
The sad reality is, you’ll often meet a couple where you are totally into your “counterpart,” but your partner is not remotely attracted to theirs. Like maybe he looks like Richard Spencer or something. Or hell, maybe he is Richard Spencer. When that happens, you and your partner need to execute some covert negotiations in the heat of the moment. Because you don’t want to be an asshole and say, “Sorry, dude. I like your wife, but my wife thinks you’re grotesque.”
At this point, you either have to agree to call it off completely, or your partner has to be willing to “take one for the team.” Yes, that is a legitimate lifestyle term … you may giggle.
Now, for the record, some couples do appear to be okay with one partner calling it a night while the other partner keeps going. But most couples we’ve met are leery of this, because it always smacks of those not-quite-on-the-same-page, not-so-tight couples. We’re all out to have fun — comfortable fun. And if any couple even hints of drama, well, there are plenty of other couples to hook up with.
2. The Scene Is Surprisingly Empowering For Women
We’ve talked before about how this lifestyle is predominantly driven by women, but I wanted to elaborate, because it’s a huge part of what makes this work.
Whether true or not, the societal stereotype of women being demure and men being walking boners is at least acknowledged in the swinger scene. And because there is this unspoken assumption that men are more into casual sex than women, experienced couples will often let the women take the lead. That is to say, a couple will move at a pace the woman feels comfortable with.
Many of the events we attend start like any typical party, with everyone just hanging out (hehehehe) having drinks. As people loosen up, the women start dancing with each other, and at some point, that escalates into touching and kissing. Once they’ve sufficiently indulged their bisexual sides, only then will the men join in and everyone starts swapping. It just makes everyone so much more comfortable that way. If “reality porn” were honest, you’d skip the first five hours of it. (Sidenote: This dynamic does make it slightly more challenging to be a completely straight woman in the scene.)
Plus, there’s the fact that single men are simply not welcome in the scene. Every now and then, we do meet a male unicorn (not an actual term, because single males are so rare that an actual term is pretty much moot), but they’re always there by personal invitation from a female event host only. Without fail, they are incredibly charming and incredibly good-looking, and even more notably, they are respectful and don’t make unwanted advances. If anything, they’re available for any interested women to approach. They’re not there to hit on women themselves.
The bottom line is, everyone gets creeped out by the inappropriately aggressive man. For the record, every now and then, we will run across an inappropriately aggressive woman. In these cases, though, people get less creeped out and more eye-rolly.
Put this all together, and it creates a comfortable environment for women to be sexually uninhibited and still fully in control.
1. It Can Create Awkwardness With Your Friends
Remember what I said about swingers being picky about who, when, and where they’ll fuck? Well, that means something more when you consider that swinging is something we just do for fun every now and then. Just like how you and your significant other may decide to go out for a fancy dinner as a way to be romantic on a Saturday, my wife and I may decide to unleash a fuck storm as ours. Despite what the term “lifestyle” may imply, it doesn’t actually consume our lives.
Yet some people seem to think we’re looking to fuck anyone, anytime, anywhere. The worst is the (invariably male) acquaintance who somehow finds out about our lifestyle and is just a tad too eager with his questions — or worse, his touching. He finds out we’re swingers, and all of a sudden he thinks it’s okay to touch my wife in a sexual way without any invitation from her. At best, these acquaintances come across as desperate. At worst, they feel like the opening scene of a horror movie.
Among our more tolerant (and less creepy) friends, though, awkwardness can occur too. Ever since my wife and I “came out” to our vanilla friends, most of them have accepted our lifestyle openly, and some have even been curious. Every now and then, though, we’ll notice a slight physical discomfort with our presence — like if I put my arm around a female friend, I may catch her recoiling or stiffening ever so slightly, as though she’s suddenly uncomfortable with the mere thought of me touching her. My wife has noticed the same thing with a few of our male friends. It’s a subtle difference in how they now respond to physical affection from us — physical affection that was always accepted warmly in the past.
I guess it makes sense, though. Once you find out your friends are into stuff like this, it’s easy to think, “Shit, he just put his arm around me. He’s about to whip out his hog and take me on a tour of Hog City.” The subtle recoils we get are reminders of the hurdles we ourselves had to overcome during our three-year journey to becoming swingers.