There are lots of different kinds of romantic and sexual relationships to be had. Unfortunately, the only one that our society seems to condone is heterosexual monogamy. And because our society pressures people into these types of relationships, the majority of Americans try to live by these standards even if its not what fits them. *cough* Tiger Woods *cough*
The next type of relationship that is slowly gaining ground is homosexual monogamy. Its not quite there yet, but it mimics the one type of relationship that the majority of society approves of, even if the majority of society doesn't actually participate in it. It is more comforting to the majority of Americans because it is similar to their own ideals … especially as they pin conforming gender characteristics on each of the partners. Because as we all know, someone has to be the girl and someone has to be the boy in the relationship. You can't see me, but I'm rolling my eyes here.
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not knocking either of these types of relationship. Heck, I'm in a monogamous relationship. I'm just saying that they're not for everyone. My wife and I are monogamous because we chose to be. We've also talked about the possibility that it might not be what we always want. We try to be honest about those possibilities and it would be nice if more people were honest about them as well. Because it does seem a little unlikely that everyone will be able to remain completely faithful for 50+ years of marriage.
What I always stress for everyone in any type of relationship is communication and honesty. And guess what, if you're trying to live up to an ideal of monogamy, but you don't have the ability to be monogamous, you're lying to your partner. You're putting them at risk for heartbreak and sexually transmitted infections and you're putting your relationship in jeopardy.
So what are your other options? There are a multitude of different types of open relationships. I've discussed some parts of them before. But my problem is that I almost always default to talking about or thinking about polyamorous relationships. The reason for this is because I have my own personal ideas about what makes a relationship a good one. No one is without faults here. I definitely place judgment in this area, which is no good because I try to be judgment free. But the reason I tend to prefer poly relationships is because there is often a strong emphasis on communication, honesty, and safer sex. And because its also just more queer friendly than some of the other options. Plus, while sex is awesome, I tend to prefer my sexual relationships to be with people I have genuine feelings for (whether romantic or not, I like to have a friendship) and poly folks often talk about how they just have a lot of love to share. So today I'm going to spend some time talking about a different option: swinging
I've made myself research the topic instead of just telling you what my preconceived notions of swinging are. Because, as I found while I was researching, my preconceived notions were often at least slightly false.
Okay, so what is swinging? Normally, swinging is done by white, middle or upper-middle class, middle aged professional heterosexual couples and single women, with the occasional single man sprinkled in for some variety. -I feel like I'm giving you a recipe.- The belief amongst a lot of these straight couples is that by playing together within their marriage, they are saving their marriage. This is exactly what I was talking about before about being open with each other about not wanting monogamy. These couples will often go to special swinger parties, bars, vacations, etc. in order to pick up other couples or single women. The internet is also used a lot to find others into the swinging lifestyle (more on this later). Then once the couple finds another couple or single that they both find attractive, they engage in different types of sexual play based off of what they have agreed on as a couple previously. There's that fantastic communication again! They may decide to engage in penis-in-vagina intercourse, anal sex, oral sex, handjobs, or just massages.
So far swinging sounds pretty fantastic, right? So what's my beef with it?
Well, one of the biggest reasons I didn't like swinging was because I had the preconceived notion that they weren't big on having safer sex. Well, I did a little research and actually found that most swingers clubs that allow sexual activity on the premises actually require condom use. Well that's awesome! However, I still don't think that they use as much protection as necessary if they are going to be playing around with several different partners. They should also be using gloves and dental dams as well as condoms for oral sex, not just intercourse.
Promiscuity ups your chances of contracting an STI and while condoms can protect against some stuff, they don't protect against everything. A lot of people don't seem to know this, but HPV can be spread through hands. Person A gives Person B a handjob. Person B has genital warts. Person A gets a wart on their hand. Person A gives Person C a handjob and now Person C has genital warts. Not to mention Person B spreading the warts down to their genitals from masturbation and then to their own partner. Yay we have an epidemic! So, I'd really like to see swingers, and everyone else, use more safer sex practices more often. Its just smart.
The next reason I'm not too big on the lifestyle is totally my own personal issue. As I mentioned before, I prefer to have sex with someone that I can have some sort of relationship with. Whether this is love or just a good friendship depends on the person, but in general, it feels more rewarding and safer (knowing their health status and their protection rates) than having one night stands or shallow relationships. Keeping in mind that I've had A LOT of one night stands so I'm really not one to speak on the topic. But swingers, in general, tend to keep their relationships pretty shallow in order to keep the jealousy angle out of their marriage. That way they don't have to worry about their partner leaving them for someone else they met at a swingers club. Now I want to make this very clear that there really isn't anything wrong with this. This is just my own personal belief system and you should not make any decisions based on my own hangups.
Finally, I am a bit against swinging because the lifestyle can be a tad homophobic. The swinging lifestyle mostly caters to heterosexual couples and bisexual or bi-curious women. The women are allowed , and sometimes even assumed, to have an attraction to other women while the men are supposed to be completely heterosexual. Now, this isn't always the case, but amongst most swinging circles, it is very taboo for a man to desire or touch another man. And you know, that's cool if that's not what you're interested in. But its very limiting to men who may be bisexual themselves. So what if another dude hits on you and you're not into it? You say no and he respects your answer. This is exactly what is supposed to happen in the swinging lifestyle when a man hits on a woman and she's not interested. She says no and he respects her rejection.
Along those same lines though is why I actually have to give some props to the swinging lifestyle. The women, in general, are in control. There tends to be a lot less coercion going on within the lifestyle because without the women's consent, there will be no play. This is at least what I've read over and over from people who are in the lifestyle. There are a lot of rules based around making sure the women are fully consenting and enjoying themselves.
So why am I telling you all this? Mostly in hopes that anyone who is participating in, or is interested in getting involved in the swinger lifestyle can maybe learn some things from me and take them into their meetings and clubs. Change is always possible. One can dream, right?
For those of you who are considering swinging or any type of open relationship, or for those who are more seasoned, but are interested in learning more, as always, I highly recommend Tristan Taormino's book Opening Up. She goes over the ins and outs of all types of open relationships.
But once you've read up on swinging and you decide you want to participate in it, how do you go about doing that? Swingers clubs don't exactly advertise on TV or billboards along the highway. The internet is always a great resource for these kinds of things, but with anything sexual there are always risks. So many websites where people can find sex are just filled with scammers and prostitutes. And if you don't want a prostitute, that can get pretty damn frustrating.
So where does one turn? Not to Craigslist. Good luck finding anyone legit there. I was recently pointed to LifestyleLounge and I gotta say that if you're a heterosexual swinger, this site could definitely be for you. One of the key things that makes this site better than a lot of others is the “real seal”, which lets you know that these people are real, not scammers. One gets the seal by first meeting with someone else from the website. The downside to this of course is that you will have to convince someone you're real so they'll meet you and be willing to stamp you in. But once that happens, you're golden. One thing to keep in mind though is that even if someone has the real seal, it doesn't mean they are safe. Always meet in public first. This is a good tactic anyways since you don't know if you'll have chemistry in real life. Its better to meet and talk a bit in a safer space before say, going back to someone's hotel room.
Lifestyle Lounge also has news on local swingers events going on in your neighborhood, messageboards so you can learn more about the lifestyle from your fellow swingers, chatrooms, and even a travel planner so you can meet up with others while you visit other cities or while they visit your city. Its pretty in depth which is important because it is a pay-site, but there is a free 7 day trial.
There are even direct links for local sites which makes it easier to find couples in your neighborhood. So say I want to check out swingers events in my neighborhood, I would go to Chicago Swingers because I live in Chicago. If you lived in Milwaukee you'd go here to search for Milwaukee swingers. You get the idea.
In searching around the website, I did find the same kinds of issues I talked about above. For example, if you try to sign up as a queer couple you'll find you can't. Signing up as a couple automatically assumes you're in a heterosexual relationship even though the site does give you the opportunity to state being interested in gay men and women. Maybe they'll fix that? I won't hold my breath, but as I said before, if you're a hetero couple this may be the site for you.
Some things to keep in mind before getting involved in the lifestyle:
- Swingers tend to be pretty vanilla. Not much kink going on. Other scenes are better if you're kinky. BDSM sex clubs anyone? I know I'll be checking one out soon … details later … maybe ...
- Orgies tend to be pretty darn rare. In general it seems to be more “wife swapping” but often in the same room
- There are VERY few gay, lesbian, or trans folks that identify as swingers
- Swingers tend to be a pretty close knit group, which means that if you don't respect people's boundaries and follow rules you will get weeded out quickly.
- Even though most conservative groups would consider swinging to be adultery, it is rarely brought up in politics the way that other relationships are (ex: gay marriage and BDSM). And I could probably write another whole blog just on this topic.
- Swingers go on vacations together and often take over whole hotels. Which, admittedly, sounds kind of fun.
- There are a few swinger communities that support male/male attraction and host events that cater towards bisexual men and women, but they are few and far between. If you're interested in this, you'll really need to do your research.
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Disclaimer: This post has been paid for by Loud Launch which helps bloggers and advertisers connect. Loud Launch is working as an agent for Lifestyle Lounge. All opinions are my own and I never let anyone tell me what to write or how to write it.