Archive for the 'Swinging' Category

Interested in Joining the Lifestyle?

by Jason Stotts

If you’re interested in joining the Lifestyle (aka swinging), watch this amazing instructional video circa 1950 from http://www.coupledoingit.com/.

Contra Peikoff on Swinging

by Jason Stotts

Recently, Leonard Peikoff took a question about swinging on his podcast and I think his answer fails to address the reality of swinging and of non-monogamy more generally.  In his analysis, Peikoff glosses over important distinctions that are relevant to a moral analysis of swinging and even goes so far as to call swingers no better than rutting animals.  I, however, think the issue is much more complicated and that by glossing over important distinctions, Peikoff is attacking a straw-man version of swinging.  This is confusing, since in his more carefully thought out lecture “Love, Sex, and Romance,” Peikoff goes so far as to lay out conditions under which a threesome, an instance of non-monogamy, might be moral.

The Question and Peikoff’s Response

Let me preface this section by saying that I did the transcription myself and I take responsibility for any mistakes in the transcription.  The original audio is here.

Question:

What is wrong with “swinging” at parties?  Isn’t this only an expansion and augmentation of sexual activities and the pursuit of the pleasure that sex brings?

Peikoff’s answer:

Well no, I think that you could define swinging as “adultery without deception” or “promiscuity without pretense;” in other words, without saying, or implying to the woman, “oh I love you, you’re so great” and then going next door to the next one.  This time you’re telling her right there: “I’m waiting for the next one right now, but I’ll just get through you first!”

If you know the Objectivist view of sex and that it is not primarily physical, it rests on basic values, then you wouldn’t even consider this.  If you find your “basic values” all over the place, in a whole gathering of neighbors, or in any gathering, you have no values and sex to you is just physical sensation, like an animal.  Well, you’re free to live that way, but I suggest you give up cooked food and just eat nuts and berries, live in a cave, and go whole-hog with it.

I actually think that the true motive of swingers has nothing to do with enjoying sex; I think they get a thrill because they are free of morality and they’re thumbing their nose at reality.  “I can do whatever I want!  I don’t care what’s right or wrong, I don’t care about anybody!  I don’t care about anything!  Nobody can touch me!  This is my little realm to flaunt my whims.”  And the proof that it’s not any emotional attraction to the other people is that a lot of them love doing it in the dark, where they can’t see a blessed thing and they have no idea who they’re doing it with, what age, you know, partly, maybe, they just want group membership.  They like to feel “I’m not alone in the room, there are a lot of other bodies here.”  But, you know, for that the New York subway is a much better experience, with a lot more people jamming into you a lot more tightly than in a group orgy.

Anyway, that should give you an idea of my opinion of swingers.

So, let us now turn to Peikoff’s major points, where we shall see why I find Peikoff’s analysis unsatisfactory.

An Analysis of Peikoff’s Major Points

1. All swingers are orgiasts.

One of the first, and most serious, problems in Peikoff’s analysis is his idea that all swingers are orgiasts.  This is clear throughout his discussion, as when he says:

[Swinging is] “promiscuity without pretense;” in other words, without saying, or implying to the woman, “oh I love you, you’re so great” and then going next door to the next one.  This time you’re telling her right there: “I’m waiting for the next one right now, but I’ll just get through you first!”

Or:

[Swingers] love doing it in the dark, where they can’t see a blessed thing and they have no idea who they’re doing it with, what age, you know, partly, maybe, they just want group membership.  They like to feel “I’m not alone in the room, there are a lot of other bodies here.”  But, you know, for that the New York subway is a much better experience, with a lot more people jamming into you a lot more tightly than in a group orgy. [emphasis added]

This claim is obviously false and is one of the biggest problems with Peikoff’s analysis.

There are, in fact, many people who consider themselves swingers who do not attend orgies.  Conversely, there are many people who go to orgies, or who have been to an orgy, but who do not consider themselves swingers.  Part of the problem might be the way the question was phrased or it could be in Peikoff’s conception of a swinger, which is likely influenced by the way swinging was practiced in the 70’s at clubs like Plato’s Retreat and has been characterized by the media ever since. However, there are many different kinds of swingers and those who participate in orgies are only one kind among many.

Swinging, as a phenomenon, is characterized by couples that seek sexual activities with others outside of their relationship, but with the knowledge and explicit consent of their partners.  Additionally, they almost always act together as a couple and most swingers would see this joint action as a necessary condition of swinging: that is, they would say that if each individual in the couple was acting alone, then it’s not swinging.  Swingers would consider acting individually much closer to an “open relationship” or polyamory than swinging proper.  In “Relationships: A Continuum of Permissiveness” I drew distinctions about different kinds of couples and showed that there are multiple types of couples: jealously exclusive, the traditional exclusive relationship, swinging relationships, and open relationships.

Swingers are non-monogamous sexually, but emotionally exclusive.  This is important because it distinguishes them from other kinds of relationships.  By non-monogamous, but emotionally exclusive, I mean that they separate love and sex for the purposes of swinging, reserving deep emotional connections only for their partner.  This does not mean that they feel nothing for their other sexual partners, but that they draw sharp lines and do not allow any attachments that might compete with their primary relationship.  However, they frequently feel great affection for their outside lovers and often form lasting bonds with them.

Among swingers, there are many different kinds: some couples only occasionally have a threesome, while others will form sexual relationships with other couples, while others will go to organized swinging events, and still others participate in group sex.  As they generally describe themselves, swingers are of two kinds: “soft-swap” or “full-swap.”  The former term, soft-swap, generally means that the couple will engage in sexual acts with others, like manual stimulation or oral sex, but not vaginal or anal sex.  In contrast, full swap couples are willing to engage in a wider range of sexual activities with others.  From my research into the subject, most swingers are not into full out orgies where one has sex with whoever is proximate.  This is born out in books like The Lifestyle: A Look at the Erotic Rites of Swingers and my personal interviews with couples that self-identify as swingers.  It is not the case that there are no swingers who are orgiasts, but it is also not the case that all swingers are orgiasts.  Especially today, with there being so many sexually transmitted infections (STI’s) around, most swingers seem to avoid orgies and not engage in sexual activities with those couples who do engage in orgies.

Unfortunately Peikoff’s analysis hinges on this conflation of swingers and orgiasts, and thus he ends up attacking a straw man version of swinging.  This is not to say that Peikoff could not still condemn swingers, but given that the class is much more nuanced than he realizes, he certainly can’t give the kind of blanket condemnation that he gave above.  In fact, it seems like it would be hypocritical for him to condemn all swingers, including those that only occasionally have threesomes, since, as we pointed out above, he seems not to have a problem with threesomes in his lecture “Love, Sex, and Romance.”

2. Adultery is possible even with the expressed consent of one’s partner.

“I think that you could define swinging as ‘adultery without deception’.”

The claim that adultery can occur with the consent of one’s partner is quite peculiar and indicates that either Peikoff is using the term “adultery” in a non-traditional way or else relying on an implicit premise that may or may not be warranted.  For example, dictionary.com [link] defines adultery as “marital infidelity” and defines infidelity as “disloyalty, unfaithfulness, or breach of trust.”  This, I think, gets close to the heart of the problem of adultery.  Regardless of the dictionary definition we pick, I think that the colloquial use of the word “cheating” to describe adultery is apt.  Cheating, in this context, is a violation of the agreement that underlies a relationship; a transgression against the foundation of a relationship itself and upon its most important pillars, like honesty, open communication, and commitment.  However, in cases in which a couple agrees to non-monogamy, it’s not clear how non-monogamous activity would be a violation of their agreement.  This is important, then, because a couple who agree to non-monogamy and who engage in non-monogamy together, and with each other’s explicit knowledge and permission, could not, in fact, commit adultery because they would not be violating the agreement that underlies their relationship.  It’s just not clear to me where the violation is when a couple explicitly agrees to non-monogamy.

Now, it’s still possible for Peikoff to claim that one can engage in adultery even with one’s partner’s consent by bringing in a premise that would change the above analysis.  Specifically, if he could show that monogamy was the only moral way to have a relationship and that all kinds of non-monogamy were immoral, then he would invalidate the above and be justified in his claim.  This however, doesn’t seem possible for him to show.  I don’t think it’s possible for him to show that monogamy is more “natural” than non-monogamy.  Consider, for example, cultures that are non-monogamous, such as ancient Athens.  In Athenian culture a man was expected to maintain a household with a wife and children, as well as to engage in pederasty with younger males (16-25, not children), so that they would be properly raised and incorporated into society.  That is, a man was expected by society to have both a female wife as well as male lovers.  For the Athenian in this time period, non-monogamy was very much the expectation and monogamy would have been not only atypical, but also culturally frowned upon.  Were these ancient Athenians living in an “unnatural” state?  Even if they were, which it’s not clear one could show, was this kind of behavior immoral?  Remember, by “immoral” we don’t mean a moral rule given to us by an imaginary friend in the sky, but something that demonstrably causes harm to an individual’s life.  It seems to me that not only were the Athenians living in a more natural state, their non-monogamy was actively improving their lives and allowing them to express the full, and natural, range of their sexuality.

I just don’t think that one can claim monogamy as a premise for which no argument is necessary.  In fact, both biological and physiological evidence suggest that non-monogamy is more natural than monogamy (for further elaboration, see the new book Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality or my forthcoming essay “In Defense of Non-Monogamy”).  For example, the very makeup of our bodies, such as the shape of the human penis, the existence of female breasts, the dichotomy between female orgasmic response and male orgasmic response, all point to a non-monogamous human past.

Given that there is much evidence that humans are naturally non-monogamous and that this does not necessarily hurt one’s life and happiness, monogamy cannot be assumed as a premise without argument.  Thus, it seems to be clear that a couple could agree to a non-monogamous relationship.

If Peikoff cannot show that monogamy is morally necessary for a good life, then he will not be able to show that one can commit adultery with the consent of one’s partner.  In order to claim that this purported adultery is immoral, he must show that it causes harm.  If both partners consent to the sexual activity freely and with the full understanding of what they are doing, then it’s not clear to whom the harm is being done.  Unless, that is, the harm is being done to both people, even though they don’t realize it, if monogamy were necessary for a good life.  If monogamy is taken away from the analysis, since we’ve seen that it’s not morally necessary, then we can get to a much more interesting analysis: that of the connection between emotions and sexuality and mind/body integration, which is Peikoff’s next point.

Before we move to that point, however, I want to state that I do not think that one can commit adultery if one has the full consent of one’s partner who has a complete understanding of what he or she is agreeing to.  I think that the precise nature of a relationship should be determined by its members and should not be imposed as a cultural standard that may or may not maximize a person’s life: a relationship should be an expression of love between two people that takes the form that works best for them, not a straightjacket of cultural expectations.  If both partners are full moral agents, then the idea that they could not consent to engaging in sex with people who are not their partner is absurd.

3. Sex is a response to fundamental values.

“…the Objectivist view of sex [is that] it is not primarily physical, it rests on basic values…”

On this point, I agree with Peikoff.  Sexual attraction is an emotional response and, as such, functions as an automatic response to our antecedent value judgments.  The more fundamental the value, or the more dearly we hold the value, the stronger the emotional response from it.  (For a more thorough account of sexual attraction as a response to values, see my essay “Sexual Attraction.”)  It should also be noted that sexual attraction is distinct from, but directly related to, physical sexual arousal.  Sexual attraction leads to sexual arousal, but the converse is not true: just because a person is physically aroused does not mean that they are currently experiencing sexual attraction.

Now, let us explore Peikoff’s more complicated claim that: “If you know the Objectivist view of sex and that it is not primarily physical, it rests on basic values, then you wouldn’t even consider [swinging].”  Peikoff’s argument seems to be that sex simply for the physical pleasure, absent shared values and a relationship, would be animalistic and would encourage a mind/body dichotomy as a person would actively have to try to suppress intellectual and emotional responses in order to have purely physical sex, as Peikoff seems to be claiming happens in the case of swingers.

To the extent that a person evades his emotions and judgment in order to have a purely physical sexual experience, I can certainly agree that Peikoff is right in his analysis.  However, it is the evasion, not the sex, that is morally problematic.  Pleasure itself is not morally problematic: my pleasure from good food, or exercise, or contemplating beauty is not a moral issue.  As Objectivists, we must remember that the basis of morality is the very simple question: does this improve my life or detract from it?  It’s clear that pleasure, itself, improves one’s life.  However, pleasure is not a simple thing.  Pleasure is a physical response that has both physical and mental aspects to it.  One cannot just have spontaneous, uncaused pleasure; such a thing does not exist.  One has pleasure from sex, from eating good food, from exercising, from contemplating beauty, et cetera.  Every pleasure has a cause: pleasure attends certain actions, but cannot be sought for its own sake.  Thus, in order to make a moral judgment, one must judge a person’s intentions and whether or not the activity that gives rise to the pleasure improves a person’s life or whether it detracts from it.

So, to judge whether pleasure from sex is moral, we need to ascertain a person’s intentions and whether the activities they are engaging in are beneficial or detrimental to their life.  However, just as in most moral analysis, the issue is rarely so clear as whether any particular sex act is causing physical harm.  As we noted above, there can also be problems of evasion and of intention, among others.  The problem with sex is that it is so interconnected to our emotions and our personal identity that to have sex purely for the sake of the physical pleasure is likely impossible.  Never are we more vulnerable or open to another person than in a sexual situation.  Sex is just not like many other actions that can be done without an emotional response.

Furthermore, even in cases where the origin of sexual attraction is physical in nature, it is never purely physical.  The characteristics, traits, personality, style, etc., of a person that we find attractive is a function of our judgments and values.  One cannot simply say that all men find large breasts attractive.  Some men are not attracted to women at all, nor are they interested in their breasts.  Some men like large breasts, while other men prefer small breasts.  The fact is that one cannot just claim that some characteristic is inherently attractive: such is not the case in humans.  Our attractions are the result of our antecedent value judgments: our attractions flow from our values.

Moreover, even in cases where one knows little to nothing about a person’s character or values, the allegedly “pure” physical attraction, our sexual attraction operates by overlaying desirable characteristics onto the person in a process I call projection.  In fact, projection is made easier the less we know about a person.  If we metaphorically have a blank canvas, we can paint whatever picture on it we might like, thus guaranteeing the kind of response we desire to have to a person.  If I know nothing about the attractive female I just met, other than the fact that I am physically attracted to her, then I can project characteristics on her that I am mentally attracted to as well, giving me a fuller attraction to this person and in some sense justifying my initial attraction and making it more intense.  Indeed, one reason why some people prefer sex with complete strangers is precisely due to their ignorance of the other person.  Because they know nothing about the other person, they are able to project their ideals onto their partner and have an intense response to their ideals as apparently embodied in this other person.  The problem with this is that it is fundamentally self-deceptive: a person knows that the response he or she is having is to a projected ideal and not to their actual partner, about whom they know nothing.  The more that they know about the other person, the weaker their sexual response to them becomes as they fail to live up to their ideals.  The process of projection shows that there is simply no way to actually separate sex from our emotions and to attempt to do so is self-deceptive and evasive, and thus immoral.  This is Peikoff’s objection and it is a fair one.

Now, the fact that sex with a person with whom one does not have a perfect alignment between values can be engaged in self-deceptively does not mean that this kind of sex is always self-deceptive and this is the key to the question of whether such sex is moral.  Just because it is true that sex always has some emotional aspects, does not, therefore, mean that sex must only be done with the “perfect partner” whom one will marry and any sexual activity other than this is immoral.  There is certainly a range of value alignment where sex is permissible: as Objectivists we are not looking for the Platonic other half of our soul.  There is nothing inherently wrong with two teenagers who care about each other exploring sex.  There is nothing inherently wrong with two people who are considering having a relationship having sex with each other to make sure they are sexually compatible.  There is nothing inherently wrong with spouses having sex with each other.  Yet, in each case the sex could be immoral; for example, spousal rape does exist.  Sharing values, or value alignment, is a necessary, but not sufficient condition for the moral permissibility of sex.

This, of course, raises the question of whether there are other necessary conditions that a person must satisfy in order to morally engage in sex.  The answer is, of course, yes!  Beyond just having value alignment, two people who are going to engage in sexual activity with each other should also be a value to each other.  There must be at least some positive emotional response to the person’s character in order to morally engage in sex with a person.  Typically, these feelings will follow naturally from having value alignment, but it is not true they follow inexorably.  It could be the case that there is another person who holds all of the same values I do, but because of some difference, say in sense of life, we do not enjoy each other’s company and we find no value in any kind of relationship with each other (whether a sexual relationship or even a friendship).  Liking a person for themselves, and not merely what values they hold, is a necessary condition for moral sexual activity.

Further, and as we mentioned above, a person’s intentions play a heavy role in a moral assessment of sexual activity.  Am I going to engage in sexual activity with a person because I want to fake a sense of self-esteem or do I sincerely value them for their own sake and would find value in a sexual relationship with this person?  In general, we can say that as long as one is self-reflective and honest about the reasons he wants to engage in sexual activities with another, as long as there is no evasion on his part or deception to his partner, and as long as the sexual relationship will not damage other values that he holds dear, like a pre-existing relationship, then a person has a good shot at having a morally permissible sexual relationship with another.  I will elaborate more on the conditions for moral sexual activity in the follow up essay to this one: “In Defense of Non-Monogamy.”

4. A person who is always finding the “perfect” person has no actual standards.

The above considerations lead us to Peikoff’s point that “a person who is always finding the ‘perfect’ person has no actual standards.”  This point is primarily misapplied, since Peikoff was working in a framework that equated swingers with orgiasts; yet, the point is still true and could apply to many other situations.  A person who finds everyone to be sexually desirable or who thinks every person they meet is a good match for them does lack any real standards.

If a person has standards, then they have to judge the people they meet by these standards and there will be at least some people who are necessarily excluded.  If you value an education in a partner, then anyone who lacked one, or who was not an autodidact, would be excluded.  If you value your partner being reasonable, then religious people are excluded.  For anything you value in a partner, some people are excluded who lack these qualities.  Now, obviously sometimes we have to make concessions and let go of lower values in order to secure the greater values that are more important to us.  In fact, there is likely no perfect person in existence that would be a “perfect match” if one were to consider every single value that a person held.  But this is an unrealistic standard to even try to achieve.  The salient point is that if a person finds everyone to be sexually desirable or desirable for a relationship, then they have no standards by which to judge, for if they did, then some people would necessarily be excluded.

5. Swingers are not truly interested in sex or sexual pleasure, but are actually only enjoying the moral violation and the sense of false power they have from the transgression.

“I actually think that the true motive of swingers has nothing to do with enjoying sex; I think they get a thrill because they are free of morality and they’re thumbing their nose at reality.”

Frankly, it is unclear to me what Peikoff’s reasons are for asserting this.  Even in the case of orgiasts, this claim seems unfounded.  There is no doubt that there are some people who are perverted and who enjoy moral violation and a sense of false power from moral violations.  However, perversion is not a necessary aspect of swinging and there could be perverts engaging in any particular sexual action; but that is not a reason to claim that any particular action is immoral, just because a pervert may engage in it.  In fact, the moral objection against perversion is against the fact that perversion causes a decline in life and not against any particular action that a pervert might engage in.

Thus, while it is likely true that some swingers are perverts, it’s exceedingly unclear that all swingers are perverts.  It seems much more plausible that those engaging in swinging are doing it for the sexual pleasure and the experiences.

6. Swingers are completely sexually indiscriminate and that many of them have sex in complete darkness, since they don’t care with whom they are having sex with.

This point also seems to be completely unsubstantiated.  Even if we assume Peikoff was working in the context of orgiasts, it doesn’t even seem that it would be true there.  Swingers, as distinct from orgiasts, are usually sexually discriminate and there seems to be no evidence that they always have sex in complete darkness.  Interestingly, many people of all sexual proclivities have sex in low light or darkness and there doesn’t seem to be any particularly poignant moral considerations regarding this choice.  While, again, I agree with Peikoff that being sexually indiscriminate is immoral, this does not necessarily apply to swinging: some people could engage in swinging and still be sexually discriminate.  Additionally, his point about swingers having sex in complete darkness, presumably to avoid having to see their partners or themselves, and thus face the reality of their actions, is just absurd.  In all the existing literature, studies, documentaries, and anecdotes, there is no evidence that all swinging is done in the dark.

Conclusions

After a thorough analysis, we can see that Peikoff’s position does not do justice to the nuanced issues involved in the case of swinging.  While it is true that swinging can be done immorally, it is also true that one could be a moral swinger if one follows some simple principles.  In my next essay, “In Defense of Non-Monogamy,” I shall examine the conditions that one would have to satisfy in order to morally engage in swinging.  I will also further explore the reasons why a person might want to engage in non-monogamy and whether there could be any objective values from such a pursuit.

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Disclosure: if you click on the Amazon links and purchase the books, I will receive some small amount of compensation.

An Interview with Swingers

by Jason Stotts

This is a compilation of an interview I did with friends of mine who are swingers. The interview originally appeared on the old Erosophia in two parts, separated by about 2 months or so.  In the second interview, my friends adopted the names Wendy and Stan to make it clearer who they were talking about.  These are, obviously, not their real names.

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Part 1

1. For those who don´t know, how would you explain what a swinger is?

This is still debated in the swinger community, but to us a swinger is a person in a relationship, committed or otherwise, who consensually shares sexual experiences with people outside of the relationship. This can be watching others have sex, being watched while having sex, allowing one partner to have sex outside of the relationship, or full exchange of partners. There are many categories of swingers, but in general it would be the active sharing of each other with others outside of the relationship.

2. Why do they call swinging the “lifestyle”?

We would say that the “lifestyle” incorporates more than just swingers. Swingers participate in the “lifestyle” by sharing their partners, while individuals can participate in the lifestyle by playing with couples or groups. In general, the lifestyle refers to the free exchange of sexual favors without normal societal restrictions, as a way of life. Those that consider themselves to be in the “lifestyle” typically do not experience significant jealousy and in fact take great pleasure from watching their partner enjoy sexual experiences, much like you would enjoy watching your partner laugh at a joke or savor a nice dinner.

3. Is swinging the same thing as being in an open relationship?

Open relationships are not necessarily swinging, but it can be in some circumstances. Open relationships are often more decoupled from a sexual perspective than swinging ones. In an open relationship the partners may not know, care, or want to be involved in the other partner’s sexual escapades and may involve essentially serially monogamous sexual encounters. In the swinging version, both partners tend to be fully aware and excited about the sexual activities with the preponderance of activities happening with both parties involved.

4. What motivated you to become swingers?

Carnal drives for the most part. She wanted to explore her bi-curiosity and he has always wanted to see two women together. Once we broached the subject it was simply a matter of seeking it out. Our lifestyle has expanded beyond just threesomes, but that was the initial desire.

5. How easy is it for a couple interested in swinging to join the lifestyle?

If you are motivated and resourceful, not hard. The internet has many lifestyle resources which can connect you with other swingers in your area, swinger clubs, and social groups organized around any facet of the lifestyle. Then, of course, there is Craigslist but caveat emptor.

6. Is the swinging community welcoming?

Like any social group, it can be both very welcoming and very guarded. People are trusting you with often deeply hidden parts of their lives, so on occasion they may be distant until they are sure of you. However, many social groups and clubs offer very welcoming environments where socialization is far more free than any bar or night club, people are all there for more or less the same reason and much of the pretense is removed.

7. What do swingers do at gatherings? Is it more of a party atmosphere where people are gathered to have a good time and sometimes have sex or is it more focused on the sex and less on the atmosphere?

This is entirely dependent on the specific situation. You can find parties where 10 men stand around and have repeated sex with one women. Yes, that really does happen and is easy to find. You can also find dinner parties or normal “vanilla” clubs where you simply get to know others in the lifestyle and have a good time with like minded people. There are all shades between.

8. How prevalent is homosexuality in the swinger community? Is the swinging community open to this?

Homosexuality is not just accepted but generally strongly encouraged… in women. We have found it to be a very rare circumstance where homosexual or bisexual men are accepted. In truth, bisexual females are extremely common in the lifestyle while bisexual men, or at least admittedly bisexual men, are extremely rare and often ostracized.

9. Are swingers sexually adventurous in ways besides simply having different partners or is changing partners the extent of swinging?

This is entirely individual and not directly a function of swinging. While swingers do get exposed to more techniques and ideas than vanilla couples, some choose to stay with basic positions while others can become very diverse. It is about as much of a gateway to depravity as “pot” is to more serious drugs. If you are predisposed it may get you started, but it is not causal in you becoming skilled or adventurous.

10. Do people in the lifestyle tend to always meet up with the same couples or are random encounters more common?

There is no trend on this. Some people only go to parties and rarely play while some go to parties and play with a different couple every time. Often swingers can form real relationships outside of the bedroom with playmates and yet it is just as common to meet once and never speak again.

11. In your experience, how common are problems with jealousy in couples?

It is uncommon, but not unheard of. Jealous couples will generally be forced to leave the lifestyle eventually and as such, most couples tend to be very secure.

12. What about deception between partners? How do swingers handle these problems that are so ubiquitous even in regular relationships?

It is generally believed that swingers have less deceptive relationships, due to the fact that one of the largest causes for deceit is removed. Though, this implies that you would have reason to cheat or otherwise violate your partners trust in a monogamous relationship. We can only speak about our personal experience and we simply have no reason to lie to one another, particularly about sexual issues. It is important to point out that swinging does not make you more honest with one another, but it can help build more trust and openness if it is part of your character to develop that. We have seen deceit in the lifestyle and it always saddens us because it makes no logical sense, though the exact same thing can be said of vanilla relationships.

13. How do swingers deal with problems of insecurity and comparison between breast size, penis size, overall attractiveness, etc?

How do vanillas deal with problems where others are funnier, cuter, more fun, more interesting, or more exciting? Hopefully they enjoy the things others have to offer rather than dwelling on arbitrary comparisons. The world is simply more enjoyable if you experience what it has to offer and exalt in the enjoyment of your partner. Insecurity is certainly a concern for any relationship and if you offer your partner too little to keep their love or attention, swinging is the least of your concerns. If you love each other and love sharing experiences then swinging is simply another avenue of exploration to help bond you, not tear you apart.

14. Will you describe how swinging has affected your relationship?

For us it is very much something that brings us together like stamp collecting might for some people, though far more kinky, but possibly as sticky. It is a hobby, it does not define us, but we love the people we meet and the experiences we create.

15. What is the most negative experience you’ve had with swinging?

We have had to turn down people who were interested in us, but we could not reciprocate. Sometimes this leads to bad feelings, though we try to minimize this and it often gets better with time. The swinging community can be amazingly small even in large cities, so we often see people we have rejected at swinging functions and some choose to make it clear they harbor negative feelings towards us.

16. What is the most positive experience you’ve had with swinging?

Amazingly beautiful and erotic scenes that we would need a DVD box set to show you. Emotionally we are closer than ever, and our sex life between the two of us has improved (not that we had any complaints before we started). It is a lot like watching porn with your partner, but more involved and erotic. Some of the best sex we’ve had has been after a night at a club flirting or playing with other people.

17. Do you have any advice for people considering the lifestyle?

Never coerce your partner. If they want to do it they should be enthusiastic. Reluctance and apprehension are okay, but the desire needs to be there. Sex is easy, emotions are the part that can be complicated.

18. Do you have any final thoughts on swinging?

We have a lot of thoughts on swinging, but it is hard to answer such a broad question. We would encourage more questions from all of you, and are not shy about sharing more intimate details.

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Part 2

1. How often do you see jealousy in couples that swing? Do you see significant variance?

First, we’d like to clarify exactly what is meant when we say jealousy, and consider the motivations behind it. From Wikipedia:

Jealousy is an emotion and typically refers to the negative thoughts and feelings of insecurity, fear, and anxiety over an anticipated loss of something that the person values, such as a relationship, friendship, or love. Jealousy often consists of a combination of emotions such as anger, sadness, and disgust.

Before we comment on the specifics of your question, we would like to address the issue of jealousy directly. Let’s consider a few common issues that a vanilla might think would cause jealousy. For a woman she might be jealous of another woman’s larger breasts, flatter stomach, for being younger, or perhaps for having a prettier face. A man might get jealous of another man for being more fit, having a larger penis, being a larger man in general, or having all of his own hair. Either partner might be concerned about their swinging counterparts being more interesting, more skilled, more fun, or longer lasting. All of these issues stem directly from insecurity and the fear that ones partner will look at them as less than they were before having interacted with their playmates, that in fact they will lose a piece if not the whole of their bond with their own partner. We would argue that, if these are issues for you, then certainly swinging is not for you. In fact, if jealousy is a concern in any relationship, swinging aside, you need to look deeply into your own insecurities. We would also encourage you to look at yourself and think if that train of thought is rational and/or beneficial to you. If you look at your partner and think, “They will love me less because they had sex with someone who is better than me in some way,” is your relationship secure in the first place? Believe us when we say, a valuable and deep conversation over beers at the local pub can be MUCH more challenging to a relationship than a sexual interchange that ends in the bedroom.

To follow, we would like to propose another way to look at these challenges. So far as sex is an entertaining and pleasurable recreation it is totally possible to not only accept but to exalt in the enjoyment that your partner derives from it. If you truly trust each other and you are secure in yourself there can be no cause for jealousy, but in fact there can be much cause to improve your trust and intimacy. We want to make it clear: this is not an activity for everyone. If sexual exploration of this type is not important to both of you, we are not trying to imply that this will bring you closer. If you are secure with yourselves, have complete trust in your partner, and have an interest in exploring sexual frontiers together then swinging can give you experiences to share and bind you even closer.

Now to answer your question, on rare occasions, say maybe 1 in 5 couples, we do see some jealousy, usually when the female is worried about other more attractive playmates. Honestly though, that rarely stops people and it often wears off once people talk and start to enjoy each other’s company. What we see more often is swinging couples becoming jealous of each other when they compete for the attention of an attractive or otherwise desirable couple. This we see almost every time we go to a large lifestyle party. This always boggles our minds and seems to indicate a lot of immaturity in those that act that way. Swingers come from all walks of life and some are more enlightened than others. We just wanted to make you aware of this interesting paradox that we have observed.

2. Do couples tend to be jealous at first and overcome it?

We can’t speak for other couples, but we think apprehension is very normal. Who knows exactly how you will react until you actually do it? Now, for us, there was a little but it evaporated quickly. Our first experience was with a man with a very large penis. This by itself was not an issue, but he made Wendy squirt for the first time that Stan had seen. This hit a sore spot because Stan had been trying hard to make this happen and it hurt to have someone inexperienced with Wendy do it just because he had a large penis. We discussed the concern and Stan quickly came to realize that our sex-life was still great, and when he reflected on how much pleasure she got to experience, that became the dominant thought in his mind.

Most couples have more or less addressed the jealousy issue before their first encounter, or at least they would be wise to have. The reality can catch you off guard and then you have to challenge your experience and emotions. It is very common for couples to have rules like; no kissing on the mouth, no calls or texts between males and females outside of their own relationships, and sometimes couples only play girl-girl for fear of jealousy of other men. The thing that often accompanies these rules is the rapid abandonment of them once people realize they only get in the way of trust. We can’t even count the number of couples that threw the rules out of the window on their first encounter.

3. Do you think jealousy is primarily learned rather than instinctual?

The emotion of jealousy is instinctual. The REASONS for jealousy are both learned and societal as well as some being more instinctive in nature. In all cases jealousy stems from a fear of loss of a resource. The resource that is feared to be lost must be rationally understood. Jimmy is going to get my raise because he goes and drinks with the boss. Janey doesn’t want to come over to my house since she met that football player. On some level you must understand what the resource is and the things that can challenge it. In terms of swinging it would seem that this is very dependant on the value systems of the participants. Sexuality throughout time and across cultures has as many variations as it is possible to imagine. In our modern American culture, you are more or less taught that monogamous sex inside of a loving relationship is the only healthy variety and as such sex is equivalent to love and sharing it would be sacrificing or losing it.

4. Has swinging changed the dynamic in your relationship at all? If so, in what ways?

That may not be a fair question for us. We have always done it, so it is very interwoven in how we interact. We share it as an interest, like anyone else would for any other hobby. In that way it has always bonded us. Reliving fun, funny, exciting, and erotic memories always brings us closer together.

5. You made reference to non-swingers as “vanillas,” but it seems that swinging is only about having different partners and not necessarily about different flavors (different and/or kinky actions). Do you think that perhaps it would be appropriate to characterize swinging as “French vanilla” (a different flavor of vanilla), unless it had other kinkier elements?

It is certainly true that some vanillas are considered by a lot of swingers to be much kinkier and possibly even more sexual than the average swinger. We think the term is more a referral to that particular flavor being added. Maybe for this purpose, think of sex as ice-cream. Vanillas may put a lot of sprinkles and toppings on theirs, but you get more flavor from the experience that only the lifestyle can provide. In the end, terminology and language is not something we would like to defend. Please send your proposal to the swinger terminology board for review.

6. In swinging, the purpose is to experience the bodies of people besides your partner, while not having relationships with these people (or else it would become some version of an open relationship). Do you think that this opens you up to the charge that swinging is completely physicalistic, in the sense that it accepts the mind/body dichotomy and focuses only on the body, since swinging is expressly not about love and is therefore only about physical pleasure? If so, do you think that this means swinging is immoral since it attempts to sever sex from our rational nature, thereby denigrating reason and the mind?

Wow, where do we start? The purpose, for us at least, is not to simply experience the physical bodies of the people we interact with. While it is true we do not need to agree on Objectivism or the proper way to cook a rib-eye steak (rare by the way), we do have to enjoy their company and have a social chemistry as well as a physical attraction. If someone is hot as hell but vapid or rude, we are not interested. It is true, there are some who don’t want to know anything about you and are much more centered on the physical aspect, but we do not play with them and are not interested in experiencing the lifestyle in that way. Romantic love is a long step away from enjoying someone else’s company, so while we do not love any of our lifestyle friends we do like to talk and socialize with most of them outside of the bedroom.

Now, let’s assume it was purely physicalistic, we would like to claim that it can still be done totally morally. Now, of course, it can be done immorally as can most things. In general, if sex is used to fill an emotional hole or to falsely bolster one’s self image then we would agree the act is immoral. If the acts are done with due respect, consideration for one’s partner, and is reflected upon as a positive event by all parties, we have difficulty finding the immorality.

We do want to address the explicit tie between sex and love. Sex made inside of the confines of a loving relationship is grand, and we find it to be the most satisfying. When we are in tune and intensely feeling “in love”, the sex is incredible and we would not trade it for any lifestyle experience. When we experience casual sex with partners whom we do not love, we are not trying to compensate for something missing from our sex life or fill any kind of physical or emotional deficiency. Lifestyle activities only expand our sexual experiences and augment them in a positive way. We believe that in so far as it enriches our lives while not harming others or ourselves, it is moral.

7. Can you elaborate on the reasons people swing, whether in detail or just a list, and what value it has for them? In addition, perhaps you could explain your own reasons for swinging and what value it has for your life. Do you think that there is an ultimate value of swinging? Do you think the value(s) of swinging could be moral values?

The reasons others swing aside from some probable generalities is not something we have a lot of insight into. It can be assumed that people generally swing for the excitement and pleasure of it.

There are several things about swinging that provide value to us as individuals and as a couple. Primarily, as stated in the prior question, it enriches our lives in a measurable way. Our memories of swinging are predominantly positive and give us a rich tapestry of events to reflect on. Throughout our experiences we have learned and taught others many sexual techniques. The skills and ideas we have learned are a definite benefit to us in our personal sex lives. Swinging is also a healthy, pleasurable, and exciting past time involving one of our most fundamental human activities. A large part of most sexual interactions is the giving and we genuinely enjoy giving others pleasure, even when not emotionally connected to a person. To come back though, it is fun, exciting, and pleasurable and those seem like good enough reasons to do most things so long as those things are well considered.

As far as an ultimate value for swinging we would have to say that like any type of activity, it is valuable if it expands and/or entertains you. As mentioned in the previous question it is our belief that the pursuit of pleasure, knowledge, and personal enrichment is a moral one.

8. In your last response, you made the point that there are good reasons to swing and bad reasons to swing, do you think that this means that swinging could not in principle be moral? Do you think that swinging is an optimal condition for some relationships, but not necessarily ever a moral choice (or perhaps that it is a moral non-issue)? Do you think that there are conditions a couple must meet before swinging could be considered a moral option?

To elaborate on the question of morality, it is our stance that this type of activity is going to be done immorally or morally though we cannot think of a realistic amoral scenario. Briefly, when done without the consideration for one’s health, one’s partner, or the consequences to one’s life we find it necessary to define those modes of operation as immoral. When done with explicit consideration to all of these issues and adding in the values we outline above, we find the activity to be moral.

A couple needs to have some basic values and beliefs in place before they can act morally in the context of swinging. These values would have to be shared and not coerced or the endeavor is going to start off on immoral grounds. First, jealousy cannot be a concern or at least not an insurmountable one. If it troubles either partner deeply and they cannot challenge the jealousy with rational thought, then it is hard to imagine the outcome being other than disastrous. Apprehension is acceptable and if both parties are willing to address it after some experience then a choice can be made based on actual knowledge rather than preconceptions. Obviously, sexual exploration needs to be a compelling interest or you would have to challenge the reasons for taking part in the first place. A critical condition is if these activities could impact your normal life in a way that could cause you harm, what the likelihood of that happening is, and if that risk is worth the values you have decided it offers you. If someone runs in without consideration of the consequences, leaving themselves open to unknown and possibly significant problems, it would be an immoral undertaking.

9. In what ways, if at all, do you think that swinging is different from simple promiscuity? Is being promiscuous as a couple different than being promiscuous as a single person? Is one moral, but not the other?

Promiscuity is certainly similar to swinging and we would not argue that one is OK and one is not. Instead, much like swinging, let’s consider the stigma on promiscuity. The prototypical promiscuous female acts as she does to increase her social status, to improve her self-image, or perhaps she does so because of some deeper mental issue such as nymphomania. Sadly, our plucky little heroin is acting immorally because her motivations are flawed and the promiscuity is much more likely to cause emotional and possibly physical or social harm than it is to benefit her life in any meaningful way. It can only cause momentary gratification for her, which is irrational. Now, her antithesis, an emotionally strong and independent woman who has no immediate need for a relationship yet enjoys sex and pursues it with no expectation of love or attachment can certainly act morally in doing so. If it were her character to be emotionally harmed by casual sex or it was likely that she would have to modify her personal beliefs in an unjustifiable fashion to accommodate her lifestyle, then again her morality could be questioned. It is our argument that people with the proper rational perspective and emotional maturity to approach their sexuality with an informed and well considered belief system can act morally when being promiscuous or when swinging.

Relationships: A Continuum of Permissiveness

by Jason Stotts

In this essay, I want to explore the concept of permissiveness and exclusivity as they relate to relationships.  I want to explore the idea that relationships exist along a continuum of permissiveness with a completely jealous relationship at one extreme and an open relationship at the other, with exclusive relationships and swinging relationships in between.

To start, let’s define our subject.  Permissiveness, as used in this essay, is an agreement between partners for what actions they allow in their relationship.  We will leave aside the issue of partners who break their commitments and are dishonest as being outside the scope of this essay.  The basis of their agreement is how much they are willing to allow their partner to do before they could not stand the relationship anymore or consider there to no longer be a relationship.

At the completely non-permissive side of the continuum, where the partners are not permissive of any sort of outside relationships (up to and including friendships) with their partner, is what we will term the “jealous relationship.”  This relationship is characterized by an extreme kind of insecurity where one or both of the partners feels insecure in their relationship and so cannot trust their partner to remain loyal to their relationship.  It is frequently, and perhaps properly, characterized as a relationship where at least one of the partners considers his partner to be property and then tries to jealously guard his property.  In the extreme versions of the jealous relationship, at least one partner is forbidden from any sort of contact with others: even close friendships are beyond what the jealous partner can tolerate.

Moving to a somewhat more permissive position, we have the classic “regular relationship” which we will call the “exclusive relationship.”  This relationship is characterized by an agreement between the partners that outside obligations are fine, as long as they are not of a sexual nature or involve romantic love.  Some partners make agreements about how much time can be committed to activities outside of the relationship and some do not.  However, the important point is that each partner has the freedom to do as they please as long as they don’t have sex with others or fall in love with them.

Moving to an even more permissive position, we have the non-sexually exclusive romantic relationship or what we will call the “emotionally exclusive.”  This relationship is characterized by a couple who is much like the exclusive relationship from above, except they do not reserve sexual action for only between the partners.  That is, they are emotionally exclusive, they do not allow the partners to form other romantic love relationships, but they are not sexually exclusive.  In the classic case of “swingers,” the partners act together to engage is sexual relationships with other people besides their partners.  This is not to say that they are always literally with each other, but that they act in concert.  Alternatively, the partners could act individually and have sex with outside people at their own discretion without the need to discuss this with their partner.

At the far extreme of permissiveness, we have the completely permissive couple to whom very little is barred, or what we shall call the “open relationship.”  This relationship is characterized by a relationship that is neither sexually nor emotionally exclusive and in which partners may have sexual liaisons or form romantic relationships with people besides their “primary partner.”  The concept of primary relationship is very important in this kind of relationship and serves as a focus around which people operate their activities.  Typically, although not always, primary partners function as any other relationship: they live together, consult each other for important decisions, etc.  However, they need not consult each other in order to have sex with others or to develop emotional connections.

Now that we have a basic understanding of the subject we’ll be working in, we can see that these relationships do indeed operate along a continuum of permissiveness.  However, we still need to understand the key term here: permissiveness.  Permissiveness implies permission for action.  They key to understanding it is to understand in what realm one is permitted to act.  Obviously, in the subject at hand we are talking about permission in sexual action and forming emotional connections.  We need to be careful not to limit emotional connections to just love, because some people can be jealous of any kind of emotional connection.  Now, obviously permissiveness and exclusivity are inversely related; the more one is permissive, the less one is exclusive.

The degree to which a relationship can be permissive is a function of at least two things: one’s security in oneself and one’s trust in one’s partner.  Leaving aside moral concerns for a moment, it is clear that the couple who is insecure or does not trust each other could not be permissive.  Their very permissiveness would cause their relationship to disintegrate.  The less secure the relationship, the less permissive it can be without falling apart; the more secure the relationship, the more permissive it can be without falling apart.  This is simply a practical matter that we can note if we leave aside the moral issues; however, when do we ever leave aside the moral issues?

The problem with the moral issues is that they are exceedingly complicated here.  There are a number of moral concerns at play and we don’t yet have a complete theory of sexual ethics by which to judge the applicability of the competing principles.  For this reason, I will continue to withhold judgment until we can complete the account of the differences in relationships and their impact on a person’s life and happiness.

As a final thought, I want to point out that there is at least one serious counter-example to the above-proposed framework.  That is the case of the person who thinks that he owns his partner and so is willing to share her sexually.  It is true that one can only share something that one owns.  This means that if a person shares his partner sexually, it means he owns his partner sexually.  The error is that the statement “one can only share something that one owns” uses the word “something” (some+thing) and people are not things.  Indeed, in the above-described examples, one is only “sharing” one’s partner in a very loose sense as both partners are making the choice, as agents, to engage in sexual and/or emotional activities.  The very paradigm of thinking about “sharing one’s partner” is founded upon an error and loose thinking.  However, this does not mean that people do not think and act this way, and so it could be considered a counter example.  Nonetheless, I want to insist that it exists outside of the proposed spectrum because it cannot be held without error.

In the future, I will be using this continuum in order to try and understand the different ways in which people structure their relationships and whether any of these seem to be better constituted to achieve a person’s rationally selfish long-term happiness.

Interview on Swinging with Terry Gould

by Jason Stotts

I recently found a very interesting interview with Terry Gould, author of the book The Lifestyle: A Look at the Erotic Rites of Swingers.  His book is considered one of the most in-depth and honest accounts of the swinging community, from what I can gather in reviews and statements by people actually in that community.  I haven’t actually read the book yet, but after reading the interview, I think I will be getting it soon.  The interview was conducted by Kasidie Magazine, the official face of one of the larger swinging website Kasidie.com.

Kasidie: I often feel that a lot of this fear of swingers comes from a belief that swingers are going to somehow corrupt the rest of society. As if we’re trying to force our lifestyle on others… which has not been my experience.

Terry Gould: The swinger subculture is basically set up as a conservative institution. The misconception of the lifestyle by the straight world is that it’s just a vehicle for men to have sex with other women while their wives come along. But that’s not what it’s about at all. If it were about that, it would not have grown by such leaps & bounds over the last 20 years, penetrating all ends of the continent and Europe and Australia and doubling and tripling in numbers. Most people use it to spice up their own marriages. Most people will tell you that it wouldn’t be as exciting to just to go to these clubs alone to have mechanical sex with a stranger. They wouldn’t consider it a lifestyle if that was the case.

Kasidie: Your book talks a lot about women and their sexual “power”. I think you used the term “the insatiable female”. You said that a lot of our society’s sexual stigmas stem from fearing the full sexual potential of women.

Terry Gould: At some level most men believe that their wives could behave very licentiously if given the opportunity to do so, and that’s why there’s jealousy and fear. Everything inside us comes down to us from millions of years of natural selection and evolution. If a biological trait served some purpose it stayed with us. If it didn’t serve a purpose it left us. One of the traits that women have is the ability to have multiple orgasms. Some women can have fifty orgasms.

Kasidie: I know some of those women!

Terry Gould: [laughs] Right, so why is that? Why does man have one orgasm at a time and women can have a train of them? There’s a postulate that at some point in our evolutional history were receptive to more than one partner. When you look at the biology of sperm, you discover that only 1% are design to fertilize the egg. So at some point in our past history, sperm were competing in the women and may the best man win. So at this time there was no such thing as natural female monogamy. There was no chastity belt that nature provided women and men were very aware of that. So they stayed near them to keep other men away so they could be sure that the child she bore was his. So this is why we have all these rules and male dominance today, because men didn’t want to end up raising someone else’s child.

Kasidie: So what is the inherent danger that people feel from swingers? Why the animosity?

Terry Gould: Well, it goes something like this: If people have control of their own sexuality, then that means they’re not under the control of society. From 6000 years ago we’ve had a controlling caste of rulers priests and scribes. The rulers are close to god, the priests sanctify their relationship with god, and the scribes write it all down in the text. The main preoccupation of these religious texts are sex. It’s like a relationship of a mafia boss to people on his block. He says to them: “You’ve done something wrong! I can punish you for it… but if you pay me I can speak to the big boss and he’ll absolve you of it.” So you have this relationship where sex is wrong. There’s a wrong way to have sex and a right way… and the right way is with one spouse, only in a certain way, and only for procreation. If you did it the wrong way, it means you’ve sinned and are going to hell. But you could get absolution from the rulers, priests and scribes if you paid them. People from the beginning of time were condemned to sin again and again and again.

Kasidie: So all this fuss about sex basically stems from a big money scam?

Terry Gould: People were told they couldn’t do something they had to do. Then they had to get absolution of their sin and were therefore constantly beholden to the very people who set these rules. So it was a perfect way to control everyone. And this still happens today, right down to our liberate world. When you walk in the supermarket you go down a virtual tunnel of popular magazines where all you see are all the nearly naked movie stars. Their sex lives emblazoned and celebrated on the covers yet when you turn to the advice columns inside, they tell us we should act in the exact opposite manner.

You can find the full interview here.  I recommend reading it in its entirety, it’s quite fascinating.
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Big Brother Disclaimer: if you click on the book link and purchase it, I will get some small amount of money.

A Response by Swingers

Note: This response was written by the couple who were so kind to answer the questions for “An Interview with Swingers” and it is a response to my recent essay “Swinging: A Different Perspective.” They are writing under the pseudonyms Wendy and Stan to protect their anonymity. ~ J.S.

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I am the female half of the swinging couple interviewed on Jason’s blog, and wanted to respond to his Swinging: A Different Perspective essay. For clarity, I’ll call myself Wendy and my partner Stan. We both considered swinging before we even met, but had never done it before. We also talked about swinging after our first sexual experience with each other, and started looking for clubs and Internet sites the next day. We were still in the giddy, every thing is new and fun stage, so I strongly disagree that one must be tired of their partner to swing or even feel the excitement when someone new plays with them. The “gradual slacking off of interest [in one’s partner]” is certainly not necessary to swing. It is true that ‘the excitement from watching someone else enjoy your partner’ effect happens, but I question whether it is a major motivator for most people in the lifestyle. I would also argue that this effect is present for many vanilla couples in non-swinging circumstances too.

For example, I enjoy going out to nice restaurants with Stan. When we make a date for just the two of us I love taking a long bath, doing my hair and make up, and wearing something I feel sexy in. Men (and sometimes women) will often check me out in public, and that feels good. I like it and Stan likes it; however that is not my major motivation to go out or even get dressed up. I get dressed up for myself, for Stan, and to show respect for the nice restaurant we are attending. I see the attention as just a nice side effect, and the same goes with swinging. Just enjoying this effect is not immoral, but making it the reason to dress up and go out would be.

I also want to challenge your iPod analogy. I realize you were exaggerating when you said you thought that the iPod would cure cancer, but I understand your point. I think many people do have unrealistic expectations of a particular devise or more often a life change. How many times have you heard or said, “If I only lost 50 pounds” or “If only I found the right person” or “If I only had a better job”? People will often find a token problem to be their scapegoat to avoid harder to face problems. And of course this is an extreme example of your iPod analogy, but I think it is the same basic case of having unrealistic expectations. I’m not saying I didn’t get excited when I got my new laptop, but I knew it was only going to provide certain services and just some of which I’d use. Yes, people can perceive the wanted and unattained to have a larger impact than they actually do, but I don’t think this is inevitable. In fact, it should probably be avoided. And just because some one gets excited about a new gadget, and then loses interest in it over time, does not mean they had unrealistic expectations to begin with.

It is certainly true that some percentage of swingers join the lifestyle or continue in the lifestyle for the effect outlined in Swinging: A Different Perspective, but there are also many other questionable reasons why people choose swinging. It is important to remember almost any activity can be done for the wrong reasons. If some people immorally drink alcohol to avoid reality, it does not mean most people who drink have the same motivation. I think it’s fair to say drinking can be done quite morally. No one is going to try and claim that everyone who swings does so for enlightened, well considered, and logical reasons. I know Jason is reserving his moral judgment on this issue for now, but I would urge not to take arguments that highlight specific irrational behaviors and generalize them as problems with the lifestyle.

Swinging: A Different Perspective

by Jason Stotts

I’ve been planning to write a detailed essay on swinging and its moral implications for some time now. Unfortunately this is not that essay. It is, however, a detailed look at one important aspect of swinging and one reason why I think that some people find so much value in it.

For most swingers, one of the values of swinging is a better sex life for the couple. There are the obvious reasons for this like the techniques and skills they can learn from having different partners, but it also arises from some less obvious causes. The one I want to address here is the difference in perspective a couple gets from swinging.

We all remember how wonderful the first days of falling in love are: how new everything is, how much there is to learn, and so much to do. Your first sexual experience with a new partner is very similar and flows from excitement of the yet unknown.

Before I proceed, let me draw an analogy to pretty much anything that can be owned. For my analogy, let me use my iPod Touch. Before I got it, it was the coolest thing in the world and I was pretty sure that it would change my life; hell, perhaps I even thought it would cure cancer. When I first got it, I played with it endlessly and tried out everything that I could think of. After a while, I found out what worked for me and pretty much left the rest of it alone. Then I started to use it less and only used it for things that only it could do, like listening to podcasts in my car, etc. As I became more used to it, my interest waned and my fascination faded until all of my excitement was gone and it was simply a useful device for me. In short, I no longer thought it could cure cancer.

Now, this analogy is great in some respects and horrible in others. It demonstrates the general stages that someone goes through with relationships, but horrible in that this digression is not necessary because humans are not static devices and can change and develop as time goes on.

What changes is your perspective on the device. It’s not that it had functions {a,…,z} when it first came out and now only has {a,…,k}. Rather, through ignorance and excitement, you imbued characteristics that it did not have and could not have had. As you gained knowledge about it and found out about the true thing, and not simply what you wanted it to be, a conflict developed between what you thought it was going to be and what it actually was. While this could perhaps have been avoided by not getting excited in the first place, it’s a typical human response and not one that I think it would be wise to quell. So, how do you deal with this problem?

One thing that always makes me appreciate my iPod is when I realized I have a true need for it. For example, when I go on a drive and can’t listen to podcasts, I get really annoyed and realize how valuable my iPod is. The lack of my iPod changes my perspective on it. We see this too with relationships where people tend to take each other for granted, until there is some threat (like them leaving) and then they realize how important their partner is to them. While this is not psychologically healthy, it is very common.

Another thing that makes me appreciate my iPod is when I am around people who have never seen one before or had the chance to play with one and are excited to play with mine. This makes me remember my own excitement about my Touch and makes me excited about it all over again. It changes my perspective from being used to it and it being passé, to one where it’s novel and interesting again. I am able to use them to gain an outside perspective and thereby rekindle my interest. This, to return the analogy to reality, is exactly what I think happens with swingers.

When swingers “play” with a couple, they are able to experience their partner as a novel partner: they gain an external perspective on their partner that is one of excitement and novelty. They are effectively able to have their first time with their partner over again through changing their perspective. Another person lusting after your partner makes you lust after your partner: you share in their excitement. I think this idea of gaining an outside perspective is one of the major motivators for swinging for most people and the source of their claim that it makes sex with their own partner better.

I’m going to defer until later the issues of whether this is moral or desirable. I’m also going to defer the question of whether this kind of gradual slacking off of interest is necessary or whether it is indicative of a problem in the relationship. I think these are both really interesting lines of questions and I plan to address them some time soon. However, it is always best to understand one’s subject fully before passing judgment and until I come to a fuller understanding of swinging, I’ll reserve my judgment.