The purpose of this page is just to answer questions you might have, give you some general information and just a bunch of info that you might be interested in. If you ever have something to add, we'd be glad to add it in. Take from the page what you like and we hope you find it interesting.

 

How did Swinging get started?

As far as anyone knows, swinging (as this community exists today, in the United States) had its roots amongst an elite group of U.S. Air Force fighter pilots during World War II. These men were wealthy enough to move their wives close to base, and the fact that their fatality rate was the highest of any branch of service led to an unusual social milieu in which non-monogamy between these pilots' wives and other pilots became acceptable. These arrangements persisted near Air Force bases throughout World War II and into the Korean War. By the time the Korean War ended, these groups had spread from the bases to the nearby suburbs.

The media picked up on them in 1957 and promptly dubbed the phenomenon ``wife-swapping.'' Although the media didn't treat this new phenomenon respectfully, the public's response made it clear that they wanted to hear more. By 1960, there were over 20 widely-available magazines which carried ``swinger'' ads. These magazines provided a medium through which the first swinger parties could advertise themselves, and the first permanent clubs began appearing in the late 1960's.10 Organized swinging outside California was originally all ``off-premise.'' This was also true for New York until the legendary on-premise club ``Plato's Retreat'' was founded; in the South, Midwest, and Northwest, dances remained the most popular form of off-premise swinging. All of these clubs were completely independent entities and there were no national gatherings.

Dr. Robert McGinley founded the Lifestyles Organization in 1975, through which he began hosting the first national Lifestyles Conventions along with his first efforts to improve the public image of swinging. He subsequently founded the North American Swing Club Association (NASCA) in 1979, with the intent that NASCA serve as a trade and standards organization for swing club owners. The swinger's community continued to grow throughout the 1980's and 1990's, and is currently enjoying an upsurge of interest and growth. Although single women are almost always welcome at today's swinging events, the degree to which single men are accepted varies from club to club. Although female bisexuality is common in the swing community, male bisexual activity is still almost non-existent at swing events.

 

What is the difference between Swinging and Polyamory?

There is an increasing amount of crossover between poly communities and swing communities, and every participant and local community is different. What follows is my best attempt to characterize some general tendencies that (in my observation, and at this point in time) seem to distinguish these two communities. These are my personal observations and characterizations of general tendencies that I have noticed locally, they not rules, and there are always exceptions. In my experience, it is the swing community's emphasis on sex as a social and recreational activity between couples, together with the paramount importance they place on protecting the existing relationship within each participating couple, that distinguishes it from the poly cultures I have encountered. Forming ``triads,'' ``quartets,'' or any other arrangement where the new relationship bonds are of the same strength and priority as one's primary relationship, is common in the poly community but rare in the swing community. Likewise, regular participation in group sex is a fundamental characteristic of the swing community that is comparatively rare in the poly community. Finally, some of the modern poly community's current cultural influences (i.e. internet culture, science fiction conventions and fandom, and neo-paganism) have far less prominence in the swing community.

 

What Swingers are thinking:

A 1985 study of over 400 swingers found its subjects ``significantly more liberal than a control group of nonswingers on items dealing with areas such as divorce, premarital sex, pornography, homosexuality [emphasis mine], and abortion'' [13]. This result is consistent with a much later and larger study [3], which found the swingers in its (internet-based) sample to be ``less racist, less sexist, and less heterosexist than the general population.''31 A poll taken at the Lifestyles 1996 Convention found that 92% of the respondents (presumably, almost all of whom were active in the lifestyle) believed that swingers ``should'' be using condoms [9]. This is consistent with a study completed four years earlier (see [13]) which found that 62% of the swingers in its sample had changed their behavior as a result of AIDS.

 

What the Non-Swingers believe about Swingers:

In 1985, Jenks found that non-swingers (inaccurately) believed swingers were mostly political liberals who identified as upper class. Non-swingers also were of the belief that most swingers were excessive drinkers or use illegal drugs.

 

What is attractive about Swinging:

Here are some of the reasons that swingers have mentioned in surveys (paraphrased, in some cases):

- Variety of sexual partners and experiences

- Pleasure and excitement

- Increased social life

- Watching others so as to learn new techniques for your spouse

- Overcoming sexual inhibitions

- ``Recapturing one's youth''

- Feeling reassured that you're still attractive and desirable

- Increasing mutual attraction and love within the marriage

- It's an opportunity to re-create that ``first date'' feeling of anticipation and excitement, in a safe way that won't harm your marriage, and to exercise social skills (e.g. flirting) that you may not have used in along time.

- It's human nature to appreciate someone even more if you notice other people desiring them, which may explain why swinging makes me feel even more attracted to my partner.

- Although this may vary slightly from club to club, I've found the swinging community to be quite accepting of a wide variety of body types, sizes, ages, and shapes.

- It's an opportunity to dress sexy or [in the case of on-premise parties] to go completely nude. It's an opportunity for people with healthy sex drives to have that aspect of themselves appreciated rather than snickered about.

- It's an opportunity to socialize and form friendships amongst people who are comfortable talking about sex openly.

 

Etiquette and Tips:

``The Big Secret'' Swinging is primarily a social activity, and the ordinary social customs of being courteous, initiating conversation, getting to know people, and letting trusted acquaintances become friends are no different from any other walk of life. Put another way, it's your ability to form friendships with couples, as a couple, that will ultimately determine the quality of your experience in the swing community.

 

What Sorts of Issues Should My Partner and I Work Out Ahead of Time?

- It's important that you and your partner be comfortable saying ``yes'' when you both want to say yes and ``no'' when one of you wants to say no.

- It's important for you and your partner to be in agreement on whatever your safer sex expectations might be: although I have never run into a situation where a request to use a condom was put down in any way, and condom use is certainly widespread, it is not universal and is rarely required as part of a club's rules.

- If you have friends at a particular club, then you'll probably want to attend your first few parties with them so they can introduce you to everyone else.

- Some swingers prefer not to be around when their partner is having sex with someone else (``closed swinging''), others may prefer or insist on it (``open swinging''), some will only go as far as heavy petting and switch back to their partner for any actual sex (``soft swinging''), and 10% don't swing at all and are simply there to socialize and enjoy the fun-loving and sexy environment.

- If one of you likes the idea of being in a more sex-positive environment but is still intimidated by the thought of actual sex outside your relationship, then the two of you might want to agree on a softer style (e.g. ``soft swinging'' or ``just socialize and enjoy the environment'') and stick with that for a while.

 

What do people usually wear?

- At off-premise events such as dances, it's common for people to dress up or wear fairly sexy clothing.
- Dress at on-premise events tends to be more casual, since nudity is a common outcome of the evening for many. It's a good idea to bring a robe or kimono so you don't have to put all your clothes back on after getting undressed. It's also good to avoid small or expensive jewelry that might get lost.
- If it's a theme party, then try to follow the theme.

 

What if I feel left out?

- There's a community adage that ``the more enthusiastic member of a couple will get the couple into swinging, but the less enthusiastic partner will keep them there.'' As Carol Queen puts it:

- The swing community has noticed another prevalent dynamic in couples where one partner, more often than not the man, has more enthusiasm than the other. He has had terrific fantasies about freewheeling sex and plenty of it, and he finally convinces his initially reluctant partner to give swinging a try. When they get to the party, she has a great time and is high demand, while he thinks the party's a dud... Before you pack up your sexy outfit and fistful of condoms, take some time to consider and negotiate how you will deal with the chagrin of the less popular partner if such a dismaying event happens to you.

- Obviously, this fear might be alleviated by choosing (at least initially) to only swing together as a couple.

 

What are some tips for ON-PREMISE Events?

- Since you may have the opportunity to get physically close with one or more folks during the course of the evening, it's probably a good idea to take a shower, brush your teeth, and (if necessary) shave before showing up. If you like to use your fingers as part of sex, then you might want to clip your fingernails.

- Even if you're a regular, it's usually polite to make a reservation, and cancel your reservation if you can't make it.

- In the context of swinging, ``couples'' need not be married. It's expected, however, that they have at least a little history together, a basic familiarity with each others' emotional needs, and be comfortable approaching others as a ``couple.''34 It's unwise, however, to bring someone (specifically, someone other than your partner) who has no interest in swinging but who is willing to attend as a favor to get you in the door; such attendees are called ``tickets,'' and this practice isn't looked upon favorably.

- If someone declines an invitation, it's considered rude to pester them with ``Well, why not?''

- If you are part of a couple, then be sure you arrive together as a couple.

- If you need to have a serious relationship discussion or argument with your partner, it's considered polite to do so away from the party in a more private area.

- The tradition at some on-premise clubs is for one of the larger rooms to be designated the ``group room.'' Depending on the club, some rules of etiquette may be slightly relaxed in this room: in other words, it might be assumed OK for someone to touch you unless/until you say no. Clubs that hold orientations for new members usually mention this as part of their orientation.

- Opening closed doors to bedroom areas and just staring at whatever is going on is usually considered rude (note: on a related subject, some clubs have rules against men being in certain areas of the building without their partners).

- Using alcohol to excess is a bad idea, especially if you or your partner are just getting into swinging.

 

Male Bisexuality

I would like to begin by saying this: in the time I have spent in the swing community, I have never heard so much as one comment that I would characterize as homophobic. David Schisgall, when asked about homophobia at the Seattle premiere of The Lifestyle: Swinging in America, reported exactly the same thing. Furthermore, as was noted earlier, several independent studies have found swingers to be less homophobic than the general population. However, when asked about the reason for the utter lack of male bisexual activity at swing parties, Schisgall's best explanation was that, rather than being the result of overt homophobia, it was simply ``not part of the culture.''

My personal assessment is similar. Nevertheless, as was suggested by the City Attorney's comments following Phoenix's decision to close all of its swing clubs, as well as by the positive response Dr. McGinley received when arguing that the LSO's struggle against the California ABC was similar to the struggle for gay liberation, there may be tremendous value in the swing community being able to more systematically align themselves with other sexual minorities. If NASCA took a sexual orientation anti-discrimination stance similar to their stance against racism, they might create a prime opportunity to begin forging productive new alliances.

 

Female Bisexuality:

In 1984, Dr. Joan Dixon [6] published some fascinating research on female bisexuality within the swing community. Summarizing:


- She noted that the prevalence of sexual activity between females in the swing community is extraordinarily high.

- She assembled (apparently without difficulty) a sample of 50 women for her study, all of whom had their first experience with female-female sex in the swing community after age 30, and none of whom even fantasized about women before these first experiences.

- Her study found that ``the generally positive reactions of these subjects to their first sexual experience with other females after a lifetime of strict heterosexuality ... progressed through repeated experience to an overwhelming general rating of excellent,'' that the ``percentage of those whose masturbatory fantasies at times included other females as erotic sex objects rose from 4.5% to 61%,'' and that every one of the women in her study now self-identified as bisexual.

- This suggests the swing community might be a stunning example of the impact ``social facilitation'' can have on adult sexual behavior, preference, and identity.

 

Clubs, Conferences and Resources:

- An up-to-date directory of swing clubs can be found on the NASCA web site at www.nasca.com. If there isn't a NASCA-affiliated club in your area, then you'll probably want to search for independent clubs. More information on the annual Lifestyles Convention is available at www.lifestyles.org

- Information on a brand new organization, the ``Trade Association for Lifestyle Organizations,'' is available at www.theila.org. In contrast to NASCA, which at this point in time largely focuses on producing their annual swing club directories, TAFLO intends to engage in media outreach, coordinate pro-lifestyle political activism, and offer support and services to swing club owners.

- If you're interested in swinging and want to learn more, then you should read Gould's The Lifestyle: A Look at the Erotic Rites of Swingers as well as Easton and Liszt's The Ethical Slut, and finish by watching the documentary The Lifestyle: Swinging in America.

- The ACLU came to the aid of the Lifestyles Organization during their 1996-1997 struggle, and can be considered an ally on many swing community issues; more information on joining the ACLU is available at www.aclu.org