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The Swinging Paradigm
The evolution of consensual non-monogamy
The Swinging Paradigm: Are All swingers FreakyDeviant Predators?
“So, you hang out with swingers, so what are they like?”
A friend that was familiar with my research on swinging asked me that question not long ago.
“What are “they” like? What do you mean, “they”?” I retorted…
“Well, aren’t “they” weird? I bet “they” have orgies all the time and can’t get enough of screwing each other…”
My friend’s perception of swinging and swingers isn’t much different from that of other non-swingers I have met throughout the years. The idea that swinging is a never-ending orgy of sweaty bodies oozing bodily fluids is alive and well in our society. Moreover, the idea that swinging is part of a deviant, liberal plot devised to corrupt the morals of the country and bring civilization to perdition is alive and well and far too often endorsed by the popular media. I have heard people equate swingers with “those weirdoes that are featured on the Springer show”. Last year, in The Dr. Phil Show, swingers were portrayed as individuals whose relationships were in shambles and had resorted to “cheating” (or swinging) as a last attempt to save a moribund marriage. Of course, the good Dr. had a therapeutic fool-proof solution: to put a stop to this deviant behaviour and save the sanctity of the marriage bed it was necessary for these misguided people to put a complete stop to this dysfunctional behaviour…I was initially invited to participate in that show but politely declined, for obvious reasons…
In any case, lets get back to my friend’s initial query. “Who are swingers and what are they like?”. Individuals and organizations in popular culture and scientific communities have attempted to answer that question, both with a particular bias that shapes their evaluation. Swinger-friendly reports tend to show swinging in the best light possible, popular media shows the vagaries and pitfalls of swinging while the scientific/research community, which has little contact with the swinging community, really doesn’t have a clue either way.
So, let me answer the question based on in depth, scientific research I have conducted on the Lifestyle in the last several years.
Firstly, swingers are just like anyone else. They are like you and me, our friends, our neighbours and co-workers, team mates or club friends, some are doctors, others cars mechanics, cops, nurses, physicians, librarians, politicians, accountants (yes, even those…), clergy and devout religious people, hairdressers and military; in a nutshell, swingers are not a special breed of individuals that display a membership mark that identifies them to others as “different”. Oh yes, there’s something that distinguishes swingers from everyone else in our society and that something is an open attitude towards relationship commitment and sexuality in general.
The following is a snap shot of “who” and “what” of swingers. From my experience it seems to be in line with most swingers I have met in the last twenty years. OK, here we go!
The demographic profile of the swingers suggests that they white for the most part, between 36 and 55 years of age, mostly college educated, married for at least 11 to 20 years, and with an average household income between $40,000 and $200,000. Many professions and occupations were represented from blue-collar and white-collar workers to individuals with advanced professional degrees. Some were self-employed; others worked in public organizations such as health facilities and educational institutions. The demographic findings of this study parallel, for the most part, those of previous studies.
The men in my two studies were, for the most, heterosexual, although about 20 percent did consider themselves bisexual. I know that this will come a shock to you, the reader, but there are bisexual males among the swinging masses. The majority of the women considered themselves bi-curious, with a small minority fancying themselves a pure bisexual. As we all know, for the most part female bisexuality is accepted within the swinging lifestyle; however, male bisexuality is discouraged and not welcomed. I suggest that perhaps one of the reasons why women are attracted to swinging is the opportunity to express their bisexuality in a safe and accepting environment.
Most of the swingers in my sample were married or cohabiting, the great majority had been in a relationship for well over ten years, and for most this was their first marriage. A small number had been married more than once and there were no apparent differences between men and women in the length of and frequency of marriage. Most had been swinging anywhere between three years and 12 years, which suggests that swinging, overall, adds to the longevity of the marital relationship.
Since swingers are often characterized as having a more permissive attitude towards sexuality, a characteristic often associated with individuals who hold liberal social views, one would expect the swingers would be more "liberal" in their social and political affiliations. But now, hold on….my data suggests swingers’ political views that run the gamut of the political spectrum. It seems that swingers are not a politically homogenous group. Rather, swingers hold disparate political ideology, from social conservatism to liberalism and socialism with a certain percentage holding no political views at all. However, interesting to note that of all political categories Republicans held the majority! Remember that when you watch your favourite republican politician go on and on about “family values”. Who knows, he/she could be a fellow swinger.
Perhaps my findings are counter-intuitive since Conservative individuals espouse strict sexual morality and monogamy, which contrasts the non- monogamous sexual behaviour of swingers.
Now, I was also interested in finding out just how religious the swingers in my study professed to be. Well, the swingers in my studies reported being somewhat religious, about a quarter of the respondents claiming to have no religious affiliation at all. It appears that swingers' religious affiliation do not interfere with their willingness to engage in the swinging lifestyle. Religiosity may not be associated with monogamy when it comes to this lot!.
Following my friend’s interest about swingers, I decided to find out where “they” lived. For the most part swingers live in urban and metropolitan communities with populations between 500,000 and 1,000,000 people. But swingers are no longer restricted to urban communities, it seems that they have migrated to suburbia and even rural communities as well. About one-fourth of the respondents reported living either in a rural setting or in a community with less then 50,000 people.
It seems that since swingers have become part of mainstream society and are indistinguishable from other individuals in the general population they could be your next door neighbours or a co-worker.
The Swinging Experience
In my studies I also explored how swingers felt towards their swinging activities, and what made them decide to take this step into the realm of “deviant” society. As I mention before herein, it had been suggested that swingers were mostly middle-aged men that subjugated their apathetic wives into the fiendish world of sexual “sick” fantasies and depravity.
Thus, I was interested in finding out, from a research perspective, what prompted an individual couples to enter the swinging lifestyle. In addition, what happens once an individual/couple starts swinging? Well, it seems that the vast majority of the people in my studies reported entering into the swinging lifestyle at the suggestion of the couple's male partner (those horny husbands…). About two-thirds of the men reported having suggested swinging to their female partner. Less than one-forth of the women admitted to having done so. Knowing the rationale for an individual's involvement in the swinging lifestyle contributes to an overall understanding of the swinging experience. Also, the most cited reason given by both men and women for continuing with their swinging lifestyle was firstly pure sexual variety, sexual enjoyment and personal fantasy. Regarding common swinging sexual activities, most individuals reported engaging in partner swapping and group sex activities. However, a small number of the respondents reported never swapping partners. There are always voyeurs in the crowd, I guess.
Other sexual activities involved woman-on-woman sex, but the most reported sexual activity in both studies was….are you ready?....sure you are?...ready…? Man-woman-Man threesomes. I guess the ladies do get all the attention.
The majority of the people that participated in my studies reported enjoying their swinging experience. There was no difference between the levels of swinging satisfaction of men and women.
By the way, my in my studies I also found that for the most part swingers are very happy in their marriages and find their marriage partners able to satisfy them sexually…
Let me finished by suggesting that all of the information contained in both my studies was plenty enough to answer my friend’s questions. No, I didn’t make him sit as read from this treatise, I just told him the gist of it.
Although there is still a strong societal disapproval of swinging and a belief that swingers have unsatisfactory marriages and are unhappy with their primary relationships, there is no evidence to support such a claim. My research suggests that perhaps we are witnessing a new social paradigm regarding the dynamics of marriage and consensual extra-marital sex. It is possible that swinging is bringing about a re-definition of marriage and a change in the traditional expectation of marital monogamy. Future research on this topic is warranted and necessary to understand the changing dynamics of marital relationships.
The History of the Vibrator
“While the electromechanical vibrator was invented by Dr. Joseph Mortimer Granville in sometime in the late 1800s, a steam-powered vibrator, called “The Manipulator,” was invented in 1869 by American physician George Taylor.”
“You just have to go and see this play, I’m quite sure you’ll love it, after all, it’s right up your alley…”. I received this message from a good friend of mine a few weeks ago; she was talking about a play called “In The Next Room (or the vibrator play)” by Sarah Ruhl. As the title suggests this was a play about the use, in the mid-nineteenth century, of an instrument designed to relieve hysterical symptoms in women and men; and you guessed, it was the first electricity-powered vibrator. The play itself was humorous, lively, and full of innuendos and double entendres, with a final scene that included full nudity and a fake blowjob, that took us back to a time when sexual pleasure was taboo, and self-pleasuring became the escape of those in need of sexual release.
So, I started to think, just how many people really know anything about the history of that famous (or infamous) instrument of pleasure, the vibrator? Nowadays, we take it for granted that vibrators are easily and readily available. There are many kinds, many shapes and sizes designed to explore the nooks and crannies of waiting vaginas and anal cavities, from the high-capacity nuke voltage of the Sybian’s 6900 rpm, to the heavy buzzing of the Magic Wand, the double duty of the Jack Rabbit, the vaginal bullets and the ever reliable pocket rocket. If it buzzes and makes you cum, we have a type for you! But, back to the history of the vibrator…. Once upon a time, many, many eons ago, women did have orgasms: at least society tried to tell them they didn’t; and if they did experience any type of pleasure from sexual congress they were told that there was something wrong with them, that they should stop enjoying whatever it was that brought them sexual pleasure since that was a sign of nymphomania or worse mental disorder (only women of ill repute and prostitutes did it…). Thus, women developed strange anxiety disorders that rendered them “neurotic”, and in more extreme cases hysterical, and in need of treatment (footnote: the term “hysterical” comes form the Greek “hysteria” that means uterus; hysterical women were believed to have a traveling uterus that rendered them incapacitated and susceptible to unmanageable emotional disorders).
To make a long story short, physicians, quacks, and healers come up strange techniques and contraptions that brought about relief from these hysterical symptoms by allowing the patient to experience some sort of physical release (what was then called "hysterical paroxysm", and we nowadays call it orgasm…).
Thus enter the “pelvic massage”. As the name suggests, it was a massage technique designed to “massage” the area of the body responsible for all hysterical “malfunction”: the procedure was a daily event, the physician place the patient in a medical table and covered the patient’s body with a sheet; then he would insert one or two fingers inside the vaginal canal and massage the pelvis from the inside bringing about symptomatic relief, usually accompanied by some sort of fluid discharge (probably the “cause” of the hysteria…). Talk about find the G spot before there was one, to say nothing of inducing female ejaculation before it’s time…but, back to the vibrator. Not sure if it was because physicians arms and writs would get tired or they were starting to develop carpel tunnel syndrome during pelvic massaging, someone thought that if there were a machine that could do the job of the hand and the fingers, this would be a very good thing.
Enter in the middle 18th century and an apparatus called the Tremoussoir, a wind-up French invention that not only carried a proud and promising name but also promised some sort of relief for the doctor’s tired hands and wrist and quite thrilling to the patient. This instrument could be considered a “rubbing” machine, massaging the outer regions of the pelvic region (the pussy…).
Towards the middle of the 19th century, Georges Taylor developed an instrument appropriately named the “Manipulator”, the first actual vibrator per se. And as the name suggests, it certainly did manipulate all of those vaginas into a state of bliss. Except that, there was a small draw back; the instrument was steam driven (talk about a steamy “hot-pussy”…). The Manipulator consisted of a large table, from which protruded a ball that was connected to a drive train powered by a steam engine placed in an adjacent room. The contraption actually resembled some of today’s more powerful and intricate power tool sex machines (the piston types). The problem with the Manipulator: not portable, high cost, erratic, and susceptible to water shortages and leaky pipes, all of which could impair the users ability to reach nirvana at the drop of a dime, or sound of a steam whistle (not like today’s’ pocket rocket, the “jack of all trades” and a great companion of mine, guaranteed to lend a buzzing hand when a quickie is in order...).
However, it was John Mortimer that patented the first electric vibrator (the hero in the play mentioned above); and he, more than anyone else, changed the course of women’s orgasmic history by conquering hysteria and restoring women to the dignity of acceptable orgasms. Soon, portable, portable electric vibrators were everywhere. They were advertised in magazines such as Sears, Women’s Home Companion (there’s a pun in here, somewhere…), Needlecraft, because everyone knows that there’s nothing like a good orgasm or two when you knitting or doing needle point, and these vibrators were advertised as “massager” and thus an acceptable instrument designed to bring about “muscle” relief (lest people think of other more nefarious usages for these instruments of muscle relief).
And before we knew the Sixties were upon us; cordless vibrators were everywhere, at the campsite, the supermarket, the car, the kitchen, the office, the bank, the lecture hall, the rock concert (I’m sure Woodstock was humming with more than the sounds of music…). Finally, we arrived at today’s Vibratorland, the Shangri-La of electric sexual bliss, the utopia of penetrating and pulsating vibrations, and to the ultimate orgasmic apparatus, the Sybian. Interesting, that the Sybian is very much like a combination of the Tremoussoir and the Manipulator, except on “steroids” (meaning, unheard of high RPMs…). And so we go, hummming and hummming, rotating, penetrating, gyrating, pulsating, listening for the wet sounds of vaginal fluids flowing and dripping, listening to the screams of pleasure and shouts of ecstasy of those liberated women that dare have an orgasm through electricity; how quaint, how natural, and damn hot if you ask me….
Perhaps, the lesson is that the more things change the more they remain the same.
Wish you all good vibrations, get in your car and vibrate along in your automobile…..if you have a change, check out the play!
Fantasies of Erotic Encounters: Double Occupancy
“I have thought about It, often…” said the woman sitting next to me at the bar of the Couples’ Club, “but I’m not sure, really…how feasible is it? It seems complicated, too much going on, too many things can go wrong…plus my husband doesn’t seem to be too keen on it…but I would love to give it a try, at least once, a girlfriend of mine told me that she did it and it was fantastic…”
Her name was Judy, and the conversation had started innocuous enough, we were chatting about the fantasies and realities of sex in the context of the Lifestyle when the topic of “double penetration” sort of came up (no pun intended….). She asked me what sort of sexual fantasies had I realized through swinging and I mentioned that I had once engaged in DP situation, something that I had fantasized about, and that I had enjoyed it tremendously.
“So, this situation you talk about, did it just sort of happened or was it planned?” she asked.
“Well, my dear, perhaps I better tell you the whole story…” I grinned.
“I’m all ears, go for it… entice me…”, she said with a smile, while sipping her white wine.
“OK, you asked for it” I retorted with a devilish grin on my face. I had told the story countless times and the results had always been interesting.
It all started at the annual Halloween party put on by a friend of ours. Let me set the scenario. The house was designed as a party house since they were true wealthy lifestylers, and did entertain quite often; there were six theme rooms including a mirrored sex swing room, a large party room in the basement with plush carpeting, a large screen TV played sex tapes non-stop, and several leather couches sprinkled about provided for a comfortable and sexy atmosphere. There was an outdoor hot tub that fit 12 couples, and a deck lounging area.
In any case, at this particular part I was hanging out with a friend of mine, Danny, a short Irishman with a cock as thick as a bat and a smile to match. Him and his wife were frequent visitors so we knew them well. A new couple came in and was introduced to the rest of the group. There were about fifteen couples present by then, I paid little attention to the newcomers since I was engaged in an animated conversation with Danny.
Later on we saw them go downstairs to the TV room downstairs and Danny and I followed them. The woman (found out her name was Alice) was standing near of the sofas, staring intensively at the “action” taking place on the screen. Alice was a rather slender woman; she was wearing a dress probably more fitting for a librarian than a swinger (I found out that this was her first swingers’ event…a newbie). On the screen two men were ravishing a woman, their hands and mouths were all over her body, meanwhile she alternate between the two of them, taking their cocks in her mouth, rubbing, kissing….
“Are you enjoying the ‘view?’” I asked as I stood behind Alice, my hands resting on her shoulders.
“Very much” She whispered shyly.
By now Danny was standing next to her running his fingers up and down her arm in a playful manner. She grabbed his hand and squeezed it tight. The action on the screen had progressed to a full DP, both men were moving in unison in and out of the woman’s pussy and ass. I felt her gasp. I put my arms around her waist and whispered in her ear “Have you ever done that before?”
“No”, she replied…”…but I would love to…”
“Well, perhaps we can help you with that…”
As things turned out, before long Danny and I were exploring Alice, while Alice was exploring both of us… we were lost in a sea of passion, both of us pleasing her, caressing her, kissing every inch of her body; and finally we were both inside of her, moving in and out just the men on the screen. Now, I have to tell you, it had been a long time since I saw anyone cum as hard and often as Alice did. She made this sort of throaty noise when she came, sort of a long, strained grunt of pleasure while she grabbed both of our cocks with the muscles of both her openings…and she kept cuming and grunting, and grunting and cumming… and when we finally couldn’t hold back any longer she matched or orgasms with a final squeeze of her insides…till there wasn’t much left of either of us, squeezed to the last drop, you could say.
By this point I was watching the reaction that my story had of my chat companion, Judy. She kept crossing a legs and rubbing them together has though she was trying to prevent something from creeping into her crotch, her hands moved in a rhythmic fashion over her thighs as if she was caressing herself….
”And, what did she say after all of that?” she asked.
“Well, I found out that not only was this her first swinging experience, it was also her first DP experience and her first anal experience. Talk about a night of firsts…” I joked.
“You really got me going with your story…..I do want to try it now…sometime… but it has to be with someone I trust…it’s important to me….”
“Well, let me know if I can be of some help…”
Judy squeezed my hand and moved on. “I better go find my husband…he must be wondering what I’m up to…”
I saw Judy a few times since our conversation, not sure if she did ever followed through on her fantasy , but let me assure you, she would be someone I wouldn’t mind sharing double occupancy with….
Women, Swinging, and Seduction
“My wife wants to drop out of swinging and instead have an open relationship…” announced a good friend of mine over a glass of Chardonnay when we met at the bar.
He had asked to meet with me to discuss a matter of “great importance,” as he put it in our brief phone conversation. “So, what is going on?” I asked. I had known both him and his wife socially for a few years now albeit we had never taken our friendship into the sexual realm.
“I’m not sure, it all started about six months ago when we came back from spending a week at one of the Caribbean resorts. I noticed that during our vacation at the resort she didn’t seem interested in following up on the contacts we made, a couple of times she told me to go ‘play’ by myself, which, as you know, the chances of that happening are close to zero…and after we came back she didn’t seem interested in going to parties or meeting other couples…she said that maybe we could have an open marriage, see other people on our own…not sure what’s going on…would you mind speaking with her? Maybe you can find out what’s going on with her…she trusts you and respects your knowledge in these matters… she may tell you”.
I agreed. I liked his wife, she was a pretty and attractive brunette, about 5 foot 2”, late forties, with a beautiful, spontaneous smile, I would say she was somewhat shy but willing to engage in pleasant conversation if one was to make the first move. I called her and told her that her husband had suggested we meet, that he was concerned about the “open marriage” deal….she agreed to meet with me so that we could chat.
We met at quiet pub where I knew we could carry on a conversation without being interrupted.
“So, what’s going on? Bill tells me that you lost interest in swinging but want to see other people separately?”
“Ah, is that what he told you?”
“Yes, indeed,” I replied watching the look of amusement that all of a sudden came over her face.
“It isn’t quite that simple, you see, it isn’t that I have a problem with swinging per se, Bill always got something out of it, and so did I at times….but very few times…”
I knew that they had been swinging for the last five years or so, actually I had met them early in their swinging lifestyle and they always seemed to enjoy their swinging activities so I wondered why this sudden change of heart.
“Let me tell you what swinging means to me as a woman,” she said. “I like to dress sexy, even slutty, I like the feeling that I’m attractive and desired…I enjoy the attention I get, the flirting, the dancing, the seduction….oh yes, I need to be seduced, I need to have that emotional connection that comes from being seduced and seducing the other person, feeling that there is more to the interaction than just plain sex….
“That somehow the connection is deeper even if it’s just a temporal thing…”
“So, you want to feel desired and be seduced, how about the sex?”
With a smile she replied “You’re so ‘male’ in your attitude….it isn’t just all about the sex.” The look of puzzlement must have made look somewhat silly because she grabbed my arm and squeezed it gently.
“Let me tell you how it goes for me. Sex is very important, but especially good, passionate sex. Bill and I have a good sex life but sometimes the passion is missing for varied reasons; time, kids, work, stress…albeit our sex life is anchored in a deep love for each other sometimes it becomes somewhat mechanical. At the beginning, swinging was a diversion from the ‘same old, same old’ of our everyday lives, a chance to meet new and exciting people. I had expectations that through swinging I would find partners that would put back the passion so important to sex for me. I was quite sure that I could bring back my passionate experiences back to my sexual relationship with Bill. Right from the beginning I was looking for the ‘quality’ of the passionate encounters, and not the quantity. Perhaps I was trying to recreate the feeling I had in high school when I went out on a date for the first time…it was all about the process of the date, sex may happen but it wasn’t guaranteed, although I’m sure the guys all expected…”
At this point she giggled and covered her mouth with her hand as thought trying to conceal the secret she just let out.
“What I found in swinging was quite different from what I expected. Since I’m not Bi I don’t look at swinging as an opportunity to have sex with other women: I like men….also, when we first started to go to ‘socials,’ I enjoyed the dancing, the flirting, what I call the seduction game…but it soon became apparent to me that not that many men are into the ‘seduction’ process, rather, they’re more concern with the fuck…often men would chit-chat and quickly they would start to touch in a intimate way, grabbing for the prize as it were without bothering with much else…I often would go along only because Bill was much into their wives or partners…but my sexual experience was, for the most part…ummmm… uninteresting and not exciting. I guess the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ was an experience I had at the resort we visited recently. On the day we arrived, and after unpacking, we joined a group of people in the hot-tub by the pool; I went into the water and no sooner did I put my head back attempted to relax from the long trip, when I felt a hand come up my thigh and cup my pussy….when I opened my eyes there was this gentleman smiling at me while his fingers had found their way into my pussy…and he said ‘Hi, I’m Bob…and you’re a very hot woman…’ I pushed my body away and smiled politely and told him I was rather tired and only interested in relaxing for now, but he was insistent, suggesting that we should retire to his room where he could massage my back and really help me relax. I told him I wasn’t interested and retired to our room. Now, you know you’ll say that not all men are that aggressive, that this may have been an exception more than the rule, but I would disagree with you. Most of the men I have met through swinging aren’t interested in the seduction, as though they don’t want to “work” for the sex but expect it as a matter of course. Many men just sit and watch the women play and join in at the end of the ‘female games.’ Others sit around and do nothing until the action starts and they join in…and though you are now expected to ‘perform’ as they ‘perform’….Finally, I’m fed up with the whole swinging thing…I would still like to enjoy a sexual encounter with a man f my choosing that doesn’t take me or the situation for granted, that is willing to dine me, take me dancing, seduce me, someone I can have passionate sex with…and then go home to Bill and tell him all about…do you think I’m crazy?”
“Nope, I think you have a very valid point with respect to the lacking of ‘seduction’ in the protocol of many men in the swinging lifestyle….maybe we do expect the ‘fuck,’ after all that is why everyone is into swinging, isn’t it? We meet, we greet, we fuck…..best way to prevent the emotional connection and the possibility of hurt feelings….or worse, the budding of a ‘relationship…’”
“So, it’s the fear of the emotional connection that prevents men from becoming the seducers? That’s a poor excuse if you ask me…or do men think that seduction will lead to ‘love?’ Ridiculous….to me seduction is about the lust, and I always thought that swinging was about lust….”
“Maybe, swingers are becoming complacent….I know I have witnessed situations very much like the ones you have described….almost as if the lust is forced or expected…” I replied. “But understanding that swingers aren’t an homogenous group and that swinging can take many forms, perhaps you have just been hanging out with the ‘wrong’ crowds…”.
“Really” she retorted, “How about when you meet another couple on a first date? Do you know how much pressure is on the woman to carry through from the meet to the sex? Yes, at times there’s instant chemistry, but that is the exception more than the rule…and what if your partner and the other person’s partner hit it off and you don’t? The want…? There are always the excuses and the quick exits but why go through all of that? Nah! I’m fed up…”
“Well, let me know what you guys decided and how you propose to go about your open marriage. I think there could be more pitfalls in that type of scenario but….it’s your life, your decision. I’m always available for a chat if you need to…”
Now, it has been months since my conversation with Bill and his wife. Not sure how they’re doing, but at least I heard no news, which perhaps means there are no bad news. I see Bill three to four times a week at the health club, we chat, joke, but he hasn’t brought up the subject.
Meanwhile I have spoken with several women in the lifestyle about this issue since I was curious if there were other women that felt that there was a lack of “seduction” in swinging. Unfortunately, I have to say that I heard the same story several times from most of the women I spoke with.
I have just now started to research women’s expectations of swinging and I would welcome your commentary, suggestions, stories, and questions.
Are we, men, really missing the boat when it comes to women, swinging, and seduction?
No Glove, No Love: The Importance of Condoms Use and STD Testing in the Swinging Population.
So, you enjoy “barebacking”, condoms aren’t for you, they make you lose your erection, too cumbersome, not readily available, kills the mood, too much trouble when the action is hot and furious, don’t fit properly, dull the sensation, you’re allergic to rubber…
We all have heard those arguments as reasons for not wearing condoms or engaging in safe sex, but usually those excuses come from teenagers or young adults, we all know that responsible adults take care of protecting themselves and others around them, they do “the right thing”. But may be not… It isn’t uncommon to hear the same rationale for not wearing protection from couples in the lifestyle (yes, mostly men object to wearing protection, and sometimes some women do as well…)
I conducted the first study on Swinging and STDs about a year ago because there was no information on the rate of STDs among swingers, nothing, nada, not even a peep from anyone, anywhere, and I was quite fascinated by what I uncovered. There had been suggestions that less swinging was absolutely safe, no one had ever heard of swingers getting STDs, let alone HIV, that was for the “gays” and “bisexual men”, and everyone knew that there were no bisexual men in swinging…. But these were rumors, hearsay, anecdotes that far too often were passed off as scientific evidence. Now, I have been connected to swingers and swinging for over twenty years, so, as a scientist, I wanted to find out what was going on, especially since a few articles in the popular media suggested that a study in the Netherlands found swingers to be one of the highest “at-risk” groups of all promiscuous groups, including prostitutes and teenagers (I’m not going to go into the details of that study, suffice to say, if you’re interested let me know and I’ll pass on the information).
So I set up my study, composed the survey, recruit several only swingers’ site to publish the link to the study, collected the data, and here is what I found out.
Firstly, swingers as a group seemed to have a very low prevalence of STDs. Less than 5% of all respondents reported having acquired and STD through swinging; the most common infections among those were Chlamydia, yeast infections (and UTIs), and gonorrhea (these infections accounted for about 80% of all cases of STD reported). Secondly, among the “infected”, women were more likely to be infected than men, and couples that play with singles were two to one more likely to have contracted some sort of venereal infection as a result of this “swinging” modality. Thirdly, there were reported cases of HPV and Herpes contracted during swinging sexual activities but these were less than 1% of the sample and were a minority in the “infected” population. Lastly, only one case of HIV was reported.
Now, I want to point out that although I had a large pool of respondents (over 4,000 people completed the survey), perhaps those willing to answer the questions in the questionnaire may not have included those that were no longer “swinging” because of having contracted STDs along the way. Meaning, my sample was skewed and may not necessarily reflect what’s going on out there…or maybe it does. It has been my experience that, being in contact with swingers from everywhere and anywhere, I have heard of a very few cases of STD infections attributed to swinging, but I have heard of a few, and those cases, the infections of either one partner or both terminated their swinging lifestyle.
I know that it is usually “taboo” among swingers, and mostly of the swinger’s clubs and sites, to broach the topic of sexual infections and diseases. As one club owner put it to me…”are you kidding? You want to do a workshop on STD prevention? You’ll kill my business….”
But it isn’t my intention to “rain on you parade” or scare you off swinging, on the contrary, I want to bring about an awareness of reality: “Shit happens and it can happen to you, unless…”. We must live in the “real” world” and not bury our heads in the sand, or up our butts (no matter how attractive those butts may be…).
Let me suggest to you that in the adult film industry the topic of STDs was ignored for a long time, which resulted in the death of some famous actors (most famous of all, John Holmes). It took a rash of incidents involving some high profile individuals, some of which had became infected with HIV, for the industry, albeit through pressure from government agencies, to implement regulations designed to protect the actors involved. Even when one considers the regiment of STD testing - monthly, in most instances- the case of “treatable” infections is still considerable. Today, these strategies have minimized the risk to the actors and we still have and enjoy “porn”.
“OK, so what do “porno” actors have to do with swinging” you may ask? Quite a bit! Let me explain. Unless you’ve stumbled across this article by mistake while searching for Overeating Anonymous, or you have lived under a rock for millennia and just noticed that people actually have sex, you know that swinging involves sex with “others” and not just your spouse…many others, on many occasions, or special occasions, or not-so-often occasions, or “free-for-all” orgies, or merely couple to couple exchanges. As soon as you go “out-there” and get it on with other people you are in fact exposing yourself to the possibility of getting something I refer too as the “not-so-nice-to-bring-home-to-momma” package. Let us be realistic, the more partners you have the more you risk catching some nasty little bug that can interfere with your sexual health, or have more dire consequences. But “it will never happen to me…”, you know how the saying goes. And it may never happen to you or people you know, ever forever, and that’s is good, but….
OK, have a scared you to death yet? Not my intention, I’m merely trying to get your attention, and “fear messages” seem to do the trick (just look how we react to the government’s fear messages in the last ten years….). So, if swinging has such dire consequences should we all just give it up, for lent, lets say? Should we develop an acute sense of paranoia? Should we pack it in and become monogamous little monks of the church of “social conformity”?
No way! Consider this, what are your changes of getting in a car wreck if you drive every day? The chances are considerable, believe me; does that mean that you stop driving and hide under your bed for the rest of your life hoping that the “car-wreck” monster doesn’t notice you? Hope not (refer back to my prior comment on “living under a rock”…). If we stayed in bed (or under) “like Brain Wilson did” it would make for a very interesting “reality-show” that we could possible sell to MTV or Spike TV… My point is, how do we protect ourselves from the chance that we may have a car accident every time we go out there driving? Well, you adopt defensive driving techniques, you pay attention (hopefully…) while you drive, and you watch out for other drivers, and not think much about it afterwards. The same safety strategies apply to swinging! It’s the protection “stupid”!
So, here’s the deal! The reason people become infect and pass on their infections to others is twofold. First, they don’t know they’re infected; secondly, they don’t think it’s necessary to use protection (condoms or otherwise). So, what to do about it? Simple. If you’re an “active” swinger, the every weekend, the more-the-merrier type of person (or couple), you should get tested every three to six months even if you use protection. If, on the other hand, you’re the “occasional’ swinger, the three to five times a year “works-for-us” people, getting checked every six months or yearly should suffice. If you’re the “tourist” swinger, that once or twice a year “going to the resort and letting loose and getting laid” type, getting checked before going and upon coming back should work well. However, and yes there’s always a “however”, remember that regardless of your swinging “modality”, the most important tool in your “Swinging Tool Box” should the CONDOMS (along with some well placed vibrators with plenty of condoms for them)….damn it, let me say it again….CONDOMS, STUPID!
What type? it doesn’t matter; clear, yellow, blue, black, rose, pink, fruit flavored, chocolate, or Caribbean hot sauce, medium size, small size, or extra-large, so long as it fits and remains on during the “festivities” you’re OK…. Also, should you ask the person (or people) about their “health” status? Of course you should. Should they get offended? Don’t screw them if they can’t take some “inquisitory curiosity ” (at least it isn’t the Spanish Inquisition…). Are they going to tell you if something isn’t kosher with their plumbing? They may not even know themselves, but most people are honest (most swingers are indeed honest, it’s part of the swinging protocol…), and I have never known anyone that would swing if infected by an STD…(not suggesting that there aren’t a few but, too few to matter).
So, just as you wouldn’t drive with your eyes closed, or blindfolded (regardless of your “kink”), or stop obeying traffic signals and signs, you should always strive to protect yourselves in swinging situations. Swinging should be, can be, and is most often a safe and enjoyable experience for all involved. Although there are “closed” groups that require their member be tested every so often to remain in the group (thus condoms aren’t used), for the average, every day swinger following the simple rules of safety should suffice. Follow the motto adopted long ago by the Gay Community. Condoms, Condoms, Condoms….”No Glove, No Love”.
SexAddiction: The Myth and the Pathologizing of Sexual Desire.
Let me state the following rather emphatically. There is no sex addiction!. There is, however, an attempt to pathologizing sexual behaviours that Society doesn't approve of, as when we “convince” the "sex-addict" that he/she does indeed have an "addiction". No one has ever been able to convincingly tell me exactly what is sex addiction all about? I understand sexual compulsion and associated dysfunctional behaviours….but not addiction.
Sexual behaviours that have gone out of control are part of the obsession-compulsion diagnosis, not "sex addiction". I would hope that indeed this argument would finally end and that individuals with dysfunction could be helped without the help to a "media-base "diagnosis. I find it puzzling this push towards a subjective-based, moral driven bogus classification. And indeed, many in the psychology field and many more in the sexuality field discount the diagnosis as bogus. It seems to me that most of the push for "sex addiction" comes from the social work field, for some strange reason, I wonder if this is not driven by some strange dogmatic (and restrictive) perspective on sex that classifies some behaviours as "good-sex" and others as "bad-sex" and ends up as self-fulfilling prophecy.... There's no baseline to measure sexual behaviour thus there is no way to suggest when "addiction" occurs. Lets stick to the factual evidence not some made-up suggestions of deviance based on a moral or social zeitgeist. Some of what has been discussed her deals with dysfunction, NOT addiction.
Someone has suggested a new theory: Sex drive is a reflex These drug reactions serve to show us that our sex drive is at least partly a function of our body chemistry. But emotions have a major role as well. We know that, instinctively—but now scientists are starting to try to explain it. One theory is that sex is a reflex—automatic except that your emotions can override it. The classic reflex test is the one where the doctor hits the tendon in your knee with a mallet, and the tendon contracts, all by itself. "Let's say the doctor is trying to do this test, and outside there's a robbery with gunshots," posits Irwin Goldstein, MD, director of San Diego Sexual Medicine and the editor in chief of The Journal of Sexual Medicine. Your brain will override the reflex; your leg will stay still". Goldstein, a long time sexual researcher in the areas of sexual response and dysfunction, maintains that sexual behaviours can become compromised (either in hyper-sexuality or hypo-sexuality) by this reflexive process, NOT by any form of addiction. Moreover, since sex is motivational process, each individual has a particular affinity for much sex or less sex. We would never suggest that someone that has the urge of having sex once a year is dis-addicted, that would be silly.
Moreover, there isn't a benchmark for what constitutes "average" or "measurable" sexual frequency.
In the great diagnostic world of mental disorders, DSM, hyper sexuality is described as:
(1) excessive time is consumed by sexual fantasies and urges, and by planning for and engaging in sexual behaviour
(2) repetitively engaging in these sexual fantasies, urges, and behaviour in response to dysphoric mood states (e.g., anxiety, depression, boredom, irritability)
(3) repetitively engaging in sexual fantasies, urges, and behaviour in response to stressful life events
(4) repetitive but unsuccessful efforts to control or significantly reduce these sexual fantasies, urges, and behaviour
(5) repetitively engaging in sexual behaviour while disregarding the risk for physical or emotional harm to self or others
B. There is clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning associated with the frequency and intensity of these sexual fantasies, urges, and behaviour.
C. These sexual fantasies, urges, and behaviour are not due to direct physiological effects of exogenous substances (e.g., drugs of abuse or medications), a co-occurring general medical condition or to Manic Episodes.
As e can see there is no attempt to connect this diagnosis with any form of "addiction" but rather with a preoccupation, which suggests a "compulsion" related to several causes. I think the key term here is "dysfunctional behaviour" and not "addiction" per se. The diagnosis fits well with the concept of OCD, as follows:
(1) recurrent and persistent thoughts, impulses, or images that are experienced at some time during the disturbance, as intrusive and inappropriate and that cause marked anxiety or distress
(2) the thoughts, impulses, or images are not simply excessive worries about real-life problems
(3) the person attempts to ignore or suppress such thoughts, impulses, or images, or to neutralize them with some other thought or action
(4) the person recognizes that the obsessional thoughts, impulses, or images are a product of his or her own mind (not imposed from without as in thought insertion)
Compulsions as defined by (1) and (2): (1) repetitive behaviours (e.g., hand washing, ordering, checking) or mental acts (e.g., praying, counting, repeating words silently) that the person feels driven to perform in response to an obsession, or according to rules that must be applied rigidly (2) the behaviours or mental acts are aimed at preventing or reducing distress or preventing some dreaded event or situation; however, these behaviours or mental acts either are not connected in a realistic way with what they are designed to neutralize or prevent or are clearly excessive B. At some point during the course of the disorder, the person has recognized that the obsessions or compulsions are excessive or unreasonable. Note: This does not apply to children.
C. The obsessions or compulsions cause marked distress, are time consuming (take more than 1 hour a day), or significantly interfere with the person’s normal routine, occupational (or academic) functioning, or usual social activities or relationships.
D. I another Axis I disorder is present, the content of the obsessions or compulsions is not restricted to it (e.g., preoccupation with food in the presence of an Eating Disorder; hair pulling in the presence of Trichotillomania; concern with appearance in the presence of Body Dysmorphic Disorder; preoccupation with drugs in the presence of a Substance Use Disorder; preoccupation with having a serious illness in the presence of Hypochondriasis; preoccupation with sexual urges or fantasies in the presence of a Paraphilia; or guilty rumination in the presence of Major Depressive Disorder).
Firstly, I would like to suggest that there would be an economic disadvantage for those presently engaged in the business of treating “sexual addiction” if the diagnosis was to be disproven. Actually, it would be a financial catastrophe since so much and resources have devoted to this diagnosis.
Secondly, I think it would be disingenuous to suggest that those of us that opposed the diagnosis do so out of a lack of scientific information or erudite investigation of the topic. We are professional scientists with an eye for critical thinking and the scientific method.
Which brings me to my next topic.
Much of the inventions of sexual disorders or syndromes that have occurred in the last part of the twentieth century have been central to the attempted regulation of sexuality. To deny that fact would be ludicrous. Also, the application of the term “addiction” as a replacement to “compulsion” regarding sexual behaviour reflects or ambivalence (and at times negative connotation) about sex, thus many therapists were quick to accept and adopt the term “sexual addition”. Not to forget that the term was based on the 12 step process that mirrored alcoholics anonymous “treatment” plan, which, as of today has had very limited success. I am quite familiar with this program, which I studied, and its ineffectiveness is most cases (did not say ALL cases, just that successes are too few and far in between).
So, we are left with a term that denotes a sociocultural construct of sexuality in which the boundaries behaviour and mental illness (sexual addiction is often interchangeable with hyper sexuality) which is value laden and has had many understanding throughout history. Thus the present concept of sexual addiction is an historical anomaly that has risen independent of laboratory or epidemiological data. Most often “sexual addicts” are married individuals that have “strayed” from their monogamous vows.
However, infidelity occurs for numerous reasons, ranging from personality factors (Orzeck & Lung, 2005) to evolution-based theories about how extra-partner relationships are natural while monogamy is unnatural (Barash & Lipton, 2001). It’s not surprising to find personality factors may influence “adulterous” behaviour, because people that are more similar in personality are less likely to “cheat”. Also, and this is an important point, the diagnosis itself creates a label that affects negatively those that carry it. Many lives and many families have been destroyed by the mere fact that an individual was “categorized” as a “sexual addict”. Enter the therapist ready to “normalize” the sexual behaviour of the individual and save the day. First it is necessary to give the dysfunctional behaviour and thoughts a “name” so that the client may be able to have a point of reference throughout the therapy process. Oh yes, success must be measure by the client’s admission to the negative consequences of the behavior and “repent” and “modify” through some form of cognitive-behavioural process. Sounds to me that catholic confession and penitence would do the trick as well. Except that, in this instances, the guidance and collaboration of the therapist is necessary…for a price….However, the label never goes away and can carries detrimental consequences, some of them legal.
Do I think the most therapists are ill-intended in this respect? No, I don’t, I just think that bought into a system that perpetuates the diagnosis and will consider nothing else. I guess it’s a case of “joining them”.
Finally, many scientists and clinical therapists in the fields of sexology and psychology do not buy into the diagnosis and consider it offensive and counterproductive.
A clinical psychologist, David Levy, has produced the most up to date evidence for the deficiency of the diagnosis in a rather interesting book published in 2012 by Dr. David Ley, The Myth of Sex Addiction, I highly recommend it.
To wrap it up, these are some of the names of clinical psychologists, sexologist, and other scientists that consider the diagnosis of sexual addiction bogus.
So, there I was finalizing my preparations for my trip to the “Big Easy” where I was to present results of one of my studies on swinging at a scientific conference, when a friend of mine asked me if I was also attending the Swingers’ Convention taking place at the same time in New Orleans. I had no idea there was a swingers’ convention the same week of my conference, so I decided to find out more about the event. I contacted Bob Hannaford from French Connection Events, the convention organizers, and Bob invited me stop by and have a look while I was in town.
I have been to many swingers’ conventions all over the world, sometimes as an invited speaker, sometimes with my wife as a participant. Some of these conventions were organized by the Lifestyles Organization (an organization now defunct from what I’m told) and others were organized by online swingers’ clubs, on- and off-premise clubs, social swingers clubs, etc. My evaluations of such events haven’t always been positive, but I was in for a pleasant surprise in New Orleans.
Bob Hannaford and his partner, Tess, received me cordially and they afforded me complete access to all of the events of the convention. The event itself was hosted at the Astor Crowne Plaza Hotel on Canal Street and Bourbon Street. The hotel was, to say the least, “swinger friendly.” The staff was courteous and helpful and the curious stares, often a hallmark of other hospitality facilities, weren’t noticeable. About 425 couples attended the Convention and occupied all 14 floors of the hotel reserved for the event.
One of the first things that stood out was the sheer size and scope of the events. The 7,000 sq ft floor space, dedicated to party rooms, including the two mezzanines of the hotel (the biggest play area of any previous convention according to Bob) was impressive. One of the mezzanine floors was divided into several party rooms. The Group Party Room occupied the floor space in a large meeting hall. Ceiling to floor red curtains added an atmosphere of sexual titillation, and separated several play areas. Additionally, there were several “theme”rooms on the same floor such as the Ladies Only Room, the Threesome Room, the Dark Room, - yes, there was absolutely no light entering this room, thus sexual activity was pot-luck…and extremely exciting for those with a sense of adventure – and the famous Chocolate Room where a bevy of eager ladies could satisfy their cravings for inter-racial sex.
Then there were the twice-daily social parties that took place every afternoon at several of the clubs on Bourbon Street that had been reserved for the Convention’s attendees. Finally, the daily activities culminated with the themed evening balls that took place in the 8,500 sq ft Grand Ballroom of the hotel.
The Convention started on Wednesday with a welcome reception for all attendees at the Cat’s Meow on Bourbon Street, a rather interesting and wild karaoke bar, followed by a seven-block parade that included the Treme Brass Band, Mardi Gras floats and a police escort. The parade ended at Colettes’s, a local on-premise singers’ club two blocks off Bourbon Street.
The Convention’s schedule was varied and appealing. Interest Seminars took place every morning and included topics such as Tantric Sex, Couples Massage, Whips and Floggers, as well as more educational and information-based topics such as round table discussions on the experiences and particulars of swinging, swinging research and studies on the Lifestyle, and adult travel opportunities and destinations for swingers. Surprisingly, all seminars were well attended and spurred dynamic and informative dialogue among the participants. Some of the seminars I witnessed at previous conventions had not been well attended, and at times, the topics weren’t of interest to the participants. Perhaps seminars that convey relevant information and playfulness do have a place at Lifestyle conventions.
The afternoon parties hosted at several bars on Bourbon Street would kick off a day and night of fun and games. The convention organizers included a “poker run” game that rewarded all of those who attended every single afternoon party. To start to describe in detail the sensual and sexual atmosphere of each of the parties would only leave you sorry you did not attend the convention. The host bars run the gamut from strip clubs to blues clubs, and a T-shirt party at a club appropriately called The Beach (note: t-shirts didn’t stay on for long and many varied “oral” activities were taking place with the encouragement of the club staff).
But the crown jewel of the day was the Formal Grand Ball that took place each evening. On the first evening, the theme of the ball was Lady in Red Ball. I must admit I have seldom seen so many sensual and sexy ladies in sexually fashionable red dresses of all lengths and expressive style (some dresses even concealed red hot lingerie). Several gentlemen abided by the theme and dressed in fashionable and alluring red outfits from satin red shirts to other scarlet accoutrements. All in all, everyone seemed ready for dancing and seduction.
The second evening’s theme was Pirates and Wenches Ball and what can one say about pirates and wenches? There were long period dresses, feathers and corsets, long boots and fishnet stockings, swords and eye patches, and even a parrot. Most of the participants went all out in their attempt to be authentic, and some of the outfits were not only exquisite and pompous, but exceptionally well put together and showed a level of creativity worthy of a Shakespearean play. The wenches were provocative, delicious and delectable. Personally, I would have tied a couple of them to the main mast and have my way with them. Arrrrrrgh, mate!
The Annual Mardi Gras Masquerade Ball capped the events on the third day of the convention. This was the “piece de resistance” of the Ball series. Imagine yourself amid the most rambunctious, sexiest masked-individuals who ever participated in a Mardi Gras event and you start to get the picture. The festivities included the participation of the Mardi Gras Indians famous New Orleans. From then on, well, you would have to have been there. I have been to the Carnival in Rio and I would say the Annual Mardi Gras Masquerade Ball rivaled any other sexually induced debauchery anywhere.
Overall this was a grand event, well organized with much attention paid to detail; the decorative efforts in all of the venues were, to say the least, superb. Coordination of the events, security and care for the well-being of the attendees was commendable and appreciated. In speaking with a large number of the couples in attendance I heard nothing but praise for the event and the organizers.
So, was this just a feast of sexual blissfulness and joy or were there areas for improvement? Vendors were circumspect by their absence. Except for a couple of the swingers’ travel organizations, there wasn’t a large presence. Representation from business related to the needs (and wants) of the swinging community could have been interesting. For example, the convention lacked “toy” manufactures and distributors, condom manufacturers or distributors, gels and lubricants, erotic artwork, video producers or video distributors, representation from the online swinging web sites, etc.
In conclusion, size does matter when it comes to hosting an event such as this. I think that as the needs of the swinging population changes so should the strategies for hosting events that will attract a large number of participants. Location matters and so does organization, innovation, and understanding of the Lifestyle market place. I would highly recommend an event such as this one (and no, I’m not getting paid for saying this). I’ll cherish the many friends I made at the convention, and I truly appreciated the accommodating assistance from everyone in the organizing committee.
Oh yes, I almost forgot the original purpose of my trip to New Orleans. Presentation of the results of my research on swinging was well received at my conference.