Am I a Freak for Wanting This?: A Three-Part Series, Part Two: Swinging

Irene basks in a sublime, sexual afterglow. Her toned body lies upon a decadent, oversized bed with several other beautiful bedmates. Their glistening limbs intertwine with hers in a complete state of relaxation. As her head comfortably leans upon her husband’s strong chest, she smiles, taking in the blissful countenances of her lovely companions. She thinks back on how she got to this moment and how surprisingly safe and comfortable she feels right now. Not too long ago, everything was vastly different.

For the first six years of marriage, Irene and Shane, a young, hip couple, were focused on responsibly raising their twin girls. Things began to shift when the twins started school and they had more time on their hands. For years, they had vicariously enjoyed stories of their single friends’ sexual adventures, but now they felt it was high time for a few of their own. First, Irene surprised Shane by bringing a girlfriend home for what turned out to be an amazingly hot threesome. That steamy night became the catalyst for a new chapter in their lives.

Many evenings that followed ended with Irene and Shane sharing fantasies of further sexual adventures. A friend of theirs had told them about swinging, which he referred to as “The Lifestyle. They had always heard that swingers were old, unattractive creeps that had random sex in dirty motel rooms, but their friend assured them that they were mistaken, and that the swing culture was, in fact, filled with extremely attractive, sexually free people.

Intrigued, they decided to join a website and explore this world together. They were shocked to discover how vast the community was. Every age was represented and every level of attractiveness. They were delving into a world they couldn’t have imagined before. At first, they were overwhelmed by the candidness of the profiles, but quickly became more comfortable and even excited about making their first connection. They soon made friends with Patty and Dave, an amazing couple that initially sent them an email through the site. The first email led to a week of sexy texts and then a super hot Skype date. Finally, Dave and Patty invited them to a lifestyle house party and they decided to dive in.

That Saturday night, they put on new sexy outfits that they had bought especially for the party. They had forgotten how hot they could look; it had been so long since they had really dressed up. They flirted with each other all the way there. From the lifestyle party’s RSVP list, they knew in advance that the attending couples were really attractive, ranging in age from the twenties to thirties and that over 100 people were expected. On the party invitation, the small mansion looked amazing, complete with a well-known DJ. When they arrived, they were pleasantly surprised to see the party did not disappoint. They quickly got some drinks, and then found a place where they could people watch. Irene was relieved to see that the women seemed to be running the show. She was a bit shocked that she didn’t see one guy groping girls or being creepy. As she looked over the sea of beautiful people, she noticed two gorgeous, scantily clad women making out passionately. She could see that they felt completely safe to be as sexual as they wanted, without fear of judgment. She thought how nice it must be to feel that way. She turned to Shane and said with a smile, “These are our people.

Just then, Patty and Dave appeared like a dream, looking better than they had even expected. Patty had a gigantic Cheshire Cat grin across her pretty face. Her deep, sultry eyes made Irene feel a butterfly flutter in her stomach. Clearly Patty and Dave could tell they were feeling comfortable with the event as they slid next to them on the soft sofa. The night continued with drinks, dancing and great conversation, but quickly escalated when Patty suddenly pulled Irene in close and started to kiss her. Before long, Irene was kissing Dave while Shane and Patty pawed at each other.

Patty and Dave gave each other a mischievous glance and pulled Irene and Shane off of the sofa. They led them around the outskirts of the dance floor and down a dark hallway. As they passed dark, open bedrooms that revealed writhing hard bodies and ecstatic moans, Irene could feel her nervous excitement build. They led them into a back bedroom that was occupied by another couple that knew and acknowledged Patty and Dave. They were older, but very attractive and welcomed them in to join them. Without hesitation, Irene and Shane found themselves flirting with their new friends on the bed. Even though they both knew they were going incredibly fast, somehow it felt natural and completely right for them. They caught themselves grinning at each other intermittently as the night progressed. Most of the time they only touched and kissed each other, but they eventually grew more confident.

An hour later, they both gave each other a final nod of permission to completely let loose. At that point they dove in, kissing their new partners with passionate abandon. Irene found herself letting go completely. She felt safe here, surrounded by amazing, beautiful and giving people. She didn’t realize how long she had needed this kind of release. In a bold move, she positioned herself between Patty’s legs and made her way down her thighs. She was terrified to make her first attempt at going down on a woman, but her lust had given her courage. Shane instinctively jumped in and took his wife from behind while Dave caressed Irene’s breasts. Irene’s last thought before slipping into complete ecstasy was the hope that she was doing a good job with Patty. Even though she had kissed and caressed a woman before, this particular activity was brand new to her. She doubled her efforts using her tongue with increased fervor. Patty began to moan and shake as Irene worked harder. Shane worked Irene with vigor from behind and just as he started building up to his climax Patty yelled out, “FUCCCCKKKKK!! as she climaxed hard, her whole body convulsing. Irene looked back at Shane with a grin composed of one part triumph and one part drunken lust, and whispered, “Fill me up good, Sweetie. Unable to contain himself any longer, Shane exploded with a wild reverberating howl. In awe of his dramatic and passionate performance, the group clapped exuberantly for him with broad grins. Just then, Irene noticed a man and a woman in the doorway appreciating the performance.

She locked eyes with the man and recognition hit her like a freight train. It was George, an accountant who works four cubicles down from her. He stared back with equal horror. She quickly grabbed a pillow and covered up her body. “Am I going to lose my job? She immediately thought, “Did I just jeopardize my career and my family for one night of crazy sex? As Shane fell back on the bed with a satisfied sigh, his naked body splayed out before everyone, Irene sunk even further behind the pillow. She smiled awkwardly at George, trying not to ruin the moment for Shane. George grabbed his date quickly and turned her away from the doorway. He shuffled his feet as he moved away, waving nervously. With a low, broken voice he whispered, “I’m so sorry¦ For a moment, Irene was frozen, unsure what she had gotten herself into. But as she listened to the happiness in the room, she relaxed, smirked and shook her head. She was going to be fine. “George isn’t going to rat me out, she thought. “He’s at the same sex party! He must be a swinger¦like me. With that realization she smiled back, raised her hand and waved goodbye. George smiled with relief and disappeared down the hallway. She crawled onto her husband’s chest and closed her eyes. She listened to the sounds of lust and laughter all around. She cracked a devilish grin and said to herself, “Hmmmm, George is kinda cute…

Self Concept and the Lifestyle

Not everyone finds sexual exploration as easy as Irene and Shane. It’s hard to open up to a whole new way of thinking regarding sex and relationships. Our culture rewards, and even insists, on monogamy. But are you truly good at monogamy? If your answer is no, or you’re not sure, then perhaps there is a different path for you. For many, guilt, shame and the fear of becoming a social pariah are what stand in the way of a more fulfilling existence. However, for a lot of people, the idea that any one person can meet all of your needs (intellectually, sexually, and emotionally) can be unrealistic. This expectation in our culture can lead to deception, guilt, poor self-esteem and anger when you (or your spouse) falter. The lifestyle can offer a relationship solution for those who are emotionally and intellectually ready for it. Intrigued? Good, then read on!

Some might be ask, “Doesn’t that mean I don’t really love the person I’m with if I want to have sex with others? Maybe I’m just a sexual deviant, or a pervert? Before answering those concerns, consider this, the lifestyle provides a community of likeminded sexual adventurers, ready to embrace you for who you really are. They don’t judge you. In fact, they champion you and your desire to find yourself sexually. You get to choose how far you go with it, from just being a voyeur or a full-on participant. You have complete control over your actions and can always say “no to the things that make you feel uncomfortable. There is no right or wrong way to exist in this culture. Do only what feels good and right for you!

Ultimately, the lifestyle provides a non-judgmental arena to embrace your inner slut. Some might think, “Slut? Speak for yourself! Yes, I said slut. It’s time to reclaim the word. Let’s toss out the historically negative way that it’s been used. Let’s embrace the word and redefine it. A lot of sexually liberated people already have, why not you? The common definition of the word is a person (commonly a woman) who is sexually indiscriminate. But what if we redefine “slut as a sexually adventurous person (woman or man) who has the courage to embrace sex as good and healthy despite all the social pressures to conform. Wouldn’t that be a positive word to adhere to?

No matter what word(s) you choose to describe who you are sexually, exploring your sexuality is healthy! It can lead to personal growth, insight and connection if it’s done from an emotionally honest place. Being curious about sex just means that you are truly alive. And, no, you are not a freak for wanting this. So, that being said, let’s explore the lifestyle further.

Stereotype Versus Reality

In the past, our culture’s stereotypes painted a deeply disparaging image of the lifestyle and the people within it. Lifestyle men were often depicted as creepy, predatory slobs with lascivious grins, gold chains and too much hair on their bodies. Lifestyle women weren’t portrayed much better. Depictions of the nondiscriminatory randomness of wife-swapping has misled the public into viewing lifestyle women as passive pawns in men’s tawdry sex games. This depiction couldn’t be further from the truth.

Today, television programs like Playboy’s reality show, Swing, and books like the The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton and Opening Up by Tristan Taormino have begun to tear down some of these extremely misguided perceptions. The reality is that the lifestyle is a large, diverse and vibrant community. In fact, the community is so large that there is without question, someone for everyone, regardless of age, race, education, appearance or interest base.

According to my “Sexual Intellectual business partner, cultural anthropologist Kate Frank, Ph.D, “The development of the Internet has spurred a tremendous growth of interest in alternative lifestyles of all kinds. An influx of new participants in recent years means that lifestylers are now talking about ˜generations,’ the ˜new swingers’ versus the ˜old school’. The October 2000 research study conducted by Dr. Curtis Bergstrand and Jennifer Blevins Williams concluded, “It is estimated there are over 50 million people active in the swinging lifestyle. Adult Friend Finder, the oldest and largest lifestyle dating site on the internet, has over 30 million members and sees in excess of 20,000 new members each day. So, yes, you could find those who reaffirm the stereotype, but for every creepy, clichéd swinger, you’ll find a hundred more that break the stereotype.

Kate Frank, Ph.D. notes, “Studies have consistently found that the couples involved generally fall into the middle and upper middle classes, are above average in education and income and hold professional and managerial positions. Over the past ten years, there has been an influx of younger, unmarried couples in their twenties and early thirties at lifestyle events.

According to a Bergstrand and Blevins Williams study, 89.4% of the lifestyle community consists of couples in a committed relationship, with an average length of marriage of 10.5 years. Regarding happiness, 78.5% of lifestylers report being “very happy in their marriage, compared to 64.0% of the general population. Regarding their general outlook on life, 75.9% of lifestylers say “life is exciting, compared to 45.7% of the general population. And it’s true. If one goes to a lifestyle event, one will be hard pressed to find a disinterested attendee.

Lifestyle Etiquette Code

The lifestyle community has a strong code of conduct. Individuals are expected to be respectful, non-aggressive and well groomed. People who do not live up to these expectations (particularly the men) are not as successful in their search for play partners, and in some cases, are blackballed for inappropriate behavior. This respectful behavior allows everyone (especially the women) to feel safe and unleash what society has often restrained. It would seem that people truly shine when they can share their true selves without judgment, and the lifestyle is evidence of that.

Comfort and safety is key within the lifestyle and this prerequisite had led to women (usually) guiding the action. Let’s face it: most men have a more eager, impetuous pace. The couples who nurture this dynamic tend to be the more successful. The more a woman feels in control and safe in the lifestyle, the more the men reap the rewards. Smart men in the lifestyle learn this very quickly.

This system is just as beneficial for women, who often learn much about their sexual identity and self-esteem (in some cases, for their first time in their lives). This is especially true in a society that demonizes women for being sexual in the first place. The first year of participation in the lifestyle can be a very enlightening experience for a woman. When meeting a seasoned lifestyler, ask them about their first party. They will most likely report, with an impish grin, how pleasantly surprised they were to experience such a friendly, warm and courteous reception into the lifestyle community. You, too, might be quickly sold.

The Lifestyle’s Effect on a Relationship

The lifestyle is a catalyst. It can strengthen the connection and love of a strong couple, but just as quickly, it can derail a fragile one. We have all heard of couples who decide to have a baby to “save their marriage. Just like having a baby is not a good plan to correct a damaged relationship, entering the lifestyle will not fix a marriage or relationship that’s on its deathbed. Although the lifestyle can be a wonderful addition in your life, it also complicates things. The lifestyle will teach you the true meaning of jealousy, self-confidence and trust. Even a strong couple will struggle with these issues (especially in the beginning) but, for a stable couple, it can make the relationship stronger. Let’s discuss these three areas a bit more.

Jealousy: Everyone experiences jealousy. It’s a normal human emotion. Just because you feel jealous, doesn’t mean the lifestyle is wrong for you. It simply means that you need to communicate with your partner and process through the jealousy. It is important to feel your feelings and not negate them. Negating these feelings leads to resentment and resentment will lead to a damaged relationship. It’s just that simple.

Self-Confidence: The lifestyle can build your confidence or tear it down. The attention of attractive, charming people can truly boost your self-image, but when you see your partner enjoying somebody new, it can really test your strength. Your partner is probably experiencing some of the same feelings. Throughout a date, reconnect with each other through words, touch and eye contact. After a night of play, remember to talk about your personal experiences, so that both of you can feel grounded and secure again in your relationship.

Trust: There are opportunities before, during and after any lifestyle experience for building trust or damaging it. Before anything gets messy, set yourself up for success. Before the experience, make sure you have your “safe word or gesture that allows your partner to know when you need to retreat or call it a night. During a date or event, remember that your relationship comes first. This is an activity that you can both share, but your relationship should always be at the center. After the night is over, discuss honestly what was good or what went wrong. Mistakes will most likely be made on any lifestyle adventure, especially when you’re getting your feet wet for the first time. This is normal, and all lifestylers go through it. Remember, it’s usually not the mistake that will have a lasting impact on a relationship, but how the couple copes and communicates afterwards.

Speaking of Getting Your Feet Wet¦

If you have any reservations about the lifestyle (and almost everyone does at first), then by all means, go slow! Jumping in too fast is the primary mistake new couples or singles often make. There are many ways to slow the process down, so let’s explore a few of them.

Flirting, Texting or Emailing: Before your first date, spend some time getting to know your prospective play partner or couple by communicating with them. Sexy communication can build sexual tension and excitement, while reducing anxiety and reservations. If you email within a lifestyle website, such as LifestyleLounge.com, you can also postpone revealing your identity until you are ready. This approach gives you time to “weed out anyone who doesn’t seem quite right.

A “Chemistry Check Date: There is no need to “seal the deal on your first date. A great way to increase your surety and decrease your anxiety is to have a no-pressure chemistry check date. A chemistry check allows you to meet the couple or single and get to know them over drinks or dinner, without any expectation of sex. It also allows everyone to communicate expectations, limits and desires before everyone is naked and beyond the point of backing out comfortably.

Start Slow!: There are no rules in the lifestyle on how you should or should not “play. In the beginning, some people are only into flirting and sexy emails, while others move forward and experience “same room partner play. If you’re past the point of just being curious, but are weary of jumping into the deep end, consider just “soft swapping. Soft swap means that each couple swaps partners, but only to kiss and make out, and at the very most, have oral sex. No penetration is permissible unless it is with your own partner. Later on, when you feel more comfortable, you might choose to ramp up to “full swap in which full penetration is included, but not required. Some players in the lifestyle remain just soft swap. In fact, some people in the lifestyle community don’t ever have sex with other couples or singles; they just love being part of a sexually free world. These people enjoy the lifestyle parties simply because they love the people. Ultimately, they choose to only have sex with their partner and that’s okay. Remember, this is your adventure and you make the rules.

Flying Solo

If you are single, you might be wondering, “What about me? Is there a place for a single in the lifestyle? You bet your cute ass there is! However, the experience that a single woman can expect is vastly different than the experience that a single male can expect.

Single Women: If you are a single woman in the lifestyle, you will be welcomed with a tidal wave of attention that might be difficult to manage. Single women in community are often referred to as “Unicorns. This term encapsulates how rare they truly are. Unicorns are coveted by singles and couples alike and, thus, have a sea of choices. New Unicorns need to know that it will be nearly impossible to respond to all the e-mails and requests for attention. Unicorns need not feel guilty when they aren’t able to keep up, or simply don’t want to spend such a huge portion of their time responding to requests. Furthermore, single females should not hold back on blocking website members who get too desperate in their attempts to connect. Future Unicorns please remember, this is supposed to be fun and a stress relief. Only you get to decide whom the lucky couple or single is that gets your attention.

Single Men: The single male usually has a very different experience. Although there are many singles and couples that enjoy the company of a single male, single males are often considered a nuisance and have, unfortunately, gotten a bad rap. Sometimes it only takes one person to shine a bad light on many. Too commonly, single males have behaved in ways that are disrespectful to the man in the couple, who has given the single man the gift of trusting him with a female mate. Other times, single males have been disrespectful to single women, through lies and deceit. The end result is that new single males in the lifestyle have to pay the price for the mistakes of those before them. But not all is lost. Remember, the respectful gent wins and, in this case, respect means following a couple’s lead. As a single male accrues experiences, he is also accruing his reputation. If he treats every experience as an opportunity to show his kind, generous and respectful nature, he will overcome many obstacles.

Sexual Orientation:

Earlier, the non-judgmental atmosphere of the lifestyle was stressed. However, there are some glaring exceptions. Within the lifestyle, a variety of sexual orientations exist. However, the norm is the bi-sexual female and a straight male couple. Lifestyle gay or bi-sexual men, whether they are indentified as a single male or within a couple, are often discriminated against. It’s curious that within a sexually free culture, gay or bi-sexual men have to closet themselves to avoid being ostracized, but that is often what they feel forced to do. In mere days, one might see an originally identified bi-sexual male, change his profile’s sexual orientation designation to “straight male to avoid this. This dynamic leads to a growing number of private groups within the lifestyle’s online community and divergent gatherings to meet the needs that mainstream lifestylers often do not provide. These outlets are not only for gay or bi men, but for any sexual orientation that is outside of the lifestyle norm. An example is the “Pink Tie Party, which advertises on lifestyle sites and states that its mission is to “promote open and free sexual expression and understanding. This party promoter invites and warmly welcomes, “Straight, but not narrow, LGBTQ, Trans-folks, Swingers, Fetishists, Polys, BDSM, Sissys, Asexuals, Burners, artists, and everyone with an open mind and a smile on their face.

Meanwhile, lifestyle women are given much more freedom to identify with almost any sexual orientation. However, there are many social norms regarding women as well. For instance, some women feel pressured to label themselves as bi-sexual or bi-curious when perhaps they are straight. This is due to the heavy norm of female bi-sexuality within the community. Many bi-females complain that most lifestyle women don’t actually seem very bi-sexual at all once you get their clothes off!

For a new lifestyle participant, if you are a straight male or bi-sexual woman, you will fit right in. If you are something other than that, you will have a harder time finding your tribe, but it’s not impossible. One just has to be a bit more tenacious in one’s search.

Closing Thoughts

Our culture puts a lot of “shoulds on us regarding what is right and moral. It’s hard to escape culture-induced shame. But, in the end, each of us has the freedom to decide what’s right for us personally. Some naysayers regard swinging as sanctioned cheating. Ideally, swinging is not about cheating at all, but about honesty and loyalty while exploring sexual diversity with your partner. Singles, too, can profit from an atmosphere bereft of shame. In a world full of responsibilities and pressures, the lifestyle can be an amazing stress reliever. Even beyond that, the lifestyle can be surprisingly healing in its open acceptance of sexual freedom.

I hope you enjoyed this installment of the “Sex Safari. Please look out for the final part of the “Am I a Freak for Wanting This? series, which will explore Polyamory. Until then, may your own personal sex safari lead to many happy explorations and discoveries.

Kate Loree

Kate Loree, LMFT, ATR, MBA, is a Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in sexual minority lifestyles, such as polyamory, swing and kink. She is also affirmative for LGBTQ, sex workers and those who love them. She has been practicing for over eight years. Her private practice resides in Encino, CA. For more information, please visit her on the web at KateLoree.com.

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