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Swinging made simple

February 3rd, 2005

Dr Petra

This week the papers are full of gossip about celebrity swingers, following hot on the heels of a new study by psychologists Qaqiesh and Regan from California State University that showed men were much more keen on the idea of swinging, and willing to try it, than women.

Within the media, when swinging stories aren’t celeb related or recollecting key parties from the 1970s, magazines and papers resort to the usual stereotypes about swinging.

While articles often titilate and suggest that swinging could spice up your sex life, there’s often the dire warning that swinging could ruin your relationship, is only for the benefit of one partner (usually the man), and that swingers are usually sad, sexually dysfunctional people on the verge of splitting up, who turn to swapping partners to save their dying marriage. Either that, or there’s the idea all women are forced into swinging, or it’s for people who’re unable to enjoy a ‘normal’ happy marriage. And swinging, dogging, and open relationships are all lumped together as though they are the same thing.

Evidence on couples who’ve chosen a swapping lifestyle suggests their relationships are no more dysfunctional than monogamous couples. Problems arise in any relationship if there are inequalities, if one partner goes along with the other for fear of being harmed or losing someone’s love, or if one partner’s unable to articulate their needs. Swinging is usually presented within the press as being harmful, exploitative and bad. Not done correctly, it can be. Yet there are many ways to have relationships, and monogamy is only one option. It’s a good option many enjoy. But it doesn’t mean it’s any more valid or morally right than other ways of enjoying sex or relationships.

So if you’re interested in swinging, what should you do?

Do your homework
Talk to people who’ve tried it. Read up on the topic. Visit swinging websites and read their guidance.

Think about what you want
Do you like to fantasise about swinging, enjoy erotica about swapping, or maybe want to try it for real?

Talk to your partner
Your partner may like your idea. They may be appalled. Remember to explain to them your interest in swinging doesn’t mean you want to cheat, your relationship isn’t over, and this is a discussion about something that excites you – not something they have to do. Do not coerce them, make them feel prudish for not sharing your opinions, or take any show of interest as a sign to immediately set up a swap. Give them time to think, and share the information you know.

Respect your partner
They may hate the idea, in which case you may wish to keep it as a fantasy that only you enjoy. They may like the fantasy, and enjoy sharing erotica or naughty swapping stories with you. They may want to try out swinging. Whatever happens, respect their view, and talk about both of your feelings. If you feel very strongly it’s something you’re into, but can’t talk to your partner, you both may find ‘When someone you love is kinky’ by Dossie Easton and Catherine A Liszt (Greenery Press) a useful resource.

If you’re going to try swinging…
Both you and your partner need to talk to other swingers in a non-sexual context to find out more about what goes on at a swinging party (including etiquette). Together you’ll need to create ground rules – what you will and won’t accept. Who do you want to sleep with? Do you want to swing with people you know well or will never see again? Are there sexual acts you don’t want your partner to do? How will you handle jealousy? What could make you jealous? How will you handle safer sex? And so on. Although written for people aiming for open relationships ‘The Ethical Slut: a guide to infinite sexual possibilities’ also by Dossie Easton and Catherine A Liszt (Greenery Press) takes you through the questions to ask about your relationship, and having sex with other people.

What if you try it and hate it?
Well, you never have to do it again. You can still enjoy the fantasy idea. One of you loved it, the other isn’t certain. You may want to try once more, or maybe decide that it isn’t what one of you wants – in which case you need to discuss whether it’ll be a fantasy for you both to share, or if it’s something one of you can’t live without. Or you may both love it, in which case, enjoy!

What if swinging turns you off?
Don’t worry. It’s simply not your thing, and nobody should make you feel you should do it. Not being into swinging (or any other ‘alternative’ sexuality) doesn’t make you dull, boring, or a killjoy. It’s simply you’re turned on by different things, or have a different view about relationships.

Why should we talk about swinging?
Discussing ways of having relationships and sex lets us see that there’s no one ‘right’ way to have a relationship. It also provides us with clues and tools to look at our own relationship, and decide what we want from it – and whether our desires are being met.

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