Definition – What is Swinging (Sexual Act)? How to do it? Benefits and differences between Open Relationships and Polyamory.
Definition – What is Swinging (Sexual Act)?
Swinging, sometimes called wife swapping, husband swapping or partner swapping, is a sexual activity in which both singles and partners in a committed relationship sexually engage with others for recreational purposes. Swinging is a form of non-monogamy and is an open relationship.
People may choose a swinging lifestyle for a variety of reasons. Practitioners cite an increased quality and quantity of sex. Some people may engage in swinging to add variety into their otherwise conventional sex lives or due to their curiosity. Some couples see swinging as a healthy outlet and means to strengthen their relationship.
Where to do Swinging?
Swinging can take place in a number of contexts, ranging from spontaneous sexual activity involving partner swapping or adding third or more participants at an informal gathering of friends to planned regular social meetings to “hooking up” with like-minded people at a sex club (also known as a swinger club, not to be confused with a strip club). Different clubs offer varied facilities and atmospheres and often hold “theme” nights.
Swinging is also known to take place in semi-public venues such as hotels, resorts, or cruise ships, or often in private homes. Furthermore, many websites that cater to swinging couples now exist, some boasting hundreds of thousands of members.
A swinger, or someone in “the lifestyle,” is typically:
- Married and/or heterosexual.
- In a committed relationship.
- Open to engaging in sexual activity with other people.
- Aiming to have a shared experience with their partner.
That said, people in the lifestyle can be solo as well. And they often gather at public or private parties (which used to be called “key parties”) that are hosted in rental homes, resorts, or even cruise ships (most of which were put on hold over the past year due to COVID).
Most parties allow couples and single women — known fondly as ‘unicorns’ — but severely throttle the number of single men who can attend because otherwise, the ratio would fall too much toward a bunch of horny guys.
You can usually find lifestyle parties with a simple Google search, but the most important aspect of involvement is being invited in, showing up, and getting invited back over time to establish yourself as a trustworthy and valuable addition to the group.
Benefits of Swinging
Research on swinging has been conducted in the United States since the late 1960s. One 2000 study, based on an Internet questionnaire addressed to visitors of swinger-related sites, found swingers reported happiness is higher in their relationships than the norm reported happiness.
60% said that swinging improved their relationship; 1.7% said swinging made their relationship less happy. Approximately 50% of those who rated their relationship “very happy” before becoming swingers maintained their relationship had become happier. 90% of those with less happy relationships said swinging improved them. Almost 70% of swingers claimed no problem with jealousy; approximately 25% admitted “I have difficulty controlling jealousy when swinging” as “somewhat true”, while 6% said this was “yes, very much” true.
Swingers rate themselves happier (“very happy”: 59% of swingers compared to 32% of non-swingers) and their lives more “exciting” (76% of swingers compared to 54% of non-swingers) than non-swingers, by significantly large margins. There was no significant difference between responses of men and women, although more males (70%) than females completed the survey. This study, which only polled self-identified swingers, is of limited use to a broader application to the rest of society (external validity) owing to self-selected sampling.
Some believe sexual attraction is part of human nature and should be openly enjoyed by a committed or married couple. Some swingers cite divorce data in the US, claiming the lack of quality of sex and spousal infidelity are significant factors in divorce. One study showed 37% of husbands and 29% of wives admit at least one extramarital affair (Reinisch, 1990), and divorce rates for first marriages approached 60%.
How to Know if Swinging Is Right for You?
If you’re unclear on which type of non-monogamy appeals the most, reflect on whether you’re craving a shared experience with your partner, you might want to try swinging.
But if you want to exercise your own sexual freedom or autonomy outside of your current relationship, you might be more interested in an open relationship. And if you want to connect with and even love multiple people, polyamory could be your best bet.
How to Start Swinging?
Consider taking the following steps to dip your toe into the lifestyle.
- Talk to your partner.
Once you’ve concluded that swinging is the form of non-monogamy that would work best for you, broach the conversation with your partner. If they are a ‘maybe’ or a ‘yes,’ be sure to spend plenty of time learning more about how to navigate non-monogamy, as well as having plenty of clear conversations about feelings, boundaries, and needs.
And note that getting a “yes” from your partner is crucial. “Both partners should have a similar interest level before trying swinging,” says Melancon. “If one partner is unsure or is doing it just to make their partner happy, it is more likely to cause emotional pain and possible breakup than sexual excitement and pleasure.” Feeling pressured by your partner to engage in swinging is also a “big red flag,” she points out.
- The more communication, the better.
Prepare yourself for communicating more than you did when you were monogamous. Things become a bit more complex when we allow more people into our intimate, energetic space.
For example, you’ll want to discuss the rules of the road. Talk about the level — soft, full, or hard — you’re OK with. “It is essential to be comfortable discussing boundaries (i.e., ‘I am comfortable with you performing oral sex but not having intercourse’) and preferences (i.e., ‘I would find it really hot to watch you have sex with another woman’) with your partner,” says Melancon.
And make sure to go over safe sex practices (condoms, dental dams, and birth control) related to STI and pregnancy risk, says Melancon, who adds that regular STI testing is recommended for anyone engaging in sex with multiple partners.
- Take small steps.
We suggest starting out with “smaller, more tame experiences — perhaps a soft swap involving just foreplay or making out, to start — and then check-in after each to tend to any challenging emotions that come up. Through each experience, you’ll get a better sense of what feels the most satisfying and enlivening for both you and your partner(s).
Read More: How to start Swinging as a Couple?