Uncovering an unusual and often unheard of hobby known as “The Lifestyle.”
Do you ever feel a random spark of interest in odd subjects? Well, a friend recently confessed to me she takes part in an unusual hobby, which is somewhat of an underground world. Let me warn you right now, this whole other world blew my mind.
This quasi “underground world” isn’t physically underground (obviously), it’s just something I had never given a thought to previously, and when I shared my revelation with others, they had what I like to call an “oh moment,” too.
Basically, this “lifestyle” entails sex, my college friends. A lot of colorful sex with many different people.
My friend, *Kate, initially told me, “I’m a swinger,” and I looked at her, confused. Like, you enjoy swinging on swing sets? Cool, I guess…? Wrong. Swinging, also known as “the lifestyle,” is literally its own little world. There are published books and TV shows just about swinging, and there’s an actual Wikipedia page on it. Go take a look for yourself—Google it.
As a typical nerd and journalist, I found this whole new topic completely intriguing, and I immediately had a million questions for her. How did you get started in the lifestyle? How do you meet other swingers? What the heck do you actually do? Is it ever super awkward? Have you had bad experiences with other swinger strangers?
Naturally, she just laughed at me and my childlike curiosity.
I’ll try to give you a definition without getting graphic. Married couples, unmarried couples, people in open relationships or even single people can go on social networking websites created for swingers or they can attend swinger clubs (also called sex clubs, but not to be confused with strip clubs). If meeting online, they can swap pictures and profiles of each other, and if both parties are interested, they set up a time and place to meet and hang out. Or, if they and their significant other or spouse are comfortable enough, they can just attend a swinger event or go to a swinger club.
Kate told me about how she and her boyfriend decide who to swing with, and it turns out they have a pretty extensive elimination process. They first swap profiles online with other swinging couples, and John sifts through them until they match what Kate is looking for. Then they’ll email back and forth, getting to know each other. “If they pass that test, we might start texting them for a while,” John told me. Then, if they all get along, they’ll meet for drinks or dinner and hang out for a night. Sometimes they don’t actually “swing” until the second date. Classy couple, if you ask me.
They began telling me all about the different events swingers can attend and venues just for their lifestyle. There are swinger cruises, resorts, house parties, “meet & greets” at local bars and exclusive invite-only parties. There are even swinger hotel takeovers, which is apparently popular on New Year’s Eve. Crazy, right? One day, you might be chilling at your local bar and be surrounded by swingers without even realizing it.
Along with all these special events, it seems to me like they have their own language. Certain things to “vanilla” people (non-swingers, like me and probably you) mean different things to actual swingers. The terminology of the lifestyle is endless. It was pretty difficult to keep up with it the first couple times we talked. Voyeurs, hard-limits, swapping. They have their “vanilla friends,” and then they have their “lifestyle friends” with whom they swing and build friendships.
You might realize now why I initially called it an “underground world.” I asked them if it was an accurate description, and they definitely agreed. If you’re not involved in swinging, you’ll rarely (if ever) hear or know much about it. I guess this explains why it took me completely by surprise when Kate told me this was a hobby of hers.
Then I started thinking about why I was surprised, though. I recognized it also shocked me because my preliminary gut reaction was that this concept of swinging was so strange, it seemed foreign and borderline wrong. Then I realized the only reason it seemed so unusual to me was because I had never heard of it before, so of course it must be abnormal. I have a stubborn side—so sue me. Once my initial shock wore off, I asked my million curious journalisty questions. They seem like a pretty average couple on the outside, and you know, they actually are. There’s nothing unusual or weird about them or what they do. In fact, they’re more open than most people I know, so kudos to them.
Towards the end of my extremely informal interview (while eating cookies in our pajamas), I asked them to give me a clipped pro and con list, but there was really only one thing they both said: “You have to have a really strong relationship.” They described it as being both a pro and con. You need a strong, healthy relationship, but it can be hard starting out. They admitted jealousy is a big issue in the world of swinging, and they shared a few horror stories about other swinging couples that didn’t make it.
Kate and John’s story, however, is a happy one. They began swinging before they were in any type of relationship, but now they’ve officially been together for over a year. I did a bit of my own research outside of my personal relationships with swingers, and oddly enough, I found the majority of people who swing said it strengthened their trust and their relationships.
John told me, “It involves a lot of trust in your relationship and in your partner, but it’s not for everybody.”
I realize there are many people who are probably against this whole lifestyle choice. When I asked Kate about it, her response was simple. “We’re not supposed to be monogamous creatures,” she explained. “I think people are often tempted, and it’s a shame that a lot of times people feel trapped in their relationships.” She continued by explaining how she personally felt confined in her own previous relationships, but now she has the ability to be completely open with John.
Regardless of how their relationship operates behind the scenes, the fact that they’re together and going strong gives me hope for others. It’s impressive to me that these relationships thrive, but I also understand why not many people are aware of what swinging and the lifestyle entail. Being criticized solely for our sexual practices is common in today’s society, but Kate and John haven’t let this deter who they are as a couple.
If you’re going to criticize someone on only one aspect of their life, why not look at the strength of their relationship as a base for your evaluation of them as people? If this were the case, those who would attempt to criticize them wouldn’t find much to criticize after all.
Their final remarks…
Kate: “Don’t knock it until you try it!”
John: “And if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”
*For the sake of privacy, names have been changed to Kate and John.