"The 'Lifestyle' Real-Life Wife Swaps"
The cartoon looks like this: Two people are walking into a house where a crowd under a "Poly Discussion Group" banner is having a knock-down, food-fight brawl. One of the new arrivals is saying to the other, "The topic must be poly versus swinging."
Polyamory is about love, swinging is about recreational sex; that's the stereotype. In reality, there's a lot of crossover and something of a continuous spectrum. Some swinger couples are poly at heart developing deep, lasting affection for another couple they met at a swing club, with whom they begin to share their lives. Some were looking for polyamory without knowing it and simply encountered the swing world first because it's better organized, better established, and about one hundred times larger (by my semi-educated guess). On the other side of the coin, some polys really do enjoy having lots of sex.
The biggest differences, in the opinions of some folks I've talked to, are in class, education, and attitude. Polys tend to be highly educated, happily geeky, socially radical, and feel they've discovered something truly big and important they want to share with the world. Religiously they tend to be atheist, pagan, or do-it-yourself spiritual. Swingers, on the other hand, tend to be less educated, more conservative and Christian (yes you heard right), more working-class, and sexist in terms of dress and roles (lesbian sex is hot, gay guys are unwelcome; porny getups are hot on women, men show up in t-shirts and jeans). Swingers stereotypically see themselves as just out to have fun, are glad to stay closeted, are generally coupled up as a matter of principle, and are afraid to use the word "love" outside the couple.
(Runs and ducks as the food fight begins.)
Last night (on Sept. 5, 2006), ABC News Primetime aired a report on swingers. This was a rebroadcast of the show that first aired on ABC 20/20 on March 18, 2005. Here's from the transcript article on the ABC News website:
On the hit ABC show "Desperate Housewives," cheating destroys marriages because spouses lie and get caught.
But we found couples who say they have found a way to enjoy the company of others without the deception. It's called the "lifestyle," or swinging, an arrangement in which couples have sex with other couples, and there is no secrecy.
...It's not like other clubs, because in back there's a locker room where couples can get undressed and, if they want, have sex in different bedrooms with other couples or watch one another in hot tubs.
..."Tess was the first woman I ever kissed in my whole life. So you always have an innate curiosity about 'How would another woman feel?' I no longer have that curiosity," Bob said.
Swinging was Tess' idea. She heard about it from a girlfriend and was intrigued. She figured their relationship was strong enough to give swinging a try. "You have to be completely open and honest with each other," she said.
Won't they look back at their lives and feel that they ruined the intimacy they had with each other by having sex with all these other people?
"No. It's made us much stronger over the years," said Bob. "Just 'cause we are attracted to other people, doesn't mean that we don't love each other."
...The first time Bob and Tess went to a club, they didn't participate. They just watched. That's common. Often almost half of the people at the clubs are "soft swingers" they just watch, without having intercourse, according to the club owners and swingers we met.
But watching had an impact on Bob and Tess at home. "We had the greatest sex of our lives that weekend," Bob said.
...Apparently, there are a lot of them. About 4 million people are "swingers," according to estimates by the Kinsey Institute and other researchers.
Swingers have become a multimillion-dollar travel industry, so be careful when you pick a family vacation spot. (Watch out for code words like "clothing optional," "adult fun" and "couples only.") Hundreds of resorts now cater to the lifestyle. There are also swingers' conventions that take over entire resorts. Inside, thousands of couples play out sexual fantasies.
"It's a worldwide phenomenon," according to award-winning journalist Terry Gould.... "Most of them don't drink and most of them don't use drugs. They believe in raising children in clean-cut, stable environments. They match our paradigm of the sunny suburbanite," he said.
In his book "The Lifestyle: A Look at the Erotic Rites of Swingers," Gould concluded couples swing in order to not cheat on their partners.
"They see it as consensual, co-marital sex and something that they're doing in order to spice up their own relationships. They are not going to a swing club to have sex with other people. They're going there to get hot for each other," Gould said.
Chris and Lavonne are new to the lifestyle. They've been married five years, and about a year ago decided they wanted to experiment. They checked out Web sites where thousands of people seeking strangers to have sex with can find one another.
Brian and his wife run such a site, and it's very popular. "We have a half million members. We have 70,000 per day that visit," he said.
Liberating for Women?
I would think men might pressure their wives into swapping. But the women say they're the ones who are in charge.
"The women are the ones that make this happen," Tess said.... "It definitely changes women. And it makes women more confident that they are the ones in charge."
And here you can watch the show itself.