Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan M.

December 23, 2007

Swinging in the news

Newsweek and elsewhere

The tension between polys and swingers is legendary. The stereotype on the poly side is that swingers are superficial players, shockingly careless about safer sex, more burdened with mainstream baggage than they imagine, and sometimes not too bright. The swinger stereotype about polys is that we're all talk and no action, deep into angsty processing, and elitist. There are kernels of truth on both sides, but of course most people don't fit these molds.

The fact is, there's a lot of crossover. Many people have happily settled in somewhere between the ends of the spectrum: "swollies." Couples who swing sometimes develop a deep (even exclusive) life relationship with another couple. Some were looking for polyamory without knowing it and just found the swing world first because it's so much bigger and better organized. And on the other side, some polys have nothing against a bit of friendly NSA (no-strings-attached) sex with near-strangers at a monthly party.

Swinging has been a part of American life since the 1950s; it supposedly began among military families in postwar California. The public often associates swingers with the 1970s: shag rugs, disco balls, polyester. But in recent years, swinging has grown in numbers and organization.

And it is getting a new uptick in mainstream notice. This is sure to increase when the CBS drama "Swingtown", about suburban-Chicago swingers in the 1970's, debuts on mainstream broadcast TV. (The show was scheduled to premier in January, but the Hollywood writers' strike has delayed it probably until late spring or summer.)

Newsweek just published a long feature article about a swing club in a private home near Dallas that was recently busted after complaints about noise and traffic. Party-site shutdowns like this happen all the time nationwide; see the media updates by the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, NCSF. But they don't usually get featured in a national newsmagazine:

Suburban swingers

By Gretel C. Kovach

Jim Trulock and Julie Norris look like an average suburban Dallas couple. He's a graying middle-aged divorcé pushing 60. She's 30 years younger but partial to frumpy floral dresses. But on weekends their late-'70s split-level house in the southwestern Dallas suburb of Duncanville is transformed into "The Cherry Pit." Tubs of whipped cream are laid out with the chips and dip on the yellow Formica countertop. A garland of thong panties adorns a kitchen wall. After a game of Naked Twister or a turn under the disco ball, Jim and Julie and their most intimate friends might pile into their steamy oversize hot tub. And for the, ahem, climax of the night? A semiprivate romp in a side bedroom or a more gregarious encounter on white sheets in "the pit": a half-dozen beds pushed together in front of the fireplace.

Jim and Julie are swingers — couples who socialize sexually with other couples or singles living "the lifestyle," as they call it. Surprisingly, the Cherry Pit parties held in the Texan notch of the Bible Belt went relatively unnoticed for years, despite attendance of sometimes 100 or more invited guests....

...One common misconception about swingers, [Norris] says, is that they have troubled relationships. "Many people who are swingers believe that it saved their marriage. Now it's part of their marriage and part of who they are. But it has to be something you need or are interested in."

...No one knows how many swingers there are, but there is a growing number of Web sites, clubs and resorts that cater to the swinging lifestyle. Robert McGinley, founder and president of NASCA (informally known as the North America Swing Club Association)... now 74, became an activist for the swinging lifestyle almost 40 years ago with his wife. Today there are swinger clubs operating as public businesses or gatherings in private homes in almost every major city in America, he says....

Read the whole article (Dec. 14, 2007).

Another article, from the Chicago Tribune last August:

Swingers' Sexploits

by Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz

Were it not for the hard-core porn flickering continuously on the TV, you might have thought it a regular house party. A DJ was spinning hip-hop. Guests chatted casually over a buffet of fried turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans and bundt cake.

But the one-year anniversary bash this month for Tha Sex Kittens — a Chicago "adult social group" that includes couples, bisexual women and some single men....

Though swingers play behind closed doors, the lifestyle is alive and well in the U.S. — and growing, thanks to the Internet. On weekend nights in the Chicago area, the sexually uninhibited can find parties where partner-sharing is the norm.

On the second floor, two "invitation-only" rooms with neatly made beds awaited couples seeking company for their sexual escapades. A separate "ladies only" room beckoned women with bisexual tendencies.

...The annual Lifestyles Convention in Las Vegas this month drew some 2,200 people for a full weekend of swinging.

"All you have to do is look at the prevalence of adultery," said James Fleckenstein, president and CEO of the Institute for 21st Century Relationships, the Herndon, Va.-based foundation for the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom. "Some people are willing to come to terms with this natural tendency and say, 'Is there something we can do that will strengthen our relationship and not destroy it?'"

While there's no official number, an estimated 2 million to 4 million people in the U.S. participate in swinging....

Read the whole article (Aug. 24, 2007).

A Reuters business report about the financial side:

Swingers are growth business for U.S. firms

By Adam Tanner

LAS VEGAS, Aug 20, 2007 (Reuters) — Matt Virtue, who works as a consultant at a Washington law firm, says he spends more than $10,000 a year to attend conventions, hotels and clubs where he and his girlfriend can have sex with other partners.

"Any other hobby that I was into at 40 years old is going to cost me $10,000," he said from a hot tub he was sharing with his girlfriend and a couple with whom they had been intimate the night before. "Dude, I'm addicted to it, there is no doubt about it."

Such enthusiasm has turned what were once private passions into a multimillion dollar business. Lifestyles Organization, the nation's largest swinger services company, has annual sales of about $15 million.

Swingers also bring in millions of dollars to specialty clubs and hotels in the United States as well as Jamaica, Mexico, France and elsewhere.

...Conventions bring Lifestyles $4 million in annual sales; their travel business booking swinging guests into resorts such as Hedonism II in Jamaica or Desire in Mexico bring in another $10 million to $12 million a year, McGinley said.

"We relax our already liberal rules to accommodate the Lifestyles Organization and make the entire resort clothing-optional," explained Richard Bourke, general manager of Hedonism II. He said Lifestyles Organization books $2 million of rooms a year over six contracted weeks....

Several hundred clubs nationwide also cater to swingers. Jeff James, who works for Club Freedom Acres in San Bernardino County east of Los Angeles, said 225 to 260 couples visit on a typical Saturday night, paying $85 each, with a similar number on Fridays paying $65. "It's doubled in daily attendance in the last three years," he said....

Read the whole article.

And here's an ABC-TV Nightline report from a year ago highlighting the recently opened Desire resort (Dec. 15, 2006).

Here are my entries from the last two years that involve swinging in the news.



Anonymous Alan said...

Footnote: The Poly-vs-Swinging split goes way back. I ran afoul of it 35 years ago, long before the word "polyamory" existed. In 1972 I answered a classified ad from a couple seeking people for a discussion group about The Harrad Experiment and other models for multiple loving, "no swingers please." After I showed up at their home, it became clear that discussion of much of anything was not going to happen. Most of the crowd had come for a party, there was massive alcohol (including 200-proof lab ethanol in the punch), ear-splitting music.... As clothes began coming off on the dance rug I retreated to a quiet room with the only other person who had answered the ad, and there we spent a completely chaste night commiserating and trying to sleep.

The next morning, as I was eating cereal in the kitchen, the hosts came down (in the nude) and asked solicitously if I'd been OK with things last night. I asked what was their definition of "swingers."

"People who aren't interested in the other people as people, only in having sex," they answered, or words to that effect. They apologized for things getting out of hand. "We had a lot of friends over."

That was the end of that. Except several weeks later, the couple phoned out of the blue and invited me to move with them to California, since I was the only person they'd met who was as interested in a Harrad-style life as they were. If I remember right, they'd said something about the Sunstone Community. (I got this second hand; I was a kid living at home, and my mother took the phone call! She was, shall we say, "concerned.")

I never followed up. But I wonder how differently life might have turned out if I'd taken the plunge?

Hey -- if you recognize yourselves as this couple (you lived in Ashland), drop me a line and let's get caught up.

alan7388 (AT) gmail (DOT) com

December 24, 2007 4:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've never met a poly who was "all talk and no action", but quite a few are "deep into angsty processing" and/or "elitist". In fact, the whole stereotyping of swingers shows the elitist attitude very strongly. But that's how stereotypes are born... people outside a given crowd tend to notice those within a crowd who are acting badly, rather than taking an honest assessment of the norm. But it would be rather boring to say swingers/polys "are just people, not much different from anybody else".

December 25, 2007 7:59 AM  
Blogger Alan said...

Correction, 12/13/2008: What I remembered as "Sunstone Community" in the comment must have been the Sandstone Retreat. Now I really wish I'd taken the plunge.

December 13, 2008 6:49 PM  
Anonymous Inferno said...

I have known many poly people who swing and I have known swingers who have become so exclusive with certain couples they eventually became poly.

The lines cross all the time.

January 18, 2010 6:07 PM  

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