In my post last Monday I mentioned that I had been musing a lot about swinging and singles. More specifically the role of the single person in the 'swinging lifestyle'. At the time I was involved in a few on-line discussions and forums which were a little heated. So after the dust settled and things cooled down here is what I have to say about it.
The generally accepted definition of swinging is partner swapping amongst committed couples. I can cite any number of paper and online sources that give that definition when you look up swinging, The Macquarie Dictionary, The Urban Dictionary, Wikipedia, The Free Online Dictionary to name a few. The Urban Dictionary is a little confusing giving a definition for swingERS that varies slightly from that of swingER and again from swingING. This confusion I think is indicative of the modern day acceptance of single people into the swinging lifestyle. For many people the idea of swinging includes couples who engage in threesomes which of course must involve at least ONE person who is a single or at the least playing without their partner.
The purists in the lifestyle insist that swinging is straight partner swapping and people who are engaging in other acts e.g. threesomes, casual one on one sex either as part of an open relationship or otherwise, gang-bangs, voyeurism and exhibitionism are not swinging and if they are not swinging they are by definition not swingers.
This debate is basically about which definitions and labels to put on a particular group of people and their activities, which, in my absolute opinion, is a true waste of time and energy. I have believed for a long time that trying to label people and put them into neat little boxes is really counterproductive. Each and every person in the world is special in their own unique way and that is the way life is.
So why do so many people get their knickers in a twist about it?
I feel the main reason is that organisers of swinger's parties and clubs are compelled to take a stand in this debate when they draw the line of who is and who isn't allowed to attend their events. Their potential customers take a stand when they may choose to attend a particular venue based on the people they expect to find there. As I mentioned earlier many modern swingers are ideally looking for a threesome; a third person, most commonly a woman, for a couple to share an experience with. As I outlined in my post last week this can be a beautiful thing. And so many clubs and parties have the standard requirement "Couples and Single Ladies only". Most of the time single ladies enter at a reduced price and in some instances no entry fee is required. I have heard of some clubs that offer a monetary incentive for single women to attend their venue but I haven't visited any of them to date.
Even more recently the idea of a woman enjoying the attention of two or more men has become acceptable and perhaps a little fashionable. I know I like that configuration myself but I digress. And so some clubs will add to their entry conditions "Couples, single ladies and selected single males." This is possibly where the issue really comes into play. How do you 'select' single males? Why do you need to? Anyone who has been to a party or club where the selection process is absent and have had to spend their night fending off ill-mannered men who feel entitled to sex because they have paid an entry fee to a sex club will tell you why. And so singles make their way into the lifestyle. But what happens when single women go to swingers clubs to look for single men for sex? Does the fact that they are in a swingers club and that they may be having sex with married couples make them swingers? Does it really matter that this is happening.
As westerners gradually make their way towards sexual enlightenment singles who actively seek out casual, no strings attached sex are becoming more visible. The singles who seek this sex at swingers venues and gatherings are sometimes referred to as swingles. But are they swingers? And, perhaps more importantly where do they sit in the swinging lifestlye.
Some swingles may form a 'fuck buddy' relationship with one or more people and attend swinger's events and clubs as a couple. The organiser is not able to really refuse these couples entry but are they really a couple in the swinging sense? Does it really matter if a party is made up of a number of these couples mixed in with bona fide couples in long term committed relationships?
Most of the time probably not. Some of the time yes it does. A fuck buddy relationship is of course nothing like a marriage. For many swinging couples in long term committed relationships the group sex that they engage in is not just about their own desire or scratching their own itches. One or both parties usually get something out of watching their partner enjoy themselves or realising a long held fantasy. It is also relatively common for these couples to develop friendships with the couples that they meet. Over time the couples socialise together outside the swinging world. I have blogged about this kind of friendship before, (I cannot find the post in my archives). It is not only a great way to fill out your social calendar but these friends can be a great sounding board for the bumps that come along in your swinging journey. Let's face it, it isn't like you can have a chat over the water cooler at work on Monday about the latest drama with your fuck buddy when your workplace knows you as Mrs Happily Married with Three Children is it? For many swinging is not something you do once a fortnight on Saturday night, it is a lifestyle in the fullest sense. Consequently these couples are seeking other people in a similar situation with a similar outlook, ie committed couples in long term serious relationships. Two people who hook up for sex occasionally are not going to work the same way.
A participant in one of the discussions, Tony, framed it nicely;
"I feel, that the difference is in the risk of investment, It also brings a certain balance to it all, each member of a couple in a relationship is putting the same level of investment into the fun."
Unlike many single people, married couples often have lifestyle complications, mainly child related, that make their adults-only time limited. They attend parties and clubs because it is a more efficient way to meet like-minded people. The assumption being that a swingers club or party will be a place where there will be other couples in relationships looking to share an experience with their partner.
From experience I can say that it is slightly frustrating when you pay the babysitter, get out of the house for that once in a blue moon night out and pay the entry fee only to find that the bulk of the people in the room are single people with whom you have very little in common. Of course sex may ensue and it may be fun. It also may not be as a lot of singles, men in particular, don't understand the boundaries and undercurrents that can make or break an experience for a couple. Many single people, again probably mostly the men, are happy to bump around in the swinging lifestyle as a single but have no intention of participating when and if they do find the partner of their dreams and settle into a more conventional vanilla type relationship. In my opinion these people don't have a lot of respect for a marraige and merely see the swinging wife as another woman who is available for them to have sex with not someone who comes as part of a package and has a slightly different set of restrictions and agendas.
I don't think that there is a one-size fits all arrangement. Of course I accept single people are going to participate in the lifestyle and I certainly appreciate the safety factor that goes along with hooking up for sex at a swingers club versus the lack of safety that happens with hooking up at a mainstream venue. The main point that I want to make through all of this is that committed couples who swing are different from single people who hook up for no strings sex. If I wanted to get all purist about it I would say that a single person calling themselves a swinger is devaluing what I do and the experiences that I share with Jake. I think that there is room for single people at clubs and parties but I think that 'bona fide couples' is a valid criteria to add to entry requirements from time to time. At the very least it is a way for couples to understand more fully what or who to expect when they take that step and go through the door into that world.