Origins Of Swinging|
Dealing with Jealousy
One especially important mechanism for overcoming jealousy in swinging situations, is individuation. Couples who participate in swinging typically treat individuals as individuals rather than as a social category, including their spouses. Each person is seen as a unique individual. This decreases jealousy by stressing the basic nature of people. In the individuation process, attitudes and behavior are modified, and swinging couples report, rather consistently, that they communicate better than they did before swinging, and treat each other much more as individuals. They say that swinging has recreated romantic feelings they once had for each other -- expressed concretely in an increase in both sexual satisfaction and frequency of sexual intercourse. This is especially experienced by older couples.
There are two primary stages in swinging. In the first, the curiosity stage, the couple learns how to behave and swing with others. While many females are rather reluctant to get involved in swinging, once they do, they accept initial experiences more successfully than males. Women are generally either enthusiastic converts or completely turned off by the experience. Generally, swingers are relatively non selective when they first become involved. Following the curiosity stage, there is relative selectivity, characterized by increasing individuation of self and others.
In the individuation process of the second stage, a woman becomes selective because she no longer needs to prove she is desired or can satisfy other men.
In order to make the experience meaningful, she arrives at a point where she feels that she must refuse the advances of many men. She learns to define her preferences more clearly and to learn to act on these preferences. This is an experience that many women never have because they rely on their husbands to make decisions in social situations. In short. a woman learns to individuate both herself and others in the second stage of swinging.
Men, similarly, learn from swinging.
Once a swinger realizes that his physical responses may very well be due to elements that inhere to the individual relationship rather than to innate sexual inadequacy, he has arrived at a very different conception of sexual relationships. He is better able to see women as human beings to whom he may be attracted and as personalities rather than as objects to be exploited for their sexual potential. He can now more successfully individuate relationships with women.
Contrary to popular belief, swinging ordinarily does not result in jealousy or marital breakups: it may succeed in solidifying marriages by reromanticizing them and thereby making them tolerable and perhaps even enjoyable.
One reason for marital happiness among swingers may be that swinging is an activity both spouses do together -- a unique pattern compared with other types of extramarital sex. Most people who continue to participate in swinging believe that such co-marital sex embellishes and enriches marriages in all areas, especially in the erotic sector. While most swingers report that it makes a good marriage better, swinging evidently cannot very often save a poor marriage. Some swingers feel that a weak marriage probably will not survive swinging and that perhaps in such cases couples shouldn't swing. A very strong marriage will survive swinging -- but it a marriage is strong, why the need to swing? One male swinger, who had had exclusive sexual relations with a spouse for many years responded as follows during an interview I conducted:
You get to wondering year after year a little bit more about if you could possibly make it with another gal: what would it be like: you want a little bit of variety: you don't love your partner any less but you want something a little bit different. Just the newness of it, the experience with another person is very electrifying. It charges you up. It gives you something that you just can't get from someone that you know very, very well even though you may love them dearly. You just can't it under those circumstances. With swinging you have the opportunity to meet other people. You go with someone and have a sexual experience with someone else and no one thinks the less of you for it.
Some think "Oh, horror, that's supposed to be terrible." Well it isn't terrible and it you're free enough to allow your partner to have the same freedom, then this is fine. It used to be taken for granted that the man could go out and get himself a gal here and there and not too much flap came from this: but, if the woman did it -- 'Oh, " again, "that's terrible and horrible." I can't accept that as being horrible and neither can my wife accept it as being horrible. As far as we're concerned, it is a good way to charge yourself up once in a while and get yourself an experience that you just can't get any other way. Your experiences with someone else enhance your own sexual experiences with your own partner. There are just some things you can't do with your own, you have to get them from outside sources.
Most swingers believe that swinging is not for all married couples. They do believe that swinging is better than sneaking around corners and lying to the partner about an outside relationship. Most agree with the statement "I think if two people agree on sex other than with their partners, then swinging perhaps is for them." To most swingers sex is a recreation which also satisfies a bodily hunger. One female swinger I interviewed responded as follows to the question of why she got involved in swinging:
As far as being asked why have you married if you're going to get into swinging. I have a lot more emotional aspects of life other than just sex. Sex is just one part of it. I have many years invested in building a complete and total relationship with my husband. Sex, like I say, is just one facet of it and it's been exclusive where as all my other relationships with people have not been exclusive. I'm able to talk to people. I'm able to dance with people, with all these things then why can't I have sex with them ? It doesn't have anything to do with the exclusive relationship I have with my partner, who happens to be my husband. This is my choice and it's the total, exclusive relationship that I want to keep and want to have and I don't want to get rid of: yet. I do have needs to have sexual fulfillment that I can't get from just one type of person. One person can't satisfy all my needs, and I can't satisfy all of anybody else's needs. As far as I can see, that's impossible.
Swingers systematically report that they find it very difficult to go to what they call "straight" parties where they end up playing the couples' game, flirtation games, and other kinds of games. Most of them believe that at swinging parties one does not have to play games, put up the couple front or flirt: one is able to get down to the basics of life and have sex with one another it it is mutually desirable.
Becoming a Swinger
(Reasons for Swinging)
It is generally felt that you can divide swingers into those who participate for recreational and those who participate for utopian reasons. Recreational swingers see swinging as a social activity much like bowling, playing tennis and cards. Utopian swingers have a general philosophy of communitarianism and wish to share not only sex but all other aspects of life with their fellow participants.
At this time there are relatively few scientific data that indicate what long-term effect swinging actually has on marriages. Nevertheless there is a general belief among swingers that swinging has a positive effect upon a marriage. They believe that sexual fidelity is harmful and breeds jealousy and a feeling of ownership between a husband and wife. According to them swinging does away with jealousy and helps each mate see the other as an individual and not as a possession. Another reason for participating in swinging is boredom with marital sex. Swingers feel that it is impossible for one person to satisfy another sexually over an extended period of time. Swinging is seen as a method of adding new excitement to the marriage, perhaps even salvaging it. Most swingers know couples who have tried to salvage a bad marriage by swinging, but they argue that this generally has not been very successful. Most swingers believe that swinging alone cannot save a bad marriage. They do believe that it can strengthen a good marriage.
There may be deeper psychological reasons for swinging. It is believed that men may need to translate early sexual fantasies into reality and that women may be fulfilling social romantic needs. Some believe that because of the marginality of the new middle class, they seek experiences with others in order to feel they belong. They participate in swinging to develop social ties and to satisfy the need tor sexual fulfillment that is a result of their restrictive middle-class backgrounds. Swinging gives them an opportunity to do both without disrupting their general lifestyle.
All reasons, whether social, psychological, or sociological, are at the present time only speculation. One could easily conclude that the reasons for participating in swinging are as varied as swingers themselves.
Jealousy In Swinging
Generally, swingers do not show jealousy on the surface. Most swingers argue that this is because by going to parties together and leaving together, they realize their commitment to each other as a couple. Thus, they do not feel threatened because the other partner has gone into another room to have sexual relations with another individual. One such swinger said, "We both know that each of us have experiences with other people and, yet, we come back to each other because we want to be together" They feel that this gives you a feeling of security that you never had before because you feel and know that the partner is coming back to you even though they have had a sexual relationship with someone else. They feel that this builds up self-confidence and security.
For a couple to engage in swinging, they must throw off the belief that having sexual relations outside of marriage is improper: they must break the shackles of the double standard. That is, the wife will be having sexual relations with other males much as the male may have had sexual relations outside the marriage with another partner previously.
In an interview with me, one woman swinger reported:
I always felt perhaps I didn't have a normal response, because I was never jealous .To me, it was always a compliment when my husband would have a good relationship with someone. Gee, he's my partner. Its sort of a reflection of me, and the reason I feel this way is because I remember my first party where it was kind of late at night and I was sitting by the fireplace waiting for my husband and he appeared with this attractive woman and she came up to me and gave me a big hug and kiss and said "I'm so glad you came tonight. You have such a terrific husband " It made me feel, not jealous, but warm and good and great. And she's been our friend and I'm grateful to her because I've never been jealous. Quite the opposite. That's what it's all about. Sharing a good thing.
Swinging for most women changes their view of the world and sexual relations. Many argue that it has made a complete turn-around in their life from the way they viewed the world two or three years before swinging. In attempting to determine what causes some women to go into swinging, I have already noted that many are urged by their husbands and others go into swinging to carry out their fantasies. One such woman I interviewed reported that she finally acquiesced in going to a swinging party saying that she would not participate but would be willing to go and observe, have dinner and a drink or two. She said:
Well, I had just enough to drink and I saw a man that I liked. I tried him and I liked him, I'm not kidding you. My whole outlook on life has changed -- it's been a scream. We have talked more, in fact, I think he wants to gag me now, and it's just beautiful. I cannot believe our life since I started participating in swinging. When we first got married he was not particularly interested in sexual relations, but now he won't leave me alone. For anyone in trouble, you should try it. He's 33 and I'm 22, and I don't know, but my sexual appetite is different from his. I mean, I guess I'm sowing my wild oats or whatever, while he just wants it once a week or sometimes twice. I was, like, climbing up the wall with sexual frustration -- or putting it more bluntly, I was not getting enough, and it was driving me up the wall. Since participating in swinging, as I said, all he wants to do is talk and have sexual relations with me all the time.
Swingers believe that, perhaps, there is a swinging couple on every block and from this they argue that swingers are not "a bunch of freaked out people." One woman I interviewed reported that her first evening began when her husband came home and told her they were going to a swinging party. He had seen an ad in the paper, called them up, and the swing club had said to come over for an interview.
"So then he said to me, ?Okay we have an interview, we have to go right now, get your clothes on." So I thought, wait a minute, we're going to go. So I put my clothes on. I 'm going to play along with this game and here we go. We 're just going for an interview, right! Well, the interview was at 8:00 and the party was at 9:00. So here we were and the next thing I know there were all these people taking their clothes off, and I thought, my God, help me. Tom's really having a ball, that's really what he was doing, and I'm sitting here on the couch having all these mixed emotions. I'm watching these people, and it's not like any other party that I ever been to, not only in the fact that they are taking their clothes off, but they seem to be actually honest and good people, no phony facade. In fact, I went to the bathroom and this other lady went with me and she asked me it I was having fun, I said, "Not really." She said, "Well, why aren't you balling? Haven't you seen anything you want?" I said. "No, not really." "Well," she said, "listen, you're missing the best thing in my husband, try him." Well I had just enough to drink and I tried him and I liked him.
Advantages of Swinging
Sexual variety, sexual fulfillment, and the potential of carrying out of one's fantasies are among the advantages of swinging. Sexual excitation increases for both partners as a result of the new types of sexual experiences and there are discussions of actual sexual experiences. Women receive a great deal of positive reinforcement: they may begin seeing themselves as more desirable. "Women uniformly report that they have been able to shed sexual inhibitions that they were raised with." According to many swingers, you have more of a feeling of your own "person hood:" you think of yourself as a person and not a thing. As I was told during an interview:
You realize, hey, here I am -- I don't have to do all this garbage, and say all those horrible things that I never used to be able to say, and if people don't like me for what I am, tough -- that's their problem, not mine and I think it really does build you up as a person.
Some swingers argue that swinging creates stronger bonds between couples. Married couples find that swinging increases their ability to communicate with each other. Many couples believe that if a married couple can discuss swinging together, they can discuss anything. Generally, swingers believe they experience individual growth and develop an ability to communicate better with other people.
Generally, swingers believe that swinging has a positive effect on their marriage. About 85 percent of both husbands and wives feel that swinging is not a threat to marriage or love between spouses. None of them reported that their marriage became worse since they began swinging, and the majority feel their marriages have improved. Husbands in particular consistently reported a high level of marital happiness and adjustment. Apparently, swinging has had no negative effect on the sexual lives of the couples: in fact, swinging couples have sexual intercourse more frequently than the general population. More than half of the swinging couples have sex together more than four times a week as compared with only 16 percent of the general population. Many swingers reported that rather than dampening their ardor for each other, swinging often caused an arousal of sexual interest for each other. Many of them often engaged in sex together immediately after resuming home from a swinging party.
The effects ot swinging most often reported are the following: (1) Couples experienced an increased feeling of warmth, closeness, and love, often most intense immediately after swinging, when the couple got together and exchanged their experiences. This is as if the swinging experience was proof of their love. (2) Knowledge and confidence regarding sexual technique was more fully developed. (3) Social life was enriched and active. (4) Couples became more open and honest with one another in all areas of their relationship. (5) A benefit for some was that sexual behavior was taken out ot the dark and became more of a taken for granted normal activity.
Another effect of swinging is that there is a change in the meaning of sex -- that is, of what is appropriate sexual behavior, in what situation, and with whom. Sexual behavior in swinging becomes more broadly defined to accommodate a wider range and choice of behavior than in a typical monogamous relationship. Sex takes on a different meaning for a wife and her spouse when she engages in oral genital sex with another swinger in the presence of her husband. In addition, the idea that sexual exclusivity between marriage partners symbolizes devotion, trust, security, and love no longer holds, and non exclusivity comes to symbolize these things. Further, sexual behavior loses its mystery, its secretiveness, and its aspect of "something done in the dark" and takes on more the character of normal everyday activity.
Swinging is an alternative that is emerging within the traditional structure of marriage in this country. Except for their participation in co-marital sex, most swingers are living in a traditional nuclear family. One advantage for many people involved in swinging is that except for sexual behavior, little change is required in major values related to the traditional family form. Swinging requires changing basic values related to monogamous sexual behavior or admitting values that are different, at least from what individuals have paid lip service to in the past. Families who swing find that except for sex related areas, it does not require substantial changes in behavioral and functional roles. There is some evidence, however, that such sexual activities sometimes require changes in how couples handle jealousy, power, and so forth in the marriage.
Swinging marrieds probably represent the least revolutionary of the emerging alternative lifestyles. Generally, swingers challenge traditional beliefs only in the area of sexual monogamy. Strong relationships outside the pair bond are still, for the most part, regarded as threats rather than potentials for personal growth. Generally, contemporary swingers view sex as a recreation, which is relatively consistent with a consumer oriented society, although there is development of personal growth and change through swinging. Swinging may be a preservative rather than a catalyst for change in the basic structure of the family in our society. Swinging may be viewed as a bridge between old and new values for persons who need old values to feel comfortable in our changing society. Swinging, for the most part, only violates the sexual exclusivity value and not other basic values revolving around the traditional nuclear family. Rules on sex, paternity, and social relationships among swingers make it an adjunct to marriage rather than strictly an alternative. From their point of view, then, swinging supports rather than disrupts monogamous marriage as it currently exists in our society.