Swinging aka partner swapping is non-monogamous behavior, in which singles or partners in a committed relationship engage in sexual activities with others as a recreational or social activity. Swinging can take place in a number of contexts, ranging from spontaneous sexual activity at informal gatherings of friends to planned regular social meetings to hooking up with like-minded people at a swingers' parties. It can also involve Internet-based swinger social networking services online.
The phenomenon of swinging, or at least its wider discussion and practice, is regarded by some as arising from the upsurge in sexual activity during the sexual revolution of the 1960s, made possible by the invention of the contraceptive pill and the emergence of treatments for many of the sexually transmitted diseases that were known at that time.
The older term wife-swapping, once considered to be equivalent to "swinging," is criticised today as being androcentric where it is presumed that the partners are a married heterosexual couple and that it is the male is in control of the sexual activities and also that it does not accurately describe the full range of sexual activities in which both singles or couples may take part.
According to 2005 estimates by the Kinsey Institute, swingers account for a large number of married couples with numbers in excess of 4 million people in North America alone. As of 2011, some experts believe that there are as many as 15 million Americans swinging on a regular basis.
Swinging sexual activity can take place in a sex club, also known as a swinger club. Different clubs offer varied facilities and atmospheres, and often have theme based events. Furthermore, many websites that cater to swinging couples now exist, some boasting hundreds of thousands of members.
Research on swinging has been conducted in the United States since the late 1960s. One 2000 study, based on an Internet questionnaire addressed to visitors of swinger-related sites, found swingers are happier in their relationships than the norm.
60% said that swinging improved their relationship; 1.7% said swinging made their relationship less happy. Approximately 50% of those who rated their relationship "very happy" before becoming swingers maintained their relationship had become happier. 90% of those with less happy relationships said swinging improved them.
The vast majority of swingers claim to have no issue with jealousy, although a small percentage did admit - "I have difficulty controlling jealousy when swinging" as being "somewhat true, "whilst a more minute percentage claimed this to be "very much true".
Swingers will generally rate themselves as happier, in fact a much higher percentage of swinging couples claimed to be "very happy": than non-swinging couples and would also say, their lives were 'more exciting". There was also found to be no significant difference between responses of men and women.
According to an investigative news report produced by John Stossel in 2005 there were more than 4 million swingers. He also cited Terry Gould's research, which concluded that "couples swing in order to not cheat on their partners." Although freedom of choice, as well as the way a consenting couple is "wired" would surely play a major part in their decision to take this route. Couples would also be found to have a hedonistic approach. This approach is often combined with a common swinging strategy, to begin with "soft" swinging and only later engage in "harder" swinging, swinging couples will often be on the search for ever new sexual experiences, with this keeping the hedonistic outlook carrying on for most of their lives, hence increasing the number of swingers.
When Stossel asked swinging couples whether they worry their spouse will "find they like someone else better," one male replied, "People in the swinging community swing for a reason. They don't swing to go out and find a new wife;" a woman asserted, "It makes women more confident - that they are the ones in charge." Stossel also interviewed 12 marriage counselors. According to Stossel, "not one of them said don't do it," though some said "getting sexual thrills outside of marriage can threaten a marriage". Nevertheless, swingers whom Stossel interviewed claimed "their marriages are stronger because they don't have affairs and they don't lie to each other."
Swinging and Marriage
Married couples of all ages like to meet other couples privately over dinner and drinks to talk and gauge mutual interest in trading partners for sex. All of which will say “I’m very happily married”.
According to some of these couples, the allure is mainly in the flirtation and suspense, the time before the sex. They like those moments at dinner when,"You don't know how the night is going to end.”
“Let's face it, it’s easy for a married couple to fall into a day-to-day rut. Work, kids, house chores, bills, repeat…,” Swingers will tell you. "Swinging adds some excitement".
Online sites have made it easy, and more people are taking the plunge, says Curtis Bergstrand, a sociologist at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky, and the author of “Swinging in America: Love, Sex and Marriage in the 21st Century.” Swingers are "very much in love and have lots of trust," he says. "The sex is just recreation."
“I’ve never heard anyone say that swinging improved their marriage,” says relatioship expert and author of "The Breakup Bible," Rachel Sussman. Although she has noticed that swingers tend to begin their relationship with a “open attitude to sex” and may have started swinging early on. The key, she says, is to establish rules/guidelines before you start: what can each person do?
"Soft swap" couples engage in all sorts of fun except swapping partners for intercourse; “full swap" go all the way. Some stipulate "same room only" play; others are okay with seeing their partner go off into another room for some privacy. Some don't allow open-mouth kissing (considered more intimate than sex). Some go to public swing events; others meet with only one other couple at a time.
Even though many people assume that swinging is a man’s fantasy, it’s often the women who find themselves enjoy it the most, Bergstrand says. Men are more likely to feel competitive with other men, wondering if their wives preferred their swinging partners, while women tend to be supportive of each other within the swinging scene.
Swingers aren't the same as “Polyamorous” couples who embrace more than one relationship at a time, with any number of variations on what feelings can develop. Some poly spouses call themselves "primaries" and take on "secondaries" who may turn into close connections seen privately on a predictable routine.
Swingers instead mostly do their extra-marital playing together as a couple and make sure to keep things light and fun. Depending on whom you ask, a heterosexual “open marriage” could be poly or swinging or some arrangement unique to each couple.
When Bergstrand conducted an online survey in 1999, speaking with over 1000, self-identified swingers, he concluded that they didn't possess any particular history of sexual abuse or any other special psychological profile. Caveat emptor.
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