Overview of Swinging, Part 2 — Modern swinging origins, research on attitudes and behavior, organizations

[This entry was initially posted to the original Red Keyhole blog on 16 June 2011.]

By far one of the more increasingly popular forms of group sex activity involving married or “committed” couples is Swinging, which represents both a clear repudiation of capitalist society’s “officially approved” monogamous nuclear family lifestyle, and an opportunity for modern couples to explore greater sexual fulfillment through more adventuresome sexual recreation.

The online free encyclopedia Wikipedia provides an extensive, interesting, and reasonably authoritative article on Swinging, and, for educational and informational purposes, Red Keyhole continues a series of postings with excerpts selected from the Wikipedia entry last modified on 18 November 2010. This is Part 2 of this series.

These excerpts have been lightly edited to improve orthography and readability. Where useful, original endnotes (with original numbering) have been included.

Modern swinging

According to Terry Gould’s Book The Lifestyle: A Look at the Erotic Rites of Swingers,[8] swinging began among Air Force pilots and their wives during World War II. The mortality rate of pilots was high. Gould reports that a close bond arose between pilots, with the implication that husbands would care for all the wives as their own, emotionally and sexually, if the husbands were away or lost.

This is debatable, however, since it would have been unusual for wives to accompany their husbands on foreign tours. Other sources point to U.S. Air Force test pilots in the California desert as the original participants. Though the beginnings are not agreed upon, it is assumed American swinging began among American military communities in the 1950s.[9] By the time the Korean War ended, swinging had spread from the military to the suburbs. The media dubbed the phenomenon wife-swapping. …

The first swingers’ organization was the Sexual Freedom League, which was formed in the 1960s in Berkeley, California by Robert McGinley, in the sexually liberal San Francisco Bay Area. McGinley later formed an umbrella organization for swinging clubs called the North American Swing Club Association (now NASCA International) [10] to disseminate information about swinging across North America. Many internet websites that cater for swinging couples now exist, some boasting hundreds of thousands of members.[11]

In February 2010, Christoph Büchel and the Secession contemporary art museum in Vienna, Austria invited a local swingеrs’ club to hold orgies and display related paraphernalia in the building where Gustav Klimt’s famous Beethoven Frieze had prompted substantial outrage and media attention in 1902.[12][13][14]

Research

Research has been conducted in the United States since the late 1960s. One study, based on an Internet questionnaire addressed to visitors of swinger-related sites, found swingers are happier in their relationships than the norm.[2]

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.

Almost 70% of swingers claimed no problem with jealousy; approximately 25% admitted “I have difficulty controlling jealousy when swinging” as “somewhat true”, while 6% said this was “yes, very much” true. Swingers rate themselves happier (“very happy”: 59% of swingers compared to 32% of non-swingers) and their lives more “exciting” (76% of swingers compared to 54% of non-swingers) than non-swingers, by significantly large margins. There was no significant difference between responses of men and women, although more males (70%) than females completed the survey.

This study is of limited use due to self-selected sampling. Self-sampling procedures create a potential for bias. For instance, swinging couples who had stronger relationships may have been more motivated to complete the questionnaire. Alternatively, because swinging may cause stress on a marriage, perhaps only those with higher than average commitment are able to remain married.

Couples who have jealousy or strife issues caused by swinging might not persist in the activity and could therefore be less likely respondents. Additionally, couples that would be negatively affected by swinging may be less likely to try swinging in the first place.

ABC News reporter John Stossel produced an investigative report into the swinging lifestyle. Stossel reported that at that time, more than four million people were swingers, according to estimates by the Kinsey Institute and other researchers. He also cited Terry Gould’s research, which concluded that “couples swing in order to not cheat on their partners.”

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 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.”

Much swinging involves couples plus a third partner, thus creating a threesome – often another female, in an FMF ménage à trois.

Much swinging involves couples plus a third partner, thus creating a threesome – often another female, in an FMF ménage à trois.

According to economic studies on swinging, [15] the ICT revolution, together with improvements in medicine, has been effective in reducing some of the costs of swinging and hence in increasing the number of swingers. And the economic approaches which seem best suited to capture the empirical data are those based on the concept of hedonic adaptation. These approaches suggest that it is consistent with maximizing swingers’ strategy to begin from “soft” swinging and only later engage in “harder” swinging, and that also the search for ever new sexual experiences delays long-period hedonic adaptation and hence increases swingers’ long-period well-being. Both these theoretical predictions seem to find confirmation in the empirical data on swinger behaviour.

Organizations

Some couples engage in sexual activities at sex clubs, some of which cater for the swinging lifestyle. Most major cities in North America and western Europe have sex clubs, many in a permanent location, but they often keep a low profile.

Over 3,000 swinging clubs are believed to exist worldwide, with slightly over 1,000 having an online presence,[16] but there are believed to be many other small neighborhood clubs, which are known among members of the lifestyle community, without a website. The rules of these clubs vary considerable, and admissions are not necessarily limited to married couples.

In the US, many off-premises swinging clubs follow a bar or nightclub format, sometimes renting an entire existing bar for scheduled swinging events. Consequently, on weekends in suburbia, bars in large industrial parks that attract a mainstream clientèle during weekdays and would otherwise sit empty or closed on weekends (when business offices are closed) are likely locations for a takeover. Memberships must be obtained and rules followed at these off-premise locations.[17]

On-premises clubs usually have a similar format to off-premises clubs. Most on-premises clubs do not serve alcohol because of legal prohibitions on the sale of alcohol where sexual activity takes place.[18] However, some permit guests to bring their own alcohol. Also, the vast majority of swinging clubs in the US do not advertise as such.

The largest swinger society in North America is NASCA International. NASCA is an association of clubs, websites, publications, travel agencies, and events catering to the swinging lifestyle community.

NASCA was established as an umbrella organization with the intent of encouraging the dissemination of accurate information about swinging lifestyles across North America. It publishes a guide listing clubs and events in 43 of the 50 US states and the District of Columbia, Canada, as well as 25 other nations.

Notes

2. Bergstrand, Curtis; Blevins Williams, Jennifer (2000-10-10). “Today’s Alternative Marriage Styles: The Case of Swingers”. Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality 3.
http://www.ejhs.org/volume3/swing/body.htm. Retrieved 2010-01-24.

8. Terry Gould, The Lifestyle: A Look at the Erotic Rites of Swingers (Paperback), (Vintage Canada, November 23, 1999) (ISBN 1-55209-482-0)

9. The History and Definitions of Swinging which is couples only, Liberated Christians, Inc.; History of Wife Swapping, homerf.org

10. NASCA International

11. Official Swingers Online

12. Sex in an art gallery? Klimt would approve in The Guardian online, 2010-02-24

13. Telegraph 24 February 2010: Vienna museum hosts swingers club to expose sexual inhibitions

14. Austrian Times, 24-2-2010: Swingers’ club at Vienna’s Secession causes controversy

15. Fabio D’Orlando (2010), “Swinger Ecomomics”, in The Journal of Socio-Economics 39(2), pp. 303-304.

16. Kasidie, the Swinger’s Lifestyle Magazine maintains a database of all know swinger clubs’ websites from around the world

17. from a Frequently Asked Questions section of an off-premise club, Playful Encounters in CA

18. Kasidie Magazine’s July, 2008 article on the legalities regarding swinger clubs in the USA



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