Friday, April 8, 2011

An Insiders Guide to Swingers, Polyamory, & the Lifestyles Culture…

Part IV in a continuing series. Please note that each article is a stand-alone entity, but all are precluded by a core preface:  An Essential Introduction:

Swingers vs. the Lifestyle Community - is there really a difference?

The quick answer, not really… 

By strict definition, a ‘Swinger’ is a Couple engaged in a sexually open relationship. A person engaged in the ‘Lifestyle’ is simply anyone (be it a couple or single) who participates in the Alternative Lifestyle Community - which is to say, a person who engages in continued sexual activities beyond the scope of a strictly monogamous relationship.

The term ‘Swinger’ was born in the 1970’s. The creation of ‘The Pill’ a decade earlier brought with it a new sense of power & control for women. This combined with the free love attitude of the flower power generation & eventually yielded a sexual revolution that rivaled any in history. The Hippies had grown up, & although the kids who reveled in the summer of love were now parents & professionals, the conservative shackles of the 50’s had long since been cast aside. Enter the 1970's,& a time of personal & sexual indulgence was the avenue of the day. The 80’s brought up a further focus on excess & the Lifestyle Community was in full fashion.

Of course, the reality of AIDS slowed things down to almost a complete stand-still (& for good reason), but even such paramount issues didn’t crush it altogether. New attitudes had formed, & society had seen the birth of a new subculture that was carried into its every corner.

Mind you, the concept of an open sexual relationship is anything but new. In Ancient Greek & Roman society the modern Swinger would seem tame at best. Various patriarchal societies throughout history have not only seen men carrying families with several wives, but in fact most traditions viewed the number of wives a man had as a sign of status. Open sexual relationships were often a very common & accepted practice. However, the puritan attitudes of the dark ages put a damper on everything until the tolerance of the Enlightenment & Renaissance finally said 'Enough!' (Perhaps not in those exact words). Actually, the likes of Benjamin Franklin & others were renowned for their precocious ways, as was most of European high society around his time.

Fast forward to the 1970’s & you saw a blending of not only an earlier desire of sexual decadence, but also an open engagement for the power of women in society as well. The end result was a mainstream movement toward equal rights & a subculture of sexual empowerment & experimentation. Amidst all of it, the Lifestyle Culture of the Swingers were born…

The Culture as at Its Best (& Worst):

Make no doubt, the personal dynamic created by the Swinger’s Culture offers a unique avenue for couples to engage in a much deeper level of open communication, & build an unprecedented level of trust within their relationship. Beyond the sheer excitement of exploring one’s physical desires & sexual fantasy, the inner dimension to explore the intimacy of the relationship on an interpersonal level can be truly profound.

Let’s face it, unless you were lucky enough to meet your partner through such a forum then it takes ENORMOUS trust in your relationship (& comfort with your partner) to lay it on the line & pose the possibility of such a pursuit. Once done, it can then create an incredible channel for open dialogue that soon spills over to encompass ALL areas of the relationship. The thought that such a pursuit exists on a purely physical level is deeply misconceived.

Indeed, this is the culture at its best.

There is of course the other side. You see them every once in a while, & it’s always disconcerting when you do. A couple who is quite obviously following the fantasy of one partner while the other is all but dragged on board with a complete unwillingness to participate (but does so anyway, usually with a feeling of contempt or even with a tint of battered resolution to their own sense of self). There’s no communication & no regard for the other's feelings. It’s always a bad situation, & it always ends poorly.

This without question is the culture at its absolute worst.
A Word of Warning… 
Couples who follow this pattern beware. This is a dangerous game, for unless there's an absolute agreement for both to mutually enjoy the experience then all you’ll succeed in creating is a level of deep resentment. Even if your partner does warm up to the idea, be careful of what you produce. It’s likely that under such circumstances you may not move forward as ‘a couple’ but rather as two individuals who are simply traveling the journey, each on their own regard & for their own purposes. This may very well be the Pandora’s Box that can’t be closed. So beware of how you approach the possibility within your relationship, & be very clear in your understanding of why you want it.

Also, you'll sometimes see people who are having problems in their relationship & decide to get into swinging just to ‘spice things up’ (doing so with the hope that this sense of infused adventure will fix everything). Nothing could be further from the truth. I’ve seen relationships blow apart from such thinking & I wouldn’t even consider engaging such a couple. I can assure you, the inner dynamic of the lifestyle will serve as a megaphone for any insecurity you carry within (& that applies to you personally as well as to your relationship). So before you complicate things be sure you stand on solid ground, both personally as well as a couple.

Keep in mind, seeing your husband or wife with another can be one of the most erotic things you’ll ever do. But they WILL respond differently to another person than they do with you (& they will be deeply engaged in the throws of absolute passion & ecstatic desire while doing so). If you aren’t ready for that then any insecurity will have an opposite effect & become an immediate wedge to draw deep issues almost immediately to the surface. This can be a good thing as you at least get it out in the open. But only if you have the communication & availability to then pursue such an opportunity. However, if you’re here to ‘fix’ things, one must assume that these were problems to begin with & that can yield a very destructive end result.

So keep a clear sense of what the culture is really all about, & beware of moving forward for reasons that are of anything less than a shared exploration of mutually agreed sexual desire & personal discovery. But to do so with the right frame of mind, then the journey ahead will be the thing that created the fantasy in the first place.


The Swinger’s Lifestyle vs. the Polyamorous Relationship:

Whenever you discuss the ‘Lifestyle’ Culture, you need to understand the essential difference between the Swinger’s Community & that of a truly Polyamorous Relationship. Not all who share in a Polyamorous lifestyle are Swingers, & not all swingers are in an open relationship. There is actually a profound & notable difference between the two, & it’s a serious error to see them as identical (or even as really all that similar)… 

In a Polyamorous interaction you see a truly ‘open’ relationship. That is, those engaged are available to explore others on a personal, emotional, & physical level. Indeed, it wouldn’t be uncommon to see 2 couples or 3 people all under one roof while all those involved would move in the relationship as if they were ‘one couple.’ Sometimes you’ll have two couples who are each in love with one partner, but then deeply committed to the other couple in an adjacent & mutually interactive relationship.

In the Swinger Community you don’t usually see this - almost by definition such an interaction would then begin to fall under the heading of Polyamorous. In the Swinger’s Community you see couples in a very open relationship sexually, but personally they remain very clear that an emotional attachment to another would most certainly be crossing the line. They are deeply & truly committed to one another, but within the relationship ‘as a couple’ they are open to explore their mutual desires on a level of sexual enticement. Although the others they engage may become quite good friends & sexual partners, they are more appropriately seen as ‘intimate friends’ rather than intimate partners - that level of connection is reserved only & specifically for their spouse or partner.

The Community Taken as a Whole:

Exactly who are Swingers?

As a group, they’re as varied as society itself.  So take a look at the phone book, delete out all the religious zealots (then add a few back in), & in any cross section of what remains you’ll find a surprising percentage who engage in the Lifestyle’s Community.

Mind you, there are many levels of participation. More often you’ll find a couple who's engaged in a degree of fantasy exploration & have only limited encounters with a select few. Sometimes that will continue throughout the relationship; sometimes it will fulfill a fanciful need & then be left to one’s memories. Then of course there are couples fully engaged in the community, meeting friends in the culture on a regular basis & actively participating in all the lifestyle provides. 

Overall, there are 2 main aspects for interaction in the scene: Public & Private Forums

Private Forums: Select private groups or individual associations that meet for active encounters & fantasy exploration...

Couples & individuals exploring basic sexual fantasies: This can range from a single encounter of a simple threesome to continued relationships with any one of a number of like-minded couples &/or individuals. The exploration of one’s fantasies can run a whole range of vanilla want & desire (as mild as basic sex but perhaps while being watched by another), to the full-on exploration of fetish based desires, BDSM, or large & uninhibited orgies in an open setting. The limits of possibility are hindered by only the capability of one’s imagination to explore & the desire to engage in such a fantasy or desire.

Couples engaged in Open & Closed Forum Groups: A closed forum is essentially a select group of individuals &/or couples that come together for uninhibited & active play. This would of course lead to on-premise sexual activity, & such groups may have a more casual association of informal members or may be a small tight-nit circle of very close intimate friends & partners. Formal membership is usually required, & the atmosphere is more attune to a private party with active intimate encounters than anything else.  

The Club Scene: More public & predominantly commercial venues fall into essentially two categories…

Off-premise Venues: The more predominant of the two is the more casual meet & greet forum. The basic premise is that people of like mind will be able to come together & enjoy themselves in a friendly, relaxed atmosphere while meeting others. It's basically a network mixer for swingers. These are almost always held in a public night-club setting & usually feature such amenities as a cash bar, dancing, lounge area, & anything else you’d expect for a night on the town. Sometimes they also feature a VIP hospitality suite for on-premise play or an after-hours venue for couples to engage more intimately.

An ‘on-premise’ forum: This takes the Club Scene to a whole new level & offers active play on the premises. Usually such venues are private clubs for members only, but often such membership is available at the door. These clubs are usually situated as a ‘bed & breakfast’ or resort type of setting but often carry a more night-club feel. Amenities can include everything from open bar, lounge areas, open play areas, private party rooms, as well as hot tubs, & just about anything else that would draw an appeal.

The Bottom Line is This...

In short, the community is as culturally & socio-economically diverse as the country itself. To ask ‘why are people swingers?’ is to ask ‘why do people have sex.’ 

The group as whole, however, tends to be a fairly homogenous bunch. Most are open minded with regard to their sexual practices & almost always comfortable within themselves. In that, they're willing & wanting to explore themselves, their relationship, & their mutual desire for sexual intrigue. It is that touch of spice that makes the whole journey of life so much more fulfilling. And in the end, that’s what it’s all about.

The Rules of the Game:

It’s not like they have stone tablets or anything, but this is generally the accepted norm…

  • Safe, Sane, Healthy, & Discreet - at all times & in every encounter.
  • No Means No. There can be no tolerance for pushy or abusive behavior.
  • Never do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable. Everything should move comfortably & at his or her own pace.
  • Never play without the full approval & consent of your partner.
    • That Means No Cheating!
    • Arrive as a couple, leave as a couple, & forever stay a couple…
  • No photo’s or video unless invited to do so.
  • Generally speaking, drugs are out unless mutually agreed by all parties.
  • Discreet means that family & friends should never know…

A Matter of Health:

The community has seen a deep resurgence in recent years. AIDS & STD’s still lurk in the shadows but they are now more understood. As an unpleasant reality, those who participate in the culture have a deep awareness of the risks involved, & thus healthy practices have kept such issues contained. The high risk nature of the community has always been a concern for many. But in truth, it is this understanding that makes it a safe place to play. In general, people are very safe in their practice & very aware of their health, not only for their own safety but for the safety of those around them (of course, there are always a few bad apples in every communal barrel).

Although I must admit that perhaps this isn’t an absolute, it is none the less a generally shared understanding. But even more, it's my opinion that a more dangerous encounter is to meet a person at a bar & have casual sex without any knowledge of her practice. In the scene, to have such a conversation is quite the norm & even to some degree expected.


The Case for ‘Adultery’...

Don't be misled, as long as a person lives their life in a manner that’s not detrimental to those around them, & carries within them a conduct consistent with leaving the world just a bit better than how they found it, then they have in every regard lived their life on moral high ground.

Indeed, there is only one common denominator that has transcended ALL theological & philosophical thought in the realm of ethics & morality => just one... The Golden Rule: treat others as you yourself would wish to be treated…

In this we must question the concept of adultery. All too often people are conflicted over a very simple but misunderstood concept. So let’s be clear - the act of ‘Adultery’ (contrary to popular opinion) is NOT an act of sexual regard. The act of Adultery is a betrayal of TRUST. It is to engage an unforgivable wrong such that you can no longer be trusted. But let’s be clear, this has absolutely NOTHING to do with sex (at least not as an act in & of itself).

Even more, consider for a moment the broader idea that there are universal principals which have been carried throughout history & which can be recognized in literally every culture since the birth of civilization. They are fundamental & can be seen as a kind of universal truth to the nature of man. Such examples would be Justice, Truth, Virtue, Compassion, etc...

But such concepts in & of themselves are rather abstract. Consequently, different cultures tend to view the same value differently. Take for example the fundamental concept of Justice. Since the beginning of time we have held within us an understanding for 'Justice' (the notion that there is right & wrong). It is a primary concept that simply can not be denied. BUT, even though everyone has a fundamental understanding for the concept itself, what someone then sees as being actually just is then defined by the accepted norms of the culture as a whole (i.e. a gang member will have a very different view of justice than that of a little old lady from Utah, but both will have an understanding for the core concept).

Adultery is clearly a societal value, but as such it is then open to interpretation. So it would be beneficial to gain a deeper understanding for why such ideals exist in the first place.

Since the birth of civilization people have been aware that sex often begot a child. One end result of this realization was the creation of marriage to ensure the sanctity of the family (keeping in mind that sometimes this was an act of love, but just as often it was used to tie bonds from one family to the next for the purpose of political positioning). Regardless of a person’s sense of commitment, for the times, the act of sexual engagement still had the potential to create a pregnancy. So the fundamental idea was that sexual engagement out of wedlock was a risk which could break apart the sanctity of the family & thus the sanctity of marriage. As such, adultery came to be seen not just as an act of betrayal, but even if it was an approved practice, it was still an affront to the sanctity of the family bond.

Enter an era of birth control & the same concept of marriage, sex, & adultery still prevails. However, now the issue of pregnancy & disease isn’t the dark misunderstood mystery it was a thousand years ago. The end result is that a new ideal for sexual interaction is needed but has so far been hindered by a societal norm which hasn’t been relevant since the dark ages (there was a reason they called it The Dark Ages). But what we need isn’t a redefinition of the word. Rather an understanding for its roots & the historical context from where it came. And in that, we need to understand that in the context of a modern society the act of adultery is a betrayal of trust & has nothing to do with sex!

The sexual act of two consenting adults, regardless of how it’s practiced (if all stand in mutual agreement) IS living in a fashion of moral integrity. In that, it’s okay to be different. That’s what makes it such an interesting world to live in.


The Scene as a Fully Evolved ‘Lifestyle’

Most people in the culture use the scene as an added dimension to spice up an otherwise well balanced life. Others use it to simply fulfill a basic need or fantasy. But there are a select few that fully embrace the culture as a complete lifestyle. They don’t spend their days pretending to be something they’re not, but instead carry some aspect of the culture throughout almost every aspect of their lives. In general, this type of individual usually falls into one of two categories…

The first is a person who has embraced the full spectrum of their nature & has quite simply come to realize that this aspect of their character is a primary aspect of who & what they are as a person. They have infused their life with all aspects of the culture & do so happily as they then lead a truly fulfilled & satisfied life. However, the key consideration is that although the culture is woven into the fabric of their existence, they are none the less completely balanced individuals. It’s a big complex world out there & without question they move & interact within it.

On the other end of the scale, you find a similar person who also moves within the community as a complete lifestyle. But here we find different forces at work. This individual hasn’t only embraced this aspect of their nature, but has engrossed themselves completely. Every aspect of their life is enmeshed within the culture. It’s a fine line, but it’s an important distinction.

There are those who have embraced the culture as a lifestyle, & then there are those who have completely engrossed every aspect of who & what they in the scene as a hedonistic pursuit. Now I don’t place judgment on how one leads their life (it is after all, their life). But I would question whether or not this is healthy. It is most certainly good to embrace the whole aspect of one’s true nature. But the later I would compare to that of a workaholic. In truth, they aren’t really embracing much of anything. What they’re really doing is using this aspect of their nature to essentially hide from everything else.

Life is a tapestry. Its richness lies in our ability to embrace the full capacity of our inner desire & the whole spectrum of our true nature. That’s what the Lifestyle Community & Alternative Culture is really all about. It can most certainly satisfy our most primal desires. But it’s also a unique forum to explore the full character of our inner nature. So engage yourself in the community & do so fully (for the purpose of mutual benefit & positive influence). But in the end, it’s a big beautiful world out there. So live in it, & do so with a full shaker of spice. Live your life to its full extent, but take a moment to gain a sense of understanding for all that is around you. We live in a world rich in diversity. Judgment will disappear once you have a sense of true understanding, & that’s really what it’s all about…

- Richard A.D.


Also in our series, we offer the following articles for your consideration - each a subject onto its own, but all come together to comprise the full spectrum of the adult & alternative community:
The full body of work is here:

Brought to you by Richard A.D. & The Metro Underground...

Our intentions are simple: to serve as a fundamental gateway for the entire spectrum of the alternative, underground, & adult scene (for DC, Baltimore, & the Mid-Atlantic Region), to lift the fog for what's going on in & around the area, assist the promotion of the scene as a whole, & ultimately to provide a forum through which that bridges can be built - from one culture to another, & from one group to the next.

We hope you check it out,

Rick D~

The Metro Underground & DC Fetish Ball.


Follow us on Facebook:

Join us on Fet-Life:

Also on Twitter:
Quarterly Newsletter on LJ: