What Is Swinging? All About This Lifestyle & Things To Consider Before Trying It Yourself

When you think of swingers, no doubt you’re transported back to the ’70s, envisioning LSD-laden parties in which couples drop keys in a fish bowl and go to town on one another. However, this alternative lifestyle is just as popular as ever in the 21st century. So, what is swinging and what should you know if you’re interested in trying it yourself?

Admittedly, swinging is only practiced by a relatively small number of people in the United States. A 2018 study published in the journal Sexualities estimated about 2.35% of Americans identify as swingers, with roughly 2.5 million couples practicing swinging regularly. In other words, not very many. However, that could be down to the fact that not everyone knows enough about it. That’s where we come in.

What is swinging? What does a swinger do?

Swinging is a sexual practice for anyone who’s interested in sex with people outside of their primary relationship. Typically, this involves or implies group sex. It’s a scenario in which you swap sexual partners on a habitual basis. It could be that you and your partner go to parties and gatherings specifically for swingers. Or, perhaps you organically meet another couple that’s also interested in experimenting. At its core, swinging is about sleeping with other couples while still maintaining your primary relationship.

A swinger is someone who enjoys swinging with their partner and considers this lifestyle one they regularly enjoy. Many swingers make these extra-marital encounters a regular occasion, attending gatherings and hooking up with other couples on a monthly or even weekly basis.

How does swinging differ from polyamory?

While polyamory is a nonmonogamous relationship in which a person may have several romantic partners at one time, swinging is specifically a sexual practice. When you swing with someone, you have sex with them but do not maintain a romantic relationship outside the bedroom.

Who can be a swinger?

Anyone who consents to swinging can swing. It’s that simple! It might be worth having a chat with someone you know within the swinging community so that you can get more information on it. Don’t start swinging just because your friends think it looks cool in movies. Do so because you are sexually, emotionally, and mentally secure and self-actualized.

Why do people enjoy swinging?

There are lots of reasons, and it varies person by person. For some, it’s a more modern way of seeking sexual pleasure without holding yourself down to one person. If you’re early in your relationship or are open to sexual experimentation, this may seem particularly inviting. Be warned, though — swinging generally isn’t a phase but rather a lifestyle for many people. It requires maturity, and people in the community will expect their terms of consent, respect, and tolerance to be met.

What are the signs of swinging or a swinger?

There are lots of folk tales and old wives’ tales that are popular culture shorthand for a swinger. However, in truth, discretion is key even in swinging. That has given rise to the use of signals or symbols so that people in the community know who is open to an opportunity. These include wearing anklets, toe rings, thumb rings, switching your wedding ring to your right hand, or wearing clothing with pineapple patterning (via NY Post).

Is swinging healthy for marriage?

While swinging can have a detrimental effect on many relationships, that’s not true for every couple. In fact, for some, becoming a swinger can breathe new life into a relationship and strengthen the bond between two people. That’s because monogamy can be stressful for many, as meeting all of your partner’s needs alone is pretty much impossible. That pressure is often alleviated when a couple tries swinging.

That being said, if your relationship is plagued with jealousy and you don’t have complete and total trust in one another, the swinging lifestyle probably isn’t for you.

Things to consider before trying the swinging lifestyle

  • It might not be for you. I know we all want to be sexually mature, open-minded, and spontaneous, but that’s just not in all of our natures. As long as we open ourselves up to a fun new experience, we’ll get closer to self-knowledge and identifying what we really want. If it isn’t swinging, that’s okay — it’s not for everyone. Try it and don’t worry about “Failing.” Even if you don’t practice swinging long-term, at least you’ve learned about yourself in the process. Non-monogamy doesn’t mean no commitment, but it can be a big change. Prepare yourself for that.
  • You have to remain open-minded. You can do your research ahead of time and try and find non-monogamous communities, but don’t let those assumptions or perspectives cloud the reality. Let the experience take a hold of you rather than letting pre-existing thoughts delimit a new experience. Give yourself into the experience totally, and let the people who are professionals guide what your experience looks like.
  • You’ll gain superior communication skills. People in polyamorous relationships or throuples have infinitely better communication skills than people in more traditional (well, straight) relationships. You learn how to cordon off your time, how to be honest about your needs, and how to be less precious about other people’s feelings. With swinging, we all know the rules and boundaries going in, in a way that straight, monogamous relationships rarely need to communicate.

More things to consider

  • Swinging is a judgment-free zone. As you start out your relationship with swinging, you might find that you become a lot more tolerant and respectful of your own views. As you learn about other people’s kinks, trigger points, and sexual fantasies, it will increase your threshold and experience level. You will find yourself being more tolerant. The world could use more perspectives like that, so cultivate that process within yourself and become more sexually positive.
  • You can be open with your friends. By exploring more options in your sexual journey, you have a unique opportunity to spread that experience with friends. You can destigmatize the reputation that Swinging has sometimes acquired, and that’s really fulfilling. You can spread the message of tolerance and a more experimental take on sexuality and sexual behaviors. Plus, if you find that you lose some basic friends over this, then good riddance. If your existing friends won’t support you, lose them. This is about self-exploration for you, not them.
Hannah has a Masters degree in Romantic and Victorian literature in Scotland and spends her spare time writing anything from essays to short fiction about the life and times of the frogs in her local pond! She loves musical theatre, football, anything with potatoes, and remains a firm believer that most of the problems in this world can be solved by dancing around the kitchen to ABBA. You can find her on Instagram at @_hannahvic.