As You Desire: Swinging – It’s Not Child’s Play – Part 1

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I’d like to clarify something from my last column on sexual orientation. There IS a difference between sexual orientation and sexual preferences. Sexual orientation is defined by whom we are attracted to. There are four general categories: asexual (no sexual desire), homosexual (same sex attraction), heterosexual (attracted to the opposite sex) and bi-sexual (attracted to both sexes). I will be adding a fifth category to this concept, which is simply SEXUAL (attracted to one sex primarily but comfortable with and able to enjoy being in sexual situations with either sex, aka “try-sexual”). Sexual preference is about how we choose to play sexually. I did blur these in the last column and want to be clear about these differences. That being said, what I will be talking about in this column is about blurring those lines between sexual orientation and sexual preference in the world of “the lifestyle,” aka swinging.

Monogamy is an interesting concept. Are human beings designed to only have one sexual partner in a lifetime? According to the Enrichment Journal’s statistics on the divorce rates in America, the divorce rate for first marriages is 41%; the divorce rate for second marriages is 60%; the divorce rate for third marriage is 73%. (See how we compare to the rest of the world.) What’s wrong with this picture? Interestingly, when you marry between the ages of 20 and 24 you have that 40% rate, but if you wait until you are between 35 and 39, it drops to 5.5%. (Please refer to my column on making sure your picker is working before you say “I do”!)

The top three reasons people give for why they divorced are: lack of communication, infidelity, and conflicting attitudes about money.

A thread of commonality in my columns are tools to enrich the communication in our relationships. Being able to talk about whatever is on our mind, in our heart and on our bucket list is what deepens our experience of intimacy. What if one of these items happens to be sexual exploration? How do you bring this up? How do you explain that you are interested in living out some of your sexual fantasies and that doing so openly would be a preferred choice to doing so secretly? We know that if your relationship is open, honest and without judgment, it is much less likely to have deceit, betrayal or infidelity. So how does anyone ever get past the fears, insecurities, uncertainties, beliefs, judgments, etc? This is what I wanted to know.

“The lifestyle” is a term commonly used to describe adults, both single and married, who seek out other like-minded adults to explore and possibly act out their sexual fantasies. There are numerous adult dating sites for people curious about the lifestyle. You can find parties, cruises, vacations, and various lifestyle events all over the world for just such a purpose. After reading the statistics (The Case of Swingers National Survey 2000)of perceived marital happiness among “swingers” or lifestylers, I became curious how this could be so. After all, the first thing many of us think about is jealousy. But I am also open minded and willing to learn. I am not advocating nor condemning this lifestyle choice, I don’t want to hear from you saying I am suggesting you do this, or if you are in the lifestyle, that you are wrong because of it. I was curious, so I thought you might be too. It’s pretty simple. I am always trying to understand what makes happy people happy, so I asked around.

I interviewed 14 couples and 10 single people participating in “the lifestyle” about their choices, experiences, initial fears and evolution. This sample group includes people living in Redding and as far away as Jamaica, Australia, the United Kingdom, Egypt and Paris. Their ages range from 30 to 70; 60 percent are men, 40 percent are women. I had a lot of questions, as I’m sure you do and will. I will post my questions and then give some exact quotes or a compilation of the answers I received. If you have unanswered questions about this way of living or the information I present, please email me directly or post your questions in the comment section. I will happily do a follow up.

Why were you drawn to this lifestyle?

“The desire to test sexual boundaries and act out some long suppressed fantasies.”

“I love my wife more than anything and was curious to explore sexual fantasies with her, and her with me.”

“We met in the lifestyle as single, recently divorced people, who were out to have fun with a variety of sexual options. Three weeks into dating we were playing with others together. We have been married for seven years and have a great marriage.”

“Some people love riding motorcycles so they join a Harley club. Others love hunting so they go on hunting trips with groups. I love sex … everything about it. So I joined a sex club.”

“Our desires lie in darkness … they need the mind to shed light, allow the body to experience, feel the pleasure … once the two begin to connect … you have growth, happiness, trust all within yourself. The Lifestyle is allowing me to expand my boundaries in the world of sexuality.”

Most describe themselves as highly sexual people who enjoy the sexual play side of life.

Many said they were curious about testing same-sex experiences but not interested in a loving relationship with a same sex partner, and could be described as try-sexual. A few I spoke with have fetishes they wanted to play out with like-minded people.

Which one of you broached the subject of getting into the Lifestyle and how?

Most couples said they began by discussing sexual fantasies and then talking about how they could fulfill those openly and together. The more open a couple is about their sexuality, the more likely this topic will come up, they said. Some couples said they knew of other people exploring this and it sparked their curiosity and opened the topic for discussion. It’s usually a very gradual and playful conversation. A few people just came right out and asked if the other person would consider this. One man said his wife’s all-time fantasy was to be with two men, so he arranged it for her very early in their dating days.

Is it true that more men initiate getting into the Lifestyle than women?

“Actually more women seek us out than men. Women are curious about exploring sex with other women –approximately 90% of those in the lifestyle — and their men are usually just fine with that.”

Many believe that people in this lifestyle are typically “sex addicts” and “perverts.” What do you say?

“Our members of over 300,000 are made up of mostly professionals who have full and busy lives who enjoy the sexual freedom our group offers. It’s a fun form of play, and it enriches and enhances healthy adult relationships.”

Is there pressure within the group to do things you are not comfortable doing?

“Never! It’s all about living out your own fantasies. So you find people that also have the same desires within the group. It tends to be self policing… where ‘No’ means ‘NO.’ Occasionally you’ll have an incident where someone didn’t get the memo … but they are quickly removed from the situation.”

“There is limited tolerance for disrespectful behavior.”

The general consensus is that women are in charge; they set the tone for what is going to happen or not happen. The men (or women) who are viewed as predators or hunters are quickly identified and either educated or removed from the scene.

Describe a Lifestyle event. I have an image of a huge orgy … is that what happens?

(Laughing) “The orgy image is a rare situation.”

Most of the time it’s a big party where people are free to dress very sexy and enjoy meeting friendly and interesting people who are sexually open and curious. They tend to be professional, white collar types. The conversations are both typical and atypical. You’ll hear people talking about their work, families, etc., but you hear a lot more provocative discussions about sex and sexual interests. People are forthcoming about what they are into sexually so they can find others who are into the same things.

“It’s the after parties, or spin-offs, that get really interesting.”

Participants often meet in smaller groups at either a private home or hotel room. The main event is where the connections and invites are made. Many times a couple will go to the main event and then just go home together recharged with new energy for each other.

What are the most common sexual curiosities within the lifestyle groups you’ve been involved with?

Besides those who just want to watch or be watched, the most common is what is referred to as a “soft swap.” A couple will invite in another woman … primarily for the wife to play with and for the husband to enjoy the show. The variety of combinations goes on from there. (I have discovered through these interviews that bisexual men are much more common in the Lifestyle group than I would have assumed — according to Todd with He estimates the prevalence of bisexual men among the lifestyle groups is 15%.) Two couples having sex near each other is more common than couples swapping, and the big group orgy is seemingly one of the least common events.

Within the Lifestyle groups there are a variety of subgroups to satisfy just about every fetish known to human kind. The Internet has opened the door for people to easily find others with similar interests without the fear of judgment and ridicule.

Part 1 has been to explain, from the words of those living the lifestyle, who’s doing it, why they are, and what it’s all about. In Part 2 I will address concerns about disease, jealousy, divorce, and how this lifestyle has affected those I interviewed. The willingness of everyone I spoke with to share openly was overwhelming. Some have been in the lifestyle just a few years, others several decades. If you have specific questions you would like me to add in Part 2, please send them ASAP so I can make any addendums. You can email or add to the comment section here. Please keep your questions respectful and non-judgmental. We are just trying to understand each other — it doesn’t mean we have to agree or go there.

We all have our biases and judgments, and if we take a little time to just ask someone why or how, we learn so much. These interviews have opened my eyes and make me grateful to be alive in a time when people can be authentic … at least some of the time.

Intimately Yours,

To learn more about “the lifestyle,” go to, an adult dating site. 

Nancy Sutton Pierce RN, Health Educator is the Founding director of Nancy Sutton’s House of Yoga and Radio Talk Show Host on The Conscious Living Show LIVE every Saturday 11a-12noon on KCNR 1460am You can reach Nancy at with your comment or questions.

As You Desire is proudly sponsored by Body Logic MD; helping both men and women restore their libido and vitality through hormone therapy, fitness and nutrition counseling.

A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Greenberg, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment. Views and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of

Dr. Nancy Sutton Pierce
Dr. Nancy Sutton Pierce’s eclectic background places her expertise in a league of its own. The compilation of her career as an RN, health educator, intimacy author, radio talk show host, and yoga therapist all fuel her passion as an International speaker and clinical sexologist. Earning her Doctorate degree in human sexuality has broadened her reach around the globe teaching Conscious Living Sexuality™. When not traveling the globe inspiring others, Dr. Nancy enjoys her home life with the love of her life for more than 30 years. They’ve raised three children and now bask in what she refers to as “the dessert of parenting” -- being grandparents. Website. Contact Dr. Nancy
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13 Responses

  1. I'm LOL…. Clearly those reading are more into Voyeurism than Exhibitionism!

  2. Avatar Afraid to admit that says:

    I am one of your readers who is curious and somewhat reluctant to admit to it.

    Looking forward to Part II.

    Did your link to the voodoo website get you 60 days free? 🙂

    • Dear Afraid,

      Most people are afraid to admit that they are curious, let alone exploring. In fact, some people are leaping to the assumption that just because I wrote about it I am doing it… If that is the way it works then I must be a bi-curious man too!

      People will think what they want to think… mostly it's based of fear of judgment… so they judge first.

      If we could just relax and talk openly to each other we'd learn so much about human nature and realize there is not just "one way" to live a life.

      The next part will add more fuel for your curiosity… if nothing else this gets us thinking and talking! I love that!

      Not sure about the 60 days free part… you'll have to let me know 😉

      Stay curious!


  3. Avatar Ed says:

    I'm sure many are curious, but haven't had it put before them until now.

    The honesty and openness is refreshing.

    There's not much to say until the story is finished.

    Dan Savage gets some interesting calls and letters seeking his advice in such matters.
    Keep educating and feeding the curiosity,


    • Dear Ed,

      Thanks for the link… I had never heard of him (I don't read other sex columns cause I want to stay authentic to my style) but he is getting some great questions and sexual quandaries to address!

      Part two will add much to this story… and I hope people will send me additional questions I can take back to my sources to add in!

      Stay hungry for knowledge… Knowledge Is Power!


  4. Avatar Dan says:

    Great stuff can't wait to read more. Hearing alot of stuff in this addition that hits close to home including the breakup of my first marriage which hit all three reasons, and the longevity of my second marriage which was entered into when I was older. The freedom and openness that exists in this relationship is far beyond anything i thought was possible as a young man.

    • Dear Dan,

      It comes down to making sure our picker is mature when we get ready to say " I Do"! Taking the time to get to know yourself first THEN finding a partner you can honestly share life with makes for happier relationships. Whether monogamy or polomaory are your thing, what matters is that you find a mate with the same attitudes and beliefs.

      I am delighted you found what you need in your relationship… being the right one as well as finding the right one… Yeah for you two!

      Keep it interesting!


  5. Avatar Rick says:

    Is there more interest in swinging today because of the internet and the proliferation of adult-oriented (dating) sites or has there always been a curiosity by people? Seems to me that not too long ago these topics were not discussed freely. Perhaps there was as much interest and curiosity then as there is now. And, we might never find out. Embarassment, shame and not knowing the consequences certainly figured into the equation. I think changes in societal attitudes, culture and the internet have erased much of the uneasiness with which people approach the subject. People might still exhibit nervousness but can hide behind the curtain of anonymity while web-surfing. You are correct in that finding the "right" one is crucial. Honesty and communication are vital in any relationship but they are key to a happy and fulfilling marriage.

    • Dear Rick,

      Thank you so much for the great comment. Honestly I think it's always been of interest! Men had concubines way back in time. In every culture there have been groups of people who were more "adventurous" sexually. The internet has certainly made EVERYTHING more accessible to us, including sex. The more we open up these topics so many are curious about the less afraid we have to be. Just because we are talking doesn't mean we are doing.. and for many just talking can open up a whole new world of fun!

      I can only hope that my columns get people talking, sharing and exploring their own minds, hearts and relationships.

      Keep it Sexy Rick!


  6. Avatar RNM says:

    Interesting read…a lot of factually questionable information. After two decades of active swinging (we don't like the "Lifestyle" word) we have a very different experience than you spell out. Then again your sample is relatively small and taking info from Todd at LVD is well always questionable.

    The biggest issues I saw were the myth of women in control and initiated. While the single woman has a lot of standing/power in this scene, it has been our experience that in 90% of the situations it is the male who initiated entrance into swinging. Almost all online communication is male driven, though both parties carry some weight in making final play decisions. The myth of female central is more marketing than reality, and a lot of people are just playing along. Oh, and saying that more women seek it out…is a great way to get guys to sign up for websites. The secret underbelly of the commercial side of this scene is that a lot of money is made off of single guys paying exorbitant prices to access clubs, or MMMMMMMF type scenarios.

    Also, it isn't about living out YOUR fantasies…it is about finding a common ground to share experiences. Looking for YOUR fantasy is the ultimate road to frustration and failure. People are not living sex toys…they are humans and should be treated as such…something that is often loss in the "ME" obsessed world that has invaded this swinging scene.

    While "soft swap" is common, to say it is most of the scene is a reach. It was not even on the radar when we started playing…we were in the scene for years before we heard of it, and still for the life of us can't understand it very well. I would agree that the presence of bisexual/bicomfortable/bicurious men is certainly increasing but the overwhelming prejudice against them is still strong. Being open minded about one's own sexuality apparently does not translate into being open minded about others sexuality for many. Oh, and there are plenty of orgy type scenes out there…we enjoy them frequently.

    A lot of what you article repeats is more marketing hype than reality. At times it is even outright spin that is being reported in an attempt to justify what people do.

    In your next article I would also suggest that you tackle the legal issues around swinging. It is adultery in many situations (in the eyes of the law) and that is a crime in many jurisdictions. It also can cost people jobs/kids if it gets out…there is a great case going on in Tacoma Washington right now.

    You mentioned disease. The biggest lie in the scene is that everyone is drug and disease free. Drug uses is not uncommon. However STDs are almost universal…like they are in the mainstream population too. There isn't much of an issue with HIV (the current case of a single male in Kansas who was running around trying to spread it is the exception). However, HPV is basically universal as per my contacts at NIH/NCI. HSV (aka Herpes) is also so prevalent that it is rarely even tested for. Still there is a strong stigma on STDs…so the way it is dealt with is the ongoing lie that people tell each other and even themselves that they are "clean". Which sort of gets to the ultimate reality of this scene…we all rationalize and justify aspects of our participation. We are humans after all.

    Jealousy is an emotion. As such it can't be controlled. However, you can control how you experience it. For example, talking about issue, expressing it and experiencing it instead of sitting on it and letting it build until it vents in an explosion.

    On divorce, engaging in recreational sex is really a non-factor on divorce rates. Again a lovely marketing, feel good view of this community is that we are all more evolved and thus in happier more stable relationships. Just because a couple can work out their issues on the area of sex does not mean they can in the areas of kids, family, religion and money. We know plenty of couples who divorced in this scene, and none of them had anything to do with swinging. The idea of lifelong marriage is also a rather interesting one leftover from a time when lifelong meant 25 years…not 50+, and when women did not have the options that they do in society today. Swinging is ultimately a hobby, and as any hobby, like golf, could become a wedge (pun intended) in a relationship but the underlying issue is not the golf or the sex…but the people in the relationship.

    For the record, happily together for 19 years, swinging for 18 of those, started at 22 years of age, never married, happy but have certainly had our ups and downs…never caused by recreational sex. Hey, its just sex.

    • Dear RNM,

      WOW… I wish I had talked to you first! You are a wealth of information which has added a wonderful dimension to this topic.

      This was not an opinion piece by any stretch, I interviewed dozens of people from all over the world; Todd was just one. Your accounting is vastly different from most others I spoke which I greatly appreciate.

      The legality issues: Excellent points. I have been working on a column regarding the legalities of SEX in general. Great and interesting stuff…. although frightening how antiquated the laws are.

      Divorce; Would you say the incidence of divorce is the same with your swinger friends as your non swinger friends? The information I compiled indicated it was less among swingers and not necessarily because of the swinging per se, but more due to better communication skills needed to even consider the swinging "hobby".

      Disease: Thank you for your honesty here. Denial is a powerful force to help us justify our actions. Nobody wants to believe they are living a risky lifestyle… regardless what dangerous hobby you partake.

      I would enjoy learning more from you as I complete part 2. Would you mind emailing me behind the scenes?

      Thank you for your time and great input. I hope to learn more!



  7. Avatar gamerjohn says:

    Exploring things makes certain parts of life more interesting, but feelings are so complicated that sharing with other partners seems to me to be more dangerous than it would be worth. Pleasing each other takes time and knowledge of what the partner likes. None of the first times were as good as it was after months of practice.

    • Dear GJ,

      Certainly seems the more cooks in the kitchen the less predictable the meal! The great thing about being adults is we can choose what works and what doesn't. It sounds like you and your partner have figured out the ideal recipe for your relationship. That's all that matters.

      Enjoy the continued exploration…