5 Weird Realities Of Life As Swinger

Nearly ten million Americans today consider themselves open to "satellite lovers," which doesn't mean that we're overrun with Sputnik fetishists. It means that, more than ever, people are becoming open to non-monogamous relationships. Cracked wanted to know the facts behind that sort of setup, since we have more than enough trouble convincing one person to sleep with us. So we bought a van with a waterbed, and sat down with a swinger named Tom. Here's what he told us ...

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5
Despite The Reputation, Swinging Is A Female-Driven Culture

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First off: Our sex van, Van Wilder, turned out to be inappropriate. We were weaned on pop culture, in which "swinging" is a relic of the '70s, indelibly associated with chest-haired misogynists and shag carpeting. But Tom got into swinging at his wife's request: "My wife is bisexual, and a few years ago she decided that she wanted to explore that side of her sexuality."

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"Holy shit, this church thing actually works!"

The couple went in search of a single bisexual woman down for having threesomes. When such a woman, whom Tom described as a "unicorn," didn't pop into existence, they broadened their horizons: "My wife brought up the idea of finding another couple who was interested in the same thing. One thing led to another, we soon found ourselves in bed with two other people, and that's when we realized that we were open to a lot more than we originally thought."

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Tom was emphatic that his wife was the one responsible for kick-starting their exploration of swinging: "My wife calls it 'driving the bus.' I'm along for the ride, but she decides where it's going and when it stops." He claimed that, in his experience, women in the community were "100 percent in control."

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"WHERE'S MEN'S U.N. SPEECH, EMMA!?!" -- Some Asshole

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In fact, even the key party and waterbed stereotypes we hold turned out to be untrue. According to some research, modern "swinging" wasn't a product of the disco age. In fact, it got its start in the coolest way possible: as part of a death pact among fighter pilots. The theory goes that back in World War II, fighter pilots had roughly the same life expectancy as a dog in a chocolate factory. Swapping partners was a way to form bonds between their families, ensuring that the other guys would take care of one's wife and kids if some Kraut flak gun took him down. It's a wonder we called it something as innocuous as "swinging" and not the far more appropriate "death-humping."

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4
Swinging Magnifies Normal Relationship Drama

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All swingers have different limitations. Some even prefer monogamous relationships, but with way more people than usual: "We met a couple and started to get along very well with them. The attraction and chemistry was all there, and the sex was everything we hoped it would be. We had been together several times and it all seemed good. But when we mentioned in passing that we were making plans to go on a date with another couple, they got ... weird. Cold shoulder, cancelling plans, all that. Finally they made it clear that they weren't happy that we were seeing other people, and they didn't want to hear anything about it."

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Some people need monogamy in their polyamory.

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As you might've guessed by now, dating as part of a couple means worrying for four. Exponentially more people are at risk if an STI starts spreading. And one person's drama can quickly become a small crowd's drama. Different couples take different steps to protect themselves: "Not everyone in the lifestyle is into full-on sexual intercourse with other couples -- aka 'full swap.' Some couples limit it to only the women playing together, or anything but intercourse between couples ('soft swap'), or just having sex in the same room. Some just want to watch others, some just want to be watched."

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"I can understand the popcorn, but the 3D glasses?"
"Don't judge us."

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Being open to more possibilities with your relationship is a double-sided dildo. It can lead to unexpected bliss, and some deeply uncomfortable situations: "We have heard shocking stories from friends who had been playing with a guy who decided he would try to sneak the condom off. We've heard rumors about men or couples at lifestyle events taking advantage of drunk women or couples, and coercing them into situations they normally wouldn't say yes to."

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Obviously, creeps like that exist in all walks of life, but pop culture tells us they're way more prevalent with swingers. Probably because pop culture is jealous of all the sex they're having while it spends every Friday night rebooting comic book movies.

Marvel Studios
"Pfft, happily married couples swinging? Disgusting. Okay, let's get back to our protagonist who sleeps
with tons of women because he's totally and irreparably emotionally stunted."

3
Most Swingers Have To Stay Closeted

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Tom used to assume that "swingers would be out on the prowl, looking for unsuspecting innocent people to convert. Maybe some weird, shady Eyes Wide Shut secret society where you would need a password to get in." But to his surprise, he found that none of the swingers he met were the least bit interested in "luring" single people into "the lifestyle" via riddles and masked orgies.

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And really, how much luring would be required to draw single people into awesome sex?

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Part of the reason might be that there are plenty of them. The Kinsey Institute estimates that there may be as many as four million swingers in America alone. As a result, most swingers tend to assume that anyone interested in swinging their genitals about is already doing it. Knowing someone is already open to non-monogamy is a lot easier than lecherously trying to reel disinterested parties in: "... if we've met you in the context of swinging, we've already crossed that line."

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But that doesn't mean all -- or even most -- swingers are open about it. "The only way my parents know that I ever had sex is because we have two kids. And I like it that way. Most swingers don't want their family, friends, or coworkers to know about their lifestyle. So there has to be a lot of discretion and secrecy."


And because of It's Always Sunny, they have to be more creative with their passwords.

Part of that is because many of the nation's swingers have careers where being even a little bit outside the mainstream can hinder your advancement: "We've met politicians, teachers, even a former minister." Because of the need for discretion, there are swinger's clubs all over the place, but they don't always guard their secrecy very well. In Madison, Tennessee, a bunch of wet blankets got together to ban their local swinger's club from acting within a thousand feet of any school, church, daycare, or park (large groups of kinky people apparently give off some sort of sexy radiation). Since the whole city was basically closed to them, the swingers created their own church instead.

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Feel free to make your own joke about their baptismal font.

2
Swingers Can Still Be Homophobic

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Tom doesn't want to portray an unreasonably rosy situation inside the lifestyle: "It's hard to imagine slut-shaming in a group of swingers ... but it does happen. Maybe it's jealousy (someone is getting more attention), or maybe it just makes people feel better about themselves (at least we don't go to furry-bondage-bukkake parties like those weirdos), but it seems like human nature always takes over, and people will try to prop themselves up at the expense of someone else."

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It's supposed to be about fucking other people, not fucking other people over.

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When we wrote an article busting myths about BDSM, our source pointed out some weird conflicts between her subculture and swingers. Both often wound up renting out the same facilities, or using the same clubs on different nights, and while there was some cross-pollination, there's also a fair amount of conflict. It's like an X-rated West Side Story situation. And just because swingers are open-minded about non-monogamy doesn't mean they're necessarily cool with, say, bisexuality.

"Bisexuality in women is so common that it's almost expected as the default in most lifestyle couples. However, there is a huge amount of biphobia when it comes to men. Most couples make a point of saying the man is 100-percent straight, some will turn down anything where the man is listed as any form of bisexual, bi-curious, or even bi-comfortable, and some will even refuse to get together with anyone who has played with a bisexual man, regardless of whether any male-to-male sex happened. So you have people in the lifestyle who are already leading a secret life, and then another secret life within that."

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Like a Russian nesting doll with a boner in the middle.

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God forbid there's a bisexual swinging secret agent in that mix anywhere -- their heads would explode.

1
Swinger Relationships Are Not Inherently Dysfunctional

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When relationships stop working, there's often enormous pressure to "fix" whatever's gone wrong. Some people try to do that by opening up their relationship. In Tom's experience, that's generally a disastrous decision: "We met one couple that seemed very nice and stable at first, but as we got to know them, we started to see signs that they were having problems. Sure enough, I found out in a conversation with her that they were going through some very rough times, and she was hoping that swinging would help keep them together. It seemed obvious to me that it was having the exact opposite effect and causing more strain on their relationship. I guess in some ways, it's like people who think that having a baby will help fix a broken marriage. It might distract you from the problems in the short term, but in the end it will just compound them."

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Spoiler: "Lets focus on us by focusing on others" is never a solid game plan.

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But the fact that swinging won't save a doomed relationship doesn't mean it makes for a doomed relationship. One study of more than a thousand swingers found that the vast majority reported that swinging made them happier with their relationships. The key is that they weren't unhappy with their relationships before. People who swing, like people in open relationships, tend to be better at communicating than the norm. And good communication will do more to strengthen your relationship than a dozen key parties. Tom and his wife didn't get into swinging because their relationship needed a Band-Aid: "We got into this looking to spice up our sex life with something that we couldn't get from each other alone. We have a very strong marriage and always agree that our relationship comes first."

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In a close second is "crazy amounts of fucking."

It's almost like who and how you bone doesn't necessarily dictate who and how you love.

Robert Evans runs the Cracked personal experience team, and he has a damn Twitter.

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