If you’ve heard of swinging you probably have some questions like why, who, where, and what? The best way to learn more is to go to straight to the experts, that is, swingers. We spoke to some swinging experts to learn more about the ins-and-outs of swinging.
What is swinging?
Swinging is a social activity where like-minded adults get together with the intention of engaging in consensual recreational sex. While swingers happily have sex with multiple people, they typically choose to have romantic relationships with only one person at a time.
Although swingers are predominantly couples who enjoy exploring a sexually open lifestyle together, there are many single people who swing too (sometimes referred to as ‘swingles’) who enjoy the social aspects of the community.
You may sometimes hear swingers refer to swinging as ‘The Lifestyle’. Many swingers form strong friendship bonds through this shared common interest and make long-lasting friendships with each other.
Who are swingers?
The swinging community is diverse. There is no typical swinger: people of different ages, body types, genders, sexualities, backgrounds, and professions enjoy the lifestyle. What they have in common is an open, curious, and adventurous attitude to sex, and ideally a sex positive outlook. They are generally a sociable community, who know how to communicate well, have a good understanding of consent, and are clear on sexual boundaries.
Why do people engage in swinging?
Swingers have told us: they love sex. Couples often see it as a way to add variety and excitement to their sex life, which can increase sexual satisfaction. It’s their way to explore fantasies, fetishes, and desires that can be difficult or impossible to fulfill in other types of relationships. Honest and open communication is vital to successful swinging, which can deepen a couple’s connection. Sharing in a fun activity together also helps strengthen relationships.
From an individual perspective, swinging allows the opportunity to experience new things, to experiment, and to learn more about themselves. It’s an opportunity to experiment with expanding their sexuality. And sometimes, it’s just the simplicity of enjoying sexual pleasure with like-minded people.
For some people, swinging is part of their identity. For others, they may only engage in the activity occasionally, stepping in and out of the scene as their desires and connections change according to what is happening in their regular lives. And some just try it once or twice to satisfy their curiosity, and that’s enough for them.
What is swinging not?
Swinging is not cheating. Swinging is based on a foundation of consensual non-monogamy, where everyone involved is fully aware and consenting to sex outside of the relationship.
Swinging is not a sexual free-for-all where everyone will have sex with anyone. It’s not about playing with people you aren’t attracted to, or don’t have a connection with. You should never feel pressured to do anything you don’t want to.
Swinging is not a male-dominated ‘wife-swapping’ activity. In fact, in a sex-positive and consent-focused environment, all people can feel empowered in their sexuality.
Swinging is not going to ‘save a troubled relationship’. In fact, it can amplify the problems. Opening a relationship to sexual activity with other people requires a level of trust and honest communication that only comes with a solid supportive partnership.
Swinging is not polyamory. Polyamory is the practice of, or desire for, romantic relationships with more than one partner at the same time, with the informed consent of all involved. Notice that sex is not part of the definition. Of course, some swingers may also be polyamorous!
Swinging is not kinky sex. Swingers may be more likely to explore kink and BDSM simply because they are adventurous, but many swingers are not into kink and simply enjoy the pleasure of a wide variety of non-kinky sex.
So where do you find swingers?
Swingers events are great places to meet like-minded people face-to-face. They range from purely social meet and greet events in a public venue, to professionally run clubs. Many are privately hosted house parties which you will need an invitation to attend.
There are a plethora of adult dating websites and swinger apps where you can find swingers online, and of course social media. Google is your friend.
A lot of swingers prefer to swing privately. Rather than meet at a party or event they will meet others at a public place (such as a restaurant or bar) then, if the connection is right, head to a hotel room or private house to enjoy each other’s company more intimately.
What to expect at a swingers’ event?
Different venues and parties have different rules and expectations, so make sure you are aware of what they are before you attend. If you are nervous and just dipping your toe in, try a ‘Meet and Greet’ social event first. This is where you can start your journey by meeting other like-minded people in a low pressure but sexy environment. It’s a great way to make some new friends, both newbies and not-so-newbies. If that goes well, you can check out a ‘Newbie event’ next.
Play parties can be highly sexually charged events with lots of flirtation, nudity, and public and group sexual activity. But this does not mean that swinging is an uncontrolled sexual free-for all! Not only will the venue have their own rules or guidelines, but everyone attending the event will have their own boundaries. These must always be respected. Open communication prior to play and throughout is key to ensuring everyone is fully consenting.
Consent and safer sex practices are essential to swinging (and sex in general!).
Having a good understanding of what sexual consent means will help you navigate not only the swinging world, but sex in general. This helps everyone feel safe and consequently have lots of fun!
Consenting and asking for consent is all about setting your personal boundaries and respecting those of your partner/s — and checking in if things aren’t clear. Both/all people must agree to sex — every single time — for it to be consensual.
Consent is as easy as FRIES.
F – Consent must be freely given without being pressured or under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
R – Consent is reversible: people are entitled to change their mind at any point (even during sexual activity, even if you have done it before).
I – Consent is always informed. This means knowing exactly what is happening before, during, and after the activity.
E – You are looking for an enthusiastic ‘Yes!’ Just because someone does not say ‘no’ it doesn’t mean that consent has been given.
S – Consent is specific, which means if someone consents to one activity it doesn’t mean they consent to other sexual activities.
Consent is an ongoing process: it must be gained before any touching or sexual activity and be present throughout. Check in with your partner/s verbally and take note of body language and hesitancy. Consent is about respecting boundaries, but consent is sexy too! Checking in throughout the sexual encounter makes your partner feel safe, and it can certainly be done in a sexy way without breaking the mood.
What do swingers need to know about sexual health?
To ensure your swinging journey continues being an exciting adventure, it’s important to keep up to date with your sexual health. Our bodies are such a key part to experiencing pleasure and so it’s a good idea to look after them.
Condoms and dams are important when it comes to reducing the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Dental dams are latex sheets and can reduce the risk of STIs by covering the vulva or anus during oral sex. HIV transmission can also be prevented by utilising PEP, PrEP, and UVL (undectable viral load). You can learn more about HIV transmission via the SHINE SA Fact Sheet.
Most venues and parties will provide condoms, lubricant, and dental dams, but check before attending especially if you have a specific (e.g. latex-free) requirement.
A new condom should be used with a new partner and/or body part. Condoms can also be used on sex toys. Water-based lubricant decreases the chances of a condom breaking and getting cuts and abrasions (which can increase the risk of infections spreading). Lube can also help sex to be more comfortable and pleasurable.
It is recommended that people engaging in swinging have a STI check every three months (or if experiencing symptoms). Many people do not experience symptoms from STIs, so it’s important to be tested regularly. STIs are easy to test for and can be effectively treated.
Interested in swinging?
Here are some things to think about:
- Consider your motivations for swinging and what your interests are. If you are in a relationship it is important to discuss expectations and boundaries openly with your partner before starting your swinging journey and respect them throughout.
- Educate yourself on swinging to help dispel myths and anxieties.
- Research parties, clubs, and apps and decide what suits your needs and interests. Some clubs and professionally run parties hold social events (without play), or information sessions that can help you to learn more about swinging (and feel less anxious) before attending a play event.
- Practice your conversation skills: swinging can be a very social scene and learning how to connect with others in friendly conversation is a useful skill to have. Be respectful and polite: if the desire or connection is not mutual then move on with grace.
While being new to swinging can be daunting, here are some more tips to help make the journey smoother:
- Avoid or limit alcohol consumption to avoid becoming intoxicated.
- Practice good personal hygiene and grooming.
- Manage your expectations of others, the event, the encounters you may have, and yourself.
Finally, relax, feel confident in yourself, communicate openly, check in on yourself (and your partner/s), and have fun!
- Got a sexual health question? You can talk confidentially to a SHINE SA nurse for free on the Sexual Healthline. Call: 1300 883 793 Country callers: 1800 188 171 (toll-free). Line is open Monday – Friday, 9:00am – 12:30pm.
- SHINE SA – Find a clinic, book sexual health appointments and STI checks.
- Adelaide Sexual Health Centre – STI testing and treatment 7117 2800
- Podcasts are a great way to get information about swinging from people who are already in the scene. If you’ve got a question about anything there will be a podcast about it.
(Written in collaboration with Wendee and Andrew, hosts of The Rabbit Hole Parties, Adelaide)