The Australian Guide to Swingers
By Brian Williams
“If we are really supposed to restrict our good feelings, then we should restrict how many roses we smell, how many sunsets we see, how many barbecued chickens we smell, how many warm baths we take, how many chocolate cakes we eat, how many pine forests we walk through, how many symphonies we listen to, and how many friends we have. For these stimulate us too. They turn us on, they arouse us and make us want to live life to the fullest.”– NASCA Guide to Swingers
SO WHAT EXACTLY IS SWINGING?
Swinging is a form of recreational social sex between consenting adults, most commonly consisting of male/female couples meeting other male/female couples for sex and/or ongoing intimate friendships. Singles (mostly single guys) can also become involved to a limited degree.
Swingers in Australia, along with most other English speaking countries, dates back to the 1950’s. Initially, personal ads were the only way to meet people in this particular lifestyle. Anyone attempting commercial swingers parties back then would have been shut down by the moral watchdogs almost immediately. In the USA an umbrella organisation called the North American Swing Club Association (NASCA) was formed to promote accurate information about the lifestyle all across the country, but in Australia and New Zealand there is no single group that promotes on behalf of the whole industry.
Swingers (otherwise known as “the lifestyle” or “the scene”) can take a variety of different forms. Although single women are generally welcome at swinging events, the degree to which single men are accepted varies. Although female bisexuality is very much accepted in the swinging community, the degree to which male bisexuality is accepted also varies. Swingers parties can be “on-premises” (which means that one may interact sexually with others at that event) or “off-premises” (which means that one would generally go back to the home or hotel room of other couples for sex, after deciding to do so at the event). A party such as ‘DEBAUCHERY’ is an on-premises party, while SAINTS AND SINNERS is officially an off-premises event. The parties, along with magazines such as VIXEN, ACM and SEARCHLIGHT are still the best ways to hook up with other people in the scene. Swingers come from all areas and occupations, and tend to be in the 20-50 age groups. While many guys are keen to try the scene almost as soon as they’re out of their adolescence, women usually wait until their mid-twenties or later.
WHAT MIGHT I LIKE ABOUT SWINGING?
People may be attracted to the swinging community for a variety of different reasons. Many couples find the thought of having sex with other people to be very arousing, and may find that swinging becomes a catalyst for improving their own sex lives and relationship. Some people may feel stifled by society’s repressive attitudes towards sexuality, and may welcome the opportunity to form friendships and a new social network with people of like mind. Others may simply feel that sex should be a natural possibility in any friendship in which there is mutual attraction, and so appreciate the relative open-mindedness and pleasure-positivity with which the swinging community views this subject. Although the swinging community is unfortunately not always the best place right now for hetero men to explore their potential bisexuality, it is currently a relatively good place for hetero women to initially explore sex with other women, and this sometimes plays a role in couples choosing to seek it out.
In the past, the swinging community has been somewhat unaware of or confused by alternative sexual practices such as B&D/S&M. This appears to be changing, and these days you may find many people in the swinging community who are knowledgeable about such things (though forms of B&D/S&M much more extreme than spanking or light bondage may make people uncomfortable, depending on the event). If you’re interested in doing so and spend enough time meeting different people, you may actually find that today’s swinging community is becoming a somewhat fertile place to meet people with a variety of sexual interests. It is certainly true right now that the scene has just exploded in terms of the number of people attending parties, particularly over the last two years, and particularly in Melbourne where there are probably more swingers parties every Saturday night, then in the rest of the country put together. Sydney also maintains a healthy party scene but in Queensland the scene is virtually dead.
Some women may find the swinging community to be a welcome dose of sanity. Our culture can be quite cruel to women who have an active interest in sex, often derisively labelling them “sluts” – a term which stands in sharp contrast to the less derogatory term for men, “studs”. The swinging community may be especially attractive to these women, who may feel their sex drives and/or sexual assertiveness should be appreciated rather than snickered about or reviled.
Some people end up learning quite a bit about themselves and their sexuality’s through swinging. For example, most people find that having their partner actively enjoy and appreciate what they are experiencing during sex to be a tremendous turn-on. Swinging can be an opportunity to learn to relax and appreciate sexual pleasure, and may help one view sex more as a source of pleasure and intimacy and less as a social bargaining chip or ego fuel.
Although this may vary slightly from group to group, in general the swinging community is quite accepting of a variety of body types, sizes, ages, and shapes. Additionally, many on-premises events provide an opportunity to dress sexily or go completely nude, which can be a fun and sensual experience in and of itself.
WHAT MIGHT I DISLIKE ABOUT SWINGING?
If you are uncomfortable with people being sexually attracted to you and/or flirting with you, then you might be uncomfortable at swinging events; similarly, if your relationship with your partner is on shaky ground, you might find seeing him or her flirt or be flirted with to be an uncomfortable experience. If either of you have hidden agendas concerning finding a permanent “replacement” for each other, you’re probably in for a major emotional disaster. If you and your partner cannot communicate directly about relationships and sex, you’re probably eventually in for a similarly-sized disaster. In general, sex can provoke strong feelings along with its many pleasures; so if you aren’t comfortable dealing with emotions, then perhaps it might be better to wait a little while before exploring “the scene.”
If you are bothered by seeing people have sex without condoms, then you might want to avoid some of the larger play areas in many on-premises swinger’s events. Although it’s unusual for requests to use condoms to be argued over, it is certainly true that not all on-premises clubs require the use of safer sex precautions. Most, including DEBAUCHERY, have them available but leave the actual decision about usage to the participants. Depending on your experience with people other than swingers, seeing others not use condoms may be unsettling to you. You should know what your own standards are with regard to safer sex, and be willing to articulate them to new people or couples you are about to have sex with.
If you are offended by phobia against bi men, then you should be prepared to either look for a party that is more open-minded on this particular issue, wait for attitudes in the community to change (which I believe may happen in the next five years or so), or else attend anyway and make a point of not letting small-minded comments go unchallenged.
If you are a single male, you might actually be better off waiting until you are in a suitable relationship before attempting to become active in swinging – some swingers parties allow single guys to attend, but you will be charged a lot more than if you attended with a female partner, and there will be more guys (sometimes many more) than women at those parties.
GENERAL HINTS FOR ENJOYABLE SWINGING
In the context of swinging, “couples” need not be married. They should, however, have at least a little history together and familiarity with each others’ emotional needs, and be comfortable approaching others as a “couple.” The general rule of thumb is that swinging works best when couples view swinging as an enhancement to their existing sexual relationship, rather than as a replacement for a failing one.
As one would expect, good communication is critical in any attempt at swinging as a couple. There are many, many different forms that swinging may take, and whichever one you choose is fine as long as you and your partner are clear about what you are doing and why. Sex has the potential to be an emotionally-charged area, and the pleasures that may be found in swinging can generally be reached only when both partners are sensitive to each others’ needs, and put their partners comfort first. From a more pragmatic point of view, there will always be another party, another personal ad, another Saints and Sinners Ball; however, there may not be another chance to salvage an exploration into swinging if one partner becomes overwhelmed in “the garden of delights” and forgets to treat his or her primary partner with sensitivity and respect.
It’s important to keep in mind that swinging is primarily a SOCIAL activity. The ordinary social customs of meeting people and initiating a conversation are really not that different than at any other type of social gathering, and the process by which acquaintances become close friends is not that different either. The key social traits that tend to be appreciated in the swinging community are responsibility, friendliness, flirtatiousness, open-mindedness, and most importantly stability with regard to one’s primary relationship.
As is the case with almost all human social endeavours, if you already know people in a particular community you’ll probably be happier if you attend your first few events with these people so they can introduce you to others. Waiting a little while and watching how others behave is also a good idea, as it is in almost any new social situation. Common courtesy, of course, is as welcome in the swinging community as it is in any other community – we’re all just people, after all.
There are several different styles of swinging which you may see in the swinging community. Some people may prefer not to be around when their partner is having sex with someone else (“closed swinging”), while others may insist on it (“open swinging”). The term “foreplay only” refers to trading partners just for the purposes of kissing/oral etc and then switching back to one’s primary partner for any actual sex. It might be valuable for you to think about whether there are any potential situations that you feel you would be more or less comfortable in, and discuss these with your partner.
Although not all couples find it necessary to do this, some couples feel more comfortable having social “codes” that only the two of them know. Examples might be discreet phrases or gestures which mean a) one of you is attracted to the people or person he or she is talking to and wants to know if you are interested in swinging with them, b) a reply to the above, either affirmatively or negatively, and c) one of you is not having a good time and wants to get away from things for a while.
At off-premises events such as Balls, it’s common for people to dress up or else wear fairly sexy clothing. Dress at on-premises events tends to be more casual, since nudity is a common outcome of the evening for many. At on-premises parties it’s a good idea to avoid wearing lots of jewellery that might get lost. If there’s a dress theme for a particular event, go with the theme.
By the way, it is not necessary to have sex with other people to have a good time in the swinging community. Off-premise activities such as Saints & Sinners can provide a wonderful opportunity to flirt and be flirted with, in a non-threatening yet sexually-charged atmosphere. On-premise activities can provide an opportunity to appreciate the sights and sounds of sex as an enhancement to sex with your primary partner, whether you decide to have sex at the party or after the party.
ENJOYING HOUSE PARTIES AND OTHER EVENTS
Since you may have the opportunity to get physically close with one or more people during the course of the evening, it’s a good idea to take a shower, brush your teeth, and (if necessary) shave before showing up. If you like to use your fingers inside your partner as part of sex, don’t forget to clip your fingernails.
Even if you’re a regular, it’s usually polite to make a reservation rather than just “dropping in” and to cancel your reservation if you can’t keep it. Arrive on time, and if you are part of a couple be sure you arrive together.
Generally the host and/or hostess will explain the party rules and etiquette to new couples. The spa or hot tub, if there is one, is a good place to get involved in friendly conversations. Most couples at swinging events are more than happy to answer questions and talk about their experiences.
It’s a good idea for couples to stick together at the party unless they both agree that they’d like to mingle or play separately for a while. If one partner just wanders off, the other may feel abandoned or jealous. If you DO need to have a serious relationship discussion or argument with your partner, it is considered polite to do so away from the party in a private area. In general, if a bedroom or other space is being used for sex it’s considered impolite to carry on loud or extraneous conversations that might distract others.
The tradition at some on-premises parties is for one of the larger rooms to be for the “group scene.” Depending on the party some rules of etiquette may be slightly relaxed here; it might be assumed OK for someone to touch you unless or until you say no. Again, this completely depends on the party. Opening closed doors to bedroom areas and staring at whatever is going on is considered pretty rude, and men will have more fun in ANY of the party’s play areas if their female partner is with them (some parties actually have rules about men going into the “group scene” area without their female partner). If at some point during the evening you decide to have a shower, be careful not to use somebody else’s towel or washcloth on your eyes or genitals (this should just be common sense).
Using alcohol to excess is a silly idea, especially if you or your partner are just getting into swinging. Many non-swingers have their first quasi-swinging experiences when they are heavily intoxicated, and then regret what they did the next day or blame the alcohol for what they freely chose to do. Try to make your experience different from this.
But without question, the most important suggestion I can offer is to always keep track of where you’re at, and only do what you want to do. If you don’t want to swing with someone, just say no tactfully and courteously. You always have the right to say no to anything, and if someone doesn’t take no for an answer you should tell the party host immediately. In swinging, sometimes you will be told, “No, thank you.” When this happens, just accept it graciously and never ask “Why not?”
DEALING WITH JEALOUSY
An interesting situation that sometimes arises in couples new to swinging, a situation that I describe as follows – “the more enthusiastic member of a couple will get the couple into swinging, but the less enthusiastic partner will probably keep them there.” Some in the swinging scene have noticed that one partner, more often than not the man, has more enthusiasm than his partner. He has had terrific fantasies about free-wheeling sex and plenty of it, and he finally convinces his initially reluctant partner to give swinging a try. When they get to the party, she has a great time and is in high demand, while he thinks the party’s a dud. Before you pack up your sexy outfit and fistful of condoms, take some time to consider and negotiate how you will deal with the chagrin of being the less popular partner if such a dismaying event happens to you.”
In other words, some jealousy may spring from insecurity: If I’m worried that I’m not valuable enough to keep my primary partner’s interest and love, or that fewer people will be interested in playing with me than with my primary partner, I may be more apt to get jealous. For the latter case, some of these fears may be alleviated by choosing, at least initially, to only swing together as a couple. This way neither partner can be left out.
To end this section on a more practical note, many couples find that the secrets to dealing with jealousy tend to revolve around good communication, keeping agreements, reassuring each other as to your love and commitment before and after playing with someone new, and listening to each other’s emotional concerns and taking them seriously whenever they arise. If jealousy becomes an issue for you and your partner, you might try working on some or all of these things.
OF INTEREST TO MEN…
By including these warnings I do not mean to imply that all or even most men would ever act like this; chances are if you’re still reading this article you already have a healthy social sense and wouldn’t think to misbehave in these ways. But anyway, here goes…
Attempting to hire an escort or sex worker to go to a swinging event with you, if you don’t have a regular female partner, just so you can get in the door is a terribly poor idea. It’s considered inappropriate at many clubs, and may well be sufficient to get you black-listed, and is a ruse that is highly likely to be noticed by others. A related concept is taking along someone who isn’t really your primary partner and isn’t really interested in swinging. At DEBAUCHERY we call such people ‘door passes’ (i.e. you just used them as a “door pass” to get in the door), and this practice isn’t looked upon favourably either. In fact, we’ll black-list you.
If you want nothing more than to see your female partner have sex with another woman, you will probably be better off forgetting about it until she brings it up. Wandering around by yourself attempting to find a woman who wants to have sex with her, or otherwise trying to push this personal choice into happening, is considered quite crass.
Finally, please remember to converse with both members of a couple you and your partner are interested in, not just the partner you are interested in having sex with. Ultimately it’s your ability to form friendships with COUPLES which will determine the quality of your experience in the swinging community.
USING PERSONAL ADS
Along with the parties, personal ads are the most effective way of meeting people to swing with – for single guys, they’re really the only option.
In general, you will probably waste less time by placing an ad than by responding to ads. When writing your personal ad, it’s important to be clear and honest about what your requirements are. You may find it helpful to first obtain a P.O. Box and/or use a voice mail box which aren’t traceable to your real name or home address. It’s also a good idea to arrange the first meeting with someone new to be in a neutral and/or public place, so that if things don’t seem to be going well you’ll be able to leave easily and nobody new will know where you live.
We’ll have a much more detailed article on the best ways to make use of personal ads in a forthcoming issue.
THE FUTURE OF SWINGING
Currently the internet is becoming an alternative to printed personal ads, and a small number of ‘swingers weekends away’ have been promoted in the last year or two. My gut feeling is that as more people in this country begin to think of themselves as “open-minded” and “liberated”, as our response to STDs becomes more rational, as more people from other walks of life begin to explore swinging, and as more bisexual men in the swinging community “come out”, the swinging community will grow and begin to attract a new generation of sexually adventurous enthusiasts. I suspect that the size and influence of the swingers parties and Balls will continue to grow, and also suspect that “cyber-space” alternatives to real-life swinging (involving interactive video, sound, etc.) will become increasingly popular.