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Would you ever swing?
September 15th, 2011
09:49 AM ET

Would you ever swing?

Ian Kerner, a sexuality counselor and New York Times best-selling author, blogs about sex on Thursdays on The Chart. Read more from him on his website, GoodInBed.

No, I’m not talking about ballroom dancing. This is a sex column, after all.

With buzz-terms like “monogamish” and “negotiated monogamy” making headlines, many couples are discovering that they have a shared appetite for sexual adventure, and that getting it on with another couple may be the golden ticket – not just to thrills, but also to staying together and surviving another day in the life of a relationship.

While the term “swinging” may be a throwback to the 70s and the days of Plato’s Retreat, more and more modern couples are hooking up with other couples, either informally or through networks or clubs.  And, of course, like all things online, the Internet has amplified these opportunities and made it easier to find couples and clubs in a neighborhood near you.

As with most sexual activities, there haven’t been many studies into the prevalence of swinging - and many people who do it don’t necessarily want to admit it - but some experts believe that there could be as many 15 million Americans swinging on a regular basis. Chances are you have a friend or neighbor who is swinging.

As I’ve written about previously in this column, I often run into two “sexual types” in my work as a sexuality counselor: “comfort creatures” and “thrill seekers.” The former takes a “less is more” approach to sexual novelty, while the latter often have a “more, more, more” attitude.  Usually this dichotomy isn’t an issue when two people find themselves at the same end the spectrum.

For two comfort creatures, for example, swinging isn’t probably high up on their sexual bucket list, although it might well be a fantasy.  Exhibitionism, voyeurism, watching a partner have sex with someone else - these are very common fantasies, and, in many cases, sharing a fantasy can lead to an actual exploration of fantasy, especially when one partner is hankering for a bit more sexual adventure.

“My husband and I had some confusion that we had to get straightened out,” a client whom I’ll call Kelly told me. “I feel very comfortable in our relationship, and I have a vivid fantasy life.  I think of myself as a very sexual person. But when I mentioned my fantasy of watching him get it on with another woman, he wanted to make it a reality. At least he thought he did. We perused some sites, which was fun, but in the end, neither of us decided to pursue it. It just looked too sleazy. Luckily, the subject was dropped.”

But for couples with a genuine appetite (and stomach) for sexual novelty, swinging might not be a big deal and might even be a counterintuitive way of strengthening their sense of fidelity and identity as a couple.  It’s monogamy on shared terms. In fact, many couples who swing together paradoxically have even stronger sexual boundaries than couples who do not.

But swinging can backfire, too.  I worked with one couple who liked to swing on a regular basis, but the reason they ended up in my office was because she had major problems with all of the stuff he kept to himself: flirty friendships, porn usage, his enjoyment of strippers.  She had no problem with swinging, but in every other way she demanded more exclusivity from the relationship than many far less sexually adventurous women would require.  From her perspective, swinging was just another way of sharing everything, including sex.

And for many couples, swinging is by no means a replacement for sex; it’s an augmentation, and very different than actual lovemaking with their partner.  Many couples use occasional swinging as an opportunity to jumpstart their sex life and break out of a rut. “Swinging strengthens us,” says Jenny, a mother of two.  “It’s something we do once or twice a year.  We enjoy the scoping out of another couple, the flirtation, the sex, but also the way we talk about it for weeks after and incorporate into our fantasy life.  We love having a secret life together – a whole different community than the ones we see at PTA meetings – although we’re just waiting for those worlds to collide.”

But swinging certainly doesn’t work for everyone, especially couples in which one partner is going along for the ride with another partner, like when a true comfort creature is paired with a thrill seeker.  Then it becomes a form of sexual pressure, and can lead to disastrous results.

And sometimes we think we know what we want, but the process of discovery has unintended results.  Ken, who had to convince his wife to give swinging a go, said, “I was prepared for everything, except seeing my wife kiss another man - out of the whole experience that’s the image I can’t get out of my head: her kissing another man.  The moral of the lesson for me: Swinging is something a couple should work towards in their relationship, not begin with.”

Ken’s wife wanted to give it another whirl, this time with the rule of no kissing.  Meanwhile, Ken wanted to drop the whole thing.

Monogamy: what a concept.


soundoff (347 Responses)
  1. So Sad...

    Why, you non believers, are you so threatened by what you consider an imaginary God. If you don't believe it to be real, why comment on it at all. If you don't believe in Hell or Heaven, why do you even think enough about them to respond? Do you just have a need to argue? Honestly, Religion or no religion; it's a sad time all around when nothing is special between spouses that isn't also shared with the rest of the world. If you are going to swing, why on earth did you bother getting married at all? What's the point?
    And what will you do when one of you contracts a disease or gets pregnant by the wrong party? Oh, and I know you, who are smart enough to know God doesn't exist, are aware that condoms aren't fool-proof....

    September 19, 2011 at 15:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rolling Eyes

      Why do you theists have to keep getting up in our business? If your kin wouldn't keep trying to control the lives of non-theists with guilt and government, we wouldn't think about you so much. Promise.

      September 19, 2011 at 18:15 | Report abuse |
    • Jon

      So Sad.......
      We aren't threatened by the imaginary god....we are threatened by peopole who believe in it who want to use it to influence gov't to take away our liberties. Keep it to yourself and we will not worry about you.

      September 21, 2011 at 14:51 | Report abuse |
    • Consider this Irony

      To the Athiest:

      If there is no God, you are right, but your life is worthless. You are merely a biological process who's entire function is to end the process and die. There is no other meaning or purpose to your, or anyone else's life.

      If there is a God, you are wrong, and you will spend eternity separated from Him and His love.

      No wonder so many athiests attack those who believe in a deity and any sort of afterlife. You know you can't have any, that, in your mind, there is none, so those who believe in such are fools. But, if they ARE fools, so what? In the world view of the athiest, laws are meaningless, since all current laws are based upon some religion's views. Therefore, anarchy is the only view. But, in a true anarchic culture, one view is equally as valid as another, including Christian, so to complain about another view, as an anarchist, is ridiculous, since any view is equally valid.

      Ironic, isn't it?

      September 22, 2011 at 14:02 | Report abuse |
    • Darrell

      To Consider the irony...all laws are based on religions? Really? Such as a seat belt law, or helmet law, or requirement to get health insurance? Many laws are created because lobbyist for large corporations gain influence with politicians to serve their own greedy interest.
      And to say that an Atheist life is worthless because they don't share your beliefs is quite judgmental. So any good deed an Atheist does is considered worthless, yet a "Christian" is worthwhile because they read a certain book and pray to a deity, regardless of the good or bad, said "Christian" does with their life? Interesting logic.

      September 22, 2011 at 14:40 | Report abuse |
    • TheGardener

      So Sad, We feel neither threatened by you and or your god, whoever, whatever it is for one thing: your god can do nothing to me because it has no power whatsoever. You theists have problem of getting nosy into people's bedroom and lifestyle. You want to push your moral agenda onto everyone and even those who do not give a darn of it. Stay our of politics, nobody abuses you. Nobody takes your god away. Nobody stop you from worshiping your god. This is a free country. We respect individual freedom and that includes freedom to believe or not to believe, alright?

      September 29, 2011 at 20:33 | Report abuse |
    • teresa

      ADULT STEM CELLS CURE'S AIDS / HIV and A NUMBER OF OTHER THINGS BUT WHY????? IS AMERICA BEING HELD BACK FROM THE MAJOR LEAP IN MEDICINE DOES AMERICA WANT TOO KILL YOU ??????? OTHER COUNTRIES MAKING MAJOR LEAPS INTO MEDICINE BUT AMERICA IS STILL IN THE STONE AGE WHY????? WHO BENEFITS THE FDA BIG CORPORATIONS .......???

      October 17, 2011 at 22:58 | Report abuse |
    • teresa

      ADULT STEM CELLS CURE'S AIDS / HIV and A NUMBER OF OTHER THINGS BUT WHY????? IS AMERICA BEING HELD BACK FROM THE MAJOR LEAP IN MEDICINE DOES AMERICA WANT TOO KILL YOU ??????? OTHER COUNTRIES MAKING MAJOR LEAPS INTO MEDICINE BUT AMERICA IS STILL IN THE STONE AGE WHY????? WHO BENEFITS THE FDA BIG CORPORATIONS .......?

      October 17, 2011 at 22:58 | Report abuse |
  2. Eager to try

    Just saying Hi to all the swinger ladies.

    September 19, 2011 at 15:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Paul

      Oooooh yeah, giggity, giggity, giggity. :-)

      October 13, 2011 at 15:27 | Report abuse |
  3. bob

    we are in a social networking revolution, it can't be compared to whatever was going on in the seventies. people are more social theses days. friends wth amazing benefits is just a latent effect of people finding and building their network.

    September 19, 2011 at 17:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Newo

    sadly, I'm too jealous to be a swinger...doesn't make talking about it any less fun -guess that makes me a "swing-tease"?

    September 19, 2011 at 18:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. hamstors

    I believe it's a given that these swinging couples eventually will divorce.

    September 20, 2011 at 12:45 | Report abuse | Reply
    • dianee

      youre wrong. if anything it strengthens it. imo

      September 20, 2011 at 17:18 | Report abuse |
    • Darrell

      I agree with dainee 100%. Would love to see a study on the divorce rate of swinging couples versus non-swinging couples.
      Badonkadonk... really showed your intelligence with that line.

      September 22, 2011 at 14:44 | Report abuse |
  6. cave man

    Society puts way too much emphasis on monogamy almost like a persons body is "owned" by another. Open up the cage and let your hair down and live a little. Seriously emotional attachment and bonding doesn't have to be directly tied to physical intimacy. All that we experience in life exists within our minds, our bodies are just the chariots. Sometimes marriages dont go as planned but its not that easy to get out of the contract. It takes a year to be divorced which is basically an eternity. sometimes dipping your ladel into another bowl of soup is just what the marriage counselor recommends ;)

    September 20, 2011 at 13:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • dianee

      yesssss. i totally agree!

      September 20, 2011 at 17:20 | Report abuse |
  7. Panties

    I am asking for all of my lady swinger friends to report to my house tomorrow night at 7:00pm ready for action. HeeHee, Grins.

    September 21, 2011 at 05:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Paul

      Giggity, giggity, hehe. :-)

      October 13, 2011 at 15:30 | Report abuse |
  8. Tamara

    EWWW, IM GONNA BARF!

    September 21, 2011 at 17:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Evan

    Been here, done that, Ian, and it ruined my marriage. Swinging is a recipe for divorce and a petri dish for STDs.

    September 24, 2011 at 17:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Minister Mike

    This is big show of moral absentia. And its things like this that Americans wonder why most nations hate their country. I just hope people will come to the light and saving grace of Christ.

    September 28, 2011 at 10:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • austin

      would a couple that has tried "swinging" not be accepted by "the light and saving grace of Christ" if they wanted to, just because they have tried swinging or are interested in it? Just confused by where your going with this..

      October 5, 2011 at 03:12 | Report abuse |
    • avioceinministermikeshead

      I can think of a great many other things that are far more important to the survival of the human race than this debate. I can also think of a great many things that would cause animosity towards a people (America in this case) exclusive of what they do in the privacy of their bedrooms. Mike, how can you be so judgmental and defensive and then use the name of the Savior to hide behind. SHAME ON YOU!

      October 12, 2011 at 16:28 | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Mike- Please, man. We are not all Christians so there is no need to pray for me or anybody else. If you want to swing- enjoy and I won't judge you. If you don't same result- I still won't judge you. Why must you judge others? FYI- I think swinging does strengthen a relationship, but that's how my wife and I see it. We really don't need your input on it or your Moral Abstentia....puh-lease. Save it.

      December 28, 2011 at 15:56 | Report abuse |
  11. ick

    Anal cancer, lymphoma from viruses,Hep c omi!

    September 28, 2011 at 15:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. jo

    Marriage is strengthened by sacrifices, understanding and acceptance. When you don't understand committment how will you ever be happy. Pity on those who cannot find real love and have to look elsewhere.

    September 29, 2011 at 14:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Chris

      No need to pity us at all. We are having a great time.

      December 28, 2011 at 15:57 | Report abuse |
  13. n3kit

    Yes, monkeys love to swing.

    October 4, 2011 at 04:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. melissa

    For a long time working on birth control pills, HIV-positive women were found to have a higher risk of transmitting AIDS.

    President of the University of Washington research undertaken in Africa, HIV-infected women who are taking oral contraceptives and hormone injections AIDS infection risk is higher than that of women stated that such drug use. In a statement to the other, but this kind of HIV transmission for women receiving drug therapy, hormone therapy, the risk of contracting the wives of HIV-infected than women said to be blind.
    http://blog.healthvidyo.com

    October 4, 2011 at 17:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. GARRY ZIMMERMAN

    TheGardener

    I am wonder, have you ever heard of Rezin king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah? If not I would suggest it is real person that you might want to check out..........just a suggestion.

    October 6, 2011 at 08:18 | Report abuse | Reply
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    At least some bloggers can still write. Thank you for this article!!!

    December 16, 2011 at 04:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Timothy

    There sure are a whole lot of bigots commenting on this article, my question is...what brought them here...?

    March 16, 2013 at 16:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. WickedSeductions

    Politics are every where wow, come join us Wickedseductions.com

    June 24, 2013 at 18:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. offtoshow

    My wife karen was raised as a minister daughter and lead a very protected life
    when we got married she was always finding faults with her body
    i got her into showing off by taking her to semi private fishing spots were she would sit toples
    every time some luck fisherman would happen upon us she would get a thrill of being caught
    this opened her up to more and more
    we have had a few experiences swinging because of it and now after 29 years of being married i can say that swinging has save our marriage
    today at 50 karen knows she is a very sexy woman
    our sex life is great we act like we are still dating

    July 1, 2013 at 05:37 | Report abuse | Reply
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