When me and my boyfriend decided that “monogamish” was an adjective better suited for us than “monogamous,” we started seeing the world differently. Each outing was an opportunity to meet potential partners, every party a chance to hook up. But the world did not receive us this way. In fact, the biggest inhibitor to our newly acclaimed status as prospective swingers, was the fact that we are a couple.
While the nuclear family is no longer exactly a cultural standard, couples–should they consist of two men, two women, or none of the above–are still largely viewed as universally monogamous. A couple, as still defined by the masses, is a sturdy, wholesome unit, one in which collective strength and longevity are measured by faithfulness to each other, and to each other alone.
Many of the preconceptions surrounding swinging and other non-monogamous practices can be attributed to the sex-negative culture we unfortunately still inhabit. Monogamy is pushed on us from various places: school, television, other forms of popular entertainment, and often our own families. Even with the sex-positive dawn that seems to be upon us (thanks to the internet), it’s still difficult to shake these more traditional ideas of what is right (or culturally acceptable) and what is wrong (or culturally unacceptable).
As a species, we’re generally okay at flirting—particularly heterosexuals—because we’ve been doing it and culturally promoting it for a long time. But no one grows up watching TV where swingers go on dates. Few movies have swinger protagonists. Even among the more open-minded and accepting segments of the population, most people just aren’t mentally prepared for being allowed to flirt with someone who didn’t attend the party alone. We’re taught that this is culturally unacceptable, and often a precursor to helping someone cheat. Because we don’t yet have established social norms for flirting with swingers, it tends to just not happen. Or at least, not in “vanilla,” or less sex-positive spaces.
When I asked swinging author, podcaster, and swinger himself, Cooper S. Beckett, the best way for beginners to dive into the non-monogamy pool, he told me to head straight for my laptop.
“Finding out where swingers congregate in your community is huge,” Beckett advises. “Hit some of the big swing sites, Kasidie, SDC, SwingLifeStyle, and look at your area. If they're not on one site, then another may be better. Look at people's profiles on OKCupid, apps like 3nder. Once you find the community, try to meet as many people who know each other as you can, this encourages safety, and community bonding.”
But online and in-app outlets for finding swinging partners should mostly be used as an entryway into one’s local community. Relying heavily on virtual connections can also increase the risk of walking into unsafe or unwanted situations, Beckett explains. “I’d suggest everybody use caution, and vet people properly before meeting up in a private space. You never know who people really are. Of course, you don’t know that at a bar either…”
The obvious bonus to using virtual experiences for initiating a connection, is that there are no surprises, no uncomfortable reactions to, “so, we swing!” Niche dating and hookup sites (and apps) create a space for people with shared desires. There’s no guessing involved, because everyone’s there (more or less) for the same thing.
Flirting with strangers is difficult to begin with. There’s already so much that goes into it–reading reactions, choosing what words and body language are appropriate, figuring out orientation–that adding a whole other compatibility filter can be overwhelming. With swinging, picking up on the hint that someone is into you just isn’t enough–you need then to drop hints that will help you figure out if they’re into swinging. That is, unless they’re the one dropping such hints. “I do recognize little quirks of behavior that might indicate someone is more open than I initially thought,” says Beckett, “this does still require me to make that move, take that risk, and ask.”
And according to Beckett, although still challenging, just taking that risk and asking is a viable option. It just depends on where you are.
“You’ll have a lot more luck near a big city than in a rural area,” says Beckett, “and you’ll definitely have more luck near some big cities than others.”
Since culture varies from place to place, it’s easier to encounter a greater concentration of open-minded and sex-positive folks in bigger cities, where less conventional ideas about relationships and sex not only exist but are accepted by a non-minority.
Beckett goes on to say, “mostly though, it’s about finding where the swingers are hanging out near you. They’re everywhere.”
The world is as they say, your oyster. But first, you’ve gotta figure out how to crack the shell. We’re still working on it.
Zoë Tersche writes about sexuality and gender in culture, media, and tech. She also runsthiswink.com. Find out more on her website.
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