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It’s 1976, and life in America is getting a little wild. Stockbroker Bruce and homemaker Susan, a handsome couple, make the move to upscale suburbia. Their first night there, Bruce and Susan attend an outrageous party at the home of sexy marrieds Tom and Trina. Throwing caution to the wind, Bruce smokes dope and Tina tries her first Quaalude. Next thing they know, the heretofore monogamous Bruce and Susan are engaging in an orgy with neighbors Tom and Trina.

Sound familiar? It’s the premiere episode of Swingtown, the CBS primetime show that took the network just as far as it had ever gone in terms of sexual matters. And while no subsequent episode of Swingtown ever really lived to its titillating debut, that debut was widely discussed, both in the media and around water coolers. Mostly folks seemed to be asking themselves and each other: would swinging—defined as one couple engaging in sexual play with another couple or multiple couples--enliven my life inside and outside of the bedroom the way that it did for Bruce and Susan?

That’s a question that we can’t answer for you, but we at Better Sex pride ourselves in educating our customers about sexual practices, even controversial ones. As such, we can provide you with a wealth of information about swinging, its history, its rules and regulations, and why sharing your spouse might be a turn on. Ultimately, whether very interested or just curious, you and your partner need to decide whether or not swinging is for the two of you.

History of a Taboo

Believe it or not, the first swinging parties seem to have originated in U.S. military households during the 1950s! Air Force pilots formed close attachments to one another, sharing everything, even their wives. Those first swinging experiments, or, as it was then called, wife swapping, took place, perhaps unsurprisingly, in California, the state first to allow topless dancing.

As the sexual revolution picked up steam during the 1960s, “wife swapping” became the subject of lurid paperbacks and exploitation movies. But swinging also had its more distinguished champions, including Berkeley’s Sexual Freedom League, the university group that also gave us the slogan “make love, not war.” As the 1960s came to a close, more and more swinging opportunities were springing up around the U.S. and a popular 1969 movie, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, took the practice even more mainstream.

The 1970s? Well, just about anything went in this decade of open marriage and Plato’s Retreat. Sexologists wrote best selling books and encouraged Americans to try new things, just like Bruce and Susan in Swingtown. The AIDS crisis of the 1980s certainly put a temporary damper on swinging, but safe sex practices have allowed the swinging “lifestyle” to become seemingly more widespread than ever. At last count, there were over 3,000 swinger’s clubs worldwide!

Rules & Regulations

“But what exactly does one do at these events? I’d be afraid that my husband and I wouldn’t know how to play the game and end up embarrassing ourselves.”

This is a common concern among both the curious and first timers. Matters are also complicated by the many types of swinging activities in which a couple could participate. For example, a swinging party might involve either soft swap or full swap. Soft swap is restricted to touching and oral pleasures; full swap indicates penetration. If you’re cautious about taking the plunge, perhaps you might attend a swinger’s party in which you and your spouse might simply watch. Opportunities for “look not touch” exist—a first step might be to check online what’s available in your area. There are now reportedly over 1,000 websites devoted to swinging alone!

If the thought of a huge party is intimidating, why not explore the possibility of sexual pleasures with another couple or even a single, either experienced or also taking the plunge for the first time? Your inner circle might or might not be a good place to start. Yes, you’re familiar with Tom and Courtney, and that might make things comfortable; however, everyone else you know is also familiar with Tom and Courtney and people do talk. As such, you might want to check out Craig’s List or local websites when seeking another adventurous couple.

Once you and your partner are secure in your desires and ready to experience swinging, make sure to set up your own set of rules beforehand. Let your spouse know what you are and are not comfortable in doing, and establish a safety word so that sexual activity will stop if one partner feels anxious or upset. Similarly, you will need to coordinate your rules with that of your fellow swingers, be your experience with another couple or more of an orgy atmosphere. If attending an orgy with multiple couples, rules are usually provided at the door. Better Sex offers a very helpful DVD that explains the process and pleasures of a huge swinging soiree: Nina Hartley’s Guide to the Ultimate Sex Party.

Pluses & Minuses

“So how does a man feel after sharing his wife? Wouldn’t most guys be jealous? But I have to admit that I sometimes have these wild fantasies . . .”

The jury is still pretty much split down the middle re: the swinging experience. However, sexologists and therapists agree that if trust and extreme jealousy issues already exist in a relationship, swinging tends to exacerbate such unhealthy emotions. And remember, what one adores in fantasy could be a very harsh reality. Thus, caution should be exercised at every stage of the swinging commitment.

Those who report very positive feelings about swinging tend to trust their partner, enough to be willing to share the desire to experience sex outside of their primary union. One partner may be something of a voyeur, say, a woman’s great turn on might be watching her man with another woman. Or perhaps husband and wife might enjoy sharing a beautiful woman together, as they might share a night on the town. Some of our most popular adult features play upon the desire to watch one’s partner have sex with another, or to share a man or a woman with your spouse. If these could be turn ons for you, check out Bad Wives, Suburban Sex, or My Neighbor’s Wife--all well-made, responsible and highly arousing releases that engage these popular fantasies.

Finally, we should note that all intimate relationships need a sexual recharging. Back in 1792, Mary Wollstonecraft wrote that the honeymoon is pretty much over in six months and that couples need to do anything that they can to reinvigorate those sparks. We hold firmly to that belief at The Sinclair Institute, encouraging you to explore sexual vistas, whether role playing, or adding erotic toys, or, maybe for some folks, swinging.

Your thoughts? Your experiences? We’d love to hear.

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