Lifestyle. Swinging. Wife Swapping.
What is this thing we do called?
First of all “wife-swapping”. I don’t particularly like this terminology mainly because I think it ruffles my feminist feathers. Wife-swapping sounds like something men decide to do with “their” wives. Just like they might do with their tools, boats, or sporting equipment. A wife is not a possession for a guy to swap with his buddy so they can each try out a new model. This term seems to take the female desire out of the equation and that’s not okay with me.
Swinging is great because everybody knows what it means. It’s not a secret-society type word that requires you to be in the know. The not so great thing about it is that it conjures up images of the ’70s; disco, hip huggers, shag carpet (on the floor and between the legs), afros (on black men) and bad perms (on white men) and gold chains. This isn’t too much of a problem for me because I was born in the ’70s and so everything “retro” is cool, instead of dated. I am contemplating purchasing my own domain name and there is a high liklihood that swings, swinging, or swinger will be in the title. Frankly, I like the term swinger, despite, and partly because of, its fun cheesiness.
Lifestyle is a much more sophisticated sounding term used for the same activity. It attempts to elevate this activity above mere sex. I can’t quite wrap my head around it completely because I’m not entirely sure I know how the term lifestyle is defined.
the habits, attitudes, tastes, moral standards, economic level, etc., that together constitute the mode of living of an individual or group.
I guess what I don’t like about “the lifestyle” as terminology for swinging is that it somehow implies that this lifestyle is the only lifestyle. I agree that how my husband and I navigate our sex life both with each other and with other partners is a lifestyle choice. It’s OUR lifestyle, but it’s not THE lifestyle. I respect people who choose to be in monogamous relationships, just like I respect those who have a life partner and choose consensual non-monogamy with that partner. Both are fine with me. I don’t think that I am somehow smarter or more evolved simply because my husband and I choose to live our sex lives slightly outside the norm.
On the other hand, the term “lifestyle” does work for me in the way that it takes what we do out of the bedroom and into our lives as whole people. In other words, we aren’t only swingers while we are actively participating in sex with others. We are swingers in mind, body, and spirit 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Even in the years that we didn’t participate in “the lifestyle”, we were still swingers. Sexual freedom and adventure are part of who we both are as people. This doesn’t change whether we are making love to each other, fucking a random Craigslist hookup, or changing a tire on our car. When people as us how long we have been “doing this”, I tell them since the day we got married. Even though we didn’t have another human being in our bed until maybe a year in, the mentality was there for both of us. Certainly we’ve ebbed and flowed. Each of us has had times where our sex drive has diminished; unfortunately it sometimes seems to happen in direct inverse proportion to the other’s increased libido. Through it all however, we have struggled and rejoiced in each other, and always come out the other side with our relationship stronger and happier.
So, I guess I’m not sure what we really call it. When talking to others, it’s sometimes “the lifestyle”, more often “swinging”, never “wife-swapping.” With each other, it doesn’t really need a label. It’s just what we do and who we are. So sometimes we call it simply “dating”, “going out”, or “seeing” someone. We also use the terms “playing” and “playmate” a lot. Oftentimes, simply having sex or fucking seems to work. I’m curious what others think. Both swingers and non-swingers; those intrigued and those appalled. What do you call this thing we do?