I consider myself a swinger, in that I’m in a committed Primary, living-together-as-married relationship wherein we have sex with other people outside of our relationship together. (We’re also polyamorous and form independent romantic/sexual relationships with other people – yes it is possible to be both, but that’s a topic for another day.)
There are a lot of things I love about swinging – the opportunity to play with all different people with all different kinds of bodies, the voyeuristic fun of watching my partner playing with someone else, the exhibitionist joy of being watched, getting to indulge in different kinks and fetishes, the fact that swing clubs are more accessible to me in a variety of ways than ‘normal’ nightclubs ever were, the social aspect of meeting lots of new and interesting people, and much more.
But the longer I spend in the swinging scene, the more problems I see with it too – and that saddens me. Mr CK and me don’t intend to stop swinging any time soon, but we’ve certainly become choosier and choosier about the kinds of behaviour we’re willing to accept and the kind of venues and events we feel comfortable frequenting. So here are five things I see all too often in the swing scene which I do not love.
I’m white. Mr CK is white. However, we’ve made a policy of blocking and not engaging in anyone who has any variation on “white people only!!” or “no blacks or Asians” on their swinger profile. (We are not looking for ally cookies here. This is basic fucking human decency, not some awesome selfless act of deigning to not fuck racists.) Our block list is ENORMOUS from this alone. Swinging has always been, and sadly still is, largely the realm of upper-Middle class white people. Unfortunately, huge swathes of this group seem to think it’s entirely reasonable to make a snap judgement on every single potential partner of certain races. It’s not “just a preference,” people. It’s racist.
The body shaming.
I keep my body hair fully natural and have done for a good couple of years at this point. My partners love it but, much more importantly, I love it. However, the number of people whose profile includes a line along the lines of “we’re clean shaven everywhere and expect the same” is astonishing. And it’s not just body hair – fat people, disabled people, men shorter than 6ft, men without big muscles, and non-gargantuan penises also get hate piled on them from people screaming “just a preference!!!!” all over their profiles. We block those people too. Are you surprised our pool is diminishing every time we log on?
Holy shit, the heteronormativity! The assumption is that if you’re a swinger, you’re a cis person married to another cis person of the opposite binary gender. People who break this mold are few and far between, and often treated as some kind of exotic curiosity. Similarly, it’s often expected that women will play with other women, but only if their bisexuality is performed in a way that’s centred around men’s visual enjoyment. And as for the men? It’s still taboo at best to be a bisexual man in the mainstream swinging scene – some clubs even go as far as banning man-on-man action (we won’t go to those clubs.)
At our first swing night, we asked about kink rules. The club owner, who knew us from fetish events we’d attended in the same venue, was hesitant. “Um, well, I guess light kink is probably okay. But don’t scare my regulars.” So, spanking? Floor-work bondage? Nope and nope. Turns out “light kink” translated to “sex that is maybe a tiny bit rougher than missionary-with-the-lights-out.” Okay then. When we did engage in a bit of rope play in a semi-private room at the same club, we gathered a crowd of sweet-but-clueless gawkers who thought they’d never seen anything quite so weird in their lives before. Obviously not everyone has to be kinky, and I understand vanilla swingers might not want blood being drawn in their nice clean clubs or bullwhips flying everywhere, but being treated like a sideshow because we like something a little different gets wearing really fast.
The toxic masculinity.
My above point about male bisexuality being taboo is relevant here – many of the men I meet through the swing scene are not just straight but aggressively straight – the idea of even being in proximity with another penis is terrifying and some couples even go as far as to say they won’t play with a man who has ever had sexual contact with another man. Bisexuality isn’t catching, y’all! But it’s more than just this. Comments about being/only wanting “a real man” abound. Aggressive hatred piled on men who cross-dress or otherwise don’t live up to masculine stereotypes. Excessive boasting about penis size and/or sexual prowess (honestly, I don’t care if you have a 12″ dick and love “eating pussy” (ew) if you can’t hold a conversation.) Borderline-rapey comments about “just knowing” what women want. It’s all there and it’s all gross.
Sometimes it makes us despair and makes us want to withdraw from the whole game for a while. But just occasionally, we do meet awesome, genuine people who are on the same wavelength as us, and then it feels more worth it. But the mainstream swinging scene still has a lot of growing up to do.
I want to keep slutting it around with lots of lovely sexy people and share these experiences with my partner, but we want something a bit… more body-positive. Queerer. Kinkier. Different. Even if it takes longer to meet our people and build our sexy little community.
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6 thoughts on “Five Things I, a Swinger, Hate About the Swinging Scene”
Fab article, thanks for sharing. It’s surprising that people who are open minded enough to swing aren’t necessarily open minded with regard to anything else!
ONE MORE TIME FOR THE ARSEHOLES IN THE BACK!
This has been -exactly- our experience with the swinging scene. We’ve stopped in favour of other activities.
I wish bisexuality was infectious. Could you imagine the parties?!
Great article. On my limited exposure to the swinging scene I’ve been lucky not to experience any vanillanormativity as I think there’s a bigger Venn crossover between kinksters and swingers locally- I’ve been to a couple of kink events in swing clubs and one has a fully equipped dungeon. What I have noticed is a very definition of consent, which has meant I’ve experienced non- consensual handsiness from bystanders when playing. Which makes me very cross, obviously.
Another shade of racism I’m aware of as well: black men = BBC. I find that stuff queasy.
Oh the body shaming. I’m a guy, so I’m mostly attuned to the ways men are shamed in the community: body hair is a big one, but circumcision status is brought up almost as frequently. I feel like this would be about the same as a guy requesting a certain labia size or something. The racism and fetishizing of race (which I think is also pretty dang racist) is gross.
The funny thing about the homophobia (I once read a profile where the couple wrote “100% homophobic,” but the woman was listed as bi) and masculinity stuff is that most of the couples/guys that approach me on swinger websites list the guy as straight. The sad thing is that I understand why. There’s such a stigma if you’re a bi guy.
If I could add just one more thing that I hate about the community to the list, it would be their love of chicken wings. At least that’s what I think is going on. Everyone seems to love meeting up at places that sell chicken wings.
Great article, the Mrs and I are interested in looking into the scene, but our initial research has us re-thinking. Profiles on sites we’ve joined are astonishingly specific; and while I’d certainly consider us a young and attractive couple, we are put off by all the profiles seemingly demanding so much. I for one have chest hair and am well under 6ft, so immediately disqualified. Honestly though, we’re not looking to meet people or couples because they paint a picture we have in our minds, but because we feel good in their company. C’est la vie.