Sunday, April 22, 2007

DIARY OF A SWINGER



3 April 2007
from www.DailyRecord.co.uk

It used to be called wife-swapping. Now, thanks to the internet, swinging is a huge sexual subculture that at least 1.5 million British couples admit to having tried. Scots author Ewan Morrison has written a novel about the scene, entitled Swung, which is out on Thursday. To research the book, Ewan became a swinger himself for a year. Here's what he learned from his experiences.

1. Getting started is easy
ALL you need is a modem, curiosity and a major life-change. I certainly had that.

I'd been living in New York with a scriptwriting job. The job fell through and I found myself back in Glasgow, without work, without a partner, with only this city I'd left staring me back in the face.

It started with online dating. Three months of success. So many women wanting only a one-night stand. But the whole game ultimately repetitive - the processes of chatting-up, your potted personal history, the same jokes working again and again.

Wouldn't it be better to agree in advance that sex was all it was about? Disillusioned, I noticed that almost every dating website had a link to a swinging site. The two main UK sites claim to have around 700,000 users each.

2. You can only swing with a partner you really trust
AFTER three months and 30 dates I met Joanne. Her story was similar to mine. She'd just come back to the UK after living in Spain, had been through a traumatic separation with her fiance and been online dating for six months.

Within an hour of meeting we were in bed. Laughing, comparing histories. Like me, she was wary of commitment. She had a temp job in IT.

She wasn't sure how long she'd stay in Glasgow. She was 38. "Life is too short" and "You only live once," she said. She just wanted to have fun. We had fun. Seeing each other once a week. Sex games and stories.

But after a time, the stagnation started. We both needed something more but were distrusting of sinking back into couple mode. Two escapees, we didn't want to end up shackled to each other.

So the erotic fantasies started. Checking out swinging sites. The questions - had she ever done it with a woman? No. Was she curious?

Yes. Had I ever been with a couple? No, but I was curious.

We talked about it. It could be cathartic. Could help us break the mould we'd both found so damaging in the past. We agreed - we'd join the scene and she would have her first woman.

3. You have to learn a lot of terminology
IT was maybe the fascination with that that pulled us through. So many abbreviations to learn:
NUMP - no ugly men please,
SPARK - single parent raising kid,
HWP - height-weight proportional,
FA - fat admirer,
BBW- big beautiful woman,
MBA - married but available.

We emailed and chatted with dozens of couples. Took our first sex pictures. Posted the mon our ad. Swapped them online. Made up fake names as the sites recommended. We were Dave and Sheila. Our first couple called themselves Tony and Joan.

4. You'll need to prove who you are
AFTER swapping emails and pics with Tony and Joan we moved to the next stage - proving you are real.

This was done with webcams and a swap of phone numbers. This is crucial because many people post pictures online of better looking, more well endowed people and when they show up, they are revealed as liars.

5. There are specific rituals to learn
YOU call on mobile phones, not landlines. You arrange to meet in a public place. For safety reasons. As a get-out, you have a secret "safety word" - if you don't fancy the couple you drop "pizza" or "shopping" into the conversation and your partner knows to call it a day.

We had our safety word prepared and agreed to meet in a bar. It was exactly like a first teenage date. The nervousness, the adrenalin, the sense of daring - the anxiety over whether you'd see it through.

6. Swingers are very 'safe'
WHETHER it be over sexually transmitted diseases or personal space. Everything commences only from a point of trust and consent within a group. If one person dissents then it's a "no".
We told ourselves that at any moment either of us could call it off. But Tony and Joan had us laughing from minute one. This surreal scenario of being with a couple of strangers in a pub, openly discussing terms and conditions.

Condoms? Of course. Will the two men be having sex? No. The two women? Yes. Full partner swap? Yes - but Tony didn't like other men looking at his penis.

All this in a public bar surrounded by 50 people who talked about "normal" things - Big Brother, nightclubs, Posh & Becks. No safety words said, we were invited to their house.

7. The old cliche - seventies suburbia, bored middle-class, middle-aged wife-swapping key parties - is no longer true
IN my year, I must have encounterd every social type apart from that - a stand-up comedian, a call-centre girl and her partner, a male model, two professors, two heavy-metal heads. No hint of the suburbs - and mostly everyone under 40. Tony worked in insurance, Joan worked at Tesco.

Once we'd had a drink, they revealed their real names - Steve and Sally.

8. Swinging is surreal
THE feeling is of an almost-socialist utopia of open-mindedness and tolerance. You get invited into the homes of people you wouldn't normally socialise with. It's like being in a hobby club - stamp collectors, or model-aeroplane makers.

There's the foreign-ness of their decor, their taste in music. And in an hour, you're having sex together.

9. Swingers love to philosophise
BEFORE we got down to business, Sally and Steve talked about how long they'd been doing it - how it had brought them closer, how so many couples strayed after the seven-year mark, how it contained the threat of infidelity and how it made them love each other more.

They wanted to know all about us. How long we'd been together? How often had we done it before?

We confessed it was our first time and they were thrilled to have "newbies" - they talked excitedly about this whole world that would open up for us. Very strange, very unlike the usual processes of seduction. There was a lot of laughter.

10. Swinging is not just about sex
STEVE and Sally made it clear that they were not in this just to have one-night flings - they wanted to develop friendships. They knew many other swinging couples and sometimes they just hung out.

We didn't need to have sex tonight if we didn't want to. They liked us, they'd love to see us again. And it was us two who came across as pushy, wanting to get the deal done.

Still, it was a relief and a release to talk with a couple so openly about love and sex and relationships, shedding so much baggage.

Sitting in their lounge surrounded by pictures of their family.

At some point, it was agreed that we'd all get naked. And Joanne had her first lesbian experience.

I watched, for the first time, my girlfriend having sex first with a woman, then with a man. Then I took my turn with Sally.

I made the mistake of watching Steve having sex with Joanne. He covered his penis with his shirt. Me and Sally sat watching, sipping warm Liebfraumilch.

Joanne felt awkward after that, she seemed to have enjoyed it all more than me - although the lesbian thing had not turned her on as much as she thought.

She said touching another woman's breasts was a bit like putting on your own bra. She was glad, though, that she could now go to the Pearly Gates and say: "I did it!"

11. Swinging is addictive
OVER the next six months, we had five different encounters - and constantly wanted more.
The list of erotic possibilities had to be seen through. There is a sense of accumulation within swinging. She wanted to have a well endowed black man. So just like shopping on eBay, I found her one.

Twelve miles away on the outskirts. He was 5ft 11in tall, aged 23, did a bit of modelling, was very good-looking.

Again a bar meet and we trusted him. He drove back to his, we followed.

He and I took turns having sex with Joanne. She said she had never been happier.

12. You start to become a theorist
AFTER a few encounters, we started to analyse the scene, compare observations, draw up theories.

For example, the debate on whether threesomes are better than fours. In a threesome as a couple, you have one toy (boy or girl) between you. With fours, and chat-rooms talk a lot about this, there tends to be complications, as it's almost impossible for all four to find each other attractive. One person will always be left out.

And people have complex reasons, too, for swinging. Perhaps a man doesn't find his wife attractive any more. He's doing it just to get some action. Or she's doing it to test the boundaries of their love or to push it to breaking point.

Then again, there are those so strong in their commitment that they love to watch their partners having pleasure with others and are not threatened by it ormade jealous.

There are a great number of couples with "bi-curious fems" looking for a woman - so it's more than just every man's fantasy of having two women in bed.

Swingers often travel great distances to meet. One couple travelled up from Manchester to stay with us.

13. After a while, you need to get some distance on exactly what it is you're doing
ONE moment, perhaps on our sixth encounter, when I'd been watching Joanne having sex, very complex emotions began running through me.

Did I care for her? Did watching other people having sex turn me on? Could I live like this with a female partner?

It was about this time that I started writing about swinging. To try to put these emotions into place. A novel took shape - about a couple so much in love, but still they needed more.

I didn't think at the time that I was being a "naked anthropologist". I wasn't doing research for the book. So many couples saying it made their love stronger. Did I want to love Joanne? I realised we had started from the wrong premise. The love has to be there from the start. You can't find it through swinging.

Joanne found my detachment frustrating. I encouraged her to see other people without me. As far as I know, she didn't swing with others - I was her swinging partner - but she did start seeing other guys.

I, too, had started seeing other women. And strangely, the confidence that swinging had given me seemed to bring women to me who wanted to explore their sexuality.

Over the next six months, with three different women, I swung, with couples, with single men and women. And each time it was the same feeling: I am missing something.

The process fascinated me - breaking the cliche that it is men who want to screw around and women who want stability. Of course, many would think this was coercion on my behalf - that these women were only doing this to please me. But in each case, it was the woman who had the guts to see things through.

14. One of the joys is in not having sex
AT times, I interviewed men myself, just like in a job interview - assessing whether they could put my new partners Samor Julie at ease, make them laugh, whether they could be trusted.

A 6ft 5in New Zealander with a ponytail and no sense of humour, a nervous young man whose ad said he was VWE (very well endowed) but who'd lied about his age and sat trembling as I interviewed him in a bar. He ran out when I went to the toilet.

The kid no doubt thought he was so unattractive that it would be easier to score with a couple than go through the process of nightclubbing and dancing and chatting up only to face rejection.

15. There is a dubious side to swinging
IT does attract people who are escapees or have the wrong motives.

Some do it to try to save a failing marriage; some do it to cheat and get away with it; some couples are married but not to each other and swing behind their partners' backs once a month in other cities, in hotel rooms.

There are some single men, too, who hire prostitutes for the night so they can swing with a couple. They are usually found out, as part of the process is the chat, the building of trust on the basis of a couple's past.

The fact remains, however, that the great majority of swinging ads say, "No single men" - and swinging clubs also have a no-single-men policy.

Single men are generally only brought on to the scene when a couple have a bi-curious male. Or when a couple wants multiple men.

To be picked as a single male you generally have to be "WE" or "VWE". Or to be young - another ad from a retirement-age bisexual couple from Cornwall was calling for an "Adonis" to go with the mon their second honeymoon to Greece.

16. Swinging does a lot for your self-confidence and your intuition
YOU start to see beyond people's appearances. You feel a bit like Tyler Durden in Fight Club, analysing everyone around you to work out if they're part of your revolutionary subculture.

You develop what is called "playdar" - a bit like gaydar. Swingers can spot each other in public. A couple once picked me up in a regular bar.

17. Swinging is a question, not an answer
MY year of swinging ended before I completed my book.

I felt I had to stop and take stock and that a novel would be the vehicle for that. The year ended with a prior stage of escalation - an invitation to an orgy at which I realised I'd get much more from it if I was really in love with a partner.

My partners had been explorers, not lovers. I was not in love - but I think in that year I learned to love people more, to be more compassionate, more accepting of difference.

My year of swinging ended with many new friends who were no longer lovers. Each of us, generally, moved on. Joanne now has a partner and a child. Sally has an ongoing relationship with a couple.

Which leads me to believe that swinging is, for the committed core, a lifestyle that they live day in, day out.

But, for the majority who pass through the websites, it is a stage gone through for a year or so, a volatile one filled with questions about boundaries. Who am I? How will I live? Can I be happy? Can I love? What is love?

Swinging is not so much an answer as a question asked deeply - for, as many philosophers say, the only questions worth asking should place your life, and your body, at the heart of the question.

(c) The Independent March 31,2007

Ewan Morrison graduated from Glasgow School of Art with a degree in fine art and went on to become a successful TV director. He has directed more than 200 hours of drama, arts and entertainment programmes for Channel 4, BBC, Sky and STV, been nominated for four BAFTAs and was winner of a Royal Television Society Award in 2001. Since 2003, he has heldwriter in residence posts in France, Australia and New York. His first collection of short stories, The Last Book You Read, was published in 2005. Swung, a novel based on his year as a swinger, is published by Jonathan Cape on Thursday, price £11.99.


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Also check out...

Ask Dan and Jennifer
Dating, Relationships, Love, and Great Sex... Get Your Questions Answered!

http://www.askdanandjennifer.com/sex-and-intimacy/my-best-friends-a-swinger-will-she-burn-in-hell/

5 comments:

Dan and Jennifer said...

Hey Guys,

Great article, very interesting insights.

Thanks for the link to our post about "My Best Friend's a Swinger". You can see what amazing conversation that article sparked. It was great to see all those points of view.

Have an awesome day!
Dan

Danni and B said...

You are more than welcome for the link! If we burn in hell, at least we'll have some awesome friends (with benefits) to keep us company.

xoxo, Danni

Dan and Jennifer said...

Hey Danni,

By the way - after seeing the great turnout and interest generated by that initial article, we ran a poll - and over 3500 of our readers participated.

We asked "Would you ever consider swinging or polyamory?"

I think you may find the results interesting - we certainly did:
http://www.askdanandjennifer.com/sex-and-intimacy/shocking-sex-poll-results-the-surprising-verdict-on-swinging-and-polyamory/

More than 3500 of our readers spoke out and the results were really surprising. A heated debate ensued, with hundreds of people chiming in, both on Netscape.com (http://personals.netscape.com/story/2007/02/28/-shocking-sex-poll-results-the-surprising-verdict-on-swinging-and-polyamory), and the original article on AskDanAndJennifer.com (http://www.askdanandjennifer.com/sex-and-intimacy/shocking-sex-poll-results-the-surprising-verdict-on-swinging-and-polyamory/).

Check it out and cast your vote if you haven't already. :-)

Have an awesome day!
Dan

Danni and B said...

Oh, B and I voted on your poll! Wouldn't have missed being counted in!

xoxo, Danni

Dan and Jennifer said...

Great Danni.

Hey, by the way, we're causing trouble again. You might find this poll interesting as well - it's about legalizing prostitution:
http://www.askdanandjennifer.com/breaking-news/sex-scandal-legalize-prostitution-poll/

We're up to 3700 votes so far.

Have an awesome day!
Dan & Jennifer