I met a group of swingers on their own turf in their own village and spent a week with them. Following are a series of articles that outline what I believe to be the “5 top myths about swingers” that my clinical training taught me, and I believe is representative of how a lot of people think about this emerging sub-culture who seems to be leading the next sexual revolution.
In this first myth-buster installment of this series, we explore the notion that swingers are "oversexed," amoral counter-culture hippies.
Myth No.1: Swingers are oversexed, amoral counter-culture hippies
On the SDC cruise, no doubt there were a few “hippies” (e.g. hardcore nudists that stripped as soon as the ship disembarked, along with plenty of “free spirits” flying around, both male and female, with long braided hair and the anticipated accoutrements of piercings and body jewelry in strange places). But what was shocking to us, was the number of people all of my clinical professors would have certified as totally “normal” in terms of demographics, socio-economic status, level of functionality, and absence of any overt pathology. If I didn’t see a few naked people, I would not have noticed anything unique about most of the people on this cruise -- they seemed quite “normal.”
In fact, we “interviewed” about 25 couples over the course of a week-long cruise drawing an international audience, and were surprised to log a few data points: highly successful professionals (internists and surgeons, lawyers, dentists, engineers, empty-nesters and newbie parents, high-asset individuals who sold businesses and are now financially independent and travel extensively with their spouses, a police chief from mid-America, a few local politicians, a judge, lots of small business owners, government employees, and a couple of former less known “celebrities” from reality TV and the music industry ranging in age from 20-something to their mid 70s).
Yes, there was a “play-room” and people had sex there (the boundaries and expectations were explicit, and people followed them without bouncer’s present). But what was truly fascinating was where most people congregated and what they did there, both of which gave us important insight into the underlying question of “who are swingers, TODAY” distinct from our ignorant assumptions, which at least in my case were wrong.
What we observed were far more conversations than sex, where people spent lots of time in various groupings (e.g. this is by design on a swingers cruise) in large public areas that was conducive to highly engaging social interaction without PDA or other electronic leashes between them, like checking e-mail or FB posts.
Swinging seems a lot more about connection and community than fucking
Talking and more talking. People invested a lot of time and energy socializing, asking questions, getting acquainted, and learning about who you were, where you come from, and what your unique journey in the erotic lifestyle (and life in general) was from a place of unusual genuine interest and zero judgment. Rather than the sexual orgies everywhere we anticipated, dialogue was the social intercourse of choice and this seems to be the real draw in the “lifestyle,” namely, a legitimate sense of community and connection with open, warm, non-critical acceptance of people with like-minded values who prioritize fun and vitality in life and relationship.
As I immersed myself in multiple conversations, my imagination reflected to countless hours of doctoral seminars on “healthy marriage and family life” where my professor cadre of acclaimed academics presented caricatures of people they condescendingly referred to as “paraphiles in the alternative life-style.” The imagery was unstable sex addicts who leveraged “social non-conformity” as a platform for their aberrant social pathology. Hmm.
Well, we never found the pathological elk on this voyage and ALL of the couples we spoke with told us many amazing stories that all amounted to “we’re happier than we’ve ever been after many years of being together.”
"What’s the draw?" we asked. A few themes emerged that we heard a dozen times: they enjoyed the freedom of expression, the erotic-sensual vibe here, the comfort of talking about taboo topics and admitting to taboo desires without judgment, and (noteworthy to us) most went back to the privacy of their cabins to make love without any “swinging.” It’s hard to argue with success.
Oh, and as for morals, I forgot my new and expensive iPhone on a deck chair under a towel. Six hours later, I ran up to the deck to reclaim it. It was removed from the chair and placed in a white linen napkin on a table with a note saying, “we took care of this for you”. So much for signs of amorality. Just sayin'.
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