Full Swap vs. Soft Swap: What’s the Big Deal?


At some point, usually early on, every swinger or swinger couple faces the question, “are you full swap or soft swap?”. This question is posed on every swinger networking site and is crucial information for couples seeking other partners for play. So what’s the big deal about full versus soft swapping anyway? Even more importantly, how does a couple decide what’s right for them?

First, we should go over some definitions. There is a common misconception among new swingers (as seen on many misinformed message boards and chat rooms) that soft swapping simply means same room sex, where each couple has sex only with their own partner while occupying the same room, or that soft swapping only means female-female play. This is not the case. Soft swapping can encompass a wide range of activities, from kissing, to fondling and for some couples, even oral sex with one or more people outside the couple. Simply put, soft swapping means that there is no actual penetration with outside people. Once penetration comes into play, with anyone other than your partner, it’s considered a “full swap”.

So, now that we’ve gotten the technical definitions out of the way, what is the real difference between the two, and how do you know what’s right for you and your partner? There are advantages and disadvantages to both and there is no one right answer for every couple.

The fact is that no matter how sexually open and sex positive you and your partner may be, there will always be lines one or both of you are not comfortable crossing. Whether it is fear of unwanted pregnancy or simply a desire to keep something special that is only for you and your partner to do together, there are many reasons why couples may choose not be full swap, especially in their early days in the lifestyle. For many couples, the idea of their partner kissing and playing with another man or woman is totally erotic, but the idea of their partner having actual intercourse with someone else raises some internal red flag. If this is the case, then soft swapping is an ideal solution.

Even once you have established that you only want to soft swap with other couples, it is still important to establish ground rules even within non-intercourse play. Some couples prefer not to kiss others on the mouth. Some draw the line at petting and are not interested in oral sex. Whatever your comfort level, the most important thing is that you and your partner be honest with each other. Nothing ruins a fun night of swinging like hurt feelings or jealousy.

Simply put, the advantages of soft swap are many, including a decreased chance of unwanted pregnancy, a slightly decreased chance of disease, and a possibly decreased chance of jealousy. There is really only one disadvantage, but it’s kind of a big one- no intercourse with anyone other than your partner.

The limits of soft swap can be more or less of a disadvantage depending on what you and your partner are looking for in the swinging world. Many couples have found that there are a good number of others who are simply not interested in soft swap, or at least want to know that full swap is a possibility, even if it doesn’t happen. On occasion, just saying that you as a couple are only interested in soft swap can dramatically decrease the number other couples who will be interested in playing with you.

The greatest advantage of full swap is…SEX! Again, it sounds like a simple difference, but it can be huge if having sex with other partners is something you want. While it can seem scary at first, and a little fear can be both healthy and fun, full swap opens up the swinging world to a larger number of possibilities and increases the likelihood of meeting other sexually open partners.

There are a few things that have to be considered before anyone endeavors to full swap. The first, and probably most important, is the way full swap will impact the relationship between you and your partner. The emotional impact of full swap will be different for every couple. Especially for new swingers, full swap can bring certain baggage with it. For those us who were raised to believe that anything other than monogamy is wrong, even “sinful”, full swap can seem like a giant taboo. If this is the case for you or your partner, the most important thing is to take it slow, communicate and examine exactly what it is that you and your partner really want.

My husband and I began our swinging adventure as soft swap, mostly because we were new to the lifestyle and weren’t really sure how it all worked. We wanted to take it slow. Gradually, as we lightly played with other people and indulged in both watching and being watched, we began talking about the idea of actually fucking other people. We were both a little surprised when it turned out that we both really liked the idea of having sex with other people and we both were really turned on by the thought of watching the other have sex with someone else. From that point on, full swap was not a necessity for a fun night, but was definitely on the table.

A second consideration in full swap is birth control. This consideration isn’t sexy or fun, but it’s necessary. Within a monogamous couple, it is fairly simple to greatly reduce the chances of unwanted pregnancy. When new partners are introduced, the risks of pregnancy may increase. Short of surgery (vasectomy for men/ tubal ligation or hysterectomy for women), there is no form of birth control that is 100% effective, so there will always be some risk of pregnancy unless one or both participants has been surgically sterilized. The best advice I’ve heard is to discuss this with any potential full swap partners long before any sex actually happens.

Similarly, everyone involved should be aware of the risks of sexually transmitted disease and infection. Just as you would use a condom with a new partner when dating, condoms are a must when full swapping with a new couple.

All that scariness aside, full swap can be extremely fun and satisfying for everyone involved if it’s done with forethought and respect for the feelings and boundaries of everyone involved. Never assume that just because a couple participates in full swap that you don’t need to ask before doing certain acts. Even full swap partners may have rules or boundaries that they choose to stick to and it is important to talk about these boundaries before playing- every time.

Like everything in the lifestyle, good communication should be priority number one. Swinging is about having fun and embracing our positive sexual desires. This can only happen when you and your partner are being completely open and honest with one another. There is no right or wrong way to swing, so don’t be intimidated or pressured into doing anything that makes you or your partner uncomfortable. Ultimately, whether you and your partner decide to be full swap, soft swap, or both, the most important thing is that both of you feel comfortable with everything that goes on. Beyond that, always be safe and above all, have fun!


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