I've actually been asked the question a lot lately. The why do a podcast, why do a website question. Why did I start it? Etc. Etc. And there are many factors that contributed, to be sure, but foremost was the fact that, as a writer by nature and a blogger, I realized that my blogging stopped dead when Marilyn and I became swingers. It just ended. Not a card, not a note, just tumbleweeds blowin' by blog-death.
And it sure as hell wasn't because I no longer had anything to write about. There was oodles. All these new emotions and desires, all the new experiences and excitement, a dramatic uptick in the quality of our marriage, our communication, our happiness levels. TONS to blog about. Just nothing that I felt comfortable sharing on a blog that counted a few family members in its readership. So the idea of a place to put my thoughts where they wouldn't be scoured by people I know, where I could, perhaps, hide behind a pseudonym, was very appealing.
I'm also the kind of person who throws himself full throttle into anything new and exciting, what John Waters would call little obsessions, these things that are always on our mind. And swinging was definitely that. So I began devouring all media I could about the lifestyle, and there wasn't much of quality. I read some books, I watched the very few movies I could actually find about it. Swingtown had just come out on DVD, so Marilyn and I knocked through all fifteen episodes of that in a blink. (And absolutely loved it, it's a must own!)
But as I devoured all this media, I began to notice a trend. Negative consequences almost universally. Even in the media that was positive about swinging, often there was excessive dwelling on negative consequences. You know, like swingers getting divorced. Which is a negative, unless they got divorced for reasons other than swinging, or unless you realize that people get divorced over far less fun ways to spend your free time…I know a couple who got divorced after fighting over which side of the state line between Illinois and Indiana they should live. Not just which state, but which state within a ten mile radius.
This negativity is perhaps so prevalent because the media on swinging is surprisingly minimal for such an interesting and “media sensational” lifestyle. Also because a lot of the information out there is from those who unhappily left the lifestyle. Most happy swingers tend to keep to themselves and not talk about it much. Only one mainstream movie has ever (arguably) been about swinging: Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice and that was back in 1969, before the real swinging movement really got started. (I say arguably about swinging because there wasn't really any swinging in the movie until the end. Far more about sexual openness and liberation. Damn good movie though. Nominated for 4 Academy Awards doncha know.) I'd wager that when most people think swinging and movies, they invariably go with Allison Janney's key party in The Ice Storm.
(On a side note…who do I have to kill to get invited to a key party hosted by Allison Janney…and know what her keys look like.)
On television, nine times out of ten it's a main character unknowingly stumbling into a swinger party. All in the Family did it two decades before That 70s Show did the same thing. But aside from randomly popping up in an episode, like Mad Men‘s third season California swingers for example, or being a large part of a show quickly cancelled (I say large part because Swingtown spent an awful lot of time on infidelity, and that dumb daughter's relationship with her summer school teacher…and really when you get down to it, Swingtown had no business being on CBS in the first place, it's amazing it lasted as long as it did!) there's extremely little fictional tv about our lifestyle.
Sensationalism brings the seedy dark side of swinging to Springer and Maury Povich and occasionally Oprah when she's feeling like getting her hands dirty and pulling a “look what surprising culture I'm aware of…” episode. Though, I'd say swingers are no longer shocking enough to do the job for the seedy shows, and are on the cusp of being main stream enough to get more “legit” shows.
So I got the few legitimate books on the subject that weren't exceedingly seedy looking exploit journals. The Ethical Slut, The Lifestyle: A Look At The Erotic Rites of Swingers, and Opening Up by the unbearably gorgeous Tristan Taormino. All three were interesting reads, The Lifestyle tackled the return of swinging in the eighties and nineties after AIDS almost killed it dead, as well as discussing possible psychological and sociological reasons why we swing. It's objective and informative…and massive. The Ethical Slut is often regarded as essential reading for anyone seeking an open relationship, but I found it didn't really have much to say. My favorite of the three was Taormino's Opening Up. She discusses fluid sexuality and fluid relationships, and being open to possibilities. Of all the ideas presented to me in my exploration period, I identified with hers the most.
The web divided itself into a few camps. There were the dating sites, most seemingly designed to facillitate cheating over open and honest relationships as well as extract as much cash for various “services” like “allow non-paying members to email you,” seriously? Why would I want to pay more to let people who don't care to pay email me? And of course, it doesn't help that the people behind Adult Friend Finder have flooded the market with similar sites that are all really one massive UBER site hell bent on dominating the community. (And making single males feel like they have a chance…) There are GOOD ONES, but they're few and far between.
Then there's websites by long time swingers, five to ten to fifteen years on who seem to feel that swinging is awesome, but it's not for you. (With the you being anyone who doesn't do their voodoo quite like they do.) Many of these seem to be drawing swinging up into an exclusive club with a bouncer and a list who asks questions like: “When was your last fight?” “Oops, don't communicate well enough! BACK OF THE LINE!” They expound all these reasons not to be a swinger, and list many of your reasons for wanting to and tell you they're not good enough, listing hoops you should jump over and push through. And as a very happy swinger that didn't follow most of their rules, I felt these people weren't quite the ambassadors I was looking for. They were gatekeepers.
Of course the last batch of sites were the resoundingly negative, assuring potential swingers that they may as well start filing the divorce papers now.
I'm generalizing, of course. There are positive swinger sites out there. The good folks over at Swingercast have been a welcoming voice for quite some time. And one website was as welcoming and fun as the swingers I've met are: Couple Doing It. When Marilyn and I were first considering entering into this lifestyle, it gave us the confidence that we could do it by being friendly and inviting. The site is black & white, featuring cartoon versions of the webmaster couple, and showcasing a 6 minute video called “The Lifestyle and You” in the style of 1950s industrial films. Most important, while this site did offer cautions, it wasn't full of warnings and don'ts, instead offering a welcoming hand and greeting from “your friendly neighborhood swingers.”
As our first year in the lifestyle drew to a close, and Marilyn and I recounted all we'd learned and the wonderful people we'd met, we realized that we wanted to BE “your friendly neighborhood swingers,” and felt an urge to “give back” and offer the one thing that is tremendously hard to find in life when you're at all off the mainstream beaten path: welcoming acceptance, being told “it's okay…”
The Swingset website was born after I set aside the idea of writing a “Swinging For Dummies” type book, and was in large part inspired by Nerve.com‘s blogs and articles and Sex Is Fun‘s podcast. I knew right off that many who'd come before me had done the “confessions of a swinging couple” website/podcast/blog, and I wanted to do something different. The lifestyle itself is as varied and unique as its membership, we all have different lifestyle journeys, so I wanted to allow for that by gathering a variety of different voices together.
There is no one way to do this, to be swingers, to be open, to be poly. We all interpret the world around us differently, so the best we here at swingset can do is offer our unique interpretation of life on the swingset, and hope to impart it to you.
Thanks for swinging by! Let us know if there's anything we can do for you…
July 2, 2010