Interview with Terry Gould, author of The Lifestyle: A Look at the Erotic Rites of Swingers


Kasidie: That part of your book got made me want to scream. Those situations made me really angry.

Terry Gould: What wasn’t understood is that good people were getting severely hurt. When these people came to court you saw they were pharmacists and airline pilots and DEA agents. So basically they came from mainstream society and were being arrested for what? For nothing!

Kasidie: So what is the inherent danger that people feel from swingers? Why the animosity?

Terry Gould: Well, it goes something like this: If people have control of their own sexuality, then that means they’re not under the control of society. From 6000 years ago we’ve had a controlling caste of rulers priests and scribes. The rulers are close to god, the priests sanctify their relationship with god, and the scribes write it all down in the text. The main preoccupation of these religious texts are sex. It’s like a relationship of a mafia boss to people on his block. He says to them: “You’ve done something wrong! I can punish you for it… but if you pay me I can speak to the big boss and he’ll absolve you of it.” So you have this relationship where sex is wrong. There’s a wrong way to have sex and a right way… and the right way is with one spouse, only in a certain way, and only for procreation. If you did it the wrong way, it means you’ve sinned and are going to hell. But you could get absolution from the rulers, priests and scribes if you paid them. People from the beginning of time were condemned to sin again and again and again.

Kasidie: So all this fuss about sex basically stems from a big money scam?

Terry Gould: People were told they couldn’t do something they had to do. Then they had to get absolution of their sin and were therefore constantly beholden to the very people who set these rules. So it was a perfect way to control everyone. And this still happens today, right down to our liberate world. When you walk in the supermarket you go down a virtual tunnel of popular magazines where all you see are all the nearly naked movie stars. Their sex lives emblazoned and celebrated on the covers yet when you turn to the advice columns inside, they tell us we should act in the exact opposite manner.

Kasidie: I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that the moralistic behavior expected of regular people somehow doesn’t apply to celebrities or people of influence. For instance, Snoop Dogg glorifies marijuana and has produced his own line of porno films, yet he’s also appeared on Sesame Street. Parents are okay with their kids looking up to Snoop Dogg, yet they’ll petition to remove another child from their own child’s school if it is found out that his parents are swingers.

Terry Gould: What research into the lifestyle taught me is that there is a real big difference between morals and ethics. Most people do not understand that difference. Morals are fashion, they change all the time. In the 1950s it was immoral to have oral sex. Now it’s promoted between married people. It’s considered a perfectly moral act now. It used to be immoral for a woman to look directly into a man’s eyes. Morals will always change. There is no rock hard moral prescription that is unchanging thru the ages. What does not change is ethics. There is only one ethical principle from which all others derive. Its very simple to remember, you could live your life by it. It is “Do not do unto others that which you do not want others to do unto you.” You can approach every situation and decide how to act based on that simple principle. What I found in with the lifestyle is that while some people might think it’s immoral, it’s actually completely ethical because it follows that maxim. It’s the one rule of etiquette that cannot be broken in the swinger subculture. It’s an ethical framework. Within that framework they can exhibit all sorts of sexual variety that does not impact their ethical behavior in other areas of their lives. They do not become less ethical people by behaving “immorally”.

Kasidie: So, by that very definition, these religious and political groups that are always trying to impose their own moral values onto sexual subcultures… are actally the ones who are behaving unethically?

Terry Gould: Absolutely, it’s a true paradox. The people who impose their own morals, which are not universal, upon people who are behaving ethically, is actually immoral. That is what that lifestyle highlights when other people criticize them. Because they are ethical people behaving in a way that society considers immoral. That is why they pose a threat because people confuse morals and ethics.

Kasidie: You make a point in your book (which is constantly being validated by recent news events) that the people who most aggressively impose their morality on others, and who are quickest to condemn certain acts as immoral… are usually the ones who are secretly partaking in those acts themselves.

Terry Gould: Always! They do it for two reasons. One being that they lighten their own sense of sin when they condemn others. Second, the alpha male in primates, will always try to suppress the sexual urges of the other males. If you can suppress the sexuality of competitors then you can breed more effectively. By eliminating the competition, you have increased your odds. That’s where it comes from. And it never ends. You’ve got the preacher who speaks out against homosexuals and then drives over to the next city on a Saturday night and partakes in homosexual activity. The hypocrisy never ends. I think the world needs a lesson and it needs it really badly. What is moral and normal for today is not necessarily what is ethical and natural. Morality and normality are ideas we impose. But what is ethical and natural is always universal. In the lifestyle what swingers try to do is accept ethical behavior and combine it with natural behavior. They enjoy sexuality and are kind and forgiving to one another instead of focusing on the “morality of the day” and getting angry about people that are not following it. So we really need to distinguish the two. People in the lifestyle seem to get what is ethical and natural. The practice of ethical and natural behavior can only result in kindness… and if you have kindness you need nothing else.

Kasidie: I’d like to thank you for talking with me today. But I’d especially like to thank you for writing this book. It’s not only an incredible insight into the psychology and culture of the lifestyle for anyone who is not familiar with the inner workings of swinging… but it’s also an informative, inspiring and personally vindicating book for those of us in the lifestyle. It is filled with some of the most eloquently and intellectually argued justifications for the swinger lifestyle that could easily disarm any and all of the criticisms that are so often flung at us by moral opposition. Frankly, after reading The Lifestyle, I felt like I could hold my own against Bill O’Reilly if I had to.

Terry Gould: I think sexual subcultures like this have been going on for thousands of years, and they will continue to keep going in their own style. I believe that until there’s some obvious damage can be shown from them, they should be left alone and treated with dignity and respect.

Kasidie: That certainly means a lot to us. Thank you.

Terry Gould’s books and articles on organized crime and social issues have won 47 awards and honors. His most recent book, Paper Fan: The Hunt for Triad Gangster Steven Wong, was nominated for the Tara Singh Hayer International Press Freedom Award.

The Lifestyle: A Look at the Erotic Rites of Swingers can be purchased on

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  1. It is very serendipitous that you posted this interview as I
    just finished reading this book a few weeks ago. It was very informative and I
    enjoyed it thoroughly. Although I am not yet into The Lifestyle my wife
    recently confessed that she is extremely voyeuristic. We are planning to attend
    a local club initially just to observe and we will see where it leads. Keep up
    the interesting and informative writing.


  2. “The Lifestyle” is a great book. We have read it, and, every couple should read it regardless of whether or not they have any interest in the swinging Lifestyle. The book really sheds light upon why those of us in the Lifestyle enjoy it so much. Socializing combined with consensual sex with someone else’s wife/girlfriend/husband/boyfriend, one-on-one, or in a group setting is, in our opinion,  a most rewarding experience a couple can have. This nonmonogamous lifestyle or subculture is not only ethical but thoroughly enjoyable to boot.

    Mr and Mrs.

  3. Pingback: Can Swinging Improve Your Marriage?

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