Once, much to my amusement, a vanilla friend of ours announced to a party we were attending that, “Swinging is an urban myth.”
He went on to explain that of course that kind of thing simply wouldn't happen. Who in their right mind would put their key in a bowl so that they could randomly decide on a sex partner for the night?
Given the situation we were in at the time we chose not to disillusion our friend. But we have never forgotten his absolute conviction in his belief. The fact that in the year 2011 there are people out there who are absolutely convinced that swinging doesn't exist is testament to the secretive nature of swinging and swingers.
I have met a lot of people in the scene with a wide variety of ideas about how important it is to keep their activities secret from the vanilla world. The spectrum goes from being terrified of their friends, family, workmates, fellow churchgoers finding out to holding all out parties where players and vanilla people happily co-exist.
People's reasons for secrecy vary widely. Some people are afraid of recriminations from their parents, some people are afraid of being shunned by the people in their church. Others are afraid of losing lifelong friends or of having repercussions to their career prospects.
As Jake and I journey along this path we find ourselves changing our ideas about the importance of secrecy. When we started out we were very secretive. We didn't put our faces in the public part of our dating site profiles. When we went out on dates and to clubs we were evasive about where we went, who we saw and what we did.
These days we are more relaxed about things. We have a face pic on the front of our dating profile, we include our play friends in our regular Facebook account and we have introduced our play friends to some of our vanilla friends. Some of our play friends have become quite intertwined in our lives. I must admit I never thought of having a separate phone or anything that clandestine. I just couldn't deal with that level of complication.
We don't push our lifestyle in people's faces, it is just there. If you look closely you can see evidence of it. If you ask a question you might get a direct answer or, if we think you are not quite ready to digest the honest answer, we might reply a little cryptically. Most of our more vanilla friends and family members know enough to know that they don't want to know anymore. If you don't ask a question then you won't hear an answer you don't want to.
The cynic in me believes that secrecy is part of the attraction to the lifestyle. The excitement of doing something clandestine makes these meetings irresistible. Sometimes I have a slightly nagging feeling that some people haven't quite come to terms with the radical difference between what they are doing and the accepted norms.
We are conditioned almost from birth to believe that monogamy is the only way to live. Going against that is quite radical for some people. I do believe that while some people participate in non-monogamy they don't truly believe in their heart of hearts that what they are doing is right. When challenged by someone whose opinion they value, like their parents or their church friends they feel ashamed and guilty of not being strong enough to live a moral life. It is only when someone is truly comfortable with their choices that they cease to care what other people think.
I cannot know everyone's circumstances or families. I do know that the majority of times I have openly talked about my lifestyle to friends or the hairdresser or the beauty therapist etc the reception has been one of two options:
a) Rabid curiosity. Oh My God!! That is awesome. What do you do? How does it work? How do you meet people? How did you get started? And so on. Once someone starts asking questions like this they generally have a positive impression. I like to think that my answers in these situations have helped people to have a more open mind and the general population is more educated about swinging as a result.
b) Careful neutrality. For some the idea of their partner being intimate with someone else is very challenging. They don't have any desire to mix up their sex lives with other people and this is cool. These people often ask questions about the mechanics and also about jealousy but finalize the conversation with a statement like. “Well I can see that you enjoy it and all power to you but I don't think it is for me.”
Personally I don't find either of these options threatening. People are entitled to their opinions and choices as long as they respect mine. I can honestly say that I have not had someone be openly hostile about the lifestyle or end a friendship because of a discovery they made about me. I will admit that I am a little circumspect with some acquaintances I have made through my children's school. This is not because I particularly care about the repercussions for myself but rather the effect it could have on my children's school life.
For me the sexual relationships and moments I have with people are an important part of my life. I feel that hiding this from the other important people in my life; like my relatives and good vanilla friends is hiding a part of myself. The other side of this is the concept that if people don't accept me for me, with my bisexuality, multiple sexual partners, smutty stories and relaxed attitude about nudity, cleavage display and skirt length then are they the right friends for me? Probably not.
This post hits so close to home for me. I thought it was an urban myth too, until we started to swing. Now I am a big advocate for openness and swinging. Most of my vanilla friends know and I have converted a few of them. Not that it is my goal or anything. In my relationship it works and I guess we make it look easy and normal. I feel very fortunate to have discovered the secret lifestyle!