Swinging: Not for everyone
A client came to see me recently to talk about an issue that was upsetting her. She is 39 years old and has been married to a man the same age for about 15 years. Neither had had many partners before they got together.
They've had a good sex life but in the past few years she has felt the passion was missing. She was getting bored and was thinking about what sex with other men would be like. She had no intention of cheating on her husband and when she read an article about a swingers' club in their area, she was curious.
When she suggested the idea to her husband she was quite surprised that he was not upset. On the contrary he seemed quite interested. It took them a while to find the courage but they finally gave it a try.
They both liked it and it improved their sex lives for a while. But the one thing my client had not expected was feeling jealous when her husband had sex with women who, in her opinion, were better looking and more sexy than she was.
Although she is an attractive woman she began to feel more and more insecure. She decided not to take part in swinging any more but her husband is now disappointed and blames her for suggesting it in the first place.
Swinging came under the spotlight three years ago when Australian businessman and millionaire Herman Rockefeller was brutally murdered by a couple whom he allegedly met through an underground swingers' network.
Writer and comedian David Smiedt researched the Australian swinging lifestyle for an article for GQ magazine.
Smiedt found swingers were a representative sample of mainstream Australia. Their age group was 30 to 45 and they were no more or less attractive than the people you see in a shopping centre. They were friendly and respectful.
Drug use in most swingers' clubs is forbidden as is drunkenness and there is an enormous emphasis placed on good manners.
Swingers are expected to show up to events in a well-groomed state, shower between erotic interludes and make sure always to practise safe sex.
For this article I spoke to couples who said they were attracted to swinging because it added spice to their relationship and they liked the excitement of an anticipated encounter with another couple or sometimes a single woman.
Swinging has a special attraction for women who want to experiment with their bisexuality or be the centre of attention of two males.
The couples believe swingers are generally happier in their relationships because they are more open minded and adventurous. But all insisted on the importance of setting personal boundaries.
As far as I know, no academic research has been conducted on swinging in Australia.
In the US, Canadian-born Edward Fernandes, an assistant professor at Barton College, North Carolina, has conducted studies on the sexual behaviour and motivation of people who have joined what's called the "lifestyle". He has published several articles on the topic and is working on a book called The Swinging Playground, which focuses on anecdotal and scientific perspectives of swinging.
Dr Fernandes spent hundreds of hours interviewing swinging couples, and doing private interviews with the women involved.
One of his first questions was whether the wife had a choice in the matter or did she go along to please her husband?
His research showed that 72 per cent of the time, the husband suggested swinging but, once involved, the women usually were happy to participate. Many women said that after the first experience their husband or partner looked at them with "fresh eyes" and showed a higher level of sexual desire.
Women liked wearing sexy clothes they usually wouldn't wear in public, loved it when men flirted with them and they felt desired, which boosted their self-esteem.
After the initial nervousness wore off, it was often the women who had the final say on who "parties with whom". Most often the man accepted the choice his female companion made and research has shown that mostly women are in control.
Swinging is very popular in Denmark, especially compared with the rest of Scandinavia. About 90,000 Danes admit to swinging regularly. Every year they have an International Swingers Week.
Although swinging enhances or improves the sex lives of many couples, it's not for everybody. If you want to try it but have insecurities or you are not able to communicate well with your partner, swinging can ruin your relationship instead of improving it. Swinging enhances only relationships that are strong and happy.
Sydney Morning Herald