Swingers are groups of people who engage in open sexuality with others outside their own relationships. A swinging married couple, for example, will meet with other couples (married or not), and swap or share their partners with each other for their sexual enjoyment. In the 1970s, this practice was called "wife swapping".

Swinging does not always include sexual contact with other partners, but does include more physical intimacy than a "normal" gathering between friends.

People engage in this activity for assorted reasons, sometimes even for the right reasons. In a healthy, strong relationship (or marriage), swinging can introduce additional sexual variety into an existing sex life. It can be arousing to watch one's partner satisfying another person sexually while that person's partner satisfies you.

Unfortunately, others use swinging as a means of repairing a broken relationship, which almost always fails (if your relationship is in trouble, swinging is most likely to introduce feelings of jealousy and insecurity, rather than strengthening the bond between you and your mate). Occasionally, friends who normally do not have a sexual relationship with each other will pair up and pretend to be a couple to get into a swingers club so they can meet and have sex with other swingers. They do this because, at least in theory, people at a swingers club are more likely to be interested in sex than those at a nightclub or a bar.

All swingers practice safer sex, at least if they want to remain swingers. It is nigh impossible to find couples willing to engage in unprotected sex with other swinging couples, except under extraordinary circumnstances, such as a polyamorous relationship. While swinging and polyamory are separate concepts and sets of practices and behaviors, they do share the notion of sharing or swapping partners. A polyamorous situation is far more likely to include unprotected sex amongst several partners than a swinging party is, however.

Swinging is most properly an activity people engage in for pleasure. Swingers do not "mix" sexual partners to diversify the gene pool, to procreate, or to make each other jealous. Swingers are typically not jealous of their partner's sexual encounters with others as long as certain rules are observed:

  • Protection must be used. As described above, participants are expected to engage in safer sex, which at a minimum includes use of a condom during sexual intercourse. Oddly, in swinging it is uncommon to see the use of condoms or dental dams during oral sex; condoms are used usually only for direct genital engagements.
  • Nobody says "no". Swingers are a trusting, kind, generous, and above all, respectful crowd. Anyone involved in any kind of swinging activity can stop that activity with a simple "no." It may be frustrating, but the swinging community is as strong as it is today by always respecting the wishes of its members. If anyone is uncomfortable with something going on during a "session", s/he need only give the word to have it stopped. Spouses always have the "right" to "veto" a proposed pairing of his/her partner with someone s/he doesn't like.
  • Everyone is comfortable with each other, and with the activity to come. If someone is uneasy, the other participants are likely to try to encourage or assure that person, but if the answer is ultimately "no", the others respect the decision. Nobody pushes, and feelings are rarely hurt.

The swinging lifestyle encourages respect and courtesy, and is quite different in this respect from the typical social scene at a local nightclub. Yes, you're likely to hear a few "no" answers before you hear a "yes", but unlike a nightclub, people in swingers clubs tend to be there to have sex with other people. Remaining polite, courteous, and respectful while asking people you find attractive if they'd like to play is the fastest way to hear a "yes" if such settings. In a nightclub, asking random, attractive people if they want to play is a sure-fire way to add hand-shaped marks to one's face.

Swingers, being participants of an alternative lifestyle themselves, are quite comfortable with other alternative lifestyles. Swingers do not typically feel offended or disgusted by homosexual or bisexual people of either sex. This author, while heterosexual, has been propositioned by another of the same sex in a swingers club, to no ill effect (I politely declined, and suddenly my self image improved just a bit :). While club rules vary, homosexual activity is almost always just as welcome as heterosexual activity, as long as swinging is involved.

All is not rosy in the world of swingers, however, as many swingers clubs have gradually mutated into a sort of nightclub with sex on the side. Our recent trips to a swingers club in the Denver area have resulted in disappointment, as the same "clique" behavior that occurs in nightclubs has also poisoned the swingers club.

Additionally, the world is filled with wannabe swingers, who are really only interested in a threesome. If you are a couple looking for a woman to join you, you do not want to swing and are not swingers. You want a threesome, and should be looking elsewhere for it. Clubs are also fraught with people who don't know what they want and are completely unwilling to try anything different. They are wasting their money, and everyone else's time.

There are, however, still plenty of clubs that are essentially a free-for-all (metaphorically speaking; all clubs we've encountered require yearly membership dues and a cover charge on each visit) where a polite, well-groomed couple can probably find other partners to have sex with.

Unlike a nightclub, if you're granted admission to a swingers club, it's very likely you'll end up having sex with somebody if you're not a complete asshole.