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The More the Merrier

“The lifestyle” is alive and well; in fact, there may be more swingers out there than you think

by Sarah Sherman on February 13, 2014 · 1 comment


The game was simple: The man to perform oral sex underwater for the longest amount of time would win. What could go wrong?

But one of the men popped up earlier than he should have.

“He just went for my boobs and started grabbing me,” says Laura (not her real name) about a man who failed to follow the rules of a friendly hot-tub competition. Laura’s husband, Greg (not his real name), was underwater, pleasuring another woman, when this man launched at Laura.

“There are people who don’t know limits,” she explains. “He was trying to do something without Greg knowing about it.”

This was unacceptable behavior, both to Greg and Laura, and to the other people in the hot tub. For an action like that, “You need to ask permission,” Greg says. “Everyone needs to respect each other’s boundaries.”

The hot-tub game is a good example of what many couples enjoy about swinging: the spontaneity, the creativity, the chance to enjoy a few erotic thrills with new partners in a controlled, unthreatening setting. And the man who broke the rules illustrates the importance in swinging of knowing, and accepting, the limits.

Swingers will tell you that open communication is the key to having a positive swinging relationship. Boundaries need to be understood and rules need to be established. Each participant needs to be honest about what he or she is looking to get from the experience.

Swinging is loosely defined as “exchanging spouses for sex” and is often referred to as “the lifestyle.” It’s called this because it suggests a behavior that becomes a way of life for those involved. It ignores typical societal norms and encourages sexual freedom. One misconception about the lifestyle is that you must be married to participate; you can be married or single. People are drawn to the lifestyle because it allows them to meet new people who enjoy sex and are looking for fun outside of a monogamous relationship. Some are just looking to add variety to their sex lives or are just curious about what’s happening outside their own bedrooms. Some couples begin to swing in an effort to strengthen their own relationships. Others, like Greg and Laura, simply see it as a hobby, no different than, say, playing tennis.

Spouse-sharing has been around in one form or another for centuries, and it is assumed to have been practiced in some American military communities in the 1940s and ’50s. It became more popular in the “swinging ’60s,” due in part to the more widespread availability of contraceptives, better treatments for sexually transmitted diseases, and a more open-minded society. The Internet has opened up a whole new world for swingers. The number of swinging websites has grown exponentially, some with hundreds of thousands of members. Some experts believe that there are as many as 15 million Americans swinging on a regular basis.

“It’s like going to summer camp,” says Greg of the trips he and his wife of nearly eight years take to Hedonism. Only Hedonism isn’t summer camp; it’s a swingers’ resort. Located in Negril, Jamaica, “Hedo” is a vacation spot for those looking to add a little “spice” to their lives. And spice you get—with mirrors on the ceilings of every guest room, naked dance parties, and an open bar—it seems like the perfect recipe to create lasting memories. But what happens once you leave “Hedo”? Well, if you’re smart enough to bring your camera and capture these memories, you’ll have plenty to look back on when you return home. Looking through old pictures, according to Greg and Laura, can become quite the aphrodisiac. “Laura and I can just sit here and tell stories, laugh. . . . Reminiscing turns into having sex, getting freaky,” Greg says.

And what they’re looking back on—well, it’s certainly not just the white sand or blue water. No; what they are looking back on is sex: a lot of it.

That’s not to say everyone at Hedonism is having intercourse with each other; that’s actually one of the biggest misconceptions about the lifestyle. “There are so many different levels,” Laura says.

Meaning not everyone there is looking to swap partners for sex. There are plenty of couples like Greg and Laura, who identify more with the term “mixers,” rather than swingers, who go to “have fun” and “forget about the world for a little while.” Greg and Laura, while they’ve done nearly everything else, have never had sex with members of another couple. “Everything else” involves things like kissing, hand jobs, and oral sex, including “double blow jobs,” according to Greg.

“Mixing is like playing around,” Laura says. “We’re voyeurs. We like to watch. And at times we like to be watched. It depends on the mood.”

It seems there’s always something to watch. Whether it’s naked volleyball or a woman being massaged by eight men at once, there is much more to see than the Jamaican sunset. “It keeps everything fresh,” Laura says about being in this environment. “It can make you stronger as a couple.”

“It allows you to know your partner more,” Greg adds.

Another positive aspect of the lifestyle, according to Greg, is the enjoyment you get from feeling desirable. “It makes you feel better about yourself,” he says. “There’s just something about sun, surf, and sangria that allows people to just let loose a little and just give in.”

Greg and Laura took their first trip to Hedonism in 2004, but their involvement with the lifestyle started earlier. At the very beginning of their relationship, Laura brought home a “friend”—another woman—to join her and Greg. “We were young,” she says. “We just started making out to entertain him.” That was when Greg first realized Laura was into “different things,” and “then it just went from there,” she says.

Living in New York City at the time, the couple found it very easy to find other people who engaged in the lifestyle. “Crazy shit is always happening in the East Village,” Greg says.

They explain that simply typing “swingers” and your zip code into Google leads you to a whole other world: a world full of all different kinds of people, as Laura explains. “Teachers who become dominatrices at night, doctors, lawyers, skinny people . . . fat, old, middle-aged . . .” And Greg and Laura insist that there are way more people involved in this lifestyle than you and I realize.

What is bringing all these people together, Greg and Laura explain, is the simple desire to “have fun,” “get loose,” and “escape from the daily grind.” They also claim it’s a great place to establish meaningful friendships. “We’ve become the best of friends with some of these people. . . . Once you see somebody naked, all of a sudden you’re super close with them,”

The only people to avoid, they say, are the jealous types.

“Jealousy is the kiss of death,” Greg says.

Greg and Laura know that sex with other people would cause jealousy between them, which is why they’ve agreed to not take it that far. Although, they say, if either of them suddenly had the desire, they would be open to discussing it. It seems nothing is ever completely off the table for these two.

If it seems inevitable that swinging couples would eventually have feelings of jealousy, it has come up with Greg and Laura. While partying at Hedo, a single woman grabbed Greg and started kissing him. This was particularly annoying to Laura because this woman didn’t have a partner with her. “It’s not like I could grab her husband and kiss him,” Laura says, still clearly irritated by the incident.

So even for the most comfortable couples, jealousy sometimes finds its way in, which is why communication is so important. In fact, swingers often defend the lifestyle by pointing out that it’s often a lack of communication in a relationship that leads to cheating. Cheaters, they say, have no place in the swinging community. It is all about honesty. Both partners are constantly aware of what is going on with one another. There is no lying, no sneaking behind the other partner’s back. Some say that swinging can open the doors to communication, leaving married couples feeling more fulfilled and less likely to have secret affairs. It also has been said that swinging can make a couple more comfortable with each other and more sensitive to each other’s physical and emotional needs.

When you’re honest about what you want, you’re more likely to get it. And that, Greg and Laura say, can lead to a whole lot of fun—and maybe, if you’re lucky, to the best orgasm of your life.

Laura begins, “We went out one night. . . . one of my good friends, it was her birthday. We gave her a strap-on . . .”

The friend apparently loved the gift, as she put it on for a night out at the club. Laura, who was wearing a little skirt with no underwear, says, “I ended up bending over and she just started fucking me with it.”

Needless to say, a crowd formed, which was a huge turn on for Greg and Laura. What came later, though, was the best part: Laura’s first internal orgasm. After the dance party, Greg and Laura returned to their room to have sex. “As long as he was thrusting, I was having this orgasm that wouldn’t go away till he stopped.” She adds: “It’s amazing what your body can do when you’re in that sexual atmosphere for so long.”

Experiences like this may seem crazy to some people, but according to Greg and Laura, it’s pretty normal. Just like a typical dating situation, if there’s chemistry, things begin to happen. “Everyone really gets to know each other around the pool, at the beach, or over a meal,” explains Greg. “You gravitate to the people that are similar, and next thing you know, you’re instant friends. . . . And you’ve already seen them naked, so that’s out of the way.”

From there, things just happen naturally, he says. “And next thing you know, you could be having six orgasms, aka Laura.”

Asked if they’d recommend this lifestyle to others. Laura says, “We always do.”

I smile, and in beginning to wrap things up, I say, “OK, well . . .” and it seems that Greg senses a bit of uneasiness in my voice.

“It’s hard to explain,” he says. “I think you need to take a trip.”

I laugh and think, Hedonism 2015?

Probably not. I’ve never been good at sharing.