What is Swinging?
Swinging is a form of recreational social sex between consenting adults, most commonly consisting of male/female couples meeting other male/female couples for sex and/or ongoing intimate friendships.
Swinging (otherwise known as "the lifestyle") can take a variety of different forms. Although single women are generally welcome at swinging events, the degree to which single men are accepted varies from club to club. Although female bisexuality is generally accepted in the swinging community, the degree to which male bisexuality is accepted also varies from club to club. Swing clubs can be "on-premises" (which means that one may interact sexually with others at that event) or "off-premises" (which means that one would generally go back to the home or hotel room of other couples for sex, after deciding to do so at the event). Newspapers and magazines which carry personal ads for swingers also exist, and to a slightly lesser degree these publications may also be considered an aspect of "the lifestyle." Swingers have traditionally been largely middle class and tend to blend in quite easily with the general population in terms of appearance and ideology.
What Might I Like About Swinging?
People may be attracted to the swinging community for a variety of different reasons. Many couples find the thought of having sex with other people to be very arousing, and may find that swinging becomes a catalyst for improving their own sex lives and relationship. Some people may feel stifled by repressive societal attitudes towards sexuality, and may welcome the opportunity to form friendships and a new social network with people of like mind. Others may simply feel that sex should be a natural possibility in any friendship in which there is mutual attraction, and so appreciate the relative open-mindedness and pleasure-positivity with which the swinging community views this subject. Although the swinging community is unfortunately not always the best place right now for het-identified men to explore their potential bisexuality, it is currently a relatively good place for het-identified women to initially explore sex with other women, and this sometimes plays a role in couples choosing to seek it out.
In the past, the swinging community has been somewhat unaware of or confused by alternative sexual practices such as BDSM or Tantra. This appears to be changing, and these days you may find many folks in the swinging community who are knowledgeable about such things (though forms of BDSM much more extreme than spanking or very light bondage may make people uncomfortable, depending on the club). If you're interested in doing so and spend enough time meeting different people, you may actually find that today's swinging community is becoming a somewhat fertile place to meet folks with a variety of sexual interests. It is certainly true right now that the national swinging conventions tend to host seminars and workshops on a variety of sexual topics, which seems at least somewhat indicative of broadening perspectives in the community.
Some women may find the swinging community to be a welcome dose of sanity. Our culture can be quite cruel to women who have an active interest in sex, often derisively labeling them "sluts" - a term which stands in sharp contrast to the less derogatory term for men, "studs". The swinging community may be especially attractive to these women, who may feel their sex drives and/or sexual assertiveness should be appreciated rather than snickered about or reviled.
Some people end up learning quite a bit about themselves and their sexualities through swinging. For example, most folks find that having their partner actively enjoy and appreciate what they are experiencing during sex to be a tremendous turn-on; this is a realization which may stand in sharp contrast to the attitude that "performance" is all-important. Swinging can be an opportunity to learn to relax and appreciate sexual pleasure, and may help one view sex more as a source of pleasure and intimacy and less as a social bargaining chip or ego fuel.
Although this may vary slightly from club to club, in general the swinging community is quite accepting of a variety of body types, sizes, ages, and shapes. Additionally, many on-premises events provide an opportunity to dress sexily or go completely nude, which can be a fun and sensual experience in and of itself.
What Might I Dislike About Swinging?
If you are uncomfortable with people being sexually attracted to you and/or flirting with you, then you might be uncomfortable at swinging events; similarly, if your relationship with your partner is on shaky ground, you might find seeing him or her flirt or be flirted with to be an uncomfortable experience. If either of you have hidden agendas concerning finding a permanent "replacement" for each other, you're probably in for a major emotional disaster. If you and your partner cannot communicate directly about relationships and sex, you're probably eventually in for a similarly-sized disaster. In general, sex can provoke strong feelings along with its many pleasures; if you aren't comfortable dealing with emotions, then perhaps it might be better to wait a little while before exploring "the lifestyle."
If you are bothered by seeing people have sex without condoms, then you might want to avoid some of the larger play areas in many on-premises swinger's events. Although I have never run into a situation in the swinging community where my requests to use latex were looked down on in any way, it is certainly true that not all on-premises clubs require the use of safer sex precautions. Depending on your experience with sex-positive communities other than swinging, seeing others not use latex may be unsettling to you. You should know what your own standards are with regard to safer sex, and be willing to articulate them to new people or couples you are about to have sex with. If your personal safer sex standards include using barriers for cunnilingus, then you should be prepared to do some explaining as not everyone will be familiar with this practice.
If you are offended by phobia against bi men, then you should be prepared to either look for a club that is more open-minded on this particular issue, wait for attitudes in the community to change (which I believe may happen in the next five years or so), or else attend anyway and make a point of not letting small-minded comments go unchallenged.
If you are a single male, you might actually be better off waiting until you are in a suitable relationship before attempting to become active in swinging - most swing clubs allow few if any single men to attend their events.
General Hints for Enjoyable Swinging
In the context of swinging, "couples" need not be married. They should, however, have at least a little history together and familiarity with each others' emotional needs, and be comfortable approaching others as a "couple." The general rule of thumb is that swinging works best when couples view swinging as an enhancement to their existing sexual relationship, rather than as a replacement for a failing one.
As one would expect, good communication is critical in any attempt at swinging as a couple. There are many, many different forms that swinging may take, and whichever one you choose is fine as long as you and your partner are clear about what you are doing and why. Sex has the potential to be an emotionally-charged area, and the pleasures that may be found in swinging can generally be reached only when both partners are sensitive to each others' needs, and put their partner's comfort first. From a more pragmatic point of view, there will always be another party, another personal ad, another dance, another convention; there may not be another chance to salvage an exploration into swinging if one partner becomes overwhelmed in "the garden of delights" and forgets to treat his or her primary partner with sensitivity and respect.
It's important to keep in mind that swinging is primarily a SOCIAL activity. The ordinary social customs of meeting people and initiating a conversation are really not that different than at any other type of social gathering, and the process by which acquaintances become close friends is not that different either. The key social traits that tend to be appreciated in the swinging community are responsibility, friendliness, flirtatiousness, open-mindedness, and most importantly stability with regard to one's primary relationship.
As is the case with almost all human social endeavors, if you already know people in a particular community you'll probably be happier if you attend your first few events with these people so they can introduce you to others. Waiting a little while and watching how others behave is also a good idea, as it is in almost any new social situation. Common courtesy, of course, is as welcome in the swinging community as it is in any other community; we're all just people, after all.
There are several different styles of swinging which you may see in the swinging community. Some people may prefer not to be around when their partner is having sex with someone else ("closed swinging"), while others may insist on it ("open swinging"). The term "soft swinging" refers to trading partners just for the purposes of heavy petting and then switching back to one's primary partner for any actual sex. It might be valuable for you to think about whether there are any potential situations that you feel you would be more or less comfortable in, and discuss these with your partner.
Although not all couples find it necessary to do this, some couples feel more comfortable having social "codes" that only the two of them know. Examples might be discreet phrases or gestures which mean a) one of you is attracted to the people or person he or she is talking to and wants to know if you are interested in swinging with them, b) a reply to the above, either affirmatively or negatively, and c) one of you is not having a good time and wants to get away from things for a while.
At off-premises events such as dances, it's common for people to dress up or else wear fairly sexy clothing. Dress at on-premises events tends to be more casual, since nudity is a common outcome of the evening for many. At on-premises clubs it's a good idea to bring something like a robe so you don't have to put all your clothes back on after sex, and to avoid wearing lots of jewelry that might get lost. If there's a dress theme for a particular event, go with the theme.
By the way, it is not necessary to actually have sex with other people to have a good time in the swinging site. Off-premises activities such as dances can provide a wonderful opportunity to flirt and be flirted with in a non-threatening yet sexually-charged atmosphere, which can be fun in and of itself. On-premises activities can provide an opportunity to appreciate the sights and sounds of sex as an enhancement to sex with your primary partner, whether you two decide to have sex at the party or after the party.