Yes, *that* kind of swinging.
Full disclaimer: The thought of sprinkling some kink onto our sex lives definitely crosses our minds while binging on The Masters of Sex and Sex and the City (does that show ever get old?). And we’ll admit to *skimming* the Fifty Shades trilogy. Now a new book called Swap Club, by Lauren Wise, has managed to whet our sexual appetite even more. It centers around couples having consensual sex as members of an exclusive “swap club.” And although it sounds more like literotica, it’s actually a relatable tale of a woman hoping to take her sex life from basic to beyond to appease what looks and feels like a midlife crisis. We’re intrigued.
How to navigate a swingers club or a “swapping partners” sitch IRL? We reached out to Caitlin K. Roberts, a Toronto-based sex educator (currently undergoing certification at the Institute for Sexuality Education & Enlightenment) and known for her Body Pride workshops. Here are the rules of engagement when it comes to swapping and swinging.
1. DO FINESSE THE “ASK”
“Swinging is the specific act of swapping partners or playing sexually with another couple. Couple for couple, if you will.” And like threesomes, shit can get real. So how do you broach the topic with a little TLC? Roberts suggests starting by softly opening up the conversation. “If you have not had any previous conversations around non-monogamy at all, I suggest starting here. Open up a non-threatening and inquisitive dialogue between you and your partner. (Meaning, don’t start the conversation by saying that you have an exciting date planned for the two of you on Friday at a sex club).” Some questions to consider: Have you ever thought about going to a sex club? Have you ever thought about kissing someone else? Do you have any fantasies that might involve other people?
2. DO HAVE CLEAR COMMUNICATION
Note to self: don’t bring up your desire to swap the same night you’re hoping to head to a swingers club or party. Let the idea simmer for some time. “If this is something you genuinely want to explore, your partner deserves to be part of that journey. If you’ve given it lots of thought, enough to the point where you’ve decided to bring it up with your S/O, it’s fair to give them the same sort of space and time to process their own feelings about it. Not too mention, communication will be the glue that holds your relationship together if you do decide to open it up,” Roberts explains.
Repeat back to them what they have said to you. Like so: “I hear that you’re feeling unloved when I bring up the topic of opening up our relationship sexually. Can we explore that?” When it comes to swapping partners as part of a consensual swap club or key party, it’s important to communicate and share, but don’t cross TMI territory. “Respect your partner when they ask you not to share specific aspects (maybe they don’t want to know how hot it was when you were getting spanked over someone’s knee in their ‘red room’), but they might want to know that you have a newfound interest in spanking.”
3. DO SET THE BOUNDARIES
No need for a Christian Grey-style contract, but do make sure you and your partner have clear-cut boundaries before diving in. Roberts specifies: “If you’re heading to a swingers club for the first time, maybe you’ll go and hang with each other to suss things out, or maybe you’ll simply play a little. Make sure you’re both on the same page and that no one’s expectations are on a different level than the other’s.” Stick to your agreements and if those agreements are challenged, find space for a private conversation and be receptive to how your partner is feeling. “If you do begin to start playing with another couple, have your negotiations previously sorted out. What are you comfortable with your partner doing with someone else? Sometimes you might need to make some compromises, but the aim is for everyone to feel safe and cared for.” Group hug!
4. DO COVER ALL THE BASES
Since navigating new territory can cause jitters, review all possible scenarios with your significant other. “Set up as many comfortable containers around nervousness or anxiety as you can. Even if they don’t go exactly as planned, the simple act of acknowledging the various things that could come up often provides your partner with the reassurance that their needs are important.” Things to discuss: Are certain acts off-limits? Perhaps you don’t want your partner kissing another woman, but you’re fine with other stuff. What kind(s) of protection are you using with other partners? Being on the same page will ensure swinging success.
5. DO BE SAFE
PSA: If anyone at a swingers club or party is making you feel unsafe, report them immediately to the club or the party host. (This can include people who don’t hear the first “no,” people who aren’t giving you ample space and privacy, people who touch you without consent, etc.) These are non-negotiables.
6. DO HAVE FUN
As much as this experience might feel awkward (which, btw, is a totally normal experience), do enjoy yourselves. Roberts reminds us: “The best way to get the most out of any sexual interaction is to ensure everyone feels safe to experience the pleasure their bodies can receive, safe to communicate what they want or don’t want, and safe to relax. The safety comes from all the communication and trust. Build those things up and then enjoy the fuck out of yourselves because ultimately, it can be a whole lot of fun.”