Swinging: An Overview of the Practice of Open Relationships

Swinging has existed for centuries, but the modern definition of the practice is rooted in the 1960s, when individuals noticed the potential for open relationships and sexual exploration. Swinging is the term used for when couples (heterosexual or homosexual) participate in sexual activities with other couples. It is the main form of polyamory, which is the practice of, or desire for, intimate relationships with more than one partner. Swinging is often referred to as “the lifestyle”, because it involves making a commitment to interacting with other swingers on an ongoing basis- something that can be a large part of a person’s life.

This article will provide an overview of swinging as a practice, outlining its history, principles, common etiquette, and various types of play. Most importantly, this article will explore safety and consent, both of which are essential in the swinging lifestyle. It will focus primarily upon the modern practice and ethical understanding of swinging as opposed to negative stereotypes.


The term “swinging” originated in the United States during the late 1950s and early 1960s, when couples began to actively seek out other couples for sexual activities. The practice had been documented for many centuries before that, but it wasn’t until the sixties that it gained notoriety and a practice of its own.

In its original incarnation, swinging required a high degree of trust, discretion, and communication between partners. It was a risky venture that often led to both legal and social repercussions. Swingers, especially those living in conservative or rural areas, often found it necessary to keep their activities covert, leading to the development of a subculture defined by code words, symbols, and cues.

The modern definition of swinger as a person who openly engages in intimate relationships with more than one partner, and who draws pleasure and freedom from being non-monogamous, did not emerge until the 1960s. Today, the term occurs with greater frequency in popular culture, often in the context of comedy or music.


The swinging lifestyle is based on the concepts of trust, communication, and respect. These principles form the basis for creating and maintaining healthy relationships between swingers.

Trust is essential for swingers in order to feel comfortable and safe engaging in sexual activities with other couples. Without trust, a couple may feel apprehensive, guarded, and ultimately be unwilling to cross the boundaries of monogamy. Swing couples must be honest with each other about their intentions, feelings, and desires. This type of frank communication encourages understanding, and helps swingers nurture trust within their relationship.

The second principle is respect. Swingers must show respect for their partner’s feelings and emotions, as well as respect for other couples. Without respect, swingers can find it difficult to establish strong connections with other couples. Similarly, respect must be showed for one’s own sexual boundaries.

The last principle guiding the swinging lifestyle is communication. Communication is essential for swingers not only to tackle feelings of insecurity or doubt, but also to ensure that both partners are aware of the boundaries and rules prior to engaging in sexual activity with other couples.

Common Etiquette

1. Safe sex – One of the most important rules of etiquette for swingers is practicing safe sex. This includes proper use of condoms and other medical procedures, such as HIV/AIDS testing prior to sexual contact.

2. Respect the privacy of couples – When engaging in a practice such as swinging, respect for the privacy of other swingers is paramount. Talking about other couples and their experiences should be done only in private and in a respectful manner.

3. Discuss boundaries and expectations – Before engaging in a new partner, couples should discuss any boundaries or expectations that they may have. This should be done in a respectful manner to ensure that both parties involved are comfortable and capable of engaging in activities associated with the swinging lifestyle.

4. Respect the rules set in place – Swingers should respect the rules and regulations that are set in place in the swinging community, whether they are part of an organized swingers’ group or engaging in activities with another couple on their own.

5. Consent – Swingers should always ensure that all partners are giving consent before engaging in any sexual activities. As with any form of sexual activity, consent should be given freely, without any coercion or duress.

Types of Play

The swinging lifestyle offers a variety of ways that individuals can experiment with open relationships and sexual exploration. Below are some of the most common types of play.

1. Soft play – Soft play involves non-penetrative sex. This may include oral sex, mutual masturbation, and sex “games” such as light bondage.

2. Full swap – A