Swinger Trends

Swinging has switched from a male to a female focus:

Apart from the numeric growth of the phenomenon, swinger behaviour has also greatly changed over the last 25 years. Both in Italy and in the rest of the world. Twenty-five years ago couples sought almost exclusively other couples or single females; now a days couples seek other couples, single males and groups of males. The phenomenon has thus evolved from situations in which the centre of sexual intercourse was the male component of the couple to “harder” situations in which the centre of sexual intercourse is the female component and the male takes his pleasure from sharing his companion with other men. … Now a days an increasing number of single males seek swingers rather than prostitutes, since swinger women are considered more participative than prostitutes.

A swinger party price list:

Couples: $90, MFF Trios: $120, MMF Trios: $170, Single Females $25

Some patterns:

  • Swingers tend to have at least one person per couple with a college degree.
  • The typical rule is that it must be couples, no singles allowed.
  • You must first present a negative STD test, and agree to be routinely tested.
  • Many have restrictions on outside sex … you [may not] “cheat on the group.”
  • [First talk] on the internet for a long … time before anyone will approach you.
  • [Then] several “dates” where they meet the new potential couple.
  • Groups also sort themselves according to their preferences for activity types.

I’m not sure I’ve got the right picture here – not even sure these are the same kind of swingers.  When many men are on one women, the other women are just sitting around being ignored?  Back in the day when men were the focus, were several women on one man while other men were being ignored?

My guess on the focus switch is that women less fear seeming slutty today.  Whereas once swinging women might have been with several men in one night, they drew the line at being seen doing many men at once.  Now that line has moved.

Added 9a: Apparently, men in couples mostly initiate the move to swinging, but some women become very enthusiastic converts, and become the female centers.  In the past such women were less visibly slutty, with one man at a time.  Many men are overconfident, and learn they attract few women at such events.

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  • http://lesswrong.com/ Eliezer Yudkowsky

    By “switched from male to female focus”, do you mean that couples now *prefer* couple-male to couple-female sex, or that couples start out couple-female and evolve to couple-female/couple-couple/couple-male? I took a quick look at the paper, and it does talk about individual couples going from couple-female to couple-couple and couple-male over time, but it doesn’t make clear whether this is a shift of inclusiveness or a shift of preference (that is, whether couple-female ends up being dispreferred). Or if the paper does say so, I missed it – it was a quick read.

    If it’s a shift of inclusiveness, I can understand. If it’s a shift of preference, I feel confused. If the women start getting into it too, I understand. If males who stay longer in the swinger community stop wanting to have sex with new single women, and start deriving pleasure from seeing their women have sex with other men, then, um, what?

  • http://glpiggy.wordpress.com Chuck

    I wrote about this topic – based upon general observation on my part and a couple of anecdotal stories from female swingers I knew – over at The Spearhead. I think this research supports my thesis which was roundly denounced at the time so I’m glad to see this study.

    Thanks for picking this up.

    • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

      There are many great comments at that post.

  • Matt

    I’m somewhat confused about this post. If the focus of swinging has moved to several men on one woman why are females (or couples that are female heavy) rewarded in the pricing. It seems like they want more females than men. The post in your link that gives the prices notes this. Perhaps the larger male-female ratio is an Italian phenomenon.

    • anon

      Chuck’s link has some speculation about this. It seems that the large female participation in the swinging culture is conditioned on women largely “calling the shots” and having a sizable portion of female-centric or females-only encounters.

      Chuck’s account is rather extreme and hard to take at face value, but maybe his anecdotal experiences are pointing to a genuine phenomenon.

  • psychologist

    An alternative explanation is that swinging is now oriented toward fulfilling the needs of men with cuckolding fantasies, while also satisfying the wives.

    The requirement for men to package themselves with at least one woman offers cover for both the man and the woman. Since other women are engaged in this deviant behavior, the women aren’t singled out as aberrant nymphomaniacs. It also lets the man tell himself he is a libertine wife-swapper instead of a low status cuckold.

    The fact that single men can’t even bribe their way in demonstrates that female sex is still much more valuable than male sex.

  • Aron

    Your grammar seems to have suffered under the heat of this post.

    MFM or FMF may also be used for improved description. MFF vs. FFM seems like it could encode something of use, though I’ve never actually seen a standardizing effort there.

    It’s somewhat unhinging to realize that there is an economist studying these things in Italy, and his name is Fabio.

  • http://glpiggy.wordpress.com Chuck

    anon:

    “Chuck’s account is rather extreme and hard to take at face value, but maybe his anecdotal experiences are pointing to a genuine phenomenon.”

    I admit that in hindsight, my account was based on a very small sample. My “introduction” to the swinging lifestyle was a first-hand account from a woman who forced her husband to do it because she wanted to experience other guys. She couldn’t come right out and say that she wanted to be with other guys; she had to make him think that he was getting something out of it too by getting with other women. Thus my phrase “backdoor cuckoldry”.

    And after some comments from people who knew a little more about swining than I, it became somewhat clear to me that I was wrong and that men are the main drivers of swinging.

    But then comes Professor Hanson’s link which seems to somewhat corroborate my take on the matter. And it seems to fit the general trend of our culture: sexuality is increasingly gynocentric.

  • Violet

    Just some notes on local swinger behavior in a country in northern Europe:
    * net is the future outside typical swinger clubs, and couples looking for a bi-female is very common
    * swinger parties are for MF couples and single women
    * male bisexuality is frowned upon although not entirely banned (this has improved in recent years)
    * there are many interested single heterosexual men without play partners
    * other forms of nonmonogamy are more popular with younger people

    The rise of MMF activity is probably attributable to a decrease of inter-male homophobia in the swinger circles.

    I keep missing what the point of the post was and what exactly was being claimed.

  • bejeebus

    Judging from the price list and the bullet points, the article seems to be focusing on a specific segment of the swinger “scene”. From what I saw in the UK, clubs operate along different lines:

    * Single males are usually allowed, with restrictions (couples+fems only days, coupls+fems only zones). They basically fund the clubs.
    * Typical price list: GBP40+ for single males, 30 for couples, 10/free for single females. This reflects the supply/demand situation.
    * There is a distinction between the more commercial clubs and the “neighbourhood”, independent clubs. E.g. the former allow more single males (and charge them more), and may more or less openly hire escorts for special events. The latter tend to be independent small businesses with regular patrons and a local attendance (which doesn’t mean that they can’t be highly professional).
    * I haven’t seen any “groups” in the sense you talked about (a small number of people who exclusively shag with each other). But I guess such groups are by nature exclusive.
    * Nationwide internet communities with thousands of active members exist. These in turn branch into local “scenes”, composed of a few tens of people who meet each other regularly, including for purely social (non-sexual) events. These communities undergo all the drama/gossip/dynamics that can be seen in any such community. It’s not that different from Linux User Groups.

  • Robert Koslover

    So now I finally know why you switched from physics to social science. It’s all about who throws the better parties. :)

  • Mike
  • http://agoraphilia.blogspot.com Glen

    I have to second Matt’s comment: the pricing scheme suggests that there is still a “tax” on men relative to women. Perhaps the size of the price differential has fallen over time, but it is still positive. As I explained in a post a couple of years ago, intra-customer externalities provides a simple explanation for the differential.

  • http://www.staresattheworld.com Aurini

    It’s my suspicion that the gangbang fetish is closely related to the cuckoldery fetish; that both are derived from ‘betaized’ masculinity, men who have been taught to feel shame because of their gender and thus fear displaying confidence around women. Instead they turn submissive, seeking security in female dominance, which tends to lead to contempt for them by the women. My own sex life is fairly open and bizarre, but this dynamic creeps the hell out of me.

    This is however based entirely upon my personal experiences. The fact that I’m pretty good with people could be entirely a statistical artifact, but this study does seem to gel with what I’ve concluded. When it comes to complex social interactions its difficult to find much better evidence than this.

    Somewhat related its Porn Star Tyler Knight’s description of what it’s like being an actor at a bukkake shoot: http://tylerknight.com/archives/61 The general attitude of most men there is a sort of creepy-pathetic thing.

    [Full disclosure: Knight is somewhat of an E-Friend of mine, but I wouldn’t link the article just to spam things. His personal insight on the matter is relevant.]

  • Chad

    I am surprised nobody here is analyzing this in terms of markets. Here is a theory that seems plausible to me: there are many more men interested in exploring outside of traditional monogamy than women. This shortage of female participants can explain most of the phenomena described above: women “calling the shots” (they have the valued goods); more MFM threesomes than FMF (simple matter of what’s available); lower prices for single women at sex clubs (just like “ladies night” at nightclubs); etc.

    • Violet

      If you are analyzing it terms of markets the modelling hetero/bisexuality in a sensible way will probably be important.

      Also the age-distribution of swingers has changed during the last decades (iirc, don’t have a source) which may also lead to the changes observed.

      The medium-age in the italian study was 40…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/1054626558129691997 Rob

    Two documentaries: American Swing (2008) and Sex with Strangers (2002).

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  • http://subspecie.edman.ws Sub Specie AEternitatis

    I am surprised that nobody noticed that arbitrage opportunity inherent in that price structure: Any group of two females and one male wishing to participate should, for purposes of admission, separate in one male-female “couple” and one “single” female and save $5 ($120-$90-$25). How this consumer (?) surplus is to be allocated is left as an exercise to the reader.

  • tom

    Arrested Development on this thread and the NYT article that Mike linked above:

    Tobias: You know, Lindsay, as a therapist, I have advised…a number of couples to explore an open relationship where the couple remains emotionally committed, but free to explore extra-marital encounters.
    Lindsay: Well, did it work for those people?
    Tobias: No, it never does. I mean, these people somehow delude themselves into thinking it might, but… but it might work for us.

  • Anthony

    There’s an obvious flaw in the pricing – unless the party organizers know all the attendees, an MFF trio should go in as an MF couple and a single female, and save $5. (An MFF trio and an MMF trio could save $20 by presenting as 3 MF couples.)

    I’ve seen similar sorts of arrangements where the implicit price for women was negative.

  • Lifestyle Philosopher

    It would seem that the majority of your approaches to this “phenomenon” are biased with a negative implication that the act of swinging is “deviant”. Here are some things to consider for future evaluation of the swinging lifestyle that may produce more accurate (and less confusing) results.

    1) While it may be true that a small portion of the swinger community is involved for reasons not totally clear to both parties (i.e. woman wants to be with other men, so she convinces husband to swing), the ultimate reasons for an open relationship of this nature are vast and loosely connected. However, lifetime partners who participate in the swinging lifestyle tend to share a bond that is more fulfilling and stronger than most “vanilla” couples. This is because they transcend the issues of jealousy and ownership of each other, and instead give to one another the gift of freedom to choose.
    2) MF, FF, and MM who open their relationship to others should be the only true definition of “swingers” for the purpose of studying this lifestyle. Single males and females are simply components with individual motivations not necessarily connected to “swinging.”
    3) Trends, as you have called it, are not so easily measured by even studying a large population. This is because each individual has their own preferences, each couple has their agreed upon limits, and each group has their own collective standards. Plus, if you only look back 25 years, then your conclusions would be similarly misguided as if you were to take the weather patterns of the past 25 years to define global climate patterns.
    4) To refer to women who enjoy swinging and sex with multiple partners as “slutty” demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of human nature and known concepts of evolutionary-based sexual behaviors. As for a woman that enjoys multiple men at the same time, I wonder if this is as hard to understand as a man who would enjoy multiple women at the same time. One simple psychological explanation would be the need (and erotic desire) for attention.
    5) To a much less important point, the prices listed above are not common. Females tend to have free admission or a relatively low price, MF couples are charged a cost relative to the party venue, and single males are charged a premium. This is because most females of a swinging couple are bisexual and therefore both members of the couple can be sexually attracted to, and share, the same female (which is not nearly as common with single males.)

    I hope these points are helpful in your understanding of the swinging lifestyle. While the choice to have an open relationship may not be as common as monogamy, it definitely is common enough to command the respect of others as a lifestyle that is healthy and fulfilling. In the future please consider this for all walks of life: Conviction without knowledge is the most dangerous form of ignorance.

    • anon

      However, lifetime partners who participate in the swinging lifestyle tend to share a bond that is more fulfilling and stronger than most “vanilla” couples.

      Do you have any references to support this? Anecdotal reports are not enough, since they may be affected by selection bias.

      • Lifestyle Philosopher

        If you are looking for literature references from studies to support that claim, then no. I am sure there has not been a population study where someone attempted to determine the strength of the bond between partners based on the openness of their relationship. To explain how I have come to that conclusion would take more time than I care to give, but here are the bullet points of my credentials:

        – Intimate exposure to large sample group throughout the US.
        – Ability, via internet, to dialog with many different sub-categories of people on the subject. These categories include age, race, and religion.
        – Plus my advantage of not always being a swinger, and therefore having a solid understanding of the psyche of both groups, allows me to better evaluate the subject.

        Bottom line, if you need a double-blind study from a non-biased team of experts to accept the idea that couples without jealousy in their relationship (swingers) will have a better chance of staying together than those who more often do (monogamous partners), then I am not smart enough to help you understand the lifestyle any better.

  • Rafael

    I don’t have a college degree.Nor does she. Does that mean we are stupid? To people that believe a college degree is a necessity
    There is a song……I’m So Vain…Carly Simon.

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