So you want to swing, advice for newbies

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So you have finally gone and done it - you have finally taken the plunge and decided that you want to swing. You know you want to try swinging - but where do you start? You can't go to the Citizens' Advice Bureau or ring up your local district council and ask to be put through to the swinging department.

You probably know what swinging is all about, because you're reading the first issue of SHM, and it's something that you have ordered, and you're not sat at the dentist's idly flicking through the magazines on the table, BUT just in case you need a refresher course, I will attempt to go through the basics.

So, what is swinging?

Swinging is a recreational activity for adults. The most common denominator is an adult male and female couple, meeting other couples for sex, and sometimes ongoing intimate relationships. The activity may occur at a party or another couple to couple encounter, or with a third party - commonly referred to as a 'threesome'. It is a sexual activity with someone other than your partner, but with full knowledge and consent of that person. It is sometimes referred to as the 'lifestyle' or the 'scene' and its locations are wide and varied, from dedicated clubs to discreet hotels - and to the safety and comfort of your own four walls. Single women are generally most welcome into the "lifestyle", as are single men, but to a somewhat lesser degree (gutted!!)

When did swinging start?

Swinging has always been around - since the beginning of recorded time - in fact recent studies have found that Neanderthal cavemen (and women) were swingers. Paintings recently uncovered are testimony to this.

However, in the 1960s and 1970s it was very much the thing to do, and became very popular. Flower power and free love were very much the order of the day, and the allure of drugs and experimentation proved the catalyst for the start of what is known as 'swinging. And you thought the 60s were socalled 'swinging 60s' because of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones - well think on. So, here you are. You and your partner are really up for this - the idea of having sex with someone else while your partner enjoys the same, really excites the both of you.

Can swinging ruin my relationship?

The simple and most honest answer is no, BUT if your relationship is already on thin ice, then to be fair, Relate would be a better place to be than a swingers' club. Swinging cannot fix a failing relationship. It is only suitable for couples in strong relationships who want to play and experiment.

Do I have to be sex-mad to enjoy swinging?

For the majority of the time, swinging will mainly end up involving sex - however it isn't all about sex. Recently it has become more of a social activity, where you can eat, drink and chat, and feel more comfortable and happy with the situation. Social and sexual intercourse are very much the flavour of the moment. Getting to know someone socially makes the sexual part much more fun.

Are there any swinging rules and regulations?

There are no hard-and-fast rules and regulations to swinging - it's more what you would call a 'code of practice', or 'terms and conditions'. It is what is known as 'etiquette'. A couple should arrive as a couple, and leave as a couple - it is not viewed as auspicious if one partner leaves early and the other one stays all night. It's always advisable to arrive on time for parties or meetings, as if you turn up late you may find it harder to fit in, and you may make other people feel awkward. No-one can predict traffic hold-ups, especially those motorway car parks, but if you know you're going to be late, give the host or the club a ring.

Be polite and courteous - a smile can go a long way - and treat people as you would like to be treated. The swinging lifestyle is not like the Masonic fraternity, but it still has its insecurities and uncertainties. Be sensitive, thoughtful and understanding and, more importantly, be friendly with everyone. Even if you don't want to take things further with them, you may find you have other interests in common, and they may introduce you to people you like.

So you have your first invite to a party, how nervous does that make you feel?

What do we do next?

Respond to the invite - even if you can't make it, or you have changed your mind. Let them know as soon as you can. If you are taking the plunge and attending your first party, always read or find out what's required of you - drink, food, supplies etc - and never arrive empty handed. It could be a long night, so take what ever you will need - toothbrush, comb, aftershave, perfume, breath-freshener, condoms, and sleeping bag if it's an all nighter/morning.

It is important to be comfortable and relaxed as the evening progresses, so a robe or negligee may come in handy - and keep your money, jewellery and other valuables to a minimum. This is not for fear of theft, but losing important mementoes and items can spoil a good encounter. Have a shower before you leave for the party, and remember you're on show - so look your best and try to make a good impression. And then, remember to have a good time!

We're at the party - what happens now? The whole idea is to enjoy yourself and have fun - that's why you've decided to try 'swinging' - but don't feel pressured into doing anything that you don't want to, or with anyone that you don't feel comfortable with - and always say no if there's anything you don't want to do.

As in life, you have a right to say no - a simple and polite 'no thanks' is all that's needed. You shouldn't have to explain yourself - this may only cause problems - and if you end up doing things that you don't really want to do, it will eventually only cause illfeeling and embarrassment. On the other hand, if there's someone you fancy swinging with, let them know in a nice, inviting way and, like you, they have the right to say no.

Always treat people as you would expect to be treated. Social drinking is fine - it relaxes you and provides a good way to start to get to know people - BUT don't overindulge! It can prove a turn off for many people and, worse still, may hinder and affect your physical performance later in the night (not good!). If you feel the need to drink heavily before attending the party, this would suggest that swinging is not for you.

It is up to you and your partner to protect yourselves, and the use of condoms should not offend anyone. It doesn't imply that you are dirty or you have something to pass on, it's a simple yet effective way of protecting all parties involved. However at the end of the day it's up to all the participating people. JUST HAVE FUN!!

Are there any no-no's in swinging?

It may sound very fundamental, but always make sure the person you are taking to the party knows what kind of gathering it is.

Not to do so could be very embarrassing, and will probably end up causing problems in the relationship. Furthermore, make sure that both of you are keen to swing - it's not essential but it is normally expected that if one half swings, then the other half will follow suit.

If you're at a party or in a club there maybe different rooms, one of which might be called the 'group room'. If you're expecting privacy, don't go to that room - and if you go into the group room, don't disturb the others with incessant talking. It tends to destroy the mood, and people may get annoyed. Similarly, don't cruise around bedrooms pulling back curtains and turning on lights - do that and your swinging invites will gradually start to become fewer and farther between.

At most parties the drink code is 'bring your own booze', where you only drink what you bring - but once again, you really don't want to lose the evening in an alcoholic blur!

The night is all about you having fun, having a laugh, meeting new people and taking your relationship to another level, so go with an open mind and a positive attitude, act out your fantasies and enjoy fun times with like minded people. Always remember to thank the host - write, text or e-mail - it will get you another invite and will provide excellent feedback for them.

Tips for first time swingers

As a couple new to swinging, be confident and comfortable with each other, and stay together as much as you want to - but don't be clingy, as this will make it very difficult for other couples to approach you. As the party gets into full swing (if you pardon the pun), there may be some people starting to take their clothes off - only go as far as you both want to. If you remain fully clothed, you will still attract interest - but try changing into something more revealing. Be honest and open with each your partner about your feelings and emotions, and don't be afraid to say if you're feeling jealous or uncomfortable - hiding these feelings will only cause problems later on.

Be inquisitive and ask questions - experienced swingers will be only too happy to help and guide you - and try to leave your inhibitions at home. If you put in the effort and are friendly and good-natured, you will get a lot out of a swinger's party. Just be yourself - a smile can say so much.

What kind of sexual shenanigans happen in swinging?

As you are probably aware, swinging can involve many types of sexual activity. Some of these you may have heard of - others you may not, as they would normally be confined to specially-organised, tailored events to cater for that particular fetish.

Bisexuality is people of the same sex interacting with each other. This is much more common between women than men, but it doesn't mean that it is applicable to every woman. Bisexuality between men is extremely rare in the swinging community, and is usually frowned upon if not organised in advance, and it is usually restricted to a separate area.

Couple-to-couple is by far the most popular formula, and this is really the heart and soul of the swinging lifestyle. One couple pairs up with another, and after an exchange of partners, the couples usually continue sexual activity within close proximity to each other - within the same room or the same bed - probably interacting in such as way that it becomes a foursome, or group sex.

Extreme culture includes activities such as spanking, bondage, sado/masochism and water sports (urination). The majority of these are very uncommon at most swingers parties unless the hosts have chosen a theme for the night - in which case you will be notified well before the night of the party.

Groups (orgies) are usually defined as a group of four or more people interacting sexually, most commonly as described above - two couples - although it can be any sex involving four or more people.

Threesomes are most common for couples just starting out - it is the most common method of getting started in the lifestyle. A lot of couples will carry on with threesomes long after they have fully integrated in to the lifestyle. In threesomes, all three people may interact, or two people will interact with each other and one person will enjoy a more voyeuristic role.

What can swinging do for us?

Swinging can be every bit as erotic, exciting and fulfilling as you both imagine it to be.

You can explore many of your favourite fantasies safely. You and your partner can engage in private, intimate sexual activity, share your mate in a threesome, enjoy another couple, or engage in group swinging - all in one evening. You can both make new friends and meet interesting people. Swinging also has the potential of greatly enhancing your relationship and personal life.

It's important to have a positive feeling about yourself, your mate, and your relationship. However, swinging is not for everyone. People need to discuss between them such factors as jealousy, self-esteem, or any relationship problems, prior to embarking on a swinging lifestyle. If any of these things are of major concern to either person, then chances are you are not ready to enjoy the swinging lifestyle and all of its benefits.

Always remember, swinging is meant to enhance your relationship - it's not going to repair or rebuild a partnership that's on the rocks!