Look At It This Way

Seeing old things in new ways.

Exchanging Partners for Recreational Sex

Swingers-R-Us

 

Since I'd just given a talk at the Whole Earth Expo, I wasn't surprised when The Lifestyles Organization called and asked me to be their keynote speaker. I assumed it was yet another health food group and that they too would like to hear all about the latest research involving Life Extension. Not so. It seems this was to be the world's largest gathering of Swingers and they wanted something a little sexier. Eventually, I found myself in front of a few thousand couples at a Vegas resort explaining the ins and outs of: "Ten Perversions in 30 Minutes." This turned out to be such a fun convention that I decided to work with the group on all their subsequent events and thus began a long and rewarding relationship.

So you can imagine my surprise when radio talk-host Dr. Dean Edell, whom I knew didn't travel in such circles, mentioned Swingers. His program was just before mine so, as an admitted hypochondriac, I'd always tune-in on my way to the studio figuring that if I don't already have any of the diseases he was discussing that day...it was only a matter of time. But what could the good Doctor possibly know about the Lifestyle? It seemed that he'd just read an article published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior.

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The piece began with a definition of Swingers as "married couples who exchange partners solely for sexual purposes" and then went on to review what the medical literature had to say about this group. The notion going in, of course, was that this one bit of behavior (swapping mates) was so bizarre as to almost guarantee that it would color every other aspect of their lives. The study concluded, however, that this was not the case. Significant differences between Swingers and their straight neighbors were simply not to be found. Compared to the population at large, about the only thing the researchers could find was that Swingers tended to be more from the upper middle class and tended to be more from the Conservative end of the political spectrum.

Neither the social class nor the social views would come as any great shock to those familiar with the group. Indeed, the higher educational and income levels along with a staunch support of upper middle class values are almost a given at Lifestyle events. The few areas where Swingers do differ from their more monogamous peers all involve - as you might suspect - sex. Swingers are typically more liberal when it comes to premarital relations, divorce, homosexuality, abortion and pornography; areas where, presumably, Swingers have had more experience than non-Swingers. And speaking of non-Swingers, the article went on to say that they were convinced "wife swappers" had to be heavy drinkers and users of heavy drugs. Again, anyone familiar with the group knows that alcoholic consumption is typically far below that found at most country club soirees and the NO DRUGS admonition at most Swing parties is something of a mantra. They would also know that the term "wife swappers" is never used because, in, fact, you might just as well call them "husband swappers." Dr. Edell concluded with: "The article dashes a stereotype that we may have about this particular group we think we know."

So here's an honest, open-minded guy presenting the facts and avoiding even a hint of prejudicial condemnation. That said; imagine my dismay when I later visited Multiple Sexual Partners on the Internet. I was shocked! The site was devoted to dozens of headings which include: cervicitis; cervical erosion and genital warts; gonorrhea; pubic lice; syphilis and urethritis. In short, everything that might possibly go wrong - gone wrong. Is there no up side to sex...no joy, no beauty, no healing? What could Mother Nature have been thinking when she attached so many nerves to our sex organs, filled our blood streams with sex hormones and devoted vast tracks of our brains to thoughts of sex? Must we be doomed to a choice of either denying the mental anguish of abstention or suffering the physical deterioration of decadence? Boy! She sure screwed us!

Or did she? Actually, we live in a time and place where, in so far as sex is concerned - Accentuate the Negative has become the Golden Rule. There is nothing, the conventional wisdom goes, so dangerous to your home and family, your town and country, your health and well-being as S-E-X. Is it any wonder that 31% of males and 43% of females now suffer one or more symptoms of sexual dysfunction?


So who is responsible for this appalling perversion you ask? The answer is really quite simple. The most obvious sign of neurosis is an overpowering need to control. The neurotic feels adrift amidst conflicting emotions and irrational beliefs. The only option is to hang on for dear life. Get a grip on yourself and as many of those around you as you possibly can. And that, dear reader, is the motivating force behind those who would censure and condemn all that they themselves can't handle.

Stephen Benedict-Mason is a psychologist, a former university professor, syndicated newspaper columnist and radio talk-show host.

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