In an increasingly technological and interconnected world, digital connections have become integral to many people’s lives. This page, which once would have been reserved to a single sheet of paper in a single village, can now be viewed by millions around the globe simultaneously. It is unsurprising, then, that the internet has become a major part of sexual exploration. Sex acts that individuals may have thought uncommon now have full communities dedicated to them, and previously obscure fetishes are well-known. Swinger dating sites are no exception; within the past two decades, websites dedicated to couples have risen to meet the previously-untapped demand.The United States have around nine million adults that are currently practising, or recently practised, spouse swapping.
Finding other couples within the swinging lifestyle is a naturally systematic one whereby couples “find other swingers through magazines, websites with personal advertisements, as well as at specialized parties, vacations, and clubs. Further, there are numerous swingers’ events throughout the country, ranging from swingers’ cruises, clubs, or conventions” (Serina et al. 2013, 350). Websites serve the same purpose that magazine and newspaper advertisement did in the 1970s and 1980s; advertising the major events and organizations that connect swinging couples, albeit in a more affordable and wide-reaching manner.
Indeed the three major types of swinging websites are:
1) Finding other couples for hook-ups
Finding other couples for hook-ups traditionally happened in specialized clubs often called “lifestyle” clubs, although it has become more common in recent years to see the term “swinger club” used in reference to these establishments. These establishments, which typically charge a membership and solicit donations, were the main way to find other couples. Specialized sites, however, help couples connect prior to meeting in person. Most reputable sites, in a similar vein as conventional online dating platforms, charge a monthly fee to allow for messaging between couple profiles. The advantage of these sites is to let couples try to vet one another a bit more prior to meeting, which is recommended for more nervous couples.
2) Hosting information about upcoming events for couples (Swinglifestyle.com)
The shift towards online information dissemination initiated in 1998 with the launch of swingerlifestyle.com. This website’s longevity denotes the success of shifting marketing materials to a digital realm for clubs and events.Major clubs in the west, which include Toronto’s X Club, New York City’s Oasis, and London’s Fever Club, shifted their primary venue information away from print and towards online. Major events also shifted their advertising towards major online venues. While you may still find venues or events that focus exclusively on print media, most to all larger ones will have an online presence on account of the lower costs in reaching wider audiences.
3) Informational Websites
This lifestyle has an entire subculture that has a vibrant community of contributors interested in sharing experiences and advice. These websites contain exactly the type of information you would expect: how to talk to your partner about it, fun practises, staying safe, connecting with other couples outside of intercourse, and so-forth. Anybody unsure of swinging, whether or not
So what are the pros/cons of each approach? The pros are multi-fold. It is easier to find a wider range of people as local clubs will not encompass every type of person. Newcomers may also find speaking to other couples online less intimidating than speaking to them in person, especially where they can more easily withdraw if something does go wrong. It allows couples, upon agreeing to meet, to meet in a more relaxed environment than they may find in a club setting, especially if intercourse is not expected for the initial meet-up.While the internet was originally viewed as an anonymous platform, this era is over. Websites ultimately “are less about disguise and more about information”(Kreston 2014, 95), especially in context of couples interested in meeting up. These websites allow for couples to gain more information about their prospective partners before making any commitments.
Nothing, however, is without its cons. People are not always the same in online and offline platforms, although increasing transparency of the internet is partially alleviating this risk. To minimize this risk further, it is recommended to speak to the other couple via video calls first and clearly outline expectations of when you do meet up. There are also concerns among privacy advocates of the security of online hook-up websites. With an increasingly-connected world, the risks associated with entering personal information online are ever present. Major data leaks are a risk for all platforms and, as the Ashley Madison leak demonstrated, no servers are 100% secure. It is noteworthy, however, that swingers are typically less concerned with secrecy – that is hiding their lifestyle for the purpose of protecting themselves– so much as privacy – which encompasses who is permitted to be privy to specifics of their sex lives. In interviews with members engaged in the lifestyle, sociologists noted that respondents “emphasize that they were more interested in not sharing their lifestyle because it was no one’s business, rather than feeling that they must keep it secret to protect themselves” (Vailancourt and Few-Demo 2014, 316). It is therefore unlikely, even in the event of a major leak, that couples will be negatively affected from any social stigmas.
These websites are ultimately a continuation of the culture’s long-standing trend of using specialized media outreach systems to advertise centralized meeting events and lists of interested couples. It is impossible to fully separate the lifestyle into offline and online variants because of how thoroughly proponents of swinging have embraced digital mediums.