The thing about swinging is that it opens doors. Doors to fantasies that you didn’t know you had, doors to understandings about people and relationships that vanillas never have, doors to a world where a lot of things are OK even though the vanilla world thinks it is not.
This world can be very liberating. When you step through that door you are taking yourself to a place where a lot of the regular rules don’t apply. Expression of your sexuality is allowed. Even if it isn’t exactly everyone else’s cup of tea. The general attitude expressed by most people in this world is that as long as everyone is consenting then everything is good.
In the regular world there are rules about this. A person in a relationship is clearly out of bounds to everyone else. Outsiders think that the swinging world abolishes this rule completely. That everyone is available to everyone if there is attraction. The truth is not quite that simple.
Yes people in relationships can be free to explore other people they are not in a relationship with. Yes people can have multiple sexual relationships, even multiple romantic relationships. Is everybody happy with the situation all the time? In a word, no. The key word is, as it is in the vanilla dating world, consent.
In the vanilla world consent is pretty clear. It is about one person saying yes to another. Once you get into non-monogamy consent becomes complex. The two people getting naked together might be all good and ready to say an enthusiastic yes but there are other people in the picture, others who have a stake in what is going to happen. Consent must be given by them as well.
Of course that doesn’t mean that the intending couple get naked and then sit down and phone all of their current partners to ensure that there is informed consent. In these situations consent may have been discussed beforehand, eg as they dress to go to the party or even as they make the decision to embark on opening their bed to others. Consent in these situations can be like a long term permission, not a case by case basis.
But life is not black and white. There is ALWAYS an exception, situations NEVER play out exactly as you expect and you frequently find yourself dealing with the result of the unexpected or the unplanned.
For example a situation I found myself in recently. Mr Jones and I attended a swinger’s weekend where we made some lovely new friends. In fact you can read about it here. The weekend was organised by an experienced couple through a group of swingers. It wasn’t publicly advertised. To be in the group you had to be “in the scene” so to speak and be referred by someone. One of the couples we met had an interesting dynamic. Mr introduced Mrs as very new but himself as experienced in the past. On the first evening alcohol was consumed, Mrs seemed happy to participate and get her toes wet. Everything was going swimmingly.
The next day she was more reserved. The real statement was when eight people got into the spa and she was the only one wearing a swimsuit. On the second night as cocktails were consumed and the party heated up Mr and Mrs retired to bed, stating they had partied too hard the night before.
A few weeks later Mr contacted me. The reality of the situation became a little clearer. They were not, as we thought, a married couple. In fact they are not even living together. Not that much of an issue except he admitted to me that Mrs really only expresses herself that way when she has been drinking.
This admission only came out after some flirting and a clear statement on his part that he found me attractive and definitely wanted to take things further. Here is the blurred line. I have the required consent to go and fuck most of the men I encounter. I think this man does not. But he has not stated this. He is clear that he wants Mrs to enjoy the delights of our world but she isn’t confident. How much encouragement should Mr Jones and I give? How much of this situation is him trying to “encourage” her to a place where he can be out and about? I got into a situation like this once before. Pet did not have consent from Mrs Pet to be with me. The contortions he went through to make that situation happen were interesting to say the least.
In the end he and Mrs Pet did not make it. I guess his single minded pursuit of women out of his reach contributed to that but really the danger signs were there in the beginning. The point is that it is hard to tell where the line is when it comes to consent of other partners when finding your way around the swinging world. Most of the time you are relying on people to tell the truth. Most of the time they do, but sometimes they don’t.
Pet never really lied about the way things were between him and Mrs Pet. He just manipulated the situation slightly. I don’t think my new friend is really lying to me about his girlfriend. He hasn’t suggested a meeting between the two of us and maybe his isn’t thinking about that. I honestly don’t know. Which links back to the issue of having to rely on people telling the truth.
Mr Jones and I are honest. About everything. It is the secret to our success. If you want to call what we have as success. But I can’t expect everyone to have that standard. Experience has taught me that many people struggle to be honest. In the end it is safe to say that freely given, informed and enthusiastic consent is difficult to obtain from everyone in this world.