We live in a world of societal dichotomies. You’re either a boy or a girl. You’re black or white. You’re gay or straight. You’re Monogamous or Non-Monogamous. When you step back though and take a moment to really look at these labels though we find there is a lot of grey in between. Within the non-monogamy community two labels are becoming more and more publicly known: polyamory and swinging. Depending on who you ask though these terms are mutually exclusive. Let’s take a quick moment to break down each term and see if this is more of a spectrum or two choice system.
the philosophy or state of being in love or romantically involved with more than one person at the same time.”
The term is widely accredited to Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart’s 1990 article “A Bouquet of Lovers” published in Green Egg Magazine (Spring 1990). In its broadest sense it refers to “consensual, ethical, and responsible non-monogamy.”¹ The beauty of poly relationships is that they require for the open, honest, communication between partners which allow for simultaneous relationships to blossom and thrive. These relationships generally have strong emotional connections and may or may include sexual interactions between some or all of the partners.
Google defines swinging in regards to sexuality as:
sexually liberated or promiscuous”
Swinging, or casual sexual relationships outside of an established couple, have been around for centuries. Terry Gould’s “The Lifestyle: a look at the erotic rites of swingers” notes the modern movement first among American Air Force pilots and their wives in the 1940s during World War II and later the “free love” movements of the 1960’s.² Today swinging is commonly used to describe individuals who have sex based relationships that may or may not have emotional involvement outside of their traditional couple dynamic.
Labels is defined as:
a classifying phrase or name applied to a person or thing, especially one that is inaccurate or restrictive.
example: ‘my reluctance to stick a label on myself politically'”
Originating an Old French term, labels allow for individuals to categorize people, places, and things into identifiable, predefined, groupings. Throughout history labels have been used to designate powers and roles within society in the form of titles such King/peasant or Master/slave. Due to thier limiting nature’s, many people, places, and things fit into multiple identifiable, predefined, groupings. Often times labels are also not mutually exclusive allowing for these multiple identifiers to co-exist simultaneously. Unfortunately, just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder so to is the limitations and expanse of labels.
As per these definitions an individual may self-identify as BOTH poly AND as a swinger. Both fall under the even broader term of non monogamy
“which covers several types of interpersonal relationships in which an individual forms multiple and simultaneous sexual or romantic bonds.” Both falling under the “ethical” version of openness and honesty.³ A common topic in many poly groups both online and in person, particularly with people who are new, is how to handle personal emotions when our or our partners casual relationships become more. It is not uncommon for regular swing partners to begin to develop connections that have them questioning the current labels they choose to use. While we can offer support and suggestions it is up to the individuals involved in the relationships to determine when or if the jump to a new label is appropriate and acceptable.
As for my PERSONAL definition, adapted from my house and families, poly means we are free to love and develop emotional connections with whoever we choose, with or without the physical/sexual connection. Swinging means we are free to fuck whoever we choose, with or without an emotional connection. I self identify as both poly & a swinger.
¹ Taormino, T. (2013). Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships. Cleis Press.
² Gould, T. (1999). The Lifestyle: a look at the erotic rites of swingers. Vintage Canada.
³ Barker, Langdridge. (2009). Understanding Non-Monogamies. Routledge.
-Easton, D. (2009). The Ethical Slut: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships, and Other Adventures. Celestial Arts
-Kaldera, R. (2010). Power circuits: Polyamory in a power exchange. Alfred Press
Do you have kinky questions you’d like to see answered or explored? Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.