Friday, October 11, 2013

Swingland: Between the Sheets of the Secretive, Sometimes Messy, but Always Adventurous Swinging Lifestyle

We pull back the curtain of the fascinating and often misunderstood subculture of the swinging lifestyle, and chat to Daniel Stern, author of Swingland.

How did you get into the swinging lifestyle, and what attracted you to it in the first place?

I didn't seek out the lifestyle only because I didn't know it existed. By my late-20s, all I knew was I sucked at sex and desperately wanted to improve. All the sex I'd had took place in committed relationships and, I'd found, the emotional entanglements of relationships were distracting me from sexual improvement, which, in turn, precluded me from completely engaging in a relationship. It was a vicious circle that wasn't going to resolve on its own. So, I dedicated myself to sexual batting practice. After months of flat-out rejection from internet searches for casual sex, I started getting nibbles and, eventually, worked my way into NSA (No Strings Attached) sex. Not long after, I learned of “the Lifestyle” and was off and running.

What was your first foray into “the Lifestyle” like?

By some act of God, one of the hundreds of emails I’d launched into the electronic ether wound its way into a legitimate inbox and I was invited to a small gathering where several men were to focus on a single lady who desired a group experience. The party took place in a normal suburban single-family home on a regular suburban street in an everyday suburban neighbourhood. The house was owned and the party hosted by, what I’d find out later, was a Dominant/Submissive couple. After some chitchat about home improvement –which, if a group sex party wasn't discombobulating enough, really threw me off-balance, as I didn't expect such a regular topic to be broached at a sex party – we men were led into a bedroom on which was splayed a naked, blindfolded woman. Each of her limbs was tied to a different corner of the bed and over her was sprinkled a variety of condoms. I decided to follow the other, experienced guests, which turned out to be the right course of action as I eased into the fun and found my rhythm. That is, until I clipped my head on the ceiling fan and brought an impromptu break to the festivities so I could tend to my injury. However, after a brief pause, the good times resumed.

Swingland is very much a behind-the-scenes look at the swinging lifestyle. What made you decide to write this book, and what are some of the reactions you’ve had to the book so far?

There were many reasons why I wrote Swingland. The first, and probably most boring, is that I write. That's just what I do. If I was a filmmaker, perhaps I would have made a movie. If I was a singer, then I would have composed an album. If I was a surgeon... well, I don't know what I would have done. Another reason is that I felt like I had somehow been granted access to the most amazing world that is the Lifestyle. It truly did change my life. It gave me self-confidence, wonderful new friends, and, let's face it, oodles of mind-blowing sex. Several years in, it occurred to me that if a sex-phobic regular Joe could gain acceptance in this secretive, tight-knit community and better himself, then anyone could. And it was a secret that was too tough to keep. When you see an amazing film or read an incredible book, you can't wait to tell someone else about it. Well, combine all the best films you’ve ever seen, books you’ve ever read, and life-changing sex you’ve been fortunate to have and cube it and that’s where I was when I started typing. Finally, through my years in the Lifestyle, I can't tell you the number of bad experiences I’ve been told about. Over time, they took on a haunting refrain that centred around an experienced swinger who met a newbie who didn’t understand Lifestyle protocol and ruined the fun. This is why I included the how-to chapters. Not that I can stem the scourge of bad experiences – I sincerely doubt anyone can – but I wanted to do whatever I could to reduce them. So, I wanted to teach those who were going to give swinging a go, whether we wanted them to or not, how to properly go about it. That way, I might be able to head off unfortunate playtime before it came to pass. My feeling was since everyone in the Lifestyle was so good to me, helping to improve their experiences would be my way of thanking them.

Who are some of the more memorable people you’ve met in the swinging scene?

Thankfully, the overwhelming majority of people I’ve met are memorable for the right reasons. Either because of the stellar adult fun or due to the chemical attraction of personalities; many of these people I'm still in close contact with, even all these years later. Unfortunately, a few folks I remember for the wrong reasons. It’s hard to forget the husband who fell asleep while getting a blowjob from his wife during playtime or that single female whose physical appearance differed drastically from her profile pictures and who conveniently didn’t divulge her drinking problem until it was full-blown. But, as I said, I’m grateful that I can count on one those memorable-for-the-wrong-reasons individuals.

What’s the most surprising Lifestyle gathering you’ve been to?

Unquestionably, my first house party, which took place a few years into my Lifestyle exploration. I was on such a high that I, a single male, had been invited to a bona fide house party, a feat rarely achieved by single males, the lepers of the community. However, when I arrived, I found myself to be the youngest by three-plus decades. By that point though, I had learned that it was best not to make snap decisions, so I stayed, enjoyed the catered dinner, got to know others, and ended up having a fabulous time. Not that I’d like to repeat that experience – I’ve concluded that I’m attracted to those closer to my age bracket – but I’m glad I experienced it that one time. 

What advice would you give to a budding swinger?

My big three pieces of advice are: honesty, patience, and communication. Honesty starts with yourself. Have a serious heart to heart with yourself about what you want and what you don't want when it comes to the Lifestyle offerings. Swinging is not for everybody; in fact, it’s probably not for most. But to the right people with the right attitude and the right reasons it’s a godsend. After you’ve been honest with yourself, extend that honesty to every swinger you encounter. Don’t lie about what you look like, your age, relationship status, sexual orientation, likes/dislikes, etc. The end game in the Lifestyle is sex, so all that personal info will come out eventually. It’s far best to get rejected at the outset (and I guarantee you a tsunami of rejection) than to have wasted all that time and effort (yours and theirs) to be denied at playtime. Once you’ve got the honesty thing down, exercise patience. The Lifestyle is a marathon. There’s no reason to rush. It isn’t going anywhere. In fact, rushing can lead to later regret. To avoid a bad outcome, take the necessary time to locate people with whom you click. That way, your playtime will exceed your expectations. Lastly, communicate clearly and consistently. We change. Our kinks evolve. We like variety. Just be sure to make everyone aware of what you want, don’t want, and if you can help others with the same. If you haven't noticed, all of this is the standard social etiquette of regular society. The only difference is that swingers practise it naked.

Swingland is out now in print and eBook.

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