monthly column from lifestyle author/activist
Steve Mason

Lifestyle On-Line

A Reader's Letter

The other day I received the following letter:

I'm 28 and my husband and I have been married for ten years. I love him very much. About five years ago, we began discussing swinging with other people. I kept an open mind and listened to my husband's desires and fantasies. After about two years of talking about it, we finally enlisted another man for a threesome. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I enjoyed it very much. My husband loved it. Eventually, although my husband never pushed me to allow another woman into our bedroom, I began fantasizing about this, and we invited a female friend of mine to join in our lovemaking. My husband had intercourse with her at my request. Initially, it didn't bother me. But the last couple of times we've invited women, I am overcome with sadness when I see them with him. Right in the middle of things, I begin to cry and I must leave the room. Needless to say, we wind up going home, and I get angry with myself. I don't understand why I initially liked it - or why I'm fine at the beginning of a session - but then find it intolerable. I'm not really sure, either, why my husband enjoys seeing me with other men. I have never experienced an orgasm with anyone except my husband - maybe that's why I can't stand seeing him have one with another woman.

The woman writing this letter brings up a number of interesting issues. Very briefly, she says she loves her husband very much and that five years after marrying (at age 18) the two of them agreed to try a threesome with another male. This worked well though she wonders why her husband enjoys seeing her with other men while she is upset watching him enjoy an orgasm with another woman.

The "love" business comes up frequently in our culture because it is assumed (despite all the evidence to the contrary) that Love/Sex/Forever all go together. Actually, Mother Nature arranged things so that males and females come together and stay together for about three years - just long enough to produce and nurture a baby. After that, the male is free to again contribute his seed to the gene pool and the female (no longer a full-time nursing/providing mother) is free to seek a new and potentially superior mate for a new child. Indeed, recent anthropological research has found that more than 70% of cultures studied saw the monogamy we consider both normal and ideal as a perversion! What our culture practices is, in fact, a very unhealthy form of "serial monogamy." More than half the women and more than three quarters of the men questioned in a recent survey admitted to having cheated on their spouse one or more times. Combine this with the more than 50% of the marriages that end in emotional and economic ruin and you'll see why I referred to our One-Penis-One-Vagina-Fifty-Years notion of mating as "unhealthy."

As for why her husband enjoys seeing her with other men, this is because we are a penis competitive species. Male ejaculate contains not only sperm designed to fertilize the female but also a kind of sperm made specifically to kill other sperm. Mother Nature, it would seem, intended for each woman to copulate with several men and with only the "best" sperm making it to the ovum. Men who know, or think, another male has serviced the female will have harder, longer, more copious orgasms that they report as being especially satisfying. For human males then, a three or more some serves as an especially powerful aphrodisiac.

That the woman writing suffers ambivalence at seeing her husband with another woman is not surprising. Indeed, it would be surprising if she didn't! Females in our culture are bombarded almost from birth with mixed messages. They are encouraged to present themselves in as sexually provocative a fashion as possible and yet, at the same time, are told not be eager for sexual contact. The male who enjoys sex is a stud…the female is a slut. And the emotion we call jealousy is discouraged as selfish and immature in all situations except one - mates are expected to be jealous of their spouse's sexual pleasure if it involves another person. So here is a woman, naturally excited by the prospect of new partners, suddenly torn by the old, erroneous notion of sex being the same as love. If he's having sex with another woman, he's going to love her more than me and I'll be abandoned as though by a mother with a younger sibling. The truth is, acknowledging and satisfying a mate's natural desire for sexual variety is probably the best way to maintain a loving relationship.

I also received the following queries via my E-mail at

How common is swinging among long-term couples?
The North American Swing Club Association (NASCA) lists over 400 swing clubs in the United States alone. Adding their membership to an estimate of couples who swing only with friends and neighbors it is estimated that there are approximately 3-4 million couples involved. These couples, despite commonly held beliefs to the contrary, actually enjoy longer marriages than non-swingers do. The reason is simplicity itself. Denied sexual desire is the base cause of most marital discord. Eliminate that one divisive source of frustration and couples are suddenly much better able to maintain a loving, caring relationship.

How can couples decide if they should try swinging?
Swingers tend to be honest and open with their spouses. They are in touch with their sexual needs and can communicate the same with confidence and insight. Similarly, they are understanding and tolerant of their partner's desires. They understand the destructive nature of jealousy and realize that the best way to maintain a relationship is through continued growth. Those who try it and say it ruined their marriages tend not to have had that much going for them initially. Swinging, like having a baby, will not rekindle the old flames of passion if these have already been reduced to ash. Perhaps
the best suggestion here is to get more information. Arrange to attend something like the annual LIFESTYLES convention where it's possible to learn a great deal about alternative relationships without actually committing to any. Discussing the possibility of swinging without such extensive and varied exposure is akin to talking about the heavens without ever looking out the window.

If a couple decides to try it, how best to prevent a negative experience?
How does a couple prepare for any new experience? Think of it as going on a cruise for the first time. Do some reading (THE LIFESTYLE: A Look At The Erotic Rites Of Swingers by Terry Gould - Random House of Canada is an excellent resource) and check out a few good Internet sites such as Contact swing clubs directly and ask about policies and programs for first timers. Discuss your expectations with each other before hand and keep in touch during any outing. If one feels suddenly threatened, the other should be immediately available to resolve any problems. And, finally, deciding in advance that your early experience will stop short of practice should give both partners a chance to review and reconsider before seeking additional experience.

How do you repair the damage of a disastrous first time?
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. However, if one or both partners suffer some distress, why not consider it just one more learning experience? There's nothing inherently dangerous about first time swinging…any more than first time dating, first time public speaking or even first time sipping a martini. Probably, it would be wise to expect a certain amount of disillusion. Things in life seldom measure up to our flights of fantasy.

Is it fair for one partner to press the issue over the other's reluctance?
In fact, it is usually the husband who has to encourage (often with some difficulty) the wife to try it. This is because women today have gotten the "good girls don't" message so often that, according to a recent study, almost half are now sexually dysfunctional. But, interestingly, when women experience the power of their sexuality in a positive and supportive environment they tend to come away with an especially strong sense of validation. In most swing groups, it is the women who plan the events, greet the new comers and promote the fun and games their husbands initially had to encourage.

What do men and what do women find most appealing in swinging?
For men, the idea of having many different women in many different ways is a dream come true. Sexually frustrated since puberty, males eventually become fixated and find that (as with any fixation) their actual existence is then dominated by their fantasy existence; resulting in the saying that American men lead lives of "quiet desperation." Which may well, in turn, explain why 20th Century America was such a violent and stormy place and time. For women, the idea of enjoying sex and being a good girl has a marvelously revitalizing effect. Woman enjoy wearing short shirts, see-through blouses and stiletto heeled shoes and being frankly admired for their beauty rather than condemned for their wantonness. They report, with fully half their lives denied and/or rejected as evil, the difficulty of developing any sense of confidence or self worth. Swinging liberates them as no affirmative action program can.

Contact Dr. Mason directly.