In a society that romanticizes sex and fidelity, having intercourse with many people is already eyebrow-raising. How much more if it’s having sex with more than one partner at the same time?
Swinging as a lifestyle is generally not the kind of thing you bust out as a conversation starter at parties, unless it’s that kind of company. In this still-conservative society, letting your friends know that you’re into having sex with multiple people at the same time is still not polite conversation, especially with the idea of monogamy as the standard.
“It’s not for everybody,” says Marita*. Marita “plays” with her husband Badong in the Philippine Swingers Club, a group that advocates the “Swing” lifestyle, the non-monogamous culture of engaging in sexual activities as recreational and/or social. The term they use is “swinging”, which generally connotes couples exchanging partners, but the group also explores different kinds of group-based sexual activities.
Shin, on the other hand, is not part of any swinging group, but he and his partner Trisha are in a polyamorous relationship, so group sex is not unusual. “How I see it is that we’re all programmed to sort of see monogamy as the only acceptable way to engage in relationships,” he says. “They have to understand it from a mindset that this is about sharing yourself with people and enjoying other people’s company rather than just, say, for the sex aspect. It can just be a sex thing, but it is kind of built on trust in another person’s love for you.”
A whole feast
Seeing your partner sleep with someone else may be unthinkable to some, but for swinging partners, it comes with a different mindset. “I LOVE seeing him fuck someone else and I know he’s into it too,” says Shin’s girlfriend Trisha. “Honestly I feel flooded with love and pride. ‘Look here at this dude, whom I’m in love with, really pleasing someone else and really getting pleasure from it.’” She recounts a time when they were both having sex with the same girl and sharing a knowing look. “We high-fived once.”
For other people, sleeping with multiple partners can even help their current relationship. Salome is Trisha and Shin’s girlfriend, and she has her own boyfriend as well. “Nobody fits me as well as he does, and the more people I fuck the more I see it,” she says.
“You have to be looking for something,” says CJ in Filipino. “Apart from a relationship or a partner, there is something that you should be looking for that your immediate community cannot provide.” CJ is part of the Philippine Swingers Club and is a “unicorn”, a single female who “plays” with couples, or engages with the male equivalent –”bulls”– in solo play.
There are many terms in this lifestyle. “Plays” are what you call the sexual activity, and there are different kinds of plays catering to whatever your sexual kink is. There are same room sex, wife swaps, gang bangs, voyeurism and exhibitionism, solo play, full-on orgies — anything to fulfill your deepest sexual fantasy.
Real world vs The Fantasy World
Free love doesn’t necessarily mean a free-for-all though. Like many things that are supposedly rules-less, “free love” actually comes with even more parameters than monogamous dating.
For one thing, it doesn’t always mean that what you want is at your beck and call. You would still have to deal with fitting the needs of those you play with. “Fantasy nga e,” Marita says. “You can’t have a bull that finishes early. I mean, what for?”
While attraction is the baseline, the availability of partners and the scrutiny of the screening process comes more into play. Consent, safety, and the overall attitude of partners are a big deal, not only in the purpose of having sex, but also because the swinging community tends to regard each other as family, odd as that may sound.
Another thing is: nothing brings swingers back from the fantasy world than real world emotions. Being in an open or polyamorous relationship does not mean that you’ve signed off on ever experiencing feelings, and jealousy is still a pretty big deal.
“I think the downsides to this set up would be sort of dealing with insecurities and jealousy, and sometimes feeling left out or that you are being neglected,” says Shin.
“I’m satisfied with my partner, it has nothing to do with any lacking on his part,” says Trisha. “It’s exciting to sleep with someone new, it’s exciting to share yourself with others, to explore and discover things about yourself and other people.” Still, jealousy can rear its ugly head, and for the most part, swingers deal with it with an inordinate amount of talking it out.
“Jealousy is an ugly emotion brought up by insecurity, and often your partner can address this insecurity with reassurance,” says Shin. “And what the other person does with other people isn’t for any reasons that have to do with you, that you shouldn’t try to control the other person’s actions, because what you can control is how you feel about those actions.”
An alternative choice
Swinging is very different from cheating, which is actually the opposite of what consensual group sex is about. Rather than deceit, swinging is more about being open to your partner about your needs and you being open to theirs too. It is more than just fulfilling desires of the flesh, because in and of itself, sex and love are already two of the most complicated things in the human experience.
“Everyone isn’t built for it at the start,” says Shin. “But (they) can come to grips with it and get into it, but they have to do it responsibly. I guess that people who get into it should also be someone who can multitask and handle the workload, cos relationships are hard, yo.”
“And well, hopefully they can do it without being too much of a dick,” he adds.
*Names are changed to protect public lives.