Editorial: Man to Man - Publication: Mens Health Magazine

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Threeways and couple swapping are pretty common male sexual fantasies, and as a regular guy, subjects Iíve experimented with over the years. For my partner Marci and I, the notion of introducing a third and maybe fourth person into our sexlife began with mutually confided fantasies. After much discussion, we both agreed that girl on girl was the scenario we both felt most exciting, and most comfortable with. 

As a person having had a series of emasculating experiences with women my own age (35) Marci is redemption personified. Wholesome, liberal, twenty five year old and refreshingly void of neuroses, she is totally unlike my previous partners and yes the sex is pretty good too. 

To my surprise, I found Marci disarmingly enthusiastic about the prospect of introducing another woman into our sexlives. Sheíd vividly describe imaginary scenarios while we had sex, read me erotic stories, show me pictures from magazines that portrayed multiples and even comment on sexy women she saw when we were out in public together. 

Like any red-blooded male, I loved Marciís enthusiasm. She almost seemed a dream partner come true. Still, despite initially feeling like a five year old at Christmas time, I couldnít help but sense a nagging twinge of discomfort about the situation.  

Something about Marci, or at least the scenario induced a cold, hard lump in my throat. I felt strangely uncomfortable with her willingness, yet couldnít quite fathom why I was thrown. Was it nervousness? hypocrisy? perhaps a fear that our adventurous partnering wasnít exclusive to me, and that maybe I too could be simply a sex object, a mere vehicle to broaden life experience with.. 

Was I, like any guy, guilty of some form of double standard? NaÔve in the blurred assumption that Marci is a pure and wholesome girl who calls her mom daily, rather than a brazen creature filled with animal desires, craving to enrich her sexual horizons as much as I? Thankfully, my temporary bout of discomfort passed, rapidly dissolved by the prospect of seeing Marci strut her stuff with another chick. 

When it comes to my own sexual experience, I try not to compare myself to others, yet underneath it seems, like Marci, Iíve always had a sneaking suspicion Iíve got some catching up to do to. Iíve fuelled my unbridled (and perhaps over compensatory) enthusiasm to broaden my horizons by various introspective arguments; from having been denied liberal minded fun by unimaginative partners to my attending a catholic single sex boarding school. Thereís also been the notion about my awkward twenties, peppered with more drugs and rock and roll than sex, or of course the sad reality that I too have had a restrictive middle class background and am riddled with catholic guilt. 

I again asked Marci is she had any reservations and received a curt "absolutely none" in response. Was she trying to match me in the bravado stakes? Prove she could be as brazen as I?  

A few weeks went by and Marci confronted me with a specialist online advertisement, "We're a happily married, adventurous, outgoing couple with a strong sexual appetite. We seek fit, attractive women, couples, and select single males to share safe, sexy fun and fulfill fantasies. If this sounds like you, please contact us! "Weíre meeting this Saturday," Marci commanded, it was Wednesday "Cool" was my calculated response, or at least thatís how I found myself responding to her uncharacteristically assertive tone. 

Neither of us were particularly nervous about the situation. We had exchanged several emails, photographs and phone calls in advance so everything seemed fine. We also had clear boundaries as to what we wanted beforehand which was reassuring. Besides, there was a vast stock of alcohol on hand to balance things out. .  

Phillipa and Bill weíre pretty much like their ad description, but there was a twist. Phillipa was a 26-year-old Betty Paige look-alike, nice figure, white skin and dark features. Her husband Bill was about a foot shorter. Despite being two years my junior at 33, Bill was balding and surprisingly overweight, in fact he reminded me of my Dad, which was a little disconcerting under the circumstances. Apparently his career as a film director was his compensatory trait, and Phillipa seemed to adore him, pandering to his barked commands like a submissive pet. 

Both couples previously agreed it was mainly a girl on girl thing; the girls were to get it on, while the guys had to touch their own partners only. If things developed from there it would be a situation of asking one another what was the best route to take. 

As Bill and I sat back and watched, Phillipa and Marci indulged in oral, toys, and mutual masturbation. I followed the bald guyís lead, coaxing and commenting in my best porn drawl, yet with far less authenticity, it seemed the right thing to do, and if it wasnít, disagreeing at that point would surely cut the mood.. The girls seemed o like it anyway. After they were done, both couples got it on in the same room, which for me at least was a first time experience. 

While I still have visions of Billís ample belly and bald cranium hovering in my unconscious, both Marci and I were pretty happy with our first couple swap encounter. Marci confessed to having experienced thundering orgasms with Phillipa and myself during the encounter. And though we arenít intent on hurrying into our next experience, recounting the first has fuelled much fantasy and raunchy sex since, and there seems to be no lingering problems or hang-ups from either of us. 

Admittedly, the notion of full blown swapping in the context of Bill with Marci definately irks me Ė am I a hypocrite? Should I have offered to grope Bill in order to counter any accusations of double standards? I donít think so, and I donít think Marci does either, the experience was good overall, now time to move on. 

Looking back, ever since I became aware of my own sexuality, Iíve always been curious about "couple swapping" otherwise known as swinging or more recently, "the lifestyle". Maybe I can attribute my sinful preoccupation to bad parenting.  

My first insight into whole concept harked back to primary school. Like many suburban kids my own age, the rudiments of my sex education came from fumbling with my dadís porn magazines. With no apparent cataloguing method for the twenty or so journals of sin lumped under his bed, I tapped a veritable library from the ages of 12 to 16, and went totally unnoticed 

Stylistically back then, the concept of "swinging" as it was then known seemed entrenched in an eternal vision of Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice. Through a haze of potsmoke and incense, hairy men with handle bar moustaches and voluptuous women with long hair and natural breasts got down on beanbags while The Grateful Dead throbbed in the background. 

Apparently these people werenít just kinked out couples getting their kicks, but sexual revolutionaries fuelled by the spirit of defiance and a thirst for enlightenment. Theyíre philosophical quest also seemed strangely oblivious to the prospect of HIV or a plethora of STDís. 

According to Bob McGinley, head of the US Lifestyles Association, the lifestyle is as old as sex itself, " it started with Adam and Eve," he says. Early documented evidence harks back to earlier times, with various erotic stories and magazine articles devoted to the subject, including a magazine from the 1950ís called MR, which featured pieces about the phenomenon of wife swapping. Author Bill Reedlove also created a buzz about swinging with a book in the 60ís titled Swap Close. 

Fast-forward twenty years and the term swinging has since given way to "the lifestyle. Any traces of leftist idealism have long been severed. Rather than dabble in pseudo hippie love ins, like-minded people now converge via a complex network of heavily marketed websites, specialist newspapers and magazines, holiday resorts, clubs and travel destinations. 

In addition to an underground network of budget level gatherings held in private homes, many of todayís private member swing clubs are up market and elitist. House music pumps and horsderves are served. Coupleís pay around $100 for entry and singles about double that. 

According to Tony Lanzaratta, Executive director of North Americas couple swapping association, NASCA, "playcouples" can come from all economic levels. "Every job classification, all races and nationalities are represented, though the majority are Caucasian, middle to upper middle socio-economic class, and married. 

Lanzanatta claims NASCA has around 3 million members nationally with over 500 clubs registered in the US an thousands of non NASCA official clubs any given weekend will see an additional 3000 NASCA members attend the various NASCA club network throughout the US. 

"Itís safer for people to meet via these clubs than picking up a person at a bar," Tony says, "and there is more variety. There are threesomes foursomes and moresomes. Most who attend are more interested in couples and they donít want an influx of singles. Generally there is an interest in single women, with couples often into the notion of girl on girl action, though there is a growing tolerance for single males and its now seemingly less taboo for a couple to introduce a single man into their relationship". 

Yet, apparently todayís "playcouples" arenít just motivated by the prospect of hardcore sex. "People can do what they like via these social forums, there are some who attend and do little more than sip a few drinks and chat," Tony says. 

Sharing bodily fluids with a bunch of strangers also makes the issue of safe sex a contentious issue, with many "playcouples" known to dabble in unprotected sex. Tony claims that many swapclubs donít endorse a safe sex policy, as playcouples are highly aware of health issues.  

"These people are often in monogamous relationships and only have sex with a close knit group of regular partners, hence they are generally low risk and gamble with unprotected sex." Another reason why clubs often donít issue condoms Lanzaratta says is that they may be held liable for the consequences of a condom breaking. 

Asked what is the best technique to convince a hesitant partner to dabble in the lifestyle, Tony says he is unaware of any secret method. "If I had a sure fire formula, Id be a millionaire by now." 

Iíve obviously not yet fully immersed myself in" the lifestyle" though Iíve given it a good shot. My first encounter occurred in my late twenties while in a relationship with a woman ten years my senior. This was a classic older woman scenario based heavily on sex. Lyn was a lecturer at artschool, fickle, sexy and feminine with a penchant for adventure, she disliked being labeled bisexual, but enjoyed women as much as men. 

Lyn needed no organized group or ad network to pursue her outlet. She would take me to art galleries, clubs, and parties and often pick up women who would join us. I enjoyed the pleasures of three-way sex with Lyn and her pals for over two years, then made the mistake of moving in with her, which ended in disaster. 

Lyn definitely piqued my curiosity for more. Feeling a little tragic in a raincoat wearing kind of way. I scrutinized ads, and actually attended some underground swing parties publicized via email. Mostly held in hotel rooms, these gatherings were hardly the erotic utopia I expected. 

The two "parties" I attended were basically the same. A male dominated gathering where guys clad in towels sipped beers and chatted, occasionally adjourning to a nearby bedroom to have sex with one of the surprisingly overweight and unattractive women present. 

Call me choosey, but watching a group of mullet haired overweight guys masturbating in unison around a couple having sex seemed the antithesis of anything remotely titillating. I suppose for the guys in the group it was, but for me it did nothing. 

According to government statistics, the median marriage duration at divorce is between 8 and 13 years. These figures might bolster the views of those who see sexual fidelity as harmful and responsible for breeding jealousy and a feeling of ownership between partners. According to them swapping or additional partners does away with jealousy and helps each mate see the other as an individual 

Times change but values donít, or so it seems. For some of us less liberally minded, the most obvious and basic argument against "the lifestyle" is that weird old-fashioned notion that itís immoral. Others might find the mere suggestion of involving others in a coupleís sex life as signaling the end of a relationship. Those in favor of the lifestyle claim it actually keeps relationships healthy by keeping everything out in the open, and preventing cloak and dagger infidelities. 

Looking at the deeper psychological reasons for couple swapping it is believed that men may need to translate early sexual fantasies into reality and that women may be fulfilling social-romantic needs.  

Some believe that because of the marginality of the new middle class, playcouples seek experiences with others in order to feel they belong. They yearn to develop social ties and to satisfy the need for sexual fulfillment that is a result of their restrictive middle-class backgrounds. Swinging gives them an opportunity to do both without disrupting their general lifestyle. 

Mary Hot Vedt a privately practicing marriage counselor, psychologist and President of the AAMFT (American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy) believes the lifestyle "isnít the free for all that people imagine". 

"I believe that couples who do dabble in this form of activity need to be very in tune with one another, they have to be very close and communicative and approve one anotherís choices in order for it to work properly. It can be potentially damaging if one person has made a choice another has not. In that situation one partner is simply on a power trip." 

Dr Lillian Glass, psychologist, relationship counselor and author of the Idiots Guide To Men And Women, believes the whole phenomenon of the lifestyle is a disaster waiting to happen. "Its playing Russian roulette with the emotions," she says." People assume they are spicing up their marriage, but they are actually instilling bitterness". 

On the flipside, LA based sex therapist Jenny Friend says "The swapping process generally makes sex between a couple better and provides them with the opportunity to share things. They can share their excitement, which will generally improve their sex lives." 

Friend says experimentation with another woman is the most frequent pursuit of most play couples. "This scenario is actually the most common heterosexual fantasy. Its popular as men donít feel threatened and women are usually less inclined to feel odd experimenting with another woman. Of course itís a bit of a double standard, as men generally donít reciprocate for their female partners."

Anita Baker, a sex therapist and associate of ASEC, The American Association Of Sex educators (asec.org) believes poor planning can be the root of all evil when it comes to the swap game.. "The worst mistake a couple can make when they indulge in the lifestyle is not having a set of ground rules to abide by. They have to set limits and stick to them for things to work in a balanced way. Ultimately its about people having a good relationship before they go ahead, then you simply have two consenting adults who want to experiment which can be a good thing for both parties". 

Written by Craig Stephens

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