Poly – That’s Like Swinging, Right?

Posted on | August 1, 2007 | 12 Comments |

It happened again on Saturday evening. I got asked the question that most everyone who identifies as polyamorous gets familiar with: “So, that’s like swinging, right?”

Well, no actually. (And still I tell people, and still I get asked the question. Maybe I should get a handout printed?)

Poly and swinging can cross over, like a Venn diagram with an overlap in the middle. But overall, it goes like this:
Swinging = sex without relationships (for the most part)
Polyamory = sex with relationships (for the most part)

I have poly friends who like to swing occasionally, and head off to swing clubs for just that purpose – but they do identify as poly, and given that they’re living in a stable triad, I’m not inclined to doubt them in the slightest. And then there are swinging people who develop relationships with people they swing with – again, it does happen.

The separation is generally by choice and inclination. And ’cause this is me, and I don’t like talking about other people’s brains (that’s for them), here’s how my choices and inclinations panned out.

A few years back, I went through a horrific breakup (fleeing while he was at work, getting a PO Box, removing my number from the directory etc.). Not pretty. But I took a fair bit of time out, working through what went wrong (aside from him being an emotionally abusive bastard) and what I wanted.

And I wanted to experiment. I wanted to try it all. It was an opportunity to explore my bi-curiosity, and to see what it was like not being in a relationship. So after taking my time and putting myself back together, I did just that.

But you know what? I learned really quickly that experimenting was all good, but I enjoyed myself a hell of a lot more if there were some feelings involved. It didn’t have to be love, but like and friendship definitely made a difference.

My first threesome was with a French couple. We met a few times, had drinks, went to a wine and cheese festival. And we fucked – it was good fucking, don’t get me wrong! But it felt … well, it didn’t feel empty, but it did feel like something was missing.

I worked out a bit later on what that was – the missing component that I find so important. It’s having an emotional connection.

So for me, being polyamorous means having relationships with people I have a connection to, and having sex as part of that connection. The sex isn’t obligatory. The connection is.

So no, poly isn’t like swinging. Like oranges and bananas, they’re both fruit (rather than a vegetable like monogamy, to beat a metaphor to death), but the taste is entirely different.

From Spice comic

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12 Responses to “Poly – That’s Like Swinging, Right?”

  1. Lady in red
    August 1st, 2007 @ 10:16 pm

    And I wanted to experiment. I wanted to try it all. It was an opportunity to explore my bicuriosity, and to see what it was like not being in a relationship. So after taking my time and putting myself back together, I did just that

    this was me a year ago…..now I want relationships with my lovers

  2. Musns
    August 2nd, 2007 @ 12:18 am

    I appreciate the distinction. Back in the spring, I had trouble with the distinction, but as I spend more time with friends that are poly – I can see a very ‘distinct’ difference between the two. There is so much more in a poly relationship than in a swinging one. (not that I’m in either)

  3. Deliciously
    August 2nd, 2007 @ 5:23 am

    This is a tough one. I’d argue that Sexyhusband and I swing, but we’re in a committed relationship with each other.

    It’s funny, whenever I think of swingers I think of couples who want nsa sex, but I suppose someone could be a single swinger.

    The thing that makes me insane is when people assume that you’re poly because you want to have tons of sex. They just don’t get that being poly and maintaining multiple relationships is HARD.

    Mistress Matisse has a good post about being poly today when she responded to someone’s questions, one of which noted that she (matisse) was “so together” with the poly thing. Matisse returned with “that’s just because you didn’t see me make all the mistakes 10 years ago”.

  4. Luka
    August 2nd, 2007 @ 11:16 pm

    “The sex isn’t obligatory. The connection is.”

    Spot on. Without that connection it just isn’t a complete experience for me.

  5. Lady in red
    August 3rd, 2007 @ 5:58 am

    Spot on. Without that connection it just isn’t a complete experience for me.

    exactly what Mr Passinate and I were saying last night……the sex is amazing but we both like each other as people too which makes it so much more

  6. Emma Kelly
    August 3rd, 2007 @ 10:38 am

    Hi CD,

    Em and I distinguish swinging and poly the same way you do.

    We always thought for us something was a little off with swinging though it could be fun. Though we’re open to poly it doesn’t seem right for us now.

    Cuckolding can be played either as a swing or poly thing but so far Em has seen her guys as just good fuck buddies, light friendships, all about sex.

    Nice post.

    Mrs. Kelly’s Playhouse

  7. Z
    August 5th, 2007 @ 6:27 am

    I guess the middle of the Venn diagram is where Deliciously Naughty and her husband are.

    My ideal is nsa sex AND a connection – sex with no connection is just a turn-off now.

  8. Curvaceous Dee
    August 5th, 2007 @ 8:49 am

    Lady – Relationships with lovers are wonderful things. Doesn’t have to be love, but chemistry and desire and friendship and interests in common are all wonderful things :)

    Musns – I think swinging relationships that work well have a lot going for them – but it’s not for me. I didn’t know that until I’d tried sex without strings … I like my strings, the more entangled the better!

    Delicious – You read Matisse too? She and Max and Monk and all their lovers are marvellous role models for me – post-mistakes, of course! I think she’s helped prevent more than a few in my own journeys. Maintaining mutiple relationships IS hard – exponentially – but I think it’s well worth it. Still, it’s not for everyone, and I think everyone is entitled to the relationship style the best suits them.

    Luka – *nods in total agreement* I think you can still have good sex without the connection. But … it’s not complete. And why have incomplete sex when you can have complete sex that’s so much better?

    Scott – Glad you liked the post! Interestingly, I still view your attitude toward partners as more poly than swinging, simply because the fuck-buddies and light friendships are still friendships – they’re not random strangers that you never see again, but regular partners. But cuckolding seems to work well for the two of you (and I certainly enjoy reading about it!)

    Z – I think nsa sex and a connection makes for the best friends-with-benefits and fuck-buddies, that’s for sure!

    xx to all of you, Dee

  9. salix
    August 12th, 2007 @ 4:41 am

    Great post. Poly is exciting. Swinging sucks (IMHO, of course LOL-IMSOPC:-). Feelings are important, and as things are made up of other things, LOVE is simply a “curious mixture of Appreciation, Affection, Compassion, and Tenderness, acted upon by a catalyst known as Respect.” I don’t have as much BDSM experience as I’d like to , but I’ve fucked prostitutes, who I only picked up for two things… 1.) hot looks that turned me on. 2.) Some difficult-to-finger inkling that they were kindred spirits. I haven’t fucked a hooker for years, but I fucked a lot of them at one time and I don’t think there was one I didn’t love, under the criteria mentioned above. First knowledge of Poly = Heinlein’s famous book SIASL. First knowledge of swinging = making out with my girlfriend on a couch at a parts hosted by a couple from the local Unitarian Church (a hot bed of swinging at that time). The lights went out and all these people were swinging. We ignored them and continued making out with each other. Later, I was informed that they all wondered about the two of us. Honestly, I hadn’t realized they were swinging, but if I had, I wouldn’t have been interested. Except in one, a woman who, under the criteria mentioned above, I Loved. A couple years later we had an affair, but it wasn’t swinging. I wanted it to be Poly, but my girlfriend (we’d all been living together) left me over it. These days I’m married. And there’s a woman that I Love (under the criteria mentioned above). I think she feels the same way about me. But there are reasons we can’t be together. I know her husband (they live together, separately). He’d love my wife. I wish we could all swap mates. For keeps! I guess I’m not a swinger.

  10. Curvaceous Dee
    August 12th, 2007 @ 8:52 am

    Thank you for your interesting comment, Salix. Finding ones way through the minefield of relationship types is always a challenge :)

    xx Dee

  11. Tom Paine
    September 3rd, 2007 @ 6:17 pm

    Thanks, Dee, for the links to our blog. We are still figuring some of this out, looking for connection without drama. Perhaps an ideal, but one worth seeking.

  12. Curvaceous Dee
    September 3rd, 2007 @ 8:43 pm

    Tom, you’re more than welcome. Your blog frequently gives me something to chew on (er, metaphorically), and it is appreciated!

    xx Dee


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