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
Further interesting posts about poly and swinging
- Poll: 51% Lead/Would Try Poly/Swing Life by Anita Wagner
- Swinger vs. Poly: Just what IS Polyamory? Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 by Tom Paine
- Welcome to the World of Polyamory from The Observer
- Polyamory in Penthouse Forum by Michael Dorsey (this is from 1997!)
- Polyamory? What, like, two girlfriends? by Xeromag