Polys and Swingers: the Great Divide

Man in Bed with Three Women

Can’t we all just get along? Often these two groups set themselves in opposition of one another even though they both operate outside the confines of mainstream culture, choosing to love differently in non-monogamous relationships. Polyamorous people will say poly is all about love and relationships; and swingers are all about sex and wild parties. But swingers do engage in  longer than one-night stand relationships and complain polys don’t respect or are jealous of their less-committed lifestyles.

Swingers are often scrutinized and feel a need to hide their practices while poly people are often more open about their relationships (pretending you don’t have two wives can be difficult.) These two groups, you would think, should be compatriots, but often the decision to be out about one’s lifestyle is what separates them.

Swingers often see themselves as normal everyday people that crave a little excitement now and then. They don’t see their lifestyle as anything unusual, perhaps just more adventurous than most. And some of their relationships with other couples do become long-term, not unlike those of poly people.

Polys are often people that live many aspects of their life apart from what is considered mainstream – the types of work they do, other social activities they enjoy, and the environments they choose to live in.

I don’t understand the judgements I hear from one group to another as I see more similarities than differences. These two non-monogamous groups should be championing one another and encouraging a wider acceptance from traditional relationships and lifestyles. Some people that begin experimenting with swinging end up in polyamorous relations.

Swingers and Polys: How do view one another as a subculture? Is there a crossover?

Tell us what you think! 4 Comments

  1. Eric

    July 2, 2012 at 10:22 am

    Polyamory can begin on a trip to the grocery store; swinging is generally a female or couple only experience based on physical attraction. You can find a new lover who doesn’t want to swing; but if 2 people hit it off at a swinger event, there’s going to probably one or two other people involved–their partners.

    Polyamory is the ability to love more than one person deeply, care about and for them deeply, and want the layers of them, not just sex. Swingers I think fall into two categories: The first, a couple loving sex and ok with their partner having multiple sex partners because both are.

    The 2nd, which I fall into, is those who have a true love of the body and find a greater joy in giving pleasure than receiving it.

    With the 2nd, there is a possibility for desiring a polyamorous relationship blossoming from a meeting; with the 1st, though its possible, its far less likely to fall for another because it changes the impersonal to the personal–and that can be discomforting to a life partner

    An open relationship is one where both partners understand the capacity to love more than one other; they don’t go looking for it–they’re happy when they find someone and their partner is happy when they see their partner has found someone special. It can be a difficult situation, but in a polyamorous relationship, the culture of a relationship being with more than one other is the understanding. Multiple sex partners or cheating on the polyamorous relationship have deep feelings attached. In swinging, the number of partners doesn’t matter because both are committed to each other, but just love sex and new experiences with new people.

    If you’re polyamorous and at a swing party, you can be in for some pain–because the person you fall for at the party wants sex with you–as much as they want sex with many others.

    Polyamory isn’t as much a counterculture as it is a misunderstood culture. Swinging is a counterculture that goes against the Victorian culture we have in this country.

    I could be wrong, but in much of western Europe, the word polyamory isn’t an important label because secondary relationships are often normal. No matter where you go, swinging is swinging.

    • Holly


      July 13, 2012 at 3:52 pm

      Hi Eric, thanks for expanding on this post and sharing your perspective on the differences between polyamory and swinging. Do you find yourself in poly relationships often? Hope many women are experiencing your joy in giving pleasure.

      • al

        July 20, 2012 at 5:11 am

        Hi holly, my name is Allen and I’m interested in learning more about polyamory, Ive been in a mono relationship before and after 13 year it became boring, we’ve talked about bring others into our relationship but never went through with it because of her insecurities, sadly the relationship ended and i looking for a partner but i don’t want a repeat of the last relationship, I’m looking for something a little more exciting and challenging at the same time, like two female partners to keep the spice in the relationship, i was wondering if you could provide me with some background on poly relationships, also is that you in that profile pic because i think your profile pic is very sexy?

        • Holly


          July 20, 2012 at 8:44 am

          Hi Allen, you flatter me. Yes, that’s my picture. I’m sorry to hear that your relationship is over, but it is difficult introducing polyamory into an existent monogamous relationship. I was married and ended things for similar reasons. I question monogamy in the modern world – is it really practical? For further exploration into polyamory, I recommend Sex at Dawn:The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality. My next post will address the issue of bringing poly into a new relationship. Best wishes for finding the right relationship for you. -Holly

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