The idea of sexy swinging events with a fishbowl of condo keys and a wife raffle persist but may be nothing more than urban legend.
Key parties—this juicy bit of swinger lore lingers around the edges of pop culture and polyamory gossip. While a kinky key lottery has its fantasy appeal for some, the whole key party idea doesn’t really jive with the core tenets of swinging culture.
Let’s look at the history and psychology of the legendary key party!
What Is a Key Party?
A key party is a supposed swinger tradition from the hazy golden age of free love.
As the story goes, swinger couples would attend or host a swingers party. The guys would throw their car keys or house keys into a vase or punch bowl. The women would draw keys and go home with whoever owned them for a night of steamy swinger sex.
The key party story shows up in pop culture references in film and television. There was even a Simpsons episode called 500 Keys, where Homer and Marge attend a key party unsuspectingly, and encounter a half naked Dr. Hibbert!
With key parties showing up as assumed events in the swinger heyday of sexual liberation, we assume they actually happened. But the key party is more than likely pure fantasy.
Did Key Parties Actually Happen?
While nostalgic talk and cinematic allusion to key parties is common, what’s more difficult is finding someone, anyone, who has been to a real one.
The San Francisco Weekly tried to pin down the truth about key parties in 2018 and couldn’t find much evidence of the real deal. The SF Weekly tracked down a lecture by Dr. Albert Ellis from 1965, who referenced the key party:
“Whichever car key you get, you get the wife, if you’re the male that goes with this particular set of keys… This is done on a chance, you might say a raffle kind of basis. This is probably the rarest kind of mate-switching today.”
The SF Weekly reported a 1970 reference to key parties in the Journal of Sex Research, which mentioned the “key party myth.” The journal interviewed hundreds of polyamorous subjects and didn’t find any key party participants.
The idea of key parties may trace back to military culture in the 40s or even sooner. Details are hazy but there is the possible origin of the “key club” idea.
Soldiers and others serving in armies were known “swappers” and had (have?) a swinging style culture of their own. It was partly born from the intensity of service and of loss, and partly as a way to make sure a fallen soldier had brothers to “take care of his wife” or girl.
Wives had keys to other men’s homes in the event they needed various flavors of help while their own soldier was away or injured. Swinging and different kinds of sex codes are definitely part of various military cultures, but whether this qualifies as the origin of key parties is unclear.
Key parties were not a widespread thing as they are claimed to be. However, humans are inventive and adventurous and every conceivable sexual experiment has taken place somewhere.
Sometime, somewhere, a key party or other wife swap raffle of some kind has definitely taken place. But it’s not a swinger thing, then or now.
3 Reasons Why the Key Party Is Extinct
If there was ever a cocaine fuelled disco key swapper dance extravaganza, perhaps a good time was had by all. But key parties are definitely extinct among swingers today. There are many reasons why the key party just isn’t a swinger thing.
1. Swinging Isn’t Just Wife Swapping
The key party fantasy is all about guys getting the random variety of pussy without having to impress her first. It’s an appealing idea, but it doesn’t jive with the sexual revolution, which was about liberation and sexual equality.
Women having agency to choose partners and enjoy casual sex with those they choose is a huge part of swinging. It’s not about guys getting more chicks for free.
Swinging is about the couple at its core. Other kinds of non-monogamy aren’t always hierarchical when it comes to primary partnerships. But swinging is. It’s something you do with your husband or wife or long-term partner.
Swinging is a social culture. It’s about meeting and dating other couples and having sex with them—as part of a couple.
Couples date other couples. They enjoy drinks and dancing and flirting. They enjoy Scrabble and hot chocolate, or sports, or plays. They enjoy swinger parties, yes, because they flirt and socialize and have sex together.
Swingers don’t go home with someone else and leave their partner floundering, or off with someone else, without being connected in some way. Key parties don’t reflect the essence of swinging.
2. Swingers Want to Choose Who They Have Sex With
The key party is about random swapping. But swingers prefer to choose their sexual partners. The women especially want agency and power. They are not being swapped around for the sole pleasure of the men, but for their own sexual desires and freedom.
In many ways, swinging is at heart a female-led sexual culture, and key parties aren’t part of those values.
3. Swingers Prefer to Leave Parties with Their Own Partner
Finally, key parties are all about going home with someone else, but swingers prefer to unite after sex with others, and finish the party and leave the party with their own partner.
Swinging is actually about the couple’s relationship and intimacy, as the foundation of their fun and freedom. Swingers want to go home with their own partner or leave the party with their husband or wife.
What do you think about key parties? Have you ever attended this elusive key party or something like it?