Specifying rules is one way to make swinging more comfortable for you and your partner, especially if you feel hesitant to try ethical non-monogamy. One thing you can try to see if you’ll like swinging is the soft swap
In swinging, you have the hard swap (or full swap) and the soft swap. A hard swap includes all sorts of sexual activities, including intercourse. But a soft swap stops short of penetration, usually including manual stimulation, flirting, caressing, kissing and potentially oral sex.
You’ll have sex with one partner (typically a guy, but that’s not always the case) while your lover partners off with that guy’s partner. In some instances, women (or men!) explore with members of the same sex in front of their partners. But swinging is ultimately about swapping partners.
Some people ease into swinging with the soft swap. They might want to test the waters to see if they can really do it without any jealousy or negative feelings. They may later move on to the hard swap if they feel comfortable. Soft swapping allows you to test the waters, and if you’re into swinging, you’ll likely find yourself craving more.
Some people who are interested in swinging bring up the idea of a soft swap to gauge their partner’s interest. You might be able to encourage a reluctant partner to try something new if full blown sex is off the table.
Other couples only practice the soft swap, and it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with jealousy.
Knowing a few other swinging terms can help you break into the lifestyle (a term that refers to those people who are sexually open-minded and into swinging). These include
- GG: girl-girl
- Same room: Full swap in the same room
- Bull: a well-endowed man who is interested in casual sex
- Unicorn: a single woman in the lifestyle
- Hall pass: having permission to play without your partner
- Tri-sexual: someone who will try anything once
- Nudist adventure: a codeword for the lifestyle
- Bare back: sex without a condom
- Off premise: when sexual activities take place in a location other than the event, such as hotel rooms
- On premise: sexual activities happen at the event
- House party: a swinging party at someone’s home
- Meet & Greet: an event to meet other swingers
Of course, each swinging community may have its own terms and variations.
Soft Swapping and Safer Sex
Soft swapping partners helps to reduce risks associated with sex. The big ones are:
- STI transmission
You might not worry about those risks with a monogamous partner, but swinging does open you up to those risks. If you decide to dip a toe into swinging, you might have to reassess the role of condoms in your sex life to mitigate risks. Of course, if there’s no penetration, pregnancy becomes a much smaller risk.
Read: How to Use a Condom
However, some STIs can still be spread even if you’re only soft swapping. That’s because kissing, oral sex, and even skin-to-skin contact can transmit infections and viruses. HPV, for example, is spread through skin contact while herpes can be spread through kissing or oral sex.
Just because you’re not having intercourse doesn’t mean you should play it risky. Using a dental dam in addition to soft swapping is one way to practice safer sex as a swinger. But you can only minimize the risk so far.
Jealousy and Swinging
Just like STIs can still be a problem during soft swapping, so can jealousy rear its ugly head. If you’re not secure enough or comfortable with the idea of swinging, it won’t matter if your partner is only going down on another person. Some people choose to work through jealousy to continue a swinger’s lifestyle. Others put swinging on hold until they can build a stronger foundation.
But some people find that they cannot keep their jealousy in check, and that’s okay. Nonmonogamy isn’t for everyone, and you shouldn’t feel like you have to do it. If your partner is pushing you into swinging and using the fact that it’s only soft swapping as a defense, you’re not going to feel good about it. It might be time to ditch the swinging and your partner.
Related: When to Break Up With Someone
Feelings about swinging, even if you stick to soft swapping, can become complicated. You can simultaneously be turned on by the idea but also feel insecure. You may want to like the idea but actually harbor feelings of jealousy or even resentment if your partner gets more out of it than you do.
Being aroused by your lover’s exploits with others is a type of compersion.
It’s essential that you’re honest – to your partners and to yourself. It’s okay to admit if you’re nervous. Your partners can help to quell those fears if they can. Or you may find that soft swapping isn’t something that you’re ready for at this time in your life.
If you try to just push those feelings down, you may wind up enjoying yourself. Or you could become complacent in your own trauma and wind up leading on your partners, who will be none the wiser to your real feelings.
Jealousy is also common in open marriages.
Again, there’s nothing wrong with feeling some hesitance. That’s exactly why soft swapping is a great first step for so many couples. But how you manage those feelings can help you transition or scar you for life. It’s smart to let a partner know how you feel before you leap in.
Swinging, even if it’s only a soft swap, will likely improve your communication skills with your partner. To be satisfied with the situation, you both will have to describe your desires and hesitation. There is a lot of reassuring and checking in. While swinging might not be for everyone, the communication skills you build, especially about sex, are invaluable for any partners.
When You Get Carried Away
Imagine you’re fooling around with someone. You’re in various states of undress, and things are definitely hot and heavy. It’s pretty easy to get carried away. You mean to stop before penetration, but the next thing you know, you’re riding someone to orgasm.
This can happen when you agree only to a soft swap, and it’s something you need to discuss with your partner. He may have stuck to non-penetrative activities while you had sex with a new partner, even though both of you said that wasn’t on the table.
Determine how you will handle this as a couple if it happens. Or you might find a way to halt your sexy times before they lead to actual sex. But this is a real risk of the soft swap in some situations.
Soft Swap in the Media
Now, the media has represented the idea of a soft swap in ways that may be misleading. One such definition is only having sex with a swinging partner when your romantic partner is in the same room. But this idea goes against the basic tent of soft swapping: no penetration.
Another variation is when you have sex with your partner with others in the same room. It’s more like exhibitionism than actual swinging because you’re still having sex with the person you came with.
It’s true that different couples and communities may practice differing versions of the soft swap. This is why it’s so crucial to outline your boundaries, both when negotiating with swinging partners and when determining what is okay when you and your partner decide to try swinging.
But each couple may have their own rules that they enforce alongside the idea of soft swapping. So perhaps you’re okay with penetration via fingers or a toy, but no penis-in-vagina sex. Some couples are okay with just about anything except kissing on the mouth, which is an intimate activity they reserve just for their beloved.
It’s okay to abide by whatever rules work for you, but every rule you add and even practicing only soft swap can limit the number of partners you have. Some people hear the term and bail because they’re only interested in the hard swap, which includes penetrative sex. They view soft swapping as inferior to hard swapping.
Still, eliminating potential couples who don’t respect your wishes will leave you with those who will respect your wishes. Those potential partners can join you for a fun and sexy times, and you might find yourself enjoying the swinging lifestyle permanently!