Polyamory (Part II): What Polyamory is NOT

 In my ongoing writing and researchI am exploring the FUTURE OF SEX and the unique ways couples deal withlong term commitment and sexuality.

In this month’s news, we have a guest writer – Dr Liz Currin writes about a form of relationship called Polyamory. To some, this following type of relationship may sound challenging, and to others it may be the answer to their questions about long term monogamy.

Feel free to write me with questions or comments at tammy@tammynelson.org

Polyamory (Part II): What Polyamory is NOT

By guest writer Dr Liz Currin

Perhaps the most frequent area of confusion about polyamory is whether it’s just a fancy term for “swinging”. While both polyamory and swinging often involve sex with someone other than a primary partner, the two are quite different. Swinging is also known as “recreational sex” and “sport sex”. It is often engaged in by couples, married or otherwise, who are seeking to enliven their sex life. They don’t want to engage in an affair, but feel the need for something sexual that the marriage isn’t providing. Swingers’ events generally welcome couples and single females, but not single males. And while couples may develop friendships with other couples at these events, these friendships are generally not pursued outside the swinging venue. So, in polyamory, the emphasis is on emotional intimacy and sharing; in swinging, the emphasis is on sex as play and entertainment, and relationship development is not strongly encouraged.

Just as there are many varieties of polyamory, swinging can take many forms, as well. Among couples who are new to swinging, there may be an agreement that they will not engage in sexual activities with others, but they will observe and allow others to observe them (known as “soft” swinging). As their comfort level increases, they may decide to try some other forms of swinging, such as “soft swap”, or oral sex with another partner. Couples may continue to explore and negotiate new activities, for example, whether a partner may engage in activities when the other partner is out of the room, or whether to allow full penetration (“full swap”). It is common for couples to set certain absolute boundaries when swinging, such as using a condom, or reserving kissing for one’s partner.

When it comes to understanding and describing human sexual behavior, there is an entire spectrum and it is difficult to describe people in very simplistic terms. There are individuals in the poly community who are motivated by the sexual aspect of their relationships. There are even some, referred to as “trollers”, who enter the poly community almost exclusively driven by the desire to expand their sexual network. And in the world of swinging, while the intent is to engage in recreational sex, often as a means of enhancing and preserving a primary relationship, emotional attachments do sometimes develop and serve a destablizing role in marriage.


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