The blurred lines of swinging, polyamory


I have been a practicing non-monogamist basically for my whole life now. For much of that time I have been under the whole “open relationship umbrella”.  Now, without diving into the complexities of defining what the “open relationship umbrella” is, let me just say that the “umbrella” covers such terms as swinging, polyamory, married and dating, open dating, etc.

For the sake of this article focus on the fact that I am a swinger and a polyamorist.  Wait, can I be both?  Aren’t we supposed to be one or the other?  For many people in swinging and/or polyamory, these are always the questions we ask. So what is a swinger and what is a polyamorist?  Good question!

A swinger is someone who is into the swinging lifestyle, and who engages in sexual activities with others as a recreational activity.  For most swingers, even though they may belong to a swingers group, there is usually not a desire to have an ongoing relationship with the other people they are with. 

Now, for someone who is poly (abbreviation for polyamory, polyamorous, etc.), they seek to have more than one intimate relationship (not just sexual) with others, and their partner(s) has/have knowledge of this.

My journey on the whole open relationship path started back when I was 22 years old.  That was the age when I went to my first sex party, which ultimately led me to officially enter the Swingers Lifestyle.  I have always considered myself a swinger and I still consider myself one today.

I have been in and out of the scene several times since first entering all those years ago. I stayed and went back because of the sex, of course.  I loved the idea of connecting with someone and just meeting the needs that we desired for that moment.  Eventually, though, I made the common migration from swinging to polyamory.

Like most polyamorists, I wanted to connect with people for long term relationships, which included a deeper connection and, of course, sex.  I honestly was polyamorous before the word ‘polyamory’ really existed. Actually, the first time I was really introduced to the word ‘polyamory’ was about 6 years ago by people like Anita Wagner & Kamala Devi.  It was these polyamorous pioneers that gave me a name for what I had been doing in my life all along.

Yes you can be both a swinger and polyamorous at the same time. You do not have to be only one or the other.  I still consider myself a swinger, but I am in a polyamorous relationship with a primary.  I still like to go to parties and connect with someone there for recreational sex, but I also look to connect with others for a more long-term polyamorous relationship.


Today on one of the polyamory message boards I found this question:

“So after reading some of the poly vs. swinger stuff, I am curious where everyone here falls?: Poly, poly/swinger (poly with swinging tendencies), swinger/poly (swinger with poly tendencies), swinger”

My answer to this question is that you can be whatever you want to be when it comes to open relationships and you can choose which ever label you want to use.  In the end folks just be open-minded, safe, and ready to explore.



Websites - Life on the Swing Set -

Books - The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy (writing as 'Catherine Liszt')


Anita Wagner -

Kamala Devi -

Facebook Polyamory Group -


Definition for Swinging

Definition for Polyamory

Related Articles:

A Lexicon of Alternative Sexualities, Part 1: Consent Matters by Michael Carey

A Lexicon of Alternative Sexualities, Part 2: Two Tribes of Non-Monogamists by Michael Carey

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