History of Swinging – The 400 Year Old Sexual Taboo [INFOGRAPHIC]

Swinging: Been Around For 400 Years, Where Have You Been?

The practice of “swinging,” although taboo to many, has a long history dating back at least 400 years. Before taking a look at the evolution of the practice, let’s define the distinct set of parameters that make it unique from other sexual practices.




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  • Swinging is not the same as “open marriage,” polyamory, or infidelity.
  • It is a non-monogamous behavior in which singles or partners in a committed relationship engage in sex with others for social or recreational fun.
  • Couples remain emotionally monogamous to each other.
  • Many consider swinging to strengthen their committed relationships, as it removes any need for distrust, jealousy, or deceit.

Where Did It All Begin?

Swinging is best defined as a modern, Western practice. Many cultures in history do not value monogamous relationships, nor have religious/social issues related to the practice., therefore eliminating a need to segregate the concept of sexual non-monogamy.

  • Incidents of swinging showed up as early as the 16th century, when prominent mathematician/astrologer John Dee entered a pact with a colleague to share their wives.
  • Examples of the lifestyle are scattered through the 18th-19th centuries, but due to strong religious and political taboos are considered to be not entirely reliable.
  • Modern swinging, starting in the 1940s, is considered the best point of reference for studying the origin of the lifestyle practiced today.

It Started With “Wife Swapping”

The precise origin of swinging in the United States is unknown, but there are specific dates to look at which make a lot of sense.

During World War I, American Air Force pilots–who had a high rate of mortality–formed close bonds with other pilots and their families.

  • There was an implication that, should one pilot die, his wife would be taken care of by the others–in all ways, including sexually.
  • By the 1950s, the swinging lifestyle apparently was active in some military communities, eventually spreading to the suburbs.
  • The media dubbed it “wife-swapping,” and this is where infamous practices such as “key parties” were reported.
  • The sexual revolution of the 1960s continued to expand the lifestyle to more social classes and age groups.

Swinging As A Lifestyle Today

Swinging has evolved remarkably since its sensation mid-century heyday. Today, the swingers dating lifestlye–while still largely considered alternative–is more accepted, easier to enter, and has various other advantages as a result of time.

  • The term “wife-swapping” was changed to “swinging,” probably due to increased flexibility regarding sexual orientation.
  • The rise of the Internet in the 1990s provided an enormously valuable resource for those interested in the lifestyle.
  • There still aren’t many formalized studies about swinging; as it remains an underground and often secret activity for many.
  • However, experts estimate that there currently may be as many as 15 million couples in the United States regularly engaging in swinging.

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