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The 'prime directive' in swinging is "no means no". This means that rejection of a sexual advance does not require justification and must always be respected. Respect for one's play partners is often a hallmark of swinging activity, and violation of this directive can result in immediate expulsion. Concordantly, in the US it is often regarded as impolite to touch without asking, whereas in the UK and Europe both touching and gently but firmly removing a touching hand are widely regarded as polite non-verbal communication in the playroom context.

Many swingers who participate in penetrative sex whilst swinging are strict about condom usage, including insisting on changing condoms between partners. However, some members of the swinging community do engage in unprotected sex, in a practice that is commonly known as barebacking. When unsure, it is considered a polite necessity to establish these ground rules before becoming sexually involved.

Some swingers believe that it's possible to spot others in the same way that Gaydar is supposed to work (sometimes referred to as Playdar), while others may rely on more overt signs. Among homosexual communities, a traditional means to identify one another was a single earring in the right ear; however, currently, there is no commonly used method for identifying swingers. Some believe that actions such as a woman being flirtatious while their significant other is present, men who offer their wives to dance or couples entering a bar separately and spending the evening apart are ways to tell if a couple swings. Obviously, these signs, both subtle and overt, are difficult to perceive, and swingers are often averse to identifying themselves in public. The growth of many swinging web sites on the Internet is partly due to this, allowing swingers to communicate and meet without public attention or the risk of offending non-swingers.

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