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History of swinging

History of swinging from the 50's to now

by Dr. Robert McGinley


Swinging has probably gone on since the dawn of time. Many cultures hold no stigma to the sharing of married pardners, the Inuit tribe of Alaska being an example. But the beginnings of modern swinging is not known. It was first reported by the media as "wife-swapping" in the 1950's practiced in Southern California and within the military. The latter at "key clubs" where husbands reportedly tossed their house keys into a pile in the center of the room where they were drawn at random by the wives. The owner of a selected key was the sexual partner for the evening. It is a colorful but probably fanciful story.

Within a few years, a variety of national and local magazines catering to the needs of swingers appeared. At that time the chief way of meeting other swingers at that time was through personal ads. These publications offered column after column of such ads, many illustrated by nude and revealing photos placed by swinging couples and hopeful singles.

Swinging quietly evolved in many parts of the United States, particularly in the Berkeley - San Francisco and Hollywood - Los Angeles areas, Chicago and perhaps New York City. One of the earliest swing clubs, wasThe Group, later called the In Crowd, in Orange County, California. At first, swing clubs were informal gatherings at members' homes or at the homes of leaders of the clubs. Most clubs were informal in nature and membership was generally through another member by referral. Certain cocktail lounges and bars began catering to a growing clientele: Topley II in Los Angeles and the Swing in nearby Encino, California gained national publicity and notoriety. The Sexual Freedom League in Berkeley, California in the 1960's may have been the first to be open and public about swing parties. The SFL regularly held swing parties for members along with other social and political activities.

Clubs, in tandom with cocktail lounges, then began in New York and a few other cities. The lounges were meeting places for members of the clubs. Actual swinging (arranged privately among members) was reserved for private homes or rented motel rooms. In other parts of the country, principally the South, Midwest and Pacific Northwest, Socials and Circles developed. The activities of this style of swing club were and still are generally dances. Swinging was a private matter arranged among the member couples attending the dances and was engaged in elsewhere.

Swinging in California evolved along different lines. By the spring of 1972 there were eighteen party houses and social swing clubs in Southern California, principally Hollywood, Los Angeles and Orange County. Some had been in operation for several years. All offered what later became what later became known as "on-premise" parties: swinging took place at the party sponsored by the club. A few of these had straight forward club names; Sexual Freedom Movement, Wide World Social Swing Club, Caberet; but others were more exotic; Ecstatics, House of Love and Love of Blue Light.

Plato's Retreat in New York City, and the publicity it garnered, was the catalyst for "on-premise" swinging on the East Coast. Swinging in the east was primarily "off-premise" until Plato's, hence the new terms. Though swinging at most California swing clubs had always been on-premise, the term was not used prior to the advent of Plato's.

Though the swing clubs and magazines helped swinging to grow, the real backbone of swinging has always been the individual men and women who adopted swinging as part of their lifestyle. These people live in every part of the country. No one knows their total number but it is substantial and growing. A published report by two well-known sociologists predicted that eventually 15% to 25% of all American married couples would adopt swinging as part of their livestyle during some period of their marriage.

Today, organized swinging can be found in most parts of the United States, populous areas of Canada, parts of England, France, Germany and Japan. In addition, there are a great number who swing privately with friends and others met through personal ads in swing publications. Many swing clubs offer group discussions and travel in addition to swing parties and socials.

Computers and the Internet are fast become the most important tools for swingers. With its globalwide reach and instant communication it will probably replace the magazines and personal ad papers in the next few years. Soon most all personal ads and swinging information will be available in the World Wide Web.

Swinging has come a long way since the early days of the 1950's. It is probable today that more new people begin swinging yearly than the combined number of the first two decades of modern swinging.

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