Is Swinger interchangeable with Polyamorous?

SwingingVSPolyamory-400x218I was posting for Loud Love and i ran across this question on Facebook in the open polyamory group.

I see the words “poly” and “swinger” being used together as if they are one and the same… or maybe that is just how I am reading it. Do most consider them interchangable?

For me the answer is clearly “no”.  The equivalent question would be “Is Baptist interchangeable with Christian?”.  Polyamory is an overarching term of which there are many flavors (like Christian).  Swingers are one relatively small subset of the entire group.  Poly is about having honest interactions among multiple romantic and/or sexual intimates.  Swinging is when you are honest about having multiple partners, but you are specifically seeking relatively low commitment and usually short term relationships.  In the best case swingers are people who enjoy sex, are responsible about it, and want to have more than one sexual partner.  But these connections generally do not lead to longer-lasting romantic adventures.trio_magnum

The Polyamory Virginia Listserve sends the following text to all of its new members:

Welcome to the Polyamory_Virginia at Yahoo!
Please review this message.

Posts advertising commercial personals sites will be deleted, as will requests for swing partners and one line personals.

Now, with that out of the way, this group is for those single or couples who are into Polyamory or are interested in it and live in Virginia. POLYAMORY IS NOT SWINGING. It’s loosely defined as being able to sustain stable, loving, and long-term relationships with more that one person at a time.
If you’re just looking for a fling, this is not the place for you. Move along.

Though i have no hard numbers, my guess is that the number of people who are involved in more committed polyamorous relationships far exceeds the number of swingers in the world.  But then i found this graphic:

This is a world which includes dishonest swingers

Of course there are swingers who are not being honest with each other and the above diagram shows this.  What is the larger world of non-monogamy in this Venn diagram?  Well, it could be people who are not honestly practicing multiple romantic relationships OR more likely this author uses a different definition of polyamory than i do.  They might use a simpler polyamory definition like “multiple romantic/sexual relationships with the possibility (or desire) of long term committed relationships”.

And i personally object to this diagram, because it has non-monogamy surrounded by a sea of monogamy, which might be demographically true, but we certainly dont need to be surrounded ontologically.

For the opposite perspective, check out this fascinating article from Loving More magazine.  And  check out these stories of flings, affairs, three-ways etc. in the context of monogamish [sic!] relationships.

Thanks to Sarah Taub from Network for a New Culture for pointing out this much better Venn diagram.

nonmonogamy

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About paxus

a funologist, memeticist and revolutionary. Can be found on Wikipedia and in locations of imminent calamity. buckle up, there is going to be some rough sledding.

4 responses to “Is Swinger interchangeable with Polyamorous?”

  1. Ed Zavada says :

    The diagram is fine as far as the relationship between swinging an polyamory, but problematic in all other respects.

    As a Vin diagram, this expresses the idea that Polyamory is a subset of Monogamy, which is certainly incorrect. The box should be “sexual relationships”, and would have Monogamy as a circle that doesn’t intersect non-monogamy.

    And I would tend to put “affairs/cheating” in a separate circle inside non-monogamy, which means that there are probably a lot fewer true monogamists than many people would like to believe.

  2. paxusxus says :

    Dearest Ed:

    You are completely right. There was a suprising shortage of Venn diagrams for poly and monogamy but:

    1) Non-monogamy is not a subset of monogamy and should have a non-overlapping circle
    2) There should be a cheating circle which overlaps both with the monogamy and non-monogamy circles. My contention is if you are cheating, they you are not really poly.
    3) Some internet surveys show over half of the people who are monogamous have cheated, so yes, pure monogamy might be the minority relationship model

    THanks for your precise and correcting comments.

    Paxus at Twin Oaks
    29 Manifesting Loud Love 2013

  3. Sarah Taub says :

    Hi Paxus, I was surprised to see you say that swingers are a relatively small subset of polyamory. That may match your internal categorization scheme as described in your post, but there are far more self-identified swingers in the US than polyfolk. Like, a hundred times more. (Check out the size of swing conventions.) And most of them have never heard of polyamory, much less identify with the concept.
    Huge amounts of digital “ink” have been spilled on the “poly vs. swinging” question – personally I think Pepper Mint’s essay “Defining Polyamory: Inclusion and Exclusion” has an excellent analysis: http://freaksexual.wordpress.com/2008/06/10/defining-polyamory-inclusion-and-exclusion/
    And if you’re looking for Venn diagrams, it’s hard to beat Franklin Veaux’s Map of Nonmonogamy: http://tacit.livejournal.com/333842.html
    love, Sarah

    • paxus says :

      Dearest Sarah:

      You are right, i have not actually done the demographic analysis to claim swinging is a small subset, it could (for all i know) be the biggest part of polyamory, it is just invisible in my circles.

      The improved Venn diagram is much better, i am adding it to the post.

      Paxus at Acorn

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