Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Economics of Swingers

Yes, those kinds of swingers.

Here is what I recently learned from a sociologist friend of mine who happened to be invited to join a group of swingers. Her curiosity as a social scientist led her to ask a bunch of questions, which she was able to pass on to me.
  • Swingers tend to have at least one person per couple with a college degree.
  • The couples involved tend to have stronger marriages, but it is believed that those who do not have strong foundations quickly divorce after starting the swinging.
  • The typical rule is that it must be couples, no singles allowed.
  • To join a group, you must first present a negative STD test, and agree to be routinely tested.
  • Many have restrictions on outside sex, so in a sense, you are not permitted to "cheat on the group."
  • Usually people find groups these days over the internet, but you need to participate in messaging on the internet for a long period of time before anyone will approach you or respond to you for meeting.
  • Even after they agree to meet with you, there are several "dates" where they meet the new potential couple and get to know them.
  • Groups intentionally try to match up with each other with the purpose of having low variance and similar mean in appearance.
  • Groups also sort themselves according to their preferences for activity types.
  • Since swinging in "public" places (like bars) is illegal in many states, there is a large underground establishment of bars that are popular and "normal" but have secret swing rooms. Oftentimes, the bar owners of these establishments are swingers themselves.
  • It is easier to be exiled from the swinging culture than it is to be accepted into it.
Obviously, there is an enormous amount of diversity in these groups, so nothing above is a law. Some groups are more accepting of new members, including singles, and are less or more concerned with safety. It is also not a scientific study, but what my friend who has a doctorate in social sciences is able to ascertain from the groups that have invited her.

It is interesting to see the provision of club goods play out in this underground world. Trust and reputation play an enormous role, not so much out of legal concerns but because of health concerns. The high entry barriers are used to dissuade those who would only be somewhat interested in maintaining a lasting relationship with the group, and while the monitoring is not particularly frequent it is clear (negative STD tests).

I am curious about the punishment for cheating on the group. If you have a spouse that has difficulty resisting temptation, it seems that swinging would be a good option for you. 1) You could satisfy their temptation in a controlled environment; 2) You would have access to a network of reliable monitors.

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