The Lifestyle: A Look at the Erotic Rites of Swingers
by Terry Gould
This is without a doubt the most in-depth, insightful book on swinging in America since Thy Neighbor’s Wife. It’s beautifully and passionately written by an award-winning investigative journalist who entered the World of Swing ready to condemn it and wound up understanding, defending and capturing it with unparalleled sensitivity. Peppered with enthralling interviews and wild sex scenes, the book is anchored by Gould’s extensive research and serious discussions of evolutionary psychology, world history, art and contemporary mores. There happens to be an excellent chapter on the history and meaning of my philosophy of Ethical Hedonism, as well as a bit about my seminars, books and shows at Lifestyles Conventions, but I’d love this book even if it didn’t feature me. This is important reading not just for swingers (though everyone who is in “The Lifestyle” or who fantasizes about it must have a copy), but for anyone interested in the complex nature of human sexuality. The Lifestyle is published by Firefly Books in the US, and Random House in Canada.
CAN OPEN EROTICISM between more than two consenting adults be considered natural sexual behaviour? Is it possible to experience sex with other partners while happily ensconced in an emotionally monogamous marriage? Didn’t this type of sexual “swinging” disappear with the 1960s and ’70s? What are millions of middle-class couples getting up to on the weekend? These are the questions that arose as award-winning investigative journalist Terry Gould embarked upon a journey through a thriving subculture known as “the lifestyle.”
Ignored, dismissed or denigrated by the mainstream media, ordinary, married couples in the lifestyle are now getting together to openly express their erotic fantasies. Acting within strict rules of etiquette, everyday people — social workers, physicians, school teachers — participate in everything from sexual costume parties to multipartner sex as a form of social recreation within marriage.
Is swinging merely an invention of sexually permissive modern times? As Gould discovered, the phenomenon has roots that go back thousands of years. From prehistoric fertility rituals to Dionysian festivals, from the nineteenth-century Onieda commune to the twentieth-century social mirror of films such as Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice and The Ice Storm, spouse sharing has always been a part of human sexual practice.
A deeper biological urge seems to motivate this pleasure-seeking practice, one that combines two paradoxical urges: the drive to seek long term partners for raising offspring and the equally powerful drive for sexual and genetic variety. Lifestyle couples have resolved these conflicting urges.
For the rest of us, including our law enforcement agencies, the lifestyle can appear pornographic when strobe-lit by the camera’s flash. But examined in the cool light of the latest research on evolutionary and emotional roots of human sexuality, the practices of lifestylers assume a profound meaning for all. The Lifestyle gives us a controversial and unique understanding of what it means to be part of a fast-growing subculture of consenting, mainstream adults who are changing the rules of sexual behavior for pair-bonded humans. Then again, perhaps they aren’t changing anything at all.
“The Lifestyle is a delight to read – a groundbreaking and honest work of journalism that thoroughly explains why millions of people are part of this little-known subculture called ‘swinging.’ Indeed, Mr. Gould has accomplished something rare: his extensive research into the anthropology and sociobiology of spouse exchange has allowed him to broaden his descriptions of swing parties to include deeply significant explanations for what takes place at them. Few journalists have gained permission to enter that world, and none have explained it in such depth. ‘The Lifestyle’ is an entertaining, on-the-scene narrative, but it is also a serious work which should be read by all who want to understand what this growing phenomenon is all about.”
– Josef P. Skala, m.d., ph.d., frcp(c), Professor Emeritus, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia
“It is clearly the most objective and well-researched work on the subject we have seen.”
– a swinging couple interviewed for EXTRA
The lifestyle has grown so quickly in recent years that, wherever you live, you won’t have trouble finding it. It is not an underground movement or a cult. It is a public, grass-roots, heterosexual orientation among mainstream couples who claim to have overcome the kind of loneliness, jealousy, and shame adulterous marrieds endure.
(from The Lifestyle) )
“I hate when jerks call the lifestyle wife swapping,” Jim averred. “I hate that term and what it implies. By that I mean a woman being forced into something because her husband says, ‘Look honey, let’s go.’ To me that’s abuse. That’s opposite to what the lifestyle is all about.”
(from The Lifestyle)
What are millions of middle-class couples getting up to this weekend? Is it possible to experience sex with other partners while happily ensconced in an emotionally monogamous marriage? Is swinging merely an invention of sexually permissive modern times?
As award-winning journalist Terry Gould discovered, the phenomenon has roots that go back thousands of years and also seems to be motivated by a deeper biological urge: the drive to seek long-term partners and the equally powerful drive for sexual and genetic variety.
Part expose and certainly a debunking of the ‘wife-swapping’ myth, The Lifestyle is a serious examination of a taboo subject, brought forward intelligently, compassionately, without sensationalism or judgment, and backed by extensive research across North America.
It includes numerous interviews with the originators and leaders of the Lifestyle movement. It is also a wide – ranging inquiry into the history and nature of monogamy, sexuality and erotic love.
From Publishers Weekly
If you thought swinging went out with the ’70s, guess again. The “lifestyle” is three million strong in North America, according to Canadian journalist Gould, with crowded conventions, an anti-defamation league and thousands of Web sites. The investigative magazine reporter tells us that he initially approached the topic for his first book with the same suspicion he employs for his usual subject–the shadowy underworld of organized crime. But after spending a few years exploring America’s swinging playgrounds and interviewing scores of “play couples,” he now vigorously defends the lifestyle against the charges of feminists who say it’s demeaning, religious leaders who say it’s immoral and a press that looks down its elitist nose at the suburban phenomenon (although the author claims he has never joined in himself). Drawing examples from anthropology, biology and history, Gould repeatedly claims that lifestylers–from “soft swingers” to “fast lane couples”–are more moral than others because they don’t sneak around on their spouses; they are usually middle-aged, middle-class, tax-paying professionals who are happily married, defend monogamy and more often than not believe in God. Though we get an occasional peek behind the curtain, Gould generally avoids graphic descriptions, giving us a tour of the fantasy rooms of a hard-core swinging playground only when they’re empty. Despite the author’s intent, in the end, the lifestyle, with its toga parties, conga lines and ice-breaking party games, comes off as more goofy than anything. Agents, Perry Goldsmith and Robert Mackwood. (May)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
Almost everything you wanted to know about swinging sex, but were afraid to ask. As a member of the Lifestyle, Gould (How the Blind Make Love, not reviewed) brings swinging out of the closet as he argues that consenting adults should not be denigrated for engaging in private behavior that (he claims) harms no one. Through a history of the Lifestyles Organization and interviews with swingers (mostly married couples), Gould depicts a world refreshing in its sincerity, openness, and normalityin spite of such apparent contradictions as swinging Mormons or Republicans. The view that emerges of the Lifestyle is one of hedonism, but an ethical hedonism in which individual choices are respected and boundaries never crossed without permission. Although Gould describes swinging trips to such hotspots as the New Horizons club (known as the “Disneyland of swing clubs”), we see fairly little sex throughout the book beyond discreet suggestions that some couples do indeed pair off. With this surprisingly chaste approach, Gould fails to give the whole picture to his reader; consequently, some tough questions remain. Why does the Lifestyle encourage bisexuality among women, but not among men? How do swingers explain the Lifestyle to friends, family, and co-workers, and what are the repercussions for such honesty? Gould also undercuts his message with hearsay passed off as history: for example, very little evidence supports his argument that the Lifestyle’s incarnation in contemporary America descends directly from the sexual practices of WWII fighter pilots. Likewise, his defense of swinging sex based on evolutionary theory (“fight sperm wars in females!”) relies more on assertion than proof. Although the “Blind Fondle” contest and other aspects of the Lifestyle might not appeal to everyone, Gould humanizes a marginalized community and demonstrates that sexual expression does not automatically equate with deviance. — Copyright ©2000, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
“It is clearly the most objective and well-researched work on the subject we have seen.” — a swinging couple interviewed for EXTRA
“The Lifestyle is a delight to read – a groundbreaking and honest work of journalism that thoroughly explains why millions of people are part of this little-known subculture called ‘swinging.’ Indeed, Mr. Gould has accomplished something rare: his extensive research into the anthropology and sociobiology of spouse exchange has allowed him to broaden his descriptions of swing parties to include deeply significant explanations for what takes place at them. Few journalists have gained permission to enter that world, and none have explained it in such depth. ‘The Lifestyle’ is an entertaining, on-the-scene narrative, but it is also a serious work which should be read by all who want to understand what this growing phenomenon is all about.” (Josef P. Skala, m.d., ph.d., frcp(c), Professor Emeritus, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia) — Josef P. Skala, m.d., ph.d., frcp, Professor Emeritus, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia
A book that is going to pique some curiosity … It is an intelligent explanation of the movement. — Rob Hardy, The Times of Acadiana
About the Author
Terry Gould is an investigative journalist who has won many National Magazine Awards for his articles and has been nominated twice for the Canadian Association of Journalists Award for Investigative Journalism. He is currently a contributing editor to the national magazine, “Saturday Night.” He lives in Vancouver, and will make numerous appearances in America through 2000.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
The lifestyle has grown so quickly in recent years that, wherever you live, you won’t have trouble finding it. It is not an underground movement or a cult. It is a public, grass-roots, heterosexual orientation among mainstream couples who claim to have overcome the kind of loneliness, jealousy, and shame adulterous marrieds endure. (from “The Lifestyle”)
Item Weight : 15.2 ounces
Paperback : 392 pages
ISBN-10 : 1552094820
ISBN-13 : 978-1552094822
Product Dimensions : 5.25 x 1 x 8 inches
Publisher : Firefly Books; 1st Edition (March 4, 2000)
Language: : English
Best Sellers Rank: #4,503,129 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
#5,656 in Medical Psychology of Sexuality
#6,072 in General Sexual Health
#7,737 in Popular Psychology of Sexuality
Customer Reviews: 4.3 out of 5 stars 28 ratings
Terry Gould is an investigative journalist whose best-selling books and articles on organized crime and social issues have earned over 50 awards and honors from numerous foundations, including the J. W. Dafoe Foundation, Canadian Association of Journalists, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, Crime Writers of Canada and National Magazine Awards.
Tributes to Gould’s crime reporting include being chosen to give the keynote speeches at classified conferences of the Criminal Intelligence Service of Ontario, the Criminal Intelligence Service of Alberta, the Conference of Senior RCMP Officers, the RCMP Officer of The Year Awards Ceremonies and the 2010 Western Canada Conference on Gangs. Gould often teaches law enforcement officials on the science of recruiting and handling informants and intelligence gathering.
Gould’s most recent book is Worth Dying For: Canada’s Mission to Train Police in the World’s Failing States (2014), winner of the $10,000 J. W. Dafoe Book Prize for the best nonfiction book on Canada, Canadians, and/or Canada’s place in the world. Published on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the RCMP’s first international police training mission, Worth Dying For is a brilliantly reported account of a year in the life of our “CivPol” contingents in Afghanistan, Palestine and Haiti. It is also an intimate portrait of the idealism and courage with which our police officers undertake this complicated and dangerous work, brought to us by the only journalist ever granted unfettered access to these missions. Gould captures the remarkable dedication that Canadian police officers bring to international missions most of us know little about. We may be aware of the sacrifices made by Canadian soldiers who died in Afghanistan, but how often do we stop to ask what happens after the troops move out? Once the war is over, how do countries with so much going against them begin to create a better life for their citizens?
Gould has come to believe that the most significant tool in securing justice and stability for people living in states in crisis is a police force resistant to influence and corruption. He brings to light the remarkable Canadian men and women working in three crucial missions, whose determination was equal to anything these treacherous places threw at them. They risked their own physical safety and they also witnessed police officers they had mentored sacrificing their lives so that their fellow citizens could receive justice. Worth Dying For is full of terrible realities, but it is also full of heroes-Canadians, yes, along with men and women raised in places that might have turned them into pawns and victims, or criminals, who strive to create a reliable security net for everyone, no matter the odds or the dangers they face. In covering these missions Gould has created a work that inspires us to action, and to hope.
Gould’s previous book is the critically acclaimed Murder Without Borders: Dying for the Story in the World’s Most Dangerous Places (2009), published in the United States as Marked for Death: Dying for the Story in the World’s Most Dangerous Places. The book has won the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression 2009 Tara Singh Hayer Press Freedom Award, the Crime Writers of Canada Arthur Ellis Award for Best Non-fiction book of 2009, and Spain’s 2010 Jose Maria Portell Press Freedom Award.
It is the first book to recount the inner lives of local journalists assassinated in the five most murderous countries for reporters. During four years of research, Gould visited the victims’ hometowns to interview their colleagues, families, and–in some cases–their suspected killers. In Iraq, the Philippines, Russia, Colombia and Bangladesh he reveals the journalists’ deeply personal motivations for risking certain death in the face of unbridled corruption and violence.
Joel Simon, Executive Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, has described Gould’s book as “a book of love and passion. The portraits of slain journalists who reported from the world’s most dangerous places are unquestionably tragic, but this book is uplifting and even inspiring. Through his meticulous reporting and his compassionate storytelling, Gould performs a small miracle, a literary resurrection, allowing journalists so cruelly killed to tell their own stories completely and honestly.”
Official Site: https://www.terrygould.com/
Item Weight : 1.06 pounds
Paperback : 400 pages
ISBN-10 : 067931007X
Product Dimensions : 5.5 x 0.75 x 8.5 inches
ISBN-13 : 978-0679310075
Publisher : Vintage Canada (November 23, 1999)
Language: : English
Best Sellers Rank: #577,521 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
#1,240 in General Sexual Health
#2,465 in Sex & Sexuality
#2,761 in Interpersonal Relations (Books)
Customer Reviews: 4.3 out of 5 stars 28 ratings
To read more history about ‘The Lifestyle‘:
Kris Johnson –
. . . books on social sexual practices that I have ever read. Particularly interesting is how an attitude of openness and sharing exists within the barricades of strict preferential discrimination. This book satisfied a lot of intellectual curiosity and allowed me to better understand my place in relation to this culture. Judging from the atronomical prices that used copies are fetching this book deserves a reprinting.
Miles E. Allen –
Most accurate of the genre. Back in 1989, on the basis of one evening spent at a swing club and private party in Vancouver, Terry Gould wrote a typically contemptuous article about swingers for V magazine. Titled “A Dangerous State of Affairs,” the gist of the article is that swingers are rather gross and ignorant people intent on screwing themselves to death.
A decade later, many people were surprised to learn that Gould had written an entire book on this lifestyle he had previously found to be such a turn-off. And they were shocked when that book began to be promoted by the swinging industry. Having read the 1989 article, it was with some apprehension that I purchased a copy of The Lifestyle. … I have rarely been more pleasantly surprised!
Not only has the author fully redeemed himself, but he actually admits that his previous approach was wrong and castigates the media for continuing to follow it. For example, Gould points out that a perusal of the mainstream media revealed “celebrities still being praised and promoted for behaving like swingers in the same outlets that were labeling middle-class swingers pathetic and ridiculous for behaving like celebrities.”
On the Down Side
Gould writes at times as if his experiences were more in-depth and representative than they actually were and he tends to quote the opinions of the swingers he meets as if they were citations of universal rules.
As do most investigative-style books on swinging, The Lifestyle presents numerous interviews with participants, a few of whom offer pithy and insightful observations, many of whom are generally uninteresting, and some of whom ramble on and on in grand displays of ignorance. As a result, the book is a longer read than it should be. And finally, several people who played major roles in the development of “the lifestyle” are ignored by Gould.
On the Up Side
Despite the few quibbles raised above, I consider The Lifestyle to be the best reportorial work yet produced on swinging. It is better researched than its predecessors, exceptionally objective, and professionally written and edited.
In addition to interviewing participants, club owners, and various academic experts, Gould delves deeply into the origins of contemporary morals and ethics, examining how they were developed and preserved as ways of maintaining political power. He discusses the belief that goodness consists of that which encourages the retention of semen, while whatever encourages excessive expulsion of same is evil, and says that such beliefs “may have arisen from sincere faith, but it was a faith that fit in nicely with the agenda of priests and kings who are always anxious to keep the lustful masses guilt-ridden.”
Gould then gives us a look at fascinating (and sometimes surprising) new findings, facts, and theories in sexual biology. The old school apparently filtered its observations too much through the sieve of cultural expectations. (Scientists saw what they expected to see.) Contemporary biologists, less hampered by sexist beliefs, are coming to a whole new view of human sexuality — a view that Gould believes allows for greater understanding of, and tolerance for, swingers’ behavior. Whether or not you concur with Gould’s speculations, his tales of female arousal, bonobo love, and sperm wars are sure to entertain and enlighten you.
Not only does Gould take the unusual step of including polyamory in his presentation – reporting on a Loving More conference and providing a brief history of alternative living styles – but he has the insight to say, ” … the poly people are not as far as they believe from the thinking of playcouples – who merely don’t make a big deal about proselytizing the truths they personally perceive.”
In short, this most uncommon book is a must-read for any person who likes to think about or talk about the social, psychological, or cultural implications of swinging.
R. A. Johnson –
Good but wordy. A very useful contribution to our understanding of ourselves and our sexuality. But needed editing: could be 1/3 shorter. Read it, and be surprised.
Micheal J Barnes –
Great intro to Lifestyle. This is a good book for those that are looking to learn the difference between lifestyle and swinger. This book will provide the inside to the lifestyle world that shows one can be a lifestyle person and yet have no intercourse with anyone. It’s not all about sex, but rather meeting people with the same interest as you and a controlled and fun environment.
Phoenix Acres –
Five Stars. An excellent insight into the Lifestyle.
Good but soft erotic. Repatative stories semi-erotic. Not bad but not something I would pass on for a Bridal shower.
Evan L. Cooper –
Very Informative. This book was an enjoyable read. I would highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in the swinger lifestyle. It is well-researched and well-written. It is a piece of excellent journalism, written by an investigative journalist. The author presents his facts without making a lot of judgments. He leaves any opinions up to his readers.
Good overview of the lifestyle. The book gives the history of swinging and provides interviews of various swinging couples. While the book attempts to be an unbiased look at swinging, I couldn’t help thinking it was slightly biased in favor of swinging. If you are interested in the lifestyle the book is worth reading.
Michael Mangold –
Let this message sink in. While well-researched, I enjoyed this book because it brought a new perspective of loving, sex, and living to me. It was good to read about other Christians who know that sex is not evil and that the model for relationships in the Bible is NOT one man/one woman but rather many for all. The word “adultery” has been subverted by the church to control our sexuality. In it’s original context it actually meant having sex with another man’s wife without his permission. Yes, having sex with his wife WITH the husband’s permission is acceptable, as when Abraham pimped out Sara to Pharaoh.
Enjoy this book, let the messages sink in, and think about what it means to your own sexuality.
James Requa –
A serious look at swinging. The subject is, on the surface, swinging – sharing sexual partners. A closer look shows that the subject is the dynamics of close relationships. There is much written about the subject of relationships, so, you may ask why I think swingers have something to say? My answer is that swingers removed the taboos and discarded the ‘already known facts’ before examining the subject.
The book is not, I say, a definitive work. It is more of an investigation. It is far more complete, accurate, unbiased, thoughtful, and provocative than anything else I have seen on the subject. It will be quite valuable to anybody who reads it. I do not mean that whoever reads this book will see that swinging is the way to go – not at all. You don’t have to be a swinger to benefit from what swingers have learned just as you don’t have to be an astronomer to benefit from what astronomers know.
Coming of Age. I am grateful that this underground culture is being brought into the open, and entering mainstream just as the LGBT community has benefited from greater open-mindedness. Thank you, Millennials. I found this book via an interest in Betty Dodson’s experience as a swinger in the 1960s. As a student of the sex education work of Betty Dodson-Carlin Ross my world view has changed immensely, and my sexual pleasures greatly enlivened. So, after following the breadcrumbs to “The Lifestyle” I now want to explore our local club scene. I live in a part of the country where even the Queers are homophobic. So, it pleases me to learn that many, many women in the Lifestyle are bisexual (albeit married and strictly within the context). It means a local club could satisfy my needs.
The favorite chapter for me is Chapter Six, “New Horizons” about the Annex ‘spaceship’ in Washington State. The descriptions of the layout with its fantasy-themed rooms, something-for-everyone feng shui, were deliciously arousing. However, when the author got down to the actual party – and not the tour – he left us hanging. His descriptions had been so graphic my voyeuristic impulses were aroused, and I was anticipating the very next chapter to get us into the actual party.
Now, since I am a total Yaori girl who gets turned on by male to male, one aspect of the Lifestyle that disappoints me is the male-to-male homophobia. “You’re BEARING!” In other words, back off buddy. Hopefully, this too will loosen up in time.
My only boredom with this book was long windy sentences that left me cold. Gould could benefit from studying Betty Dodson’s crisp, earthy, pithy writing style (Orgasms for One, Orgasms for Two, etc). Other than that, Bravo!
mary krupnik –
Five Stars! An interesting read!
Dennis Lester –
AWESOME. Loved this book and have read it a couple of times. It was an eye opener and well written. I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in “The Lifestyle”.
Terri J. Smith –
The other side. Yes, this is a good view of the lifestyle, yet I would like to challenge Terry to see “the other” side. I have seen it, broken marriages, relationships in splinters, scarred hearts. Sure if your data is skewed by only interviewing those who are active in the lifestyle is will sound grande. But, what about interviewing those who have left the lifestyle, or have been damaged by it. There are always two sides. I agree, for those couples who 100% agree on their lifestyle, then no problem. But about those who do not 100% and have to compromise? I have spoken with many women in the lifestyle who said they wished they were like my husband and I. We only touch each other, and exhibit and voyuer only. Not even soft swapping. But, we love being in the sexually charged arean of the lifestyle which you cannot find anywhere else. His book does do a great job of confirming that the lifestyle is not taboo, which it is not. But for those who left and are now broken, Terry up for the challenge?
Para los de habla hispana. Despues de leer este libro y otros, espero que muchas personas puedan hacerlo, es una libro que narra entrevistas, investigaciones serias y documenta un comportamiento sexual, que nos hace mas libres ahora. Ayuda mucho a entender nuestra conducta sexual y las razones, describe algunos eventos, reuniones y convenciones de Lifestyle, donde uno descubre que las personas son tan normales como cualquiera y que la vida sexual se puede disfrutar mas, siendo conciente. Como dice en el libro el Lifestyle no salva matrimonios, los hace mejores. Se pueden imaginar una pareja donde uno u otro goza cuando su conyuge disfruta mas y al regresar a su hogar comparten el mas intenso momento? Mas o menos es la actitud que se descubre en este libro, lo que mas me ha gustado es todo el trabajo de investigacion y documentacion. Describe varias teorias de conducta sexual y hace algunas confrontaciones interesantes, saca a la luz que la mujer esta mas reprimida por toda una historia de imposicion machista que geneticamente. Refiere a los trabajos de varios sociologos, biologos, sexologos y antropologos, en fin de los cientificos que estudia el comportamiento humano. Algunas teorias presentadas son en contra y otras justifican una sexualidad mas abierta, tambien cita aspectos historicos. Es un Libro Analitico, para entender mas y reflexionar, no es novela.
Leeanlo, vale la pena!
Suzy Bauer –
WOW! If you’ve ever fantasized about threesomes, moresomes and swinging, this is a MUST Read Book, I think Terry did a faboulous job and as an Author myself I hope one day I can work with Terry 🙂
john w h juddery –
Hhedonism. This book is an eye opener to an exotic sexy world most of us(the public) cant imagine exist,Terry Gould has been honest and frank about what is a perk of well off couples.
Interessante benché ormai datato. Libro con una discreta narrazione, a volte un po’ ripetitiva , di esperienze avute dall’autore nel mondo “open-minded couples “. A Terry Gould però , bisogna riconoscere il coraggio di aver tratto un argomento non proprio ” mainstream”, in maniera, a mio dire, corretta e senza falsi moralismi.