I recently read an ordinance designed to shut down a swinger’s club. The preamble of the law stated why swinger clubs should be illegal. Since they can’t legally write “Jesus” in the preamble, the authors made up various things, including std rates increasing.
Fortunately, for those of us who are sex-positive, that’s not true. Research shows that swingers do not have higher rates of STDs than people in the general population. I’m going to illustrate one of the reasons why with something that recently populated my “vanilla” Facebook account.
A woman I’ve known since high school, who, as far as I know, is monogamous, posted a picture of herself with a very visible cold sore. She captioned this photograph with, “When your babies (her children) love giving you cold sores.”
From her caption, I can tell that she believes cold sores are a symptom of the common cold. Like a cough that comes and goes, but isn’t permanent. That is, of course, dead-wrong, but an excellent example of why “vanilla” people have much higher std rates than consensually non-monogamous (CNM) people despite fewer sexual partners.
She probably transmitted cold sores (HSV-1) to her children as babies, because she doesn’t understand it’s a type of herpes easily passed by kissing. She could have also given this disease to her teenage boyfriends, her husband, and whoever her next lover will be.
Besides an increase in knowledge about STDs, swingers are just better at all things safe-sex than monogamous people.
A 2015 survey by Dr. Justin Lehmiller states what those of us in the “lifestyle” already know, “CNM partners reported more lifetime sexual partners than individuals in monogamous relationships. In addition, compared with monogamous partners, CNM partners were more likely to (i) report using condoms during intercourse with their primary partner; (ii) report using condoms during intercourse with extradyadic partners; and (iii) report having been tested for STIs. Approximately one-quarter of monogamous partners reported sex outside of their primary relationship, most of whom indicated that their primary partner did not know about their infidelity. The percentage of participants reporting previous STI diagnoses did not differ across relationship type.”
To summarize the study, swingers have more sexual partners but the same std rates. Swingers use condoms and obtain std tests much more frequently than monogamous people. Many monogamous people “cheat,” and when they do, they rarely use condoms and have probably never been tested.
Let’s examine this further with two different couples both experiencing extra-marital sex for the first time, and considering which scenario is “safer.”
Two co-workers, each married to other people. They have been innocently flirting for years, but one night on a work conference trip, they give in to temptation. They never expected it to happen, but it did. They had sex. What are the odds either of them would have condoms or have been recently STD tested?
Now compare that to a couple who is considering entering the swinger lifestyle. A couple in that situation has probably discussed it for months, obtained a recent STD test, and planned out their safe sex strategies.
It may be counter-intuitive for those folks outside of the swinger lifestyle to understand, but that doesn’t make it any less accurate. Swingers do not have higher std rates, and certainly aren’t the segment of the society spreading them around.