We are excited to share the results of the 2020 State of Play Swinger Survey! The data below comes from responses from 1,018 people about their swinging lifestyle preferences & activity.
Before you look at the results, please remember that context is important. There is a phrase “lies, damned lies, and statistics” meaning that any single data point can be taken out of context. When looking at these results, please do not rush to conclusions. We have highlighted some vital considerations at the bottom of the results to help you better understand them, and we will post deeper dives into various data points over the next several weeks.
The age group most represented in the survey is 40-49 year-olds (38.8%). Bracketing that group, people aged 30 to 39 and 50 to 59 each comprised 23.6% of respondents. People under 30 accounted for 7.2% of survey takers, and swingers 60+ were 6.8% of the total. Hard to say if our sampling skewed the distribution of ages or if this is an accurate representation of the lifestyle community. It is often assumed that people in their 20s are more likely singles who are hooking up with singles, people in their 30s are coupling up but a bit more focused on raising a family than swinging, people in their 40s have more free time to explore swinging as their kids are busy doing their own things, people in their 50s start to face more health issues like ED and might no longer feel as confident of their sexy looks and those issues continue into their 60s & 70s.
It was nice to see a wide range of ages, from 18 to 80. We aspire to be swinging at 80 too!
We did reach out to swingers outside of the USA but clearly, we will need to expand those efforts next time.
Some people may think these results confirm their suspicions that the lifestyle is overrun by single men but we suspect something else. Later in the survey, we will see that men more frequently log into swinger sites than women. We have anecdotally heard from many couples that they divide their lifestyle workload & have the man do more of the online housekeeping so if that is true, then it would explain why our online recruitment efforts attracted more men than women. At one point during data collection, the percentage of men was over 75%. We emailed the married men who had completed the survey, reminding them to ask their wives to participate also and that resulted in a surge of women, which we think adds some credibility to the assumption that men act as online gatekeepers.
It was interesting to see significant differences between men & women (19.9% of men selected “bisexual” compared to 58.4% of women) as well as between younger & older swingers (43.3% of swingers under 40 selected “bisexual” compared to 20.7% of swingers who are 50 & up). Based on a number of comments received (and our own observations of the lifestyle through the years), it appears that men and older swingers tend to feel less comfortable exploring options outside of a heteronormative mindset. We expect to see some shifts over time as the broader society moves towards a more inclusive, welcoming stance.
Survey respondents were quite predominantly white or Caucasian. This is not entirely unexpected since most respondents came from the US, where approximately 73% of the total population is white or Caucasian. However, we were still somewhat surprised not to have more representation of POC in the data and will be trying to improve outreach in the future. The survey did uncover some growing diversification. Swingers under 40 were 82% white compared to swingers aged 50 & up who were 91% white.
Not surprising that a sexual lifestyle that revolves around partner swapping would mostly consist of couples. The “other” group includes at least 2.1% of couples that are living together as well throuples, and various polyamory arrangements.
Previous Non-Monogamous Relationships
Less than a quarter of survey takers have been in previous non-monogamous relationships.
Time Spent Thinking about Swinging before the First Experience
Not surprisingly, the survey revealed significant differences between men and women, as well as younger and older swingers when it comes to how much time they spent thinking about swinging before having their first lifestyle experience. Almost half of all respondents (47.5%) spent at least a year thinking before acting, so we think it’s good advice to tell curious rookies to be patient with themselves and their partners. Interestingly, almost 10% of survey takers reported not having their first experience. We wonder if the pandemic is inflating that number with people deciding to make the lifestyle leap just before COVID hit hard. We are curious if men are waiting longer than women perhaps due to them researching it before sharing their interest with their partners but that answer will need another survey.
Who knows about your lifestyle activities?
Discretion is clearly important to most members of the lifestyle community, but we found some interesting differences in responses to this question. Half of our survey takers (50.3%) reported not sharing info about their lifestyle activities with anyone in their vanilla world. For men, that worked out to 54.1%; only 42.9% of women said no one in their vanilla life knows about their swinging. Slightly over half of women (51.6%) and swingers under 40 (54.2%) reported that their close friends are aware of their lifestyle activities. Approximately 4% of all survey takers report that “pretty much everyone” knows about their swinging lifestyle.
Lifestyle Communication Preferences
Despite KIK threatening to abruptly close down in 2019 and then reversing their decision, they are still the most popular lifestyle communication choice. This was consistent for both men and women and across age groups. Common themes mentioned by people that selected “other” was face-to-face communication, Facebook Messenger, email, Twitter, & Reddit.
Preferred Swinging Style
Full swap/same room was the most popular choice of survey respondents at 62.2% overall. More women identified a preference for full swap/separate room than men (12.4% vs 9.8%). Soft swapping in same or separate rooms was the preferred play style identified by just under 19% of survey takers. Many of the people that selected “other” stated they are open to all play styles. Threesomes and parallel play (no swapping) were also identified as favorite styles.
Condom Usage While Swinging (vaginal or anal)
Condom use is not nearly as universal as we would have guessed or recommend. Just under 60% of respondents say they use condoms 100% of the time while swinging. For women, that rate jumps to 65.5%, while only 50.2% of swingers in the 50+ age group report 100% condom use while swinging. This is not shocking given the increased STI incidence in older adults.
Some survey takers shared additional context that is important. Some people that never use condoms explained in their comments that they are in a small closed group of swingers.
Playing with Swingers who Don’t Always Use Condoms
Respondents were nearly equally split on the question of playing with couples known not to be diligent about condom use. Of our respondents, 50.1% said they would play while 49.9% identified a couple not always using condoms as a deal-breaker. Not surprisingly given reported personal use, older swingers were more likely to play in this scenario.
The survey revealed interesting age and gender differences in the frequency of testing for sexually transmitted infections. Younger respondents report getting tested much more often than those over 50. Almost 40% of respondents over 50 report not getting tested regularly while less than 25% of swingers under the age of 40 responded similarly. Every three to six months was the most frequent response (29%) for swingers in the under 40 group. Overall, 30% of respondents report not being tested for STIs on a regular basis.
Men are more likely than women not to be tested regularly (35.3% and 19.9%, respectively). Fully 58% of women report being tested either every three to six months or once a year compared to 45.8% of men. We suspect that women’s annual OB/GYN exams may partly explain this difference as some level of STI screening is built into pelvic exams.
Of particular note and concern, approximately 3% of respondents report never using condoms and not getting tested regularly, which seems to be a dangerous combination.
Other Aspects of the Sexual Lifestyle
Not surprisingly, State of Play revealed swingers to be an adventurous bunch. Slightly over 36% of respondents identified nudism as another aspect of the sexual lifestyle that they have tried, though we did receive several comments pointing out that nudism should not actually be considered an aspect of the sexual lifestyle. BDSM, open relationships, and hotwifing were the next three most popular responses at 28.6%, 27.3%, and 26.6%, respectively. We were somewhat surprised that 12.5% of respondents overall identified polyamory as a previous experience. Age appears to be a factor in this case as 14.4% of swingers in the below 40 group have tried it while less than 8% of swingers 50 & over have.
Struggles Experienced While Swinging
Struggles experienced in the lifestyle also revealed some interesting age and gender differences. Jealousy and self-esteem issues were the biggest struggles identified overall at 41.7% and 36.1%, respectively. Almost half of women (46.6%) reported struggling with self-esteem at some point in their lifestyle journey while only 30.6% of men responded similarly. Interestingly, swingers in the older age group appear to have fewer confidence issues with only 28.5% of respondents in the 50+ group identifying self-esteem as a struggle compared to 42.6% of those under 40. The current data regarding jealousy raises some questions for further exploration for us. Women (49.4%) identified it as an issue far more than men (38.1%), but we do not know if this is because women feel jealousy more often than their male counterparts do or if perhaps women were more likely to include dealing with male partners’ jealousy as one of their own lifestyle struggles. We also wonder if women are more apt to be aware of, and affected by, jealousy from outside their own relationship.
We were somewhat surprised that more men did not report having some ED issues. Erectile dysfunction was identified as a struggle for just over 30% of men. We wonder if perhaps more men struggle with occasional erectile difficulties but do not view this as an ongoing struggle as there are medications available for it.
Most Important Factor for Lifestyle Events
Location, location, location! People in the real estate biz have been saying it for years, and it turns out it’s true for the lifestyle as well. Just over 35% of survey respondents identified location as the most important factor when considering lifestyle events; anticipated crowd or the ability to see RSVPs was the second most popular response at just under 29%. It appears that travel considerations are also important with 22.2% of responses identifying proximity to home as the top factor. Responses did not reveal much in the way of differences between men and women or between age groups except when considering cost. While price was identified as most important to 7.1% of respondents overall, that percentage increased to 11.5% for swingers under 40 and was just under 5% for those 50 and above.
Yearly Visits to Swinger Clubs
Swinger clubs may not be as central to the lifestyle community as they once were. Slightly more than a third of survey takers (34.2%) say they never go to swinger clubs in a typical year. This is even more common among younger swingers with 49.4% of those younger than 40 saying they do not visit swinger clubs. The most frequent response overall was between 1-4 times per year (38.2%). Just over 12% of respondents report going to clubs more than 10 times each year.
Swinger Dating Site Usage
Men and swingers over 50 tend to log into swinger dating sites more frequently than do women and swingers under 40. More than 37% of men reported daily checks of dating sites compared to just over 25% of women. Daily is the norm for 40.8% of swingers over 50 compared to just 27.1% of those under 40. Most other survey takers (32.4%) report logging on weekly.
According to these survey responses, the swinger sites are the best way to connect with other swingers as 2 out of 3 use these sites at least once a week. Even younger swingers favor swinger sites, with 56% of them logging in at least once a week.
Annual Swinging Sexual Partners
State of Play results suggests that quality is more important than quantity for most survey takers. Forty-four percent of respondents indicated that they have between 1 and 5 sexual partners in a typical year of swinging; this was the dominant answer across sex and age. Between 6 and 15 partners is typical for 31.4% of survey takers, and 8.3% engage in sexual activity with between 16 and 30 partners in a given year of swinging. Only 2% of respondents indicated that more than 30 partners a year is typical for them. Interestingly, 14.4% of those who took the survey have not swapped partners yet, and we think that is at least in part because 2020 was anything but a typical year and less because they are big fans of non-swapping parallel play.
Deciding To Play With Others
Connections matter a lot in the swinging community. The survey showed the most important factor in deciding to play with another couple is a four-way connection. This was true across groups at 53.1% overall but was stronger for women (55.8%) and swingers 50 & over (57.5%). Personality still goes a long way as evidenced by 28.6% of responses indicating this as the most important piece of deciding to play with another couple. Physical appearance ranked first amongst just 10.6% of respondents overall. Swingers under 40 were almost twice as likely to rely on looks when making a decision than those 50+ at 15.3% and 8.8%, respectively. Availability, described play style, or age were the most important factors for just under 8% of survey takers.
Most Important Lifestyle Rule
People were definitely communicating with us when we asked what lifestyle rule is most important to them. To better visualize it, we turned it into a word cloud. We noticed some clear themes appearing. Open & honest communication is important to many. Other common themes included working together as a team that doesn’t separate or compromise, safe sex practices, respect, & consent.
Declined or Stopped Play Over Rule Disagreement
It appears that most swingers are pretty open-minded when it comes to playing with couples who have different rules than they have for their own relationship. Slightly more than a third of respondents (36.2%) reported stopping or declining play over a rule disagreement while the majority (63.8%) did not.
Most Important Rule(s)
With more than half of respondents (54.7%) noting that none of the rules presented as options for the question were important to them, the survey did not reveal a dominant lifestyle rule. However, slightly more than one-third of respondents identified group texting/no one-on-one communication as important to themselves and their partners. Slightly more than 10% report no playing on a first date to be a standing rule in their relationship, while 6.5% say that no kissing is a relationship rule.
Broken Rule or Boundary Without Telling Partner
Relatively few (13.1%) survey takers reported having broken a rule or crossed a boundary without ever telling their partner. Women and those 50& over were slightly more likely than men or younger swingers to hold onto these types of secrets. Considering how often people in the lifestyle use the phrase “ethical non-monogamy” it is interesting to see not everyone practicing it.
Played Without Partner’s Consent/Knowledge
According to our survey, swingers rarely engage in sexual activity with anyone without their partner’s knowledge or consent. Just 11% of respondents reported doing so at some point in their lifestyle journey. We think this underscores the key difference between non-monogamy and cheating. Some swingers cheat, but swinging isn’t cheating. To put this in better context, studies on the general population find about 15%-20% of people are cheating at any given time.
Want to Participate?
We are planning additional surveys to gain better insight into the lifestyle community. If you would like to participate, you can sign-up to be notified via email about future surveys. Send an email to swingershelp @ gmail.com or use our contact form. Also, feel free to reach out with any burning questions you’d like us to include in future surveys.
Additional Context To Consider
Imprecise Language – Some people did not feel like any of the potential answers applied to them. For example, we asked about playing without consent/knowledge and one survey taker responded “yes” but clarified in the comments that she has an arrangement where she is allowed to play with whomever she chooses as long as she informs her partner after the fact. We will work on honing our language in future versions of the survey.
Fuzzy Lines – Some couples act differently depending on small details in situations. Those couples found some questions hard to answer because they don’t cleanly fit into one bucket. For example, a couple shared that they always use condoms except for with one couple with whom they have a fluid bonded. Additionally, some couples continually change their preferences and swinging behavior as they progress on their swinging journey. They are not locked into anything and are constantly evolving as they navigate their lifestyle path.
Biased Sampling – We tried to cast a wide net for participants but it is hard to accurately sample an underground community. We recruited survey participants from email newsletters, podcasts, Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, and swinger dating sites. No matter how thorough the online outreach is, it still can’t reach swinging couples that stay offline. Going door to door (or more likely club to club) during COVID isn’t an option. Some couples never do anything online in order to protect their privacy. Others swing in small closed groups with no need to visit any online swinger resource. So it is more precise to say these results reflect internet-connected swingers and not the entire swinging community.
COVID Impact – We know from our monitoring of swinger dating sites that some areas are seeing a drop of 30% to 50% of activity. Over the year we also have been contacted by many couples who told us that they have taken the year off from swinging. It is hard to say what if any impact these people would have on the results. Perhaps these are the more cautious people in the lifestyle so it is possible they are now underreported since they aren’t online as much and less likely to participate. We are planning follow-up surveys, so it should be interesting to see if anything changes post-COVID.