Kink vs. Swinger: Terms, rules & how to fit in

Kink scene and swing scene; two overlapping yet very different worlds. Kinksters and swingers; what do they have in common? Do swingers like kink? Do kinksters swing? Is it an easy cross over from one to the other, and what should you expect to be different?

kinkymrsv in corset and cuffs

What is the swinger scene and what is the kink scene?

Swing scene: The swing scene is a collective term for people who engage in casual non-monogamy Ideally ethical non-monogamy, but that’s not always the case. Swinging can include hotwifing (both cuckold or stag & vixen style), unicorn hunting (couples who seek a single woman to play with together), full and soft swap swinger couples, single people, group play, orgies, exhibitionistic play, sex-positive partygoers and more. It’s usually separated from polyamory by the lack of expectation of ongoing relationships or cross-over into ‘vanilla’ life.

The kink scene: is a collective term for fetishists, practitioners of BDSM and other smaller niches. It may or may not cross over into sexual play. It includes rubber and leather enthusiasts, dominants, submissives, switches, professionals and amateurs, tops, bottoms and people who are into specific activities, such as Shibari rope, bondage, medical play, animal play or age play. The interests are incredibly diverse, but encompass anything that is not about standard vanilla sex.

kinkymrsv in boots fit for the kink scene

What are people on the swinger scene vs. the kink scene like?

I’ve always joked (sort of) that the swingers are like the Prom Queen and the Homecoming King, whereas the kinksters are like the goths smoking behind the bike sheds. There are always exceptions, but in general both scenes are a bit of a sandbox for people to explore social dynamics that they can’t in the everyday world. There is certainly empire building in both, queen bees, territorial behaviour and a set of social rules to learn.

woman in white long sleeve shirt holding clear drinking glass - seems to have her sexual mojo

Swinging:

This often seems an easy entry to newbies looking to explore. Swinging has picked up mainstream popularity in recent years, with some rebranding of the notion as ‘elite’ by making the guest lists quite exclusive. That’s exclusive, meaning the opposite of inclusive. Not everywhere is like this though, and good events are based more on behaviour than looks. There are many people who attend only occasionally, with set goals mind, and then disappear off to their regular lives. For this reason, there is quite a lot of behaviour observed that might be considered self-serving, narcissistic or even sociopathic, especially by those who come to feel like this is their ‘place’ in the world and become long-term lifestylers.

Don’t get me wrong- I love the swing scene. It’s a fascinating place, which can be luxurious and freeing, but can also be a hotbed for drama, especially when people have unrealistic expectations or come unprepared for it. Cracks in your relationship? Insecurities? A need to be validated on a level that’s more than sexual? Yikes – look out. Being a swinger is not for everybody, and not at every point in their lives. Come in with the right attitude and you’ll have a great time.

My own pearl necklace and corset for the event
What to learn as a swinger

Swingers will usually identify themselves by their sexual preferences (bi woman, straight male, etc.) and how they like to play (MFF, soft swap only, group), possibly with their partner dynamics (single, married, FWB) and there are a limited number of swinger terms to learn, usually relating to activities or pair dynamics.

The assumption that people can just attend an event without learning or preparing, or that paying more money to ensure better success or more attractive play partners, is an utter fallacy. Many people are disappointed, having watched a little porn, and imagine that they can just walk into an event where nubile young nymphomaniacs will be throwing themselves onto them. People are people everywhere, and you will still need to show up looking the part, conduct yourself with confidence and charm, and flirt with skill to secure yourself play partners. It’s better to think of it as a cocktail party where you can progress things without leaving the venue, than some sort of sexual free-for-all. I wrote you a nice little book on how to get started, too.

photo of women kissing

Kink:

The kink scene can seem a little more daunting to newcomers, with more rules, terminologies and behaviours to learn, in order not to be called out and expelled (and my goodness, the kinksters can be fierce gatekeepers of their community!) Once you learn more, however, the reasons for this become clear. Be prepared to do some reading and attend some workshops to learn skills before you show up at a full kink event with a whip and expect people just to line up. All is possible, if all is consensual. That means informed, continuous and specific consent.

Kinkymrsv in a collar

The kink scene is a strange mix. Most of it is an idealistic supportive community, with dreams of an inclusive utopia. Peppered around, there are predators, abusers and people who haven’t done the learning to realise they are dangerous- physically, mentally or emotionally. Consider the skills of kink more akin to learning a martial art- practice, perseverance and the humility to learn are vital. Experienced kinksters will rapidly out a fraud or potential abuser, so it’s best to go in admitting you are new, say your interests and have an open mind to learn. Oftentimes, a more experienced kinkster will take someone new under their wing, and formalise this by taking the title of ‘Protector’ or similar.

What to learn for kink

People will identify themselves in a variety of ways. There are not only the areas of interest and relationship dynamics (service top, shibari rigger, daddy to xyx, for example) but a wide variety of sexual identities (pronouns; they/them, asexual/demisexual/aromantic, etc.) You’ll meet a really wide variety of people, because the kink world aims to be a safe space for people to express their true selves.

In order to get into the kink scene, it’s a great idea to attend some munches (purely social events with no play, usually at a pub) to meet likeminded people, learn about what’s going on and make friends. It’s easier to make lasting friendships in the kink scene than the swing scene, though exceptions do exist. Attend the workshops, read the books, and learn the terminology. People will accept you for being new and keen to learn, but dislike fakes, frauds and tourists. Even if you want to be a dominant, define yourself as starting your journey to becoming a dominant. Odds are, it won’t involve what you imagined to start with. Make yourself a social media account for your journey and follow respected local people. You’ll find workshops listed on Instagram or Facebook once you join the right groups, and there are always socials listed as events on Fetlife. The London Alternative Market (LAM) is also a great monthly place to shop, meet people socially and attend workshops on all sorts of kink niches.

Terms to learn for swinging and kink

Rather than list everything here, there are some online glossaries that should help you get started. From your SSC ACE rope bunny to your MMF VWE bull, here’s what to wrap your head around:

Gender and sexual identity terms

BDSM terms

Swinger terms

Don’t worry, you don’t have to remember them all. They are easy enough to look up on Google, or in person, people will often delightedly explain their interests to you if you politely ask what it means. One crucial exception to this: Don’t start asking them why, or make them clarify their identity or interests to you. That’s personal, not your business, and usually they are tired of being asked. Imagine being asked to explain over and over every week for years, why you came to be hetero, or how you knew you were cisgender, and are you sure? Was there a traumatic background for that? Perhaps you just hadn’t met the right gay trans person yet to change your mind? You get the idea. Appreciate everyone as they are, with what they wish to present you with. Your styles and identities don’t have to be aligned for acceptance and friendship.

Ready to get started as a swinger or in kink?

When you decide to explore, whether as a swinger or in the world of kink, take a moment to reflect on what your goals are, what kind of person you see yourself as, and how you feel this is going to fit into your life. Here’s a quick checklist to help you choose. Ultimately, you don’t have to choose, but considering your expectations and desires is helpful. Be prepared for them to change though!

Goal

Friendship group -> kink scene

Inclusive environment -> kink scene

Lots of details to learn over years and gain expertise -> kink scene

Something you can drop in and out of -> swinger scene

Something new to explore with a secure partner -> either

Something new to explore with an insecure partner -> neither!

To feel sexually free and admired -> swinger scene

To explore different aspects of your identity -> kink scene

Something low cost ->swinger scene (though really depends!)

Something to make a compelling hobby -> kink scene

Meet a genuine partner -> kink scene

Improve your flirting and seduction skills -> swinger scene

There are always exceptions, and it’s possible to make wonderful long term friends on the swing scene. I even know 2 couples who got together long-term there! But only two. Of the many thousands of people I’ve met. Understanding your own personal goals and expectations will help you to avoid disappointment.

With either scene, there is always a lot to learn to really do well and get the most out of it, and I can’t cover everything here. My ideal events, for me personally, are swinger-friendly events that are run to kink rules. They feel the safest. A really good, well-run (and that doesn’t mean the biggest) kink event is one of the safest places anyone can go. And by that, I include regular nightclubs, your office building, and walking down the street. The ‘vanilla’ world still has a lot to learn about consent, and making kink ethos mainstream rather than demonised is one of the best ways that the neanderthals (who imagine a woman without a man is a collection of sexual objects to be plundered) could be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

Whatever choices you make, keep yourself safe, informed, and be honest with yourself and others about what you want and who you are. The place you are at right now.

With special thanks to KinkyMrsV and MrM_thestag for their images

*All images used here are produced with adults, full consent and full safety in place, for the purposes of illustration and entertainment. No persons are harmed in the making of these images

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