“People have the right to judge, but that’s them, that’s not God.”
This article originally appeared on VICE Australia.
In many Christian traditions across many cultures, sex outside of marriage is frowned upon, if not strictly off-limits. But being religious doesn’t mean you can’t be a freak in the sheets. Online groups and forums provide many sexually adventurous churchgoers with a virtual community, resources, and support. This is especially the case for those into “the lifestyle”—that is, swinging and wife-swapping.
One couple, who go by Mr. and Mrs. Jones to protect their privacy, are practicing Christians who have been married for 33 years but who sometimes have sex with other couples. As hosts of the podcast We Gotta Thing, they dispense advice on how to reconcile the conflicting ideologies of their religion and their desire for sexual freedom outside marriage.
VICE asked them about the balance between religion and kink, judge-y fellow churchgoers, and telling their kids about their choices.
VICE: Hi guys. First of all, how did you meet?
Mrs. Jones: We worked in two different departments at a bank. I was a bank teller, I was still in college, and my bank was robbed one Saturday. Mr. Jones was one of the people they brought in to figure out how much money was stolen after the police left.
And how did you first learn about swinging and wife-swapping?
Mrs. Jones: We kind of stumbled into it. We had booked a vacation at a resort in Mexico called Desire Resorts, which we found because we were looking for a clothing-optional resort. It was pretty upscale. We just wanted kind of a sexy environment. So we booked it, and as we started doing research on the resort. Then I found a forum about it and they were talking about it being “lifestyle friendly,” and I didn’t know what the word “lifestyle” meant.
Then we started researching and realized swingers were going to be there. We had to decide, do we cancel the vacation, or do we not let it bother us? The resort was very clear about you not having to be a swinger to go there. So we decided that we could handle that and just observe, and it would be good entertainment. Once we got there we just found the most interesting, non-pushy people. Nobody pushed themselves on us and they were all really genuine. That was the beginning of our journey.
Did one of you propose the idea of swinging first, or was it a mutual interest?
Mrs. Jones: At first we were like no, no no… but then Mr. Jones especially started doing more research, and then I think he found a podcast—one of the original lifestyle podcasts. He listened and was like, “I want you to listen to this.” At first it was just good entertainment, a lot of “what-ifs.” But then we started having conversations like: “Well, do you find this intriguing?” And that was fun and sexy because it really sparks your imagination.
Do you have any rules or boundaries in place regarding your relationships with other couples or individuals?
Mrs. Jones: Rules are foundational to our relationship, so those just don’t get broken, period. For example, one rule is that we always use condoms. We have a rule where either one of us has veto power. Also, Mr. Jones and I always play in the same room. We don’t date separately.
Boundaries [depend on] where we’re at in the moment; they can kind of get pushed if we want to grow and experience new things. A boundary is something we agree on for that particular event, or that particular date, or whatever it is we’re doing.
Mr. Jones: There are many “play-styles” for swinging and partner-swapping: voyeurism (watching), exhibitionism (being watched), girl-girl, soft-swap (everything but penetrative sex) and full-swap (inclusive of penetrative sex). We’re a full-swap “situational” couple, which means we’re open to any play style, all the way up to and including full-swap, depending on the situation.
That means we might do certain things with one couple, but maybe not with another couple. (Some couples say they are “full swap only” or “soft swap only,” so they wouldn’t be interested in playing with people who have other play-styles.) We go with whatever play-style is most comfortable for all four people, or both couples, in the moment. We derive our enjoyment from the four-way connection that occurs.
Are you “out” as swingers to family and friends?
Mrs. Jones: We were outed in our community, and it was actually a really horrible experience. It happened about a year ago. We were very active in our church, and somebody in our church found out and went to the pastor, and the pastor called us in for a meeting. We were thrown out of our church. People were very judgmental—they wouldn’t listen. I think they were just shocked. Because of that we had to tell our immediate friends and family.
Mr. Jones: When we were first outed, we had a choice to make: we could either pull our website down and pretend like it didn’t happen and go back to our regular lives, or we could embrace it and say, “This is who we are now.” The lifestyle was so important to us, and the friends we had made were such real friendships, that we decided to stay in it.
Because we decided to stay in, we had to tell some close family and close friends. But they’ve been really accepting and understanding. We also told our daughter, and it went surprisingly well. She sees how strong our relationship is, and she’s very supportive of how we live our lives.
How do you reconcile your faith and sexual interests?
Mrs. Jones: As individuals you have to make peace with the decisions you make in your life. I think we’ve both reconciled our faith with the lifestyle. One thing that we’ve learned after going through what we went through with our church, is that there’s a definite difference between religion and faith. Religion is the human church, and it’s run by humans, and all humans are imperfect. People have the right to judge, but that’s them, that’s not God.
Mr. Jones: Everyone that listens to [our podcast] knows that we’re Christian, and we’ve had about eight or ten pastors and clergy actually reach out to us who are also in the lifestyle, supporting us from the faith side. One of them was helping us put together an informational course on Christianity and how it fits with swinging. We want to give a voice to those who feel like they can’t come out, to share information for others who are struggling to reconcile their Christian faith with their interest in swinging. We want them to know there are actually professionals, counselors, and clergy interested in the same thing.
Do either of you ever experience jealousy?
Mr. Jones: We’d been married 29 years when we first got into this, and after we had our first experience with a couple, I started feeling strange. I’m really not a jealous person, so I wasn’t sure what I was dealing with. The other man lived halfway across the country, he was happily married, there was no logical reason for me to be jealous.
I said, “I have some sort of an insecurity. Let me try to figure out what’s bothering me, and let’s work through it together as a couple.” It took a few months, but I realized those insecurities were probably reflective of a [past situation] from high school, with a different girl. So we worked through it.
Swinging and couple-swapping together means my wife has sex with other married men on occasion, but she always chooses to come home with me, so jealousy doesn’t even come to mind anymore. There’s no reason, imaginative or real, that would cause me to be jealous.
Has swinging strengthened or improved your relationship at all?
Mrs. Jones: I don’t think swinging has directly improved our relationship. What has improved is our ability to communicate with one another. If you have a good marriage and you’re doing this for the right reasons, swinging is a team sport. You have to really be on the same page. Because we have to talk about things, and because you have to self-reflect as an individual so much and then share that with your partner. That deepens your relationship.
Are there challenges involved with being a couple who swings?
Mrs. Jones: You don’t want playing with other people to become the focus of your relationship. Just keep it real. As far as interacting with other people [goes], I think the biggest challenge is getting to know people first and making sure theyhave a strong relationship. Because we don’t want any drama, and we don’t want to do anything to hurt anyone else’s relationship. Just basically vetting people. So then, when you get to the playtime, it’s just relaxing and fun.
Has swinging strengthened your faith?
Mr. Jones: We have a faith that’s built on a relationship with Jesus, not a bunch of rules. I like to look at it like this: when you grow up in the church, someone else is constructing your faith. Then real life occurs, and something doesn’t make sense, and you have to give yourself permission to deconstruct your faith. [We’ve] reconstructed our faith [based] on what we believe are the fundamental aspects of Christianity, not how some governing body, or church, or some book, told us to behave.