A confession right upfront here: I had never heard the term “soft swinging” before I just read about it in The Salt Lake Tribune and heard about it on the “Mormon Land” podcast.
Apparently, a group of married Utah couples, some of them Latter-day Saints, were engaging in a good number of hot-and-heavy extracurriculars with other married folks. They had known one another to some level previously but now were getting a whole lot of firsthand and first-arm and first-leg and first-hip and first-lip personal information about one another, while giving the old college try to not consume every last corporal bit of info, as it were.
There was some slippage in that last regard, as, just like your priesthood leader warned you about back in your teenage days, a little nibble of icing can lead to devouring the entire cake. I think mine said something like that to my buddies and me, all of whom really liked — or were at least tempted by — every manner of baked goods. That’s the way I remember it.
Anyway, as you may know, that’s against the rules of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And those rules are not simply guidelines. I was present, however, at an elders quorum meeting in California back in the ‘80s, when the bishop informed all of us that if we went on a business trip, say, and had a weak moment that included a romp in the sack with a woman who happened not to be our legally and lawfully wedded wife, he would not report us to the stake president. He would, he said, just handle it himself, without further punitive steps.
When I told my married friends about what the bishop said, they all started looking for houses to buy within the ward’s boundaries.
All of it reminds me of the day when it became known by way of ESPN that former Jazz player Andrei Kirilenko’s wife, Masha, gave him the gift — what she called an “allowance” — of one free pass every year for a single night with any woman of his choosing.
As I wrote at the time, that’s when thousands of husbands had the following conversation with their wives …
Husband • Say, honey, did you see that Andrei Kirilenko’s wife said she grants him one freebie every year?
Wife • A freebie?
Husband • Yeah, you know, a free one.
Wife • A free … what?
Husband • Uh, well, a once-a-year exception to the rule.
Wife • To what rule?
Husband • The exception to the rule, sweet pea, that says he’s stuck to having relations only with her, and nobody else, no matter what kind of smoking-hot bombshell might eagerly offer up the goods to him on some lonely road trip.
Wife • I got your smoking-hot bombshell right here, bub.
Husband • No, no, really, sugar britches. Let me read this to you. It says right here that Masha said: “What’s desirable is always forbidden. And athletes, particularly men, are susceptible to all the things they are offered.”
Wife • Men are pathetic dogs.
Husband • Wait, there’s more. She said, “It’s the same way raising children. If I tell my child, ‘No pizza,’ what does he want more than anything? Pizza.”
Wife • Hold the anchovies.
Husband • I kind of like pizza, too.
Wife • What are you now, 13?
Husband • Let me read on. She said, “So, this is the arrangement Andrei and I have … if I know about it, it’s not cheating.”
Is it cheating?
Obviously, in the case of swinging, both partners know about it, and both partners participate. Is that cheating?
Picture in your mind talking this possibility over with your wife or husband. How would that go? What would he or she say if you indicated your appetite for more pizza? Deep dish, extra crust, extra toppings, extra cheese, extra meat.
Would the first response be: “What? I’m not enough meat for you?”
Your response might have to be: “No. You’re plenty of meat.”
And it could descend into a death spiral from there.
It appears those soft-swinging couples spoken about above wanted extra helpings of cheese and meat, of toppings of nearly every kind, of increased doses of physical attention. And in their cases, it did go both ways. It went every which way, even as they were trying to keep things “soft.”
By my figuring, there isn’t much wiggle room on this one, according to modern Latter-day Saint doctrine, for extra anything, certainly not extramarital shenanigans.
The church would never, ever, ever allow anything like …
There was that whole polygamy thing back in the day, but that was different. That was multiple women sharing one man. Not sure how it would have gone over had it been, at the woman’s choosing, her being with multiple men.
How did that work, anyway? Did a husband practicing polygamy bed one wife at a time, or were there group sessions? I don’t know. Not sure I want to know. Proponents, if there are any, would explain that the man took financial responsibility for his women. Does that make anyone feel better about the setup?
Didn’t think so.
Either way, that was then. This is now.
Rules sometimes, it seems, are flexible.
This one now is not, not anymore.
Talk about ‘linger longer’
Whether the swinging is hard or soft, whether permission is granted inside the relationship in either or both directions, it’s Verboten, with a capital V, in the Latter-day Saint faith.
My bishop in California told the group he would take care of everything himself, without undue punishment, if it happened once. But just like the church leader of my youth said all those years ago, you take one bite, you’re bound to dive into the whole cake.
Don’t want to get too personal here, but, as the years have gone by, I had — and have — enough cake with my beautiful wife. I can’t speak for all y’all, but sharing intimacy with other couples, beyond just the religious angle, seems as though it could get complicated. Inside the religious angle, it could get more complicated.
Hey, snook’ems, did you notice how Sister and Brother Smithers were looking oh-so-hot today? Let’s invite ‘em over for a “linger longer” tonight, what do you say?
Emotions and devotions, at least at some level, are tied to physicality. What if playing a little touch turned into full-on tackle, and next thing, you really like the tackling, and then you or your loved one is hitting everything in sight, sometimes piling on?
There are behavioral specialists who say swinging can work for some couples. One holistic health and family solutions expert wrote that, as long as rules and boundaries are established by the couple and followed, swinging can lead to a happy, satisfying lifestyle.
“Couples who select this type of lifestyle seek one or many partners for the pure excitement of getting from one partner what they don’t receive from their ‘main partner,’ the number one significant other in their life. For instance, one partner might enjoy the way someone else can satisfy them that their long-term partner cannot. … When two people are very secure with themselves and a lot of trust is established, then both feel comfortable allowing the other to have different mates. … Each couple chooses together what their life will look like within their relationship and plan and play accordingly.”
Experts assert that “opening up” relationships can save certain marriages, keeping them from growing stale, taking pressure off partners who feel the sometimes unwelcome pressure to meet every need. One sex therapist, underscores that, as the doctor said it, “Traditional monogamy is not for everyone.”
Perhaps not. But — did I mention? — Latter-day Saint leaders disagree. In my research for this column, I couldn’t find any of them that stretched the boundaries of the more recent covenant path wide enough to make room for swinging.
No extra-meat pizza for the faithful.
So it appears that the expanded lifestyle works for some.
But if you’re inside the faith, or outside it, it can be a dangerous deal, a slippery slope, a move that could destroy trust and ruin relationships. I dunno. I’m not here to judge, only to throw it out there. If you eat too much cake, you might get sick.
That’s written in the scriptures someplace. I just can’t remember where. Maybe the Song of Solomon.
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