Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 4, Issue 2, pp 143-159

First online:

Mate swapping: Perceptions, value orientations, and participation in a Midwestern community

  • Graham B. SpanierAffiliated withDivision of Individual and Family Studies, Pennsylvania State University
  • , Charles L. ColeAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology, Denison University

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This article attempts to illuminate the understanding of swinging, or mate swapping, an increasingly common form of extramarital sexual activity. A theoretical formulation argues that swinging is a form of extramarital sexual activity which serves to define as good and acceptable a behavior that in other forms and in the past has been considered deviant or immoral. A stratified area probability sample of 579 married adults was drawn from a Midwestern community of 40,000. Areas investigated included community knowledge and perception of swinging, values of respondents with regard to participation in and acceptance of swinging, and the incidence of swinging in the community. Most respondents disapproved of mate swapping as well as other forms of extramarital sex. Over half of the respondents knew about mate swapping, although less than 7% of the sample would consider participating. Swinging was found to exist in the community, but less than 2% of the respondents had ever participated. The data analysis is descriptive and exploratory, focusing on social correlates and characteristics.

Key words

swinging extramarital mate swapping marriage intercourse