Quite a bit of time has passed since I last put forth a manifesto, a why I do what I do statement. I thought, on the occasion of Swingset’s fifth birthday and 200th episode, it’d be worth some reflection. I know, I know, it seems sometimes that “meandering reflection” could very well be the definition of “what I do.” It’s rare, though, to get to a milestone like this, with this type of project. So milestone reflection can often seem as unnecessary or premature as celebrating monthaversaries in high school.
To tell an old story, Life on the Swingset: The Podcast, was birthed in 2010, after listening to hundreds of episodes of Sex is Fun and The Savage Lovecast, and thinking That might be fun to do. Then psyching Dylan up to a similar frothy level of “we know what the hell we’re doing in this whole swinging scene, the people of the world should listen to us.”
I tend to jump into projects before I give them too much thought. This is by design. Without this philosophy, I would’ve recognized that (like many abbreviated projects before it) Swingset would be an awful lot of work. Even back then when it was just a podcast and occasional toy review or blog post on the site.
So, damn good thing I couldn’t look down the timestream and see that first year (that we laughingly called a season, for reasons not even known to us anymore) and the work it would entail, for very little reward, a very small following, and almost constant upheaval in terms of Your Sexy Crew. But by the end of Season One we’d cohesed, finding Ginger and Shira along the way, establishing a rhythm and routine along the way. We’d even done the podcast swap tango with Sex is Fun, our podcast sires.
When Season Two began with the one-two punch of having Christopher Ryan and Tristan Taormino as guests on the show, two people we’d deemed “way bigger than us,” things started to change and we found ourselves staring at something we hadn’t really felt in Season One: Momentum. After that, there was ever only one White Whale Guest, but that comes later.
Swingset was about swinging, pretty hard core, too, until Shira B. joined our crew and we started examining our lives through her kaleidoscope. By Season Two we were already acknowledging the shift, the changed feel, the recognition that the idea of “lifestyle” seemed so much bigger than this artificial box labeled “swing.”
It was there that we first caught the glimpse of the larger community that hasn’t completely come together, what we termed SOP, Swinger-Open-Poly, or more recently, the ethical non-monogamy community. We noticed just how close to each other the swingers and polyamory folk were. Both sides still talk a big (obnoxious) talk about “not being like them,” but we know better, don’t we?
In five years, though, I’ve seen a community that has gone through similar curiosity and growth. When, early in my swinging career, I mentioned bicuriosity, I was told to shove that deep down, to never show it, or risk being banished from the community, from the websites. Now, I know bisexual and bicurious men in swinging. It’s still not as common as bisexual women, but no one ever thought it would be. There was tremendous pushback and gnashing of teeth, as we called ourselves progressive swingers, and laid out our tenets within that. But the gnashing was shortlived. The wringing of hands limited to a small number.
I don’t think we changed their minds, far from it. I think they were already what we termed progressive swingers. Already developing long term friendships with their playmates, coming out more and more as possible, building more and more meetups and groups, and recognizing the value of exploration, these “classic swingers” simply realized that we were right when we told them not to be afraid of or offended by the name progressive swingers because by and large, it referred to them as well. We’ve never disparaged those who don’t subscribe to the tenets of progressive swinging, we’ve never thought of ourselves as better, we’ve espoused a number of ideas that we feel make the swinging lifestyle better, and suggested openness to trying new things.
My life is certainly different than it was when Life on the Swingset began. Now divorced (amicably) and exploring every facet of this strange and nebulous thing called sex educator, author, and coach, having had the opportunity to interact with nearly everybody we’ve ever desired. (But. seriously, if anyone knows the route I’d have to go to contact John Cameron Mitchell, please let me know…) If all goes well tomorrow (the timey wimey thing) the aforementioned white whale is currently on our 200th episode. If it didn’t go to plan, he’ll be on an upcoming episode. Not meaning to be coy, just writing this days before, don’t want to jinx it.
But this isn’t all a fifth anniversary victory lap, even if I do think my wonderful podcast crew Dylan, Ginger, and Miko have more than earned a victory lap for their tireless work on this show. Hell, not only have they not gotten a week off in quite a long while, but we actually added a few episodes to make this bit of synchronicity (#ss5yrs200eps) happen as it has. (Don’t tell anyone!) It’s actually meaning to be a why I do what I do manifesto.
“Yeah, Cooper,” you ask, coughing a bit as your voice is hoarse, “Why do you do what you do?” Then you grumble something about being a corporate shill and shuffle off into the night.
I still get “You saved my marriage!” emails. Seriously, with that subject line and everything.
I continue to “do” Swingset because even if it’s just one person here and there, it’s helping. And I know it’s much more than one person, and you do too, so I doubt you’ll let me get by with modesty. The Swingset, for whatever reason, touches people in just that right place. (And then rubs, and then lubes, and rubs some more…)
I’m convinced that the reason we’re still doing this, and still getting the response we are, is because of something we decided very early on: “Be honest, have fun.”
Be honest has definitely gotten some of us into more trouble than others. Sometimes I (especially) run my mouth like nobody’s business on a few key subjects that make readers/listeners sit down and put pen to paper (um, finger to keyboard? Finger to tablet?) to decry my statements as broad generalizations, or just, like, my opinion, man. #NotAllCatholics. (And my response is, always: “I KNOW! Unfortunately the world doesn’t, because the loudest people in your respective organizations are the nutjobs usually.”) I don’t have a solution, I truly don’t. As Billy told us, the fish rots from the head, so you have to cut off the head. But he also acknowledged it wasn’t a perfect metaphor.
But be honest has also given us some of the most vivid glimpses of real life that we’ve ever had on our podcast. From when Shira and I were both going through respective major relationships struggles, to Ginger’s amazing control taking with her mastectomy. To almost every word Miko and Dylan speak: from the heart, real truths. We ain’t just funnin’ ya. We ain’t doin’ it for the moneys. (I assure you, we’re not, ‘cuz there ain’t none.)
I feel like being honest is something that most bloggers and podcasters try at for the very least. They have every intention of honesty. Sure, some do it for the clicks, or the downloads, or the tweets, or the…grinds…is that a thing? But most of us think nothing of ripping our chests open and handing you our heart.
Point two is, I feel, why we still are doing it. Why people still are engaging. Because we’re having fun. You know it. You hear it. Even our most ridiculous shenanigans, podcasting from our hotel room naked at CatalystCon, or on a beach…naked…at Desire. With Malort and Absinthe and red wine fueling our ever more incoherent discussion of…something…we give you a one-two blow, of fun, and truth. Where many bloggers and podcasters find themselves mired in the negatives, “This is why these ways are bad ways to do things.” “This is why you shouldn’t do this.” We strive to enjoy ourselves, even in the toughest discussions, even with the most serious of guests.
Because shouldn’t we all strive for that?
It’s no secret how I feel about life and beyond. We’re all on the train, and somewhere up ahead is the final stop where everybody gets off. (Death. You got that, right?) And while some may argue that makes life meaningless, I argue that it makes life all that more meaningful! We only have the one. We should spend it doing things we like, things that make us happy, things that make other people happy.
We should stop being miserable bastards.
One of the most wonderful things in life is learning something new, especially when you’re learning something new about yourself, or the people you’re closest to. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the amount of self-reflection, personal growth, and learning about oneself, as I do in this amazing ethical non-monogamy community that I am so very lucky to be a part of.
Why do I do what I do? Both the podcast and non-monogamy have their easy answers (sorta-fame for a sorta-narcissist and fucking people) which you know are a little true but not totally true. The other answers, the more nebulous ones, those are the ones with more value. Far more value. And really they’re the same for all these silly things that I do. Podcaster, swinger, polyamorist (I apologize, Shira B.), author, promoter, play party facilitator.
All of these push out my edges. It reeks of philosophy to suggest that I’m clay, so I’ll suggest instead I’m silly putty. “I knew it!” You say, as you rush back in, grab my pink gooeyness and slap me down on a Sunday Funnies comic.
So, it’s a reach, perhaps, but when you’re copying that comic image, all you have to do is push out the boundaries of that little pink blob and you find yourself moving into Foxtrot, or Blondie territory. It’s the joy of discovery as you find the new. (I’m assuming, of course, that you’re copying a panel of Calvin and Hobbies…because why wouldn’t you be?)
I do these things to see if I can.
And when I can I learn about who this guy named Cooper S. Beckett truly is, and what he has to offer the world.
I hope you’ll let me continue to spray my goodness all over your faces for years to come.
PS. Always good to end with a flagrantly single entendre. Huzzah.