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Discovery Health's Secret Sex Lives: Swingers is the show for people who wish Wife Swap featured actual wife-swapping. The four-part reality show premieres Saturday and profiles a handful of Atlanta-based male-female couples who indulge in "the lifestyle," which is shorthand for the practice of sharing sex partners with likeminded couples.
This show is the lusty counterpart to Showtime's lovey Polyamory: Married and Dating. People on both series spout their scene-specific jargon (check the clip above for definitions of "soft swap," "full swap," and "unicorns") while sharing their lives in a tangle of courage and exhibitionism. In one scene, we see Dana and her terrifically named fiancé Loveless gushing about all kinds of poles and swings they could install in a house they're interested in buying. The real estate agent showing them around sighs, "OK, so I see you guys are into all kinds of toys!" She looks like she wants to crawl out of her skin.
That agent is a stand-in for the general public. The subjects of Swingers have so much to explain and unpack and scandalize with. There is much variation within the documented phenomenon that Swingers never feels gratuitous, no matter how explicit its subject matter turns. As with polyamory, the equally racy and complicated nature of swinging makes the reality TV medium perfectly suited for this subject.
Reality TV is a catalog of the frivolous things people do to conjure drama, but swinging strikes me as among the most rewarding of these things — at least you get a side of sex to go with your grief. Rebecca was raised Southern Baptist and openly wrestles with her swinging guilt (a discussion on her lifestyle with a pastor at the end of the premiere predictably does nothing to alleviate this). However, she says that swinging makes her feel "sexy, desirable, naughty." We see her and her fiance Chris making out with a couple in public after dining with them. Later in the episode, Rebecca informs us that they will not be swinging on their wedding night, and Chris says he's OK with this as long as they leave open the possibility during their honeymoon. "OK, I just changed my mind, we’re not swinging on the honeymoon," says Rebecca.
Women run this show. On Swingers, they are the ones who do the declining while the men live in a default mode of approval. The extremely attractive Jaymee has just given birth and her insecurity with her body means she isn't up for swinging when we meet her. That doesn't stop her husband Everett from trying. He meets a hot girl he wants to fuck in law school, tells Jaymee about it, she says she isn't yet ready, and so he asks her a few days later. "You just brought this up a couple of days ago," says Jaymee. "Yeah, it’s been a couple of days. You’ve had time to think about it," says Everett's dick, I mean Everett.
People regularly say hilarious things on this show. During a mixer, Chris (Rebecca's fiance) asks Jaymee what her favorite sexual position is. "Ones with hot guys," she says, shading him. Part of what makes this show so fascinating is that it presents social situations in which declining sex is not as easy as, "I'm married," since that is no boundary to these people. Watching the more selective members of the cast, like Jaymee, wriggle out of propositions while not killing the party vibe is delightfully cringey.
Jaymee seems generally defensive. "The biggest misconception about the swinger lifestyle is that we’re hooking up with people day and night, or that I used to be a stripper or something," she explains. In contrast, most of her castmates take advantage of the relaxation (or the illusion of such) that the swinging lifestyle fosters. Bryan tells Jaymee's husband Everett, "Your wife’s lookin’ smoking hot tonight. Nice ass!" In an interview, Bryan elaborates, "It’s great to have that freedom to say to another man, ‘Hey, your wife’s got a hot ass,’ or ‘She’s got a really nice chest,’ or whatever you might say, ‘cause in regular life, that might get a fist in your face." A man has found his outlet, and with Secret Sex Lives: Swingers, so has his way of life.