Ashley Lister is a prolific author of erotic fiction. Writing under a variety of pseudonyms, he produces more books in a year than I do in a decade. His short stories have appeared in dozens of acclaimed anthologies, and his full-length novels are renowned for their lively, entertaining treatment of various fetishes.
It turns out that Mr. Lister is an accomplished master of non-fiction as well. His first book on the U.K swinging scene, Swingers: True Confessions from Today’s Swinging Scene,published in 2007, explored the desires and practices of swingers using personal interviews and integrative commentary. The book received highly positive reviews and a great deal of media attention, at least in the U.K.
Swingers: Female Confidential is in some sense a sequel to the earlier volume. It uses the same format: lengthy extracts from first person interviews with swingers, interspersed with interpretation and observations by the author. This volume focuses on the experiences of women who swing. As the author explains in the introduction, this focus derives from the questions he received on the first book. It appears that non-swingers find it difficult to believe that women would actively seek out and enjoy the culture of swinging. A common assumption is that women are pressured into swinging by their partners, and that they participate reluctantly. One of Mr. Lister’s objectives is to debunk this myth, and he does so quite effectively.
Mr. Lister lets us hear the varied voices of the women whom he interviewed: the women who like to be watched; the ones who crave sexual interaction with other women; the ones who seek the extremes of “greedy girl nights”, where they might take a dozen men in one evenings. These women range in age from their twenties to their sixties. Their socioeconomic backgrounds, education, and marital history vary widely. But they all have something in common: they enjoy sex. Furthermore, they are comfortable asking for what they want, as well as setting boundaries.
At the same time, one of the fascinating aspects of the book is how different Mr. Lister’s informants are in their desires. Some women enjoy “same-room swaps”, where they can watch, and even participate, as their partners get involve with another women. Others prefer to swap and then retreat to separate rooms, so as not to be distracted from the experience of a novel lover. Some women want to mix sex and friendship, and develop close relationships with the couples with whom they swing. Others work hard to keep their swinging and their daily life as separate as possible.
I could not help but be impressed by the level of honesty and disclosure these women are willing to offer. Clearly, they trust the author with their “dirty secrets”. I wonder how many of them had read his previous book. I must say that he treats their confessions with discretion and respect. One gets the notion that Mr. Lister admires these women for having the courage to act on their desires. The reader comes to feel the same way.
Is Swingers: Female Confidential a sexy book? Yes, in the same way that gossiping about sex with your close friends can be sexy. The overall topic induces a buzz. The scenarios described are not as graphic as what you’d find in one of Mr. Lister’s novels, but hey—it’s fun to think about this sort of thing.
I will admit that I’ve done a bit of swinging myself (though not in the U.K.). All in all, it didn’t provide what my husband and I were seeking, which was a long term intimate relationship with another couple, but it had its good points. One of the things that I enjoy most is the sexually charged atmosphere at a party or club. Things that are forbidden elsewhere are permitted, even encouraged. You can be as outrageous as you’ve always dreamed. You can touch, and be touched, and still feel safe. You can ogle the other guests and know that they won’t be offended. You can let yourself be ogled in return, basking in the knowledge that others think you’re attractive. The air is electric; the night is filled with possibilities; even if nothing much happens, you still end up jazzed and aroused.
Reading Swingers: Female Confidential feels rather similar.
© 2008 Lisabet Sarai. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.