Is Cuckolding the New Swinging?
December 14, 2016 by Justin Lehmiller
A few months ago, I blogged about a new study showing that Americans’ interest in consensual non-monogamy (CNM) is on the rise. In this study, social psychologist Amy Moors analyzed Google search trends in the United States between 2006 and 2015 and found that searches for terms related to polyamory and open relationships increased across the decade. At the same time, though, searches for another form of CNM, swinging, decreased. Since then, I’ve been pondering what the latter means. Why aren’t people searching for swinging as much as they used to? I can’t say for sure, but here’s what I suspect: some of the interest in swinging has been replaced with interest in cuckolding.
I have some evidence to support this idea, but before we get into that, let’s first talk about what swinging and cuckolding are and how they’re similar/different. First, swinging often involves two couples swapping partners, which allows both members of both couples to have sex with someone new. Swinging may also involve going to clubs or parties where multiple couples come together for the purpose of temporarily exchanging sex partners. Thus, in swinger relationships, both partners usually have the ability to have sex with others.
By contrast, cuckolding scenarios are quite different because they typically involve one person watching or listening while their partner has sex with someone new. So, in cuckolding, the watcher/listener usually isn’t having sex with anyone else, but their partner is.
Despite these differences, at a fundamental level, both swinging and cuckolding are similar in that they’re both about partner sharing. In addition, it’s worth pointing out that the clear voyeuristic and exhibitionistic elements present in cuckolding scenarios are often present in swinging, too (e.g., when couples swing, it’s not uncommon for partners to have sex with other people while in the same room). Given this overlap, it’s easy to see how being interested in one of these practices could potentially lead to interest in the other.
With that said, is there any evidence that declining interest in swinging has coincided with increasing interest in cuckolding? I conducted my own analysis of Google search trends over the last 10 years (January 2007 – December 2016), which you can see in the graph below. The results reveal that searches related to swinging (the blue line) have dramatically decreased, while searches related to cuckolding (the red line) are on the rise.
What accounts for this reversal? Well, the most popular searches people made for both of these terms were related to porn (“pornhub swingers,” “xhamster cuckold,” etc.). So, one possibility is that what we’re seeing here is just one porn genre getting replaced with another. Maybe people who were avid watchers of swingers porn started watching cuckold porn and liked what they saw. Again, this would make sense because there are a lot of common elements in both types of porn; however, cuckolding adds an element of novelty, especially given that there are often a lot of BDSM themes in cuckolding, but not necessarily in swinging.
There’s also the possibility that the people who were producing swingers porn opted to start producing more cuckold porn instead because it’s a lot cheaper—after all, you only need 3 actors to depict a cuckold scenario instead of a minimum of 4 for a swingers scenario. In other words, maybe they’re just not making as much new porn focusing on swinging as they are on cuckolding, given that the audiences are overlapping and one is a lot cheaper to make than the other.
At least according to Google searches (which largely reflect porn searches), cuckolding has overtaken swinging in popularity. However, whether this is also true in real life, we can’t say based on these data. We need more research to know whether actual trends in the practice of CNM are mirroring the trends we’re seeing online.
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Image Source: 123RF.com/Anastasia Ivlicheva
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Dr. Justin LehmillerFounder & Owner of Sex and Psychology
Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.Read full bio >