Bad Girls Bible Interview
Interviewer: Today our guest is Cooper S. Beckett. Cooper is the co-founder of the Life On The Swingset website and host of the Swinging and Polyamory podcast, he's also written two books, A Life That's Monogamous and My Life on the Swingset, and he speaks and teaches on things like pegging, swinging, polyamory, play parties and non-monogamy. Cooper thanks so much for joining us on the show.
Cooper: Oh thanks for having me.
Interviewer: So I'd love to start off with a bit of your background and I'd love if you could tell us how you got involved in swinging, polyamory and non-monogamy.
Cooper: Sure. Well you know like a lot of people I followed the path that I perceived that I was supposed to follow. I met my now ex-wife, I met her in college and we dated for a couple years, we graduated from college, we got married, then the path started to fall apart because we weren't interested in having children which is really that next step there, and we realized as time went on that both of us regretted not having explored more before we got married because that was the end of the life for exploration, apparently you know, and we were both prepared to take it to the …well I guess we had to get divorced because we both wanted to explore more.
And then we discovered this little thing called swinging and didn't realize that it was still a thing that people did, you know when you hear swinging outside the community you think okay that was something that happened in the 70s and the 60s. But the Internet… I mean swinging is, I'm confident, bigger than it ever has been because it's now easy to find other people that do it. And so the very moment that we learned it was a thing that could be done we started exploring it, and my life changed at that moment. So I make no secret that my then wife and I are divorced now and it did not have to do with non-monogamy, it had to do with the fact that we had problems just like any other relationship you know. But what it did for both of us was introduce us to a type of openness that we never would have explored otherwise, and that was life-changing, eye opening and…you know, no regrets at all there. So that's the origin of the story.
Interviewer: That's great to hear. I suppose I'd love to start then at the very beginning for the people that are listening and that may not be totally aware of, I suppose all the definitions so what…
Interviewer: … is swinging exactly?
Cooper: Yeah, well this is something I get called on a lot to ask answer especially the difference between swinging and polyamory. Really they both fall under an umbrella called non monogamy, and monogamy is just not monogamy and monogamy is obviously you are one on one with another person and you are….I hesitate to use the word faithful because it feels like… it feels like a got-you term, yet you are exclusive with one other person for theoretically until one of you dies really because that's how most monogamy, the goal is for it to end with death because that is considered successful monogamy.
Interviewer: Kind of depressing.
Cooper: It is, and really you know one of the things that I like to think about it, because I want to make clear up front as I'm talking about this that I don't think monogamy is a bad choice and I think a lot of people monogamy is exactly what they need and works extremely well for them. What my concern is is I was not given a choice and I was not given a choice because I didn't know there was any other option, I thought it was monogamy or single, sad and alone; and I think a lot of us think it's monogamy or single sad and alone. And non monogamy is… I mean we like to use the term ethical non monogamy because a lot of people are in non-monogamous relationships and don't know it because their spouses are cheating on them, but ethical non monogamy is when both parties in the primary relationship are one hundred percent aware of external relationships, external sex, sometimes it happens within their relationship, sometimes it happens externally. So that's the overarching concept there. When you when you boil it down to the nitty gritty, traditionally what swinging means is, traditionally again, a couple opening up their relationship to sex with usually other couples, sometimes other singles, most of the time it's done together. So it would be a couple with another couple that is pretty exclusively traditional swinging and usually intense emotional feelings are left out of it.
Interviewer: Okay, so it's something more physical.
Cooper: Yeah. It's about the sex pretty much. Where polyamory is basically the same thing but not just about the sex,, it's allowing for relationships to develop, it's allowing for loving feelings, it's allowing for.. I mean eventually multiple tiers, multiple hierarchies of people, so there's a lot involved in polyamory. But I am of the opinion that you know like we talk about sexuality now is a spectrum rather than a thing you know like you're not hetero or homo, you're somewhere along the spectrum.
Interviewer: Sure, cause the Kinsey Scale I think.
Cooper: Yes yes exactly. And so I feel the same way about non monogamy, I think non monogamy is this spectrum, on one end you have the perception of what swinging is, on the other and you have the perception of what poly is, but the vast majority of us are somewhere in the middle. I know most of the swingers I know have somewhat intense relationships with the people they swing with, long-term friendships You know loving relationships don't need to be exclusively, “I am in love with this person.” Loving relationships, you have a loving relationship with your best friend and you know the best part about is you could also have sex with that person that's cool. And I know a lot of poly people who have a lot of casual sex and I feel like what is that but swinging?
Interviewer: So then should people consider swinging and/or polyamory cheating?
Cooper: Well no no, and here's why. Cheating is the unethical non monogamy. Cheating is when you go out and do something, Number One, that you know your partner would not be okay with; Number Two that your partner does not know about so cannot consent or not consent to…
Interviewer: Which is sneaky.
Cooper: Yeah, that's really the problem with cheating, and I mean a lot of people try to put the term ‘cheating' on any extramarital sex, any extra relationship sex which would be any four facet of non monogamy would count in that definition. But I think the whole point of the word cheating is that you are not doing something that is in the best interest of your partner and your relationship, you are being selfish there.
Interviewer: I understand completely, and that makes perfect sense.
Cooper: And really I am of the opinion that the people who would so quickly label non-monogamous sex as cheating are the people who sort of feel they're being cheated in life. You know like we have breaking the social contract, we the non-monogamous, the social contract is you get married and you stay married and you have kids and you know what? You can cheat on the side but you don't talk about it, or you just be miserable if you're not happy together, but really we're trying for the happy relationship for the rest of our life and that's it. And that's the social contract, and for those of us who don't do that those of us who have, I mean orgies, you know the monogamous community can look at that and think, “Well that's not cool, you're not supposed to do that.”
Interviewer: You consenting adults.
Cooper: Yeah yeah exactly. So I think when people start poking like that, it generally speaks to a little bit of jealousy that they cannot participate in something that intrigues them even if it scares them.
Interviewer: So if someone wants to participate, let's say one half of a couple…well and maybe they think it's just one half, because they haven't discussed it before.
Cooper: …the problem is it that people aren't talking.
Interviewer: But this is it, so how should maybe one person in a relationship very gently approach the subject, because I'm sure they don't want to buy 15 books on Amazon and surprise their partner cause that might be a little bit too much…
Cooper: That could be overwhelming. You know it's a really complicated thing because the reason my ex and I were about to get divorced instead of exploring open relationships is because we both were under the impression that there is no way the other person would be cool with any exploration beyond our relationship.
Interviewer: We have a miscommunication.
Cooper: Well no, it wasn't a miscommunication it was a lack of communication. We just didn't talk, and I think that's true of so many couples is at a certain point you reach this sort of mellow level, like things are fine, they're maybe not great but they're fine, and then you stop having conversations. You know it's really telling that one of the most common plotlines across TV comedies is the wife catches the husband looking at another woman and then the husband pretends that he wasn't, because we are under this sort of civilization gag order that we're not allowed to say we find other people attractive once we buy into the relationship, it's like our attraction is completely turned off and then redirected toward our partner. And we all know that's not true, like we all know we are still attracted to other people, but we all tell the same lie that we're not, and that is a fundamental breakdown of communication because it's lying by omission which is problematic first of all; and it's fortifying the fact that you cannot be honest with your partner, and honesty with your partner is the most important part of any relationship; and honesty about your needs and wants is everything. So when you're talking… go ahead, I'm sorry.
Interviewer: But that's what I'm wondering is presuming that a couple, or one half of couple, hopefully both halves are listening and they have a good relationship and they're pretty adventurous but they just…they might not have kind of considered, like yourself, they might not have considered swinging, polyamory or any of that spectrum to be an option and they're now wondering like “Hmm, I don't really know if I want to try this…but let's discuss it.”
Cooper: But really…yeah. First I have found that one of the greatest first steps is by watching something together that features it or listening to a podcast and saying “Hey I heard this weird thing on savage love. What do you think?” you know. On Netflix there's a great series called Easy that was shot in my hometown Chicago, and it's an anthology series, it's about young couples in the city, and Episode Six which is a standalone episode, Episode Six features a young couple just sort of really starting to dabble in opening their relationship, and it is one of the most raw and real versions of this I've ever seen in my life. And what I love about it is that is a gateway now. So you can watch this series with your partner and then when you get to that episode you can go, “Huh, what do you think of that?”
Interviewer: So it's not really you bringing up the idea, it's just very indirect and…
Cooper: And that's the problem because if you…you know and this is the fear with any kink or any deviation from the norm right, is you'll approach your partner and you'll say “I like this thing,” like let's say I like getting peed on or I'm curious about getting peed on, and your partner at that point could completely destroy this curiosity by freaking out thinking you're disgusting, and that's your fear is that you're going to say this thing and your partner will never look at you the same way again, right?
Cooper: But the alternative to that is you don't say what you want or need and your partner doesn't judge you for it but you're judging yourself for it. So that's why a lot of people don't talk about, “Hey you know I'm kind of curious about what sex is like outside our relationship,” because like I had had one other partner before my marriage, my wife had had none; we had no experience. And so a lot of people get into their marriage with very very little experience and they're expected to then have an excellent sex life for the rest of their life, or at least deal with the fact that they have a mediocre one.
Interviewer: Yeah, it's tough. A quick side question, would you recommend test driving the car before you get married or…
Cooper: … I am one hundred percent behind sex before marriage because I feel like… at least a similarity in sexual style. You don't have to be one hundred percent the same because that's pie-in-the sky foolishness, but you need to be compatible and we spend all this time dating to find out if we're compatible emotionally but one of the most important parts is whether we're compatible physically and so you're not dealing with that before your marriage it feels like setting you up for failure.
Interviewer: Well it feels like you've got this blind spot in your marriage, it's like not telling…not being open about maybe a drug addiction or something, maybe it's not the exact same but it's its patting a part of yourself.
Cooper: That's what it is, it's just huge., you know. Sex in your marriage is huge, period. So it is so valuable to have intense and long discussions whether you're interested in non monogamy or not, more communication is always better than less communication, and the one thing that non monogamy has given to me and so many people I know is better communication skills because you have to, there is no way to do this without intense extensive communication, so therefore you're forced to learn how to communicate better, one hundred percent forced.
Interviewer: Well so presuming then a couple does have great communication, or reasonable communication already, they've brought up the idea of… they're both interested in the idea of swinging and they want to take the first step, they don't necessarily want to jump into a giant orgy, but they're interested in, “What should we do now? Should we post an ad on Craigslist? Should we jump on…”
Cooper: No, they should not post an ad on Craigslist.
Interviewer: Okay. Okay, that's good to know.
Cooper: I feel like… here's the real danger when you're exploring swinging is you could have vastly different experiences based on who you find, and I would hate for someone to blindly stumble into a terrible experience and then think “Well okay I guess we fucked up choosing this.” You know I know a number of people who had horrible first-time experiences just on virtue of the couple or the single that they started with, and I mean really there's no way to know that beforehand. But I feel like the lack of accountability on Craigslist because anyone can post an ad and anyone can be whomever they are, you know there's no accountability there, and there's very little on the dating sites but at least there's a higher barrier to entry. So what I always recommend for people who are new to this is to sign up for the free trial of a few different swinger dating sites, you know I'm from… Cassady is a really good one because it's big and extensive, but there's different ones all over the world so it's about finding the right one for you. Sign up for the trial, look and see if there's a decent number of people around you because you can search the trial, you may not be able to e-mail but you can definitely search; and then buy a month because a month is usually 20 to 30 bucks. And that may seem like a lot to on a monthly basis speed paying for swinging, especially if you're not sure you want to do it, but is 20 or 30 bucks a lot to try this thing? No, it's less than dinner. So if you buy a month you're going to have access to the site's premium features, and I always recommend only messaging people who also pay for the site because the fact that you have to pay weeds out the…
Interviewer: I mean it's a filter.
Cooper: It is a filter, yeah. And it's a filter that a lot of people who are just fucking around won't go through.
Interviewer: For sure, they're just not serious.
Interviewer: They're sort of bottom feeders almost.
Cooper: I think so too, and I've seen a lot when you… when people are exploring they're talking to the husband of a couple who keeps saying “No my wife's just busy but I promise she's on board,” and he's either trying to get them to meet just him and he's cheating on his wife or when they actually get together the wife is not actually onboard but she's going along with it. There's a lot of things here that one needs to be careful of and really all they need to do to be careful of these things is just go in with your eyes wide open, talk to everybody involved, ask questions about why they're doing this, what they're looking for. And any swinger who's experienced and enjoys this lifestyle are very evangelical so they will be more than happy to talk to you about the joys of swinging and why they love it because it's…
Interviewer: Sorry to interrupt Cooper, it may almost be a warning flag if someone is quite closed off and almost secretive when you first start talking to them.
Cooper: Yes, I feel like it is, I mean there are reasons to be a little closed off and secretive, you know if you're in a field where if you are outed as a swinger it'd be bad, maybe you don't want to share your last name but I think that's okay. But if someone won't share their last name, their face pictures or any information about them, I feel like that's a red flag.
Interviewer: Totally totally understand. So say you say then a couple does meet another couple online, should they then maybe go for a drink, go for a meal together or should they just go straight to their house?
Cooper: Yes. I would never advise to go straight to someone's house, never, never, never. Really what's great for newbies is to say that there is no sex on the first date…
Interviewer: I like it.
Cooper: … and we can always revise these things that we want, but saying there's no sex on the first date it takes all the pressure off there, then you're just sitting down with people and deciding whether you like them and then you can go home and discuss whether or not you'd like to see them again. If there's the possibility of sex on the first date that can be a lot of pressure, and there can be the pressure of having to communicate with your partner often directly in front of these other people. So you know swingers have developed this whole course of knee squeezes, and sometimes they'll go to the restroom and text their partner, “I'm interested,” but that's more of an advanced move, so just taking sex off the table for Night One is not a bad idea, it takes all the pressure off, yeah.
Interviewer: And so let's say a couple gets that far and then one partner's interested and then maybe the other partner's having reservations, what…
Cooper: Well that's tough, yeah. I mean there's two kinds of reservations too, there's they meet the couple and one partner's like “Yeah this swinging thing sounds cool, we should do it,” and the other partners like “I'm not sure about the swinging thing.” that's one type of reservation. And then the other one is “Yeah this couple's really cool, let's fuck them,” and the partners like “Yeah I'm not really interested in them.” So both are difficult situations, and the I'm-not-really-interested-in-them leads to something often called “Taking one for the team.” If you're in swinging for any period of time you will hear this phrase and what that means is non-even interest, so a partner is going along with something that they don't really want to do because their partner wants to.
Interviewer: Is something like that a good idea at the very start on your first experience?
Cooper: I don't think it's ever a good idea because it can lead to a lot of bad emotions and if that other partner finds out that you were taking one for the team with them, that's just really shitty to hear that someone who you were with in this intimate space, because even though we're just talking about friendships here it is still an intimate thing to have sex with someone and if you find out afterwards that that person was not really into it, that's really shitty.
Cooper: So it's hard to find the two-on-two complete mutual attraction but it's worth finding it.
Interviewer: So you might have to go through three or four or five dates with other couples to find it.
Cooper: Yeah absolutely. And that's part of the value of having conversations before going out…
Interviewer: Sort of setting the ground rules?
Cooper: …talk to them on line, talk to them on Skype if you want to. See if you line up here and then see if you line up in person and then see if you line up sexually.
Interviewer: So take it easy almost.
Cooper: Yeah. I'm a pragmatist so I'm always about don't rush into something you're going to regret, and I've done it you know I've made really dumb-ass decisions in swinging that have led to morning-after regret, month-after regret, but it's all been learning experiences, and one of the things that I like to do is say “I fucked up so you don't have to. Don't be like me.” Really that's the whole point of my memoir that My Life on the Swingset book is “Don't be like me, do it better than I do.”
Interviewer: That makes perfect sense. Yeah if you can learn from other people's mistakes it's a lot better than learning from your own. I'll take out any day over learning from my own experience. So then this all sounds pretty straightforward and easy the way you're describing it but I'm just wondering… because we haven't gone and talked about the emotions involved…
Cooper: Oh yeah there's a lot there.
Interviewer: Can people just switch them off or do people feel jealousy when all this is going on, all this is happening?
Cooper: Well it's a really complicated thing jealousy, and a lot of being cool with swinging if you don't have it initially but want it is about rewiring some of your intense space emotional drive. We are, especially in America, we are a society that really reinforces jealousy as being somehow beneficial to the relationship because if someone's not jealous when they see me interacting with someone else clearly they don't love me. That's the message…
Interviewer: That's not healthy but I know many people who feel that way, they're almost like making their partner jealous because then they almost feel like “Oh he really cares about me,” because he gets jealous.
Cooper: That's exactly it, and it's not their fault it's reinforced by every piece of media, movies, books, everything reinforces that. And so because we don't see what a world without that looks like, we need to really… when we start swinging we need to develop a community that we can lean on when we have these concerns because they will tell you how they dealt with it. You know I have had many types of jealousy pop up, I felt jealousy a couple weeks ago when my partner was on a date that lasted a lot longer than I expected. So I mean it's not like you can turn it off, but what you can do is recognize jealousy for what it is and I like to think of it as…it's the check-engine light on your car. You know when I'm feeling jealous I don't see it as an end-of-the-world, “Oh dear God we're fucked up…she doesn't love me,” all those things. I see it as a “Okay I'm feeling something off, now I need to diagnose what that is.” So the key for jealousy and non monogamy is don't freak out, which is what we usually do, don't start a screaming fit you know. And the check-engine light on your car will come on if your engine's about to fall out, but it will also come on if you didn't tighten the gas cap enough, so that's a live extreme where the warning light may flash. So jealousy is that warning light and what jealousy can mean is I'm feeling a little lonely so I wish I was there, or I wish she was here, or it can mean I'm not cool with these people but I don't know that until I take some intense self reflection…
Interviewer: Sure, or maybe you step away from the situation a little bit.
Cooper: Oh absolutely, and I think what… it's like communication, a lot of people don't really reflect on their emotions, they react to them. And it is a hard thing to do to actually take that moment and not just start texting your partner like “Where are you? Why aren't you home?” Because that is sort of designed to ruin their night and make them come home and they're going to come home happy, and so I mean we're escalating the problem immediately.
Interviewer: So that's obviously a problem if you do nothing but just react and let your emotions control you.
Interviewer: But I'm just wondering then, like swinging sets like it's actually it's a whole bunch of fun if you've got open communication, two partners that really do you know each other, trust each other and can let each know if there's a problem or if there's not a problem, but I'm wondering you know maybe other couples they're interested in it as well and it's not going to work out for them…
Cooper: Yeah it's definitely possible.
Interviewer: I'm just wondering if there's a couple maybe listening and they're thinking about it, are there any warning signs ahead of time that they should pay heed to that might indicate that, “Oho this isn't a good thing for us. This is going to make us sad, trust each other less and maybe mess things up.”
Cooper: Well I'm of the opinion that people need to try things more and not be so cataclysmic if they don't work out. You know life is about experimenting and exploring, and so few of us actually do it, so if we make the decision…you know this is a bit woo woo and a bit… what's the word?
Cooper: Yeah, philosophical and pie in the sky, like ideal, that's what this is. If we make the decision that we're going to try this thing and if it doesn't work, it doesn't work, and that's fine and we're still who we are.
Cooper: We're still what we were the day after we got together with that other couple and fucked them. We are no different today than we were then. Then we're just making a deal with each other that we're going to be okay because most of life is just an agreement that we're going to believe everything's okay, right?
Interviewer: Yeah it's probably a good way looking at life.
Cooper: Well we're not… anyone can spiral out of control and I think one of the biggest things that I learned about myself as I was going through a divorce and as relationships come and go, is relationships are an agreement that we're together that we make every day and if you look at it a little differently, if you look at it as a lot of people feel like they need their partner, like it's a need and when it's a need it's sort of a cling, you're grabbing on and not letting go because what would happen if you let go? But it's better to look at it as a want because when you're choosing to be with your partner, that's a wonderful thing; when your partner is choosing to be with you, that's a wonderful thing and when you daily make this choice to be together, to be okay, to be a couple instead of being this desperation to hold on to each other then you're sort of actively in a relationship rather than passively.
And so I think trying things like swinging and poly you're still choosing to be with each other so when you do something and it doesn't work the next day you again choose to be with your partner, or you don't. And that's the scariest part is because at any moment anybody can decide to not choose to be with their partner. You know there's no true legality keeping you together, it's desire to be together, and that is a scary thing to wrap your mind around that at any moment your partner could leave and it could be because of swinging or it could be because you didn't pick up your damn shoes. You know that could be the last thing.
So a lot of life for me has been about reframing the way I look at my relationships with my partner, with our girlfriend, with our playmates, because we're all choosing to engage with each other for these moments. And a friend of mine who is on the podcast, Ginger, she talks about mindfulness a lot, and I think that's the biggest problem in life in general is that we're not being active in our lives. We're being swept from day to day and it's really easy to just get caught up in where our life is taking us rather than being active and choosing to do these things.
So I think one of the things that was so important to me about choosing swinging was that it was one of the first active choices I made in the first ten years of my relationship with this person because everything else was sort of chosen for me. You know the getting married was part of what we did, it wasn't a question, it was a given that eventually when you've been dating for so long you get married, that's how it works.
And so swinging was such an abrupt left turn that it felt like a choice that I was making and it changed the way I looked at the world and that's why I feel it's so valuable to make these choices. You know if you want to choose monogamy choose it, and that's wonderful, but don't do monogamy because you can't make a choice. Don't just be monogamous, be monogamous because you want it; and then if you don't want it then talk to your partner and see if they are open to the choice. And if they're not, here's the biggest concern, I feel like I'm non monogamous, my partner feels like she's monogamous, my partner feels like he's monogamous, that's the problem right, and that may mean you are not right for each other and that's the biggest fear is what if we try something and I need this in my life, because I believe that the ability to be monogamous is something that not everybody has.
I know in my bones that I can never be monogamous again, and if I tried I would eventually cheat and I don't want to do that. So instead I'm going to be one hundred percent honest with everybody who comes into my life that this is a thing that I need. It may not be a thing that I need today or this month or this week or this year but it is a thing that I need to have as an option for myself, and if I can't, this relationship probably will not last until a monogamous goal line where one of us dies.
But that's … there's an idea called impermanence. I feel like I'm going way in the weeds here.
Interviewer: No, I love it. I think you're making a great point Cooper.
Cooper: Okay. So this thing called impermanence is the idea that was hardest for me, and impermanence is that a relationship doesn't have to not end or to be successful. And it really hit home for me after my divorce and it's why I talk about my marriage and my relationship so much is because a lot of people when they get divorced they demonize their ex and they basically turn their entire relationship into this bad patch that now they are free of. And it may have been that, but the concept of impermanence is about embracing the value of relationships and people who are in our lives but only for a time. And my marriage brought me to this lifestyle, my relationship gave me this gift, and this changed my life. So for good or bad that relationship literally changed my life, and that's valuable.
Interviewer: I think you make a lot of good points Cooper that people that have no intention of ever swinging can really bring it to their relationships and use it to improve. I feel like you've just been talking about everybody's relationship, not just swingers or poly people.
Cooper: Well it's because I see tremendous value in the things that swingers and poly people do that monogamous people should take, and it's like…
Interviewer: So are poly people… I suppose I should probably finish open little bit but would you say then…and I forgot to ask this at the start, are poly people or the poly community swingers are they any different from monogamous people? Are they strange people that run around only at night time drinking the blood of the…
Cooper: Well some of them, just like monogamous people some of them are. No no, you know it's really odd because in the communities a lot of people like to look at poly as the evolved version of swinging and I don't believe that it is in any way, I believe that it's a facet of it. You know some people are looking for more intense romantic connections on the spectrum, on the variety of people in the world, and some people are not, so the concept of non monogamy is that no one person can give me everything that it is that I need in my life for my life. And if that thing that I need is a variety of sexual partners then it's obvious that no one person can give that to me right? Because they just can't. If the thing that I need is a variety of emotional response to my feelings and my emotional stimulus then poly is a good option because I'll be the first to tell you I am not great at dealing with certain things in relationships, I fall apart when my partner is sick. And if my partner needs someone who doesn't fall apart when they're sick there are really only two options., break up with me and find someone else who'll do that, or since we are poly find someone who can help fulfill that need that I can't fulfill.
You know and you see this in sexually, let's say I'm really into BDSM and my partner is not at all, so I have two options. I can either go without this for the rest of my life, this thing that I really am into and want; or I can cheat. Or I can communicate with my partner, tell them I need this and have the permission to go and seek this elsewhere. And so what poly does is it offers more variety to your emotional …and I hate to use the word spiritual but it's the best I can come up with right now…spiritual connections to the world.
And a lot of people do this with friendship, and that's also perfectly valid, but sometimes it's really nice to have another relationship that is maybe not on the same level as your primary but up there to be able to fall into when you need it. And so that's the value of poly, you can have these extra relationships that serve different functions in your life, and you may see a poly partner once a month but it's still … there's an extreme value to that. And I think poly is wonderful, I also think swinging is wonderful, it's why I refuse to side, I sort of straddle the line in the middle, and sometimes when I meet someone I don't know if they are going to be a poly partner or if they're going to be a swing playmate because I would rather let the relationship define itself than try to force it into a box.
Interviewer: That's a great point, I mean allowing it to evolve naturally is just so much more in the sense that it's so much more natural than like you said, trying to hem it in to a box. I'd just like to finish up with one last question Cooper. To bring it back to say a couple who's interested in winging, they've talked about it, they've met someone for the first time and now they've come back home and they're kind of talking about their first experience, maybe they got physical somewhat. And kind of things should they talk about with each other? What would you advise if you were the swinger coach on…sitting down in your armchair smoking a pipe. What would you advise them to talk about?
Cooper: It's sort of a cop-out answer I think, but anything and everything really. Everything is important when you're talking to your partner. But more specifically your desires, what type of sex you want, what type of interactions you're looking for. Start pushing your own boundaries and figuring out what you want to explore because now you've opened a door that most people never open in their lives, and it's a door of extreme exploration. And so now that you've opened that door start figuring out what it is you want to explore, but also give your partner permission to tell you exactly how they feel and try really hard not to react negatively, and have your partner do the same thing. And we're not always good at this and it won't always work, and I can occasionally be really terrible at taking something in that my partner says and not reacting immediately or obviously, but it's very important to try to be accepting of anything that your partner says, maybe not accepting of doing it but don't blame them for sharing it…
Interviewer: That's a very a point
Cooper: … because it's all a negotiation, all of life, all of relationships is a negotiation. So if you want to try something that maybe is a little too far for your partner's interest then the negotiation is about well where does your comfort level start and where does it end, and are you willing to be pushed a little bit outside of your comfort zone to try something with me and will you make a sacrifice with me if I'm also willing to make a sacrifice for something that's a little outside my comfort zone for you? For me it's not about equality that I get something so you get something but it's about the willingness to give your partner something.
Interviewer: That sounds a lot more healthy rather than kind of trying to get something off your partner.
Cooper: Right. And that's another perception shift because we are trained to see what we can get from people.
Interviewer: It's so true, it's like a kid in the candy…kid in a supermarket crying you know because he really believes that he should have bought all the candies in the store.
Cooper: Exactly. And it's sucks because this training is ingrained in us and it's so ingrained that we don't even see it most of the time. We can't even see it until it is obvious and when it's obvious it's sort of like… it's sort of like the moment in the usual suspects where the character sees everything that's been happening the whole movie.
Interviewer: Oh and he drops his mug.
Cooper: Yes, so that moment it's when you hit that it can be so anxiety inducing you know you can collapse to the floor and recognize everything is different now and what I challenge people to is to not see that as bad, just see it is different and different's okay, and often different is good but it is such a fundamental shift… you know I talk about it, it's the paradigm shift to a lot of people who've never heard the words paradigm shift, it's when we went from the model of the solar system where the earth was the center to the model where the sun was the center. It was a fundamental shift in the way we view the world, ourselves and everyone else. And I think non monogamy and opening up to this was my personal paradigm shift because the way I view the entire world now is with a lot more compassion and empathy because we've all been fed a bill of goods that we didn't deserve.
We've all been fed this view of the world that is selfish and is about give-me give-me rather than giving to other people and this is what makes me the bleeding heart liberal about it. It's that it is not just about us, and poly is so reinforcing of this, it's about all of us, it is about the collective we, and when somebody is hurting we all want to make that person stop hurting …to help that person stop hurting, make is a bad term there, and that's so wonderful. We have more people to lean on, and the same thing with swinging is very early on I realized I had never been so close to people in my life, even the people that I was not directly sexually involved with because it's about community and we have so little community in our lives anymore, and community is so valuable because we look out for each other and we try to help, and isn't that the best thing in the world is when you're hurting and there are other people who are trying to help you? Because when we're enclosed off monogamy so often we don't even talk to people, we can't connect with other couples like closely because often of sexual tension. If I'm attractive …if I'm attracted to my friend's wife I can't tell my friend that because then he'll be jealous…
Interviewer: Oh absolutely.
Cooper: …and that'll rift our friendship. We can't be honest with each other in life most of the time because of these societal expectations, and it makes me sad that I live that for so long. And that is why I am so evangelical about this is because I really feel like not swinging, not poly, not monogamy even, but openness and really choosing what you're doing in your life is the most valuable thing that anyone can ever be shown because now we are active participants in the world.
Interviewer: Absolutely. Cooper it's been fantastic having you on the show and a real eye opener. I hope…
Cooper: Thank you.
Interviewer: …I hope people listening got a real sense of what swinging really is and I hope we demystified a few things. I really think you have. I'm just wondering if people want to continue the conversation with you what would be the best way to get in touch, how can they find you?
Cooper: Well I am all over social media. My profile names are Cooper S. Beckett, pretty much everywhere. You can find my work and my books at CooperSBeckett.com. My first book is a memoir My Life on the Swingset Adventures In Swinging and Polyamory. My second book is a novel called The Lifeless Monogamous about newbie swingers just exploring for the first time. So if you're at all curious about being a newbie swinger, it's a good start; and I'm actually… I just sent my second novel off to my editor that follows a lot of swingers and poly folk at a swinger resort in Mexico and it's a big one. But you can find my podcast, Life on the Swingset at lifeontheswingset.com, and I also have started to build along with my partner Dylan, a collective of sexuality and non monogamy based podcasts that you can listen to at Swingset.FM. And really it's all about finding what works for you, finding what's right for you because maybe a little bit of swinging will be right for you, maybe finding one other person to play with in your relationship, maybe that's all you need, or maybe you don't need any of it. Maybe it's just fun titillation to listen to other people talk about it, and I know, I was there when I used to listen to Dan Savage and think “Man all these people have such interesting lives!”
Interviewer: And it turns out you can too….well that's the whole point of the Blogger's Bible to hopefully give people the tools to improve their sex lives and explore different avenues. Cooper thanks so much for coming on the podcast.
Cooper: My pleasure. Thank you for having me.
Interviewer: And have fun out there guys.