Review of The Lifestyle by Terry Gould
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This was originally published in 1999, but is now available in a Kindle edition. We’ve read a lot of books on swinging, but this one is far and away the best, and still holds up many years later. He wrote it when swinging was getting much more organized and much larger, thanks in large part to the availability of the Internet.
We first met the author several years before the book was published when he was first embarking on his research. As an outsider, we doubted he would be able to capture the essence of our Lifestyle, and we then forgot about him. Later, the television show EXTRA called and asked us to do a segment on swinging based on the book, and they sent us a copy to preview. We were very impressed, and heartily recommend it to anyone interested in this subject.
When Terry Gould first wrote about swinging for an article, he brought in all of his prejudices and preconceived notions and pretty much smeared the swing community. Later, after having met some swingers and gotten to know them on a personal level, he realized that his earlier judgements may have been incorrect. As an investigative journalist, his journalistic integrity was challenged, so he went back to the subject and researched it with much greater objectivity and depth. The result is a book that looks at many aspects of swinging in a fair and intelligent way.
One of the interesting things was reading the original reviews when it first came out. They were mostly positive, with some interesting exceptions. A number of the reviewers come to the subject with the same preconceptions Gould started with, and after reading the book still didn’t get it. Even though swinging challenges cultural mores and should inspire us to question traditional thinking about “inherent” sexuality, the Publisher’s Weekly review stated that swingers come off as “more goofy than anything else”. Talk about sexual denial and envy. The Kirkus Review called Gould a member of the Lifestyle (the book states clearly he has not participated in the Lifestyle), and dismisses as conjecture the recent significant biological and evolutionary research Gould introduces that explains why most animals are not monogamous and why it is actually not the biological “norm” for humans. This cutting edge research, introducing data gleaned from DNA, is very significant and an aspect of the book I feel is very important in understanding why many swingers find it easy to adopt a non-monogamous lifestyle. His chapter on the subject is one of the best I have read in any book.
The book covers the growth of swinging from the early Sexual Freedom League to the Lifestyles organization, and traces how swinging has evolved into big business with phenomenal growth. He takes you inside a number of swing clubs and resorts. He interviews lots of swingers who describe what they do in their own words. He also covers the Tantra and Polyamory communities, the Ethical Hedonism of Dr. Susan Block, and the legal and civil rights battles of the swing community. We were involved with all of these communities and had been guests on the Dr. Susan Block Show. We knew many of the people he interviewed, and one of the main couples he wrote about were the first couple we were involved with sexually when we first started exploring the Lifestyle.
I never expected an outsider to not only understand what swingers are about, but to also pull together so much sociological, biological, anthropological and historical information to create a clear picture of not only what swinging is, but why it exists when it seems so contrary to how we are told we are supposed to behave. He also takes to task the many journalists who did what he did originally- sensationalized swinger’s sexuality while attacking and misrepresenting what they did not understand.