Explorations in Ethical Non-Monogamy: A (Vanilla) Review of ‘My Life on the Swingset’

Several weeks ago I was invited to review Cooper Beckett’s first book, My Life on the Swingset: Adventures in Swinging & Polyamory. If you aren’t familiar with Cooper, he’s the the co-creater of the Life on the Swingset blog and podcast. The book itself is a compilation of essays, stories, and erotica inspired by his years exploring, blogging, and podcasting about ethical non-monogamy.

Non-monogamy is the opposite of monogamy, which is having one partner satisfy all your needs emotionally and physically. […] The ethical part [is] the part that includes the repeated “with their partner’s full knowledge” phrase above. Everybody being aware of everything going on (except for details they don’t want to know…

I said yes for many reasons. I love books, I love supporting people, and I love learning and teaching about new topics. Ultimately, I said yes because I appreciate how Cooper talks about non-monogamy: completely honestly and with the utmost empathy. I knew nothing would be held back. I knew I would laugh, a lot. Beyond that, though, I doubted I would get much out of the book. Little ol’ vanilla me? I figured I would learn some things, grow in my understanding of ethical non-monogamy and that would be it.

I can’t even write that sentence without chuckling. How wrong I was!

Since I started reading, I’ve talked about the book non-stop. Coop’s gotten G-Chats full of my disorganized, often overtired thoughts. The beau has dealt with random questions that, to him, came out of nowhere (Nope – its just that essay I’m reading). I even pushed this post back so I could take more time with it because it was bringing up all the feels and all the thinky thoughts. I learned about ethical non-monogamy, yes, but I also learned about myself and my relationship. I saw myself in Cooper’s stories and found myself nodding along in agreement more often than not. A book I thought had little to teach me ended up showing me new ways to think about communication and  processing emotions. Whoa.

Ultimately it led me to conclude that anyone can benefit from the lessons Cooper learns and shares. Yes even if you consider yourself vanilla and/or monogamous (and have no intention of changing). Yes even if you’ve been in the Lifestyle for years (or so my colleagues say). Yes even if [insert your reason here]. As long as you don’t get turned off by sexy writing or swear words, this book is a good fit. BTW – I have nothing at all to gain (read: no affiliate link or $) from telling you that. I just friggin’ loved this book tremendously.

If that glowing albeit a bit vague description hasn’t quite convinced you, I understand. And I’m prepared with actual reasons why I think it can be a helpful resource to and fun read for basically anyone.

Seven Reasons My Life on the Swingset Deserves a Spot On Your Bookshelf

  1. It’ll help you talk to your partner about sex. As you read the book, you’ll identify with something in it. Here are just a few of the topics covered:
    • first dates
    • working through social anxiety, shyness, and depression
    • recognizing the importance of touch
    • evolving feelings about love and expectations
    • having threesomes, orgies, and prostate orgasms
    • getting divorced

    It might be one of these broader themes or something teeny-tiny. Whatever that something is, its a good idea to ask your partner if they too have thought about or experienced it. Swingset is the perfect ‘in’ to have that conversation you’ve been longing to have. Clients often tell me they feel shy talking about sex with their partners or that they just don’t know where to begin. Books about sex, specifically one like Swingset that covers so many topics related to relationships (more examples: BDSM, reproductive rights, jealousy, and sexuality), are a powerful tools for initiating conversations. Not sure what to say? How about, “I was reading this book and it mentioned x. What do you think about that?” This works so well for two reasons. First, it lets you blame the idea on the book. Secondly, the open-ended question invites your sweetie into a conversation, maybe even prompting them to think about something in a new way. A conversation about your comfort levels with and whether its something you want to explore now or in the future, together or independently, is, of course the goal. Score one for communication!

  2. It won’t lie to you. If you’ve ever considered some sort of non-monogamy, be it swinging or polyamory, you’ll get a real life glimpse into what its like in ‘the Lifestyle.’ When things get tough, Cooper doesn’t hold back. He tells you how much they can suck. When things are amazing, he will tell you that too, with just as much detail. Warning -this openness can bring up lots of feelings and a little discomfort. Some stories just hit close to home. For example, there were multiple times I took a break from reading because I felt inspired by a new idea, needed to process what I just read, or needed to talk with the beau (see # 1 above). Don’t get me wrong – there are certainly sexy and lighthearted essays too. No matter how much you lose yourself in the rhythm of the writing, though, you be thinking and feeling something too.
  3. It reaffirms that if you’ve thought about it, someone, somewhere has done it. In other words – there’s no such thing as “normal.” I’ll say it again – all the things are covered in Swingset. Ok – maybe not all the things, but certainly lots of them (see again: the list above) There are things you’ve fantasized about and things you’ve never heard of. Sex acts you’ll want to try and those that’ll make your eyes go wide. An overarching vulnerability that you can practically feel through the pages. Lots and lots of things, all proving that yes whatever (legal, risk-aware, consensual thing) you want is ok. As Cooper writes:

    Depending on what your own personal thing is, there are likely hundreds, thousands millions like you.

  4. It validates your feelings and hidden thoughts as part of a larger human experience. There were times I felt like Cooper was inside my head. One of his gifts is to capture moments and emotions in a way that makes you think, “Thank you-I’m not alone!” Sometimes you actually exclaim this out loud, on the subway. But that’s neither here nor there. Here’s one of the passages that did it for me:

    Because having intimate touch in our lives is something that so many of us crave, even though we don’t realize it…someone’s hand on your shoulder, or brushing some hair out of your eyes. These are little things we can’t do because of the privacy bubble. […] I’m not talking about “capital I” Intimate touch here, just slightly more intimate touch than we’re allowed in polite society.

    I’ve always been physically oriented, whether its through touch or movement. Yoga, dance, massages, cuddles, hugs – they’re vital parts of my day to day life. Some of my most challenging times have come when I lacked this type of touch, be it a yoga instructor’s adjustment, a massage therapist’s manipulations, or friends’ hugs. Similarly, what has helped me through and out of those difficult times has been this type of touch. Therapy was helpful, and I’m incredibly thankful I could access it when I needed it, but teaching Zumba and seeing a physical therapist have been equally if not more so. While this particular quote may not resonate with you, its indicative of both the beauty with which Cooper writes about emotions and the openness with which he shares his own.

  5. There’s something for everyone. As the press release describes it: “This book is part memoir, part non-monogamy instructional, and part erotica.” So whether you’re looking for some sexy reads, answers to your questions on non-monogamy, or just enjoy reading about the adventures of another person, you’ll enjoy it. The best part, perhaps, is that Cooper encourages you to read the book in whatever order feels best. I of course read it cover to cover and marked all my favorite essays to go back to. Among them were:
    • Her Hand Above My Knee
    • Taking Yes for An Answer
    • Polyamorous/Swinger/Non-Monogamous Open
    • The Key to a Successful Reboot
    • Sex is Sex is Sex With or Without Penetration
  6. You’ll learn. You’ll learn about yourself, your desires, how to improve yourself, and how to improve your relationships. You’ll learn to be a better partner. You’ll learn about consent and communication. If your worried about the terms used, you’ll learn those too. Its the first chapter – On the Notions of Lexicons” and its full on word geekery.
  7. The geeky quotes and references. I won’t ruin this for you but let’s just say if you’re a fan of certain shows (Doctor Who) there will be moments where you think to yourself, “DAMN YOU COOPER BECKETT” because the quotes get woven in so perfectly. Like you have to stop for a moment and think, “hmmm – where do I know that from? oh yeah – that heart wrenching episode of x show!” AKA all of them. You’ve been warned.

Before I end I want to share one quote that captures my experience of reading Swingset and the reason it was such a positive experience for me.

Being in the lifestyle is a choice that is no better or worse than not being in the lifestyle. It’s all about how you feel and what makes you happy.

If that’s not a life philosophy you can get on board with, I don’t know what is.

tl;dr My Life on the Swingset is a must-read for you, regardless of your past future or current relationships style. You’ll think, laugh, and probably curse Coop a few times for shining the light on emotions or desires you weren’t expecting.

Get your copy here.

Your Partner in Passion,

Kait xo

 

My Life on the Swingset was provided to me in exchange for an honest review. All opinions presented  are my own.

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