I am not a “hipster swinger”

People who know me well will already be aware that I attend some pretty interesting parties with some rather amazing people. These events – After Pandora and Kinky Salon – are for open minded adults of any gender or orientation to meet, chat and play, and were partly inspired by the salon in the movie Shortbus.

I was asked a while ago if I would be OK with an image of me from one of Kinky Salon London’s fantastically themed events being used to accompany a small piece in Time Out. I loved the shots they were thinking of going with and so agreed to their use but, sadly the magazine didn’t end up mentioning KSL in their sex issue at all and I promptly forgot all about it. So, I was slightly surprised but not at all upset to discover that my face was in today’s Guardian alongside a piece on Britain’s new tribes. Now the world gets to see me in a Star Trek original series costume, complete with Vulcan ears! Hooray! There was only one problem… the subeditor had labelled my friends and me as “hipster swingers”.

Guardian Travel section, Saturday 13th August 2011Hipster and swinger are two words that instantly conjure up very specific images in people’s minds, and they bring with them all sorts of prejudices. There are many websites devoted to the ‘joy’ of the hipster aesthetic and a quick Google image search for hipster will leave you in no doubt about what type of person the label is commonly used to describe. I was less bothered about this particular word, as anyone looking at me can see that I am clearly not that type of hipster, but being called a swinger did actually bother me a bit. Although swinging is a form of ethical non-monogamy and there are probably a fair few people who attend the same parties as me and identify as swingers, it is not a label I choose for myself.

Aside from the common misconception of suburban ‘wife-swapping’ being all about car keys in a bowl (as in Toyota’s 2004 Key Party advert for the Corolla), swinging is a form of non-monogamy that has an awful lot of arbitrary rules that don’t really apply to the parties I attend. For a start, everything revolves around couples and guy-on-guy action is mostly frowned upon. This is therefore not a label that I would use for myself or any of my friends but, thankfully, the Guardian article goes on to explain that us “hipsters” have reinvented swinging. They mention that “Kinky Salon and After Pandora are for all body types, all sexualities and all degrees of experience” which is a pretty good description and proves that we defy the labels the subeditor chose for us. People think that hipsters all look the same and swingers all act the same, but my friends and I are far less like sheep. Well… apart from that one time I dressed up as one, but that’s a whole other story.

UPDATE: I have received a response to this post from Tobias, who was quoted in The Guardian’s article. This has been published as a guest blog post.

Main photograph by Ben Hopper.

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