My Life on the Swingset starts out as a plea for swinging to save a marriage, ends as a thank you for ending the very lifestyle which that marriage was a part of.
Cooper S. Beckett loved his wife, and seemed happy enough in his non-swinger life, yet a tension was growing that could not be quelled by the traditional. My Life on the Swingset
is a collection of ruminations on transitioning from a monogamous marriage into an open sexual lifestyle (one that begins before the marriage ends). Beckett's anxieties, excitements, and experimentations are laid bare in the pages of these turbulent personal essays, inspiring humor, sentiment, and an underlying sense of adventure.
My Life on the Swingset Reviewed
While My Life on the Swingset
does not dedicate all of its pages to what one may exclusively consider kink, at the time Cooper Beckett
began this journey-turned-book-turned-lifestyle, it is safe to assume that anything outside of his then monogamous marriage likely seemed non-normative, or “kinky.” (Yet there certainly is a fair dose of dungeon romping and D/s play.)
Now an established sex-positive podcaster, anal (sex) enthusiast, and budding educator, current Beckett's insight into the poly, swinger, and kink lifestyles (and where they overlap) generously exceeds that of Beckett going on his first swinger date with his then wife Marilyn, as tenderly described in the early essay, “Our First Date as Swingers”:
We both changed several times, trying to figure out what to wear. How do swingers dress?
After hearing Beckett describe with clarity the different stages of a prostate orgasm (be it through podcast, blog, or workshop). It is quite refreshing to go back in time and witness the hypothetical conception of a sex educator. To back before sex toys lined the shelves, back before pansexual, bisexual, or even bicurious came to mind. My Life on the Swingset gifts readers with a humble glimpse at dealing with jealousy, struggling to initiate pick-up play (with actual strangers–i.e. people you don't meet through friends), and other totally normal stuff non-educators go through, but never consider that sex educators have also experienced (in sometimes hefty doses) firsthand. It is the disclosing of those awkward anecdotes that not only remove Beckett from the sexpert pedestal, but also prompts readers to perceive themselves as his equals. It is this egalitarian author/reader relationship that allows for a lot of empathy; Beckett isn't this higher being having exotic sex that nobody has heard of in secret locations. He's an average dude who at one point, didn't know that a sexual lifestyle different than his own existed, let alone that there was a place for him within it.
If people like us could do it, so could we.
And if people like Cooper Beckett can do it, so can we–is the central theme here.
Having the impetus (and experience) to write this book is proof that Beckett always held some capacity for what we refer to as “sexual open-mindedness”. He comes off as quite clueless before that mindset had any real-life application. His pre-conceptions, fears, and blunt questions that accompanied his pre-swinging/poly/kinky lifestyle initiations are a guilty pleasure to read.
What happens now? What happens next? When do we kiss, get naked, start fucking?
And I say “guilty” pleasure, because at times (okay, a lot of the time), it feels like you've swapped My Life on the Swingset for Beckett's private diary. This author is clearly too neurotic to lack a filter, yet his prose often reads as completely raw or unedited in how deeply personal his confessions and musings are.
Yet for how honest and transparent Beckett's thoughts read, it is also apparent that with each confessional truth comes a great deal of overthinking and hefty self-analysis on behalf of the author. His internal dialogue is never deprecating, but occasionally harsh in how he dissects the very character traits that make his portrayed self lovable and quirky. What starts out as a reflection on initiating conversation with a stranger (be it on a plane or at a sex party), often quickly evolves into a ramble-y spiral of self-doubt mixed with regret and/or sentiment. (The end result of these passages is sometimes confusing.) Beckett puts a lot of importance on individual moments. Some of which never actualize beyond the realms of his imagination.
My Life on the Swingset -Sweeping Generalizations with Bare Hands!
For anyone reading this book as an introduction to any sex positive lifestyle, do so with the mindset that My Life on the Swingset is as equally an exploration of societally perceived “non-normative” sex as it is an exploration of a nerd's neuroses. But don't expect a lot of statistics and sex science just because I said “nerd.” At least, don't expect any statistics from citable studies.
Beckett is a man of theory, and luckily for the reader, he is very honest about which generalizations are theories and which theories are generalizations. To quote: “behold as Coop makes sweeping generalizations with his bare hands!”And he makes a lot of them. Particularly as they pertain to bisexuality, having non-monogamous thoughts in monogamous relationships, and a good percentage of everything else he talks about.
While My Life on the Swingset is an insightful read for anyone curious and/or trepidatious about opening up, it is at its core, a collection of personal essays based solely on experience and opinion. For a more data driven read on similar topics, check out Come as You Are or Sex At Dawn.
It is worth mentioning here that while some of these essays can be found on Beckett's blogosphere Life on the Swingset, the complete (revised) collection (with lots of new material) is not available online.
Zoë Tersche is a New York-based writer focusing on fetish sexuality and the freedom of sexual expression. Follow her on Twitter @ZoeTersche and find out more about her here.