The 'Swinging' Twenties

Dr. James Emery White | Mecklenburg Community Church | Updated: Jan 25, 2024
The 'Swinging' Twenties

The 'Swinging' Twenties

The “Roaring Twenties” refers to the 1920s decade in music and fashion as it happened in Western society and Western culture. In France, it was known as the annees foiles – the “crazy years” – emphasizing the era’s social, artistic and cultural dynamism. It was the era of jazz music and Art Deco. The spirit of the day was clear: to break from tradition and go “modern.” All of this was accompanied by such novelties as radio, sound movies and, of course, the automobile.

An accompanying mark of the twenties was social revolution. Chaperones were replaced with an anything-goes mentality. A new woman was born – the “flapper” – who danced, drank and smoked. She was known for taking risks and for her “high spirits, flirtation, and recklessness when it came to the search for fun and thrills.”

We’re in the twenties again, but let’s say it’s less “roaring” and more “swinging.”

As USA Today notes: “Open relationships are having a moment. Polyamory, ethical non-monogamy, and similar terms are becoming a bigger part of our cultural lexicon.” The most common type of open relationship is “swinging”—and it’s having a moment as well. The hashtag #SwingTok has more than 2.6 billion views on TikTok, often marked by the symbol of an upside-down pineapple.

In essence, swinging is when you are in a relationship with someone, but you purposefully seek out and engage others for casual, non-comital sex. If a married couple, for example, you hook up with another married couple and exchange partners for sex. One study from the North American Swing Club Alliance said 15% of U.S. couples have tried it at least once in their married lives.

Indicative of the “swinging” nature of the current twenties was a recent article in New York magazine that offered a “practical guide” to modern polyamory, covering such topics as:

  • How do I broach this with my partner?
  • Where do I meet people?
  • Does my wife want to hear about my night?
  • Should we sleep with them on the first date?
  • Am I being nice enough to my boyfriend’s girlfriend?
  • Should we tell our kids?

Of particular interest to me was the question, “What can go wrong?” The biggest concerns were: the hierarchy might shift (extra-marital partners become equal or more important), you might become a third-wheel, your partner might date someone who wants you gone, you might tire of your secondary status, they might leave you behind, you two might drift apart, or it might just break your relationship.

Which leads to the most shocking concern—your partner might actually realize they’d rather be monogamous. In other words, that the entire “open” relationship is no relationship at all, and that what is really needed is a “closed” relationship built on commitment.

Gee, you think?

Now let’s be clear. Sex is not something alien to God or His followers—it is, instead, a gift. As Philip Yancey once wrote:

Having studied some anatomy, I marvel at God laboring over the physiology of sex: the soft parts, the moist parts, the millions of nerve cells sensitive to pressure and pain yet also capable of producing pleasure, the intricacies of erectile tissue, the economical and ironical combination of organs for excretion and reproduction, the blending of visual appeal and mechanical design. As the zoologists remind us, in comparison with every other species the human is bountifully endowed.

Yet it is precisely because of the God-given, sacred nature of sex that it is meant to be pursued and protected by the covenant of marriage.  As Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “There is more to sex than mere skin on skin. Sex is as much spiritual mystery as physical fact... the two become one” (I Corinthians 6:16, Msg). Paul further added that, as a result, “we must not pursue the kind of sex that avoids commitment and intimacy, leaving us more lonely than ever—the kind of sex that can never ‘become one’” (I Corinthians 6:17-18, Msg).

So I’m not surprised that those in “open” relationships have concerns about “secure” relationships. An open relationship is anything but. 

The alternative, of course, is the joy of sex in the context of a secure relationship. Or as the wisdom of Proverbs puts it: “Let your manhood be a blessing; rejoice in the wife of your youth. Let her charms and tender embrace satisfy you. Let her love alone fill you with delight” (Proverbs 5:18-19, LB).

Sex is like a fire. In the proper place and setting it is beautiful. But if it gets outside of your fireplace, if it gets outside of where it belongs and where it is meant to be contained and harnessed and channeled, then the fire that warms,

... becomes the fire that burns.

James Emery White

Sources

“Roaring Twenties,” Wikipedia, read online.

David Oliver, “Swingers Want You to Know a Secret. Swinging Is Not Just About Sex.” USA Today, January 17, 2024, read online.

Allison P. Davis, et al., “A Practical Guide to Modern Polyamory,” The Cut, January 16, 2024, read online.

Philip Yancey, Rumors of Another World.

About the Author

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and a former professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Hybrid Church: Rethinking the Church for a Post-Christian Digital Age, is now available on Amazon or from your favorite bookseller. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit churchandculture.org where you can view past blogs in our archive, read the latest church and culture news from around the world, and listen to the Church & Culture Podcast. Follow Dr. White on X, Facebook and Instagram at @JamesEmeryWhite.

Image credit: ©GettyImages/shapecharge

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and a former professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Hybrid Church: Rethinking the Church for a Post-Christian Digital Age, is now available on Amazon or from your favorite bookseller. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit churchandculture.org where you can view past blogs in our archive, read the latest church and culture news from around the world, and listen to the Church & Culture Podcast. Follow Dr. White on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram at @JamesEmeryWhite.



The 'Swinging' Twenties