Ashley Lister - Questionable Opinions

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Ashley Lister (Author of "Swingers: true confessions from today’s swinging scene.") has kindly submitted this swingers article for you to enjoy.

"It was the last question I’d ever expected.

Whilst writing the book I’d found myself asking thousands of questions I wouldn’t normally have expected to pass my lips.

How long have you lived in a ménage a trios? How many lovers does your wife have? How many men fucked you in the car park?

But those were questions I had been asking. Although they sounded a little strange to my ears, they were acceptable for the circumstances. This question – out of the blue and totally unexpected – was one I had never expected.

I’d written a book (Swingers: true confessions from today’s swinging scene). The publishers had released advanced information to various magazines, newspapers and radio stations and there was some polite interest shown in the title when it hit the shelves.

Swingers is a collection of confessions and anecdotes from people who swing. In the finished book the stories are grouped together to try and give non-swingers (and those who are tempted to try swinging) an overview on the lifestyle as it is today in the UK.

But that was the easy part. I write books for a living, so writing hadn’t been a great strain. And I enjoy talking with people and asking them unusual questions, so the research had been a veritable hoot. The difficult part came with the radio interviews.

In the common vernacular: I was shitting my pants.

The BBC radio chats went OK. The first two or three DJs were kind enough to let me get into my stride and they asked the sort of questions I’d expected to face.

Who swings? Why is swinging increasing in popularity? What’s the appeal of this dogging we hear so much about?

My nervousness dropped and, for the first time I began to enjoy the thrill of having a book on the shelves and being quizzed by interviewers anxious to know more about the title and the author.

My wife and I had travelled down to London for the book’s launch and it had been a good day. The Daily Express had done an encouraging feature on the book and I’d read that with a big smile as we flew down to the capital. We did the typical things writers do when they’re in London. We had lunch with my editor, got lost on the underground (three times), visited too many bookshops, and drank an unhealthy amount of overpriced coffee.

The last interview of the day was going to be with James Whale on TalkSport and I was looking forward to that because I’m a big James Whale fan. And I was feeling confident about the telephone interview scheduled for 6:30 that evening. I won’t mention which radio station, or which DJ. That would be inappropriate.

Instead, because I was talking into my mobile phone, I’ll describe that.

The Toshiba TS10 is not overloaded with bells and whistles. It’s a phone and a camera – nothing else. I know many people want videos, WAP browsers and everything else in a mobile, but I’m happy enough to have a phone that simply makes phone calls.

Also, and this is probably what swayed my decision when buying the phone, it vaguely resembles the communicator Captain Kirk used in the original series of Star Trek. Trust me, no amount of features or functionality can top a selling point like that. Admittedly there is little choice of ring-tones, or any other glossy features, but you can’t beat the option to convincingly flip open your mobile and drawl, “Kirk to Enterprise,” or “Beam me up Scotty."

And I was holding my Toshiba TS10 when I got struck with the question that really floored me.

This interview had not been going well from the beginning. The word “hostile” best describes the DJ’s mood toward me. He was outwardly friendly and cheerful. But he had a major bug up his backside on the subject of recreational sex and that undercurrent remained between us throughout our LIVE ON AIR chat. To my mind, it was like being in the company of a Klansman and discussing an Eddie Murphy movie.

“Are you a swinger?” he asked.

That was a question I’d been asked before. I put a smile in my voice. “No. I’m not a swinger: I’m a writer. I couldn’t have written this book with the same level of impartiality if I’d written it as a swinger,” I told him. “I wanted to write Swingers from the perspective of an objective outsider – without having an axe to grind one way or the other.”

The truth is more complex. I have lots of friends who swing. I couldn’t have done a tenth of the research on the finished title if not for those friends – and the friends with whom they swing. But this was a radio interview and I’d been told any statement that stretches to more than two sentences gets lost on the audience. I was keeping my answers short and (hopefully) sweet.

“But you must be a swinger to have written this book,” he insisted.

“No.” I wanted to ask if he thought Ruth Rendell was a serial killer because she writes about mad bastards who slit peoples throats. I couldn’t think of a way to phrase that response without sounding smarmy or rude.

“Are you seriously telling me, you went to all those parties, and there were all those naked women pushing themselves against you, and you didn’t do anything with them?”

“That’s not quite how it works at swingers parties,” I began with forced cheer.

“The female guests don’t strip off and queue up waiting for authors to arrive.” 

There was a deathly silence on the other end of my Toshiba TS10. Palpable waves of loathing seeped into my ear. If I had really been holding Captain Kirk’s communicator I would have begged Scotty to beam me up. I was struggling to think of a polite way to get the conversation back on track.

But the DJ wanted blood.

“I’ve got nothing against swingers,” he said stiffly.

“You hide it fucking well,” I thought. I kept that one to myself. This guy was prickly enough without me throwing extra barbs at him.

“But there is something I’ll say about them.”

“Go on,” I encouraged. I was naively optimistic that we might be moving into easier territory.

“Aren’t all swingers ugly?”

That was the question that blew me away.

For a moment I thought my Toshiba had let me down and fed me a crossed line. Then I blamed my ears for hearing him wrong. It was a horrific thing for anyone to say. It was akin to stating that all lesbians have hairy legs and Loretta Bobbit aspirations; or that all Pakistanis are either doctors or they work in corner shops. It was stereotyping at the most idiotic, childish and puerile level. And, after spending six months talking with swingers, researching their stories and reporting on their lifestyles, I wasn’t used to dealing with type of juvenile conversation. I was used to dealing with adults.

“Say again?” 

“They’re all ugly, aren’t they? Did you notice that they were all ugly while you were researching your book?”

“Of course not.”

As soon as I’d found out I was going to be on the radio, I’d given up swearing. The thought that I might be on some live BBC show, and accidentally say, “I met some fucking lovely people,” filled me with enough dread to make me quit bad language as though it was carcinogenic. But I wanted to swear during this interview.

Panic set in.

Ugliness is not a quantifiable commodity and cannot be ascribed to one group of people because their lifestyle differs from a perceived ideal. Attractiveness is usually self-reciprocating. We are attracted to those who find us attractive. Yes, there were some swingers who didn’t strike me as attractive.

But I had met others who were so stunning they made me consider revoking my infatuation for the actress Eliza Dushku.

The majority of swingers (just like the majority of non-swingers) fall somewhere between those two extremes.

Yet I couldn’t find a way to fit that complex sentiment into a neat sound bite. I was a mass of stuttering silence and the only option that kept recurring in my thoughts was: switch the phone off.

But that would have been the coward’s way out.

“Did you ever see a stunning six foot blonde with perfect massive boobs at any of those parties? Did you ever see someone who looked just like that?”

My panic subsided as I realised the real problem with this interview: I was talking to a simpleton. To be more accurate: I was talking to a bigoted simpleton who wasn’t getting enough at home. The relief that came with that understanding was enough to clear my thoughts.

“I saw plenty of attractive people,” I assured him warmly. And I went on to conclude the interview in a state of serene calm.

After I’d hung up he went on to assure his listeners that all swingers really were ugly, despite my contrary opinion. Swinging was an acceptable fantasy for the bedroom of a respectable man and wife – but the reality was only for ugly perverts. He also assured his audience I was a dirty old man who had (most likely) done all manner of depraved things during the research for the book.

Sticks and stones, I figured. Personally, I had left my worries about such insults back in the playground where they belonged. To my mind, the most important thing was that he got the title of my book right each time he mentioned it.

Having researched his target audience prior to agreeing to the interview I knew the majority of his listeners fitted the demograph for typical swingers. I also knew the location of his audience has a very high density of swingers per capita: far higher than the UK average. I still wonder how many of them are tuning into his show after hearing his outrageous opinions.

And, if that DJ and I ever get the chance to speak again, that’s one question I really must ask him.

Ashley Lister



Ashley Lister is the author of Swingers: true confessions from today’s swinging scene.

* Note - We had to laugh at the DJ's claims to Ashley Lister that 'All swingers are ugly'. We invite Sensual Swingers members and readers to submit their pictures to our 'Sexy Pics' page in the hope that this mis-informed Z-list celebrity can see just how stunning swingers can be - Sensual Swingers Admin.

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