As it turns out, such activities are not just for kids. All across Utah, neighbors are hooking up with each other. But they're not sneaking around behind their partner's backs. Instead, couples are knocking on the neighbors' doors together. There's a name for this kind of grown-up activity.
It's called "swinging," and if you go by the numbers of Utahns signed up with online groups of like-minded people, there are thousands of active swingers in the Beehive State. Swinging, in case you haven't heard, is also known as wife swapping or partner swapping. It is a non-monogamous relationship, where partners in committed relationships engage in sexual activities with others for fun. Swinging in Utah has been viewed as urban legend. Many have dismissed the idea as petty gossip.
But, after plenty of research, we can tell you, swinging in Zion is a real part of the culture. One woman's story 2News' Heidi Hatch sat down with a woman who was a part of Utah's swinging community for a year. She came forward to tell her story, hoping others will listen to her experience before dipping their toes in a lifestyle that she says ripped her family apart. This former swinger, whom we'll call Susan to protect her identity, agreed to talk about how she started swinging, ended up with gonorrhea, messed up her marriage, was excommunicated from the LDS church and became an alcoholic.
Susan was married for 20 years to a man she loved, the last year of which she said was spent hooking up with others swingers at hot spots like Club 90 in Sandy and Habits in Salt Lake City.
The parties, Susan said, were fun for a while. Many were private, invite -only events at homes you'd never expect - those belonging to doctors, lawyers, business owners. Many of the rumors about swinging in Utah are rooted in Draper, where Susan said spent time at a party house owned by a couple who didn't actually live there.
Neighbors knew it was a swinger house, she said, and complained to police about the cars parked in front. Draper police were called, Susan recalled, but there was nothing they could do, because swinging is not illegal. One party house sat in the shadow of the LDS temple in Bountiful, a site that made her cringe as a Mormon.
Swinging, she said, soon began to tear apart her marriage and family, one hook up at a time. It's not this easy-going lifestyle. But her husband wasn't. In a rut Kristin Hodson, a sex and marriage therapist, works with couples dealing with such "ruts. More and more couples in Utah are taking the turn toward swinging, and with the rise of social media, it's become easier to find other other couples.
One of many popular avenues: The swing of things Susan, a suburban mom, said she was oblivious to the world of swinging until she stumbled on the Swingular account her husband created for them. You sign up online to find out where other swingers hang out, she said. Like dating, you meet up before anything else happens, usually at seemingly normal backyard BBQ's. We think you are a great couple and fun,'" Susan recalled.
Looking back, Susan said she feels like she was groomed into the lifestyle. He had friends call and talk to me about it. Soon after, Susan said she tested positive for gonorrhea. They were careful when they were together at parties, she said, but she contracted the STD after he engaged in solo sex with another woman.
A 'couples' activity' Hodson says the concept of swinging being a "couples' activity" makes it appealing to some. She had gained some weight over the years and thought it could bring back the spark. For a short time, Susan thought maybe her husband was right. The adrenaline rush and late-night orgies were fun, she said, and played out her "husband's much-talked about fantasies. That wasn't the case for Susan, who preferred to be in a different room from her spouse when they engaged in sex with others.
And she was not alone. Studies show that risky sexual lifestyles like swinging are a gateway to drug and alcohol abuse. Six months in, Susan says her "eyes started to open.
As a mother, Susan said she was shocked and told her husband she wanted to leave. The couple who lived in the home, she recalled, "followed us out and said it was OK [because] they [kids were] five and six and [wouldn't] remember anything. Hodson asks a question in return: What are we teaching about relationships and intimacy, boundaries and all the things that go along?
A conservative community where families don't talk about intimacy, she said, can create an environment for adults who act out sexually. Have you thought about that?
If you hear about the good and the bad and still want to join, then that is your choice. Follow Heidi Hatch on Facebook and Twitter. Photographed and edited by Matt Michela Unmute.