I think this is an interesting excerpt from an article I just discovered about polyamory,. There is a section which compares it to different things, one of which is swinging:
"What distinguishes polyamory from other movements it is often lumped in with by mainstream observers, and what does this indicate about the self-determination framing I propose?
Polyamory is sometimes compared to swinging. But if they are so similar, why are there so many swingers and so few polyfolk? To outsiders, both seem based on similar elements of open sexuality, yet the lifestyle gang can fill entire Las Vegas hotels with their conventions, while polyfolk count it as a big success if there are even a hundred people at one of their conferences.
The difference, I feel, is the challenge of self-determination. Very broadly stated, swingers buy into a new set of externally generated rules to enjoy a new form of recreational activity. That is, they simply trade the mainstream rules for the lifestyle rules. By contrast, the poly way is to make up one's own rules, internal to the specific relationship in question, to create a new way of structuring deep aspects of one's life. (These are broad generalizations. I know many people in the swing scene who take it deeper, and many polys who don't. But for this broad discussion, I feel these generalizations are basically valid.)
This is relevant because it is far easier to buy in to a new set of external rules than to take full responsibility for the self-examination and honest discussion necessary to create your own. So it's logical that there are far fewer polyfolk than swingers. The poly ideal is that all interested parties sit down and co-create the rules they want to live by, personally and between themselves. This is worthwhile, but it's not easy, and most people are unwilling to do the tough self-examination and open-hearted negotiation it demands.
Even more, most people are unwilling to take the necessary personal responsibility for creating a successful outcome. With some other paradigms, people accept external rules as provided. This lets them blame any failures on the external rules. But polyamory is where you write your own rules, so "the buck stops here", because "here" is where the framework got set up in the first place. "
The article is called "There's No Such Thing As Polyamory," by Barry Smiler, written last year and published in the Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality
, Volume 14, April 7, 2011.