Canada: Swingers Need Safe Sex Lessons, Study Finds -- Ottawa Club Served as Lab in Research

A University of Ottawa nursing professor has studied the swinger lifestyle and concluded more STD education and screening is needed among participants.

Many of the swingers surveyed practiced unprotected sex, had multiple partners, and failed to undergo regular STD testing, said sexual health researcher Patrick O'Byrne. The study data included written surveys filled out by couples as well as field notes made over the course of two nights at a swingers' club. Such establishments are legal in Canada, and O'Byrne said the venue welcomed his presence. Many members, however, complained they had encountered disapproval when they tried to talk to a health care provider about STD screenings.

"What is the role of the health professional? Is it to deal with health issues, such as disease transmission and prevention, or is it to lecture somebody on how they should be behaving?" asked O'Byrne. "Risk in and of itself is exciting for some people. If you say, 'You should stay away because it's risky,' well, that's one of the reasons people do it," he said.

O'Byrne and co-author Jessica A. Watts concluded, "further research is needed to investigate the possible design and implementation of [STD] health services for swingers."

The study, "Exploring Sexual Networks: A Pilot Study of Swingers' Sexual Behavior and Health-Care-Seeking Practices," was published in the Canadian Journal of Nursing Research (2011;43(1)).