Libertines as French Open Minds
Terms used to define sex-positive people, like “lifestyle”, “ethical slut”, “kinkster”, “swingers”, were coined only in the XX century. So even in case adherents of sexual freedom had had any self-designation before, they never passed it to their descendants. And only in French there was – and still exists - a word to denote culture of sex-positive experimenters. Probably in France they by the rule of thumb never hide things from their grandchildren;).
The word used by Calvin for criticizing uninhibited behavior in the XVI century later became a name for an integrated philosophy of “sexual” hedonism – libertine, with libertines as its followers.
Tree of libertinism and its branches
People who relish different kinds of pleasures are usually referred to as hedonists. Yet we feel by intuition that hedonism has little to do with sex.
As for “sexual hedonists”, they have their specific names like:
- sex-positive people
- ethical sluts
- open minds
Those listed are not various descriptions of one and the same notion but self-designation of subcultures. All of them have sexual hedonism as a groundwork. But a swinger may be offended when called a kinkster, and vice versa.
Probably all credits for these names’ emergence should go to French libertines with their love to “art de vivre” (art of life). But just like children of the same parents, these subcultures have their similarities and individualities. So let’s take a close look at the libertinism tree branches to find out where things are coming from and to, and what is the difference between the ways.
Sex-positive people shall never skip a channel with a sex scene when they are hosting guests. They won’t pretend they show no interest in sex. They don’t try to wrap up a talk if sex has become a part of it; they’d rather initiate one. These people want sex to cease being a tabooed subject, so that a suggestion to have sex would no longer result is a lawsuit. They actively develop the culture of sex-talking at least within their group, while some try to do the same having the whole world engaged.
More details on ethical sluts can be found in Dossie Easton & Janet Hardy’s Ethical Slut. This book is about people who arrange their agenda in the way time for variety of sexual pleasures is allowed. Their sexual activity and diversity differs them from simply sex-positive people who may content themselves to sex-positive talks only :). All ethical sluts are sex-positive, but not all sex-positive people are ethical sluts.
Ethical sluts are not satisfied with mere abstaining from sex criticism and doing their best to make others stop reproving sex. They look for their way out into the world of like-minded people both offline and online. They find each other online using web-forums and information portals that tell about sex-world events, like FetLife or Swinglifestyle, and apps for open-minded online dating - Fantasy App, Feeld. As to offline meeting with ethical sluts, see details about venues in our article Eyes Wide Open: A Guide To Kinky Clubs And Kinky Parties.
The term “open mind” is a fruit of fused political correctness, sexual positivism and the Internet. Most of early dating sites were used by those looking for one-for-long-time love. Sex-positive ethical sluts could not post openly about their interests. It was like teasing hungry people with a sandwich. One focused on finding a long-term partner shall never manage to understand the other searching for proper company for an orgy
But ignoring benefits of first dating sites was not a wise thing to do. Thus they started introducing code words and allusions. Some of them turned into set expressions to denote sex-positive people: “open mind” and “like mind”. Open minds can be more active than sex-positive people, but not as active as ethical sluts. People wishing to avoid offending someone (even Facebook) use a low-key “open mind” when recalling a party in “eyes wide shut” style.
An English word swing is not a global term. In France, for instance, they would prefer to use “echanger” to denote sexual partners swapping. Other nations probably also have their own name for this kind of sexual practice.
Swing as a sexual term about grew out of use with the advent of the Internet. Secrecy was an essential component of swing subculture: adult stores, papers ads, letters to P.O. boxes, pictures sent in envelopes... The Internet made it all useless, so the charm of spy-style vanished. And the word lifestyle took over.
For more details about swingers read our article Dating Swingers And Learning Their Lifestyle.
The name lifestyle has restored the aura of secrecy by hiding subculture in the most “public” place – behind a widely-used word they “bear” is a sort of proud way. We can talk about “lifestyle” even in the library. When hearing it, only one having nose for the smell of swing shall understand what it is actually about. While saying “swing” in a public place can make some ears start in inquisitive expectation.
The word ‘swingers’ is also not popular among millennials. The spirit of contradiction now denies parents’ habits, now revives them at “vintage” parties. Today most of young couples who want to date other couples think they do it in some new way and opt to ignore words that were used 30 years ago to refer the same:
“We go to swing clubs but we are not swingers, we are open minds”
“Our couple is open for experiments, for something new, while the word ‘swingers’ entails some commitments that we don’t agree to”
“We have sex with other people but this is not swing, it’s lifestyle”.
Lifestyle is what modern followers of partners’ swapping choose. And this is the terms they use in new books about swingers, like for instance Terry Gould’s The Lifestyle: A Look at the Erotic Rites of Swingers.
Things are not easier with kinksters. In some countries kink stands for almost any type of sexual variations that go beyond traditional sex. In others they prefer to use the word “kinkster” only when referring to BDSM practitioners. So it is only in the framework of cultural context that you can define who a person calling oneself a kinkster actually is.
And even though kinky market is a common name for platforms that sale different sexual garments (not just BDSM) while the prefix kinky- is used in regard to any party implying sexual content, not all sex-positive people say they are kinksters.
Common ancestor - libertine
We apply the term ‘libertines’ to all hedonists whose hedonism also includes sex. All those sex-positive, who consider themselves to be ethical sluts or kinksters. Libertines have “deep history” of 3 centuries, their most prominent representatives being Marquis de Sade and Wilmot, the Earl of Rochester. They have little in common with modern swingers, kinksters and ethical sluts, yet leaders are always much more radical than their followers.
You can get the idea of the XVIII-century libertines’ authentic ways from the books of Choderlos de Laclos, De Sade and Wilmot.
The idea of libertines to be a totally relevant and live term of today can be proved by the fact of its presence on corresponding websites. Browsing through “about” or “our guests” pages of any French adult club site you shall find the word “libertine” there. And if you have even once had a pleasure of visiting a party for adults you are a libertine as well. And they are not only French swing-clubs: kinky parties all over the world open their doors to host sex hedonists – the libertines.
Love for free choice of one’s sexual preferences and strive for searching answer to the question “what other desire of mine can I quench?” is a hallmark of libertines. You are of this kind? Then you are a libertine.
So who are we?
While the world is pending with its decision about attitude to sex, sex-positive people are still a subculture with terminology that differs subject to local language specifics. All notions used to describe sex subcultures cross over to complement each other and bear an emotional imprint of their closest ancestors. Thus only those coming from one and the same cultural environment shall understand them equally.
Calling someone a swinger or a kinkster without getting into the nuts and bolts does not always mean this one shall choose the same word for self-naming. A “libertine” in Europe shall be America’s “lifestyle” and “ethical slut”, and “kinkster” in some other place. Therefore, when using words one should consider the essence - sexual freedom, sexual inquisitiveness and love for sexual experiments - and rely on the same.