Taboo but true: Malaysian couple talks about how swinging strengthened their relationship

*The names of the couple in this article have been changed to protect their identities 

In the hushed corridors of Malaysia’s conservative society, where tradition and decorum reign supreme, any open discussion of sexuality – whether it be about preferences or practices – can evoke negative reactions or even legal repercussions. Religious authorities and government officials act as the country’s moral police, rigorously enforcing limitations on the LGBTQ+ community and stigmatizing individuals who dare to explore their sexuality.

They warn that allowing for sex outside the narrow confines of traditional marriage could threaten to destroy families and thus society.

But there’s another side to that argument. Some say that being truly happy as a couple means being open and honest with each other about everything – including sex.

Hayley and Khai are a Malaysian couple who embody that argument while also breaking many stereotypes. First, they’re members of the country’s secretive but surprisingly active swingers scene. Second, they say that embracing the swinging lifestyle and their sexual fantasies has actually strengthened their relationship and brought them closer together.

Getting into the swing of things

Hayley, a 30-year-old woman, and Khai, her 35-year-old partner, reside in a luxurious upper-class neighborhood of Kuala Lumpur. Despite their seemingly ordinary lives, the couple made an unconventional decision a few years ago – to delve into the clandestine realm of swinging.

Their decision was not a rash one, but rather the result of an open and candid dialogue about their sexual yearnings and fantasies. They both acknowledged a shared fascination with the idea of engaging in sexual experiences with multiple partners and felt that the practice of swinging offered a secure and mutually agreed-upon pathway to explore those desires.

For those who don’t know (or are afraid to ask), swinging is a consensual, non-monogamous lifestyle where couples engage in sexual activities with other couples or individuals. While it may not be a conventional choice for everyone, many consider it a valid way of expressing one’s sexuality as long as it is done with respect, honesty, and communication.

How did the fantasies start for Hayley and Khai? 

Hayley was in her early twenties when she started fantasizing about sexual pleasures that went beyond the traditional way. She was imagining things involving three people, maybe more, in the same room and on the same bed.

“I think I only got to know about the swinging community or nonmonogamous relationships and kinks from my own exploration.”

“First, it was just thinking about fantasies of group play, you know, having threesomes, foursomes, or being with multiple people. That kind of thing involves nonmonogamy, essentially, because I quickly realized that it involves people who may or may not be single.”

“Which is kind of the core of swinging, that they can go outside of their relationships or even within them to explore kinks and fantasies.”

For Khai, he said that he learned about sexual practices such as swinging and non-monogamy in Malaysia in his late 20s.

He did some research to understand what was happening in terms of sexual discussions online in Malaysia.

He said he came across some websites that provided information on such practices (though he chose not to disclose their names for fear of exposing them to the public).

“So I found these websites and people recording their daily sex lives, you know, whether weekly or otherwise. It’s like a journal-based thing, like a blog about what they do. Then I realized that a lot of people here are doing very kinky shit. Whether it’s in a nonmonogamous world, whether they’re married or single, whether it’s fulfilling their fantasies, things like that.”

How did you both agree to swing and what kind of struggles did you face?

Contrary to popular misconceptions, swinging is not a form of cheating or a way to fix a broken relationship. It is a lifestyle choice that involves trust, respect, and honesty between partners.

In the case of Hayley and Khai, they have a strong foundation of trust and communication that allows them to explore their sexuality in a way that is fulfilling for both of them.

Khai tells me that it was when they both started opening up about their sexual fantasies that they realized how many of them involved non-monogamous practices.

As with all things in life, the practice of swinging carries with it its own set of complexities and revelations, depending on one’s perspective.

“At first, there were a lot of insecurities, you know? What if she found someone else attractive? I mean, I guess it’s normal in this sort of situation for thoughts like this to come up. But we managed it quite well by talking about it and being open with each other,” Khai said.

As he delved into the realm of swinging, Khai discovered an astounding surge of confidence that allowed him to let go of issues he used to have with his body image and concerns about satisfying his partner.

With an air of enthusiasm, he revealed that when he and Hayley concluded their playful rendezvous with other like-minded souls, a magical and unparalleled climax awaited them upon their reunion.

“I think, it’s really kind of explosive. It’s one of the most exciting things, to see your partner playing with other people, or hear about it. And then, after that, they come home to you. It just raises the sexual tension to very different heights,” he said.

Meanwhile, for Hayley, she recounted her initial experience with a mixture of excitement and relief.

Hayley acknowledged the presence of numerous worries and biases that lingered in her mind at the time.

“I was worried at first that my partner was going to find someone else attractive and not come back into the relationship. The other one was the concern that I wasn’t going to be able to be intimate with another person because I wasn’t in a relationship with them,” she said.

“To my surprise, I found it to actually be very liberating. Because, of course, before going into it,  you have a lot of worries, you have a lot of biases, even choosing the kinds of people you want to engage with.”

However, the moment they took the leap, Hayley discovered that it was far simpler and less complicated than she had imagined.

The simplicity of it all came with a refreshing wave of freedom, gently washing away her preconceived notions.

In fact, she said that engaging in swinging even opened doors to a new social sphere, allowing her to forge connections and friendships. Any remaining biases she once held seemed to fade into insignificance as she embraced this newfound openness.

“So, in a way, whatever biases that I had before just sort of fell away. In fact, it was liberating because it felt like a rock was lifted off of our shoulders,” she said.

Hayley says swinging served as a catalyst for even deeper conversations with her partner, creating an environment where they could openly express their sexual desires without hesitation.

The true exhilaration, however, lay in how it transformed their relationship. Both of them found themselves embracing an even greater level of openness, fostering a stronger bond as they explored their desires together.

What happens at swing parties? 

The meetups are usually hosted at a hotel or an Airbnb. Sometimes swingers host them in their own homes too.

According to the couple, the atmosphere at these parties is akin to any typical social gathering you would attend. Swingers mingle with each other and ask whoever they’re interested in if they’d like to play.

These play sessions can mean many different things—sometimes it’s just good ol’ oral sex, or if you want to take it up a notch, group sex.

Although the ultimate goal is for everybody to reach a level of satisfaction that they are happy with, before that can happen, a lot of open conversation needs to be done, Khai tells me.

“It’s happened in the past where a few of us ended up on a bed and cuddled each other.”

“So I guess, it isn’t really just about sex per se; there is this other form of intimacy that takes place. In your everyday life, you put on masks, either in front of your family or at your workplace, so here you get the barest version of them, in every sense of the word,” he said.

Part of this exploration involves engaging in open conversations about one’s sexual past, including any experiences with diseases, and establishing boundaries and preferences regarding what feels comfortable and what doesn’t.

These discussions encompass not only sharing personal histories but also establishing guidelines and understanding each other’s limits.

“Ultimately, it fosters an open conversation sort of atmosphere among couples and individuals alike,” he said.

The psychology behind swinging

According to Singaporean sex coach Andrea Tan, there are two main motivations that drive couples to engage in swinging: a desire for variety within the relationship and the pursuit of sexual exploration.

But can it really strengthen a couple’s relationship, as Hayley and Khai said it did for them?

Tan says that it actually can because it offers couples an opportunity to delve deeper into defining their relationship dynamics.

Doing swinging in a healthy way, Tan emphasized, requires enhanced communication, personal growth for each individual in the couple, and open discussions surrounding partner selection and desired activities.

She said swinging could be a significant aspect of a couple’s relationship or a one-time experience. Regardless, it requires a significantly higher level of communication compared to couples who do not have open relationships.

That heightened level of communication allows couples to establish a stronger foundation, reinforcing their primary relationship while simultaneously exploring new avenues for sexual encounters and partners.

Asked about how swinging helped Khai get over his body image issues, Tan said that for couples seeking to expand their sexual explorations and introduce new partners, body positivity can play a role, making individuals more accepting and non-judgmental toward themselves and others.

This mindset can, in turn, foster a more inclusive and fulfilling experience within the swinging lifestyle, as partners can explore and appreciate a wider range of body types and physical appearances, while still prioritizing their primary relationship.

Embracing diversity

Couples such as Hayley and Khai fly in the face of all conventional wisdom about sex in Malaysia. That they were able to strengthen their relationship through swinging is actually not that strange; there are endless stories out there about similar couples who found happiness with each other while exploring sexuality outside the bounds of marriage.

What makes them unique is that you rarely hear about such couples in Malaysia. Not because they don’t exist, but because few are willing or brave enough to share their stories when the potential for backlash, both social and legal, is so dire. There’s a good reason why Hayley and Khai don’t want to share their real names.

But they’re lucky enough to have found and opened up to each other, despite all the taboos and preconceptions our culture has filled our heads with. Many Malaysian couples will remain unhappy and unsatisfied because our society doesn’t allow them to imagine anything different.

In our eagerness to preserve our conservative values, we are ignoring a harsh reality: that the things we are afraid to talk about are already happening out there. The lack of safe spaces and platforms to talk about sex– from topics like swinging to even the basics of sex education and safe sex – allows for things like sexual abuse, marital rape and other types of sex crimes to continue due to our collective ignorance.

To embrace the complexities of the human experience, we must be brave enough to shed the shroud of cultural taboos and stigmas, to embark on a journey of understanding, empathy, and acceptance.

By fostering an environment that encourages conversations about even the most uncomfortable subjects, we not only broaden our perspectives but also pave the way for a more inclusive society – one that embraces diversity in all its forms.