Great sexpectations

Couple sheds light on swinging lifestyle

By Katie Christoff

Photo: Local couple Diana and Tony McCollister were briefly featured on A&E’s series Neighbors With Benefits

Tony and Diana McCollister have been together for almost 12 years, and have been married for close to five. They have three children and live in a suburban community in Hamilton Township, between Dayton and Cincinnati. An attractive couple in their 30s, they appear to be your average Midwestern couple.

But the McCollisters don’t entirely fit the suburban stereotype. They were recently profiled in a reality TV show on the A&E network, titled Neighbors with Benefits, which focused on their participation in swinger culture.

The show quickly attracted scandal, and was cancelled after just two episodes. Their lives, however? Not so scandalous. The McCollisters took some time to discuss their swinging lifestyle with Dayton City Paper, and cleared up some common misconceptions readers (and this writer) may have had.

Meet the McCollisters

Tony and Diana McCollister met, as many modern couples do, in their early 20s. And like many other couples, they were nervous to settle down immediately, afraid of missing out on the fun had by single twentysomethings.

“Basically, we were young and we liked each other,” Diana McCollister says. “We wanted to have something together, but at the same time didn’t want to be committed to one person, we wanted to be able to explore and date at the same time.”

This natural apprehension towards commitment ended up leading the couple to swinging, which they soon discovered is commonly referred to as “the Lifestyle.”

“We were experimenting with sexual bounds,” Tony McCollister says. “We didn’t know we were becoming swingers. There was less information available then than there is now, but we found this whole lifestyle around the same concept of exploring options.”

Their story makes swinging sound a lot less scandalous, intimidating and provocative. But the McCollisters acknowledged that theirs wasn’t a common case, and many people end up specifically seeking out the Lifestyle later on in life, as empty-nesters (or at least after marriage, and not before).

The most important thing they continued to reiterate is that there are no black-and-white answers to any questions about swinging. Every couple’s story is different, as it should be, because swinging is all about accommodating sexual preferences.

So you want to be a swinger?

According to Tony, the best way to learn about swinging is simple: “Google.”

“When swinging started, newspapers and magazines had secret mailing lists,” he says. “Now everything is based on the Internet.” Though he says no one site has monopolized the demographic yet, he names the most popular in Southwestern Ohio, known in the community as “SLS.”

On the Internet, the McCollisters found that swingers host a multitude of events, including hotel takeovers and meet-and-greet events at bars. Tony McCollister says there are also at least 40 swinger clubs in Ohio right now.

These clubs aim to bring sexually like-minded people together, but some take it a step further, allowing on-site sex. These clubs, the McCollisters explained, are typically BYOB because it’s more difficult for venues allowing nudity or sex to obtain a liquor license.

“It makes swinging a financially viable option, in a way,” Tony McCollister says. “Most places will charge 50 bucks a couple and they’re BYOB, then you can get a local hotel room—it’s kind of a nice little package.”

“We almost never do that,” his wife adds. “We’re a bit of an anomaly.”

Swingin’ party

If sex clubs aren’t your thing, what are the other options?

“Clubs are good places to go for people who want to be secretive about what they’re doing, because everyone has that understanding,” Diana McCollister explains. “We’re so open and honest that it doesn’t matter to us; we prefer going out to normal bars and normal places.” At these bars, she says, they don’t necessarily go out with the expectation of bringing someone home every night.

“Our primary goal is to go out, have fun and dance,” she continues. “If you have sexpectations, you’re just setting yourself up to fail. I don’t like couples like that.”

When the McCollisters go out, they often try to set each other up—and they’ve become so familiar with each other’s preferences, that they’re often successful. Diana McCollister says she’ll often see a woman in the bathroom, strike up a conversation and point her out to her husband. Other times, her husband will point out a man and she’ll admit she’d already noticed him.

No matter how they find people, the McCollisters continue emphasizing how open they are about the nature of their relationship.

“I’ll be talking to a girl and she’ll see my ring, then I’ll introduce her to my wife,” Tony McCollister says. “We meet people everywhere we go.”

Doesn’t that bother people they meet? Not often, according to the couple.

“We’re so open and honest, and we live in a very sexualized culture where a lot of people have a lot of fantasies and don’t have outlets,” Diana McCollister says. “If they find us attractive it makes that conversation with us pretty easy.”

The McCollisters say their ideal situation is when they really hit it off with another couple for a foursome, but it’s difficult to find that kind of chemistry between all four people. They enjoy “playing” together, the term they used for sex, and will only play with people they’re both attracted to. One of the McCollisters will also serve as a third for couple friends of theirs, from time to time.

“Generally speaking, most couples don’t play alone,” Tony McCollister says, explaining that many swingers participate more frequently in group sex. “Most couples play together at least at the beginning, and as they go on, they may play individually. I could probably count on one hand how many times we’ve played alone. We’ll have singles and couples join us, but to play by ourselves is still a rarity.”

Sexy social life

The premise of Neighbors with Benefits, the A&E reality show on which the couple briefly starred, was that their neighborhood was full of swinging couples. But is this the reality? Do swingers only ever socialize with other swingers?

Not according to the McCollisters.

“We have a large group of swinger friends and non-swinger friends that all comingle,” Tony McCollister says. “We couldn’t divide our friendships, because we love all our friends.”

They do enjoy having some swingers as friends, however, because it creates a deeper connection than hooking up with random people they’ve just met.

“It’s a mental and physical attraction,” Tony McCollister says. “It becomes more about friendship than sexuality.”

“I prefer that, you get to know them, because of the whole safety factor,” Diana says. “And our swinger friends are also vanilla friends—our relationships with them aren’t necessarily always kinky or sexual.”

Honesty is the best policy

How has the McCollister’s marriage benefited from swinging? They say the Lifestyle has taught them how to communicate openly, helping them avoid petty arguments.

“You have to communicate so much and at such great depth when you’re doing this kind of thing so feelings don’t get hurt,” Diana McCollister says. “You learn to communicate so well that when it comes to other communication matters, it’s natural. It just comes.”

“We’re never leaving a man behind,” Tony McCollister counters. “Things constantly change and evolve for us, and it’s been almost 11 or 12 years. We’ve had awkward situations, but now we’re at a point where it doesn’t happen very often. If we don’t have an agreement, we’re not going to do something. We talk about everything.”

Though the McCollisters can attest to the many benefits swinging has had on their marriage, they warn that it’s not a way to fix a struggling marriage.

“This is definitely not a fix to misery in marriage or a way to spice things up—that is a recipe for disaster,” Diana McCollister says. “You have to come from a solid foundation.”

Sexual taboos

Despite their positive experiences with swinging, the McCollisters are well aware of the taboo the Lifestyle carries with it. They addressed some common questions and misconceptions they’re faced with about their lifestyle, especially after starring on a reality show about it.

“The thing I’m most annoyed about is that I always get men asking me how to convert their significant other, asking ‘how do I get my wife into this?’” Tony McCollister says. “Everyone thinks I’m forcing Diana to do this, and I get all the benefits. [She’s] a hell of an actor then.”

He then addressed the judgment others pass on him, saying he’s often labeled as a “swinger” and people struggle to see past that.

“Once people label you something, they can’t see past that,” he says. “They see that thing they hate. I’ve experienced it in the past couple months, and it doesn’t matter how good of person, husband or father I am—they just see ‘swinger’ and they hate. It’s scary actually.

“When people question our parenting, love and our marriage, that hurts,” he says.

“What’s right for us might not be right for you, but does it really matter?” Diana adds. And that’s what they aim to show others by being open about their sexuality—it’s ok to be who you want to be, and do what you want to do.”

“People are so afraid of identities, afraid of persecution,” Tony says. “We’d rather be open and honest instead of hiding in a corner. And I didn’t want to be a hypocrite. I can still be a great spouse, have a great house and have friends that aren’t swingers.”

And that’s the primary misconception the McCollisters want to clear up—swinging is a part of their identity, but it doesn’t define them. And just as they do, everyone should explore their own sexual preferences and express their own individuality, without judgement or taboo.

Reach DCP freelance writer Katie Christoff at

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