Remembering the Wife Swapping Crisis of the 1960s

Spoken Word with Electronics is an audio series of unusual stories and commentary, paired with modular electronic sounds and noises.

Hi, everyone, welcome back to the show. This week we discuss Wife Swapping. It's a book reviewed by John Wilcock in OTHER SCENES #2, 1967. You'll find a full PDF of the review, along with other interesting capsules of the underground era, in this recent update of a new feature on Spoken Word with Electronics: The Other Scenes Inventory Report. Wife Swapping, or sharing partners, or swinging, still exists (of course) – But there was a brief moment in the late 1960s/early 1970s where it became a bit of a small suburban fad. The book "Wife Swapping" by Thomas J.B. Wilson, PhD and Everett Meyers presents itself as a kind of Kinsey Report for the delicate act of trading your women:

It's my perspective that partner sharing almost always never works out. Doubt and mistrust are things that can develop over time. Worse, fear or resentment can be unexpectedly created in the moment itself, even if the initial experience is fun. It's often a sign of the end of a relationship, rather than a new chapter, if swapping is introduced. Of course, it depends on who is doing whom. The friends of mine that swap partners successfully only did so through meeting each other in freely sexual locations (sex clubs, etc), so it was part of their identity as a couple. But to casually dip your toe into the endeavor (say, one person urges the other to try it) can be needlessly reckless. Still, it's terrific to see a book like this from 1967 properly catalogued in the inventory of weird things from John Wilcock's notebook.

The Other Scenes Inventory Report is an intention to archive all the available issues of John Wilcock's Other Scenes, a 1960s counterculture newspaper. I'm providing audio commentary for each update. This issue also includes a wonderfully scathing poem from John Sinclair on a Detroit narcotics officer who busted him on a marijuana charge. The 'Poem for Warner Stringfellow' is from the 1967 issue of Other Scenes. A year later, Sinclair would co-found The White Panther Party (a supportive white organization for The Black Panthers) and a year after that, he'd famously be charged with a 10 year prison sentence for offering two joints to an undercover policewoman.

Also in this update: Issue five of Other Scenes, April 1967. Hot dog, Maggots! This includes one of the more collected single sheets of Hunter S. Thompson's early writing career. Often referred to as "The Ultimate Freelancer", Thompson's tribute to mentor Lionel Olay is a riveting blast of good HST. Most of the Internet gets the origin of this piece to be incorrectly attributed to The Distant Drummer, which reprinted it in November 1967. But the original article ran as a letter to John Wilcock in O.S. #5. (It was also described here on Boing Boing in the John Wilcock comic) – The upload of this original page of Hunter Thompson writing should delight many of you.

You'll find links to scans in full PDF with OCR of both issues and audio commentary in this week's episode. Also, there was a call for feedback last show and we're happy to include some lovely listener submissions in track two, Listener Feedback. To quote Outer Limits: Thank you, Listener!


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