A&E explores extra-marital extracurricular activities in the new docu-series Neighbors with Benefits. What should you know if you want to swing it as a swinger?
A&E continued its foray into unconventional adult relationships Sunday night with the premiere of the docu-series Neighbors with Benefits. The neighborhood in question features multiple couples who are engaged in what the participants describe as “the lifestyle,” or as lay persons would call it: swinging.
The pilot introduced us to seven couples: five who are active participants in “the lifestyle” (including…recruiters?…Tony and Diana), one “strictly monogamous”/religious/Gladys Kravitz enthusiasts Mark and Amy/Aimee((Get your act together, chyron generators), and potential recruits Vince and Penni. Although we don’t spend much time with the potential recruits, we do learn some of the pros and cons of “the lifestyle.”
It’s a Good vs. Evil World. One of the major conflicts introduced involves Tony/Diana and Mark/Amy in a battle for Vince/Penni’s souls. The show wants to posit that engaging in these activities is an all-or-nothing proposition. Mark and Amy, while cordial to their neighbors, vehemently disapprove on religious grounds. As is their right. Tony and Diana do not share that viewpoint and welcome others to consider their options. As is also their right. Not everything is for everybody, and nothing that these consenting adults are doing violates any laws. This activity isn’t really my scene, but it can be frustrating for the viewer to have the opposing viewpoint awash in sanctimony when an attitude of “eh, it’s not my thing” would suffice.
Communication and consent are sexy. This may vary from community to community, but Tony and Diana seem to have a solid set of rules established for all participants. Consent is at the center of every interaction, which is refreshing to see expressed on television. One couple, Eric and Lori, explained the code word system used to indicate a green light for engaging with another couple (in this case, Nina and Tim). We also learned the concept of “soft swap”, which is anything except intercourse goes. Maybe that will come up in a crossword puzzle?
There is also protocol for text communications. All communication is to be done via group text to prevent jealously between individuals within couples. This becomes a point of contention with Cody/Brittany and Mike/Maria when Brittany sends photos to Mike only. Expect this to be a central conflict for the season.
Protect yourself. The end of the episode featured a party at Tony and Diana’s house. This was both a recruitment event for Penni (who seemed open to the idea) and Vince (who looked beyond uncomfortable) as well as…uh, not really an orgy, but couples were welcome to break off and do their thing. There was a moment discussing the importance of using protection in this scenario, which is also refreshing to hear on television.
Although Neighbors with Benefits doesn’t line up with my predilections, the show demonstrates consenting adults engaging in what they consider satisfying practices in a responsible and progressive way. Although the audience for a show of this subject may be niche, it will be interesting to see if more conversations and understanding can be generated by this program for other niche groups.