Just interviewed Cooper Beckett, host of the Life on the Swingset podcast, for next week's Savage Love and learned about an effort to create a hankie code of sorts for swingers—only it's a ring instead of hankies and there's just one color:

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Q: How does the black ring work?

A: Wear your black ring on your right hand if you are out and open to meet other swingers. If someone wearing a black ring on their right hand approaches you, start a conversation with them. "I see you're wearing a black ring on your right hand. Maybe we are in the same club."

Q: Does it matter what finger I wear my black ring?

A: Wear your black ring on any finger but the middle one. The ring finger is the natural place for the black ring, but thumb rings are cool too. A black ring worn on the middle finger of the right hand is an infrequently used symbol of asexuality. Please avoid wearing your ring on this finger as a courtesy to that community. (See below.)

Q: Do I have to wear my black ring all the time?

A: No. Only when you want other swingers to recognize you.

"The black ring is a concept that's been gaining steam over the last couple years," Beckett told me. "It was first put forth by the Swap Fu podcast as a way to identify swingers in the wild. I'd love for it to take off, but I just haven't seen it."

I haven't seen any black rings out there either—but I haven't been looking for them, and, as I'm not a swinger, I'm not going to start. But here's something I am looking for now—a cite for a statistic at the end of the Swap Fu post about black rings:

"The number of swingers in the population is very low—less than 4 percent of the population identify themselves as swingers."

I'd really love to see a cite for that stat.

If true, it means there are more heterosexual swingers out there than there are gays and lesbians (if you accept the lower estimates of the size of the queer community). Religious conservatives are always harping on the bad example that gay married male couples supposedly set for married straight couples—because we married gays are less likely to be monogamous (married lesbians are more likely to be monogamous than gay or straight couples, so really, the monogamy issue should be a wash)—but they don't have much to say about married heterosexual swingers. They either deny that married het swingers exist at all, dismissing the whole swinging movement a 1970s/key party phenomenon, as dead and gone as pet rocks and EST, or they claim that there are too few straight married swingers out there for them to constitute a threat to "traditional" opposite-sex, totes-monogamous marriage.

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But if there are actually more of them than there are of us then the failure of religious conservatives to take on heterosexual swingers is yet more evidence of their hypocrisy. As I've long said: We only hear that monogamy is a defining characteristic of marriage when same-sex couples want to marry—a defining characteristic along with the ability to make children and religion. Straight couples can do whatever they want: have children or not, get married in church or married at City Hall, be monogamous or swing, all without complaint from the same people who insist that gays shouldn't be able to marry because we're not good at monogamy (I like to think we're better at non-monogamy, thank you), can't make babies (just like infertile straight couples, elderly straight couples, and these two), and Jesus will puke all over everything.

So if religious conservatives are jumping up and down about nonmonogamous gay couples while ignoring more numerous nonmonogamous straight couples—if we're subjected to hate campaigns while swingers get a pass—then it's clear their issue isn't that gay people aren't good at monogamy.

What could be it? I wonder...

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