Date of Award

Summer 2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Director

Julia Romberger

Committee Member

Lindal Buchanan

Committee Member

Craig O. Stewart


This dissertation examines whether and how Websites provide a way for the unique community of swingers, also called Lifestylers, to represent a new (and revise an old) deviant identity without risk to their social and employment standing. Unlike many marginalized social groups who publically rally, swingers have had to take advantage of virtual space to safely appeal to their audiences. The time period studied includes the history of the swingers "spoiled" identity via academy articles, newspaper headlines, and moral turpitude clauses from the 1950s to the current use of the Web to showcase swingers and their clubs. The study used visual and linguistic rhetorical analysis and swingers' use of rhetorical refusals to examine one-hundred screen shots collected in 2012. One hundred Web pages from twenty-five swing club Websites served as a case study. Two analytical strategies were employed: (1) a qualitative analysis of five linguistic and 12 visual design characteristics and (2) a search for rhetorical refusals, both of the kind previously identified by Schilb and possible new refusal types. The analysis clarified the process by which a Web presence allows previously silenced subgroups to transform social structures and the constraints they face in doing so. In essence, this dissertation challenges the argument that subgroups remain shamed and private if they differ from standard societal behaviors. Some see these groups as detrimental to society's well-being, but that power differential can be undone when counter public groups use the Internet to publically challenge that presumption with an alternative perspective. The findings not only show swingers' deliberate, rhetorical efforts to entice new members through appealing Websites about the Lifestyle, but also demonstrate how such Websites can propel social change as swingers defy socially social expectations to remain invisible, frame themselves as good people, and take the opportunity to redefine desire, monogamy, and loyalty.