YOU’VE LIKELY SEEN pineapple décor in your room at a beachside hotel, a friend’s house, or in restaurants. Every once in a while, though, you might come across a pineapple flipped on its head: it could be on a sign hanging on someone’s door on a cruise ship; a charm on someone’s jewelry; or an actual pineapple in the front of a stranger’s shopping cart. It turns out, the upside-down pineapple has a specific—and sexy—meaning in the world of non-monogamy.
Since American colonists began importing pineapples from the Caribbean and South America in the 1700s, the fruit became a lasting symbol of hospitality, welcoming, and friendship. Boat captains and ship workers trekking to and from these countries would place one outside their door to symbolize their safe arrival home.
Its symbolism was a bit different prior to the birth of America. The pineapple’s first presentation in English literature dates back to 1629, when it was used as a symbol of temptation for Adam in the Garden of Eden in a book by John Parkinson. It’s given an “erotic, seductive association,” compared to the regular, plain apple eaten by Eve in the original tale, according to the Smithsonian Libraries and Archives.
Hospitality, friendship, eroticism, and seduction? It’s not clear whether the underground meaning of the upside-down pineapple stems from these connotations, but the similarities are striking. (And, no, we’re not talking about the eating-pineapple-for-better-tasting-semen rumor.) Below, find out what exactly that upside-down pineapple flag on your neighbor’s house might represent.
What does an upside-down pineapple mean?
An upside-down pineapple—worn on clothing or jewelry, pushed around in a shopping cart, etc.—is a subtle signal that someone is a swinger or looking for a swinger party. (The pineapple doesn’t have to be upside-down to carry that meaning, FYI. The story goes that when a pineapple is set by a front door, or on someone’s porch, it signifies that a swinger party is in session.)
As of December 2021, the hashtag #upsidedownpineapple had over 41.2 million views on TikTok. According to SlangLang.net, the exact origin of this symbol as a means of public identification is unknown. But, we do know that the popularity of the phrase and symbol started rising in the 1990s. In 2006, the first Urban Dictionary entry mentioning “upside-down pineapple” was published, followed by its own definition on the site in 2017. During the 2010s and beyond, sites like YouTube and Reddit began to blow up with discussions about upside-down pineapples.
Interestingly, in many cultures, the pineapple is used as a symbol of wanting to share—which, when used in the context of swinging, is an amusing play on the original meaning.
Do swingers actually use the upside-down pineapple symbol?
Before we move into whether people actually use this in their real lives and not just in online discussions, let’s talk about what swinging means.
Swinging is one form of non-monogamy, wherein folks who are partnered enjoy having sex with other people and their partners. Swinging is often done between sets of couples; it’s where the “wife swap” and “keys in a bowl” stereotypes come from.
Are people actually using the pineapple symbol to meet other swingers? Absolutely. On dating apps—especially those geared toward non-monogamous arrangements, like Feeld—people may use pineapple emojis in their profiles to signify their swinger status to other users. You’ll also find pineapples all over swinger-related content on Instagram and TikTok (check out #swingtok and see for yourself).
On cruise ships, guests will reportedly hang an upside-down pineapple on their door to signify their swinger status.
I spoke with someone who identifies as a swinger. They shared with me that if there is a pineapple available, they will make it near them, and upside-down—and it’s worked. On their last trip to the grocery store in New York City, they went straight to the produce department, tossed a pineapple in the top of the cart (upside-down, of course), and within about 10 minutes, had someone approach them asking if they wanted details about a play party happening that evening in the neighborhood.
What are some other symbols for swinging (and other forms of non-monogamy)?
Here’s the thing about symbols in general, especially when it comes to symbols in the sex-positive community: they are necessary for communication. Our culture is just starting to normalize all sexualities and relationship designs. These symbols have helped—and continue to help—bring people together when they can’t be as open as they’d like.
In 2017, the New York Post published an article about signs your neighbor may be a swinger. Some of the symbols they noted were:
- a black ring on someone’s right hand
- having garden pampas grass outside your home
- wearing an anklet, toe rings, and thumb rings
- switching your wedding ring to the right hand
- white landscaping rocks
- pink or purple decorations in the front garden
- and, of course, an upside-down pineapple door knocker.
Some of these things could happen without the person realizing it’s a sign for swinging; I wore a toe ring and an anklet long before I knew anything about swinging! If you’re wondering if the symbol means what you think it means, you can always ask the person something like, “Hey, I noticed the white landscaping rocks in your front yard. Are we in the same club?” You’ll know pretty quickly by their response if they are, in fact, a swinger! If that person looks at you with a perplexed face, you can simply say, “Oh never mind, I really like your landscaping!” and continue on your merry way.
Psychotherapist Rachel Wright, MA, LMFT (she/her) is recognized as one of the freshest voices on modern relationships, mental health, and sex.
Cori Ritchey, NASM-CPT is an Associate Health & Fitness Editor at Men’s Health and a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor. You can find more of her work in HealthCentral, Livestrong, Self, and others.