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I mentioned in my last post that I’d been questioning whether or not being polyamorous was worth it. I came back with the answer ‘Yes’ but didn’t really explain why.

I did a bit of brainstorming about why I do this, to serve as a reminder for myself and hopefully anyone who reads this. I’ve written before about Deborah Anapol’s article, Why People Choose Polyamory and found some inspiration there again.

So, why?

 Because I love being in love.

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Being in love and having it returned is one of the best feelings and I have found that being polyamorous means I get to experience that even more. I don’t have to stop being in love with one person in order to be in love with someone else. I never have to face that agonising experience of ‘BUT I LOVE THEM BOTH, HOW CAN I CHOOSE?’

Because I love sex.

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I say it’s not just about the sex, but it definitely plays a big role. I do like sex a lot. It’s something I enjoy without guilt, and I am not afraid to seek it out or ask for it. I’m a sex-positive person and for me, sex is healthy and fun, however there is a lot of emotion that comes along with sexual intimacy. Polyamory offers an ethical framework where neither the physical act nor the emotions are taboo.

Because I want to grow as a person and push past my comfort zone.

Free image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Polyamory is challenging to both social norms and personal boundaries. In Deborah Anapol’s article on this, she says:

“The blessing and the curse of polyamory is that love which includes more than one tends to illuminate those dark shadows many would prefer to ignore.”

I personally hate glossing over problems. I prefer ‘front loading things,’ as my boyfriend is fond of saying, and keeping everything out in the open. This can be very confronting for other people, though many find it rather refreshing. As a dear friend of mine said to me once, “What I love about you, is I never have to guess what you’re thinking.” For better or worse, this is how I deal with things. If there is an elephant in the room, I say, “Hey! An elephant!” Then stride right up to it and start feeding it peanuts. For me, the communication and exploration aspects that are essential in making polyamory work are one of the things I enjoy. Though it is exhausting at times, I learn more about myself and constantly grow as a person.

Because I want my child to grow up in a happy home.

Mother and Child

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This one is being challenged at the moment, but I feel that forming more close bonds with other adults means my son will have a bigger family and more access to adult role models than if my husband and I were monogamous. We live far from our blood relatives, but we both believe in having a larger family. The article I wrote about in my last post covers this topic well, so I won’t rehash all of that.

I find that this lifestyle is rewarding and challenging. Sometimes I think it might be easier to be monogamous, but for me, it would be limiting, monotonous and I would have to deny much of my natural sexuality to make it work. When faced with the choice between the two, I would choose this lifestyle every time.

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Last weekend I had a great date with a new fella. He is geeky and smart and sexy and all those things I like in a guy (if he  reads this, I hope he’s not embarrassed).  We had tons in common, plus, he’s poly so I didn’t have to explain anything. We seemed to match up quite nicely.

Anyway, carried away on a wave of NRE, I wrote a rather gushy email to him, which I immediately regretted sending. After all, he lives in another city, we both have primary partners and so I have a very specific level of relationship I’m after and I was afraid I’d given the impression that I was going to go boiling his bunny.

After fretting most of the day that he would be scared off by my enthusiasm, we finally chatted late last night (well, late for me is 10:30 PM). He explained quite bluntly that his plate was full and that he couldn’t commit to anything serious with a new person, which knocked me back for some reason.  I guess because I had put myself out there in my email, I felt slightly rejected, even though I never wanted anything even remotely serious either. But then it made me wonder, what else could he have possibly thought I wanted? I can’t even fathom trying to have any sort of serious relationship from a distance, not to mention the fact that we both have primary partners already.

He said he didn’t want things to get complicated.

Well, Amen to that. Complications are complicated.

It got me thinking, I’m all for setting boundaries, but all this paranoia is silly. If we took sex out of the picture, we wouldn’t have to hash things out like this. Let’s say it was some other shared hobby, like board games. He and I would just be new friends. It’s always better to play board games with someone you get along with and with whom you have other things to talk about. We’d chat on the internet, talk about board games, and maybe hang out and play a board game when I happen to be in his neck of the woods.  I don’t think it needs to be any more complicated than that, and I do not want it to be. If the friendship grows over time, that’s great. Otherwise, hey, board games are pretty fun!

At the risk of restating the obvious, I am married and I have a small child. I can’t devote time to something big and complicated and I don’t have much emotional energy to devote to anything serious.
However, no matter how casual something is, there is still some small amount of emotional investment. I mean, I even have an emotional attachment to some of my shoes (why else would I keep my purple Doc Martens around when I haven’t worn them in years?) so some emotional attachment is inevitable. I think it’s only fair to be honest about that and not let it be some scary taboo, otherwise things can get even more complicated. Trust me, I’ve been there.

The truth of the matter is, my relationship with my husband is great but there are a few things that we don’t get from each other. Also, both my husband and I like to get away every now and then and be on our own. We’re very independent people and these getaways are essential to the health of our marriage. He has several friends out of town, I don’t really have any. And so it would be nice to have someone to…play board games with when I’m away.

Anyway, I hope this all works out. If not, at least I learned a little something about myself.

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Deborah Anapol, Ph.D, has published this excerpt from her book, Polyamory in the 21st Century in the Love Without Limits blog on the Psychology Today website. It’s a great introduction to some of the psychological and social reasons people choose polyamory. There is one aspect I found, at first, to be problematic. That is, the topic of sex addiction. However, in reading further, she is careful to point out that sex addiction, while far from the norm in polyamory, is still a destructive force when people use polyamory as an excuse for their obsession. I still have a problem with pathologising sexual behaviour (when such behaviour is between consenting adults) but there are still some destructive patterns that could be labeled as an addiction. Dr. Anapol also points out that while polyamory can provide shelter for these destructive patterns, a positive label can at least bring them out into the open.  She makes some other wonderful points and acknowledges the diversity of experiences in polyamory, unafraid to acknowledge the dark side without painting the whole movement as a ‘failed experiment’ the way some ignorant journalists might. This is one of my favourite sections:

“True, plenty of people use multi-partner relating as a strategy to avoid attachment, some even recommend this, but in my experience attachment is a powerful force which can override any mental argument or situational defense. Many people hope to find greater stability, depth, and personal growth in their intimate relating by choosing polyamory, while others seek the same qualities in monogamy. The bottom line is that whether we like it or not, all relationships are dynamic by nature and any effort to avoid this reality is doomed to failure.”

I think that pretty much sums up my pre-marriage non-monogamy. If I had actually bothered to learn about responsible non-monogamy strategies back before I met my husband, there were a lot of mistakes I would have avoided and a lot of people I could have avoided hurting. When I first learned about poly, I was in the “avoiding attachment” phase. I used to joke that I had a “90 day warranty” when it came to monogamy. I couldn’t stay in a monogamous relationship for more than 3 months before my eye would wander and I’d pull out the, “Well, I’m polyamorous, you knew this when we started going out, so I can do what I want” excuse then I’d do what (or who) I wanted and come back and say, “I think we need to take some time apart” or some such insensitive nonsense.

Basically, I was a jerk. And I used polyamory as an excuse to be a jerk.

I don’t think there was anything wrong with my sexual behaviour, but I was using poly to justify some very destructive patterns. By doing that, I was hurting the concept of polyamory. All those people I hurt now have a warped concept of polyamory because of how I treated them in the name of poly. For that, I am very sorry.

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A common thread I’ve been hearing lately about polyamory, is that some people, when they are first introduced to it are scared off by “all the sex.”

One person’s first experience was being handed a copy of The Ethical Slut, and finding all the talk about sex to be too confronting. Another was this article on Alas, A Blog! about the writer’s experience of a friend’s attempt to coerce her and her boyfriend into a poly relationship via Time Enough for Love by Robert Heinlein:

“And then there was the polyamory. Specifically, there was a wide-eyed, subjectivity-less, hot-hot-hot female character named Hamadryad who nurtured others with her healing sexuality…

And all of a sudden? I was no longer wishy-washy bend-like-a-reed on the subject of polyamory. In fact, I was no longer wishy-washy on the subject of Heinlein. I now had a distinct opinion of Heinlein: read Heinlein, said this opinion, and lose your lunch.”

When I read that, part of me really wanted to jump up and down and scream, “NO! NO! THAT’S NOT POLYAMORY! THAT’S NOT WHAT IT’S ABOUT!! YER DOIN’ IT WRONG!”
But that would be denying the fact that for a lot of people, polyamory is about sex. Or at least, it’s about sexual freedom. It certainly was for me, back when I was new to it. But then, I was (and still am) a sexual person. I was discovering my sexuality and was all about sexual freedom. “I can haz multiple partners? And there’s a word for it! Awesome!”

But that’s not the whole picture.

I think part of the problem is the definition of sex. Sex, as it is most commonly defined in our heterocentric, patriarchal culture, is when one person’s genitals go inside another person’s genitals. Specifically, when a penis goes into a vagina. That’s the big, stupid wall that is erected around monogamy. We can do whatever we like, so long as nobody’s ding-a-ling goes in anybody’s hoo-ha. That is how we’ve officially defined monogamy: exclusive rights to someone else’s genitals.

This is, of course, a ridiculously narrow definition of monogamy. Ask most monogamous couples and their definition of unacceptable behaviour could be anything from oral sex to simply looking at another person. Hell, if TV sitcoms are to be believed, some monogamous couples even consider it cheating when their partner fantasises about someone else during lovemaking. But even many monogamous couples allow some things: flirting is ok, but not kissing; oral sex is allowed, but not intercourse; snuggling is ok, but only if clothes stay on; girls are ok, but not boys; etc. So, really, open couples just take it a step further and say intercourse is allowed. It’s just one step, but it’s officially what separates us from monogamous couples.

So really, it’s not just about sex. Sex is just that tiny, but significant, difference. It’s about relationships, honesty and communication. It’s about making sure there are no surprises, as Mo’nique said in her famous interview with Barbara Walters. Sex is part of it, but if you’re in a monogamous relationship and you don’t clearly define your boundaries, you’re asking for trouble. I’ve learned that the hard way many a time (“What? It’s not like we had sex, we just fooled around!”) and it was not pretty.

It helps me to think of polyamory like this: You have lots of friends, some are closer than others, but you have various levels of intimacy with all of them and you don’t care about any of them any less if you make new friends. In polyamory, the same is true of lovers. That’s it.

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I’ve been reading a great deal of buzz about the new book Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá. Mostly people just saying that the book is important, or that reading it has been opening their eyes, making them feel less ashamed of their poly lifestyle. After all, having science back up what has, for some of us, been an often uncomfortable truth, is very gratifying. It confirms what we’ve been saying for years, that some of us just aren’t “wired for monogamy.”  It even, apparently, goes so far as to say that most of us aren’t wired for monogamy, or at least, that wiring is usually temporary. I, for one, am very keen to read it, but books are expensive here in Australia and I’m waiting until my upcoming trip to the US to pick up a copy.

Polyamory in the News has written one of the more thorough reviews I’ve read, but more notable is that they go on to explain why this book is so important for the public’s understanding and acceptance of polyamory:

For most of the polyamory movement’s 30-year history, advocates who have sought to give poly a theoretical foundation have generally turned to New Age or spiritual philosophies, involving things like the limitless nature of love, the spiritual heart of the universe, and other concepts that I find fairy-taley and unproductive. By unproductive I mean that theories built on them never seem to lead anywhere predictive or useful, as a good theory must.

Ryan and Jethá have now given us a theoretical underpinning that is concrete, scientific, and evidence-based. They show that polyamory matches what human nature actually evolved to be. Seen in this light, the modern, ethical, egalitarian version of poly offers a path to a saner future — in which humans are not so perpetually conflicted with themselves, and are less driven by the insatiable needs and neuroses that in many ways are causing us to ruin the world.

Powerful stuff.  I really can’t wait to read this book.

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Katy Perry bugs the ever living SHIT out of me.

Not that I’m terribly familiar with her work, just that one song, I Kissed a Girl.

(I picked this clip so you can read the lyrics, which I will analyse in a bit.)

Now, firstly, the title and subject had already been done and done better by Jill Sobule in the 90’s.

Secondly, Katy Perry’s song doesn’t even have the balls to actually be about fluid sexuality.

Let’s break down the lyrics (I’m paraphrasing because I assume you’ll watch the video for the actual lyrics):

Verse 1:

Girl impulsively and drunkenly stumbles up to a random girl with the idea to “try her on”

Already, Katy is objectifying this other girl. The girl doesn’t have a name, she doesn’t know her and she already has no intention of going further.

Chorus:

She admits to liking it, but makes it clear that she’s not gay (because that would be wrong), by mentioning her boyfriend and stating that it “don’t mean I’m in love tonight.”

Not only is she disrespectful of the girl she’s kissing, leading this poor girl on, potentially, but she’s also cheating on her boyfriend because, obviously, they have not discussed this, or she wouldn’t have to “hope” he “don’t mind it”.

Verse 2:

She re-iterates that she doesn’t know this girl’s name and doesn’t care. She’s just experimenting and again refers to how subversive and bad she’s being by kissing a girl.

Far from normalising this encounter, she makes it clear she thinks it’s unnatural and kinky.

Bridge:

She regales us with how “magical” women are, by talking about only physical things: lips, skin, etc. And then downplays all of the previous talk of how “wrong” it is by saying, “it’s innocent.” Innocent to whom? To you? Has it occurred to you that just because this person you are kissing doesn’t have a penis, doesn’t mean she has innocent intentions?

I had a friend, a really lovely dyke friend, back in college who was constantly “the experiment” for girls exploring their bisexuality. Inevitably, they would go back to their boyfriend, or would meet a guy, and she’d be left alone. She was treated as less than a person because she was a woman. BY A FELLOW WOMAN! At one point, she and I almost had an encounter, and I had to turn her down because I was already in love with a man at the time and I really didn’t want to lead her on, even though I would have really liked to have slept with her. I didn’t want to hurt my friend by pretending it was ‘innocent fun.’ And I think she really appreciated it.

In short, I think Katy Perry’s song is misogynistic, irresponsible and it grossly misrepresents bisexuality.

And her music kind of sucks anyway.

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What Polyamory Isn’t (for me)

I’ve been in a non-monogamous relationship with my husband for about three years now. Before that, I was involved in other non-monogamous relationships, going back for quite a few years. In that time, I’ve found that people unfamiliar with polyamory tend to have some common misconceptions about what it means.

Myth #1.) Polyamory = Polygamy
This is not just a matter of semantics. Polyamory is a lifestyle of open relationships, where both partners are free to pursue other relationships by personal choice. Polygamy means being married to more than one person, particularly a man with multiple wives, which is often dictated by religion or culture.

Myth #2.) Polyamorous women are sluts/loose/up for anything.
This is similar to the myth that all bisexual women are interested in threesomes. As a poly woman (and a bisexual), I can tell you that neither of these is always true. I am actually quite picky. It’s not just about random sex for me.

Myth #3.) A relationship with a polyamorous person doesn’t count as a “real” relationship.
I wasn’t sure how to word this one. Basically, this is the scenario that I’ve experienced several times (and other poly women have had this happen too):
I’m in a relationship with someone, I’ve told them from the beginning that I’m non-monogamous and things go well. We spend a lot of time together and build a nice, honest relationship. Then suddenly, (usually in the springtime) they disappear for a week and when they contact me again, it’s “Hey, so I met this girl and I want to pursue a real relationship with her, so we can’t see each other anymore.” After all the time we’d spent together, talking about how awesome it is to be open and honest, he breaks up with me like it never happened. Instead of explaining to the other girl, “Look, I really like you, but I’m kind of seeing someone. It’s an open relationship, so it’s OK if we start dating, but I just need to be honest with you and with her. If you’re not cool with that then I need to know so I can let her know what’s up.”  They just assume from the start that not only will the other person not be OK with it, but that I will. I can’t tell you how much it hurts when this happens.

Myth #4.) All polyamorous couples are “swingers” just looking for a sex hookup.
This is similar to #2. My husband and I are happy with our relationship. If we pursue a relationship, sexual or otherwise, outside of our relationship, that’s our business. We don’t “swing,” though we’re not opposed to the idea if we met a couple that we were really into. “Wife-swapping” is another term I wouldn’t use. We’re also not looking for orgies or group sex either. It’s not just about sex. If either of us meets someone, and we like them, it means it doesn’t have to end with “Look, I’m married. So we can only just be friends.” It means we can pursue it further, and even have a committed, long term secondary relationship. My husband has been with his secondary partner for two years! That’s longer than most monogamous relationships he’s had!

Myth #5.) All polyamorous couples are looking for a threesome.
Yuck. Threesomes don’t work very well. It’s an unstable relationship at best and can cause a lot of strain. Not that we aren’t open to it, should it happen. It’s just not something either of us is interested in seeking out exclusively.

Myth #6.) All polyamorous couples are unhappy with their partner, otherwise they’d be monogamous.
This is just insulting. I’m very happy with my husband. He is my partner in life and I can’t imagine any reason I would ever leave him. We just don’t limit ourselves. If I had to settle for monogamy, I’d always wonder if there was “something better out there” and then when I met someone new, and all those happy NRE chemicals were swirling around in my brain, I’d think I found them and I’d be unhappy with my relationship. In this relationship, I can pursue that new thing and it doesn’t threaten my old one. It means every new relationship strengthens and deepens it. The irony is, if I was monogamous, I’d be unhappy, but the fact that we’re both polyamorous means I’m happy.

That’s all the myths I can think of now. If I think of more, I’ll write them down.

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