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Archive for the ‘sex’ Category

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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OkCupid is great. I have used OkCupid to find both of the secondary partners I’ve had since I’ve been married. One didn’t work out so well in the end, but we did go out for about six months. The other is working out incredibly well, as I’ve mentioned before.

However, I’ve found that identifying as polyamorous opens one up to questions and assumptions about one’s lifestyle choices. To deal with this, I added to my OkC profile a couple of journal entries that pretty much sum up my lifestyle and what polyamory is (and isn’t) for me.

// How We Make Polyamory Work

I get asked a lot about polyamory by people considering the lifestyle who want to know how it works, being in a committed non-monogamous relationship. In reply, I usually send them some version of this answer:

The way we’ve made it work can be summed up in a word: honesty.

In more words, and a deeper explanation: We try to be completely honest, not only with each other, but with ourselves. Part of that is owning our emotions. It’s never, “You made me feel this way, how could you?” It’s “I feel this way about what you did. How can we work out a way to fix this?” Neither of us is naturally jealous, and we entered into our relationship as an open couple. When we met, we were both seeing other people and we fell in love while pursuing other relationships. We knew that monogamy wouldn’t work for us even though we were crazy about each other, and if we were going to be together it was best to acknowledge that. As a result, it’s the strongest relationship either of us has ever been in.

We have some ground rules or guidelines we try to follow. For instance: use protection until both parties have been tested, meet each other’s lovers if possible before pursuing anything, no sneaking around, no drunken hookups (unless previously arranged, as in “I’m going out tonight, and I’ll be drinking so I might hook up”), I don’t want to hear details unless I ask, don’t use a second lover as a way to escape from our problems at home, and our relationship comes first (no secondary partner can take priority over our primary). But every couple should have their own boundaries and those boundaries need to be respected. If those rules/boundaries are broken or pushed, there needs to be full disclosure and like with any jealous feelings, it’s about taking ownership.
One of the best things about being polyamorous, is taking joy in seeing your partner happy with someone else. This is sometimes known as compersion and it’s the antithesis of jealousy.
New Relationship Energy (or NRE) is that heady cocktail of hormones and emotion that you get when there’s someone new in your life. The best part about it is that it spills over into your existing relationships. Instead of lessening them, it can actually infuse them with new life and strengthen them.

There are plenty of problems that can arise in a poly relationship, so don’t ever think it’s an “easy way” to go. Poly life makes things much more complicated. Relationships between two people are hard enough, and when more people enter the equation, the difficulty rises exponentially! It takes hard work and commitment like any relationship. Complete honesty is not easy! We’ve had our problems (some of which happened when I got in the middle of fights between my husband and his ‘secondary’) and hard times, too.
I highly recommend reading The Ethical Slut as a good guide to polyamory. It’s full of very helpful advice and lots of stories of couples that have made it work.

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How to begin?

The blank page before me reflects the future ahead of me. Unwritten, exciting, anticipatory.

I suppose I ought to begin by saying why I felt the need to start a THIRD blog. I’ve already been writing in Skeptopia and McRaeInTheOven for a while. Those two, neglected as they are, are still technically active. But I felt that there are now things I want to write about that cannot be included in either one. Skeptopia isn’t really the right forum to discuss my love life and McRaeInTheOven was more about my life pre-baby than about my life with my baby. And so,  I have created a new place to write about my experiences as a polyamorous mother.

I’ll begin now.

I’ve got two new boys in my life. One, I’ve been seeing since November. He’s a tiny, blond, blue-eyed cutie who I met when he moved out of my body. Yep, he’s my son. After the easiest pregnancy in the history of pregnancies and a very easy, natural birth, my son has proven to be almost as easy outside as he was inside. Every day he is growing. In the last week, he’s gotten so good at rolling over that I am overwhelmed with pride. It took him so long to learn that simple skill, but now it seems he’s mastered it, taking only a couple of seconds to go from back to belly.

The other boy is my new secondary. We met on OkCupid and only had our first date two weeks ago. To be honest, I only decided to meet him in person because we were a 95% match but he seemed kind of boring. I didn’t think I’d be upset if he wasn’t into me. After all, he’s younger than me and super, super cute. Well, on that first date he ended up not only meeting all of my nerdy gamer friends (they were having a meetup at the same restaurant where we had our date – oops) but he volunteered to come with me to meet my husband and son.  As it turned out, we had a lot in common. I didn’t have to fake any interests, I could totally be myself. He was genuine, positive and funny, and he got my sense of humour. He got along with my friends and he made a great impression on my husband. He even loves babies!

I was ready for disappointment with my New Boy. I don’t know if it was lowered expectations or if things were just that good, but after a few dates, I found out that we really clicked. Physically as well as mentally.  I still can’t believe my luck. I’m not ashamed to say I’ve had enough partners to know how rare it is for everything to go this well.

I don’t get into relationships to complete myself, but if I was going to have a secondary partner, he needed to offer something different in my life. At first, I thought it would be our shared interests in the arts and someone to go out dancing with. I figured, even if the physical chemistry wasn’t there, I’d still want to keep seeing him. But now, whoah. I feel like I’m in love. And he feels the same way. The NRE is flowing and I’m on a cloud. And I cannot WAIT until our next date.

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