Columns

Savage Love

Gone Solo

  • comments (260)
  • Print
+ Enlarge this Image
Joe Newton

I'm a straight man at that age where the general public still considers me young. Although I've attended many weddings, I have no interest in marrying or even being in a relationship. I'm not asexual. I've had and enjoyed sex. I just don't feel the need to be with anyone. As long as I've got music and friends, I'm satisfied. Unfortunately, I seem to be the only one. My parents want grandkids. My friends want to set me up. My television set only ever shows people in or pursuing relationships. I try not to internalize these views, but sometimes I wonder what the hell's wrong with me? Or not wrong with me? What do I tell people who insist that something's wrong or that I'll change my mind? And what should I do if I actually do change my mind?

I Don't Give A Fuck

Honestly, IDGAF, yours is one of those letters that I have a hard time giving much of a fuck about. Don't get me wrong: You sound like a nice guy, articulate and pithy, and I typically like people who know what they do and don't want.

But cowards annoy me.

Forgive me for working my own sexuality into this, but I have to say: When I was at that age the general public unanimously considers young—still a teenager—I walked into my mother's bedroom and informed her that I was a faggot. (Begging my parents for tickets to the national tour of A Chorus Line for my 13th birthday somehow didn't do the job; five years later, I had to come out to them all over again.) If I could work up the nerve to come out to my very Catholic parents about putting dicks in my mouth—at the beginning of the AIDS crisis, at that—you can find the courage to come out to your parents and friends as not asexual, not unhappy, and not planning to date, cohabit, wed, or reproduce.

But while I'm not sympathetic to your plight, IDGAF, I found someone who is.

"Few young adults say they're not interested in sex or relationships, but IDGAF's preference for going solo is hardly unique," says Eric Klinenberg, professor of sociology at New York University and author of Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone. "Today, an unprecedented number of people are opting to live alone. One-person households represent 28 percent of all households in the US, and in cities the numbers are higher."

Your coupled-up friends and grandchild-starved parents might have an easier time accepting your lifestyle choices if they knew just how common they are.

"In recent decades," says Klinenberg, "young adults have been the fastest growing group of American singletons. They're delaying marriage and spending more years single. Moreover, they increasingly recognize the fact that over their long lives, they're likely to cycle in and out of different situations: alone, together; together, alone."

And despite the negative stereotypes that slosh around about single people—they're antisocial, unhappy, isolated—Klinenberg's research shows that those who live alone do just fine in the friends and social-life departments.

"People who live alone tend to be more social than people who are married," says Klinenberg. "They're more likely to spend time with friends and neighbors; more likely to spend time and money in bars, cafes, and restaurants; and even more likely to volunteer in civic organizations. So much for the myth of selfish singles!"

So what should you tell your nagging friends and family?

"How about letting them know that going solo is what works best for him right now," says Klinenberg, "but that he's hardly made a vow to stay single forever. Or, if he's feeling feisty, he can remind them that, no matter how they've arranged their lives at the moment, someday they might find themselves opting out of sex and relationships, too."

What should you do if you change your mind someday? You should date, IDGAF, you should marry. Don't describe your current choices as superior—even if it does mean a better social life—and you won't have to eat crow if you change your mind.

"We've come a long way in our attitudes about sex and relationships," says Klinenberg. "Now that living alone is more common than living with a spouse and two children, isn't it time we learned to respect the choice to go solo, too?"

Indeed it is. And the sooner you demand a little respect from your parents and friends for your choices, IDGAF, the sooner you'll get it.

Single and partnered people alike should follow Eric Klinenberg on Twitter: @EricKlinenberg. To find out more about Klinenberg's books and his research, go to ericklinenberg.com.


What's the etiquette around (nonpenetrative) sex toys after a breakup? I bought restraints, a blindfold, etc. for my ex, and she left them behind. It seems a waste to throw them away. Is it a bit squicky for a guy to bust out an arsenal of old toys when a new gal comes along?

Alone With Accessories She Had

Jonathan Schroder, general manager of Mr. S Leather in San Francisco (mr-s-leather.com), suggests that you get rid of your bondage gear. Schroder is in the business of selling sex toys—Mr. S is famous for its high-quality bondage gear—but his advice isn't about his desire to move merchandise. It's about your desire for gals, AWASH.

"Personally, I think some of the best gear you can get is hand-me-down gear," says Schroder. "And there's a great tradition in the gay leather community about passing gear from older folks to younger folks. But my gut tells me that a new girlfriend might wig out about used bondage gear. We have a lot of customers and couples that have a strong preference for cleanliness. But straight women in particular prefer that things be wiped down, well cleaned, and shiny. So a woman who opens a dresser drawer and finds restraints with signs of wear and tear—and signs of someone else's sweat or fluids on them—is probably going to be turned off."

So get rid of your old gear, Schroder advises, but don't throw it away.

"Find someone who wants and can't afford bondage gear, and give it to them," says Schroder. "Gear is expensive, and there are people out there who can't afford it. Help 'em out."


@fakedansavage says polyamory a "choice," not an "identity." Where have we heard that argument before? Meet the new bigots, same as the old.

@lilyldodge

If all people are naturally nonmonogamous—a point I've made about 10 million times—then from my perspective, polyamory and monogamy are relationship models, not sexual orientations. (And if poly and monogamy are sexual orientations, Lily, wouldn't going solo have to be considered one, too?) That was my point. Poly can be central to someone's sexual self-conception, and it can be hugely important, but I don't think it's an orientation in the same way that gay, straight, or bisexual are orientations. People can and do, of course, identify as poly. But is poly something anyone can do or something some people are? I come down on the "do" side. Lily clearly disagrees.

mail@savagelove.net

@fakedansavage on Twitter

 

Comments (260) RSS

Newest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
260
@259 KateRose: Thank you and bless you for the enlightenment!

Wishing you and everybody safe, happy healthy & prosperous holidays well into 2013 and beyond!

Posted by auntie grizelda on December 24, 2012 at 5:32 AM · Report this
259
@251, Not pissed off, I just like to remind people that Google is magical, lol
Posted by KateRose on December 17, 2012 at 12:50 PM · Report this
258
Midwestkittie,

It's easier to be non-monogamous with a new partner than to open an existing monogamous relationship. I actually find it rarely comes up as a real topic of conversation. I meet someone, we start dating. I'm usually pretty clear that I'm seeing other people if I am, but I also don't expect someone to assume I'm being monogamous with them unless we have made an explicit agreement or we're spending so much time together that they couldn't reasonably think I have time for anyone else. I've also usually spent time around them prior to actually dating them, and it's probably been referenced or disclosed in casual conversation at some point before we became linked. Most people put two and two together when they hear me say, "My partner Bob got a promotion yesterday!" in the morning and "I have a date tonight with Tim, the cute guy from the coffee shop," in the afternoon. Or we have friends in common who filled them before we went out.

If a hookup is totally unexpected we might have a conversation after that first hookup about, "So what does this mean?" where I'll be clear that I'm not looking for monogamy, but I might say something like, "We're clearly not going to keep doing this forever, but I don't think either of us sees the other as a long-term partner, either. So we can do this for a while, but when the time comes for this to end--as we both know it will--let's end it with mutual respect for each other." or "When we go out on dates together, we're out with each other. I won't pick up or ask out anyone else when I'm with you, and I'd like you to do the same for me."

I once started a fling with a guy who was definitely looking for monogamy in the long run, but didn't want to be in a relationship with me, so didn't particularly care that I was dating other people while dating him. I told him after our first hook-up that when the day came that he met a special lady he wanted to become serious and monogamous with, that he should feel free to just tell me, and I would be happy for him and we would end our sexual relationship and just be friends.

So I guess it's roughly the point where monogamous people would have the, "I want us to stop seeing other people," conversation--I just have a slightly different one at that juncture.
More...
Posted by Emily Ko on December 11, 2012 at 9:29 AM · Report this
257
@sissoucat & @Hyacinth, thank you for the interesting posts. I have to say I'm glad Dan sparked this conversation with his column. I generally find the Savage Love comments to be respectful and worth reading.

I have been thinking about a premise for a short story that centers on a polyamorous relationship for a while now. And people who write fiction can (or should) be obsessed with research and accurate portrayals.

Also, how does one bring up the possibility of non-monogamy with someone she might date?
Posted by midwestkittie on December 8, 2012 at 11:37 AM · Report this
256
sissoucat & mydriasis: Thank you both. Yes---I am from the older generation, which sounds really weird after losing both my beloved parents within the past four years, and being the youngest by over 7 years in my family. I don't have any kids, so I'm not as likely to hear the latest slang terms in my daily life. Thank you for bringing this crazy lady up to speed.
Posted by auntie grizelda on December 6, 2012 at 12:22 PM · Report this
mydriasis 255
@ griz/sissou

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.ph…

Urbandictionary - decipherer of slang to the non-native English speaker and older generations alike.
Posted by mydriasis on December 6, 2012 at 6:14 AM · Report this
sissoucat 254
@Hyacinth, Emily Ko, Sappho, Megaera, kserasera - wow. Thank you so much for your replies and descriptions. Polyamorousy sounds better and better to me. I just have to find other poly people around me then...

@seandr I have massive abandonment anxiety - I have been abandonned as a child, for refusing to submit to further child sexual abuse - but I've never found any sexual jealousy in me. Don't know why.
Posted by sissoucat on December 6, 2012 at 3:45 AM · Report this
sissoucat 253
@auntie grizelda - you haven't pissed me off, but how could I, non native speaker, answer you ? Have a nice day...
Posted by sissoucat on December 6, 2012 at 3:15 AM · Report this
252
Sorry---make that 'have I pissed Dan and everybody posting to this column off"?

Wow. I guess I just can't relate to anybody anymore at all.
Posted by auntie grizelda on December 5, 2012 at 10:46 PM · Report this
251
@247 KateRose: Thank you for the definition. I guess I could have researched "squicky" on Google, myself, but was hoping I'd hear from portland scribe.
Have I pissed everybody in Dan and everybody posting to this column off?
Posted by auntie grizelda on December 5, 2012 at 10:44 PM · Report this
sissoucat 250
Thanks al lot for all your replies. I've got a lot of work this week, so I can't post much, but thank you all...
Posted by sissoucat on December 5, 2012 at 12:42 PM · Report this
249
@ 246 Megaera: You're welcome :) . That, and thanks for some casual yet impactful insight about what being poly actually is like. I like learning anything, and this is good stuff, so thanks again. That, and no one person can meet any one person's needs.. I get that. It takes guts to make a choice to live life like that, and I applaud you all for it. Respect!

@ 240, Sappho: You too are welcome :) . Thanks to all of you for knowing how to throw down when it comes to an interesting, truly thought-provoking chat. Much appreciated. Take care, everyone. Peace.
Posted by kserasera on December 5, 2012 at 7:54 AM · Report this
248
@ 246 Megaera: You're welcome :) . That, and thanks for some casual yet impactful insight about what being poly actually is like. I like learning anything, and this is good stuff, so thanks again. That, and no one person can meet any one person's needs.. I get that. It takes guts to make a choice to live life like that, and I applaud you all for it. Respect!

@ 240, Sappho: You too are welcome. Thanks to all of you for knowing how to throw down when it comes to an interesting, truly thought-provoking chat. Much appreciated. Take care, everyone. Peace.
Posted by kserasera on December 5, 2012 at 7:49 AM · Report this
247
@244... I feel this must be done...

http://lmgtfy.com/?q=squicky

:)
Posted by KateRose on December 5, 2012 at 5:58 AM · Report this
Megaera 246
@kserasera: Thanks very much for your concern. I find that poly means I don't feel obliged to drain myself to met my partners' needs: it means I don't feel guilty about asserting myself and speaking up for my own needs even in the face of theirs, as they have other people to turn to besides me. A psychological crutch, if you like. :)
Posted by Megaera on December 5, 2012 at 4:52 AM · Report this
245
Re: @198 / @215 and @244: Is it squishy + icky?
I'm just curious. Anyway, am I close?
Posted by auntie grizelda on December 4, 2012 at 8:19 PM · Report this
244
@198 / @215: Seriously---what does "squicky" mean?
Posted by auntie grizelda on December 4, 2012 at 8:10 PM · Report this
243
I wouldn't be surprised to learn that no woman on the planet finds jealousy sexy in a man

Oh, I would. I think a lot of people, male or female, can find some expressions of jealousy sexy because they push that "I really am wanted" button. I was only saying that I don't find it so in my own life.
Posted by Eirene on December 4, 2012 at 6:12 PM · Report this
242
I CHOOSE to be gay every singly day! And I RESENT the attitude that I should somehow be protected from discrimination only if I'm a pathetic creature who can't help being gay.
Posted by gdfd on December 4, 2012 at 5:43 PM · Report this
241
@sissoucat - also interesting to note, that there is no maori word/phrase for 'wife' or 'husband'. which tells you a lot. :-)

we have words for sweetheart, darling, etc - any number of endearments. we can use possessive pronouns: my girl/boy/man/woman. we can specify that someone is our secondary partner, or the head of the house... but the only translations for 'spouse' or 'primary partner' equate to (non-gendered) my best friend.
Posted by sappho on December 4, 2012 at 3:32 PM · Report this
240
@ kserasera; megaera; emily ko; hyacinth - you all say things i can associate with, to a greater or lesser extent. thank-you for your thoughts.

it's interesting to watch this conversation, and it becomes increasingly clear there is a significant cultural gap.

there seems to be, in america, an odd obsession with ‘labels’… or maybe it’s ‘status’… I’m not sure. But there seems to be a pre-occupation with ‘what is this relationship exactly’, which just seems strange to me.

for instance: over here, 'dating' is something that is done by kids in school, not adults. seriously, once you are a grown-up, there are no need for cute definitions or anything. people go out, they make friends. everyone just makes their own arrangements, as it suits them. Stuff just happens.

… all this has made me think about ‘relationship recognition’, and the social side of relationships… i’ve been talking it over with another ‘real world’ person :-) and she said two things which seem relevant: the first was that maybe the only concrete predictable difference between ‘friends who sometimes have sex’ and ‘partners’ was the longevity of the relationship. The other was that the shift into a relationship which is recognized by the community as ‘a thing’, is an organic and mysterious process which is often not under the control of the parties involved. This I would definitely agree with!!

i’ve just realised, thinking it all through, that in my mind ‘relationships/partners/etc’ are actually completely independent of ‘sex’. but that might just be me.
Posted by sappho on December 4, 2012 at 3:22 PM · Report this
239
@sissoucat – 196, B and C would definitely have a social relationship. they'll see each other at parties and family dinners, they'll prob both be at A's parents house for x-mass, they'll definitely be down at the pub / beach / on the phone / wherever, giving each other emotional support/sob-stories on why A is so hard to live with.

the difference that happens here is between those who 'just deal' with the fact that they share a lover/partner , or two - and this is more the mainstream culture - and those who are whanau to each other... i guess the relationship is kinda like siblings. logistics depend on the folks involved. different houses makes things easier. it’s not so common for people to share a house with two concurrent lovers unless there are kids involved, but also, it is very common for adults to have their own bed. …anyway… no-one has to sleep on the couch. If all else fails you just all pile in together.

relationship recognition.... it’s social. the legal thing is not so much important. many people don’t bother with it at all. I don’t know how to answer that question. because you just see and know? you probably don’t know for sure who is sleeping with who, except your own lovers, and maybe theirs as well….
Posted by sappho on December 4, 2012 at 2:50 PM · Report this
238
@ 237, to quote you:

"with some vague romantic notion that when I met The One, he or she would withstand everything I threw at him or her and that's how I would know they were never going to leave. That's how I would finally feel secure--by finding the person who couldn't be driven away, no matter how hard I tried."

I fell victim to this myself.. The receiving end and the giving end of that.. It's very hard to get a handle on that and begin to make sense of that, but, yeah, I can relate to that.

Now, if it's just not working out, I set it down, think about it, *breathe*, and then try again with hopefully a much better, balanced approach.

It is great that people can connect the ways they do, but everyone is still singular and their own person at the end of the day. I've forgotten my own self many times over in the past, caught up in all of that.. It's sweet to want to be kind, giving and sensitive and all of that: just not at the expense of your own health to benefit someone else's. There is room for both to be happy and healthy. It just takes time, a bit of focus and a decent amount of inspired effort.

Posted by kserasera on December 4, 2012 at 12:32 PM · Report this
237
@seandr

In a word, yes. Like Hyacinth, polyamory was a solution rather than making it worse, though.

I had some early life experiences that left me with a tremendous fear of abandonment. The sense that everyone I loved would eventually leave me, the sense that in my most vulnerable and needy moments, nobody would be there to support and comfort me. It actually took me a really long time (10, 15 years?) to figure out that I had this fear, because the way it showed up was that I seemed to be VERY VERY VERY into intense, committed, end-all-be-all relationships. When I met someone I liked, I would be saying "I love you" within weeks. If it went over well, the relationships became like little marriages overnight. Instead of hooking up and partying like my peers, I cohabited with 3 different partners over four years in college. We planned our futures, weddings, families, careers together. After college, what happened more often was that my desperation for such an intense relationship scared a lot of my dating partners off--I would ask for too much, too soon, and give too much, too soon--and as these partners abandoned me, the fear of abandonment grew worse, and my desperation and intensity grew worse, and so on in a vicious cycle.

Until I realized that all my desperate hunger for an intense committed relationship was like the raptors in Jurassic Park: I was testing their fence for weakness until I found the spot that would give. I was so afraid--so CERTAIN--they would abandon me, as previous partners had, that I would keep upping the ante: If sending little "thinking of you" love texts two weeks in didn't frighten him off, maybe meeting my parents three weeks in will. If that didn't frighten her off, maybe "I love you" four weeks in will. And so on. On a very subconscious level, I was running my relationships into the ground because there was a part of me that believed it was inevitable that I'd be abandoned and was just trying to speed it along, with some vague romantic notion that when I met The One, he or she would withstand everything I threw at him or her and that's how I would know they were never going to leave. That's how I would finally feel secure--by finding the person who couldn't be driven away, no matter how hard I tried.

I didn't realize this until I tried polyamory and about a year later I suddenly realized that I'd been with the same person for a year--after not being with the same person more than a month in over five years--and that my relationships were healthier than they'd ever been. I realized I had stopped being so intense, stopped being so demanding, and I realized I no longer feared that my partners would leave me. I still recognized it as a possibility, but 1) I knew that, because I'm dating other poly folk, they won't leave me for someone else when they can just date both of us, and 2) I knew that, even if they did leave me, I would have other partners to support me. I wouldn't be crying into my ice cream by myself in front of the TV. I would be crying into the shoulder of a supportive friend or lover who would gently hold me and reassure me that these things happen, that nothing is forever, that I am good and I am loved, and that just because it didn't work out with that person doesn't mean either of us need to be angry at each other, and that I can grieve the loss of the relationship for as long as it takes, instead of forever. I still get sad when a relationship ends, but I'm much more emotionally resilient these days. Polyamory gave me that. It took away my crippling fear.

Which is not to say that it would do that for everyone--I can see how people with more of a naturally jealous nature than me (again, I was never much a jealous person whether romantically or otherwise) might actually find polyamory harder to deal with than monogamy. But for me, it's infinitely easier.
More...
Posted by Emily Ko on December 4, 2012 at 12:15 PM · Report this
236
@ 233 It's never fun being dumped, or cut loose. I'm sorry that happened to you, Hyacinth. It *is* a struggle, to want to find faith (or sometimes even, a point) in having another try at lowering the guard and letting life and love in again.

Some people don't get over hurt like that. Or, if they do, it's rarely ever forgotten again. I always felt like I was on the periphery growing up, and I lost a parent when I was young, so the whole getting used to losing people thing isn't that foreign to me..

I think you finally just get to a point where you tire of being or feeling downtrodden, and you begin to pull yourself up out of the mire and trudge onward, because you finally realize that you just have to.

That, and life's a bitch sometimes. Peace.
Posted by kserasera on December 4, 2012 at 12:12 PM · Report this
235
That's why it's hard sometimes to share a deep connection with someone: it all takes you to places that maybe we don't always visit, or, wanna visit -- namely, admitting to ourselves that someone means that much to us, and all of the vulnerability that goes along with it.

I'm not usually one for choosing to abandon anyone. It's only when (for whatever extenuating circumstances at the time) you're not actually communicating to one another clearly enough that the trouble ensues. It's awesome to share a genuinely-great bond with someone else. It only goes to crap when people lose touch with one another, if not themselves..

Not always, but more often than not, if any sort abandonment happens, it's because there is a breakdown in the connection that can't seem to be surmounted, and people retreat to their own corners, lick their wounds and go on from there.

Sometimes though, people wake up and begin to figure out that *maybe* if you help and work on yourself first, that you just might see errors in your ways and go about improving upon them, because you're in a place now where you're inspired to try, to want to grow and be a healthier, better person.

People have to want to work at what they share. It shouldn't have to be all work (not by any means), but enough of a concerted effort needs to be there: some sort of commitment to at least the friendship angle.

Abandonment is sometimes all in the interpretation. Some have something that is somehow taken back or taken away from them, and some pine and hope, and they still don't quite get close enough... just out of reach. Close, but no cigar sort of vibe..

Everything is a two-way street at the end of the day. No one person can uphold a relationship. You can try, but it tends not to work out that way.

For example, I tend to (or at least I thought I) detested working out and/or jogging on a treadmill at the gym. Pushing yourself to go and sticking with it does so much to help you think (and feel) right, to spot stuff you didn't before. Taking care of yourself is key. I rarely used to do that.. I am now, though :) .

Real love is like sharing the best friendship going. You may squabble or have differences of opinion on occasion, but it's like anything: it's either there or it isn't, the connection..

Maybe people have to "abandon" others so they can't figure their own shit out before bringing someone else into the picture. It's never simple (although it wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't so much so at times).

That, and it all depends again on what the abandonment is per se'. Peace.

More...
Posted by kserasera on December 4, 2012 at 12:04 PM · Report this
234
By the way, I don't mean to make it sound like I think my experiences are representative or fascinating or something -- they're just what I know best and so draw on often, but I realize that's all they are.
Posted by Hyacinth on December 4, 2012 at 11:46 AM · Report this
233
@cockyballsup

I was abandoned in a pretty cruel way by someone I really loved, so maybe it's a temperament type thing... not sure. It was devastating when it happened. On the other hand, I'd also been abandoned by family members before then, so it was only a partially new sensation, and maybe I'm mildly inured to fear of that sort of thing... who knows.
Posted by Hyacinth on December 4, 2012 at 11:36 AM · Report this
232
@seandr: "Have either of you ever been in a situation in which you feared that someone you felt deeply connected to might abandon you for someone else? Or actually did abandon you for someone else? It occurred to me that some people (by luck or wisdom) probably never end up in that position, just like some people go through life without ever having their hearts broken by being dumped."

You touch on an interesting point, namely that this experience of abandonment is something that absolutely cannot be understood by someone who has not gone through it. I think it is very easy for people who have had no such experiences to have cavalier and dismissive attitudes towards feelings of insecurity and jealousy. When I was abandoned in a particularly awful way, I found I had to distance myself from some friends who had no common point of reference for me to be able to talk to them about the worst pain I have ever experienced. It was like trying to explain colors to someone blind from birth.

Posted by cockyballsup on December 4, 2012 at 11:06 AM · Report this
231
You gotta care to some extent. Out and out jealousy: that loud, wholly negative vibe... That never works. Or, if it ever did, it's short-term.

@ 195, seandr:

"But, imagine you come home from a party with your woman, and she gives you that look of detached amusement that says, unconvincingly, that she couldn't care less, and says "That whatshername sure spent a lot time talking to you tonight. Seemed to be hanging on your every word. You know those tits are fake, right?"

The vulnerability expressed, the instinctive dissing of her rival, the implicit acknowledgement of your sexuality as a male, the possibility raised that she'll compete for you on those terms. Sexy."

Well said! Indeed: still conveying the vulnerability that is at the heart of jealousy, possessiveness, etc., but making light of it and not taking it to destructive, dark, ugly places.

Posted by kserasera on December 4, 2012 at 9:45 AM · Report this
230
Ooops.

'I will fight FOR you' than 'I will crush you'.
Posted by albeit on December 4, 2012 at 9:15 AM · Report this
229
@195 seandr
@202 avast2006

Thanks. I couldn't understand why a man would want to jealous partner. But in the ways you describe (her expressing desire for you, her acknowledgement of your sexuality, her affirming your value to her as a partner), these all sound positive and sexy.

Having been with a jealous partner, I can say it was anything but positive and sexy. Maybe men and women express their jealous differently? Or maybe it's the volume, intensity and intent that men use. It was less 'I will fight you' than 'I will crush you'. Not good. Too much for me.
Posted by albeit on December 4, 2012 at 9:02 AM · Report this
228
@ 227:

"He told me he was falling in love with someone else and my heart almost exploded from pain, since I'd been told my whole life that monogamy was IT. But then he quickly said, "But I'm still in love with you too." My fear vanished immediately."

There had to have been a part of you that initially thought he was full of shit, when he said that. Love is fucked-up sometimes. Even so, people are complicated, and I do believe it is possible to be in love with someone, and yet need more physically, etc. than the one relationship can offer.

It all depends on how the subject is broached and what the circumstances are leading up to that chat there.

It took me so long to accept the dynamics of being gay, what the relationship parameters are.. I used to think that one person was the be all-end all, and I would unfortunately sometimes suffocate them without ever intending to. From what I've experienced, being in love is about sharing some sort of inexplicably-great connection where you just somehow get someone else, and you don't ultimately wish to change them, or pressure them into being someone they're not. Having a solid strain of friendship at the core of it all makes it all that much better.

To quote you, if I may, Hyacinth:

"...it's impossible to be jealous when I believe the only reason I'd be dumped was of because of our own issues and not because of another person."

I agree. It's also easier to accept somehow when you know that things are what they are, and that whoever you were with cared enough to tell you in a way that was ultimately kind, by just saying what they felt honestly, and hoping for the best in that the truth will help everyone involved at the end of the day.

That, and:

"And then I fell in love with his other girlfriend as well. We were happy as clams. (Where did that phrase even come from? lol)"

Good on you, girlfriend! :-D At least you recover well! :-)

@ 224, Megaera, to quote you kindly:

"My upbringing was very traditionally feminine, and involved a great deal of emphasis on being aware of other people's emotional states, on 'keeping the peace,' on meeting other people's emotional needs at the expense of my own, and on emotional housekeeping for other people.

It actually hurts me - I feel an emotional pain and an emotional flinch - to see other people (or animals) in pain or need, and this has been much more pronounced and more difficult to switch off since having kids. I am very definitely over-sensitive in this regard.

In this sense, perhaps poly enables me to cope more easily, and without the therapy I presumably could do with for these issues (if they are issues). :P Probably I have poor boundaries or something (I don't know the psych-speak for it)."

Classic empath personality. I have that about me, too. You just pick up on what's going on around you.. Reading people's moods and sometimes even picking up on some thoughts and moods you'd almost just as soon not even know about (intuitive abilities).

It can be a good thing, too, though. It of course also makes you more aware of the big wide world that is out there -- the choices and opportunities.

I just hope the 'keeping the peace' thing doesn't hinder you insomuch as you feel that you can't speak up, or, assert yourself when you really need to. I do know what you mean about the boundary thing, wondering aloud sometimes whether or not you can tune out some of the excess impressions you naturally get from other people, oftentimes without even consciously realizing that you are..

I know how tough it is to be sensitive like that. I have that too to some degree. It's an exercise to remind yourself what is your feelings and what is other people's.. Sometimes, when you're soaking up everything around you, it all seems like one big feeling..

I hope you don't suffer that as much as you used to, Mega. It gets better navigating through that, the longer you live and stick around. Thanks for reading. Cheers.

More...
Posted by kserasera on December 4, 2012 at 8:04 AM · Report this
227
@seandr

"Have either of you ever been in a situation in which you feared that someone you felt deeply connected to might abandon you for someone else? Or actually did abandon you for someone else? It occurred to me that some people (by luck or wisdom) probably never end up in that position, just like some people go through life without ever having their hearts broken by being dumped."

Only one time. I was a teenager and it was my first serious relationship. He told me he was falling in love with someone else and my heart almost exploded from pain, since I'd been told my whole life that monogamy was IT. But then he quickly said, "But I'm still in love with you too." My fear vanished immediately. I knew he'd break it off with me only if our own relationship caused problems, NOT because of another, and it's impossible to be jealous when I believe the only reason I'd be dumped was of because of our own issues and not because of another person. And then I fell in love with his other girlfriend as well. We were happy as clams. (Where did that phrase even come from? lol)

Ever since, I know I will not be left unless I would have been left on my own merits (or lack thereof), because I "let" my partners be with others too, so there won't ever be a me vs. them choice; my partners aren't the type to accept monogamous people who'd have them abandon others. I also do not fear being left in general. I've suffered an inordinate amount (for the first world) in my life and don't fear much anymore. 

Also, I was indeed once left for another. But the thing is that I don't want someone to stay with me if their connection to me is so tenuous; I do not want someone to work to get past wanting to go elsewhere; I want to be left if our relationship is not what they want anymore. It's painful, but it's right.
More...
Posted by Hyacinth on December 4, 2012 at 7:19 AM · Report this
226
Hi Megaera, and Everyone. Good Morning. Thanks to all of you in here for some good, honest, thought-provoking reads.

It's like anything: mono isn't for everyone, nor is poly sometimes. The real issue at play when you think about it is the courage of your own hard-earned convictions, desires and being able to honestly convey that. That's to be applauded. The truth may not always go down smooth at first (depending on what the subject is), but at the end of the day, that's the best outcome: just being able to be who you are and to be honest with yourself. After that, it extends itself naturally to everyone else by association, I think..

I relate to your squeamishness about being pressured by people, or, expectations, Megaera.

You know what it is? At the end of the day, no matter what kind of relationship anyone has with anyone else, or others: monogamous, polyamorous, nonexistent -- people are going to do what they want either way. Being as upfront and honest as you can is all anyone can do. The truth may hurt at first, but it ultimately heals.

That, and it's not as if people only have feelings for, or, have fallen for, only person in their lifetime.. Relationships sometimes continue somehow, sometimes they don't.

I think if anything, being as good friends with who you're boinking is the best policy. That way, you can comfortably address stuff to and fro without the risk of feeling judged or condemned.

It's like anything: communicate what is as honestly as you can, with respect and faith in the the truth being the best way to go.

Have a good day, everyone. :Peace.
Posted by kserasera on December 4, 2012 at 6:54 AM · Report this
Megaera 225
Just to add: I don't speak for all poly people: everyone is different.
Posted by Megaera on December 4, 2012 at 5:28 AM · Report this
Megaera 224
I really didn't mean to read as holier than thou, and I am sorry for it: this is what posting late at night does, I guess.

I think that poly and mono relationships are equally valid and should be equally respected, and that they suit different people - or sometimes, different relationships.

What I was trying to convey (very badly, obviously!) is that poly feels natural to me because I am the person that I am. Whether it's a function of natural personality or upbringing (I tend to think it's probably both) it would be uncomfortable for me to live in a mono relationship which had no option (for me or my partner) of expanding from that point. I do not want to be anybody's one-and-only.

My upbringing was very traditionally feminine, and involved a great deal of emphasis on being aware of other people's emotional states, on 'keeping the peace,' on meeting other people's emotional needs at the expense of my own, and on emotional housekeeping for other people.

It actually hurts me - I feel an emotional pain and an emotional flinch - to see other people (or animals) in pain or need, and this has been much more pronounced and more difficult to switch off since having kids. I am very definitely over-sensitive in this regard.

In this sense, perhaps poly enables me to cope more easily, and without the therapy I presumably could do with for these issues (if they are issues). :P Probably I have poor boundaries or something (I don't know the psych-speak for it).

On the other hand, due to various unpleasant childhood experiences, I also hate feeling pressured or hassled *in any way* by adults in my personal life (partners, friends, family). I can take it from kids, of course, since they don't know any better. For example, GGG is a no-go for me: if I don't like something, I won't do it. On the other hand, I think it would be unreasonable of me to expect a partner to go without, simply because *I* won't do it: I'd rather they got that need/want met, I just don't intend to meet it myself unless I actually want to. (I also don't like the idea of them being GGG for me either: the idea of being 'serviced' is absolutely horrifying to me. If they don't like it, I'd prefer them not to do it.)

So there is a tension between the impulse - sometimes painful - to meet partners' needs, and an equally strong impulse that revolts against any form of pressure being inflicted on a personal level (of course work doesn't count). There is no need for a partner to pressure you if they have other partners to go to. And there is also no need for me to knock myself out trying to be 'there' for anyone all the time.

This is what I was trying to get at when I spoke about taking time for myself: while neither of my partners has ever hassled me for attention when I need that time, when there was only one and I was his only partner, I would have a background anxiety that he might be lonely but just not want to interrupt. On a purely selfish basis, this meant that my alone time was not as quality as it might have been. While of course there were times that he was away with another partner when I would have preferred him to be with me, the benefits outweighed the costs. And besides, when another person is involved, of course you have to take their needs into consideration as well.

What I'm trying to say here is that poly is a very natural and comfortable way of living for me, not because I am more evolved than other people, but because of the specific personality and issues that I have. It probably saves a bomb on anti-anxiety meds. :P
More...
Posted by Megaera on December 4, 2012 at 5:26 AM · Report this
mydriasis 223
@ seandr

Again to bring up the difference between jealousy and posessiveness... jealousy usually isn't sexy, but posessiveness certainly can be.
Posted by mydriasis on December 4, 2012 at 5:10 AM · Report this
seandr 222
@220: Funny. About 25 years ago I had a girlfriend who was, despite her protests, thrilled to see me fight another guy over her at "the big keg party down by the river".
Posted by seandr on December 3, 2012 at 11:44 PM · Report this
seandr 221
@avast2006:

a) I think you're right. In other words, jealousy in a man is unattractive when it comes across as insecurity, but attractive when he responds by rising to the challenge, which, depending on the woman in question, could be anything from kicking the other guy's ass at the big keg party down the by the river to being especially thoughtful and sweet and folding laundry and changing diapers etc.

b) Hmmm. Yes, few women tolerate jealousy when expressed as an attempt to control a behavior she feels she's entitled to (a lot of "nice guys", in contrast, will put up with this). And yet the scope of her entitlement will often expand with her attraction to the other guy, in which case she simultaneously validates and invalidates his jealous response. Tough spot for a fella to be in.
Posted by seandr on December 3, 2012 at 11:34 PM · Report this
220
@218 (continued, pushed post too soon, sorry):

Admittedly I'm twenty five years or so out of practice at this topic, but I did have a girlfriend once who actually asked me, "So, you're not jealous? ...not even a little?" followed by a slightly deflated "...oh." when I said I wasn't.
Posted by avast2006 on December 3, 2012 at 11:06 PM · Report this
seandr 219
@Hyacinth, @Emily Ko:
Have either of you ever been in a situation in which you feared that someone you felt deeply connected to might abandon you for someone else? Or actually did abandon you for someone else? It occurred to me that some people (by luck or wisdom) probably never end up in that position, just like some people go through life without ever having their hearts broken by being dumped.

Anyway, much of what I've said is in response to the slight stink of "holier-than-thou" emanating from some of the poly posts in this thread. I actually believe it would be healthy for our culture to embrace poly as an option, maybe even the default option.

However, it's mostly a matter of culture, not biological destiny. To use an analogy with religion, there's strong evidence that humans are biologically prone to religious belief systems (e.g., the fact that religion of some form is nearly universal across cultures), but it's ridiculous to suggest that we have a genetic inclination toward any one religion. Likewise, it's obvious that humans are biologically driven by the need for sex, security, novelty/stimulation, self-esteem, and connections to others, but it's silly to suggest we are genetically predisposed to just one of the numerous relationship models that humans have dreamed up to meet those needs.
Posted by seandr on December 3, 2012 at 10:59 PM · Report this
218
@217: I suspect it has to do with:

a) how the jealousy is expressed. Nobody likes being pouted at, fought with, or otherwise disapproved of. On the other hand, if it is expressed as a renewed interest in the chase and a diamond, hey, win! (and there are far too many stories of manipulative women provoking a little strategic jealousy hoping for one or both of those precise outcomes.)

and

b) whether said jealousy is perceived as being fairly applied (i.e, a response to her gambit, and therefore an affirmation of her worth, as per above) or unfair and undeserved (i.e., she didn't think what she was doing was out of bounds and didn't like getting called on it).
Posted by avast2006 on December 3, 2012 at 10:55 PM · Report this
seandr 217
@Eirene: I don't find jealousy sexy at all

I wouldn't be surprised to learn that no woman on the planet finds jealousy sexy in a man, however tactfully he expresses it. The ways in which men and women relate to each other aren't always symmetrical.
Posted by seandr on December 3, 2012 at 10:21 PM · Report this
216
@213 nocutename

'I have a cunt (which you can talk about in exactly that term all you want); I am not one.'

I concur.
Posted by albeit on December 3, 2012 at 9:05 PM · Report this
215
@198 portland scribe: "Squicky". That's a new one for me.
What does it mean? I'm more quirky, myself.
Posted by auntie grizelda on December 3, 2012 at 8:31 PM · Report this
nocutename 214
@210 (Hyacinth):
I like your simplified categorization. You seem to have succinctly covered all types of relationships. I especially like the distinction you made between fuck buddies and friends with benefits.
Posted by nocutename on December 3, 2012 at 5:53 PM · Report this
nocutename 213
@EricaP and Eirene:
I love dirty talk before and during sex. As a general rule, the dirtier, the better.

With one exception: I have a cunt (which you can talk about in exactly that term all you want); I am not one.
Posted by nocutename on December 3, 2012 at 5:48 PM · Report this
212
@209, oh, ok - yeah, I don't do humiliation in either direction. Never say never, but so far, I haven't seen the appeal.
Posted by EricaP on December 3, 2012 at 5:33 PM · Report this
211
@seandr

I feel a deep emotional bond and deep rooting of my love for my partner, but it just doesn't work the same way for me as I guess it does for others... But I think of him as family and as someone I'd die for (I don't mean that in a histrionic way, but rsther in a sense of him being, so to speak, the most beloved member of my tribe, aside from my child). But I guess it probably doesn't matter how one defines or describes it as long as he and I and our partners are happy.
Posted by Hyacinth on December 3, 2012 at 4:29 PM · Report this
210
@sissoucat

I have never been in a monogamous relationship, but the relationships have been in different forms, so I'll tell you how they worked and how I define them. I have heard countless different ways people have defined their own non-monogamous relationships though and sometimes what they mean when they use a word is not at all what I mean when I use the same word. 

1. 

Fuck buddy: relationship consists only of sex, no friendship, no commitment, either non-monogamous or incidentally monogamous (ie monogamy not required but the "buddies" simply happen not to be fucking other people at a given time for some incidental reason)

2. 

Friends with benefits: many people use this to mean fuck buddies, but when I use it I mean that the person is genuinely my friend and that I also have sex with them. Also not monogamous, though I've met a few people who do want it to involve monogamy until either party meets someone else and ends the friends-with-benefits relations. 

If either party no longer wishes to participate in the "benefits", the two may well still stay friends since it's a genuine friendship. One of my best friends was initially a fuck buddy, then became a friend with benefits, and now we're just regular old good friends with no sex. 

3. 

Open relationship: Whether married or living together or not, this relationship is committed to some extent (perhaps you refer to the person as your husband or wife or boyfriend or girlfriend or partner, but it's "official" in a social way), but sexual relations outside the relationship are acceptable. However, this is the only committed relationship -- the other sex partners are either just fuck buddies or friends with benefits.

4. Polyamory: more than one serious romantic and sexual relationship at the same time, possibly at varying levels of commitment, but all social, romantic relationships -- perhaps one would refer to all as partners or all as boyfriends/girlfriends or some other appropriate term. Sometimes all people involved are in relationships with each other. For instance, my partner and his other partner have at various times been partners with the same third person. Sometimes they have all lived together and shared a room. In some situations all partners may all co-parent the children together. My partners' child has "Mommy [Name]" and "Mommy [Name]" even though one of the women is no longer a partner. (His child lived the first several years of life with both women in the home.)

Sometimes there's a "primary" ie the primary relationship that gets priority despite all the relationships being meaningful. My partner will be my primary even if I start dating someone new. I am his primary, though his other partner was his primary before me (this switch wasn't caused by me, long story having to do with her work, family obligations, and many other issues). Before her, his primary was the mother of his child, who passed away. 

I'm sorry this isn't longer and more detailed, but some tasks have cropped up since yesterday morning and I can barely scrap together the time to write! I hope this is helpful.
More...
Posted by Hyacinth on December 3, 2012 at 4:22 PM · Report this
209
EricaP@206: I really only meant a subset of dirty talk -- the portion that reminds me of middle-school bathrooms, or anything to do with humiliation. Raunchy humor and the like I'm totally down with. I guess earthy rather than dirty is one way to put it.
Posted by Eirene on December 3, 2012 at 3:56 PM · Report this
nocutename 208
So many of the reasons I see that poly people give for their being poly work on presumptions of mono relationships that are foreign to me.

I'm more monogamish than strictly monogamous, but I don't get especially jealous or possessive, and haven't had particularly jealous or possessive partners (with one exception). I never feel "selfish" or "guilty" about wanting alone time, and have no problem giving it, and I've never, ever been with anyone who has had a problem with my having as much alone time or friend time as I wanted or needed--and vice versa.

When all these justifications for being poly are given, it makes it sound like being polyamorous reflects a more enlightened state, while being monogamous implies a caveman-type state of unevolved attitudes and insecurities.

Whether or not your polyamorousness is an orientation or a preference, I can respect it as your no-less-legitimate lifestyle choice, and I don't feel the need to hold my monogamish attitude up as morally superior or the product of a more enlightened state of mind. I wish the polys could do the same.

Posted by nocutename on December 3, 2012 at 3:41 PM · Report this
Megaera 207
I think part of what is raising some people's hackles against poly as an identity is the idea that all poly people 'need' more than one partner. For me, and I think for many other poly-folk out there, poly a lot more than that.

For example, I first started considering cohabiting, mutually-supportive multi-partner relationships at age 12. It seemed to me then, and for many years afterwards, that this was impossible in western culture, so I resigned myself to never living that way, and thinking of it as an interesting idea, no more. And it was as an interesting idea that it cropped up in conversation between myself and a friend I had known for about a year. He liked the idea too. Some time after that, we acknowledged our mutual attraction, and have now been together, very happily, for 22 years.

He has had three relationships with people other than me in that time, and I have had one, which only started 3 years ago. Until that time, I was, I suppose, 'functionally' monogamous. I was perfectly happy and secure in the relationship I had; not attracted to anybody else; not feeling the need for any other relationship for myself; not seeking any other relationship. I was delighted by his happiness when he was in love with somebody else. I considered myself to be poly for all of that time (although I only discovered the word poly about a decade ago, it encompassed my feelings). I was perfectly happy with the arrangement, and did not feel threatened at all, because I was aware that he loved and valued me for myself. So it's not just all about wanting multiple sexual partners for oneself, to me at least. A larger part of it is being happy for your partner to have other partners.

Somebody asked why poly people need to be so open about our lives. The fact is, my partner of three years' standing would not want to be my hidden dirty secret, and I don't want her to be. She deserves as much social acknowledgement as A did, when I had been with him for 3 years.

In terms of poly people being more attention-seeking, I think it depends on each individual: one reason poly is great for me is that, while I absolutely love my partners and enjoy spending time with them, I also really like lots of alone time. You get lots of alone time when your partner is with their other partner/s, and you don't have to feel selfish about grabbing it, because you know they are happy where they are. I tend to be an rather intense, introverted person, and I need silence from time to time to process it all.

Seandr: ‘But, imagine you come home from a party with your woman, and she gives you that look of detached amusement that says, unconvincingly, that she couldn't care less, and says "That whatshername sure spent a lot time talking to you tonight. Seemed to be hanging on your every word. You know those tits are fake, right?"' Oh yikes! That sounds like an agonisingly painful thing to put a partner through. I am honestly dismayed and sorry if something I do triggers that degree of insecurity in a partner, and I would want to reassure him/her immediately.
More...
Posted by Megaera on December 3, 2012 at 3:24 PM · Report this
206
Eirene@200, are you open to dirty talk if your partner wants it? or is it a kink too far, like scat play for Dan? I'm just thinking that it's pretty common for people to like it, though I gather your partners don't ask for it.
Posted by EricaP on December 3, 2012 at 3:07 PM · Report this
205
@204 "Practicing polyamory also means I don't have to be as afraid that my partner will leave me for someone else, because they can be with that person without leaving me."

To expand on that: if my husband happens to fall in love with someone monogamous, he won't be able to be with her without leaving me, and there's always that risk. But on the other hand, he knows he has a wandering eye and he knows that "New Relationship Energy" doesn't last forever, so it's unlikely that he'll want to jump ship for a new monogamous relationship.
Posted by EricaP on December 3, 2012 at 3:03 PM · Report this
204
@seandr 192

"Romantic jealousy is an emotional reaction to the fear of losing your partner to someone else.

In both poly and monogamous contexts, people abandon relationships to pursue other relationships all the time. If you have a deep romantic attachment to someone, and you sense that it might be disrupted by another person, then jealousy - the fear of your partner choosing someone else over you, and the hurt you'd feel as a result - seems to me an inevitable response."

This is interesting to me, because polyamory was the context that set me free from my fear of abandonment.

I agree with you that jealousy is derived from the fear of loss, specially the fear that you'll lose something because someone else will take it away from you.

What changed my view was the realization and acceptance that nothing ever really stops a person from being able to leave you if they really want to. A word, a promise, a marriage certificate--none of those things really keep my partner from leaving me, although I'll of course admit they might make my partner more reluctant and slower to leave me. But in the end, partners will leave me if I'm monogamous, and they'll leave me if I'm polyamorous, as soon as they no longer feel like what they're getting out of our relationship is worth what they're putting into it.

Practicing polyamory also means I don't have to be as afraid that my partner will leave me for someone else, because they can be with that person without leaving me.

I always say that I don't particularly care what my partner does when he or she isn't with me. I just care about whether they're giving me what I need and honoring our agreements. I require a certain amount of attention, affection, talk-time, sex, whatever. If someone can give me everything I want from them and still have time/energy left over for other people, great! Nothing makes me happier than to see the people I love be happy. If someone isn't giving me what I want from them, I don't care if they aren't seeing anyone else. I'm not happy. I don't get jealous because I just focus on what's happening between my partner and me - not between my partner and anyone else.
More...
Posted by Emily Ko on December 3, 2012 at 1:24 PM · Report this
203
@sissoucat / 152

There's no one right way to do poly. For me the defining feature of polyamory is that nothing is taken for granted or assumed. Everything is openly discussed. Some polyamorous people do put restrictions on each other: such as allowing their partners to have sex with others, but not engage in certain romantic activities that are reserved for each other; reserving particular sex toys or sex acts for use only with each other; asking that their partner always call before going to bed even if they're spending the night with another lover, etc.

The key is for you to really think about what you want from your partners, what you can't live without in a relationship and what you can't live with, what you're willing to provide the partner in question, and what you're willing to sacrifice for the partner in question. You may even find that what you want and are willing to give is different from one partner to the next. Once you figure out what those things are in relation to a person you're involved with, then you sit down and tell them what your terms are, listen to what their terms are, and then the two of you together decide if you both want to agree to be bound by those terms until such time as you mutually renegotiate them.

I practice polyamory and have several different types of relationships. I have a long-term partner with whom I was friends for years before we became romantically involved; we usually behave more like friends who occasionally smooch when we're out in public, but most people in our social circles know we're "more than friends" but also not in a dating relationship. He's the partner I'm most comfortable with, trust completely, and he also gives me advice about the other men and women I'm pursuing and I listen to his stories and give him advice about the other women he pursues.

I have another partner who I see a couple times a month pretty much only for very kinky, freaky sex. We're after different things in life but we're more sexually compatible than I've been with anyone else in a decade. He is very kind and respectful and doesn't treat me poorly just because our relationship is strictly sexual.

My third partner is much younger than me, and our relationship primarily emotional with sex on the side. He comes to me with his existential crises, his youthful confusion, his need to be listened to, and I play the role of mentor/healer and ask very little of him. I value our relationship because when I'm with him, I see myself the way he sees me - as a wiser, confident older woman who has all her shit figured out, understands life, and knows the answers to all the big questions.

I need and get a lot of different things - support, sex, validation. I get emotional support and stability from my long-term partner, I get wild kinky sex from my sex friend, and I get to feel wise and needed with my young friend. That's just how my personal polyamory looks right now at this moment in time. Yours may look very different. But the first step is to figure out what you need, and what you can give.
More...
Posted by Emily Ko on December 3, 2012 at 1:01 PM · Report this
202
@194: "As a woman, I'm curious, why is [a woman exhibiting territoriality around her man sexy]?"

It strikes me as a kind of backhanded affirmation of the intensity of the bond on the part of the one experiencing feelings of jealousy, and by extension, affirmation of the worth of the object of jealousy in their eyes. To one who experiences it in those terms, the lack thereof implies "What, don't you even _care_ that you might be at risk of losing me? Is that how little I mean to you?"

Posted by avast2006 on December 3, 2012 at 12:54 PM · Report this
201
@wendy/109

"I have never met anyone who was poly after meeting someone they actually wanted to be exclusive with, and for whom they felt it was worth it to be exclusive."

This is hurtful to me, as it implies that the only reason I'm poly is that I don't want any of my partners enough, or find them worthwhile enough. It establishes a hierarchy where monogamy is a stage above polyamory, that you graduate to once you have found the Real Thing, as opposed to just an alternate choice. It'd be like if I said, "I've never met anyone who was monogamous after finding a partner who was generous enough and secure enough not to be threatened by non-monogamy."

We like to operate our relationships the way we like to operate them and whether our relationships are monogamous or polyamorous doesn't have anything to do with how much we want/love/value our partners.
Posted by Emily Ko on December 3, 2012 at 12:29 PM · Report this
200
I don't find jealousy sexy at all -- it may be an inevitable part of sexual relationships for those who are wired that way (likely including me, though I've had so little occasion to be jealous that I don't think of myself that way), but that's far from saying it's inherently sexy itself.

Pretty much any really unpleasant emotion takes me totally out of libido-world. Others have very different associations. It's kind of like the way I don't have any use for "dirty talk" if it means anything you'd typically see on a lavatory wall, not because I'm especially prim, but because disgust isn't connected to arousal for me.
Posted by Eirene on December 3, 2012 at 9:14 AM · Report this
mydriasis 199
@seandr/hyacinth

Neuroscience in the house ;)
Posted by mydriasis on December 3, 2012 at 4:59 AM · Report this
198
Gawd I hate the word "squicky."
Posted by portland scribe on December 3, 2012 at 12:16 AM · Report this
sissoucat 197
@187 nocutename, I know you to be a considerate poster, with whom sharing is rewarding, so no worries. It would be silly of me to take exception to what you're feeling - I just wanted to mention that another set of feelings could occur in the same situation. So all's good.

So, to categorize relationships, I gather that we must look at 4 main criterions : living arrangements, type of social bond (aka marriage), exclusivity or not of sexual bond, depth of emotional bond - and we could add the expected length of the social bond, to distinguish strict monogamy from serial monogamy - but that distinction is, imho, only of concern to religious types.

Do we agree on this ?
Posted by sissoucat on December 2, 2012 at 11:48 PM · Report this
sissoucat 196
@sappho I'm rested now. It's a bit hard to understand the dynamics of what you're describing, since I've never experienced such living arrangements first hand.

I get the two-fold commitments, but the living arrangements and the type of bonds are a bit of a mystery. How do you define the 'married' type bond in a whanau, as opposed to 'close friend' ? You say it's social - does it mean that a wedding makes a pair 'married', whereas no wedding makes a pair 'close friends' ?

How do people in the family keep tabs on the ongoing sexual arrangements (you said open and honest) - I guess the living arrangements and social arrangements are plain enough to see ?

I'd also like to know if what happens in our poly in a mono culture could happen in your poly culture. Suppose A is a woman honestly and openly sexually involved with two men, B and C. In our culture, B and C know about each other, but the odds are they don't want to socialize together, much (no whanau). And least of all at night. It's either A and B at home at night, or A and C - neither B nor C would sleep on a couch in the same house where the other male is in bed with the female. What happens in a whanau ?
Posted by sissoucat on December 2, 2012 at 11:21 PM · Report this
seandr 195
@albeit:
Not sure which part you're asking about, but I think I burned through my SLOG quota in @192.

As for the second, it definitely depends on how her territoriality manifests itself. Not letting you out of the house alone, or killing and boiling someone's pet rabbit a la Glen Close - not sexy.

But, imagine you come home from a party with your woman, and she gives you that look of detached amusement that says, unconvincingly, that she couldn't care less, and says "That whatshername sure spent a lot time talking to you tonight. Seemed to be hanging on your every word. You know those tits are fake, right?"

The vulnerability expressed, the instinctive dissing of her rival, the implicit acknowledgement of your sexuality as a male, the possibility raised that she'll compete for you on those terms. Sexy.
Posted by seandr on December 2, 2012 at 10:22 PM · Report this
194
@157 seandr

'A person can't give up jealousy without sacrificing some passion. I also think it's sexy when a woman exhibits a little bit of territoriality around her man.'

As a woman, I'm curious, why is that?
Posted by albeit on December 2, 2012 at 9:29 PM · Report this
seandr 193
@Hyacinth: (My field is cognitive science... haha.)

That is funny - me too!
Posted by seandr on December 2, 2012 at 9:28 PM · Report this
seandr 192
@Hyacinth: What makes you believe your statement that a person can't give up jealousy without sacrificing some passion?

Romantic jealousy is an emotional reaction to the fear of losing your partner to someone else.

In both poly and monogamous contexts, people abandon relationships to pursue other relationships all the time. If you have a deep romantic attachment to someone, and you sense that it might be disrupted by another person, then jealousy - the fear of your partner choosing someone else over you, and the hurt you'd feel as a result - seems to me an inevitable response.

If, on the other hand, you're all smiles and well-wishes, then I don't think your attachment to that person is as deeply rooted in your psyche as such attachments can be for other people. That deep rooting (into your emotional core and your self-concept) can produce stronger emotions - passion, anger, joy, jealousy - than is possible if you are not as personally invested in the relationship. (No judgment there, btw - deep attachments can certainly be dysfunctional, and they do require a certain amount of trust and vulnerability that isn't for everyone.)

Anecdotally, my experience says that a woman's capacity for jealousy is positively correlated with her sexual intensity. Also, I've been in a long term relationship (with a woman who isn't particularly prone to jealousy, although not immune to it either) that had become a bit of a snooze, and found that giving her some rivals seemed to wake her up.
Posted by seandr on December 2, 2012 at 9:11 PM · Report this
sissoucat 191
@sappho - I meant to ask you but then shied away, although I was very interested in reading what you said on Maori relationships on an older post.

Lovely people of Savage Love, I'll resume reading some other time, it's getting late over here and my brain is turning to mush - can't understand stuff. I'll read again when clarity returns !

@Hunter - ah, I thought so. Check on "the dirty normal", the novelty of it may kill the boredom, but please don't troll there - we like you as our kept troll, I mean when you're not too unpleasant to some of us.
Posted by sissoucat on December 2, 2012 at 12:59 PM · Report this
190
@sissoucat - i know you didn't ask me :-) but here's my definition of polyamory, for what it's worth...

each individual is an autonomous person, who makes bonds of varying depths - sexually, emotionally, and socially - with others as is appropriate to that combination of people. there are no pairs. all relationships are recognised, open and honest. of course all are not equal, but each bond is valued for what it is. also recognised are the relationships created between those who 'share', who have intimate relationships in common. this builds up a network of people who have an ongoing investment/commitment to each other, both socially and emotionally, irrelevant of the current living arrangement or sexual status of any single relationship in the group. this group is often referred to as the 'family'(or over here 'whanau'), and may have as few as 3, or as many as your patchy history provides you with. the whanau will often end up including children, grandparents, and in-law's as well.

the quality of the social bonds tends to be somewhere on the spectrum between 'close friend' and 'married', and the sexual connections may be independent of those social bonds. i.e. someone may be in a 'marriage' type bond with one person, but only have occasional sex, say every few months or years; while another person who is more of a 'friend', may be someone they have sex with every week, or every day.

the primary defining feature of poly relationships (as i understand them) is that the commitments are two-fold: firstly, the commitment to a person is not conditional on sexual fidelity or even whether there is sex at all, but more on emotional intimacy, affection, and the valuing of that person for who they are. secondly there is a commitment to the family, including any children, which out-weighs the individual's desires regarding any particular relationship. this means that there is an investment in supporting others relationships, and a disincentive to cause drama.

it is not unusual for a person to have a short-term 'thing' with someone from the whanau, but stay on as family when it ends, and possibly end up having other sexual relationships with other members of the group. such people are usually welcome. however, outsiders may be treated with some caution, and anyone who tries to annex a member of the family is likely to be met with a wall of hostility. this happens more often than you think.

i think this is one of the causes of distaste for 'mono's' from poly folk: they are those strange people who think that your relationship is 'not real', and that just because you are happy for them to sleep with your partner/lover/friend, it's ok for them to ask for monogamy. or that they have some kind of veto-right over relationships that may span decades....
More...
Posted by sappho on December 2, 2012 at 12:33 PM · Report this
189
Sis,

Neither. Just boring threads.
Posted by Hunter78 on December 2, 2012 at 12:09 PM · Report this
188
@186 lol
Posted by EricaP on December 2, 2012 at 11:33 AM · Report this
nocutename 187
@sissoucat: I hope you didn't think I thought you were flaming me; I didn't at all. I just thought that you had misunderstood me. I thought that perhaps you thought I was looking down on you derisively, and that wasn't at all the case.

I am interested in your categorization of different types of relationships. I wouldn't put "living together" as a requirement for all monogamous relationships, however. Many people are monogamous dating couples who don't live together. So perhaps there should be some category of monogamy and monogamishny which falls below living together and fwb. I would call that "dating:" having sex (whether monogamously nor not), socially bonded, (perhaps) emotionally bonded. In my experience, fwb is more casual that that. And much less emotionally and socially bonded. I never assumed monogamy within a fwb situation, either, but a recent letter here that sparked this whole "is polyamory an orientation?" discussion began with a fwb in which the male lw agreed to monogamy, so I need to recalibrate!

My older definition of the term "open marriage" used to be close to the way "monogamish" is being used in Savage Loveland (although the word "marriage" in it, implied that the couple was married and you can me a non-monogamous couple without being married. But you know what I mean).
Posted by nocutename on December 2, 2012 at 10:12 AM · Report this
sissoucat 186
@Hyacinth oh, good, I thought you hadn't read my post yet. I'd love to have your definition of polyamory !

@184 Hunter-troll darling, do you object to :
a- the sucking of cocks, or
b- their being spit out afterwards ?

because that makes me worry that you either :
a- have become asexual or religious lately, or
b- entertain a weird fetish for cocks being masticated into amputation and ingested after sex ?

Cocks would better beware of you, than of anything else, then.

Or... maybe, do you just suffer from acute attention deprivation ?
Hey, don't worry, we still read you. Peace.
Posted by sissoucat on December 2, 2012 at 9:40 AM · Report this
185
@181, wolfhound, I agree, there has been a dearth of interesting letters and responses lately. Dan has been doing this for a long time now - is there perhaps some burnout setting in?
Posted by cockyballsup on December 2, 2012 at 7:55 AM · Report this
184
Cocks,

Beware of Cunts. They want to suck you up and spit you out!
Posted by Hunter78 on December 2, 2012 at 7:51 AM · Report this
183
@sissoucat

Crap, somehow I completely missed responding to you with my take on things. Please check back because I will today if you are still curious about my thoughts (can't at this immediate moment).
Posted by Hyacinth on December 2, 2012 at 7:50 AM · Report this
sissoucat 182
@midwestkittie Thanks for answering my question to Hyacinth ! Relationship terminology so confuses me.

This I know for sure :
- monogamy is one socially bonded pair, living together, sex together, no divorce ;
- serial monogamy is the above, minus the "no divorce" clause ;
- real polygamy (original meaning - not polygyny) is several socially bonded pairs, living together, sex together - is it community sex ?
- colloquial polygamy (polygyny) is a male socially bonded with several females, living and sex together ;
- monogamish is a form of monogamy or serial monogamy with a pair socially bonded, living together, sex together, plus very temporary other sexual partners - but no social bond with them.

But what are the other forms :
- open marriage : is it a synonym of monogamish ? Or is it monogamish with more permanent thirds ? Do the thirds live with the couple ?
- FWB : this one is sex without living or being socially bonded together
- "dating a bunch of guys" : is it several FWB at once ?

And where does polyamory come in ?
Posted by sissoucat on December 2, 2012 at 7:22 AM · Report this
181
Okay, I just had to log on to say that these are really two of the stupidest letters I've ever read in this column. LW1- Sorry dude but your "issue" is neither unique or interesting and LW2 - Really? Do buy new sheets and pillow cases too because, you know, you used them with "someone else". Good lord.
Posted by wolfhound on December 2, 2012 at 6:53 AM · Report this
sissoucat 180
@nocutename Oh, I wasn't flaming you, it was an honest remark, on my having experienced those "romantic" feelings before, only to find that they had been a delusion - and on deciding not to pay much attention to those feelings in assessing a relationship from now on.

I miscommunicated on the one-sidedness. I meant : two people feel an intense emotional intimacy at one point, but it's based on each one mistaking the other one for the image they've made of him/her in their own brain. Then over the years you communicate more, and you find out that, every single event that meant intimacy for you, meant nothing or quite a different thing for them ; and vice-versa.

My take is : well, we can't see in each other's brains, so let's be happy that some friendship and good will (and lust) is present, and not vye for "romantic love".
Posted by sissoucat on December 2, 2012 at 6:49 AM · Report this
179
Myd,

It's no surprise to regular readers that you have a nasty streak. Explains why you can't maintain the monogamous relationship you desire. That and your conceit.

Posted by Hunter78 on December 2, 2012 at 6:26 AM · Report this
sissoucat 178
@EricaP you're so nice, as always... I'm OK, I was just providing context for my question to Hyacinth, who's new here.

Actually I like not having strong connections with anybody ; it's a sure way not to be emotionaly manipulated and coerced, ever again. I love freely giving my attention and love - but I hate being expected to give it. I'm not an ATM love machine.
Posted by sissoucat on December 2, 2012 at 6:16 AM · Report this
177
Ms Driasis - Just curious; how do you discern and regulate the difference between "attracted but not interested" and "considering cheating"? Unless your men are all as inept as Guthrie Featherstone or Claude Erskine Brown, there would seem to be a good bit of grey area there.
Posted by vennominon on December 2, 2012 at 5:37 AM · Report this
mydriasis 176
@Erica

Not at all! Clearly we just all experiece things differently.

@cocky

Yeah, in my first post in the subject I think I mentioned that I'm more 'possesive' than 'jealous', I tend to end up with guys who don't bring up a lot of jealousy, thank god.
Posted by mydriasis on December 1, 2012 at 6:08 PM · Report this
175
@172, thanks again. Sorry so dense.
Posted by EricaP on December 1, 2012 at 5:05 PM · Report this
174
@149, mydriasis, I am also more mono, and I certainly have felt jealousy, but interestingly in my case it was triggered more by the boyfriend being interested in someone else. I couldn't care less about someone else being interested in the boyfriend if the interest was not returned. I was never cheated on (that I knew of) but it would have been a deal breaker for me, even though I myself have cheated - and I know this is unreasonable.

The exception was when we had threeways with randoms. They didn't bother me for some reason, rather the opposite.
Posted by cockyballsup on December 1, 2012 at 4:54 PM · Report this
173
@sissoucat (@152),

I've thought of the same thing myself: of having sex with men I like, respect, and cherish from time to time in a context friendship. Is this just "dating a bunch of guys?"

I guess I think in terms of "non-monogamy" because I was traumatized/annoyed by the word "polyamory" in the 1990s by preternaturally smug "poly kids" in college. (An interesting thing about polyamory is that I've heard of poly people telling other poly people "they're not doing polyamory the right way.")

Maybe we're just starting to sort things out now: non-monogamy, open marriage, polyamory. Maybe it's that polyamory means different things to each individual, like bisexuality.
Posted by midwestkittie on December 1, 2012 at 4:44 PM · Report this
mydriasis 172
@171

Wow sooo many misunderstood items.

"If you hit on my boyfriend I will make you cry."

Does not suggest anything physical or assault. I am perfectly capable of making someone cry with my words and in fact would probably have an easier time of it than trying to physically harm someone.

"if he considered breaking up with you"

No, if he considered cheating on me. That's the context.
Posted by mydriasis on December 1, 2012 at 4:40 PM · Report this
171
@170, I don't expect you to feel sympathetic. Your original posts sounded like you might physically threaten or hurt someone who flirted with your boyfriend.

But since you just referred to punishing your boyfriend with a "world of hurt" if he considered breaking up with you, I guess you're exaggerating and you just mean you would be cold to these people, not that you would actually assault them.
Posted by EricaP on December 1, 2012 at 4:33 PM · Report this
mydriasis 170
@Erica

"What does it mean to be "taken"?"

In a monogamous relationship.

"If he's interested back, then was he taken?"

Depends on what you mean by interested? You can be attracted to someone outside your relationship while still desiring to remain monogamous, so if by interested you mean attracted then yeah he's still taken. If by interested you mean 'considering it', then he's the one in for the world of hurt.

"And if he's not interested, then why kick her when she's down?"

Because it's deeply satisfying?

You expect me to feel sympathetic to a girl for all the hurt she felt by being rejected by my man? Yeah that's so sad for her, I may need a tissue.
Posted by mydriasis on December 1, 2012 at 4:10 PM · Report this
169
@161 thanks.

I generally think of myself as only poly by circumstance rather than by nature, but maybe I should reassess that, since my reaction to your words "If someone knows he's taken and goes for him anyway" is to ask:

What does it mean to be "taken"? If he's interested back, then was he taken? And if he's not interested, then why kick her when she's down?
Posted by EricaP on December 1, 2012 at 3:15 PM · Report this
168
@mydriasis

Email: lovetransposons@gmail.com

Yes, as in the jumping genes. To my eternal nerdy shame.
Posted by Hyacinth on December 1, 2012 at 2:42 PM · Report this
nocutename 167
@153 (sissoucat): I'm sorry to hear you had that one-way experience. I didn't mean that people should try to find it and aren't deserving of whatever happiness they can grab that comes their way and should hold out for some romantic ideal that may not come along.

I have had very few relationships in my life only 3 or 4, really (one was a pretty long-term one), but in 3 of them, that feeling was present (in the case of the 4th, only I seem to have had those feelings in that much depth). Like EricaP, I experience those feelings ebbing and flowing over the course of a romantic relationship, but not cutting off abruptly.

I was addressing the difference in polyamory as it's being described by a few people on this thread, and my monogamish perspective. It's not that I can't love more than one person at a time, but there is a dimension to coupled-ness I like that I only find when we are facing each other and only each other.

I understand the desire for sexual variety and novelty, and don't insist on absolute sexual exclusivity (it's fun to spice things up a bit), and I don't have a jealous or possessive bone in my body, either, so that doesn't play a part in my interest in emotional, romantic monogamy. (Because to my understanding, true polyamory is very different than my non-insistence on strict monogamy. What hyacinth described @146 ["one of the most beautiful moments in my life was when he and I were on a vacation together, and his other partner called him late at night to tell him to take me to watch the sun rise at a certain time over the sea in the early morning, and to kiss me as the water started bleeding orange. She loved that we're in love, and that made me love her, and made me love him loving her..."] is utterly foreign to me.)

But the more I try to clarify what I've already said, the more I seem to be misunderstood so I'll shut up already!
More...
Posted by nocutename on December 1, 2012 at 2:32 PM · Report this
mydriasis 166
@ hyacinth

Thank you! Feel free to post your email I'll totally contact you.

"To me that sounds like getting a malicious urge because someone says they like your purse, since I guess my brain doesn't work like yours, so I want to know more."

No it's more like someone saying "I want you to share your purse with me instead of having it all the time". Get your own purse! :p

Posted by mydriasis on December 1, 2012 at 2:19 PM · Report this
165
@seandr -- I've never experienced jealousy of a sexual nature (though plenty that a friend has amazing legs and I don't;). Not because I think I'm more evolved or anything, just because it's not how I'm wired. I don't get upset when my husband wants to eat someone else's cooking for a night or feel like he loves mine less because of it, and sex is the same thing.

For me, a huge part of it is that I am naturally a loner. I've never felt the urge to be coupled up, just the urge to be with a specific person because of who they are. And even then, I often find being in a relationship a little wearing.

So if the person I'm with wants a little variety, then it doesn't threaten me. And if they actually prefer someone else to me, then I HOPE they leave to be with that someone else instead of staying -- why would I ever want to be a consolation prize? I only want someone with me as long as they want to be there
Posted by slsfong on December 1, 2012 at 1:53 PM · Report this
164
@mydriasis

Hey, is there any way to send private messages to people here? I assume not since this isn't a discussion site by purpose, and I only joined up to comment recently, but I was looking at a bunch of your comments in your profile just now and you said some wonderful things I completely agree with and would like to discuss. If there isn't a way, I'd post an email address so you could email me if you'd ever agree to do that. I understand if you wouldn't want to do that though.
Posted by Hyacinth on December 1, 2012 at 1:50 PM · Report this
163
Dan, I normally don't disagree with you, but I don't at all think ALL people are naturally nonmonogamous. I think some of us, like myself, are, and others, like my husband, are by nature monogamous. One or the other may be the norm for human biology, but heterosexuality is also the default for biology, since it does propogate the species. It is not, however, the norm for every single individual.

I base this on my husband. He is very into sex -- he has never NOT wanted to in more than a decade together, he is totally comfortable with poly lifestyles -- we have several friends who are poly, and they bother him not at all (unlike those who cheat, which makes him insane), he has been given absolute permission to sleep with other people if he should want to, and has said that if I feel like I want to do so, he'd be fine with me seeking outside affections as well. But though he'd be okay with me pursuing it (and not because he's into me with others because he's not), he has no interest in doing so himself, even when we've gone long stretches without sex for medical reasons. He is simply only interested in his partner.

I tend to think that people like him, the truly monogamous are the exception rather than the rule, but I think for them, monogamy is their nature.
Posted by slsfong on December 1, 2012 at 1:37 PM · Report this
162
mydriasis:

What is it that causes the malicious urge?

(Again, probably a dumb question, but you also can't fault a person who also happens to be a cog sci person for wanting to know about other people's interior states. ;)

To me that sounds like getting a malicious urge because someone says they like your purse, since I guess my brain doesn't work like yours, so I want to know more.
Posted by Hyacinth on December 1, 2012 at 1:26 PM · Report this
mydriasis 161
@ Erica

I sort of figured that the context was implied but I'll elaborate.

If someone knows he's taken and goes for him anyway, she will regret it.

If someone thinks he's single and hits on him I'll probably feel a malicious urge but would never act on it. Can't fault a girl for having good taste.
Posted by mydriasis on December 1, 2012 at 1:21 PM · Report this
160
@seandr

Not sexually or romantically, though in other ways sure, I guess... It was probably a silly question though. 

I'm not sure that I feel that "this/he/she is FOR ME feeling" though. What I'd say I have much experience with is envy -- like wanting the same good thing someone else has, but not minding that they do happen to have it. Not wanting to take it from them, but just wanting to have it also. I have been bitterly envious several times in life. Mostly about academics though. 

I don't agree that sacrificing jealousy means sacrificing passion, but I think there must simply be different causes of passion. I see what you're saying though, in the sense that bitter envy of those more skillful and talented than myself is part of what drives my love for my field and makes me so good at it. But I also feel very lit up/electric/passionate about my partner without being jealous. On the other hand, "passion" is amorphous, and it's impossible to transmit a proper assessment of one's sense of passion to others, so I know you probably won't believe me.

Passion is something disconnected from how it comes about, though, I think. For you, jealousy is part of it. For me, it isn't. Jealousy is not a necessary condition; the thing can exist without a uniform cause. What you require in order to experience or recognize passion is not what all other people require in order to experience or recognize passion. 

I guess my question is:

What makes you believe your statement that a person can't give up jealousy without sacrificing some passion? What evidence? Or is it simply a feeling that this is the case, based on your own internal states, and conflating your own internal associations (jealousy+passion) with those that you assume happen to others.

(My field is cognitive science... haha.)
More...
Posted by Hyacinth on December 1, 2012 at 1:13 PM · Report this
159
Dan - There is a communication issue at the root of the button-pushing heated discussion about polyamory and non-monogamy and orientation. I think what you (and poly folk) are trying to have is a discussion regarding the chosen or innate nature of non-monogamy.

I thought perhaps this handy translation to what I THINK everyone is trying to say, might aid in the discussion:

OP: "I self-identify as a born non-monogamist who has a relationship with a currently self-identified monogamist. Please use your respected position as a sex columnist to help me manipulate my partner into opening our relationship, and/or provide justification and excuses for when I cheat.

Dan: "You annoy me and you need a smackdown for your non-adherence to the albeit recent modern linguistic conventions of the non-monogamous and sexual-advocacy communities. Also, it is my belief at this time that non-monogamous inclinations are chosen, not innate. I'm not going to provide the excuse for your cheating ass."

The Poly Community: How dare you say that being poly cannot be part of our self-identity! We have a right to identify as poly!!! *list of examples* Also - we feel we have as much right to opinions about the chosen/innate nature of non-monogamy, as queer folk have to opinions on the chosen/innate nature of sexual orientation.
Posted by kattale on December 1, 2012 at 12:36 PM · Report this
158
Dan - There is a communication issue at the root of the button-pushing heated discussion about polyamory and non-monogamy and orientation. I think what you (and poly folk) are trying to have is a discussion regarding the chosen or innate nature of non-monogamy.

This is what I am hearing, in the discussion:

OP: "I self-identify as a born non-monogamist who has a relationship with a currently self-identified monogamist. Please use your respected position as a sex columnist to help me manipulate my partner into opening our relationship, and/or provide justification and excuses for when I cheat.

Dan: "You annoy me and you need a smackdown for your non-adherence to the albeit recent modern linguistic conventions of the non-monogamous and sexual-advocacy communities. Also, it is my belief at this time that non-monogamous inclinations are chosen, not innate. I'm not going to provide the excuse for your cheating ass."

The Poly Community: How dare you say that being poly cannot be part of our self-identity! We have a right to identify as poly!!! *list of examples* Also - we feel we have as much right to opinions about the chosen/innate nature of non-monogamy, as queer folk have to opinions on the chosen/innate nature of sexual orientation.
Posted by kattale on December 1, 2012 at 12:33 PM · Report this
seandr 157
@Hyacinth: what does it feel like to be romantically/sexually jealous?

You've never experienced jealousy? I can understand outgrowing jealousy, but never experiencing it, not even in your youth? I know polys would say that's evidence of you being a more evolved person, but to me, there's something robotic and Mormon about it.

A person can't give up jealousy without sacrificing some passion. I also think it's sexy when a woman exhibits a little bit of territoriality around her man.

Posted by seandr on December 1, 2012 at 10:54 AM · Report this
156
sissoucat@153, I find that the feeling of authentic connection and intimacy ebbs and flows...over the course of each day and also over the course of decades. I don't think I've ever felt it for someone and then had the connection end completely. I'm sorry for your unhappy years and hope you forge strong connections in the future.
Posted by EricaP on December 1, 2012 at 9:13 AM · Report this
155
mydriasis@149
"If you hit on my boyfriend I will make you cry."

If that's humor, I don't get it. If you're serious, that's disturbing. How are people supposed to know he's off-limits?
Posted by EricaP on December 1, 2012 at 9:06 AM · Report this
154
Not *all* people are naturally non-monogamous. I don't disagree that probably most people are, but there are some of us who are monogamous and are simply intrinsically that way.
I would just wish that people who I respect, like you, Dan, would stop acting like the way I am is less natural. It's just different.
Posted by Forlorn on December 1, 2012 at 8:29 AM · Report this
sissoucat 153
@nocutename "I derive a lot of satisfaction from a sense of intense emotional intimacy and intensity with one person, and I guess I have a difficult time really understanding in an emotional way someone who doesn't share that feeling"

Most of the relationships I've been in, or all, have had this sense missing, either from the start, or after some time. I always come one day to the realization that the deep connexion I felt was just my own delusion. I do crave it like you, but I know the odds are I'm never going to find it.

Should I dismiss any relationship with people I do like, because it won't feel deep enough ? I don't think so. Life is long and solitary, I do appreciate having diverse company for good times - such as sharing food, friendship, closeness, or sex.
Posted by sissoucat on December 1, 2012 at 3:24 AM · Report this
sissoucat 152
@Hyacinth

I'm interested in the polyamourous/open relationship lifestyle. Not as a curious bystander, but as something to try for myself.

I've found out some years ago that I'm not jealous. After a painful 10+ years of strict monogamy (on my part) with a POS, I'd rather have friendly and sexual relationships with several men who know about each other, and who see other women themselves, than ever embark again in a monogamous relationship. Plus I don't want to have to live, ever again, with a partner.

But sex once in a while, with people who respect me and whom I respect, is quite appealing. And I'd like to talk with one partner about their/my other ones. I'm interested in having feelings and emotional closeness, not just in sex.

So - since you identify as polyamorous. What difference do you make between friends with benefits, polyamourous, open relationship ? What I'm interested in, would you call it polyamory or something else ?

Please don't get upset at my words - I'm not a native speaker so many vocabulary subtleties are out of my league.
Posted by sissoucat on December 1, 2012 at 2:56 AM · Report this
151
The term IDGAF is looking for may be "aromantic". Asexual people don't have sex drive, even though they may have a romance drive. It's possible that IDGAF does not have a romance drive, even though he clearly does have a sex drive.
Posted by Brie on November 30, 2012 at 11:10 PM · Report this
150
@ Gone Solo: do you live in Portland? "all I need is music and friends .". Because I'm pretty sure I've dated you, several times over.
Posted by fredricka22 on November 30, 2012 at 9:53 PM · Report this
mydriasis 149
@ hyacinth

That's like asking what it's like to feel sick.
What kind of sick?
What kind of jealous?

For me I'd say somethig like a blending of things, anger, hurt, often with a generous helping of disgust, aversion, discomfort, etc.

But I've never been cheated on and anyone I've ever been with has the good sense to not really make me jealous - most jealousy I experience isn't true jealousy, it's more possesiveness.

Which isn't triggered by the idea the whole "boyfriend being interested in someone else" thing, it's triggered by a "someone else being interested in my boyfriend" thing. If you hit on my boyfriend I will make you cry.
Posted by mydriasis on November 30, 2012 at 9:36 PM · Report this
148
@mydriasis

I swear this isn't a troll question -- what does it feel like to be romantically/sexually jealous?
Posted by Hyacinth on November 30, 2012 at 7:27 PM · Report this
mydriasis 147
"Also, there's been a distinct attempt on the part of the poly folk to characterize those who are mono as being jealous. No doubt some mono people are jealous, but not all mono people are jealous, and not all jealous people are mono."

Yup!!

Four main reasons mono makes sense for me.

1. I'm VERY jealous when I have the feels for a guy (if we're just fucking then I could care less).

2. When I'm in a relationship I pretty much don't look at anyone else (feel no desire to).

3. A serious relationship takes a lot of time. If I want to have an actual relationship with a reasonable amount of time devoted, I only have time for one (assuming I want to have a life).

4. I'm selective. I've never at any point in my life been in contact with more than one person I'd date.
Posted by mydriasis on November 30, 2012 at 6:49 PM · Report this
146
@144

I am finding this pretty fascinating too.

What you describe as focusing your romantic energies on one person is something that reminds me somewhat of the "new relationship energy" concept with poly people. It's that blissy state of falling, sort of...

But it deepens my already-existing relationship for me to love others, or for me to see him loving others.

I am not sure why.

But one of the most beautiful moments in my life was when he and I were on a vacation together, and his other partner called him late at night to tell him to take me to watch the sun rise at a certain time over the sea in the early morning, and to kiss me as the water started bleeding orange. She loved that we're in love, and that made me love her, and made me love him loving her...

It's... I dunno. It's amazing.

I'm falling for someone else right now (though I don't think it will work). Being able to discuss that with my partner makes me adore and want him even more. It's just amazing. It makes me feel so close to him.
Posted by Hyacinth on November 30, 2012 at 6:12 PM · Report this
145
@143

?
Posted by Hyacinth on November 30, 2012 at 5:41 PM · Report this
nocutename 144
Hyacinth:
Although I singled you out, I wasn't responding to you exclusively.
I do appreciate your apology for the implication that people who are mono are being jealous and I thank you for your clarification @141. I think what this thread has helped me to see is that people have a very hard time really understanding what it is like to have a different mindset--or orientation--than they themselves do.

I am straight, but I understand being gay, because it seems to me that desire is desire, and the gender or sex of the object of that desire doesn't seem to me to affect the feelings of lust or longing or love that I experience. But although I am not jealous, and don't insist on some sort of absolute monogamy that is non-negotiable and an expressed term or condition of the relationship, and I don't expect any one person to be all things to me (I have kids, siblings, parents, friends, colleagues, and they all fulfill different roles and different needs in my life), I find that when I start to form a serious emotional and romantic/erotic bond with another person, I want to focus my romantic energies on that one person, because that deepens the bond I have with him. I derive a lot of satisfaction from a sense of intense emotional intimacy and intensity with one person, and I guess I have a difficult time really understanding in an emotional way someone who doesn't share that feeling. So it's my turn to apologize, for sounding peevish.

For what it's worth, I never argued with the premise that people who want to be in polyamorous relationships are incompatible with those who expect monogamous ones and that people should be honest about desires and expectations. I just take issue with the word "need." I would love to be in a romantic relationship; I have a deep desire for that; but I don't *need* it.
More...
Posted by nocutename on November 30, 2012 at 5:17 PM · Report this
143
Help! I'm drowning!

Posted by Hunter78 on November 30, 2012 at 3:32 PM · Report this
142
I do also want to apologize for my earlier histrionics, which have probably set the poly population back a few years among Savage readers.

I am just me, not every poly person. I do my view this as "just the internet" -- I will respect you as much as a person whose face I can see feet away from me, but I'll also be just as frustrated. "Just the internet" isn't words -- it's people saying words. I've always found the excuse that "this is the internet" to be somewhat cowardly. Sort of a "this is a space where thoughtlessness and cruelty aren't problematic." I just don't agree.

That also leads me to the fact that I want to apologize for implying that being mono means being jealous; that was thoughtless and cruel.
Posted by Hyacinth on November 30, 2012 at 2:06 PM · Report this
141
@nocutename

I guess we have to just disagree... I have only one partner right now. Anyway, I don't think it would be a functional relationship for me if monogamy were thought of as important. Maybe it's not an orientation, but it is who I am. Even if we want to reduce it to something "unimportant", maybe that would make more sense -- like how I simply wouldn't be with anyone who deprived me of anything I highly value. If someone said I could never do some important hobby again and be with them at the same time, even that would be unacceptable. Or does it make it more sensible sounding if I explain it as a compatibility issue? I am not compatible with people who like monogamy. I'm also not compatible with people who treat their dogs like children.

I am a little frustrated to hear the "have your cake and eat it too" description -- that's what is said so often about bisexual people too.

I suppose to someone who wants one romantic connection but doesn't have it, this must sound like a parent of one child whining about how they "need" more than one child to someone who can't have any children, so if that's the case then I'm sorry. But in the same way that someone who wants five kids should probably think twice before marrying someone who insists on no more than one, I don't think it's unreasonable for anyone to reject monogamy if it makes them so uncomfortable, as long as they're honest.
Posted by Hyacinth on November 30, 2012 at 12:24 PM · Report this
nocutename 140
Also, there's been a distinct attempt on the part of the poly folk to characterize those who are mono as being jealous. No doubt some mono people are jealous, but not all mono people are jealous, and not all jealous people are mono.

Posted by nocutename on November 30, 2012 at 12:14 PM · Report this
nocutename 139
There's something so . . . entitled . . . to the tenor of these polys' postings. I don't know that I'm capable of having an opinion of whether being polyamorous is an orientation or a preference, but as someone who hasn't been in a relationship for over a year and who misses that sense of intimacy and closeness, not to mention sex, it is a little hard to swallow assertions that if one had to do without having multiple, concurrent romantic/sexual partners, one would rather *die.*

Yes, Hyacinth, it would be nice to "form a new relationship," in my case, not in addition to the already-fulfilling one going on, but AT ALL. There's a distinct sense of wanting to have one's cake and eat it, too that's irritating me about some of these posts.

I understand that some people are more comfortable having poly relationships, that to those people, it isn't the equivalent of screwing around, etc. But to hear people say that they are actually deprived if they don't get to have multiple relationships, that they NEED them, is sounding histrionic. You don't NEED your multiple lovers; you want them. Fair enough. And I hope that everyone is always lucky enough to have all that he or she wants in life. For those of us who aren't lucky enough to have one fulfilling relationship, who would love to experience that, hearing the whining of a poor, deprived, naturally poly person forced to have only one partner at the moment is getting old.
Posted by nocutename on November 30, 2012 at 11:59 AM · Report this
138
poly people have replaced vegan people as the newest whiny sect of self-indulgent, self-righteous longing to feel marginalized...
Posted by eatin_meat on November 30, 2012 at 10:03 AM · Report this
137
(And when I say I only have on partner right now and I'm happy with that, I mean pretty much what an emotionally secure single person who is nonetheless sexual/romantic in nature would mean if they said the equivalent -- it would be really nice to form a new relationship, but life is good until then too.)
Posted by Hyacinth on November 30, 2012 at 7:13 AM · Report this
136
@134

KateRose is right.

I only have one partner right now and I'm happy with that. It's not (for me) about needing to rely on or have people... It's just...

Well, let's say a monogamous person feels her relationship is not nurturing enough, and she's miserable, and she's living a lie. That doesn't mean she can't be single or she's needy; it means that when she IS in a relationship, it has to be a certain sort. If one lives in a bad relationship type for who they are, they will feel unhappy.

I'd rather be single (and I mean that in a calm, objective way -- not in a stomping my foot way) than in a monogamy-required relationship, for instance.

Part of it is that I'm constitutionally incapable of being sexually or romantically jealous. Even if I myself didn't care for the possibility of more than one partner, I'd never be able to get worked out about a partner of mine also being with someone else. It just... doesn't upset me. I can't make myself be upset about it. And so... at some point there's this fundamental "Are you some sort of Martian?" feeling I have toward the other if they start behaving in a jealous manner. It's not a value judgment, but it just baffles me beyond description and I don't find it to be something I want in my relationships.

On misconception is indeed that poly people are more needy. It's a kind of amusing irony, but that's how many poly people view those who don't wish to share. The other day I told a friend that I'm an only child, and he asked, "Wow, so did you learn how to share and all that?"

Me: I think I'm actually better at sharing than normal. *waggles eyebrows*
Him: Damn, I walked right into that one.
Me: Yeah, you did.

But this whole "poly people are needier" thing ignores what it's like for one's partner to be the one with other partners, and to be non-needy enough to be fine with that.

There are also different types of interpersonal need. I need my friends -- these people are my chosen family -- but I do not feel any emotional need for parents since mine were largely unavailable. I place a high emphasis on friendships and also sexual/romantic relationships because that is how I like to build my family-type support community in my life.
More...
Posted by Hyacinth on November 30, 2012 at 7:09 AM · Report this
135
@134 I'm going to guess at how that was meant based somewhat on my own personal feelings. I, like you, have been single much more often than I've been paired up. I've never understood how someone could jump from relationship to relationship, because I need some "me" time after a breakup. I have been in poly relationships where I only had one partner. I think it's less "I'd be miserable if I only had one partner" than "I'd be miserable if I wasn't allowed to have additional partners if I chose to". It's about autonomy. It's about knowing that your partner isn't putting restrictions stating, "You can only love me. No one else."
Now, I fall more midway on the spectrum and can do poly or mono, so someone thats "pure" poly please add you 2 cents.
Posted by KateRose on November 30, 2012 at 6:23 AM · Report this
134
I think what I cannot relate to is the sentiment "I'd be miserable if I had only one partner/ was the only partner because one person cannot provide everything for the other person" that several poly people on this thread have voiced.

The reason that I cannot relate to that sentiment? I am single, I have been single most of my twenties and had only one LTR. I enjoyed my relationship very much, I enjoyed the intimacy, the regular sex, the closeness etc. But I didn't need my partner to be happy or to feel whole. I am quite happy single as well, despite the lack of sex.

What I want to get at: this reliance on either one or several sexual and/ or romantic partners to feel happy, to feel like a worthy being, attractive, etc makes my skin crawl a bit.

I like that this week's column has these two extremes: on one hand the happily single guy, and on the other hand the polyamory thread still going.

Posted by migrationist on November 30, 2012 at 1:12 AM · Report this
133
@123 lisagreen: Thank you for sharing a wonderfully comforting link!
I, too, am happily a quirkyalone. Sort of like Wile E. Coyote, long retired from chasing road runners and not getting anywhere.
Posted by auntie grizelda on November 29, 2012 at 11:23 PM · Report this
132
I've seen several people mention that they're poly and would be miserable with only one partner, so I'll join my voice to the chorus and mention that I'm monogamous. I've had the same partner for 27 years, and have never had any inclination toward a second one. I'm not a jealous person; if my wife were poly I'm pretty sure I could deal with that (though it hasn't come up). I have plenty of sex drive. I'm simply not interested in anybody else.

So I'm quite convinced that there's such a thing as mono and poly orientation. I know lots of people in open relationships, triads and groups, and I'm delighted for their happiness, but it's decidedly not my thing. And I never "chose" to feel that way.
Posted by blorph on November 29, 2012 at 10:53 PM · Report this
131
I really don't understand the people who say poly is not an identity thing because you can choose not to act on it. I identify as a kinkster, which is very much part of my sexual identity. I could choose to go without my kinks but I'd be miserable. I identify as bi/pansexual. I can be in a relationship with a man, but that doesn't mean I'm straight or that straight/gay identities are a choice just because a bisexual can choose one or the other. There are completely monogamous people and completely polyamorous people. Then there are the people who are in between and can enjoy either poly or mono. The existence of people that can choose to act one way or another doesn't mean it isn't inborn for others. Another example is personality. That is relatively unchangeable once developed, and everyone is either an introvert, extrovert, or somewhere in between. The existence of the ones in the middle that can shift slightly does not negate the ones at the extreme who cannot. There are women, men, and trans* or genderqueer. Just because gender is fluid for some doesn't mean it is for everyone.

TL;DR: The fact that something is a choice or fluid for some doesn't mean that it is not static for others. While poly/mono/ish isn't an issue of orientation, as that specifically relates to gender attractions, it definitely is an issue of identity, along with orientation, gender, personality, and the kink/vanilla spectrum.
Posted by Azura_Rose on November 29, 2012 at 10:27 PM · Report this
130
@115 Hyacinth

'I don't think people who need an abnormal amount of attention and adoration are suited to poly relationships; they end up getting jealous and making their partners lives miserable. These are the people I see who are happy with being "

Perhaps you are right. In my experience with personality disordered partners, they needed more attention (sexual or otherwise) than just from me. Yet, they could not stand me getting attention outside of them (sexual or otherwise). What is good for the gander is not good for the goose.

Perhaps we should say that personality disordered people are not a 'natural' fit for monogamy or polyamory.

Posted by albeit on November 29, 2012 at 10:02 PM · Report this
129
@108, would it help you to know that my sweetie and I have been poly for years, and our relationship is very stable? I have two girlfriends, and she has a boyfriend.

Lying and cheating have nothing to do with it. We're open and honest with each other; we have to be, or it doesn't work.
Posted by clashfan on November 29, 2012 at 6:27 PM · Report this
128
Do you also advocate throwing out sheets and mattresses when you change partners? Why or why not? What's the difference? For that matter, what's a partner?

Good bondage gear can be expensive, or time-consuming to make. And I wonder when it makes sense to throw away old gear when you plan to immediately buy something identical.
Posted by something on November 29, 2012 at 3:37 PM · Report this
127
LOL, my hubby and his ex-girlfriend and I joke about his 20 yr old latex cock ring. We call it 'the sacred object'. He's left it to her in his will, she's going to have it bronzed.

Posted by 12ichge on November 29, 2012 at 3:33 PM · Report this
126
I am in agreement with @24, that it shouldn't matter whether something is biological or a choice, when making the determination of whether rights should be extended.

That said, I think homosexuality is *not* a choice. I also happen to think things like pedophilia is probably not a choice, nor is being a sociopath. The difference in how society treats such people is the real question.

Relationships and interpersonal interactions between consenting adults should be acceptable to society whether a choice was made to be that way or not.

And of course the flip side is that it doesn't matter why a pedophile victimizes children. It doesn't matter why a sociopath or psychopath decides to kill or rape someone. You can perhaps be sympathetic to whatever made them that way, be it biological or environmental, but you are still going to lock them up, and keep society safe from them...... And at the end of the day, nobody is going to case whether they were born that way or chose it as a lifestyle.

The only question that needs to be answered is whether everyone involved in a particular relationship or activity is a willing participant.
Posted by bgix on November 29, 2012 at 2:52 PM · Report this
125
@26 Let's not forget alcohol.

Hmmm... Speaking of which, happy hour!
Posted by Brooklyn Reader on November 29, 2012 at 1:36 PM · Report this
124
EastCoastDude@110, magic wands aren't so expensive. Seems to me that each woman who likes that stimulation should have her own. Like a toothbrush, some things feel personal.

Hyacinth -
@111 "There are lots of things that are everywhere but that you simply haven't noticed or haven't been told about for various reasons."

@113 "Being poly doesn't make people liars or cheaters; lying and cheating is what does that."

Absolutely.
Posted by EricaP on November 29, 2012 at 12:45 PM · Report this
123
IDGAF--nothing is wrong with you.

You may just be a quirkyalone. And there are a lot of us out here.

http://www.utne.com/2000-09-01/The-Quirk…
Posted by lisagreen on November 29, 2012 at 12:11 PM · Report this
122
> @fakedansavage says polyamory a "choice," not an "identity." Where
> have we heard that argument before? Meet the new bigots, same as the
> old.
>
> @lilyldodge
>
> If all people are naturally nonmonogamous-a point I've made about 10
> million times-

But one that a lot of folks, myself included, would disagree with.

> then from my perspective, polyamory and monogamy are
> relationship models, not sexual orientations.

As long as you present it as *your* perspective, then there is no argument.
However, as other folks have pointed out, it isn't a question of *sexual*
orientation, but of *relationship* orientation.

> (And if poly and
> monogamy are sexual orientations, Lily, wouldn't going solo have to be
> considered one, too?) That was my point. Poly can be central to
> someone's sexual self-conception, and it can be hugely important, but
> I don't think it's an orientation in the same way that gay, straight,
> or bisexual are orientations.

It is not an orientation in the same way, but to my mind, it is an
orientation entirely *analogous* to sexual orientation. Just as there are
personality orientations toward Introversion/Extraversion (among many other
polarity characteristics-- see Myers-Briggs for more examples).

> People can and do, of course, identify
> as poly. But is poly something anyone can do

Not from what I have seen. I know many people that seem completely content with one intimate relationship, and even struggle some to find the energy for that. They have *no* interest in anything further.

> or something some people are? I come down on the "do" side.

I think there are folks who have the choice. Perhaps you are one of them. But there are those of us who would be poly even if we had *no* relationships, and others that I know who are as monogamous as a prairie vole, even if they aren't currently in a relationship.

I come down on the side that just as some folks are gay, some straight, and some bisexual, there are folks who are poly, folks who are mono, and folks who can do either comfortably.

> Lily clearly disagrees.

Lilly knows whereof she speaks.

More...
Posted by mikerios on November 29, 2012 at 12:07 PM · Report this
121
> @fakedansavage says polyamory a "choice," not an "identity." Where
> have we heard that argument before? Meet the new bigots, same as the
> old.
>
> @lilyldodge
>
> If all people are naturally nonmonogamous-a point I've made about 10
> million times-

But one that a lot of folks, myself included, would disagree with.

> then from my perspective, polyamory and monogamy are
> relationship models, not sexual orientations.

As long as you present it as *your* perspective, then there is no argument.
However, as other folks have pointed out, it isn't a question of *sexual*
orientation, but of *relationship* orientation.

> (And if poly and
> monogamy are sexual orientations, Lily, wouldn't going solo have to be
> considered one, too?) That was my point. Poly can be central to
> someone's sexual self-conception, and it can be hugely important, but
> I don't think it's an orientation in the same way that gay, straight,
> or bisexual are orientations.

It is not an orientation in the same way, but to my mind, it is an
orientation entirely *analogous* to sexual orientation. Just as there are
personality orientations toward Introversion/Extraversion (among many other
polarity characteristics-- see Myers-Briggs for more examples).

> People can and do, of course, identify
> as poly. But is poly something anyone can do

Not from what I have seen. I know many people that seem completely content with one intimate relationship, and even struggle some to find the energy for that. They have *no* interest in anything further.

> or something some people are? I come down on the "do" side.

I think there are folks who have the choice. Perhaps you are one of them. But there are those of us who would be poly even if we had *no* relationships, and others that I know who are as monogamous as a prairie vole, even if they aren't currently in a relationship.

I come down on the side that just as some folks are gay, some straight, and some bisexual, there are folks who are poly, folks who are mono, and folks who can do either comfortably.

> Lily clearly disagrees.

Lilly knows whereof she speaks.

Michael Rios
More...
Posted by mikerios on November 29, 2012 at 12:04 PM · Report this
120
@Rip City Hustle

You're right, and I stopped that last night. It was out of inappropriate to start with but I did realize that after I'd had a bit of a rest. That isn't your problem or anyone else's, but sometimes I get frustrated and upset, and sometimes I'm annoying. I do apologize for that.
Posted by Hyacinth on November 29, 2012 at 12:03 PM · Report this
119
This is a pretty awesome and informative discussion. It would be even better, however, if Hyacinth would stop with her crybaby "woe is me" bullshit. This is the internet, honey. If you're looking for affirmation and unconditional support maybe you should talk to Dr. Phil instead of a bunch of anonymous strangers.
Posted by Rip City Hustle on November 29, 2012 at 11:04 AM · Report this
118
Re' the poly issue, and the first letter-writer with no interest in a long-term romantic relationship or kids, why is is so important to so many to LABEL themselves AS something, identify AS that so stridently, and (and this is the part that really gets me) go to great lengths to ADVERTISE that identity/label to any and all?

Unless I am a potential or actual sexual or romantic partner, I have absolutely no interest in or need to know WHAT your sexual orientation/identity/preferences are.

And you have no reason to explain/rationalize yourself to nosy people who DON'T fall into the above categories with anything other than "I'm happy".

Once you pass that rather tedious stage of figuring out your own identity and/or discovering Queer Theory and/or advertising your orientation/identity in search of attention or affirmation (often somewhere in the early 20's it seems, and don't get me wrong, I think this is a useful and perhaps even vital stage which facillitates personal growth and the development of a group identity and support structure within it), why not just live your life as a human being who happens to orient/identify a certain way?

Your sexuality, while obviously a huge and important aspect of who you (we all) are, does not have to DEFINE you or be the MOST important thing about you. It should probably not be the first or even only thing about yourself most others know.

I happen to be a hetero female (on the continuum, I'd have to rate myself as around 98% hetero...I've tried sex with a woman and..ehhh..not so much up my alley, nor do I fantasize about women, but always about men).

And I happen to be pretty far down the continuum towards monogamous (so was my late common-law husband of 23 years). The idea of having more than one sexual partner at a time or even having a whole string of them at different times simply does not appeal to me.

I don't think there's anything WRONG with either of the above alternatives, they just don't trip MY triggers. That is MY orientation/identity/preference.

And (this post aside, lol) I don't feel any desire to broadcast this information to others UNLESS, of course, they happen to be potential or actual sexual/romantic partners.

As for used sexual gear, if it came second-hand from a retail source, fine. But if it was carried over from a prior relationship, seems like it would be potentially loaded with associations for both parties.
More...
Posted by AnastasiaBeaverhousen on November 29, 2012 at 11:02 AM · Report this
117
I'm one of those that wrote in arguing that in my experience poly is something I am rather than just something I do. In my husband's experience monogamous is something he is while poly is something he's does to indulge me. He's also straight and has kissed a guy because he knows I think it's hot. My problem with Dan's premise isn't just coming down on a different side of "do vs are" it's based on the assumption "If all people are naturally nonmonogamous—a point I've made about 10 million times". Well, it's been argued that to some degree everyone is a little bit bisexual but that doesn't mean "If all people are naturally bisexual—then from my perspective, gay and straight are relationship models." Because while it's possible for people to "do" heterosexual things or homosexual things, a lot of people are wired to be more attracted to one sex over another. It's a spectrum and people fall along different areas. The only thing I wish to argue is that perhaps the amount of attraction to monogamy or polyamory relationship models or even sexual attraction to other people while in a monogamous relationships differs between people and falls along a spectrum. Some people are innately driven to do "poly" others are driven to do "mono" and when these preferences are innate it becomes less like a choice and more like a orientation in that the individual is oriented towards one side of the spectrum over the other.

I also find it sexist that many assume all men want to have many partners and women want monogamy. There are men who aren't interested in being with anyone else and very oriented towards monogamy, my husband is one fo them. There are women who are oriented towards persing poly relationships.

I'm not using orientation to equate poly or mono to gay or straight, it's a different spectrum, I'm just suggesting that such a spectrum may exist and people fall on different places along it. No everyone is equally non-monogamous by nature anymore than every person is equally bi-sexual by nature, even though societies existed where bi-sexuality was considered the norm to some extent.
More...
Posted by CameoAmalthea on November 29, 2012 at 10:11 AM · Report this
116
I think it's really bizarre that Dan uses evo-psych arguments to generalize that "people" (correct me if I'm wrong, but implying *all* people) are naturally non-monogamous and then uses that to deny polyamory or monogamy as an orientation. After all, evo-psych arguments can easily be used to show why people are naturally heterosexual. If we weren't, the species would have been extinct long ago, right? And, sure enough, the majority of people ARE heterosexual. Perfectly valid generalizations about what keeps the species going as a whole still permit variations like homosexuality in a completely natural and very important minority of the population.

There may be evolutionary reasons why the race as a whole isn't geared towards widespread, faithful monogamy, but that doesn't mean that individuals can't identify with either monogamy or polyamory just as strongly as gay people identify with homosexuality. They have the choice to engage in a different relationship style - just like gay people could stay closeted and marry opposite-sex partners - but then they'd be miserable and repressed and living a lie.
Posted by Commenter on November 29th on November 29, 2012 at 9:24 AM · Report this
115
@114

It really does just depend. Using myself as an example (since I am the example I know best, though I know not everyone's experiences are like mine) -- it makes me happy to see my partner loving someone aside from me as well. Even though that takes the attention off me, it makes me happy because I like seeing him happy.

I don't think people who need an abnormal amount of attention and adoration are suited to poly relationships; they end up getting jealous and making their partners lives miserable. These are the people I see who are happy with being "poly" until they realize it means their partners get to see other people too.
Posted by Hyacinth on November 29, 2012 at 9:17 AM · Report this
114
@85 seandr

'2) People with personality disorders don't do especially well in monogamous relationships, either. And, from what I've seen, a certain degree of narcissism and/or histrionicism is, for some people (not all), what makes poly a "natural" choice for them. They need more attention and adoration than one partner can provide.'

No truer words have been spoken.
Posted by albeit on November 29, 2012 at 8:40 AM · Report this
113
@108

I'm not sure how being poly is being a liar or cheater. Being poly doesn't make people liars or cheaters; lying and cheating is what does that.
Posted by Hyacinth on November 29, 2012 at 8:24 AM · Report this
112
@32 "If all people are naturally non-monogamous, then how do you explain those folks for whom non-monogamy makes them consistently miserable? Are those people somehow broken, Dan? Perhaps there's nothing in particular about a monogamous person that a good dose of reparative therapy won't cure?"

I think that a simple perusal of other cultures will show that relationship models are pretty much cultural in nature. That does NOT mean that they aren't valid relationship styles, but let's call them what they are. There's too much of a tendency these days for people to want to make EVERYTHING an orientation because they think it makes their position more valid. Let's get out of that mindset, call things what they are and still see them as valid.

In Tibet, polyandry is common. If a woman didn't have multiple husbands (all brothers!), maybe she'd feel miserable, and maybe a man who wasn't sharing a wife with his brothers would feel miserable. Does that make it an orientation? No. In our society, monogamy is the norm, therefore it's fully reasonable for some people to feel miserable if their relationship doesn't reflect that. Similarly, monogamy has never been easy for humans, so it also makes sense that some would feel miserable being monogamous.

There's a lot of reasons to not want to be poly, or not want to be mono. I would be miserable being poly because as an introvert, one person is about all I can devote my time to and remain sane. Yet I know it would be possible for me to fuck another person, so I'm not going to claim monogamy is an orientation for me. Similarly, for every person who says non-monogamy would make them miserable because they don't want to share or whatever other reason, I'm pretty sure that most any of them would if honest admit to feeling sexual attraction to other people while in a relationship. It does not require having any real desire to act on that impulse to invalidate monogamy as an orientation. That would be like saying a bisexual in a relationship with the opposite sex is no longer bi, because they aren't acting on their attraction to both sexes. Unless your ability to feel even casual attraction turns off once you have a partner, monogamy isn't an orientation. Polyamory isn't either, because even if our natural impulse is to fuck many people, it's still a relationship model since fucking many people is not the same as having deep, committed relationships to multiple partners.
More...
Posted by DrReality on November 29, 2012 at 8:20 AM · Report this
111
@106

It is actually relatively common for committed relationships to be more open than they appear from the outside. Once I tell someone I'm poly that's when I get to hear all the stories.

This sort of reminds me of how my grandfather thinks he doesn't know anyone gay just since nobody ever talks to him about it. I mean, doesn't it make sense to you that if even so many commenters here are skeptical of poly relationships, many poly people would want to hide it from the outside world even if their own partner/s is/are cool with it?

Listen, I also have [well-medicated] bipolar disorder. The other day someone I know said they don't know anyone with bipolar. This is funny not only because they said it to someone with bipolar, but also because we have several mutual friends with bipolar. There are lots of things that are everywhere but that you simply haven't noticed or haven't been told about for various reasons.
Posted by Hyacinth on November 29, 2012 at 8:16 AM · Report this
110
I am a guy who owns a Hitachi magic wand. I really love using it on women I have sex with. For a couple of them this was a new experience -- which each came to enjoy intensely. I assiduously wash it up with soap and hot water between women (and, of late, carefully age it as well --sigh). I use the same penis, same tongue, same hands with each new woman, I don't see the problem with introducing this well-loved (and cleaned) appliance (although I have gotten an 'ewww who's used that!?' response before).

Same with the restraints and whips.

I tend to click with women who like yard sales, antique auctions and clothes from the Sally so maybe used gear is a good compatibility indicator.

Am I weird? I guess but our throw-away culture is not normal.

I like Mr S products myself but of course a guy who sells bondage gear is going to suggest replacing all items frequently.
Posted by EastCoastDude on November 29, 2012 at 6:59 AM · Report this
109
Put all the BDSM toys in a box in your attic.
With your new partner, buy a couple of new toys, ideally ones you'd like to add to your arsenal anyway.
After a suitable period of time, if you feel it won't squick out the new girl, take out the box (obviously while she isn't there) and say "Check out all this cool bondage gear my leather daddy friend gave me when he moved out of the country."
If you think she'll be squicked out that it's used even if it wasn't by a former partner, you can get rid of it or leave it in the attic.
It's cheaper, it's only a white lie, and you're honoring the tradition of one BDSM enthusiast passing toys along to another one. (Although that part will be backwards--Younger, less experienced you will be passing toys along to an older, more experienced you.)
Posted by flarn on November 29, 2012 at 5:46 AM · Report this
108
24 laurel-- Yes! You're so right, and I wish more were made of this. If all the emphasis is put on how homosexuality is from birth and not a choice, then I don't see what's to stop the homophobes from seeking to cure fetuses before they're born. They'd probably want to juggle with the pre-natal hormones in order to fix what's "wrong." But if it's pointed out (loudly and clearly) that homosexuality is harmless, both to the individuals and the society, then I suppose they could flail around finding harm here and there, but it's not much of an argument.

I'm not sure the same could be said for poly behaviors. I can imagine situations where poly arrangements might work, but I can imagine more situations where a man insists he's poly, but he's really looking for a way to skip out of responsibilities to women and children. Like I said earlier, maybe I haven't been reading this column long enough, but right now, I don't see much difference between "poly" and "lying manipulative cheat."
Posted by Crinoline on November 29, 2012 at 5:25 AM · Report this
107
gromm (#28) hits the nail on the head.
Posted by someone else altogether on November 29, 2012 at 3:16 AM · Report this
106
I'm 48 yr old divorced suburban mom. I've lived in NY, CA and points in between. Yet I've never met anyone in a poly relationship, never heard anyone discussing their brother or sister or second cousin twice removed who said "oh, my sister is in a marriage w a man and a woman" or "that crazy Cousin Joe, married but totally has her permission to sleep around." Either it's a secret hidden by the masses or it's really not as common as the posters here think. That alone makes me side w the "poly is a choice / preference" people.
Posted by bookaday on November 29, 2012 at 3:15 AM · Report this
Sandiai 105
Now that we've all said the magic word five times we're going to get even more of the Smeeeeeeeten kitchen ads.
Posted by Sandiai on November 29, 2012 at 2:14 AM · Report this
Sandiai 104
"And I still hate the Smitten Kitten meat dildo at the top of the page"

Word.
Posted by Sandiai on November 29, 2012 at 2:11 AM · Report this
103
@84: You and me both!
Posted by auntie grizelda on November 28, 2012 at 11:27 PM · Report this
102
@98 EricaP: I agree: I'm not a Smitten Kitten meat dildo fan, either. :-)
Posted by auntie grizelda on November 28, 2012 at 11:19 PM · Report this
seandr 101
@IPJ: Thank you! Happy to know at least one person read it, let alone appreciated it.
Posted by seandr on November 28, 2012 at 10:25 PM · Report this
100
Adding my voice to the fray, I'm another for whom sexuality is on or off, kind of globally. When I'm not allowed to act poly by falling for people and continuing my long term other relationship, I shut down. My wife notices. And, awesome woman that she is, she helps me keep my relationships afloat. We all win.

I should mention I've always been this way. I've always loved many people. Only now, with a strongly supportive spouse, do I know how to live this life safely, but I made enough unsafe choices in the past.

I don't care what words people use. This is who I am and what brings me joy. Asking me to be monogamous shuts me down and takes something from me.

Thank god my wife sees that in me more than some readers here seem to feel is possible or appropriate. To her and to me, this is an identity... and in our shared life, that's enough.
Posted by mpoly on November 28, 2012 at 9:30 PM · Report this
99
Not really relevant to the question, but IDGAF should check out the song "Single By Choice" by The Bangles from the album Doll Revolution.
Posted by Brett Alan http://digitaldreamdoor.nutsie.com/pages/best_songs-Power-Pop.html on November 28, 2012 at 8:20 PM · Report this
98
@Hyacinth, yay naps!

@auntie grizelda, I'm still here reading, just posting less. And I still hate the Smitten Kitten meat dildo at the top of the page :-)
Posted by EricaP on November 28, 2012 at 8:14 PM · Report this
97
@EricaP, a large part of the issue was that I very badly needed a nap...

Now I've had one! And I'm awake and energetic and happy. But I do deeply appreciate your thoughtfulness in responding to my disgruntled comments here.
Posted by Hyacinth on November 28, 2012 at 7:36 PM · Report this
96
@65 & @90 EricaP: Hey--how are you?? Haven't heard from you in a while!
Posted by auntie grizelda on November 28, 2012 at 7:18 PM · Report this
95
@34 Crinoline: Excellent points for IDGAF in how to respond to people pressuring him about " meeting a nice girl, settling down, getting married, and having kids".
Great idea about twisting their nosy questions into further asserting HIS needs and wants! Kudos! I wish I'd thought of that.
Posted by auntie grizelda on November 28, 2012 at 7:16 PM · Report this
94
A teenager isn't sure of what he wants and it initiates this kind of a discussion? So what he doesn't want to be with anyone right now. And maybe he never will will. AND THAT'S OK. Maybe he will someday. AND THAT'D OK TOO. But for right now, given what we know about his post, I can only respond with, so what?
Posted by melissab on November 28, 2012 at 7:03 PM · Report this
93
E,

Not a great run of msgs.
Posted by Hunter78 on November 28, 2012 at 6:48 PM · Report this
92
seandr@85: Wild applause on the sex at dawn stuff.

erica@90: I like your posts.

On sean's 2nd point, my anecdotal impression of poly people through Savage Love letters/comments is that some (not all) find the increased potential for relationship drama of 3 relationships (AB, AC, and BC, rather than just AB) to be a draw. For those of us who identify as monogamous, this usually sounds like a disincentive, not an exciting bonus. (And some people, like I'm guessing Sappho, seem to find poly provides less drama.)
Posted by IPJ on November 28, 2012 at 6:44 PM · Report this
91
Seems to me that whether we call nonmonogamy an "orientation" or a "choice" doesn't change the fact that monogamy ain't easy, and some folks seem to be wired to be better at it than others... The important thing is for folks to recognize that everybody has a right to their lifestyle, whether they see it as a choice, an orientation, or a bit of both...
Posted by mischaf2 on November 28, 2012 at 6:32 PM · Report this
90
@88 "generate" should be "elicit."

Also, thanks, IPJ. You're sweet to keep track of the ins and outs of my life :-)
Posted by EricaP on November 28, 2012 at 5:57 PM · Report this
89
LW1 sounds like a straight-up sociopath to me.
Posted by hurrdahurr on November 28, 2012 at 5:57 PM · Report this
88
@Hyacinth,
I am very sorry that I messed up your gender, and that that I wrote with a tone which gave you pain. Sometimes I say things bluntly because I feel that it makes it easier to see what people mean. Your post at 73 did help me understand you a lot more. But I'm very sorry that I wasn't able to find a way to generate that explanation from you without poking you with my stick. Hope your evening improves from here on in.
Posted by EricaP on November 28, 2012 at 5:56 PM · Report this
jesgal 87
@34 a BIG – BIG – BIG thank you for your posting and "why didn't I think about that sooner??!!” I am constantly being bombarded with questions about a career decision 8 years ago. I’m always getting “when do you plan to start something new?” and guys will you please just let it go.
Posted by jesgal on November 28, 2012 at 5:54 PM · Report this
86
The Poly wars are boring.

But I get the Polys feeling they've been dissed and deoriented. The anti-Poly chorus? A Defense of Marriage by number?
Posted by Hunter78 on November 28, 2012 at 5:48 PM · Report this
seandr 85
@anitawagnerillig:
A couple of points:

1) Sex at Dawn has not proven humans are, by nature, non-monogamous. It's generalizations about early human behavior are speculative. But more importantly, it mistakenly equates early human behavior with "natural behavior", as if early humans acted on nothing but instinct.

Humans have been extremely complex, adaptive, and flexible for as long as they've had a neo-cortex. Early humans used their intelligence to adapt to the widely different conditions they faced, just as we do today. Their behavior is no more a marker of "The Natural Human" than ours.

A little thought experiment - what if we discovered that beating women and killing homosexuals was commonplace among early humans (as may well have been the case)? Would you conclude that wife-beating and gay-bashing are the natural order of things?

2) People with personality disorders don't do especially well in monogamous relationships, either. And, from what I've seen, a certain degree of narcissism and/or histrionicism is, for some people (not all), what makes poly a "natural" choice for them. They need more attention and adoration than one partner can provide.
Posted by seandr on November 28, 2012 at 5:34 PM · Report this
84
@IPJ

You must be right.

I am an extraordinarily sensitive person but not necessarily the best at phrasing things.
Posted by Hyacinth on November 28, 2012 at 4:23 PM · Report this
83
not everyone is shitty here, there are a few intelligent thinkers. but there are huge cultural assumptions going on, and most of the posters are american(from what i can tell) which makes sense... but, there is more than one way to skin a cat, and many of the things taken for 'normal' in these forums make the 'real' people i know go 'what?' 'what?!' 'how crazy is that!!'
so... i only came here in the first place, to try to understand if the woman one of our family was hanging out with, was really psycho, or just american / cultural gap. now i think it was a bit of both.
Posted by sappho on November 28, 2012 at 4:22 PM · Report this
82
Hyacinth @73 etc:

The person to whom you're responding in 65 is in an open marriage, with both partners having outside secondaries. Maybe, just maybe, the language you are choosing is not coming across the way you intend?
Posted by IPJ on November 28, 2012 at 4:12 PM · Report this
81
well, it's a sensitive topic.
and my experience is that when i have only one lover, even though there are always more 'partners'/people in our family... i feel invisible, and defensive. a lot like that feeling of 'oh my gods people might think i'm straight'... which makes me reactive.
not saying that's what's going on, just that i always feel more vulnerable in that space.
i know that sick feeling, too. step away from the forums, doll. go get a cup of tea.
xx
Posted by sappho on November 28, 2012 at 4:10 PM · Report this
80
I'm just sitting here sobbing my eyes out about how even the people here think I'm shitty for being poly.

I need to stop reading Savage. I only started reading Savage Love a couple months ago. I need to just read my own brain, and books, but not advice columnists.
Posted by Hyacinth on November 28, 2012 at 4:06 PM · Report this
79
I can't even believe normally open people are cruel enough to call it "screwing" when what me being poly means is that I love more than one person.

Screwing is nice. But it's mean and unkind to call love screwing.

I guess I'm a kid or something, being sad when people are unkind.
Posted by Hyacinth on November 28, 2012 at 3:56 PM · Report this
78
Thanks sappho, I'm sorry, I'm too sensitive anyway...
Posted by Hyacinth on November 28, 2012 at 3:51 PM · Report this
77
@ hyacinth - it's ok. it's not just you. and you're not even odd, just maybe unusual in your current cultural context.
Posted by sappho on November 28, 2012 at 3:48 PM · Report this
76
You people write like I'm not even a feeling person.
Posted by Hyacinth on November 28, 2012 at 3:48 PM · Report this
75
Also, I'm a girl.

I am not capable of monogamy. I'd die first.
Posted by Hyacinth on November 28, 2012 at 3:34 PM · Report this
74
@65 was what I meant, not @60

I'm sorry.
Posted by Hyacinth on November 28, 2012 at 3:32 PM · Report this
73
@60

I feel sort of like I've been punched in the stomach.

No, really, sort of... out of it... and sick.

I only have one partner right now. If he were the only person left in the world, I'd still adore him and want him and feel blissy during sex. And I'd still be poly.

I'm not really sure what to say.
Posted by Hyacinth on November 28, 2012 at 3:30 PM · Report this
anitawagnerillig 72
On the poly thread, Dan, I think a key component of understanding this question is the context in which died-in-the-wool (if you will) polyamorists live out their poly lives while to at least some degree swimming against the larger mainstream cultural tide. You know, of course, what that's like. Trusting in ourselves and our own sense of who we are and what is right for us, without shame or apology, becomes an essential component in withstanding the blow-back we get from people whose esteem we care about and whose tolerance, if not acceptance, we value. That sense of identity becomes the bedrock upon which we can build a life that will withstand the external cultural challenges we sometimes encounter. As I am fond of saying, polyamory ain't for sissies. These challenges take the form of drama and rejection by one's family of origin, the loss of friends who don't approve, loss of a job because the boss starts to question our judgment, or loss of child custody due to false assumptions by family court judges.

As you point out and as Chris Ryan and Cacilda Jetha well demonstrate in Sex at Dawn, humans are naturally non-monogamous - of course! But over the centuries religious authorities' literal crusade to force people to conform to monogamy became a very effective barrier to patterns of relationship openness and non-monogamies of all kinds. Still today, living a life of integrity as a polyamorist requires a significant amount of swimming against the tide, and that's putting it mildly.

So with that perspective in mind, you asked:

"...is poly something anyone can do ...?"

Yes. Or at least, the majority can if they want it, but not quite everyone. In my experience, those who want it enough and who are committed to doing the work necessary to live comfortably outside the societal relationship box and make the transition from monogamy to polyamory absolutely can do it. The exceptions are those who have significant self-esteem and/or abandonment issues. Likewise as to those who lack self-awareness, live in denial, and don't own their own feelings. It's also essential that we learn good communication skills. Mental illnesses, anxiety disorders, depression, malignant narcissism, and oppositional personality disorders are generally prohibitive. Otherwise, anyone who is reasonably well adjusted, open to new experiences and personal growth, and those who are committed to the process can do it, whether by simple choice or as an aspect of identity.

Monogamy creates for many a desired sense of security. Becoming good at polyamory almost always requires giving that up in order to stretch, grow and challenge internalized cultural messaging. Failing to do this as to what is and is not ethically and morally acceptable is not an option if we are to reach a safe and secure comfort level with sharing with others our loved one's heart, time and attention. A fair number of people find that the transition is more difficult than they imagined and tend to be those for whom a poly life is a choice. They don't have that sense of identity that others find the need to fulfill. No problem!

"... or is it something some people are."

Yes. Or at least it is for many of us. You've heard from quite a few people who feel a strong sense that this is exactly who they are. It seems that like so many debates about complicated, emotionally charged subjects, the answers are not found in the black or the white but are instead found in the gray area. Some of us are doing it because we like it but could live without it in order to gain something else of value. Others can't imagine being any other way and make sure to choose partners who share their perspective.

Thanks for discussing this and for considering all the feedback.

Anita Wagner Illig
http://www.practicalpolyamory.com
More...
Posted by anitawagnerillig http://www.practicalpolyamory.com on November 28, 2012 at 2:53 PM · Report this
71
@60 - this is my experience, exactly. not that i can't only have one lover for a while, if that's the way the chips fall. (although to be honest, it makes me increasingly uncomfortable...) but that my sexual desire is either on, or off. and if that sexual relationship is closed off, i cannot get turned on. same goes for emotional openness and connection.
i define it as a 'relationship orientation' because my experience of it is so similar to the gay/straight/bi thing. when i tried to not be into girls, i found that i lost all sexual interest - and function. if i try to not be poly, i lose all sexual interest, and become emotionally shut-down from everyone. my discovery of the word poly is recent - just in the last ten years or so. but for my whole life, it's just been the only way it works. it definitely feels hard wired to me.

Posted by sappho on November 28, 2012 at 1:59 PM · Report this
70
I think the problem with describing poly even as a sexual identity is that everyone sets up their own rules of their relationships. Let me give an example.

I'm a bi girl in a relationship with a straight guy. He's monogamous- doesn't really want anyone but me, to screw or with whom to have a relationship. He has no problem with me having sex with girls though, but he draws a line at an actual relationship. So I start looking for someone to be my FWB- maybe a couple dates a month or something, you know? I wouldn't see them more often than I'd see most of my friends.

So I meet someone- a genderqueer person who's in a relationship with an asexual genderqueer person. They're both "poly", but only looking for secondary partners. What does a secondary partner look like to them? Someone they might see and have fun with every other weekend or so, no more often than that.

The fact that as far as I can tell, we are looking for the exact same arrangement, and yet I think of mine as non-monogamous and they think of theirs as poly makes me dubious that poly is even a defined enough thing to be a sexual identity. The fact is, polyamory and monogamy are extremely ill-defined because everyone makes up their own rules and defines it for themselves. I wouldn't call a couple who has threesomes and no other outside sexual contact "poly". Maybe they wouldn't be monogamous, but I don't think they're having threesomes to fall in love most of the time, you know?

Straight people are attracted to opposite-gendered people. Gay people are attracted to same-gendered people. Bi people are attracted to both same and opposite-gendered people. The only nuances to these definitions, really, are where non-binary-gendered people fit in. Poly vs. monogamy, though? If your poly doesn't look anything like your friend's poly, are you actually "wired" for the same thing, or are they different things? I would argue that a monogamous person has a helluva lot more in common with a poly person with the primary-secondaries model than the "everyone's equal" model or the "tribe" model.

All that said, I still don't think people should be bigoted about people's choices. Religion is a choice, and while it might upset your mother if you decide not to believe in God or to convert to something you weren't raised with, she should still respect your choice. Your preference for poly can absolutely be part of your sexual identity, just like all the other things that you for certain want in your sex/love life.
More...
Posted by la la ala la la on November 28, 2012 at 12:53 PM · Report this
John Horstman 69
@56: Here's the issue, though. "Being with multiple people" is a behavior, and it's a behavior that requires buy-in from others (unless you're a rapist, but I'm going to assume you're not). Making a statement like, "I can't not be concurrently sexually involved with multiple people over the course of a given time frame," (you didn't make this exact statement, and perhaps it isn't your intended implication, but that's how many people interpret the assertion that polyamory is an "orientation") is patently absurd because at some point in your life this has been the case or could be the case (I guess it's possible that you've been sexually active with multiple concurrent partners since birth and will continue to be until death, though that strikes me as extraordinarily unlikely). Behavior cannot define an orientation; desire can (this is why there can be gay virgins - it's not fucking someone of the 'same' 'sex' - or gender, as trans politics have contested existing formulations of categories of sexual orientation - that makes one gay, it's wanting to engage in sexual activity with only people of the 'same' 'sex').

Where we get into tricky territory with polyamory as a sexual identity is that, as Dan points out, a LOT more people desire concurrent sexual relationships with multiple partners than identify as polyamorous (or actually act on those desires). Perhaps you would still describe those people (Most people? Dan's wrong that it's everyone; I, for example, have never desired concurrent sexual relationships with multiple partners, and there are asexual people who don't desire sexual relationships at all) as polyamorous, but just closeted or engaged in self-denial.

I see the problem as one of essentializing descriptive categories on the part of both the poly and non-poly: it shouldn't matter whether polyamory is an "orientation" or "natural" or whatever because there's nothing wrong with it in the first place, but because it's both culturally maligned and because essentialized categorizations are granted cultural privilege (hence the logically-untenable "born this way" argument in favor of any number of non-normative expressions of sex/gender/sexuality), positing polyamory as an essentialized characteristic is an expedient way to demand recognition of its legitimacy. I argue that the better path is to simply assert that it doesn't matter because there's nothing wrong with polyamory (or homosexuality, or bisexuality, or asexuality, or gender non-conformity, or gender transition, or sex transition, or any of thousands of other sexual or gender behaviors/identities/presentations/orientations/self-conceptions/performativities/etc.) because it doesn't hurt anyone, and leave it at that.

Hitching activism for social/legal acceptance to problematic theoretical formulations (especially when one lacks the necessary background in studies and formulations of sex, gender, sexuality, etc., as a lack of historical and transcultural knowledge will tend to lead one to incorrectly universalize one's own experiences and understandings) is ultimately counter-productive, as a challenge to the theoretical basis used to argue for legitimacy serves to undermine the legitimacy. I think it's actively desirable to have people share their own perspectives and experiences, but those without the necessary study/training (this doesn't necessarily have to come from a formal educational institution, but it does have to be systematic and extensive enough to establish a knowledge base from which one can make informed commentary/theorizing and mitigate positional bias) should refrain from asserting generalities or universals. Experiencing gender/sexuality on a daily basis does not qualify one to comment on gender/sexuality as cultural systems. By way of analogy, the fact that we are all made up of and encounter subatomic particles on a daily basis doesn't qualify those of us without extensive training in particle physics to intelligently comment on models for the behavior of subatomic particles. Why people think that this is different when it comes to social systems instead of physical systems is beyond me (granted, plenty of people think training in 'theology' DOES qualify one to make legitimate assertions about the nature of reality, so this problem does exist in the reverse case as well).

Basically, Hyacinth, I think your perspective and experiences are entirely legitimate as far as your own experience is concerned - I don't doubt that you experience polyamory as something essential to you identity/sense of self, and I agree that the cultural and legal marginalization of polyamory is bad - but you're creating issues in trying to posit models to describe the interaction of cultural systems with or the effect of cultural systems on your personal experience. Demands that carefully-constructed jargon be altered to encompass something it was never intended to describe are generally going to be met with hostility by people familiar with the field in question.
More...
Posted by John Horstman on November 28, 2012 at 12:28 PM · Report this
aureolaborealis 68
@65: I completely agree with you.

I was trying to point out the absurdity of some of the arguments that some of the poly folks are making here and elsewhere.

I grow weary.
Posted by aureolaborealis on November 28, 2012 at 12:12 PM · Report this
67
@60: "Is that about it?"

No, that isn't.

@65: That's not how I read what Hyacinth was saying. There's a huge difference between not being able to enjoy one particular sex act with an otherwise compatible sexual partner, versus discovering over the long term that being with that person is limiting you in ways that make you miserable.
Posted by avast2006 on November 28, 2012 at 12:09 PM · Report this
66
@51: "You don't have to be having sex with more than one person to be non monogomous by nature, you just have to look at a passerby and think they look hot."

That is to place a random glance at a stranger on the street on the same level of significance as a committed marriage of multiple decades' duration. I hope it is self evident how ridiculous that is.
Posted by avast2006 on November 28, 2012 at 11:55 AM · Report this
65
@60, I agree that Hyacinth's postings sound like what you're proposing -- that sex would be unappealing if he didn't already know the next person he'd be screwing.

But I think KateRose @62 gets it right, at least for most poly people:

"Poly people are able to have a relationship with just one person and have it be good. That doesn't mean other relationships aren't allowed, it just is what it is at that point in time...most poly people I know don't ONLY start relationships if they can start 2 or more at once."

I bet that even Hyacinth is open to the idea of having a relationship with just one person, as long as the possibility of finding another partner isn't ruled out. Am I right, Hyacinth?
Posted by EricaP on November 28, 2012 at 11:44 AM · Report this
64
I remember about 35 years ago, Ann Landers printed a letter from a woman who was upset because her son & his wife announced that they would not be having children. The woman couldn't understand how they could be so "selfish" as to not give her grandchildren.

Ann's response was "I cannot imagine a more personal decision than whether or not to have children. It's their business, not yours. If you crave consistent interaction with young children, look into associations and volunteer groups that could certainly benefit from your time."

Definitely an early snap!
Posted by wayne on November 28, 2012 at 11:08 AM · Report this
63
@51 (drjones) said: "You guys are all assuming that 'naturally nonmonogamous' means that everyone wants to screw as many people as possible at all times. I believe when Dan uses the phrase he means that our minds and libidos are not irreparably attached to one partner for all time. You don't have to be having sex with more than one person to be non monogomous by nature, you just have to look at a passerby and think they look hot."

But the thing is, I know people who don't do that. Who look at passersby without the passersby's hotness even occurring to them.

My favorite example: I was at an anime convention with some friends, including one monogamous straight guy, who was there with his wife. A smoking hot girl walked by wearing a Pikachu-fur bikini, with a sign that designated her a Pokemon hunter, and an elaborately-designed glaive (that's a pole-arm). We all (including his wife, who's kinda bi) turned to stare at the girl as we went by. My friend said, "Wow... nice glaive!"

But the thing is, he was really confused when we all started laughing, because he wasn't kidding. He genuinely wasn't attracted to the girl-- didn't even notice her as "person who is sexy" rather than "person who made a cool prop weapon." And he's always like that-- it's not just that he didn't find that particular person attractive. Attraction, for him, is unidirectional, and it's always aimed towards his wife.

Now, like I said, I don't work this way, and I don't think the majority of people do. But some do, and I wish Dan (and everyone else here) would stop saying that they don't.
Posted by Gaudior on November 28, 2012 at 10:50 AM · Report this
62
If I remember correctly, Dan has prefaced his "people are naturally nonmonogamous" statements in the past with the idea that TRUE monogamy, would be considered staying with the first person you went out with for the rest of your life. If you've dated multiple people at separate times (aka serial monogamy) you wouldn't fall into that definition.
Also, as others have pointed out, being attracted to someone other than your partner, even if you don't act on it, adds to that theory. If you were naturally monogamous, once you paired up,your ability to notice the gender(s) you are attracted to would cease to exist. Looked upon that way, its understandable why he would consider nonmonogamy natural.

While I would consider myself with more poly leanings, I don't consider poly to be an orientation. Even poly people are able to have a relationship with just one person and have it be good. That doesn't mean other relationships aren't allowed, it just is what it is at that point in time. I'm sure there are a couple people who've done it this way, but most poly people I know don't ONLY start relationships if they can start 2 or more at once.
Posted by KateRose on November 28, 2012 at 10:49 AM · Report this
61
Thomas @35/36 has got the best nuances of this poly debate, methinks.
Posted by dccc on November 28, 2012 at 10:33 AM · Report this
aureolaborealis 60
So ... let me get this straight.

If I'm a straight boy, I enjoy having sex with a girl, but find the prospect of having sex with another boy unappetizing.

If I'm a straight poly boy, I cannot enjoy having sex with a girl, unless I know that I can have sex with other girls. And the idea of having sex with said girl, knowing that I will not have sex with other girls at some time in the near future, is a unappetizing as sucking a dick.

Is that about it?
Posted by aureolaborealis on November 28, 2012 at 10:32 AM · Report this
59
I don't really get why the penetrative toys need to go. Both my girlfriends have cocks that really get them off. They used them with other people before me. As they currently date other people, I assume they use their favorites with their other partners as well.

That shit's expensive. Clean it really well; you don't have to replace. Besides, isn't trashing stuff like that bad for the environment? Reduce-reuse-recycle!
Posted by clashfan on November 28, 2012 at 10:31 AM · Report this
58
If you're not dating, people ask you why not. If you're dating and you're not married, people ask you why not. If you're married and you don't have children, people ask you why not. I think the main problem is people feel it is ok to ask these questions! I say "I'm not dating," which means maybe someday I might. Or might not.
Posted by marilynsue on November 28, 2012 at 9:54 AM · Report this
GQbd 57
I see all the arguments differentiating poly/monogamous and how that differs from being gay/straight/whatever and the whole orientation/identity thing - although my mind is spinning so much at the moment that I cannot tell you which is which. That said, however, I am old enough to remember a time when gay was considered a choice by most people and it was not a choice that many gay people felt socially empowered to act on and had to keep closetted instead. Dan's comments from last week and this week simply take me back to a much earlier way of viewing the world. That doesn't make him a bigot by any means. However, just as African-Americans should think before saying the LGBT community's blues are not the same as theirs, the LGBT community should consider long and hard before telling polies that our issues are not like theirs.
Posted by GQbd on November 28, 2012 at 9:50 AM · Report this
56
I realized the best way to explain that being poly is who I am:

If polyamory or being with more than one person at the same time were outlawed with heavy prison sentences, I'd be unable to refrain from doing it anyway.

Maybe if there was the death penalty for it. Not sure though.
Posted by Hyacinth on November 28, 2012 at 9:19 AM · Report this
55
My favorite thing to do when people ask me when i'm getting married is to ask "to whom?" and then list all the prospective partners (normally identifying them by their glaring issues) and then cock my head to the side and wait for their response.
Posted by hilah on November 28, 2012 at 8:54 AM · Report this
54
My favorite response to when people ask me when i'm getting married is "And who do you think I should get married to?" Then point out the prospective people (mainly by piling on their flaws) and cock my head to the side and stare at them.
Posted by hilah on November 28, 2012 at 8:48 AM · Report this
53
My husband has some light bondage gear, had it when I met him - it never freaked me out. Like you yourself have pointed out, Dan, BDSM is now so far out of the closet that it's almost vanilla. :D
Posted by Dragonrose36 on November 28, 2012 at 8:48 AM · Report this
52
@42 I agree. As late as the 1800s, there was one group of tribal people who were strictly monogamous. Instances of cheating met with violent responses from individuals of both genders. That must be the natural way humans lived, right? Only, wait, the Mojave Indians who live right near them were at that time highly sexually permissive and breakups and rearrangements were common, hm... Early modern humans may indeed have been as diverse in their sexuality as modern modern humans.

@39 Yes, lots of us are claiming that people choose to be polyamorous.

Posted by DRF on November 28, 2012 at 8:25 AM · Report this
51
You guys are all assuming that 'naturally nonmonogamous' means that everyone wants to screw as many people as possible at all times. I believe when Dan uses the phrase he means that our minds and libidos are not irreparably attached to one partner for all time. You don't have to be having sex with more than one person to be non monogomous by nature, you just have to look at a passerby and think they look hot.

But more importantly, all this slicing and dicing of words is pointless pedantry. It's an advice column in a weird newspaper not a contract with the devil.
Posted by drjones on November 28, 2012 at 8:16 AM · Report this
50
Dan completely misunderstood the first letter (something he's been doing w/increasing frequency) -- this guy is simply asking for advice on how to deal with so-called "well-intentioned" people who harass him about it. I think he should just find a better class of people to interact with.
Posted by wayne on November 28, 2012 at 8:11 AM · Report this
RTam 49
I agree that "sexual identity" is the more correct term. I recently had a long discussion with a friend of mine about why she was so happy pursuing relationships with several different men at once, I just didn't get it. My sexual identity is monogamous, I get sick when even considering DATING more than one person, let alone a relationship with two or more (and I mean I get stomach cramps, not that dating around or polyamory is "sick"). So turning that the other way, if someone feels sick about being with just one person - sexually or in a relationship sense - then mono- or polyamory would be an identity - but sexual orientation is pretty specifically about gender.

Then again, I've concluded that Kinsey was only partly right. Orientation is not a line, it's a color wheel encompassing gay/straight/trans*/*amory/etc. Any one person is not just one of these things, but all of them to greater or lesser degrees, blending in with each other to create a unique sexual identity.
Posted by RTam on November 28, 2012 at 8:06 AM · Report this
48
i may be the odd girl out, but i would think it's kind of hot to know that the toys have been used before - and i'd even like to hear about how they've been used. hot hot hot.
Posted by Cuck-ess on November 28, 2012 at 7:53 AM · Report this
geoz 47
Coward? That kind of name calling is just so weak. Find a new hobby Dan. Have you heard this new idea that people move at their own pace?
Posted by geoz on November 28, 2012 at 7:44 AM · Report this
Michael J. Curtiss 46
IDGAF, I don't feel that you're a coward, but I do agree with Dan's assessment that you need to be more assertive.

Make it clear in a calm and rational manner that you are where you want to be and that you'll entertain no more pressure (however well-meaning) from friends, family or colleagues, and if they still persist in pressuring you, then surround yourself with those who'll respect and honor your choices.

In fact, start doing that now. Nothing bolsters self-esteem and confidence by being around those who get who you are and what you want, and whose own fulfillment comes from a healthy mix of encouraging your happiness, and minding their own damn beeswax.
Posted by Michael J. Curtiss http://caughtintheact.blogspot.com on November 28, 2012 at 7:28 AM · Report this
45
I agree strongly with Functional Atheist (@26)-- the fact that lots of people are nonmonogamous does not mean that everyone is.

I suspect it seems that way to Dan because his sample is very large-- hundreds and thousands of letters over many years-- but is also skewed towards people to whom a) sex is very important (important enough to write to a letters columnist) and b) sex is causing them some kind of problem they believe can be solved (which is more likely if you're one of the people for whom, for whatever reason, the "accepted" "mainstream" "traditional" way of doing things doesn't work, and c) are not very "traditional" anyway, because if they were, they'd be writing to Dear Abby. I believe that, in Dan's (admittedly very, very, large experience), almost no-one is naturally monogamous.

But that sample is skewed. There are people for whom monogamy simply works better-- not just because of their social conditioning, but because of how they're wired. I am not such a person, but I've had enough conversations with some to know that they do exist. And it's insulting and unhelpful to them to tell them they don't.

And sure, if you want to call it an "identity" rather than an "orientation," go ahead. If you want to note that polyamory is one very distinct form of nonmonagomy, chosen by the participants and different from other types of behavior (cheating, lusting after people but not acting on it, etc), like gromm (@28) said, go for it.

But it is really annoying to insist that in this one area (how many people you're attracted to) everyone is the same, even though we acknowledge a wide spectrum of different ways to be in just about every other area of sexuality.
Posted by Gaudior on November 28, 2012 at 7:26 AM · Report this
44
IDGAF, I don't feel that you're a coward, but I do agree with Dan's assessment that he needs to be more assertive. Make it clear in a calm and rational manner that you are where you want to be and that you'll entertain no more pressure (however well-meaning) from friends, family or colleagues, and if they still persist in pressuring you, then surround yourself with those who'll respect and honor your choices. In fact, start doing that now. Nothing bolsters self-esteem and confidence by being around those who get who you are and what you want, and whose own fulfillment comes from a healthy mix of encouraging your happiness and minding their own damn beeswax.
Posted by Michael J. Curtiss on November 28, 2012 at 7:25 AM · Report this
43
@40: "Not sharing, aka possessiveness, is learned. The fact that you were socialized to be possessive isn't relevant."

Have you met any people? Small children? Dogs, even, discovering that the stick the other dog has is definitely the only good stick even if they're in a forest full of sticks? Possessiveness of all sorts of things is a very natural behavior.

The "what I enjoy is natural and correct, and any variation is based on people's hang-ups and inability to be logical like me" schtick is annoying from anyone. Including the polyamorous.
Posted by IPJ on November 28, 2012 at 6:49 AM · Report this
42
DRF @25: I would bet that if someone invented a time traveling recorder and went to check what 50 different groups of early modern humans did, they'd get 50 different answers. Some very different. Like culture, either derived from whatever had worked in the past (tradition) or reacting to new influences (like the California condors in a threesome for lack of mates), actually had a lot to do with anything people were doing.
Posted by IPJ on November 28, 2012 at 6:44 AM · Report this
41
"People who live alone tend to be more social than people who are married,"

So true. I married for the first time at 58 and dropped most of my social activities. After three years, I'd still rather spend time with my wife (and have her undivided attention) than anyone else.

Note: 58 years single. Had a few live-ins, but made it clear to my parents when I was 8 years old that I would never have kids.
Posted by david_42 on November 28, 2012 at 6:30 AM · Report this
smajor82 40
@33 Not sharing, aka possessiveness, is learned. The fact that you were socialized to be possessive isn't relevant. The fact is, at some point in their lives, almost everyone has a romantic interest in more than one person.

Your friend isn't just polyamorous, he's polygamous. They made two different words for those things for a reason.
Posted by smajor82 on November 28, 2012 at 6:06 AM · Report this
smajor82 39
Why do polyamorous people need to call it a sexual orientation? No one (here) is claiming that you choose to be polyamorous - in fact most people agree that even people in monogomous relationships wind up developing feelings for others while in those relationships. Myself included. In fact, I can't remember a time when I wasn't mentally and physically attracted to several people. They all happened to want monogomous relationships, so I made choices ...

Just because a group of people think that sexual orientation should refer to the TYPE of person you are attracted to, doesn't mean you are being persecuted.

If we all call it a relationship orientation will that appease you?
Posted by smajor82 on November 28, 2012 at 5:58 AM · Report this
38
I think Dan's mostly right about poly being more a thing you do than a thing you are, and I've never heard of a poly bashing. However, there is one thing that polyamory has more in common with LGBT than BDSM and that's the question of legal recognition of relationships (I don't think any of the sane people into BDSM would argue that a slave contract is something that should be legally binding for real instead of something you could walk away from if you chose). For people who are poly with primary and secondary partners, the current system works just fine. However, for more balanced arrangements, there's only one person that gets the health insurance and visitation rights. I think legal acknowledgement of poly relationships could be potentially more complex than acknowledging same sex relationships, and given the genuine danger of the exploitation of young women by fundamentalists from traditionally polygamous religions, perhaps more problematic, but I can see facing the choice of deciding which of your equally loved male partners gets to come to your hospital beds should you get sick and feeling like you're in somewhat of the same boat as someone who's gay.
Posted by Beguine on November 28, 2012 at 5:26 AM · Report this
37
As a short continuation of my previous comment (#36), as well as a comment to GermanGirl @ #35, it might be helpful for the mono/poly debate to separate desire and practice - which I'd do by using mono/polyamory for the desire, and mono/polygamy (and andry) for the practice.
Posted by Thomas on November 28, 2012 at 4:51 AM · Report this
36
Regarding the mono/poly debate:

Let me first say that technically, polyamory is not a sexual orientation, as "sexual orientation" is defined as what sex you're attracted to. I'll therefore use the "sexual identity" phrase that avast2006 so helpfully described in post #32. For the purpose of this post I define "sexual identity" as "that which is integral for your sexual-romantic happiness, or that to which you find a strong preference for in a sexual-romantic setting." Sexual orientation, per this definition, is a part of ones sexual identity, but it also encompasses other aspects.

Whether polyamory is a choice or not depends on how you define polyamory. Obviously, if you define polyamory as the act of being polyamorous, of having multiple romantic partners, then polyamory is a choice. However, if you define polyamory as the desire, possibly emotional need, for multiple sexual-romantic partners, then polyamory does not become a choice, but a sexual identity. From my discussions with polyamorous people, I think that the latter definition is the more correct one.

Whether nonmonogamy is the "natural state norm" or not, it is important to remember that nonmonogamy does not equal polyamory*. Nonmonogamy is simply to have sexual relations with several people, while polyamory implies romantic relations with several people. With people defining themselves as polyamorous feeling a desire and need for several romantic partners, I have to come out of that debate on the "not a choice" side.

*I am myself nonmonogamous, but while I do desire (and have) multiple sexual partners, I do not have a desire for multiple romantic partners. I have one girlfriend, our love is enough for me, and my other sexual partners are non-romantic. Friends with benefits, if you like.
More...
Posted by Thomas on November 28, 2012 at 4:44 AM · Report this
35
I think monogamy or polygamy is a choice but I wouldn't call nonmonogamy the natural option of the two. It is my choice whether I have sex with one partner or more - I don't think it is necessarily a choice whether I do love more than one person enough for romantic relationship or not. Loving more than one person has nothing to do with with how many people I have sex. my mom is poly in the sense that she loves more than one person romantically but it was her choice to live in a monogamous relationship. I am poly and apart from a husband I have to partners I share love with but I only have sex with my husband. I do think under the right conditions (whatever that means to the individual) everyone is capable of polygamy or monogamy but everyone prefers on of the modells at any given time (and this preference can change) but how you feel love is not the same for all people and I think the way how you feel love influences which model you prefer and choose.
Posted by GermanGirl on November 28, 2012 at 4:08 AM · Report this
34
IDGAF's question is an old fashioned etiquette one, more likely seen on the old Ann Lander's desk or something asked of Miss Manners. Many a happily single 20-something young lady has had to fend off relatives from fixing her up with that nice man from the country club. The only difference here is that it's a man who doesn't want to be fixed up. There's no need to bring sex, orientation, asexuality, or statistics on people living alone into it.

The classic answer is to say "not right now." Then change the subject, preferably by asking for something that you DO want.

"Gosh Aunt Mable, she does sound nice, but I'm happy and don't want to meet anyone. I could use an introduction to your building manager you mentioned (older man) who might throw some construction business my way."

"No Grandad, I don't want to meet your golf buddy's granddaughter, but I haven't seen you for a while, and if you could get us tickets for the superbowl, I'd love to go with you."

You can ask for anything you want this way. You can ask for home baked cookies, ipods, job recommendations, new apartments, payments on student loans, trips abroad. That's not saying that your relatives will provide any of these things, but you'll have redirected their thinking, and if you do it often enough, they'll have to stop suggesting gifts that will benefit them because you always come back with something that will benefit you.

This is a neat trick because it leaves open the possibility that you'll change your mind. I'm not suggesting that you will or should, but it answers your questions about how to communicate that there's nothing wrong with you, and it answers what to do if you do change your mind.
Posted by Crinoline on November 28, 2012 at 4:02 AM · Report this
33
@32:" If all people are naturally non-monogamous, then how do you explain those folks for whom non-monogamy makes them consistently miserable? Are those people somehow broken, Dan? Perhaps there's nothing in particular about a monogamous person that a good dose of reparative therapy won't cure?"

This. This exactly. I deny no one the right to love (and fuck, and marry) whom and how they choose so long as everyone involved is a consenting adult (and that includes not dating/fucking/marrying at all). Personally, nonmonogamy would ruin me. I don't share. Period. I'm fortunate that my husband feels the same way.

My best friend is poly, his wife and girlfriend are poly, and more power to them. He never wants to go back to monogamy and I would never expect it of him if being poly makes him happy.

He's not broken and neither am I.
Posted by Action Kate on November 28, 2012 at 3:44 AM · Report this
32
If all people are naturally non-monogamous, then how do you explain those folks for whom non-monogamy makes them consistently miserable? Are those people somehow broken, Dan? Perhaps there's nothing in particular about a monogamous person that a good dose of reparative therapy won't cure?

I think Hyacinth has a good point: that for some people, maintaining a monogamous relationship would make them as miserable, and would be living a lie as much as it would for a homosexual to closet himself and have a hetero marriage.

It's probably worth noting that Polyamorous Polymath, the original poster that sparked this debate, never used the word "orientation." (Unless Dan edited it out?) The word "orientation" came from Dan, not from the Letter Writer.

PP said "sexual identity," not "orientation." I think "sexual identity" is a much broader term. Say someone refers to themselves as "a kinkster." Isn't that effectively an identity that they apply to themselves? If you can be "a kinkster" or "a sub" or "a devotee" then you can be "a poly."

Sorry, Dan, I think you tripped over your own misattributed terminology on this one.
Posted by avast2006 on November 28, 2012 at 12:28 AM · Report this
Eva Hopkins 31
Oh yeah. Side note, & don't wanna threadjack..but, a year ago yesterday is when Memorex died, who used to comment here. This column & us finding each other here, as well as IRL, brought me some joy. So though it's not topical, around this time of year, I will always mention him here. Hopefully you all won't mind.

I miss you so much, Memorex. Jenn, your family - we all do. You were a brilliant friend & advocate for others' happiness. <3.

Annnnnd..*how to bring this on the subject* I b'lieve Memorex would *want us* to recycle our kinky gear. ;)

Posted by Eva Hopkins http://www.lunamusestudios.com on November 28, 2012 at 12:16 AM · Report this
30
I agree with @1, Dan. How is IDGAF a coward about openly realizing that he's a shitload happier staying single?

Hang in there, IDGAF, and stick to your guns. By reiterating your feelings often enough---and to your "Where are the !@&*ing GRANDKIDS?!?" crazed parents, too---everyone bugging you about coupling up will back off.
There's absolutely NOTHING wrong with you or your desire to remain unattached. Our society puts way too much emphasis (TV, movies, trashy fuck novels, high schools, colleges, media, advertising, etc., etc.) on couples, and has been doing so long before I was even born. The good news is---and we now have the national statistics to prove it---that while not everybody living alone is necessarily happy about going solo, there are increasing numbers of us--myself included---who ARE perfectly jiggy with it.
Marriage, having kids, and long-term live-in relationships aren't for everybody.
Posted by auntie grizelda on November 27, 2012 at 11:50 PM · Report this
29
Interesting column today, Dan, since it revolves around things I can so clearly relate to. I'm in a poly marriage with Mr Perfect and he came with a full drawer of gear. I also think if I hadn't met him I'd very much liked to go solo for a few years - where I'm from it's really not that big a deal - there's Europe for you I guess ;)

About poly being a choice - yeah I'm also divided. I thrive in my marriage - I love being able to be all of me and not restraining my urges because of some traditional patterns made extinct long ago - but before my husband I would never have thought of poly as something I could choose (so much for being brought up a "good girl"). I've always treasured my freedom and this meets the best of both worlds... I can have my perfect mate and whichever other person that strikes my fancy ;) I don't know if poly is in my bones but I do love being poly.

As for the gears I'm with #8 - the penetrating things I would discard (and have discarded from my husbands stash) and replace with new toys but the bondage gear I was quite thrilled to find in his possesion. He knew his gear and what to do with it and I was eager to learn - I guess I'm not that squeamish about the history of his restraints.
Posted by The monogamish on November 27, 2012 at 10:49 PM · Report this
28
I agree with Dan about the poly thing, and I'm poly.

Here's the thing. If we all fuck around (and all science shows that we basically do), and monogamy isn't natural, but a choice we make to resist our nature for the sake of other people (we call *that* society), then either monogamy is something we *do* or polyamory is something we *do*. Or both. Because Polyamory is as much resisting our nature for the sake of other people as monogamy is, just that we do it in a different way. The polyamorous nearly universally describe their relationships as *not* being the complete tossing aside of all rules and allowing a total free-for-all of cheating and screwing around.

But it's certainly not intrinsic nor a sexual orientation. That would be the total free-for-all of cheating and screwing around that most everyone would prefer, but avoid doing for the obvious reasons.
Posted by gromm on November 27, 2012 at 10:05 PM · Report this
27
@24 I think I can answer that. See, bigotry is hating people for who they are. It's always been more acceptable to disapprove of someone for something over which that person has control than for something over which that person does not have any control.

Saying "I'm gay because I was born that way/I am as God made me" allows people to sneak in a "so don't blame me for something in which I had no say/pity me for being at the whim of fate because I'd sooooo rather be just like you instead" which may be implied, inferred or entirely imagined by the listener.

But saying that polyamory is a choice requires people to say, if only to themselves, "I could conduct my love life some other way, but I've chosen polyamory because I just like it more/believe humans are built for it/other reason." It doesn't let people pass the buck to God/nature/whatever. They've got to carry it themselves.

Most people have done this a little. Haven't you ever said "I'm driving to work the long way because that's the right way to get there. Darn this traffic!" or "I won't show up exactly on time because that's rude; it's polite to be a little late." People imagine some universal law of driving/courtesy/gym etiquette that really exists only in their heads so that they can pretend that what they do isn't really the sole or nearly sole product of their own preferences.
Posted by DRF on November 27, 2012 at 9:53 PM · Report this
26
Please, after 10 million and one repetitions, I beg Dan to please stop repeating the bogus assertion that "all people are naturally nonmongamous"

All people naturally need oxygen when they breathe. All people naturally derive energy from calories, which come in three flavors: carbs/sugars, proteins, and fats.

But when you go into behaviors more complex and individualized than breathing and eating (like, say, sex, love, and relationships), can we PLEASE all agree to avoid breathtakingly broad assertions along the lines of "all people are naturally nonmonogamous"?

I know you LOVED "Sex at Dawn", Dan, but Jesus Fucking Christ--learn to use some qualifiers, why don't ya, instead of asserting what's "natural" for every single human who has ever lived.
Posted by Functional Atheist on November 27, 2012 at 9:53 PM · Report this
25
There is a difference between wanting to live alone, as in to have one's own apartment or house with no roommates or live-in partners, and to not be in or pursue a relationship. IDGAF said he was the second, but Mr. Savage answered him as if he were the first. Lots of people who live alone do not share IDGAF's lack of desire for romantic relationships.

As for "we're all naturally nonmonogamous," that sounds like more BS from that pseudoscience Sex at Dawn book. Look, anyone can look at all the "evidence" about how early modern humans lived (which has more gaps than Swiss cheese) and say that they were wildly nonmonogamous, rigidly one-on-one, or that they chose sex partners based on games of Twister. Maybe one day we'll know how early modern humans did the deed and what it means for our lives, but we don't now.
Posted by DRF on November 27, 2012 at 9:09 PM · Report this
24
Why is it necessarily bigoted to claim that something is a choice when it isn't? It may be inaccurate, but...bigotry is when you start hating people for what they do, choice or not.

I honestly kinda hate the fact that the gay rights movement has always been so big on arguing that gay isn't a choice WITHOUT also saying, "and even if it WAS a choice, too bad!" We're supposed to be living in a society that protects liberty, which means freedom of choice. "It's a choice," should not be a freakin' condemnation and "I was born this way!" should not be a necessary part of anyone's right to do the shit that makes them happy.

Honestly...
Posted by laurelgardner http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=5877570 on November 27, 2012 at 9:08 PM · Report this
mydriasis 23
^ hear hear

To anyone who flushes condoms down the toilet: what the fuck is wrong with you!?
Posted by mydriasis on November 27, 2012 at 9:05 PM · Report this
shurenka 22
Re: the sex toys, I think it depends on how "used" they are and how expensive. Also, if it's from a really long term relationship, I'd probably feel weird if I were the new girl using it.

And Dan is spot on about the poly question. By that logic having any sort of fetish or sexual preference would be an "orientation".
Posted by shurenka on November 27, 2012 at 8:55 PM · Report this
21
@bodhirungus and so many others.
PLEASE for the love of all that is holy STOP THROWING SHIT IN WATER BODIES. They're not junkyards. Do you have any idea how nauseating it is for people who clean up rivers- yes whole organizations have been founded because people throw shit in rivers- to be picking up trash and find a cock ring, or vibrator, or condoms that have washed downstream. I will remind you that children frequently serve as volunteers for river cleanups as many are required to volunteer by their high schools or other organizations.
Think of the rest of us. Thanks.
Posted by apples on November 27, 2012 at 8:35 PM · Report this
20
I think #2 will depend on whether the new gal is involved in the BDSM community or not. Personally, I see a little wear on BDSM toys as being a sign that the owner has some experience and I'll have a good time.
Posted by notfromvenus on November 27, 2012 at 8:32 PM · Report this
19
There are actually some companies that recycle sex toys, even the ones that have been up people butts and whatnot. They make 'em into brand-spaking new toys to stick in fresh new orifices. I swear: http://www.inbedwithmarriedwomen.com/201…

jill
Posted by inbed http://inbedwithmarriedwomen.blogspot.com on November 27, 2012 at 8:09 PM · Report this
18
I guess part of why I see poly as a possible identity issue is that I know many poly people who... they wouldn't even be themselves anymore if they were monogamous. It would be like if they suddenly had brain rumors that made them behave like aliens inhabiting their bodies. They are their beautiful selves and tjey'd be harming themselves if they pretended to be monogamous.
Posted by Hyacinth on November 27, 2012 at 8:01 PM · Report this
17
Poly isn't a sexual orientation, as by definition your sexual orientation is which gender(s) you're attracted to.

But poly can be just as if not more important to someone's identity as their sexual orientation is, and it can carry just as much if not more of a stigma as being gay does.
Posted by biggie on November 27, 2012 at 7:43 PM · Report this
Eva Hopkins 16
And AWASH, as @8 says above..depends on the gear, & the cleanliness of said gear - that stuff can be spendy! Huge difference between a penetrative toy & a Liberator pillow, which comes w/ a slip-off, easy-launder cover. :D If you can afford it easily, replace the lot. If you can't, ask yourself wher e you would draw the line for ick factor, & then be way more cautious than that when deciding what to keep. & clean the bejeezus out of whatever it is you hang onto.
Posted by Eva Hopkins http://www.lunamusestudios.com on November 27, 2012 at 7:41 PM · Report this
Eva Hopkins 15
The "is poly an orientation" question is an interesting one. I've had both open relationships & monogamous ones. As long as I can indulge in the fantasy of other people, & my monogamous partner is doin' their part to keep me entertained at home, I'm more or less content. I'd say my leanings are poly, but as a bisexual woman, I *myself* wouldn't call it an orientation. I don't want to deny the right of people to label themselves as they wish & certainly I know some poly folks who are adamant that that's what they are, that's how their relationships need to be & hey, more power to 'em.

But I don't picture sexuality as a linear graph. Ya know how the Kinsey scale of gayness to straightness is shown sometimes:

http://www.kinseyinstitute.org/research/…

I am picturing, in my mind, a chart like that, but w/ monogamous people & polyamorous people. If societal mores weren't what they are I'm pretty sure there'd be a lot more accepted fluidity between those two things, where those of us in monogamish land would dwell. ;)
Posted by Eva Hopkins http://www.lunamusestudios.com on November 27, 2012 at 7:37 PM · Report this
seandr 14
SAT question:
Bigots labeled behavior A as a "choice".
Dan labeled behavior B as a "choice".
Therefore, Dan must be a bigot.

a)True
b)False
Posted by seandr on November 27, 2012 at 7:36 PM · Report this
13
IDGAF, I am a 32 year old lady who feels exactly the same way you do about relationships. I have always been vocal about my preferences with my family and friends and have been very fortunate to receive their support. No nagging about grandchildren or unwanted setups :) Thanks to Dan for highlighting the fact that choosing to be single is a legitimate choice and should be respected.
Posted by bibliomystic on November 27, 2012 at 7:21 PM · Report this
12
Also... Everyone around me knows I'm poly. I "came out" so to speak, and it upset them more than me being bi. If it were just some casual preference, I certainly would not have informed anyone but my partners. But it's not.
Posted by Hyacinth on November 27, 2012 at 6:54 PM · Report this
11
crap. Now I double posted.
Posted by argentinagal on November 27, 2012 at 6:50 PM · Report this
10
My partner already had a collection of toys when we got together, and I really appreciated it. I would never have known what to buy on my own, and I'm broke, so good quality gear would have been out of the question. As long as everything was kept clean and in good condition, I saw no reason to be anything but practical. For me, more personal items, like lingerie, should probably be kept for one person. Symbols of the relationship should also be kept personal.
Posted by argentinagal on November 27, 2012 at 6:49 PM · Report this
9
Yeah, Dan, I AM poly. I will never be able to be monogamous. Or rather, if I "do" monogamy, it'll be a miserable lie.

I guess it's silly for me to worry about how some advice columnist defines me though.
Posted by Hyacinth on November 27, 2012 at 6:47 PM · Report this
8
My partner had a lot of gear from before we met and I was glad about it. He's a lot more experienced than I am, and I wouldn't have known what was good to get. (I'm also broke, so good quality items would have been out of the question.) Already having the equipment was really useful and practical. I would get rid of penetrative toys though, and clean anything that might have gotten fluids on it.
Posted by argentinagal on November 27, 2012 at 6:42 PM · Report this
7
sorry for double post i didnt think my first one went through :P
Posted by SwizzleStick on November 27, 2012 at 6:09 PM · Report this
6
Sex toy etiquette:

Why assume the ex was the sub and not the letter writer?

Depends on whether you meet this new gal through the BDSM community. As a freelancing sub, I certainly wouldn't give a rat's ass about "used" restraints. The idea that every new play partner will mean buying all new equipment seems completely ridiculous. As long as it's clean, then who cares. If you're spending your time trying to pervert vanillas and the hypothetical new gal cares, then get rid of it. See commenter 3. If she shares your cravings, then she'll have her own gear or want to buy her own new stuff anyway.

However...getting rid of sex toys (in one form or another) is often an important psychological part of letting go of the relationship. They are not unlike wedding rings, if the bond and/or experiences the toys facilitate were very strong. If you see the toys and get a little weird feeling in your stomach: get rid of them somehow.

If you feel that your relationship with the ex could have ended because she didn't share your kinks (on some level) then it can be a power affirmation to keep the toys as a symbol of coming out as a kinkster.
Posted by slt_savagefan on November 27, 2012 at 6:04 PM · Report this
5
The debate over poly being an orientation is getting pretty stale, and I totally agree with Dan. I think an orientation is like a compass that determines which direction you want to aim your "gun" and being mono/poly decides how many targets you want to shoot bullets at. Absolutely no disrespect intended to the polyamorous amongst us ....it's just not a sexual orientation
Posted by SwizzleStick on November 27, 2012 at 5:57 PM · Report this
4
omg the whole poly being an orientation debate is getting old ....to use metaphor, I see orientation(gay/straight/bi) like a compass which tells you which way to point your gun, and mono/poly is the number of bullets you choose to shoot in that direction :)
Posted by SwizzleStick on November 27, 2012 at 5:46 PM · Report this
3
My man came with some sex toys, and I don't like them, clean or not. I even threw one cock ring in the river when he wasn't looking.
Posted by bodhirungus on November 27, 2012 at 5:23 PM · Report this
2
I don't see how IDGAF is being a coward - he's seems to be asking "how do I tell people who insist something is wrong ..?"

I agree it takes courage to say to close family and friends: "guess what, I don't conform to your expectations" but the challenge is how to demonstrate that you are not dysfunctional without seeming defensive.

I guess you just have to keep saying "I am happy, you need to believe me" seems a bit lame but that's the best I can come up with when my family asks.
Posted by truck on November 27, 2012 at 5:17 PM · Report this
1
I don't see how IDGAF is being a coward - he's seems to be asking "how do I tell people who insist something is wrong ..?"

I agree it takes courage to say to close family and friends: "guess what, I don't conform to your expectations" but the challenge is how to demonstrate that you are not disfunctional without seeming defensive.

I guess you just have to keep saying "I am happy, you need to believe me" seems a bit lame but that's the best I can come up with when my family asks.
Posted by truck on November 27, 2012 at 5:17 PM · Report this

Add a comment