Polyamory and Guilt

Businessman Thinking on StepsI had forgotten until recently that guilt is probably something experienced by most polyamorous people as they navigate their needs and desires in our culture of couples.

When I first opened the long-term relationship I was in in 2007, I often felt guilty for wanting to be with anyone other than the amazing person that I was with. This was someone I loved deeply, someone I wanted to marry some day, someone who would do anything for me and who I would do anything for. No one could ask for a better partner. How could I do this? How could I be so greedy as to want more?

The guilt ebbed and flowed depending on what was happening in the relationship. When my partners were getting along, teasing me together, and friends began inviting all three of us to parties as a unit, the guilt was gone. Whenever tensions arose because of my “other significant other”, though, it came crashing back. How dare I bring such difficulty to what was otherwise a happy, perfect relationship? Why couldn’t I just be satisfied with the one perfect partner I’d found and loved for so many years? Was I a bad person?

This struggle is one that I haven’t had to deal with since that relationship ended in 2010. Once I was more or less “single”, I began making it clear to romantic interests that I was polyamorous, and I haven’t experienced that brand of guilt since. My loves know that this is who I am, and if they choose to become involved with me, they understand what it entails. No friendship or relationship of mine has been threatened for three years by polyamory, and that’s been nice.

But that doesn’t mean it’s over for other people. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t people out there who haven’t been exposed to the concept of polyamory, and are fighting those thoughts of whether they’re a bad person or not, wondering why their love for the person they’re with doesn’t put blinders on to all other potential lovers. Perhaps they are even hoping and praying that they can stop seeing other people in such betraying ways to their existing relationship. Perhaps they worry that they can never marry since they’ll always have a “wandering eye.” Perhaps they think their life is and will always be unfulfilling, because they never seem to be able to experience love the way we’re all told we are supposed to: all-engrossing, all-encompassing, and making you want to just give yourself entirely to the object of your affections.

MP900314150I’m writing this post to say, no. No, you are not bad people. You love love, and love is a beautiful thing that is meant to bring happiness. Don’t let it bring you sadness. Embrace your love for love, celebrate it honestly and openly; you are NOT doing it wrong. Let people know who you are and what you are feeling. You will bump into other people like you, but you are more likely to find them if you are open about what’s on your mind, because they’ll hear you speaking their language.

Love feels good. Go out there and love as much and as deeply as you want. The world is full of people who need love, and it doesn’t make any sense for someone who has a lot to give to be holding it back and feeling guilty about it.

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A Sickie Quickie

(Apologies for the odd title; I’m sick today, which hinders my mental capacity, and this is also a quick entry, thus…you get what I’m saying.)

A friend who has much more free time than I linked me to this Jezebel article about “female purity” being bullshit yesterday. Mostly, it’s stuff I already know, and mostly, it’s stuff I’ve covered here on this blog. There were, however, a couple of gems, such as the author’s imitation of a male trying to justify not wanting to sleep with a “slutty” female:

So you’re about to have sex with a woman you’re attracted to, you really want to have sex with her, but all you can think about is her getting pounded by tons and tons of dicks? That sounds like an entirely different issue.

“No! I just mean that I struggle with the same powerlessness and insecurity that all human beings do, so as a coping mechanism I take advantage of our culture’s patriarchal power structure and exorcize my feelings of worthlessness by perpetuating shame-based proprietary attitudes over women’s bodies. Basically I’m obsessed with controlling women’s lives because I can’t control my own.”

Oh, honey. I know.

That certainly got me a-chucklin’. However, I think my favorite gem was actually in the comments, from TheBigManJoinedTheBand:

This is what I don’t get — women are impure because males have touched them. Who’s the dirty one here? And guys, don’t you get annoyed at being a metaphor for ruining another person’s worth? How can that feel good to hear?

I think I might be in love with TheBigManJoinedTheBand. I don’t even know them, and yet, the stirring feeling is there…*swoon*

Thoughts On Slut Shaming: Respect, Infidelity, Logic, Gender Equality, and So Much More!

thoughtfulNow that my fear of slut shaming has been covered, I’d like to tiptoe a little deeper into the topic and share some thoughts I’ve had about slut shaming since I discovered the term.

My current theory: the slut shaming of women is related to the old “wife as property” idea of marriage. If a man is married and sleeps with someone other than his wife, well, what can she do? She’s his property – she has no real say. He has a mistress; that’s the way it goes sometimes, even if it’s not very admirable. In some cultures, men even take on additional wives.

But, if a married woman (the property) sleeps with another man…well, it’s a bit different. One man’s property is being used by another man, without any kind of compensation. I don’t even know of a word for the male equivalent of “mistress.” There is nothing but shame for the husband who has been “duped;” he’s a cuckold.  In Puerto Rico, it’s a common insult to call a man a “cabron”: a man who’s woman sleeps with other men. Are there equivalent words for women whose husbands cheat on them?

As a woman, if you have extramarital sex, you shame your husband, and you shame yourself, because you are his property. Perhaps this is part of the reason why slut shaming women is so much more popular than slut shaming men.

Or is it?

sad man

Slut shaming today does not only target women. I once began seeing a guy and was “warned” by a concerned friend that he slept around a lot. Because of that, this concerned friend thought that he wouldn’t be “relationship material.”

I was annoyed, not just because this friend assumed I was looking for a relationship, and not just because they assumed they knew what “relationship material” meant to me, but because this person was making a judgment of someone based on irrelevant information. The guy’s promiscuity should be viewed as just that: promiscuity. It should not be viewed as an indication of any other aspect of his character. It should not be assumed that it affects his relationship material-ness, which is vastly different for different people.

The definition and example of slut shaming posted on Urban Dictionary suggests that it is only bad because it means people will have less sex. It’s more than that, though. It’s an attack on character. For some reason, people associate what someone does with their sex life as relevant to the kind of person they are in other aspects of their life. It’s a cheap logical fallacy which is unfortunately used by educated people all the time. Be better than educated, people; be intelligent.

I think that one of the reasons why some may think slut shaming is only ever aimed at women is because it is more widely and vehemently done so. I haven’t conducted any studies or anything, but I feel that while there are probably plenty of well-intentioned people out there slut shaming men, telling them that they’re missing out on experiencing “true love,” informing/warning potential lovers away from them, and encouraging them to “be more respectful of women,” those people are labeled “cock-blocks” by popular culture. On the other hand, it’s much more acceptable for icons like Taylor Swift and even one of my favorite artists, Pink, to insist that self-respecting women certainly know better than to have sex. Apparently, being respectful of women, and women respecting themselves, means leaving their vaginas alone. What…err…cunt-bunters? Twat swatters?

People just need to respect people, regardless of gender identity, and regardless of how frequently they have sex. Part of ethical nonmonogamy and sluttery is that people are supposed to be considerate of one another’s feelings. Manipulating a person’s emotions to get them to have sex with you, or purposefully hurting their feelings afterward, is still unethical and disrespectful. Making it clear that you have no intention of being monogamous, being honest about who you are and what you feel or don’t feel, and finding someone who wants to sleep with you with that knowledge, is not disrespectful or wrong. It’s beautiful. Even if it happens 10 times in one week.

Slut shaming shouldn’t be perpetuated against anyone, but maybe it’s the way we interpret it and the way it is supported/unsupported depending on who it is aimed at that contributes to the sense of inequality we notice when it comes to slut shaming.

Slut Shaming & My Fear of It

As defined on Urban Dictionary:

Slut Shaming:

An unfortunate phenomenon in which people degrade or mock a woman because she enjoys having sex, has sex a lot, or may even just be rumored to participate in sexual activity. Often it’s accompanied by urban legends such as the common virgin misconception that the vagina becomes larger or looser with use– in fact, sex has no effect on vaginal size.

However, since most people would rather women be MORE sexually active than less, slut shaming is counterproductive to the aims of most men and quite a few ladies.

I know that many in the polyamory and ethical nonmonogamy community are already familiarized with this term, but the thought occurred to me today that it’s a term I haven’t defined and talked about here for the people in my life who read this blog and aren’t involved in the online communities I frequent.

Slut shaming is counterproductive, as demonstrated in the example that accompanied the Urban Dictionary definition:

Guy 1: Ha ha Megan had sex with two guys, she’s such a SLUT!

Guy 2: You idiot, do you want her to stop having sex? We should be encouraging this. Your slut shaming will simply discourage more women from sleeping with us and we will be virgins forever.

And even more than perpetual virginity, slut shaming is counterproductive to gender equality. More on that in another post, hopefully.

I will admit, slut shaming is something that I fear a bit. I didn’t know that there was a term for it until recently, and now, knowing that there is one, I feel more empowered to identify what is happening in a situation, if it ever happens, and call someone on it.

Still, the fear lingers. Why? Because even if the effect slut shaming tends to have (sluts stop being so slutty) is unlikely to affect me, there’s the fact that I spent my whole adolescent and young adult life surrounded by slut shaming, and it’s ingrained the idea into me that promiscuity is bad. For a long time, I thought that was true. As I grew into an adult, I thought it was true. It was five or six years ago that I started seeing the possibility that promiscuity was not inherently bad, but even after so long, I’m still working so hard to push that message out.

My fear, I think, is based on one thought. One thought that I fear admitting, because it will open me up to attack from all those people who do think sluts should be ashamed.

What if I’m wrong?

We all fear being wrong from time to time. This one’s a biggie for me. What if my promiscuity means I lack good decision-making skills? What if it means I have low self-esteem? What if my promiscuity is the result of “daddy issues”? What if this, and my lack of ability to commit to a monogamous relationship, and my lack of ability to stick to a career, and my depression, are all linked…the common denominator being me, and me being the problem?

When this fear grips me, I have to take a deep breath. I remind myself that I have great decision-making skills. I’ve helped so many programs I’ve worked for grow, develop, improve. I am an excellent problem-solver and leader. I have left situations in which I was unhappy, and those to me are the most important decisions. I have healthy self-esteem. I know my strengths and hopefully most of my weaknesses. I use my strengths to help others, and am thanked for it often. Sure, Daddy and I have issues, but I’ve accepted that, stopped blaming both him and myself, and moved on. All the other things, well, I’ve spent so many years investigating them, writing about them, and even getting professional help for them, that all I can do is know that I’ve done the best I can with who I am, and, ultimately, I am happy.

And that is what is most important.

Seriously

Take Me Seriously“Do you think anyone will ever take you seriously if you live this way?”

I’ve been asked that a few times in relation to my “lovestyle”. I like to think that yes, I can be taken seriously (in fact, I know that I can be), but the number of times I’ve been asked this sometimes does make me stop and consider the possibility that I’m suffering from some tunnel-vision.

I think that a large number of people can and do have a hard time imagining a “serious” relationship with me. For many, it is because “serious” means sexual monogamy, and if I’m not offering it, then I can’t be serious. Then there are some who don’t mind the sexual nonmonogamy, but they expect emotional monogamy. You know, the whole, “she sleeps with other people but her heart’s all mine,” people out there. That’s fine and dandy if it works for you, but I can’t promise that my heart will be yours all yours and only yours, honey bun. Sorry.

So, what’s left to offer someone who wants something “serious” with me? Honestly, I crave something “serious” just as much as the next person. I’d love to have someone in my life right now to make time for. I’d love to have someone who expects me to make small sacrifices for them. I’d love to have someone who makes me want to work hard and strive to be an even more awesome person. I’d love to have someone to share my travels with, someone to get lost with from time to time, someone to sit around and be honest with, and be honestly in love with.

If those aren’t the desires of someone who wants something serious, then perhaps I need a different word. Fortunately, I’m not so hung up on labels and definitions to spend much time worrying about it. In the meantime, my answer remains: Yes, I do think that the right people can, will, and even DO take me seriously. As seriously as I take them, despite all of their non-normative needs and desires. Because, let’s be fair, there’s hardly a reliable definition of “normative” anyway.

I Love This

Jus sayin’

 

Other than that, I’ve been connecting some points on human matriarchal societies, and perhaps the reason why we don’t know of any on our planet is because they look like egalitarian societies, and collecting evidence to support that…theory?

Will report when I get around to it. In the meantime, slut on!

On Loving Love and Loving Sex

Sometimes, honesty leads to misunderstanding. Strange world.

To be polyamorous means to be able to be in love with more than one person at a time. To be an ethical slut means to responsibly partake in a promiscuous lifestyle. Both of these are forms of nonmonogamy.

I’m open about the fact that I am both/all of these things, but that’s not always enough. I think people have trouble understanding that being polyamorous and being a slut are, first of all, two different things, but at the same time, that they are also not necessarily mutually exclusive. Polyamory tends to focus on love, emotional attachment, and often romance. Of course, when we love someone, sex often is a part of the relationship (not always, but often). Polyamory is not about no-strings-attached sex; it’s about actual relationships.

Being an ethical slut can be about no-strings attached sex, possibly with many people, but in a responsible way. Safely, between consenting adults who are clear about one another’s intentions and communicate honestly. Sometimes, it’s not no-strings-attached. Sometimes it’s between friends, sometimes people do fall in love. Not always, but sometimes. Believe it or not, sluts can fall in love. Not all sluts can fall in love with more than one person, like a polyamorist, but some can, and that makes them both an ethical slut and a polyamorist.

My point is, being an ethical slut doesn’t “cancel out” anyone’s ability to love or desire to be loved. It also doesn’t mean that an ethical slut only wants friends-with-benefits situations, or any specific kind of situation, for that matter. As with all else in life, everything is dependent upon each individual’s wants and needs. I happen to love love, even though I don’t need it to enjoy a good lay. It could go either way, honestly.

Here’s an example of something that feeds into this issue. I heard a song recently where the female artist proclaimed that ladies should demand respect and not “give it up for free.” I hear songs like this often. I’m sorry, I didn’t realize that women only lose with sex, and should receive some kind of payment for giving it away. I didn’t realize that it was a sacrifice to give. Believe it or not, women can actually enjoy sex, and it’s possible to have a pretty even exchange in a sexual encounter without a gentleman having to put some extra sort of effort forward for it.

This idea obviously permeates our culture, which causes misunderstanding when I’m honest about my feelings on sex. Men seem to think, “Nice! What a good deal; I don’t have to pretend to be emotionally invested to get this,” and it’s true, you don’t, but that also doesn’t mean that you should avoid emotional investment if you feel it developing. There’s no reason to fear being in love; love is grand, even if it’s with that slut you’re banging.

Don’t be scared of love, peeps. It’s too awesome to hide from.

A New York Times Review – Frank Langellas’ Memoir

The word “slut” has been invoked in the public discourse as an ugly slur. But Langella’s book celebrates sluttiness as a worthy — even noble — way of life. . . .There is so much happy sexuality in this book that reading it is like being flirted with for a whole party by the hottest person in the room.

Sounds like a memoir I’ll be reading.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/22/books/review/dropped-names-frank-langellas-memoir.html