Tag Archives: consent

Diminished

Have you ever heard the saying, “A candle loses none of its light by lighting another candle”?  It’s a beautiful quote, author unknown, that speaks volumes to me about community, helping our neighbors, and giving for the sake of it.  But that’s probably because I’m a bleeding heart who works in the non-profit sector.  

But what if we applied this concept to Love? I would argue that right now, we don’t.  The model we’re peddle from day one thanks to companies like Disney is that somewhere out there this is a magical person who is your missing other half and all you have to do is find them! There are only 7 billion people on Earth, so how hard can that be? True love awaits!  

If you’ve been reading my blog for more than 5 minutes, then you already know I think this idea is bullocks.  There are just too many people in the world and too much love to be shared to say that we each have ONE person who’s our soulmate, ONE person who will be right for us for our whole lives through and ONE person whom will provide us with everything we need.  It sounds like a fairy tale because it IS a fairy tale.  

People ebb and flow in our lives.  Some leave as quickly as they arrived, others stay in it for the long haul, their involvement in our lives varying over time as we grow up, grow apart and come back together again.  I think of parents, for example.  No one would deny the important of their parents in their lives (for better or for worse), but most of us don’t talk to them every day.  We might even have friends that are our parents’ ages.  Does this mean we’ve replaced our parents? Does this mean we don’t care about them or love them?  Of course not.  When you’re 5, you spend every waking moment with your mother.  When you’re 25, you’re probably dodging her Sunday morning calls so she doesn’t know how hungover you are.  Our relationships change and evolve over time, but they are not somehow less important because they change. 

So back to my original question… what if we shared our love freely and weren’t ruled by ugly emotions such as envy and jealousy? Why do we hold onto this concept that by virtue of sharing our love, it is somehow diminished? 

It’s a insidious little thought, one that permeates every part of our culture.  The whole concept of “purity” or virginity is based on this idea– that you should only share yourself with ONE person, and if you share yourself with more than one person, you yourself are diminished– you, yourself, are worth less than you previously were.  Well I call shenanigans on this purity bullshit and all it entails.  Whatever higher power gave me this body also imbued me with bodily autonomy.  As long as I am sharing my love, and not hurting anyone, as long as I am consensually giving of myself, how am I diminishing myself?  The more I love, the stronger I feel, it just doesn’t add up.  

So if you’re a purist or a fundamentalist, if you think a woman’s worth is directly related to her virgnity, this is simply where we part ways.  I will never believe that a person’s worth is in any way tied to their virginity, regardless of gender, and frankly I find any other assertion disgusting.  We are more than the sum of our experiences, more than a series of actions taken or acted upon us.   Human beings are beautiful, complex creatures and I can’t think of anything much more meaningless than the number of people you’ve had sex with.  Like most numbers, it’s just used to shame.  Throw it out!  Love all, shame none. This is a SHAME-FREE ZONE.  

Over the years I’ve had run-ins with polyamory, as it were.  I used to say I just kept falling for people who identified as poly, but at some point I have take a closer examination of the fact that I keep gravitating towards people who identify as polyamorous.  Note: polyamory as in “many loves,” not polygamy as in many spouses.  (Which isn’t to say I’m against polygamy, but it’s not quite what I’m talking about.  Culturally speaking, polygamy is often tied to certain religious beliefs, while polyamory is basically the creation of many thoughtful, ethical sluts.)  

Recently I met someone who just awes me in so many ways, perhaps most profoundly in how much love he has to give.  He is, indeed, polyamorous and he has complete understanding of the idea that one relationship need not take away from another.  We are force-fed the idea of of monogamy (along with the marriage and picket fence end game) and the concept of relationship hierarchy.  And this is where I see a lot of new-to-poly folks fall into a trap.  They might’ve gotten rid of the monogamy thought, but not the hierarchy, and that will cause serious problems if you are juggling more than one romantic relationship at a time.  Trust me.  

But what if we throw both ideas out?  No more hierarchy, no more “primary partner” or “one and only”, just love.  Just love given freely.  It seemed so simple when it first hit me.  That jealousy is beyond pointless.  That I can love someone and have a deep and unique connection with them– and it doesn’t diminish what we have for me to love others, or for them to love others.  If anything, you’re just making the pie bigger.  More love, no shame, no jealousy, no competition.  I’m not saying it’s easy, especially when we’ve been taught the only way to be special to someone is to segregate them from all others.  But that’s not the way.  That sounds more like keeping a pet than loving a person, to me.  I mean, heck, even my cats are allowed to socialize.  

So I ask again, how is my Love diminished by sharing it with more people?  Knowledge is strengthened by spreading it around, I don’t see why Love is any different. 

Just use a condom.  Seriously, be safe.  

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Polyamory

On our third date, I met my new beau’s family, or most of it at least.  His two kids (both under three, and adorable), his husband, one of his other partners and his kids–and that’s not even to mention the dogs.  You could hardly accuse these people of a lack of love.  There was plenty to go around.

My beau jokingly said to me that if I wanted to run away screaming, now would be the time.  I’ll admit, part of me wanted to run away, but it wasn’t the poly family: it was me.  It was that feeling I get in the pit of my stomach when I know I’m horribly out of place.  All of these people had found their domestic bliss: partners (plural), kids, pets… things I have apparently sacrificed for the sake of a career, minus some cats.  Not that the opportunity for settling down and starting a family has ever exactly come a-knockin’.  So I said to him what I thinking, “I’m just not sure what I bring to the table.”

I guess that’s always been my concern with poly partners.  What could I possible have to offer that you’re not already getting from your other partners? I know that’s my quirkyalone insecurity speaking; that in some ways being a quirkyalone is the exact opposite of being polyamorous.  My natural state is singledom, and because of that how one even accomplishes polyamory is completely baffling to me.  I have a hard enough time finding one person to date…

I guess the irony is I think I’d have more luck romantically if I were polyamorous.  The traits I’m most concerned with in a sexual/romantic partner (queerness, kink level, fat-acceptance, etc.) all do intersect… but I’ve almost always found that when all those things do show up simultaneously, so does polyamory.  And it’s not like I haven’t tried.

My first encounter with polyamory was with a girl I met in college.  I’d recently come out and gotten dumped by my first girlfriend after just a few short weeks when I met this girl.  We started hanging out, a lot, and it wasn’t long until she was hanging on my arm every time we went out.  I knew she had a boyfriend, so as far as I was concerned she was off limits.  Then she told me she was “polyamorous.”  It was the first time I’d ever heard the term, and she was adamant that it wasn’t about sex, but about having “many loves.”  (My critical opinion many years later: it’s definitely about both.)

Anyhow, under her direction, we started something up because she told me her boyfriends (there were two) were fine with it.  Well, I came to find out that her primary partner did not know about me, and then it became this waiting game where I asked her when she was going to tell him, and got a less realistic answer each time.  “I’ll tell him tomorrow… next week really is better… I’m going to wait until spring break… You know, maybe I’ll just tell him over the summer.”  You can see the writing on the wall.  Without getting too much into the mucky details, he did eventually find out, lots of promises of “never again” were made, and everything went to hell in a hand basket.  Years later I heard through the grapevine that she married someone who doesn’t believe cheating is possible, since he didn’t believe in monogamy.

Lesson I learned from this: Always tell the truth.  No, SERIOUSLY.

My second dance with polyamory was a much better of example of how to successfully maintain multiple relationships at once.  I’d been out of college about six months at this point, living in a new city, and was at a party specifically for queer women.  I didn’t expect anything special to happen (you know, in effort to save myself the disappointment when nothing does happen).  Well, not only did I meet someone that night, but I got in touch with my inner exhibitionist too.  The woman I met that night became my first Mistress, and she taught me much about the kink scene, playing safely, and Top/bottom psychology.  She believed in a discipline model wherein you ignore the behavior you dislike, and reinforce the one you like.  I can’t say this works 100% of the time, in my experience, but I do like the model, especially when dealing with adults.

That relationship eventually ended because of a miscommunication (boy, did I ever feel disposable after that), but she had the poly thing down.  She had her primary partner (who she lived with, but maintained her own bedroom), a girlfriend, a house girl, and whomever else came along that she wanted to play with.  For about six months, I was her “boi.”  But she was open with everyone involved about her relationships, and her consistent partners were part of her “tribe,” as she put it.  I got invited to a tribe brunch once or twice, but I couldn’t help feeling like a bit of a fifth wheel.

Lesson I learned from this (besides the invaluable knowledge about myself as a kinkster and smart/safe play practices): When in doubt, it’s better to communicate too much than not enough.

After Mistress, I did date another poly person, but it was so short-lived that it never became an issue.

So here I am, after several years, venturing into poly world again.  Sometimes I think I ought to try harder.  I seem to love, well, harder than some, and many of my exes have not been able to handle it.  Poly folk, though, are used to a lot of love.  I don’t seem to scare them the same way.  But I’ve never felt drawn to polyamory.  Like, when I heard the term “quirkyalone” or “genderqueer” for the first time, there was something in me that lit up with recognition.  This has never happened with polyamory.   It’s always been something I’ve admired in people who can manage it, but nothing I ever saw as applicable to me.  Since I’ve known about it, I’ve come to the conclusion that some people are just wired for polyamory, just as some are wired for monogamy.

This isn’t to say I don’t believe in open-minded relationships.  If I was with someone and they really wanted to fuck someone else,  I would absolutely want them to come talk to me.  And hey, if you’re back in my bed at the end of the night and you’re safe about it, it’s all fine by me.  I do realize there’s more to a relationship than committing to be sexual with only one person.  People have needs, I get it.  And really, my issue with cheating is that it’s LYING, and also that you’re putting your fluid-bound partner at risk without their knowledge or consent, which is pretty damn screwed up in my book.

So how can I fault the polyamorous?  Sure, there are a few bad eggs, some folks who say they’re poly because it’s easier than trying to get out of an unhappy relationship all together, but they’re the outliers.  Because the whole lifestyle is based on honestly, I’ve generally found that the polyamorous have a much easier time with honesty and open, direct communication than many monogamous couples I know.  (Just as I’ve found kinksters have a much more vibrant and active dialogue around consent than vanilla folks do, since playing requires it.  Sadly, I have many vanilla friends who’ve never even had a conversation about consent with their partner… it’s just assumed… which, at this point in my life, I consider downright disrespectful.  There’s really nothing sexier than asking, in my opinion, at least with a new partner.)

Anyhow… I worry that I’m not going to fit into his family very well.  His day to day life is kids, animals and school.  Mine is work, work and more work.  But I really like him… so it seems worth trying.

He came over later that night.  I made dinner, we cuddled and watched The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, and eventually commenced with the oodles of kissing.  He definitely makes me feel special when we’re together, and isn’t that all a girl could want? It’s all I want, really.  Someone who will accept my love, and make me feel special to them.  The rest is all gravy.

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