amongst books

amongst books

Saturday, May 10, 2008

On being an ethical slut and a love anarchist

I have sex with men for mutual pleasure. That makes me a slut. And I’m comfortable with that word, not in the pejorative sense that society often ascribes but in the sense of being sexually free and taking control of my own choices, taking responsibility and savouring the pleasures of the body, the mind and the heart. Here are some thoughts on how I strive to be both ethical and a slut, rejoicing in my own sexuality while being respectful of and loving toward others. I don’t deny that in this attempt to lead a polyamorous and sexual lifestyle I stumble, I make mistakes and hopefully, I learn.

I do not believe that long-term relationships are always the end goal or the way in which one can gauge a relationship’s success. I enjoy various types of relationships including occasional dates, friendships, ongoing romantic commitments, and life partnerships. A relationship to me is successful if it has provided mutual pleasure. And furthermore, the end of a sexual relationship does not have to mean the severing of all ties; a break up of a sexual relationship can just mean a shift in the relationship.

Sometimes I will experience a connection that makes me want to get to know someone in depth, to become close friends. Even if we become close, I want us to enhance rather than inhibit one another’s lives, be part of each other’s worlds, if possible. The question I always ask when I’m involved with someone is how is he helping me to grow and learn about myself and the world, how am I contributing to his growth and learning? What positive effects can come out of our association? Since I write, I find sex and connection to be very inspiring for my creativity. I am a big romantic sap who will write cheesy love poems and songs and walk around on air, especially if the connection ends up really sparking.

When a spark happens, I let myself fall into an intense romantic crush on a lover. I adore these crushes and I freely use the word “love” to describe them. That’s right, I admit that I fall in love with someone. I want to feel love and I joyfully embrace it and nurture it for as long as it lasts. Love to me doesn’t have anything to do with ownership or control. As Wendy-o-matik says in her book on polyamory (source listed below): “Love is inherently the ability to accept whatever the outcome may be, because there is no outcome that is written in stone or that might still reverse itself five minutes or five years later.”

I believe the world needs more love and less hate and I try to do my part by offering as much love as I can and making myself open to the expression and experience of love. I am more beautiful when I am in love. You are more beautiful when you are in love.

A crush can be short-lived or longer and it’s delightful and satisfying and damn scary even or especially if the crush is reciprocated. [Sometimes it’s fun to have unconsummated sweet old fashioned crushes...such as the one I have for a certain singer/songwriter;)]

In romantic crush mode, I have to watch out for my own and my lovers’ outbreaks of insecurity, neediness and desperation. We are all at our most fragile and vulnerable in romantic crush mode and I know myself well enough to see that I can make colossal mistakes when I’m crushing on someone. I’m trying to get better at this. One of the ways I deal with all of this is to communicate to my lovers and to my friends. I know I’ve cried on a few shoulders over the years when a relationship has become dysfunctional. It helps to have a supportive group of friends/family.

I believe in living for today, for the moment and celebrating it. I want to give and receive joy and pleasure and comfort and be great friends with lovers without any sense of obligation, but rather to understand that each time we are together it is a choice we both make. To be chosen and to choose someone are lovely experiences; to be stuck with someone or to feel like someone is stuck with me is the ultimate ugly experience. I won’t put anyone in that situation and I won’t be put in that situation.

In fact I don’t want to hurt my lovers or bring them harm or hurt anyone who is close to them and I don’t want to be hurt or harmed by them or have them hurt anyone who is close to me; however, if we do hurt one another, I want us to work it out, to forgive one another and move on to whatever stage our relationship naturally takes us. Often facing the hurt and resolving it can lead to catharsis, honesty and a stronger relationship.

If there are risks, I want us to identify them together and to avoid or minimize them as much as possible. I want every part of our coming together to be consensual. I want us to be honest with one another and ourselves.

I do not believe that there is such a thing as too much sex.

I do not believe I have the right to control anyone or that anyone has the right to control me.

I am capable of jealousy, and when that happens, I allow myself to feel it, I communicate it to my lover and that alleviates it or it turns out to be some other issue that i need to identify. It’s often a case of insecurity. I want to know about my lover’s jealousies and help him through them.

When I manage to rise above this jealousy, I can feel what is called compersion for my lover. That means that I can be happy for him if he is involved with someone, I feel a kind of sympathetic joy. I’m rooting for him and on his side, in other words. I derive a feeling of universal compassion and unconditional love. It’s a transcendent feeling that makes me feel at one with the universe.

I am not interested in having sex outside my relationship with Charles because of any inadequacies in our relationship, but because I love sex and I love connection. And in fact, different types of relationships satisfy different facets of my personality and my desires. No one person can satisfy every desire or need.

One of the advantages for me in my situation is that I have a stable and committed relationship with Charles. This enables me to indulge in moments of passion and instability with others, if we so desire. I can also have structured relationships with others. I’m an all purpose kinda girl and come in (on?) many different packages, so to speak ;)

I strive to understand that I am whole already; the fundamental sexual unit is one person; I shouldn’t need another person to complete me. This is an area I’m still working on, I admit. I see that I am rather reliant on others for self-validation and it worries me. In my heart I know, as a good friend recently told me, that life is my lover. I do believe that personal fulfillment comes from loving oneself and sharing that love with others. As I said, I’m working on it.

I believe that romantic love, desire, intimacy and connection are not finite but infinite. The more I receive, the more I have to give, and the more I give, the more I receive in return.

Time is something that I need to juggle in order to take full advantage of my polyamorous lifestyle and to ensure that I give and receive love and desire to all who I care about and who care for me. This isn’t any different from parents with multiple children, extended families, or even busy single people trying to date. We all have priorities and obligations and they must be taken into account. I love and need to spend time with the people I love. I have a family of close friends, not all of whom are in sexual relationships with me, and they are also very important to me. So I tend to need to schedule.

Communication is essential for this to work out. I need to communicate with those who wish to be a part of my life and receive communication in return. A lack of communication leads to confusion, uncertainty, my wild imagination will overreact and I will become insecure. I will not be able to make plans with all the various parties in my extended family and that will make it difficult for me to lead the lifestyle I want to lead and to support my family. Silence is a relationship stumbling block for me, unless the reasons for it have been communicated or my lover has alleviated my insecurities somehow.

One of the surprising benefits to being in an open relationship is that it has increased my intimacy with Charles and with others. We learn more about one another through our involvement with others. In an ideal world, lovers would know and enjoy one another’s company, take on supportive and nurturing roles in one another’s lives. That hasn’t happened too much, but it does happen for me from time to time. And I love that.

From this lifestyle I gain

sexual variety
a sense of belonging and connection with others
an expansion in my knowledge about people
personal freedom, independence and responsibility
evidence & reassurance that the world is not as cold and lonely as it seems

In order for my lifestyle to work I need to

communicate
be emotionally honest, that means asking for reassurance and support from my lovers and offering them the same
receive and give affection
honour my commitments, respect my friends and lovers
have a clear understanding of my limits
plan
know myself
own my own feelings and not blame anyone else for them
love others based on respect and warmth, not desperation and neediness
respect boundaries
listen and be listened to
let go of learned behaviour about conventional relationships
trust in myself and others
enjoy my own company
make responsible decisions about sexual health

I care as much about my lovers needs as my own and I want to make sure that their needs are being met, that any issues are dealt with openly and honestly.

My own rules with Charles are that we are respectful, supportive and communicative with each other and that we treat our lovers the same. We work hard to ensure that there is no hierarchy. If either or both of us has a lover, we treat that person as part of our life, meaning we don’t automatically prioritize our own time together. We have to adapt to the ever-changing rhythms and patterns of our fluid relationships. We are careful never to let each other feel abandoned or neglected and the same goes with our lovers. We both have enough love to give that we can nurture our own relationship and our relationships with others.

I should say that I respect other people’s choice to be monogamous or whatever other choice they make about their sexuality and lifestyle and that all I have said is about my choices and no one else’s. I celebrate your choice to lead a consensual relationship with whomever you choose, and if necessary I would defend it with words, but not with sword, since I save my thrusts and parries for other activities.

Thanks to “the Ethical Slut, A guide to infinite sexual possibilities” by Dossie Easton and Catherine A. Liszt (Greenery Press, 1997). This book has served as reference in the construction of this quasi-manifesto and is one of the books that I return to again and again in my quest to understand myself, share myself with others and articulate what it means to be polyamorous à l’Amanda.

If you are interested in learning more about polyamoury, or “polyamory” (US spelling), I recommend the above book, available in Ottawa at Venus Envy and elsewhere all over, including on line. Other sources I’ve found useful are...

Wendy-o-matik, “Redefining Our Relationships: Guidelines for Responsible Open Relationships” (2002)

the alt polyamory FAQs page

the Polyamory Society

Polyamory: A Mono/Poly Dialog

Polyamory in the news


Rachel Kramer Bussel, “The Case for Open Marriage”

8 comments:

doug said...

I love this ideal. This is well written and sweet spirited. I was young in the sixties and did a lot of experimenting. I found that the comfort level in open relationships varies with who leaves first, etc.

Tough. We are complicated and as yet unfinished folks.

Cheers,

D

Trisia said...

Thanks for sharing those resources, Amanda...they're not easy to come by!

Amanda said...

thanks most kindly for your comments, Doug and Trisia :)

trickydame said...

Thanks for sharing because sometimes I do feel like I'm all alone in my ideas of relationship - - although I know I'm not!! I heard Wendy O'Matic speak once and I was so happy to hear her call herself a "radical love activist" ... she's not the only one ! YEAH ... we do need more love!

Sharing sexual energy with other human beings is one way to celebrate love!

Magic Passion Love !

Amanda said...

thanks for commenting, TD. i was fortunate to take a poly workshop by Wendy O'Matic a few years ago & it was fabuloso. i'm looking forward to reading your blog :)

Mark McCawley said...

A wonderfully informative blog, Amanda. Especially the section about being happy for someone you love and care for finding joy and ecstasy in the arms of another. Very special, indeed. A rich life is full of many such relationships, not just one. Jealousy is just another word for insecurity.

Amanda said...

thanks, Mark. it's hard to be poly in a monorail world though. there simply aren't enough tracks, so i tend to derail.

Mark McCawley said...

Yes. We have all derailed at one time or other. I don't know if it's human nature, but at least in North American culture, people are encouraged to covet and possess from the earliest age; this ultimately leads to the coveting and possessing of people as well. I tip my hat to Charles for knowing that if you truly love someone, you must let them be the free and independent spirits they were born to be; even if that means acknowledging that, as a man, or a friend, or as a husband, you will never be all things to your spouse, or friend, or lover - and only other people can supply these... Sympathetic love: excellent term for it, Amanda. Perhaps it is about reaching one's emotional maturity (late 30s/early 40s) which finally allows such sympathetic love to finally blossom from the mad jealousness so often found in the young...