Polyamory, bisexuality and maybe even some atheism

Jenny’s Open Book April 23, 2008

Writer and journalist (and wonderfully supportive, positive person) Jenny Block has a new book coming out in June called Open: Love, Sex & Life in an Open Marriage (Seal Press, 2008). According to her website, in her book,

Block explores the nature of the open relationship, why it works for her, why it makes sense for her and her husband, and why it makes so many people uncomfortable. This is not a memoir of cheating and regret, nor is it a glorification or cure-all. It’s a frank discussion of a practice that’s more common and popular than most people are willing to acknowledge. Open also touches upon swinging (which Block doesn’t do), polyamory (she is currently in a polyamorous situation with her existing relationships), and the various ways in which open marriage works for different couples.

One of the quotes on her website also points out that Jenny is part of only a minuscule group of women who write about their sexuality under their own names. While it is sad that so many of us even in the blogging world (myself included) find it necessary to shield ourselves behind pseudonyms, I am glad that there are people like Jenny out there who have the guts (and the freedom) to lay claim to their own stories, good or bad.

The first chapter of the book is available as a PDF here. I read it recently and had to stop halfway through to go tell Jenny how spot-on I thought she was in her analysis of the conflicting messages imparted to girls. The way she does it is wonderful as well. She uses her own story extensively – the book is, after all, about her own experience – but she relates it to the larger experience of growing up female in a certain strata of society (in global terms). In doing that, she nevertheless avoids solipsism and turns out what I think will prove to be an extremely relevant exploration of a subject that, as her website points out, everyone seems to think about but nobody actually addresses head on. I, for one, am glad she’s stepped up to the challenge and I look forward to reading her book as soon as it comes out.


I get like this sometimes April 17, 2008

Filed under: Bisexuality,Lust,Sex,Sexuality — Araliya @ 6:05 pm
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I woke up thinking of her this morning. I was snuggled up with H and we’d been cuddling in the haze that precedes wakefulness. I felt safe and warm and loved and fully aware that it was his arms holding me – nobody else touches or feels like that. There was nowhere else I wanted to be.

But I was thinking of her too. The way she looked last night. The way I caught myself staring a few times. The way my chest constricted whenever I caught her looking back. For the first time, I began to suspect that she may not be straight, but then I shook it off. Obviously, I want to think that and that alone is enough to throw off my gaydar but good. But she’s sweet and friendly and there were moments when we connected and started to approach, but the room was big and people wanted to talk to us about different things so we couldn’t. And then it was time to go and she asked me if I’d be there next time and I said yes, definitely, and she said oh good.

When I got out of bed, I went and re-read Jen‘s post on the ‘look’. She says:

…Inside that look a million messages are transferred in a frozen moment in time – but all the messages can be reduced to the exact same thing.


…want to talk to her, date her, kiss her, possess her, touch her, dance with her, fuck her, drown in her, caress her, make love to her, discover her deepest thoughts and secret dreams…want to know more, to learn what makes her heart beat quicker, to know how she tastes and what she sounds like when she comes…want to hear what she is afraid of, what her favorite TV show is, what she is doing on Saturday night…want her to look back…want her to want in return…

Yes. Exactly. That. All of it.

Jen’s was one of the first blogs I read (from beginning to end) before I started my own. I found her through Mortar and Pestle, another blog that served as inspiration to go ahead and write ‘out loud’, so to speak. I also discovered Melissa Ferrick through her and have spent the whole day listening to her stuff. Just what I needed, really. I’m in no mood to listen to men singing about women and women singing about men. Not today.

It’s funny how familiar the person you’re obsessing over begins to look. I love her face – I’m generally quite happy with the way I look, but she has exactly the kind of face I’ve always wanted/thought was the absolute definition of beauty. I find myself memorizing her expressions, her mannerisms, her voice, repeating them in my head so they’ll stick. I caught myself speaking like her just a while ago. It was a little thing, but it stayed with me.

But it’s the little things that get you. They creep in unnoticed and by the time you become aware of them, there are too many to get rid of and they’re already joining forces, taking over. My head’s full of images. Her laughing, arguing with someone, raising her eyebrows when she’s making a point, asking a question, saying hello, sipping a drink, being nice to someone who’s irritating her, slipping her arms into her jacket, walking away. She looks both strong and fragile. Her voice catches and trembles sometimes. I love watching her wrapping herself up before she steps out about as much as I like watching her peel it off – perhaps more.

I feel vaguely happy today. Vaguely high. I wish I weren’t so easily…what? Distracted (from everything else I should be doing, that is)? Enchanted? Obsessed? I don’t know. But if I’m going to be in this funny state, I suppose I may as well enjoy it while it lasts.


intentions, assumptions, stupidity, and validation April 13, 2008

Filed under: Figuring it out,Sex — Araliya @ 7:10 pm
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I don’t quite know where to begin this. I’ve had both a great and a shitty week all at once. Actually, on balance, it’s been more good stuff than bad, but the bad was quite spectacularly so, at least for me, and has taken a while to get out of my system.

Earlier in the week, I went out with a group of people from work that included a (straight) man that I quite like. He’s interesting to talk to and not unattractive so it promised to be a fun evening, though I’d told H to expect me home relatively early. Things were pleasant and fun so I ended up staying later than I had originally planned and we moved to another bar nearby. And then it all went sour. The guy had far too much to drink and began to ask me why exactly I’d come along when he’d invited me. He was also by then expressing an interest in a young woman in our group (and by ‘expressing an interest’ I mean ‘slobbering all over’) who wasn’t averse to his attentions. Perhaps that made him more cocky or something. I don’t know. But anyway, he basically first set up the situation as my having come out with the express purpose of bedding him, and then announced that he didn’t want to fuck me. He prefaced the statement with a litany of my virtues, which, in retrospect, only made the whole thing more annoying.

For various reasons, I did not empty my drink in his face and crack him over the head with the glass, though I had a brief vision of doing exactly that. I think there was an ice bucket nearby that could have made a handy bludgeon and, had I been as drunk as the other two, I might even have swung it. Unfortunately, I tend to stop drinking when I’m pleasantly buzzed so I was relatively more clear headed than the one-man judge and jury.

I was not clear headed enough, however, to avoid being completely confused. This was hardly the first time I’d gone out casually with friends for a drink but nobody had made this sort of assumption or leveled this kind of accusation at me before. So I thought:

1. Had I said or done something to indicate that I was interested in this man? I didn’t think so. I don’t really flirt much even when I’m very interested and the conversation had been mostly work-related anyway. No double entendres, no come-ons, nothing beyond exactly the same friendly attitude as towards the other people present. In fact, I think the object of his interest and I had touched more than anyone else (she’s an affectionate sort and I have no objection to attractive women touching me).

2. Was I interested? I realized I had been at the start of the evening – as I said, he’s both attractive and interesting – but

3. did that mean that I actually wanted to have sex with him? Right then? No. Without exception I hate drunk men. I will not have sex with a drunk person. In order to avoid sex when drunk, I also avoid getting drunk in the first place (unless I’m with people I trust completely). But even with the intoxication removed from the equation, I still would not have wanted to make things sexual at such an early stage. I knew him only slightly from work, and while I may have found him attractive, I don’t blithely hop into bed with just anyone, regardless of how hot they are.

4. Did my presence there at the end of the evening constitute interest? I hadn’t thought it did. In fact, I had gone along precisely because there were three of us, not two, and because, for various very good personal and professional reasons, I assumed all of us were off limits to each other.

And then I remembered another important detail. My underwear. When getting dressed, I had for a moment considered wearing my favorite lacy pair because they make me feel sexy, but then opted for a plain comfy pair, thinking, “I’m going out with people from work. Why bother?”

This may seem like a lot of agonizing over something a drunk idiot said, but his assumptions sent me for a loop. They made me question my own intentions and made me wonder if I was actually giving not just him but other people the wrong idea somehow.

I did eventually respond to his question with the simple answer that, at least up until he turned into an asshole, I was there simply because I enjoyed talking to him and nothing more. He went a bit quiet after that, then returned to slobbering over the girl (who’d turned bright red during his speech and looked like she wanted to be anywhere but there at that moment). Unfortunately, given that it was well past midnight, the street was empty of cars and crawling with drunks and derelicts, and that I did not know the area at all, I had to stay put till we got kicked out of the place when it closed. I suppose I could have called for a ride home, but they’d already called last drinks and the only thing worse than going out there alone right then would have been waiting there alone after the place closed. Plus, I realized that my presence was bothering the idiot – though not the girl – and I figured that if I could increase his discomfort by staying put, why not? So I sat back turned slightly towards them and finished my drink slowly while they made out. I have to say it was pretty juvenile – there’s a reason I keep calling it slobbering – and I began to find the situation a bit silly by the end of it. I was still quite angry though and also pretty upset at the assumption and the unwarranted rejection as well. I mean, it sucks, but I know how to deal with rejection in response to an actual overture on my part. But how do you respond to an uninvited rejection? Imagine I randomly say to you, in the middle of a conversation about photography, “You’re lovely and interesting and all that, but I don’t want to fuck you.” What the…?

Anyway, we left shortly after that, with the girl being quite sweet about getting me home. I told H the whole stupid story and then spent the following day sleeping it off . Over the course of the day of recovery, I realized that I’d really done nothing to be embarrassed about. I mean, if anyone ought to be sheepish, it should be the idiot who got inebriated, insulted a workmate and took advantage of a dippy young woman, don’tcha think? Yet, much to my irritation, I was still dreading running into him and it was mostly because H tempted me with a lunch date that I went back to work the following day.

And I ended up having a great day. I did not run into the idiot, but I did meet up with another bunch of people for a drink after work. (Honestly, I don’t actually consume that much alcohol. Everyone I know just congregates in bars.) And when I say people, I mean mostly men. Unlike the other night, we directly discussed sexuality and I, for the first time outside of queer groups and my immediate circle, actually mentioned in conversation (though not all at the same time) that I was bi, married, and not monogamous (some of which was expressed as “Hey, me too! Cool. *grin*). Then we said goodbye and went our separate ways.

The following night, I went out again, this time with people from a local queer group and, again, the atmosphere was completely different. Most were bi, some were poly and all of them were casually affectionate but there was no pressure and again no assumptions. I almost didn’t go, but, again, H practically forced me out the door, bless him, and I came back floating and happy. Not because I hooked up with anyone but because I didn’t and wasn’t expected to, even though I ended up staying there late talking with one of the men (there were only two other women there to begin with and they left early).

I know I’m comparing apples and oranges here in a way, and I am resisting translating this into some kind of pronouncement on why I prefer hanging out with queer people because I am aware that the plural of ‘anecdote’ is not ‘data’ and, really, there were other elements in the first situation that didn’t exist in the other two. Nobody got stupidly drunk on either of the two other occasions, for one, and, for another, the individuals involved were different. It is likely that if you add the copious amounts of alcohol, the late hour, and the personalities that were present on the first night to either of the other two, stupid assumptions might have been made there as well. But the fact is, they weren’t. The fact is that I’m looking forward to seeing both of the other groups of people next week. The fact is that the connections I made on the other two nights may develop into pleasant acquaintances and even good friendships. The funny thing, though, is that it is, in a way, thanks to that asshole on the first night that I can honestly say that this is really all I want. Everything else can develop in its own time.


Who needs to know, redux April 10, 2008

I’ve found myself in a few situations lately where I’ve wondered whether I should bring up my bisexuality or polyamory. All of these situations were safe and most were just random discussions that wandered into the area of sexuality for a time. But how safe is any situation? (And by ‘safe’ I mean socially and emotionally – physical safety is assumed or I wouldn’t be there).

When a gay girl says something disparaging about bisexuality, is it really worth the effort to jump in? What if the comment isn’t simply ignorant but malicious? Am I, by staying silent, helping to perpetuate whatever negative stereotype is being paraded? And by jumping in, am I necessarily ‘owning up’ to being bisexual? Do I need to do so in order to make my point more effectively or can I simply defend the idea of bisexuality, let everyone else come to their own conclusions, and only identify myself as bi when or if someone asks directly?

What about polyamory? Bisexuality – even though it is unique in the LGBTIQ lineup in that it keeps the sex-meaning-fucking part front and centre, thereby making people more uncomfortable than less obviously sexual words like ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ or sex-meaning-plumbing words like ‘transsexual’ and ‘intersex’ – refers to orientation whereas polyamory refers more directly to mostly sexual/amorous practice (or potential practice). Bisexuality also has a higher profile than polyamory and therefore, even though the assumptions made may not be to one’s liking, saying that one is bisexual doesn’t really require very many explanations. Whatever they think of it, people pretty much have an idea of what it is. Polyamory, on the other hand, is relatively less known and therefore can require more explanation. Plus people have far more ‘morality’ issues with it than with bisexuality because while bisexuality may challenge the binary paradigm to some extent, people can digest it as being a kind of alternating serial monogamy. Polyamory is a far more direct challenge and can therefore – running with the alimentary imagery for a second – tend stick in their craw.

I have, on occasion, spoken up and, each time, have received that side-on, questioning-assessing look from both straight and gay people. Nobody said anything and, to be fair, some people didn’t really seem to care either way, or were generally accepting of what I had to say, so it’s not all bad, but I wonder still about the further-reaching effects of the assumptions made by those who did take note. My work involves interaction with people at what can be a fairly personal level, and I don’t want those assumptions about sexuality and promiscuity to affect it. The only way to address that is to address it directly, but that isn’t guaranteed to work because people generally don’t want to talk about other people’s sexual practice unless they’re directly involved or want to be (and sometimes not even then), and such discussions can end up leading to even more erroneous assumptions because your listeners are filtering what you’re saying through their own understanding of what you’re talking about.

The other thing is that I like hearing people’s perspectives on sex, sexual politics, sexuality, queer theory, and so on, so I end up in these discussions relatively often and I don’t particularly want to stop. But then they go all wobbly and weird and I don’t know whether I should step in and right them – or attempt to – and in the process set myself up for more scrutiny than I’d necessarily like or just let them run out of steam.So, I thought I’d ask the lovely people who stop by here.

In such situations, what would or do you do and what kind of effect, if any, would or does that have on your life?


Meeting People April 5, 2008

Filed under: Figuring it out,Polyamory — Araliya @ 10:42 am
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I took Freaksexual’s advice and went along to a poly gathering the other day. It was just a friendly, relaxed catch-up at the pub and since a few people I knew from another group were going I decided to take the plunge. And it was actually a lot of fun. I’d planned to stay maybe an hour at the most and ended up leaving three and a half hours later. I met some lovely people and while there were maybe one or two people there that I might possibly be interested in somewhere down the line (as well as a few to whom my first reaction was oh god I hope I never see you naked), it wasn’t about ‘finding’ someone anyway.

H couldn’t come along this time and now I really wish he had because I was basically with a room full of people who seemed to extend the same acceptance and general goodwill that he usually projects. Obviously I wasn’t expecting it to be a closed, schoolyard-type situation but I didn’t expect such a huge welcome either.

I loved the range of people too – everything from people in fetish gear to Hawaiian-print shirts, professors to service industry workers; foreigners, locals, different races (for once!), different belief systems, transfolk, bi folk, straights, gays, young people, older people, whatever. Sounds like some kind of utopia, doesn’t it? And yes my view of it may have been a tad rose-filtered given that I’m brand new and don’t therefore know any of the issues that people are bound to have with each other, but I certainly didn’t pick up on any undercurrents around where I was. It helped though that this lovely woman monopolized me for a bit until her boyfriend showed up with other people who joined us. They, plus the people I knew already, formed a sort of current – they’d drift off and then drift back so I’d always be moving with a few people.

As the evening wore on, people turned to cuddling and snogging, which, while lovely to see, I didn’t really feel like participating in – well, OK, I didn’t exactly refuse the cuddles offered; I love cuddles – so I left amid promises to come to the next gathering and keep in touch, etc.

The funny thing was, on the way home, I suddenly got butterflies in the pit of my stomach and this load of doubt just hit me out of nowhere. I wanted to crawl into my bed and hide for a few days, or forever really. Everyone there had seemed so together, so sure, so happy, even, and I felt a bit like an impostor, someone who’d talked her way into perhaps more than she could deal with. I felt much better when I told H about it and went over how much I liked the people I met, but that breathless feeling kept jumping out at me for quite a while after. It stopped eventually and I was left with just the good bits, but at the time I was completely blindsided by it.

It did help to consider that, given that I’m a bit of an introvert, being in and surrounded by a crowd for over three hours – irrespective of the friendliness of said crowd – took a lot more effort than I realized. H also pointed out that I appear just as together and sure of myself to people who are even newer to this than I am. What was possibly freaking me out was that the people I met were simply ahead of me and I didn’t know if I could or would measure up. That does tend to be an issue for me – not feeling ‘good enough’ sometimes – but it’s more a niggling doubt than something that can be debilitating. The trick is, if you wait out the fear, usually, it’ll settle into something more like respect, which can then help you move forward.

In my case, that means going to the next gathering. I’m actually already looking forward to it.


He loves me April 1, 2008

Filed under: Figuring it out,Polyamory — Araliya @ 6:01 pm
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Ok, so I’m not generally given to emotional outbursts of this nature, but it’s just true. I’ve been wanting to write something on here for a while now but things have been piling up and it’s all a bit of a jumble in my head at the moment. H and I have been doing more talking. Talking is good, particularly because not talking leads to assumptions about the other person’s opinions and emotional state that actually reflect your own feelings, not theirs. I’d been holding back because he’s under a lot of pressure with work and I didn’t want to badger him. He’d been holding back because he knows I’m trying to work things out in my head and he didn’t want to badger me into talking before I was ready.

So once we got over that and agreed to put everything else on hold for a bit while we had our discussion, we ended up going over some old ground as well as venturing into some new territory. It’s important, I think, to cover stuff you’ve already covered – opinions and feelings change with new information after all and it’s good to check that you’re still on the same page. So I asked once again whether he felt pressured into going along with my exploration of the non-monogamy thing, whether he felt slighted or upset or anything by it and was hiding it to avoid making me feel bad about making him feel bad. Yes, we overdo the second-guessing a bit, I realize, but I’d rather backtrack a hundred times than actually hurt him. So I do. Backtrack, that is.

The answer, as before, was no, he wasn’t feeling coerced and that he was in fact proud of me for getting up the guts to finally explore this aspect of myself. He doesn’t think it’s for him personally (though I did point out that, should he want to give it a go, I’d support him too) but he’s ok with me being polyamorous. It’s funny, every time I think I know all the different ways in which H is amazing, I’m surprised by something new and even more amazing. I’m touched that he trusts me like this. This is not the marriage that he envisioned, I know that for sure, but he’s willing to go along with me as I work it into a shape that’s more of a fit for me, which makes me want to ensure that it fits him too. But that he should already trust me to do so is just…well, I’ve already used the word amazing, but that’s what it is.

Speaking of shapes, what we’ve agreed to try on is this: our marriage remains our primary relationship and I can explore and invest in other relationships outside it. That’s very, very general and I wanted to add conditions – such as not staying out all night, not bringing anyone home, prioritizing so that plans with H take precedence over other plans (which isn’t to say that I’d cancel without notice just because he said so, but for planning purposes) , safer sex (which I kind of assume is a given, but still worth articulating in the interest of clarity), always letting him know where I am and being reachable, discussing any new interest with him first to establish boundaries, etc. – but he thought that could wait while I sorted it out in my head first. It’s all hypothetical anyway at this stage and I have no idea how long it’ll be before it actually gets translated into practice.

Then, being evil, he added casually that, should I find myself in a situation with BC where things could get interesting that I should simply text him to say so and then go right ahead. Sounds big of him, huh? Except that, horrible, horrible person that he is, he painted an incredibly cringe-worthy scenario. I can imagine writers of teen romances everywhere wishing they’d come up with it. I shall spare you the gory details but suffice it to say that he made me turn beet red, which is quite an accomplishment as I don’t blush much or easily.

All things considered though, I’m incredibly grateful to be with a man whose response to my fancying other people is to *tease me about it*.