Polyamory, bisexuality and maybe even some atheism

Discussions of “Sex at Dawn” December 5, 2011

Filed under: Definitions,Monogamy,Politics of sexuality,Polyamory — Araliya @ 3:14 pm

First things first. I have not yet read this book. It’s on my list and I will get to it eventually, but I have way too much on my plate at the moment.

However, I’ve been hearing about it for the better part of this year and it has piqued my curiosity. Today, I came across a post by Emily Nagoski on the subject, which is why it’s in my head. Her post was interesting, as always (go read it), and I’m writing this post mostly because I liked her negative take on it (seriously, go read it) and because I wanted to record my comment here.

I said

[snip]I’m polyamorous and quite a few people I know have been telling me this book is fantastic because it ‘proves’ that we were ‘meant’ to be polyamorous. I haven’t had the time to read it myself yet, but statements like that set off my BS sensors.

I agree with the statement above (actually I agree with all of them) that this is the good old appeal-to-authority fallacy in action. If it’s ‘natural’ then we can’t help it, which means we are not the “bad” people that flouting convention makes us. Way to get yourselves off the hook.

Personally, I’d rather take active responsibility for my life and choices.

The breathless buzz about this book, specially in poly circles, irks me. It suggests that people are desperately hungry for justification and validation and that their own ability to reason isn’t good enough. Now, everyone has a different level of confidence in themselves and a lack of confidence is not really the worst thing ever. I can have all the confidence in the world and still make a stupid decision – it’s not about that. What pisses me off is that people aren’t prepared to own their decisions.

I think that polyamory is right for me. I made the choice to be polyamorous after a lot of thought and a lot of discussion with H. We decided that it sounded reasonable and was worth trying. Then we read some more and talked to more people and got to know the community and kept checking in with each other to make sure it was still ok. Now, years later, I can say that it worked. I’m happy, H is happy, my other partners are happy. There have been ups and downs, of course, and not all my relationships have lasted, but that’s life.

But I also know that for all that effort and reasoning and care, I may yet fall flat on my face. Knowing what I do and knowing myself, I can only say that I don’t think that will happen, but I have no guarantee. And that’s ok. I’m doing the best I can to the best of my knowledge. I don’t need someone to pat me on the head and tell me that I’m doing what I’m ‘programmed’ to do (unless that happens to be reasoning, thinking and acting responsibly. And even then, you pat my head at your own risk.). That is patronizing and deeply offensive. But more importantly, this kind of biological determinism is also potentially harmful because it effectively absolves us of responsibility for our actions. It suggests that we can’t help doing these things and that we have no control over our own lives and inclinations. From where I sit, that’s a whole lot of hooey.

(To be updated once I’ve read the book. Probably next year.)


Poly and newly-marrieds September 5, 2008

Filed under: Monogamy,Polyamory — Araliya @ 1:40 am
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I feel a strange reluctance to talk about polyamory – to even mention it – to people who are about to get married and want to talk to me, the long-married friend, about it. I don’t know what it is. I personally don’t see marriage as the be-all end-all of a relationship. It’s just another optional step along the way as far as I’m concerned. But I suppose I think that marriage is a much more loaded concept for those about to start one than for most other people and I while I’m happy to discuss marriage and poly as ideas with people who are either single or have been married a while, those on the threshhold seem to have a very emotional, almost brittle, relationship with marriage and I don’t want to stress it any further. Which of course could be a complete projection of my own negative feelings towards the institution and ultimately have nothing to do with the almost-marrieds themselves.


Freaksexual March 25, 2008

Freaksexual is a wonderful blog I found (via Bitchy Jones) in which Pepper deals intelligently and accessibly with issues surrounding polyamory and sexuality. The entries are more essays than posts but please don’t let their length put you off. They’re excellent reading regardless of how well acquainted you are with polyamory, but they’re particularly valuable if, like me, you’re just starting out with this whole non-monogamy thing. You could start with the latest post or start at the beginning or however you do it, but I’d recommend you make reading “Polyamory is not about the sex, except when it is” a priority either way.


Getting ‘involved’ February 24, 2008

Filed under: Bisexuality,Figuring it out,Lust,Monogamy — Araliya @ 11:20 am
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I look at women. No, I mean I look at women. I look at their mouths, their eyes, their hands, their breasts, their curves and lines. I listen to their voices, their accents, their speech, their laughter. If I can, I’ll get close enough to get a whiff of their hair or skin, make contact for a second. Sometimes, at some point, a woman looks back.

And that’s when I run.

Something in my head flips reality back on and I back off. You’re married, says my brain. You can’t get involved. So, over the protests of my lips and my skin and my cunt, I withdraw. Because my brain, you see, has a point. I am not free to get entangled with a woman and, without some kind of investment like that, I can’t see myself being with one. A man, yes. A man, I could just fuck once and never think of again. Knowing me, I probably wouldn’t even think of him while I fucked him.

Maybe it’s just the security heterosexuality gives you. It’s a given that men and women want to and will have sex with each other, so pretty much every kind of hookup is ‘normal’. There are endless acceptable variations to the dynamic between men and women – even the ones that are a bit out there still have a veneer of acceptability because they involve the right kind and number of people.

In contrast, if you have the ‘wrong’ kind (or number) of people, you’re immediately taking more of a risk, making yourself more vulnerable. As someone who can retreat into the safety of being ‘normal’, I think it would be unfair to ask someone to take that risk unless I do too. “I’m married so I can’t possibly be queer.” may be transparently disingenuous, but it can still be said and accepted, if not believed.

I can see why gay girls stay the hell away from bisexuals. From the interactions I’ve had and the conversations I’ve observed both online and in real life, I’ve understood that bisexuals are seen as predatory, unreliable and insincere. Some make the argument political, but for most it’s about being the more vulnerable person in the relationship. Being female and South Asian already, I really, really, don’t want to enter into a situation where I have to proffer even more explanations about who and what I am.

The solution, it seems, is to seek out other bisexual women because at least they’ll get where I’m coming from. Not as easy as it sounds, that, given that bisexuals make up an even smaller minority of what is already a pretty small minority in the queer world. And they’re harder to spot. My gaydar is pretty spot-on for both men and women, but bisexuals don’t seem to trip it.

And then of course we’re back to the “you can’t seek anybody out, missy, because you’re married.” I don’t cheat. I don’t want to lie and hide because I don’t think this is something that needs to be lied about and hidden, because I don’t think that there’s anything inherently wrong with it in the first place. Unfortunately though, that means that until I can expand the terms of my marriage, nothing can happen.

H and I have talked about it previously but since it’s an uncomfortable topic, nothing much has come of it. In some way, I think I’m hoping this blog will help us sort some of it out. He’s always known about my bisexuality – I’ve never made a secret of it and he’s never had an issue with it. We just sort of went along with the joke that all being bisexual really means is that there’s twice as many people in the world you’ll never have sex with. Five years on, I’m not so convinced.

Sometimes, I wish it were simply that monogamy wasn’t working for me and that I wanted to have sex with other men because I could do that without threatening the emotional base of my marriage. I can’t fathom keeping a woman at that kind of emotional distance. And that would have ‘implications’ that I don’t know if we’re equipped to deal with.


The first step February 21, 2008

Filed under: Bisexuality,Monogamy — Araliya @ 11:48 am
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Pinning down what this is about is proving a bit difficult, mainly because I’m not entirely sure myself. So I thought I’d start at one kind of beginning and go from there.

When we were about six years old, my best friend and I told our parents that we wanted to get married to each other when we grew up. It made perfect sense to us because we couldn’t see why girls could only go out with boys when boys were so smelly and noisy. We were promptly ‘separated’, which was a bit stupid considering we went to school together, but it did mean that we could no longer run over to the other’s house when we wanted to play and that, after we were allowed to see each other again – shortly before I moved away – our mothers always hovered nearby, as if waiting for something to happen. What, exactly, was never explained to us but we understood somehow that touching each other would be a bad idea; ‘bad’ not because we thought there was anything wrong with it, but because other people would not like it and might punish and separate us again. And by touching, I mean holding hands and kissing a bit, which we discovered was quite a pleasant thing to do, but not something I would call sexual at all. We were six. It felt nice. That was it.

I wonder if it would have been better or worse for me if I had told them that, honorable intentions towards my little girlfriend aside, I also had crushes on a few boys. Older boys, of course, since most of the hygiene-challenged creatures my age were my friends and didn’t look like anything one was supposed to have crushes on. But talking about boys – even just friends – was another taboo, so I kept quiet.

That pattern has remained pretty constant since then. There are certain kinds of men who make my knees go all wobbly, but my interest in them is purely sexual and I have no desire to get to know them (other than biblically, as it were). There are others that I have very loving, intimate friendships with, but with whom I don’t want the hassle and politics of a sexual relationship. Basically, with men, sex is sex, love is love and while it’s wonderful when the two coincide, it’s not necessary. I’ve never actively looked for a man to fuck or love or be friends with either. It just happens. All the bloody time.

Women, on the other hand, are a more complicated proposition mainly because I can’t switch off the emotional attachment in favor of the sexual. That doesn’t mean I don’t have purely platonic relationships with women – in fact, I have almost nothing but. The few relationships that have been anything like sexual have been extremely intense and wonderful but largely unfruitful because ultimately the risk, both personal and social, of going there, has been too huge.

So I’ve dithered.

And while dithering, I have landed myself not just in another straight relationship, but in a marriage. A wonderful, warm, loving, intense, committed, non-restrictive, happy marriage, yes, but also one that is entirely monogamous. If you would like to virtually whack me upside the head, please feel free to do so.

It’s not that I have a problem with commitment – I have no desire to end my relationship with my husband (henceforth H). But I do have a problem with monogamy. I think it’s too much to ask of a person to be all things to another. And, like it or not, we do all go outside our primary relationships for something, be it intellectual stimulation, fun, emotional support, or whatever, so why the restriction on sex? Neither of us wants children, so there are no potential paternity, pregnancy or child-rearing issues and no social fallout for potential children to worry about. We’re not possessive or jealous – we are both very comfortably with members of the opposite sex, sometimes more so than with our own, and nobody has a problem with that. We’re both all about safe sex and contraception, so infections are not an issue. We’re both quite private and, beyond basic updates on activities, don’t discuss our relationship or each other even with our parents and siblings, so it’s not like we’ll have to deal with their judgment. So then what?

I don’t know. It’s not that I’m confused. I know exactly what I want. The question is, is it workable?