Thursday, September 27, 2007

Swinging vs. Polyamory: A description for novices

Apparently (I did not see the show), Oprah aired an hour-long show two days ago about sex & redefining monogamy. Yesterday morning, Kane, the host of Washington DC's HOT 99.5 morning show, held a big discussion and call-in session regarding the Oprah show, particularly that it ended with an (apparently polyamorous) married couple where the wife has a boyfriend.

People called in an uproar - How insane! That's begging for infidelity! This is where STDs get spread! - and other such inexperienced, fear-based comments (IMHO). But there was one caller, Dawn, who is considering adding sexual partners to her marriage, who was so well-spoken and grounded that Kane brought her back this morning to discuss it further. The following is my response to their interview, ported on Kane's page on the station's website.


Regarding the conversation with Dawn, you are confusing two different lifestyles. What Dawn is describing is Swinging - having additional sexual partners outside of your emotional relationship.

This could entail any level of sexual activity from flirting and kissing to soft swap (which generally means no intercourse) to full swap (it's all good), and some partners insist on staying together (same room) while others play apart as a couple (different rooms at the same time) or apart individually (one may play with a single or couple and his/her partner is not involved).

Married couples do this, but so do dating couples, friends with benefits, and singles. And crossover occurs with the following lifestyle to all degrees possible, as we are all human.

NOW... The married couple on the Oprah show were Polyamorous - that involves having multiple significant Emotional relationships (the husband, the boyfriend, and the girlfriend). You need to make the distinction between emotional and sexual monogamy - they are not the same thing.

I know many polyamorous couples (yes, with children) and singles who have made this work for them. The range of relationships - imagine "my husband's girlfriend's husband" - is sometimes referred to as the poly web, and imagine how interesting it makes holidays!

I can say from experience that it requires an emotionally mature couple/person to live successfully in either of these lifestyles because you have to handle all of the fear, insecurity and jealousy that comes up when either seeing your partner with another person, or when acknowledging that they are emotionally excited about someone else. (I am a swinger - I want emotional monogamy from my partner, not sexual monogamy.)

The level of communication and trust required between partners is significant - are you willing to tell him/her how it really felt to watch them kissing (etc.) - that you were jealous, for example, even if it doesn't look good for you to admit that, and you know it's not what he/she wants to hear? AND, are you further willing to be responsible for your emotions - to accept it as true when he/she tells you that you are still the owner of his/her heart, and notice what interpretation and meaning you gave their kissing? If you are not willing to get responsible for the drama YOU create in your relationships, these are not the lifestyles for you.

AND, if you ARE, this can make your partnership stronger emotionally, harder to break apart, and FUN!

As for concerns of STDs, I will give you a 95% guarantee that active members of these lifestyles are more educated on sexual safety and practice safer sex measures with more consistency than your average college student, and even college graduate. Many of us will not play without condoms, it's simply a fact. As such, it no longer means anything about the person asking for or supplying the condoms and the emotional drama is removed, which is certainly safer.

Want to know more? Do a search on-line. There are lots of conversation groups, play clubs, and meeting sites that can help you get your foot in the door and get in touch with like-minded people. Not for you? Great! It is not for everyone.

Please let me know if I may be of more assistance, and thank you for the opportunity to offer clarification of this challenging issue.

M. Makael Newby, 2007 - All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Swinger vs. Polyamorist mentality: An experiential distinction

I am not poly. For those who don't know, polyamory has occasionally been defined as having more than one significant romantic/emotional relationship at one time - for example: This is my husband, and that's my boyfriend. Let me restate, I am not poly. I thought I was mostly sure, but the recent break-up with my honey of 19 months had given me multiple opportunities to become certain of that fact.

Why? Because we are swingers. Swinging, again for those out of the know, is sharing your partners sexually, and to various emotional degrees, with other couples and singles. Yes, this can lead to groups, so bring on the orgy, eh? Sounds fun, but I've never been able to go there. But that's another post for another day.

R and I broke up almost 2 months ago. He's moving out this upcoming weekend. And while I know that my life will be easier when he's gone from my sight and my bed, there's a part of me that wishes he could stay. THIS is the part that knows I'm not poly.

We have both been playing with (read: having sex with) other partners since the breakup, and we've both gotten what we need out of the experience - he's back solidly into the SM scene (in ways I could never be, squick!), and I've had lots of great sex with (surprisingly) dominant men who've easily called forth my submissive response (which just never worked with R). I'm thrilled for both of us, as this has actually made it possible for us to rescue and strengthen our friendship, which was really important to me. It's the sleeping that's a challenge.

There's sleeping with someone and SLEEPing with them, I've found. I've no problems with my partner sleeping with another person - sex is just sex, fun for all, just be safe please and bring that happiness back home to me! But when he leaves my bed after fabulous afternoon sex, goes out for a while, then calls to say that he's not coming home tonight, he's going to stay at her place, something in me twinges. We're not a "couple", I have no reason to feel that way logically, I know, but a part of me says that this is still his bed and here, next to me, is where he should sleep. Damn, that's uncomfortable!

How do I know this makes me Not Poly? Because there is an intimacy to sleep that I am unwilling to share - a vulnerability that is not required during sex. As strange as it may seem, I want that to be Mine. And that is simply not the way poly relationships work.

So now he makes sure to let me know when he'll be out all night rather than just staying out. If I expect him back, I don't sleep, laying awake waiting to hear the door open. It's part of why we love these lifestyles - things come up emotionally that you didn't expect, or "have no right to feel", yet there they are, and you have to deal with them. It may not always be comfortable, but the lessons learned are invaluable. Yay, growth and development.

So it is certain - I am not poly. I AM submissive. I am not a masochist, nor am I a bottom. I AM a swinger. But I am not poly. And this is good to know.

M. Makael Newby, 2007 - All Rights Reserved.