It Isn’t Up To Me

My partner and I are occasionally in situations where people are more comfortable with non-monogamy than in average society. Sometimes it is a festival, Burning Man, or a small intimate gathering with like-minded people. Despite these non-traditional locations filled with open people there are still some reflections of our male-centric society.

In particular, people will ask me if they can do something physical with my partner*.

If you want to kiss her, ask her and not me. Her body is not mine, even though we are in a relationship. She is free to do what she wishes with other people, and if she does something that violates our agreed boundaries then that is between her and I. It isn’t between me and someone she may connect with because her commitment to me does not mean she defers to me when she wants to do something. I am, under no circumstances, someone who grants permission to her. She is still an autonomous person.

I guess some people may have the best intentions, but it isn’t their place to prevent her from cheating or betraying me. That is between her and I, though I doubt that would ever happen. We communicate and are open enough about our feelings that neither of us feel like our actions are being restrained by each other. But, if one of us did cheat it would not be an relationship extinction level event. We’d talk through it, figure out if there are some core issues that caused it (or if it was just a one time mistake) and correct our boundaries to make things work.

Each of us has “veto” power because our relationship with each other comes first, but that has never really been exercised. We trust each other. Jealousy comes from the unknown and when you know that your partner will tell you about any crush or kiss then there is no unknown, nothing to be jealous of.

Maybe this problem only manifests itself in this way with polyamorous, open relationships, and monogamish couples, but I think it exists in monogamous couples as well. People ask one partner if another person is allowed to do something. A partnership does not destroy autonomy. Being connected should make us stronger, give us more opportunities, and provide new experiences.

* The one situation where this doesn’t bother me is if I am friends with the person asking. I can understand checking in with me first to make sure our friendship won’t be compromised.

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“Un-Memorizing the ‘Silence is Sexy’ Date Script” – Some Thoughts

One of the things I love about Facebook is it has allowed a diverse group of people to stay more intimately in my life than would otherwise be possible. People who I’ve met only superficially are able to passively share their interests and passions with me and from those interests valuable conversations can form. Yesterday this article was posted by someone who I have only met once or twice (in fact, I think I met her at a party to help send her to Burning Man in 2010 but I was embarrassingly drunk and hope she doesn’t really remember that). The article was then posted today by someone who I have a much stronger internet relationship with than I ever had with her in real life.

Well, I posted that article today after reading it and for once didn’t really know what I thought. I am pleased that a conversation developed on my wall among my diverse network and with it came links and resources for those interested in what was being discussed (it truly is a wonderful time to be alive). Anyway, here are some of the thoughts from my perspective. I am not far enough removed from my ego to clearly see this from another person’s perspective but maybe some day.

As an introvert it has always been a nerve-racking experience to navigate intimate interactions. I like explicit consent in all things but much of society tells us that men  need to be the aggressor and try to interpret puzzling (to me) signals that women give off. To be honest, I have no idea if eye-contact and a smile is really an invitation to say hi… or if a touch on the arm is flirting or something else… I already suck at it and the INTJ part of me fears making someone else uncomfortable way more than my own rejection. I am very comfortable alone and don’t mind going home from a bar or party by myself.

The internet has provided me with a way around that though. I can passively share my thoughts online which will attract those people who might be interested in similar things. While I don’t use my blog and FB to call out specific people, when I post polyamorous views, comfort with BDSM, and a sex-positive outlook it opens up dialogue between me and other people  (though bangwithfriends is still an awesome concept in my mind). But, in some ways I kind of view this as a cop out.

I still don’t approach women often or initiate any type of relationship. I often use my online openness as an excuse to be passive in real life by telling myself “they must not be interested or else they would say something”. There are still signals to navigate and games to play, but this article provide me with some good dialogue once intimacy has started and has also started online conversations around the issue of pressure placed on women to be the gatekeepers of sex and the social norm of men pushing the boundaries.

I love the idea of very explicit consent and I am glad these things are being talked about. I think more women would be open to expressing their sexuality if they knew that they wouldn’t be harshly judged by their partner(s) or friends. In the same vein, men (or at least I) would be more likely to approach women if we didn’t feel like every expression of interest was a huge inconvenience or would be interpreted as an attempt to use and abuse. Basically, I don’t want women to interpret my attraction or interest in intimacy as pressure or something chauvinistic.

I certainly would love it if we could send clear and concise signals in all situations. It would be absolutely fantastic to have a woman who was attracted to me to send me a FB message like “hey, you’re cute and I’d like to cuddle and kiss for a bit at some point” (or a more kinky couple to come up and say “hey, you and you’re girlfriend are cute, how about you two curl up with us and see how things go”) and know that all actions would be communicated clearly. As was pointed out by my friend, people into kink (particularly BDSM and polys) do have a more established culture of explicit consent and open communication, I can only hope that the internet age will usher this in for all intimate relationships because sex and love is awesome when all parties are open and satisfied.