Please remember to be polite and respectful in the comments.
Welcome to the fourth and final segment of my four part discussion on Bad Poly.
Today I’m going to talk about sex, a topic that needs no other introduction. Check the new language below!
Sex-positive: Understanding that sex can potentially be a positive force in someone’s life, regardless of desires, relationship structures, and/or consensual individual choices. This is my working definition, and I include those who do not enjoy/do not have sex, are anorgasmic, or feel that sex is a negative influence in their life.
Primary Partner: In many relationships a primary partner is the person(s) in the relationships accorded the most importance.
Secondary Partner: In many relationships, a secondary partner is the person(s) in the relationship who, have a relationship that is given less in time/energy/etc. than a primary relationship.
Tertiary Partner: The person(s) in the relationship who have a relationship that requires little in terms of time/energy/support than primary or even secondary relationships.
Compersion: Often considered the opposite of jealousy, compersion is the positive feelings that you experience when your partner is investing in a relationship with someone else.
Metamour: Your partner’s partner.
Envy: When you want what someone else has.
Jealousy: When you’re worried someone is trying to take what you have.
NRE New Relationship Energy- The excitement that exists when a relationship is new. Can last 3 months-2 years and beyond, and is individual to each relationship.
“We spend most of our nights just watching Netflix like monogamous couples.”
“The sex isn’t the most important part.”
“It’s not just about the sex.”
We, and I say we as the poly community, have this obsession with correcting people about what polyamory is, and what it should be. This idea that polyamory is not about the sex is constant and overwhelming. Hell, I’ve definitely said things about it. You can see it in so many different places when we look at the polyamorous communities. You can even see it in some of the “big names” in polyamory. Check it out:
More Than Two: “With polyamory, deep relationships are the focus, though the sex is often fun.”
Love More: “Even after careful explanation to the uninitiated, they still walk away thinking polyamory equals f***ing anything that moves…The non-poly world just does not seem to get it; it’s not about the sex. Yes, poly relationships include sex but just like monogamous ones people are there for love, romance, intimacy and numerous other reasons.”
PolyMomma: “We don’t “swing,” though we’re not opposed to the idea if we met a couple that we were really into. We do have relationships with each others partners, but they are usually nonsexual. We’re also not looking for orgies or group sex either. It’s not just about sex.”
Let me be clear here. I do not fault the poly community for responding this way. I don’t. When the first thing you hear after coming out as poly is “do you all have sex together” or “wow you must have so much sex”, it is totally understandable to respond with “it’s not about the sex”. It is. Unfortunately, that attitude of “it’s not about the sex” is also starting to be used to shame and hurt people who enjoy sex.
It is actually damaging to talk about a partner who is first and foremost a sexual partner, only to be told that you’re not really poly, rather more of a swinger if you focus on the sex. We can understand that you can be a polyamorous person in a monogamous relationship. We can reason that someone who is asexual, demisexual, or otherwise could be polyamorous. We can reason that someone who is polyamorous might enjoy sex, but somehow, we can’t reason that someone who prefers casual sexual relationships is poly. No, instead we encourage the term “player”. As in: I’m not a player, I’m poly.
As though somehow enjoying sex is a bad thing.
I am a person who enjoys sex. I am a person who requires sexual connection in my relationships. I have an aggressively high sex drive, and I feel that my need for sex is often far more important than my need for an emotional connection. Not only that, but I am a person who prioritizes sex in my relationships over emotional connection. I refuse to apologize for that.
Now you might be thinking “But Rebecca! You said that you don’t have casual sex!”
I don’t have casual sex. I have sex with people that I would ideally like to form emotional connections with. However, if the sex isn’t there, I’m not going to be able to connect emotionally to someone. Every partner I have became a partner after we had sex, or sexual contact.
“But Rebecca! Real relationships require emotional connection. Not just sex!”
For at least a year of my life, I was seeing someone who I didn’t have much emotional connection with, but had great sex. When our relationship ended, it did so because we were no longer able to have sex. I imagine that as his relationship with his current partner progressed it would have ended naturally, but this was a hard stop for me. That person, while no longer a partner is still important to me. That relationship? Was real. It may not have been a love based relationship, but it was real.
I think what ends up happening is that we as a culture fall into a trap as a result of the way we are socialized. We believe that you can have sex without love (casual sex, hook-ups, etc.), you can have love without sex (sexless marriages, marriages of convenience, asexual (and non-sexual) romantic relationships), but for some reason we seem to be unable to understand that individual relationships define themselves in different ways. You can be married to a friend, or have a romantic relationship with someone you don’t have sex with. That doesn’t make that relationship any less real. In addition, non-romantic/non-sexual marriages often have a lot of overlap with romantic and sexual marriages. You can also grieve the end of casual sexual relationship in the same ways that you do a romantic relationship. You can have a real relationship if you are aromantic and you can have a real relationship if you are asexual.
We as a poly community need to allow people to self identify themselves and their relationships. Many of us understand that just because you love someone romantically, doesn’t mean you are having sex with them. Similarly I feel that just because you’re having sex with someone, doesn’t mean you need to love them, and also doesn’t mean you aren’t in a relationship with them. We spend so much time talking about how sex and love don’t always go together, that I feel like we also forget the effects that both (or neither) of them have in relationships. We forget that we can be in a relationship with someone who makes us feel secure and safe, and that doesn’t mean that the relationship isn’t real. To say otherwise is to completely disregard the existence of someone’s relationships.
I understand why we feel the need to defend our lifestyle to people who don’t understand from the cheaters of the world. I also understand that someone who strictly has multiple sexual relationships can and does fall under the umbrella of “non-monogamy”, rather than the specific of polyamory. However someone who has multiple romantic relationships, or a couple romantic relationships and a number of sexual relationships, or prioritizes sex above romance and emotional connection can still be polyamorous. It is not wrong.
They aren’t bad.
They can still be polyamorous, because I believe that polyamory is a personal identifier. Much like pansexual, or female, or geek, or any of these things that I am.
Don’t shame me, or shame others for the way we design our relationships, especially not if you’re in a group that is shamed for the way they have their relationships. My choices are made with my partners in mind and with the full consent of my partners. At the end of the day, saying that “It’s not about the sex” downplays the importance that sex has in relationships and shames those who feel happy in relationships that are primarily sexual.
Regardless of your dynamic, if you believe in having more than one sexual and/or romantically committed relationship at the same time, with the consent of all partners involved, then I count you as poly.
Yes, there are unhealthy relationships. Yes, there are abusive relationships. Yes, polyamory does have its fair share of assholes and abusers, and monsters. Like every community, we have our faults. But if how your relationship is balanced is working for you and your partners, and you and your partners are happy, it’s not bad.
It’s just yours.
So live your poly life, however “bad” you might be.
Until Next Time!
-The Frisky Fairy