Poly Means Many: There are many aspects of polyamory. Each month six bloggers - Amanda Jones, An Open Book, One Sub's Mission, Polyamorous Parenting, Post Modern Sleaze, and Rarely Wears Lipstick - will write about their views on one of them. This month: explaining poly to other people.
I'm currently single, which means I'm going on a lot of dates - I think I worked out that last year I'd gone on over fifty, resulting in only two second dates. This is a tribute to my own particular specific tastes as much as anything else, more on that later, but what it does mean is that I'm developing a very good line in a particular sort of sales patter, specifically on how I want my relationships to be. Generally speaking I don't mind, and even quite enjoy the whole "explaining myself" thing. Especially on a first date. After all, it's really important to be able to tell a prospective lover what it is you want - if you can't articulate, how can you both work out whether you might, well, work out?
Currently I'm going with: "Hi, I'm electronic doll, I'm bisexual, kinky and non-monogamous" followed by a big grin. Reactions vary, if I'm honest. Some people have needed further elaboration, which is fair enough. And it's mostly around what people think I mean when I say those words.
There's a lot that I don't mean.
I don't mean "I will fuck anything" because frankly, nothing could be further from the truth. For all that I write a detailed kinky sex blog, I haven't actually had a lot of sexual partners (it's around twenty, or so, if you are interested). I don't do one-night stands and I don't fuck around a huge amount. I have very exacting standards for what I find "sexy". I'm a specialist, you see. I only find a few people sexually attractive and I like really, really specific types of sex, which means it takes a lot of time for me to find the right person - or people.
Kinky sex is also more disposed towards things that don't look like sex but we perverts enjoy them just as much, if not more - flogging, bondage and so on. It's all "sex" to me. And I want all of it. But only the good stuff, and I would rather not have sex than have any old sex, which means less sexual partners. On a really practical point, I also have a very high sex drive, so when I find someone, I tend to fuck them a lot. Which makes them tired. Which makes it very useful, and pleasurable, for me to have other people to have sex with. Sex is like any other activity. You wouldn't only ever go to the cinema with one person, or go for a meal with only one person, or go to the same supermarket, so why would you only ever fuck one person?
This is the point in the conversation where I generally take a deep breath, and check whether my date is still awake, looking at me with horror, or drooling with their tongue on the floor. No-one has actually run away yet, but I suspect that's because of car crash fascination or "what will she say next?" rather than anything else. So, assuming they are still interested in what I am saying, I try and summarise: I think it's very unlikely I will want to only have sex with one person for the rest of my life.
This often leads us on to the second incorrect assumption which is that "non-monogamy" means "I can't commit and can't settle down". I'm actually really looking forward to falling in love and building a life with the love of my life. Now, here's the rub. That might be one person, it might be several. Together, one after the other, or all separate. I can't predict the future or what's around the corner and I don't want to be closed to those opportunities, either. But when they come along I want to be able to grab them with both hands and love them with all my heart. In my mind's eye, I imagine that I will have one main partner, and either as a pair or separately we will have lovers who come and go through our lives. I am not stating that this is exactly how it must be and nothing will sway me, merely that this is the kind of future I can see myself being happy in, so it's the example I use to explain myself.
This does cause confusion, no matter how clear I try to be. And I do understand the confusion. There's a lot to take in, if the universe has hitherto consisted of monogamous, heterosexual, vanilla pairings. "Exotic" relationships are often the stuff of film and fantasy: crazy sex fuelled hedonism of the rock and roll variety which is not a very realistic example of how people might live their lives. Throw in the kink and the bisexuality and people can sometimes think I will only ever be satisfied with an high-octane orgy on the hour, every hour. I do my best not to come across as some kind of sexual revolutionary, but as someone who wants a normal, but different, life. I don't always succeed. It can be difficult to explain "non-monogamy" as normal. Because for many people, it just isn't. Communicating an entire world over a cup of coffee on a first date can be a bit of a challenge.
There's also a lot of responsibility in being the first person who explains all of this. Because then you become, in part, responsible for how this person perceives this new universe of relationship possibilities. Over time, I've learnt to become very specific with the words I use, partly because I love words dearly and like to make sure they are put in the right places, and partly because I appreciate that what I'm saying is new to lots of people and I don't want to give them the impression that I'm speaking for every person who has ever had a "non-traditional" relationship. I can only ever talk about what I want, what I've enjoyed, what has worked for me.
So, for example, I don't describe myself as "polyamorous". I use "non-monogamous" specifically because I enjoy having more than one ongoing, sexual partner (when the opportunity presents itself), but I've never yet had an extended relationship with more than one person for anything more than a few months. In other words, I've never been in love with more than one person at a time, so I don't feel I can really call myself "polyamorous". I've loved several people at once, certainly and I've been fucking several people at once, and been dominant or submissive to more than one person. So I'm absolutely non-monogamous. These days I use the phrase "lovers", because it's a nice romantic word and I'm a romantic at heart. It's an easy word to get your brain around, and I think it sounds positive, caring and sexy in a genuine way, rather than "partners" which can sound as if you are in business together. I never, ever use "fuck buddies", because I don't like relationships that are "friends with benefits", I want relationships, sex and romance.
Following these, often lengthy, often with diagrams, explanations, reactions have varied. I've had people who are happy to have "found" other people who think the same way they do, relieved that they aren't the only ones, I've had surprise from people who genuinely didn't know this was a real thing outside of films and books, I've had friends think I was doing it to be cool or to be different. I've had people worry I'd get hurt. I've had people be angry or upset with me for still not wanting to sleep with them despite obviously being a slut. I've had people who got what I was saying but didn't think it was for them. My favourite was from a friend who merely said "gosh, that's quite, um, bohemian of you."
To finish, I'll give you two concrete examples of "explaining myself." My most recent two encounters, with Ten and Technophile, have resulted in break ups or whatever you have when you break up before you've really started dating. In this case, it wasn't about the sex, or the kinky sex, or the group sex. It was about how the relationship might function. So, the important bit, really.
Neither of them felt as if they would be able to "cope" with what they considered such non-traditional set ups. They were simply outside of their comfort zone. The idea of having a threesome, especially with another girl, was exciting. But the idea of my having a girlfriend, who might come and stay regularly, was strange. Still exciting, but I could tell they weren't sure whether I was being serious (I was) and if I was, how on earth it might work. The idea of my having another boyfriend was mind-blowing and triggered all kinds of negative responses. In the end, both of them decided that I wasn't the one for them, in part because of how I wanted to live my life. Neither of them were willing to give it a go so I can't comment on whether I am extremely good at explaining and it is entirely the opposite of what they wanted out of life, or I'm a bit rubbish at explaining and they would like it if they tried it. Mind you, I do keep telling straight boys that this is also true of sucking cock for my viewing pleasure, and they don't seem keen on that either.
Perhaps it's the way I say it, or the way I leer when I'm saying it?
Fundamentally, however you explain yourself, the reality of living relationships is always a little different to the writing on the box. I know from my own experience that some multiple-relationship set ups have worked better for me than others. Frankly, some monogamous relationships have worked better for me than others. The main factor that has divided the good from the bad has been about the content of the relationship, not the set-up in and of itself. It's been about the people. The expectations we've had of each other, our ability to deliver those and the way we have communicated our hopes and dreams. Not how many of us there were, or how we were living at the time.
But those are all topics for another month.