A piece by Kristen about our open relationship, dating other people, sex, a leather family vision, and BDSM. Follow her on Twitter @kitchentop.
You know where some of my fear came from when we dipped our toes into polyamory last fall? That Sugarbutch readers would make all kinds of judgments about me, think I’m some kind of doormat, judge our vision and our path for our relationship. But we came to poly from a place of deep strength, not out of weakness. That isn’t to say it hasn’t been difficult; it’s been very difficult, but that’s because we’re intense people with high standards for our lives and big dreams. And what makes it the hardest is not jealousy, it’s that there’s little support for dating other people while you have a long-term partner in this culture. We have to build on the narratives that people before us have created—and create our own.
And in fact, as soon as I looked around, I saw examples of sparkly poly couples—many of whom we already knew—who quietly date multiple people. And I probed deeper, and I realized there’s an entire network of kinky queers who fuck each other and each other’s friends, if you just look below the surface. Sinclair sent me a link about cabins to rent in New York, and I got a vision of five or six or seven of us, cooking and fucking and lazing around near a lake, and I thought, “Maybe that’s what people mean by ‘leather family.’ That’s the kind of adulthood I want.” Because for many of us, that white picket fence—even a gay white picket fence—just isn’t in the cards.
And y’all, I like sex too much to limit myself. I love fucking. I LOVE it. It keeps me grounded and helps me fly all at once, and I can’t really imagine fucking one person the rest of my life, as amazing as the person I spend most of my time fucking is. You’ve met a few guest stars (there have been about eleven in the last three and a half years, not counting erotic energy retreats) – and I would like to continue doing that. I was surprised, yes, when Sinclair’s interest in rife expanded beyond a one-time fuck, and I was even more surprised when that connection went beyond a sexual one. But it’s been just over six months since we had that first conversation, and I’m sold. The details are complicated, and the growing pains have been difficult, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t choose poly. What it actually means is that we are so steeped in monogamy in this culture, and the cultural walls around monogamy are so rigid, that it took me months (and fucking someone else, if we’re gonna be really honest here) to feel really solid.
We need MORE support around this, not less. Think about when you came out: I, for one, had many years of culture telling me queer was wrong, and I needed backup from homos around me reminding me it was okay to be a big dyke. After a few years, it was no big deal, but I teared up at my first pride parade. Maybe I should go to poly pride. Or maybe I should just have a lot of poly sex and I won’t need a parade. Or maybe after I have poly sex I should wave my hands around spirit fingers style and give myself a parade.
So what’s it like? It still feels sort of dangerous, honestly, because I still have a little bit of this “traditional relationship” lens that tells me fucking someone else is cheating. But it’s not—it’s consensual—and it’s incredibly exciting. What’s fun? I flirted before, but flirting with the possibility of actually playing with someone else is different. It challenges me to see myself more independently than I did before, and that’s both fun and nerve-wracking. (It’s much easier to fuck someone else when your Daddy arranges it for you than when you’re in a bar with your friends and you have to make the first move—or when you’ve played with someone once and you want it to happen again.)
Here’s the other thing: before I met Sinclair, dating was a lot more desperate, because I have a really high sex drive and I wasn’t getting fucked especially well. Now that I’m dedicated to my boyfriend but looking for people to play with, I can be very selective about who I choose, and I’m much narrower in what I’m looking for. I’m not going to go home with someone randomly because they’re the best option and I want to get laid, I’m going to hone in on exactly what I’m looking for and see what I can do to find that. I have much, much better boundaries, and I’m able to fuck friends or become friends with someone I’ve fucked (Hi Gabrielle … and the rest of y’all). Part of that is just maturity, but it’s also about a redefined vision of relationships. We don’t have to love everyone we fuck, or maybe we do, but it’s a different kind of love. Love is bigger than “date them fuck them live together get married pop out babies.” Sometimes when I’m feeling stuck between two options, Sinclair tells me, “There are always more than two choices.” This is a lovely example of that concept. There are always more ways to live than you might think. And it is so fucking beautiful that we get to redefine how we love. Our relationship gets to evolve, and we get to go through the hard stuff together, and we get to play with space and restrictions and sex and pain in a conscious, consensual way—which is far beyond what I’d ever imagined.
P.S. The BDSM in our relationship is a slightly different topic (and an old conversation), but rest assured, our relationship is consensual. For what it’s worth, I love getting punched, and that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with me or us. It comes from a place of very deep trust.
Most of the time, I exist in a pretty happy little liberal sex-positive bubble, and I don’t quite understand what the big deal is. “You’re brave,” people tell me. Yeah, sure, it takes some guts and shamelessness to put my sex life out in public, and more so to put my emotional life out in (password-protected) public, but generally, I don’t feel the wall I’m coming up against.
Sometimes, though, I feel it hard.
If you run in the same blog circles that I do, or if you follow me on Twitter, or if you’ve been following my Google Reader shared items, you probably know about the accusations made by Donna M. Hughes and Margaret Brooks against the KinkForAll conferences in general and maymay in particular. I’ve shared many of maymay’s posts, re-tweeted many of his links and comments, and have generally just been sitting here staring at my screen with my jaw dropped, feeling like a bowling ball got dropped into my stomach.
Oh. Right. Standing up for sex education, sexuality rights, and sexual freedom can be fucking scary. There’s a reason why we have to stand up for it, and work for it: because it doesn’t exist en mass, because it only exists in small pockets, and because there is an entire system out there trying to keep it shame-based and repressed.
It’s not like this is the first time I’ve had this revelation. It keeps happening, over and over, yet somehow it surprises me every time.
This past March, for example, I attended KinkForAll Providence in Rhode Island at Brown University, and I heard the entire story of how Megan Andelloux’s Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health was barred from opening and kept in bureaucratic red tape for nearly a year. Megan told the entire story of how she fought and what happened, and how she finally did open the Center (which is beautiful and so much fun, by the way, I highly highly encourage you to stop by if you’re ever in the area), which again gave me that bowling-ball-in-my-stomach feeling.
I won’t recount the story here, I couldn’t tell it like she can anyway. Go watch the video, it’s worth it, seriously.
I’m so glad she opened the Center. I’m thrilled to hear the stories of how it’s working, who she’s been helping, how she’s been an open and honest resource for sexuality education. It made me so nervous to hear her story, to witness the amount of power someone in opposition of sexuality education could possibly wield, and to see, yet again, that it is a radical thing to promote happy, healthy sexuality.
God, that just makes me so angry.
I have no idea what an adequate response on my part could be. I feel a little paralyzed, to be honest. I know I should feel the fear and do it anyway but I can’t help but thinking, I was at KinkForAll Providence. In fact, I just had a workshop at Brown University last week! I could be targeted, too. And that is fucking frightening.
Maymay has been writing amazingly beautiful, transparent posts about this topic, and I highly encourage you to read them if you haven’t already. Or re-read them, if you have. I am incredibly inspired by his transparency, and his ability to summarize something clearly and consistently. Did you see the ways he broke down Donna M. Hughes and Margaret Brooks’ concerns over the KinkForAll unconferences?
He’s been encouraging everyone to stand against stigma and others, like Essin’ Em, have written lovely pieces in response. I’ve had a piece of my own brewing for weeks now, but sometimes I can’t quite get past the fear involved in putting Donna M. Hughes and Margaret Brooks’ names on my own site—it seems like an invitation to be on their hit list, doesn’t it? What if they come after me next?
I’m trying to be honest there, but I know it sounds pretty selfish. And to take it one step farther, to attack Megan and maymay—and Aida, who chairs The Sexuality Health Education and Empowerment Council (SHEEC) at Brown and is doing fantastic work up there!—and our beautiful, important community of educators and healers, is to attack me. I have already been attacked. Is there more they could do? Probably. Is that scary? Absolutely.
But will I let it stop me? No.
I guess my point is just, this work is hard. There are real consequences, in this conservative culture that can incite sex panic at any given moment, and what used to be a happy little PG project suddenly is misconstrued as the equivalent of child pornography and abuse. I want this work to be safer. I want it to be totally acceptable for sexuality educators to open a center, or for educators to host and (un)organize conferences around sexuality and the intersection with the rest of life. I want everyone to know how their bodies and parts and pleasure works. I want us all to have access to the kind of information we are curious to know about. Seems like a pie-in-the-sky dream sometimes, but instances like these attacks and accusations solidify my goals and purposes all the more. It continues to prove that we need this, this culture needs this, these people need this, and it can be transformative in beautiful, blossoming ways.
Fast forward to this week, and I now hear that Aida has invited Donna M. Hughes and Margaret Brooks to come to a panel at Brown University on Sex Panic! When Educators Are Censors. Here’s the information about the panel below. If you’re anywhere near Rhode Island, I highly encourage the travel, it’s going to be worth it. (I really want to be there, I’m trying to move some things around, I already have an obligation that day.)
Sex Panic!: When Educators Are Censors
a panel and Q&A session moderated by Brown Professor of History and Brazilian Studies Jim N. Green, author of Beyond Carnival: Male Homosexuality in Twentieth-Century Brazil
Free and open to the public!
Tuesday, May 4th @ 6:00 pm
in Smith-Buonanno Hall, Room 106
95 Cushing Street, Providence, RI 02906
This event is co-sponsored by: SHEEC and QCC
Aida Manduley: SHEEC Chairperson
Megan Andelloux: Certified sexologist and sex educator
Reid Mihalko: Brown alum and presenter on sex and relationships
Meitar Moscovitz: Community organizer and technology professional
Ricky Gresh: Senior director for Student Engagement at Brown University
What would you do if your organization were criticized for following through with its mission statement? What if you were publicly denigrated, misrepresented, and harassed for your work? What if educators themselves were trying to hamper your attempts at education? Finally, who should have a say in a college student’s sex education?
Read Aida’s direct letter to Donna M. Hughes and Margaret Brooks, inviting them to the panel, and take a look at maymay’s mention of the upcoming panel, too.
I feel like this is so important. I don’t really know what my own path of sexuality education or sex writing looks like, I don’t know where this Sugarbutch job will take me, but I do plan to keep doing it. When panic like this comes up, when accusations and attacks are made, I want to be part of a community that can rally around each other, stand strong, and fight back if necessary. I want to be a part of that protection, to continue to protect my own work and the important work of those around me.
Because I know just how badly we need this work, and this is just further sign of how much work there is, still, to do.