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Can one outsmart the merits of commitment in relationships?

By JaredG27 in Culture
Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 07:41:17 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)

The long-standing Western tradition idealizes a committed, life-long relationship. But way before the concept of tradition existed, people were procreating and enjoying it.

As much as we'd like to try, we can't close our eyes and prevent ourselves from being attracted to others. These attractions can lead to wonderful connections, relationships, and physical intimacies. Unfortunately we can't choose when objects of our desire will come into focus. And sometimes we're already involved.

There are a lot of perspectives on what's appropriate between friends, intimate friends, and exclusive partners. But these ideas are not rules, much as society seems to think. Most people adhere to the aforementioned Judeo-Christian concept of marriage. But there are (or have been) other cultures that accepted multiple wives, multiple husbands, or no rules at all.

The latter condition no-doubt existed for the majority of man's history. While people have tried in more recent years to institute communities of complete equality where everything from bread to wives are shared, it hasn't gained popularity in mass culture.

That's not to say that alternative approaches to sexuality don't exist. Some people live the single life with multiple serious partners. Others view sex casually and "live it up" every night of the week. There are even organizations, so called swing groups, where people schedule partner swaps or group orgies.

While all these approaches have varying degrees of social or health risks, I want to focus on how they question a value deeply rooted into our culture--the exclusivity and sacredness of sex. Some of these approaches attempt to reduce the value of intercourse by deeming it a more casual and purely physical activity. Others aim to make it as spiritual an event as possible.

These different approaches challenge our deepest convictions. While it may be plausible to engage in a communal style of living where everyone is equal and sex is shared, is it emotionally possible to be physically intimate with two people at once, while remaining committed to just one of them? I don't think it is.

While much of Western tradition can be accepted piecemeal, to me the concept of commitment involves the creation of a unique bond with someone. The unique element of that bond is not merely intercourse; sex serves as a complex, climactic combination between the spiritual, emotional, and physical. And while some seem to find it possible to separate their mind from their body, I can't engage in a physical relationship without feeling some other sort of connection.

And if sexual contact isn't a large enough violation of commitment, I feel its accompanying emotions are. If you're engaged with someone physically, can you do it without touching them like a lover? Is it possible to separate the pleasure from the emotion?

I don't deny that some people can do it. But I can't. Having multiple partners while maintaining a commitment doesn't remove tension for me, even if my significant other would accept it. It merely takes away from the meaning behind what has been culturally and personally deemed as something sacred.

I'm genuinely interested to hear what others have to say about these values and their approaches to them. Nonetheless I feel like I'll never be able to separate my emotions from my physicality. I'm one person and I try not to confuse those that I love. Commitment is my approach to that end.


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Have you ever cheated while in a committed relationship?
o Yes. And I'm glad I did. 12%
o Yes. And I regret it. 12%
o No. And I'm glad I haven't. 58%
o No. But I wish I had. 10%
o I don't remember... 5%

Votes: 186
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o "live it up"
o swing groups
o Also by JaredG27

Display: Sort:
Can one outsmart the merits of commitment in relationships? | 137 comments (132 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
Interesting (2.57 / 19) (#2)
by qpt on Tue Jul 31, 2001 at 10:08:08 PM EST

But I question the relevance to the general K5 community. After all, one cannot cheat on what one does not have. Maybe an article on being happy while alone and despised would be of broader interest.

Alternately, how-to stories about finding intimate partners are always entertaining, particularly when the laughably bad advice contained therein is actually followed by some poor sod. That gives me an idea.

Domine Deus, creator coeli et terrae respice humilitatem nostram.

We're not all single you know! (4.40 / 5) (#25)
by Kat Goodwin on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 10:34:14 AM EST

You seem to think that the k5 community are in general, not involved in relationships. I hardly think that can be true! I am sure that there are plenty of people out here who have relationships, and even some of us who have long term, happy relationships! so yes, the comments and questions are very relevant. And even those who do not currently have partners probably had one at some stage or another you're either being dismissive here or trying to be funny and I can't quite figure out which! Kat

[ Parent ]
Married (3.50 / 4) (#52)
by FlightTest on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 12:47:19 PM EST

And then there are those of us (or maybe just me) in marriages that are definately NOT sexually satisfying. And despite a rather lame diary entry on my part that I really wish I could delete, I'm not likely to change that situation, either by cheating or divorce.

Yes, we should go to counsoling. I know.

Why did I flip? I got tired of coming up with last minute desparate solutions to impossible problems created by other fucking people.
[ Parent ]
Deleting diary entries (3.75 / 4) (#59)
by aphrael on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 02:01:50 PM EST

i think if you asked rusty to delete it for you, and explained why, he would do so.

[ Parent ]
Rusty (none / 0) (#134)
by FlightTest on Wed Aug 08, 2001 at 09:24:50 PM EST

I finally decided that I really did want the 2 relevant diary entries deleted, and Rusty did do that for me. Very Cool™.

Why did I flip? I got tired of coming up with last minute desparate solutions to impossible problems created by other fucking people.
[ Parent ]

Monogamy older than you think (3.63 / 11) (#4)
by ToastyKen on Tue Jul 31, 2001 at 10:46:31 PM EST

I'm not an anthropologist, but I know there there are many animal species who practice monogamy or other forms of "rules" in sexual partners, so I'd argue that such rules date far further back than civilized days, albeit probably in more loose forms.

Aside from that, I'd agree with you that most people probably can't fully separate emotional connection with sex, (even.. *gasp!* men!) but that the amount of separation possible probably varies from person to person.

anthropological perspective (3.75 / 4) (#5)
by JaredG27 on Tue Jul 31, 2001 at 10:55:27 PM EST

Yes, there are certain primates that practice monogamy, but the vast majority don't. A more common societal structure (if I recall) is that of a dominance hierarchy, where the dominant male has access to all females and such. I wish I remembered more from ANTH101...little help from someone?

And as for your "*gasp* men!" comment, the author (moi) is very much a guy...any women have some comments on that?

[ Parent ]

New research . . . (3.80 / 5) (#19)
by marimba on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 08:43:34 AM EST

indicates that species that were previously thought to be monogamous aren't, birds in particular. There is a bonded pair who mate and nest together, but both partners are off trysting at least some of the time. This was recently found by doing DNA testing of parents and offspring.
Also, there is a species of polyandrous monkey in South America. And the males seem quite happy with the arrangement.

[ Parent ]
Sounds like U.S.A.. (2.33 / 3) (#47)
by topham on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 12:17:42 PM EST

Sounds like the previous administration of the U.S.... all your females are blong to me.

[ Parent ]
Myth of Monogamy (4.00 / 3) (#56)
by anansi on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 01:16:05 PM EST

Check out this book! Written by genetic researchers, they talk about many species that have long been considered monogamous, getting a different status. While the males are busy trying to protect their harem, females are sneaking out and getting sperm from a much wider pool of males than was thought possible before. The science is evolving here at a furious rate!

Don't call it Fascism. Use Musollini's term: "Corporatism"
[ Parent ]

Forgotten sex + this article (3.16 / 6) (#8)
by Mr.Surly on Tue Jul 31, 2001 at 11:31:32 PM EST

A while back on K5, there was an article about someone forgetting whether or not they'd had sex with someone in particular.

I had posted that I had in fact forgotten whether I had had sex with someone in particular.

Considering that, obviously my response is "Yes, I can have sex with someone other than my Signficant Other and not feel any attachment." Because it's happened to me (many times), and I don't mean one night stands with strangers. I mean women who were friends and occasional lovers, and continued to be friends.

Booty calls exist for a very simple reason: sometimes two people just want to get laid, and they're conveniently available to each other. If your own morals can't allow you to do that (despite your physical urges), then don't.

+1 FP

damn emotions... (3.50 / 4) (#9)
by JaredG27 on Tue Jul 31, 2001 at 11:45:00 PM EST

Yeah, my morals have a lot of trouble with it. Have I ever hooked up with a friend and continued the friendship? Yes. But it _did_ change things for me.

Hooking up outside of a relationship is okay, but it does affect me. That's all. I kinda wish it didn't, cause believe me there were some times when I would've preferred not to have been so concerned...

But anyhow, thanks for the response and the vote.

Take it easy,

[ Parent ]
My Open Relationships (4.87 / 16) (#10)
by strepsil on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 12:46:27 AM EST

My last two relationships have been polyamorous or "non-exclusive", and have been the strongest relationships I've ever had. My current partner and I have now been together for 6 years and we have an 11 month old daughter. I dont think either of us can imagine splitting up.

We've had several people we've been involved with "on the side" and it's always been fun. We've even shared a couple of people. Do we place a lesser value on sex, and sexual relationships? No, I don't think so. Do we hold ourselves back when with other people? Again, no.

Damn, this is hard to explain.

I used to think I was born without a "jealousy gland" or something. I've since thrown out that idea since I've been jealous of people plenty of times. My current theory as to why these relationships work for me is based on trust and security.

Most relatinships seem to rely, even in this day and age, on ownership. "Do you take this man?", "Be mine" or "Stole my heart away" are all phrases used in and around a "normal" relationship.

My relationships are based purely on love and trust. I love Lisa, my partner, wholly and utterly. I believe she feels the same about me. I trust that she is committed to the things we have taken on as a couple (home ownership, a child ...) and I feel secure as a result. Trust, I feel, is the key difference between my relationship and those of most other people.

Do I feel threatened when Lisa is attracted to someone else? Hell no. Why should I? This is going to happen in any case, and if I demand that she not express interest in others, all that's going to happen is that it'll happen anyway and she'll repress the feelings and either feel guilty or resent me for forcing the repression. In the meantime, I'll feel glad that "my" woman is faithful. Then the next day I notice a really cute girl walking down the street and the roles reverse.

What do we end up with? Two people full of repressed longings and guilt, resenting each other for restricting them and wondering if they made the right choice for their life partner. One or both of them may, given the opportunity, act on their repressed desires bringing more guilt and - if found out - a probable end to the relationship.

In a polyamorous relationship we recognise that the other person is a human being with the same wants and desires as ourselves. We talk about our desires - they are not something we pretend do not exist because we refuse to swallow the idea that this person MUST be enough for us, and we've made this one choice and now we're stuck with it.

Is the relationship threatened by the other people we love? Hardly. It's difficult enough to find one single person that you're comfortable enough with to contemplate spending your entire life alongside of. You're not going to find another one every week. What you'll find are a lot of friends who you love deeply.

Well, and the occasional one-night-stand, of course. These would have to pose the least threat to any relationship.

OK, that's enough for now. I need to go and look after the baby.

born with a jealousy gland... (4.22 / 9) (#23)
by JaredG27 on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 10:23:49 AM EST

I do not deny that I can get jealous or that there's some possessiveness to the way I feel in relationships. And the fact that the latter is part of the allure to relationships is somewhat scary. After all, a girlfriend is _not_ like a car, a house, or a job. And I'm going to resist any bad analogies right now...

But even with feelings of jealousy or possession, I still value trust like you do. The difference is that my trust, or faithfulness, encompasses different things. I trust that I'll be the only person with whom my partner is having intercourse. And when I look at it that way, instead of in terms of possession, I don't think it sounds so bad.

I've been in situations where my then-girlfriend was away during the summers, and spending most of that time with her best friend, aka x-bf. Being that dance is my hobby of choice, I have no problem acccepting that my girlfriend may have another, more favorite dance partnership. There are ways that I can define our exclusivity without getting in the way of each other's friendships. These things don't bother me so much becuase I trust my girlfriend.

It's just that my trust involves different things. No, I don't love listening to stories of other guys or her uncontrollable attraction to them. But I don't think that is just repression, in all its negative connotations. I feel it can strengthen our own bonds when we focus on just one person--each other. I'd rather spend my time finding ways that my significant other is special than worrying about other women. And it's not that terribly difficult, once you've found the right person.

Your polyamorous lifestyle doesn't bother me or offend me. And that you can live that way without any guilt or jealousy is a wonderful thing. I can't do that, but that's just because I have different feelings on trust... But trust is just as important to my relationships.

[ Parent ]
Why I like monogomy (4.50 / 14) (#12)
by skim123 on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 01:54:14 AM EST

I am in a committed relationship, but I am a man in his early 20s. Therefore, I find myself easily lusting after many women, especially since I live in a beach community in Southern California and, by merely steppnig outside, I am subjected to beautiful women usually wearing tight fitting clothing, short shorts, or bathing atire.

But, despite these lustful feelings, I know I wouldn't cheat on my girlfriend. Maybe it's because the relationship is still new and exciting (been seeing her for a little over 6 months), but dammit, the talk is good, the times together are golden, and things in the bedroom-department are insanely good as well. In any case, I really do view sex as something that just the two of us share, I refer to it as our fun-time activity that only she and I share in. That makes it special; that makes it fun.

Another thing, sex with someone new, in my experiences, always is much less enjoyable than say, a week out, or a month out, or a year out. Practice makes perfect, as they say, so why would I want to have a one-nighter with some girl - it wouldn't be as good as with my g/f, and it would kind of knock out that whole, "It's our fun-time activity" thing, since it sex would no longer be our fun little private game, with the cheese-wiz, and the clapping, and the laughing, and the dancing.

Besides, I think if I did go hump some girl, the whole time I'd be thinking about my g/f. Things like, "I wish she's do this, like my g/f does," or, "I wonder what my g/f is doing right now," or, "I can't wait to tell my g/f about my day."

Don't get me wrong, I've had emotionally weak relationships where I would have probably enjoyed it being an open relationship, but this relationship (and others I've had) are too emotionally satisfying to really enjoy something like this. I guess a good analogy would be if you had a best friend, and you enjoyed spending all of your free time with this friend, talking, hanging out, doing things together... why, then, would you want to go off and talk to some stranger when your best friend was available?

(If you couldn't guess, I'm not that big on making new friends.)

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
PT Barnum

Heinlein on Relationships (4.14 / 7) (#13)
by BlckKnght on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 04:32:15 AM EST

In you're previous attempt at this story you mentioned Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land and it's interesting philosophies on sex and relationships. I read that book far too long ago to be able to discuss it intelligently (and I was probably too young to understand all of it), but I recently read another Heinlein novel, with a different idea on relationships.

In The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Heinlein presents an intersting relationship structure, the Line Marriage.

For those of you who haven't read the book, a line marriage starts with a small number of people (perhaps one couple) and over time, adds members, one at a time. New husbands and wives are added when the entire existing Family all wish it. Any husband or wife can leave the family at any time (called opting out in the book). Children leave the family when they grow up (and perhaps start their own families). The marriage is generally open, with sex, and even emotional relationships allowed outside of the marriage.

Heinlein (or at least his protagonist) thinks this form of family organization is best because it offers great stability, both for children growing up, and for the husbands and wives themselves.

I am interested in what you (and everyone else) think about this.

Error: .signature: No such file or directory

the accounts seem similar (4.00 / 4) (#27)
by JaredG27 on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 10:37:34 AM EST

To be honest, the line marriage idea doesn't sound that different than the "water-brother" concept in Stranger in a strange Land.

In both books it sounds like there is a group of people who are all equal amongst each other and have sex frequently. Outside emotional relationships are accepted, though they don't compare to the intensity of the core group (or line marriage?).

As for leaving the marriage, in Stranger, the water-brothership will never die, but all brothers are allowed to come and go as they please.

With both of Heinlein's marital ideas, though as of now I don't see how they're different, I think they are somewhat possible. Since there are no exclusive partnerships, there is no issue of commitment to deal with.

On the other hand, I'd rather an exclusive partnership with one amazing person than a group deal with a bunch of normal folks. Perhaps I could find a group of people as amazing as "the one" seems to be, but I know how hard it seems just finding her...

[ Parent ]
no commitment? (3.66 / 3) (#51)
by _Quinn on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 12:45:56 PM EST

   I think you missed the point of both 'styles.' The point of the line-marriage, IIRC, is commitment _to the children_, whom Heinlein views as the ones needing the commitment. (See other comments about sex != children any more.) It's a family form designed (like his others) to ensure that at least one mother and father will be parenting the children at a given time -- even if the biological mother and father loathe each other.

   The water-brotherhood is about commitment amongst a group of adults; that I recall, Heinlein didn't come much into the picture.

Reality Maintenance Group, Silver City Construction Co., Ltd.
[ Parent ]
the point? (4.33 / 3) (#53)
by JaredG27 on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 12:50:07 PM EST

I wasn't focusing on the 'point,' I was commenting on the structure. And as for rearing of children, it sounds like the water-brotherhood is similar to line-marriage...

[ Parent ]
Heinlein and marriage (4.75 / 4) (#64)
by Erbo on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 03:03:48 PM EST

There are at least three good examples of "alternative" marriages in Heinlein...besides the two that have already been cited, there's the Long Family of Time Enough For Love (also appearing in The Number of The Beast, The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, and To Sail Beyond The Sunset), which is more of a "pure" group marriage (and also, I would argue, something of a "cult of personality" centered on Lazarus, who is, after all, the oldest human alive). All of these alternative marriages have common goals, and Heinlein (one of the first SF writers to openly discuss sex at any length) points this out whenever their unique structure is commented on.

It's Lazarus who opines that marriages and families of any sort have two essential functions: to protect and provide for children, and to compensate the adults that do this protecting and providing. (Generally, this compensation is sexual in nature.) It is not insignificant that the only wedding vow that all members of the Long Family take is to safeguard the welfare of their children.

There are other advantages to some of the "alternative" styles of marriages: for instance, Prof de la Paz states in The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress that the line marriage is one of the best ways for a family to preserve capital in a society that offers little or no protection for same. (The Davis Family was certainly very well-to-do by Loonie standards.) The advantage that such a marriage can survive the death or departure of any of its "parents" is also pointed out in each case. But these other advantages usually reduce to a more effective way of performing those two essential functions.

Do note, however, that these marriages tend to work best in "frontier" societies, where there is little or no government to provide social benefits or impose legal restrictions. The Lunar society of The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, for instance, was fairly anarchic in nature, and the Long Family resides on Tertius, a recently-colonized and thinly-settled world without much government. (In The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, when Justin Foote was asked if Tertius was an anarchy, he replied, "I don't think so; it is not that well organized.") Mike Smith's "Nest" was the one group marriage of these three that was established within an advanced society, and the supposed "immorality" of this arrangement, as perceived by outsiders, was one of the factors contributing to the destruction of the Church of All Worlds and Mike's death (but not the death of his family, as they went "underground"). Anyone trying to set up one of these marriages within the confines of contemporary American society (or similar), despite their demonstrated advantages, would probably meet with the same kind of resistance.

Heinlein's depictions of these alternative marriages are fascinating, even if I would have qualms about entering into such an arrangement myself. But then again, I'm not as dynamic as his characters tended to be.

Electric Minds - virtual community since 1996. http://www.electricminds.org
[ Parent ]

Monogamy isn't natural (4.11 / 9) (#14)
by loaf on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 05:08:58 AM EST

but it's ethical within the bounds of most people's relationships.

Would I give in to temptation and cheat? I'd like to think I wouldn't but I know myself better than that. Would it mean anything to me afterwards? Probably not.

Could I forgive my partner if she did?

The million <insert local currency unit> question. Probably not. Hypocrisy (and its avoidance) is the foundation to monogamy - do as you would be done by.

I'm in a long term relationship, but it kicked off with a straight choice between two options - and I've wondered many times on my wisdom. Generally I don't think I've made a mistake. Life's all about making decisions and living with the consequences. Monogamy is a gamble that you've made the right selection - arguing against it is arguing for being able to have your cake and eating it.

Eating your cake (3.75 / 4) (#24)
by jabber on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 10:25:18 AM EST

I have never understood that saying..

What is wrong with eating your cake? What's the point of having a cake if you are not supposed to eat it? It is after all, YOUR cake, is it not? Who is anyone to tell you that you can not eat your own damn cake?

While I see vague parallels to the DMCA, the RIAA and MPAA and various IP and copyright issues - such as my not being able to have my music and make copies of it too, I suspect that the 'cake' saying has been around since before the legal shenanigans of modern law, and so I have to question it..

It is supposed to be a simple to understand social guide, is it not? Something like 'do not look a gift horse in the mouth', or 'too many cooks spoil the broth'.. Those are obvious, and simple to understand - and if they're not, they are easy to glean after very little thought.. By what in the world is so wrong with eating your own friggin cake??

Nowhere is it implied that you are the baker of the cake, and that the cake is destined for someone else.. That would be eating somone elses cake, which I can clearly see as being wrong. If you do bake the cake, for yourself, then it is yours to do with as you please. You can give it away, throw it away, or eat it - it is YOUR cake.

Open Source software developers have a saying, 'always eat your own dog-food'.. Meaning use the product you create.. This seems to suggest that you actually SHOULD have your cake, and eat it too - especially if you baked it yourself.. So what gives with the cake??

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

Meaning of the saying (4.50 / 4) (#26)
by simon farnz on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 10:36:08 AM EST

The saying "to have your cake and eat it" refers to the fact that it is impossible to have (i.e. to keep) your cake if you eat it all. Simple when you understand...
If guns are outlawed, only outlaws have guns
[ Parent ]
hungry for some cake? (3.50 / 4) (#29)
by JaredG27 on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 10:48:54 AM EST

Yeah, like Simon says, it's just a simple one, though it's sometimes misused.

In this article it was used to refer to how you have a choice between either monogamy or life without a serious, long-lasting relationship. Monogamy sounds boring but the latter's no better; it's pretty hard to have a serious, long-lasting relationship without the monogamy. So, one or other, either eat the cake or hold into it.

Or maybe do what some people are saying and try both. Just don't complain if there's no cake to eat when you get hungry.

[ Parent ]
Monogamy _is_ natural (3.66 / 3) (#61)
by roju on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 02:30:31 PM EST

I posted a reply to an earlier comment covering this, so I'll be brief.

There are other animals that are monogomous. So as a species, we couldbe inherintly monogomous, inherintly polyamourous, or a combination. Which way it is I think is hard to say from the inside... we should ask the aliens when they arrive.

[ Parent ]
Monogamy and humans. (4.50 / 2) (#66)
by danceswithcrows on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 03:13:47 PM EST

So as a species, we couldbe inherintly monogomous, inherintly polyamourous, or a combination.

There are pretty good correlations across the animal kingdom between body size differences between males and females and sexual behaviors in the species. In monogamous species (some loons), the males and females are very similar in size. In polygamous species (elephant seals), the males are quite a bit larger than the females. In slightly polygamous species, the males are a bit larger than the females, but not that much. So by that yardstick, humans should be slightly polygamous.

In a book called <u>The Third Chimpanzee</u> (can't remember author's name at the moment), the author focuses on humans and great apes, and draws a similar conclusion. He goes into more detail, showing that promiscuous behavior in a primate species correlates with testicle size. (There are some highly promiscuous Amazon monkey species where the males really do have ten-pound balls...)

Of course, humans have these inconveniently large brains, so their behaviors are more complex and arguments from basic biology often get swamped in a sea of other factors. Still sort of interesting, though.

Matt G (aka Dances With Crows) There is no Darkness in Eternity/But only Light too dim for us to see
[ Parent ]

Reliable Birth Control (4.62 / 8) (#15)
by richieb on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 08:12:37 AM EST

Until the availability of reliable birth control about 50 years ago, sex had pretty serious consequences - pregnancy.

The social structures created by societies that lean towards monogamy and marriage are there to help protect and raise children. Once there are mouths to feed and bodies to clothe you are very committed.

This existed in many non-western societies. For example Native Americans had pretty advanced family structure which centered around the mother.

It is a good day to code.

sex "had" pretty serious consequences? (4.00 / 3) (#94)
by BlackStripe on Thu Aug 02, 2001 at 03:33:08 AM EST

Well, pregnancy hasn't been abolished yet, and as long as HIV, AIDS, herpes and a whole other nasty assortment of diseases are still out there sex is never going to be safe. But as I said in my post (that's the previous link) I want to be in favor of polyamory, I just can't be in favor of it in the society we live in. In general I totally agree with what you're saying, though, just wanted to point out that pregnancy still exists and that it's not the only risk. Check out this awesome post regarding models for open families in literature. It has been rated way too low so please check it out and bump it up to where it can get some visibility. Oh and please don't misinterpret this as a negative critique of your post richie, I hit you with a 5 because of the short and sweet children's angle. (I myself tend to ramble...)

[ Parent ]
damn, this is weird (3.33 / 6) (#16)
by Ender Ryan on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 08:27:53 AM EST

I'm reading Stranger in a Strange Land, and yesterday I just got to the parts where Heinlein breaks out with some really weird, and fascinating ideas about sexuality. I was up really late reading it because it was so interesting. Now today the first article I see on K5...

Makes me wonder if I'm in something like the Matrix and have some kind of subconscious control over it. ; )

Exposing vast conspiracies! Experts at everything even outside our expertise! Liberators of the world from the oppression of the evil USian Empire!

We are Kuro5hin!

a direct response to Stranger (3.33 / 3) (#21)
by JaredG27 on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 09:22:00 AM EST

Well, you're actually in for more of a surprise than you thought. Maybe you didn't follow yesterday, but I submitted two articles. They were both on this topic and the first one I basically killed. But anyhow, the first one was directly in response to Stranger in a Strange Land, which I'm reading right now as well. This is also in response to it, although less direct. So if you're surprised about the connections... don't be. I won't deny my inspiration for this... :).

Take care,

[ Parent ]
uncut or cut? (Maybe spoilers) (4.00 / 2) (#128)
by R343L on Sun Aug 05, 2001 at 04:32:53 AM EST

Are you two reading the cut or uncut version? The uncut was published just a few years ago (by Mrs. Heinlein). It was originally cut for length and for scenes that the publishers at the time thought would be too racy or too extreme to allow the book to sell. The uncut version makes a lot more sense.

I read the cut version first (not knowing there was an uncut version and enjoyed it. However I enjoyed the uncut more--the discussions of sexuality and other thorny human ethical/moral issues are much better discussed. For example, (and this shouldn't give away too much) when Ben is talking to Jubal about Mike's commune/religion lifestyle the discussion is much longer (and much clearer) in the uncut. I don't remember for sure, but I think there was a reference to homosexuality in this scene that was axed in the cut version. Possibly other references to sexuality.

On a tangent, regarding the marriage style in Stranger in a Strange Land, homosexuality references (in the uncut version) demonstrate that sex is to Mike's system as water-sharing is to the Martian culture. The purpose in Mike's system is for sex to bring water-brother's closer spiritually/emotionally and to reaffirm their bond. Since Mike has to teach his water-brothers the Martian language before they can really be telepathic, this is how one-ness is achieved. Mike also sees sex as a unique way of bringing oneness.

The Martians having telepathy basically from adulthood on have other ways of reaffirming closeness--the water ceremony. The water ceremony seems to be almost a meditative way of syncing up their minds. I get this idea from some references in STISL and also in Red Planet (one of Heinlein's earlier novels--read the uncut). The Martians in it seem to have a very similar culture (and somewhat similar physical form) as in STISL so I think the two books are kind of in the same universe, as far as the Martians go. At one point in Red Planet two teenagers participate in a ceremony with the native Martians involving water passed around and drunk. They both fall into a meditative state and when they come out of it they both feel they understand Martian language and culture better (they have limited knowledge of both to begin with.)

Ok, enough tangent....
"Like cheese spread over too much cantelope, the people I spoke with liked their shoes." Ctrl-Alt-Del
[ Parent ]

On "outsmarting" (4.46 / 15) (#17)
by johnny on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 08:41:52 AM EST

I think the title of this post was wisely chosen.

I've been married for 20 years. I like it. And while I would be happy to talk about at least some aspects of my sex life on this forum, I cannot do that without disclosing a good deal about my wife's sex life too, and she's not comfortable with that, so my comments may seem a little delicate.

I got married when I was, hmm, I think 28. Or 29? whatever. My wife was at the time 31? We got married mainly because she was pregnant. Our relationship was intermittently rocky (sometimes very rocky), and both of us were used to the "I'm young and I'm free and I'm horny" lifestyle. We were not good prospects for a long-term monagamous relationship. We were good prospects for a lot of playing with the rules, followed by a messy divorce. However, I would characterize our current relationship as longterm, monagamous, happy, and successful. While I can imagine sex with somebody who isn't my wife, I cannot imagine "cheating."

Our monagamy arose from necessity. Early in our marriage we experienced catastrophic threats to the health of our children. We learned that in order to protect and provide for our children, in order to get the medical and other care they needed, we had to function as a team.

In the early years of our marriage, I was totally devoted to my children, but often wished my wife would vanish from the earth. I am sure that she felt the same about her children, and about me (with good reason). Eventually we realized (with some outside help) that there was no such thing as taking care of our children without taking care of our relationship. By the grace of God, or whatever, by dumb luck, we had managed to keep ourselves monogamous through "the desert years." So we had a foundation of at least *that* baseline of trust upon which to build a real marriage.

Good thing, too. Because we have been through a LOT of what I shall euphemistically call "stuff". Stress stress stress stress stress stress stress. Have you ever read those questionaires about how much stress a person can handle-- good stress or bad stress? A death in the family, a chronically ill child, a bankruptcy, a move, a loss of a job. . . you get the picture. According to one such questionaire I read in magazine, my wife and I have been dead for at least fifteen years.

The rest gets mushy. Suffice it to say that my family is my joy, and dare I say it, my chief contribution to society. The joy I get from loving and being loved by my children, the joy I get from observing their love for each other, is inconceivable to me outside of the context of our family, intact, which is based on the soul-binding of me and my wife.

Other people may work things differently. I don't think our way is the only way (although I do think that parental narcissim is a main source of evil in advanced consumerist societies). I do know in my heart that my marriage, hence my family, would NEVER have survived sex-on-the side during its formative years. During those years I often tried to "outsmart" monagamy. My intellect gave me a hundred, no, make that 13,324,987 reasons why it made sense for me to forgo monagamy. My dumb stupid heart told me otherwise, and I'm glad I listened.

OK that's sappy enough for today.

yr frn,
Get your free download of prizewinning novels Acts of the Apostles and Cheap Complex Devices.

Many degrees of love (4.66 / 12) (#18)
by DangerGrrl on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 08:42:02 AM EST

I think the most common 'mistake' one makes in percieving polyamoury with a monogamy based mind is that one HAS to seperate the emotion from the act. There is this idea that if you love someone else then you are cheating. It may be confusing, but if there is no intention or action on your part that is meant to decieve your partner, then it can't be cheating.

I am in, what my partner and I have dubbed a 'open for discussion' relationship - and it is about as nausiatingly healthy as it sounds. I have feelings for someone else - we talk about it. He wants to make out with someone else - we talk about it. And about 99% of the time neither of us has a problem with either of us doing 'something' with someone else.

Why? Well, I'm glad you asked.

Having feelings for someone else does not negate your feelings for another. Look at it from a non romantic veiw, personalities not withstanding, do you love your mother any less because you also love your father? Nope. It is the same way in relationships. Love is an infinate and fluxuating thing.

The thing that is in limited supply is time and energy. Taking time away from one person to be with another is where the feelings of jelousy usually start to boil up. Or when one is too tired to be with one person after being with the other. So we get into this whole "If you loved me you would spend more time with me than you do him/her," mentality - which really, only communication, understanding, and a healthy dose of patiance can overcome.

Some people are happier in monogamy. ::shrug:: I find that extream monogamy tends to have poor communication, underlying feelings of guilt and betrayal for even being attracted to someone else (which is perfectly natural anyway), and jelousy runs higher than in polyamoury structures. Even if me and my SO never sleep with another individual, and are in practice mongoamous, I'd rather keep the guise of 'open for discussion' to avoid the traps many of my monogamous friends fall into.

re: Many degrees of love (4.60 / 5) (#43)
by /dev/niall on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 11:31:32 AM EST

I find that extream monogamy tends to have poor communication, underlying feelings of guilt and betrayal for even being attracted to someone else (which is perfectly natural anyway), and jelousy runs higher than in polyamoury structures.

Perhaps you find that most people you are familiar with and are in a monogamous relationship act this way, but I assure you the fact that they have an exclusive partner is not the cause. Perhaps it is safer to say that non-communicative, guilty, jealous folk tend to desire a single partner; perhaps to keep things simple (hmm, which one was I made at for checking that person out?).

I've been in a monogamous relationship for almost 6 years now. There is no lack of communication. There is no jealousy. There is plenty of guilt, but that's because I went to catholic schools ;). We check out other people. I make fun of her taste, she makes fun of mine. Why are we monogamous? I could lie to you and myself and say it's because we love eachother so much. That's certainly a lot of it, but lets face it: we are a product of our societies. Oh yeah, that and we also find most people incredibly irritating. <g>
"compared to the other apes, my genitals are gigantic" -- TheophileEscargot
[ Parent ]

Opportunity Cost (3.46 / 13) (#20)
by 2400n81 on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 09:03:48 AM EST

"Logically this, logically that" is the shit I've seen so far from peoples' comments. I love how people can be so "logical" without having any logic, just an incredible amount of arrogant justification and self-centered hubris.

Ok, kids, so let's look at this in a proper perspective. Let's look at the opportunity cost for cheating, whether it is a simple act of sex or an affair.

1 or more small lies at some point ("I was, uh, out with an associate")
1 or more big lies ("We didn't have sex. She just needed to be held.")
1 eventual Betrayal of Trust which can never be returned
2 "defense" walls of communication go up between husband and wife.
1 or more trips to counselling
1 or more acts of mental abuse
1 or more incidents of screaming and yelling
(Male) 1 or more children you'll never have regular access to again.
$1 or more you'll have to pay for alimony
1 or more personal items you escape with out of a messy divorce.
$1 or more for trial lawyer and state fees
1 or more times you'll have to see your ex-significant other happier with another person.
1 or more quirks and weird baggage that your new girlfriend has that your ex didn't.
2 depleted self-esteems.

There's a reason so-called "Judeo-Christian" marriages are more accepted and acceptable in most cultures and it ain't because people are a bunch of squares or afraid to cut loose.

I think you missed the point (3.80 / 5) (#30)
by Michael Leuchtenburg on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 10:55:02 AM EST

There's a reason so-called "Judeo-Christian" marriages are more accepted and acceptable in most cultures and it ain't because people are a bunch of squares or afraid to cut loose.

The rest of your comment doesn't express anything to do with this. It says that cheating, within the context of a monogamous relationship, can have serious unhappy consequences. It doesn't say anything about the goodness/badness of monogamous relationships as opposed to non-monogamous relationships. You fell into exactly the same trap you berate others for in the intro of your comment, "an incredible amount of arrogant justification and self-centered hubris" "without having any logic".

You're right. Betraying someone's trust is a bad idea. Don't make that point and claim to make another, though.

[ #k5: dyfrgi ]
[ TINK5C ]
[ Parent ]

Unless... (4.50 / 4) (#41)
by Jazu on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 11:26:12 AM EST

Unless you tell the truth(as has been mentioned) and it does not result in 1 or more bouts of screaming and yelling.

[ Parent ]
US Statistics (4.55 / 9) (#22)
by BubbaD on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 10:09:26 AM EST

Let me comment from a different angle. There is a huge spike in the number of divorces that happen in the fourth year of marraige. (I believe most of all divorces occur within four years) And there continues to be a significant increase in divorces every fourth year, 8,12,16 etc... This suggests to me that humans might have a four year mating cycle! Maybe 8 on the outside (consistant with the legendary seven-year-inch) Biologically it makes sense. The first three years of a child's life requires a lot of attention from parents. Two full-time caretakers is very helpful. If you then consider possible help from grandparents, uncles, aunts, brothers and sisters, a child doesn't really need that much fatherly attention (at least not in the primitive societies of our early ancestors) At eight years, the father might even be a competitor for limited resources, as much a hinderance as help.
I believe that monogamy, but short-term serial monogamy is the "natural" condition of our ancestors. It is a reasonable compromise between the male instinct to maximize the number of mates (and offspring), and the female instinct to secure as much investment from the male for her offspring.

US elections (3.00 / 6) (#39)
by crealf on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 11:17:45 AM EST

There is a huge spike in the number of divorces that happen in the fourth year of marraige. (I believe most of all divorces occur within four years) And there continues to be a significant increase in divorces every fourth year, 8,12,16 etc... This suggests to me that humans might have a four year mating cycle!

This might be due to US elections. After all, there is a priori only 1/2 chances that you are on the same side as your significant other. Depending on how much you are politized, and attached at your SO, at a given moment of your life, this must be a sure motive for divorce.

[ Parent ]

Timing.... (4.25 / 4) (#57)
by Elkor on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 01:45:09 PM EST

I'm going to assume you refer to Presidential Elections, since they are the most "popular" election that happens in a four year cycle.

Your premise only holds true if everyone gets married in an election year. As it is, there are people that get married all the time. The duration of marriage is measured from the time they get married, not relative to some external event.

Your premise would dictate that there is a large spike in the number of divorces during an election year, but other years it would be a different value. To my knowledge, this isn't the case.

I will however, turn your example around and psoit the following:
Perhaps we limit office terms to increments of four years because that is a natural cycle for us?

This doesn't include or attempt to explain Senate and Representative terms (in the USA) which are 6 and 2 years respectively.


"I won't tell you how to love God if you don't tell me how to love myself."
-Margo Eve
[ Parent ]
Re: Thinking (3.50 / 2) (#77)
by crealf on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 07:03:45 PM EST

Your premise only holds true if everyone gets married in an election year. As it is, there are people that get married all the time. The duration of marriage is measured from the time they get married, not relative to some external event.

You're right. My joke theory can now only work, if the bulk of divorced-beacuse-of-presidential-election people remarry relatively quickly (in the following year or so).

[ Parent ]

Women are getting divorced after shorter marriages (3.50 / 2) (#127)
by mrBlond on Fri Aug 03, 2001 at 09:50:24 PM EST

Of women age 20-54, the median duration of marriage was 6.3 years in 1990.
Of younger women, women ages 25-29, the median duration was 3.4 years in 1990. This is down from 3.7 years in 1985 and 4.0 years in 1980.
Of women ages 30-34, the median duration was 4.9 years in 1990, down from 5.2 years in 1985 and 5.5 years in 1980.
Of women ages 40-44, the median duration was 7.6 years in 1990, down from 9.7 years in 1980. - Split-up
Inoshiro for cabal leader.
[ Parent ]
Monogomy = Stability? (3.60 / 10) (#28)
by Kat Goodwin on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 10:46:02 AM EST

I have to agree that I can't understand how people can be in love with someone, in a relationship with them, and bear to have a physical relationship with someone else.

Yes of course love doesn't stop other attractions, of a physical nature at least, but I think the point of a relationship is that you take these feelings on board, and then pass them by. I can understand that some people prefer to live differently, but I don't honestly think that many are really actually happy in 'open' relationships. Yes, maybe the guilt for being attracted to somebody else is not there, but what I can't understand is how people can bear to let somebody else touch the one they love, to take their place in their bed or wherever, for even a small time. It would drive me crazy! Also its the uncertainty - maybe he/she tells their partner about things, discusses them sometimes, but how is the other person to be able to trust that they are not going out and being with other people, that they know nothing about!

The other great attraction about monogomy, is a sense of stability that you get. A sense that the other person in the relationship will always be there (and no this doesn't mean they should be taken for granted). I find it wonderful to know that my fiance (soon to be husband) will always be there for me, and that I will return the favour. It gives me confidence to live life enthusiastically, knowing that if things go wrong, as they have already, we will have each other to provide the support we need to rebuild things and get back out there!

monogamy == monogamy (4.50 / 6) (#38)
by Michael Leuchtenburg on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 11:15:26 AM EST

I can understand that some people prefer to live differently, but I don't honestly think that many are really actually happy in 'open' relationships. Yes, maybe the guilt for being attracted to somebody else is not there, but what I can't understand is how people can bear to let somebody else touch the one they love, to take their place in their bed or wherever, for even a small time. It would drive me crazy!

Obviously you don't understand that some people prefer to live differently, or at least that they feel differently than you. You say that you don't think people are actually happy in open relationships (which is NOT the only type of non-monogamy, by the way; you could read the alt.polyamory FAQ if you want more info on that front). How can you deny the thousands of people who have said that yes, they are happy in their open relationship? Are they simply deluded? Have they convinced themselves, through some convoluted pseudo-logical emotionalally-repressing psycho-voodoo that they, indeed, are not unhappy in their situations? I don't think that's true. Also its the uncertainty - maybe he/she tells their partner about things, discusses them sometimes, but how is the other person to be able to trust that they are not going out and being with other people, that they know nothing about!

It's called trust. How do you know that in a monogamous relationship, for that matter? If you don't have trust, you don't have anything.

I, for one, am quite happy in my open relationship. There's one person right here. There are many others in this very forum. Look around, you'll see them.

How do I deal with it? It's never really been a problem. Being poly does not mean that your partner or partners will not always be there for you. Just as in the widely used serial monogamy model for relationships (one person at a time, many people in a lifetime), relationships do change, and end, but polyamory doesn't prevent commitment. With some people it might cause problems because they feel more able to commit since the relationship is more flexible, but people who have successful relationships tend to think about them a little bit more than "how can I get my immediate desires out of this".

And if you'll excuse me, I have to be off to see my SO and one of her romantic interests. I'll be happy, don't worry.

[ #k5: dyfrgi ]
[ TINK5C ]
[ Parent ]

Unsubstantiated assumption (4.12 / 8) (#31)
by scheme on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 11:00:24 AM EST

You state that monogamy was not the normal situation for primitive people. However, you really don't back that up. Given that this assumption plays a major part in your thesis, I can't see much point in the rest of the article. Without adequately showing that monogamy is a cultural affectation, I don't see how the rest of your argument holds

"Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. THAT'S relativity." --Albert Einstein

evidence exists, it's just not interesting to read (3.25 / 4) (#33)
by JaredG27 on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 11:03:42 AM EST

I wasn't focusing on the anthropological evidence, it's there and most people take it for granted. I can dig up some info to support it if you'd like. But right now I should probably be doing some work...


[ Parent ]
Polygamy (4.20 / 5) (#37)
by crealf on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 11:14:01 AM EST

I wasn't focusing on the anthropological evidence, it's there and most people take it for granted. I can dig up some info to support it if you'd like. But right now I should probably be doing some work...

I wouldn't bother to do so, for polygamy was extremely often the result of the women deemed as inferior, or even worse, as objects in primitive societies. In Western societies, women only had the right to vote only relatively recently.

Saying polygamy is natural on the grounds of its frequency, would be similar to say that slavery is natural (even sophisticated cilization such as Roman Empire or Ancient Greece heavily relied on slavery, after all).

[ Parent ]

Natural does not mean good. (4.33 / 3) (#63)
by DGolden on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 02:59:25 PM EST

Be careful - "natural" has nothing to do with "right". Nature is harsh and "unjust" - human concepts of right and wrong do not apply. Natural does not mean better.

If we lok at most higher primates, it would appear that polygamy _is_ "natural" for most of our closest relatives.... In fact if we look at many large mammals, the usual pattern is many females and a few dominant males.

Humans fight to overcome nature, usually. If we didn't, most of us would be dead from nasty diseases.

And also, from a staying-alive perspective, both slavery and polygamy have their advantages.

Slaves tend to get fed and breed. Slavery is therefore often a successful pattern for society. Actually, the current capitalist system is _worse_ in some ways - you've got less job security and no guaranteed meal ticket, for example.

A polygamous family can consolidate more resources and also expand faster (two women can be pregnant at once :-).

Also, how we judge the "naturalness" of most things _is_ based on the frequency of observation in the environment.

Personally, I think humanity tends towards a feudal/tribal system, and tends to think in those terms. (See the short story "No Truce With Kings" by- I think - Frank Herbert, and consider the introduction of the "queen" into the borg in star trek - a hierarchical power structure that humans can relate to, but definitely less efficient than the orginal freenet-like decentralised borg)
Once again, while this may be the "natural" tendency, it doesn't mean it's good.

Don't eat yellow snow
[ Parent ]
"No Truce With Kings" - Author Correctio (3.00 / 1) (#109)
by dasunt on Thu Aug 02, 2001 at 06:16:51 PM EST

I'm sorry, but "No Truce with Kings" was not by Frank Herbert, but by Poul Anderson (my memory and google backs this up).

Its in an anthology of Sci-Fi called "Space Wars", a book I own, and Amazon.com reports it as the title of one of Poul's Science Fiction collections.

[ Parent ]

thanks (none / 0) (#121)
by DGolden on Fri Aug 03, 2001 at 05:29:33 AM EST

Aah. thanks. figured I'd screwed up...
Pity he's gone. :-(
Don't eat yellow snow
[ Parent ]
animals (3.00 / 5) (#60)
by roju on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 02:16:43 PM EST

It's interesting to note that humans aren't the only animals that practice monigamy (uh it's a hard word an i'm a lazy man). Male praying mantises (manti?) have only one partner (though not by choice :).

I don't remember the list exactly, it was something I read a long time ago... but I think it included one or more type of bird, cat, uh actually, my memory on it's a bit fried, so that's all I can seem to remember.

Some people have done research on which of those animals have extra-marrital affairs too ... it's kind of neat.. in one bird, the male is faithful, but the women sneaks out and has affairs without the male knowing. (i think that's how the roles were, it may have been the other way around).
Although now that I think of it, it's kind of hard have only females cheating on their partners in a heterosexual environment.

Ah well.

[ Parent ]
re:animals (4.00 / 2) (#95)
by GoldDog on Thu Aug 02, 2001 at 07:51:03 AM EST

One word: Bonobos =)

[ Parent ]
About "cheating"... (4.40 / 15) (#32)
by DoomHaven on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 11:03:08 AM EST

Cheating, IMO, isn't having extra-relationship sex, it is breaking the trust of a relationship with a third party. Depending on how you define that trust, having extra-relationship sex may or may not be cheating. On the flip side, having a closer friend than your partner the same gender as you partner might be cheating, too.

My bleeding edge comes from cutting myself on Occam's Razor.
we've been talking about that... (3.00 / 1) (#35)
by JaredG27 on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 11:06:47 AM EST

There's a thread from this discussion on just that, definitions of trust:

[ Parent ]
Thanks for the link! (4.00 / 2) (#105)
by DoomHaven on Thu Aug 02, 2001 at 02:57:27 PM EST

Very informative, and I agree with you point. But, have you and your gf codified the sphere of trust? I mean, you trust that she is not going to go be "sleeping around", but does *she* know that? My girlfriend and I haven't done that, so I have to make that assumption. Maybe her and I will have a talk about it.

Though I agree with you, I am not stating that the way we view trust in a relationship is the only way to. "Cheating" (IE: violating the trust of relationship with a third party) could mean completely different things to other people, depending on how the trust is defined. It could allow the people in a couple to have sex with third parties. Or, it could prevent people from having even friends of a closer nature than their partner. I would consider it cheating if my (fictional and theoretical) wife had a male friend closer to her than me, and who she would confide in with more than she would confide in with me. That, to me, would violate the trust in our relationship.

My bleeding edge comes from cutting myself on Occam's Razor.
[ Parent ]
Totally Agree! (none / 0) (#137)
by Tapestry on Thu Aug 16, 2001 at 08:32:59 PM EST

I just want to say that I agree with this statement. Nothing else needs to be added in comment. *smiles*
[ Parent ]
Life 101 for the infantile. (2.09 / 11) (#34)
by tkatchev on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 11:06:46 AM EST

It takes 9 months of effort to give birth to a child. (Way, way less if you're a man, BTW.)

It takes at least 18 years of effort to raise a healthy and productive member of society.

Sex is just a tiny and a relatively minor part of the human experience.
(It's articles like this that reinforce my impression that this site's readership is almost exclusively 14 yr-old pimply high-school nerds. No offense, BTW.)

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.

disagree (4.20 / 5) (#36)
by JaredG27 on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 11:10:58 AM EST

I won't claim to be offended, but first of all, a lot of people have a great deal to say about this. And that's because you're wrong on one big point:

"Sex is just a tiny and a relatively minor part of the human experience."

Sorry, but sex (in all its meanings) is one of the most basic elements. And it can be a big part of relationships and life. If it's not a big part of yours, then you're probably missing out. And if there are 14 year old pimply nerds that are getting some, then all power to them :).

[ Parent ]
Huh? (2.20 / 5) (#40)
by tkatchev on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 11:20:13 AM EST

What exactly is your point?

Shitting and pissing is an even more basic element of life. You can go without sex for years without ill effects, but just try not going to the bathroom for a week.

What I'm trying to say is that sex is simply a physiological necessity. Without a spiritial attachement it is pointless.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Long term effects require short term causes (4.20 / 5) (#42)
by JaredG27 on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 11:29:46 AM EST

I agree that it's not so great without a "spiritual attachment"... but that's not to say that one can't derive pleasure from it. Many people do, and without a spiritual attachment.

You're right that sex is not a day-to-day biological necessity, but it's still important. And do keep in mind that many of our physiological activities become self-chosen necessities.

To get back to what you were saying before... sex is only a small element of raising a child or giving birth, but it can be a large element of marriage or relationships. What you're saying is that purchasing a car, choosing a life-partner, or deciding on a college or a job is a small element in the long run... but it isn't. We can't have a long-term effect without a short-term cause.

This article is about deciding what causes are acceptable, and what ones will give us effects that one can live with. And the causes that we're dealing with, sex and choosing partnerships, are not small ones. I'm sorry if you don't see them as such.

[ Parent ]
C.S. Lewis and The Four Loves (4.00 / 4) (#48)
by Lord13 on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 12:23:00 PM EST

Actually C.S. Lewis stated he believed that "affection" was a basic human need. I don't think he specifcally stated that intercourse was a need (anybody know?). I don't agree with C.S. on everything he states in The Four Loves, but I certainly agree that giving and receiving affection is, at least, very important.

Shitting and pissing is an even more basic element of life. You can go without sex for years without ill effects, but just try not going to the bathroom for a week.

If your talking physically, I would agree. Mentally I think you would have some issues.

What I'm trying to say is that sex is simply a physiological necessity. Without a spiritial attachement it is pointless.

So it's needed, but with out "spiritial attachement" it's pointless? What exactly does that mean?

Growing half a tree, water it everyday.
[ Parent ]
And (3.50 / 2) (#93)
by skim123 on Thu Aug 02, 2001 at 01:03:14 AM EST

Actually C.S. Lewis stated he believed that "affection" was a basic human need

And many psychologists would agree with you - see case studies on infants who lacked physical handling for the first few months of their lives, experiments with monkies who were given wire monkey mothers instead of cloth ones, etc. In our first few months of life, lack of affection can really fuck you over.

Shitting and pissing is an even more basic element of life. You can go without sex for years without ill effects, but just try not going to the bathroom for a week.

If your talking physically, I would agree. Mentally I think you would have some issues

Frued might disagree with you there. :-)

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
PT Barnum

[ Parent ]
Sex is required for normal people! (4.00 / 3) (#101)
by bored on Thu Aug 02, 2001 at 12:56:46 PM EST

Shitting and pissing is an even more basic element of life. You can go without sex for years without ill effects, but just try not going to the bathroom for a week.

Failing to take a shit for a few days will have physical effect. I think that for most 'normal' people failing to have sex for long periods of their life will a psychological effect, like for instance depression. This can in turn cause physical problems. In cases where a person doesn't desire sex for years may indicate some form of preexisting damage.

[ Parent ]
14yr old pimply high-school nerds (2.25 / 4) (#62)
by greggman on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 02:56:06 PM EST

What the f*ck is that supposed to mean? It seems to me the #1 group of people that talk about sex is 20 to 45 year old woman reading the sex articles that dominate all those damn *womens* magazines near the checkout counter in the super market. Get a f*cking clue. Sexual issues are discussed by most intelligent people. Sex is a large part of most of the most respected works of fiction in history. Even the Bible talks about sex (and I'm not talking about "thou shall not..").

[ Parent ]
uhm. (4.00 / 4) (#67)
by kitten on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 03:30:49 PM EST

It takes 9 months of effort to give birth to a child. (Way, way less if you're a man, BTW.)
It takes at least 18 years of effort to raise a healthy and productive member of society.
Sex is just a tiny and a relatively minor part of the human experience.

Since when is human sexuality about reproduction? How many people have sex exclusively for reproductive purposes?

Your post is utterly ignoring the point of the article. Reproduction - though it may be the ultimate evolutionary reason behind the human sex drive - has very little to do with modern human sexuality.
mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
[ Parent ]
You define human experience (3.50 / 2) (#79)
by Steeltoe on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 07:30:07 PM EST

It sounds like your "human experience" is just a one-way street. From conceiving children to death. Guess what. Not everyone are happy with that. Do you know how many gays have been/are married with wife and children for instance? It's because of pressure and expectations from the community, family and friends. But it's all breaking up now because people are realizing they don't need other people running their lives anymore, telling them what they can- or should do.

Besides, sex, like any other human issue has connections with spirituality and greater understanding. Why should any topic be hidden away? If you have problem with discussing it, you should try to figure out why, not call K5-readers names.

- Steeltoe
Explore the Art of Living

[ Parent ]
What's the big deal, anyway? (3.63 / 11) (#44)
by jd on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 12:07:22 PM EST

I've never understood people's obsession with sex, and I have to wonder how much of people's "enjoyment" is because of (a) bragging rights, (b) self-esteem/self-image, (c) society telling people that it's "fun".

I do a great deal for fun, and derive a great deal of satisfaction from all that I do. There is little that beats a 20+ mile walk through the hills, for honest pleasure, for me.

Getting tempermental programs to compile and run is another source. Watching wild dolphins at work. Looking at the stars, through a telescope. Patching up 18th century recipies, so that they're edible (& safe) today. Looking after some berserker hamsters.

THESE, to me, are fun. And EACH involves a commited relationship, of its own kind. You can't keep animals, neglect them, and expect them to thrive. Walk 20 miles, maybe once a month, and you'll feel every step of the way. Debug a program, while focussing on the TV, and you'll discover how quickly bugs can breed.

Although I get zero satisfaction from sex, I can at least understand the idea that people can, in a commited relationship. It follows the same sort of pattern I'm familiar with, so it makes sense.

But those who go nuts about it? That, I can't understand, and frankly, I don't really want to. That doesn't mean I have to be prejudiced - I can accept that that's what these people do. However, I still have a hard time believing that they do enjoy it. Hydraulics and valve operation are not the most exciting things in the world. About the only thing that allows it to make any kind of sense is that the act itself isn't of any interest, that that is merely a ticket by which they can buy something else.

But, hey, so what? It's their life. I don't have to understand it, or even agree with it. So long as I don't try to enforce my views on others, and they don't try to enforce theirs on me, there's plenty of world for everyone to live in.

You should be married to my wife (3.75 / 4) (#49)
by FlightTest on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 12:36:22 PM EST

Although I get zero satisfaction from sex, I can at least understand the idea that people can, in a commited relationship. It follows the same sort of pattern I'm familiar with, so it makes sense.

My wife doesn't get any satisfaction from sex either. :( I'm sure it's my fault somehow.

Sex is like anything else on the planet. Some people derrive great pleasure from it, some could care less, some probably really dislike it. Just because it is or isn't a big deal for one person doesn't mean it's the same for anyone else.

Why did I flip? I got tired of coming up with last minute desparate solutions to impossible problems created by other fucking people.
[ Parent ]
sexual dysfunction is very common :( (4.75 / 4) (#50)
by JaredG27 on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 12:45:32 PM EST

Sadly something like 15% of society suffers from a form of sexual dysfunction. Some of it is socially induced, and much of it is biological. Don't quote me on the "15%" part, cause it's probably much higher.

I know this because I dated someone with some problems in that area... though it was a surprise to her.

I did a lot of research, both with doctors and in literature, and found that such problems aren't uncommon. It's sad that stimulation can't be pleasurable for all parties, but it is a fact of life. And it's something everyone needs to know about themself and their partner...

[ Parent ]
I just wish (4.00 / 3) (#54)
by FlightTest on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 12:51:18 PM EST

that I'd seen the signs BEFORE we got married. She really did try the first couple years, but it has slowly tapered off. It's hard to keep doing something you really don't like, I guess.

Why did I flip? I got tired of coming up with last minute desparate solutions to impossible problems created by other fucking people.
[ Parent ]
that's tough... but there are things to try.. (4.33 / 3) (#55)
by JaredG27 on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 01:02:10 PM EST

That's really tough. What it does force you to do, however, is to be creative in your approaches to physical intimacy. There _are_ other things to do: massage, dance, wrestling, and lots of variations which I don't care on the above and other, which I needn't mention here...

It's all what works for you, but there are ways around things. That's not to say that I'm not somewhat thankful that we broke up and it's not something I have to consider anymore.

Also, one more thing to consider is professional help... depending on the issue and yours and your wife's openness about it. But there are remedies, both pharmaceutical and therapeutic.

Anyhow, it wasn't a big focus for me in our relatively short relationship. I imagine it must be harder when it's your whole life. It caused "issues" for me, but there were things to try and I was (and am) young. That's my two cents...


[ Parent ]
New things to try (4.50 / 2) (#71)
by FlightTest on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 04:36:07 PM EST

Yesterday's attempt was flowers and dinner. I've never been much on flowers, so she was totally shocked, and very appreciative, I thought. But not the desired end result.

We've talked about going for counsoling. We may yet. It is a rather touchy subject and one she's not too fond of sharing with others. She'd probably be less than thrilled to see me commenting here.

Sometimes I get thinking "is this the way it's going to be for rest of my life?" And that's a pretty depressing thought. I just try to make it through one day (and night) at a time.

Why did I flip? I got tired of coming up with last minute desparate solutions to impossible problems created by other fucking people.
[ Parent ]
taking this thread off-k5.. (none / 0) (#73)
by JaredG27 on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 04:58:25 PM EST

this is getting personal, so i sent you an email... ~J

[ Parent ]
i tried... (none / 0) (#84)
by JaredG27 on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 10:01:26 PM EST

My message got bounced back... send me an email at jared@dancingwithwords.com and I'll resend what I wrote...if you'd like.


[ Parent ]
Okay (none / 0) (#97)
by FlightTest on Thu Aug 02, 2001 at 10:47:25 AM EST

I Sent you an e-mail from that account. Try to re-send by replying to my message. I'll try to send something to that e-mail from a different account and see what happens as well.

Why did I flip? I got tired of coming up with last minute desparate solutions to impossible problems created by other fucking people.
[ Parent ]
I used to have this issue (5.00 / 3) (#90)
by MSBob on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 11:32:12 PM EST

I used to have the same issue with my wife. She just didn't seem to enjoy it. It got the point where I started thinking about divorcing her (although I never told her that). However, things have changed in the last couple of years. My wife is now pretty exciting in bed and we do it all the time. I don't exactly know how this changed but I have my theory. What changed in the last couple of years is money. We have money now. We used to berely get by and we often quarreled about money and things related to that (lack of holidays etc). It may sound silly to some but if your relationship is suffering in other areas you may find that the bad vibes will affect your sex life. Take an overall view at your relationship. Is it good otherwise? Or are you quarreling all the time or even some of the time? If there are problem areas my bet is that they are greatly affecting your sex life.
I don't mind paying taxes, they buy me civilization.

[ Parent ]
Marriage Problems (4.00 / 3) (#98)
by FlightTest on Thu Aug 02, 2001 at 11:01:15 AM EST

Actually, the amazing thing is, our marriage is excellent except for this one area. We agree on money, we have no children to fight about.

I don't think the issues are between us, I think the issues are more personal. She's a workaholic. For instance, she worked an almost 13 hour day yesterday. She knows she works too much, but she says there's so much to do. Her job is well-defined, so it's not like they pile it on her, it's just that she needs at least one more body to do the work. (She's an medical insurance biller for a single doctor practice)

Partly as a result of working so much, she doesn't get any exercise. So her shoulder, or neck , or elbow, or something is always hurting. When she's hurting, she ends up essentially just lying there, which is absolutely no fun for either of us.

Why did I flip? I got tired of coming up with last minute desparate solutions to impossible problems created by other fucking people.
[ Parent ]
Couch potato syndrome? (4.00 / 3) (#103)
by MSBob on Thu Aug 02, 2001 at 01:50:00 PM EST

On the surface it sounds like your better half is not getting enough excerise. This very often is a reason for a terrible sexual life. If you don't excersise your body isn't prepared well to handle the extra effort that making love involves!

Also people who don't exercise on a regular basis tend to feel bad about their bodies. This in itself is often a reason for avoiding sex.

I don't mind paying taxes, they buy me civilization.

[ Parent ]
lack of andrenaline (4.00 / 3) (#104)
by JaredG27 on Thu Aug 02, 2001 at 02:50:10 PM EST

And for many people, exercising or physical activity is often a turn-on. Physically fighting over something as simple as a remote can put people in interesting positions, but more importnantly it's interesting what a little adrenaline will do for the hormones.

Sorry, no scientific basis for this comment :).


[ Parent ]
Ummm, yeah (3.50 / 2) (#124)
by FlightTest on Fri Aug 03, 2001 at 11:13:22 AM EST

On the surface it sounds like your better half is not getting enough excerise. This very often is a reason for a terrible sexual life. If you don't excersise your body isn't prepared well to handle the extra effort that making love involves!

No, she's not getting enough exercise. And I've told her that. I've told her that she will have MORE energy if she exercises, not less, but I don't think she believes me.

Why did I flip? I got tired of coming up with last minute desparate solutions to impossible problems created by other fucking people.
[ Parent ]
interesting (3.50 / 2) (#119)
by crayz on Fri Aug 03, 2001 at 01:06:01 AM EST

I think while a lot of cases the "taking things a day at a time" is a good way to get through it, here it seems to obviously not be a good thing.

I think you gotta look ahead and if you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, you can sort of suck it up until then. If there is no light, you've got to stop taking it a day at a time, and really try to fix the problem.

[ Parent ]
Faggots (4.00 / 4) (#45)
by Brandon Edens on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 12:10:27 PM EST

Larry Kramer, the homosexual AIDs activist, wrote a book entitled Faggots, in 1978. I know of this because recently I got a chance to learn a little about his life and work through a Newsweek article that I happened upon. The article stated that Larry Kramer wrote this work as an attack against the then polygamous homosexual culture when his significant other refused to practice monogamy within their relationship. Incidentally, shortly thereafter, HIV/AIDS turned that entire culture upon its head.

I've included the Editorial Review from Amazon.com.

Editorial Reviews
Very few writers have the prescience or audacity to produce one of the standard works of their era--not a classic, necessarily, but a book that defines its own cultural moment in startling new terms, like One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest or Portnoy's Complaint . Activist and rabble-rouser Larry Kramer has the distinction of having written not only one of the earliest and best-known plays on AIDS, The Normal Heart, but also the astonishing satire of gay urban sexual mores Faggots, perhaps the most reviled novel in the gay literary canon. A grim, graphic expansion on John Rechy's Numbers , which chronicled a hustler's soulless game of sexual conquest, Kramer's pornopticon turns off many readers by about page 3, when its hero, the screenwriter Fred Lemish, is offered an array of dubious pleasures in a private room at the infamous Everard Baths in New York. What Lemish really wants, of course, is true love, preferably from his elusive boyfriend, Dinky Adams. But as long as he's in the room...

Celebrated and excoriated when it first appeared in 1978, this reprint of a gay anticlassic is not for the faint of heart. For the rest of us, it is a harsh, fascinating, and somewhat eerie revisitation of the carnal excesses of a generation that couldn't hear the bell tolling over the disco beat.

Book Description
Larry Kramer's Faggots has been in print since its original publication in 1978 and has become one of the best-selling novels about gay life ever written. The book is a fierce satire of the gay ghetto and a touching story of one man's desperate search for love there, and reading it today is a fascinating look at how much, and how little, has changed.

Can one outsmart the merits of commitment in relat (4.46 / 15) (#46)
by sgt on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 12:15:50 PM EST

At 66 years of age & 3 marriages 1 long-time (6 years) 'affair', & having 'done it all' worlwide, I would have to emphatically state: I DO NOT believe that some people can really separate their emotions from their physicality! In early youth one is able to enjoy a certain amount of (separated) physical pleasure without too much recourse, but, even that, has an association of at least a friendship to sustain it. The older we get, either we DENY our EMOTIONS or find it increasingly difficult to continue this way. Some do and suffer incredibly (with or without consiousness). :^)
= sgt =
So you're saying what? (4.00 / 2) (#130)
by kimbly on Sun Aug 05, 2001 at 10:14:17 PM EST

Are you saying that poly doesn't work, since you can't help but fall in love with the other person? Or are you saying that poly does work as long as you accept that you will come to care about the other person? Or are you somehow talking about jealousy? Or am I just being very dense?

I completely agree with you that separating emotions from sex can be near impossible for some people (I'm one of them). I'm willing to give you the benefit of the doubt that this tendency increases as one gets older. But I don't see what conclusion you expect us to infer from your statement.

[ Parent ]

Poly and Pagan (4.50 / 8) (#58)
by anansi on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 01:59:22 PM EST

Of the existing religions out there, i am probably most compatible with wicca or neopaganism. In these traditions, sexual intercourse is often called, "The great rite". It is the most sacred item in the spiritual toolbox.

An outsider might look at this in a couple of ways. These heathens dare to fuck in church. Or, they choose to build their church in a place where sexual worship can occur.

In these traditions, there is no question of removing the spiritual element from sex. Some pagans are perfectly happy to be monogamous, and plenty of others pursue multiple intimate relationships... That's not the most important thing about sexual ethics in these circles.

Another overlapping crowd that I hang with is the Polyamorists. The often-spoken assumption underlying polyamory is that all liasons are aboveboard. Lying or misleading a partner in what you don't say are explicitly disallowed- these behaviors aren't poly, they're cheating.

There are a couple of long running debates in poly circles having to do with language. "What's the difference between swing and poly" gets a lot of heated discussion. Many poly folk look at the swing community with the same disdain that monogamous culture looks at both swing and poly. There are also many swingers who identify as poly, and don't like being excluded. So if you find yourself discussing poly and want to troll, this is the best possible ammunition.

Another distinction that poly folk like to thrash on, is whether we need another term known as polyfidelity. The line marriage of Heinlein's Moon is a harsh mistress can be called polyfidelous, and many poly folk are actively trying to get their own little tribes together. The Church of all worlds tries to model itself around Heinlein's writings. For myself, I like to think of polyamory as the dating phase of my own growth, and polyfidelity is for when I want to get married.

There's a third important overlap with polyamory: Kink or BDSM. I can't speak to this one very much since I've never gone there, but the goals of kink activists closely mirror the goals of poly, and poly borrows a lot of its language from kink ethics.

For further information, I's reccomend The ethical slut as a nonpartisan introduction to monogamy alternatives.

It's NOT "just about sex". (as if anything could be?)

Don't call it Fascism. Use Musollini's term: "Corporatism"

The Great Rite (4.00 / 5) (#68)
by w3woody on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 03:48:12 PM EST

Of the existing religions out there, i am probably most compatible with wicca or neopaganism. In these traditions, sexual intercourse is often called, "The great rite". It is the most sacred item in the spiritual toolbox.

Let me note for the record that The Great Rite is not just sex. The Great Rite is a specific ritual of Wicca which involves sexual symbols and is in part an invocation of those sexual energies in order to continue the wheel of life and the wheel of the year in symbolic terms.

Let me back up a minute. Wicca is best characterized as a "fertility cult" (cult here being used in anthropology terms, and not in the negative terms as we may use to label "Heaven's Gate"). Many Wiccan groups see the ultimate divine as separate masculine and feminine figures, and their sexual union is what gives rise to the rest of the universe.

In the Great Rite ritual, this sexual union is usually portrayed by a High Priest and a High Priestess engaging in symbolic sex: usually dipping a dagger into a cup. While some Wiccan groups perform this ritual with actual sexual union, in my experience, such covens are relatively rare. Of course there is no standard Wiccan dogma, groups vary, and your milege may vary. And, more importantly, the Great Rite is not a casual affair, nor is it accompanied with some sort of "orgy" or group sex--instead, it is the public union of a High Priest and Priestess who, more often than not, are a committed couple.

[ Parent ]

Symbolism (4.50 / 4) (#114)
by anansi on Thu Aug 02, 2001 at 07:49:13 PM EST

Perhaps I ws wrong to imply that the sex act itself is an intergral part of all wiccan gatherings... but your reply got me to thinking about the ritual of the Eucharist compared with the Great Rite.

As Jubal Harshaw points out in Stranger, The catholic church practices ritual cannibalism every time the miracle of transubstantiation takes place. If that's somehow less offensive than martian cannibalism, it's quantitative rather than qualitative.

Putting a dagger into a cup is no creepier than a taste of cracker and wine. I think it's telling, though, that the christian churches that most people hear about emphasis the penalties of not being close to god, while most pagans emphasise the rewards of moving in a goddess direction.

Sorry, I'm getting sidetracked. What I really wanted to point towards, is what happens if we reverse the symbolism?

Insted of making reference to sex and fertility with the symbol of athame and chalice, what do we refer to when we actually perform the sex act? What does sex itself symbolise for people?

At the risk of creating a straw man, I would say that for most mainstream folk, sex symbolizes an emotional bond so profound that there can be no more than one per customer. Polyamory represents not only a challenge to current customs of marraige, but also to all the systems of self esteem and attraction that bind the culture together.

This is why I feel it's so important to differentiate between naive ideas of "free love" versus current traditions of responsible alternatives to monogamy.

Don't call it Fascism. Use Musollini's term: "Corporatism"
[ Parent ]

Re: emotional bond (4.33 / 3) (#125)
by alder on Fri Aug 03, 2001 at 03:27:48 PM EST

sex symbolizes an emotional bond so profound that there can be no more than one per customer
I was reading this thread again and again trying to find words to express my own standing on the issue. It was a little disturbing knowing what I feel; agreeing with a lot of what was said here yet still missing some subtle point. And here it is - in the most concentrated form.

Thank you

[ Parent ]

"Rules" of sex and marriage (4.40 / 5) (#65)
by w3woody on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 03:10:55 PM EST

(Rolls up shirt sleeves, prepares to pick nits.)

First, let me note that the "Judeo-Christian" concept of marriage as two people in a committed relationship with no outside sexual interaction is a relatively modern invention. In the Bible, there are plenty of examples of men who, unable to conceive a child with their wife, "lays down" with a female slave in order to create a child. A couple of thousand years ago, sexual exclusivity was more a function of women being considered "property"--thus, a woman who sleeps outside a relationship was normally punished a lot more harshly than a man. And some modern interpretations of ancient Judaic code (such as the Noahide movement) go so far as to say that while a woman sleeping outside a marriage is a grave sin, a man sleeping outside a marriage is probably not a good idea--but it's certainly not a sin.

Second, while my knowledge of anthropology is not all that great, I do know that some California Indian tribes practiced something akin to "marriage". And while sexual exclusivity was not demanded by cultural or moral conventions, it was for all intents and purposes practiced by most married couples. That and other things I've read about leads me to believe that humans never existed in a state of "sexual anarchy", where there were "no rules", as you suggest. Perhaps there were no formal rules, but even our idea of what those "formal rules" are in a Judeo-Christian context is in flux.

This all leads me to think that, given the flaws in your assumptions about sexual exclusivity (or the lack thereof), that the rest of your post, while interesting, is also flawed as well.

It seems to me based on what I do know about north-central California Indian tribal customs that the tendency for those groups (and perhaps others, though I'm not as familiar with them) toward a somewhat exclusive sexual relationship is more for the purpose of providing a stable environment to raise children in. While a tribe often helped with raising children, the children's parents were the primary care-givers, with the child's father being the one who taught hunting games to his sons, and the child's mother being the one who taught basket weaving and agricultural techniques to the daughters.

Given the fact that in today's culture, something like 25% of men and 15% of women (+/- some error factor, depending on the survey) admit to having an extra-marital affair, it strikes me that the rates of infidelity in today's "Judeo-Christian" environment is about the same as it was in the California Indian cultures, who had no such prohibitions. And I strongly suspect this is the rate of infidelity across the entire human race. So, the only thing we are doing by changing the rules or defining such terms as "serial-monogamy" or "polyamory" or "swinging" is rearranging the deck chairs on the Titantic: a near meaningless activity in terms of actual sexual fidelity rates. And those who use these terms in order to give themselves permission to engage in extramarital sexual activities before the fact--they're just engaging in a sort of "wishful thinking"--wishing they were the sort of person who won't feel jealous if their partner goes outside the relationship.

From my own personal experience, you must first have a partner go outside the relationship before you can know how you will feel--and if you are part of the small percentage born without the Jealousy gene, or the larger percentage born with it.

I have no answers. Human sexuality is one big hairy mess. Inventing terms or justifying it with science-fiction books won't make you someone else, nor will pretending to engage in the dominate cultural expectations (or going outside them) will help clean up the mess.

disagree with your refutations (5.00 / 4) (#69)
by JaredG27 on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 04:15:19 PM EST

You're not the first to raise skepticism as to my hurried anthropological basis for my thesis. I took for granted that people would be on the same page as me so far as anthropology. But I was wrong.

I'm hardly an anthropologist, but I have taken a few courses and done some small studies. And do to the recent responses I even went so far as to contact some friends who are much more well versed in the material. What I remembered was right:

The vast majority of homo sapiens history is not, by any means, monogamous. Here's one quote for you, from an article by a professor at the University of Washington, who wrote a book titled "The Myth of Monogamy:"

    We are not naturally monogamous. Anthropologists report that the overwhelming majority of human societies either are polygynous or were polygynous prior to the cultural homogenization of recent decades. They also suggest that individuals are mildly polygynous, having evolved in a system in which one man maintains a harem. This, incidentally, helps explain the persistent sex appeal of successful, dominant men, whether they be high-ranking politicians, movie or rock stars, glamorous athletes or wealthy entrepreneurs. Power, as Henry Kissinger once noted, is the ultimate aphrodisiac. At the same time, women can and do seek additional sex partners, even when already mated. Thus, monogamy -- when it occurs -- is shot through with EPCs, not just among birds. Otherwise, why would men have such a powerfully developed tendency for sexual jealousy?

This quote (found here), along with all the research I've encountered in my anthropological studies... as well as any contemporary examinations of more than 75% of primates... all reveal that prior to civilization in the last 10,000 years we were not monogamous. Maybe your familiarity with California Indian tribes is contrary to this, but so far as I'm concerned that's recent history. Our species hasn't changed much in the last 50,000+ years, so examples that are only 500 years old don't do much to support a genetic claim.

As for your other refutation, about the Judeo-Christian concept of marriage... I agree with you that the 21st century idea of marriage is not what it was 2000 years ago. But for all intensive purposes the term "Judeo-Christian" refers to a heritage, a heritage that continues to this day. I could talk about Jewish values that have developed since the creation of the Israel state and I'd be accurate in doing so, so long as my readers understand what I'm saying. And I don't think that my usage of the term was confusing to most.

I stand by my thesis and my views. Thank you for your thoughts, and I'm glad to have reviewed at how I came to the aforementioned conclusions.

[ Parent ]
re: disagree with your refutations (4.66 / 3) (#72)
by w3woody on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 04:54:17 PM EST

The vast majority of homo sapiens history is not, by any means, monogamous.

Certainly homo sapiens is not nearly universally monogamous--otherwise, men would not have evolved clotting factors in semen which forms a "protective barrier" in the fallopian tubes in order to prevent competing sperm from impregnating a woman. But looking to other primates for mating patterns of homo sapiens strikes me as flawed, given the wide variety of mating patterns shown by other primates.

On the whole, from what I've seen, homo sapiens mating behaviors seem more like certain species of finches--birds which (until DNA testing proved otherwise) appeared to be monogamous. Environmental pressure to provide a stable environment for children seems to push in the direction of monogamy. This is a far cry from your prior assertion of a sort of "sexual anarchy" where no rules existed to define sexual behavior or mating rituals in ancient societies.

Yes, it's a nit. I'm picking it.

As to your comment about California Indians, most anthropologists believe that until the Spanish missionaries arrived in force, California Indian culture and social patterns had not changed much since the initial migration across the Bering staight some 8,000 to 25,000 years ago (depending on whose timeline you buy). Combine that with older art examples and older archaeological evidence, and we're not talking about evidence that only goes back 500 years.

On the other hand, I did not mean to suggest that California Indians were universally monogamous. But monogamy (or near monogamy--that is, a relationship where extra-"marrital" affairs occured once or twice in the duration of the relationship) seemed to be practiced at about the same rates they are practiced in today's "Judeo-Christian" society. (Which is nowhere near universally monogamous anyways, if various surveys on extra-marital affairs is to be believed.)

Besides, our modern concept of Judeo-Christian ethics defining as a sin a male having an extra-marital affair is just that: modern. No more than a few hundred years old. (Hell, just 700 years ago, the Roman Catholic Popes maintained private "harems.") So, at least in the scope of the 50,000 year history of our species, Judeo-Christian ethics is as irrelevant a data "blip" as you suggest my knowledge of California Indian cultures is.

I guess my point is this: all of this terminology, all of these cultural expectations, the claims to the superiority of Judeo-Christian ethics or the superiority of a polygamous lifestyle--all of this is just rearranging deck chairs. There is pressure to be monogamous--and the pressure has existed for tens of thousands of years, and is not simply because a bunch of people worshipping a dead guy on a stick said so. And there is pressure to engage in extra-marital affairs in order to promote one's own genes.

Just like Finches.

One big mess.

[ Parent ]

ok (4.50 / 2) (#74)
by JaredG27 on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 05:08:05 PM EST

*grin*. I'll grant you all that. I hadn't meant to claim that our society was once "sexual anarchy" (and didn't use those words). By "no rules" I guess I just meant that the hierarchy didn't adhere to guidelines, as everything seems to now-a-days (you know what I mean).

Your points on the California tribes are well-taken, and hell, my whole point is in accordance with yours--commitment is the option that works. All I was saying is that we've shifted perspective over time. And, like many people here, I'm curious as to how that shift's taken place and whether or not it's right.

Anyhow, thank you for your thoughts. I appreciate them :)

[ Parent ]
I know how I feel. (4.66 / 3) (#92)
by brandonne on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 11:55:45 PM EST

I disagree that poly is an affair by a different name. Both my girlfriend and I have had relationships outside of ours. They've always been done open an honestly, and dealing with the jealousy as it arises. It is not perfect, but I'm much happier now then in previous monogamous relationships.

I might add that I do have kids, and having even more adults that care for them helps them, not harms them.

[ Parent ]

Judao-Christian marriage makes more sense (3.71 / 7) (#70)
by VitaminSupplementarian on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 04:21:39 PM EST

When one is ready to procreate it makes more sense because it provides a more stable environment for the children because it promotes committment, not only committment to each partner but the children as well. The idea of raising a child in an environment where committment isn't a big deal is a very dangerous one. I'm not condemning single parents because at least they're being responsible, I'm condemning those that have babies out of wedlock when they easily have the option not to. If you're just dating someone you have no business getting them pregnant if you are a man, or getting pregnant if you are a woman. You don't have that right unless you plan to get married anyway.

I'm not a christian, nor am I religionist. Normally I believe very strongly in rational self-interest, however I absolutely don't when it comes to having kids. A baby is an incredible responsibility, your behavior will largely define that individual's life. If you and your partner aren't committed to one another and especially the child, use your roe v wade right, get an abortion! I know some kids that were put up for adoption and they wish they had been aborted because their lives have not been stable since they day that their parents decided to screw each other silly.
"A policy of freedom for the individual is the only truly progressive policy" --F.A. Hayek
divorce/unmarried != no care for kids (4.25 / 4) (#76)
by theantix on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 06:28:48 PM EST

You don't have that right unless you plan to get married anyway.

I would argue similarily to you, but different in an important way: you should not have children unless you will be prepared to take an active role in the child's life. Unmarried, or not, it doesn't really matter, as long as you are there for the child. I know lots of people (anecdotal, I know) that have turned out fine from divorced families that still care about the children. I also know of lots of married people that probably caused more harm than good by remaining married "for the good of the kids".

Every situation is different, it's too easy to paint them all with a single brush and say "everyone should be married before having kids". Remember that marriage is a very modern institution, we did fine without marriage certificates for hundreds of thousands of years.

You sir, are worse than Hitler!
[ Parent ]

Kids wish they were aborted instead of adopted? (4.00 / 4) (#78)
by bkirkby on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 07:05:02 PM EST

I know some kids that were put up for adoption and they wish they had been aborted because their lives have not been stable since they day that their parents decided to screw each other silly.

I don't doubt that someone has told you this, but I seriously doubt that it reflects truth. People who have such terrible lives always have the option to post-birth abort themselves.

[ Parent ]
Well... (4.33 / 3) (#116)
by Kalani on Thu Aug 02, 2001 at 09:42:05 PM EST

People who have such terrible lives always have the option to post-birth abort themselves.
Usually the conclusion that abortion would have been better than birth is reached quite a while before a person commits suicide. I've known people who stated that they wished they'd been aborted shortly before killing themselves. Don't think that people don't take that option.

That having been said, fear can obviously hold anyone back from suicide. No matter how much a person hates his/her life, everyone knows that somebody out there is enjoying life. That's ultimately what gives you pause when you've got the knife to your wrist. That's what gave me pause anyway.

"I [think] that ultimately physics will not require a mathematical statement; in the end the machinery will be revealed and the laws will turn out to be simple, like the checker board."
--Richard Feynman
[ Parent ]
more people == more time with kids (4.25 / 4) (#91)
by brandonne on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 11:50:09 PM EST

I'm not christian, and I've been practicing poly in some form for 6 years now. I'm very much committed to my kids, and my relationships. In fact, I'd be willing to bet that I have more time and energy to spend with my kids because there are 3 capable adults in the household. I'm not a swinger, nor am I promiscuous (any more than any other male).

I don't ask that anyone agree with me, just let me live the way I want to, and I'll do the same.

For more information about poly and it's many forms, go here. Loving More Magazine
or find these books at Barnes and Nobel:
The Ethical Slut
Polyamory, a new love without limits.

[ Parent ]

Don't forget post-partum abortions . . . (none / 0) (#136)
by the1realdave on Tue Aug 14, 2001 at 07:08:01 AM EST

I know kids. And, many of them justify an abortion as many as 18-20 years after birth.

[ This .sig has been removed because of death threats from religious zealots* who seek to control my life out fear of their own hidden desires ]

* They are the same yahoos that sue because their coffee is hot
[ Parent ]

Not until men can get pregnant (3.75 / 8) (#75)
by BlackStripe on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 05:20:55 PM EST

I agree that humans were not meant to be a uniformly monogomous species. I agree wholeheartedly that an open and honest polygamous relationship should be an opportunity to expand the level and frequency of intimacy in our lives. I agree that commitment shouldn't be an issue, but there is one HUGE complication:

Breaking News!
This just in!

This may be old news to a lot of people, but it is the one thing standing in the way of "free love." If men could get pregnant (and of course assuming ample access to pregnancy prevention and termination), then there would be nothing wrong with this situation. Until that is the case, however, it is very easy for me to appreciate the argument of the most extreme wing of the feminist movement: All sex is rape.

Until we can have our biology made equal, the only type of polygamous relationships that I can consider appropriate are homosexual ones. Men cannot get other men pregnant, nor can women get other women pregnant. Therefore there can be free sexual association within the sexes, because the huge power imbalance created by the risk of pregnancy is negated. An additional case could be made for free non-vaginal sexual association, which could take place between anyone safely. This is certainly a much more reasonable approach then making males pregnable or partitioning society into non-reproductive freely associative sex cells.

Honestly, though, how long can we continue in sexual relationships without having actual intercourse? Oral sex may be very pleasurable, but it's only so interesting. The creative and intimate opportunities presented by actual intercourse make it at most an inevitability, and at least a deeply unfortunate sacrifice. I envision a world where we could all engage each other on whatever levels we found desirable, but there can't be true free association when one person is put in jeapordy of pregnancy or traumatic surgery and the other is not.


PS - I realize you yourself weren't arguing in favor of this behaviour, my points are against the argument you are presenting, not against your personal lifestyle. An additional point I'd like to make, particular to your philosophy of emotionality bound to physicality, is that multiple sexual relationships and intimate sexual relationships are not mutually exclusive. In fact, I personally feel that the ideal situation would be the textbook "free love" scenario, where true feelings existed between all engaged individuals, as well as an understood tolerance for those feelings. My only hesitation, once all these other criteria are met (which is pretty irrelevant, given that one of my criteria is making men able to be pregnant) is what will happen to the children of these relationships? But that point has been made and made well several times already, so I'll leave it be.

PPS - Yes, I realize that we could also achieve the same ends by developing 100% effective birth control measures for women and having free access to abortion, but while that eliminates sexual inequality it only further institutionalizes social inequality. Women would have to go to hospitals, pharmacies, and clinics to receive these medications and services. As we well know, it only takes a half dozen assholes waving bibles and fetuses to take the right to choose away from a tremendous volume of women. So my suggestion is to simply make men able to get pregnant, then see what all the rich white men that run this country think about the right to choose.

PPPS - (Last thing, honest) There are some really incredible and personal responses to this story (awesome job by the way Jared), so please make sure you all take the time to read down through them. I almost never read so many entire comments. Great topic.

This is a troll, right? (4.60 / 5) (#81)
by Hizonner on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 08:41:58 PM EST

Lots of things in life involve asymmetric risks. I routinely take much greater physical risks than my wife does in activities that we share, just because I can do the risky stuff more easily than she can. It happens to be easier for me than for her to work on the roof or spray pesticides in the yard, for instance. I even run more errands than she does, and driving is a dangerous activity. In fact, I sometimes do relatively risky things for projects that are really hers, not mine or ours.

None of that means I'm being taken advantage of. It means that I, as a self-responsible adult, am choosing to take a disproportionate risk because it allows me to get what I want done more easily. It would be idiotic for me to refuse to participate in things that need to get done because the risks aren't absolutely symmetric, and absurd for me to try to keep accounts of relatively small risks and force her to somehow take her share.

Similarly, a self-responsible adult woman is perfectly competent to decide to take a disproportionate risk in sex, because it gets her laid or for any other reason. Unless her partner is a cad, her risk isn't even that much higher than his; yes, she'll be more uncomfortable than he is for a while, and yes, she'll take a health risk that he won't... but they're both risking having to take care of a child for life.

"Deeply unfortunate sacrifice". Puh-leeze.

Now for the next thing. Although I still claim that your argument fails in general, please explain how it affects the question of polyamory. Are polyamorous women the only ones who get pregnant, or are you really arguing for the complete elimination of heterosexual sex? Seems to me that everything you say applies to monogamous relationships, too. Or are you taking the really silly position that polyamorous people can't have long-term relationships, or be decent enough to help take care of their own offspring if they happen to get unlucky in short-term ones?

And suppose you could totally eliminate pregnancy, as you suggest in one of your PS's. Do you think that women in general would be thrilled with being told they couldn't ever have children, because otherwise you couldn't even out the risks with their men? From what I know of women, I think they'd get together and crucify you. Many women, almost certainly most women, want to get pregnant at some point (no, that doesn't mean they want to get pregnant by some asshole who'll abandon them and their children, just that they eventually want to have babies, with all the risk that entails).

And, by the way, what you suggest can be approximated. Vasectomy is about 99.85 percent effective in actual use (99.9 percent if you do things properly, meaning you actually go in for those fertility checks a month after the surgery).

Combining vasectomy with condoms, which you should be using anyway, and assuming, once again, the actual condom failure rate (about 15 pecent) as opposed to the condom failure rate among those who use them properly (about 3 percent), you get about 99.98 percent reliability.

Note that these failure rates are measured for living in a relationship for a month or so, not for a single use. Note also that the combined effectiveness rate for "perfect use" (meaning the users following the instructions) is 99.997 percent for that month, and approximately 99.85 percent over 50 years of regular sexual activity. You have a much greater chance of being hit by a car.

Neither condoms nor vasectomy disproportionately burdens women. In fact, vasectomy disproportionately burdens men... which is fair, since the women carry extra risk in the extremely unlikely event of failure. Of course, if the woman wants to trade off one burden for another, and reduce the risk of pregnancy still further, she can always get her tubes tied... combined with the vasectomy and the condoms, that gives an actual use monthly effectivness of 99.99991 percent, and a 50-year effectiveness of 99.995 percent.

PS: I do think commitment should be an issue. Not a requirement, but surely an issue, for a lot of people, because that's the way we're built.

[ Parent ]

Oops. Meant to rework this. (4.00 / 2) (#82)
by Hizonner on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 08:45:59 PM EST

I was reacting to your talking about "the only types of polygamous relationships you could support". I recognize that your primary argument is against lack of commitment, not against multiple relationships.

I guess I'm just too tired of hearing people equate the two. Polyamory has nothing to do with lack of commitment.

So the vasectomy argument applies for the case where you do have uncommitted relationships (as I sometimes do), and the rest applies more to committed relationships.

Sorry about the overeager "submit".

[ Parent ]

It's all good (4.00 / 3) (#83)
by BlackStripe on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 09:54:34 PM EST

No sweat about the itchy trigger finger. I do think you had a point (as in different from mine) in your analogy about risk. I do agree there exist some decent alternatives (vasectomy is one major thing I neglected to consider) but I do really want to disagree with your equating recreational exercise risks with pregnancy. A man choosing to follow his wife down a river in a kayak is way less complicated then a woman choosing to follow her boyfriend (and especially a stranger) into the back seat of his car. Risking a bum ankle and risking pregnancy are pretty dramatic differences, and even if the risk of activity was something more severe than pregnancy (ie death), it is still much less complicated. While it is debatably less emotionally traumatic, pregnancy is unquestionably a more complicated matter than death.

Sorry in advance if this next response is off target, I can't see your original comment in this window because I replied to the follow-up. This is a tricky response to say appropriately so I hope I don't butcher it. If I misrepresent you just yell at me and I'll come back and clarify.

You said something about how condoms and vasectomies don't burden women-- agreed. What it does do, however, is put the man in control of something that only affects the woman. What if he lies about the vasectomy, or what if he just waits for the right moment and begins having sex without the condom on when she either is in no mood to stop him or is in no capacity to notice? They may not burden the woman, but they don't empower her either. They just give even more control over what happens to her body to the man she trusts.

There is one option that can proactively give a woman total control over her body, and that is a hysterectomy. Empowering, yes, but, to manipulate the quote of a wise man:

[quoting Hizzoner] Do you think that women in general would be thrilled with being told they couldn't ever have children, because otherwise you couldn't even out the risks with their men? From what I know of women, I think they'd get together and crucify you. Many women, almost certainly most women, want to get pregnant at some point.
A hysterectomy-- while incredibly effective at enabling sexual freedom-- is devastating to a woman's lifelong reproductive freedom. (I don't think I suggested totally eliminating the possibility of pregnancy, but just so you know I wasn't quoting you to be mean it was honestly intended to just be sneaky/funny because I really think we're coming from the same place on 99% of this) What that quote does reflect quite well is the impact of hysterectomies, forced or otherwise, on women who see a need for 100% birth control. They are very difficult to reverse and I strongly feel that if our society started getting mass hysterectomies/vasectomies to make ourselves more sexually free we would see massive protests by the Christian Right at all hospitals who performed these operations. The number of those hospitals would plummet, just as we saw with abortion providers. This exact same tactic was used by countless cultures throughout history to make sex something that either serves men only or at least serves them much more so than women. Mandatory clitoral circumcision is the first thing to come to mind, but I'm sure we can all recall many tactics to make sex more pleasurable for men than women (like the fact that men being quick in bed has become something of a joke, and if every man is bad in bed than a woman loses her hope of finding a good sexual partner and thus the expectation of sexual pleasure). One last note, that also wraps back around on this conversation as a decent framing device, is part three of the things that make polyamory less positive for women than men:

1. Only women can get pregnant.

This allows powerful elements within society to fight bitterly to make that pregnancy a punishment for immorality. Furthermore, the majority of control over pregnancy lies with the man. What it all comes down to is that men are studs and women are sluts, and this attitude is given teeth by the fact that we can SEE when women are sluts. Round tummy = bad girl.

2. Women are taught not to expect much.

Through chauvenistic comedy and ambivalent/embarassed female leaders our society has made a triviality of the crisis in male sexual performance. The average sexual experience for an American couple from foreplay to ejaculation is not thirty, not twenty, not ten, but just under five minutes long. The fact that men are allowed to be lousy in bed is just a toned down example of more direct efforts to eliminate female sexual pleasure. While clitoral circumcision is the obvious extreme, we also have the fact that male masturbation is funny and female masturbation is gross (except when it's a turn-on, which again is about the man's pleasure not the woman's). Male masturbation is viewed as masculine while its female equivalent is most certainly not seen as feminine. This is a lot of things to be beating my drum about but it all adds up to no conscious and unconscious tactics to eliminate pleasure from sex for women.

And finally, the thing I told you about five hours and two pages ago:

3. .....

Okay, okay, so I've sat here for thirty minutes trying to remember what my brilliant closing point was, to no avail. I'm going to take it as a hint from the powers that be for me to shut up and cut this short. I just want to close saying that I think we agree on almost everything, and if you reread my original post I do believe one can be polyamorous and committed:

[quoting Blackstripe] An additional point I'd like to make, particular to your philosophy of emotionality bound to physicality, is that multiple sexual relationships and intimate sexual relationships are not mutually exclusive. In fact, I personally feel that the ideal situation would be the textbook "free love" scenario, where true feelings existed between all engaged individuals, as well as an understood tolerance for those feelings.
Hmmm... I guess the use of the word "intimate" was sorta vague. By that I meant to say that polyamory is mutually exclusive with neither intimacy nor commitment. My bad.

Okay, that's that. Thanks again for the correction to your original, but I know we do have some honest disagreements so I'm sure I'll hear them in a few hours. Thanks for poking my brain.

[ Parent ]

OK, I think we've both got our points out there (4.00 / 4) (#87)
by Hizonner on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 10:50:19 PM EST

... so there's no point in beating on the arguments. I agree that we have a lot in common, and that a lot of what I offer does require trust on the woman's part. I'm not at all sure that I agree with all you say about what social attitudes are; the patriarchy-based analysis doesn't seem to me to capture all the subtleties and complexities. There are one or two other things, but they're not things we're going to be able to settle; readers can decide for themselves.

I do want to hit a couple of technical points, largely irrelevant to the main argument, though. Just to keep errors from propagating.

First of all, nobody does hysterectomies for contraception. A hysterectomy is the removal of the uterus, and often also the ovaries (oophorectomy). It's a radical operation.

There used to be (maybe still is, although I doubt it, given the rightful strength of the backlash) a problem with excessive use of hysterectomy as a "cure" for the symptoms of menopause or for other normal phenomena or for relatively minor female reproductive complaints, but I don't think anybody serious has ever advocated doing it for just contraception. Certainly not since I've been old enough to be paying attention, which means since the late 1970s.

The way to sterilize a woman is via tubal ligation, where you just tie off the fallopian tubes, and leave the rest of her reproductive system alone. Tubal ligation is still more invasive than vasectomy, since the tubes you're working on are buried in the abdomen, but these days it's done with a laparoscope, and it's not all that invasive. It is still harder to reverse than vasectomy, though (and neither is really reliably reversible).

A minor comment is that, in a theoretical sense, I'm not sure a woman necessarily always has to take a man's word about vasectomy. My own vasectomy created palpable sperm granulomas that would probably be hard to fake, and that seem to be sticking around. Of course, in a practical sense, a woman would have to be very skilled to know how to check, and I don't know enough about it to know how reliable a test it would be.

[ Parent ]

a truce it is (4.00 / 2) (#89)
by BlackStripe on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 11:27:51 PM EST

and thanks for clearing up my MAJOR repeated typo-- i meant tubal ligation.


[ Parent ]

Help me out here (3.50 / 2) (#111)
by NDPTAL85 on Thu Aug 02, 2001 at 07:03:56 PM EST

Me and my friends last night were trying to come up with a new word to call women who get around, yet let the word not include the negative connotation of "slut" The best we could come up with was a Unisex "Playa" but that sounds lacking. So while a guy can be a Stud, Sex Machine, Lion, Tiger.......etc. what can we call women that would be positive? :O

[ Parent ]
Unfortunately... (4.50 / 2) (#113)
by Hizonner on Thu Aug 02, 2001 at 07:33:11 PM EST

I think the problem is that people (often other women, by the way) basically have a bad attitude toward women with multiple and/or casual partners. They stereotype such women far more than they deserve, exaggerate the negative attributes of the stereotypes, and minimize the positives. They just plain don't like 'em. Until that attitude is changed, any word you pick will quickly take on bad connotations.

It might help to pick a word with strong positive connotations, because those might work on the attitude itself... but they'd be just as likely to just give the Forces of Evil something to rag on if the word came into common use.

Another tactic would be to reclaim the word "slut". There are people who treat that word as a badge of honor, as some people do for "queer". It's like "nigger", though... OK to claim it for yourself, not something you want to apply to somebody else unless they've made it real clear they want you to.

Isn't "sex machine" gender neutral, by the way? What about "tigress"? "Love goddess" (ecch)?

[ Parent ]

Men are lousy in bed because... (4.60 / 5) (#107)
by cyclopatra on Thu Aug 02, 2001 at 05:44:33 PM EST

...women are lousy in bed. And vice-versa.

The fact that men are allowed to be lousy in bed is just a toned down example of more direct efforts to eliminate female sexual pleasure.

Nope. Sorry. It's a perfect example of the fact that, throughout American society, people are afraid to talk about sex. Women don't tell their partners what they want, and men don't tell theirs either. The only difference is, when men have mediocre sex, they don't try to claim that their partner's failure to read their minds is part of a vast matriarchal conspiracy to ruin their sex lives.

I used to have the average, American, mediocre sex, until enough women's magazines convinced me that I needed to tell my partners what I wanted. And guess what? I got it, and they were all grateful for the lessons, because no one had ever given them the slightest clue about what to do with a girl in bed, other than the bare mechanics of sex.

I try to get my partners to tell me what they want, as well, but that's harder, because, for one thing, it actually appears to be harder for men to talk frankly about sex, and for another, because, due to an accident of evolution, it's easier for guys to get off. They've never experienced anything better, they don't get particularly imaginative about how it could be better, and so they keep their mouths shut and go on experiencing mediocre sex while their more vocal partners get sent to the moon. But note: I'm not claiming this is women's fault - anyone who's having lousy sex has no one to blame but themselves. Speak up and demand what you want, and if you don't get it, then look somewhere else - if it's that important to you. If you're too shy to tell your partner what you want, or for some reason find some redeeming qualities in a jerk who won't consider your pleasure and want to stay with them despite the mediocre sex, then the mediocre sex you're getting is no one's fault but yours.

All your .sigs are belong to us.
remove mypants to email
[ Parent ]

yep, but... (3.50 / 4) (#115)
by BlackStripe on Thu Aug 02, 2001 at 08:36:58 PM EST

I would counter that the awkwardness of sex talk is a result of moralism and sexual apathy. Furthermore, they impact women much more than men because even if you're just putting in 3 minutes in the missionary position before rolling over and falling asleep, at least the guy gets off. I'd even go the one last step to say that the reason men don't talk about these things is the same reason the lack of consideration exists in the first place: obsessive masculinity.

I totally agree with you that we all lose out as a result of this situation, but it's masculinity that shapes the desire to get off without a thought for the female and it's masculinity that makes men embarassed to talk about insecurities (ESPECIALLY with regard to sex, penises are the center of soooo many men's egos). The bizarrely extreme interpretation of masculinity in society today is terribly oppressive to men as well as women. Anyway that's where I stand on that. Ball's in your court.

[ Parent ]

It *is* easier for men to get off... (4.66 / 3) (#118)
by cyclopatra on Thu Aug 02, 2001 at 10:00:43 PM EST

...but that's not their fault. They didn't design our sexual anatomy. If they had, I might have words with them about what they put where, but I'm pretty sure they had nothing to do with it.

Yes, men act selfishly in the sack. So do women - the number of women I know who don't see anything wrong with asking for oral sex when they refuse to reciprocate staggers me. The difference is, I've found, is that most men I've dated have no idea they're doing anything wrong - their past girlfriends have either "faked it", or lived with it, or done just about anything rather than actually tell the guys what they're doing wrong and what they might do about it. In my experience, at least, it isn't excessive masculinity - it's ignorance brought about by a culture that can't talk about sex, and fostered by girls brought up in the same culture, who never gave their swains a nudge in the right direction (literally or figuratively). In general, I've found, if you tell a guy he needs improvement, and how to go about doing it, he'll half-kill himself trying to make you squeal, because a lot of their oh-so-sensitive masculine egos are tied up in whether they please their partners.

All your .sigs are belong to us.
remove mypants to email
[ Parent ]

male birth control (4.00 / 3) (#108)
by kubalaa on Thu Aug 02, 2001 at 05:58:01 PM EST

Women would have to go to hospitals, pharmacies, and clinics to receive these medications and services.

Not if the men did. I understand they're very close (testing even) to the male pill. As for women having "the right to choose", they always have the right to choose with whom they have sex; if they feel that taking birth control promotes social inequality then they should only date men who buy their own condoms or whatever.

[ Parent ]

Re: Your PPS (4.00 / 2) (#122)
by Elkor on Fri Aug 03, 2001 at 07:59:44 AM EST

How about a Male Birth Control Pill?


"I won't tell you how to love God if you don't tell me how to love myself."
-Margo Eve
[ Parent ]
The question is do we CHOOSE to be monogamous? (3.00 / 6) (#80)
by Wing Envy on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 08:11:51 PM EST

The argument for swinging lifestyles as opposed to monogamy is easily identified in nature. Certain creatures on this planet are monogamous naturally- no moral or ethical values have they been subject to and yet they still choose to be this way. Why? For the same reason your male dog humps the neighbors male dog or why certain creatures or insects change sex after a certain period in life or kill their mate after copulation. The only difference is the fact that WE DO have morals and ethics,varying on where you live, where you HAVE lived, the time during which you lived (remember the fact that divorce is only increasing, and in essence, isn't that a form of a "swinging lifestlye"?) religion, views of your family or friends or the environment in which you grew up- and these may have the opposite effect, depending if you viewed these to be positive views or not,(you should know, you witnessed this first hand as a child growing up - did your parents stay married? Did they fight? Did they divorce and marry wonderful people? Or did they divorce and continued to make the same bad choices in partners?) I, myself, was brought up in an environment that has led me to believe that when you say "I do", you had better mean it- my parents divorced and my father remarried a woman whom he had gotten pregnant and my mother remarried six times over. I know you're argument wasn't about marriage, but about commitments, and if you are in a "commited relationship" as you've said, what is the difference between ending the relationship and being with someone else as opposed to being with someone else and the possibility of the relationship ending? Is this relationship you're in "TILL DEATH DO US PART", and if so, and your partner cheats or leaves you, will you remain celibate for the rest of your life? What if your partner dies first? In a year. Or fifty years from now. What then? Do you consider physical relations with another person to be cheating then? People change, die, leave, how commited will you stay to this person? What are YOUR guidlines for "commitment"?

You don't get to steal all the deficiency. I want some to.
Oxytocin, anyone? (3.16 / 6) (#85)
by edward on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 10:11:36 PM EST

There is a hormone common to mammals called oxytocin. There is still a great deal of research to be done on it, but it seems that it is involved in various areas pertaining to mammalian sexuality. It is released during orgasm for both men and women, and it is known to help to establish bonds between individuals. I do believe that our intellectualised opinions about sexuality and relationships are invariably linked to socio-cultural factors and, thus, not any one of us is able to say with any degree of certainty which relationship types are the most 'human'. As for me, I like monogamy. If you are in a relationship, then you ought to be faithful to your partner. After all, you've chosen to be with that particular person, right? If you are willing to become simultaneously involved with another person then chances are that you don't really feel entirely attached to the person with whom you are supposed to be faithful. Bottom line, if you are going to become involved with another person while dating someone else, dump the initial relationship before pursuing the new one. If you find that an uninviting prospect, then your psyche is trying to tell you something. If, of course, you've already agree with your partner that polygamy is okay then heed not the above advice. ;) --edward

confused... (4.00 / 3) (#86)
by JaredG27 on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 10:26:36 PM EST


I'm sorry, but I really don't see the relevance of your "oxytocin" comment, maybe you could elaborate?

And as for the rest of your entry, what you said was straightforward: "if you like monogamy go for it, if not, then don't." But do you have reasons why you think people can and should act that way?

I only ask these questions because you referred to your remarks as "advice," but I'd like to know more of why one should listen to your suggestions over the 85 other comments that have a lot to do with personal accounts and reasoned explanations?

Or maybe I'm just sad that this discussion is slowing down... either way, the ball's in your court.


[ Parent ]
sorry for the confusion... (4.20 / 5) (#88)
by edward on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 11:21:33 PM EST

I never intended to suggest that there was anything particularly valuable to my comment. I'm sure there are many more relationshiply experienced people who have replied than I and their comments might be more to your liking. Unfortunately I don't have a great deal of expertise in oxytocin or its effects on the body and mind. Try searching for it on google for more information. Yes, I do have reasons that I think people should aim towards committed relationships. Perhaps for the sake of trying to elicit more responses from the community I shall try to put them into language.

Generally, people have friends-- some closer than others. Perhaps you have one or two or three close friends who you have known for a long while or perhaps upon first meeting you established a rapport with them that made you and your friend feel at ease when around each other. A mind-mind connection of some kind. Now, generally, sex as an act is pleasurable. As you yourself have said in your article, there is a certain degree of bonding that takes place between two people who engage in sexual acts. This is where oxytocin comes into play. As the 'bonding hormone' it is released during orgasm and childbirth (in the female) and so generally the bond that develops that comes with its release is healthy and is associated with normal human behaviour. So let's say that you have entered into a beneficial mind-mind relationship--of the above mentioned non-sexual sort-- with someone and you wish to take your relationship to a new and higher level. Generally that is done with sexual activity. But let's suggest that there is a situation in which you develop conflicting relationships of this nature. How does this affect the psyche? I'm just guessing, but I can't imagine that having two very strong bonds fortified with 'oxytocin events' in conflict with each other is healthy. The conflict arises merely out of the two close partners and having to effectively move back and forth between them.

Okay, so that's perhaps a situation in which a strong mind-mind bond has already been developed sans oxytocin and merely fortified by the sexual activity. I'll go over some objections and cover my arse at the end of the next section.

Now what of a case, say, in which you might go out to the bar and meet someone there who is pretty horny and combined with your own horniness end up going back to one of your places and shaking the walls for a bit? Well in that case the mind-mind bond can occur afterwards, thus starting a relationship or you can simply say 'thanks' and repeat the process next weekend. Of course, if you are doing that then chances are you are not going to be in a relationship already otherwise you probably are going to have to have an understanding with your partner that such actions are within the bounds of the relationship. Some people have no trouble with that kind of relationship though in Western society I'm not sure if it's very common.

Nothing, of course, that I've said here makes a whole lot of sense though so I'm going to try to clarify:

1. People connect on the mental plane.

2. IF they choose to engage in it, sexual activity strengthens the bond due to the release of oxytocin (unless it's bad sex, but that's another article all together.)

These two things can occur in reverse order too, and when the sex comes first, the mental bond doesn't always occur (but I personally think that's not pleasant-- it makes the sex less fun.)

In general, as far as monogamy vs polygamy goes, as I said, your socio-cultural background makes the biggest difference in your ethical outlook.

I suppose my whole point is that, for the best sex and mental health, you want to aim for a really strong mind-mind bond even _before_ sex comes into the picture. That guarantees mind-blowing sex as well as the feeling of ease and comfort that makes talking afterwards pretty good too. I'd have to say that as far as Western values go, monogamy is what you are going to find most people most comfortable with.

BUT, as some people have posted here, there can be said many things for polygamy as well. Human beings are social and sexual creatures and it's not irrational to expect people to be attracted to others even when in a relationship. In fact, a relationship that turned sexual _after_ the creation of a strong mind-mind bond can usually be maintained with ease under a polygamous scenario. I suppose that's my point then: as long as the mind-mind bond is there then it doesn't really matter. Just remember to talk about it with your partner/friend before going off to hump someone else. Remember the real keys to good relationships, as others here have said, are TRUST and COMMUNICATION; both of which usually come hand in hand with strong mind-mind bonds.

Flame away... ;)

[ Parent ]

The poll (4.28 / 7) (#96)
by ucblockhead on Thu Aug 02, 2001 at 09:59:17 AM EST

I find the poll annoying because it doesn't really go with the article. I have a huge pet peeve about this. Polyamory is fine in my book. (I don't practice it, but see nothing "immoral" about it.) However, "cheating" is immoral. There is a huge gap there. If both partners freely agree to do something, that's great. If one partner lies to another about what he or she does on the side, then it doesn't matter what psycho-anthropological bullshit it gets wrapped in, it is still immoral.

This is k5. We're all tools - duxup

Following up with those experienced in polyamy... (4.40 / 5) (#99)
by JaredG27 on Thu Aug 02, 2001 at 11:11:52 AM EST

Thank you!

The responses here are great, and a lot better than I'd hoped for. However, one thing that surprises me is how many people here have had or are currently living in polyamorous relationships. I'm not saying that they're wrong, I'm just admitting that I didn't realize how common they were.

I wrote this article because of a conversation I had with a close friend, who it might be in my best interest to eventually see eye-to-eye on this. I admit that I viewed her ideas with a lot of skepticism and held strongly to my more conservative ones. And that's weird for me, because I'm rarely ever the conservative.

Seeing as my viewpoint is not wholly the norm, but is rather just one approach, I have two questions on polyamy...

1. Within a social setting, how does one find people who have similar thoughts on polyamorous relationships?

    It seems to me that, despite a lot of thoughts on this board, most people still strongly believe in the monogamous committed relationship. Yeah, there are people who'll go for the hook-ups and one-night pleasures, but I'm not referring to that. I'm asking about long-term or semi-serious relationships with multiple partners. I understand about trust and communication and how that can foster the openness to polyamy with your significant other, but how does one find the third (or fourth or fifth) party? It seems to me that, while there are many people I'm attracted to, most of them wouldn't be so open-minded to being one of a few (or even just 2) girlfiends. Perhaps I'm exaggerating, but I am genuinely curious how polyamorous situations get started, as it seems to me rather difficult.
2. Once in a polyamorous relationship, how does one maintain it and the allegiance to multiple partners?
    Does one divide their time equally between all involved or have one person with whom they're closest to? What about jealousy, does it often come up? How about general acceptance of the public: how do you explain this to your friends and/or family? Is it something that people respect? It seems to me like it's a very complicated and difficult issue. It may be a worthwhile one, but I don't know what accompanies it so I have trouble understanding it... People have said here that it's either impossible or simple, but I don't know why either of these is the case.
As I just wrote those down, I realize that I have more questions. But I'll hold off as those are the ones I'm most interested in hearing about. Again, thank you all for your sincere responses on this topic. I've certainly learned a bit.


Nowadays love is a matter of chance, matrimony a matter of money and divorce a matter of course.
~Helen Rowland

Mechanics of Polyamory (4.83 / 6) (#100)
by anansi on Thu Aug 02, 2001 at 12:20:07 PM EST

On finding others: There are plenty of people out there who don't practice monogamy, who have never heard of polyamory. My first nonmonogamous (say that 3 times fast!) relationship was with a woman I met in the personals. She was adamant about not dating just one person, so I started dating others just as a way to keep from obsessing about it. I settled into having three girlfriends. They all knew about each other, but they didn't want to know or be friends with each other. It was the first time in my life I was getting exactly as much sex as I wanted, but there was a hellish quality about juggling the social engagements so that no one met.

Now when I date people 'in the family' of poly, everyone knows the rules already. In some ways, Gays have "Gaydar", I call it "Polydar". You can try to initiate someone into poly, date only known polys, or rein yourself in to be mono, long enough to see if the relationship is worth it.

The social overlaps I've noticed are that poly folk tend to be into science fiction, the SCA, neopaganism, computers, and BDSM. Id any of those interest you, that would be a good 'fishing spot'. There are also numerous listserves and the alt.poly newsgroup (which has it's own annual convention) and a magazine, Loving More with it's own conventions, one on each coast.

On keeping it going In my experience, poly people are just as sexually retarded as everyone else. Calling oneslef poly doesn't suddenly turn you into Don Juan. (A much more common archetype would be that of the 'relationship geek'The same jealousies and conflicts arise in poly life, as everywhere else. The only difference here, is that jealousy is not a trump card. It's considered a selfishness, rather than proof of love.

One of the foundations of poly thought, is a Shreklike disdain for the 'happily ever after' ending. As complex individuals, we mustn't look to a single person to meet all our needs. Some partners mirror our interests, others mirror our ambitions. Some partners are neurotic thinkers, others are healers. It's just like the so-called 'real world', except we also give ourselves permission to occasionally get sexual with one another.

I should probably mention one of the deep dark secrets of poly: We don't attend orgies, we put together 'play parties'. Reletively little fucking goes on, at least to the events I've been to. It's much more frequent to have body painting or group massage, with already established couples who get into it. This is when poly becomes almost indistinguishable from kink or swing.

(Here's a party tip: Nude twister is much more fun without the colored mat. Have players paint 4 colors on their own bodies, wherever they like to be touched. Then when you spin the spinner, (I've also used 2 4-sided dice) playrs put their hands and feet on each other.)

Don't call it Fascism. Use Musollini's term: "Corporatism"
[ Parent ]

re: Following up with those experienced in polyamy (4.50 / 4) (#102)
by w3woody on Thu Aug 02, 2001 at 01:32:41 PM EST

However, one thing that surprises me is how many people here have had or are currently living in polyamorous relationships.

I personally wonder how many people who claim to be involved in "polyamory" are really engaged in what would have been called "dating" about 30 years ago.

I remember having an interesting conversation with my father when I was in high school. At the time, I was dating this girl, but we never talked about any form of "exclusivity" or "going steady". Hell; at the time we were just going on dates to movies and hanging out at her apartment complex once a week after school. But she, her friends, many of my friends, and the social circles around us expected us to not see anyone else.

My father sat me down and asked me why I was bending to such pressure. After all, it's not like I asked her to go steady, nor was I engaged to her, nor did I marry her--I just paid for her popcorn at a couple of movies, and kissed her on the neck. It's odd, but it seems that the social pressure in high school and college is for those to "go steady" damned near on the first date--that is, if you ask someone out for coffee and then go back to your apartment and kiss her and perhaps grope her rear-end, you're now committed to this person for life. And my father (who is now in his late 50's) thought this was nuts.

So, honestly, I wonder how much of the "polyamory" stuff is a backlash to a rather rediculous expectation of monogamy on first sight. That's because, with a few exceptions, the only people I know who are actively engaging in redefining their relationships in terms of polyamory are college age, or just out of college: the ages when people used to date around, at least according to my father.

Anyways, to your questions.

Within a social setting, how does one find people who have similar thoughts on polyamorous relationships?

Well, it depends on the social setting. However, the best thing to do is to talk to your partner (or potential partner, or person you are just dating, or friend you are just talking about sex with) about your feelings, and listen to his/hers. Share your thoughts. Listen. You know; the usual stuff.

If you are asking in what social circles you can find people who are more inclined to alternative lifestyles, your best bet is to find circles where people tend to alternative forms of expression. Pagan circles, for example, or the SCA, or Science Fiction conventions tend to have groups of people who are more open-minded about lifestyle choices, and who tend to talk about them. Assuming, of course, that you are also interested in Paganism, the SCA or Science Fiction conventions... (grin). (I will note that at one Pagan gathering I went to several years ago, finding a nice married, monogamous, committed couple who wasn't into anything "alternative" or "wierd", who had children, 9 to 5 jobs and otherwise lived what we would consider a "normal" life was about as rare as finding a mohawk at a Mormon church.)

Of course, you still need to talk, share your thoughts, and the like.

Once you are hanging around people who are open and willing to discuss things like polyamory, you showing up in a "group marriage" won't seem so strange, and finding a new partner to join becomes a lot easier.

Once in a polyamorous relationship, how does one maintain it and the allegiance to multiple partners?

Beats me. I've never seen this done successfully. I've seen a lot of people talk about it--I've seen it attempted a lot. But the situation has never been as stable as my marriage to my wife has been--while I've been successfully married about 7 years, the longest stable "triad" I've witnessed lasted just under 18 months. And I know one girl who constantly complains how she can't find an open-minded boyfriend so she can have other lovers--but I've talked to the boyfriend, and he *is* open-minded--which makes me think she's looking for drama, not love.

Of course, your milege may vary. And the two-dozen people I've witnessed skirting these issues may nor may not be representative of anything except their own sexual neurosis and needs.

[ Parent ]

How it works... (3.50 / 2) (#123)
by Elkor on Fri Aug 03, 2001 at 09:46:22 AM EST

TO answer your first question:
Just hang out where you normally hang out. Be open about your interests. People who are likewise interested (both in the lifestyle and in you) will graviate to you.

To answer your second question:
There is an excellent book put out by Greenery Press that has been mentioned: "The Ethical Slut".

It isn't a roadmap on how to get there, but it is a good operators manual for the vehicle. Get it, read it. It isn't a huge book, and it is easy to read, with quite a few examples to put things in perspective. I've met one of the authors, and she and her primary SO are wonderful people.


"I won't tell you how to love God if you don't tell me how to love myself."
-Margo Eve
[ Parent ]
Answers (5.00 / 2) (#131)
by kimbly on Sun Aug 05, 2001 at 10:51:31 PM EST

> Within a social setting, how does one find people who have similar thoughts on polyamorous relationships?

#1: I met my partner at a focus group. I hardly ever come across a person as physically attractive as she was, so she instantly had my attention. We started talking and hit it off. She mentioned that she had an open relationship with her partner, and I was willing to accept that. So I dumped my then-current boyfriend and basically told her I wanted to get in her pants. Our love for each other has grown over the last 2.5 years, until now we're very committed to each other.

#2: About a month ago, while doing a Google search, I came across the web page of a beautiful, intelligent, kinky, poly woman. I wrote about her in my weblog, but didn't email her. A week later she reviewed her webserver logs, and traced the referrer URL back to my page. She decided I seemed interesting, so she emailed me. We met in person, and also hit it off. It shows every indication of becoming a serious relationship.

So in short, it was easy for me; both of them already knew they were poly.

> Once in a polyamorous relationship, how does one maintain it and the allegiance to multiple partners?

I can speak somewhat firsthand, as well as with the experience of seeing how my extended "family" has handled things. In general, the trick is to realize that these things are never theoretical, and every single situation must account for the current needs and wants of everyone involved. Sometimes finding that happy medium can be very difficult.

Time: Anybody who approached this with the idea of evenly dividing their time between all partners would probably fail miserably. There are times (sometimes as long as a month or two) where one partner needs much more attention. In my experience, there's usually enough time to go around if you only have two partners. I hear three is difficult, even if the third is just a fuck-buddy.

Jealousy: It happens. If it's mild, you might just ignore it, knowing that it will go away. If it's strong, or recurring, you mention it and it's then up to you and your partner to try to address it somehow. If it's really strong, it can cause a lot of stress and difficulty for everybody. In my experience, jealousy is usually caused by feeling insecure. Addressing the insecurity directly is usually very difficult, and takes a lot of time and stamina, but it can be done. As for how often it comes up, that depends on the relationship. Some relationships are really stable, others eventually don't work out precisely for this reason (sometimes one partner needs more than the other can give, and eventually that will collapse).

Explaining: So far, I've generally just not mentioned my personal life to my coworkers. My family doesn't approve, but they don't say anything, and once I even had Thanksgiving dinner with my parents, my partner and her partner, all at the same table. The conversation was even lively and pleasant. When it comes to friends, we usually don't explain the situation up-front; we leave it to them to eventually piece it together, assuming they're close enough friends that over time they'll get enough data.

[ Parent ]

you answered my questions :) (none / 0) (#133)
by JaredG27 on Mon Aug 06, 2001 at 10:27:53 AM EST

Feel free to rate this down, but I just wanted to thank you guys, again, for your answers. I've read all of them a few times through, but I don't really have any more questions. That's why I haven't responded. Thank you so much!


[ Parent ]
Jealousy, that's why. (3.00 / 6) (#106)
by gromm on Thu Aug 02, 2001 at 05:23:32 PM EST

I'm actually quite surprised that noone's mentioned this topic yet. The vast majority of us, once we're in a serious relationship feel jealous when sharing that wonderful person with someone else, regardless of whether he or she is open about it or not. We fear that we will lose our significant other to someone else, that they will find someone who meets their needs - emotional or sexual - better than ourselves. As an added bonus, what happens when your significant other starts a relationship with someone else, and that someone else wants total commitment to *your* significant other? It doesn't matter if you're not jealous that he's found a woman who's fallen in love with him, *she's* jealous that he's already got another woman that he's in love with.

You can theorize all you like about how great and wonderful open relationships would be without sneaking around, but the hard truth is that jealousy is the primary factor when marriages break up, or polyamourous groupings are torn apart, and it only takes one person to rip the whole thing down. The fact of the matter is that we are not Vulcans. Strong emotions almost invariably overpower obvious logic, just look at how America conducts itself with regards to illicit drugs. :)
Deus ex frigerifero
i agree, but i don't think it's universal (4.00 / 3) (#110)
by JaredG27 on Thu Aug 02, 2001 at 06:34:06 PM EST

On the one hand, I agree with you. I think that jealousy is hard to overcome. But we _have_ talked about this and what we've said is that TRUST and COMMUNICATION are the way around jealousy.

Now don't get me wrong, I don't know that I'd be capable of trusting a sig. other with another guy, and partially for the reasons you outlined. Nonetheless, I think that some people _can_ have flexible enough trust, and they may even enjoy talking about each other's sexual experiences

I don't think I'd put myself in these categories, but the one thing I've learned from reading all these responses is that some people have succeeded at polyamory by understanding exactly what their partner needed in this other person and accepting it.

Like clyopatra mentioned earlier with regards to sexual experience, communication is a powerful device, and many people just don't lay things on the table. Anything can be discussed, but whether or not you and your partner agree on it is another thing. While human experience may involve a lot of jealousy, some people are different. And who are we to define universals that don't exist?


[ Parent ]
My Thoughts - Or, Our Culture is Sick, Sick, Sick (3.25 / 8) (#112)
by dasunt on Thu Aug 02, 2001 at 07:07:48 PM EST

I find our present (US-ian) culture very, very sick. I have yet to determine the cause, or the solution, but every time I am waiting in the supermarket aisle and find myself looking at magazines that promise to show you how to make your man love you, or how to dress for sex, or all the other crap they love to spew, I find myself greatly disturbed. The magazines tell their readers that the trick to eternal, everlasting happiness and a hot sex life is to not be yourself. Romance novels can be equally as bad, especially those that have the (rather common) plot of the woman eventually falling for the pushy, rude man that insults her and acts like a jerk, or the plot of the woman finally taming the dare-devil, wandering, lusting soul of the hot hunk she accidentally meets one day. And on these book covers, as well as in magazine ads, and on TV, are pictures of women that are rather atypical of our society, often in skimpy or revealing dress, which might be appropriate in some cases, but do I really need to see a woman in a bikini to be sold a car?

Then, to "solve" our problems, we have the far-right, another disturbing group of people with extreme mores that are equally sick. In contrast to the "sex is good, sex is healthy, so do it with anyone, anywhere, or you're a prude" of the far left, the right tells us "sex is bad, don't talk about it, don't talk about birth control, and those homosexuals are going to hell, so its okay to hate them." Now I know I'm generalizing the viewpoints of the left and the right, and not everyone holds these viewpoints, so no flames please, but there are enough elements in this society that the viewpoints I have mentioned are common. We are a schrizophrenic society, wanting sex but believing that its evil. No, I'm not being extreme here. Nudity is evil, because its related to sex, that's why you'll probably see a few dozen murders on network TV before you'll ever see a naked ass or breast. Our censors know which evil is more tolerable for our society to view.

So why do I care? I've been in the same relationship for almost 4 years now, which is a long time, considering my age (23), its a healthy relationship, filled with romantic love and trust, I'm happy, why shouldn't I let the rest of the world go to hell (figuratively speaking)? But I find myself thinking, one day I might have children, and what sort of world will they grow up in? In a country that is more likely to discuss sexual positions of the kama sutra then birth control? In a country where grade schoolers worry about their figures? In a country with an insane teenage pregnancy rate because we tell everyone that sex is love and no sex is abnormal, but we can't mention what a condom is?

The basics of sex should be taught in school, as well as birth control, pregnancy, childbirth, raising children, basical medical information, etc. This is something we all need to be taught, and something that a lot of parents are hesitant to teach their children. Sex is a fact of life for many people, why shouldn't we teach it in schools, as well as everything else I mentioned? Most of us will need to know something about birth control, very few of us plan to have as many children as nature decides. A lot of us will have children one day, and should know about pregnancy and childbirth, as well as raising young children. Just simple stuff, for example, teaching people that yelling at a one month old will do nothing, as far as we can tell, children *can't* be conditioned to stop doing something at that age. And just think of how greatful doctors would be if there was as little as 5 hours in the course of k-12 education that was spent on educating people about the difference between a virus and a bacteria, and why anti-biotic medicines are more likely to lead to drug-resistant bacteria then cure your cold.

Then again, maybe I'm wrong. I'm an old fashioned romantic, who likes the thought of growing closer to one specific woman over the years, and having a partner in my life. I know that life's not for everyone, and some people won't settle down. Maybe this world is what most people want. Recalling the supermarket checkout magazines, if this is the world that most of us are content with, I'd rather not be human.

(E) All of the above (4.25 / 4) (#117)
by Scandal on Thu Aug 02, 2001 at 09:58:29 PM EST

I don't find the concept of commitment to more than one individual all that hard to accept. Then again, I've been in a year-long "polyamorous" (not true polyamory) relationship.

I am similar to you -- I find it hard to divorce the various parts of sex. I have no interest in merely physical sex, although I know people who are "happy" with it. I imagined that I could, but the aforementioned polyamorous relationship disabused me of that false notion.

Thus, it served as an important lesson.

Currently, however, I'm quite happy in a nearly nine-year marriage, with a woman who knows what she wants and isn't shy about saying so. But it's taken ten years to get where we are now.

To me, the quality of sex is a measuring stick of the quality of the relationship. With one notable exception, all of the couples my wife or I have spoken with about sex seem to confirm this. This isn't to say that better sex is the key to improving marital difficulties; that's backwards. As others have mentioned, trust and communication are the key. (If you have things to hide from your spouse or partner, you're already on the way to destroying your relationship. Not because you have things to hide, but simply becuase you're hiding them! You can't be close to someone when you're busy hiding...) It took time for me and my wife to build up the trust and the communication. In fact, it was the continued development of that trust (via communication) which allowed us to explore additional facets of our own sexuality, including adding in another partner for awhile.

While I wouldn't reject having another such relationship, the thing I realized about it is that I don't really *desire* it. Kinda got it out of my system, I guess. So did my wife.

One thing we realized is that any such activity doesn't change our relationship with each other at all, any more than my enjoying a movie with a friend is somehow "cheating". What my wife and I experience through sex is something I can't even put into words, however, (we gave up after many blanks stares from friends...) and I'm thrilled to share that with my wife. I don't know that I could have that with anyone else (and certainly never had anything that fulfilling with any other partners), but then I'm too giddy to even care to try any more.

I guess sacred begins to hint at it.

As long as all the partners are getting what they want from the relationship, then polyamory seems to be workable (and you can go www.polyamory.org if you want more info...). I don't know if it's possible to share the closeness, however, as that didn't happen in my attempt at it. Not to say it wasn't fun; it just wasn't what I really want, which is that mind-blowing surrender and fulfillment. My wife is "the one" for me.

Following our adventure into "immoral" sex, however, my wife and I are more committed to each other than ever. And our trust (mine in particular) has grown far beyond what it was before the relationship. And our communication is fantastic.

So, the experience was worth it.


interesting book on Promiscuity (3.00 / 3) (#120)
by danny on Fri Aug 03, 2001 at 01:06:18 AM EST

Tim Birkhead's book Promiscuity is mostly about sperm competition, but also about female promiscuity and the biology thereof.

[900 book reviews and other stuff]

Marriage is not very beneficial for men any more. (4.00 / 4) (#126)
by Chris Gore on Fri Aug 03, 2001 at 09:14:45 PM EST

This discussion would not have even came up 50 years ago. Everyone generally wanted to get married, and they usually did before the age of 25, and they never got divorced. Why has that changed? Society has changed its approach to the sexes, and that has eliminated many of the benefits of marraige for women, and nearly all of the benefits of marriage for men.

First off, there is the increased acceptance of divorce. It used to be unthinkable, but now more than half of all marraiges end in divorce. This leads to even more divorces, because people don't properly consider their choice of a spouse as carefully as they used to or their own actions towards their spouse after the marriage. They don't feel it's necessary. They think that if it gets too bad, they can just end the marriage.

Then there is the harm to the woman's role in a marriage created by modern society. Feminists fought hard to secure the right of women to work, and many women consider it vitally important to work even though they are married, and even if they have children. Why? Does the extra money really matter so much that it makes up for leaving the children in daycare most of the time? Which do you think is more important o a child: clothes from The Gap, or the attention of their mother?

What benefit does the man get from marriage anymore? You might say: ``He gets to help raise his children'' but does he? In a divorce, the wife will get the children unless she is extremely incapable (and often then, too). The man will generally just get to see them one weekend a month and on holidays, and will have to pay alimony for their entire cost of their child in order to do so. I have several friends in their 30's and 40's who never cheated on their wife, always paid the bills, and then their wives cheated on them and wanted a divorce that ended up being settled in such a manner.

I will probably never get married. A few of my friends in their 20's (I am 22 myself) have children, but are not married, and aren't even engaged. They pay for most of the costs of the child (one even pays the costs of the kid's mother, even though they aren't dating anymore) and get to be as active (or inactive) a member of their child's life as they choose, get to carry on relationships with other people, and aren't bled dry by alimony. I used to think that I would know better than to get in a relationship with someone who did not care for me as much as I care for them, until my last ``real'' relatioship ended because she was cheating on me (actually, they were dating first but she didn't tell me, so she was really cheating on both of us). Since then I have avoided exclusive relationships, and will continue to do so. If I ever have a kid, I will take care of it, but I am not going to pay the bills of someone who wouldn't even tell me the time of day, as so many men end up doing.

What do you mean by "outsmart", anyway? (none / 0) (#129)
by seebs on Sun Aug 05, 2001 at 06:19:31 PM EST

The merits of committment don't strike me as a thing trying to outwit you. What exactly is that supposed to mean?

I've been monogamous and I've been polygamous. Currently, I'm monogamous, and overall a lot happier, but it depends a lot on what a relationship is for, and why you want it that way. My pet peeve is people (on either side) who try to convince the people on the other side that they're "wrong". I see very little difference between Jehovah's Witnesses saying my girlfriend will go to hell for sleeping with me before we're married, and people telling me to "loosen up and have some fun, stop being so possessive".

This relationship is between me, my wife, and (perhaps) God. The rest of y'all stay the fuck out. And that goes no matter *why* you think my relationship is wrong, and it goes just as much when I'm doing the mainstream thing as it did when I was dating two girls, both of whom were dating other guys.

chill (4.00 / 1) (#132)
by JaredG27 on Mon Aug 06, 2001 at 10:21:32 AM EST

No one here is telling you what to do. The only one telling anyone what to do, seems to be you telling us to leave you alone. And yet we haven't imposed _our_ ideas upon _you_.

That aside, the one thing you actually _said_ in your comment I'll respond to. You asked why I said "outsmart." I said that because I'm curious about polyamory but don't see how it works. Commitment is the mainstream form of relationships, as you stated, but if one were to sway from the mainstream and try another lifestyle, would it be possible? It seemed difficult to me because of all the merits of commitment. So I wanted to know, how can one be both happy in their relationship and trying new things. How can you beat the system? How can you outsmart it?

I'm not asking those questions right now. But I figured I'd explain them to you...even though no one else has asked and one person complimented the title. But that's not the point. The point is that there's no sense in blaming people for things they're not imposing. Do whatever you want with your girlfriend. Avoid STDs for all your life and stay abstinent, or lend her out to all your friends for a small fee. I'm not imposing my values on you, nor is anyone here.


[ Parent ]
Fair enough... (none / 0) (#135)
by seebs on Fri Aug 10, 2001 at 10:35:13 PM EST

I really didn't see what you meant by "outsmart", but I think I do now. You mean something like "Is committment the only way to get these results?", yes?

As to the other question: People *are* trying to tell you, me, and everyone else how to live. When I was poly, people asked me why I was so sinful, and whether I really loved the people I was dating. Now people ask me why I'm so hung up and old-fashioned. Everyone does this a certain amount.

[ Parent ]
Can one outsmart the merits of commitment in relationships? | 137 comments (132 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
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