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Married, With Infidelities
June 30, 2011 10:47 AM   Subscribe

Dan Savage speaks about the concept of monogamy.
posted by reenum (356 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
To be scrupulously accurate, it's "Mark Oppenheimer writes about what Dan Savage says about monogamy."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:57 AM on June 30, 2011 [15 favorites]


If you're not into monogamy, why get married? It's 2011. If all you want to do is fornicate with as many people as possible, you're free to do so without deceiving or hurting anyone.
posted by Renoroc at 11:04 AM on June 30, 2011 [11 favorites]


Relationships work when the partners put the work in. Good read, cheers.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:06 AM on June 30, 2011


It is terribly important for many men to speak about this loudly and publically as if it is an anthropological expedition into an entirely unfamiliar alien world.

Infidelity? Can you repeat that please? Country of origin? Alternate pronunciations?

Palms sweating. Nervous tics. Slight rocking onto toes.

I. N. F. I. D. E. L. I. T. E. E.

Damn.

I have never heard of that word ever before...
posted by srboisvert at 11:07 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you're not into monogamy, why get married? It's 2011. If all you want to do is fornicate with as many people as possible, you're free to do so without deceiving or hurting anyone.

Way to miss the point of the article. Or at least, Savage's point, which is that non-monogamy does not have to equal "cheating" (i.e., lying). It also doesn't necessarily mean Fuck Anything That Walks.

By your view, if someone in a 20-year+ marriage has one affair, they're non-mongamous and therefore shouldn't have gotten married, and obviously want to fornicate with as many people as possible.
posted by rtha at 11:07 AM on June 30, 2011 [24 favorites]


Interesting article, I'm not sure that establishing a model in which both men and women are allowed to be serial non-monogamous would work particularly well in most relationships. The article touched on it but ultimately men and women seem to having different wiring when it comes to sexual attraction and intimacy. A higher percentage of men seem to be able to divorce the physical sex act from emotional intimacy. That isn't to say that it's not possible for some women to be content in open relationship (or even more elaborate structures) but that many women require a degree of intimacy in order to really enjoy sex with another person.

I think the article also touched on the possessiveness many partners feel about their partners. The man who was comfortable in his partner engaging in sex acts with other men up until the point of vaginal penetration seems like it's quite common. In some cases I think some men want to still have veto rights over their partners sexuality. They might be comfortable with their wife having sex with another women but not a man, or a man as long as there is no penetration, or swapping as long as all parties are in the room, etc. Yes being GGG is an admirable goal and there should be a dialogue about limits with your partner but it also seems that some men want to maintain a degree of "ownership" that underlines a unequal balance of power in the relationship.
posted by vuron at 11:08 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you're not into monogamy, why get married? It's 2011. If all you want to do is fornicate with as many people as possible, you're free to do so without deceiving or hurting anyone.

Ever stop to think that maybe someone might get married for the legal benefits? Maybe they want to fornicate with as many people as possible, but share a life with one person in specific. Who's to say there's deception or harm coming from it?
posted by explosion at 11:18 AM on June 30, 2011 [8 favorites]


Marriage is nice, because a lot of people bond in pairs to have and raise kids, whether or not the government or church gives its blessings. The legal protections that are shared for married couples make for better societies, on the whole. It's tougher to provide that kind of arrangement for swingers. Maybe in a hundred years we'll have a legal framework that has caught up with changes in how people pair up.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:19 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think for a lot of us, this column may come off as sorta outdated. Perhaps less so for the mainstream audience of the New York Times.

Treating monogamy, rather than honesty or joy or humor, as the main indicator of a successful marriage gives people unrealistic expectations of themselves and their partners.

Monogamy is not that important. It's not discussed much in mainstream circles, but there have always been a LOT of polyamorous couples (as the article notes).

The main indicator of a successful marriage is ... whether both partners want to stay married.

In the feminist revolution, rather than extending to women “the same latitude and license and pressure-release valve that men had always enjoyed,” we extended to men the confines women had always endured.

I don't think that is true.

I think couples who can handle polyamory or accept "infidelities" are great, but it's not easy, as the articles notes, particularly when there is even the slightest imbalance of power within the relationship.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:21 AM on June 30, 2011


In the 70's my grandfather read that book, what was it called "Open marriage"? He decided this was a really great idea and that he should teach this enlightened approach (which wasn't actually the intention of the book) to my grandmother.

She was caring for three children and overwhelmed and there was no way that it made sense for her to go out having sex with random men (not to mention it is more dangerous for women to do this). When my grandfather was willing to play with the kids she was mostly, tired.

So she accepted this was one of his "needs" and if she really really loved him she would accept the importance of his "needs". So he had sex with lots of women and she cried all the time and felt emotionally destroyed.

He carried a huge amount of guilt and cried as well and I believe his guilt was within the reasons that his cancer destroyed his body.

If you NEED to go out and have freedom to feel various forms of intimacy with other partners, that is perfectly fine. But the possibility of having this need SHOULD be talked about before marriage and having kids because to bring up this need when life is hard because caring for children is difficult and it's hard to keep love life alive in the bedroom and you just want to go off and be entertained by women who aren't all busy struggling with parenting like your wife---

It's cruel. At the very least, respect that your partner may have needs that involve you not running out to entertain yourself when they DON'T want non-monogamy. If nothing else, repect that they might need to break up and if nothing else, not have to see you any more. Your partner has needs to and there is no reason one person's needs need to override the entire relationship.
posted by xarnop at 11:21 AM on June 30, 2011 [28 favorites]


Choice quotes worth discussing:
“I acknowledge the advantages of monogamy,” Savage told me, “when it comes to sexual safety, infections, emotional safety, paternity assurances. But people in monogamous relationships have to be willing to meet me a quarter of the way and acknowledge the drawbacks of monogamy around boredom, despair, lack of variety, sexual death and being taken for granted.”
...
“The mistake that straight people made,” Savage told me, “was imposing the monogamous expectation on men. Men were never expected to be monogamous. Men had concubines, mistresses and access to prostitutes, until everybody decided marriage had to be egalitar ian and fairsey.” In the feminist revolution, rather than extending to women “the same latitude and license and pressure-release valve that men had always enjoyed,” we extended to men the confines women had always endured. “And it’s been a disaster for marriage.”
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:24 AM on June 30, 2011 [7 favorites]


I want to add that I don't think there is a darn thing wrong with polyarmorous relationships or open marriage. I just don't like the "convincing" that is done to monogamous partners who are really deeply hurt by their partners desire to switch to non-monogamy and the way they are pressured to accept the change "if they really love their partner"
posted by xarnop at 11:24 AM on June 30, 2011 [9 favorites]


If nonmonogamy were the default, people would have to partner up with equally desirable partners to avoid a situation where one gets plenty of extramarital sex and the other one sits at home depressed watching TV. They'd have to stay in shape and not let themselves go, lest their partner's eyes wander. They'd have to put effort into staying interesting for their partner, maintaining that je ne sais quoi that so often fizzles out after the initial "honeymoon period". The slovenly and boring would marry the slovenly and boring, or else learn how to be great hosts when their spouses lovers come over for dinner.

This would probably be a good development. Too bad it'll never happen.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:24 AM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


That isn't to say that it's not possible for some women to be content in open relationship (or even more elaborate structures) but that many women require a degree of intimacy in order to really enjoy sex with another person.

Granted my demographic is "weirdo" but most of poly/open people I know are women. And it's not about sex, or just sex, but exploring emotional (and physical) intimacy with friends, lovers, or people that are closer than just friends or lovers - but not partners.
posted by loquacious at 11:25 AM on June 30, 2011 [8 favorites]


Interesting that the only two 100% absolute never even gonna discuss it monogamous relationships I know are two gay men and an unmarried hetrosexual couple.
posted by The Whelk at 11:26 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I dunno, I don't get it, but everybody always says "men historically had lots of other women," but aren't those "other women" people who are having other partners? Or is the idea that men get to have the undivided attention of those women? Which could run into problems given that people are aborting females in proportion to males.

Also, one heck of a lot of the cases of men killing women seem to be situations in which the men were possessive and threatened by even the hint of interest in other men. or the hint of interest in women. Or the hint of any kind of independence. I don't buy the open-mindedness that many people claim.

I have also lived long enough to notice that most of the people I know who tried to have open relationships bailed out of the relationships, or were kicked out. It's just so complicated.
posted by Peach at 11:29 AM on June 30, 2011 [9 favorites]


An article which begins with a discussion of Anthony Weiner and has a long row of "Enlarge This Image" links down the side has either a very dry sense of humor or none at all....
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:29 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Some people need more than one partner, he writes, just as some people need flirting, others need to be whipped, others need lovers of both sexes.

Extra extra: Man claims he doesn't think monogamy may work for him and millions of others.
posted by hal_c_on at 11:30 AM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Whelk - 35 years married. Heterosexual couple. Though I prefer to characterize our sexuality as "married" because sexuality is complicated.
posted by Peach at 11:30 AM on June 30, 2011


the drawbacks of monogamy boredom, despair, lack of variety, sexual death and being taken for granted.

Not to be all "you're doing it wrong" but, um, maybe you're doing it wrong.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 11:31 AM on June 30, 2011 [36 favorites]


"There has to be a word for that creeping realization that everyone you who has slept with each other."

"Ah, Drama Club Foreboding."
posted by The Whelk at 11:31 AM on June 30, 2011 [7 favorites]


If people would just talk to each other there'd be a lot more better marriages (and many shitty ones falling apart).
posted by Mister Fabulous at 11:32 AM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Not to be all "you're doing it wrong" but, um, maybe you're doing it wrong.

I think the point is that having a black and white "You're doing it wrong" line of thought is the source of lot of problems.

People can be so interconnected via social networks and meet far more people than previous generations. The idea that strict monogamy might the only way might have some merit to it.

Sadly, not for me. The last thing I need or want is another person I HAVE to talk to and take seriously.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:35 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I feel like my comment seemed kind of flippant so I'd like to clarify; if having an open relationship is what works for you then great, I'm glad that you've figured that out about yourself so go for it. That's not sarcastic, seriously, if that's what's best for you and your relationship then fantastic, but while it may be the case that it works great for you it doesn't mean that monogamous relationships are all boring and vanilla. Just because you're with the same person for a long time doesn't mean sex isn't super-exciting and awesome.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 11:36 AM on June 30, 2011 [8 favorites]


In the feminist revolution, rather than extending to women “the same latitude and license and pressure-release valve that men had always enjoyed,” we extended to men the confines women had always endured.

I don't think that is true.


Quelle surprise, Dan Savage doesn't know what he's talking about when he's talking about feminism.
posted by kmz at 11:37 AM on June 30, 2011 [40 favorites]


That isn't to say that it's not possible for some women to be content in open relationship (or even more elaborate structures) but that many women require a degree of intimacy in order to really enjoy sex with another person.

Open relationships and intimacy with your partners are not mutually exclusive. Lots and lots of people, men and women, have several partners with whom they're extremely close. They love multiple people.
posted by Netzapper at 11:41 AM on June 30, 2011


It's a touch bizarre to me to read Dan Savage as Sayer of Outrageously Broad Sexual Things to the audience of the New York Times right now, because I have a lot of younger friends on various social media sites who are very busy right now trashing him as a bisexual-hating transphobic bigot.

As for the actual content of the article, I find it has the same problem that everything I ever read from Savage, which the article touches on: not everybody is focused on the kind of sexuality that Savage places on a pedestal and puts in a central place in his definitions of relationships. Putting it solely in male vs female (or feminist) terms is a bit gender essentialist for my taste, but the feminist critique of Savage rings true for me. It's why I stopped reading his column.
posted by immlass at 11:41 AM on June 30, 2011 [11 favorites]


I like the idea that articles like this might make it more likely for people to discuss the monogamy they have rather than assume a default that is almost never as carbon-copy as people think it is.

Actual execution of non-monogamy with integrity and no coercion is, I think, a very special skill. But it's absolutely worth the conversation.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:42 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've been reading Savage Love for a very long time and so I have to say this article was well written, but the column that Dan Savage wrote way back in March of 2000 is what affected my thinking regarding monogamy the most. Yes, it is comparing the evolution of the size of primates' testicles. That just makes sense to me.
posted by jillithd at 11:44 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have also lived long enough to notice that most of the people I know who tried to have monogamus relationships bailed out of the relationships, or were kicked out. It's just so complicated.
posted by ZeroAmbition at 11:44 AM on June 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


Okay here's a question I've been wanting to ask for a while but before it was all abstract but now it's a possibility and I am not trying to be snarky or dismissive or anything, it's just been on my mind:

If there where no legal implications to getting married (tax breaks, hospital visits, inheritance), would you still get married? Cause it seems like there is an unspoken economic arguing going on here, if nothing else it's cheaper to have a two person household then a one person. And of course, easier to raise kids if you're both in the same place.

And this isn't a "I am a perfectly rational economic bot you foolish humans" it's more ....getting married and living together does save money. Sometimes quite a lot and I know in my case I moved in with my SO cause there was no way I could afford to live close to him on my own and I do suspect if everything else was equal we'd probably live nearby but not together not cause we're not totally in love and into each other but because we're both touchy loners with high personal-time needs and obsessive over the arrangement of their physical environment.

And I snore like a freight train.
posted by The Whelk at 11:48 AM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's tougher to provide that kind of arrangement for swingers. Maybe in a hundred years we'll have a legal framework that has caught up with changes in how people pair up.

The current legal system in the United States provides just fine for (straight) swingers. Rights are not taken away based on a couple being swingers.

“The mistake that straight people made,” Savage told me, “was imposing the monogamous expectation on men. Men were never expected to be monogamous. Men had concubines, mistresses and access to prostitutes, until everybody decided marriage had to be egalitar ian and fairsey.” In the feminist revolution, rather than extending to women “the same latitude and license and pressure-release valve that men had always enjoyed,” we extended to men the confines women had always endured. “And it’s been a disaster for marriage.”

I never thought I'd see Dan Savage making an argument that society should not have deviated from tradition.
posted by The World Famous at 11:48 AM on June 30, 2011


I find it interesting that this discussion seems to be (on preview: almost) entirely focused on a structure of one primary relationship with side-encounters which are exclusively sexual. It's even used as an argument for why woman might be more suited to monogamy than men, which I strongly disagree with. I think this is an artifact of the secrecy inherent in the culture of cheating, and do not think it is a very accurate characterization of how human relationships work. But for some reason people seem to find the idea of loving multiple people even harder to accept than sleeping with multiple people.
posted by Nothing at 11:49 AM on June 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


“Sometimes he can shame women for not being into things that their male partners are into, if they have male partners,” Sady Doyle, a feminist blogger, told me. “The whole good-giving-and-game thing is something I actually agree with. I don’t think you should flip out on your partner if they share something sexual with you. But I think sometimes it’s much harder for women to say, ‘I’m not into that,’ or ‘Please, I don’t want to do that, let’s do something else,’ than it is to say, ‘Sure.’ Putting all the onus on the person who doesn’t have that fetish or desire, particularly if the person who doesn’t have that desire is the woman, really reproduces a lot of old structures and means of oppression for women.”

I dunno. I've been reading Savage for years, and I don't think he tells women that they have to indulge all their partners' fetishes. What he says is basically, "Whether you accept your partner's fetish or not, it's not gonna go away. So either you indulge it or let him have some kind of safe outlet, otherwise he'll be unhappy or seek satisfaction somewhere else." Which is true. A lot of women don't understand fetishes because a lot of women don't have them. He's explaining something that's just a basic fact of male life. I don't think that's sexist, and I don't think he's trying to reproduce old structures or oppress women.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:51 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


A lot of women don't understand fetishes because a lot of women don't have them. He's explaining something that's just a basic fact of male life.

what
posted by kmz at 11:55 AM on June 30, 2011 [44 favorites]


> Maybe they want to fornicate with as many people as possible, but share a life with one
> person in specific. Who's to say there's deception or harm coming from it?

There might not be, necessarily. Just don't suck somebody into marrying you based on your promise of faithfulness which they believed, and then suddenly discover a bunch of "needs" incompatible with keeping your word when you get the seven-year (or month, or minute) itch.
posted by jfuller at 11:55 AM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


If there where no legal implications to getting married (tax breaks, hospital visits, inheritance), would you still get married?

I'm pretty sure I would. There are perks to having the other person nearby. Personality wise, the wife and I compliment each other well, seems like a natural fit.
Now if she could keep her damn clothes off the floor, that would be great.

A lot of women don't understand fetishes because a lot of women don't have them.

So you've never actually dated a woman or had one as a friend, is that what you're saying?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:56 AM on June 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


And he does not believe that monogamy is wrong for all couples or even for most couples...

...rather than extending to women “the same latitude and license and pressure-release valve that men had always enjoyed,” we extended to men the confines women had always endured. "And it's been a disaster for marriage."


These two things do not quite seem to match.

Dan Savage does seem to go through phases of really pushing the advantages of non-monogamy, supported by evo-psych Back On The Savannah arguments. It isn't really objectionable on its own merits, but I do find it annoying when it sends him off down the "men are just like that, and as a woman you will never really understand their needs!" path as an answer to women who want monogamy.
posted by Catseye at 11:57 AM on June 30, 2011 [11 favorites]


But for some reason people seem to find the idea of loving multiple people even harder to accept than sleeping with multiple people.

Part of the reason might be that there are so few examples of this as a working model whether in real life (because people who are deviating from the cultural norm tend to do it quietly, maybe?) or in (U.S.) popular culture. Here's a list of cultural examples I can think of showing a happy, healthy, honest, non-monogamous couple:

1. Erika Berger and her husband from the Larsson Millennium Series*.
2. ?

It's popularly invisible, as far I can tell.
posted by davidjmcgee at 11:58 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


*there used to be a footnote saying they could easily be dismissed as deviant on account of SOCIALISM!!!! or something.
posted by davidjmcgee at 11:59 AM on June 30, 2011


Brandon Blatcher -- my girlfriend and I have been living together for 10 years or so, and haven't gotten married. She's pretty nearby even without a wedding ring.
posted by garlic at 12:00 PM on June 30, 2011


A lot of women don't understand fetishes because a lot of women don't have them.

Dude, come on. Cite, please?
posted by rtha at 12:02 PM on June 30, 2011 [7 favorites]


I can't imagine raising kids without a single, stable partner.

I'm not making any value judgments, I'm really, really not. Many people raise kids in many other scenarios, for many different reasons (some voluntary and some not), and all of those scenarios should be protected and treated equally by society and our laws.

But, for me, personally, given the hell I've been through so far with our 10-month-old, the only thing that gives me the cold sweats more than the thought of doing it alone is the thought of doing it with more than one other person, whether simultaneously or in sequence.

And, again for me, personally, I can imagine succeeding in raising our kid in our two-person, monogamous relationship, even if that relationship gets strained and cracked and someday doesn't even seem worth it any more for its own sake (not that I expect that to happen). But I can't imagine doing all that while screwing around and trying to divide my intimacy among multiple partners.

So, in my position, for me, go monogamy! Because everything else is terrifying.
posted by gurple at 12:03 PM on June 30, 2011 [7 favorites]


Evolutionary psychology besmirches evolution, psychology, science, and humanity.
posted by kmz at 12:05 PM on June 30, 2011 [7 favorites]


If all you want to do is fornicate with as many people as possible, you're free to do so without deceiving or hurting anyone.

All sorts of health problems, short and long term, can stem from promiscuity. Especially for women.

Just sayin'
posted by IndigoJones at 12:06 PM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Lots of guys don't understand fetishes either, and that causes problems, too. But I'm specifically addressing the "feminist critique" of Savage, which I think is off-base.

It's not a sexist/feminist issue. It's more of a kink/non-kink issue.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:08 PM on June 30, 2011


If all you want to do is fornicate with as many people as possible, you're free to do so without deceiving or hurting anyone.

Not if you're an ugly, grumpy old bastard that no woman in her right mind would dream of fucking. Mind you, that's when whisky really comes into its own.
posted by Decani at 12:11 PM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


I read Dan Savage's newest fav book, Sex at Dawn, which goes to great lengths to prove that humans are naturally non-monogamous, but also has to go to great lengths to prove that humans are naturally peaceful too in order to bolster the argument that living naturally is living well. When I read it, I had never worked in a lab with human skulls. When I started working with skulls from the paleolithic, I realized that there are PLENTY with wounds from violent conflicts. So I'm not really inclined to accept evolutionary psychology arguments that doing what's natural is always best.
posted by melissam at 12:11 PM on June 30, 2011 [13 favorites]


Brandon Blatcher -- my girlfriend and I have been living together for 10 years or so, and haven't gotten married. She's pretty nearby even without a wedding ring.

That's cool, whatever works for ya'll. But I think we did need some sort of ritual to symbolize our wishes.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:13 PM on June 30, 2011


It's not a sexist/feminist issue. It's more of a kink/non-kink issue.

If you're saying women aren't into kink, I'm gonna have to take those stripes off your shoulder and send you back on foot patrols for a year.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:13 PM on June 30, 2011


“It was four or five years before it came up,” Miller said. “It’s not about having three-ways with somebody or having an open relationship. It is just sort of like, Dan has always said if you have different tastes, you have to be good, giving and game, and if you are not G.G.G. for those tastes, then you have to give your partner the out. It took me a while to get down with that.” When I asked Savage how many extramarital encounters there have been, he laughed shyly. “Double digits?” I asked. He said he wasn’t sure; later he and Miller counted, and he reported back that the number was nine. “And far from it being a destabilizing force in our relationship, it’s been a stabilizing force. It may be why we’re still together.”

I think this section of the article says it all. Dan, the older member of the relationship and the one with the money, told Terry that it was important to him to be able to sleep with other people, and Terry had better get with program and not be "dated" and square and unhip and regressive about it. Terry should also believe that this is a totally fair balance of power, because otherwise he'd make his life miserable and break up with him. Being treated like crud is the summa bonum of modern love.

This is a man who uses the incredibly public forum of the New York Times to say that he might have broken up with the man he married and is raising a child with if he hadn't relented and allowed nine "extramarital encounters." That's how much they were worth to him, and how much his family is worth to him.
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 12:14 PM on June 30, 2011 [32 favorites]


" But for some reason people seem to find the idea of loving multiple people even harder to accept than sleeping with multiple people."

Personally I don't think it's hard to accept or impossible, but that many relationships are going to experience problems with implementing a open or polyamorous relationship. It seems that many partnerships lack the open lines of dialogue and the honesty required to navigate the waters.

Both partners need to be honest with each other and themselves about the possible consequences of adopting a non-monogamous relationship. Is it going to elevate jealousy or feelings of possessiveness? Is it being done out of a genuine desire to have a open or polyamorous relationship or is it being done to satisfy the needs of the other party? What are the limits to opening the relationship to other parties, etc? All to often it seems like a couple will experiment with non-monogamous structures in an attempt to fix an already troubled relationship. In some cases this is a mutual understanding but in some cases it seems to revolve around the female partner being subtly coerced into accepting a open relationship.

Honestly navigating a dyadic relationship is something which many partners struggle with, how easy is it to add more partners and potential conflicts to that mix. Factor all the other problems and structure that the average partnership faces on a daily basis (kids, finances, family, societal expectations) and it's wonder that anyone can successfully juggle it.
posted by vuron at 12:15 PM on June 30, 2011


“You assume as a younger person that all relationships are monogamous and between two people, that love means nothing can come between you,” said Miller, who met Savage at a club in 1995, when he was 23 and Savage was 30. “Dan has taught me to be more realistic about that kind of stuff.

How sweet.
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 12:15 PM on June 30, 2011 [11 favorites]


But, for me, personally, given the hell I've been through so far with our 10-month-old, the only thing that gives me the cold sweats more than the thought of doing it alone is the thought of doing it with more than one other person, whether simultaneously or in sequence.

Funny that you should say this. I had much more day-to-day support, both emotional and practical, and general life backup when I had multiple relationships.

For me, the thought of having a baby and only being with one partner and that's it is scary. I guess that's how life goes, but I'm not thrilled about it.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:17 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Although I don't want to comment too much on the Savage portion of the article, I found the Clinton/Weiner comparison to be interesting.

I honestly hadn't heard very much about the Clintons' personal lives since the affair scandal, and assumed that the couple had kept their marriage together for entirely political purposes. However, after listening to Bill Clinton's interview on last week's episode of Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, I'm not so sure of that.

If he was being sincere in the interview, his mentions of Hillary sounded like he was talking from the perspective of a giddy just-married 20something husband, rather than somebody who had been married for 36 years and had endured a very public and embarrassing affair. It was almost cute.

Whether or not that's a reflection on their actual relationship, I suppose you could apply this toward some of Dan Savage's comments on monogamy.....
posted by schmod at 12:18 PM on June 30, 2011


That's how much they were worth to him, and how much his family is worth to him.

That's a debatable interpretation, but even if we take it as a given, would it be better if Savage had not laid out his understanding of his own desires and how he works, and let his partner find out in a painful and humiliating fashion? Even at 23 - and then 24, 25, 27, etc. - Terry presumably has had the ability at any point to say "This isn't working for me," and either proposed a new arrangement or walked out.

You could also turn it around and say that if Terry had put his foot down about the non-monogamy, that means his (future) family was worth less than his partner occasionally sleeping with someone else (and having the right to do so himself).

For you to judge the content of a relationship that, for all Savage's yammering, you don't really know anything about, and by extension, the relationships of other people who have "agreements," is pretty arrogant. Why do you know so much more about what's best for any given individual in a particular relationship?
posted by rtha at 12:22 PM on June 30, 2011 [15 favorites]


Even when I disagree with Dan Savage (which, to be honest, is pretty infrequently), I am very thankful to have a public figure promoting openness about sex and mindfulness about all relationship matters.

He can tend toward glibness sometimes, but on the whole he's doing worlds of good.

And the It Gets Better Project isn't just the icing on the cake. It's like another cake on the cake.
posted by davidjmcgee at 12:23 PM on June 30, 2011 [11 favorites]


There might not be, necessarily. Just don't suck somebody into marrying you based on your promise of faithfulness which they believed, and then suddenly discover a bunch of "needs" incompatible with keeping your word when you get the seven-year (or month, or minute) itch.

It's not as though people are encased in amber on the day of their wedding. During the course of your life, you're going to grow, and change and well, being able to be honest with your partner about those things is of more value than adhering to the strictures of the covenant made years or decades ago.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:24 PM on June 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm not going to get into the boring ins and outs of the monogamy debate because I feel like its the type of thing that should be put out there so others can consider it, but it's not worth trying to change people's minds. That said, I'll never get over people who think you need to keep your partner on a proverbial leash in order for you to have a "stable" relationship. Not trusting someone to not leave you just because they had sex with another person seems like the definition of instability to me.

That said, my partner and I aren't hooking up with other people (more out of laziness, age, and disinterest than anything else), but a wise Southern man once man once imparted the following wisdom to me in his sweet, slow drawl that's always provided us with a fairly stable foundation:

"If you've got to keep your dog chained to your porch, he ain't your dog."
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:25 PM on June 30, 2011 [22 favorites]


It's possible that the people willing to talk with Dan Savage about their sex lives and marital issues are not completely representative of the population at large.
posted by straight at 12:26 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


For you to judge the content of a relationship that, for all Savage's yammering, you don't really know anything about, and by extension, the relationships of other people who have "agreements," is pretty arrogant. Why do you know so much more about what's best for any given individual in a particular relationship?

I'm going by the evidence provided in the article. Dan Savage is big on this whole topic and writes and argues on it publicly. As the article itself says:

Although best known for his It Gets Better project, an archive of hopeful videos aimed at troubled gay youth, Savage has for 20 years been saying monogamy is harder than we admit and articulating a sexual ethic that he thinks honors the reality, rather than the romantic ideal, of marriage.

And he brings his private life/relationship into that -- he has written at least two books on his family. I think he's wrong and mistaken in his worldview, and it's ridiculous to claim that I can't use the evidence provided here to argue against it, when he's very publicly and repeatedly arguing for it.

That's a debatable interpretation, but even if we take it as a given, would it be better if Savage had not laid out his understanding of his own desires and how he works, and let his partner find out in a painful and humiliating fashion?

You're presenting it as if there are only two options: Savage either telling Miller that he has needs and then getting them met by others, or Savage not telling Miller and getting them met by others. Savage could, of course, choose not to meet them, even if they are very strong and powerful, because he respects Miller more than that.
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 12:29 PM on June 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


A lot of people have already mentioned the evo-psychology stuff, but this line in particular stood out to be:
Men had concubines, mistresses and access to prostitutes, until everybody decided marriage had to be egalitar­ian and fairsey
I mean, did "men" as a general concept for many, many generations have access to concubines, mutiple wives, etc? It seems to me like only a relatively small of privileged few would have, and I have a hard time creating a brave new world around the actions of this population.
posted by Ideal Impulse at 12:29 PM on June 30, 2011 [12 favorites]


"Whether you accept your partner's fetish or not, it's not gonna go away. So either you indulge it or let him have some kind of safe outlet, otherwise he'll be unhappy or seek satisfaction somewhere else." Which is true.

The problem with Savage's approach is that he never gives the same weight to the other partner's right NOT to indulge the fetish, or their reasons for not wanting to indulge it. If you're really turned off by your partner's kink, whatever it is, and it really makes you miserable to indulge it, that's not necessarily going to go away either. Having to have sex that turns you off/disgusts you/etc. will also make you unhappy. Savage always comes off like he thinks the partner that doesn't want to tie someone up/be tied up/pissed on/put their lover in a diaper/whatever is just a prude and if the prude would just Get Over It, everything would be great for everybody. It's not gender-linked at all, but the critique that there's something wrong with folks who don't want to get their kink on does resonate a lot with feminists. It's another Sexual Liberation Happens on Men's Terms thing: in this case Savage's terms, which he tends to back up with a lot of just-so stories making men's "natural" sexuality out to be what he personally wants.
posted by immlass at 12:30 PM on June 30, 2011 [13 favorites]


I think one of the things that's getting glossed over is that no one in the article attempted to define any single state as being Universally Correct For Everyone, and, in fact, recommended that couples be honest with themselves and their partners, preferably before a major commitment (living together, marriage, children, etc etc) was undertaken under false pretenses, to preclude "suck[ing] somebody into marrying you based on your promise of faithfulness which they believed, and then suddenly discover a bunch of "needs" incompatible with keeping your word when you get the seven-year (or month, or minute) itch".

And, further, nonmonogamy does not necessarily mean "having more than one life partner"-- it can mean lots of things, including one primary life partner and a single boyfriend/girlfriend, or a bunch of them, or that you have sex with everyone, or whatever. The point of the article, at least for me, is that every person/couple is different, and if more couples were honest with one another and made kind, respectful efforts to use integrity to find the best ways to meet both partner's needs (including, but not just, sexual needs) without automatically assuming that meeting some of your sexual and/or emotional needs outside of the bounds of strict monogamy is a BAD BAD CHEATER CHOICE.

Non monogamy is a fine choice for some folks, and it can, IMO, strengthen relationships-- but I think that the thing that strengthens those relationships is the honesty, kindness, respect, and courteous communication and relationships that the successful nonmonogamous couples develop to navigate their relationships. And, hey, monogamous couples can have that too-- but, again, in my experience, monogamous couples aren't as likely to do all that careful, tricky, honest relationship work if they don't have to.

For the record, while I have some nonmonogamous friends, I myself am temperamentally terribly unsuited to be anything-but-monogamous... but I am a major proponent of honesty, and my SO and I have had several discussions on the subject, which were really interesting and did, in fact, help us be more honest with each other and ourselves about our own feelings and the boundaries that work for us.
posted by Kpele at 12:34 PM on June 30, 2011 [7 favorites]


That said, I'll never get over people who think you need to keep your partner on a proverbial leash in order for you to have a "stable" relationship. Not trusting someone to not leave you just because they had sex with another person seems like the definition of instability to me.

The article itself says that Savage worked on Miller until he relented and said, OK, we don't have to be monogamous. Again, as the article memorably puts it:

You assume as a younger person that all relationships are monogamous and between two people, that love means nothing can come between you,” said Miller, who met Savage at a club in 1995, when he was 23 and Savage was 30. “Dan has taught me to be more realistic about that kind of stuff.

How naive he was! Because, you see, Savage has needs.

And sure, Miller could have left, could have said, OK, then I'm out. And he didn't, he made the choice to stay. But that doesn't mean it's not sad to read this, to read Savage say, publicly, "We're still together, our kid still has married parents, because I got to sleep with other people." It may not be illegal to psychologically batter your spouse, but that doesn't mean it's not sad to see.
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 12:35 PM on June 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


Savage could, of course, choose not to meet them, even if they are very strong and powerful, because he respects Miller more than that.

You assume that monogamy = respect. I don't think that necessarily follows. My partner shows me respect in a billion and one ways that have nothing to do his penis.

Would I consider being lied to disrespectful? Hell yes. That's not what's going on.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:37 PM on June 30, 2011 [6 favorites]


Psychologically batter? Get a grip.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:38 PM on June 30, 2011 [7 favorites]


fugitive, I think you may be projecting a little bit here.

I don't think that what you describe is impossible. Maybe that's what's going on. On the other hand, maybe Terry Miller is perfectly happy with his family. Neither you nor I have any idea what it is - really - and I generally find that it works better to assume the best of people. I am guessing that you've had a relationship in the past where someone has tried to push unwanted openness on you, and I'm sorry if my guess is correct. That doesn't mean that every open relationship ever is coercive.

I say this as someone who's like... extra-monogamous and whose boyfriend is the same.
posted by kavasa at 12:40 PM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Savage always comes off like he thinks the partner that doesn't want to tie someone up/be tied up/pissed on/put their lover in a diaper/whatever is just a prude and if the prude would just Get Over It,

I don't think that's true.

What Savage seems to advocate for is honesty and acceptance.

Because, as we all know, sexuality is extraordinarily powerful. Repressed, unexpressed or unrealized sexual desires can destroy powerful politicians and cause people to kill themselves at the extreme end. It leads to weird and troublesome behaviors at the other.

I think you have to read in a great deal to get from what Savage says to what you think he said.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:40 PM on June 30, 2011 [6 favorites]


fugitive, I think you may be projecting a little bit here. ... I don't think that what you describe is impossible. Maybe that's what's going on. On the other hand, maybe Terry Miller is perfectly happy with his family. Neither you nor I have any idea what it is - really - and I generally find that it works better to assume the best of people. I am guessing that you've had a relationship in the past where someone has tried to push unwanted openness on you, and I'm sorry if my guess is correct. That doesn't mean that every open relationship ever is coercive.

I'm citing what the article itself says. Dan Savage used the New York Times to say that he thinks their extramarital affairs may be why they're still together. And you helpfully note that "that doesn't mean every open relationship ever is coercive." Correct! I'm talking about Savage and Miller's relationship, which is right there in the article.

Savage has for 20 years been saying monogamy is harder than we admit and articulating a sexual ethic that he thinks honors the reality, rather than the romantic ideal, of marriage.

Savage is a big fan of using his own particular life and family to make his arguments -- the entire book The Commitment is an example of this. And part of his marriage is, apparently, schooling his husband on what's "realistic" and how you can't expect true love to be monogamous.
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 12:47 PM on June 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


With the Terry/Savage thing--- what would Savage have had to say about it if Terry had said, "Thank you for sharing what your needs are. I disagree that hoping for happiness in monogamy is impossible and I am going to respectfully seek a relationship with someone who shares my same feelings about monogamy."

It sounds like that is what Terry started off saying and Savage said, "No happiness in monogamy is not possible or realistic. What you hope for in a relationship is not realistic or possible, so you should tolerate me getting my needs met and ignoring yours because what you really want isn't out there."

Sounds like when I was 22 and a 34 year old guy told me that while I am hoping to have friends no one will ever be my friend except for guys who want anal sex so I should tolerate him having anal sex with me even though I don't like anal sex because it's not possible that anyone in the world would ever want to be my friend without shoving that on me.

But that's just what I hear.
posted by xarnop at 12:47 PM on June 30, 2011 [7 favorites]


or Savage not telling Miller and getting them met by others.

You're decrying a relationship where you see see Terry as the poor martyr who puts up with Savage's antics in some sort of long-suffering fashion. But it would be okay for Savage to be the long-suffering martyr, in your scenario, by putting his desires on hold for the duration of his relationship. Because that's how you show respect to someone, I guess.

Maybe this is the scenario: neither of them martyred anything they considered particularly important in order to have a stable relationship with someone they loved. That can't be it, though, right? Because one person has to be the bad guy, and the other person has to be the victim.
posted by rtha at 12:50 PM on June 30, 2011 [10 favorites]


A lot of women don't understand fetishes because a lot of women don't have them.

Dude, come on. Cite, please?


When we use "fetish" we really mean "paraphilia," correct? Per Wikipedia:
According to the DSM, "Paraphilias are almost never diagnosed in females,"
The reference is: American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed., text rev.). Washington, DC: Author.

So you've never actually dated a woman or had one as a friend, is that what you're saying?

I've had a fair number of girlfriends, and a lot of female friends, and I've never met any of them with a specific paraphilia (that they disclosed to me, of course - it's not like I go sharing mine with everyone either ... ;).

I'm sure that there are female furries and women who enjoy wearing diapers sexually, but the claim that there are many more men with paraphilias seems fair to me, and is supported by everything I've read.

Are women kinky? Yes. Do they have fetishes/paraphilias? Not so much. In my not-so-limited experience, kinky women are into all sorts or a range of kinky sex. Men with paraphilias may be open to all sorts of kinky sex, but they really want kinky sex involving their specific "fetish" much more than women seem to. My2c.

For me, the thought of having a baby and only being with one partner and that's it is scary.

No, no, no. You want lots of people helping you take care of the baby, but another decision maker (re: school, diet, clothes, toys, potty training, etc) is a nightmare. Trust me, or I will introduce you to my mother-in-law.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:53 PM on June 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


(of course, take the DSM with a grain of salt as it classified homosexuality as a mental disorder until 1973 ...)
posted by mrgrimm at 12:54 PM on June 30, 2011


neither of them martyred anything they considered particularly important in order to have a stable relationship with someone they loved.

Hmmm. What does the article itself say?

When I asked Savage how many extramarital encounters there have been, he laughed shyly. “Double digits?” I asked. He said he wasn’t sure; later he and Miller counted, and he reported back that the number was nine. “And far from it being a destabilizing force in our relationship, it’s been a stabilizing force. It may be why we’re still together.”

Savage claims that those extramarital encounters might be why they're still together. So, in other words, they might not be together if Miller hadn't given him permission to have sex with others.

Keep in mind that, according to Miller, it was "four or five years before this came up." Guess what? They already had their son by then, as detailed in Savage's book The Kid. So Savage thinks he might have bolted from the relationship and broken up a family with a kid if he hadn't been able to get his sexual desires met extramaritally.

But it would be okay for Savage to be the long-suffering martyr, in your scenario, by putting his desires on hold for the duration of his relationship.

Yes. It's called keeping it in your pants. It's a crazy hell of a lot to ask of people, yes, absolutely, and lots of people fail at it. But some people still thing it's a nice idea. Miller was one of them, apparently. Then Savage helped show him how dated and unrealistic that is.
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 12:57 PM on June 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


They've both had extra-relationship sex, if I recall correctly. I don't know if that changes your personal judgment of Dan Savage as a disrespectful, family-destroying, psychological batterer, though.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:01 PM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm going to say that I don't think Savage is wrong for knowing or expressing his needs AT ALL. I think polamory, or open marriage is totally ok for two (or obvioulsy more) people who all genuinely want that.

I think it's a bit sketchy that Terry didn't actually want open marriage but is accepting it because what he really wants he doesn't think exists. Now he might be right.

There may be no such thing as men who are happily monogamous. But there do seem to be skewed meeting of needs happening here where it's pressumed that Terry's needs are silly, childish and unrealistic: and Savages needs are realistic and justified because "that's just the way things are".
posted by xarnop at 1:01 PM on June 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


Terry accepted Dan's worldview and he may genuinely like it, so no beef with whatever consenting people want to do.

But the nature of the conversation being "Terry didn't really want it, but I showed him there was nothing else possible where he could have his kinky desires for monogamy filled" sounds really off.
posted by xarnop at 1:03 PM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Terry accepted Dan's worldview and he may genuinely like it, so no beef with whatever consenting people want to do.

The problem with your sentence is the word "want." No beef with whatever consenting people want to do, or no beef with what consenting people decide for complex reasons that they are willing to consent to?
posted by The World Famous at 1:06 PM on June 30, 2011


There may be no such thing as men who are happily monogamous.

I know lots of gay men who are happily monogamous and have been for 10 years or more. They might all be lying but I find that hard to believe.

But there do seem to be skewed meeting of needs happening here where it's pressumed that Terry's needs are silly, childish and unrealistic: and Savages needs are realistic and justified because "that's just the way things are".

I'm with those who'd say we don't have enough information to make any sort of judgment here, but then I'd also say that the power imbalance (one partner is a celebrity and the other is not) also may seriously affect the compromises in their relationship.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:06 PM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


But there do seem to be skewed meeting of needs happening here where it's pressumed that Terry's needs are silly, childish and unrealistic: and Savages needs are realistic and justified because "that's just the way things are".

It fits perfectly with Savage's general message, which is that people aren't perfect, and often fail to live up to the ideals they espouse, so let's be realistic and not have the ideals. The extramarital sex isn't important! It's just sex! Yeah, I'm gonna have it whether you like it or not, but that doesn't mean it's important!

“You assume as a younger person that all relationships are monogamous and between two people, that love means nothing can come between you,” said Miller, who met Savage at a club in 1995, when he was 23 and Savage was 30. “Dan has taught me to be more realistic about that kind of stuff.... It is just sort of like, Dan has always said if you have different tastes, you have to be good, giving and game, and if you are not G.G.G. for those tastes, then you have to give your partner the out. It took me a while to get down with that.”

What a wonderful, loving experience!
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 1:07 PM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


When we use "fetish" we really mean "paraphilia," correct?

That's a good question - I guess I was going on the looser, more colloquial definition of it (e.g. someone who likes spanking, but doesn't *require* spanking in order to get off). The gender difference in those diagnosed with paraphilias is striking - what's up with that, I wonder?
posted by rtha at 1:08 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


The problem with Savage's approach is that he never gives the same weight to the other partner's right NOT to indulge the fetish, or their reasons for not wanting to indulge it.

Bingo. Savage seems unable to acknowledge that monogamy and/or comfort with what goes on in the bedroom is a need for many people, just as non-monogamy and/or kink is for others. When the latter is prioritized because it's "a fact of male life", that does make this a "a sexist/feminist issue" -- why is it that we're not talking about the facts of female life as though they were non-negotiable? Why are we excluding men who seek monogamy, or men who don't want kink?

On preview: yes, what Savage seems to advocate for is honesty and acceptance. The problem is that he almost always seems to advocate specifically for male honesty and female acceptance, when it comes to straight relationships. Combine that with his obvious disdain for women in general, and you have a problem. I actually like his column most of the time, and I think that GGG is a useful concept, but his advice is still riddled with gender hangups, many of which are just as potentially harmful as un-met sexual desires. Framing everything in terms of "honesty" (much less "what men need") is not always helpful... especially in a world full of power imbalance, where "honesty" is often gender-coded to begin with.
posted by vorfeed at 1:13 PM on June 30, 2011 [33 favorites]


Because, as we all know, sexuality is extraordinarily powerful. Repressed, unexpressed or unrealized sexual desires can destroy powerful politicians and cause people to kill themselves at the extreme end. It leads to weird and troublesome behaviors at the other.

So can being forced/coerced/pressured to have sex in ways that you're not comfortable with. Perhaps you've never had someone attempt to indulge a kink with you that really revolts you (to the point where you're turned off, want to stop, and want to leave). If your sexual needs include "not indulging [kink to be named]", you have as much of a right to ask for what you need sexually as your partner has to ask for you to indulge that kink.

I think you have to read in a great deal to get from what Savage says to what you think he said.

Having read a lot of Savage (I read him religiously for years), I found all it took was figuring out his paradigm.
posted by immlass at 1:16 PM on June 30, 2011 [6 favorites]


so let's be realistic and not have the ideals.

More like: let's be realistic and recognize that these ideals are constructed by people; are difficult if not impossible for a lot of people to attain (see: human history); cause a ton of misery in large part because people can't or won't even talk about how hard it can be.

How many askmes are there where someone is going "My boyfriend had dinner with his ex: should I be worried?" and "My girlfriend started making friends with the new guy in her office - should I be worried?" and "My partner went completely nuts when they found the shoebox where I keep old photos, and there were photos of me and my ex in there. My partner wants me to throw them out. Am I being unreasonable because I don't want to?"

Monogamy - that is, sexual fidelity - has become an umbrella for a huge range of fucked-up and unhealthy relationship stuff. I have been in monogamous relationships and in non-monogamous relationships, and none of them have been all unicorns and rainbows. But a relationship where sexual monogamy is the presumed default gets all kinds of baggage dragged into it, because suddenly, sexual fidelity isn't enough: is it okay to have friends of the opposite sex? Okay to look at people of the opposite sex? Etc. It's a mess. Non-monogamy will not clean up that mess. But not talking about it and pretending like the person you're with when you're 23 will be the only person forever -n ever amen no matter what isn't exactly proven to work, either.
posted by rtha at 1:18 PM on June 30, 2011 [7 favorites]


"The problem with your sentence is the word "want." No beef with whatever consenting people want to do, or no beef with what consenting people decide for complex reasons that they are willing to consent to?"

You're right, that sentence was a little funny. I do have beef with fiddling with someone's ability to go out in the world to look for what they REALLY want in a relationship by telling them you're the best they're going to get.

I think that's generally in the realm of behaviors people normally kind of consider abusive or manipulative or whatever word you'd like to use for it.

I considered it just as shitty when guys have tried to use it on me. If a guy would like to have sex with me and lot's of other women, and wants me to accept that about him "if I really cared" I totally can! Just not while getting married to the dude. He can go run amuck with ladies and be more enlightened and realistic than me and find a woman who is totally down with that; and I can be free to at least hope that through some sort of bizarre miracle the kind of relationship I would actually like might be possible.

It might not be. But I'd rather be true to myself and have the possibility of finding someone who shares my views than be miserable trying to accept other peoples relationship needs over my own because "this is how it is" and my needs are meaningless, silly, and antiquated.
posted by xarnop at 1:19 PM on June 30, 2011 [6 favorites]


This:
“You assume as a younger person that all relationships are monogamous and between two people, that love means nothing can come between you,” said Miller, who met Savage at a club in 1995, when he was 23 and Savage was 30. “Dan has taught me to be more realistic about that kind of stuff."

is just so incredibly sad. I think about hearing these words coming from my sister, or a female friend with a young kid-- or a female poster on AskMe-- and imagine the tide of indignation and therapy recommendations that'd result. The fact that a lot of people seem to be all, "Eh, sounds like he's OK with it, so I guess it's fine" is, in itself, pretty revealing of the prevailing assumptions about how male sexuality is supposed to work.

That, for me, is the problem with Savage's argument in a nutshell-- his case is that monogamy is just unnatural for men, no man could ever want monogamy or be expected to practice it without great suffering and "sexual death," and yet the critical counterexample is his own husband. I'll say what I would have said to my sister: what a selfish prick.
posted by Bardolph at 1:25 PM on June 30, 2011 [32 favorites]


rtha-- I do agree with you and I think we should take note that it seems a lot of people think they want monogamy and find out they eventually change their mind.

I don't think it's wrong to change your mind and discover you really need to leave (though I would hope people would think through the fact that most people will have such feelings and how they want to handle them before getting married).

I do think it's cruel to expect your partner to accept this change of heart "if they really love you". Them ignoring their feelings about your extra-marital relationships and interactions will make them as miserable as you ignoring your desire to go out and have other relationship experiences.

Move on and leave your ex-partner and go do what you want. Don't try to persuade them to "seeing that your needs must be filled and that's just the way it is."
posted by xarnop at 1:25 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you're not into monogamy, why get married? It's 2011. If all you want to do is fornicate with as many people as possible, you're free to do so without deceiving or hurting anyone.

Because getting married is the only way for heterosexual people to get all the legal and federal benefits of marriage. I suppose my partner and I could hire a lawyer to draw up all the necessary paperwork to get us as many of those legal and federal benefits as possible without getting married, but it would be a much longer, harder, more expensive process, and at the end of it we still wouldn't have all the protections and benefits that come with that dinky little piece of paper with the words "marriage license" printed on it.

So yes, someday my partner and I might get married. We know we want to be together for the rest of our lives, and I want those federal and legal protections and benefits. We also don't plan to be monogamous for the rest of our lives. I'm not sure why this means we shouldn't marry, unless it's to preserve your comfort level surrounding your ideas about the kind of people who marry and the kind of people who don't, and fuck that.
posted by palomar at 1:30 PM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Dan Savage's advice on monogamy is about as useful as his advice on birth control - and it comes from a similar lack of experience of feeling monogamous. He's just not made that way, but he shouldn't assume that no one else is.
posted by jb at 1:30 PM on June 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


Also, it's not a male-female binary. I know a male who is naturally completely monogamous, and isn't interested in sex outside of a monogamous relationship, and obviously there are a great many polyamorous women.
posted by jb at 1:34 PM on June 30, 2011


I guess that's the thing is that there is no one monogamy just as there's no one polyamory (or whatever you want to call the set of things that are not monogamy). I know that plenty of people would not be comfortable with my version of it. I wouldn't be happy in a relationship where my partner didn't trust me to be out on my own around other dudes. Or meeting an ex for lunch or whatever. As I mentioned to someone the other day, I'd be pretty miserable were I the sort of person who didn't trust my partner when he's off playing music gigs on his own. We trust each other to not do shit that would upset one of us when we're not around each other and it's all very boring and drama-free.

The thing I'm not convinced of is that monogamous relationships are any more or less likely than poly ones to have breakdowns in trust and communication. Every relationship has terms, that's what makes it a relationship.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 1:35 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't think it's wrong to change your mind and discover you really need to leave (though I would hope people would think through the fact that most people will have such feelings and how they want to handle them before getting married). I do think it's cruel to expect your partner to accept this change of heart "if they really love you". Them ignoring their feelings about your extra-marital relationships and interactions will make them as miserable as you ignoring your desire to go out and have other relationship experiences. Move on and leave your ex-partner and go do what you want. Don't try to persuade them to "seeing that your needs must be filled and that's just the way it is."

They already had a kid together -- if Miller is accurate about when Savage started saying that was what he himself wanted.
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 1:35 PM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


“You assume as a younger person that all relationships are monogamous and between two people, that love means nothing can come between you,” said Miller, who met Savage at a club in 1995, when he was 23 and Savage was 30. “Dan has taught me to be more realistic about that kind of stuff."

I think Dan Savage really essentializes gay male sexuality as much as anything else - I mean, I know lots of guys who get around a lot, but I also know lots of guys who prioritize monogamy; I know guys who go out clubbing and guys who go to coffee shops; etc etc.

There's something really intensely icky to me about Savage's advice - which is funny because I'm actually in an open relationship. I think it's that he has this almost evangelical "accept non-monogamy and your partner's kinks/ send your partner to a pro and you'll be happy forever more; it's modern, it's easy and it's moral!" attitude. This sort of slick, plastic, cheerleading, get-on-or-get-out attitude.

Foucault did not actually mean that that body and sexuality were foundational truths; he meant that they were treated that way. But not Savage; no, for Savage your sexuality is precisely this deep foundational thing that you can "discover" through sufficient scrutiny, something already finished and complete within yourself, something that must be extracted and brought to the light.

There's also this sense that monogamy is work but being non-monogamous isn't....jesus christ, the time and money and effort I'd need to pursue a serious secondary relationship. When I think about the fact that primary partner and I don't see each other enough, I sometimes wonder how other folks balance multiple relationships over any kind of long term. And then I think about how I don't have enough emotional energy for primary partner - how could I be emotionally present for someone else? Unless I want to craigslist up some random dude - which is so not where I'm at - finding someone I'd like to be in a serious secondary relationship with would be as tricky as finding primary partner.
posted by Frowner at 1:38 PM on June 30, 2011 [14 favorites]


Savage always comes off like he thinks the partner that doesn't want to tie someone up/be tied up/pissed on/put their lover in a diaper/whatever is just a prude and if the prude would just Get Over It, everything would be great for everybody.

I don't think that's what he's saying at all. What he's saying is that, if you can't satisfy your partner in some way that's really important to them, you need to accept that they need to get that satisfaction somehow. Whether that's through porn, or a hired professional, or another person, or whatever. You can't just expect someone to just cram it. Sex just doesn't work that way.

And vorfeed, I'm not going to pull quotes from your comment because, frankly, I disagree with almost everything you said, and I don't want to quote your entire comment. But I think you're making some pretty wild accusations about Dan (e.g. his "general disdain for women", that he always seems to "advocate specifically for male honesty and female acceptance") that I just don't think are true. If you're going to say things like that, you're going to need to back them up with evidence. Sorry.

One thing that I do see him doing is showing disdain for people who won't satisfy their partners (i.e. by not having sex with them or not engaging in certain acts) and then denying them any other form of release (e.g. porn, professionals, other people). And yeah, I mean, I don't think it takes a sex columnist to tell you that situation leads to bad things. I mean shit, it's not like Dan Savage invented divorce or prostitution or infidelity. The man only writes about them.
posted by Afroblanco at 1:47 PM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


There's also what I think of as kink-slippage in Savage-land...what folks would have called preferences ten years ago are now kinks that must be indulged; what used to be kinks ten years ago are now serious fetishes that require the intervention of a pro before your relationship implodes. And the assumption that my casual interest in [random thing] is obviously a fetish rather than a casual interest....It's like sexual marketing. It's more the self-obsessed sexual narcissism of the way Savage writes - the never ending exploration of one's own beautiful sexual soul.

I assume it's easier for Savage because he has all day to think about this stuff, though, just as it's easier for my academic friends to keep up with literary theory - it's their hobby and their day job rolled into one.

Sometimes I worry that the only things that are fun about sex are novelty and transgression - which would be fine, except that contemporary society is always looking for deep, deep truths about people in their sex lives.
posted by Frowner at 1:48 PM on June 30, 2011 [7 favorites]


This is all very complicated. And I am the first person to say that there's nothing wrong with whatever works for a particular couple. But I also think that Savage makes it out to be a lot simpler and black-and-white than it really is.

For most people, part of having a relationship of any kind with most any person is that you don't get to do everything you want or have everything you want whenever and however you want it -- because of how this might impact the other person, who is presumably someone you care about. (One might further say that this understanding characterizes growth into a mature adult and member of society.) For different people and different relationships, these will be different things, of course. But the idea that a working relationship shouldn't or indeed doesn't necessarily involve the sublimation of some desires strikes me as naive and immature.

To make an obvious example: I have the desire to spend 18 hours every Sunday in the fall watching American football. My wife has the desire to interact with me on these days in a way that doesn't involve watching American football. Because I love my wife, and in the interests of having a mutually satisfying relationship, I have cut way back on my football watching on Sundays. One could reasonably substitute "I'd like to be able to fuck whoever I want" for the above. And that's part of the point: It's unrealistic to suppose that sexual beings in a monogamous relationship will never be attracted or have the desire to fuck other people. But it's not unrealistic to suppose that most people prefer to find themselves in a relationship in which the other partner doesn't fuck anyone else, and it's not unrealistic to suppose that most people have the general understanding that what they expect from a relationship partner is in turn expected of them. People make mistakes within this context and hurt the people they love because, well, people are human and make mistakes. And a lot of them are solipsistic assholes, too, which doesn't help. None of this, needless to say, obviates the need for open communication throughout the relationship, and up-front statement of needs and expectations especially at the beginning of the relationship.

My strong suspicion is that there are a lot more people out there who would be perfectly comfortable with the idea that they, themselves can fuck anyone they want, but significantly less comfortable with the idea that their partner can fuck anyone he or she wants. Other people have spoken to this upthread, but in a relationship where extra-relationship fucking by both partners is supposedly the order of the day, there are a great many issues that seem likely to lead to relationship dissatisfaction for at least one partner. Foremost among them, in my mind, is the idea of "balance of power." Chances are that one partner, either by reason of physical attractiveness, age, economics, personality, desire or sex will have a much easier time finding someone else to fuck on the side than the other partner. So in these circumstances we have to believe that, in a relationship where both partners have permission to actively pursue fucking other people but one person ends up having a lot more extra-relationship sex than the other partner, everything is going to be okay? Not bloody likely, in most cases. And this is hardly a hypothetical: Plenty of couples have different levels of attractiveness, and where there is more or less equal attractiveness, it will almost always be easier for the woman to find extra-relationship sexual partners than the man.

And so on... the possibilities for most people to become hurt or dissatisfied are endless. For some minority of people, these are not important things. So for them, alternative relationship structures work. And that's great. But for most people, the idea that "a little infidelity keeps the relationship doctor away," or whatever, strikes me as bullcrap. Why not, instead of all the honest, open discussion that is supposedly happening to make the extra-relationship sex actually work out in the context of the relationship, the two partners have the same amount of honest, open discussion about their wants and needs and where they would like more out of the relationship? If this honest, open dialogue reveals that one partner just can't manage to be happy and sublimate the desire for the novelty of new sexual partners at the same time, then that's another discussion to be had. But it's pretty clear that most people on the other side of that partnership wouldn't be happy in such a relationship context.

So yes, most of us like the idea of being able to fuck anyone we want but don't like the idea of our partner being able to fuck anyone he or she wants. Double-standards all 'round! And because most of us (hopefully) have some understanding that our partner likely feels the same way, and some degree of empathy for our partner, we don't fuck other people (or at least try not to and understand that doing so would be hurtful to our partner). This means (gasp!) not getting every little thing we might want.
posted by slkinsey at 1:50 PM on June 30, 2011 [19 favorites]


Oh, and Savage writes about male versus female sexuality as if there were no social cost to women in having casual sex with men. I personally would have had a lot more casual sex with men back in the day without 1. concern about pregnancy from a casual encounter and 2. a sense that many men view sex as a "conquest", some kind of victory they win over me if I sleep with them without emotional entanglement; and 3. the fact that I know guys talk a lot of shit about women who sleep around.

You'd think that - if what most straight guys really wanted was lots of casual sex with women - straight guys would be all like "hey, I had casual sex with this girl! Awesome! It was super nice that she was into it!" But it's a lot more like "I picked up this stupid girl at the bar, and she was a real butterface, but she blew me so it was great - how was your night, bro?"
posted by Frowner at 1:54 PM on June 30, 2011 [20 favorites]


I don't think it's wrong to change your mind and discover you really need to leave

Leaving the relationship doesn't have to be a requirement, either. Change is hard and scary and often painful, whether the change is because the relationship is breaking up or opening up. I think that our often automatic assumption that when Person A is attracted to Person C, but has been in a relationship with Person B for 10 years - that the options are keep it in pants; cheat; or break up causes misery that it doesn't have to. Sometimes the breakup is going to happen, regardless of how much good communication and intent there is. But it's not a requirement.

But I also think that Savage makes it out to be a lot simpler and black-and-white than it really is.

Really true, with extra-super truth on top.
posted by rtha at 1:57 PM on June 30, 2011


What he's saying is that, if you can't satisfy your partner in some way that's really important to them, you need to accept that they need to get that satisfaction somehow.

What he does not seem to recognize, however, is that for some people, the really important way that they need to be satisfied is by having a partner who is faithful.
posted by The World Famous at 1:57 PM on June 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


What he does not seem to recognize, however, is that for some people, the really important way that they need to be satisfied is by having a partner who is faithful.

I dunno, he seems fine with divorce too.
posted by LogicalDash at 1:58 PM on June 30, 2011


I think Dan Savage really essentializes gay male sexuality as much as anything else - I mean, I know lots of guys who get around a lot, but I also know lots of guys who prioritize monogamy; I know guys who go out clubbing and guys who go to coffee shops; etc etc.

I'm curious as to what you mean by this. Would you mind elaborating?
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 1:59 PM on June 30, 2011


Just the first part, I mean -- 'til "as much as anything else."
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 2:00 PM on June 30, 2011


You'd think that - if what most straight guys really wanted was lots of casual sex with women - straight guys would be all like "hey, I had casual sex with this girl! Awesome! It was super nice that she was into it!" But it's a lot more like "I picked up this stupid girl at the bar, and she was a real butterface, but she blew me so it was great - how was your night, bro?"

Really? Do you have data on this, or are you extrapolating from shitty movies? I really don't think that's an accurate description of the general case.
posted by enn at 2:00 PM on June 30, 2011


I don't like it when people get ideas in their heads that because something works (or doesn't) for them, it should work (or shouldn't) for everyone. I don't feel confined in my monogamous relationship. If we both chose to, we could have another partner, but we don't need one. That doesn't mean that everyone has to be monogamous, or polyamorous. That also doesn't mean we poor married souls are tortured within the 'confines' of monogamous marriage.
posted by Malice at 2:01 PM on June 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


2. a sense that many men view sex as a "conquest", some kind of victory they win over me if I sleep with them without emotional entanglement;

Just curious: what's the social cost here? Or what's the discrete cost as opposed to #3?

"hey, I had casual sex with this girl! Awesome! It was super nice that she was into it!" But it's a lot more like "I picked up this stupid girl at the bar, and she was a real butterface, but she blew me so it was great - how was your night, bro?"

I can honestly say, as a man, with lots of male friends who have had one-night stands, that the reports of their conquests are much more like the former than the latter (albeit with different terms than "casual sex" and "super nice" ;).

In fact, I've never heard anything like the latter comment from anyone in real life, but then again, my friends are not sociopaths.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:01 PM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think Dan Savage really essentializes gay male sexuality as much as anything else - I mean, I know lots of guys who get around a lot, but I also know lots of guys who prioritize monogamy; I know guys who go out clubbing and guys who go to coffee shops; etc etc.

To elaborate, although it's really not that exciting a point: I've been reading Savage's main column for....jeez, since the nineties. Plus I've read a couple of his books, though not very carefully. IME, his underlying assumptions about what gay men want from relationships are basically "gay men want what I want, because they are all basically like me" - ie, they are all guys who meet guys at clubs, guys who are youngish, well off, able-bodied, etc. And all of them basically operate on the "would prefer to be non-monogamous and pick up guys at clubs, etc, but reluctantly compromise about it" model. This sort of weird stereotype of gay men, in short - sort of a gay Ken doll.

And he tends to refer to all his beliefs about sexuality as if they are "natural" "underlying" truths...if you're like Dan Savage, you're in touch with your real sexuality; if you're not like him, you're deluded about reality.

This just completely fails to describe the sexual relationships of any of my gay friends, ever...even the one really popular young man about town who does meet guys in clubs and is impressively, enviably non-monogamous. It doesn't explain the emotional stuff - good and bad. It particularly doesn't explain what I've observed with a couple of my friends who've really struggled with a lot of stuff around infidelity and monogamy - it's cruely reductionist to say "Oh, Joe and Fred could totally salvage their relationship except that Fred won't let Joe have threesomes...like the only thing in play in sex is desire.

Savage writes about this weird fusion of rational actors and ev psych.
posted by Frowner at 2:08 PM on June 30, 2011 [10 favorites]


What he does not seem to recognize, however, is that for some people, the really important way that they need to be satisfied is by having a partner who is faithful.

I don't think he does overlook that; I think it's implicit in his praise of honesty and frankness that, if you start with the partnership and then work on the honesty this sort of thing can be an issue, and sometimes a disastrous one. But if you order those the other way around you have a shot at a better relationship even if it turns out not to be with that person.

I did think that his argument about "imposing the monogamous expectation on men" was a little weakly framed, though maybe this is just the way it was trimmed down by the reporter. The idea that men "were never expected to be monogamous" is an artefact of a time when women were essentially property, and doesn't really have any kind of relevance in modern society. The passive voice there, "were never expected", is pretty hand-wavey; I'm sure there have been plenty of women who expected their husbands to be faithful to them but whose expectations, by virtue of their being women, were pretty much irrelevant.

Viewed through that lens, I think his followup is actually pretty equitable; the equitable solution to imbalance in which men are free to do whatever with whoever and women are bound to monogamous servitude isn't that men should likewise be bound, but that both partners should be honest about what they need, and how they can best balance their own needs against their partners' in a way everyone can be happy with.

It would be interesting to see a full transcript of the interview with Savage before it was cut down to fit the article, to see what that argument in its original context.
posted by mhoye at 2:11 PM on June 30, 2011


if you're like Dan Savage, you're in touch with your real sexuality; if you're not like him, you're deluded about reality.

Like you, I'm a longtime reader of his, and I didn't see that at all. What I saw was, people should stop lying themselves and each other in deference to a manufactured ideal, rather than pursuing an honest, constructive approach to relationships. And I can kind of get behind that, because there's an awful lot of people in the world who are sad, hurt and angry because of the lies they've been telling themselves.
posted by mhoye at 2:14 PM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


You'd think that - if what most straight guys really wanted was lots of casual sex with women - straight guys would be all like "hey, I had casual sex with this girl! Awesome! It was super nice that she was into it!" But it's a lot more like "I picked up this stupid girl at the bar, and she was a real butterface, but she blew me so it was great - how was your night, bro?"

Okay, I exaggerate, but I've seen a lot of really bad sexual behavior with the casual sex thing. For example, I lived with a close friend when he went through a sort of premature midlife crisis, for example, and had much much MUCH sex with a broad variety of women. He said a lot of really unkind things about them, and he put down women who were attracted to him that he didn't want to sleep with, and he said some about me too as I compared to them - things I don't even want to share that were basically about how he didn't want to end up past-it and [unattractive].

For another example, the guy who sexually harassed a friend of mine into sleeping with him by saying that she was "selfish" if she didn't want to do this nice thing for him. Then he ran her down to everyone else.

The dude who tried to sleep with me (and who could have if he'd been a little nicer and more direct about it instead of being all weird and indirect and trying to liquor me up...so that I didn't even realize he was interested until later) and then insulted my appearance to my face at a shared meal at a work event.

Seriously, I've seen a lot of creepy guy behavior around casual sex. And I'm not someone who gets around that much.

Plus, I hear lots of guys on the bus, etc, complaining about the bodily flaws of women they've slept with. It does not lead me to want to share my flawed body with strangers.
posted by Frowner at 2:15 PM on June 30, 2011 [8 favorites]


Viewed through that lens, I think his followup is actually pretty equitable; the equitable solution to imbalance in which men are free to do whatever with whoever and women are bound to monogamous servitude isn't that men should likewise be bound, but that both partners should be honest about what they need, and how they can best balance their own needs against their partners' in a way everyone can be happy with.

But then it comes down to the question of "what they need" and what is a "need" and what is, actually, a "desire." Not to mention the difference between those who are "happy" and those who put up with something because they put their spouse first even when their spouse won't do the same for them.
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 2:16 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


- things I don't even want to share that were basically about how he didn't want to end up past-it and [unattractive].

...didn't want to end up LIKE ME, past-it and unattractive. Only with some specifics about the things that were wrong with me that he was striving to avoid himself.

posted by Frowner at 2:16 PM on June 30, 2011


I dunno, he seems fine with divorce too.

Yeah, DTMFA and all that.

Dan's philosophy is coming from two different places I think. First, gay male sexuality as Frowner pointed out. Open gay male sexuality in a relatively large city to be more specific. While there are tons of men out there who just want to spend the weekend on the couch with their partner watching movies, there's a good subset of gay men who engage in promiscuous behavior and a culture around that. Bathhouses, clubs, gay bars, whatever. It's even possibly the dominant gay culture, for better or worse.

The second place it's coming from is his career as an advice columnist. He must get thousands of letters every year about cheating partners. Can you imagine how exhausting that would be? Sure, you could stick to monogamy as an answer and the only true answer. But when the weight of evidence, both from your own experience and these heartbreaking letters you get every day points to the idea that monogamy doesn't work for so many people, what then?

What a wonderful, loving experience!

Given all of the above, his solution of GGG seems relatively benign compared to some other options. The other partner has the right to leave the relationship at any time if it doesn't work for them.

But fuck Savage on his bisexuality and trans-hating beliefs. He doesn't bring it up often, but it's there. I can understand that its easier for bisexuals to blend into straight society and hide, but that doesn't mean all of us are.
posted by formless at 2:16 PM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


if you're like Dan Savage, you're in touch with your real sexuality; if you're not like him, you're deluded about reality.

Like you, I'm a longtime reader of his, and I didn't see that at all. What I saw was, people should stop lying themselves and each other in deference to a manufactured ideal, rather than pursuing an honest, constructive approach to relationships.


You're saying the same thing, only you're paraphrasing in a way that flatters Savage. Ideals can be honest, too. Asking of yourself something that it's really goddarned hard to do can be constructive. And is it "deference" to something that's "manufactured," or is it something that people actually, naturally want? Like Miller, until Savage showed him how dated and unrealistic his dreams were?
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 2:20 PM on June 30, 2011


The second place it's coming from is his career as an advice columnist. He must get thousands of letters every year about cheating partners. Can you imagine how exhausting that would be? Sure, you could stick to monogamy as an answer and the only true answer. But when the weight of evidence, both from your own experience and these heartbreaking letters you get every day points to the idea that monogamy doesn't work for so many people, what then?

There's a meaningful question to be asked about this, which is whether or not Savage's ideas would make a shred of difference in most of these relationships. The fact is that plenty of people get themselves into bad relationships and marriages for all kinds of reasons, and lots of those bad relationships and marriages eventually end. Infidelity plays a pretty big role in the twilight of many relationships. So even if he does get zillions of emails about cheating partners, it strikes me as incredibly naive to suppose that a frank and open dialogue leading to "permission" for extra-relationship sex would have turned many of them around. Some of them? Maybe. But my money is on: not very many of them.
posted by slkinsey at 2:24 PM on June 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


Possibly germane: How not to have an open relationship, by Matisse, a Seattle-based dominatrix. She's mostly writing for the already-nonmonogamous, but I find her take on fetishes, polyamory, etc. to be a bit more level-headed than Savage's.
posted by Pallas Athena at 2:30 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's also what I think of as kink-slippage in Savage-land...what folks would have called preferences ten years ago are now kinks that must be indulged; what used to be kinks ten years ago are now serious fetishes that require the intervention of a pro before your relationship implodes.

Yeah ... not buying it. Thing about kinks, "preferences", and fetishes is that people didn't used to talk about it. At all. And a lot of relationships suffered because of it. And a lot of them did implode. I think the new thing -- which Savage is very much a part of -- is actually talking about it for a change and internalizing it and finding a place for it in your relationship -- even if that place happens to involve some solo exploration. That way, partners can stay happy and relationships don't need to implode.
posted by Afroblanco at 2:30 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


What he's saying is that, if you can't satisfy your partner in some way that's really important to them, you need to accept that they need to get that satisfaction somehow. Whether that's through porn, or a hired professional, or another person, or whatever. You can't just expect someone to just cram it. Sex just doesn't work that way.

But Savage expects people whose sexual needs are for safe space or vanilla sex without pressure for kink or monogamous fidelity to cram it in the name of being GGG. If you look at those things as "kinks" and impose the same set of values of expecting partners to be GGG on folks not wanting to engage in kink, Savage's answers don't match his stated values.

Yeah, I'm all for honesty and negotiation and all that good stuff, but when the rubber hits the road, Savage's advice advocates kink > vanilla, nonmonogamy > monogamy, and sexual satisfaction in your relationship > satisfaction in all other areas of your relationship. If that's your value structure, and it works in your relationship, more power to you. I think life and relationships are more complex than those bald-faced value propositions and that slkinsey nailed it: people have to compromise on lots of things, sexual and not, to make relationships work. I also don't agree with the idea that sexuality/kinks are essential and unchanging, and that once you "discover your sexuality", it's never going to change and must be satisfied just so (with an exception for paraphilias, obviously).

So basically I don't agree with a bunch of Savage's underlying propositions, and it should come as no surprise that I don't agree with a lot of the advice that comes from them.
posted by immlass at 2:32 PM on June 30, 2011 [10 favorites]


Yeah ... not buying it. Thing about kinks, "preferences", and fetishes is that people didn't used to talk about it. At all. And a lot of relationships suffered because of it. And a lot of them did implode. I think the new thing -- which Savage is very much a part of -- is actually talking about it for a change and internalizing it and finding a place for it in your relationship -- even if that place happens to involve some solo exploration. That way, partners can stay happy and relationships don't need to implode.

Perhaps I come from a disproportionately kinky part of the world, but seriously, ten years ago (hell, back when I was in college) amongst my peers there was a LOT of discussion of and practice of this kind of thing. I was looking at my zine collection from the early nineties recently and it's very, um, frank and open. The rhetoric was very different than Savage's, though.

But maybe, as has been known to happen on the internet, we're talking about such extremely different social groups that no one description of experience even comes close to explaining both.
posted by Frowner at 2:34 PM on June 30, 2011


But then it comes down to the question of "what they need" and what is a "need" and what is, actually, a "desire."

I'm halfway tempted to agree with you here, but "need" is a pretty blurry term when it comes to sex. We're certainly not talking about the food and shelter parts of Maslow's hierarchy, sure, but it seems like it might touch all of the "belonging", "esteem" and "self-actualization" bits near the top of that pyramid. It's clearly pretty important, in a very wide variety of ways, to most people.

To your broader point about "the difference between those who are "happy" and those who put up with something because they put their spouse first even when their spouse won't do the same for them", that seems a lot more like a failure of honest communication and mutual respect in that relationship than a fundamental flaw in his argument.

I don't want that to sound like "he's right you're just not trying agree hard enough", because it's a complicated space for sure, but I do think that he's setting a more realistic, human aim with respect to well-functioning relationships than the "monogamy or failure" model he's arguing against.
posted by mhoye at 2:36 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Like Miller, until Savage showed him how dated and unrealistic his dreams were?

fugitivefromchaingang, you really keep harping on this one point. Unfortunately, it's a point you've made up wholecloth.

A direct quote from the source article: "Savage’s position on monogamy is frequently caricatured. He does not believe in promiscuity; indeed, his attacks on the anonymous-sex, gay-bathhouse culture were once taken as proof of a secret conservative agenda. And he does not believe that monogamy is wrong for all couples or even for most couples. Rather, he says that a more realistic sexual ethic would prize honesty, a little flexibility and, when necessary, forgiveness over absolute monogamy. And he believes nostalgically, like any good conservative, that we might look to the past for some clues. "

Add into that your assertion that Terry Miller has been psychologically tormented by his partner into accepting non-monogamy as a way of life, despite zero evidence of any kind to support this claim, and it's just really hard to take your arguments as anything but axe-grinding.

Monogamy works for some people. It doesn't work for others, and it's okay that it doesn't work for others. I disagree that idealized ideas of relationships are a good thing -- an ideal, by definition, is something that only exists in the imagination.
posted by palomar at 2:36 PM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


There's also what I think of as kink-slippage in Savage-land...what folks would have called preferences ten years ago are now kinks that must be indulged; what used to be kinks ten years ago are now serious fetishes that require the intervention of a pro before your relationship implodes. And the assumption that my casual interest in [random thing] is obviously a fetish rather than a casual interest....It's like sexual marketing. It's more the self-obsessed sexual narcissism of the way Savage writes - the never ending exploration of one's own beautiful sexual soul.

I think this is a really good and interesting point-- I've always wondered about the reasoning behind this all-consuming importance attached to the performance of particular sex acts. It's all the weirder because the valorization of the sexual relationship has historically been attached to the kind of monogamous ideals Savage is dismissing-- the case being that sex is really really important because it's the foundation of a family, it's a complete giving of yourself to your partner, it's an expression of intimacy and love, etc. That's the classic excuse for infidelity, after all: we were just so much in love; we were meant to be together.

If none of that is true, and the premises are that (a) sex is just a biological drive, like any other biological drive, (b) a given sex act needn't necessarily have anything to do with intimacy, (c) a given sex act needn't have any bearing on one's relationships or one's status in the world-- then why is it held to be so critical in a wider human sense for everyone to be able to experience whatever sex acts they feel inclined towards? I mean, I've got lots of really strong biologically-originated drives, but I wouldn't say it's only fair that I should leave my child and my marriage if my spouse, for whatever reason, objects to my eating tons of dark chocolate (biologically prompted!) or lying on the couch for months when I'm depressed (biochemical basis!), or blowing our savings account on shopping sprees (stimulates reward systems!). Instead, I'd say that those are perfectly legitimate desires and there's nothing wrong with them, necessarily, but that in the long run I'll probably be happiest if I try to balance their satisfaction with my wider obligations to the people I love. In any case, I wouldn't say it's inherently cruel, dehumanizing and immoral that I not be indulged in them to the very top of my bent. They're just things I feel like doing, after all. They're not who I am.

Of course, you can also turn around and argue the other way-- if these things are so inconsequential, then why is my partner objecting to them? Who cares if I have a little harmless fun? But in a case where one person in a relationship believes that sex is an expression of love and intimacy, and another believes that it's just no big deal, it really does seem unaccountable that the one who ostensibly cares less about it should be the one who gets last say in setting ground rules.
posted by Bardolph at 2:37 PM on June 30, 2011 [11 favorites]


(In fact, I'll clarify - my experience has been on what you might call the para-queer left - activists, anarchists, etc, lots of heteroflexibility, an environment where it is deeply, deeply uncool to say anything popularly considered to be overtly homophobic or transphobic. This does not keep people from saying homophobic or transphobic things - but people don't say the obvious ones. I much preferred the critical rhetoric about sexual practice that seemed way more common in this crowd in the nineties than the sort of commercialized, mainstreamized Savagism that is the default now. Obviously, YM will probably V unless we were running with similar crowds.)
posted by Frowner at 2:39 PM on June 30, 2011


But palomar what about these visions:

A world without rape.
A world without child abuse.
A world without murder.
A world without hate crimes.
A world without bullying.

I get what you're saying. This things DO exist and we should be willing to look at them, but ACCEPTING them is not the logical conclusion of acknowledging they exist. Human desire is complex and filled with all kinds things that could hurt others.

Having a desire does not mean someone else should let you carry it out if it hurts them in the name of being progressive.
posted by xarnop at 2:40 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


But Savage expects people whose sexual needs are for safe space or vanilla sex without pressure for kink or monogamous fidelity to cram it in the name of being GGG.

As has been mentioned upthread, he also sometimes counsels people to split up. If you're someone who's a hardcore kinkster, you probably shouldn't be married to someone who's a hardcore kinkaphobe and isn't willing to let you get your satisfaction in some other way.

when the rubber hits the road, Savage's advice advocates kink > vanilla, nonmonogamy > monogamy, and sexual satisfaction in your relationship > satisfaction in all other areas of your relationship.

Like vorfeed upthread, I think you're making some pretty wild accusations. I don't think he advocates any of those things. Look, he's an advice columnist. People write to him because there's something that's really bad or lacking in their relationship. Lots of their relationships are about to implode. He tries to counsel people in ways to deal with the bizarre creature that is human sexuality, within the context of their relationship. Sometimes the situation is irreconcilable, and he's not hesitant to point that out.

But I would argue that sex is a very important part of a relationship. If it wasn't, we wouldn't even be having this conversation.
posted by Afroblanco at 2:41 PM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


immlass: The problem with Savage's approach is that he never gives the same weight to the other partner's right NOT to indulge the fetish, or their reasons for not wanting to indulge it.

vorfeed: Bingo. Savage seems unable to acknowledge that monogamy and/or comfort with what goes on in the bedroom is a need for many people, just as non-monogamy and/or kink is for others. When the latter is prioritized because it's "a fact of male life", that does make this a "a sexist/feminist issue" -- why is it that we're not talking about the facts of female life as though they were non-negotiable? Why are we excluding men who seek monogamy, or men who don't want kink?


Double bingo. I have never read a columnist, sex columnist or otherwise, with more completely male-normative opinions than Dan Savage. I mean, really, they're Dan-Savage-normative opinions since he hardly speaks for all men, but practically speaking, way more men align with his opinions than women.

Dan Savage seems to be trying to convince everyone that
1. His flavor of sexuality is the only normal, natural way to be, therefore
2. His flavor of sexuality must be acquiesced to,
3. Or else you are a bad person.

I think this has taught a generation of young women (and their sexual partners) that what they want isn't what's important here at all. That unless they give into all sorts of things that make them upset, make them uncomfortable, that they don't want, then they are horrible selfish unworthy-of-a-relationship people.

I think Dan Savage's opinions are insanely destructive, and I'm astonished that more people don't have a a problem with him. I think if he were a straight man, he would never get away with half the garbage he says. Audre Lorde said, "I see no essential battle between many gay men and the white male establishment. To be sure, there are gay men who do not view their oppression as isolated, and who work for a future. But it is a matter of majority politics: many gay white males are being pulled by the same strings as other white men in this society. You do not get people to work against what they have identified as their basic self-interest." I can't say that I've really seen that much in my life, maybe because she comes from a different generation, but fuck if I don't think this applies to Dan Savage and his relentless promotion of a way of relating sexually that is completely unconcerned with the wants and needs of women (unless they have the same sexuality he does.)
posted by Ashley801 at 2:42 PM on June 30, 2011 [13 favorites]


xarnop, are you seriously trying to equate rape and child abuse with non-monogamy? Because that's ridiculous.
posted by palomar at 2:44 PM on June 30, 2011


I would have married my husband even if it conferred zero legal benefits. For me to feel comfortable being as open and as emotionally intimate with him as I wanted to be, I wanted some assurance that it was for keepsies. For me, that assurance is called "getting married."

I'm what I call "weakly monogamous;" I'm happy being monogamous, but I would probably be happy with certain kinds of non-monogamy as well. When sex was off the table for me for a really extended period of time, I suggested non-monogamy to my husband, who basically said "Thanks for being flexible, but oh god no." My husband is strongly monogamous; he is not only happy with monogamy, but it's really important to him. He's OK with me flirting with other people, and he's really amused when I have crushes on other people, but anything beyond some occasional sexy dancing in public is not OK with him. And as far as I can tell, he has less-than-zero interest in ever looking for or obtaining another partner.

Of course, the reason why we know that is because we talked about it really early in our relationship, rather than assuming we were monogamous (and the same kind of monogamous!) by default. That's the best thing about non-monogamy being on the table; it gets people to actually talk about where they stand, and articulate what they mean by "monogamy."
posted by KathrynT at 2:46 PM on June 30, 2011 [7 favorites]


I think this has taught a generation of young women (and their sexual partners) that what they want isn't what's important here at all. That unless they give into all sorts of things that make them upset, make them uncomfortable, that they don't want, then they are horrible selfish unworthy-of-a-relationship people.

Okay, and the winner in the Wild Accusations about Dan Savage contest is....

Seriously, though? If you're going to say things like this, why not give us some evidence? The entirety of his ouvre is online and there for the linking.

Anyway, I feel like I've taken the position here of Sole Defender, an unenviable position in any online debate, so I think I'm gonna bow out for now. Oh wait, what is this? I'm actually at work? Damn... yeah, I guess I should do some work today....
posted by Afroblanco at 2:46 PM on June 30, 2011


In any case, I wouldn't say it's inherently cruel, dehumanizing and immoral that I not be indulged in them to the very top of my bent. They're just things I feel like doing, after all. They're not who I am.

As I think about this more, I feel like my problem with Savage is precisely that he pretends that there's a clear and bright line between what gets named sick and what gets named healthy, what gets named important and what gets named trivial. He pretends that there is a neutral, "objective", rules-based stance you can take about sexuality that is always right in all situations. Like if you just follow this rule, dumping your kid and partner to follow your bliss will be shown to be the needful and right thing to do and everyone's problems will melt away instead of being a fraught, messy, painful step.

(I'm reading this very interesting book, Cold Intimacies, The Making of Emotional Capitalism, which seems to be about how modern capitalism shapes our sense of self and where we put our emotions...it seems to have some bearing on the way the modern self is narrated in therapeutic language, which is a big thing for Savage.)
posted by Frowner at 2:48 PM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sorry that came out funny--- I am saying that accepting human behavior because it's exists as a human desire does not make sense "in the name of being more realistic"
posted by xarnop at 2:48 PM on June 30, 2011


It doesn't matter where you get your appetite, as long as you eat at home.
posted by pianomover at 2:48 PM on June 30, 2011


I don't like Savage at least partly because he can't seem to stop telling women what they should do and who they are.

Here, he's telling them they ought to be non-monogamous, and that they are ineluctably and essentially non-monogamous.

Previously he's tried to claim you can't be a woman if you don't seek out anal penetration.

I think this foolish twaddle is driven by a burning and inextinguishable frustration that, no matter how he dresses or acts, he cannot make himself into a woman. But he's discovered he can temporarily assuage his consuming envy by getting women to dance to his tune. Not too surprisingly, he generally calls out that they should do whatever he's doing, because if he wants to do it, women must want to too, and ain't he a woman?

Well no, of course not; how absurd.

It would be entertaining, with an overtone of deep sadness, to be sure, if women just laughed at him and went about their business, but some women seem to be taking him seriously.

Envy is one of the more corrosive forms of hatred, and, for all his trills and protestations, Savage is merely another variant of woman-hating man.

I think this crypto woman-hating is the key reason he's achieved such acceptance in this profoundly woman-hating society despite his gayness.
posted by jamjam at 2:49 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


As a non-monogamous kinky woman I feel really erased by this discussion. It was framed by the article as somewhat a male vs female divide, and it's being taken as a given in this discussion that the primary problem of non-monogamy is that it's being perpetrated by men upon unwilling women.

It's also very easy to say that kink is on the same level as, say, eating chocolate if you're perfectly happy with vanilla sex. I find vanilla sex not just physically unsatisfying, but completely void of intimacy. I find that to be true for a lot of people who have non-mainstream sexual practices.

I thoroughly resent the idea that vanilla sex is emotionally intimate whereas kinky sex is just soulless, casual getting off.
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:50 PM on June 30, 2011 [13 favorites]


I think this foolish twaddle is driven by a burning and inextinguishable frustration that, no matter how he dresses or acts, he cannot make himself into a woman. But he's discovered he can temporarily assuage his consuming envy by getting women to dance to his tune. Not too surprisingly, he generally calls out that they should do whatever he's doing, because if he wants to do it, women must want to too, and ain't he a woman?

Oh sigh. I do not think this is at all correct, or a defensible statement.

In fact, I think it's easy to slip over into homophobia when criticizing Savage - like there is this "gay male sexuality" embodied by him and it's bad...dangerous and contagious.
posted by Frowner at 2:52 PM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think this foolish twaddle is driven by a burning and inextinguishable frustration that, no matter how he dresses or acts, he cannot make himself into a woman.

This is some homophobic bullshit.
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:52 PM on June 30, 2011 [12 favorites]


And vorfeed, I'm not going to pull quotes from your comment because, frankly, I disagree with almost everything you said, and I don't want to quote your entire comment. But I think you're making some pretty wild accusations about Dan (e.g. his "general disdain for women", that he always seems to "advocate specifically for male honesty and female acceptance") that I just don't think are true. If you're going to say things like that, you're going to need to back them up with evidence. Sorry.

I don't see any links from you supporting your POV on Savage, so I'm not sure why I should have to back up mine. That said, here you go:

This link is a good example -- in which Savage blames his own bad advice on "all this advice these women sent in" (for somebody else, natch) and in which he claims that "guess what? It turns out that honesty—at least when we're talking about a woman's fat ass—isn't the best policy after all. Honesty about a partner's premature and avoidable physical deterioration is only fit for faggots, it seems". So's this one (where "honesty" takes a backseat to "offer[ing] his girlfriend the boy-girl-boy threesome that all of today's modern young women fantasize about" so that "If she objects, HH, your mate can blame her for "making" him bisexual — or making him realize it — because he fell on your sword that first time because it was what she wanted"), and this one (in which a woman who didn't like the idea of ball-insertion "missed out on [...] a safe and unique sexual experience with a guy who isn't afraid of his own desires", whereas a guy who didn't like being crapped on by a woman "did all the right things after that Spanish tramp shit on you [...] Whatever her major malfunction, SSBB, wipe her number from your phone's memory.")

Savage just does not seem to have as much respect for women or women's perspectives as he does for men and men's perspectives, and I think this shows up in his ideas about what constitutes "needs", "honesty", "being GGG", etc. Like I said above, I like his column most of the time, but I can't help but notice that he thinks of women as being, well, confining, as in "in the feminist revolution, rather than extending to women 'the same latitude and license and pressure-release valve that men had always enjoyed,' we extended to men the confines women had always endured".

Sorry if you don't agree, but I'm going to call it like I see it.
posted by vorfeed at 2:52 PM on June 30, 2011 [9 favorites]


I am saying that accepting human behavior because it's exists as a human desire does not make sense "in the name of being more realistic"

Okay, but why are you equating consentual non-monogamy with non-consentual activities like rape, child abuse, murder, hate crimes, and bullying? Are you saying that if my partner and I choose to be non-monogamous, we are abusing each other? Because that's a very damning accusation to make, and I would encourage you to take a HUGE step back from this issue if you can't look at it objectively enough to see that consensual non-monogamy has absolutely nothing in common with the crimes that you listed.
posted by palomar at 2:53 PM on June 30, 2011


Like if you just follow this rule, dumping your kid and partner to follow your bliss will be shown to be the needful and right thing to do and everyone's problems will melt away instead of being a fraught, messy, painful step.

He is crystal clear that he thinks that people should stay together for the children.

I hear more "follow your bliss, the kids will be fine" from people on the average AskMe than I do from Dan Savage.
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:54 PM on June 30, 2011


Non-monogamy is not consensual if you are pressuring people into it by saying, "it's natural and you should change your feelings to be more open to it, and if you don't accept it you're going against nature."
posted by xarnop at 2:56 PM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Ashley801: I think this has taught a generation of young women (and their sexual partners) that what they want isn't what's important here at all. That unless they give into all sorts of things that make them upset, make them uncomfortable, that they don't want, then they are horrible selfish unworthy-of-a-relationship people.

Afroblanco: Okay, and the winner in the Wild Accusations about Dan Savage contest is.... Seriously, though? If you're going to say things like this, why not give us some evidence? The entirety of his ouvre is online and there for the linking.


I could link his "oeuvre" all day to give examples of this, but I'll start with this one:
http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2011/05/11/sl-letter-of-the-day-sit-down

He's guilt tripping a woman into putting out sexually, in a situation that has the potential to make her feel physically sick, violated, or traumatized -- and advises that she should just get herself drunk if that's what she needs to get through it. Despite the fact that she had already lt clearly already gone way above and beyond as a partner -- e.g. MANUALLY assisting him to use the bathroom ... and speaking strictly statistically, men are far more likely to leave a diseased/disabled spouse than women in the first place, before they have to do *any* actual caretaking. It's his whole idea of women being obligated to sexually please male partners no matter what it does to them, or they are selfish and shirking their rightful duties.

This guilt tripping of this woman is in stark contrast to how Dan Savage often says that women shouldn't expect their male partners to want to have sex with them if they ever become *gasp* FAT. If Dan Savage's hot husband gained 200 lbs, would he still be spouting guilt trips about how you MUST sexually please someone "in sickness and in health"?

And the thing about Dan Savage is, there are plenty of things he WON'T do -- which he's listed -- why? Because he doesn't like them. Why is it okay for Dan Savage to have his boundaries, but this woman MUST do this act that she's disgusted by?

I could go on, but I won't, because I can already feel my blood pressure rising.
posted by Ashley801 at 2:57 PM on June 30, 2011 [17 favorites]


It's also very easy to say that kink is on the same level as, say, eating chocolate if you're perfectly happy with vanilla sex. I find vanilla sex not just physically unsatisfying, but completely void of intimacy. I find that to be true for a lot of people who have non-mainstream sexual practices.

I thoroughly resent the idea that vanilla sex is emotionally intimate whereas kinky sex is just soulless, casual getting off.


I think these types of conversations - and Savage's column - tend to end up as theoretical referendums on theoretical people. Like, obviously, kinky sex isn't soulless, etc etc...no one would say that to a friend (I hope), any more than one would blithely trot out some of the casual DTMFA/your-ass-is-too-fat stuff that Savage peddles.

Maybe it's tricky to figure out what you really-want-and-must-have versus what-would-be-sort-of-nice versus what-you-have-never-allowed-yourself-to-consider, and it's tricky to balance sexual wishes with the non-sexual part of a relationship.

If anything, that's one good part about non-monogamy - if you're careful and smart, you can separate some of the sexual needs from the emotional needs, freeing up time/sex/emotional presence for whatever long-term relationships you want to hold together.
posted by Frowner at 2:58 PM on June 30, 2011


Among people who desire non-monogamy and it's consenual, there is nothing wrong with it I have just seen over and over again that there is an expectation that married people are wrong for desiring life long monogamy and they are "going against nature" by having those feelings.

I would say that desiring monogamy is as natural as desiring polyamory and that neither or wrong and that both peoples feelings should be honored and no one should be convinced that their feelings are based in "an impossible ideal"
posted by xarnop at 2:58 PM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


As a non-monogamous kinky woman I feel really erased by this discussion. It was framed by the article as somewhat a male vs female divide, and it's being taken as a given in this discussion that the primary problem of non-monogamy is that it's being perpetrated by men upon unwilling women.

If you feel erased, then speak up! :)

I, for one, think the non-monogamy issue is just as much a problem for men as it is for women. As has been noted, the actual relationship example in the article is Savage and Miller's own marriage, in which Miller was shown how unrealistic it is to think that love is monogamous.

In fact, I think it's easy to slip over into homophobia when criticizing Savage - like there is this "gay male sexuality" embodied by him and it's bad...dangerous and contagious.

I'm a gay man and I think a lot of his worldview is bad and dangerous for gay men as much as for anyone else.

He is crystal clear that he thinks that people should stay together for the children.

His own statement in the OP-linked article suggests that if it weren't for his extramarital outlets his marriage, with kid, might not exist. But maybe you would say, in response, that all he was doing was telling Miller how it was gonna be, and if Miller said he wasn't OK with that, then it'd be Miller who was breaking up the marriage.
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 2:59 PM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


As a non-monogamous kinky woman I feel really erased by this discussion. It was framed by the article as somewhat a male vs female divide, and it's being taken as a given in this discussion that the primary problem of non-monogamy is that it's being perpetrated by men upon unwilling women.

I specifically don't think it's a gender issue. The gender essentialism of the framing of this article was one of the things that chapped my hide about it. IMO Savage values kink > vanilla and I wouldn't be surprised if he internally frames it in a sexist/gender essentialist way, per vorfeed's quotes, but that doesn't mean the rest of us have to.
posted by immlass at 2:59 PM on June 30, 2011


Non-monogamy is not consensual if you are pressuring people into it by saying, "it's natural and you should change your feelings to be more open to it, and if you don't accept it you're going against nature."


For sure, but there's a world between that and "Hey, this is something I have a burning desire for, can we come to some kind of compromise."

Because if you don't understand that relationships require compromise, then you clearly haven't been in one. And for people who don't follow the rather rigid classical model of marriage (which as has been pointed out, seems statistically to be the majority whether they want to be or not), is a difficult discussion because the default position of the world is that you're a lout if you even mention it.
posted by lumpenprole at 3:00 PM on June 30, 2011


If Dan Savage's hot husband gained 200 lbs, would he still be spouting guilt trips about how you MUST sexually please someone "in sickness and in health"?

Funny you mention it! In Savage's book The Kid, he says that if Miller gained a lot of weight, Savage would dump him.
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 3:00 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sorry, but telling someone that they should be more open to something because it's natural does not = coercion.

This would mean that all these people are trying to force me to do something non consensual:

--Natural childbirth advocates
--People who tell me that I have to be monogamous and in a committed relationship before I can enjoy sex
--Advocates of a paleo diet
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:01 PM on June 30, 2011


Sorry, but telling someone that they should be more open to something because it's natural does not = coercion.


Telling people that your way is "natural" and their way is "unnatural" or "less natural" is one of THE classic tools people use to shame, control, and harm others.
posted by Ashley801 at 3:03 PM on June 30, 2011 [7 favorites]



Funny you mention it! In Savage's book The Kid, he says that if Miller gained a lot of weight, Savage would dump him.


Ew.

In my secret heart of hearts - and despite the fact that I hate his advice - I had what was obviously a sentimental, idealized picture of the guy's relationship.

So odd to be always beating the drum about "I will totally dump you if X thing happens".
posted by Frowner at 3:04 PM on June 30, 2011


Telling your partner that their feelings are invalid because your feelings are more natural so they should feel the way you want them to feel?

Yes in a relationship situation, that is certainly a manipulative and hurtful manuevre.
posted by xarnop at 3:05 PM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


If you feel erased, then speak up! :)

It's hard to find the time, I'm pretty busy emotionally battering my partner and faking I don't like vanilla sex when I really secretly do.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:05 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]



In fact, I think it's easy to slip over into homophobia when criticizing Savage - like there is this "gay male sexuality" embodied by him and it's bad...dangerous and contagious.
posted by Frowner


It is easy to slip over into homophobia when criticizing Savage.

That's because he's so homophobic himself! Don't you see that?
posted by jamjam at 3:05 PM on June 30, 2011


Compare sex to walking through a pitch-black house.

If you've had one home for decades, you're going to have a different experience than if you're in an unfamiliar home. A better, more satisfying experience, IMO. Far less abuse to the shins. Far greater chance of success getting across the room.

Long-term monogamy can be extremely sexually satisfying. One develops an acute awareness of one's partner and deep knowledge and skills in getting them off.

As a monogamist, I get really tired of hearing ignorant opinions expressed about monogamy. Savage hasn't a single clue about monogamy, because he has never tried it. His attitude and words are insulting and rather childish.

I feel kind of bad for Terry: five years too late, Savage up and unilaterally decided to end the relationship Terry thought he had. That seems massively assholic.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:06 PM on June 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


Hey hey, young rope rider---- I never said that all poly situations involve pressuring people into accepting things they don't want. Two people wanting a poly lifestyle/open marriage does not mean there is coercion!!
posted by xarnop at 3:08 PM on June 30, 2011


Oh, and Savage writes about male versus female sexuality as if there were no social cost to women in having casual sex with men. I personally would have had a lot more casual sex with men back in the day without 1. concern about pregnancy from a casual encounter and 2. a sense that many men view sex as a "conquest", some kind of victory they win over me if I sleep with them without emotional entanglement; and 3. the fact that I know guys talk a lot of shit about women who sleep around.

4. STDS that impair your fertility/can give you cancer.
posted by melissam at 3:09 PM on June 30, 2011


(This is all leading me to wonder how Terry Miller feels about his relationship. That seems to be rather important if we're going to talk about how awful DS is being. There's a substantial possibility that Miller could be all "Oh, Dan suggested that I was being old-fashioned and then we did thing and it was fine" and maybe it just isn't that big a deal for him....even though it would be a big deal for some folks. That would mean that DS wasn't actually asking for anything crazy out of line...)
posted by Frowner at 3:10 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Non-monogamy is not consensual if you are pressuring people into it by saying, "it's natural and you should change your feelings to be more open to it, and if you don't accept it you're going against nature."

That's a very nice straw man argument, as well as your other argument that telling a partner their feelings are invalid is blah blah blah. Has anyone here actually advocated for any of the behavior you're railing against? Nope. Did Dan Savage say any of this in the source article, or in any other publication? Nope.
posted by palomar at 3:10 PM on June 30, 2011


"Sorry, but telling someone that they should be more open to something because it's natural does not = coercion."

Coercion is a wide variety of things, sometimes it's physical coercion sometimes it's a simple as emotional blackmail along the lines of "If you loved me you'd be willing to do this for me".

Being GGG is fine but you should also be willing to accept that other people have boundaries and that some people are willing to cross those boundaries if coerced but they really rather not given the choice.

Considering that many (if not most) relationships in our culture maintain a certain degree of power imbalance combined with implicit social training that a female "should be willing to do whatever to keep her man happy" and it's definitely possible to feel that even though a person might agree to any sort of kink that agreement can be the result of all sorts of coercion.
posted by vuron at 3:11 PM on June 30, 2011


I'm just saying, it's just as natural to want monogamy as poly lifestyle. How many people accept poly lifestyle because they think THEIR PARTNER will eventually want poly--- vs that THEY will want poly?

What would be sad to me is if there are bunch of people who were told, "Hey you can never trust that your partner will want monogamy for the rest of your life so even though you want monogamy you should go ahead and adjust to wanting polyarmory"

And so they adjust because polyamory is more natural and is what their partner will eventually want anyway so they might as well get started enjoying it and find a way to embrace it and have fun with it.

When in the meantime there was actually a pool of people who all would have prefered monogamy and gave up on it because it's "just an ideal"

that would be sad. If you want poly lifestyle don't do it because you think no one else wants monogamy. If you exist and you want monogamy, surely there are others? Do it because YOU want polyamory, you want to explore many relationships, and are happy to share that lifestyle with a partner who is equally free.
posted by xarnop at 3:13 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


xarnop, that doesn't explain why you've been equating non-monogamy with rape, child abuse, murder, hate crimes, and bullying.
posted by palomar at 3:15 PM on June 30, 2011


A lot of women don't understand fetishes because a lot of women don't have them.

Dude, come on. Cite, please?


Seriously. The longer I hang out with fetishists, the more it seems to me that many of the sexualized objects in our culture (women's clothing, including shoes, acting considerably younger than you are, light d/s, etc...) are considered part of what women already do when they make sexy time, so a female with a shoe fetish just goes "OMG shooooooes!!!" and gets seen as normal, and a woman in a school girl uniform is seen as normal.

I think Dan Savage is a bit easier to take in the perspective that he's been writing fro a long time, from a point when I was young enough to have some pretty half baked ideas, he's not a trained sexual therapist and he gets a platform because there simply isn't enough people out there saying "dude, if you want to wear a tutu and pet a furry's tail, why not?" and also comforting the poor folk (of which there are legion) who are utterly crushed because their partner's response to their kink was to be mad at them for asking. Not even just say no, but really furiously angry.

They guy also seems self aware enough that I've noticed a lot of his recent articles trend towards "I said GGG, and maybe monogamy isn't the only answer, not use your kink to justify a free for all!" I've also seen him rip into a guy saying how he hated that his spouse had gotten fat after having a kid and didn't seem to have the energy for sex, by pointing out that child bearing was a mutual decision that often has a great impact on the woman's body, so the write-in-person hardly blameless for the situation, and it was in very poor taste to treat her situation as an excuse to stab her in the back with cheating.
posted by Phalene at 3:16 PM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm saying that telling your partner, "Hey I need sex with lot's of people because it's a primal human instinct and therefore you should get with the times and realize this is what humans do and accept it" is not cool.

Primal human instinct does not mean that other people have to let you treat them that way or accept your primal instincts over theirs.
posted by xarnop at 3:19 PM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm saying that telling your partner, "Hey I need sex with lot's of people because it's a primal human instinct and therefore you should get with the times and realize this is what humans do and accept it" is not cool.

Right, and what I'm saying is that presenting this statement as the way that all couples discuss monogamy is a straw-man argument. I've never met anyone in an open relationship that presented the idea of non-monogamy in the way that you insist it is always presented. This is not the way my partner and I have discussed monogamy as it relates to our partnership. This might be the way a person who cheats on their spouse might spin it, but cheating is not non-monogamy.
posted by palomar at 3:26 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Coercion is a wide variety of things, sometimes it's physical coercion sometimes it's a simple as emotional blackmail along the lines of "If you loved me you'd be willing to do this for me".

Indeed, but how much of this is in any way inherent to kink or non-monogamy, and how much of it is just that if your partner's an asshole who doesn't care what you think, then they're an asshole who doesn't care what you think?

There really seems to be the unspoken assumption that simply saying "monogamy isn't going to work for me" or "I really can't be happy without X sexual act" is inherently abusive, coercive, manipulative, battering, or whatever. I think that's bullshit.


Considering that many (if not most) relationships in our culture maintain a certain degree of power imbalance combined with implicit social training that a female "should be willing to do whatever to keep her man happy" and it's definitely possible to feel that even though a person might agree to any sort of kink that agreement can be the result of all sorts of coercion.

I guess it could be the result of the coercion. It could also be the woman pushing for non-monogamy. The social movement that is polyamory is primarily woman-led and feminist. The major texts in modern consensual non-monogamy are written by women. The problem isn't non-monogamy or kink. The problem is sexism.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:26 PM on June 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm just saying justifying how you treat someone with "This is natural so don't even envision another way, because that's daydreaming about visions that can't really happen" is not a good way to justify behavior.

Natural can be good. Natural can be bad. Poison ivy is natural. I don't want it on my body.
posted by xarnop at 3:27 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


xarnop, you are arguing against a position that's not even being presented here. Seriously.
posted by palomar at 3:28 PM on June 30, 2011


It is being presented by Dan Savages own words to his partner.
posted by xarnop at 3:29 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I guess it could be the result of the coercion. It could also be the woman pushing for non-monogamy.

Or it could be both. Coercion is not something that only men are capable of. "If you don't let me sleep with other people, I'll leave you and take the kids" is coercive regardless of the gender of the person saying it.
posted by The World Famous at 3:36 PM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


"I disagree that idealized ideas of relationships are a good thing -- an ideal, by definition, is something that only exists in the imagination."

I was trying to point out that an ideal such as great ideals like, no more violence--- can have their place and can translate into action and reality.

If a two people share an ideal of monogamous marriage that takes work, there is nothing wrong with that. Just because it doesn't work out for everyone, doesn't mean it's wrong to envision a relationship that you want to share with someone else.
posted by xarnop at 3:37 PM on June 30, 2011


Can you please cite a specific quote from the source article, xarnop, that backs up your assertation? Because I just read it a second time from start to finish and I found absolutely nothing to back up your claim that Dan Savage told his partner, "This is natural so don't even envision another way, because that's daydreaming about visions that can't really happen."

In fact, there are many quotes I can copy and paste from the source article that directly contradict the claim you're making. Hey, let's just review some now! It'll be fun.

"Today, Savage Love is less a sex column than a relationship column, one point of which is to help good unions last. Sexual fulfillment matters in its own right, but mainly it matters because without it, families are more likely to break apart. It is for the sake of staying together — not merely for the sake of orgasms — that Savage coined his famous acronym, “G.G.G.”: lovers ought to be good, giving and game (put another way, skilled, generous and up for anything). And if they cannot fulfill all of each other’s desires, then it may be advisable to decide to go outside the bounds of marriage if that is what it takes to make the marriage work.

Savage’s position on monogamy is frequently caricatured. He does not believe in promiscuity; indeed, his attacks on the anonymous-sex, gay-bathhouse culture were once taken as proof of a secret conservative agenda. And he does not believe that monogamy is wrong for all couples or even for most couples. Rather, he says that a more realistic sexual ethic would prize honesty, a little flexibility and, when necessary, forgiveness over absolute monogamy. And he believes nostalgically, like any good conservative, that we might look to the past for some clues. "


A little further down in the article... "In their own marriage, Savage and Miller practice being what he calls “monogamish,” allowing occasional infidelities, which they are honest about. Miller was initially opposed to the idea. “You assume as a younger person that all relationships are monogamous and between two people, that love means nothing can come between you,” said Miller, who met Savage at a club in 1995, when he was 23 and Savage was 30. “Dan has taught me to be more realistic about that kind of stuff. "

(note: "love means nothing can come between you" is something that absolutely SHOULD be debunked. It is an incredibly destructive notion.)

And a little further down.... "While his marriage opened up gradually, Savage says that “there’s not a one-size-fits-all way” to approach nonmonogamy, especially if both partners committed to monogamy at the start. “Folks on the verge of making those monogamous commitments,” Savage told me in one of our many e-mail exchanges, “need to look at the wreckage around them — all those failed monogamous relationships out there (Schwarzenegger, Clinton, Vitter, whoever’s on the cover of US magazine this week) — and have a conversation about what it’ll mean if one or the other partner should cheat. And agree, at the very least, to getting through it, to place a higher value on the relationship itself than on one component of it, sexual exclusivity.”

Yup, still not seeing the "This is natural so don't even argue against it" that you claim is there. Can you please point it out?
posted by palomar at 3:44 PM on June 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


"“The mistake that straight people made,” Savage told me, “was imposing the monogamous expectation on men."

It sounds like he is against considering lifelong monogamy. It might be a legitimate position, but when used on a partner to say, "Hey kid, you want monogamy but it ain't realistic so accept what I have to offer"

It sounds pretty much like exactly that. Give up your dream of monogamy because it's an unrealistic ideal and polyamory is the norm of human behavior so just accept it from the get go.
posted by xarnop at 3:52 PM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also, this one line of Dan Savage's struck me because it was such a great example of how he prioritizes and normativizes his own sexuality, and makes use of manipulation/guilt tripping, which I do consider to be coercive.

"Couples need to look at the wreckage around them ... and have a conversation about what it’ll mean if one or the other partner should cheat. And agree, at the very least, to getting through it, to place a higher value on the relationship itself than on one component of it, sexual exclusivity.”

If couples should "place a higher value on the relationship itself than on one component of it," why is that one component sexual exclusivity? Why is it not sexual satisfaction? Prioritization of Dan Savage's wants/needs.

He's also implying that if sexual exclusivity is important to you, such that you would end a relationship where it was absent, then you're not placing a high enough/proper value on the relationship. Manipulation and guilt tripping, trying to make people believe they're bad humans for wanting what they want.
posted by Ashley801 at 3:55 PM on June 30, 2011 [9 favorites]


Ashley801, what I took from that is that he's saying couples should talk about this stuff before it actually becomes an issue -- instead of assuming that you will be monogamous and then being devastated if your partner cheats, it's better to talk about what each of you will do if the other goes outside the relationship for their sexual needs.

And no, he's not implying that you're a bad person if you would end a relationship because you're not getting your exclusivity needs met. Good lord. He's saying that if being non-exclusive is in fact a dealbreaker for either partner, it's better to know that up-front (and end the relationship there if that's what needs to happen) rather than proceed blindly and hurt each other.

Why is that a bad thing?
posted by palomar at 4:06 PM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Give up your dream of monogamy because it's an unrealistic ideal and polyamory is the norm of human behavior so just accept it from the get go.

Ignoring all of Savage's claims for now, here's an honest question:

What if the scientific evidence, that is anthropological, neuroscience, psychology, everything really, pointed to the fact that monogamy is pretty much a cultural or social invention and that the natural state is that humans are non-monogamous in some way. That level could vary from humans of both sexes being total slutfests to eyes naturally wandering from time-to-time to other people.

In that case, if our cultural institutions are out of line with biological conditions, couldn't that create some conflict in our relationships? And by forcing people to engage in these non-natural behaviors are we just asking for hurt?

I don't think Savage is saying all monogamous relationships are doomed from the start, just that we shouldn't go into them with the expectation that nothing will ever happen, because evidence seems to suggest that extramarital stuff does happen, often. Even if it's only once or twice in a half-century long marriage, having the tools and preparation to deal with it beforehand would be good.
posted by formless at 4:10 PM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yes, God forbid people should act in a manner that is "unnatural."
posted by The World Famous at 4:13 PM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


"In that case, if our cultural institutions are out of line with biological conditions, couldn't that create some conflict in our relationships? And by forcing people to engage in these non-natural behaviors are we just asking for hurt?"

And that is exactly where I'm saying that evolutionary psych arguments for accepting human behaviors is not valid. In literature we can find that war, abuse, child maltreatment, rape, sexual violence, male dominance, slavery and all kinds of behaviors have had long standing presence in many civilizations.

That isn't an argument in and of itself-- that humans shouldn't have ideals of behavior outside of what exists in human history and what exists in large quantities in the human population.

Sexual harrassment is quite common-- that is not proof that I should be in a relationship that involves that.
posted by xarnop at 4:14 PM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


"I don't think Savage is saying all monogamous relationships are doomed from the start, just that we shouldn't go into them with the expectation that nothing will ever happen, because evidence seems to suggest that extramarital stuff does happen, often."

I agree with you that anyone wanting to get married should do a lot of soul searching and research and communication with the other partner involved about this reality.

That is not the same thing as saying, "Your desire for monogamy is unrealistic and accept my desire for poly over your desire for monogamy." Which is really what Dan told his partner.
posted by xarnop at 4:19 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


It sounds pretty much like exactly that. Give up your dream of monogamy because it's an unrealistic ideal and polyamory is the norm of human behavior so just accept it from the get go.

Okay, here's the entire paragraph that you cherry-picked your quote from:

“The mistake that straight people made,” Savage told me, “was imposing the monogamous expectation on men. Men were never expected to be monogamous. Men had concubines, mistresses and access to prostitutes, until everybody decided marriage had to be egalitar­ian and fairsey.” In the feminist revolution, rather than extending to women “the same latitude and license and pressure-release valve that men had always enjoyed,” we extended to men the confines women had always endured. “And it’s been a disaster for marriage.”

I'm not sure I agree with the "feminist revolution" bit, but what he's saying here is true: Historically, men have never been expected to be monogamous. There have always been options for men to enjoy sex outside of marriage, and while women have also been non-monogamous throughout history it has not been nearly as accepted a practice.

At some point, at least in some parts of the world, the idea of marriage changed to one where both partners must remain monogamous. I'm not a sociologist, but I'd wager this practice is tied very strongly to Christianity and the idea of one man and one woman joined for eternity in the eyes of God. In countries that weren't founded by Puritans, strict cultural adherence to monogamy is not nearly as pervasive.

What he is saying about the lack of release valve is true: some people, men and women alike, do not prefer monogamy. American culture currently favors monogamy, and people who do not prefer monogamy have been told that their desires are wrong, perverse, and extremely damaging to everyting good and decent in the world. So they hide their desires from their partner and themselves, until one day they fail at keeping it bottled up, and they cheat (because they never told their partner, "Hey, I prefer open relationships, monogamy isn't for me", so yes, that's cheating), and blammo, relationship most likely destroyed.

I think it's much better to be open and upfront with one's partner about one's preferences for an open or closed relationship.

And on preview, damn, xarnop, quit putting words in Savage's mouth. How many times do you need to be proven wrong?
posted by palomar at 4:20 PM on June 30, 2011


"“It was four or five years before it came up,” Miller said. “It’s not about having three-ways with somebody or having an open relationship. It is just sort of like, Dan has always said if you have different tastes, you have to be good, giving and game, and if you are not G.G.G. for those tastes, then you have to give your partner the out. It took me a while to get down with that.”

HAVE TO?

Alright, I'll let Dan speak for himself. He told Terry that he HAS TO accept his desires to extramarital affairs.

Sounds egalitarian.
posted by xarnop at 4:25 PM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Historically, men have never been expected to be monogamous.

Really? In every society ever, no men have ever been expected to be monogamous? I'd like to see the source you're relying on for that assertion, please.
posted by The World Famous at 4:30 PM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


He told Terry that he HAS TO accept his desires to extramarital affairs.

No, he didn't. Do you know what "good, giving, and game" (or G.G.G.) means? Here, from a bit of the article I quoted earlier:

It is for the sake of staying together — not merely for the sake of orgasms — that Savage coined his famous acronym, “G.G.G.”: lovers ought to be good, giving and game (put another way, skilled, generous and up for anything). And if they cannot fulfill all of each other’s desires, then it may be advisable to decide to go outside the bounds of marriage if that is what it takes to make the marriage work.

posted by palomar at 4:35 PM on June 30, 2011


MrGrimm, I'm curious about the use of my link in your comment. You googled men need "new pussy" grabbed my link and spent 0 seconds on my site reading the actual post but worded my link as outdated? You do realize that my post had little to do with men needing new pussy and everything to do with women that wanted/desired/needed sex with more than one man. Women that do not prefer monogamy - me. You would have if you had read my post...

...Have you ever read any of my posts? I doubt it since your comment goes on to state that "The main indicator of a successful marriage is ... whether both partners want to stay married."

I agree with that part of your comment. My blog frequently touches on my struggle and desire to stay married and my struggle with my sexuality and lack of desire for monogamy. I haven't read the article that is being discussed in this thread yet so I won't comment on that but I will say that monogamy isn't for everyone. As one half of a couple that has dealt with cheating, attempts at swinging and rebuilding after those I can say the discussion you guys are having here are not part of the conversation people are having with friends openly and honestly.

I thank you for linking to me because hopefully out of the hundred+ clicks you sent into my site hopefully someone read my posts. Hopefully someone realized that I am a woman making an attempt to candidly say the things most women are afraid to. I often write through tears because I have the monogamous husband that many women want yet I do not think monogamy is normal or natural and often desire to go against the norm. Monogamy really isn't THAT important but being honest about your thoughts on it is.

What keeps me married even though I don't believe in monogamy? 13+ years of growing together, our sons and his ability to make me laugh.

I hope you take the time to read one of those posts I've linked to and I hope you change your opinion about my writing being outdated.
posted by LidiaAnain at 4:45 PM on June 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


Really? In every society ever, no men have ever been expected to be monogamous? I'd like to see the source you're relying on for that assertion, please.

I didn't say every society ever, or all men. But yes, if you want to compare the expectations put on women regarding monogamous behavior versus the expecations put on men regarding monogamous behavior throughout history, IN GENERAL men have not been expected to be monogamous. Of course there are social and cultural groups that have demanded monogamy from men, such as ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. In Thailand, Tanzania, and Cote D'Ivoire, 16-34% of men engage in extramarital sex. In Nigeria, 47-53% of men engage in extramarital sex. All stats came from here.
posted by palomar at 4:53 PM on June 30, 2011


I didn't say every society ever, or all men.

But without those qualifiers, your assertion was essentially meaningless.

Of course there are social and cultural groups that have demanded monogamy from men, such as ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.

There are mainstream social and cultural groups in Western culture that have historically and continue to demand monogamy from men. Your assertion was either meaningless or flat-out wrong.

In Thailand, Tanzania, and Cote D'Ivoire, 16-34% of men engage in extramarital sex. In Nigeria, 47-53% of men engage in extramarital sex.

Between 16% and 53% is not "IN GENERAL."
posted by The World Famous at 4:58 PM on June 30, 2011


Okay, The World Famous. You win. My assertions are meaningless and flat-out wrong. Monogamy has always been expected of every man, everywhere, and non-monogamy is wrong and bad and anyone who doesn't practice strict monogamy is a cheating, lying asshole.

Is that what you need to hear?
posted by palomar at 5:03 PM on June 30, 2011


I note that GGG never means being willing to do as the monogamous partner wants. It also almost never means forgoing a kink.

It's an extremely one-sided view of relationships.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:12 PM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Peach: "I have also lived long enough to notice that most of the people I know who tried to have any sort of open relationships bailed out of the relationships, or were kicked out. It's just so complicated normal."

FTFY
posted by idiopath at 5:17 PM on June 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


I hope you take the time to read one of those posts I've linked to and I hope you change your opinion about my writing being outdated.

I think he was referring to Savage column in the New York Times being outdated, not yours. Read it in context again.
posted by formless at 5:19 PM on June 30, 2011


Seriously, I'm super sorry that I didn't have time to perform an exhaustive search of exactly which social groups throughout history have not held men to a strict requirement of monogamy. How awful of me.

Here's a link to an interesting paper on Greco-Roman monogamy and polygyny.

Here's a link to a Catholic site that talks about the history of marriage as it relates to the conversion of "heathen" populations which practiced polyamory prior to converting to Judeo-Christian worship.

Here is a link to a paper on socially imposed monogamy in various sociocultural groups throughout history.

The Wikipedia article on monogamy includes a section on varieties of monogamy, and points out that monogamous pairs of animals are not always sexually exclusive.

The White-Veit EthnoAtlas shows worldwide societal sexual attitudes and practices -- click "Sex, Reproduction" under the Index to the Maps heading, then click "Extramarital Sex - Male Frequency". All those dots showing areas of the world where the double standard allows men to have extramarital sex sure are pretty!
posted by palomar at 5:32 PM on June 30, 2011


It's an extremely one-sided view of relationships.

This is only my personal view, but I believe that wanting your partner to want something is wrong and wrongheaded. My view is that a relationship should be about honestly evaluating the wants and needs of each individual, outside of the expectations of the other.

For instance, it's okay to say "I want a monogamous relationship" or "I sometimes want to flirt and play around with other people."

I don't think it's okay to say "I want you to want a monogamous relationship" or 'I sometimes want you to want to flirt and play around with other people." That's not honesty, that's imposition and projection. Ideally you're accepting your partner for their wants and needs, not yours.
posted by Phyltre at 5:36 PM on June 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm just saying palomar, why, when Terry expressed desire for monogamy, were his needs not as important as Dan's?

You're saying Dan's needs are more valid because animals are not sexually exclusive and that people have been polyamorous throught history?

So thereore Dan's needs trump Terry's needs?
posted by xarnop at 5:43 PM on June 30, 2011


No, xarnop, I'm saying that if Dan's needs and Terry's needs didn't line up, and Terry's needs included strict monogamy, then they should end their relationship.
posted by palomar at 5:46 PM on June 30, 2011


And please stop putting words in people's mouths, xarnop. You've been claiming that Dan Savage said specific things which you can't back up with any kind of factual evidence, and now you're claiming that I said Dan's needs are more valid because sometimes animals aren't monogamous. Please stop. It is extremely offensive and it marks you as a person who is not capable of reasonable discourse on this issue.
posted by palomar at 5:49 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I agree with you there palomar.

I TOTALLY understand that sometimes people make mistakes and don't realize that they are going to have polyamorous needs far along into a relationships. I don't think there is any, "If you are a good partner you accept extra-marital sex for the good of the marriage"

I think that is manipulative. You are a good partner by caring about yourself and your partner and if the two needs are too different you are doing the right thing by being true to your own needs and not letting your partner bully you into staying while they have sex with other people when it isn't really what you want in the name of being GGG.
posted by xarnop at 5:49 PM on June 30, 2011


I don't think there is any, "If you are a good partner you accept extra-marital sex for the good of the marriage"


And again, who has been saying this? Can you point to anyone who has actually said this, besides yourself, without putting words into people's mouths?
posted by palomar at 5:52 PM on June 30, 2011


No, xarnop, I'm saying that if Dan's needs and Terry's needs didn't line up, and Terry's needs included strict monogamy, then they should end their relationship.

But that's the problem, isn't it? They have a child. They are a family. They both value the relationship. Yet only one of them is willing to sacrifice his desire in order to maintain that relationship and keep the family together, and it's not Dan. Dan, according to the quotes in the article, essentially offered Terry a choice several years into the relationship: Either let me indulge my desire to have encounters with others or our relationship and family are over. That is emotional extortion, plain and simple. And it's sad.
posted by The World Famous at 5:54 PM on June 30, 2011 [7 favorites]


This is only my personal view, but I believe that wanting your partner to want something is wrong and wrongheaded.

I'm not disagreeing, but that applies just as much to "I want you to want to open up our relationship to outside sexual partners" as it does to "I want you to want a monogamous relationship".
posted by immlass at 5:58 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I note that GGG never means being willing to do as the monogamous partner wants. It also almost never means forgoing a kink.

It's an extremely one-sided view of relationships.


Only if you imagine that the idea of GGG means that one person is GGG and the other person has no such obligation. Since that has never been the idea, it's not really that one-sided. I can't find it right now, but I distinctly recall a Savage Love column in which he took a kinky partner to task for trying to be kinky all the time with their GGG partner and not also practicing the kind of (relatively) vanilla sex that their partner wanted some of the time. "Up for anything" includes, well, everything, including missionary-position candlelit sex if that's what someone wants. That middle G is for "giving", and if you're not giving your partner what they want, you're not GGG.

(Aside: I don't like Savage Love or Dan Savage very much and I don't much like the acronym GGG. But it describes a pretty decent way of approaching sexual relationships and I don't have a better shorthand at this time.)
posted by Errant at 5:59 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


But that's the problem, isn't it? They have a child. They are a family.

It's my understanding that this offer was made before the child and family was started.

Putting out that condition before the relationship is established turns it from emotional extortion to emotional contract negotation. Romantic? Hell no, but perhaps more understanding of human desires and realistic outcomes.

If the offer and understanding was made after the kid and marriage, I stand corrected, and it's a dick move. But that doesn't align with Savage's advice to other people.
posted by formless at 5:59 PM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


(I don't know if you're right or not--- but that distinction matters to me too. It was my understanding this occured years into having a kid together and the conversation as described doesn't describe anything about meeting Terry's needs.)
posted by xarnop at 6:02 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


So I'm doing a quick skim of the opening chapters of The Kid, Dan Savage's book about when he and Terry decided to adopt.

From page three of the book: "After monogamy, dance music was our single biggest 'issue'. Monogamy was a quickie fight, over and done with: he didn't want me sleeping around, and I didn't want to fight. Should a day come when I do put someone else's dick in my mouth, he won't dump me because: (a) I'd do all I could to make certain he never found out; and (b) if he did find out, well, he's promised to work through it."

That doesn't really fall in line with the "my way or the highway" story that xarnop keeps floating.
posted by palomar at 6:04 PM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


It also seems like they discussed it long before they got a kid. But let's not let that interfere with the assumptions that we all want to make about those selfish, manipulative non-monogamous types.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:07 PM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's my understanding that this offer was made before the child and family was started.

Regardless, they were several years into a long-term relationship in which both had heavily invested, emotionally and otherwise. That's a significant thing.

Putting out that condition before the relationship is established turns it from emotional extortion to emotional contract negotation.

Contract negotiation typically occurs before the parties have performed their respective duties in reliance on the contract for several years. It's not a negotiation at that point, it's threatening breach if the terms are not unilaterally altered without additional consideration.

Should a day come when I do put someone else's dick in my mouth, he won't dump me because: (a) I'd do all I could to make certain he never found out; and (b) if he did find out, well, he's promised to work through it."

That doesn't really fall in line with the "my way or the highway" story that xarnop keeps floating.


The hell it doesn't. Directly saying that he considered infidelity to be a valid option specifically because he knew his partner was committed to keeping the relationship together is pretty much the ultimate dick move.
posted by The World Famous at 6:07 PM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


The World Famous, I read that as meaning they had discussed the issue and Terry had said, "Well, yeah, I'd be mad, but I wouldn't leave."

Maybe you should try reading the opening pages of The Kid. I just got a nice refresher on how Dan and Terry met and what the first couple of years of their relationship were like. It's not how you're trying to paint it, so maybe try learning about the things you're talking about.

Here you go. It's in the first chapter, which is all available here.
posted by palomar at 6:11 PM on June 30, 2011


Well since we are using snippets of a relationship we don't know that much about, I will agree that using their relationship as the basis of whether non-monogamy is coercive is confusing. So let's change it: coercing a partner into non-monogamy when they don't really want it, is coercive. Regardless of what Dan is or isn't doing I have seen some of the same logic he presented used in a definite coercive manner.

So let me clarify:

I have seen people bully their partners into accepting polyamory i the name of being realistic and in the name of "meeting needs". I have had numerous men attempt to talk me into accepting polyamory and claim that it is selfish of me to not want to be in a poly/open marriage.

The irony of saying, "Well there is pain and sacrafice in a marriage and therefore the monogamous partner should be willing to sacrafice their ideal for something more realistic" when it isn't also considered that marriage could be painful and therefore people with poly needs should bear their difficulties and work through it in that manner--- means that is not an equal way to look at it.

And yes, in MY life, there is a lot of talk about monogomous people being selfish if they don't open up to poly desires when their partner 'needs' it. So I'm not sure if or to what degree Dan has carried these ideas out in this manner, but how it's translated in my world it usually is stated, "Monogamous people are selfish and possessive and aren't willing to truly be open to real selfless love"

That's verbatum from people in my own life. So no.... NON MONOGAMY IS NOT INHERANTLY COERCIVE OR BAD OR ANYTHING NEGATIVE!!!!!

Pressuring a partner to think that if they really care about the relationship they will accept non-monogamy is not cool.
posted by xarnop at 6:19 PM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


The World Famous, I read that as meaning they had discussed the issue and Terry had said, "Well, yeah, I'd be mad, but I wouldn't leave."

Yeah, that's how I read it, too. Dick move.

It's not how you're trying to paint it, so maybe try learning about the things you're talking about.

Nice.
posted by The World Famous at 6:21 PM on June 30, 2011


last year, 18 years into our relationship, my guy and i opened things up. only recently did we try out the idea of not playing together, though we enjoy it more putting a guy between us. it's all been pretty cool, and we're both happy with where we are.

the sex is neat, and we like the variety. growing up gay in the south, we each had kinda limited sexual experience before we met; for both of us, we're our first relationship. his repression had more of a religious aspect to it, which he's still getting over.

but our thing is that with this there are other cool side effects. we talk more about sex and our desires, because it's necessary to do this and make it work. we play a lot more with each other than we used to, and in more ways. in this phase of our lives and relationship, we see ourselves very much as co-adventurers, and that carries over into other aspects of our lives in which we challenge and support each other. we've connected with the gay community because we're out in it more and have a healthier respect for those who came before us. we have way more gay buddies than before--sometimes starting out as sexual and then not, sometimes not sexual at all. we've stumbled on sexual practices we never thought we would have been into and keeping an open mind to checking out those we can't imagine getting into, and that inquiry by itself is bringing us closer to other people.

i think the nicest aspect, though, is that it has given us a kind of power in understanding that we really do get to decide for ourselves what our relationship gets to look like and what its terms are, rather than feeling like we have to fit in or measure ourselves by other 'ideal' relationships. that seems like an obvious thing we should have learned long ago, but i'm glad we found it now.

not to say that it's for everyone or should be. but we've been pleasantly surprised to find that it's not simply about the sex.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 6:25 PM on June 30, 2011 [7 favorites]


Well, it's kind of evident that you don't know much about Dan Savage's relationship. I thought I would provide the option for you to educate yourself about it, since you want to have an argument about it. If you don't want to read the material, that's fine, but don't expect anyone to take your argument seriously if you don't plan to learn more about what you're arguing about.
posted by palomar at 6:25 PM on June 30, 2011


I don't want to have an argument about Dan Savages sex life. I wanted to bring up how his advice translates to real people that I've seen in my life and how I have seen people use such arguments in a way that is imbalanced.

I am PRO-POLYAMORY. I think it can be a beautiful experiences for people. I think it should not be pushed as being better than monogamy--- and that people with needs involving a relationship that is monogamous should not be considered "less advanced" or chasing some meaningless ideal.
posted by xarnop at 6:30 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


xarnop, my last comment was not directed at you.
posted by palomar at 6:32 PM on June 30, 2011


palomar, my "nice" comment was in response to your presumptuous condescension in dismissing my observations based on your assumption that I "don't know much about Dan Savage's relationship." I see now that you didn't even understand what I found offensive about your comment and that you're dead set on making unwarranted assumptions and being dismissive based on them. No matter.
posted by The World Famous at 6:37 PM on June 30, 2011


I see now that you didn't even understand what I found offensive about your comment and that you're dead set on making unwarranted assumptions and being dismissive based on them. No matter.

"Nice" isn't exactly a whole lot for anyone to go on with regards to puzzling out exactly how I managed to offend you, The World Famous. Maybe you could try using more words to express how I offended you, instead of being veiled and snippy.

It does seem very clear from the way you're talking about Dan and Terry's relationship that you genuinely do not know much about it, so I provided more info for you. I'm not sure how that's offensive to you. You should explain it more clearly, instead of dropping a "Nice." and then being shitty about how I don't understand.
posted by palomar at 6:48 PM on June 30, 2011


Okay guys, we really don't know every freaking detail of the Savage/Miller relationship. We don't know for sure here how much of a fight it was, and we certainly don't know for sure that Terry was sobbing in his beer about Dan being a cheating hobag, or if Terry was just expecting monogamy because we all get raised that way, and then he found out that mongamous-ish was okay too. He didn't sound too freaking traumatized still from that quote, and that's all I got. Hell, I would have said that too once upon a time, then actually got involved with poly and pretty soon was all, "huh, this is okay." I can go either way, whatever works.

I don't necessarily agree with everything Dan says, but I think he usually has a fairly good point about 80% of the time. And in this case, the point is:

(a) If you insist on monogamy, you are expecting your entire sexual needs to be provided for you by one person, who has their own needs, thoughts, feelings, and opinions.
(b) You may have sexual needs that do not line up with your love of your life's.
(c) Those issues do not go away even with true love or heavy suppression for the sake of true love. Everyone has to deal with their bad shit somehow, sometime.
(d) The options in that case are (a) hoping the person is GGG enough to take up your kink, (b) forcing them to take up your kink whether they like it or not, (c) having a talking to with your partner and agreeing that you will get that kink taken of elsewhere, (d) not having a talking to with your partner and getting that kink taken care of elsewhere, or (e) leaving.
(e) The most desirable and least hurtful solutions to that problem are a and c and d, in that order.
(f) Whatever works for you and your relationship as long as people are honest and not unpleasantly surprising anybody.

i don't think that's too bad of a message. It sure beats the hell out of "suppress or you're a total asshole."

Years ago I read a piece in a book (by Bitch magazine?) that always stuck with me, "Confusion Is Sex." It was a piece by a kinky woman who noted that when she tried to date, she had a very hard time finding someone who was the same kind of kinky as her AND was emotionally compatible as well. In the piece she mentions someone with the same kinks and not the same emotional needs, a vanilla guy who fits emotionally and is GGG, but still never ends up liking what she does, and finally dating a guy with different kinks that she tried GGG-ly and still didn't like. Dating while picky is hard, y'all. I think the Savage Solution might just be the best way to resolve this stuff, if you can hack it.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:52 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


FWIW.....

A woman came up to me after a yoga class. It was the first time she was there. She loved it. She came on strong. Real strong. I felt it and liked it. Something was different about her. But because i was the teacher I wouldn't act on it. We became very close friends. The feeling was always there that "something" needed to happen between us. I was with a partner at the at said to her, "How can you be in love with someone yet want to sleep with someone else."

When she wanted me I wasn't available. Then when I wanted her she was looking for a monogamous relationship.

On New Year's eve 1998, she died in a car accident.

6 months later, I have a dream with her where she tells me that she didn't want to accept what happened to her but now she did. And how she now understood why I wanted to make love.

Keep the playing field clear and keep the channels of communication open!
posted by goalyeehah at 7:11 PM on June 30, 2011


You know, I read through this whole thread and now (as I always do after reading Dan Savage) I just feel bummed and guilty for wanting monogamy. There are so many clearly-reasoned, level-headed reasons for non-monogamy and the only reasons I can articulate for wanting monogamy are easy to label as selfish or insecure. But it's still something I value very much in my own relationships, even if I feel childish and naive doing so.
posted by chatongriffes at 7:21 PM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


You know, I read through this whole thread and now (as I always do after reading Dan Savage) I just feel bummed and guilty for wanting monogamy. There are so many clearly-reasoned, level-headed reasons for non-monogamy and the only reasons I can articulate for wanting monogamy are easy to label as selfish or insecure. But it's still something I value very much in my own relationships, even if I feel childish and naive doing so.

This makes me so sad, and this is exactly what I was talking about when I said Dan Savage has created a whole generation of women who think their own needs and desires are less legitimate than someone else's (his).

chatongriffes, IMHO, some people are just built wanting monogamy and some people are just built wanting non-monogamy. I think that is the only reason at base of all the arguments for and against. And I think that reason -- just wanting something -- is the only reason that's necessary for seeking out a relationship that includes it. What you want is no more or less legit than what the next person wants.
posted by Ashley801 at 7:27 PM on June 30, 2011 [10 favorites]


You know, I read through this whole thread and now (as I always do after reading Dan Savage) I just feel bummed and guilty for wanting monogamy

You absolutely shouldn't, and I think myself, and most of the other pro-poly posters here are trying to defend a framework in which this discussion is part of any relationship. Not any kind of assumption that you should adopt polyamory.

The biggest problem for poly folks is the blatant dickish attitudes that are on display here, that if you are in favor of it, you're inherently coercive, sleazy, untrustworthy, and ultimately self-deluded. Every poly person lives in a society that still enforces monogamy as the norm.

Savage's general point (and there's a lot of stuff being thrown around be people who haven't read him much here) is not about biology or ultimately, culture. It's about statistics. There's a huge chunk of all relationships that endure some manner of infidelity. Noone has to agree with anything they don't want, but talking about expectations in some manner other than assuming that everyone else's lines up with yours can lead you to much better compromises and/or decisions about the future.
posted by lumpenprole at 7:53 PM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


I guess the thing that frustrates me most is that I can't make a good pro-monogamy argument in a way that can't be easily dismissed. I can refute them all myself. I want to feel secure in an intimate partnership, and I don't feel like I can do that if my partner is romantically involved with someone else. Insecure. My partner knows that it would hurt me and he shouldn't want to do that. Selfish. I feel like as a modern, educated woman, I should let go of the death grip a little. After all, it's just sex, right?

But no matter how I try to see through all this reason and the one time I tried it, it just didn't make me happy. In fact, it left me constantly suspicious and hurt. (Of course, one could argue we weren't doing it properly.) There are tons of examples of why we shouldn't statistically expect fidelity, but I can't imagine a scenario where I would not be, at the very least, deeply deeply hurt.

I don't think any of this comes from non-monogamous people trying to convince me of anything, by the way. A lot of the problem is that I can intellectually understand all of the reasons for wanting to be prepared for what could well be an eventuality. All of the poly people I've known personally have been very live and let live.
posted by chatongriffes at 8:21 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


chatongriffes, as a happily married monogamous woman, there are a shitload of good reasons to want monogamy. There's knowing that you'll always be first to your partner, that you share a unique bond. There's knowing that you'll never be dishing up Spaghettios to the kids while your partner is out with an SO having the date you wish you were having. There's knowing that there's never going to be a new hotness, just THIS hotness. It's security, and it's comfort, and those are really wonderful things that are perfectly OK to want.

More pragmatically, there's knowing that your STI risk is nearly nothing, that your children's paternity is assured, that your partner doesn't have any other random kids running around. Those are important issues to a lot of people, including me. I have a friend who is 20 weeks pregnant and found out three weeks ago that her husband has been unfaithful, and she's sick with fear that he might have brought home an STI that could harm her baby. Obviously that's a situation that is very, very far from any kind of ethical polyamory, but the possibility for infection exists even in an ethical relationship.
posted by KathrynT at 8:22 PM on June 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


Also, for me personally, I would be disappointed and hurt if my husband ever cheated, but I don't think it would be a dealkiller. There are definitely other things he could do that would be far more of a betrayal, to me. There's a big, big gap between "We are happy and poly and whatnot" and "If my man ever cheats, I'm freezing his assets and calling a lawyer;" it's possible to consider an extramarital affair on the same level as being a spendthrift or having a tendency not to call when you're going to be home late or something. Not OK? But not terrible.

Again, that's a really different situation than ethical polyamory, and I don't want to imply that ALL non-monogamy is a character flaw. Just. . . there are degrees of not-OKness.
posted by KathrynT at 8:27 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think wanting to feel secure is reason enough.

There are things that make me insecure, and that I don't want in a relationship. I don't think they have to be "reasonable", just humane and reasonably comfortable for both partners.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:29 PM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yeah I tried to accept it and it just cut to the core of my being. To some people I know in the poly world, that is NOT justification for wanting monogamy because "that's a personal problem you should deal with and it's selfish to put on your partner."

I think that is really freaking hurtful to say to someone who just wants to be free because what their partner is doing hurts so bad.
posted by xarnop at 8:44 PM on June 30, 2011


IME, some partners are people you can do non-monogamy with and some aren't. Unless your relationship is totally, totally casual, you need some trust between you that you like each other, that the relationship is important, that neither of you is just out there playing the field and hoping to trade up. For me, I never even considered a non-monogamous relationship prior to the one I'm in, because I never clicked with anyone this way. I know - as well as I know anything - that there isn't a better partner out there for me. There may be some awesome folks who would be as good, but I have a great partner and I'm not on any level uncommitted to the relationship. We started talking about the non-monogamy piece precisely because we liked each other so much that we didn't want to risk breaking up over some random cheating/crush/period of boredom - we figured that by making all that stuff okay, we would take some of the pressure off.

Not that there's been a whole heck of a lot of real non-monogamous action, so to speak - we're both pretty busy, we both like to spend time together, etc etc. But the casual dating and the crushes and stuff have been basically just fine. I get jealous and freaked out sometimes, but I've decided that 1. I know I love my partner no matter who else I'm flirting with and I trust my partner to feel the same; and 2. I would rather work through my anxieties and therefore have the right to get all giddy about a new crush.

But again, this is totally person-specific. I've dated a lot of great people (very few clunkers in the bunch) and this is the only person with whom I've felt good about non-monogamy. It's not being pro-poly or pro-monogamy so much as being pro-understanding-my-particular-situation.
posted by Frowner at 8:51 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


(Oh, I don't mean that there is no trust in monogamous relationships - more that different relationships work different ways - different kinds of trust, different atmosphere, etc.)
posted by Frowner at 8:53 PM on June 30, 2011


You know, I read through this whole thread and now (as I always do after reading Dan Savage) I just feel bummed and guilty for wanting monogamy. There are so many clearly-reasoned, level-headed reasons for non-monogamy and the only reasons I can articulate for wanting monogamy are easy to label as selfish or insecure. But it's still something I value very much in my own relationships, even if I feel childish and naive doing so.

Your reasons aren't really relevant, nor are they under attack.

If monogamy is what you want, and what you are comfortable with, that's all that really matters. You don't have to justify your feelings about the kind of relationship you prefer to anyone except yourself and your partner(s).

That pretty much what Savage is saying. It's OK to want the things you want, and its OK to tell your partner about that, and, ideally, you should want the same things, or at least the things you want shouldn't be completely incompatible.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:54 PM on June 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


Dan Savage is, consciously and deliberately or otherwise, trying to shift the Overton window of relationship discussion. As a lot of poly/pro-poly people have said upthread, American society is pretty uptight about polyamory and is strongly pro-monogamy. If you're trying to move the discourse from that position to one that accepts the possibility of non-monogamy, it requires a certain amount of pushback against monogamy. Similarly, if you're trying to push the Overton window toward kink acceptance, you're going to end up pushing back against vanilla.

Savage talks a lot about GGG and in theory, there's no reason why GGG shouldn't result in poly folks being GGG about sticking with monogamy half the time and kinky folks being GGG about their partners wanting vanilla sex half the time. But in practice, because Savage is interested in moving the Overton window, his advice tends to be about telling vanilla people to try it, they'll like it, or telling monogamous people to open up to the idea of polyamory or open relationships.

This is part of why you have people in this thread who have read Savage regularly for a decade or more and have gotten radically different things from reading him. One group reads him and internalizes the message that you should talk to partners about infidelity and monogamy; another group reads him and notices the way his advice advocates some positions over others over time. It's not that the other folks don't read Savage or don't understand what he's really saying. It's that there are two things going on in Savage's advice column, so people read him and come to different conclusions based on which of those strains of Savage they feel predominates.
posted by immlass at 9:47 PM on June 30, 2011 [6 favorites]


I guess the thing that frustrates me most is that I can't make a good pro-monogamy argument in a way that can't be easily dismissed.

Steal Bardolph's.

I have always thought much of Dan Savage's thoughts made sense, myself (and the communication he advocates I still absolutely support, among other things) but the argument of whether to err on the side of monogamy for everyone or non-monogamy for everyone was a tough and kind of intractable one. The point Bardolph makes, about not letting the person who (ostensibly) cares less be the one setting the rules, really makes a lot of sense to me and was not a way I'd looked at it before. (So thanks for that, Bardolph!)

There was also a comment in a polyamory thread I read on here (quite possibly years ago) where someone discussed how polyamory was generally the pursuit of the wealthy, people with a lot of resources and strong support networks, that I also found really thought-provoking at the time, but I'm not sure I could find it again now.
posted by mstokes650 at 10:59 PM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hmm, okay, it might've been this comment that I was remembering, though it's amazing how these half-remembered comments are always less detailed and obviously mind-blowing than I remembered them being.

(I agree with johngoren in that thread though, I'd love to see some actual studies on that, though I'd bet it's spot-on. Surely some enterprising sociologist has tried to compare sexual mores in, say, Hollywood (or DC!) to those of "small-town America" or something like that?)
posted by mstokes650 at 11:06 PM on June 30, 2011


The problem with Bardolph's argument is the assumption that non-monogamous people value sex less on an emotional and possibly even spiritual level. There also seems to be something about kinky people not finding sex spiritual or intimate, or we wouldn't desire specific acts "above" the connection.

(I guess vanilla sex is inherently connecting and not at all about specific acts, despite the way that PIV intercourse is held up as unique, valuable, serious, and "real"...but I digress).

When you remove the assumption that the non-monogamous person cares less, you're left with "whoever cares more, the monogamous or non-monogamous person, should be the one setting the rules". It's not an argument for or against monogamy as much as it is an argument for one person "setting the rules" and the other person accepting them. More of a "winner takes all" attitude than one of generosity and compassion for all parties.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:13 PM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


And to be anecdotal, the people I know who are non-monogamous tend to be less well-off with a decent amount of free time. I suspect that medical residents are incredibly likely to be functionally monogamous.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:16 PM on June 30, 2011


Just to be absolutely clear, I don't think there needs to be an argument for monogamy or non-monogamy, any more than there needs to be an argument for, say, living in the city or the country. It is completely up to the people involved, ideally everyone is reasonably happy with the choices that are made, and if compromise is impossible then staying together might not work.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:27 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


The biggest problem for poly folks is the blatant dickish attitudes that are on display here, that if you are in favor of it, you're inherently coercive, sleazy, untrustworthy, and ultimately self-deluded.

Interesting. In these threads I always feel that the overwhelming message is us monogamous sorts are wrong, wrong, wrong. That we are unsophisticated, impractical, selfish people who have boring sex lives and deserve the pity of far superior poly folk.

Odd that the same thread apparently gives us opposite messages.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:46 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


You have mentioned how boring, unsophisticated, etc. we allegedly think you are multiple times in this thread. Other than that, I'm not seeing it. Can you show me people who have told you that you have a boring sex life or deserve our pity?
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:51 PM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Interesting. In these threads I always feel that the overwhelming message is us monogamous sorts are wrong, wrong, wrong. That we are unsophisticated, impractical, selfish people who have boring sex lives and deserve the pity of far superior poly folk.

i find the thread pretty neutral...more people saying what works for themselves, but not so much either side judging others' choices. frankly, this interpretation reads like a defense mechanism.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 12:12 AM on July 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


The problem with Bardolph's argument is the assumption that non-monogamous people value sex less on an emotional and possibly even spiritual level.

Depends on the degree of non-monogamy, I guess, but the idea that something that is rarer in quantity is inherently more valuable, simply due to rarity, is a pretty widely-held human concept that is not limited to [number of sexual connections with other people].

Less generally, I think people have a limited amount of emotional energy available - that amount varies from person to person, but no matter how big the pie is, getting half of the pie, or a third of the pie, or whatever, is less than getting the whole pie. Whether you got enough pie to fill you up is another question, of course, but...yeah, okay, I'm just gonna abandon that metaphor before it completely gets away from me. Point is, I'm not sure you can just handwave away the idea that all your sexual or romantic connections can be just as meaningful no matter how many of them you have.

(I guess vanilla sex is inherently connecting and not at all about specific acts, despite the way that PIV intercourse is held up as unique, valuable, serious, and "real"...but I digress).

I don't mentally tie together "vanilla PIV intercourse" and "monogamous sex" at all, and I don't think Bardolph was, either. Plenty of room for (other) kinks in monogamous relationships, and I could go off on a whole tangent about the intersection of D/s relationships and polyamory (can a person serve two masters? I mean, literally?) but that's a whole 'nother thing. Basically, I don't think anyone's holding up PIV sex as "more real", at least, I'm certainly not.

It's not an argument for or against monogamy as much as it is an argument for one person "setting the rules" and the other person accepting them. More of a "winner takes all" attitude than one of generosity and compassion for all parties.

There's a disagreement stemming from peoples' more- or less-charitable readings of Dan Savage, I think. Some folks read Savage as basically saying "...at the end of the day, the less kinky person ought to cave" and other people place more importance on the "Everybody needs to talk, communicate, be honest as hell, considerate of each other's feelings, and try to make everyone else happy, but at the end of the day the less kinky person ought to cave". I'm not sure I agree with the latter paraphrasing, but I certainly don't think you can or ought to discount all that communication etc., and I didn't read that in Bardolph's argument either.

At the end of the day though, your options in a relationship where this is a disagreement that cannot be resolved by compromise are:
1.) Kinkier person surrenders
2.) Less-kinky person surrenders
3.) OMG! We had an unresolvable difference, DTMFA, GTFO, etc., etc., (a/k/a FOREVER ALONE)
4.) Whoever cares least about [thing under discussion] compromises. Maybe next time that'll be someone different.

For my money, option 4 is the winner, as it seems to be in the most functional relationships I've seen. And in a lot of these discussions, that does seem to run counter to Savage's advice which tends to run towards option 2 there. I'll agree with you that not in all cases is the kinkier person going to care less about the relationship and/or the issue - but especially in polyamory discussions it seems reasonably likely that the person who is only invested, and looking to be invested, in the one relationship is going to be, well, more invested in that relationship than the person who is invested in some other relationships as well.

Of course, in practice the power balance tends to slide towards the person who cares less about the relationship since they're more likely to play the "or else it's OVER between us" trump card. But that's one of those facts of life that I've never been a big fan of.
posted by mstokes650 at 12:15 AM on July 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


And to be anecdotal, the people I know who are non-monogamous tend to be less well-off with a decent amount of free time. I suspect that medical residents are incredibly likely to be functionally monogamous celibate.

FTFY ;)

Interesting, though. I can definitely buy that free time is more necessary than any of the other resources you could bring to the table.

But really this is the kind of thing I'd love to see sociological studies of - how different amounts of different resources (time, money, social capital, etc) affect stability and kind of relationships, stuff like that.

Seconding fallacy of the beard that this thread has been really very nonjudgmental. As it should be.
posted by mstokes650 at 12:31 AM on July 1, 2011


I think it is kind of reductive to think that a person has a fixed amount of emotional engagement and sexual attention that they will always have available, which then must be split among partners if they have more than one.

A good match will increase your interest in sex, and increase your total energy and interest for other people. And that can spread to other relationships. Haven't you ever had a friend who became a better friend because they were in a good relationship or friendship?

If you really think that you are such a mediocre lover that the availability of another partner significantly reduces your chances of being appreciated or desired, you probably need therapy to help with your self esteem, the tutelage of an experienced lover, or both.
posted by idiopath at 2:08 AM on July 1, 2011


And just to be clear, I don't think an open relationship is for everyone. But if insecurity is your reason for rejecting an open relationship, you will benefit from finding a way out of that insecurity even if you never choose have another partner.
posted by idiopath at 2:12 AM on July 1, 2011


There's a disagreement stemming from peoples' more- or less-charitable readings of Dan Savage, I think. Some folks read Savage as basically saying "...at the end of the day, the less kinky person ought to cave" and other people place more importance on the "Everybody needs to talk, communicate, be honest as hell, considerate of each other's feelings, and try to make everyone else happy, but at the end of the day the less kinky person ought to cave".

I don't think it's particularly unfair to read him uncharitably. While I agree with a charitable reading of what he seem to be angling for with GGG, for example, he's certainly been happy to "offer his blessings" to people who don't get what they want and decide to cheat "to keep their marriage together" in the past.

(And his whole nasty "bisexual men don't exist" bigotry would make it hard for me to give charitable readings of him, so perhaps I'm biased.)
posted by rodgerd at 4:20 AM on July 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


tyrr try this: "[regarding] emotional engagement and sexual attention …A good match will increase your interest in sex, and increase your total energy and interest for other people."

I'm told that I'm not not well-matched, because I don't lust for others. That my sex drive is not as complete as it could or should be. And that if I was having great sex with my partner, I'd want other partners instead more of her.

Over the whole of this thread, that's the message I see repeatedly: that we are performing sub-par, the evidence being that we're not poly, which is cast as the inevitable outcome of a fulfilling relationship.

A poly person claims that there's dickish anti-poly messaging in this thread. I (and several others) have received anti-mono messaging from this thread. Guess which view is dismissed as a "defense mechanism"?
posted by five fresh fish at 5:06 AM on July 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


and advises that she should just get herself drunk if that's what she needs to get through it.

He'd fit in over at Ask.

I did think that his argument about "imposing the monogamous expectation on men" was a little weakly framed, though maybe this is just the way it was trimmed down by the reporter.

I don't think so. he's certainly made a variety of the sorts of arguments about women's inferior sex drive. Which betrays a totally hilarious literary ignorance, because so much of English writing, since at least Chaucer and up to 18th/19th century was rich with the dangerously rapacious sexual appetites of women and the need to restrain them.


"hey, I had casual sex with this girl! Awesome! It was super nice that she was into it!" But it's a lot more like "I picked up this stupid girl at the bar, and she was a real butterface, but she blew me so it was great - how was your night, bro?"

I can honestly say, as a man, with lots of male friends who have had one-night stands, that the reports of their conquests are much more like the former than the latter (albeit with different terms than "casual sex" and "super nice" ;).


In fact, I've never heard anything like the latter comment from anyone in real life, but then again, my friends are not sociopaths.


Pretty much the same, albeit a couple of guys I've worked with have had horribly attitudes, but they've been in the minority.
posted by rodgerd at 5:18 AM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Haven't you ever had a friend who became a better friend because they were in a good relationship or friendship?

I'm a little surprised to find that out of my post there, "People have a finite amount of emotional energy available at any given time" is the controversial part. I'm sure there are some folks whose emotional energy does increase in circumstances where they've got one great partner, so they end up looking for another - and hey, more power to them!

But I've have generally found the reverse to be way more common, and I'm not alone in that. I don't think that means all those relationships are bad ones, though, and I really, really don't understand how you get from there to insecurity and needing an experienced lover or therapy. Example: Some people get more energy to go out partying from, you know, going out partying, too - and some people don't. That second group of people is called "introverted", not "insecure", and it is not reasonable to assume they just need therapy or the tutelage of a hard-core partier.

To be clear, I think overall that people should do whatever works for them. Relationships are hard as fuck anyways without any social forces telling you what your relationship(s) "should" be like. But I also think there are plenty of good reasons why monogamy is pretty common and works for a lot of people, and a lot of poly folks from Dan Savage on down (or up) tend to handwave a lot of those reasons away.

(And his whole nasty "bisexual men don't exist" bigotry would make it hard for me to give charitable readings of him, so perhaps I'm biased.)

Yeah, that's fair. I guess I think that overall, Dan Savage has done more good than harm just by advocating communication in relationships and talking and honesty even about stuff that people had always been taught to be ashamed or embarrassed to even discuss. (And having a lot of success in spreading that concept; lord knows it's not like he invented that idea.) But I'm open to the idea that at this point, he's done all the good he's going to do and he's starting to do more harm with his ideas.
posted by mstokes650 at 7:01 AM on July 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


Here's is where people feel hurt--- Monogamous people have things they value about monogamy-- security, trust, reliability, reducing complication, reducing anxiety, increased emotional bond, etc etc.

If you ascribe those traits to monogamy-- it does mean someone who feels these feelings about monogamy therefore thinks polyamorist people can't feel these things with polyamory. It's not an attack to say that you feel so much happier in a monogamous relationship--- nor does it require telling someone they should "go to therapy do deal with that insecurity" about the idea of poly.

Those kind of statements are it starts to look like there a value judegment on whether someone wants or doesn't want to be poly.

Further more the idea that poly relationships are realistic, based in natural human urges, match biological evidence about how humans behave, involves being sacraficial and open and giving--- That does not mean that monogamy can't be all of those things as well.

The problem people have with Dan is basically that he is an advice columnist--- meaning Dan believes in a should, and it reflects that he likes polyamory, sympathizes more with a persons need for more that one sexual/intimate partner throughout life--- and does tend to give the impression that poly people are MORE realistic, and MORE secure, and MORE willing to face the realities of life, and MORE able to compromise for the good of the marriage: and what's more that partners who don't want to accept opening a marriage are the opposite.

"The biggest problem for poly folks is the blatant dickish attitudes that are on display here, that if you are in favor of it, you're inherently coercive, sleazy, untrustworthy, and ultimately self-deluded."

No one said anything like that, but I see why you would feel that way because the opposite of saying monogamy make you feel trust, and honesty, respect--- if poly were the reverse of monogamy would mean poly is untrustworthy and dishonest, and disrespectful.

The thing is poly is not the reverse of monogamy. It's just plain and simply a different set up.

If a poly person says to a monogamous partner, "Look poly amory is MORE realistic, it's more self sacraficial (for you, but hey insn't my happinesss worth your sacrafice?), it's a better way to look at relationships because people just are not made monogamously, wanting strict monogamy is unrealistic and you need to grow up and understand the way things are in the world. Look at the statistics on cheating. IF I have feelings of wanting to cheat, the only compassionate thing to do would be to understand and work through it with me."

That's a pretty coercive way to have the discussion. Framing poly as "the compassionate way" is setting poly on the table as if were the monogamous person to reject it they would be unrealistic, childish, unwilling to face the reality of the world, and uncompassionate. That's not a good way to have an egalitarian conversation about opening up a marriage in which ideally it would be understood from the get go that changing up a commitment like that will probably cause pain and

THERE IS NO REASON THE MONOGAMOUS PERSON'S PAIN IN THAT SHOULD BE LESS VALID THAN THE POLY PERSONS NEEDS.

No discussion about opening a marriage should involve value judgements that the monogamous person is unrealistic, uncaring, unwilling to face reality, cares less about the marriage if they choose to leave the relationship instead.

Because Dan usually offers a value judgement about the idea that people SHOULD open up their ideas of marriage to include open marriage (which is in and of itself a great thing to consider before entering a relationship)--- it does not follow that people who consider that possibility and decide that they are much happier with monogamy shoudldn't have their feelings respected. Dan places higher value on poly which is why he applies positive adjectives to poly and none to strict monogamy-- leaving the reader to fill in the blanks with which adjectives he's like to go there.

I wonder how age works in this convo too. I come froma hippie-ish town where poly/nonmonogamy is pretty common and I'm in my 20's. I wonder how many of us in our 20's feel like monogamy is "just not realistic" (which is really common among my age group) because of all the divorce and cheating statistics and people like Dan Savage. Reading Dan definitely leaves me feeling that I need to either accept that cheating will happen or start off with extramarital sex being ok so at least their won't be any lying about it.

(Which isn't hard to do because statistics about it leave a lot of us feeling that way anyway.)

That thought process in and of itself is just part of examining reality and wondering what to make of it--- but what I don't like is when statements abuot the impossibility or unrealistic nature of monogamy gets used on a partner who wants monogamy to tell them to loosen up and accept that whether they like or not extramarital sex will happen.

In the context of a relationship, telling your partner, "Hey I know it hurts you if I have sex with other people, but really I don't care because I know it's what I need and the possibility of me even considering meeting your need for monogamy is off the table. I'm willing to stick around if you let me do what I want in the exta-marital sex department, but otherwise I'm outtie and no one else would ever be able to be committed to you monogamously for life either so you might as well just let me have extramarital sex"

I can promise reading Dan Savage comes accross that way, and when you see monogamous people told their feelings are less important that non-monogamous persons in real life-- it makes you wonder if Dan's advice affects any of that: I would bet many of us here have been worked on to "loosen up" and accept our partners extra-relationship sex if we really care-- and that is where the backlash comes from.

When positive attributes asigned to poly used to say monogamy is the opposite and monogamous people need to loosen up and get with the times-- it's particularly uncool to use on a partner who is just hurt that you plan to go out and have sex with other people whether they like or not.

"You shouldn't be hurt, that's not realisic! Relationships change and involve hurt so even if you do hurt if you are vapable of evolving with me you will see that you can like this new relationship if you are enlightened and willing to hurt and grow and give and accept change"

I've been in many of these discussions and I've been privy to many of these discussions with friends relationships, and I just want to put my foot down and say JEEZE leave your poor monogamously oriented partners alone if you so much need poly intimacy! There are tons of poly people in the world and tehre is nothing wrong with it! Be free! Frolic! Don't tell your partner that they aren't willing to grow or change or face reality if they don't want to share that journey with you.
posted by xarnop at 7:07 AM on July 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


xarnop, I think you're conflating your negative real-life experiences with what the source article of this post actually said, and what the discussion here has actually said.
posted by palomar at 7:25 AM on July 1, 2011


Oh, xarnop, you've been dating dicks.
posted by likeso at 7:31 AM on July 1, 2011


A poly person claims that there's dickish anti-poly messaging in this thread. I (and several others) have received anti-mono messaging from this thread. Guess which view is dismissed as a "defense mechanism"?

really, i don't see either claim as being correct. who are the several others? because all the stuff you're claiming is really specific and seems to speak more to baggage you're bringing into this thread and not to what is actually being said. in fact, more people are arguing against what seems to be savage's attitude that poly is objectively better. i don't know anybody who is sexually open who thinks monogamy is wrong for anyone who chooses it, or that it is inferior or naive or stupid; and if it's an issue between partners, it's up to them to navigate that--there's not a right or wrong side to it from any outsider's point of view.

but that's why i kinda think you're projecting. if your feeling in reading through this stuff is that the consensus is that monogamy is somehow less valid, then i'd guess it's because you came in here suspecting that in the first place. or else you're just like those people who whine about apple fanboys because they can't afford an ipad themselves.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 7:36 AM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think that people with fundamental incompatibilities get into committed relationships and marriages all the time due to the relatively modern idea that "love conquers all," even to the point of serious differences. Just to invent an illustrative example: Let's say that the couple has one highly educated partner with a keen interest in literature and modern dance, and the other partner has a high school education and doesn't particularly read (for the sake of illustration, let's assume that these typify other fundamental ways in which their backgrounds and interests differ). Now there is no reason why these people can't fall in love. And, depending on how things work out, it is not impossible that they won't have a happy, fulfilling and successful marriage for years and years. But it's going to be a lot of work to keep this relationship together years down the road when the "love buzz" wears off, and history suggests that they probably won't make it. This sort of thing happens all the time because the couple is in love, and in modern society we have been conditioned to believe that thinking pragmatically about compatibilities in background, etc. is the "stuffy old way" that isn't relevant in our supposedly class-free society. There is no reason to suppose that this couldn't also often be true of prospective life-partners and their ideas as to monogamy. And, indeed, Savage's narrative suggests that he was as guilty of this as anyone. If anything, it's a big wakeup call to have these kinds of open and honest discussions before committing to a long-term relationship, and perhaps to just be up-front about these aspects of one's personality all the time.

It seems very clear that some people are well-suited to non-monogamy. But I think it likely that most people are not. I've been in and around any number of situations involving infidelity and/or extra-relationship sex, and it always involved giving something to the extra-relationship party that was then not given to the relationship partner. This could be emotional energy, intimacy, love, time, the ability to have sex within a certain time period, etc. And although this may not be true for everyone, I think that for most people sex does come along with intimacy, which effect is naturally amplified in situations in which the extra-relationship party is a "regular." Now, some people may hold that a person has infinite amounts of emotional energy, intimacy and love (if not time and the ability to have sex within a certain time period), but I would argue that this is a complicated question. Even if we accept that a person has infinite amounts of these things, the reality is that a person has finite limitations on his or her ability to manifest those things towards others. If you don't believe this, ask some 6 year old kid whether he's getting the same amount of his mother as he was before his 1 year old brother came along. So, unless the partner engaging in the extra-relationship sex is having passionless and emotionally uninvolved sex with people he doesn't know or care about, there is no way that he isn't "spending" things that he could be spending on his relationship partner. As I alluded to above, in addition to observing a lot of relationships in which there was infidelity, I've been personally involved in more than a few of them myself -- as the unfaithful partner, as the faithful partner, and as the extra-relationship party in an infidelity (not all at once!). These always began as "just for the sex" situations that "don't have any bearing on my relationship," and yet the other relationship partner always was able to sense that they weren't getting the full value of their partner in the relationship. As I say, this clearly is not true for everyone . . . but I believe it is true for most everyone.

I also think that, for most people, fidelity has to do not only with sex and intimacy, but also with trust and respect. This is part of the reason, for example, why most people in the modern age don't have any trouble with the fact that their relationship partner has had however many sexual partners prior to the relationship, but can have a very difficult time coming to terms with their partner having extra-relationship sex: it has to do with the violation of trust and respect, and also of the knowledge that the partner gave something with a special and private meaning between them (emotional and physical intimacy, etc.) to someone else.
posted by slkinsey at 7:43 AM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think a lot of people are naturally relying on their own personal experiences - negative or otherwise - to try and parse Savage's message(s). And of course the discussion evolved into a discussion of mono vs. poly. But I saw most folks repeatedly stating "whatever works"; it wasn't pro or anti poly or mono so much as it was that some reported experiences of bait-n-switch and/or perceived coercion.

I don't think anyone here is down with either. Nor with permitting or condoning others manipulating or shaming anyone into mono or poly behavior.
posted by likeso at 7:43 AM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think it is kind of reductive to think that a person has a fixed amount of emotional engagement and sexual attention that they will always have available, which then must be split among partners if they have more than one.

Reductive, but true, if only in terms of time spent. How many hours of the day can you be sexually active? If you are independently wealthy, sure, but for most people who work 40+ hours a week and have other commitments (and who want to get 8 hours sleep), we have 5-10 hours or whatever a week for sex. If you have kids, your window shrinks considerably.

The biggest problem I see with multiple sexual partners wouldn't be any specific acts of infidelity but the time and attention. Whether or not your sexual attention is a zero-sum game, one of your partners may think and feel that it is.

A good match will increase your interest in sex, and increase your total energy and interest for other people.

For some people. If I were basing that solely on me and my sexual personality, I absolutely agree with you. But we are not the only sexual types in the world.

The problem people have with Dan is basically that he is an advice columnist--- meaning Dan believes in a should, and it reflects that he likes polyamory, sympathizes more with a persons need for more that one sexual/intimate partner throughout life--- and does tend to give the impression that poly people are MORE realistic, and MORE secure, and MORE willing to face the realities of life, and MORE able to compromise for the good of the marriage: and what's more that partners who don't want to accept opening a marriage are the opposite.

I've been reading Dan Savage since whatever - mid '90s. I put him on the same level as Isadora Altman. I think she was in the Guardian forever, and he was in the SF Weekly, but I think I started reading Savage in the Village Voice in '94 or '95.

Anyway, I used to like him a lot more than I do now, which is mostly because of some of the problematic positions/advice he offers these days, but I think the big problem I have with Dan is that he seems to be like he shifted from being accepting of different sexual types (e.g. "here's what I would do, but if you feel like this, then do this, etc.") to being self-righteous and ego-driven, assuming to speak for a universal sexual experience (e.g. "here's what you should do, and if you don't, you're wrong."). Justmy2c.

In fact, more people are arguing against what seems to be savage's attitude that poly is objectively better.

I would agree with that.

i don't know anybody who is sexually open who thinks monogamy is wrong for anyone who chooses it, or that it is inferior or naive or stupid

Hmm, I think that's debatable:

"If you really think that you are such a mediocre lover that the availability of another partner significantly reduces your chances of being appreciated or desired, you probably need therapy to help with your self esteem, the tutelage of an experienced lover, or both."

Admittedly, the context there is complicated, but I don't think it's absurd to suggest that some people here might sense that other people here consider monogamy inferior.
posted by mrgrimm at 7:45 AM on July 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


mrgrimm, why does that resonate so strongly? Yes, it was an attack, but why did the barb hit home?

To be clear, I and mr.likeso are happy monos, but I really don't feel the need to defend a deeply personal, individual choice. I do enjoy trying to understand and relate to people who've made other choices, though.
posted by likeso at 7:54 AM on July 1, 2011


I don't think it's absurd to suggest that some people here might sense that other people here consider monogamy inferior.

for themselves. this is starting to be reminiscent of how some people accuse gays of 'shoving it down our throats' and trying to turn straight people simply because we won't stay in the closet and hide ourselves in shame.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 7:56 AM on July 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yes but telling someone they need therapy because they have unpleasant feelings about polyamory when they think about it for themselves might come accross as seeing a desire for monogamy as inferior-- for someone else.

I don't think poly people need to hide themselves in shame... ???

This may be due to me being younger and in a liberal town-- but in my experience the pendulum is against momogamous people--- I can't tell you how many people I have listened to rant about the fallacies of monogamy FOR EVERYONE.
posted by xarnop at 8:04 AM on July 1, 2011


"mrgrimm, why does that resonate so strongly? Yes, it was an attack, but why did the barb hit home?"

Likeso-- it coule hit pretty hard if you stop pressuming that polyamorists are the only ones who recieve pressure to conform and give up deep feelings in their hearts for someone elses set of ideals.
posted by xarnop at 8:09 AM on July 1, 2011


Well, you know, when folks feel insecure in their beliefs they need to proselytize.

fallacy of the beard and xarnop, be who you are and the world is richer. I'm learning from both of you.

/grandma mode
posted by likeso at 8:10 AM on July 1, 2011


I don't think poly people need to hide themselves in shame... ???

it's more that there seems to be some tea-party-ish mentality that saying something positive about one thing automatically denigrates the other. and i'm sure there are pricks on this issue who think they know what the truth is for everyone (similarly, i've never been a fan of the gay contingent who insist on respect while dismissing bisexuality); when you look at the kind of presumptuousness that emerged, for instance, in the weiner story, in which columnists debated whether it was infidelity, a determination that could be made only by the two people involved, i kind of think the judgment and condemnation are thicker on the pro-monogamy side. i'm just saying i don't see it in this thread, on one side or the other.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 8:17 AM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, xarnop, I don't presume anything of the sort! :) I've been lived among/worked with both very liberal and very conservative groups, and both have their fair share of folks who want all others to conform to the prevailing norm. And aren't above a spot of manipulation or worse to achieve that end. It's easy for me to say "be true to yourself" now, I've already gone through the major soul-searching and upheavals of my early 20s. (And yes, you must always keep questioning and opening your mind to possibilities whatever your age.) But you are not only allowed to make up your own mind, it is your duty as an individual.
posted by likeso at 8:18 AM on July 1, 2011


"it's more that there seems to be some tea-party-ish mentality that saying something positive about one thing automatically denigrates the other."

In case it wasn't clear the way I said it--- I was trying to point out exactly that. (I don't think we are arguing right? LOL if we are arguing, what are we arguing about ?? I need coffee.)
posted by xarnop at 8:20 AM on July 1, 2011


Great idea! Let's all agree on coffee - or another beverage of personal choice.
posted by likeso at 8:23 AM on July 1, 2011


I think it's really hard because statements like, "Being realistic means acknowledging that humans are not monogamous" can be taken so many different ways:

I think both polyamorists and monogamists can feel defensive because we have all felt pressures that our feelings in and of themselves aren't enough to justify the relationship type we like.

I think any relationship type is ok! However people feel is ok! I've had really fun non-monogamous experiences!

When Dan says, "People need to open up their views on monogamy" it SOUNDS to me like a nudge for people to be more accepting of polyamory or extramarital sex FOR THEMSELVES. So for me, it felt important to say "It's ok for people to decide they DON'T want to open their views on monogamy and it doesn't mean we're just not keeping up with the times or reading the statistics!"

I agree that coffee is a good agreeing point. I am in agreement.
posted by xarnop at 8:29 AM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


no argument here!

when it comes to the debate on monogamy versus openness within an already established couple, that's got to be rough, and i couldn't possibly come down on one side versus the other in any universal sense. it has to be navigated by the couple, within whatever terms of fairness they deem appropriate. i can sympathize with both sides. but it's certainly not unique to sex. i could imagine the same kind of turmoil were my partner to become a born-again christian. or a republican.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 8:29 AM on July 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


Cool!

Damn, now I wish I could really you two out for coffee.

And fallacy, here is a bar of soap. You know what to do.
posted by likeso at 8:32 AM on July 1, 2011


*take

(yep, coffee)
posted by likeso at 8:34 AM on July 1, 2011


I just made some scrambled eggs with cheese. I'll trade some for more coffee.
posted by rtha at 8:56 AM on July 1, 2011


Done!

Ooh, scrambled eggs with cheese. I like your breakfast ideas, rtha.
posted by likeso at 8:58 AM on July 1, 2011


I'll see your coffee and raise you an Ik heb, which is all I can remember.... whahaha

(If I didn't make sense before coffee it was the lack of coffees fault. If I don't make sense now it's the coffees fault. One could suppose that I simply don't make sense but that's not nearly as much fun and doesn't involve coffee.)

rtha-- ok I'll send you some of mine through the computer--- it's instant coffee with chocolate icing powder.

It's so delicious!!!
It's better not to ask... LOL
posted by xarnop at 9:00 AM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


try scrambling your eggs with some cream cheese!
posted by fallacy of the beard at 9:06 AM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think it's interesting how little agency those who suspect Terry of being a victim of coercion are allowing the man. If Dan Savage consistently advocates anything, it is communicating, compromising and then NOT compromising when your own needs are not being met. DTMFA indeed. Surely after 20 odd years of partnership and what some of you seem to see as manipulative brainwashing by Dan, Terry himself would have absorbed this message and walked away from the misery. Both men are adults and so far as anyone can see from our vantage points, totally committed to each other, their family and in love.

So why construe this one tidbit from T as an indication of Stockholm syndrome and abuse? I find the whole tone uneccessarily judgemental and condescending. In my opinion long term relationships are complicated and whatever arrangements are made, we have very little insight into how happy, respectful o each other or in love they are. In fact, I suspect y'all have other beef with DS that makes you indignant at the thought that maybe his advice works...for them!
posted by Lisitasan at 9:16 AM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


When I hear "People need to open up their thoughts on monogamy," what I hear is "People should give some serious thought and articulation to what their boundaries are around fidelity, and not assume that they're the same as their parents' were or that they're the same as those professed by the dominant cultural paradigm, and ESPECIALLY not assume that they're the same as their partner's. If we rejected the idea that non-monogamy is an a priori bad thing, what would that mean in terms of discussions between couples? People might discover that they personally are OK with behaviors that they might not have considered otherwise, and that might lead to happier, stronger relationships."

I have definitely seen the "Poly is so much more natural and compassionate than monogamy, and people who feel otherwise are just hung up on their own selfish, petty desires and haven't learned to be secure and giving enough" attitude, though. Usually from men who have a wife or girlfriend with a forced, pasted-on smile standing next to them. Typically, you can start the clock from that moment, and the relationship will hit the skids in 6-18 months when the wife/girlfriend gets HER first outside partner and the husband/boyfriend discovers that his compassion is a little harder to reach than he thought it would be. That's a lot of people's first introduction to poly, and it's not a great (or representative) one.
posted by KathrynT at 9:24 AM on July 1, 2011 [8 favorites]


Also, as far as the GGG policy goes, I think many of you are missing that BOTH partners are supposed to sign on. It's not a system that prioritized the needs of those with kinky or non-monogamous leanings, but rather a two way street in which both partners should strive to indulge each others sexual and emotional needs. The whole point is that everyone be fulfilled so that sexual fulfillment isnt denied to any one partner. And I've heard him advise kinksters to offer themselves up to vanilla sex and other expressions of devotions that y'all think he hates unequivocally. I don't think the man is perfect and definitely understand his failings with regard to women, bisexuals such as myself and transfolk, I just think the GGG system is being misrepresented here.
posted by Lisitasan at 9:24 AM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


"So why construe this one tidbit from T as an indication of Stockholm syndrome and abuse? I find the whole tone uneccessarily judgemental and condescending. In my opinion long term relationships are complicated and whatever arrangements are made, we have very little insight into how happy, respectful o each other or in love they are. In fact, I suspect y'all have other beef with DS that makes you indignant at the thought that maybe his advice works...for them!"

I can assure that I don't have beef with Ds, I do have beef with how consent happens in relationships with power imbalance-- but I agree that we can't know the details of Dan and Terry's situation. Your argument kind of strikes me with the "Well if some woman chooses to stay with a guy that beats the crap out of her it means she likes it and is happy and everything is equal."

Well no, choosing to stay doesn't necessarily mean everything is egalitatrian and fair for both parties and everyone's needs are being met equally--- it simply means that both partners are staying and inasmuch as they both agree to stay- they are staying. That's all we can know lol.
posted by xarnop at 9:32 AM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


fotb: go on, take it further. You've repeatedly diagnosed my interpretation of the communication in this thread as "projecting". Why stop your psychoanalysis there? Use your expertise for good and give me a full run-down on my every deficiency and issue! The Dr. Is In!
posted by five fresh fish at 9:35 AM on July 1, 2011


Also, as far as the GGG policy goes, I think many of you are missing that BOTH partners are supposed to sign on. It's not a system that prioritized the needs of those with kinky or non-monogamous leanings, but rather a two way street in which both partners should strive to indulge each others sexual and emotional needs.

The policy is called "good, giving, and game." How can it not prioritize the partner who likes to have sex more frequently? Believe me, I am all for it in almost every way, but then I am the partner who likes to have sex more frequently.

If one partner's sexual priority is restricting sex to once per week, how does the GGG policy help him achieve that desire? (Unless you expand "game" to mean "willing not to have as much sex as I would like," which it certainly could, I suppose.)

And I've heard him advise kinksters to offer themselves up to vanilla sex and other expressions of devotions that y'all think he hates unequivocally.

Does he advocate that some partners compromise and have less sexual activity to please their partners? (I honestly don't know, but I've never seen it.)

GGG does little to solve the problem of partners with different sexual personalities. For me, it's easy to be GGG for all sorts of stuff that I'm not interested in , but if you are dealing with a victim of abuse, a medical condition, or any number of different situations, GGG puts a lot of pressure on the limiting partner to put out when he doesn't want to.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:38 AM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


(Tell you what, xarnop - just add the lol and you'll have a completely valid statement in Dutch. "Ik heb lol" means "I'm having fun".)

I think the consensus is that we all color our perceptions and take things personally and should try not to do so, that we can't know the details of anyone's relationship, that GGG should be totally reciprocal - meaning sacrifices or gains on both sides, and that undue influence/coercion/manipulation is not a Good Thing, whatever the flavor. Well, unless that is what individuals have signed up for - and I've seen this, too.
posted by likeso at 9:41 AM on July 1, 2011


As someone who is built for being a doormat--- I would say Ds dynamics are a great way to INCREASE egalitarian and meaningful consent with people who gravitate toward power imbalance. Most people I know in the Ds/kink community care a lot about ethics of consent as well, whether we all agree about what consitutes the specifics of ethical behavior in consent. It's an important topic and keeping it open and thought about can improve peoples lives. So keeping the idea of open marriage and polyamory in the public discourse and something for people to consider before assuming strict monogamy is the only way is a good thing. Assuming that ethical people SHOULD push their boundaries about what they like with regard to monogamy is where I find the "people should open their thoughts about monogamy" rhetoric potentially problematic.

In issues of consent-- pushing boundaries is only a fun thing if you're made to enjoy having your boundaries pushed and you voluntariy seek that dynamic and agree to it. If you don't like having your boundaries pushed then it's not cool for others to push them in the name of being progressive about monogamy.


Whether that's happening with Dan and Terry, for crying out loud of course we don't know. As presented, there was not anything in the discourse mentioning Dan reconsidering his desire for extramarital sex because of Terry's feelings. That might have happened, but that there was no mention of it was what I found concerning about the decision making process.
posted by xarnop at 9:45 AM on July 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


fotb: go on, take it further.

everybody's got their stuff. i've shared something honest about myself. tell us what the deal is. you seem to be making some rather pointed conclusions that aren't supported by the actual content of the thread. have you examined the possibilities of what you are bringing to the issue, or are you just about reacting as if threatened by the ideas here?
posted by fallacy of the beard at 9:45 AM on July 1, 2011


If you don't like having your boundaries pushed then it's not cool for others to push them

As a universal statement, this is problematic, as announcing that talking about something that makes you uncomfortable or distressful - and that therefore, not talking about it is the way to go - can also be disrespectful and manipulative.

Is saying "I'm not entirely happy with [aspect] of our relationship, and I would like to try changing how we do that to see if that helps," pushing boundaries if the other partner doesn't see the problem? Or perhaps doesn't really care to change, even if they also experience the problem? "Don't push my boundaries" can be just as counter-productive and hurtful a stance as "I'm beginning to change my mind about monogamy, and I think you should too." People have all kinds of inappropriate boundaries (because most of us have never been taught how to set good ones, and so we do it by trial and error throughout our lives), and change is hard. What constitutes pushing boundaries for one person is going to be completely different for someone else, who may just see it as a conversation.

I could've put cream cheese in the scrambled eggs, because to day is bagel day at work and so there's cream cheese and bagels! But I already had the Cheddar out and ready to go before I remembered about the cream cheese. Next time.
posted by rtha at 9:55 AM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


rtha-- I agree that communicating with your partner that you might like polyamorous or open marriage situation is not pushing boundaries in and of itself. If your partner says, "Wow that sounds really painful for me" I just wonder why it wouldn't be considered, "Oh I see that sounds painful, what direction do you think we should go with this? I feel like an open situation is really what I need."

It's just been my experience that the, "Oh that sounds painful to you" is mostly filled with "But here are the reasons polyamory is more enlightened."

I know how those conversations happen is personal and whether it involves pushing boundaries or coercion or pressure is rather gray--- I do think throwing in a bunch of "polyamory is more realistic and selfless and good because..." into a discussion about whether a person should be ok with poly when it actually sounds painful to them is missing the point if they already said it sounds painful.

Shouldn't it sounding painful and not what they want be enough?
posted by xarnop at 10:07 AM on July 1, 2011


"Well if some woman chooses to stay with a guy that beats the crap out of her it means she likes it and is happy and everything is equal."

A ridiculous strawman! I r
Have seen not even a hint of anything that would read as abuse, only wild assumptions that Terry was beaten down and his dreams of monogamy trampled on. Terry had never pictured himself in a "monogamish" relationship. Five years in, he was willing to give it a shot. Any thing more is pure speculation and I resent being compared to an apologist for domestic abuse. There is not even a whiff of it here!
posted by Lisitasan at 10:10 AM on July 1, 2011


Lisatisan--- I am saying that a person staying does not mean they deserve or like everything happening in the relationship, or that there aren't things about it that or imbalanced and unfair to them.

Most relationships have at least some degree of power imbalances, so that doesn't have to mean anything terrible or that the relationship doesn't have an overall benefit for both parties.

I'm just saying that a person staying doesn't tell us anything about how much (or how little) that is the case.
posted by xarnop at 10:15 AM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


( I don't think you have ANY intention of justifying abuse! I am just saying that using "they stayed so it's ok" is dissmissive of the fact that's not really always exactly the case, or at least it's a rather black and white way to look at a ridiculously complex phenomenon.)
posted by xarnop at 10:17 AM on July 1, 2011


If you don't like having your boundaries pushed then it's not cool for others to push them

I must respectfully disagree with this stance. While it would be ideal for people to behave this way, the way boundaries work is that it's your responsibility to maintain your own boundaries. If someone doesn't respect your boundaries after being told what your boundaries are, then it's up to you to restate your boundaries and/or remove yourself from the situation, as you see fit. If you choose not to do those things when your boundaries are disrespected, then you're tacitly agreeing that your boundaries don't matter.

I agree that it is extremely uncool for someone to disrespect your boundaries after they've been clearly outlined, but even so it is still your responsibility to adhere to your boundaries. If someone proposes an activity that crosses your boundary and you allow them to push you into doing something you don't want to do, the fault is just as much yours as the other person's, because you made the choice to give in to pressure instead of protecting your boundary.

(In the above paragraph, I am using "you" in the majestic plural sense, not directed any any specific individual.)
posted by palomar at 10:39 AM on July 1, 2011


"If someone proposes an activity that crosses your boundary and you allow them to push you into doing something you don't want to do, the fault is just as much yours as the other person's, because you made the choice to give in to pressure instead of protecting your boundary."

Is this how you view situations of domestic violence and sexual abuse? I take it that it is, and I think we'll just have to respectfully disagree here. While I agree that upholding your own boundaries is an important lifeskill, I find it more abusive on the part of someone ignoring someone elses expressed boundaries and continuing to apply pressure than on the person who caves-- though I agree that both contribute to the dynamic and both should do some inner work to figure out their own issues.
posted by xarnop at 10:45 AM on July 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


Shouldn't it sounding painful and not what they want be enough?

In my personal experience (not valid in all jurisdictions, must be 18 or over), no, it wasn't. The part that's painful and the not wanting of it was, for me, a reaction and not a considered one. If I had shut the conversation down right then and there because it hurt and it scared me, I would have missed out on learning a ton about myself and about my relationship skillz (mad they are not, but they're better than they used to be). The person who initiated the conversation was not the one responsible for pushing my boundaries - I did that my own self. But I wouldn't have done it at all if not for that conversation.

Now, this becomes a very different scenario if any or all of the following come into play: There is a significant and unacknowledged power differential between the partners (emotional, financial, physical, etc.); the partner wanting the change won't stop bringing it up, even when the other partner has engaged in good-faith discussion and thoughtful engagement and said "No," or "No, not now."
posted by rtha at 10:49 AM on July 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


Is this how you view situations of domestic violence and sexual abuse? I take it that it is, and I think we'll just have to respectfully disagree here.

xarnop, once again you have put words in my mouth that I did not say. I am talking specifically about the issue of monogamy in regards to a relationship. I am emphatically NOT talking about sexual abuse or domestic violence. For you to imply that I am totally okay with someone being beaten or raped is incredibly offensive. I am so angry right now I can barely see straight. You can go to hell.
posted by palomar at 10:57 AM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I apologize that I misinterpereted you. But why is the responsability for maintaining boundaries only applied selectively?
posted by xarnop at 11:02 AM on July 1, 2011


But why is the responsability for maintaining boundaries only applied selectively?


I don't understand what you mean by this. I am not saying boundaries should be applied selectively. Domestic abuse and sexual violence are not on par with proposing non-monogamy in a relationship, and if you're going to choose to conflate these things then I cannot have a respectful and honest discussion with you. You don't get to move the goalposts around in a discussion and decide that someone who disagrees with your stance on monogamy is approving of abuse. That's just beyond the fucking pale.
posted by palomar at 11:06 AM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you really think that you are such a mediocre lover that the availability of another partner significantly reduces your chances of being appreciated or desired, you probably need therapy to help with your self esteem...if insecurity is your reason for rejecting an open relationship, you will benefit from finding a way out of that insecurity even if you never choose have another partner.

While acknowledging this is a viewpoint put out by an individual and not necessarily indicative of the attitude held by all pro-poly folks, it is exactly this kind of statement that causes resentment and defensiveness on the part of those of us who prefer monogamy because of the underlying implication that those in poly relationships have somehow reached a level of enlightenment beyond the rest of us hoi polloi who are stuck in relationships based on jealousy and insecurity.

Yes, I admit, part of the reason I prefer to be in a monogamous relationship is because I cannot imagine myself ever becoming accepting of the idea of my wife going off to have wild, passionate lovemaking sessions with some other guy and then having us casually attend our kid's soccer game together the next morning.

I do not believe this means I require therapy.
posted by The Gooch at 11:06 AM on July 1, 2011 [8 favorites]


Palomor-- I didn't use the term rape, I used the term sexual abuse, which to me (and maybe we have differing views on the term) can simply mean pressuring a partner into a sexual activity they don't want until they cave.

Bring up non-monogamy with a partner is not pressuring them until they cave. Pressuring them until they cave is pressuring them until they cave. I have already agreed that degree of pressure gets very gray in such conversations--- as I think it does in decision about whether to participate in specific sexual activities.
posted by xarnop at 11:11 AM on July 1, 2011


I think several people here have hit on exactly what my discomfort was rooted in. In my experience, I thought long and hard, even reluctantly tried it, and then decided, "No, not for me, not with you, not right now." And when he replied with "Come on, baby, it's natural!" I just didn't have anything more to say that could convince him I had viable reasons for not wanting to have that kind of relationship with him. But I came to see that, as several of you have wisely pointed out, not wanting it is reason enough.

Yeah, that one didn't work out very well...
posted by chatongriffes at 11:15 AM on July 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


five fresh fish: "I'm told that I'm... "

Just to be clear here, I was responding to a specific claim. I put it sloppily. Instead of "a good match will" I should have said "a good match can". For the right person, in the right circumstance.

Since I looked like I was on a high horse there, I should mention that I am poly but haven't had a partner in many years. I don't think I'm better than you, and if you are getting laid at all you are clearly ahead in the game as far as any comparison to me goes.
posted by idiopath at 11:56 AM on July 1, 2011


And as I said in the very next comment, yeah it isn't for everyone, but if that sort of insecurity is your only reason not to you are doing yourself a disservice not to deal with that insecurity. Even if you stay monogamous and never try anything else, there is no need to hang on to that kind of insecurity.
posted by idiopath at 12:10 PM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow, Palomar. I hate to make you spit nails, but by gods does "the fault is just as much yours…because you made the choice to give in to pressure" come across a rape-y. I'm sorry you don't seem to understand that it reads like that.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:10 PM on July 1, 2011


I think I understand why xarnop associated sexual abuse and domestic violence with the pressuring-until-they-cave and perhaps-someone-is-staying-in-a-relationship-despite-its-being-toxic themes.

She herself explained that she felt she was being subjected to a form of sexual abuse when her then-partner attempted to pressure her into an agreement she was not comfortable with. Not rape, but feeling manipulated about sexuality.

Re domestic abuse, I think we are all familiar - personally or via the media - with stories of abused spouses staying with their abusers. Against all advice and sometimes, their own common sense. "But he/she loves me." "She/he doesn't really mean it, and it's my fault for provoking her/him." "I gave my word I'd stay with him/her through sickness and in health, and he/she is sick." I think this is what xarnop was referencing.

But palomar, I'm sure she wasn't equating poly pur sang with either theme. Speaking for myself (though I'm pretty sure xarnop agrees), I have nothing but admiration for folks who have been brave enough to sort out their true desires and then pursue them, whatever they are.

I also agree with rtha that allowing your boundaries to be tested, but holding firm if you've actally located them, is the individual's own responsibility. I have also experienced great discoveries and joys by allowing some trusted folks to push me a little. And I do think pushers must be cognizant of pushees' strength/age. And considerate. And compassionate.

cream cheese with scrambled eggs? fallacy and rtha, this is a new concept! will try this soon.
posted by likeso at 12:10 PM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


fotb: Seriously, you can drop that schtick. It is not serving you well.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:13 PM on July 1, 2011


If a poly person says to a monogamous partner, "Look poly amory is MORE realistic, it's more self sacraficial (for you, but hey insn't my happinesss worth your sacrafice?),

See, this is the kind of attitudes I was alluding to earlier. Of course that kind of conversation is unpleasant and coercive. The thing is, I have never had a conversation even close to that in my relationship, and neither has any other poly person I know.

The immediate assumption that is the normal way that poly relationships come about is really, really crappy and demeaning. My SO and I went poly after being together for 10 years, and it's done nothing but increase our respect, communication and trust for each other. The folks I've been with have been fabulous, respectful, and I remain friends with most of them.

I would never knock monogamy. It worked great for me for a long time. I feel like it's the best option for a lot of people, and I don't think any the less of them for it. But we need to live in a world where if someone brings it up to you, you don't automatically assume they're trying to pressure you into some kind of weird power game.

I promise not to assume your monogamy is broken if you don't assume my polyamory is.
posted by lumpenprole at 12:14 PM on July 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


You know, idiopath, I took your comment to be directed at me (I'm terribly egocentric) and at first I was kind of offended. Upon reflection, however, I realized that there is a difference between not feeling secure in a particular relationship because the partner in question is not meeting your personal needs and being insecure in general.

I would also like to say for the record I do NOT consider myself a mediocre lover!
posted by chatongriffes at 12:17 PM on July 1, 2011


Depends on the degree of non-monogamy, I guess, but the idea that something that is rarer in quantity is inherently more valuable, simply due to rarity, is a pretty widely-held human concept that is not limited to [number of sexual connections with other people].

Here's the issue with that, though. This assumes that sex = sex = sex, and I don't think that's true. That's like saying "oh, you talk to lots of people, so you probably don't value talking to your partner as much".

Sex with my partner is not something I can simply replace with sex with whomever, even if the other partner and I are emotionally close or in love.

People are just not interchangeable like that.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:23 PM on July 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


tyrr try this: "[regarding] emotional engagement and sexual attention …A good match will increase your interest in sex, and increase your total energy and interest for other people."

That was posted after both of our comments...but whatever, you want to think that I think that you're boring, that's your prerogative.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:26 PM on July 1, 2011


Pressure happens. In my younger and filthier days I got quite a bit of pressure from lovers about my personal hygiene. I'm kind of glad that boundary got pushed, even if I do feel like I am wasting water by showering Every Single Day.

Persistent pressure to be monogamous is ubiquitous - not just from partners (I figured out pretty quickly I could avoid that one by being more selective about partners) but also in the expectations of seemingly every single person who sees you as being in a couple.
posted by idiopath at 12:28 PM on July 1, 2011


You know, arguing about the relative merits of poly versus mono is rather like debating the value of preferring dill to cilantro. Can't really be done. It all comes down to personal taste.

So, you discuss with prospective partners how devoted they are to their herb of choice, and whether they can experiment with another. Then you figure out together whether herb-devotion is a dealbreaker.

Locality can play a big part in how honest you allow your conversation to be. If you have no role models for other options, if a thing is simply Not Done in your vicinity, it's much more difficult. And having had to fight huge external and internal battles against judgements, prejudices and condemnation, it's understandable that you can then feel a bit... Strident? Adamant? Something like that. Particularly if the battles are ongoing.

I don't think anyone could or should take any stands against others' personal taste or choice.
posted by likeso at 12:39 PM on July 1, 2011


Wow, Palomar. I hate to make you spit nails, but by gods does "the fault is just as much yours…because you made the choice to give in to pressure" come across a rape-y. I'm sorry you don't seem to understand that it reads like that.

What I actually said, in full, was this: "If someone proposes an activity that crosses your boundary and you allow them to push you into doing something you don't want to do, the fault is just as much yours as the other person's, because you made the choice to give in to pressure instead of protecting your boundary."

I stand by this, because up to the point of xarnop introducing rape into the discussion, we were talking about consensual activities. We were talking about what happens when one partner wants to open the relationship and the other does not. If I had known that the discussion had changed to one of rape, domestic violence, and sexual abuse, I would have adjusted my statement to reassure everyone that I'm not some rape-happy monster. For fuck's sake. This is what I meant by moving the goalposts -- weren't we talking about monogamy in relationships, and not rape and abuse? Suddenly I'm a horrible person because I didn't know the topic of discussion had changed? How the hell is that fair or right?

Here is a prime example of what I am talking about in regards to one's responsibility to maintain one's own boundaries. I am friends with a lesbian couple that have an open relationship. One partner has sexual needs that the other partner actively does not want to meet (like having sex more than once every two months). The partner with the higher drive has tried to live by her partner's rules but she finds it frustrating and unfair. Partner A presented her needs to Partner B and said, please, please, can we try having sex more often, I really do need to have sex more often than once every sixty days. Partner B said no, I'm having as much sex with you as I can. I love you but I don't want to have more sex with you. What are our options?

Partner A then suggested that she be allowed to find casual sex partners, and that Partner B could be as involved as she wants to be -- if she wants to play with them, great, if not, that's fine too. Partner B balked hard. Life continued for several months with no change, except this time they weren't even having sex. Partner A asked again, after 4 or 5 months with no sex, can we please please talk about this, I'm unhappy with the lack of sex but I love you and am committed to you and we need to work this out in a way that we're both okay with.

So they talked some more, and each partner listened and did their best to respect each other's point of view, and Partner B agreed that Partner A could have casual sex no more than twice a month, but only if Partner B got to meet any potential casual partners and veto them if she didn't feel okay with Partner A spending time with them.
Now their relationship is semi-open -- Partner A has adhered strictly to the rules that Partner B has laid down. She has one casual sex-friend (who is also in a committed relationship), and they meet maybe once a month, and outside of that meeting they have minimal contact. Partner B, however, is resentful and passive-aggressive and picks fights with Partner A every time she sees the casual friend. She has said in front of large groups of people that she very much does not mind her partner's extracurricular fun and in fact she's kind of turned on by it. But Partner A has lamented to me many times that Partner B frequently makes her promise to stop seeing the casual sex friend, and then relents after a month or so goes by and Partner A is "pestering" her for sex, so that she doesn't have to have sex with her partner.

In this case, it's pretty clear that Partner B is not happy with the arrangement. She has not honored her own boundaries, but Partner A is not putting undue pressure on her to accept non-monogamy. Every time Partner B gets upset and reneges on the agreement to allow Partner A to seek outside sex, Partner A agrees. When Partner A's needs aren't being met and she asks Partner B for sex, Partner B decides to go back to the non-monogamy agreement.

This is what I'm talking about regarding boundaries, and how it's each individual's responsibility to manage their own boundaries. If Partner B doesn't want to have sex with Partner A and also doesn't want A to go outside the relationship, then she should have stood firm on the "no sex with others" boundary. If that means the end of the relationship, well, that's unfortunate and sad, but in the end it would probably be for the best.
posted by palomar at 12:51 PM on July 1, 2011 [5 favorites]


Also I'd like to clarify that I wasn't making an anti-monogamy argument so much as an anti-insecurity one. If someone had defended their poly preferences by saying that monogamy was an unjustifiable limit on personal freedom akin to slavery, I would tell them to get therapy, get over their fear of commitment, and if that were their only argument against monogamy, to go try it without that fear. Because even if they stayed poly they would be better off not being haunted by a fear of commitment.
posted by idiopath at 12:51 PM on July 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


Palomar, be fair, xarnop never mentioned rape. She spoke of sexual abuse. And the association with domestic violence was a bit extreme, but understandable in the context of "but maybe someone staying in a relationship isn't a completely healthy choice".

I really, really don't think poly in general or you in particular are being attacked. There was quite a bit of posturing earlier in the thread, but I think most people are now honestly relating the personal experiences that informed their earlier responses.

The dilemma in the relationship you mentioned is very recognizable. I know hetero and homo (gay and lesbian, I mean) couples and some are poly and some are mono. Whenever a discrepancy in sex drive occurs and no true agreement can be reached, it's heartbreaking.

I can only hope, together with my friends, to help shape a society that is sympathetic to all kinds of answers to these questions. We have to be courageous, but also compassionate.
posted by likeso at 1:10 PM on July 1, 2011


mstokes650: " Some people get more energy to go out partying from, you know, going out partying, too - and some people don't. That second group of people is called "introverted", not "insecure", and it is not reasonable to assume they just need therapy or the tutelage of a hard-core partier."

OK, one more thing I would like to respond to here. You misread me completely. I am introverted. The reason I prefer poly relationships is because there simply is not enough of me available emotionally / socially to satisfy most partners. But I do like some emotional intimacy from time to time, and sex with other people is great. So it works out very nicely for me to have a single partner, who happens to have other partners.

All that said, a good partner can help me get out of my shell and make me more sociable and more confident. Even to the point, ever so rarely, of having another partner.
posted by idiopath at 1:10 PM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


And yeah, five fresh fish took up the rape flag and ran with it. FFF, I think I get where you're coming from, but please don't use the concept of rape to illustrate your point. Very different fish.
posted by likeso at 1:20 PM on July 1, 2011


likeso, another user (five fresh fish) stated that my views on boundaries sounded "rapey". And xarnop has been likening the idea of accepting non-monogamy to all kinds of horrible things like accepting rape, child abuse, et cetera, as evidenced in this comment, in response to my saying that idealized views of relationships aren't a good thing.

Follow that up with taking my comments on how you have to manage your own boundaries and twisting it to imply that I approve and endorse spousal abuse in any form is pretty dirty pool, if you ask me.

FYI, just because I am defending open relationships doesn't mean I am currently practicing polyamory. In my first comment in this thread I mentioned that my partner and I don't plan to remain monogamous for the rest of our lives. Non-monogamy does not necessarily equal polyamory, but unfortunately the two have been conflated throughout this thread.
posted by palomar at 1:24 PM on July 1, 2011


Palomar--- genuinely, sincerely--- I am not in any way insinuating that being non-monogamous or approaching it with a partner is coercive!!

I think you answered my question and we have a different definition of sexual abuse. Your definition of sexual abuse is "rape". I did not use the word rape.

My definition of sexual abuse encompasses a range of willingness to push sexual activites that are known to be harmful or unwanted but that with the right pressure the partner will submit to.

So IF I UNDERSTAND YOU (I am hear asking you to correct me if I misunderstand your perspective NOT speaking for you): if some amount of pressure is put on doing a sexual activity and the partner submits, you don't consider that sexual abuse? Is that accross the board or do you think that could get gray? (My own perspective is that it's vary gray and sometimes is a normal part of relationships and sometimes goes all the way into sexual abuse)

I think some of the confusion stems from the act that I tend to restate what people said in order to see if I understood them correctly and in hopes they will correct me if I'm wrong-- so let me be more clear that that is exactly my intention, NOT to speak for you. I am repeating your words as I understand them, in hopes you will clarify where I may have misunderstood.

I am not IN ANY WAY attempting to insuate that being poly, or non-monoamous, or having an open marriage OR talking to your partner about wanting to explore that is inherently coercive. I do think it can be, just like presenting anything your partner doesn't want to do and spening a lot of time on selling them on it CAN be coercive depending on the people involved and the nature of what is said and going on.
posted by xarnop at 1:40 PM on July 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yup, I caught that and spoke to that in my next comment.

And I totally see how you could feel incensed at what were to you completely inappropriate comparisons that seemed to come out of left field. I don't think xarnop fully realized how insulting they might be to you and others. She did move on from those comparisons and spoke of the personal history that had been triggering her responses. She also repeatedly stated that she was not against polyamory as such, and had also had good experiences with it herself. I know she can speak for herself when she revisits this thread, but I saw her working things out and would hate for you to think she was still married to those bald statements.

What I'm saying is that we all have personal history that can trigger heat, but that when you really try to allow for that and speak to the person behind the heat, you see that they're just dealing with their own shit. They don't really need to add to yours. And most won't once they realize that they are being acknowledged, and that there room for all, and there is no threat here.
posted by likeso at 1:42 PM on July 1, 2011


Well, here she is, speaking for herself. Sorry, xarnop, I'll stfu for a bit. :)
posted by likeso at 1:44 PM on July 1, 2011


if some amount of pressure is put on doing a sexual activity and the partner submits, you don't consider that sexual abuse? Is that accross the board or do you think that could get gray? (My own perspective is that it's vary gray and sometimes is a normal part of relationships and sometimes goes all the way into sexual abuse)

Well, yeah, there's a lot of grey. But a lot of people in this thread - including you, sometimes, in my reading at least - are all too willing to ignore the grey altogether. We all clearly have different definitions of what "some amount of pressure" means. Does it mean asking once? Once every ten minutes, like a kid in the car on the way to an amusement park? Once every three months?

"Submits" is also a very loaded word. If your sentence had read "if some amount of pressure is put on doing a sexual activity and the partner submits says, 'Okay, I'll try that, under these circumstances, with these boundaries," then that reads very differently, doesn't it?
posted by rtha at 1:49 PM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry, Palomar. I know you didn't mean it that way. Regardless, that is how it reads and it was quite a shock to see.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:49 PM on July 1, 2011


Non-monogamy does not necessarily equal polyamory, but unfortunately the two have been conflated throughout this thread.

Indeed, and I'm sure that's at least partially my fault because polyamory is probably the best descriptor of what I do so I tend to default to talking about it.

I tend to chafe at the assumption that commitment or seriousness requires monogamy, and counter that by describing serious business long-term non-monogamous relationships, but it's by no means the only valid way of doing thing.

One of the best information sources out there for all kinds of non-monogamy is Opening Up by Tristan Taormino. I recommend it to anyone who has an interest in non-monogamy in its various forms, academic or otherwise.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:53 PM on July 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think one of the problems in this thread has been overuse of "you" and underuse of "I".
posted by five fresh fish at 1:53 PM on July 1, 2011


(Psst, FFF, how it read to you.)
posted by likeso at 1:54 PM on July 1, 2011


Heh. Good point. Guilty.
posted by likeso at 1:55 PM on July 1, 2011


To more people than just me alone.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:55 PM on July 1, 2011


No, I thank you likeso. I do have difficulties articulating myself, I think, and I think I percieve what I write differently than how a lot of other people do, so I appreciate feedback on that. Including that my spelling mistakes don't seem to appear to me until the next day when if I check things I write I go, "Wow. It's a wonder anyone can get anything out of anything I write"

I imagine that grammatically, structurally, and content wise; I write differently than some people and I might sometimes not be able to see that as clearly as others. I sincerely apologize for any confusion as a result of that and deeply appreciate the opportunity to try get my words to convey what I want them to. : )

Yes Palomar, when you said, "If someone proposes an activity that crosses your boundary and you allow them to push you into doing something you don't want to do, the fault is just as much yours as the other person's, because you made the choice to give in to pressure instead of protecting your boundary."

I was seeing how that fit into the concept of sexual activities which you (as I understand?) would not classify as abuse. Which is why I am clarifying we have a different definition of sexual abuse. If you push a sexual activity on someone and they say ok but cry the whole time and that wasn't something they purposefully were into? To ME that would be abusive. Not rape if the person agreed to it, and definately a boundary issue the person will have to work out for themselves, but I would classiy that as abusive. Hence my use of the word sexual abuse and saying I disagree that accross the board if someone agrees to let something happen it means they bear equal burden for it happening as someone who knew it was causing harm and was pushing it anyway.
posted by xarnop at 1:57 PM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Maybe so. But it wasn't intended, and let's please just table it entirely.
posted by likeso at 1:58 PM on July 1, 2011


(above comment for five fresh fish. gotta remember to quote.)
posted by likeso at 2:00 PM on July 1, 2011


If you push a sexual activity on someone and they say ok but cry the whole time and that wasn't something they purposefully were into? To ME that would be abusive.

I think to most people who aren't assholes this would be abusive. I don't think your problem is actually with poly or non-monogamous people. It is with assholes, and assholes can be found in all kinds of relationships.
posted by rtha at 2:02 PM on July 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


I really think that honestly the root of where we are in disagreement is in semantic and word usage palomar. I am totally ok with polyamory and I simply don't like being given long spiels by a partner who wants me go poly incessantly about how humans aren't monogamous, or no one will ever be happy monogamously married and if I were realistic I would see the way of monogamy, and it's not realistic for me to want monogamy so I should give up those feelings and adjust to the polyamorist way.

I can see situations I would be open (and have been open) to poly relationships------ but not under that kind of pressure!!

Please note, palomar, the fact that I think people have pushed polyamory in a way that I think was disrespectful of my monogamous feelings in no way indicates that I think you have ever done this!!!

I pretty sure I never said that anywhere, but maybe I'm misunderstanding my own words?
posted by xarnop at 2:03 PM on July 1, 2011


I think to most people who aren't assholes this would be abusive. I don't think your problem is actually with poly or non-monogamous people. It is with assholes, and assholes can be found in all kinds of relationships.

Here's an amen from the choir!
posted by likeso at 2:09 PM on July 1, 2011


"I don't think your problem is actually with poly or non-monogamous people. It is with assholes, and assholes can be found in all kinds of relationships."

I agree! LOL-- ok so what is being argued? I think at this point I am totally confused. This is so intense you guys! Whew!

The nature of how hurtful those kinds of conversations are definately encompases all the other factors in the relationship-- so sometimes the words themselves aren't as important as other factors adding the feeling of imbalanced pressure, such as huge age differences or having just gotten out of the mental hospital with severe PTSD and being visibly shaky and dissociated and being taken in by older guys who "can see that you have been through a lot and want to be your friend and you can talk about it"

So he told me, "It's better to be the wolf than the sheep."
posted by xarnop at 2:10 PM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Gack.

Yikes, xarnop. Christ.
posted by likeso at 2:11 PM on July 1, 2011


So let me state: Being a poly person has nothing to do with being an asshole! Presenting polyamory to a partner in an assholey way that ignores they may genuinely need monogamy and tries to prove their desire for monogamy is not just as legitimate as a desire for poly, is assholey and has nothing to do with polyamory as a whole or people who practice polyamory but fits in there somewhere because assholey people read Dan savage and try to use the same logic in assholey ways.


Which is not cool! And it would be cool if people would not be not cool. I think I've reached the limit of making sense today. Any further statements from me will involve bunnies and double rainbows.
posted by xarnop at 2:19 PM on July 1, 2011


Okay. Regroup.

xarnop, I knew there was backstory. And your experience was completely awful. But as you yourself have said, not fundamentally related to polyamory itself. More to power dynamics. I'm so sorry you had to deal with this when you were not in any state to be reaching for the hard questions. Dude was not an upstanding citizen.

"What is being argued?" Well, I think what remains is an apology to palomar that your words were unintentionally hurtful? And all of us wishing each other strength and honesty on our journeys?
posted by likeso at 2:20 PM on July 1, 2011


MMM, not sure if I can go there. To me:

"If someone proposes an activity that crosses your boundary and you allow them to push you into doing something you don't want to do, the fault is just as much yours as the other person's, because you made the choice to give in to pressure instead of protecting your boundary."
Reads exactly as related to sexual activities. So I think we both said things that unintentionally hurt feelings.

So for that I am sorry, but not entirely sure why it wouldn't be understandable to see the above statement as hurtful and ignoring the complexity of how consent happens in relationships?
posted by xarnop at 2:26 PM on July 1, 2011


Understood. palomar?
posted by likeso at 2:28 PM on July 1, 2011


Yeah, you weren't "taken in by" older guys so much as taken advantage of by assholes. If they had pressured you to do all the shopping and cleaning and cooking because "hey, it's natural!" they would still be assholes.

Like I said above, "pressure" is going to mean different things to different people. If I have to say no more than two or three times in a short period, that's going to feel like "pressure." To me. And depending on the nature of the request. Other peoples' MMV.
posted by rtha at 2:28 PM on July 1, 2011


If that's settled, hugs all around and let's get to fucking!
posted by five fresh fish at 2:34 PM on July 1, 2011


Ha! But no, still need to see how palomar is with this now.
posted by likeso at 2:52 PM on July 1, 2011


Ah well. Maybe tomorrow. I'm definitely going to try fallacy and rtha's cream cheese idea and, more to the point, check out the young rope-rider's book recommendation. Thanks for all of the insights and personal stories, guys.
posted by likeso at 3:20 PM on July 1, 2011


Silence... deep thoughts....

Palomar, I really think this is mostly a miscommunication stemming from radically different experiences. I think your experiences with polyamory are completely and totally valid and believe you that your experience with polyarmory is just as meaningful as monogamous relationships are for people who have made them work.

I do not believe that discussin polyamory with a previously monogamous partner is wrong in anyway, I do still think it can be presented in a way that is not equally compassionate to peoples desires for monogamy-- but that in NO WAY means I think this has happened in your relationship or that it is norm or how people approach polyamory.

In the poly world I think it's rare to hear stories where people feel like their monogamous feelings weren't heard, so I am just saying that for myself and many people I know, we do exist, and I think our feelings about monogamy are just as valid as anyones feelings about any relationship type they want.

It did and does concern me that Terrys desire for monogamy didn't seem to be given much wait the way the decision making process was described. That doesn't mean I have a clue about how their relationship works--- but since Dan is using his relationship as a model-- it concerned me that equal weight to Terry's expression of wanting monogamy didn't seem to be discussed.

If we just fundamentally see this differently and that leaves you feeling upset with me than that is the way it is. If there is anything I have said that came off wrong and you would like to discuss it more, I'm game. I really don't wish to be in conflict with you and I don't think you're wrong for having your feelings or being upset with how you interepreted the conversation.
posted by xarnop at 3:24 PM on July 1, 2011


I'm pretty sure I have developed lactose intolerance. :/

Strength and honesty to your cheese journeys.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:36 PM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also--- if you feel that telling your monogamous partner a long speech about the ways that non-monogamy is more realistic, more biologically appropriate, fits better with human nature and is a much more reasonable approach to human relationships-- is a perfectly valid way to present poly ideas to a reluctant partner than we can totally agree to disagree that that could POTENTIALLY be experienced as not being heard when a person expresses they really want monogamy.

And I will agree with you that it would really completely depend on the way the conversation is handled and other factors in the relationship-- so it's very situational.

And otherwise, I guess we're done here! Peace.
posted by xarnop at 3:38 PM on July 1, 2011


fotb: Seriously, you can drop that schtick. It is not serving you well.

i think scrambled eggs with cream cheese is awesome, and i'll not be ashamed of it.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 3:40 PM on July 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


Ok, I don't really have much to add to the discussion as it has developed, but I wanted to call out this bullshit:
Ashley801: I think this has taught a generation of young women (and their sexual partners) that what they want isn't what's important here at all. That unless they give into all sorts of things that make them upset, make them uncomfortable, that they don't want, then they are horrible selfish unworthy-of-a-relationship people.

Afroblanco: Okay, and the winner in the Wild Accusations about Dan Savage contest is.... Seriously, though? If you're going to say things like this, why not give us some evidence? The entirety of his ouvre is online and there for the linking.


I could link his "oeuvre" all day to give examples of this, but I'll start with this one:
http://slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2011/05/11/sl-letter-of-the-day-sit-down

He's guilt tripping a woman into putting out sexually, in a situation that has the potential to make her feel physically sick, violated, or traumatized -- and advises that she should just get herself drunk if that's what she needs to get through it. Despite the fact that she had already lt clearly already gone way above and beyond as a partner -- e.g. MANUALLY assisting him to use the bathroom ... and speaking strictly statistically, men are far more likely to leave a diseased/disabled spouse than women in the first place, before they have to do *any* actual caretaking. It's his whole idea of women being obligated to sexually please male partners no matter what it does to them, or they are selfish and shirking their rightful duties.
Firstly, this is how this woman describes her situation in her own words:
After a few years of [being my MS-stricken husband's full time caregiver] it became clear that the disease had progressed to the point where I could no longer care for him at home. And we made the gut-wrenching decision to move him to a nursing home.

This was a year ago. Although, he is safe and well-cared for, I still have some serious guilt-issues about this. But I have admit—I kind of feel reborn. I can work. I can go out. I can have friends. I CAN HAVE SEX. Fabulous, fun, spontaneous, life-affirming SEX. I literally forgot it could be this way. It feels wonderful that I can do these things but horrible that he can't. And here's the big problem: lately he has been asking me to let him use his mouth on me. He wants me to sit on his face. I've been able to demure up to this point, but he's being pretty persistant. And I just have NO interest in doing that. I don't see him in a sexual way at all. After years of being his caregiver, the thought of being sexual with him almost feels like the thought of being sexual with a child. Thinking about it makes me feel depressed and I hate to say it but... kinda sick. But how can I deny him a pleasure when he has so few? Am I being a selfish bitch? I don't see anyway to refuse him without hurting him but... I can't imagine doing what he asks. Can you help?
Imagine if we reverse the sexes here; would Dan's advice still be construed as asking too much of the caregiver? Though his years as a caregiver are commendable, the dude put his wife in a nursing home and is bragging in his letter about all the awesome "life-affirming" extramarital sex he's having. Would it be unconscionable for Dan Savage to tell this guy that he should fulfil his terminally ill wife's dying wish to fellate him one last time before MS takes her life? The man claims that the thought of doing something sexual with his dying wife is "kinda sick". What a mensch! He's clearly done enough and it would be too much of a burden on him to do this. After all, it might get in the way of all that "Fabulous, fun, spontaneous, life-affirming SEX" he's having.

But that aside. I think this column is actually perfectly illustrative of the way Dan Savage's push against expectations of monogamy can help women. Something conspicuously absent from Dan's reply is any kind of shaming her for having her sexual needs met outside her marriage. The closest he comes is this:
You may not see him in a sexual way anymore, MSS, but he is still a sexual being, and he still sees you in a sexual way (obviously), and he still has needs and desires—you know, kinda like you do. But unlike you, MSS, he doesn't have the option of jumping out of bed and running off to have fun, spontaneous, life-affirming sex with someone else. You are all he's got, the only sexual option he has between now and oblivion, you gotta come through for him.
The reading of this as nothing more than selfish men coercing a woman into being violated sexually simply baffles me. Are there honestly people unable to empathize with the husband, who just wants to be sexually intimate with his wife one last time before the disease that has crippled him takes his life? That saddens me deeply.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 4:57 PM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow, where to begin. I guess first up would be a gentle reminder to everyone that sometimes people have jobs and can't leap in here to respond to you exactly when you want to be responded to. Sorry I wasn't able to spend all day in here, but I had things that took precedence over the internet for a few hours.

xarnop, you said that you did not intend to speak for me. Unfortunately in the very same comment you said this: "I think you answered my question and we have a different definition of sexual abuse. Your definition of sexual abuse is "rape"." Since I have never said that I define sexual abuse as rape, it's hard to read this as anything other than you trying to speak for me. I've said it repeatedly, but I'll say it again: Please stop doing this.

You go on to say, "if some amount of pressure is put on doing a sexual activity and the partner submits, you don't consider that sexual abuse? Is that accross the board or do you think that could get gray? "

I think rtha addressed one aspect of this very well, so I will redirect you to her point again so that you can more fully absorb it. Another aspect of this question that I would like to address is that after reading this comment from you, it would appear that you're not actually reading any of MY comments. I have repeatedly stated that I am talking about CONSENSUAL NON-MONOGAMY when I talk about boundaries. I am IN NO WAY advocating sexual coercion, and I feel I have made that very clear.

Let's address another of your comments to me. You said: "I was seeing how that fit into the concept of sexual activities which you (as I understand?) would not classify as abuse. Which is why I am clarifying we have a different definition of sexual abuse. If you push a sexual activity on someone and they say ok but cry the whole time and that wasn't something they purposefully were into? To ME that would be abusive. Not rape if the person agreed to it, and definately a boundary issue the person will have to work out for themselves, but I would classiy that as abusive. "

I don't even know where to begin with this one. First, what you're describing in this comment is a sexual assault. When we're talking about non-monogamy in a relationship, we're not talking about forcing a sexual act on someone. I really do not understand why you keep coming back to this, but I will repeat myself for what feels like the five hundredth time today: I AM NOT ADVOCATING RAPE OR SEXUAL ASSAULT IN ANY WAY. You are talking about pushing a sexual act on someone who is not willing. THAT IS NOT NON-MONOGAMY. That is sexual assault, xarnop.

Another comment from you that makes clear you don't actually read what I post: "Palomar, I really think this is mostly a miscommunication stemming from radically different experiences. I think your experiences with polyamory are completely and totally valid and believe you that your experience with polyarmory is just as meaningful as monogamous relationships are for people who have made them work."

Here is the comment I made in this thread, above the comment where you talk about my experiences with polyamory, in which I mention that I AM NOT CURRENTLY PRACTICING POLYAMORY. I stated in my first comment in this thread that my partner and I have agreed that we will most likely not remain monogamous for our whole lives. In addition, polyamory and non-monogamy are not the same thing, and it muddies the discussion when people keep using the word polyamory to describe all non-monogamy.

One last comment from you, directed to me: "Also--- if you feel that telling your monogamous partner a long speech about the ways that non-monogamy is more realistic, more biologically appropriate, fits better with human nature and is a much more reasonable approach to human relationships-- is a perfectly valid way to present poly ideas to a reluctant partner than we can totally agree to disagree that that could POTENTIALLY be experienced as not being heard when a person expresses they really want monogamy. "

Please, xarnop, point out where I've said that monogamy isn't realistic, isn't biologically appropriate, is more reasonable and a better fit with human nature. What I HAVE done is point out that there are many regions of the world where non-monogamy is more accepted than others (especially for men), and that non-monogamy has occurred throughout history and occurs in the animal world as well as the human world. Here is a link to that specific comment. Please read that comment, and all others I have made in this thread, and point out to me where I said it's totally okay to browbeat your partner into non-monogamy with a long speech about how it's totally natural and everyone does it and just lighten up all ready and let me fuck around on you, partner.

This is why I feel that you are not arguing in good faith -- despite my asking you repeatedly to stop putting words in my mouth, you persist in doing it. You're ascribing beliefs to me that I emphatically do not hold. I do not trust you and I do not wish to discuss anything further with you, ever.
posted by palomar at 5:06 PM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Please read that comment, and all others I have made in this thread, and point out to me where I said it's totally okay to browbeat your partner into non-monogamy with a long speech about how it's totally natural and everyone does it and just lighten up all ready and let me fuck around on you, partner. "

I never claimed that you felt this was ok. I feel that we are in agreement that it's probably not a cool way to bring up polyamory or non-monogamy or open marriage with a partner. The fact that I mentioned it happens really has nothing to do with you at all. I was under the impression that this was a group discussion and not everything I've said here was meant to have anything to do with you.

Palomar, I'm pretty sure you're not reading what I'm saying either. I have not said that you advocate rape or sexual assault in any way. Can you point to where I said that? I believe that consent whether in sexual activities or for other issues in relationships can contain varying degrees of willingness and compromise and pressure. I do not believe that
""If someone proposes an activity that crosses your boundary and you allow them to push you into doing something you don't want to do, the fault is just as much yours as the other person's, because you made the choice to give in to pressure instead of protecting your boundary."

is a statement that is true to me. Burden of fault is rather complicated and gray and this discription of being "responsable for boundaries" I think ignores the complexity of consenting to various relationship types or sexual activities. Ideally people would be responsable for their own boundaries in sexual activities as well, but I think that process can be complicated by power imbalances--- as can other decisions about how the relationship will go.


But since you're not interested in discussing it further we can leave it at that. ;)
I'm really not accusing you of saying anything at all. I was attempting to understand, but I will certainly stop. Again, peace.
posted by xarnop at 6:22 PM on July 1, 2011


Are there honestly people unable to empathize with the husband, who just wants to be sexually intimate with his wife one last time before the disease that has crippled him takes his life? That saddens me deeply.

I'm perfectly able to empathize with the husband. I personally find few things less sexy and life-affirming than getting pity fucks endured by a martyr in the face of their partner's tragic decline. That's not actually the less dehumanizing/othering approach.
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 10:33 PM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


First of all, [expletive deleted], I hesitate to engage you because I see that you're already making up "facts" to bolster your viewpoint (e.g. that the husband in the letter I linked wants this sexual act "one last time," which you repeated twice. That appears nowhere in the letter).

Putting that aside, however...

Are there honestly people unable to empathize with the husband, who just wants to be sexually intimate with his wife one last time before the disease that has crippled him takes his life? That saddens me deeply.


Of course I empathize with him. His situation is scary and tragic. I do not believe that being in a scary and tragic situation means you deserve to engage in a sexual act with someone else against their wishes. I do not believe that anyone, under any circumstances, owes an unwanted sexual act to anyone else. Period. And it is deeply disgusting to me that Dan Savage, and you, appear to believe otherwise.

Your hypothetical about reversing the gender in the question is bizarre to me, because you seem to believe I would think a man would owe an unwanted sexual act to his wife. Uh, no. Men also do not owe anyone else unwanted sexual acts. That said, Dan Savage's beliefs around this issue are still worse for women, because the blunt reality is, pressure to perform unwanted sexual acts is, by and large, not something that most men ever have to content with in their lives. Whereas it's something that most women and girls are bombarded with from the time they first become sexually active (and often before). "If you loved me, you'd do this for me." "Just the tip." "It doesn't feel as good without condoms." "You're such a tease." To say that there's anything approaching parity between the genders WRT this issue is utterly disingenuous.

Women and girls are so bombarded with this that they DO often believe that they're obligated to engage in a kind of utilitarian calculation that the guy somehow always wins. "Well, even though I really don't want this, he wants it so badly that maybe I should just do it for him." "Well, even though I really don't want this, maybe it is just a little thing to ask, like he said." Even if it leaves her in tears afterwards (or during).

It's a horrible, psychologically destructive thing, and it's so hard already to support women and girls and help them see that the things they want and don't want are just as valid as those of the guys they're seeing, that a guy's wants and needs don't automatically don't trump hers. So when you talk about what the husband "just" wants: (just wants to be sexually intimate with his wife one last time before the disease that has crippled him takes his life) -- sorry, but I don't see what he "just" wants as automatically trumping what she "just" wants. Even if -- as the word "just" implies -- what he wanted wasn't a big deal. But the letter writer said that what he wanted made her feel "kinda sick." And I think it's astonishingly fucked up to see asking a woman to perform a sexual act that makes her feel sick as just no big deal. That performing a sexual act that makes her feel sick is no big thing to ask of a woman. Well, frankly, fuck that.

Lastly, anyone who thinks a sexual act with a partner who isn't enjoying the act, has been guilt tripped into it, and feels physically ill is "sexual intimacy," has a really warped idea of what sexual intimacy is.
posted by Ashley801 at 5:38 AM on July 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Are there honestly people unable to empathize with the husband, who just wants to be sexually intimate with his wife one last time before the disease that has crippled him takes his life? That saddens me deeply.

I empathize deeply with the guy, not least because I've seen people with health issues like mine end in wheelchairs and worse. I could be him in a long-enough scale future (we all could, but I can see it). Having said that, I hope my husband trusts me enough to say no if he's really squicked by some request I have down the road, just as I would say no to him if he asked me for something I felt like I couldn't do. I particularly hope he doesn't ever feel like he has to perform a sex act with me that makes him kinda sick, or makes him want to reach for the booze before or after. I want him to be happy and feel good about himself more than I want any sex act ever, and if I were dying I sure as fuck wouldn't want his memories of me to be about "that time I gave her a pity fuck that made me kinda sick".

Dan made a shitty call there; that kind of call is why I don't read him any more.
posted by immlass at 7:33 AM on July 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


Also with regard to the part of Savage's answer you quoted --

You may not see him in a sexual way anymore, MSS, but he is still a sexual being, and he still sees you in a sexual way (obviously), and he still has needs and desires—you know, kinda like you do. But unlike you, MSS, he doesn't have the option of jumping out of bed and running off to have fun, spontaneous, life-affirming sex with someone else. You are all he's got, the only sexual option he has between now and oblivion, you gotta come through for him.

And what you said about it --

The reading of this as nothing more than selfish men coercing a woman into being violated sexually simply baffles me. Are there honestly people unable to empathize with the husband...

If you're saying Dan Savage is simply coming from a place of empathy for the husband, in that excerpt you quoted, I agree with you. So yes, in that sense I don't read that excerpt as "nothing more" than Dan Savage pressuring this woman into being sexually violated. It also contains empathy for the husband, as well as (and as a tool for) pressure towards the woman to give in to being sexually violated.

And it is very typical of Dan Savage that his empathy for someone who wishes to engage in a sexual act against the wishes of another person, far outstrips his empathy for someone who does not want to engage in a sexual act that they find upsetting/disgusting/unpleasant/undesirable. It is typical of him that he believes we should have a great deal of empathy for the former person, and maybe some empathy, but not as much, for the latter person. That is a belief, as I've said above, that I think is extremely destructive to girls and women.

And it is really disturbing that the sexual violation of a woman is being treated just like whatever, like yeah that's too bad, but this guy's feelings are more important.

And I believe that they are more important to Dan Savage (and perhaps to you), that those feelings are the ones w/ which he empathizes more... because empathy is the act of sharing another person's feelings. And I think it's a lot easier to share the feelings that reflect the experience of your own gender. Not feelings about something that most members of your gender are free to never have to worry about.
posted by Ashley801 at 7:36 AM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


And when the dominant gender shapes society so that the feelings and problems with which it largely sympathizes, are the ones that should be treated as more important and more sympathetic by society at large by default, that is what culturally entrenched sexism is all about.
posted by Ashley801 at 7:58 AM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


With the clarity of hindsight, I retract my defence of Savage's advice. I still think that in this case, to go through with it would be a good thing to do, if she feels she can, but he says "there's no excuse for refusing him" and you are absolutely right that this is terrible advice. I read your description of the link, and I guess I was expecting an unsympathetic, or less sympathetic man, and when I read the column, I felt like I was deceived (though I recognize deception was no-one's intent).

...the blunt reality is, pressure to perform unwanted sexual acts is, by and large, not something that most men ever have to content with in their lives.

Not true, in my experience. I find there is often an assumption that guys are always up for anything, and if you can't put your mind in a different space and at least look aroused and into it, then it better be something you can do with your pants on, or you're not going to live that one down. That said, if I'm with someone who I can trust to understand that pushing my boundaries means I might not be visibly aroused, I find it much easier to move outside my comfort zone.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 10:39 AM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


He's guilt tripping a woman into putting out sexually, in a situation that has the potential to make her feel physically sick, violated, or traumatized -- and advises that she should just get herself drunk if that's what she needs to get through it. Despite the fact that she had already lt clearly already gone way above and beyond as a partner -- e.g. MANUALLY assisting him to use the bathroom ... and speaking strictly statistically, men are far more likely to leave a diseased/disabled spouse than women in the first place, before they have to do *any* actual caretaking. It's his whole idea of women being obligated to sexually please male partners no matter what it does to them, or they are selfish and shirking their rightful duties.

This guilt tripping of this woman is in stark contrast to how Dan Savage often says that women shouldn't expect their male partners to want to have sex with them if they ever become *gasp* FAT. If Dan Savage's hot husband gained 200 lbs, would he still be spouting guilt trips about how you MUST sexually please someone "in sickness and in health"?

And the thing about Dan Savage is, there are plenty of things he WON'T do -- which he's listed -- why? Because he doesn't like them. Why is it okay for Dan Savage to have his boundaries, but this woman MUST do this act that she's disgusted by?


I'm not sure why you're treating this situation between two people, one of whom voluntarily asked for Savage's advice and remains perfectly free to do what she wants with it, as some kind of front in the battle between men and women. What could the fact that men are more likely to leave their disabled spouses possibly have to do with these two people? (And how can anyone believe that, gasp, "MANUALLY" assisting a terminally ill partner to use the bathroom is in any way "way above and beyond" the duties of their spouse?)

I have my issues with Dan Savage but I think your response to his advice in this situation is overblown. The woman's words were "kinda sick". If she had meant "physically sick, violated, or traumatized", I imagine she was capable of saying so. In any case, no, you'll probably never hear Savage say "you should never do anything you don't want to do" to an adult of any gender. I think that's fine. The answer to millennia of overt and covert sexual coercion and abuse of women isn't strict adherence to that principle. There are a million unpleasant things that it's still right to find a way of doing. It seems to me that the central issue of Savage's article wasn't "should women have to 'sexually please male partners no matter what it does to them'" (and really, it's pretty clear from reading and listening to him that he doesn't believe they do) but "is this the type of unpleasant thing that it's right to find a way of doing". The fact that this thing is sexual and that the person who might do it is a woman isn't enough to make an act of submission and self-abnegation out of what could equally be an act of mercy and love.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 1:23 PM on July 2, 2011


In any case, no, you'll probably never hear Savage say "you should never do anything you don't want to do" to an adult of any gender. I think that's fine. The answer to millennia of overt and covert sexual coercion and abuse of women isn't strict adherence to that principle.

I agree, in principle... but in practice, it's kind of hard to see how "there are a million unpleasant things that it's still right to find a way of doing" doesn't play directly into that same millennia of overt and covert sexual coercion and abuse of women. That's the general reasoning behind sexism in a nutshell: some things are just "right", and sure, they generally seem to be "right" in men's favor, but they're still "right" and women must still "find a way of doing" them, over and over again.

The real question is whether this woman considered it to be "right" for her... and she clearly did not. In fact, she used words which suggested that she saw it as being wrong ("I don't see him in a sexual way", "the thought of being sexual with him almost feels like the thought of being sexual with a child"). Savage showed no respect for this. There are ways to suggest that an unpleasant thing might have value and even Rightness without making it into an obligation, but "you gotta do this", "there's no excuse for refusing him" is not one of them. And then he titled the article "You Better Sit Down"? My eyes are rolling so hard I may need to MANUALLY assist them.

The fact that this thing is sexual and that the person who might do it is a woman isn't enough to make an act of submission and self-abnegation out of what could equally be an act of mercy and love.

Course it isn't. The fact that this thing is sexual and that the person who might do it is a woman and that she seems to consider this to be an act of submission and self-abnegation is more than enough, though. This is her body and her marriage, and if "the fact that men are more likely to leave their disabled spouses" can't possibly have anything to do with it, then neither does your (or Savage's) trip about mercy and love. This woman is a person, not a goddamned mercy-and-love dispenser.
posted by vorfeed at 3:01 PM on July 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure why you're treating this situation between two people, one of whom voluntarily asked for Savage's advice and remains perfectly free to do what she wants with it, as some kind of front in the battle between men and women.

Well, to start by answering this, I wouldn't say that I see this situation as a "front in the battle between men and women" -- since I don't believe there is a "battle" between men and women. I see this situation between two people as having a context. The context is a culture that treats and values men and women differently, expect different sacrifices of men and women, and where men and women, as groups, have unequal amounts of power. I think that when you ignore the social/cultural context of a situation in giving advice on it, you have the potential to do a lot of damage.

Also, I was originally asked to give an example of what I see as a pattern in Dan Savage's opinions. This situation was the first thing that came to my mind as example of those opinions, but it's one of many.

one of whom voluntarily asked for Savage's advice and remains perfectly free to do what she wants with it

Though it's a tangent and getting rather away from what I'm really concerned with, I'll get into this a little bit because it does relate to the question you asked me, why I think there is sexism involved here. The letter writer asks two questions. The second question is "I don't see anyway to refuse him without hurting him but... I can't imagine doing what he asks. Can you help?"But her FIRST question is: "Am I being a selfish bitch?"

Before even asking Dan Savage to help her find a solution to her situation, she, a fully grown 34 year old woman, feels like she needs his validation of her feelings. This is a well-established feature of American cultural sexism, that female feelings aren't as valid as male feelings or need to be validated (especially by men) to be legit. It's striking that her language is so gendered -- that instead of asking if she's a "selfish person," she asks if she's a "selfish bitch," a female slur. You may disagree, but to me, this is not just a free gender-neutral person asking advice of an equal. This is a socially subordinate-gendered person seeking the validation of a dominant-gendered person to deem her not worthy, in this culture, of a gendered slur. Dan Savage doesn't seem to recognize or be concerned at all with the power imbalance in being asked that question -- which isn't that surprising given his position of privilege which he never has seemed to examine or acknowledge. He should have challenged it, but didn't. It's just a natural "fact of life" to him, I suppose.


More to the point though -- this is not just a "situation between two people." If it were just a situation between two people, Savage would have just written the woman back a private letter. Instead, this is part of a globally-distributed advice column. An advice column which Dan Savage uses as a platform from which to spread his ideas and principles about how society at large should behave sexually. He's said as much himself many times. And as I said up above, I think it's insanely damaging to spread to girls and women (and their sexual partners) the ideas that... let's see...

-There are times when "there's no excuse" for not engaging in an unwanted sexual act; that, in fact, not engaging in a sexual act is something one needs an "excuse" for. (That's his most utterly fucked up and warped opinion of all IMO.)

-That when "there's no way to refuse him without hurting him," you can't refuse him. Even if it hurts you. (His hurt matters more.)

-That if you don't engage in an unwanted sexual act with someone, your love of that person can legitimately be called into question. ("And you did that ... because you loved him. And you still do, right?")

These are the messages being received by the millions of highly impressionable teenage and college-aged girls and women reading this column (and their sexual partners). This is about WAY more than just two people. Dan Savage, like any widely-read content producer, is influencing the culture. Given what you acknowledge to be "millennia of overt and covert sexual coercion and abuse of women," this is not the direction I want to see my culture moving.

What could the fact that men are more likely to leave their disabled spouses possibly have to do with these two people? (And how can anyone believe that, gasp, "MANUALLY" assisting a terminally ill partner to use the bathroom is in any way "way above and beyond" the duties of their spouse?)

It has to do with the fact that I think someone who has blithely stated that he would leave his partner if they ever became fat (leaving them with no sex, no love, no caretaking at all), has a lot of gall telling the writer of that letter what sex she owes to her own partner. He's holding her to a standard that's not even in the ballpark of the standard to which he holds himself.

And that is the reason that it's significant, to me, that men are far more likely to leave a disabled spouse in the first place. Women are held to a different standard here by society, and judged far more harshly. If Dan Savage thinks it's understandable for a man not to want to have sex with a fat spouse, rather than being a situation where there's "no excuse" not to engage in this act that would hurt the other person if you refused (if you really loved them, that is,) I hardly imagine he wouldn't feel the same for a man who'd had to pull bodily waste out of his wife with his hands.

I think your response to his advice in this situation is overblown. The woman's words were "kinda sick". If she had meant "physically sick, violated, or traumatized", I imagine she was capable of saying so.

I don't think it's a question that forcing oneself (maybe through use of alcohol) to engage in an act that makes you "kinda sick" has the potential to be violating or traumatizing. Nobody can say it *certainly* will be, but it absolutely has that potential. She also says that "the thought of being sexual with him almost feels like the thought of being sexual with a child" and I think there are few things that convey greater sexual disgust than the idea of being sexual with a child.

The fact that this thing is sexual and that the person who might do it is a woman isn't enough to make an act of submission and self-abnegation out of what could equally be an act of mercy and love.

I couldn't have put this better than vorfeed, QFT: Course it isn't. The fact that this thing is sexual and that the person who might do it is a woman and that she seems to consider this to be an act of submission and self-abnegation is more than enough, though.

Going back to the issue of sexism you originally addressed to me, though, the reality is that in this society, it's constantly drummed into women that they should sacrifice themselves and their own wants and needs, out of "mercy and love" for the wants and needs of others. This is another cultural message that I think is harmful and destructive to women, and I don't think should be left unquestioned.
posted by Ashley801 at 6:21 PM on July 2, 2011


I strongly disagree with the comparison between pressuring someone into non-monogamy and pressuring someone into a sexual act.

My partner's body is not mine. He can do things with his body that upset me, but that is not anything like him doing something to my body against my will.

I think that there is a deep-seated belief in our culture that we have the right to control our partners' sexuality.

If that's what you and your partner both believe, then that's fine. However, it's something that needs to be mutually agreed upon and is not an inherent human right that comes along with being in a relationship.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:49 PM on July 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


Absolutely those are very different kinds of pressure.

But the way you write that it sounds like you think someone owes you a relationship in which you are free to have sex with whoever you want. No one owes anyone a relationship of any type and should not be pressured to think that wanting monogamy is a "wrong" thing to want.

Wanting monogamy with someone who doesn't want monogamy will probably not work out very well; neither will wanting polyamory with someone who doesn't want polyamory.

Pressuring someone to stay in a relationship because otherwise they are being controlling--- is controlling.
posted by xarnop at 9:09 PM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


That last sentence sounds funny: Pressuring someone to stay in a relationship that is becoming poly when they find it painful and want to leave by telling them their monogamous feelings are too controlling-- sounds just as controlling to me.

But it is a totally different thing than pressure to do specific sexual acts.
posted by xarnop at 9:13 PM on July 2, 2011


Look--from a young age I witnessed domestic abuse.

One memorable fight that led to violence was over the temperature of the dishwater. One parent wanted the water hot, the other didn't. Instead of discussing it in a reasonable way and coming to a compromise, they got violent. From then on, all the dishes in the house were washed with hot water.

My parent pressured my other parent into using hot dishwater by being abusive. That doesn't make it wrong for my partner to ask me to use hot water when I wash the dishes.

It certainly doesn't make it okay for me to accuse people who favor hot dishwater of abusing, coercing, or unduly pressuring their partner.

Yet that is what you are doing to me in this thread--assuming that because your ex and I want something that is superficially similar, I must be controlling my partner, coercing him, possibly even abusing him.

I should also point out that you are currently telling me (female) that my male partner should have an inherent right to control my body because we're in a relationship. Asserting that I retain the right to make my own choices about my body is "controlling". The irony is palpable.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:27 PM on July 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Of course you retain the right to your own choices about your body when you enter in a relationship---- the person retains their right to leave for any reason if anything about the relationship doesn't feel right to them; including if their partners wants to have sex with other people. My sons father likes to have sex with prositutes. I do NOT have a right to control his behavior but I absolutely refuse to have you tell me that choosing to leave is attempting to "Control his sexuality".

He is free to do anything he likes and stick his penis in who ever is willing to accept it. I however do NOT have any obligation to stay with him if I do not like that behavior because otherwise I am "controlling his sexuality." I have no desire to control him. I had a desire to leave him and I did. Now when he bangs prostitutes in my old bedroom at least I don't have to pretend it doesn't hurt because I'm being so controlling and sexually repressed.

No.

I will not be told that choosing to be in a relationship means I have to stay with them when they do any kind of sexual behavior with anyone they want and that leaving would be controllling their sexuality.



I am NOT accusing you of controlling or abusing or unduly pressuring your partner. I have had used the exact sentence you're using about "no one having the right to control someone elses sexuality just because they are in a relationship" to tell me that that I can't leave if I feel hurt by my partners sexual behavior with other people.

No one has the right to a relationship with me and I do not EVER have to stay in a relationship with someone if I am feeling unhappy and I feel that their sexual behavior hurts my feelings. That is not a right are wrong. How we feel in relationships is just how we feel. It is not being controlling or cruel to NEED TO LEAVE when the relationship is causing you nothing but pain because knowing your partner is out having sex with other people beaks your heart over and over.

I will NOT drop this because the same things you guys are saying have left myself and many other people I know feeling like they are controlling and doing someone thing wrong if poly/open marriage is destroying them inside and they just need to leave and they don't want to be in an open marriage or they don't want to be poly or non-monogamous or whatever. And I want anyone who is currently or in the future faces having this conversation and reaches a logistical spot in the argument where they can't articulate why they feel it's fair for them to prefer monogamy or why it's fair for them to leave: I want them to have that.

It is not controlling if you need to leave a partner because the relationship is painful. No one should try to control anyone, but some people prefer to be in a relationship in which two people choose (without controlling each other) that they want to both commit to monogamy. When the two partners didn't work that out at the start it perfectly legitimate for the non-poly oriented person to say, "I totally love you and I have no wish to control your sexuality in any way which is why I want you to go and to whatever it is you need to do. I hope that you can understand that staying with you when you do those things is too painul for me and this isn't the relationship type that I want."

If your partner tells you that and you continue to go on about being controlled if they leave you, I'm pointing out that this (which is not something I am saying anyone here has done!) is just as controlling as pressuring someone to be monogamous with their sexuality.
posted by xarnop at 6:39 AM on July 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


I want to add that just because he needs to have sex with a lot of people I don't and won't stop having unconditional compassion for him as a human being. He has a lot of inner turmoil and I wish him peace with that and I wish him a beautiful life journey.

I also have a need to not be in a romantic relationship with him while he has sex with other people. I'm happy to be there for him as a friend in a much more limited capacity but I do not want to keep opening my sexuality to him when it hurts me unspeakably to get attached and then know he is out having sex with other people. It just breaks my heart. I needed to do something different. And I think if you love your partner unconditionally--- you can let them go when the relationship is too painful for them to stay.
posted by xarnop at 7:29 AM on July 3, 2011


I will also add I've been given all kinds of lectures on the act that human beings are not made to be monogamous and that wanting monogamy is controlling your partners sexuality when if you really loved them you would just watch while they do anything they want with anyone else and not have any feelings about it or decide that you want to leave---

And that if you try to be monogamous intevitably someone will cheat or it will just fall apart.

That all might be true! It really really might all be true. There may not be such a thing as people whoa re happily monogamous, and it may too controlling and unair and misery inducing and I might never meet someone who would be happy with the same type of relationship that would make me happy.

That does not make it sustainable to STAY with someone who is running around having sex with other people while you sob in a ball on the floor all the time. It does NOT work for me and that is not because I wish to controll anyone. It's just innately how I feel. I can't change that I feel that way any more than my previous partner could change that repressing his sexuality makes him miserable.

Neither of us are wrong. Everything is ok. Neither of us are inherantly manipulative or controlling each other just by having our feelings. It's ok for me to need to leave.
posted by xarnop at 8:38 AM on July 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


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