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January 6, 2012 7:58 AM   Subscribe

Why do most people assume that all nonmonogamous relationships are destined to fail? Because we only hear about the ones that do. If a three-way or an affair was a factor in a divorce or breakup, we hear all about it. But we rarely hear from happy couples who aren’t monogamous, because they don’t want to be perceived as dangerous sex maniacs who are destined to divorce. Monogamish Couples Share Their Stories.
posted by sour cream (122 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
If a three-way or an affair was a factor in a divorce or breakup, we hear all about it.

That's because there are three people with broken hearts instead of two. We hear 1/3 more Ask.MetaFilter DTMFA relationship questions complaints from those than from monogamous breakups.
posted by ceribus peribus at 8:06 AM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


This Savage Love makes me more confused about the term "monogamish." The third story is someone bragging about the fact that s/he's been having an affair without getting caught by their partner. Is straight up cheating "monogamish?"
posted by muddgirl at 8:10 AM on January 6, 2012 [8 favorites]


The third story is someone bragging about the fact that s/he's been having an affair without getting caught by their partner. Is straight up cheating "monogamish?"

Yeah, what was that? I'd love to hear from the other side of that happy couple...
posted by Catseye at 8:14 AM on January 6, 2012 [6 favorites]


Well, an affair does take a relationship out of strict monogamy, yeah. Although that reminds me of the Theo the Teacher Kids in the Hall sketch:
"It's just I've been under alot of stress lately. I, I've recently gone through kind of an ugly divorce. Ya know my, my wife and I, we had sort of a, ya know an open relationship. And uh, I could never quite find the right time and the right words to tell her that we did. So anyway, when she found about our little understanding quite by accident one night, well, I guess you can understand it's left me a little bit scarred."
posted by griphus at 8:14 AM on January 6, 2012 [23 favorites]


The third story is actually the second paragraph of the second story. (It's confusing, because every other story is one paragraph).

It does seem a bizarre inclusion. I think his rationalization goes something like this:1) Absolute monogamy is both more rare than people admit and, if stuck to, destructive to some relationships. 2) Going without sex for 4 years would have destroyed this relationship. 3) The cheating ultimately saved this relationship. Therefore, one should not put stock by total monogamy, because non-monogamy saved this marriage.

In general, though, I would think Savage would only support this arrangement if the wife knew what was going on, which it seems is not the case. Certainly he could have found better examples. Odd.
posted by lewedswiver at 8:18 AM on January 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


This Savage Love makes me more confused about the term "monogamish." The third story is someone bragging about the fact that s/he's been having an affair without getting caught by their partner. Is straight up cheating "monogamish?"

Yeah, what was up with that? Especially the "partner who wants exactly what I want" part?
posted by clockzero at 8:20 AM on January 6, 2012


The advice on how to keep it a secret is pretty good advice on how to keep anything secret.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 8:20 AM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think I could handle being monogamish, though I'd kinda miss electricity.
posted by rokusan at 8:21 AM on January 6, 2012 [25 favorites]


I love Dan, as always, but this is a little surprising. Are stories about cheaters really what it's going to take to convince monogamists that the multiplicity thing can make sense? And, er, are they really the best examples of monogamish relationships that work?
posted by koeselitz at 8:21 AM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


The third story is actually the second paragraph of the second story. (It's confusing, because every other story is one paragraph).

Ah, right.

What was that stuff about not texting or callling for, then? That one was confusing.
posted by clockzero at 8:21 AM on January 6, 2012


Oh, that makes a little more sense. But I still either disagree about the use of the term "monogamish" in that case, or I reject the term as a useful definition of relationships that are somewhere between fully polyamorous and monogamous.

I guess the bottom line is that Savage thinks it's ok to sleep with someone besides your partner behind their back if they have a low libido, and I categorically disagree.
posted by muddgirl at 8:22 AM on January 6, 2012 [21 favorites]


Monogamist? Sounds like an tribe of the Pacific Northwest.
posted by jonmc at 8:22 AM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


polyamorous ≠ not getting caught.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:23 AM on January 6, 2012 [16 favorites]


This state of affairs—couples who experimented with nonmonogamy and wound up divorced won’t shut up; couples who experimented with nonmonogamy and are still together won’t speak up—allows smug and insecure monogamists to run around insisting that there’s no such thing as happy, stable monogamish couples.

Someone is coming off smug here and it's not insecure monogamists.

I don't doubt that there are plenty of happy, satisfied and fulfilled couples with open marriages or other non-monogamist relationships (and I'm definitely interested in hearing about non-traditional relationships), but in nearly every discussion about this topic I inevitably end up annoyed at the attitude displayed by some who advocate for these type of relationships (in this case Dan Savage) which just reeks of, "Clearly, I am far more evolved than the rest of the plebeians who are stuck in monogamous relationships based solely on insecurity".
posted by The Gooch at 8:23 AM on January 6, 2012 [28 favorites]


The only drawback here seems to be that it's hard to be both closeted and serious about a third/poly relationship if you live openly as if you're a monogamous couple. Like, you can't cuddle with the third at the movies, or take them as a date to an event, or introduce them to your family/old friends because then people will think you're cheating. It sounds like a bad deal for the third person as a long-term big deal thing, though not in the short term.
posted by Frowner at 8:23 AM on January 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think that story's in there to show that the 'cheater' never wavered in his love for his wife, just needed to find some fleshly pleasures elsewhere for a while.
posted by scrowdid at 8:23 AM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ish, dammit. Way to ruin a joke spellcheck.
posted by jonmc at 8:24 AM on January 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Clearly, I am far more evolved than the rest of the plebeians who are stuck in monogamous relationships based solely on insecurity"

Don't you think that the smugness is (counterproductive) overcompensation for insecurity and social vulnerability? I mean, there really isn't anything but a small fraction of the US population who really, truly believes that it is possible and desirable to have long-term, stable non-mongamous relationships. Although the kids - it seems like most of the radical kids I know under about 28 are intentionally and openly poly.
posted by Frowner at 8:26 AM on January 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm trying to figure out if there is a greater point being made, and/or if the usual "anecdotes aren't data" applies or not.
posted by k5.user at 8:26 AM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Look, I'm all for monogamish relationships in all their (consensual) forms, but one Dan Savage post on the topic does not a good Mefi post make. I think there really is something to be gotten at here, at how maybe lots of non-normative relationships falter because there are very few accessible and sane models out there for how they work and because of external social pressures that dictate any non-monogamous non-heteronormative relationship is Doomed to Fail and Cannot Be Seen in Public, etc., etc. And I would love to see a post on that. But this isn't it.

I don't know, maybe my hatred of Dan Savage is showing. But I wish we could move towards popular commentators on sexuality who are a bit more inclusive and a lot less annoying.

I mean, there really isn't anything but a small fraction of the US population who really, truly believes that it is possible and desirable to have long-term, stable non-mongamous relationships.

I don't know-- I'm not disputing your claim outright, Frowner, because I really don't know! But I would be interested in seeing data on this. I think you're right that it depends on age, but I'm betting a larger subset of the population than we think has been carefully, intentionally doing this for a very long time.
posted by WidgetAlley at 8:29 AM on January 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


Some hard data would be really interesting.

*What percent of never-divorced married couples have been exclusively monogomous?
*What percent of divorced couples were exclusively monogomous?
*What percent of divorced couples were not exclusively monogomous, and the non-monogomy CAUSED the divorce?
*What percent of divorced couples were not exclusively monogomous, and the non-monogomy did NOT cause the divorce?
posted by lewedswiver at 8:30 AM on January 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


This post is making me realize that I draw a distinction between "monogamish" and "polyamorous" that others don't seem to. Monogamish to me has always meant an exclusive relationship with room for casual non long term encounters with other folks. Polyamory seems to be a bit more structured and long term. Am I making this up? Does anyone else recognize differences between these, or is it a case of their being so many possible variations that it's meaningless to draw distinctions between only two terms?
posted by Polyhymnia at 8:36 AM on January 6, 2012 [6 favorites]



I don't know-- I'm not disputing your claim outright, Frowner, because I really don't know! But I would be interested in seeing data on this. I think you're right that it depends on age, but I'm betting a larger subset of the population than we think has been carefully, intentionally doing this for a very long time.


It's true that we don't know, but we do know that no one feels socially safe saying "I have a poly/non-monogamous relationship" - that's a sure way to lose your career and a lot of other stuff. It's not just controversial, like being serially divorced or hitting your girlfriend; it's something you can't say about yourself officially. Which suggests to me that no matter what people do, the belief/public consensus is pretty strong. (That is, I think that what people do sexually and what they believe about sex can be pretty different.)

I think there's some other stuff in play:

1. Power and equality in relationships - people who are afraid of being left and consent to stuff for that reason.
2. Lack of non-family social safety nets/lack of public safety nets - some folks probably consent to or ignore stuff they don't like because they feel that socially or financially they can't survive on their own; some folks stay more monogamous than they'd like because they are afraid of social and financial consequences.

Honestly, I'm mostly impressed by people who have the time for multiple relationships. In a nominally open relationship myself, I find myself thinking about dealing with dating and then spending enough time with my existing partner and spending enough time with another person and I give up. I suppose that's what makes structured swinging attractive - it fits in the schedule.
posted by Frowner at 8:39 AM on January 6, 2012 [12 favorites]


disregarding the problems with the Savage article, we're happily monogamish in that we've had 3somes with guys (we're hetero). we're not poly or swingers. we don't cheat. bringing in an outsider has not had a negative effect on our marriage. I don't know if I could have a 3some with a woman, because he is more apt to have an emotional attachment and I am more likely to be jealous, but it works out fine with guys.

It is still really taboo, though, especially a mmf threesome. ffm is talked and joked about all the time but in mmf the assumption is that the two guys are gay. my husband is not even bi but he will mess around with a guy.

I really don't understand the big deal.
posted by fantoche at 8:39 AM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


*What percent of divorced couples were not exclusively monogomous, and the non-monogomy CAUSED the divorce?
*What percent of divorced couples were not exclusively monogomous, and the non-monogomy did NOT cause the divorce?


The problem with this is that what really causes the divorce? It's an emergent event of a shitty marriage. If you're going by straw-that-broke-the-camel's-back qualification, sure, you can say that an affair (or a string thereof) was responsible. But otherwise? It's not that simple.
posted by griphus at 8:40 AM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


...that an affair (or a string thereof) non-monogamy was "responsible"...

Way to write one comment while thinking about another, guy.
posted by griphus at 8:41 AM on January 6, 2012


It seems one of the major issues here is that "Monogamish" seems like an insecure product itself. It's hard to have real polyamorous relationships, so these ones are usually require the 3rd or 4th or whatever person in the relationship to have secondary role like "secret fuck buddy" instead of second wife or husband or girlfriend. Although it's not entirely anyone's fault since polygamy is illegal in the US and the whole thing is still rather taboo.
posted by melissam at 8:42 AM on January 6, 2012


I don't doubt that there are plenty of happy, satisfied and fulfilled couples with open marriages or other non-monogamist relationships

Well I'd guess you're in the minority, because most people I talk to seem to assume it's the precursor to the end.
posted by lumpenprole at 8:42 AM on January 6, 2012


This Savage Love makes me more confused about the term "monogamish." The third story is someone bragging about the fact that s/he's been having an affair without getting caught by their partner. Is straight up cheating "monogamish?"

The annoying thing about relationship q's on some quarters of the internet are the partner who doesn't want an open relationship/worries about a partner cheating, and are keen not to break up, being told they should give polygamy a try. I don't think it's prudish or closed-minded not to want to - some people aren't wired that way, and you can't make yourself be polygamous any more than a gay person can try out being in a heterosexual marriage and be happy with it. I knew a poly married couple who were happy until one of them broke the particular boundary they'd set themselves (which happens with monogamous couples all the damned time) so I know it's possible, and I'm not, um, polygamy-ist, but the GGG paradigm often comes with the suggestion that those who don't want to do all the things a partner asks of them are uptight.

Of course, if you're poly-curious, fill your boots.
posted by mippy at 8:46 AM on January 6, 2012 [9 favorites]


I don't doubt that there are plenty of happy, satisfied and fulfilled couples with open marriages or other non-monogamist relationships

Seems weird since there are many countries and cultures where people have multiple wives (and more rarely husbands). It's only pretty recently in human history that monogamy has been the standard. Of course a lot of these poly cultures (like the Toda of India) are adopting monogamy these days.
posted by melissam at 8:46 AM on January 6, 2012


I think that's a cause/effect issue, lumpenprole. Trying to date/fuck/whatever other people can be a symptom of a failing relationship. It's taking baby steps into the world -- being with someone else -- the person knows they want to go into, but don't yet have the courage to enter whole-hog. On the other hand, for poly people, trying to date/fuck/whatever other people comes from entirely different circumstances. So they might look the same on the surface, but you're just seeing similar-looking effects to different issues.
posted by griphus at 8:47 AM on January 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


And yes, if you're poly, how do you explain your relationship to the mainstream world? I can't imagine trying to explain it to my mother, for instance, and even for people who have no issues with non-straight sexuality and probably wouldn't freak out about something non-heteronormative, it would make me feel a bit uncomfortable or hesitant to put across. (Or maybe I'm just projecting because I remember the strange look I got when trying to explain the concept of goatse to someone...)
posted by mippy at 8:50 AM on January 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


You're absolutely right griphus. My point was just that most people don't see this as a shades of gray issue mostly because they either don't understand or don't accept that there can be a state where you are not monogamous, but in a healthy relationship.

That's what this is trying to change, though I agree with the criticisms that it's kind of scattershot and a bit undercut.
posted by lumpenprole at 8:50 AM on January 6, 2012


And yes, if you're poly, how do you explain your relationship to the mainstream world? I can't imagine trying to explain it to my mother, for instance, and even for people who have no issues with non-straight sexuality and probably wouldn't freak out about something non-heteronormative, it would make me feel a bit uncomfortable or hesitant to put across.

This is what I think about, because I'm really not up for FWB-like arrangements. I would want to actually date someone I liked, could talk about books with, etc; otherwise it wouldn't be any fun for me. And that type of person is a bit tricky to find - I was lucky to find one! - and I'd want to seal the deal with them so that we could build trust, etc etc. Oh well, I will never be a rock star or have a pony either.
posted by Frowner at 8:52 AM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


The annoying thing about relationship q's on some quarters of the internet are the partner who doesn't want an open relationship/worries about a partner cheating, and are keen not to break up, being told they should give polygamy a try.

Yes. Even here. Especially with gay relationship questions. I've seen my own and others' gay relationship questions be greeted with "How about an open relationship?" when it should be clear from the question that is not something the asker is up for.
posted by yellowbinder at 8:56 AM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


The third story is actually the second paragraph of the second story. (It's confusing, because every other story is one paragraph).

Hey man, don't be trying to push your plastic vanilla one-story-one-paragraph narrative preferences on us.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:58 AM on January 6, 2012 [10 favorites]


On the other hand, for poly people, trying to date/fuck/whatever other people comes from entirely different circumstances.

griphus, I'm confused. Are you using poly in the sense of everyone who is interested in a consensual non-monogamous relationship regardless of the form, or just for those people that are interested in consensual multi-partner relationships that carry emotional attachment and long-term commitment as well?

Aaargh, terminology is tricky.
posted by WidgetAlley at 9:01 AM on January 6, 2012



Yes. Even here. Especially with gay relationship questions. I've seen my own and others' gay relationship questions be greeted with "How about an open relationship?" when it should be clear from the question that is not something the asker is up for.


The thing I notice on the internets (and in my life, too) is that we people-who-aren't-gay-men-but-aren't-big-old-homophobes-either have a lot of bad information about gay men.

First, because people like Dan Savage use gay men as sort of a stick to beat women with - "oh, gay guys have lots of casual sex and it's totally awesome, why are you so uptight women?"

Second, because of both social and in-us homophobia that leads us to be all "oh, all gay men are the same, they are all super-sexual and never say no and are never into anything vanilla/monogamous". And that whole "gay men = nothing-except-promiscuous-sex" thing.

I've found that although I know gay guys with a very wide variety of lifestyles indeed, from getting-around-a-lot-and-not-interested-in-relationships to exceedingly married, I tend to default to "all gay men are into very casual sex all the time and place casual sex ahead of long term relationships". It's like what I read and am told about gay dudes overrides what I actually know. Which is fairly homophobic on several levels.
posted by Frowner at 9:01 AM on January 6, 2012 [20 favorites]


I was using it as a catch-all for anything consensual and non-monogamous, which, I guess, yeah, aaargh terminology indeed. I just don't like "monogamish" because it sounds like a particularly bland type of porridge.
posted by griphus at 9:03 AM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


"I've seen my own and others' gay relationship questions be greeted with "How about an open relationship?" when it should be clear from the question that is not something the asker is up for."

I wonder how much of this comes from the idea that all gay men will fuck a dinner plate if there's a crack in it. The flipside, of course, being the idea that all lesbians turn up to a second date with a hired van and a team of movers.
posted by mippy at 9:07 AM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Er, yeah, I always feel a bit bad for poly people that Dan Savage has sorta assumed the role of a spokesperson. He is kind of smug about it, and a lot of poly people (who, as far as I've talked to personally) consider honesty the most important thing and would resent cheating being included as a relationship saver. I'm monogamous and cool with poly people, but if I weren't cool with poly people, I don't think the "see how great cheating can be" argument would sway me in the least. It's not right for a partner not to have sex with you and expect you not to have sex, but that's when you should either get permission to open up the relationship or break up. You don't get to keep someone against their terms, even if they don't know about it. At that point you're using them.
posted by Nattie at 9:11 AM on January 6, 2012 [9 favorites]


Monogamish
Doot doo doodoodoo
posted by emelenjr at 9:16 AM on January 6, 2012 [28 favorites]


The annoying thing about relationship q's on some quarters of the internet are the partner who doesn't want an open relationship/worries about a partner cheating, and are keen not to break up, being told they should give polygamy a try.

But that's not really about poly per se, but about abusive relationships, or maybe peer pressure from random internet people.

A good partner won't pressure you to go past your boundaries, whatever they are. And people who offer unwanted advice about your personal relationships need to back off.
posted by emjaybee at 9:18 AM on January 6, 2012


That's because there are three people with broken hearts instead of two. We hear 1/3 more complaints from those than from monogamous breakups.

Worse. Given each person's propensity to complain x amount, we have (3 - 2) / 2 = .5 ----> we hear 50% more complaining! For the price of one relationship!

Offer does not apply in certain states.
posted by 3FLryan at 9:22 AM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why do most people assume that all nonmonogamous relationships are destined to fail?

[citation needed]
posted by unSane at 9:23 AM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wait, does that include the fact that each individual now has two possible sources of complaint-worth actions?
posted by griphus at 9:23 AM on January 6, 2012


I think Dan Savage, though I love the man, has allowed Monogamish to be confused with cheating. To the woman I love and myself, Monogamish implies a certain flexibility towards monogamy with the full consent and knowledge of the other. While it may not be the same for all couples (and I certainly think each relationship has its own rules), in our relationship an affair without consent by both of us would be cheating but a fling with permission would not be.

But to the point of Dan's article (bringing Monogamish out in the open) - we are both pretty candid about this. While we don't necessarily advertise it, we also don't lie about it. Fortunately, both of us are in positions in life where we have this freedom.
posted by jason says at 9:24 AM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wait, does that include the fact that each individual now has two possible sources of complaint-worth actions?

Of course not! That offer is only valid on Valentine's Day and weddings.
posted by 3FLryan at 9:27 AM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


This idea totally didn't work out for Ashton Kutcher, did it.
posted by stormpooper at 9:41 AM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


An argument against strict monogamy as a "natural" state of affairs in Homo/Pan: http://www.sexatdawn.com/
posted by clvrmnky at 9:43 AM on January 6, 2012


Hmm. When I read the second story, I didn't assume that Savage condones it. In fact, I kind of assume he doesn't (nor do I think he completely condemns it). I thought he included the story to show that a) This could be your best friend/cousin/uncle and you wouldn't know it b) even affairs without the consent of a partner are not always 100% horrible, evil, and destructive.

If I were the woman in that relationship and I eventually found out, I would be PISSED. However, if it were me, I would also be happy not knowing about it and never finding out, especially if it saved our relationship. (Course, I'm the type of person who would have given him permission in the first place.) I wouldn't ask, press, or snoop to find out how he made it through those four years, I'd be happier just not knowing.
posted by hannahelastic at 9:45 AM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


The reason why most people assume that relationships, both monogamous and non-monogamous, will fail is that the vast majority of them do. Even for people who eventually end up in stable relationships all the prior ones failed. So the 'perception' is the reality.

This is why I flip out whenever some 'forever alone' person starts going on about how they are no good at relationships. We ALL suck at relationships right up until we don't. It is just like how you always find things in the very last place you look.
posted by srboisvert at 9:52 AM on January 6, 2012 [15 favorites]


The annoying thing about relationship q's on some quarters of the internet are the partner who doesn't want an open relationship/worries about a partner cheating, and are keen not to break up, being told they should give polygamy a try.

Maybe a less emotionally loaded analogy will work better here. Some of those questions read like "I love being outside in the sun and I am constantly getting sunburned but I HATE HATE HATE suntan lotion and don't want to get cancer from repeated burns, what can I do???"

Given a problem with some variables that you can't control (the sun coming up), some you can (going outside at all, going outside when it's sunny, putting on suntan lotion), some unknowables (how much exactly each burn increases your risk of skin cancer) and some you sorta can (building up a base tan, which shares risks with burning) there's only so many things people can tell you do to.

Complaining that solution X always comes up when the only options are X, Y and Z seems... at the least, pointless. At worst it seems like "Give me some advice! No, I don't like that advice, give me different advice!"

People get open relationships suggested because they present a problem that involves another human being who they cannot control and observe perfectly. They can only control their own responses to that behavior and their own behavior. It may be an imperfect solution or not exactly conforming to the questioner's requests but not every question has a perfectly conforming solution as-asked.

When I have seen Savage talk about this in the past I mostly see him saying that straying happens and refusing to acknowledge it often does more harm that good. I think that story of the guy who cheated was in there because it illustrates a case when someone had a relationship that was working for them in every other way and he went and filled an unmet need elsewhere. Later that was no longer necessary.

I don't think it's Savage's dream example of a way to behave - lying certainly doesn't seem consistent with his GGG concept - but I think it's meant to support his belief that the couple would have been even better off if the man had been able to fill that need without fraud. If we had a culture where this sort of thing could be discussed or it wasn't demonized, would that man have been able in year N to say "look, you seem not interested in this part of our relationship right now; I am, though, but I'm also really happy in all these other ways. Can we talk about this other solution?"

I think Savage's point is "this is currently happening but with lies. Shouldn't we see if it can happen with truth, and therefor work better?"
posted by phearlez at 10:00 AM on January 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I love what Savage has done with the "It Gets Better" campaign and his column, but his own prejudices sometimes make him hard to read.

For instance, I'm all for successful relationships, whatever form they take. I support same-sex marriage and think it should be legal by default (really don't get what the big deal is, either; if people want to get married it just seems like they should be able to). Poly, kink and alternative arrangements that work for the people involved are all fine by me--and by "work", I mean that everyone knows what is going on with their partners and is good with it.

Dan, though, not only seems totally prejudiced against ALL monogamist relationships, but also seems to think cheating is okay if your partner is "uptight" by HIS standards.

[A couple examples from recent columns: Savage himself draws a line at scat and vomit (and I totally get that), so he had no problem telling a woman that she should not feel obligated to try to vomit during oral sex, even though her lover wants her to.

But Savage is all for poly arrangements, so when another asker, this time a man, asks about a cheating partner, Dan suggests that she is not having her needs met and his insistence on monogamy is not GGG.]

That's a pretty neat trick of circular logic--anyone who doesn't agree with Dan on a given situation is not GGG and therefore an uptight prude, while everyone who does is progressive and evolved.

So when he talks about monogamous couples being "smug", I roll my eyes a bit and just chalk it up to Savage's own issues with monogamy.
posted by misha at 10:02 AM on January 6, 2012 [21 favorites]


The thing about GGG is that it does not take existing social structures into account. That's why IM-anecdote-not-data-E I've run into a number of young women who feel pressured to do stuff they really don't want to do and cite "GGG" as why. Also why there's some research about, er, "hook-up culture" that suggests (can't google for it at work) that straight people hook-ups basically focus on the dude's sexual gratification and contain minimal female orgasms. Being GGG is great if both parties trust each other and are basically operating on an equal basis with a feminist analysis of power relations. If not, it's just one more way of telling women that they're uptight if they don't do [thing they don't want to do].

And Dan Savage - who I frankly do not like because of the whole transphobia thing and because of his frequent rhetorical trope of "as a gay man, I am totally viscerally repulsed by women's bodies" (which if true he should totes see a therapist about that)....anyway, I don't like the fellow. And I think his deployment of GGG is very much "GGG according to I, Dan Savage's sexual norms, which are, you know, normal not like your freaky uptight-chicks-who-don't-ball norms".

Which to me illustrates the flaw in the whole concept. Yes, it's alliterative, but it's basically a reformulation of "when you're having sex with people, you should fairly and empathically work out what each of you is comfortable with, and figure out how far outside your immediate comfort zone you can reasonably go" - a reformulation which elides the complexity, mutual responsibility and above all uniqueness of any sustained sexual relationship. Dan Savage is sort of the Frederick Taylor of sex.
posted by Frowner at 10:13 AM on January 6, 2012 [23 favorites]


Can I just say this right now?

"Fuck Relationships"

Sorry - I'm not heartbroken or anything. *sigh*
posted by symbioid at 10:20 AM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Dan Savage, though I love the man, has allowed Monogamish to be confused with cheating.

”monogomish” should include some instances of cheating. It is relationships that appear to be monogamous to society, and which function well, but aren't as monogomous as they are assumed to be. Some instances of cheating definitely apply. Monogomous does not mean poly - we already have a word for poly; ”poly”. :-)
posted by -harlequin- at 10:21 AM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, I believe the icked-out-by-women-bits thing for Dan Savage; I've known straight men who were super gay-positive, but still icked-out-by-men-bits, in that they weren't just not attracted, but actively turned-off by naked men. It's a spectrum thing, and there are people at both extremes.
posted by jb at 10:21 AM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


And Dan Savage - who I frankly do not like because of the whole transphobia thing and because of his frequent rhetorical trope of "as a gay man, I am totally viscerally repulsed by women's bodies" (which if true he should totes see a therapist about that)

Savage has an evolving relationship with the idea of trans people (for example, he stopped using "tranny" after his readers explained that it was offensive, not funny) and I think that he tries to do good, and when he makes a misstep, he tries to correct it. You can probably find tons of websites from trans activists who are determined to be hurt, but sometimes you have to give people the benefit of the doubt that even if they're fucking up, they want to do the right thing, and not treat them like the trans antichrist.

Also, the idea that being repulsed by women's genitals should require you to seek therapy is silly. Sometimes things are just gross. If Savage wanted to have sex with women and also thought their bits were bad, then he might need to talk to someone. But he doesn't.
posted by TypographicalError at 10:31 AM on January 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


And yes, if you're poly, how do you explain your relationship to the mainstream world? I can't imagine trying to explain it to my mother, for instance, and even for people who have no issues with non-straight sexuality and probably wouldn't freak out about something non-heteronormative, it would make me feel a bit uncomfortable or hesitant to put across. (Or maybe I'm just projecting because I remember the strange look I got when trying to explain the concept of goatse to someone...)

Whoa. Well, first you have to NOT feel like your poly relationship is soooooooo crazy that it's just a short leap from there to goatse.

(Not flippant. This takes lots of work for many people. It's just that once you're a person who's willingly done that work, it is COMPLETELY BANANAS to see poly and goatse in the same paragraph like it's the new "gay marriage = slippery slope to horrific mayhem", you know what I mean?)

(Also, [NOT ANTI-CONSENSUAL-GOATSE-IST].)
posted by clavicle at 10:33 AM on January 6, 2012 [3 favorites]




Also, the idea that being repulsed by women's genitals should require you to seek therapy is silly. Sometimes things are just gross. If Savage wanted to have sex with women and also thought their bits were bad, then he might need to talk to someone. But he doesn't.

But he feels obliged to reiterate his disgust - and it is disgust - in an extremely public and fairly influential forum, and he tends to frame this as "I'm gay, so of course I am nauseated by the mere thought of having sex with a woman". To me, that's both homophobic and misogynist - any time you feel compelled to be like "ooh, gross, women's bodies! they are so nasty I want to vomit" which has pretty much been his annual routine since I started reading his column in the nineties - you might want to look at what you're so cathected on. I mean, I'm a queer woman and it would be a little bit peculiar if I had to legitimate queer womanhood by pointing out just how gross and repulsive and alien-like penises are. (Not to mention the trans/genderqueer thing - not all men have penises, etc etc)

I don't understand why people are so attached to Dan Savage. He's a rich white dude with a really reductionist, moralistic view of sex and relationships, even though it's a reductionist moralistic view that's different from the right-wing moralistic view. There are so many better, more radical and more humane sex writers out there in this age of the internet.
posted by Frowner at 10:37 AM on January 6, 2012 [16 favorites]


”monogomish” should include some instances of cheating. It is relationships that appear to be monogamous to society, and which function well, but aren't as monogamous as they are assumed to be. Some instances of cheating definitely apply. Monogamous does not mean poly - we already have a word for poly; ”poly”. :-)

I get your point. I think what I was trying to say, albeit badly, is that I think that monogamish and cheating are really two different things regardless of how they are viewed from the outside. And, as you note, both of these are different from poly. I would be heartbroken if my beloved had an affair with someone that she hid from me as it is the lack of knowledge and my consent that differentiates cheating from monogamish behavior - at least in our relationship. In addition, neither of us want another relationship, so we certainly are not poly.
posted by jason says at 10:37 AM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't understand why people are so attached to Dan Savage. He's a rich white dude with a really reductionist, moralistic view of sex and relationships, even though it's a reductionist moralistic view that's different from the right-wing moralistic view. There are so many better, more radical and more humane sex writers out there in this age of the internet.

I think that Dan Savage has been doing something different enough for long enough that people know his name and trust his advice (maybe). Sure, there are lots of better sex writers online, but I'd wager that most people don't know who they are.

I think Savage also manages to somehow be charming and charismatic even when he's being a complete asshole, so people keep on reading.
posted by asnider at 10:42 AM on January 6, 2012


-harlequin-: " Dan Savage, though I love the man, has allowed Monogamish to be confused with cheating.

”monogomish” should include some instances of cheating. It is relationships that appear to be monogamous to society, and which function well, but aren't as monogomous as they are assumed to be. Some instances of cheating definitely apply. Monogomous does not mean poly - we already have a word for poly; ”poly”. :-)
"

Well then why not Fauxnogomous? Monogomish implies a sort of monogomy lite (but still w/some sense of fidelity)... At least that's how I read it.

And how do you delineate what instances of cheating can be included and what can't?
posted by symbioid at 10:43 AM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


And how do you delineate what instances of cheating can be included and what can't?

The same way that Savage seems to: completely arbitrarily.
posted by asnider at 10:45 AM on January 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


Unfortunately, Frowner, I think you just answered your own question. :(
posted by clavicle at 10:46 AM on January 6, 2012


The thing about GGG is that it does not take existing social structures into account.

That's only true if you accept a definition of GGG that doesn't include "or get out of the relationship and (let them) be with someone who is. Savage doesn't make any bones that he feels some things are just a given - he once called a relationship without oral as 'broken from the factory' - but I don't think it's fair to say he wants people to do things they hate.

monogamish and cheating are really two different things regardless of how they are viewed from the outside

Meh. As a graying net nerd who has seen it discussed to death I'd say that monogamish includes poly since poly encompasses all sorts of relationships; not all include a 3+ person all or even most of the time or an emotional connection with others outside the primary couple.

Monogamish is a useful term to say "look, there's some ground between totally all the time exclusive and no restraints at all." Part of that is pointing out the many flavors of poly, part of it is pointing out that two people who promise to be exclusive and who then cheat are not actually being monogamous.

It's not endorsing smash and grab robbery when I tell someone to be careful what they leave in a car when they park in a crime-prone neighborhood, it's suggesting they recognize the reality of a situation. Savage seems to me to be very clear in saying that, in light of what seem to be certain realities, doesn't it make sense to adapt our behavior?
posted by phearlez at 10:48 AM on January 6, 2012


It is relationships that appear to be monogamous to society, and which function well, but aren't as monogomous as they are assumed to be.

If one partner is secretly breaking a mutually-agreed-upon requirement of the relationship, then I can't call that a well-functioning relationship. This is obviously an area where Savage and I disagree.

To put this another way, to me monogamish relationships (aka non-monogamous relationships) require both partners to agree that it's monogamish/non-monogamous. Otherwise it's a monogamous relationship that one person is cheating at.
posted by muddgirl at 10:48 AM on January 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


The most important thing I have learned about a non-monagamous relationship is this.

If you have a partner and your relationship is in trouble, opening it up will not save it and will most likely kill it.

Open relationships are based upon the security and strength of the primary relationship. All the issues in a relationship are multiplied when multiple people are involved.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 10:52 AM on January 6, 2012 [10 favorites]


If one partner is secretly breaking a mutually-agreed-upon requirement of the relationship, then I can't call that a well-functioning relationship. This is obviously an area where Savage and I disagree.

I don't think Savage, or either of the spouses, would have claimed that was a well-functioning relationship during the four year span where the couple wasn't having sex with each other and one spouse then looked outside the relationship for sex.
posted by zippy at 11:01 AM on January 6, 2012


On The Stranger's blog Dan posted the full unedited letter from the cheater:
SL Letter of the Day: Monogamish Week, Day 2.

"Including a letter from someone who had a successful affair didn't violate the spirit of the monogamish column. The point is that there are more people out there in non-monogamous relationships than many-to-most people realize. Included in the numbers of non-realizers, sadly, are people who are in monogamish relationships and don't know/realize it.

And not everyone who cheats on his/her spouse is a CPOS ("cheating piece of shit"). As I've said on many occasions: there are times when having an affair represents the least worst option. In some cases it's better for all involved if the sexually denied/deprived/rejected/resentful partner cheats, stays sane, and stays married than it is for the sexually denied/deprived/rejected/resentful partner to "do the right thing" and divorce his low-to-no libido spouse. It was my opinion—my column, my opinion—that the particular circumstances the LW found himself in constituted one of those times.

And, um, those circumstances were entirely left out of his letter. I cut the letter down to get it into the column and then, after I turned the column in, it was edited again for space considerations. As a result of all that editing, all of the detail and nuance—all of the exonerating evidence—was omitted. That was unfortunate. So the entire and complete letter is after the jump. Judge for yourselves whether this was one of those times when a person could cheat without being CPOS. I think it was."

posted by metaname at 11:14 AM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


...and the high-libido partner had the option of asking consent to open the relationship. Which he reportedly didn't do. THAT is my problem, and why I think when we're talking about functional non-monogamous relationships we need to exlude ones where one partner thinks it's actually monogamous when it's not.

We already have a cultural understanding of cheating partners. I was hoping for Savage to attempt to define consenting non-monogamous, non-polyamourous relationships.
Included in the numbers of non-realizers, sadly, are people who are in monogamish relationships and don't know/realize it.
That is not in any way a "non-monogamous" relationship. A relationship takes at least TWO people.

I've already stated my position a couple of times, and made it clear that I disagree with Savage that it's ever OK to tell your partner that you are monogamous when you're not. I don't really have anything else to add.
posted by muddgirl at 11:20 AM on January 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


Indeed, muddgirl. The term "consensual non-monogamy" adds some syllables and runs the risk of sounding sanctimonious, but it sure does seem like a useful distinction in cases like this one.
posted by clavicle at 11:26 AM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, Frowner, I think you did just answer your own question.

But I also think people look to Dan Savage for quality sex/relationship advice because he's like the McDonald's of relationship advice. His advice has brand recognition, it's accessible and predictable, and moderately tasty on one level or another; but it's also fast, cheap, and ultimately unfulfilling.

There are some much better discussions of all shades of non-monogamy and polyamory here and (NSFW) here.

In response to disdain for the poly-vangelizing that sometimes happens here and IRL (which is something I, as a poly/non-monog person, also despise): just think with a bit of compassion about how this is usually a coping mechanism for dealing with all the negative messaging against poly/non-monogamy that people in such relationships confront every day, with impacts ranging from relatively mild (losing friends) to quite extreme (losing custody of children, or a job).

In many ways, poly/non-monogamous people are constantly dealing with mono-vangelizing; just because it's the "norm" doesn't mean it doesn't have a negative impact on them (us).
posted by Betty's Table at 11:36 AM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Submitter: You should have used quote marks to make clear that you were borrowing someone else's words for your post.
posted by teatime at 11:36 AM on January 6, 2012


Why do most people assume that all nonmonogamous relationships are destined to fail?

Because in order for a monogamous relationship to never ever fail, both parties involved have to be immortal. Most humans don't meet this criteria.
posted by FatherDagon at 11:36 AM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just got an email from the Washington Post shilling this weekend's issue. The Sunday Magazine has a cover with a couple plus the woman holding hands with another man on her other side. The large headline is "The Vow" and the teaser text in the email says:

"Her ill husband would never be the same, but she fell in love with another man. How could they find happiness, yet honor a sacred vow?"

Seems likely to be on-topic.
posted by phearlez at 11:40 AM on January 6, 2012


But he feels obliged to reiterate his disgust - and it is disgust - in an extremely public and fairly influential forum, and he tends to frame this as "I'm gay, so of course I am nauseated by the mere thought of having sex with a woman". To me, that's both homophobic and misogynist - any time you feel compelled to be like "ooh, gross, women's bodies! they are so nasty I want to vomit" which has pretty much been his annual routine since I started reading his column in the nineties - you might want to look at what you're so cathected on. I mean, I'm a queer woman and it would be a little bit peculiar if I had to legitimate queer womanhood by pointing out just how gross and repulsive and alien-like penises are. (Not to mention the trans/genderqueer thing - not all men have penises, etc etc)

I suspect he plays it up for comic effect, trusting that his readers will be able to separate the humorous anti-female-body sections of his column from the helpful pro-female-body sections of his column. But yes, he often suffers from what Scalzi calls the "failure mode of clever", which in his case may more often be the "failure mode of drunkenness and lax editing".
posted by TypographicalError at 11:56 AM on January 6, 2012


they don’t want to be perceived as dangerous sex maniacs who are destined to divorce

speak for yourself! *rimshot*

Polyamory seems to be a bit more structured and long term. Am I making this up? Does anyone else recognize differences between these, or is it a case of their being so many possible variations that it's meaningless to draw distinctions between only two terms?

Depends. Polyamory tends to be more love/relationship oriented. There are open and closed polyamorous relationships. People can have two serious relationships and fuck people casually on the side...the variations are many. Opening Up is a great book about it.

And yes, if you're poly, how do you explain your relationship to the mainstream world? I can't imagine trying to explain it to my mother, for instance, and even for people who have no issues with non-straight sexuality and probably wouldn't freak out about something non-heteronormative, it would make me feel a bit uncomfortable or hesitant to put across. (Or maybe I'm just projecting because I remember the strange look I got when trying to explain the concept of goatse to someone...)

You simply aren't "out" to everyone and their mother. Not out to bosses, not out to in-laws, not out to Facebook. Had a weird moment recently where an in-law was trying to explain ethical non-monogamy to me like it was a new concept...so sometimes being not-out is weird.

But I'm (we're?) out to a good majority of our friends. It is sometimes uncomfortable but when I was in a somewhat more serious relationship with my boyfriend I refused to keep him a secret, avoid inviting him to my birthday party, shit like that, because it felt gross and disrespectful to him as a person whom I loved and respected. Was it awkward? Yeah, that's life though.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:05 PM on January 6, 2012


I'm totally all about people exploring their sexuality and experimenting with different kind of relationships, but I strenously-object-to-as-in-can't-fucking-stand-is-in-oh-please-can-we-kill-it-with-fire "monogamish". There's a special place in hell for people who get all cutesy with the language. "monogamish" is tantamount to waterboarding the dictionary.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:07 PM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


TypographicalError, that's pretty irresponsible of him if that's true. Given his visceral disgust for fat people and general rudeness I'm not sure if his dissing on women is entirely joking. Even if it is, what good does it serve to reinforce shitty attitudes about stuff in a LOLJUSTKIDDING way?

Man, I am so glad that people are getting over Dan Savage. The hell with your shit, Dan Savage.
posted by beefetish at 12:07 PM on January 6, 2012 [7 favorites]


I suspect he plays it up for comic effect, trusting that his readers will be able to separate the humorous anti-female-body sections of his column from the helpful pro-female-body sections of his column. But yes, he often suffers from what Scalzi calls the "failure mode of clever", which in his case may more often be the "failure mode of drunkenness and lax editing".

I'm just really reminded of Gay Man Fail incidents like some of the drag shows that used to get put on for straight folks in tourist areas - really misogynist stuff that made fun of women and had all this gender-essentializing stuff in it, and from whence sprang the otherwise-inexplicable Second Wave feminist critique of drag. And some of that late seventies/pre-AIDS macho dude culture stuff where you'd occasionally see ads for bars or objects that were marketed as "we gay men, we are so macho, we DO NOT ALLOW women in this environment". (Which was actually quite the switch from the whole "Barbara Streisand-type-singers actually performing at events held at gay bars/bathhouses" thing - it was an ideological change, not a practical and reasonable concern with not wanting lots of straights cluttering up the sex club.)

My point is, among some privileged gay dudes, there has historically been a conscious, intentional "LOL, women are so gross and femininity is so repulsive amirite" routine. It's not just a quirk of Dan Savage, and it's not okay. It's privileged gay dudes being misogynist in order to ally with the privileged [straight men] and differentiate themselves from the weak/exploited [women]. It's the same kind of thing as "straight-acting manly man seeks same".

And I personally refuse to take sex advice (for christ's sake, advice about how I use my body) from someone who thinks it's hiLARious to talk about how disgusting that body is.
posted by Frowner at 12:10 PM on January 6, 2012 [13 favorites]


I'm totally all about people exploring their sexuality and experimenting with different kind of relationships, but I strenously-object-to-as-in-can't-fucking-stand-is-in-oh-please-can-we-kill-it-with-fire "monogamish".

How about "monogamoid"?
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:10 PM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Ambiguimy."
posted by griphus at 12:12 PM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sesquigamous?
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:16 PM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


An older male/female couple I know:

Married for almost 50 years, two grown kids, stopped having sex decades ago, at some point along the line she fell in love with a woman and got together with her. If it was ever a secret from her husband, it wasn't for long. He had a bit of a time adjusting to the situation, but eventually accepted it and she continued the relationship for several years. After she broke up with that girlfriend she dated a few other women and then stopped and doesn't date outside of the marriage anymore. The original couple still live together and are definitely spouses and partners, if non-sexual ones. They like going to the movies together. That's a relationship that works for them. I bet this kind of thing is much more common than is acknowledged.
posted by latkes at 12:31 PM on January 6, 2012


There are so many better, more radical and more humane sex writers out there in this age of the internet.

I hate when people tease like this -- please list examples! :-)
posted by smidgen at 12:32 PM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't particularly like Dan Savage as a personality that much -- he's an attention-whore like everyone else in the public eye. However, he is kind of carrying the torch for mainstreaming the understanding that sexual relationships and sexual behavior are complex -- and that it is not a result of pathology.

It isn't really about poly vs monogamous. It's about the realization that this ideal we get sold early on about couples in love and fucking each other in the approved way til the day they die is a construct. Real life doesn't work that way -- sexual relationships and behavior are just as differentiated as any other social behavior. We have all kinds of platonic friendships of different styles, and not many people hold up the ideal of the perfect friendship as a moral goal (or at least, they grow out of it).

As with any ideal, there are people who embody it, of course, but most people's lives don't fit inside the lines. You see people, even in kinkier circles, who don't understand this. They go from standard sex to kinky, but within the prescribed lines of kinky. Not in the sense that they stay tame, but they combine things which need not be combined. For example, not every fetish is about power play...
posted by smidgen at 12:47 PM on January 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


People who say they "love Dan Savage" don't actually love Dan Savage. They love his READERS. The ones who come up with "his" neologisms and catch phrases, which he then takes credit for and which increases his completely undeserved adulation. Now he's "writing" a book that will comprise these stories- and he'll make a mint off it while the actual WRITERS, his adoring and hopelessly stupid public, will not make a penny.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 12:54 PM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Although the kids - it seems like most of the radical kids I know under about 28 are intentionally and openly poly.
posted by Frowner at 10:26 AM on January 6


I have a theory about this. I think that as the economic disparities between rich and poor get wider, relationships which make people more economically comfortable will be more okay. So, living with your sexual partner before marriage (and thus often much earlier in the relationship) becomes more acceptable in the '70s and '80s as the economy is making it really difficult for people to live on one salary. And I think living with multiple partners will become more acceptable as the economy continues to make it harder to live on two salaries.
posted by joannemerriam at 1:00 PM on January 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


I have a theory about this. I think that as the economic disparities between rich and poor get wider, relationships which make people more economically comfortable will be more okay. So, living with your sexual partner before marriage (and thus often much earlier in the relationship) becomes more acceptable in the '70s and '80s as the economy is making it really difficult for people to live on one salary. And I think living with multiple partners will become more acceptable as the economy continues to make it harder to live on two salaries.

I have no idea whether or not I agree with this, but my wife and I (who are monogamous) live with a roommate for basically these reasons. We don't sleep with him(because ew, no offense, Tim), but otherwise the arrangement is similarish.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:07 PM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


How about "monogamoid"?
Happier than you and me
posted by InfidelZombie at 1:13 PM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


And I think living with multiple partners will become more acceptable as the economy continues to make it harder to live on two salaries.

While this seems plausible, it doesn't necessarily follow that those "partners" will be sexual partners. We may just see people living with multiple roommates later in life than was previously seen as the norm.
posted by asnider at 1:14 PM on January 6, 2012


The big difference between most "monogamous" people and poly people:
Poly people usually don't spend months -- or years -- of not communicating with or flat-out lying to their partners before eventually getting sexually involved with another person.

I would've said "before getting into another relationship", but the fact is, most affairs in "monogamous" relationships simply don't qualify as a relationship in any meaningful way, and are usually rife with lies and secretive behavior all the way around.

There was a tendency to call monogamists "serial monogamists" awhile back, because they aren't truly pair-bonded and have numerous monogamous relationships throughout their lives... but, in practical terms, most usually aren't even that. They're just people who sleep with a string of other people throughout their lives, oftentimes secretly during existing relationships. They may *prefer* being in relationships, but in truth, the great majority don't insist upon it.

When someone who is polyamorous wants to enter into another relationship, at least they are able to do so in an honest, above-board manner, in theory. Yes, this makes things more complicated and less stable, in terms of maintaining two relationships at once, as there is a significant chance that one of the relationships could become dominant while the other falls by the wayside... but as someone who is polyamorous and has been with one of my partners for about 23 years now, well... I don't see that as a bad track record.
posted by markkraft at 1:32 PM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Poly people usually don't spend months -- or years -- of not communicating with or flat-out lying to their partners before eventually getting sexually involved with another person.

I'm not sure that monogamous people "usually" do this, either.
posted by asnider at 1:39 PM on January 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


markkraft,

That comes across as pretty smug and incredibly judgmental about people in monogamous relationships. I see no reason to believe that poly people are open and communicative in their relationships than people in general, and I suspect there are plenty of unhealthy polyamorous relationships out there.

You also seem to believe that all people in monogamous relationships are either currently having affairs or inevitably will have affairs, which simply isn't true. There are plenty of legitimately monogamous people out there.

I'm glad you're happy in a polyamorous relationship, but that's absolutely no reason to assume that all monogamous people are unhappy in their relationships.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:42 PM on January 6, 2012 [10 favorites]


I would like to point out that there have been multiple non-smug non-monogamous people in this thread, so if you're thinking AHA! JUST LIKE A POLYAMOROUS-IST! please don't. We're individuals and stuff.

(Although when dating multiple people I probably do communicate more than the average monogamous person simply because shit is more complicated and more work needs to be done.)
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:51 PM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


While this seems plausible, it doesn't necessarily follow that those "partners" will be sexual partners. We may just see people living with multiple roommates later in life than was previously seen as the norm.

Yeah. In fact, of the young poly folk I know, very few try to put all of their sex partners under one roof. (And for good reason! It's really difficult to make that work! Some exes and I tried it once, and none of us are talking to each other anymore!) In fact, many of the poly folks I know don't live with any of their partners. Plenty of them do have roommates out of economic necessity, and then they'll sometimes sleep over at a date's house or vice versa, but they keep their love life and their living situation separate.

Basically, I think one-happy-family-style cohabitatin' polyamory would only be reliable money-saver in some sort of Heinlein-style utopia where it always runs smoothly and never leads to drama or confusion. Here in the real world, communal living is tricky, poly is tricky, and combining the two is very, very tricky. If you're on a tight budget and can't afford to break your lease and lose your security deposit should things go south, it doesn't really look like such a great bargain after all. (There's a general truth here. Tough economic times tend to make people more socially conservative, not more liberal. When the margin of error shrinks, you cling to what's proven to work.)

But on that note, it's worth remembering too that polyamory really took off as a subculture during the 90s. It's just that it's taken longer to filter into mainstream consciousness. So if there's any link between polyamory and the economy, I'd wager that the crucial economic moment would have been the internet boom. If you're 23, nerdy, liberal and already making more money than you ever expected, then hey, why not experiment a bit and see what happens?
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:53 PM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


I would like to point out that there have been multiple non-smug non-monogamous people in this thread, so if you're thinking AHA! JUST LIKE A POLYAMOROUS-IST! please don't. We're individuals and stuff.

Obviously, that's why my comment was addressed to markkraft and not anyone else.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:53 PM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I know, I am more talking to the general audience but didn't want to pile on markkraft like "don't be smug" so...er. Move along, folks. Nothing to see here.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:57 PM on January 6, 2012


Also regarding the issue of being non-monogamous in the long term, I'm just going to go with the young rope-rider and say: Boy, is it awkward. Also, hi. I'm polyamorous. I'm also under 30 and radical! Like Frowner said!
posted by beefetish at 2:36 PM on January 6, 2012


Poly always seems like a good idea until you find someone who you're really crazy about, then it's like, man, I gotta lock that shit down RIGHT QUICK.

I mean, as fun as it sounds, if you wanna go that way, you're gonna have to turn away a lot of folks who just aren't down with that. I mean, I know my current girlfriend wouldn't be down with that, and I'd rather have her than like 3 women who I was less crazy about.
posted by Afroblanco at 2:52 PM on January 6, 2012 [6 favorites]


yeah afro it's almost like you have to turn down people that you aren't compatible with or something

hmmmmmmmmmmmmm
posted by beefetish at 2:56 PM on January 6, 2012


Poly always seems like a good idea until you find someone who you're really crazy about, then it's like, man, I gotta lock that shit down RIGHT QUICK.

...Orrrrrrrrr it's like, man, this person who I am crazy about would really prefer not to have their shit locked down. In which case locking that shit down would be unfair, and I don't want to do anything unfair to the person I'm really crazy about. Depends on your perspective.
posted by clavicle at 3:04 PM on January 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


"that's absolutely no reason to assume that all monogamous people are unhappy in their relationships"

I'm hardly doing that. There are *lots* of monogamous people who live very happily together with one person their entire life.

However, that's the exception, not the rule. Most fall into the not-entirely-monogamous category, and most have cheated at some point. Hopefully, most find happy relationships eventually.
posted by markkraft at 3:11 PM on January 6, 2012


I guess the bottom line is that Savage thinks it's ok to sleep with someone besides your partner behind their back if they have a low libido

That is the bottom line, and the main thing that makes me laugh when people trot him out as though he's an authority on relationships, or much of anything, really. Fucking who you want is fine; lying to someone you supposedly love isn't (particularly when your lies are endangering their health).

I don't understand why people are so attached to Dan Savage. He's a rich white dude with a really reductionist, moralistic view of sex and relationships, even though it's a reductionist moralistic view that's different from the right-wing moralistic view.


I listen to the podcast every week. As long as you look at him as a comedian, it's fun (although he could really use a smart sidekick to balance him out -- and that giggler he had the past month wasn't it.)
posted by coolguymichael at 3:49 PM on January 6, 2012


"I guess the bottom line is that Savage thinks it's ok to sleep with someone besides your partner behind their back if they have a low libido"

You're going to judge Dan Savage for sharing something -- one of several things -- that his readers wrote?! I didn't see him making a value judgment that it was ok / ideal to cheat on a partner. Only a statement saying that non-monogamy isn't necessarily the death of a relationship, and that lots of people keep silent about it.

"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 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."

That, to me, seems realistic, especially considering the statistics.
posted by markkraft at 4:09 PM on January 6, 2012


In other words, he's saying that the rather common European practice of having quiet affairs on the side is also okay -- and perhaps a bit more in-line with standard monogamous practice -- so long as there's a general understanding between partners and a commitment to the relationship... and that if an affair does happen for rather understandable reasons, it doesn't have to be the end of the world.
posted by markkraft at 4:14 PM on January 6, 2012


Gay Man Fail

I'm not sure what it means that I initially read this as "Gay Fan Mail".
posted by Daily Alice at 5:55 PM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


And how do you delineate what instances of cheating can be included and what can't?

The same way that Savage seems to: completely arbitrarily.


It actually seems dead simple to me:

1. Does a relationship appear to be monogamous and successful?
2. Was it also not completely monogamous?

If Yes and Yes, then it's "monogomish" - ie possessing the quality of falsely training society to believe that monogamy works and non-monogamy doesn't.
posted by -harlequin- at 6:24 PM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


1. Power and equality in relationships - people who are afraid of being left and consent to stuff for that reason.

If you read the interview with Savage's partner that popped up here last year, you'll see that that's pretty much something Savage used to "open up" their relationship - once they'd been together for a while, he offered a "be open, or I'm going to cheat anyway" threat.

I think Dan Savage, though I love the man, has allowed Monogamish to be confused with cheating.

No, he's always been pretty clear that in his world, if your partner doesn't give you what you want, you go and get it anyway.

Savage has an evolving relationship with the idea of trans people (for example, he stopped using "tranny" after his readers explained that it was offensive, not funny) and I think that he tries to do good, and when he makes a misstep, he tries to correct it.

Yeah? Has he stopped claiming bisexual men don't exist and any guy who claims to be bi is a filthy liar?

I don't understand why people are so attached to Dan Savage.

Because in spite of his bullshit and many faults and flaws, when he started getting noticed outside his hometown paper, he was one of the few, if only, people who wrote about relationships that weren't by-the-numbers-vanilla in a positive way. In a world where Cosmo was acting like, I dunno, having your wrists held during sex was the outer limits of acceptable sexual behaviour in the late 90s/early 2000s, if was a hell of a pleasant change to have someone address a broader spectrum of sexuality.

Similarly, in the English-speaking world, having someone saying, "You know what, you like sex, that's good and healthy" rather than the traditional puritanical bullshit that pushes women into Madonna/Whore and men into "filthy beasts", again, breath of fresh air.

I suspect he plays it up for comic effect, trusting that his readers will be able to separate the humorous anti-female-body sections of his column from the helpful pro-female-body sections of his column.

You'd have hoped a gay man who's talked a lot about the shitty way oft-homophobic mainstream society treats queers might have a skerrick of sympthay for and modicum of understaning that women get quite enough allegedly amusing comments about their bodies without someone who markets himself as a broader-minded advice columists going all HA HA WOMEN'S BODIES GROSS AMIRITE? joining in.
posted by rodgerd at 6:50 PM on January 6, 2012 [6 favorites]


Dan Savage isn't afaik ambiguous about cheating, nor does he excuse the dishonesty. Yes, he ranks baseline sexual fulfillment above fidelity, but that's simply correct.

It isn't a license to do what you please any time you please however, but simply a limit on what others may expect, or even what you may offer.

In essence, you cannot sell off your sexuality just like you cannot sell yourself into slavery. In particular, your partner loses their right to expect monogamy once they consistently reject reasonable sexual activity.

There isn't any serious argument against his positions once you recognize that sexuality is an integral part of the human condition.   "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Ass"

In fact, if you argue for honesty above baseline personal fulfillment, then you're actually arguing for the abolition of marriage, which might be reasonable, but remains only long term idealism, not hear and now sex advice.

Anyone bitching about infidelity should read about Bonobo chimpanzees, btw.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:57 PM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


"he offered a "be open, or I'm going to cheat anyway" threat"

There is absolutely nothing wrong with saying "I feel _____ and if this continues, I think it could end this relationship, but if you work with me on it, I think we'll do just fine."

That's honesty. It's not easy to do, and it's not always going to make your partner happy, but it is what it is.

It's a sign of someone dealing with their relationship as it is... not as others might wish it to be.
posted by markkraft at 5:53 AM on January 7, 2012


Yeah? Has he stopped claiming bisexual men don't exist and any guy who claims to be bi is a filthy liar?

Well, even though this is clearly not asked in good faith, you might do well to read this blog post from this past August in which he talks about a recent study of bisexual men and how 1) bisexual men exist and 2) a quite large percentage of bisexually identified men are not actually physically attracted to both genders.
posted by TypographicalError at 10:48 AM on January 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


There are so many better, more radical and more humane sex writers out there in this age of the internet.

I hate when people tease like this -- please list examples! :-)


I too want to see this list! I've tried to find other sex writers and podcasters, but haven't found anything as well produced or as interesting.
posted by philomathoholic at 2:44 PM on January 7, 2012


There is an awful lot of polyamory advocacy, including "professionals" like Reid Mihalko, but afaik they mostly lack Dan Savage's wit and humor.

Coke Talk covers sexual issues sanely with humor, but never address the extreme cases Dan Savage does. Instead, she mostly just slaps around empty-headed little twits, but she's funny.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:35 PM on January 7, 2012


markkraft: "There is absolutely nothing wrong with saying 'I feel _____ and if this continues, I think it could end this relationship, but if you work with me on it, I think we'll do just fine.'"

You're right. But there is something wrong with being hiding a huge part of yourself which you're quite aware of from your partner for a long time, until what might be called "the point of no return," and then revealing this part of yourself and making an ultimatum. That's manipulative, and it's wrong.

I appreciate that (I think) your desire is to stand up and say that women and men should be encouraged to talk about this stuff with their partners. I agree with you there. But that is not the issue here. rodgerd's implication was that the wait was strategic. And waiting strategically before communicating with someone what could be the breaking point of a relationship in the hope of forcing them to accept your proposition is wrong.
posted by koeselitz at 6:36 PM on January 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


jeffburdges: In particular, your partner loses their right to expect monogamy once they consistently reject reasonable sexual activity...

In fact, if you argue for honesty above baseline personal fulfillment, then you're actually arguing for the abolition of marriage


This argument is pretty much theological bullshit in actual practice, though.

If a man and a woman, for example, get married and decide to have a child and then she cannot have sex for a few weeks after the baby is born, is she rejecting reasonable sexual activity? Well, if his "baseline personal fulfillment" calls for sex every couple days, then by your definition she is. So, what, he should cheat on his wife from the time the baby's born?

You might say, "Well, expecting her to have sex right after giving birth is not *reasonable* sexual activity," and I think you'd be right. But "reasonable" is pretty damn subjective.

My problem with Savage's viewpoint on relationships is it doesn't hold up under real-life situations like that, or any relationship that doesn't exactly mirror his own. GGG is, again, what Dan Savage says it is, and that's all.

I also don't get how 'arguing for honesty above baseline personal fulfillment' = the abolition of marriage?

How about an honest marriage = mutual fulfillment instead? Or an honest relationship of any kind (mony, poly, whatever) beats cheating 100% of the time?
posted by misha at 12:14 PM on January 9, 2012


Dan Savage only argues that personal fulfillment trumps honesty in extreme situations, always long term medical disfunction in cases I've read. Afaik, nobody else competent addresses such situations.

As I said, you cannot sign away your sexuality at some unspecified future date based upon your partners possible future medical conditions. If their sex drive collapse, and they won't address that condition, then they have forfeited any claim on your fidelity. If they would retaliate legally for infidelity, then they have forfeited any claim on your honesty as well. It's very simply really.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:10 PM on January 9, 2012


I've already stated my position a couple of times, and made it clear that I disagree with Savage that it's ever OK to tell your partner that you are monogamous when you're not.

I'm not sure that I've every heard him say that it's "OK", just that it happens more often than we'd like to admit and that we have no cultural framework to deal with that. For most people cheating is a full-stop deal breaker, and I get it if that's how you roll. But the reality of the situation is that it's probably going to happen to you over the course of your life, and it might be better to be prepared to discuss it as something that you're disappointed in, rather than some kind of felony.

One of the interesting things about being in a healthy open relationship is that you don't really realize how much the fear of someone cheating on you is a burden until it's completely obliterated by knowing that they'll have sex with someone else, and that's okay. It's kind of like your lungs get an extra few inches of space you didn't know you had.

Not that I'm suggesting that an open relationship is a cure for jealousy, or good for a failing relationship, because it's clearly not. It's just that we tend to treat monogamy like everyone should be able to default to it, forever, easily. And the statistics just don't back that up.
posted by lumpenprole at 4:58 PM on January 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's just that we tend to treat monogamy like everyone should be able to default to it, forever, easily. And the statistics just don't back that up.

I definitely agree with you there.
posted by misha at 8:18 PM on January 10, 2012


Hm, just chiming in again because of a conversation I had with a male friend who had been in a relationship that his then-girlfriend wanted to be poly. For them and many other folks, "poly" just equals one partner wanting to sleep with other people and trying to get the other partner to be OK with it. For many good reasons, these relationships implode on themselves and then the burned people go around talking about how terrible poly is. I think these sort of relationships should be distinguished from those in which both BOTH partners in a relationship willingly enter into a sexual relationship with another partner.
posted by melissam at 11:39 AM on January 13, 2012


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