Pedagogy of the Undressed: It’s Poly Time!

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Hello and welcome to another installment of Pedagogy of the Undressed! This week, we’re going to explore the wild and exciting world of polyamory!

So I have a question about polyamory. My cismale SO and I just decided to open up our relationship. I have my OKCupid account and I’m pretty excited about an upcoming date. My question is mostly what are the guidelines? I don’t want to hurt any feelings. I don’t know how open I should be with my peers. If my SO is seeing someone who is also in an open relationship, where will they have sex? Do I have to be comfortable with strangers in our bed to be GGG? 

Thanks!

Pondering open lifestyle 

So, for folks who are unfamiliar, opening up your relationship or practicing Polyamory (Poly, for short) is when you and whomever you partner with create agreements around having sexual, romantic, or kink relationships with multiple people.

Every poly relationship is different, so for as many different couples as there are in the world, there are that many different ways to have an open relationship. The difference between poly relationships and cheating is that all parties involved are aware of all the relationships, have the opportunity to discuss boundaries and feelings as they come up, and can give consent to participating in the relationship(s).

I will go over a few of the different things that can be helpful to think about and talk about when it comes to opening up a monogamous relationship.

Is Poly right for me?

So, you’ve sat down and talked about opening up your relationship, which is an excellent place to start!

Some helpful things to think about with yourself and discuss with your partner are what your boundaries are around other people, what types of relationships you feel good about, and some challenges or feelings that are coming up for you.

For instance, it’s totally okay to say I don’t feel comfortable with having other people in our shared bed. In fact, many open relationships have boundaries like that. It doesn’t make you selfish or a bad partner; it is a way that we can ensure that all folks feel safe, cared for, and respected in the relationships.

It might take a little trial and error to see what feels best, but it’s really important to keep communicating throughout and making sure all parties involved understand boundaries and expectations.

I definitely recommend checking out books like Opening Up by Tristan Taormino, Redefining Our Relationships by Wendy-O Matik, or The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton. They have lots of great ideas, models of poly relationships, and also some first-hand trial and error experiences that can help you figure out what makes sense for you in your poly exploration.

One of the keys to any healthy relationship, poly or not, is to be real about how you are feeling, what your desires are, and to communicate as much as you can with the people you partner with.

Coming out to friends and family

Alright, so you have negotiated clear boundaries, gone on a few dates or to a couple of hot play parties, and are getting into the swing of practicing poly.

How do you come out to the people in your life?

As someone who has had to come out multiple times and continues to have to come out on the regular for many reasons, I have a short list of questions I ask myself before coming out about pretty much anything.

  1. Will coming out put me in immediate danger of losing my housing, job, or safety?
  2. In previous conversations, has this person seemed affirming of poly or open relationships, or at the very least, curious to learn more?
  3. Do I feel prepared to defend myself and my relationship(s) if necessary?
  4. Am I prepared to not have this person in my life if they can’t get down with this?

Much like coming out in any other way, there are risks depending on the people in your life and their willingness to accept you for you, their own personal politics and beliefs, and whether or not they are willing to learn about poly and support your decisions.

I am out to most people in my life as poly, but there are definitely people who I work with or am acquaintances with who just really don’t need to know my business like that.

polyUse your judgment and make sure you have support from other folks in your life in case some aren’t ready to meet you where you are at.

The beautiful thing about people is we are all capable of change and growth. Even if someone isn’t with you right away, they may come around later.  It’s important you have people who love and accept you for who you are supporting you, though, and sometimes you have to take space and time from people who are going to belittle you or your relationships.

Poly can be an amazing practice for folks; it can enable people to explore their sexuality, intimacy, kink or desire in ways that perhaps a monogamous relationship cannot. At the same time, poly isn’t the best fit for everyone, and that doesn’t make people who are monogamous less radical, sexual, or kinky than poly folks.

Thanks for the question!

Have a burning question around sex, relationships, sexuality or kink? Send them on over to undressed@feministing.com!

 

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4 Comments

  1. Posted July 22, 2013 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    For anyone wanting to learn more about polyamory, there’s also this great book that my friend wrote: http://notyourmothersplayground.com/the-book-3/ It proves a great introduction to the various terms, options, and more.

    • Posted July 23, 2013 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

      Thanks so much for the new resource! Greatly appreciated!

  2. Posted July 23, 2013 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    I’ve written a book about my open marriage that might be of interest as well – “Open: Love, Sex, and Life in an Open Marriage” as well as a number of articles on the subject for Huffington Post.

    http://www.amazon.com/dp/1580052754/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_til?tag=jenonthepag-20&camp=14573&creative=327641&linkCode=as1&creativeASIN=1580052754&adid=0VAJYZVCBWT7GH3ZSHNA&&ref-refURL=http%3A%2F%2Fjennyonthepage.blogspot.com%2F

    Let me know if you’d like a copy, Elliott and I’d be happy to reach out to my publisher!

    http://www.jennyonthepage.com

    • Posted July 23, 2013 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

      Thanks so much Jenny, I would love to read your work! Thanks for sharing it with us!

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