Thursday, January 10, 2013

Sex & The City: A Few Notes On Polyamory

I rarely write about my sex life or my personal life on this blog so this is a marked occasion. As man who has never been married, and who doesn't particularly like the idea of marriage, I've been a pretty active player in the dating field over the last decade or so. And living in New York City, I perhaps have benefited by having a front row seat to seeing cultural trends develop.

One growing trend I've noticed today is that many young women and men are identifying as polyamorous. Polyamory is basically when you have multiple sex partners at the same time and are open about it. So a woman may have several men and women in their lives that they are having sex with, and vice-versa. What I wonder, is whether polyamory is a natural evolutionary expression of human sexuality given that we are no longer really having sex to reproduce anymore.

Throughout the 2000s I was dating a pool of 20 something post-college grads and aspiring wannabe actresses (AKA waitresses). If a girl liked me when we started dating, sex usually came quickly, sometimes it was the first "date", but often no more than a few dates later. The women in the 21st century always seemed pretty sexually liberated to me. I even dated a few girls who were so sexually aggressive they intimidated me.

The modern sexual revolution, enabled largely by the birth control pill, allowed people for the first time in history to be able to have sex without a condom where there was a reasonably high expectation that the woman wouldn't get pregnant. This lead to "free love" and non-traditional displays of human sexuality (i.e. fornication). This also helped ignite the gay rights movement not much later.

Four decades later, the children and grand children of the sexual revolution have continued to make what was once non-traditional, the new normal. Homosexuality and gay marriage for example, are such non-issues to much of the liberal and progressive world that we have simply moved on to more important issues like the environment and the economy.

Today in most of the industrialized world, when a boy and girl start dating, if there is mutual attraction and a connection, they will usually begin a sexual relationship shortly thereafter. This is the norm today as it has been for decades. Polyamory evolves from the idea that having a committed monogamous relationship with one person is too restrictive, unsatisfying and perhaps too suffocating. I can understand this. A woman for example, might have a man in her life that satisfies her manly urge, and another woman who satisfies her female urge. Men can do the same, although it seems to be more rare. It is interesting to note that polyamorous relationships do not always have to involve bisexual people who want to have the best of both worlds at the same time.

Let's look at the morality behind polyamory. I personally have no problems with any juxtaposition of sexuality as long as it is between adults and is consensual. Although conservatives hate the idea of people having open relationships, they must face the facts. For some people, the idea of a monogamous heterosexual marriage does not come natural and can seem even oppressive. This cookie-cutter mold may fit some people, but it does not fit everyone. So to each's own, they say.

People have been cheating on their significant others since the beginning of humanity. I've never really had much faith that long-term monogamy was practical or even natural. Polyamory seems to be just the natural evolution of our sexuality given that long-term monogamy is not feasible for some of us. It basically says, "Hey instead of cheating on each other behind our backs and being deceptive, let's just be honest with each other and agree that we will also see other people." I find this a lot more moral than cheating behind someone's back.

Now the critics will say that having multiple relationships is unnatural and will inevitably lead to heartbreak and failure and that traditional marriage is the only route to go. Now that may be true for some people, but it's for everyone. For some, polyamory is the only way they can naturally express themselves in relationships. We must also recognize that polyamory certainly isn't for everyone just as heterosexual marriage isn't. Human sexuality is extremely complex, and it is much more than boy meets girl, they get married and live happily ever after. Human sexuality is a complex range of interconnected relationships, fetishes, and gender-roles. Sure heterosexual monogamy is one of them, and if that works for some people, then fine. But it must be acknowledged that there are other types of relationships that deserve just as much legitimacy.

So finally, am I personally into polyamorous relationships? Well I have to be honest that I've never actually had an open relationship and I tend to prefer being with one person at a time. But, in the right context, I'd certainly be open to a polyamory.

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