Wednesday, November 18, 2009

One Penis Policy

Note: The majority of this post is specifically referring to MF couples, although there are comparable dynamics in gay and bisexual relationships, and kink as well. Please feel free to fluidly play with gender and power play concepts in this piece!

The One Penis Policy: Where either member of an existing couple is open to connect physically and/or emotionally with an outside partner, as long as that partner is female. Fortunately, this isn't something that is a factor in my life at this point, but it is something that seems to be rather prevalent early on in many people's early poly/open relationship experiences. Why is this?

Here you are: A lovely couple who is affectionate and caring with each other. You talk, and talk, and talk about the idea of opening your relationship up, about having sex with other people, about connecting emotionally with those people. Why are "those people" almost always female when you are first exploring this concept? Is there an ingrained perception that women are safer physically? Safer emotionally? Is it purely a comfort zone issue for the man? For the woman? Is it an attempt to enforce female bisexuality in pursuit of the elusive unicorn/FMF experience?

This is where I have an issue with the OPP: It "weights" penises, and the men attached to them, as different than women. In fact, more points go to the men. It means pretty implicitly that women don't count as much as men do in the equation of sexuality. It says that there is more fear directed towards men in relationships, that they are a poor risk for trying to "steal" a partner, that the man in the existing relationship may be insecure about his value to his female partner when there's another man to stand (or lie!) side-by-side with. It plays into fears, without establishing if they are unfounded, or person-specific, making a blanket judgement for an entire gender. It says that if you have an innie, you're safer than someone with an outie.

Now, I do understand (personally) that some women have had bad experiences with one or more men that cause them to be more cautious on a gender-based level. I'm going to suggest that that is a limit that there is great value in pushing past. Find a space where you see each person as an individual, rather than a representation of a bad experience, and THEN apply your keen observational skills to determine if this person is someone you'd like to connect with, regardless of their bits.

There's the ever-popular "But, she's bi, so it makes sense for us to find a woman to connect with, so that we can both date her!". Potential dating partners are very seldom going to offer a one-stop-shop approach. Last time I checked, she was also into men, as she's with one already, right? She isn't likely to stop being interested in other men, even if she also likes women. So, why try to force things to fit just a single gender?

Maybe it's the penis cooties? Since most of us engage in safer sex, I fail to see how any woman's vagina is going to be sullied by insertion of an additional latex-enclosed penis. Even in a situation of being fluid-bonded to more than one man, basic hygiene observance takes care of that concern.

Even if a woman is in a space where she isn't interested in adding more masculine energy to her life currently, that option belongs on the table, not in the Forbidden Zone. It's about choices, and having them available to say "no" to, if that's what is appropriate for the individuals involved. Do away with the OPP!


Adam B said...

I love that you posted this. And I love that you approached it from a female perspective. In fact I *LOVE* this blog.

I am in a FMF triad, and we have never had the "One Penis Policy" and before our triad when I was with g/f1 and we were poly, there were separate experiences with men. In fact she has been with 2 other men since we started over a year ago. Now, before you congratulate me on being one of the few "accepting" men out there; I have to qualify this.

I am infinitely more comfortable when my g/f's are with other women than I am other men; its just that I don't feel my discomfort is a reason to limit them. I see it as something that is their choice and it is my right to communicate my discomfort to them and explore it but only with the goal of moving past it. I honestly don't know why I'm more uncomfortable. It could be because of a "virility" thing, something so base as fear of a bigger penis, fear of someone being a better or more satisfying lover. It could also be an archaic instinct that another male will threaten my "alpha male" status. I really don't know. I do know for certain that I will never impart the O.P.P. on my g/f's, I will simply hope that they are there for me and willing to communicate with me about my insecurities so that we can all find it rewarding.

Thanks for writing this! I'm linking both my girlfriend's to it right now!

Ivan said...

The one thing that struck me was how such a policy would seem to people if reversed. How would men feel about being in a relationship with a One Vagina Policy? For the bulk of hetero, and even many heteroflexible men, such a policy would seem unacceptable.

Same is true of the OPP.

I am a male, and have my jealousies and insecurities, things that many men refuse to admit. We all have them, men and women, old and young. Some have more, some less. Why make such a big deal out of such basic human frailties?

Open honest communication is, as usual, the key. Feel your feelings, talk about them, then trust your partner.

Honestly, it seems most men do think being with two (or more) women would be great (and it certainly can be). Perhaps. In sexual encounters, there is certainly a lot of fun potential. However, a real FMF relationship is just as difficult, if not moreso, than FM relationships. All relationships take work, and that work is what allows the fun play time to exist with some comfort and confidence.

That's my $0.02 worth. Thanks for posting a blog about life in a poly family.

polyfulcrum said...

What's fascinating to me is that I've been running into quite a number of women who have _self-imposed_ OPP's, so gentlemen, I am certainly not putting this all on you!

Why is this? The answer seems to be that there is a fear of losing control of emotions by being physically intimate with another man, so to "protect" either the relationship they share with their partner, they date only women.

Another reason that has been cited is to avoid feeling slutty, they opt to "only" date women in addition to their male partner. Note, again, the idea that female partners somehow don't "count" as much as men on the sluttiness scale. Sounds like social programming to me.

a said...

i'm tempted to go out and start a new primary relationship just so i can try out having a One Vagina Policy!

imagining it, i do think i would feel less threatened, the way men do with an OPP.

polyfulcrum said...

This cracked me UP! Had to share.

Anonymous said...

I am a female in a FMF triad. I am the one that insisted that the one we brought into the house be a female (I am very bi). With that being said though, we have an openness to our relationship beyond the walls of the house and I have been physical with guys that I would never consider allowing to join our house. Both the other female and the male that are in the house are more than happy with what is available here, I am not. So I guess we have a OPP within the house, but it is because I think any more than one starts putting too muc testosterone into the air lol. I love that your post isn't about one lifestyle or decision over another, but rather that oppenness, discussion, and compromise are what is important. These types of arrangements should ALWAYS be discussed to reach a decison that everybody involved can be happy with. Also remember that these decisions should be open to future discussion should needs/wants evolve.

Anonymous said...

"I think any more than one starts putting too muc testosterone into the air lol"

A perfect example of assuming all people who have a particular set of genitals attached are all the same. Re-read the part about treating people as individuals and basing your relationship choices on the actual person, instead of the stereotype.

As a "cis-female", or woman who was born a woman, no matter how "manly" my male partners are, if there is ever "too much testosterone in the air", it's likely because of me. I'm the one who fixes the cars and rewires the faulty electrical system, who works a manual labor job and expects to come home and find the house clean, who has the fewest amount of hair-care products and can go from sleeping to the car in 15 minutes flat. One of my current partners likes to joke that I am his first gay relationship because I'm more like a guy in temperment, behaviour, and interests, than a girl. In fact, I used to get kicked out of IRC chat rooms back in the day because the moderators insisted I was a guy posing as a girl and absolutely refused to believe that I am female.

So please do not make assumptions about people you haven't even met yet (which is partly what the OPP rule does). If you happen to find yourself in an FMF because that's just how this particular mix of people work out, great. But don't assume this is a magic formula that will work regardless of the people involved.

polyfulcrum said...

Like you, Joreth, I often am told I "act like a man", which doesn't phase me. Most of my partners, regardless of actual physical gender, tend not to subscribe to social norms in gender roles. And yes, if there are high levels of testostrone floating about, it's usually me. ;)

Have you found that the ways that you and your partners look at gender impact you socially, or on a relationship level? Or is it just a matter of each person coming to the table as an individual, and learning how to connect with other individuals, regardless of the bio bits involved?

Anonymous said...

polyfulcrum: I'm not really sure I understand the question. I'm mostly straight, so all my partners are male. Coincidentally, all my partners at the moment are also straight, so all of *their* partners are female. But within our network (me, my partners, and their partners), I'm the only straight female, and all the other females are bi.

Yet none of us conform completely to social norms (probably because *no one* does). Tacit and I (both straight) view our heterosexuality as a bug, not a feature, and would both like to change it if we could. And yet, Tacit gleefully admits that he's an anal slut, something no "self-respecting" straight guy would admit (insert sarcastic tone here).

My other partners are geeks, so they lack most of the hunting/sports/beer-drinking (unless it's Guinness)/macho/must make more money than the wife/car-fixing stereotypical interests that guys are "supposed" to have.

One of my metamours is dubbed "the Butch Girlfriend" because she likes things like power tools and blue jeans, but she's small like me with long blond hair and wears female-intended clothing. Another metamour works on a farm and bales hay and can beat Tacit in a wrestling match and often takes a dominant role. When I wear a dress for swing dancing, everyone says I'm dressing "in drag" because my normal clothing is all men's clothing, but I'm not "in drag" when I wear men's clothes because of my "male" personality that goes with the clothes.

Did that answer the question, or was I way off the mark?

Anonymous said...

Now, poly relationships, from my understanding, they comes in many different forms…MFMF, MFM triad/V, FMF triad, ect. From my understanding, the key to a great poly relationship is communications, respecting boundaries, and honesty.

Ok…for the OPP part, I tired of hearing how I’m not being “fair” to my wife; that I’m just a sexist person that want to control her; or (the latest) that I am being discriminatory towards her (or them) for not allowing them to have other men. First and foremost, they can have other men if they choose too…it would mean that they wouldn’t have me anymore but that too would be their choice. Second, I never wanted a gf…my wife (then fiance’) talked to me about poly and wanted us to try. We then set OUR rules, guidelines, and/or boundaries (or whatever name you have for it) and agreed to abide by them. My boundary for her, no men; her boundaries for me were no gold-diggers, no stripers/prostitutes, no anal play at all, no lying to them (had to tell them up front that she knew and approved), no to a couple of specific people that I had in mind (and knew that they would be open to the idea), they need to be tested before unprotected sex, and a couple of others. All of which, WE agreed upon. My GF, I met her and told her about my wife (we had gotten married three months prior) and she told me that she was willing to try…it was rocky because GF wasn’t use to this situation (hell none of us were) but we all adjusted. I told GF about the OPP and my boundary for Wifey; I let her know that this would be my only boundary for her as well and she added her boundary for me which was no other women than my wife; WE agreed to each other’s boundary. My GF is straight and mono and didn’t/don’t want another man. Wife has a GF that has a husband and one boundary for Wife…no other women (well, they have that boundary for each other…I think)

This is OUR poly make-up… two V’s…Wife, Me, GF (me as hinge) and Me Wife, and Wife GF (Wife as hinge). So my question is to anyone, if WE (the six of us) are good with our boundaries and our situation, how is not “fair” to my wife or GF? How am I being a sexist person that wants to control them? And, most important, why is it that the men in the OPP are always the one that’s accused of these actions? I know of several poly make-ups where a female boundary is ‘you can only have one other female’ towards both her male and female partners…are they too being controlling? Or, you are not allowed to be in a gangbang (either side)…is that controlling? I just heard of one bi-male being told that he couldn’t have another woman other than his wife by his gay lover, but he could have other men…now his wife had already had the boundary of only one man…are both his wife and gay lover sexist, controlling, or discriminatory?

I only ask these questions to get you thoughts rolling…everyone here has that “you can’t do that or I’m gone” item…whether it’s no gangbangs, you have to do gangbangs, no fucking on the first date, you can’t move anyone in our home, no one in my family, no public sex with strangers, not my parents, no facials, or (fill in your “HELL NO” item here). So why is it that since mine (and other OPP men) ‘hell no’ to other men is so wrong? If you truly believed that your partner should be able to live truly freely, why do you have boundaries at all?

Last thing, and this is the only real question I want you guys to think about, if you wrote down your boundaries, rules, for all to see; how would you feel if everyone told you that you were not being fair, that you are controlling them, or that you are being discriminatory towards them because you won’t let your partner (fill in your “HELL NO” item here); how would you feel? If you are really being truthful with yourself, I think that you wouldn’t like it much…that’s how some of the OPP men feel. Luckily, not me because I really don’t care what people think or say about me, but I am tired of hearing about how OPP is wrong…I wonder if a females would get the same opposition if more of them had a OVP?

Anonymous said...

Hey there, Anon - thanks for writing.

Personally, I see nothing wrong with consenting adults setting expectations and boundaries in the way you've described it here. If those are the conditions that are mutually-agreed to, and if it works for all of you, then so be it.

As for myself, I would be hesitant to set ultimatums on my affection should they deviate from some rule, or, wish to fulfill a desire or two of their own.

Myself, and this is my own opinion, I find it difficult to work with absolute, black and white consequences that penalize rather than encourage growth.

I also struggle with what isn't egalitarian. If I can see multiple women, by extension, why can't my female partners see multiple men? What's good for me should be good for them, too, no?

It's because I personally see the OPP being absolute, punitive, and unfair that I wouldn't practice it.

Thanks for writing!