Sunday, January 19, 2014

How Do You Handle It?


On January 1, 2014, I received a cool comment on my Poly 101: Fluid Bonding post yet, regrettably, the author retracted it.

A bummer, seriously, because I believe it addresses a common squick, so - with many, many apologies to the reader who thought it deleted - I've pulled it from the proverbial garbage can while ever-so-kindly omitting the author's name. It read as follows:

### asks:

How do you deal with your lover being sexual with another? Thinking about the actions that take place with sex, fluids and intimacy being shared. Your lover has sex with their partner, then they come home and want to be with you; after them being with someone else it feels a little dirty to engage in physical intimacy. How do you handle knowing their face was in between someone's lap? Even if I like my lovers partner and respect them, how could I turn to my lover and be physical with them after they touched someone else? Trying to figure it out. What helped you? 

Wow. Really good stuff.  And let me tell you why I love this question.

First: it's terribly provocative - truthfully, it would likely garner scornful sneers within the touch-positive communities I'm involved in but a blog is a totally perfect place to voice the question, and, second: it is so brilliantly honest. I just love it. And I was looking forward to replying.

The answer, for me, is found in the notion of sex positivity.

I like sex. I'm fairly positive about it. Shuh, I should be positive about it: I've got three partners and every one of them loves sex. I'm seriously having sex anywhere between 2, 4, or 8 times a day. It's an integral part of my life.

For me, sex isn't a bad thing - sex is a good thing. It's abundant. Sex is a natural and fun biological function well-suited for recreational purposes. I embrace sex in my life and the sexual appetite, expression, and health of my partners is of significant importance to me.

More so, I'm very certain all of my partners had sex prior to meeting me and yet they still so deeply appealed to my heart and mind that I fell in love with them. Further, I'm also convinced that their having sex with others won't fundamentally change them, regardless of what sexual encounters they may have.

Now, dear reader, I'd encourage you to read your response closely. There's an underlying set of ideas:

  • sex is bad, dirty, gross;
  • the act of sex is so terribly intimate that it shouldn't be shared;
  • respect is earned through fidelity (slut-shaming);
  • sexual exclusivity equals love and devotion

Arguably there's a lot of sex-negativism here and these ideas are quite opposite to the way that I feel about sex. Perhaps it wasn't your intention to communicate these ideas yet they're clearly here, and I'd be the first to suggest that it's okay and not your fault; your thinking has been shaped throughout your life by Western cultural norms. You've been trained throughout your life to believe these things.

If you're one to pick up your ideas, examine them, wonder how they got there, and consider alternatives, I would encourage you to read more on sex positivity.

Still, to address, "... how do I handle knowing their face was between someone's lap?", I don't concentrate on that very much; I'll often repackage the idea. Example: my wife returns from a daytime adventure with her boyfriend with the 10-inch shlong. I don't obsess about the deeply-penitrative experience she had with somebody else, nor am I overly concerned about his fluids pouring out of her vagina or something (as if my partners aren't capable of basic hygine). Instead, I'll ask, "Did you have a good time? Was it very connective? How do you feel?" This is my attempt to convert jealousy into compersion - excuse the hippy-dippy but I am happy for my partner, and pleased that they're joyous and happy. How the act came and went isn't of any big concern to me (unless I intend to eroticize it in efforts to cope with it).

I also trust my partners who have specific safe-sex practice agreements with me as I've with them. I trust that they'll take into consideration my health and emotional well-being.

Aside from that, I would say that I've a certain degree of faith. Before and after sex, I will continue to love my partners and they'll continue to love me. Yes, believe me, this is hard, for even as I'm writing this, I'm having flashbacks to moments of intense jealousy and fear that I experienced when my partners did have/were having/would have sex with somebody else. Learning to examine your feelings around this stuff is part of the polyamorous experience and it's something we all work on every day, but underlying all of that crap is the sincere belief that my partners will return to me. And they do, as I return to them.

I think the hardest thing for me isn't the physicality reflected in your question but the emotional content of the engagement, leaning towards base sentiments expressed between monogamous lovers that are fairly contentious within the context of poly:

  • I love you, and only you, forever
  • You are my destiny
  • You are the most important person to me
  • You're the best lover I've ever had
  • That's the most amazing sex ever

Yadda yadda ... stuff like this are part and parcel of pillow talk that seeks to comfort, re-assure, and reinforce the emotional bonds we have with our partners. Yet they're sticky wickets in non-monogamy. It's these kinds of thoughts, expressions, and ideas that keep me up at night. What helps me fight through these kinds of feelings are honesty and communication: discussions with my partners about what I'm feeling and in seeking reassurances, leaning heavily again on that faith I spoke about earlier.

Finally, your imagination is your worst enemy. It will ruthlessly create every fear imaginable to you. Cope with your imagination by dispelling it, ask open and direct questions of your partners, invest in both understanding and empathizing with their sexuality, and specifically talk with them about your insecurities. For me, being told how a sexual experience played out with one of my partners removes a heavy weight of insecurity from my shoulders - no longer huge, unknown, and scary, the event becomes perceivable, understood, manageable.

Again, thank you for the opportunity to respond to your question even though I had to bring it back from the dead. Hope it helps - thanks for reading and all the best.

Russell


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