It’s Not All About The Sex (No, Really, It Isn’t)

(Picture: part of last year’s OpenCon UK schedule.)

Cunning Minx of the awesome Polyamory Weekly podcast (which, if you’re not familiar with, you should go download a few episodes and listen right now, it rocks,) always signs off each episode with the phrase “…and remember, it’s not all about the sex!”

This simple phrase really gets to the heart of much of what polyamory is about for me – and a lot of what frustrates me about parts of the poly community, and about the outside world’s attitudes to what we do.

Time and time again, I watch people come into the poly scene with the idea that they’re entering a world where they can have sex with anyone they want, all the time, with no consequences or problems. And then they get disenchanted, frustrated or bored when they realise a polyamorous life isn’t a 24/7 sex party. I’ve heard people assuming that OpenCon – which is explicitly advertised as a not-for-hooking-up space – is a “giant fuck fest.” (“I mean, what else are a bunch of poly people going to do in a house for a weekend?” (Both more-or-less verbatim quotes.) These kinds of assumptions have the tendency to make poly space really unwelcoming to a lot of people. I find spaces where there’s lots and lots of hooking up – or expectations of hooking up – to be really quite threatening for a lot of reasons. I’m not0 even remotely anti-sex or anti-random-hook-ups if that’s what you’re into, but sometimes it’s really great to be in a space where I’m not assumed to be sexually available, or fair game for any man to come onto. People who expect or want all poly space to become “giant fuck fests,” and complain when they encounter a space where coming on to people is discouraged or overtly sexual public behaviour isn’t allowed, are in my opinion a big part of making the community less safe and accessible to lots of others. And that really isn’t okay.

What else can a bunch of poly people do in a big house for a weekend, anyway?

- Attend or host workshops to learn new things or just bounce ideas around.

- Have long, long, rambling, brilliant discussions.

- Hang out naked in the sauna (because nudity isn’t always sexual!)

- Hug on the lawn while looking up at the stars.

- Sit and cuddle on a sofa and talk into the early hours of the morning.

- Craft or knit while chatting and drinking tea.

- Walk around the pretty grounds, talking with a friend or having an impromptu photo-shoot.

- Catch up with old friends and make wonderful new ones.

- Talk and laugh and sing and dance and learn and cuddle and escape the outside world for a little while.

There’s a few examples for you. Enough to be going on with? For me, it was more than enough to keep me busy busy busy the entire weekend, and never wanting to leave! Personally, making it about hooking up would cheapen the entire experience and remove a lot of the feeling of absolute safety I get in that space.

Sorry if that offends anyone. This is only opinion, please feel free to use the comments to tell me why I’m wrong!

As for the outside world? Well. I’m sure we’ve all experienced this – the questions, over and over and over, that are all about the sex. “Do you have loads of threesomes?” “Who are you having sex with?” “Is it just an excuse to be a massive slut?” Even “so who do you have the best sex with?” (Yes, I’ve actually been asked that.)

This baffles me. It genuinely does. Because really, the nuances of my sex life are A) none of your damn business unless you’re either i) sleeping with me or ii) one of the people I’m close enough with to share this stuff, and B) really the least interesting thing, from an outside perspective, about my relationship dynamics. Ask me about how we communicate or manage time or deal with jealousy or negotiate or any of the other myriad of things that are part of this life and lovestyle, and I’ll happily babble on at you for as long as you want! Ask me for the details of my sex life, and I’ll either not answer at all, or answer in the vaguest, most general way possible. (And I’ll probably be trying really hard not to roll my eyes!)

I am not polyamorous because it gives me an excuse to have lots and lots of sex. I’m sure I don’t need to say this, but there is of course nothing wrong with having lots and lots of sex with lots of different people if that’s what you’re into. But to me, polyamory has always been first and foremost about love – about relationships and connections and building things which are stable, committed and long lasting. And that is so much more important to me than “having loads of threesomes” (which I don’t, anyway) or “justifying being a massive slut” (term somewhat problematic, I know – post tackling that is currently in the works.)

So guys, whether you identify as poly or not, take the advice of the Minx, and remember – it’s not ALL about the sex!

(No. Really. It isn’t.)

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17 thoughts on “It’s Not All About The Sex (No, Really, It Isn’t)

  1. Lola O. says:

    Who needs an excuse to have as much sex as they want anyway is the real question?

  2. Dragonmamma says:

    As a straight (nearly ) monogamous sixty something, I find the concept that a Poly weekend should be all about the sex extremely offensive. If I go to a weekend seminar on any subject (including sexual relationships) I dont expect to leap into bed with any or every available man that’s there or be approached by one either. It isnt a question of “it couldnt happen” it’s just not particularly likely, because we would be there for other reasons.
    It is insulting to suggest that because you have a particular lifestyle it should naturally takeover any and every other part of your life and the people who assume that must be impoverished in the brain depoartment.
    You go to the theatre to watch (or be involved in) a play – not to romp with the other actors. You go to a restaurant to eat a meal, not to have sex with the waiters.
    So why wouldnt you go to a conference/weekend to find out about things rather than sleep with all the speakers and half the audience?

    Of course there will be greater opportunity to hook up with like minded people at any grouping with similar interests, but it doesnt necessarily follow that this will happen.
    And anyway all those alternative things you suggest as possible things to do at a poly weekend are really good things of themselves. And If I were looking to hook up with anyone, I think I would like to spend a lot of time doing those things first anyway. After all, Poly is about relationships isnt it???

    • missamaranth says:

      See, I wish all monogamous-identified people just *got* it in the way that you do! Remind me to give you a hug for that next time I see you! *grin.*

      I find it offensive, too – especially when it’s coming from people within the poly community. We have enough misconceptions coming at us from outside, without perpetuating them ourselves in what is supposed to be our “safe space!”

      “And If I were looking to hook up with anyone, I think I would like to spend a lot of time doing those things first anyway.”

      ^ ^ This! Soo much this! I met someone last OpenCon who I clicked really well with, but nothing actually happened until months later – but getting to know them in that space, without any pressure to hook up, was absolutely lovely!

      “After all, Poly is about relationships isnt it???”

      Yes. yes it is! :-D

  3. Martin Röll says:

    The sex is good though :) , and it is a point that I do like talking about! I find that many people can connect to the idea of polyamory through the thought-experiment of “what would it be like if I was in a committed relationship and felt sexually attracted to a third person” easier (almost anyone has experienced it) than thinking about “what it would be like if I was … and *fell in love with* somebody else”. Fewer people have experienced it, and many cannot imagine it. So to open up a general discussion about open vs closed relationships, mental “rules” about the rights-and-wrongs of relationships, sexuality works well for me as a topic.

    • missamaranth says:

      Oh yes, no-one’s denying that sex (can be) nice and good! I absolutely get that it might be easier to introduce people to the concept of polyamory through the idea of sexual attraction rather than jumping striaght to love… but when it comes to our poly spaces, we’re all a little more advanced in our knowledge than that, so we know there’s so much more than just sex to this lovestyle!

  4. Serina D says:

    Yes. This. Sooo this.

    The number of people who say ‘oh, you’re poly? That’s means you’ll sleep with me, right?’ and then get massively offended when I point out that it doesn’t work that way, and that moreover, they’ve just knocked themselves out of the running entirely…!

    • missamaranth says:

      Gah – YES! Exactly! Amazing how quickly “open to/might have sex with multiple people” becomes “completely indiscriminate” in some people’s minds!

  5. geekylou says:

    I feel like the key is to have lots of diverse spaces with different objectives.
    Being single and poly I’m glad all spaces aren’t like OpenCon and I can go to spaces where I’m allowed to hook up with people and them me. On the other hand I’m really glad it exists for when I’m not looking for more partners I have that space too.

    • missamaranth says:

      Yes, diverse spaces are good!

      I think there are places out there where hooking up is okay/expected/encouraged – play/sex parties, kinky clubs, poly speed dating type events, etc. I’m definitely not saying those spaces shouldn’t exist, because they absolutely should! I just don’t like it when people try to co-opt non-sexual space and turn it into a sex party!
      :-)

  6. Emy says:

    Not exactly the same thing, but it’s what I know. People assume that being bisexual/pansexual is all about the sex, too. Are straight, monogamous relationships all about the sex? Nope. I mean, okay, sex is an important part of a relationship, but it’s not the MOST important part. Love is. :) <3

  7. pir says:

    A friend of mine wrote something about one aspect of this a while back: http://www.examiner.com/article/are-people-open-relationships-just-sex-maniacs-no-but-sex-is-key

    I have to say that there’s a valid point there… if I didn’t want to sleep with more than one person at a time I wouldn’t be poly or in open relationships but that doesn’t mean it’s *all* about the sex.

    (on another note, do you have a “I’m a bi poly switch, I just won’t sleep with YOU” badge yet?)

    • missamaranth says:

      Thanks for the link! *goes to read.*

      Hmmm…. interesting.

      Yes and no.

      I mean, if I actively didn’t want sex with more than one person, then okay poly might not be the best thing for me. But I don’t believe that in saying “it’s not all about the sex” we’re joining in with the cultural myth that Sex Is Bad. I also don’t think the “power of polyamory” lies in sex, or that sex is the only thing that differentiates partners from friends.

      Good food for thought though, thanks. I might have to do a follow-up article to this one soon!

  8. Serina D says:

    Actually, I think if I didn’t want to have sex with more than one person (or at all), that shouldn’t be any sort of barrier to being poly. After all, being asexual doesn’t stop people being poly, does it? If I decided I wanted to only sleep with one partner, but no one else, but I was in love with several, then just so long as everyone is happy with that and have agreed to it, why shouldn’t those also be considered relationships?

  9. Rebecca Campos says:

    Brilliant! My exact issue is trying to explain that “polyamorous” is NOT “swinger” What about trust? Friendship? Relationship? I didn’t become poly to have sex, I can have that whenever I want…

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