(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.)