Dan Savage wrote a column last week arguing, forcefully, that polyamory isn’t a sexual orientation. This seems to me akin to “presenting both sides of the evolution debate,” granting some basic structural plausibility to a ridiculous assertion, the mere speaking aloud of which grants it more legitimacy than it ever should enjoy. Rather than add my voice to that silly discussion (what with how, as I understand it, polyamory is neither sexual nor an orientation, but rather, a self-serious proclamation made by a tiny band of folks), I thought I would just say a little bit about how I think of polyamory, swinging, and monogamish-ness.
I hate those words, “polyamory,” and “swinging.” As I’ve written before, I don’t think of myself as polyamorous – I love one woman, T. I like dating other women, getting to know them both sexually and otherwise. And yes, on at least one occasion, my feelings have deepened into something akin to the love I feel for various of my friends. But if you read even cursorily about polyamory, you’ll find a culture of folks who take themselves, and their desire to have plural relationships, very seriously. People who describe themselves in very earnest terms, who tend to believe they’ve found a more honest, more authentic way of living, of loving. These people often quote freely and often from The Ethical Slut, and are equally free with their judgment of those whose behavior falls short of the “ethics” put forth in that book. (I oncewent on a date with a woman who professed her disappointment that she couldn’t fuck me, because her husband’s and her agreement didn’t permit her to fuck someone who wasn’t fully honest with his wife. At the time, T and I had – together – elected to pursue a “don’t ask don’t tell” policy. In my mind, I was being honest; but in my date’s, this wasn’t good enough. But as I wrote, long ago, she was ok with kissing me.)
And I don’t think of myself as a “swinger,” although I am a fairly frequent attendee of “swingers’ clubs,” such as Le Trapeze, and sex parties, such as those held by Chemistry, OneLegUp, Behind Closed Doors, and Ddevious Delights. As I commented to a friend whom I fuck from time to time earlier today, even in the far-off-the-beaten-track world of swingers, I manage to feel alienated by my preferences, which are, by the standards of swingers, very unusual. When T and I look to date other couples, we often find that we’re perceived as freaks because we want to do things like e-mail back and forth, meet for drinks or dinner, get to know the people we’re thinking about dating, and because we don’twant to do things like send our face pictures before we meet, or fuck within ten minutes of meeting. And when I’m at Le Trapeze, or at one of those parties, I’m much more interested in getting to know people – their names, the rudimentary facts of their lives – than I am in seeing their genitals. Even though often the latter precedes, or even precludes, the former. And/but, I often find myself unable/unwilling to fuck women I meet in that context.
This is why I’m so grateful for Dan Savage’s coining of the term “monogamish.” It’s the only word that, in one fell swoop, not only communicates that I’m not, strictly speaking, monogamous (not because of something innate, or biological, about me, but by some combination of choice, weakness, mammalian tendencies, and fate), but that I’m also a lot likemost monogamous people – there’s one woman who’s indisputably my primary love and life partner. AND, I have a sense of humor. The ways in which I’m not monogamous are not in some way essential to my self-conception (as with the polyamorous, some of whom, apparently, want to be recognized as possessed of a basic characteristic akin to a sexual orientation that explains their dating and relationship habits).
And in fact, the ways in which I’m not monogamous are, for the most part, things that I laugh about. (I mean, all sorts of funny shit happens when you’re dating other couples or visiting sex clubs or parties.)