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February 21, 2012

Sharing The Love


(Image: Michi - Flickr)

At Vibrations Direct we like to uncover, celebrate and delve into an array of sexual practises, to either spark our imaginations, indulge our pleasures or further knowledge of the sex world at large. In the first of a series of sex, love and relationship interviews,Vibrations Direct blogger, Rose Crompton, chatted with internet podcaster and polyamory practiser, Cunning Minx, to find out what it means to by polyamorous and how it feels when two just isn't enough of a crowd...

For those not so in the know, identifying as polyamorous refers to the practice of having multiple loving, committed relationships with the full knowledge and consent of all parties involved. While there are many ways to practice non-monogamy, including paths such as swinging, BDSM switching and religious polygamy – where religion dictates that you can have more than one wife – , polyamory tends to focus on long-term, loving relationships among consenting adults.

I've been poly for about 10 years. I met Graydancer about 10 years ago, and he came out to me as poly. I wasn't interested in him or his fiancée at the time, but I was curious about the lifestyle. We remained friends, chatted, one thing lead to another and we ended up falling in love. He, his wife and I were in a poly vee – a three way relationship – for five years, and each of us had at least one additional love as well. It was my first poly experience, and it was a humdinger! The first poly relationship can be quite extraordinary in many ways (think back to your first monogamous love!) and mine was no exception.

During this relationship we also explored BDSM and kink together and had a master-slave dynamic as well. That's something I discovered along the way; there are quite a few crossover communities with polyamory. The kink/BDSM community is one, and you'll also see a lot of people in the sci-fi, gamer geek, pagan and Burning Man – an expressionist art event – communities that are either poly-identified or poly-friendly. I always say that the best place to meet poly people is at your local science-fiction convention!

After my first poly relationship, I dated for a few years, and I probably just looked like any other single gal looking for love and dating; it's just that some of the people I dated were married, and I'd meet their wives and/or partners as part of the dating process.

Currently, I'm lucky enough to have found a wonderful man, and we've been dating for about nine months now. His wife of 20 years is fabulous; she is remarkably secure, down-to-earth and a total sweetheart. She just gave me a scarf she knitted me for Valentine's Day.

Relationship polytics

The dynamics of poly relationships work exactly like those in monogamous relationships; there are just more of them and no two are alike. Think of it this way: most of us have been with more than one partner, probably just not at the same time. Think of your last three loves, were they all different? Each brought out something else in you and you probably interacted with each a bit differently based on your place in life and shared interests.

Poly relationships are just like that: each one seeks its own level. If you have ever said, "I'm just looking for a casual thing" but then fallen in love, or if you go looking for a girlfriend but end up with casual encounters, then that's each relationship seeking its own level, no matter what you call it. And it happens with poly, just as it does with monogamy.

One of the classic mistakes I see new polys making is that they want everything to be fair, so they announce that each relationship is equal and the same and that's ridiculous because each is [with] a different person, and you relate to each one differently. There's plenty of love to go around, but each relationship is unique and should be treated as such. It's not about being "equal" or "fair" but about each person being honest about what she needs and honouring the other relationships.

Podcasting poly

I started Poly Weekly at the beginning of 2005; RSS had just come out and I had time to play with new technology. My boyfriend at the time told me about podcasting, but I rolled my eyes at him thinking it was a geek thing. Then I realised it was just talking into a microphone and I could totally shoot off my mouth every week.

I started the podcast because Graydancer had just started one about rope bondage and I thought, 'what would be an interesting topic to talk about?' We'd had a lot of challenges finding our way with poly in the first year of our relationship, so I though it might be helpful to produce a podcast sharing our experiences and warning others about the relationship land mines that we'd hit and it was my original goal to let people know about these.

The podcast quickly grew into a community resource. Now I consider that the primary goal of the podcast is to act as a virtual support network for the non-monogamous and poly-identified. Additionally, it's a place where they can gather information about others sharing their lifestyle, ask questions, share experiences and get support from the community.

The show gets 50,000+ downloads every month. Overall, the archives have over 2.5 million downloads. I know the podcast is on the right track when I receive emails saying, "I never knew that other people do what I do or that there was a word for it. But now I know; it's 'poly'!" That is why I produce the show every week.

Listeners frequently ask about jealousy, starting poly relationships, and communication issues with their partners. Recurring themes on the show are the importance of self-awareness and honest communication when dealing with any type of relationship. Oh, and owning up to your own baggage. That's huge!

We track stories of poly in the media, which have undergone a very interesting metamorphosis over the six years of podcast production. In 2005, the stories were sensationalized, over-hyped articles on police raiding sex clubs and the "your neighbours might be having more sex than you" variety. By 2010, most of the media reports were more balanced, treating polyamory as a curiosity that the public might want to be informed about. This year, we're seeing more stories on poly being portrayed in the mainstream media, including on TV, as something rather ordinary and mundane, worked into plot lines without too much extra hype.

I also like to hit trends in the sex-positive community in general – the Yes Means Yes movement, the Slutwalk, any fun new erotica that has poly or kinky themes and educational interviews about STIs.

The pros and cons

It's a myth that poly people don't experience jealousy; we all do, to some extent. We just tend not to give jealousy undue power or control over our actions and relationships. Jealousy can easily be dealt with by being aware of your own insecurities and dealing with them appropriately.

Some people prefer to be poly opposed to monogamous and self-identify as poly by orientation, much as a gay person feels that that orientation is essential to his being. Others simply find it unreasonable to believe that there is one person out there who can fulfil all your needs and find polyamory a more sensible approach to relationships. Others simply found that they fell in love with more than one person, decided to be honest about it, and discovered that the lifestyle worked great for them.

The list of poly benefits is long and wonderful. More people to take care of you when you're sick, there's always someone to feed the dog, a babysitter when you have to work late, and the kids can't get away with as much with extra co-parents around. You can't get away with hiding feelings as easily, since everyone who loves you will pick up on it. Sex skills transfer – your sweetie's new lover might teach him a thing or two, and she'll bring that back to your bed. You don't have to make your wife learn tango with you and you don't have to give up tango. And snuggling with two or three people who love you is exponentially more rewarding than snuggling with just one.

What I love about being poly and part of the community is the sacredness of diversity. There is a lot of tolerance of weirdness and quirks and I love that, being a quirky person myself. I also love the sex-positivism. Poly people are not shy when talking about sex, sexual preferences and sexual acts in a frank and upfront manner. I love that I can ask a new partner to tell me his fantasies, and he will, without stuttering or shame. Lastly, I'm a big fan of the communication - turns me on. I really do get excited about someone with great communication skills, even more so than about someone with broad shoulders or a big cock.

For some people being poly is just an excuse to have sex with more people, but those folks don't stay poly very long, because polyamory requires a lot of communication and hard work. Casual sex is much easier to come by than long-term, loving relationships, so the sex-seekers have a plethora of outlets that work better than polyamory.

The tag line of the show is "it's not all about the sex." And while sex is an essential component to any long-term, loving committed relationship, ask any couple that's been happily married for 20 years, and they'll tell you that things like honesty, little considerations, shared joy and personal growth are what kept them together. New Relationship Energy or NRE is a wonderful thing: there's lots of sex, lots of exploration, great endorphins and hefty, blinding love-goggles and when the NRE fades after a year or so, what is left is the connection, the communication and the sense of belonging that we all seek in relationships. That's my favourite part.

Pick a toy...

I'm a barrier girl, so I always have condoms, latex gloves, saran wrap (for oral) and LiquidSilk lube at the ready. My current favourite toys are boxing gloves (for punching my ass), hemp rope, a thuddy buffalo-hide flogger, and my vibrator for the occasional top off. My must-carry toy is my penis gag, a black silicon job that I love having in my mouth for a make-believe threesome while my sweetie is inside me.



Giving poly a go?

If the idea of opening up your relationship appeals to you and your partner, then follow some of Cunning Minx's tips to trying it out.

Be prepared to meet parts of yourself you didn’t know about. You will find insecurities you didn't know were there, and you'll experience joy in ways you never knew you could.

Be patient with yourself and your partner(s). Remember your first attempts at monogamy weren't perfect, either.

Worry less about rules and more about what you have to offer. As with monogamous dating, people with lots of rules and criteria rarely find what they seek, and those who are open-minded and easygoing find unexpected pleasures.

Own your shit – by this I mean baggage. If you're not strong enough to say, “I was wrong, I need to bring something up or my last STI test came up positive,” you aren't ready for poly. Being confident enough to own your own baggage and brave enough to start tough conversations is essential.

Start from a healthy place. Get your existing relationships healthy first. The 'relationship broken; add more people' model almost never works. You will have to trust your partner to tell you when you're love-goggling, when he's feeling jealous and when you aren't pulling your weight.

Get a support network. Seek out local communities of real people who have real-life experience with polyamory and its ups and downs; having trusted contacts who've been there and can provide advice and a sympathetic ear is invaluable.

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