We are, to use a term apparently coined by Dan Savage, monogamish. Although we have had other people in our bedroom, we consider ourselves primarily monogamous. We have never played separately, and as of now we aren’t really planning to; virtually everything that we’ve done involving other people is intended for the furtherance of our own relationship. That is not to say that those who do play separately do not have the furtherance of their relationships in mind. That is simply our way of rationalizing the current boundaries that we have set. That said, given the right set of circumstances, we would likely go much farther with another couple or individual than we have thusfar. It’s not exactly monogamous. It’s monogamish.
Call it monogamish, non-monogamous, or even open, it’s our relationship, and it’s our business. If we want to make our kinky side someone else’s business, we will do so. If they don’t approve, if they judge us for it, or if they tell mutual friends and acquaintances about things we would have preferred that they kept private, it’s ultimately our own fault for trusting the wrong people. Therefore, only a very small selection of our real-life friends have any knowledge of our sex life.
We have written at length about the importance of discretion. The loss of Jill’s job because someone discovered that she, a woman who works with children, could be so audacious as to not only have a sexual identity but a need to express that identity anonymously in a public forum, is a tangible risk for us. However, it might be just as earth-shattering if certain members of our families – and even some of our friends – learned of our sexual quirks. Jill’s family is devoutly Catholic, and many of her oldest friends are as well. I’m not trying to judge Catholics en masse when I say that there’s a good chance that most of them would not approve.
Which is not to say that we seek approval from anyone. Certainly not from our parents. We are long past the point of using our parents as some sort of life template. As adults, we are more than capable of living our lives for ourselves without seeking validation from anyone but each other. Our need to hide this blog from our families isn’t about that, exactly. More than anything, it’s about respect. Whether or not our families would approve of our sexual escapades, we are reasonably certain that they just wouldn’t want to know. Just as we wouldn’t leave Jill’s vibrator on the kitchen table when someone comes to visit, we also do our best to cover our sexual tracks lest someone learn something about us that he or she would rather not know.
Were it to become public knowledge that, for example, Jill has eaten pussy, people might look at her differently. Were it to become public knowledge that we’ve been to a sex club and fucked in front of a mob of strangers, I might be viewed in a negative light, the assumption being that I led her down such a path. Were it to become public knowledge that we have more than just a passing interest in opening up our sexual relationship, it might lead to conversations that we’d rather not have with people who have no business inquiring. Alternately, and possibly worse, it would lead to no conversation whatsoever, but our relationships with our loved ones might falter because of it.
Bear in mind that we have absolutely no intention of subjugating our sex lives to the will of anyone else; we are not interested in being what others would like us to be, and any toeing of any hypothetical line is done solely in the interest of protecting our financial livelihood, as well as shielding from reality those who might not be capable of handling it. Our family and friends are important to us, we enjoy close relationships with all of them, and we aren’t interested in alienating anyone when a little subtlety and discretion can help us to avoid doing so.
Most people seem to view everyone and everything through their own often narrow prism of values and experience. Every time a politician, athlete, or celebrity (for the purposes of this demonstration I will use male pronouns) has an affair that is exposed, the public turns on him decisively. Despite knowing nothing about the individual’s primary relationship and/or any extenuating circumstances that might conceivably excuse or explain his behavior, the individual caught misbehaving – in the eyes of the general public, anyway – is instantly labeled persona non grata, condemned for his dalliances, and in some cases never looked at the same way again.
Consider Bill Clinton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kobe Bryant, and Tiger Woods. These four men all committed adultery and were, to some extent, vilified for it even before all of the facts were known. Even Clinton, whose popularity skyrocketed in the wake of Monicagate, had staunch political supporters who were vocal in their disapproval of his personal life. I recall being scoffed at repeatedly every time I suggested that, despite the fact that Bill was the leader of the free world, so to speak, perhaps his and Hillary’s marriage should be private and therefore of no concern to the average American. Playing Devil’s Advocate, I even went so far as to suggest that the President and the First Lady of the United States had an open relationship. Most people thought I was a sexual deviant for even considering it.
But why is this such an inconceivable scenario? To use a more recent example, take Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher. Following apparent infidelity on the part of Kutcher, Moore publicly condemned her husband’s actions and has since filed for divorce. I realize that they probably didn’t have an open relationship, as evidenced by Kutcher’s allegedly telling the woman he cheated with that he was estranged from his wife. But what if they did? If they had some sort of agreement that allowed Kutcher his dalliances as long as he didn’t get anyone pregnant or return home with a sexually-transmitted infection, could Demi Moore have handled the situation any differently than she did? I suspect that the answer is no.
As I said above, people who are caught having affairs are publicly condemned before the facts are known. The general public assumes that such people do not have non-monogamous relationships because the general public (well, most of it, anyway) does not have non-monogamous relationships. In the unlikely event that Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher did have such an arrangement, once Kutcher was caught, that arrangement was discarded. In order to save face with the fans who respect her, and who have made her brand profitable, she would have had to cut her ties to him, lest she appear weak.
If the wife of anyone caught with another woman defended her spouse, and said that she was okay with him sleeping with other women, at the worst she would be vilified alongside her husband, but at best the public wouldn’t believe her, would accuse her of lying to save a marriage that is obviously irreparably broken. They’d ask, “Why would she let him have an open relationship? Doesn’t she have any self respect?” Even women won’t admit that other women are entitled to sexual agency and might actually desire a non-monogamous relationship for her own purposes. To most women, this is a vile thought.
I flirt constantly with women on Twitter, or via e-mail and instant messenger or Skype. If this became public, I would be judged for it. While my flirtiness is known to some of our friends, even those unfamiliar with our perhaps unconventional sex life, to actually sit in front of a computer and make virtual eyes at a woman who is not my wife, a woman that perhaps I would like to fuck and about whom I have most certainly thought about fucking, would not be looked at kindly by some of my wife’s family – if not all of them – and likely much of my own. I already suspect that certain of our families think that I am an emotionally distant womanizer at best and a serial cheater at worst. But they have no grounds for this line of thinking; to be blunt, just because your husband’s tendency to flirt signifies a problem in the marriage doesn’t make that true for all husbands who do so.
Additionally, it is not out of the realm of possibility to think that people would judge her for my perceived infidelity. Perhaps they would think that she has failed to satisfy me, or that she’s driven me into the arms of other women through her own actions or inaction. Some would certainly suggest – insist, even – that she divorce me and find a man who doesn’t treat her poorly. Fortunately, Jill is not so hung up on the perceptions of her friends or family that she would dissolve our marriage just for the sake of appeasing them.
Jill trusts me in a way that – and I hesitate to put it in these terms – I almost don’t deserve. True, I’ve never done anything to abuse her confidence in me, but having someone’s complete trust from day one wasn’t something to which I was accustomed at the time. We spent three years of our relationship living hours apart, and as she points out, had either of us wanted to be unfaithful, we certainly had the opportunity to do so and likely never be found out. It’s just not our way.
During the final year that we lived apart, I found myself at a family function where I related to a few of my siblings- and cousins-in-law a story I’d heard about someone whose cleaning lady had robbed her house, stealing amongst other things her late father’s wedding ring, a priceless heirloom that she planned to give her son for his fiancee if he ever got married. To be fair, I pointed out, putting such a treasured weddng ring in a nightstand drawer seems to contradict its sentimental and financial value. Overhearing from nearby, an extremely well-meaning but completely out-of-her-depth cousin to my wife jumped to the conclusion that what I was referring to was my proclivity for leaving my own wedding band in my nightstand drawer while Jill and I were separated. Because, you know, cheating on my wife is the sort of thing I’d boast about while conversing with her family.
We cannot honestly say that we have never been guilty of prejudging an aspect of someone else’s private life in the manner we describe others doing above. Jill’s best friend told her that her husband had once racked up an enormous phone bill calling phone sex operators. Given what we know of Jill’s friend’s relatively sexually conservative leanings, we assumed that she didn’t talk dirty to her husband, likely out of inhibition or a feeling that it was distasteful or in her mind extraneous to their sexual activities. With that in mind, it made sense to us that a person who greatly desires one thing but is denied by his spouse would then seek out the services of a professional who would gladly indulge his need for pay.
But for all we know, we were completely wrong in judging the situation as we did. For all we know, Jill’s friend is a world-class dirty talker, the sort of woman whose comfort in using the filthiest sexual terminology imaginable belies her strict Catholic upbringing. Hell, it’s true of Jill, so why not her friend? For all we know, she can induce a hands-free orgasm with just a few breathy whispers (and oh, how I hope she can). It’s not implausible that her husband was completely satisfied with the dirty talk, but just needed a little variety. I can relate to that. Maybe calling a phone sex line kept him physically monogamous, something that we’re certain his wife expected him to be. How can we not be on the right side of that?
In conclusion, the only thing you should assume is the position. You won’t always know the whole story. Strive to avoid rushing to judgment, and if it doesn’t concern you, look the other way.