My partner & I are working on moving from a monogamish structured relationship to a more non-monogamous structure, but in our talks, my partner has mentioned feeling ready for this move for a long while & is frustrated with my moving slow to figure out how to make it work for me as well. He wants very few boundaries, is ready to be open as of like last month, & feels fulfilled knowing we love each other & live together & anything beyond that he says makes him feel like I am controlling his sexuality/autonomy - any advice for how to move forward together rather than feeling like I am expected to do the work to get his needs met while forgoing my own? Am I being unreasonable asking for more than his love & cohabitation?
This week I was supposed to be in New Orleans on vacation, and although I canceled that trip, the vacation mindset is much more difficult to beat. Here to help hold me accountable and lend a varied perspective to this week’s column is my partner of three and a half years, Justin! Justin is a white genderqueer trans hottie in their thirties, and this is his first time (and hopefully not his last time!) consulting on “I Am Poly & So Can You”.
Justin: I’ve definitely been in the position of the partner wanting to “move things along” when it comes to opening up, but my behavior differed from the person in question’s. For me, I maintained a core of patience and prioritized making sure my partner was okay before I moved forward. I craved meeting someone new, experiencing and expressing affection, and then wanting to share all that with my partner. To have my partner’s blessing. It wouldn’t have felt right to move forward without knowing that my partner was totally ready.
Andre: I know that to be true. It was really challenging for me a year and a half, two years ago when we were negotiating you dating others for the first time, and I really appreciate the compassion that you showed throughout. That all being said, in your most challenging moments, did you ever struggle with more...frustrating thoughts that you hesitated sharing with me? Promise I won’t hold them against you, haha.
Justin: Sometimes I would get upset, and a little sad that I couldn’t experience what I wanted to WHEN I wanted to. I would feel jealous when I saw you with some of your partners, as well as when I encountered other poly arrangements where the boundaries were more relaxed. Made me wish things could be different. However, again, my main priority was for our future - I never wanted us to not be okay. That feeling ensured I didn’t “take it out” on you.
Andre: I’m curious, reader, what “monogamish” looked like for you and your partner. Sometimes that can be “makeout passes” with other folks when either of you are out solo, and sometimes that can mean that you and your partner play with others, but ONLY together. I wonder how comfortable you were in that arrangement, compared to the negotiations that your partner is trying to accelerate now. I wonder how much you feel like you evolved and benefitted. Regardless, it sounds like your partner is laying the pressure and expediency to open up further on thick, and that isn’t okay.
There’s a good chance that this false sense of urgency is being motivated by your partner’s desire for one person in particular. Both Justin and I agree that emotions have run higher in the past when one of us feels like we’re having a “moment” with someone else, and fear that the “moment” will pass while we wait for our partner’s deliberation. We panic. That can make us act less honorably with our partner in terms of patience, kindness, and respect. One question you may want to ask your partner is whether or not they have “someone in mind” who they’re interested in pursuing; could give you added insight into their [annoying] sense of immediacy.
Now, it’s time for me to stop being so nice to your partner:
Again, there are so many things I wish I knew here! How long you’ve been together, whether you started out monogamous and then successfully transitioned to monogamish, if either of you have ever been fully non-monogamous before, etc.
But here’s what I do know.
First, wielding the phrase “I’ve been ready for this for a long time” as a weapon against your partner is bullshit. Humans are not supernatural beings; we can’t read minds, and if your partner pushed that part of themselves down for a long period of time before “bursting” and finally communicating it to you, that’s on them. You are in no way responsible for their past months or years of self-induced silence.
Second, every single relationship on the planet has boundaries built into it, regardless of how “closed” or “open” those boundaries are. Boundaries are healthy, and respecting them builds trust between all parties involved. Boundaries also can - and should - be revisited frequently to ensure that everyone is still on the same page. They are not immutable, and they certainly are not by definition “restricting someone’s autonomy”. If someone agrees to a boundary that feels that way, then that boundary does not work for them, plain and simple. While your partner is being honest about that, they’re doing it in a way that seems unnecessarily cruel, while reiterating that the only possible option is for you to “get over” your “hang-ups”.
Guess what? You can also break it off with them. That’s an undeniably viable option.
I hear that you’re cohabitating, and that definitely makes even taking temporary space more challenging. But it’s something that you should start thinking seriously about. Start working out the logistics in your head now, so that if you feel it necessary to drop the guillotine, you don’t feel unprepared.
Meanwhile, if you want to keep working through this, I have a few resources for you:
If you and your partner have been together for two years or more, I would say that it’s worth trying couples’ counseling. Not sure where you’re living/how accessible non-monog-savvy therapists are in your area, but if you’re in the Bay Area, look up Bay Area Open Minds.
Justin: Oh my god, I never knew how to create a hyperlink!
Andre: Help me, reader. Help me.
Otherwise I’d visit Psychology Today , type in your zip code and search for therapists who specialize in “relationship issues”, “sex therapy”, and/or “LGBT issues”. Once you have a short list, call the offices personally and ask if the professional has experience counseling non-monogamous couples. That will give you the best shot at finding someone capable and competent, and the emphasis at first should be on building better communication and listening strategies between you and your partner so that you can have respectful, engaged, vulnerable, two-sided conversations with one another.
I also recommend picking up the book “The Jealousy Workbook” which features exercises for both individuals and couples to do together.
If your partner claims to be interested in “hurrying things along”, but then balks at the idea of formerly working on your relationship besides guilting and shaming you, then, well we’re back to you formulating your exit strategy. I wish you the best of luck either way!
Justin: What your partner needs to realize is that they’re spending the bulk of their time “sweating the small stuff” during this critical journey you two are on, when they really need to be focusing on listening to you, ensuring that you feel loved and prioritized throughout, and finding a way to meet you where you’re authentically at. And I think it can sometimes take something like almost losing your partner - or ACTUALLY losing your partner - to understand that.
I’m in a hetero relationship with a woman but I’m also attracted to her best friend. We are all old friends. How do I persuade them both to have a threesome with me?
You know what, reader? It’s your lucky day.
Typically I pass over questions like these without a second glance. The real tragedy is in the frequency with which this genre of question gets submitted. To me. By men who obviously have no familiarity with my body of work.
But today, reader - oh TODAY - you caught me on one of those “buy dishes at the Goodwill just so you can go home and smash them in the street” kinda Wednesdays. The kind where I’m sustaining myself on marijuana and peanut M&Ms and stockpiled photos of my dogs cuddling. The kind where I just spent thirty minutes trying to teach myself how to whistle because I had a fleeting certainty that the only way I’d make it through this night was if I acquired a new skill.
As such, let me do my best to concisely answer your question on how you persuade these two goddesses in your life to have a threesome with you:
YOU. MOTHERFUCKING. DON’T.
Personally, I have to admire you for throwing the “we are all old friends” qualifier in there, as if expecting me to pin a goddamn gold star on your chest for waiting so very patiently for these women to fuck you. That particular breed of douche levels you up from “average moron” to “entitled Reddit troll” status.
You know what the world calls “persuading a woman to have sex”, reader? RAPE.
This is why it’s so difficult for women to sustain friendships with heterosexual men. Because we spend all of this irreversible time and emotional energy vetting you to determine your authenticity, your trustworthiness, all the while hoping to high heaven that you won’t be like EVERY OTHER MAN. Hoping that when you laugh at our jokes, or compliment our competency, or offer a shoulder to lean on, it’s not because you’re imagining us with your dick in our mouth. Hoping that when you finally come on to us - as we know you inevitably will - that when we decline your advances, that you won’t cry “friend zone”. Or harass us. Or kill us.
But you know, reader, maybe I’m being just a tad too harsh. It’s not ENTIRELY your fault. Throughout mainstream film and television history it’s not been at all unusual to consume the stereotypical rom com “woman suddenly falls for her male best friend that she’s known forever but only recently realized he was her soulmate” plotline. At the risk of shattering your entire perception of the world and your role in it, I’m here to tell you that this is the rarest of phenomenons. Truly. It hardly ever happens.
So why are cultural scripts like that so pervasive in our society? Because the vast majority of mainstream film and television is written, directed, and produced by heterosexual men. And guess who their target demographic is? Heterosexual men. Think of it as porn, but for your heart. The “devoted best buddy who sticks it out long enough to land the girl” archetype is one that most men find irresistibly appealing, and then are somehow unable to separate that entertainment from the reality of the world. Why? You seem to have no trouble understanding the fact that Keanu Reaves is not ACTUALLY John Wick, or that there isn't actually an entire underground population of Marvel mutants inhabiting the planet. The end result is men feeling entitled to that internalized version of “happily ever after” - entitled to WOMEN - and that entitlement is not only obnoxious and toxic, but highly contagious.
Fuck, I’m tired. This is really good weed. I’ll wrap it up now.
Be better, reader. Be SO much better. No, I’m not going to tell you “how”. The Internet is at your fingertips, and I charge hourly for that. Pray that you turn yourself around and start making reparations for your asshattery before your girlfriend - AND her friend - realize what a tool you are. Although I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that I’m rooting for the femmes. Forever and always.
Ps. Men are trash.
Pps. To my loyal, feminist fan base, I promise I’ll get a “real” column up here just as soon as I stop crawling out of my skin.
Hi Andre! I'll try to keep this as short as possible! I've been in open relationships for a while but am new to poly. I am a gay man, have a husband, and two unconnected boyfriends. With one of the boyfriends, it started as me dating both he and his husband, but over time the husband has become less sexually interested in me; when I asked what was going on, his response was that "nothing is wrong." They have another boy that they are both dating, and I'm finding myself becoming resentful. Feeling slightly replaced by the new throuple, but mostly upset that the non-relationship between me and the husband is impacting my relationship with his other half, i.e. if the 4 of us are out together, I sometimes feel excluded and/or awkward having to be completely not-intimate with the husband. I don't know how to move forward and get to a place where I am not jealous or, frankly, how I can interact with his husband without it being forced/awkward. I would love to hear your thoughts!
I recently connected with one of the most amazing women I’ve ever met in my life. I walked away from our time together thinking how hard I’d fall for her if only my relationship configuration could fit yet another glorious being into it. At the same time, I marveled at my own heart’s capacity. Here I was actively in love with three humans - and maintaining a strong, loving, remote connection with a fourth - and yet I could so easily see myself expanding to include this woman. Chuckling to myself, I wondered aloud, “When does it stop? Where IS my heart’s limit?”
You remind me of me, dear reader. You have a husband and two boyfriends, one of whom’s husbands you're also involved with. You’re swimming in love’s excess, and that isn’t to say you should feel ashamed of yourself by any means. However, before I dive into my advice, I want you to sit with that for a minute. Your life is obviously so full and vibrant, and often when we have as many partnerships as you and I do, we’re running around from person to person and place to place so much that we forget to pause and be grateful. Soak up the gratitude for this family you’ve created. Feels awesome, doesn’t it? Alright, let’s get rolling!
For ease’s sake, I’m going to give my own names to each party: your husband is Bill, the boyfriend in question is Alex, and HIS husband’s name is Charlie.
It sounds as though you’ve been “ghosted” by Charlie, which is its own problem in and of itself. The practice of ghosting - ie the act of suddenly ceasing all communication with someone the subject is dating, but no longer wishes to date - is, frankly, insulting and disrespectful. The only allowances I make for it are if:
- You’re under the age of 21, and/or
- The person doing the ghosting is leaving an abusive relationship, and feeling as though the abrupt cessation is the only way they can escape their abuser’s manipulation.
Assuming neither of those are applicable in your case, it sounds like Charlie is at least ghosting you sexually, if not in a more holistic way. Ghosting sucks the most because it feels as though you're going through a break-up that only one of you signed off on. The silver lining? Even if things don't end up working out with Charlie, this will prove to have been the most difficult transition period. Everything will feel "easier" moving forward.
Another silver lining? All of this could just be poorly-communicated New Relationship Energy (NRE) that Charlie is experiencing, perhaps for the very first time. A smart and succinct description of NRE can be found here. As the author states, the greatest test of many relationships is the transition OUT of the NRE phase. If you and Charlie can work through this period, it will forge an even stronger and more stable connection between the two of you.
If I were you, I would give Alex a heads-up that you’re having a very challenging time sharing space with Charlie at the moment because of his lack of communication around this issue. Let him know that you’ll be initiating a conversation with Charlie to hash it out, and in the meantime, you’d appreciate it if he - Alex - wouldn’t bring up the new boy that they’re now dating when around you as it’s painful for you to hear about, particularly while there is still a lack of transparency around your and Charlie’s situation. Also, if you haven’t filled your husband in on all of this already, now would be an excellent time to do so.
Then, initiate the conversation with Charlie. Make sure it’s more than a coffee date, and that you reserve a good 2-3 hours in a private setting. Tell him what you told me - how difficult this has been for you, how you were owed a more detailed, honest, and empathetic conversation with him prior to this stage you're now in. Remind him how much you care for him, are sexually attracted to him, and how much you love seeing him happy. Do your research on NRE and introduce the term to him; see if it resonates, then work together to come to an agreement around a few different ways that he can still be over the moon for his new boy while also acknowledging, reassuring and giving attention to YOU. It’d also be a good idea to make a date with your husband and/or your OTHER boyfriend for immediately after the conversation, just in case it goes south and leaves you feeling vulnerable and in need of secure, stable, loving support.
Best of luck to you. And remember: GRATITUDE.
Guys, I am SO FUCKING EXCITED! This is my first LIVE event, and I'm bringing two other local experts on stage alongside myself to answer YOUR NON-MONOGAMY QUESTIONS in real time!
Doors at 7:30p / Panel starts at 8:00p
Tickets: $30/person or $50 per couple
ADVANCE TICKETING ONLY! There are a limited number of seats at this venue, so get yours' STAT!
Ticketing Link: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3111858
Accessibility Tickets: Please email Andre personally for information on discounted tickets at firstname.lastname@example.org. This event IS wheelchair accessible!
A limited supply of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages will be served at no cost for attendees. Attendees are also welcome to BYOB. Please drink responsibly! We reserve the right to remove anyone from the event who we feel has imbibed to an unsafe level. This event is 21+.
Meet the Panelists!
Andre Shakti is a journalist, educator, performer, activist, and professional slut living in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is devoted to normalizing alternative desires, de-stigmatizing sex workers and their clients, and not taking herself too seriously. Andre wrestles mediocre white men into submission and writes about sex work, queerness and non-monogamy for Cosmopolitan, Rewire, Kinkly, Thrillist, MEL, Vice, Autostraddle, and more. Andre is the reigning “polyamory pundit” at her non-monogamy advice column, “I Am Poly & So Can You!”, which you can visit — and submit questions to! — via IAmPoly.net. Visit her on Twitter @andreshakti, on FB as Andre Shakti, and as a pleasure professional on the new inclusive educational platform O.School.
Andre graduated cum laude from Towson University in Maryland with a Bachelors of Science in Psychology and LGBT Studies in 2010. She worked in HIV risk assessment, harm reduction education, and community activism in Baltimore from 2008-2011, studied at San Francisco State University’s National Sexuality Resource Center (NSRC) in 2010, and graduated from San Francisco Sex Information (SFSI)’s Sex Educator Training in Fall 2013. She’s held educator and sales associate positions at sex-positive adult boutiques Sugar (Baltimore, MD) and Feelmore510 (Oakland, CA), and is one of the founding crew members of Atlanta’s Sex Down South Conference in Atlanta, GA. Andre has taught classes, moderated panels, and filmed instructional clips for Dark Odyssey, Catalyst Con, Sugar, The Garden, PassionateU, Kink Academy, Feelmore510, Towson University, Kink University, University of Maryland, UC Berkeley, She Bop, The Feminist Porn Conference, International Ms Leather, Sex Down South, Harvard University, California College of the Arts, and many more.
Dr. Liz Powell
Dr. Liz believes that great sex can change the world. She is on a mission to help you have more meaningful, pleasurable relationships in life and work, as well as the bedroom. She’s a coach and licensed psychologist (CA 27871) helping couples and singles develop self-confidence and authenticity in their relationships, whether conventional or non-traditional. Dr. Liz has made multiple media appearances, including as a co-host as on the Life on the Swingset podcast and on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio show Ideas. As a sex educator, Dr. Liz has spoken on many stages internationally including the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists Annual Conference, CatalystCon, and the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit. Dr Liz believes that being confident in who you are is the gateway to great relationships and great sex - and great sex, according to Dr. Liz, can change the world. Learn more about Dr. Liz at sexpositivepsych.com.
Jasper is a San Francisco native. Long since fascinated with nuisances of sexuality, he joined the adult industry when he was 19. From there his interest in exploring the depth of the human sexual experience expanded, leading to him founding the Mango Dome, a venue for sex-positive education, in 2014. In 2016 he became a part of the leadership team for the Organ House, a series of play parties designed to spread enthusiastic consent culture. He also recently joined the leadership team of the OrgyDome at Burning Man, the world’s largest play party. As an openly bisexual man - and a sex worker! - he has devoted much of his focus to the empowerment and normalization of non-monogamy and traditionally alternative sexuality.
I fell in love with someone whose partner doesn't seem cut out for polyamory. The partner has been very much up for an open relationship, but now that he's encountered his own jealousy he forbids his partner (my lover) to let feelings enter the equation. He also doesn't talk about his problems with his partner or anyone else. We're in love but this guy is his life partner and neither of us wants to upset him. How can I get along with my metamour?
Oh friend, dear one, I’m not going to have good news for you. Brace yourself? Trigger warning? Whatever modern social construct of “beware” you choose to subscribe to. Here are some solid poly “rules of thumb” specific to your situation:
When in a “V” formation, the pre-existing couple needs to be prioritized. Right now, your lover is at the bottom of the “V”; you and his life partner are the two “tips”, and, in short, the relationship between him and his life partner needs to be 100% solid before he enters into another physical and/or emotional relationship with a third party. There’s the “he was there first” camp, but in my opinion, your relationship with your lover doesn’t stand a chance at success or sustainability until he can get on grounded footing with his pre existing partner.
When in ANY poly configuration with more than two folks, it’s a good idea to move as slowly as the person who is having the most difficulty adjusting...within reason. Otherwise, said person runs the risk of feeling rushed, backed into a corner, and/or like their feelings are no longer a priority. That being said, it’s a good idea to initiate a “family meeting” early on to determine exactly how long this purgatory-adjustment period is going to last. You don’t want to put the ball entirely into one person’s court, and then find yourselves still stuck in the same predicament ten months down the road. Schedule check-ins either every two weeks or once a month, and try to reach a mutually-consenting agreement to allow for a bit of relationship progress/evolution after each check-in - while still letting the struggling person largely lead the discussion. It can be a slow process, but the payoff is in the unparalleled trust and connectivity that will be built throughout; again, lending to the success and sustainability of your relationship with your lover.
Whether or not you and your lover end up together, he needs to learn from this. It’s never a good idea to enter into non-monogamy when one half of the OG monogamous equation is hesitant, reluctant, in a period of destabilization, etc. Now, it is possible that your lover’s boyfriend THOUGHT he could handle non-monogamy, and “sold” his viewpoints to your lover as such before doing a complete 180 after experiencing jealousy for the first time. Possible, but not likely. A more likely scenario is that your lover was privy to “warning signs” from his partner that he chose to ignore because you were so shiny and new and attractive to him, and he just decided to “hope for the best”. Alos, poly isn’t just something that you hold your breath and plunge into. When done ethically and intentionally, it involves a massive amount of conversation, negotiation, education (books, lectures, podcasts), and exposure to non-monog communities (hanging out with non-monog friends, finding discussion groups, going to non-sexual meet-ups), all BEFORE taking on additional partners. It’s a lot of labor! If your lover and his partner didn’t initiate and follow through with that labor prior to your introduction, then it’s no wonder the partner is backpedaling!
“Feelings” rules never fucking work and I hate them and they should die. Sorry, I’m beginning to unravel a bit in the wee hours of the morning - bear with me! I’m fully aware that some people are going to disagree with me on this, and that’s perfectly fine. This column is a literal platform for my opinion, after all. With that, it’s my opinion that while physical intimacy can be finite, emotional intimacy can not. Emotions are unpredictable, and are almost impossible to stymie when you’re constantly connecting physically. That’s just the way in which most hearts and minds work. To allow your partner a physical connection with someone while forbidding them from developing an emotional connection is to literally set everyone involved up for failure. It’s an unreasonable expectation, plain and simple, and your lover should have never agreed to it in the first place, PARTICULARLY in the earliest stages of “trying on” non-monogamy.
So, reader, in conclusion: Show this column to your lover, then take a step back and allow your lover the space and time to reassure and re-prioritize his partner (this includes digital space and time in addition to the physical). If I were them, I’d rewind back to before you came into the picture. I’d find a non-monogamy-savvy therapist and schedule 3-6 sessions to help them reconnect and to facilitate honest and open communication between them. I’d also initiate the “education” and “exposure” components of familiarizing themselves with polyamory community and practices. After a few months of this, if things are genuinely going well, your lover can reopen the lines of communication between you two, and you can start building a happier, healthier relationship. Best of luck!
"...We’re living in a gig economy culture of radical self-reliance, and this can have devastating consequences for both our physical and mental health. We’re encouraged to be constantly creating, engaging, producing. We’re expected to be constantly connected and available to the outside world. We’re inundated with articles on how to “increase efficiency” and “make the most of our time.” For people like me, the societal pressure – coupled with the pressure I place on myself to be the best damn partner and lover I can be – can reach overwhelming proportions quite easily. Plus, in my experience, people in open relationships are more just more generally prone to “burning the candle at both ends” than monogamous folks are. We just have so many options!..."
"...We exchanged pleasantries and confirmed the requests he’d made over the phone. Ned proceeded to methodically unpack the cheap Styrofoam cooler he’d brought with him. Out came half a dozen small, identical Tupperware containers, each housing a different species of insect. First came the crickets, then the mealworms. The centipedes followed, as did the giant millipedes and hissing cockroaches. Finally, a pair of wolf spiders emerged to complete the collection..."
I do my best to be a SWer ally. I know and love several SWer friends, regularly holding space. I often volunteer at ________. I'm also very lonely and very horny. I love women. I'm lucky if I make love twice a year, and I only lost my virginity at ___ a couple years ago. I've never been good at talking to people but I've gotten much better in the last few years.
Hiring a SWer for me seems like the only way out...but I feel like I'm betraying the trust of those SWer friends at ____which I do not want to do. They all talk about how much they detest most of their customers. What is wrong with me? Can I be an ally and a customer? Can I be more? Is there some point between customer and friend/lover?*
*Some information above has been redacted in order to protect the identity of the author.
I hate to tell you, reader, but if you’re inserting yourself in a community predominantly for selfish intentions - such as hoping to land a partner within that community - then you cannot rightfully call yourself an ally.
This is a situation that sex workers offering direct-client services face all too often: Bad boundaries and unrealistic expectations. A lonely client may be initially attracted to a provider’s advertisement based on looks and/or offered services, but although the relationship begins with both parties consenting to the transactional nature of it, it soon becomes clear that the client is looking for something “more”. This is often exhibited by increased communication breaking the sex worker’s previously-stated protocols (blowing up the worker via texts, emails, social media friend requests, phone calls, etc), and can unfortunately escalate severely. I know sex workers who have been stalked, outed/doxxed, threatened, etc. by clients after turning down their romantic advances.
Why do men do this? Ego fragility, for one thing. But also because they know, deep down, that society doesn’t hold sex workers in the same regard as it does non-sex workers. That we’re frequently seen as shameful and disposable. They know that they’re unlikely to face any threat of law enforcement, and that empowers them.
This is all to say: Do us a favor, and if you hire us, please ensure that you have a firm grasp on reality and already see your sex worker as a business professional, not as a date. We sell fantasies, and we’re damn good at it. But never allow yourself to forget that fantasies can be - and often are - substantially different from reality. Do you think your sex worker is REALLY flirting with you? Was it that wink she gave, that seemingly-authentic moan that escaped her lips, or how nice it was of her to offer to help you pick out sex toys? Mark my words: That’s. Her. Job.
To address your second concern - that if you hire a sex worker, your sex worker friends and comrades at the organization you volunteer at won’t like or respect you anymore, and/or you have a fear that because of all of the dirt your friends dish about THEIR clients, that means YOUR sex worker will be “faking" her behavior towards you - well, it’s a little more complicated.
I’m going to say something potentially controversial here: I don’t have much respect for sex workers who shit all over their clients (figuratively, that is!), UNLESS they’re “survival” sex workers.
What makes a survival sex worker? That’s typically a person who feels pressured into the work they do to some extent, usually because they don’t feel like they have any other options. Survival sex workers are disproportionately PoC and transgender because our society still stigmatizes them and puts challenges and barriers in front of them to ensure that they don’t obtain “lawful employment”. They’re usually street workers, folks who can’t afford beautiful online advertisements or luxurious incall spacious. If these workers need to talk smack on their clients as catharsis - something to ensure they can make it through each day - I’m all for it.
However, I get hella pissy when I hear non-survival sex workers shitting on a client who hasn’t actually done anything wrong to them (i.e. stiffing them money, no-showing, pushing boundaries, assaulting them, etc).
To steal Donald Glover’s character’s words in Magic Mike XXL (oh yeah, I went there): “...These girls have to deal with men in their lives everyday who...they don’t listen to them, they don’t ask them what they want. They don’t even ask them what they want. All we have to do is ask them what they want. And when they tell you, it’s a beautiful thing, man. It’s like...we’re like healers or something.”
Dishing about clients with other sex workers can feel cathartic to any of us, especially if we don’t have non-SWer friends/family/partners that we can disclose work information and experiences to. However, there’s a difference between “dishing” and ripping them apart. I’ve heard sex workers complain about how “fat” or “ugly” their clients were, how “disgusting” their fetishes are, how “pathetic” they come off as. I’ve watched sex workers imitate their clients in buffoonish ways, or disclose - gleefully - how they manipulated a lovely client out of more money than they could afford. I do consider myself a healer, I love my work, and I feel protective of my clients. I can’t empathize with workers who don’t. But sadly, not everyone is like me, and it’s impossible to know “who” your hired fantasy really is in their off-the-clock hours. But trust me - I know WAY more SWers who feel as I do about the work, and way LESS who feel negatively. Hire us. Please hire us! We’re generally really fucking awesome, and no matter what society tells you, there’s no shame in hiring a sex worker. If you want to email me privately with details of what you’re looking for, I may even be able to play matchmaker!
So. Can you be an ally and a customer? Abso-fucking-lutely. Those are the best kind of clients! Many of my clients routinely read my writing, follow my educational endeavors, and champion my activism, and I love them for it.
Can you be “more”? i.e. Something “in between” a customer and lover? Absolutely not. And I recommend that until you’ve fully accepted that fact, you not only abstain from hiring a sex worker, but abstain from volunteering at that organization. Trust me - sex workers can sniff out ulterior motives a mile away, and it might be the only act you can take to preserve some of the friendships you’ve made there.
Hey there! I have a primary and a secondary partner who I love very dearly. I see them actively multiple times a week, and I live with my primary full time. My birthday is coming up soon, and I would love to plan a weekend trip that involves all of us going somewhere. We have regular family dinners and coffee dates, so we're used to hanging out together in the same space. So my question is: How does one go traveling with multiple partners while keeping the trip enjoyable for everyone?
Many Loves in Minneapolis
1. Discuss your individual travel styles ASAP. In my personal life I’m rarely alone, so part of what I typically enjoy about traveling are the opportunities for solace and isolation. I also have a much lower tolerance for organizational errors - like a hotel accidentally giving me the wrong room - than I do for food-related errors, like a server accidentally delivering undercooked meat. I need at least seven hours of sleep a night to function, and I don’t do well around large, condensed groups of people, like you’d find at a festival or concert. It’s really important for my partners to have all this information about me, and I encourage them to tell me everything and anything they can think of around how they like to travel.
2. Delegate, delegate, delegate. You want to simultaneously make sure that everyone’s wants and needs are being addressed while also tasking each individual with responsibilities based on their strengths. Trust me; as a Type A personality, I often try to take care of ALL of the logistics of an impending trip myself. As a woman, I also can fall into the role of “emotional baggage handler” all too easily, and to my detriment. To avoid any one individual feeling stretched thin, burned out, or underappreciated, task task task! Is one person fluent in the language of the foreign country you’re visiting? Make them the translator. Does one individual have a better sense of orientation? Make them in charge of maps and directions. Is one person in the group a definitively better driver? Put them in charge of booking and piloting any rental vehicles. That way everyone feels important, as well as confident in their ability to carry out their task(s).
3. Make extensive emergency contingency plans specific to the location(s) you’re visiting. First, make a comprehensive list of everyone’s allergies, illnesses, medications, chronic pain needs, etc. Then map where the closest hospitals, police stations, pharmacies, veterinary clinics, and/or embassies are to wherever you will all be staying. Finally, talk out plans for specific hypothetical occurrences. What do you all do if someone gets food poisoning? If the dog runs away? If someone loses their passport? The more prepared you all feel as a unified group for potential crisis, the more confident and relaxed you’ll be.
4. Let the budget of the lowest-income partner be your guide. More likely than not, the folks in your polycule have differing incomes, and budgeting a trip with people from different socioeconomic classes can be a challenge. One partner may be feeling financially secure and is suggesting you stay in a five star hotel, while another may have just lost their job and is feeling like they can’t contribute; you want to make your experiences feel as accessible and non-judgmental as possible. Finally, create a daily budget for the group. The daily budget should cover food, lodgings, travel, and group excursions; it should NOT cover optional expenses such as any souvenirs one or more people want to purchase. Even if you go a little over the daily budget sometimes, having a set spending amount as a goal will significantly increase the chances that you don’t spend more than you were planning to.
5. Negotiate sleeping arrangements BEFORE booking your lodgings. Who is sharing whose bed? Is anyone an insomniac? How will you re-negotiate shared space if two or more folks want to be intimate with each other? Also, make sure to agree on protocol should one person in the unit have an intense day and desire company when none is scheduled. For example, if Beth was supposed to sleep with Charles tonight, but Travis just received word that his grandmother died and could use some bed company, is that a “legitimate” reason for the sleeping order to be rearranged?
6. If possible, “test drive” your travel ahead of time. Are you gearing up for a big cross-country roadtrip with your whole polycule next month? If you all aren’t already accustomed to traveling with one another, plan a short weekend getaway for all of you PRIOR to the bigger trip. That way you can work out the kinks in a low pressure environment where the end is easily in sight. Christmas with the family? Not an ideal first trip away. Neither is a destination wedding where you’re all invited or an extensive international backpacking adventure. Try two or three nights at a bed and breakfast, rent an AirBnB by the beach, or jump on a flight to Vegas and try your hands at the slots together!
7. Try and pack comparably. As a unit, you want to try and proactively eliminate any opportunity for resentment to flourish. For example, if three folks in your flight party have restricted themselves to carry-on luggage only, and you all are forced to spend an extra hour at the airport after you’ve landed to accommodate the retrieval of your fourth person’s checked baggage, there may be some hostility around perceived “wasted time”.
8. Get on the same page about how you'll be introducing yourselves to new people. Depending on where you're traveling to, some destinations are more accepting of non-monogamous configurations than others. If you unanimously decide on a "cover story", make sure you each have it down pat!
9. If you haven’t already, cultivate the ability to compromise. Traveling with one other person means that you’ll each be making a few sacrifices to ensure the other’s happiness, so adding MORE folks to the equation means even more sacrifice. Go into the trip in question knowing that you’ll be trying new things - some of which you hadn’t planned on trying - and accept the fact that you will sometimes be uncomfortable for the benefit of others. Staunch stances, rigid routines, and superficial preferences disguised as “needs” can all become problematic.
10. Take care of your bodies while you travel. This tip isn’t necessarily poly-specific, but it’s still important. Often when we’re going on vacation, we give ourselves permission to “go crazy!”, and that can extend to how we treat our bodies, and THAT can extend to how we treat those around us. For example, if I generally eat healthily, drink a lot of water, and exercise 3-4 times per week, and then I leave for a two-week trip where I’m eating copious amounts of junk food, going to bed drunk every night, and barely moving my body, I’m probably going to feel like shit after a while. And if I feel like shit, I’ll be less inclined to enjoy myself, be interested in my surroundings, or be pleasant company for my partners. My recommendation? Allow yourself some small “cheats”, but don’t pull a complete 180 on your routine.
11. Make sure every person in your travel unit schedules themselves regular alone time. No matter how much you care for one another, or how copacetic you are as travel companions, you WILL need time away from one another. Think about how you most like to spend time alone - listening to podcasts, exercising, reading, exploring a new place solo, etc - and know that you don’t need anyone’s permission but your own to take a mental health break.
12. Make a list of “controversial” topics that are off limits for the duration of the trip. Identify recurring arguments in your polycule and commit to setting them to the side temporarily. For instance, if Mike is a heavy snorer, and his snoring is famously obnoxious and disruptive in your polycule, AND you know that being privy to Mike’s snoring during your trip is unavoidable, you may want to set a boundary where discussion of said snoring is off limits for the duration of the trip. Set yourselves up for success.
13. Take ALL THE PICTURES. Seriously. I say this as someone who hates taking photos, and therefore has made many amazing memories that sadly have gone undocumented. I’m sure I’ll regret saying this, but selfie sticks are kind of amazing. Whether one person in the group wants to take charge of the photography, or whether you switch back and forth depending on the day or excursion, photos are the simplest way to secure heartfelt, financially-accessible souvenirs from your trip. That being said, moderation is key, so you’ll also want to....
14...Have a code/safe word within the group that means “disconnect from your device, STAT!”. We’ve all traveled with the person who is WAY more wrapped up in how their trip LOOKS - to their Facebook friends, Instagram followers, etc - than how it FEELS. It can be frustrating to find yourself wanting to engage and/or connect with your travel partners only to have to physically tear their phone out of their hands to do so. Now, the next time your girlfriend pulls her tablet out at the Argentinian restaurant you’ve all been dying to try, all you have to say is, “Sheep testicle!”, and away goes the device!
15. Don’t forget that you love one another. Go out on dates while traveling, reestablish connection with nonverbal affection like hand-holding, shoulder-rubbing, and cuddling, and for the love of everything holy, don’t forget to FUCK!