Keep in mind that I will still be available for interviews, coaching, private pro sessions, and educational opportunities! Inquire via my contact form OR by emailing me directly at email@example.com, and don’t forget that I offer accessibility pricing!
My girlfriend and I are poly and are both sex workers; we've recently experienced some conflict over a few things. She prefers to blur work and play (makes porn with partners, for example, or ends up dating clients or other performers), whereas I prefer to keep work and play separate. She also has a very public social media life (I do not), which means that her work stuff (which I feel chill about) as well as her play stuff (which I'd rather not see) is all over the good ol' internet. I'm trying to figure out how to best be a support for her in her work, while also protecting my own self’s boundaries and being real that I just don’t want to see her intimate moments with her other partners. I know, I know, I can just “not look” at her profile, but I’m a human for better or worse and sometimes curiosity gets the best of me. What are some other strategies we could employ, or some self-work that I can engage in on my own to move through this particular challenge more gracefully? Thanks so much!
Talk about resounding with your audience, reader! I had to review your email at least seven times to reassure myself that one of my current partners didn’t send me a polyamory quandary from MY OWN LIFE (and to be honest, I’m not entirely sure that they haven’t, haha). Let me see if I can put my eleven years of experience negotiating boundaries with sex worker partners to good use!
First of all, in the scenario you described, my personal experience is very similar to that of your partner’s. Due to my privilege as a white, thin, able-bodied, cisgender woman who benefits from respectability politics, I’ve always seen it as my responsibility to be militantly “out” about the sex work AND alternative relationships that I engage in. Because many genres of the sex industry that I frequent - such as stripping and porn - are publicly performative and benefit from digital promotion, I also have the privilege of prominent social media profiles that elevate both my voice and my exploits.
Finally - although I’ve never dated a client - I strongly prefer working with other sex workers who are either preexisting partners of mine or with whom there lies an authentic mutual attraction, as your partner does. My past and present sex worker partners, however, have always maintained more conservative disclosure politics and less overlap. And at one time or another, most of my serious partners have expressed a discomfort with “running into” certain explicit social media posts of mine on the internet.
So. What’s to be done about it?!
1. Each sex worker deserves to define their own privacy and disclosure politics without pressure, shame, or expectation. It is just as legitimate for you to maintain a distinctive work vs play separation as it is for your partner to operate almost entirely in “grey area”. There’s no doubt that you already know and accept this, but I have to cover all my bases!
2. Talk to your partner immediately about this (especially if you haven’t already!).
Be sure to:
a) Reassure her - both immediately and throughout the conversation - that you care about her and support the work that she does, as well as how she does it.
b) Express yourself with “I” statements, i.e. “When _____ happens, *I* feel ______” instead of “You make me feel _____ when ____ happens.” Do not initially assume malintent on the part of your partner; it’s more than likely that she’ll be very concerned to hear that you’re struggling emotionally.
c) Come to the table with several suggestions of ways to improve the situation, instead of expecting her to do all of the labor of coming up with “fixes”. Contacting the advice column was a wonderful start!
3. The easiest thing to ask of your girlfriend would be to filter you out of her social media posts - work or otherwise - that feature individuals who are IRL lovers. Now, this is easy to do on platforms like Facebook (she can easily block you from seeing singular posts), but practically impossible to maneuver on platforms like Twitter. Seeing as you utilize social media significantly less than your girlfriend does (and it doesn’t sound as though you rely on social media for nearly as much of your income), it wouldn’t be fair to ask your girlfriend to censor herself on said platform(s). Instead, you can either:
a) Take a breather by temporarily blocking your girlfriend on social media for an undisclosed amount of time entirely dependent on your comfort, OR
b) Ask your girlfriend to give you a heads-up before she posts anything that may negatively impact you, ie “Hey babe, just so you know, there are some XXX photos of _____ and I going live on Twitter tomorrow - wanted to make you aware ahead of time so that you can take care of yourself.” That way you don’t just “stumble on” those challenging posts unexpectedly.
In terms of exercising willpower in not trolling her feeds knowing you may eventually see something you don’t want to, have a short list of productive “To-Do” tasks on your phone. When you feel the urge to be emotionally masochistic, click over to your “To-Do” ‘s and complete one item on the list instead. Could be “Call Grandma and reconnect”, “Clean the inside of the microwave”, “Go for a run - sans phone”, etc. It also may help to enlist a trusted sex worker friend or two who you can call/text/hangout with when you’re feeling the urge.
4. A word on cultivating empathy for the way your girlfriend operates. Now, I can’t read your girlfriend’s mind, so I can’t definitively tell you WHY she practices sex work and non-monogamy as she does. But. I know that for me, I tend to mix partners and lovers and coworkers and scene partners because it makes me feel SAFE. I have some lingering trust issues around being penetrated because of a chronic medical condition, and I also - hilariously - am NOT a natural exhibitionist, although I love my work. By working primarily with people who I’m certain both respect me as a person AND are already intimately familiar with my body, well, it turns the work from potentially challenging to healing. This may not be true for your girlfriend, but it also might be.
I also know that in general, I feel safer having recreational sex with other sex workers as opposed to “muggles”, and I’m sure I don’t have to explain why, haha. In short, if you haven’t already, ASK your girlfriend why she works as she does. She likely will have some very legitimate - and relatable - reasons for it, and it will give you increased perspective. The more you know about each other, the closer your bond will be! Best of luck!
As a response to the passing of SESTA-FOSTA on Wednesday April 11th, I began working closely with Hand of Glory Printing - an independent, sweatshop-free custom printing service - to create a limited line of pro-sex work apparel for both sex workers and allies alike!
Not familiar with SESTA-FOSTA? Here are some great pieces to read as homework:
Now, more than ever, it is imperative for our allies to stand up and get LOUD. To remind those in their networks - as well as their legislators - that sex workers are HUMAN BEINGS who should be listened to and believed when it comes to what would make their industry safer, and what wouldn't. To remind them that sex work is LEGITIMATE LABOR. To remind them that CONSENTING, ADULT-AGED SEX WORK should NOT be tragically conflated with NON-CONSENSUAL TRAFFICKING OF OFTEN UNDERAGE VICTIMS. To show the sex workers in your life that you're ready to put your money where your mouth is.
So, starting today, PRE-SALES have opened for a variety of shirt designs! Sales will end on Wednesday May 9th, after which it will take approximately 3-4 weeks for the shirts to be produced and made available. GET YOURS' NOW! Simply visit the SLUT SHOP to stand up to those who want to victimize, criminalize, and/or eradicate sex workers!
My girlfriend and I have been together for a little over a year, and by far it's the happiest, healthiest relationship I've been in. When we first got together she mentioned that she was thinking about doing some sex work on the side, mostly webcam work and occasional sugar babying. I'd never dated a sex worker before, but I trust her to make good decisions, and it's her body, her choice. What I DIDN'T take into account was whether or not I'd feel jealous about her interactions with other men (I'm a straight guy). She started seeing clients about two months ago, and I've been struggling. We're otherwise monogamous, and recently she suggested opening up the relationship - allowing ME to see other people - to help ease my jealousy. But the only person I want to be with is her. If my girlfriend's a sex worker, is monogamy impossible? Help!
First of all, reader, I want to sincerely thank you for your efforts in trying to be the best ally to your sex worker girlfriend as humanly possible. Because of how society socializes our men, most are trained via mainstream media and relationship modeling to see women as property devoid of sexual agency and autonomy...even if subliminally. These reflexes often rear their ugly heads when women in monogamous relationships set out to do sex work that has them interacting with other men in intimate ways, albeit it under a transactional umbrella.
Because there is an ever-increasing void of information and resources for partners of sex workers (thanks SESTA-FOSTA, you oppressive piece of legislative garbage), it's not as if you can turn to your "How to Be The Best Partner to a Sex Worker" manual or discussion group for advice. Plus, not many mental health professionals are savvy enough to help their clients through issues pertaining to sex work. More often than not the therapist carries an assumption that a sex worker is intrinsically a “damaged” person who needs help, and will try and convince their partner that the sex worker needs to be "cured" in order to save the relationship. With seemingly nowhere to turn for guidance, it's tragically common to feel both helpless and isolated in your struggle
Now, onto your question: No, you absolutely do NOT have to be non-monogamous to be in a relationship with a sex worker. You do, however, need to genuinely be able to distinguish between and accept 1. The authentic intimacy you two share, and 2. The intimacy your girlfriend performs as part of her work.
Here are some strategies to practice to help you and your girlfriend through this transitional period with as much compassion, patience, and kindness as possible:
TALK ABOUT YOUR JEALOUSY. I referenced male socialization earlier; another symptom of the toxic culture scripts men are raised on is the reflex to "bottle up" one's emotions (because emoting is seen as "feminine" and therefore inherently "weak", etc etc). Fight this urge with every fiber of your being. The more often you acknowledge your emotions, the less scary (and more surmountable) they'll seem. Plus, men who admit their vulnerability are sexy AF. Just make sure when you're discussing your feelings with your girlfriend, that you're using "I" statements and not "blaming" her for your strife. DON'T say, "The way you talked about your client yesterday made me feel ______." DO say, "When you told me your client was handsome, I felt _______." No one can MAKE us feel anything without our consent.
Figure out where your boundaries are around what you want to know, what you need to know, and what you don't. A knee-jerk reaction to knowing your partner is a sex worker is to request a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) arrangement, assuming that if you don't hear the dirty details of your partner's work you'll be less likely to be jealous. Trust me, this RARELY works. Our minds are incredibly capable at conjuring up worst case scenarios at a moment's notice, and all that practicing DADT will do is give you more motive to imagine outrageously fictional circumstances your girlfriend could be engaged in. It shrouds the relationship in mystery and increases the feeling of emotional disconnection and detachment between partners.
Now, this doesn't necessarily mean that your girlfriend has to tell you EVERYTHING about her work; for example, there's a big difference between coming home and telling you that she had a really great time with her client versus coming home and raving about how big her client's cock was. But you SHOULD know what kinds of intimate activities she's engaging in with clients so that you two can negotiate - or renegotiate - sexual safety, how she's keeping herself physically and emotionally safe (does she screen her clients ahead of time? where does she see her clients? how does she advertise her services? does she have other sex worker friends to confer with and unload on? etc), AND what you can do to support her on a daily basis.
Do your research and educate yourself about sex work. Read op eds written by sex workers, consume radio and podcast interviews of sex workers, form a keen understanding of the issues presently impacting sex workers...ESPECIALLY before SESTA-FOSTA goes into effect. Seek them out, listen to them, believe them. The more you familiarize yourself with the nuances of the work, the less foreign the work will seem to you - AND the more you and your girlfriend will have to talk about. As per your situation, I recommend following the voices of Siouxsie Q, Tina Horn, Lorelei Lee, Maxine Holloway, and Lola Davina.
Identify kinds of intimacy that are exclusive to what's shared between you and your girlfriend and let them ground you. I love telling the story of how I attended an event a few years back and met someone I wanted to have casual sex with. The person was partnered but in an open relationship, and when I asked them what their boundaries were, they said, "The only thing I'm not allowed to do is get kissed on the forehead; that's something I reserve for my partner." I almost melted from the sweetness of it, and had no problem whatsoever abiding by that boundary. So, based on the reality of what your girlfriend offers to clients (i.e. understand that it's probably not reasonable to request that she doesn't engage in oral sex with other people, etc), work together to isolate some things that you request remain "special" and unique to the intimacy you two have. When you feel your jealousy start to surge, calmly reflect on all of the ways that you get to love on your girlfriend that her clients don't.
Purchase The Jealousy Workbook and regularly carve out time for both the solo and the partnered exercises. It's not specific to sex work, but it's one of the most effective physical tools I've come across for acknowledging one's jealousy, forming a relationship with it, and processing through it in healthy ways.
Remember, your girlfriend is new at this, too! Every time you feel frustrated, exasperated, or disappointed - perhaps your girlfriend forgot to call you to tell you that her appointment was running long, or accidentally overshared the details of a session - remind yourself that this is literally her first rodeo. Instead of taking it out on her or internalizing it to mean that the relationship "isn't working", take a deep breath, practice some self care, and continue to cultivate patience, kindness, and compassion.
On Tuesday April 10th, I was fired by the digital sex education platform responsible for 1/4 of my income, O.school. I had been a part of the O.School "family" since the company's inception in late 2016, and until this week had been one of their most committed and celebrated educators.
I want to first acknowledge the strenuous labor of both Sarah Brynn Holliday and Bianca Palmisano, two former educators on O.School's platform who quit the company in solidarity of my firing. They've succeeded in creating detailed timelines of everything that's transpired over the last 72 hours, and I urge you to read them before continuing.
1. Why I’m Breaking Up with O.school by Sarah Brynn Holliday
2. SOMETHING IS ROTTEN IN THE STATE OF O.SCHOOL by Bianca Palmisano
My firing came one day after I posted the following letter within an internal company channel that was accessible to both O.School staff and educators. Out of legal concerns, I am not attaching any of the screenshots of the private conversations I had with individual staff members:
I am writing from a deeply conflicted place, and I need it to be known at the onset that this has nothing to do with motivations to vindictively "drag" OSchool as a company, @mschiefo, or any other integral staff members. It has EVERYTHING to do with needing support from my pleasure professional community, as well as not being able to continue on as a pleasure professional without a radical and immediate change in transparency politics within this company. Those changes need to come from the top, and in order to make them, pleasure professionals deserve to be "in the know" so that they can consider and weigh in on anything proposed.
1. I am deeply uncomfortable with the fact that the #payment channel was unceremoniously deleted from Slack. In speaking quietly to other professionals on the platform, I have learned that there have been inconsistencies in who is getting paid what, i.e. who gets "bonuses" at the end of every month vs. who doesn't, as well as who receives statistics on their streams and when. I am NOT okay with this. Let it be known that I feel as though I generally have MORE privilege on this platform ; that I benefit from things like my "reputation" in terms of how I'm treated, and that I'm only putting my own money at risk by writing this. I'm not an angry, shunned party - I've been benefiting from this lack of transparency. In my opinion, the fact that we only receive payment information in private DMs and not via a method accessible to everyone needs to change.
2. On Wednesday of last week, I spent a few hours at OSchool HQ in Oakland shooting some promotional video clips for the platform, as well as doing an interview on sex work and the sex industry for @Danielle Bezalel’s podcast "Sex with DB". I had a lovely time, and spent a bulk of it educating the folks present about SESTA-FOSTA and the potential implications of such brutal sex censorship, both for sex workers as well as the online platforms that support them. The day afterwards, I received messages from Danielle asking me if I could switch the topic of my upcoming 4/10 "Sex Work: Ask Me Anything!" stream. I am attaching screenshots of that conversation with this message (please read them before continuing). Although I tried to connect with Andrea over the phone that day, she ended up being unavailable and asked to schedule a Tuesday (4/10) morning call instead. I agreed, assuming I'd be able to stream "Sex Work: Ask Me Anything" that evening. The next day, I received messages from her telling me that my only options were to either change the topic of my upcoming stream or cancel it altogether. I am attaching screenshots of this conversation as well (which also includes a request made to review and edit a company public statement about SESTA-FOSTA without being compensated as a consultant). After struggling emotionally with the decision for some time, I ended up canceling it, losing money and not being offered any kind of apology stipend to compensate for it.
I *know* there are a multitude of current and former sex workers operating on this platform, and that I am by no means the only pleasure pro that talks openly about the sex industry in streams. I also understand that the possible implications of SESTA-FOSTA are intimidating, but proactively censoring sex workers on a platform that boasts inclusivity, intersectionality, and ethical principles - without first initiating a roundtable discussion among those in charge and the pleasure professional community about taking potential defensive action in a way that will have the least damaging effect on the sex workers doing sex ed labor - is fucked up. Honestly, if I could financially afford to boycott streaming on OSchool until the censorship is lifted, I would. But hey, I'm already hemorrhaging money from all of my advertising platforms being seized and/or shut down, plus the fact that individual clients are terrified to purchase sexual services right now and I'm subsequently receiving a record number of session cancellations.
3. In a message from @O.kelly today, I received notice that OSchool will no longer be offering $25/stream "thank you bonuses", and will also be waiving their 50/50 tips split starting this month (April). Just to give you all an idea how this affects me personally, this past month I made $770 doing 15 streams (most of them being 120 minutes long). That's just about $50/stream. Outside of OSchool, I charge $125/hour for coaching and consultation calls, and I typically have a $200 per 90 minute workshop minimum when I teach at universities, organizations, businesses, etc. As you can see, I already take a HEAVY financial hit streaming for OSchool, as I'm sure many of you also do. Based on the information shared to me today, I personally cannot afford to continue working on this platform.
4. Finally, on a note of slightly less priority, I feel as though there have been MANY missed opportunities to bring pleasure professionals closer together, particularly those who live in the same geographical areas. I know that our team could only benefit from being able to connect with, socialize with, and talk shop with other pro peers in this way, and I'm a bit disappointed that there's been no organizing around it from the top. Also adds to my "icky" feeling around the lack of transparency being communicated to the team as a whole, i.e. Not encouraging us to communicate with each other.
Pleasure professionals, I truly consider you my family. I want to hear from you because I will NEVER underestimate how critical the work you're doing is, and honestly, I need your help. Hopefully OSchool will listen.
All My Love & Respect,
WHAT YOU CAN DO (adapted from Bianca Palmisano):
1. Keep tuning in. Many educators on O.school count on the income they receive from your tips during streams. Don’t boycott the platform entirely.
2. Let O.school’s admin team know how you feel. Tweet at them (@OSchoolLive), comment on their Instagram (@odotschool), send them emails (firstname.lastname@example.org). A press kit with sample tweets will be released shortly.
3. Donate to O.school sex educators directly. Commit to our Patreon channels, send us money, buy our coaching packages, and promote our content to the rest of your networks. My personal Venmo address for any donations is @Arianna-Travaglini.
I love you all. Thank you.
I'm new to poly. I was with D for two years, and it was bumpy. We love each other dearly, but he ended things with me because he was too focused on making me happy and not himself. I was devastated. So in the time we were broken up - two weeks - D went on a date with a woman, she got kicked out of her house, and he took her in. I knew about the date; I didn't know she moved in. So we got back together, but only under the condition that he could date us both. I love him so much and want to spend my life with him, but I don’t know his other partner and I feel super uncomfortable. But I'm trying my best to cooperate and make things work. What do I do?
Here’s the thing, reader. You’re not “new to polyamory”; you’re polyamorous under duress. Which, in essence, means you’re monogamous but are being subjected to an ultimatum by a person who is taking advantage of your obvious devotion to them. That ultimatum is “polyamory or bust”. This is a manipulation, not a relationship, and it’s definitely not the kind of behavior that you want to continue greenlighting.
Let’s break the situation down by red flags:
“I was with D for two years, and it was bumpy.” First red flag. Couples who decide to open up their relationship during a period of turmoil as a means of “fixing” the relationship rarely - if ever - last. It’s not that dissimilar from the practice of couples deciding to have a baby to mend the relationship or bring them “closer together”. In stark contrast, couples with a history of happiness, stability and compatible communication strategy who decide to open up their relationship have a much higher success rate because they’re already starting from a place of high satisfaction. Also, the fact that you describe your prior two year attachment to D as “bumpy” doesn’t bode well for any long term commitment, monogamous or otherwise.
“We love each other dearly, but he ended things with me because he was too focused on making me happy and not himself.” Second red flag. My own reservations around the authenticity of D’s reasoning aside [insert infinite sideye here], he ended the relationship with you in lieu of initiating a dialogue about his issues with the relationship and offering to put in work in order to save it. In doing so, he also took away any opportunity for YOU to put work into addressing the issues at hand - should you have desired to, of course. In short, he chose the easy way out. Do you really want to be in a relationship where the other party isn’t willing to fight for it?
“So in the time we were broken up - two weeks - D went on a date with a woman, she got kicked out of her house, and he took her in.” Third red flag. To say nothing about the character of the woman he’s cohabitating with, offering his home up to her after a single date is at best a terrible judgment call and at worst an abusive tactic. My hunch is the latter; that he’s looking for someone - or someone(s) - to control, and a partner is much easier to manipulate when you’re sharing the same living space. But regardless of his motivation, again, he’s failing to execute good judgment, and that alone means he’s not dating material.
“So we got back together, but only under the condition that he could date us both. I love him so much and want to spend my life with him, but I don’t know his other partner and I feel super uncomfortable.” Fourth and final red flag. No sustainable relationship with healthy power dynamics kicks off with an ultimatum. By reluctantly agreeing to D’s terms - a relationship structure that’s completely foreign to all involved, no less - you’ve now set the tone of your relationship with him to be one of submission and dependency. Trust me!
Lastly, even IF you and D never broke up and he had met this other woman with the interest of pursuing her, there are a number of steps he should have taken prior to initiating non-monogamy in order to maximize the potential for success. He should have been transparent with you about his desires while still prioritizing your comfort and feeling of security in the relationship. If you expressed interest in learning more, you two should have set off on a journey of exploration TOGETHER. Reading about non-monogamy, listening to podcasts about non-monogamy, going to non-monogamous social gatherings and cultivating friendships with other non-monogamous folks, etc.
Then, after you both negotiated a list of boundaries - and ONLY IF you were truly ready for D to begin seeing this woman - you should not only be privy to information about her, but also provided with opportunities to meet her and get to know her better. D would have a certain amount of responsibility to cultivate a familiarity between the two of you, because again, he should be organically invested in the healthiness and happiness of his partners.
Reader, you deserve SO much better, and I PROMISE that you’ll find it. If I were you, I’d GTFO of that toxic cesspool and take D’s other partner with you! #GirlPower
What do you do when you dislike a metamour? I have never disliked any of my partner’s partners until now. I don’t enjoy their company, they are newish to poly and get weird and prickly at group functions which is hard on the whole polycule - but most of all I like my partner less when they are with this person. My partner is less kind, more cutting, they even have different body language and vocabulary. Talking about the difference in personality has not helped- it just freaked my partner out. I pride myself on being an easy-going lover with good communication skills, and we’ve done the “spend more time together” thing, but it hasn’t improved over the year. Help.
First of all, I’m so sorry to hear that you’re having conflict with someone who is in your intimate circle. I’ve been there, and it can cause a lot of emotional turmoil, resentment, and feelings of destabilization. It can also trigger a loss of respect for your partner, which never bodes well within an intimate partnership.
It sounds like you typically have close relationships with your metamours in a very “family oriented” style of polyamory that resonates with my personal preference, and I want you to know - above anything else - that the labor of initiating, sustaining, and/or healing the relationship between you and a metamour is NOT yours’ to carry alone. In fact, in my opinion, the bulk of that responsibility should fall on the partner that you have in common (particularly for this type of situation, which isn’t a reaction to a specific occurence between you two, but rather a dynamic that has been a constant since your partner synced up with this person).
Both you and your metamour should remain open and receptive to utilizing multiple channels of communication in troubleshooting this incompatibility, but in the meantime, here are some things that your shared partner can - and should - do to help support and encourage a relationship between you two:
Watch how you speak about your partners to one other. Typically when I’m interested in someone new, I’ll relay a succinct, well-rounded “profile” of that person to my pre existing partners. Their name, identities, poly experience, politics, what they do/how they walk in the world, etc. This way my partners feel “in the know”, while also being presented with an opportunity to speak up if something concerns them (in your circumstance, I definitely would have communicated my anxiety around this new interest being a poly amateur to my partner). It doesn’t mean you give your partners “veto power”, necessarily, but if they’re people you love and care about, their opinions around someone new should matter to you.
If you don't already know what individual qualities your partner(s) like to see in the folks you date - ie transparency, good communication skills, a sense of humor, someone in the LGBT community, activism, etc - and WHY those things are important to them, then you better sit down and ask them STAT.
Also, no matter how good at compersion my people are, I’m always careful to not downplay the new interest (ie. “Eh, I don’t know about this one, they’re kind of annoying but I’m going to wait it out and see.”) OR present the new interest on a golden pedestal (ie “OH MY GOD I’m already head over heels for this person! They’re SO smart and funny and empathetic and I can’t WAIT to fuck them!”). Much of my partners’ initial emotional reaction to a new interest is going to rely just as much on HOW I roll it out to them as it does WHEN, so I try to do it authentically yet neutrally, while always providing my pre existing partner with reassurance before and after. If I’m setting them up to dislike the new person at the outset - either via wariness or jealousy - it’s going to take much more effort to undo that perception later on.
If you already know that there are going to be incompatibilities between a new partner and a pre existing partner, do the labor to brainstorm ways to bridge the gap(s). Constantly encourage your partners to talk to you about the challenges they’re having, and LISTEN. Ask them what their idea of an “ideal outcome” looks like in relation to the other partner. Highlight the authentic similarities that you’ve observed between both partners to illustrate that they may indeed be able identify commonalities that resonate. Ask them what YOU can do to help facilitate a happier, healthier relationship between the two of them. Then, show up.
Be able to gracefully receive feedback about how YOUR behavior may have changed as a result of a new interest’s influence. Believe them. In your case, reader, instead of claiming to be “freaked out” by the personality/behavior shifts you've observed and then shutting the conversation down, your partner needs to understand that acknowledging this is only a fraction of the work. Immediately follow up with, "Thank you for hearing me and for validating my observations. Now, what are you going to do about it?" And if this whole situation is impacting your entire polycule as you indicated earlier - and not just you - then understand that there is strength in numbers, and perhaps multiple members can help cultivate a group "intervention".
Personality incompatibilities between partners may not always be impactful enough to mean the severing of ties, but you know what is? If one partner doesn’t respect the relationship you have with another.
This thankfully hasn’t happened very often in my personal partnerships, but if I:
a) Catch a new partner shit-talking an existing partner,
b) Watch them unapologetically ignore or throw shade at pre existing partners in shared spaces, or
c) Experience them challenging the hierarchy of my current relationships and/or trying to coerce more time or intimacy out of of my energy reserves when I’d CLEARLY stated what I was and wasn’t available for…
...then they don’t deserve the privilege of my companionship. Period, the end.
Show your partner this list, reader, and watch closely how they respond. You’ll know what to do.
I'm a Black woman. In a culture of #polyamorysowhite, how do I find community that's reflective of ME?*
*In honor of Black History/#Wakanda month, I asked polyamory professional Kevin Patterson to be a guest columnist for today's question. Enjoy!
A couple of decades ago, I was a student at the best HBCU in all the land, Howard University! Part of my experience there was membership in the Gentlemen of Drew Social Club, a fraternal organization that leads impressionable freshmen to great works of public service and personal responsibility. Among other things, that we were known for our heavy, royal blue hooded sweatshirts with quotes and personal statements on the back.
One of the hoodie quotes that I found to be most influential, was that of my edition brother, Javier. His sweatshirt read the paraphrased quote, “Either we will find a way or build one.” It’s often attributed to Hannibal, in his attempt to cross the Alps with elephants…
...fortunately, you’re (probably) not trying to cross the Alps with elephants. You’re trying to find a POC-centered polyamory community...which is slightly less daunting.
Polyamory communities often appear hidden in plain sight. The easiest place to find them in general is through the power of the internet. The best places to look are Meetup.com and Facebook. Meetup is exactly as it sounds. People use the website to organize groups of like-minded people into gatherings in physical spaces. An easy search for “Polyamory” localized to the closest metropolitan area will likely turn up a group or three dedicated to the exploration of ethical non-monogamy. These groups usually focus around discussion groups, potlucks, happy hours, and other low-stress environments.
Facebook, on the other hand, is....Facebook. Probably the most well-known social media juggernauts, Facebook is home to an endless amount of groups/forums/message boards devoted to one aspect or another of polyamory.
Whether Meetup or Facebook, your search should turn up several options for POC-centered spaces. Though a little deeper digging may be necessary. Many of the largest Facebook polyamory groups, such as Polyamory Discussion and Poly-Geekery, have offshoot groups reserved for POC membership and topics. Posting in one of those groups and asking for such resources may be the quickest way to go.
Black and Poly has a large Facebook presence of almost ten-thousand members spread out all over the country. Beyond that, they organize meetups in several large cities. Joining the forum and attending the meetups is an easy way to ingrain yourself into a community.
But what happens if that doesn’t work out? What happens if you can’t find a way? You gotta build one! I guarantee that you aren’t alone in seeking a POC-centered polyamorous space in the place where you reside. So you may have to mine the resources I’ve already mentioned. You may have to take what you’ve got and make it what you want.
Maybe Facebook or Meetup doesn’t have a (POC Polyamory in Your Town) group, but nothing is preventing you from starting one. If there is a large polyamory group or forum, there are undoubtedly POC within it who desire an intentional space. You just need to start one and advertise within that group. If there is a large POC space, like Black & Poly, there must be people within it that live near you and want to hang. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. It could just be a trip to a nearby coffee shop or a happy hour or a potluck. Just announce your intentions and invite a crowd.
Polyamory is getting large enough that addressing our needs, like POC-focused intentional spaces, is becoming more and more necessary. At the same time, it’s still small enough that creating any new resources can potentially address several of those needs at once. Or you can narrow the scope of your creation to a very specific focus. If you’ve got to engage with or create many spaces at once, it’s still ok…
Kevin Patterson is an active member of the Philadelphia polyamory community. He's been practicing ethical nonmonogamy since August of 2002 after opening up a relationship that eventually became his marriage.
In April of 2015, Kevin was inspired to start Poly Role Models, an interview series for people describing their experiences with polyamory. Poly Role Models is part of a drive and a desire to change the way our lives and communities are viewed. It is currently the most diverse and inclusive platform for polyamory available.
To continue the discussion of polyamorous representation, Kevin has extended the blog's work into nationwide speaking engagements about how race and polyamory intersect. This has led to the writing of the book, Love's Not Color Blind: Race and Representation in Polyamorous and Other Alternative Communities.
What’s the best way to introduce new partners to your primary partner (who is not used to hanging out with metamours)?
First, I want to point out that not all NM configurations exhibit negotiations that are flexible and inclusive enough as to allow (or warrant) all partners and metamours getting to know one another. If your primary partner has always maintained that they have no interest in meeting the outside folks you indulge in - and you agreed to that boundary at the onset of your relationship - then trying to turn everyone into a big happy family down the road may very well prove fruitless, and you can’t very well blame your partner for that! Likewise, sometimes couples enjoy the idea of creating a trusted, interactive community of partners and metamours, only to find it too uncomfortable and time-consuming once they attempt to practice it. That too is just fine!
I myself, however, have always thrived within a family style of polyamory. I require all of my partners to get to know one another on a base level so that - at the MINIMUM - they’re comfortable sharing space with each other, as well as potentially working together should some emergency befall me and I need multiple partners’ assistance. I practice non-hierachal polyamory; when I plan vacations, accept wedding invitations, or decide who to “bring home for the holidays”, it’s always felt exclusionary and unjust to be forced to demonstrate a single prioritization within my circle. Now everyone gets invited - even if finances or scheduling prevent some from attending - and we’re all much happier for it.
That being said, it doesn’t necessarily mean that all of my partners leap into the air and click their heels when I onboard someone new, and I don’t expect them to immediately show profound interest in the well-being of the other folks I’m fucking. It takes slow, intentional time - accompanied by clear communication and a ton of reassurance - to build up familiarity and trust between your loved ones.
I treat the introduction of my preexisting partners to potential new partners like an intricate dance. It’s something that I put a lot of consideration and strategy into, and largely my partners have appreciated it. As such, I offer some “Dos & Don’ts” to help you facilitate introductions as painlessly as possible:
- DON’T surprise your partner with a name they’ve never heard before. If my primary all of a sudden saw a Google Calendar invitation to “Poly dinner with Jess” on Friday night, it better not be the first time I’ve brought “Jess” up! Instead, be sure that you’ve been sprinkling information about “Jess” since interest was first sparked, so that by the time your primary has opportunity to meet them, they’ve already gotten used to “Jess”’s name on your lips. Also, it should go without saying that the partner-to-partner introduction should be just as much your partners’ decision as it is yours’. It’s perfectly normal to introduce two folks who you know to be nervous and insecure to one another, as long as the decision was reached consensually. It’s an altogether different thing to drag one or more parties to dinner kicking and screaming; worse still if you know that your primary is only agreeing to the intro out of fear of losing you.
- DO watch how - and how often - you bring up a new interest with your primary before an introduction. This is sensitive business, as the last thing you want to do is unwittingly nurture your primary partner’s resentment towards a new interest. If you’ve been skipping around your house singing your new beau’s praises to your primary for weeks or months ahead of a first meeting, your primary is likely to go into the encounter feeling intimidated, inferior, and/or resentful.
When I’m starting to see someone new, I’ll first ask my partner(s) how much information they’d like to know about the person, ie. Do you want to know every time we get together? Do you want to know what we did during our time together? Do you want to know any details about physical intimacy? Etc. For the record, all of my partners’ preferences are different. My girlfriend LOVES hearing all the dirty details, my boyfriend doesn’t feel like he needs to know anything unless I’m planning on getting “serious” with the person, and my partner wants frequent updates but is sensitive to hearing about anything sensual/sexual.
Regardless, I’m always sure to present any new interest to them as - above anything else - a human being with flaws. I’m just as likely to let them know about my beau’s amazing sense of humor as I am their annoying burping habit; I withhold from placing them on any kind of pedestal, no matter how intense my internalized NRE (New Relationship Energy) is. If I want to get super swoony and boastful about my new connection, I have close friends I can call to spill ALL the dirt to!
- DON’T forget to negotiate PDA rules ahead of sharing space with multiple partners. I always make sure to check in with my longterm partners first and ask what THEIR preferences are around PDA when meeting a new beau. Typically, however, regardless of what their answer is, I tend to play it safe and reserve any PDA for my long term partner as means of reassurance during the meeting. I’ve never had a new beau protest when I explain that my partner is feeling a little sensitive about our impending meeting, and therefore I’ll be reserving all my PDA for them while we’re together so that they feel grounded and prioritized. If they DID vocalize their resistance or annoyance, I’d know immediately that it wasn’t going to work out.
- DO encourage your new interest to bring one of THEIR beaus along to the initial meeting. Let’s face it: a three person dinner is just plain awkward. To even out the power dynamics I’ll typically invite said beau to bring one of THEIR other partners out with us. This both demonstrates to my longterm partner that my new beau has other meaningful connections in their life, AND allows me to get to know someone else that my new beau cares about.
- DON’T shame your primary partner if they’re slow to warm up to new partners. You DO have the right to reprimand them for being a jerk, though! Your long term partner does not have to fall in love with your new beau right off the bat - or ever, actually! And although that sounds like an obvious statement, it’s pretty common to feel disappointed and discouraged if your partner is slow to warm up. Patience, compassion, communication, support, and continued opportunities for sharing space are your friends here. All that being said, often the only thing that truly settles our nerves around feeling threatened by our metamours is TIME. Time for the new beau to set a dependable trend of “showing up” for you, time for the new beau to continue expressing their reverence for your relationship with your primary...basically, time for the new beau to earn the trust of those already in your circle.
Exceptions: a) If your primary expresses an intense, unwavering dislike of your new beau after the initial meeting, this new connection is probably better left unpursued, and b) If your primary intentionally treats your new beau disrespectfully during the initial meeting - ignoring them, using the wrong name or pronouns in referring to them, antagonizing them, etc - then you have every right to cut the meeting short and call them out on their behavior.
- DO provide your partners with a TON of reassurance, positive reinforcement, and acknowledgement of their efforts. I can’t say enough about this. We ALL feel both energized and stabilized by the recognition and validation that comes with being shown how much we mean to our loved ones. In terms of affirmations as they relate to onboarding a new beau, I’ll be sure to carve out intentional, intimate time with my long term partners after I’ve spent a period of time with the beau. I’ll also regularly make myself available for difficult “feelings” conversations that my partners may want to have around my new beau, as well as routinely champion - with enthusiasm! - their efforts, i.e. If I invited both a long term partner and a new beau to an event I’m producing and I catch my partner initiating engaged conversation with said beau, I’ll express my pleasure and gratitude for their efforts when we’re alone later on.
How do I navigate mixed class relationships within a non-monogamous framework?
A few weeks ago I made a post on Facebook asking my communities to weigh in on the challenges inherent in maintaining multiple sexual and romantic relationships while on a fixed income. Whether we want to admit it or not, the very ability to practice non-monogamy is a privilege, significantly impacted by socio-economic class.
Although I've frequently felt the consequences of stretching my limited budget to accommodate dates I couldn't really afford on numerous occasions, the issue hit even closer to home when I overheard my partner lamenting about wanting to go on a Tinder date. Said partner is transgender, poor, and navigates multiple chronic pain and mental health issues on the daily. He also recently went "back on the market", but has felt hopeless when it comes to following up with interested parties due to a fear of his date(s) harboring unrealistic time, ability, and financial expectations. Watching his face crumble when I ask whether or not he's going to "ask that cutie out for lunch" has become impossible for me to witness, and thus I started a dialogue within my communities to:
- Source a diverse array of personal experiences with this issue,
- Discuss how and why non-monogamy benefits from wealth,
- Identify the sacrifices that non-monogamous people make in order to onboard new partners and maintain consistent relationships,
- Acknowledge the impact of capitalism on HOW we date, taking care to include specifications for marginalized communities and how capitalism tells them they're unworthy of relationships,
- Discuss how we can move away from capitalist relationship models where funds hold the most perceived value,
- Come up with non-monogamous dating "hacks" that are accessible to marginalized communities and work towards re-balancing the system,
- Discuss alternative definitions of "value" that one can bring to a relationship, and how non-monogamous "families" can use creative divisions of labor based on what each individual uniquely brings to the table to create and sustain value,
- & more.
The response I got was overwhelming. So overwhelming, in fact, that I'm presently utilizing all of the incredible feedback I received to put together a course on this very issue. On Tuesday March 6th, 2018 from 5-7pm PT I will be debuting my new LIVE webinar on Non-Monogamy & Socio-Economic Class via O.School, and you're ALL invited! Graphics with more information about said webinar are located at the bottom of this post.
I wanted to spend the rest of the time today sharing - anonymously - some of the testimonials I received from the aforementioned Facebook post.
Being in an LDR (Long Distance Relationship) where neither person has the ability to travel is hell. I hate when people with more money give advice on LDRs because it almost inevitably involves wealth and resources many folks don't have.
I struggle with LDRs in a hierachial poly framework. I’ve had people tell me that it’s possible to get a non-spouse the legal rights as your spouse, but that requires paying for lawyers. Being out at work requires having lots of job security. And as someone who has always been a secondary who couldn’t move in with the person I'm dating, it means oh ya know I’m probably gonna pay more rent for the foreseeable future if I don’t develop the bandwidth to find another single primary. The option of splitting living costs didn’t apply to me...I remember seeing someone who couldn’t even buy themselves food and I was broke also but I always made sure we would both eat. It also feels shitty to the person who is financially unstable; you feel crappy relying on your partner to eat. I’ve been there and it's definitely fucked with my self esteem and my projection of self worth in the relationship.
My social circle and I as homeless / precariously housed queer punks / young adults were all non monogamous—— I think it depends on what community you are in and what kinda of non monogamy you are talking about regarding if there is a class component. There are so many free events and things to do - even now that I have much more access to money I often go on free dates and outings . Libraries, Parks, making or viewing art, movies at home, walking, scavenger hunts, so many great events are free
I think part of what makes it work is having other shared interests and community that give us a free platform to get to know each other, at shows and events and such, so then when you ask someone out you're asking out someone who's already a friend or at least a warm acquaintance. I think the expectations there are very different than asking a stranger out on a date.
I'm very resourceful. I can get food with my EBT card (food stamps) and prepare or cook food. We can picnic, hike, go to the beach. I'm good at finding free events or getting in free. My EBT card gets me in free to museums and most have free days. I hear what you're saying though. I just don't date in that world. I'm poor and happy and I know how to have cheap fun dates with any of my loves. Plus sex, play, and cuddles are free!
The hacks I've come up with work those back end of current connections, resources, networking, insider/industry hookups. One partner might have a ton of frequent flyer points to offer, while another tends bar at a comedy club and can get free passes, while another is a body worker and can offer discounted massage labor, etc etc. I'm proud and like to use the info/gains one partner has to add value to another partners.
Hmmmm most of my partners have been black or Indian (and polyamorous). That's probably more a reflection of my social justice values and my discernment in choosing partners with awareness of social location/privilege. When I moved to the bay I noticed much more racial segregation and a more recreational sexuality community which aligns more with what you are describing. For me hacking the system looks like remembering who we are, who we came from, healing oppression, and creating relationships that nourish our purpose so we can contribute to make a society that aligns with our values.
Personally, mental illness has made me feel less deserving/able to seek out new partners. Not having money has exacerbated that, and then extreme cold (or heat) causes me physical issues that make it challenging to get out of the house. I’m lucky in that ______ is much better off and able to provide support when needed, or just treat me to dinner/brunch when we’re together. I also have a lot of guilt over that, and miss when I could contribute more.I acknowledge that I have need to pursue additional relationships, but personally I feel stuck due to lack of resources and am not sure how to reconcile that.
I don't know about swinging, which doesn't have an investment of time and resources, but polyamory strikes me as its diametric opposite. The bigger the polycule, the more help you are likely to be able to access in an increasingly mobile and fragmented world. Even if no one in your polycule had much in the way of resources to speak of, you still have more hands to help with the labor of living -- chores, childcare, and so on. I was literally just telling a partner I would offer to clean her metamour's house (my metamour twice removed?). A polycule is a group of friends the likes of which many adults don't have access to after university, which brings disparate types of people together. That presents opportunities not only in terms of labor but also access and reach. We are so enriched by our partners and metamours.
My life is so busy, I don't have time or money for people who don't have something to barter/some role to play in my life. I think that was much of what eliminated the relationship with the woman I was seeing earlier this year. I had nothing significant that I felt I could provide her, and she offered little of value that would fit in my life. I wanted to find some place for that relationship... But I'm just too busy and my life too precariously balanced to make time for anything that does not simultaneously fulfill my survival needs.