(It’s not just) About The Sex
“You’re poly? Awesome! Want to fuck?”
Don’t you just love it when someone asks this question? My favourite part is the incredulity when I say that, actually, no, I’m not interested but thank you very much for the offer.
I’m sure this is something at least some other polyamorous people have come up against. It’s a pretty common reaction to bisexuality as well; the idea that we’ll have sex with any person. It’s a confusing stereotype. Do straight men or women sleep with every person of the opposite gender who show an interest in them? Maybe a few do, but it’s not assumed of every heterosexual person in the same way that it’s assumed of bisexuals. When you mix this with an often poorly-understood idea of polyamory, people seem to have trouble grasping that it’s not just an excuse to have some awesome sex with anyone and everyone.
I would argue that the exact opposite is the case, actually. Poly people tend to be more discerning about who they have sex/FWB/relationships with than some monogamous people. Obviously, this is not going to be true for everyone. The thing is, polyamory means that who you have sex with very much impacts the loves in your life. If the sex means you will hurt your loves, then whilst you may technically have the freedom to engage in it anyway, the more conscientious choice is to not do it. In a monogamous relationship this is also the more conscientious choice, but it’s also the more expected choice.
If you are poly, the assumption can be made that any extra-relationship sex is permitted, consequence-free. Isn’t that the whole point of non-monogamy? To remove the consequences of sex? Explaining to people that whilst extra-relationship sexual activity is permitted but that it is not currently wise/not currently desired/you just don’t have enough hours in the day, tends to open their eyes a bit more. It helps to open people’s minds to the idea that poly isn’t just about having your sexy cake and eating it too (though I am personally a big fan of both having and eating cake).
The problem for me lies in the idea of too much protestation. If you explain poly to someone and their response is ‘wow, you must get SO much sex’ and you keep going on about how ‘it’s not about the sex!’ they’re likely to respond with some variation of “yeah, right.” And let’s be honest with ourselves: it is quite a lot about the sex. In my last (hopefully ever) mono relationship, having a friendship with someone was ok (generally speaking). It was my desire for a sexual relationship with some of these friends that ended the relationship. If I could have loved my current partner without wanting to have sex with him, there’s a scary possibility that I might still be monogamous.
Sex really is the crux of the matter. Maybe saying to our sceptical friend that it’s not just about the sex would be more accurate. The sex is involved, and it is a very delicious cake. The thing is that to get to the cake you have to fight your way through the challenges of communication, trust, reassurance, boundaries and a variety of other things that are specific for each relationship. If you already have multiple relationships, then you have to do that multiple times for each new cake, be it a sexy cake or a relationship cake. Suddenly all of this delicious, apparently free cake is beginning to seem like a lot of hard work.
There are always going to be people who assume that poly people are only in it for the sex. There are always going to be some people for whom that is true. But rather than get offended when this assumption is made, I attempt to educate those people. The ones who stay still for long enough, at least. If they won’t listen, it’s their loss! I get to go home to two delicious cakes – I mean partners.