Some thoughts on sex and relationship

Count von Count as a metaphor for passion

All of life can be placed on a continuum, with Count von Count on one end and the Cookie Monster1 on the other.

The Cookie Monster loves cookies, and Count von Count loves peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. But the nature of their love is much, much different. Cookie Monster is all animal passion in his love; he stuffs all the cookies in his mouth all at once, and doesn’t even care that the crumbs all go flying out. There is no reason, no sanity, in his love. It’s am explosive, fiery love, a love that consumes everything it touches.

The Count, on the other hand, lines up his PB&Js, and counts them. Then he eats one, and counts them again. He knows how many are left, but that doesn’t matter. For him, the love of his PB&Js is a cerebral thing. He savors the process. He draws out his passion, delighting in the intellectual joy.

I am very Count von Count about sex. I love savoring it, I love drawing it out, intellectualizing it, drawing in and tasting my lover’s responses.

“Oh God oh God oh God I’m going to–”
“No, you’re not. Not yet. Perhaps I will just…move…slower. Or maybe…”
“Pleaseohpleaseohplease I need to I need to!”
“What do you need to do?”
“Oh pleaseJesusGodI’msoclosepleasepleaseplease!”
“You are, are you? So if I just do THIS…”
“…or maybe press just a little bit harder, like THIS…”
“…or perhaps move a little bit more, like THIS…”

And amazingly enough, I have partners who keep coming back. Even when I start off a session by saying things like “I’m going to hurt you now. You can scream if you want to.”

I had the opportunity to accompany feyscorruption to a play party recently, and she, too, keeps coming back. I’m not yet quite sure what sort of relationship she and I are building, but so far it’s different in kind from most of the relationships I’ve built in the past…or at least it feels that way to me.

In the past, I was in a long-term poly/mono relationship with a partner who, I think, never fully trusted me (or at least, never fully trusted polyamory), and seemed to me to believe that if she didn’t keep me on a pretty short leash I’d end up running all over the place.

At that time, I generally seemed to stabilize at about three relationships. For a very long time, I was involved with her, feorlen, and a partner M, and things remained that way for quite some time. Longer, in fact, than the median lifespan for conventional marriages in the US which end in divorce.

After my marriage ended, I still seemed to stabilize at three relationships; Shelly, joreth, and serolynne. At least for a while.

Since I’ve moved to Atlanta, though, things have changed rather a lot, and become rather a lot less well-defined.

On epiphanies and habits

My past displays a reason
The past displays a cause
And I know that we will never be the same
‘Cause it’s the elements that make us who we are

My path betrays my reason
My hope betrays my cause
And if I ever find a way
You know I’d follow through, I’d carry on
But the elements have made us who we are

Shortly after I moved to Atlanta, I met figment_j. She was quite a surprise to me; but then, the people in my life often are. One could argue that it’s because I have never once gone out seeking a partner, and rather keep myself open to whatever connections form on their own; looked at another way, it could be argued that I’m reactive rather than proactive in relationship.

Shortly after we connected, she moved to New Jersey. Our relationship seemed to falter after that, in part because I’m not really good at long-distance relationships.

Cue the irony here; all of my relationships are currently long distance, some more long distance than others. Yeah, I know. Polyamorous and multi-partnered and all of my partners are a ways away. I’m doing it wrong.

Part of the problem is that I’m very unstructured in my life–so unstructured that accidentally clicking on a link to Google Calendars has been known to cause me fourteen points of aggravated damage. I Just Don’t Do Structure. She and I communicate differently, and for whatever reason, the things she needed to feel valued felt to me like obligations, which made it difficult for me to provide them. In the end, I think she did not feel valued by me, and we sort of called the whole thing off.

So there I was, on my way back from playing with feyscorruption at two o’clock in the morning, with the moon grinning down like a Cheshire cat at me, and I was (what else?) processing. Count von Count, and all that. And it occurred to me, I don’t really assert my needs in relationship.

I do talk about needs in relationship, and I do ask my partners about their needs in relationship. In fact, feyscorruption and I have had a conversation about what she’s available for.

But, y’know, saying “What are you available for in relationship?” is not the same thing as saying “I would like a relationship with you.” It seems the same to me, because (at least from my perspective) I wouldn’t ask a person I wasn’t interested in a relationship with, and the subtext of “What are you available for in relationship?” sounds to me like “I would like a relationship with you,” but the two still aren’t the same.

And interestingly, that very night figment_j called me, and let me know that the door was still open to a relationship with me.

In my past, there were certain things that were most definitely Not Okay in the context of my old relationship. Proactively seeking out new partners and making myself available for big-R Relationships with them definitely Was On That List Of Not Okay.

Problem was, I was available for relationship, so when they formed (and they did), those relationships tended to be Not Okay, too.

Now, I learned some bad lessons from this. One of the lessons I learned was that being reactive rather than proactive in relationship was a Good Thing. I’ve never developed, and still don’t have, a good set of tools for laying out the boundaries of my romantic relationships; instead, I tend to follow my partners’ lead, and allow my partners to shape and form the path the relationship will take. That passivity is a bug, not a feature, in the environment I live in now.

As I’m fond of saying, habits can become ruts, paths that we take simply because at some point we stop seeing any other way.

On choices and consequences

you are so far from home…

They turn me alone, not today
In you, this void just goes away
In this distant foreign land
I won’t be forgotten

Complicated, I know; life’s this way
And you’re half the world away
And my hold’s slipping from your hand
As I walk you to the gate

It’s also a feature, too, this lack of proactivity in relationship. It give me flexibility.

When I met Shelly, I saw in her things I had never seen in anyone before. I recognized so many things I valued on such a deep level that it felt like being struck by lightning. Even her recognition of the Void resonated with me.

I did not know, of course, how profoundly my connection with her would change everything. Nor did I know that Shelly was a dragonslayer; to be honest, I don’t believe she did, either. That recognition has been extraordinarily expensive, and at the same time a gift beyond all price. There is in her a passion, as methodical as the Count and as fiery as the Cookie Monster’s, and every time I am reminded of it I am awed and humbled by it.

There is not any part of life that Shelly does not live with passion, and there is not part of life that Shelly does not face with an unflinching, razor-sharp intellectual honesty. She probed and prodded the weak spots in my relationships, the thousand little compromises I’d made and the choices I’d made without consciously being aware I’d made them. There are, I think, few people who can stand up to that relentless probing and pushing; it is no accident that she has often been surrounded by people who are not like her and do not understand the value she brings.

Eventually, there came a time when the pushing and probing of the fault lines in the life i had built led to a tiny earthquake, far beneath the water, an almost imperceptible slip of those faults.

Even the smallest of seismic shifts can create a wave, deep underwater, that presents itself as no more than a ripple on the surface, a few inches high…yet when it reaches the shoreline, is revealed for the gargantuan tidal wave it is. Wen that wave surfaced, it altered the landscape forever. There are certain compromises I will never make again, and I believe I am a better person for it.

That is the gift beyond price Shelly gave me–the tools to remake my life in a way that allows me to be who I am.

Our relationship today looks nothing like it did when it began four years ago. She has set herself down a path that has re-forged her in the fires of her own passion. The life of a dragonslayer is not an easy one. We no longer live together, and I rarely see her these days. In almost every important way, she is no longer the person she was when I met her.

I am flexible in relationship. A relationship that came attached with expectations would have, I think, become brittle and fractured by now. But our relationship, because it is allowed to be whatever is is, today is as strong as it has ever been. Time and distance don’t matter. I have, over the past four years, been able to watch her unfold and blossom, and I feel uniquely privileged and honored to be able to be part of that.

In the past, I have generally tended to stabilize at about three relationships. Today, I have somewhere between four and six, depending on how one defines the word “relationship.” Over the past year, I’ve been forced to examine many of the most basic assumptions I make about sex and relationship, and to learn skills that I have never needed before.

And in all of that, there is a sense that distance does matter. Distance makes it seductively easy to continue to add partners, almost indefinitely; because I live alone, and because any long-distance partnership necessarily imposes limits on the time and attention which I can make available to someone, there seems to be a vast amount of unused potential for relationship that is not touched by my current partnership arrangements.

Back to sex

I’mm drawing your lines with my hands
I’m weaving the dream that never ends
I don´t play hide and seek with you, dear
when i touch you

You know that you love it
You need it
For sure

Aiming fingers searching secret pleasures
Roaming where your river seems so deep
you know I’m going on
i like the song you’ll sing for me
when i touch you…

I am very Count von Count when it comes to sex. So much, in fact, that I quoted Francis Bacon during a conversation about sex with feyscorruption recently.

Okay, so that’s a little over the top, perhaps. Particularly when the conversation came as it did on the heels of a different conversation with a very charming woman who may identify herself if she so chooses which included lines like “I am going to take you now. You may come if you want to, but there are rules. You are only allowed to come if it hurts. Now, be a good girl and ask me to rape you.” (Yes, the people in my life have some very interesting and exotic tastes. Yes, I share those tastes.)

We live in a society that promotes a virulent and particularly destructive, I think, double standard about sex. Men who have a number of partners are studs; women who have a number of partners are tramps and whores. The conversation touched on that double standard a bit; women who embrace their sexuality openly, enthusiastically, often run the risk of losing the respect of the people around them, because, y’know, good girls just don’t do that sort of thing.

There’s another irony there, at least with me, because, you see, I am more likely, not less likely, to respect any person who embraces all of himself or herself, and who makes conscious, deliberate choices about what to be, even when (or especially when) those choices run counter to the generally accepted ways to live.

Next week, I leave to spend thanksgiving with dayo. I have not seen her in a long time; in fact, our relationship is nearly a year old at this point (almost exactly a year old, depending the point at which one might choose to call it a “relationship”), and these past couple of months have been the longest time we have gone since the relationship began that we have not seen each other.

I could not, two years ago, have predicted the path that would led to her life intersecting with mine. And at this point, I can not imagine my life without her in it.

There’s a saying: “People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. When you figure out which it is, you will know exactly what to do.” The part that saying gets wrong is in failing to understand that sometimes, it may be some or all of the above. I have been blessed, in my life, to be able to share some part of it with all of the people who’ve touched it; and I’ve been particularly blessed with being able to share it with people who have been there for a reason, a season, and a lifetime. dayo is, I believe, quite possibly all of these.

However, that doesn’t mean that I’m not going to do some very dirty, very evil things to her poor hapless naked body when I get my hands on it.

1Yes, I know he’s now the Vegetable Monster, and that “cookies are a sometimes thing.” Blasphemy, it is. Edit: So apparently, rumors of the Cookie Monster’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. Whew!

The Internets are working at the new apartment! Yay!

This is one of a very, very few friends-only posts I’ve made…in fact, I think it’s the second.

So Thursday I did an interview with a writer for WebMD about polyamory. The article, which to my knowledge isn’t finished yet, will supposedly be on the front page of the Web site when it’s done.

I discovered that I’ve done these interviews often enough now that I can pretty much predict how they’ll go. Initially, the writer said it’d take 15-20 minutes, which I knew was a bit ambitious; it ended up taking nearly an hour.

There’s a sort of standard flow to an interview about polyamory given by a person who’s not at all familiar with it. Usually, they start out using terms like “polyamory,” “open marriage,” “open relationship, and sometimes “swinging” interchangeably, which prompts a brief segue down the road of “polyamory can be seen as one type of open relationship, sort of, but not all poly relationships are open and not all open relationships are polyamorous.”

From that point comes a list of questions about the interviewee:

“How long have you been polyamorous?”
“How many partners do you have?”
“Do your partners know about each other?”
“Have your partners met each other?”
“What do you mean, they like each other?”
“You and your partners hang out with each other and do things together???!!
“Your partners have OTHER BOYFRIENDS?
“And you like them???!!!!11!!11!”
“Don’t you get jealous?”

From there, things generally move into Phase II of the interview:

“Do you think everyone should be polyamorous?”
“What makes you want more than one girlfriend?”
“Why isn’t one person enough?”
“Of your girlfriends, which one is your main girlfriend?”
“I’ve heard polyamorous people have ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ partners. Which one is your primary?”
“Which one do you want to live with?”
“Do you have group sex?”
“Do you ever think you’ll settle down?”

That generally brings us into Phase III, which is:

“What about children? Isn’t it confusing for children?”
“I talked to someone who said he broke up with a polyamorous partner. Doesn’t that mean polyamory doesn’t work?”
“What do you get out of being polyamorous?”

I’ve made this post friends-only because it often happens that people who ask me for interviews have read my journal first. Im not trying to ridicule the questions that I’m usually asked; that’s not actually the point here at all.

Instead, I think these questions serve to illuminate just how deeply ingrained cultural ideas about sex and relationship are. These interviews inevitably take more than 15-20 minutes because in many cases it takes longer than that just to deconstruct the assumptions behind the questions to the point where the answer is intelligible. I also think it’s interesting that cultural ideas about sex and relationship are so much a part of a person’s background understanding of the world that even completely different people, having no contact at all with one another, giving interviews in different formats at different times for different types of publications, will ask more or less the same pattern of questions in more or less the same order.

When interviews about polyamory appear on the Web, one can expect the same pattern of comments and responses, too.

One of the things that consistently strikes me when I view reader response to a Web article about polyamory is how much the responses say, not about polyamory, but about the person making them. We all tend to re-create the world in our own image; “I think this is wrong because it is inevitable that someone will get jealous” translates, for example, to “I personally would be jealous, and can not conceive that another person might not be.”