Gather a group of Polys together and ask them what they feel is the number one misconception about being polyamorous. Go ahead, I’ll wait. . .
Better yet, I’ll just save you the trouble. It’s sex. Whether it’s the thought of gigantic orgy piles, or simply not understanding the differences between polyamory and swinging, there seems to be this pervasive belief inside the monogamous world that the only reason one would actively chose to have multiple partners is due to an intense fascination or obsession with sex.
Now, here’s the interesting part. They’re right! But not for the reasons you might think. But, before I go on, let me just clear up one thing. While sex CAN be a reason for wanting to open up a previously monogamous relationship, it is certainly not the ONLY reason people choose to do so, especially in the Poly community. But, here’s the thing, Polys (at least in my experience) are, indeed, obsessed with sex. They’re just not obsessed with having it.
Allow me to explain. As I’ve said before, I’ve never been shy about talking openly about sexuality in a public space. The interesting thing, however, is that before I really started embracing my polyamory, I had an incredibly difficult time discussing my own sexuality with my partners. For me (as with most of my friends), sex was something either taught in a classroom or explained via awkward conversation with parents. But even in these situations, it was more the mechanics of sex that were discussed, not the idea of sexuality. In a way, I suppose I can understand why this happens. At its core, sex is about reproduction and sexuality is more about what turns you on. And while I am grateful that I never had to find out what curled the toes of my parents and teachers, I am slightly upset that the concept of sexuality was almost never discussed as an actual component to sex itself. Instead, I was lectured to about the penis, the vagina, sperm, ovaries, babies, and, if I were lucky, condoms and birth control. And for the most part, I considered this to be very progressive and comprehensive sex education. However, the major flaw with highly regulated, anatomy based education is that it leads to highly regulated, anatomy based sex. Meaning that most of us don’t even begin to discover our sexuality until much later in life, if at all.
When I joined my first Poly group and began dating I was quite astounded by the openness with which my partners shared details of their sexuality with me. Not in a public setting, mind you, but in one-on-one private conversations. But, more confusing than that, was their utter enthusiasm for learning about my sexuality. At first, I was convinced that every Poly I met was a pervert, hell bent on getting me into the sack. After all, why would they want to know what turned me on unless they were actually planning on doing those things with me? And then, it suddenly dawned on me. That wasn’t perverted
That. Was. Awesome.
Because sexuality was never introduced to me as a component of sex itself I, like many others, viewed sex as a sort of guessing game. With each new partner I felt the urge to just lay there and hope beyond hope that they would eventually stumble upon my favorite spots, or that they would magically stay away from things I found less than pleasurable. I would then proceed to clumsily explore their bodies while inwardly cursing the fact that they had given me no clue as to what they liked or where to begin. But this, I reasoned, was just the way sex worked. Eventually we would figure each other out. Or we wouldn’t. Whatever. *Shrug*
Now, while there is something to be said about the thrill of exploration, having a baseline of what your partner finds pleasurable is an amazing steps towards true intimacy (and not just the sexual kind). And that, my dear readers, is one of the reasons so many outside the Poly community believe Polys are obsessed with sex. Because we are. But we are obsessed with the communication behind it, the nuance, the knowledge. We want our potential partners to know we are listening to them, that we want them to have the best experience possible when and IF the relationship turns physical. We want them to be aware of our own insecurities and, in turn, want to create a safe space where they are free to share their own with us. So, don’t be surprised if you find yourself in a conversation with a potential partner that goes something like this:
These conversations can be as short or as long as you want them to be, and it’s always OK to let the other person know if you are starting to feel uncomfortable, or that they are crossing a boundary. When I really like someone and think I may want to become physical with them, I find that the more detailed and honest I can be, the better the end result. But, don’t be fooled, just because sex is being discussed, doesn’t mean sex has to occur right that second. In fact, almost all of my conversations about sexuality end like this:
So, here’s my advice: Talk about sex. Talk about your desires, your fantasies, your likes and dislikes. Tell your potential partner(s) about the parts of you you love. Mention the parts of you you don’t love as much. Have these conversations wherever and whenever you feel comfortable, be that fully clothed at a coffee shop, or completely naked watching Netflix. The goal here (at least from my perspective) is to make sexuality something as easy to discuss with a perspective partner as food preference. After all, how many of us are too shy to tell someone we like that we like shellfish, but hate all other kinds of seafood? Or that we are allergic to mushrooms? It should be the same with our bodies. I know it’s so much easier said than done, and it was unbelievably difficult for me in the beginning. But, thanks to some very kind and wonderfully patient partners, I am much better at it than I used to be. And without hesitation or reservation, I can proudly say to all of you that, yes, I am Poly and, yes, I am obsessed with sex!