the desire collective

a vain dilettante's collection of time-for-print photos and random sex-related musings. hey, it's not quite a collectivised artpr0n site yet, but we can dream. THIS BLOG IS INTENDED FOR ADULT READERS. IF YOU ARE UNDER 18 PLEASE GET OFF THE COMPUTER AND READ A BOOK. lemme know if i'm missing any cool links, or just write to me out of boredom! desirecollective[at]gmail[dot]com.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

word of the week: ethics

okay, i obviously don't have enough sex to keep this puppy updated on a regular basis ( ;-) ). and i have a few photos i wanna get up but am too lazy to edit. so i've decided to start a new feature. i'll pick a word every week and describe how it relates to the safe, sane and consensual non-monogamous community. this week's word is ethics.

now this is obviously a broad topic. a discussion of ethics in the non-monogamous community could take all night. there are even different kinds of ethics: there are sexual ethics covering basic rules regarding sexual behaviour including whether or not to sleep with someone on the first date, how to best negotiate asking for what you want and when to disclose an sti; there are kink ethics revolving around the negotiation of a scene, disclosing and respecting of hard limits and how intimate you have to be with someone before you trust them in a scene; and there are relationship ethics entailing how to communicate your relationship needs, how to set boundaries and how to be involved with multiple people at the same time without hurting one of them.

as someone who has attempted to practice polyamory for her entire adult life, i find the last type of ethics particularly interesting. to be honest, despite coming out as non-monogamous when i was 15, it's taken me awhile to really be able to make a polyamorous relationship work. as with sexual and kink ethics, my relationship ethics have evolved with time. i've experienced my share of errors, either perpetrated or received, within polyamorous relationships, and i have evolved ways of avoiding or minimizing those errors.

before discovering groups like dark odyssey and becoming involved with a larger east-coast polyamorous community, i had to negotiate my relationship needs and boundaries largely on my own. it's hard being polyamorous in a mainly monogamous culture; i felt like a broken record explaining myself and defending my sexuality to my early partners (which is frankly the reason why i don't date straight men under 30 anymore - they never quite seem to get it). more than one of my partners couldn't handle in practice what they accepted in theory. the freedom to see whomever they chose was quickly eclipsed by the realization that i may be spending the majority of my time with other people, and because they failed to articulate their needs at the beginning of the relationship it usually ended in a fireball of fail.

i have also been that person on the other end, watching in frustration as my only partner devoted their time and attention to other people. i've felt the shame of not having my sexual needs met by a primary partner, as well as the jealousy towards a new rival which masked the growing alienation in my own relationship. i've been both places within a non-monogamous relationship: both the heartbreaker and the heartbroken.

yeah, it's been a journey, one that has often had others, and sometimes even me, questioning my lifestyle choices. but i've settled on polyamory as my orientation because i decided, early on, that i wanted relationships based on mutual respect instead of mutual restraint.

right now i have several rewarding relationships, both platonic and non. i have strong platonic relationships with both men and women, which since puberty i have had trouble developing (something about polysexuality and hormones?). i'm at a place i've wanted to get to for a long time - comfortable and happy with myself and those in my life. and i attribute that to the development of a personal relationship code of ethics.

for one thing, if it becomes clear to me that someone is exhibiting feelings towards me that i do not reciprocate, i back off. i'm not saying i'm always good at doing this - i've been known to leave people in limbo, and that's kind of a bitchy thing to do. but i don't allow people to form a serious attachment to me under the mistaken assumption that i reciprocate their feelings. (unrequited lust is another thing entirely...i'll always be a heartbreaker.)

i also try, early on, to communicate my needs, desires and boundaries in the relationship. sometimes it can be hard for me to talk about my feelings, as i was raised to be non-demonstrative and don't always enjoy being the first to take a relationship risk. but if i like someone's company and want to take the relationship further i try to clear up more time to be with them and hope they will do the same. i listen to them and learn what they like and don't like, and if conflicts come up i try to sit down with them for an open discussion of what we can both do differently so that problems don't arise again.

i'm rapidly discovering that open communication, whether or not it's face to face, is the key to a successful open relationship, and while it seems like such a no-brainer i see relationships suffering for lack of it all the time. i see people who bottle up their emotions and "cope" with relationships that hurt them, and i see people who refuse to listen to those they love or find solutions to recurring relationship problems. it's interesting, and frustrating, to see people repeating behaviour that i myself experienced and exhibited earlier in my adult life.

but then again, i'm also discovering that everyone develops their own ethics within the non-monogamous community. sometimes it takes awhile to discover how someone else operates, and it can be disheartening to discover what you would consider a fatal flaw in their ethical practice (i'll cop to not always being the most high-minded polyamorist). but it can also be great to learn something new from your partners: a new way of talking about what you want and working through difficulties, a more creative way of negotiating a scene, a better standard by which you decide what you do with whom. because the biggest thing i've learned so far is that non-monogamous ethics are constantly changing, evolving, getting better - and bringing new people into our community.

1 comment:

Jocasta said...

Very well written.

Certain points you make really hit it on the head for me in terms of frustations dealing with needs, honesty and the concept of open communication.

"it can be disheartening to discover what you would consider a fatal flaw in their ethical practice" and " i see people who refuse to listen to those they love or find solutions to recurring relationship problems"

It really doesn't work when one person claims to be the only one who gets to make the rules and punishes you when you break or question them.