Friday, April 30, 2004

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

The idea of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness is a cherished American ideal.

In my life, I have the liberty to go about the pursuit of happiness in any way I see fit that does not infringe upon the rights of others. As a libertine, it makes me quite happy to pursue non monogamous relationships of various durations and intensity. Not everyone's cup to tea, to be sure, but strict, lifelong monogamy is not my cup of tea and I don't want anyone trying to cram it down my throat, least of all the government.

So what's up with the government trying to dictate what form people's private intimate relationships take, as in the "Defense of Marriage Act" ? Granted, this was a unsubtle way of expressing official disapproval of same sex marriage, but there is plenty of intolerance left over for those of us in non traditional heterosexual relationships as well, particularly the non monogamous.

The third section of this so called DoMA reads: "In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word 'marriage' means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word 'spouse' refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.". This makes it abundantly clear that while same sex relationships were the main purpose of this pathetic piece of legislation, a second, less publicly acknowledged purpose was to also slam the door on polyamorous relationships of all types.

As far as I'm concerned, the government needs to stay out of the personal relationship business and should not be promoting any particular form of relationship above all others. The intimate, private relationships of consenting adults are exactly that, private, and the government would do well to respect that. The only business the government, in whatever form, has in interfering in the domestic affairs of citizens is to ensure the safety of all involved, particularly those dependent: children, the disabled and/or the elderly. Beyond that, how any assortment of consenting adults chooses to relate to one another is their own concern and their liberty to pursue happiness in whatever manner they see fit should not be infringed upon.

Why should I care about any of this? As a heterosexual libertine, I am always free to carry on my private affairs, business as usual, regardless of any sort of partisan legislation. However, both state and federal government shows its partiality to legal monogamous marriage by conferring a host of rights and benefits to only legally married people. (To see a partial list, go to: ) Not only does this discriminate against people in committed same sex or polyamorous relationships, it discriminates against the legally "single", a category into which many libertines legally fall.

Perhaps the government ought to deal with all adults as individuals and leave us to define our personal relationships as best suits our individual situations and let us decide who is eligible to share in some of the applicable benefits on this list, instead of the government defining for us what is an "approved relationship".

Some food for thought.

Saturday, April 24, 2004


Most people refer to extramarital activity among both the legally married and those in long term unmarried relationships as "cheating". As I've stated in an earlier entry, my gut response to that term is, "What is s/he, a test?" The similarity to sports terminology is also telling, as if one's relationships are nothing more than an elaborate game. Perhaps they are, at some level to some extent. Think of the expression "sport fucking", which is an old one, considering that people in the 18th century referred to casual sex as "bed sport".

But as there are many types of sports, there are many types of relationships. As there are individual sports, two player sports, and team sports, much the same can be said for sexual relationships. Unlike sports, however, where all manner of recreational activities are considered to be equally valid, monogamy has been aggressively pushed, by law and by custom, as the only ethical game in town. That is as ludicrous to me as touting tennis as the only sport worth engaging in, with all others being viewed as deviant, aberrant, and immoral. Likewise, as it would be equally absurd to compel all sports to be played by tennis rules, it is just as ridiculous to expect all intimate relationships to be monogamous.

It's not cheating if I'm playing a different game.

Friday, April 16, 2004

At the Bookstore

While browsing at the bookstore not too long ago, I checked out the section devoted to relationships and sex. Without exception, the books about romantic relationships in general all assumed that everyone was in, or desired, a monogamous relationship. No other options were considered. Oh, sure, there were the ubiquitous books lamenting extramarital affairs, mainly geared toward the "innocent" spouse. But there were none that even remotely entertained the idea that anyone, either legally married or single, would wish to have openly nonmongamous relationships, either casual or serious. There are a limited number of sympathetic books available about polyamory, swinging, and general libertinism, but one is not likely to encounter such books in small town bookstores. Surprisingly, though, I once encountered "The Ethical Slut" in a local bookstore, but usually such frankly politically incorrect books must be ordered online.

Moving on to the sexuality bookshelf, the situation is generally better, though mostly geared toward the mechanics of sex, rather than the type and variety of one's partners. I picked up a book called, "Sex Without Guilt in the 21st Century" by Dr. Albert Ellis, fully expecting it to be another ho-hum book advising monogamous married partners how to spice up their dull sex lives with a few new positions. When I noticed that this book was an update from the 1958 original (how old was this Ellis guy, anyway?), I had little hopes for anything other than the same dreary advice that was repeated, ad nauseum, in the relationship books. Well, I was wrong. Though the quaint, dated writing style hadn't been updated much, Dr. Ellis' viewpoints were anything but dated. In addition to writing sympathetically about nonmarital sex, gay relationships, and various other situations, the 91 year old Ellis took the refreshing position that "sexual adventuring", i.e. libertinism, was not necessarily immoral nor unethical. It made me wonder why I've never heard of Ellis before -- why hasn't the religious right taken pot shots at him for openly advocating that a variety of sexual choices are both healthy and desirable?

I'd be curious to find an original 1958(the year I was born!) edition of this book, to see if he'd been this frank back then about his viewpoints and his own libertinism, which he alludes to in the current edition.

Back to the books......

Thursday, April 8, 2004

Swinging vs. Polyamory

While reading posts on a message board about nonmonogamy, I came upon a thread debating the difference between polyamory and swinging. One poster defined swinging as being only about the sex and polyamory as being more centered on the love aspect. I considered what category I might fall into, and I came to the conclusion that I don't fit neatly into either one of them, but rather somewhere in the middle.

Swinging generally involves legally married couples who are emotionally committed to one another exclusively, but engage in outside sexual experiences together as a couple. Many times they belong to swing clubs and often their outside couplings involve group sex. At such planned gatherings for "playcouples" (gag!), there tend to be rather strict guidelines on what is permissible in the pursuit of extracurricular pleasure.

No thanks. "Organized adultery" kind of takes all the fun out of it for me. Though I appreciate the aspect of honesty in that one is doing this with the full knowledge and approval of their primary mate, I can't quite think of it as a "togetherness activity" to be shared with other couples like bowling. I've done the group sex thing, having attended an orgy or two over the years, but I find I enjoy it better when I do it one at a time -- even if it's one in the morning and another in the afternoon.

Polyamory, on the other hand, puts the emphasis on love, rightly pointing out that we can love more than one person at a time. However, polyamory also indicates a high level of commitment and is quite similar to monogamous marriage, only with more than two people. I think it's a great idea, especially for bisexuals, as it makes provision for them to have at least one committed relationship with each of their sexual preferences concurrently.

What about those with children? Because swingers strictly compartmentalize their emotional and sexual lives, the children of swingers tend to experience family life much like children with monogamous parents, and will probably grow up with the same kinds of attitudes toward sex and relationships, as most swingers never inform their children about that part of their lives. Polyamory, on the other hand, is a 24/7 lifestyle, it's how they love and live, not just how they have sex. Children brought up in polyamorous families cannot help but know that their parents are non-traditional, as all partners in such relationships tend to live together in an extended family relationship, though not always. As for myself, I have one adult son, whom I raised alone from the age of eight months, with help from my parents. Interestingly enough, he desires to have a monogamous relationship when he gets married, despite the fact that I did little to hide my libertinism from him over the years. Go figure......

Where do I fit into all of this? I do not believe in "informing the government" (legal marriage) of my private personal relationships, so I am what most conventional folks would call "single", hence that would make me unwelcome at swingers' events. And I'm sure it wouldn't help me be any more welcome to consider that the term "swinging" itself makes me roll my eyes -- I cannot get past the mental picture of monkeys in trees. And though, like swingers, I'm able to neatly separate sex from love, I do not limit love to one partner, while I merely screw everyone else. I have a regular relationship with someone who is in an outwardly traditional monogamous marriage, but I have other sexual outlets of various emotional types, ranging from rather intense to very casual. Though I'm friends to all of them, the balance tends to fall more on the sex side than the love side, which would tend to annoy many polyamorists. I'm sure they would feel that I'm not setting a good example to society at large because I don't love each and every one of them in an equally committed manner. However, I am honest with all new partners, informing them that I am a libertine and that monogamy will never enter the picture, no matter how I might come to love them. If they are willing to accept that, it proceeds from there, if they are not, no harm done.

I am neither a swinger, nor a polyamorist. I am a libertine.

Sunday, April 4, 2004

Introduction: A Libertine's View of Monogamy

First of all, I’d like to say that I’m a lifelong, unrepentant libertine. I’ve never been particularly monogamous, nor have I ever had any real desire to be. I was married once, very briefly, in the early 80s, but I’ve remained legally unentangled since that one misadventure. I’ve had several hundred lovers since I became sexually active in the mid 1970s, and I will no doubt have many more. For the record, I will state that I’ve never had any sort of sexually transmitted disease.

Blessed (or cursed, as some would have it) with a strong libido, I’ve always sought novelty and variety. Different people appeal to different parts of me. With each new partner, I’ve experienced something new, each encounter building from the last. And as it would be ridiculous to limit a gourmet to only one type of food, or a wine connoisseur to only one type of wine, I consider it equally absurd to limit myself to one lover. I shake my head in wonder at those who were virgins at marriage and/or who have known no other lovers since, how and why they manage to do this. Such a thing is utterly foreign to the way I view the world.

Love, I know, is the standard answer. I’ve had lovers over the years who have thought if they just loved me enough, that I’d eventually want to settle down and be monogamous. Though I have indeed been in love a few times in my life, I’ve never seriously considered being monogamous. It simply isn’t in my makeup. Though sex is indeed one way to express love, sex is, at a more basic level, a primal biological need. Sex with love can be some of the best life has to offer, but it isn’t always necessary or desirable Love and sex are two totally separate things that sometimes happily coincide, but this truth does not negate the value of either separately. Sex with friends and acquaintances is often quite satisfying as well. Really bad sex has been quite rare in my experience.

Though I love steak, it doesn’t mean I want steak every night for the rest of my life. Very often, I’ll crave chicken or fish! If I indulge in chicken, fish, or whatever every now and then, it doesn’t mean I’ll never want steak again! And if I occasionally have a cheap meal out of a vending machine, I’ll most definitely appreciate that steak the next time I have it.

From earliest childhood, I’ve never accepted anything at face value; rather, I’ve questioned nearly everything, including the sacred cows of marriage and monogamy. I’d long suspected that monogamy was not innate in humans, as is amply illustrated by the reality of so many people having so much trouble living up to it, despite good intentions. Indeed, the fact that laws are necessary to enforce monogamy is indicative that it doesn’t come naturally. If it did, no such laws would be needed.

I’ve read several books on anthropology, biology, and sexuality that have confirmed my suspicions that humans are no more naturally monogamous than the rest of the animal kingdom. But most such books, after meticulously showing that humans are not monogamous, cop out and conclude that we should abide by it, anyway.


It seems a cruel, perverse joke to insist that we conform to a system that obliges us to swim upstream against our instincts and only sets us up to fail. What is monogamy for, anyway? Why is monogamy considered by Western society to be the only ethical game in town?

During mankind’s early history, people no doubt followed their instincts and common sense when it came to sex and relationships. From what I’ve read, monogamy apparently came about when people started settling down into communities, acquired property, and the practice of inheritance began. Though women always know which children are theirs, men needed to ensure that the children they passed down their property to were actually theirs. And few men had the economic resources to support more than one wife in a lifelong relationship. Hence, monogamy became more prevalent than polygyny, with men trading off their previous sexual freedom for insurance that their offspring were indeed theirs. Women traded their freedom for economic support and protection for themselves and their children. Personal relationships were no longer simply a private arrangement between the people involved. In other words, monogamy arose for a particular society’s practical needs and not for any ethical or moral reasons.

To give monogamy the force of law, religions, particularly Christianity, put their stamp of approval on it, making monogamous marriage a sacrament. Though we see many instances of nonmonogamous relationships in the Bible, presented without censure, now Christians act as if monogamy was handed down as the One True Way of Relating from the dawn of time.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating that those who wish to remain monogamous go out and “cheat” on their spouses. (I’ve always found that to be a quaint expression. When I hear references to someone “cheating” on their spouse, I think to myself, ‘What is s/he, a test?’) What am I against is a “One Size Fits All (Even if You Have to Cut Off Your Toes!)” approach to intimate relationships. “Different Strokes for Different Folks” works a whole lot better for me.

When all is said and done, if I’m aroused and there’s a willing, suitable partner available, more often than not I’m going to do what comes naturally, without guilt or apology.