Saturday, July 31, 2004

A Libertine Booklist

Today, I thought I'd post a list of books relevant to libertinism. This is by no means a complete list.

The Myth of Monogamy: Fidelity and Infidelity in Animals and People by David Barash and Judith Lipton

This book shows how people are not naturally monogamous, but I think it cops out by stopping short of recommending that people explore nontraditional relationship options. Still very useful, however.

The Sexual Life of Catherine M by Catherine Millet

Detailed adventures from the life of a female libertine. It’s a little slow in some spots, as this book was translated from the original French, but there are quite a few juicy bits as well!

The Trouble With Normal: Sex, Politics, and the Ethics of Queer Life by Michael Warner

This book explains why gays are going after the wrong goal by pursuing the right to legal marriage. Mostly aimed toward gay/lesbian readers, it nevertheless has much useful information for heterosexuals who prefer nontraditional relationships as well, as it defends the right to choose casual sex relationships instead of monogamy.

Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation by Nancy Cott

A history of marriage in the USA from colonial times and how the government has increasingly interfered in the private lives of our citizens and how marriage laws and customs have evolved over the years.

Anatomy of Love: A Natural History of Mating, Marriage, and Why We Stray by Helen Fisher

A books about how and why humans are not naturally monogamous from a anthropological perspective.

Against Love: A Polemic by Laura Kipnis

This one blasts the sacred cows of marriage and monogamy.

Nymphomania: A History by Carol Groneman

A history of female libertines, both real and imagined, and how they’ve been dealt with by society over the years.

What’s Love Got to Do With It: The Evolution of Human Mating by Meredith Small

Another anthropological book explaining why humans are not naturally monogamous.

Sex Without Guilt in the 21st Century by Dr. Albert Ellis

A positive view of sexuality from a psychologist. An update of the 1958 original, with a dated, old fashioned writing style, but the opinions stated within are anything but dated. Along with several other forms of sexual expression, Ellis takes the view that "sexual adventuring", I.e. libertinism, is neither unhealthy nor necessarily unethical.

Ain’t Nobody’s Business If You Do by Peter McWilliams

Not strictly about libertinism, per se, but mainly about the government interference into people’s private lives about matters that do not harm or infringe upon the rights of others. The right to privacy in what forms people’s intimate relationships also are covered.

The Ethical Slut: A Guide to Infinite Sexual Possibilities by Dossie Easton and Catherine Lizst

The title is self explanatory.

The Future of Love: The Power of the Soul in Intimate Relationships by Daphne Rose Kingma

Kingma writes that as more traditional marriages end in divorce, that nontraditional forms of relating, including casual sexual relationships, are valid alternative choices that may work better for many people. A lot of psychobabble in this book, but useful information at the core.

Casanova by Derek Parker

Biography of the famous libertine.

The Debt to Pleasure by John Wilmot

Subject of the upcoming Johnny Depp movie, "The Libertine"

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Some Thoughts on Bill Clinton

As the Democratic Convention convened this week in Boston, I got to thinking about Bill Clinton, one of at least two libertine American presidents. The other was, of course, John F. Kennedy, whose appetite for sexual variety has been documented back to his early adulthood. Despite many similarities between these two presidents, one big difference was that JFK's privacy in his personal relationships was largely respected by the media of the time, being rightly considered irrelevant and inappropriate for public discussion.

Unfortunately, this courtesy was never extended to Bill Clinton, whose sex life has long been considered by the media to be everyone's business, simply for the fact of his libertinism. The media attention to Clinton's sex life was stepped up during his campaign for president and was whipped into a frenzy during the Lewinsky affair. Kenneth Starr and his allies in the Monogamous Majority wasted taxpayer money and the time of our elected representatives simply because Clinton had stepped off the fidelity bandwagon yet again.

It has always boggled my mind that there was not widespread protest at this colossal waste of time and money for something that wasn't anyone's business in the first place. Clinton wasn't elected to uphold the sacred cow of monogamy. He was elected to be President and as long as he was carrying out the duties of his office, it didn't matter whether he screwed every woman from here to Timbuktu, Indeed, if the worst thing his political enemies could find was to nail him with the fact that he strayed from the sexual straight and narrow, he couldn't have been doing that bad of a job. Nowadays, the country has much more serious things to worry about than peeking in Bush's bedroom.

Some will be quick to jump in and say that Starr was right because Clinton lied about his affair with Lewinsky. It is unfortunate, but it's reality that every politician who ever hopes to be elected to office must at least give lip service to the sacred cow of monogamy, despite the fact that most of our presidents probably strayed at one time or another. A politician may not openly admit that he is not monogamous or believes in nontradtional relationships. In recent years, gay and lesbian politicians have been able to come out of the closet, but they, too, must get on the monogamy bandwagon.

In a world more accepting of non traditional relationships, Clinton would not have had to perform these mental contortions and moral gymnastics in the first place. The inquiries into his sex life would never have happened, because it would be considered irrelevant and his own private business. In such a world, Clinton would not have felt the need to lie.

It's time for nonmonogamous people of all varieties to come out of the closet, and stand up be proud of who we are.

Friday, July 23, 2004

One Size Fits All?

Not when it comes to intimate relationships, in my opinion.

Not all people have the same needs, desires, or circumstances, so it's not logical to assert that the same relationship form will be suitable and work equally well for everyone. The right of the "pursuit of happiness" certainly applies to personal relationships and it should not be up to the government to decide for us how that "happiness" will be pursued. Last time I heard, this was still a free country.

The Alliance for Marriage is a conservative organization whose main purpose is to lobby for the passage of the Marriage Protection Act. The Marriage Protection Act would legally define marriage as existing only between "one man and one woman". Not only would same sex couples be excluded by such legislation, but also those who would seek to enter multi-partner unions, heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual.

In addition to working for the passage of this exclusionary amendment, they are pushing to add to the already large number of legal benefits and privileges accorded only to the legally married, such as reducing the tax burden for "married families". I guess they aren't concerned about families where the parents are not legally married or single parent families who might need such a tax break as much or more.

I have no problem with this group existing in order to inform people about the relationship form that they believe in. I do have a major problem with them seeking to amend the constitution in order to mandate their opinion for all Americans.

While I believe that as long as legal marriage exists, it should be equally available to all consenting adults who wish it, my personal solution would be to abolish legal marriage altogether and let the individuals involved define what marriage is for themselves without government interference. All legal benefits and privileges now limited to legally married couples should be available to all based on need, not marital status.

I am a libertine. My relationship life consists largely of casual sexual encounters, both fleeting and ongoing. This has worked well for me over the years and I make no excuses or apology for it. But I understand and accept that this lifestyle isn't for most people and that's fine. I don't seek to cram it down people's throats or think that it is the relationship style that evvvvvvvverrrrrrrrybody must adopt. I would appreciate it if those who believe in monogamous marriage would also admit that their relationship form is simply one valid choice among many and then leave it at that.

Different strokes for different folks and all that.

Monday, July 19, 2004

A Victory For Common Sense

A judge in Cleburne, Texas dismissed an obscenity charge against a woman this past Friday, citing that the case was a "waste of county resources". The woman had been arrested for selling two sex toys to undercover police officers posing as a couple. The sex toys were cosidered to be "obscene devices" under Texas law, which are defined as a "simulated sexual organ or an item designed to stimulate the genitals".

Kudos to this judge for telling it just like it is. I fail to see what is so obscene about selling sex toys to adult women at Tupperware style parties as this woman did. It isn't as if she was selling these items out of the back of a pickup truck on an elementary school playground.

There is nothing "obscene" about sexual pleasure for its own sake or anything that aids in this goal. There is something obscene about invading people's privacy with laws which are most likely inspired by religious fundamentalism that is undoubtedly motivated by the fear that someone, somewhere is having a good time. There is something warped about police officers who, instead of seeking to rid the streets of violent criminals, waste their time and resources going after people whose only "crime" is to aid those in search of a better sexual "buzz".

Common sense in Texas needs to be taken a step further by permanently abolishing such repressive "obscenity" laws from state law and actually getting in step with the 21st century.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Liberal, Libertarian, Libertine

Recently, I was browsing messages at one of the many message boards I belong to. The current discussion centered on how members might classify themselves according to their political beliefs. Though most gave the standard answers of liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat, and the like, several members asserted that it wasn't quite that simple and that many people don't neatly fall into any category, but tend to be a little bit of this, a little bit of that. Finally one poster gave the address of a website with a test that would gauge one's political beliefs reflecting a wider frame of reference:

I took the test and I, unsurprisingly, scored Libertarian Left; that is, a liberal libertarian. Added to the consideration that I am a sexual libertine, I've decided to tell people that I am a Liberal Libertarian Libertine the next time someone asks my political beliefs.

Liberal: As in open minded, tolerant, and progressive

Libertarian: As in my private life is not the government's business; "Ain't Nobody's Business If I Do"

Libertine: As in a sexually unrestrained attitude and lifestyle

Granted, such a designation will keep me off nearly everyone's PC list, right and left, but I'm thinking that's not necessarily a bad place to be.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Bush on Same Sex Marriage

Despite a strong endorsement by the campaigning George Bush and his conservative cohorts, the proposed constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriage failed miserably. No doubt this was in part due to the fact that Bush simply used this social issue in order to distract voters from more pressing concerns, such as the economy, the Iraq war, etc. And considering that the ludicrous "Defense of Marriage Act" (DoMA) already exists, this underscores the fact that this latest attack on same sex relationships is nothing more than election year grandstanding.

Supporters of such an amendment assert that it is necessary to amend the constitution in order to protect and defend "traditional marriage" (i. e. lifelong, heterosexual, and monogamous). President Bush said, "If courts create their own arbitrary definition of marriage as a mere legal contract, and cut marriage off from its cultural, religious and natural roots, then the meaning of marriage is lost and the institution is weakened."

What a load of bilge water! For one thing, so-called "traditional" marriage has been around for a very long time. The fact of same sex couples joining the club de jure, in addition to the de facto marriages they've long entered into, will not prevent conservative heterosexual couples from continuing to do what they've always done.

Secondly, if "traditional marriage" would be so easily toppled from its pedestal, then it's an unstable institution to begin with, and probably needs to be tampered with, anyway.

Thirdly, all the public debate has been about marriage as a "legal contract", as the cultural, religious, and natural parts of marriage are highly private and personal, beyond the reach of government interference. If Bush objects to marriage being a "mere legal contract", perhaps he ought to abolish marriage altogether as a legal matter and let individuals, both gay and straight, decide for themselves what marriage is, according to their own beliefs and needs.

Works for me.

Friday, July 2, 2004

Unequally Yoked?

I was talking with J the other day and she asked me, "Do you know just how hard it is to love someone who is nonmonogamous?" And then she proceeded to ask why it was that I was so opposed to legal monogamous marriage. After I'd once again rattled off my beliefs on the matter, it struck me. Why on earth should I be having to justify myself, especially when the monogamous do not feel as if they have to justify why they have chosen to conform to prevailing custom, as if it should be self evident?

Of course, this difference in belief is rarely a concern in strictly casual sexual encounters; perhaps that is why I usually feel more comfortable with them. There's no questioning the purpose of these encounters on either side, so I'm free to enjoy them for what they are, with no misunderstandings likely to arise. But the longer a casual sexual relationship goes on, especially if my partner is "single", the more likely I will eventually be called upon to justify my libertinism.

There have been some who would not change a thing about me and like me just the way I am, but rather often, there is an unspoken wish that I would eventually give up being nonmonogamous to settle down and be domesticated like "everyone else", out of love.

I am forty-six years old and the longest I've remained "faithful" to a particular partner is less than two weeks. So, I really cannot see such a thing as being likely to happen and I refuse to make that promise to anyone, knowing I have neither the desire nor the ability to do so. However, this doesn't mean I am incapable of loving someone on a long term basis. I can and I have. But I refuse to accept sexual fidelity as a condition of love. As I've stated countless times, sex and love are not synonymous and even though they many times happily coexist, many other times they just as happily do not.

So, I would say it is no doubt as hard for a libertine to love a conventionally mongamous person as it is the other way around. But I'd wager it is not a totally insurmountable barrier if those involved are motivated enough to make it work. It wouldn't be an easy thing, certainly, but then again, nothing worth having ever is.