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|Written by Roxy Munro|
|Wednesday, 16 June 2010 00:00|
Earlier this year, I enthusiastically moved into my partner's condo, taking our relationship to that "whole new level." Much to our collective relief, the horror stories of merging things and sharing the same living space 24/7 were far from our reality. After all, it is just so darn convenient for us to live with the one we love and lust. While I may still be sporting my favourite gaudy baubles on my ring finger instead of a Tiffany diamond, we are, without doubt, a committed pair. In the world of committed hetero couples, "committed" is generally interpreted to also mean monogamous, which we are now as well . . . with one primary exception.
We each have a List.
You might be familiar with this List. In my experience, most people I have known in relationships have had a List. That is, each partner in the relationship has a list of a few people that they would be allowed to have some kind of sex with with their partner's full blessing. Usually, from what I have known, the list contains names of celebrities or other seemingly out of reach individuals, so that the actual chance of the monogamous relationship being disrupted is virtually nil. Nonetheless, each partner is allowed that guilt-free thrill of imagining sexual escapades with someone other than their real-life main squeeze.
Nowadays, with the emergence of reality TV, the whole concept of 'celebrity' is evolving, and so-called celebrities are becoming more accessible. That is, we know where the cast of Jersey Shore is hanging out by their frequent Tweets, and we know which salon Heidi Montag (Pratt?) visits to get her hair done thanks to TMZ. If you live in a bigger city, like Ottawa, you may even hear that one of your favourite reality celebs is visiting a local nightclub to further their own shameless self-promotion.
Enter my List.
Splattered all across telephone poles near our downtown condo are posters promoting none other than The Hills' Justin Bobby's visit to Canada's capital. Sure, half the time I had trouble making out his muffled voice, and there were times when he really could have benefitted from a shower before appearing in front of television cameras, but his overall dark-haired bad boy-ness had me from first muffle. As soon I was first introduced to Justin Bobby, he became the new #3 on my list. And now #3, who I'm "allowed" to have my way with, is going to be hanging out mere metres from where I do most of my sleeping, writing, and sexual pleasuring. What's a committed woman to do?
In my case, I have determined that I shall do nothing. For me, the very fact that I assumed JB was impossible to get, thus earning him a spot on my list, enhanced his sexiness (maybe some of you can relate?). Now that I could probably have him within the same reach as the premium bottle service at a neighbourhood bar, the allure disappears. Furthermore, if I was to hook up with JBobb by myself, as the rules of our lists allow, where would that leave my partner? Perhaps it's just my approach to the notion of these lists, but I like them precisely because they are an erotic instrument for both of us.
Lists can be an easy way to let couples' imaginations run away together for the elevation of both partners' arousal levels. No batteries required.
I know, however, that not everyone would dismiss an opportunity to make use of the non-monogamy clause a list provides. If it's all agreed upon, why shouldn't they? After all, commitment and monogamy are not mutually dependent. To be monogamous, according to the dictionary definition that I'm sure is familiar to many, is to have "a single sexual partner during a period of time." Commitment, on the other hand, refers to the obligation one makes to another. According to modern cultural scripts, that obligation has explicitly or implicitly translated into monogamy. But does it have to?
Polyamory and open relationships are not for everyone, but they are for some people. In our couple-centric society, it seems difficult for the general public to come to terms with these equally valid ways of living and loving. The ideas of polyamory and open relationships aren't totally absent from the mainstream, though. Recent books on the subject, such as Open: Love, Sex and Life in an Open Marriage by Jenny Block and The Ethical Slut: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships and Other Adventures by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy, both of which are available at my local public library, suggest that there's a desire to gain more social acceptance for open sexual lifestyles.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with these terms, The Ethical Slut (sometimes subtitled A Roadmap for Relationship Pioneers) provides some handy definitions. Polyamory (often shortened to "poly") is "a new word that has gained a great deal of currency in recent years . . . . unlike 'nonmonogamy,' it does not assume monogamy as the norm. On the other hand, its meaning is still a bit vague - some feel that polyamory includes all forms of sexual relationships other than monogamy, while others restrict it to committed love relationships (thereby excluding swinging, casual sexual contact, and other forms of intimacy)." An open relationship is "a relationship in which the people involved have some degree of freedom to fuck and/or love people outside the relationship."
Easton and Hardy point to the high rates of infidelity to buttress the idea that lifetime monogamy is unrealistic for a lot of people. As they say, "a ring around the finger does not cause a nerve block to the genitals." Of course, this in no way excuses infidelity. I imagine that when Tiger Woods and Elin Nordegren exchanged their wedding vows, monogamy was implied, if not stated outright during the sunset ceremony. The lying and betrayal was his greatest misdeed. Tiger probably shouldn't have married in the first place, or if he really wanted marriage, he should have been honest with his partner about his need for other sexual partners. Or he could have sought out a partner that was consenting to an open marriage, thus avoiding all of the drama that has since befallen him and his family. Of course, an open marriage probably would have hurt his (former) squeaky clean image. Although upholding the façade of a traditional married life clearly didn't work out for him, either.
Tiger's actions show that he's not meant to be monogamous. Forget treating a "sex addiction;" Tiger could benefit from reading The Ethical Slut.
As Jenny Block describes in Open, since people are unique, relationships should be unique as well. A goal of a relationship should not be to conform to rigid societal expectations, but to meet the needs and fulfill the happiness of all those involved. If you're currently coupled up with someone you love but feel the need for some kind of intimate or sexual involvement with someone else, maybe you should consider talking to your partner about an open relationship. If the monogamous couple approach is what works for you, you always have that little List to keep things interesting.
Jersey Shore: Drinking, swearing, fighting, fucking. What's the problem here?