The speech I gave to The Ethical Society of St. Louis on The Ethics of Polyamory is available as a podcast. Huge thanks to The Ethical Society for the opportunity and for making the recording available online. One important note: further research has shown me that the numbers I gave on infidelity are probably closer to 25% than 50%, so adjust your expectations accordingly.
From the Ethical Societiy’s website: This talk will discuss polyamory (consensual non-monogamy) as a type of relationship structure. Topics include the myriad of non-monogamous relationship structures, the ethics of polyamory, negotiation and consent, time management, how polyamorous structures can exist in an ostensibly monogamous world, and a personal perspective on a polyamorous life.
I’ve been saying for years that religious conservatives (whether they will publicly admit it or not) see the writing on the was about marriage equality for same sex couples and are already sharpening their knives for polyamory. Case in point:
In which me and the folks at Modern Poly try to have a civilized conversation about polyamory with Steve Ward of VH1’s “Tough Love,” and fail, miserably.
[Editor’s Note: The order of some comments has been changed to preserve continuity. Also, Twitter abbreviations have been expanded to full words. Every effort has been made to preserve the character of the original conversation.]
Modern Poly: A website for those in the polyamorous lifestyle and non-profit poly advocacy organization.
David Wraith: Co-founder of Sex Positive St. Louis and self described “free-range, poly man-whore.”
Kass: Some innocent person on Twitter who inadvertently started it all.
Kass: Steven Ward, what are your thoughts on polyamory? Can these types of relationships work?
Steve Ward: Almost never. It’s always hypocritical.
Modern Poly: Why do you see polyamory as hypocritical?
Steve Ward: Jealously invariably arises. It’s usually about wanting the cake and having it too.
David Wraith: I still don’t see how poly relationships are hypocritical.
Steve Ward: If you don’t mind your girls bangin’ other guys, I guess it’s not.
David Wraith: I can handle my “partners” having other sexual partners, yes. I don’t have any “girls.”
Steve Ward: But it’s still a little nasty, unsafe and more likely to fail than monogamous ones as soon as she one ups you.
David Wraith: Are you basing this on facts or assumptions and stereotypes?
Steve Ward: With all due respect I can’t argue about relationship dynamics with someone who describes themselves as you do. [With this he includes a link to the “About Me” section of my website: /about-me-contact/]
Steve Ward: Now I’ve got followers calling me a bigot because I see statistics show open sexual relationships increase the risk of STDs and emotional breakdowns.
David Wraith: For what it’s worth, I don’t think you’re a bigot. I think you and Dr. Drew Pinsky do great work. I just wish you both knew more about healthy alternative sexual communities so we wouldn’t feel marginalized by you.
Steve Ward: Consensual but alternative relationships stand most vulnerable to interfering dissenters who couldn’t care less about you.
David Wraith: I agree. I assume you include yourself among the “interfering dissenters who couldn’t care less about you.”
Steve Ward: I love how people beg for bullshit to justify their impulses. Just admit you don’t give a shit about love, faith, any of it and you’re a horny chimpanzee.
David Wraith: NOW you sound like a bigot. I was really enjoying this discussion until now. Can I politely request you try to be less of a dick?
[At one point the conversation turned to sexually transmitted infections.]
Steve Ward: Do diseased swingers say, I got this from being a pig swinger? No. They probably LIE!
David Wraith: Lots of name calling and insults. Wow, you really disappoint me. This could have been an intelligent discussion.
Modern Poly: I was willing to assume conversation with Steve Ward would stay on topic. Tactics remind me of Anne Coulter
Modern Poly: Actually we didn’t know who Steve Ward is. Too busy being a non-profit polyamory advocacy organization.
Steve Ward: ”Non-profit” doesn’t mean “no revenue.” Sounds like a well salaried pimp.
David Wraith: As a professional match maker, doesn’t that make you a better salaried pimp?
Steve Ward: Touché. Ha ha ha ha!
David Wraith: Let’s end on a laugh. Good day, sir.
I love how ppl beg 4 bullshit 2 justify their impulses. Just admit u don’t give a shit about love, faith, any of it & ur a horny chimpanzee.
— Steve Ward (@stevenbward) August 16, 2012
For the first time in many, many years, I’m thinking about being monogamous. Don’t worry ladies; it’s not going to happen. Thinking about being monogamous for me is like contemplating suicide or the priesthood or becoming a certified yoga instructor. It’s nice to think about sometimes, but I know I’m never going to do it. What’s significant here is that I’m thinking about it at all, which puts me in a very different headspace than I’ve been in for most of my life.
Right now, I’m just not all that motivated to have sex with anyone beside my partner. Now, don’t get it twisted. If some strange fell into my lap, I’d hit it. That’s just how I roll. But when I think about the time and energy it would take to cultivate a new sexual relationship, even a casual one, I just think about spending that time with my partner instead.
I know what will probably happen: if I go too long only having sex with one person, I will eventually fuck someone else just to prove to myself that I still can. I know that sounds pathetic. It’s also honest, and not admitting it won’t make it any less true. For better or for worse, being polyamorous is part of my identity, both my public persona and the way I see myself. For example, I’ll be teaching my Polyamory 101 workshop in Rhode Island this February.
I’ve been in relationships with intensely private people, people who didn’t want to be associated with the radical-sex side of my life. I’ve been relationships where the other party was cheating on their significant other. I’ve been people’s dirty little secret and I’ve had people who were my dirty little secret. I know what it’s like to see someone socially and pretend I’m not sleeping with them.
Now I’ve met the woman I want to spend my life with and we are totally public and open. It’s strange for me to be able to say that, four months in. I’ve had long affairs with people where our mutual friends never knew (or never acknowledged that they knew) about us. Quiet as it’s kept, while I was off sleeping with everyone and her sister, I was often secretly jealous of couples (poly or not) who were genuinely in love and telling the world about it. Now I have that and the fear that it may implode in six months is not enough to keep me quiet about it.
I still hear the voice in my head that alerts me to every opportunity to sleep with someone new, at the moment I’m just not listening.