Songs of Ethical Non-Monogamy, Part 1

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Monogamists have an endless supply of one true love songs to reflect their approach to relationships. Likewise, there are countless odes to no-strings sexual relationships. You can find whole albums dedicated exclusively to either of them. Polyamorists and people who practice similar forms of Ethical Non-Monogamy, however, have a much more limited pool of popular music to relate to.

While there are other lists out there (and I’m not going to pretend I didn’t reference them while making this one), they’re often loaded with songs that are really just about cheating or simply loveless fucking around. For example, one list contains The Offspring’s “Self-Esteem” which is a song about a guy whose girlfriend is constantly cheating on him and is miserable about it but he doesn’t have the spine to break up with her. That, to me, is not a song about any flavor of Ethical Non-Monogamy.

So I decided to make my own list, personally curating it to meet the a specific criteria of being about someone having multiple lovers in an honest manner and having an ongoing romantic relationship with at least one of those lovers to distinguish it from simply being about no strings sex. There are those who practice no strings Ethical Non-Monogamy, forming no ongoing relationships, but there are too many songs about people having multiple casual sex partners. There are artists who build their entire career around being sexual liberated and not being tied down to anyone, so I don’t think people practicing that form of Ethical Non-Monogamy are hurting for songs to relate to.

I also only included songs I could find on YouTube videos to link to so people can actually listen to the songs. That is the main reason this list has been taking so long to compile and I’m only posting half the list right now. I find it incredibly difficult to listen to music without getting lost in music. For each song on this list, I probably spent 15-20 minutes listening to that song, reading its lyrics, and writing its entry and another 40-60 minutes going down YouTube’s rabbit hole of suggested videos. There were also a lot of songs I did all that with then ended up not including because they didn’t meet the criteria.

Expect the second half of the list next month, as well as a page merging them as a singular reference.  For now, I hope you enjoy what I’ve got so far. As time consuming as making this list was, it was also a lot of fun.

1, 2. 3 (You, Her, and Me)” by Rick James

This fun Rick James groove portrays an all too common entry point into Ethical Non-Monogamy…a dude getting busted cheating and turning it into a pitch for a triad. It may be a bit light on the ethical part of ethical non-monogamy, the singer at least sounds like he’s laying it all on the table, now that he’s caught, that he loves both women (“My love for you is so strong, my love for her is unwrong!”) and wants to go on openly loving them both (“We could be together, the three of us forever!”). It’s kind of hard to root for the guy even if we stay within the scene painted by the song and don’t apply what we know about Rick James himself to it, but it’s hard to deny that there are people in the world of ethical non-monogamy who entered it as refugees of unethical non-monogamy.

3” by Britney Spears

Reading the comment section of the official YouTube video of this song is a real treat if you love watching people’s innocence destroyed by the realization that Britney Spears released a chart topping pop song about group sex (mostly threesomes, though she does up the ante to a foursome in one line). Also, unlike Rick James above, she’s not dwelling on love or bringing up commitment…she’s all about making group sex sound like awesome fun (“merrier the more,

triple fun that way, twister on the floor, what do you say”). She seems extremely up front about it, though, not needing to get busted before putting it on the table that she’s super down for a threesome or maybe even moresome. She even very sweetly assures her partner that it’s cool if they’re not interested in more than one on one (“what we do is innocent, just for fun and nothin’ meant, if you don’t like the company, let’s just do it you and me”). That kind of forthrightness is tops in my book.

All My Lovers” by Black Tape for a Blue Girl

This ambient sounding track, by a dark wave group I’ll confess I’d never heard before I started researching this list, is sung from the point of view of a woman describing sexual intimacy with one lover (“he touches my hair, touches my breast, I feel him inside me”) while reassuring another (“and I don’t love you less, because of them, I don’t need you less, when I feel his caress”). She seems to luxuriate in the wonderfulness of being free to be open in such a way (“My lovers help me brush away deception from my path, back to a place where thoughts are pure, nothing to hide”).

Cactus Tree” by Joni Mitchell

This lovely folk ballad from the 60’s portrays a woman who loves and is loved by multiple men (“there’s a lady, in the city, and she thinks she loves them all.”) but is very much attached to her freedom and turns away from becoming enmeshed (“Now she rallies her defenses, for she fears that one will ask her for eternity, and she’s so busy being free”). It’s not clear that the men know about each other, but it seems obvious enough that she’s not made any commitments to any of them either.

Culture Shock” by Olivia Newton John

This was one of the more surprising songs I dug up in my research. It’s a fairly bland song even by contemporary pop standards, but Olivia Newton John was not someone I expected to have such a blatantly pro-ethical non-monogamy song in 1985. It’s a classic polyamory scenario of a woman confessing to her long term partner that she’s fallen in love with another man and doesn’t want to give either of them up (“You gotta know, I didn’t plan it, it was the last thing on my mind/How can you love two people at the same time? Ooh ooh/Now I don’t wanna lose you, but I can’t give him up”). She doesn’t really beat around the bush either, getting straight to making a case for the end she desires (“I know it’s unconventional, radical but practical/Why can’t the three of us live together?”).

Family” by Gaia Consort

This bouncy folk rock song is notable for being the theme song for “Family”, an episodic web series about polyamory. Unsurprisingly given the title, it reflects a more family-oriented style of Ethical Non-Monogamy than most of this list (“All the outs are in free, the babies are sleeping/Time enough for love when everybody puts a hand in”).

The French Song” by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts

This rock song barely made the cut, as the English lyrics could be construed as an invitation to cheat, but the French lyrics are more explicit that what the singer is angling for is a threesome (“J’aime faire l’amour sur tout a trois” translates to “I love to make love, especially with three”). Apparently Joan wanted to make a song about threesomes but didn’t want to offend anyone so she had her French speaking guitar tech right the chorus in French. It almost gets cut off by the list by the viewpoint character not having an ongoing relationship with the person she’s trying to sell on the threesome, but it sounds like the person she’s talking to is part of an established couple so I’m going to count it.
Happy Guy” by Devo

This fairly standard Devo track tells of a man in love with two different women (“He was twice in love/with two very different girls”) and it working out pretty well for him (“Knowing life was short/He told them both the truth/But they already knew/Now he’s a happy guy”). At least for a while. Later in the song it talks about a less joyous scenario (“Let me tell you about a man/A tragic case/Love kicked in his face/He shriveled up and died/From a broken heart”) and it could be the same guy, indicating that his happy trio didn’t work out in the end, but it clearly did for a while so I’m counting it. Also, the song has a pretty uplifting ending (“Reincarnated as a work of art/He’s got a brand new start/Hey!/Now he’s a happy guy”).

Let’s Invite Them Over” by George Jones and Melba Montgomery

A sad country duet about a couple who are in love with their friends instead of each other. Though they’ve clearly had their friends over before, they clearly feel guilty about it (“We’ve talked it over and over/And we know it’s not right”) but also really want to do it again (“Yes we stay away for a while/But we know in the end/We’ll invite them over again”). It sounds like the pieces are there for a potentially happy situation if they could get over their shame (to be fair, the song was released in 1963, so they could be forgiven for feeling uncomfortable breaking the norm of society).

Light of Some Kind” by Ani DiFranco

Another song that sounds like a pretty realistic situation. A woman unfaithful to her boyfriend is uncomfortable with deception (“’cause we both know what i’ve been doing/i’ve been intentionally bad at lying”), coming clean that she’s fallen for another woman (“she came up to me with the sweetest face/and she was holding a light of some kind”). She doesn’t want this situation to be the end of them, but rather he should do as she’s done  (“and i still think of you as my boyfriend/i don’t think this is the end of the world/but i think maybe you should follow my example/and go meet yourself a really nice girl”). However, it sounds like the boyfriend may have a strictly monogamous mindset (“in the end the world comes down to just a few people/but for you it comes down to one”) so the song ends on a sad note. Even so, I really like this song for its realness.

Love In Stereo” by The Monks

This pop punk song sure doesn’t make it sound like the guy singing it is having very much fun being in a relationship with two women (“You might well look on and envy me/But this feelin’ isn’t so hi-fi”), as it’s mostly a recitation of all the hassle it is having two women who have different needs (“One wants to stay at home/the other wants the night out/one wants to read in bed/the other wants the light out”). He sounds like he’d much rather be in a monogamous relationship, but he’s the one choosing to have two relationships simultaneously instead of making a choice between his two lovers, so his polyamorous situation is all on him.

My Girlfriend’s Girlfriend” by Type O-Negative

This song was a wild departure from the gothic metal sound that permeates most of Type O-Negative’s music, with its bouncy keyboards and upbeat rhythm. The only thing tying it to their signature sound is the late Peter Steele’s always sinister sounding voice. The man could have sung the My Little Pony theme song and it would have had a touch of darkness in it. Another song about a man with two lovers, he’s having a much better time of it than the “Love In Stereo” guy (“They keep me warm on cold nights/We must be quite a sight/In our meat triangle/All tangled”).

My Girl’s Got A Girlfriend” by Ray Lavender

What does Ray Lavender, whom I’d never heard of before making this list, do when he finds out his girlfriend is cheating on him with another woman (“I hear moanin’/Fo’ real somebody, I finna kill somebody/Then I get closer, I hear groanin’/Bust in the door and see my girl wit a chick”)? Well, according to this song he just slides into bed with them (“I’d rather just join in/Keep my girl and keep the other one too/My girl gotta girlfriend, Hey!/It really it’s not a problem/’Cause Ima make it do what it do, girl!”). Girlfriend fucking another guy equals murder, girlfriend fucking another girl equals a happy surprise. Got it…we’ll file you firmly into the One Penis Policy category. It may be a bit misogynistic, but he’s definitely into keeping things going in an openly non-monogamous way so it makes the list.

(Discerning Deviant is supported entirely through reader sponsorship via the Discerning Deviant Patreon.)

The Deviant’s Direction Deviates

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Since the last Discerning Deviant entry, way too long ago, I have been going through a whirlwind of major life changes. It’s all been very exciting but it’s also been extremely distracting. I’ve been way off track on my writing projects, including the articles I’ve been working on for Discerning Deviant, while I try to tie together all the crazy plot threads that have entered my life.

The biggest thing I’m dealing with right now is that this Spring I’ll be relocating from Atlanta to New York City. This is an extremely daunting transition for me, having spent all my life living in the south. I’ve spent the last dozen years in Atlanta and there are numerous people and places that I love here that I’m going to miss.

It’s long past time for me to move on, though. I’m an adventurer at heart. While that doesn’t have to mean roaming geographically for me, I’ve not been satisfied with what Atlanta has had to offer in terms of opportunities for growth for quite some time. That’s why I’ve been planning my Ephemeral Journey (in which I intend to spend 2018 traveling all over the country living in a van for a year), but when it was clear that neither my housemate nor I felt especially inclined to renew our lease in the house we’re currently living in, it seemed like a good time to take up an old friend’s offer to come stay with him a while in NYC.

I only plan to be there about eight months before heading off for my Ephemeral Journey, but I’m eager to spend a fair bit of time immersing myself in a new city. Not just any city, either, but the most populous and legendary city in America. While I’ll be staying with one of my oldest friends, and one of my loves will be a borough away, pretty much everything else about living in New York will be a fresh experience for me. I am giddy with anticipation.

That’s not the only big news in my life, however. I was also recently invited to be a presenter at Frolicon, a convention in Atlanta that is a fantastic mashup of geek culture and alternative sexuality. While Frolicon caters more to the kinky crowd, they’ve been growing their selection of polyamory related content and I’m happy to throw my hat into the ring as a presenter on not one, not two, but three panels relating to ethical non-monogamy.

I don’t think I could have asked for more fortuitous timing. One of the things I intend to do on my Ephemeral Journey is host talks about polyamory in any city that I can find a venue in, because there’s nothing I love talking about more than ethical non-monogamy, particularly the polyamory flavor. However, I’ve engaged in many panels about ethical non-monogamy as a participating audience member, but I’ve never actually hosted one before. Now, on a silver platter, I’ve been handed an opportunity to get my feet wet at the convention I have the most familiarity with (this will be my 10th year attending) and to boot it will sort of make Frolicon my goodbye party since it will be the last Atlanta sees of me for an indefinite period of time.

Those are the two main things that have been occupying my time and attention of late, so I wanted to give my readers a heads up about what’s been going on to stall Discerning Deviant updates lately. I’ve joined the “habit-building and productivity app” Habitica in the interest of getting my shit together so that I’ll stop letting my writing time get crowded out by all the other things going.

If nothing else I see at least a few major articles coming out of all the research and preparation I’ll be doing for my Frolicon panels. Then when I get to New York and start trying to find my way around the various communities of personal interest to me there I’ll be getting plenty of inspiring stimulation. Not that I lack things to write about now…I have a whole list of things I want to write about…but writing for me requires a mental energy and focus that tends to be drained quickly when life feels like a repetitive grind and adventure is one of the best ways to refill that reservoir.

There is a lot of adventure ahead for me, and I can’t wait to share what I discover with you.

(Discerning Deviant is supported entirely through reader sponsorship via the Discerning Deviant Patreon.)

The Deviant’s Advice To Unicorn Hunters

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Greetings. Are you a member of an opposite sex couple who has seen the increasing number of articles in the media depicting happy couples who have added a third partner to their relationship and think that’s something you want to get in on? Are you eager to get out there and find that special bisexual woman to join with you to form a triad (the classic relationship configuration in which three people are all intimately linked to the others in the relationship)? Well, as someone who has been involved in multiple loving triads I can assure you that triads certainly have the potential to be amazing.

However, I have both some bad news for you, and some advice on how to mitigate the problems I’m about to warn you about.

Unicorns Are Hard To Find

First off, if you’re really new to polyamory you might not realize that the third partner you seek to “complete” your triad is popularly referred to in the polyamory community as a “unicorn” and they’re called that because it is notoriously difficult to find. Those who are specifically looking for such a third partner are often called Unicorn Hunters, often with derogatory implications for reasons I’ll get into later.

For now, let’s consider the filters that a woman has to pass through to meet the most basic qualifications of becoming the third partner in a triad. She has to be a bisexual woman open to a non-monogamous relationship dynamic that is both attractive to and attracted to two both members of the established couple.

It’s hard to know exactly how many women that that the requirement for bisexuality eliminates from the running, as I’ve seens studies that place the percent of women who are bisexual as low as 2.8% and as high as 60%. Not only that, if she’s to be romantically and sexually involved with both members of a couple fairly equally she probably needs to be more towards the middle of the Kinsey scale. I’ve seen dozens of new triads crash and burn a few months in because one of the female partners wasn’t able to sustain a sexual interest in the other woman. My best guess based on various studies would be to say at best only a quarter of all women will have the basic orientation needed to form long term sexual and romantic relationships with both women and men. My anecdotal experience would suggest I’m being very generous by saying that this only eliminates 3/4ths of the adult female population from eligibility but it hardly matters because this is the least limiting factor in the endeavor of unicorn hunting.  

The biggest challenge is going to be finding someone open to that form of non-monogamy. While non-monogamy is rampant in our culture, the most common form of non-monogamy is cheating. The movement of people who are openly and ethically non-monogamous is growing rapidly but still account for a fraction of the overall population and even in the polyamory community there is not a large number of single women keen on joining an established couple. The majority of people in the polyamory dating pool are only interested in developing multiple independent relationships formed on a one on one basis, not be absorbed into an established relationship where they have to form intimate relationships with two people at the same time, and that’s not even getting into the high number of those who once were open to dating couples but aren’t anymore because of things going badly yet.

 

Too often new Unicorn Hunters seem oblivious to the fact that established couples are the very definition of a high availability, high risk, low demand commodity in the polyamorous dating pool. This leads to them being taken aback by how reactions to them excitedly charging into the scene tend to range from tepid to hostile, and then becoming defensive and hostile themselves. This does not endear anyone to the Unicorn Hunters, I assure you.

My advice is to recognize that finding someone to join your established relationship is not something that is going to happen quickly and the more aggressive and impatient you are the more you’re going to look like predators and scare off what unicorns there are. If you enter polyamorous circles as a couple and over time people see how strong and healthy your established relationship is, those who are open to couples are going to start gravitating towards you and opportunities to form intimate connections will start to arise.

Of course, this strategy is dependent on you having a strong and healthy relationship. If you don’t have that, you really should be working on that problem before bringing anyone else on board.

Unicorns Have Their Own Needs

One thing that Unicorn Hunters often lose sight of when they do finally find a unicorn and start building a connection with them is that their unicorn is also a fully realized human being whose needs in a relationship aren’t any different than their needs would be if they were entering a one on one relationship. The members of the established couple give each other the lion’s share of time, attention, and emotional labor while expecting the newcomer to subsist off the scraps left over.

Time and time again, I see people looking for a “third” talk the talk of love and family to get a new partner to emotionally invest in the triad, but when it comes time to walk the walk they treat her more like an accessory to their relationship rather than a partner. Sometimes you get the impression that they think so little of the wants and needs of their “third” that they’d stow her away in the closet when they aren’t having sex with her or using her to babysit their kids.

A lot of times this just comes down to the established couple being in the habit of heavily prioritizing each others needs over those of people outside the relationship. Everyone knows that even long time friendships often fall to the wayside when people couple up into a long-term partnership. However, if they’re going to invite someone else into the relationship as what they claim to be a full partner they’re going to have to pull their heads out of each other’s asses and back that claim up. Otherwise, intentionally or not, the relationship is liable to turn toxic and lead to a lot of drama and heartbreak. If they’re not prepared to embrace their new partner as fully into their lives as they originally embraced each other then they need to reconsider if a romantic relationship is really what they’re looking for.

While we’re on this subject, remember what we talked about earlier about the Unicorn needing to be close enough to the middle of the Kinsey scale to sustain roughly equal long term sexually intimate romantic relationships with both the male and female members of the established couple? It also bears noting that needs to go both ways. The female partner in the established couple should honestly examine whether their own attraction to women is strong enough to sustain a long term relationship or if they’re going to lose interest after a few months because to them sex with other women is fun for a bit but they’re not into it enough that they’d have an ongoing sexual relationship with another woman outside of the triad fantasy. It’s always heartbreaking when a woman enters a relationship with a couple falls in love with the woman in the couple only to end up shut out of her affections when the sexual novelty wears off.

I cannot emphasize enough that if what you mainly want is a woman in your life you can have sex with as a couple now and then, making promises you won’t keep about being a loving and equal partnership is not just unethical…it’s actually self-defeating. I know this is may seem counter-intuitive to those used to the standards of monogamous culture where sex and love are treated like commodities to be exchanged for each other, but among the ethically non-monogamous you’re actually more likely to find someone down for a sex only casual relationship than someone who wants to go all in on the whole sex/love/commitment package. Don’t try to force a romantic relationship to happen because the traditional narratives of love and sex dictate that sex without romantic love is bad. That narrative also says that loving more than one person is bad, so if you’re going to break the narrative it makes sense to break it all the way to make your own rules about who you share your hearts and bodies with.

Unicorns Are Often Mistreated

Because Unicorns need the same things all people do, while Unicorn Hunters often see only how Unicorns can serve their wants, it is incredibly common for triads to end up being harmful to the Unicorn. So common, in fact, that the polyamory community at large is filled with hostility towards Unicorn Hunters. Catch certain forums on a grumpy day by announcing the desire to find a third for a triad and you’ll get the kind of reception usually reserved for oil tycoons looking for a Native American burial ground to run a pipeline through.

While I don’t share the knee-jerk hatred a lot of people in the ethically non-monogamous community have towards Unicorn Hunters, I certainly understand it. It is not wrong to say that more often than not Unicorn Hunters looking to start a triad are at best going to give their Unicorn the shitty end of the stick in the relationship and at worst (as is all too often the case) outright abuse their Unicorn in an effort to keep them from complaining about getting a shitty deal or leaving.

It should go without saying that all partners should be treated with basic decency and respect for their autonomy, but a lot of Unicorn Hunters treat their Unicorn like beasts of burden rather than magical companions. There only to fulfill a role and punished when they try to step outside that role. Because Unicorns aren’t actually magic animals that can be reliably bound by mystic rules but in fact actual human beings with the same rights as anyone else, this is not a sustainable situation. Even if it were possible, doing so would shift one’s alignment towards Evil. Don’t be Evil. It attracts paladins and nobody wants paladins.

How can one be a Good Unicorn Hunter? Firstly, don’t treat your Unicorn in a manner that you wouldn’t treat your previously established partner. Don’t use your previously established partner as an excuse to short change your Unicorn in terms of time, attention, and emotional labor. Don’t expect your Unicorn to invest more into the relationship than she gets out of it. Don’t misrepresent what you’re offering the Unicorn in terms of the relationship and don’t try to compel her to stay if the relationship isn’t meeting her needs, especially if you’re unwilling to make an effort to meet those needs. Do not isolate your Unicorn or try to create a state of dependency that would prevent her from leaving. If you’re afraid of her leaving, figure out what you can do to make staying more desirable for her rather than trying to harm her for looking out for her own needs.

It’s often forgotten and overlooked with how frequently such relationships take a turn for the worse, but a genuinely healthy and loving couple can have a lot to offer a Unicorn if they sincerely respect and value her as a true partner. This isn’t less true because so many toxic situations wear the same clothes. Just be careful not to end up someone’s regret.

(Discerning Deviant is supported entirely through reader sponsorship via the Discerning Deviant Patreon.)

Love Is Unconditional, Relationships Require Negotiation

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People come to me a lot for relationship advice and one phrase I find myself using a lot is “Love is unconditional, but relationships require negotiation.” It seems pretty common that people who are unhappy with their relationships have some image carved into their mind of how a relationship should look if people love each other. They believe that there’s a certain way their partners should act if they really loved them and since genuine love is supposed to be unconditional their partners should act that way no matter what they do.

Oddly enough, they almost never come at the problem of their partner not meeting those expectations by seeing it as meaning that their partner doesn’t love them and they should probably move on, but rather they seek to convince their partner to do what they want solely on the basis of that’s what they think loving partners should do.  It’s as though they know their partner loves them, but they can’t figure out how to make their partner act like they love them. The irony is that it makes it seem like their love for their partner is extremely conditional on their partner acting in the way they think someone who loves them unconditionally should act. They are usually pretty unamused by my pointing that out.

Unconditional love is a pretty beautiful concept, on its own. The ideal of an indestructible love that can endure anything is as powerful as it is popular. That’s the way genuine love should be, the common belief goes, and it may surprise some to hear me say that I agree with that. I think the core concept of genuine love being unconditional is truth.

Truth, however, has a way of being corrupted. A lot of false expectations have been given justification in the name of loving unconditionally. Every time someone utters the phrase “If you loved me, you’d…” the words that follow are almost certainly a lie. Love is a feeling, and though actions can be motivated by love there is no action that is inherent to love. There are a lot of possible ways to show love and nobody is obligated to show love in exactly the way someone else wants them to. Someone can love someone and be within their rights to never express it at all.

Just because genuine love is unconditional, that doesn’t mean that the person who feels it is unconditionally exploitable. Love doesn’t void someone’s boundaries or their right to act foremost in their own self-interest. It is a cruel thing to seek to control someone through their love, especially when the goal is to manipulate them into acting against their own desires. Someone loving you does not entitle you to getting what you want from them.

That’s where negotiation, defined as discussion aimed at reaching an agreement, comes into play. Negotiation is essential to lasting healthy and ethical relationships. It is possible to sort of stumble into and through a relationship never really talking about what’s going on and where you want it to go, but those relationships tend to eventually take an ugly turn where differing expectations catch the partners off guard, often explosively with a lot of dramatic shrapnel. Imagine a relationship without open negotiation as walking through minefield. It’s possible to make it through to the other side in one piece, but I certainly wouldn’t want to leave whether I get blown up to chance.

That’s not to say that you need to delve deep into every bit of minutia, writing up formal documentation of every detail before the relationship can commence. That’s not what I mean by relationships require negotiation. In a society where people don’t read the actual legal agreements they sign off on half the time, it’s a rare soul that really wants to get down to the fine print details of relationships.

However, given long enough, any two people are going to eventually not see eye to eye with each other and when that happens you should be prepared to negotiate a mutually satisfying resolution. In truth, most relationships that don’t have a pre-negotiated deference in decision making areas (such as a D/s relationship) have several trivial negotiations each day over trivial things like what topping to order on the pizza or what movie they’re going to watch on Netflix. In healthy relationships nobody gets their ideal result from every single decision. Whether it’s taking turns picking movies or putting out alternative suggestions until there’s one they can agree on, the solution has to be arrived at together if there’s a power balance in the relationship. When there’s a power balance imbalance that hasn’t been negotiated beforehand from an equal beginning, there’s a problem. Even if there is a pre-negotiated power imbalance, everyone has a right to advocate for their own needs and remove themselves from any relationship that doesn’t meet them, so I would recommend not leaning too heavily on that Dom card if you’ve got it.

Approaching disagreements with a sense of entitlement to your partner’s compliance without regard to their happiness because you believe their love obligates them to put what you want ahead of their own needs is both selfish and hypocritical. If love means putting your partner’s happiness ahead of your own at all times, then by playing that card is an admission that you don’t love your partner enough to put their happiness ahead of your own.

It’s far better to go into disagreements with the understanding that everyone’s happiness matters equally. It’s better to end a relationship than allow it to persist in a state where anyone involved is miserable. That doesn’t mean that everyone has to be a hundred percent happy with every aspect of the relationship, but everyone does need to feel like being in the relationship is more conducive to their happiness than not being in it would be.

Personally, the more experience I have with relationships, the more I really enjoy relationship negotiation, even if there’s not a problem. I love being sure my partners and I are on the same page and seeing clearly how we are both benefiting from our relationship. I like knowing what will help the relationship thrive, or what might cause it harm. By putting both what one wants from a relationship and what one is willing to put into a relationship out in the open, it makes cooperatively building a relationship that enhances the lives of everyone involved to the maximum level so much easier than when partners treat each other like rivals who don’t want to give too much of themselves away to their opponent.

It’s also really helpful to know when a relationship isn’t going to meet my needs because if that’s the case I’d rather end the relationship compassionately to free myself to pursue better relationships for me rather than linger trying to manipulate or coerce my partner into giving me what they wouldn’t give knowingly or willingly. That is a very easy pit to fall into, often without even consciously realizing it, and one typically with very pointy spikes at the bottom. I have the emotional scars to prove it, and so do those I dragged into that pit with me when I was much younger and less aware of the effects of my actions.

Unless you want to leave a trail of wounded hearts behind you, do not seek to coerce your partners to your will through demands of what they should do to prove their love to you. Be honest. Be flexible. Be as generous in what you bring to the relationship as you desire your partner to be and you may find yourself with a relationship that’s healthier and happier than you imagined possible.

If you can’t through honest and open discussion come to a mutually satisfying arrangement, then accept the hard truth that you can’t always get what you want and move on. Don’t try to force pieces into place that don’t fit, or you’ll end up with something that might work for a short time then blow up spectacularly, leaving everyone involved damaged.

As I said, love is unconditional, but relationships require negotiation. Don’t rely on chance or wishful thinking to get your needs met. Do the work. In the end, you’ll be much more satisfied with the results. The relationships you have will be stronger and more rewarding, while you’ll waste much less of your life hanging onto a relationship that’s struggling along because the people in it aren’t really happy.

(Discerning Deviant is supported entirely through reader sponsorship via the Discerning Deviant Patreon.)

Discerning Deviant Welcomes 2017

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I rang in the new year at Fire in the Sky III, an Incendia event. It was much more moist than I’d have liked my New Year’s Eve to be, but it was still pretty awesome.  

The year 2016 is behind us now. While what happened in your personal life is going to heavily influence how you feel about the year, among most of my social circle you’d think it had a consciousness aggressively trying to destroy all that they love. I admit that like many other I found it disheartening that an icon representing the worst of power’s corruption was elected to the highest position in the United States of America and that many of my childhood heroes died off. I’m sure other things happened in the world, but Trump and dead celebrities was pretty much all anyone was talking about in my monkeysphere as far as current events went during the last days of 2016.  

On a personal level, 2016 served me several helpings of shit, but didn’t force as much of it down my throat as 2015 did and unlike that year it gave me a few good things to wash it down with. It was still a pretty rough year on me, but I was able to find enough footing to start pushing back against the darkness that had overtaken my life the last few years.  Instead of just struggling to survive, I managed to start living my life again, with creating this blog being one of the byproducts of that.

In 2017, it is my intention to put more time and energy into Discerning Deviant than ever before. Launching it right before the holiday season and not having time to really get into a groove with creating content for the site before two highly distracting and draining months of major holidays made it difficult for me to prioritize working on the site.  Now that the holiday madness is behind me, especially since I have patrons to answer to now, I am committed to giving Discerning Deviant the time and attention it needs to evolve into what I dream of it being someday.

I’m very excited about the potential that 2017 holds for me, even though I know it’s going to be a lot of hard work to reach the heights that I am aiming for. I hope that everyone else has something they are passionate about as well and that things come together for achieving whatever goals you have for the year and beyond.

In the meantime, thanks for reading Discerning Deviant. It’s only going to get better from here.

(Discerning Deviant is supported entirely through reader sponsorship via the Discerning Deviant Patreon.)

The Privacy Perils for Facebook Freaks

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In one of the Facebook groups for kinky polyamorous people that I’m a member of, there was a bit of a commotion. One of the admins, whose enthusiasm for expanding the group’s membership clouded their foresight, changed the security settings on the group from Secret to Closed. Some of the members who saw the notification of this happening and knew the potentially outing ramifications of it were understandably put into a bit of a panic over it. After all, it can lead to some really unpleasant consequences if Facebook recommends a group with both “poly” and “BDSM” in the name to your extremely conservative and gossipy Aunt Gertrude with your name attached as a member. The family Christmas party becoming a hundred times more awkward is just one of the milder possible outcomes.

Unfortunately, being outed as kinky and polyamorous can have much more serious consequences for some people. People have lost homes, jobs, and custody of their children over things like that. Online missteps can have real world outcomes and this incident reminded me how people can easily fall into the trap of thinking their situation is universal to others in the same group. Especially when online, where it’s easy to subconsciously perceive the lives of people you’ve never met with the same kind of regard one has for NPCs in a role-playing game.

In this case, the admin in question quickly recognized their mistake and took responsibility for not thinking how the change could affect others because they had the privilege of not needing to worry about it as much other might. It was a humble and graceful way of handling the situation. Unfortunately, not everyone is so willing to accept accountability for a mistake that endangers other, with a good counterexample being another admin who responded to the situation by threatening to shut down the group because they felt too harshly criticized by people upset about potentially being outed.

While interacting online or offline with any subculture that doesn’t have full mainstream acceptance carries risks of exposure, Facebook is an especially tricky space to engage with those communities online for a few reasons.

Facebook is a juggernaut in terms of how many people’s lives it has assimilated into its collective. I can think of few other sites where people are connected online not just to a subset of people in their lives but to people involved in nearly every aspect of their lives. Most people have not just friends friended on Facebook, but family, co-workers, acquaintances from social groups that it would be a huge stretch to call friends but they gave you a ride to the meeting/church/bar/sex dungeon that one time so you felt obligated to accept their friend request.

A funny example of this was when my ex-wife (at the time, current wife) made a comment on one of my posts referring to a group sex situation we’d been involved in and my sister saw it and made a comment about made a comment alluding to the need for brain bleach. This is funny because my sister is cool. Where I less open about my lifestyle and my sister not so cool, this could have been an exceptionally unfunny situation where she could have created all sorts of drama for me.

Facebook also has a real name policy that’s so ridiculously enforced that my daughters couldn’t use their actual birth names to sign up because Facebook rejected them as real. This makes it harder to maintain anonymity and allows for nosy assholes to find people and snoop into their lives without those people even knowing it. If you’re savvy, there are ways to reduce this risk but because of Facebook not always keeping settings where you left them or things like admins of secret groups changing them to closed groups your privacy is never truly quite as secure as what your settings would like you to believe.

Worst of all, because of the real name policy depriving one of anonymity it opens the door to those with malicious intent sharing things you posted under a particular privacy setting with people that the privacy setting was meant to keep away from that information.

So be careful out there, especially on Facebook. Unless you’re like me and have no fucks to give about who knows what about your lifestyle, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the various ways Facebook could leave you exposed if you engage with non-mainstream communities like polyamory or BDSM. If you’ve got a lot to lose by being exposed, you may want to consider choosing different venues for connecting with others of like mind that don’t insist you hand out your real name or aren’t also deeply tied to your more vanilla life the way Facebook tends to be.

(Discerning Deviant is supported entirely through reader sponsorship via the Discerning Deviant Patreon.)

The Adulterer’s Accomplice

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It’s astonishes me how many people think that because I’m polyamorous that I’m perfectly cool with cheating. People are strangely open with me about their lack of faithfulness to their partners, despite not being willing to tell their partners about their sexual dalliances. In my experience, people who are openly polyamorous tend to be more critical of people who deceive their partners, recognizing the inherent violation of informed consent in knowingly withholding information from your partner that might negatively impact their desire to have sex with you.

That is, unless the polyamorous person wants to fuck the cheater, in which case it suddenly becomes not their business what goes on between the cheater and their partner. This is an alarmingly common stance in the polyamory community, though not surprising given how widespread the attitude in society that it’s okay to turn a blind eye to wrongness that is benefiting you. I have literally seen people in fits of wrath over someone cheating on them, while they themselves are cheating with someone who is cheating on someone else.

It’s kind of ridiculous the double standards people have about being honest in sexual relationships. It’s even more absurd when it’s someone who professes to be polyamorous or some other form of Ethical Non-Monogamy. We’re supposed to know better and be above that sort of deceitfulness.  

What blows my mind most, however, is how common it is for people to believe that cheating is wrong but think that having sex with a cheater is okay. They assert that because they’re not the one doing the cheating, their conscience is clean. I’m writing this specifically to call bullshit on that.  

Imagine, if you will, that your friend Jordan came and offered you five dollars for a ride to their lover’s house. No big deal, right? Who doesn’t like helping out their friends? However, on the way Jordan pulls out a revolver and starts loading it. You ask them what the gun is for and they tell you they’re going to kill their lover. The natural reaction, of course, is to mind one’s own business. After all, that’s between Jordan and their lover and if you didn’t give Jordan a ride, he’d just get ride from someone else so might as well get that fiver.  

Obviously, that’s not how that works in the real world. In reality, most people understand pretty well what it means to be an accomplice. Laws against aiding and abetting are based on the moral principle that if someone else is going to do something wrong to another person and we knowingly do something to help them commit that crime then we share in the liability of the harm done.

If you know I handed Bailey the crowbar they used to break open the door to your home so they could rob you, you’d surely be pretty pissed with me even if I didn’t do anything other than give Bailey the tool they used to steal your stuff. Rightfully so if I knew that’s what Bailey was going to do with it when I gave it to them and few people would debate that. Nobody would say “Why are you mad at that weird Discerning Deviant guy? It’s not like he stole your stuff. He just gave Bailey a crowbar knowing they’d use it to break into your house. What’s wrong with that?”  

So why do so many people think the basic principle of Good People Don’t Help People Do Bad Things doesn’t apply to sex. Sex in general seems to have this incredible power to test people’s moral convictions, possibly even more so than money. I understand how great the temptation can be. I’ve cheated in a moment of weakness, though I came clean with it right after I’d done so. I’ve been sorely tempted by offers of sex from people who would have been cheating, though I’d become strong enough by that point to not compromise my values to get temporary sexual gratification. Desire is a powerful thing and I can be forgiving of those who lose the battle between doing what is right and what one wants.

Just don’t expect me to justify the selfish thing as the right thing, nor absolve anyone of their guilt for taking part in someone betraying one of the deepest trusts that humans invest. If you have sex with Dale knowing that Dale is betraying Jesse’s trust by doing so, you’re not cheating on Jesse. You are definitely helping Dale cheat on Jesse, though, and you’ll never convince me that isn’t still a pretty crappy thing to do.

(Discerning Deviant is supported entirely through reader sponsorship via the Discerning Deviant Patreon.)