Archive for May, 2009

advice: yours and mine
May 28, 2009

Today’s is a two-part post. Well, maybe three. Sort of. Part 1 is some news. Part 2 is a few questions for you as a reader. Part 3 is some writing, but it relates back to part 2. Anyway. You’ll get what I mean as you go.

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Part 1: News! Or shameless self-promotion, your pick.

Some cool Xtra! articles…

I’ve done some fun writing work lately and thought you might be interested in some links! For starters, I’ve had articles in the last three issues of Xtra. On May 7, a piece about Kinkalicious, a new annual kink-positive weekend event run by an old acquaintance of mine who, like me, spends a lot of time in both Montreal and Toronto. On May 14, the first article in a three-part series about the newly launched Rainbow Health Ontario organization. The series takes a look at the realities of queer health care in Ontario’s 14 different LHINs, or Local Health Integration Networks, each representing the interests of a region of Ontario. Expect the next two instalments between now and mid-June. Lastly, a piece about the first-ever Trans Pride March to be held in conjunction with Pride celebrations in Toronto.

… and a magazine launch…

In addition to the Xtra! stuff, a few months back I wrote an article for Women & Environments International Magazine about the website Safe2Pee.org, a hacker-run website that provides a Google Maps mashup where users can submit listings of safe bathrooms for trans people and, in some cases, people with disabilities. It covers over 400 cities worldwide. The mag has now been published and it’ll be launched Thursday night (May 28) at the Toronto Women’s Bookstore (73 Harbord St.), with a panel featuring several of the contributors, myself included. It starts at 7 p.m. Come say hello!

… and a trip to Australia! Yay!

In other news, I’m going to be spending almost the entire month of July in Australia. I’ve got a couple of speaking gigs in the works, but nothing confirmed yet. If you’re a reader in Australia and you know of an establishment or group that might like me to speak, drop me a line at veryqueer3 at yahoo dot ca. Also, if you just want to meet up, that’d be great!

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Part 2: Questions for you.

I’m in the process of doing some thinking about what I want this blog to be all about. And while I certainly reserve the right to make final decisions based on what I feel best about, I’m very curious to have your input as a reader. Feel free to respond in the comments section, or send me an e-mail at veryqueer3 at yahoo dot ca. I would really appreciate anything you have to say!

1. Product reviews. I’ve always resisted doing product reviews here, because I feel this is a place for intellectual engagement, not so much for my opinions about the latest trendy dildos or lubes. But I’ve been approached by three or four different sex toy companies in the last few months who’d really like me to review their stuff. I’m still feeling lukewarm about the idea, but I’m interested in your take. Would product reviews be a bad plan? If so, why? On the flip side, would you be interested in hearing my (totally uncensored) opinions about the latest in sex toys? If so, any comments as to how you’d like to see that happen (format, frequency, etc.)?

2. Newsletter. I’ve had a lot of people ask me how they can be notified about my upcoming workshops and talks. I keep telling them to check my workshops page here for a list, but I realize that’s not the most efficient manner of spreading the word since I update it as things get confirmed rather than on any predictable basis. Also, it puts the onus on you to do the legwork. I’m thinking it might be a good idea for me to start sending out a monthly newsletter for interested parties. What do you think? Good idea or that much more spam?

3. Advertising. How would you feel about seeing advertising on this site? Again, I’m resistant for a long list of reasons, but I’m also hesitant to turn down a way of earning some income from the work I do here. The economy sucks and I’m going back to grad school soon. Y’know what I mean? Editing jobs are good and all, but if I were making a bit of cash on the blog, I might be able to drop a couple of boring contracts and post here more frequently instead. Of course I would be super choosy about whose ads I might accept. But I’m asking in principle.

4. Advice columns. A few times now, I’ve used this blog to post pieces that could most accurately be called advice columns. As in, someone sends me an e-mail with a burning question about deviant sexuality, and I post the question and my answer here. It’s been totally sporadic, but I’m wondering what the response would be if I did it more frequently. Does that sort of thing interest you? Or is reading about people’s personal problems a great big bore? Rest assured that no matter what, I have no interest in eclipsing the other writing I do with advice stuff, but taking a few questions once a month or something… I dunno. What do you think?

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer, folks.

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Part 3: An example of that advice thing I was asking about.

The following is a note sent to me by george, a 54-year-old Southern gentleman who’s finally coming to terms with his desire to, in his words, live “a life of discipline and service.” Read on if you’re curious. (The entire thing is posted here with his explicit permission, of course.) His capitalization drives me a bit nuts, but I respect that for some people, this is intended only as a sign of respect and as an expression of their own identity, and not as an unbridled assault on standard English style.

Dear Madam: Please know that i am NOT trying to “hit” on You. i was perusing profiles in a group that includes male & female. i send this missive, because You are one of the few people who write with clarity. i came to fetlife hoping to conncect with someone/anyone who could accept me as i am. Several Women have been in touch, but for reasons of distance, or otherwise, i’ve yet to inspire anyone. If You don’t mind, i’m going to pose a question or two & ask Your advice. 1) i feel that my age might be a deterrent–i’m 54. What is the best way for me to approach a Dominant Woman? i can assure You that sex is NOT a primary motive. What i enjoy is a Woman’s power. i am more about service & being used in any capacity. 2) There are so many more men, here, than Women. Generally speaking, i suppose this is true for the “kink” lifestyle. i want so much a life of discipline & service that i am now ready to consider same sex encounters/relationships. i am initially quiet & shy, so this avenue is somewhat frightening. Do You have any advice about groups,here, & how i might proceed? i do so appreciate Your time & consideration…george(real name)

Hello george,

Thank you for clearly stating your intentions from the get-go.

To answer your questions…

i feel that my age might be a deterrent–i’m 54.

I wouldn’t worry about that terribly much. The BDSM scene is home to people of a huge age range, and you’re by no means at the outer edge of it. I’ve seen people old enough to be my grandparents enjoying the heck outta themselves in this little world of ours, and not just a few of them. As long as you don’t let your age become your own self-created deterrent, you should do just fine. If your local scene seems weighted toward a younger crowd, keep looking – the shiny young sexy things are perhaps at times the most visible face of the community, but they are not the whole of it.

What is the best way for me to approach a Dominant Woman? i can assure You that sex is NOT a primary motive. What i enjoy is a Woman’s power. i am more about service & being used in any capacity.

Respect (not fawning). Genuine listening (and that includes reading someone’s full profile before messaging them, and avoiding a cut-and-paste approach). Honesty and clear communication – like the words you have just written above about what you seek. Good boundaries (minimal expectations, maximum openness). These are the things I would say are worth keeping in mind when you approach someone. Beyond that, warmth and a genuine statement of what you are interested in will take you far.

There are so many more men, here, than Women. Generally speaking, i suppose this is true for the “kink” lifestyle.

I don’t think that’s necessarily true. There are tons of women in the kink scene, and I’ve never seen anything that would lead me to believe the numbers are skewed toward men. What is true is that dominant women are more rare – our culture discourages it. The peril of being a hetero male submissive is that you’re up against an enormous number of other guys who want something similar to you, and you’re all facing limited resources to meet the demand. Set yourself apart by your quality above all – self-awareness, authenticity, reliability and so forth. Most of all, respect. Women (dominant or otherwise!) tire of being approached again and again by men who are besotted with a vision of who they want her to be, and worse, a sense of entitlement to her embodiment of that fantasy. See her for who she actually is, don’t try to make her something else, and don’t let your desires get in the way of that clarity.

i want so much a life of discipline & service that i am now ready to consider same sex encounters/relationships. i am initially quiet & shy, so this avenue is somewhat frightening.

I must say, that’s an interesting idea. You could potentially acquire some valuable experience this way, and who knows, perhaps you would develop or discover a sexual interest you didn’t know you had. I’ve seen it happen! Still, I would caution you to nonetheless be absolutely clear about what you’re seeking if you approach a male dominant: do not pretend to be interested in gay sex if that’s not your bag, and be sure to indicate that while you might be up for serving in that capacity (if indeed you are) it is not your primary interest. Watch carefully that your potential dominant is not seeking that above all else either. “Pure” (?) (i.e. not primarily or necessarily sexual) dominance is fairly rare regardless of gender, but it’s definitely out there.

Do You have any advice about groups,here (i.e. on Fetlife), & how i might proceed?

I would advise that you join a few of the Master/slave groups – the discussions there seem to be quite rich, and you will certainly encounter like-minded individuals there who may be able to provide further advice. But while you’re waiting for your future dominant to show up, take the time to work on yourself. Read up on leather traditions and protocols (I can suggest some books if you like). Take care of your physical/medical, emotional, financial and intellectual health. Learn about and practice various types of service via mundane means – books, workshops, training (massage therapy, cooking, wine, household arts, basic repairs, bookkeeping, cultural awareness, etc.). Experiment with creating your own structure and discipline to see how you respond to different approaches. Pour your efforts into making yourself into a shining example of a well-adjusted, self-aware, healthy individual with a strong penchant for service. That will make you a worthy prize for a dominant with a keen eye!

death, love and the illusion of control
May 22, 2009

It’s a balmy, summery night and I am sitting near an open window, letting the leftover warmth of the day mingle with the light cool breeze and whisper over my skin. There’s something about nights like this that never fails to hit a chord of… nostalgia? Anticipation? I’m not sure exactly, but it’s bittersweet, a hard-to-describe emotion that hovers between happy and sad, richness and longing, deep calm and humming excitement. Summer is on the way, but it’s not quite here yet. Things are about to happen. I have lots of plans and ideas, but there’s still much room for the unknown.

Contrasting emotions seem appropriate right about now. My grandfather passed away earlier this week at the ripe old age of 90. He was a wonderful man, gentle and kind, but hard to get to know, and all the more so as Alzheimer’s set in over the last seven or eight years. I loved him, but in that somewhat abstract way that you love someone who’s related but whom you don’t really feel deeply connected to. It was a strange experience to sit vigil by his bedside for two nights, listening to his breaths, counting them sometimes, knowing that any one of them could be his last, and knowing that in some ways I was more intimate with him in those dark hours than I ever had been before, holding his hand and letting him squeeze when he was hurting until the sedatives and painkillers kicked in and he wasn’t squeezing anymore. That intimacy wasn’t about talking or getting to know one another. It was about silence and presence and listening and occasional touch. I wouldn’t have wished for his passing, but I am grateful to have had the chance to connect with a man from whom I inherited a penchant for writing, but with whom I never once shared a deep conversation. Sometimes words just aren’t the point.

Death and funerals are, again, bittersweet. Family comes together, the tone is hushed. Loss, vulnerability, fear, sadness, all are present, and yet there is also the warmth and joy of reuniting with loved ones from all over the country who don’t often find the time to connect, the sense of being surrounded and cradled.

What people don’t talk about, so often, are the logistics of death. Figuring out finances, and burial arrangements, and funeral arrangements, and wills, and travel arrangements for people coming from afar, and how to feed everyone and where they will stay, and obituaries and dress pants and flowers and donations and receptions and who, exactly, will be keeping Granny company through all this at what time and with which car and when’s the appointment with the rector again?

Oddly enough this reminds me of the logistics of non-monogamy. Many people’s needs all come rushing together in a common space that nobody could necessarily have predicted, because death and love are both like that: unpredictable. We knew Granddad was leaving us, but we didn’t know when, and even though a few weeks ago I remember telling my mother “this feels like the beginning of the end,” the speed of it came as a surprise. I never expected to fall in love with two bois, one quickly, almost instantly, the other over a period of weeks and months and hey, what do you know, this goes deeper than I realized, and now here we are, months and years later, and what are we doing? Juggling logistics. Who’s travelling to see who when, and where are we spending the holidays, and when do we each get alone time and couple time and triad time, and with Boi L overseas, who’s putting what in the care packages and delivering them when, and when are the webcam dates and the phone dates and who owes who an e-mail and what, exactly, will it all look like when she gets back? Unpredictable indeed. My grandfather died of old age. My boi could die of a random roadside bomb. Boi M could get hit by a bus tomorrow, or one of my planes could crash as I fly somewhere to give a talk. Death is beside us at every turn, and we just have to make peace with its possibility or we’ll go nuts trying to control it.

Again, I turn to the similarities with love. I’ve been plowing through Tristan Taormino’s book Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships, and while it’s definitely a thoroughly researched and very engaging read, some bits of it rub me the wrong way, and I’ve noticed they’re all centred around the idea of control. Take the following paragraph for example, on negotiation:

“Negotiation is one of the most important steps in designing your open relationship. I simply do not believe in attitudes such as “Let’s just see how it goes,” “We can decide on a case-by-case basis,” or “We’ll make it up as we go along.” I am all for spontaneity, but not when it comes to people’s relationship values and boundaries. You want to go into an open relationship with very clear intentions and limits. You want to have those intentions and limits articulated, and in doing so, leave nothing unsaid. Nothing should be implied in the negotiation process; it should all be spelled out. Neglecting to anticipate and make decisions about important issues in advance can be a recipe for disaster.”

This approach is so foreign to me, I almost don’t know where to begin. I feel like the attitude of pre-negotiating everything down to its last detail leaves out the most important feature of relationships: the people. Whether you’re single or part of a couple already, how can you possibly “design” a relationship with someone new before you’re in it? How can you do anything but decide on a case-by-case basis? Trust and intimacy and connection and chemistry and life situations and energy levels – these are not things that can be known ahead of time, precisely because they are about what happens when two (or more) people come together and something new and unforeseen is created. These are simply not things we can control. Sure, it’s a good idea to have a strong understanding of your own values and a basic idea of your deal-breakers, but beyond that, the very idea of “designing” a relationship before there’s an actual person to engage in it with strikes me as ludicrous. Relationships, especially new ones, are all about growth and change and discovery – otherwise we call them “stagnant.” How can you possibly predict how love or attraction will go, when it will show up, with whom, in what manner, to what degree of intensity, and with what resulting practical and logistical challenges?

Like in most of the book, in the paragraph quoted above, “open relationships” are implicitly understood to be based on a couple that then chooses to open up its doors to possibilities with others. Tristan does include a section on “solo poly” to acknowledge that some people do non-monogamy in ways that are not based on a founding pair-bond, but even then, she sets it up as though there were two options: open-concept couple or freewheeling single by choice. There’s very little room made for people, especially experienced poly people, who simply approach all their relationships from a poly worldview regardless of whether they’re currently single or heavily partnered or somewhere in between – because lord knows, sometimes finding one right partner, let alone several, can be a real challenge. And there’s nothing much said about the (many) people who are single because their relationship(s) ended, not because they make a principled choice to enjoy singlehood. For all that it’s technically about open relationships, Taormino’s book is heavily weighted toward the assumption of couplehood, with very little addressed to all the (again, many!) individual people out there to whom these couples, or their component parts, might open their arms – or who might like to found their own couple, or triad, or other poly formation.

Of course, if we’re looking at things from a base-couple perspective, I can see how negotiating the details of what’s okay and what’s not okay to do with other people could be useful. And yet – even then, such negotiations, when carried out in a vacuum, are only useful insofar as they help people figure out what their feelings and desires look like abstractly, in the absence of a full third (or fourth, or…) person whose own desires, availabilities, interests, and so forth must necessarily impact what the whole equation looks like. So Taormino’s two-page checklist about the “characteristics of affectionate or sexual activities” is fine and good, except that never in a million years could I tell my partners whether it’s okay for them to perform analingus on someone without knowing who that someone might be. In some cases, I wouldn’t want my partners to touch someone with a ten-foot pole – if I totally didn’t trust the person in question. In other cases, pretty much anything up to and including moving into our home with us would (eventually) be fine. The point is not about specific activities, it’s about whether or not I feel a potential new lover is respectful and trustworthy. And trust is not something you can decide on ahead of time. It is necessarily a case by case scenario – unless, of course, you want to function with a rigid model into which your future potential partners must absolutely fit on penalty of disqualification, or set limits so tight that they would apply even if you didn’t trust the new person further than you could throw them. In which case, more power to ya – but most people won’t fit, so you may have a very hard road ahead.

I think what bugs me about this A-to-Z pre-negotiated approach to non-monogamy is that it attempts to control the uncontrollable, to predict the unpredictable, to define and categorize human connection and experience that has not yet even occurred. I have yet to meet anyone who’s been genuinely successful at pouring love into a pre-made mould and having it actually gel. Further, though, such an approach smacks of fear – fear of the unknown, of the unpredictable, of the very richness of possibility that poly relationships bring to the table. When we make decisions based in fear, we restrict ourselves from opportunities, and the kicker is that bad things still happen.

Why? Because we cannot control the future. We can’t control the future of love any more than we can truly choose the moment of our own death (unless you think suicide is a good idea, which, come to think of it, is perhaps an apt metaphor here). All the energy we expend in trying to structure the world of our relationships so that it’s safer, more predictable, less frightening, more to our liking, so that we can reassure ourselves that surely everything will now be just perfect because we planned it all out that way – the universe regularly makes a joke of us, shows us that these attempts are useless and hollow. But for some reason, some people still invest in maintaining that illusion.

I say drop the illusion of control. Invest that same energy in self-awareness and self-knowledge. Invest that effort in finding ways to feel stronger and more secure regardless of the tapestry of relationship into which you are currently woven. Invest in cultivating flexibility, and openness, and listening skills. Invest in figuring out what you’re like in relationships – not what your relationships should be like. Invest in making peace within yourself, in letting go, in opening up in the deepest possible sense of the term. That way, when the moment comes – whether it’s death or love – you’ll be ready for it, whatever it may look like.

on (not) being femme
May 9, 2009

So I’m hanging out in Vancouver this week, for the occasion of Canadian Mayhem, the new West Coast leatherdyke conference. And for some reason, rather than kink, the question that my mind is mulling over is that of queer femininity and femme identity.

I feel like I’m poorly placed to say much about it. Which is in itself part of what’s on my mind. 

I was sitting in a sushi restaurant all of two hours after my arrival (how very Wet Coast) with my very kind, very gentlemanly and very butch/transmasculine/masculine-spectrum genderqueer welcoming committee of one. Said individual is very attuned to the complexities of gender identity, and when the word “lady” slipped out in reference to me, said individual made a point to immediately check in about it: “You’re not really a lady, are you? No, I didn’t think so. Something told me I should be careful on that one.” I definitely appreciated the consideration – I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve been assumed to be, and labelled, femme.

This is not to say I have any particular criticism of femmes, or of any specific gender category. I think they’re all fuckin’ awesome. Femmes, specifically, are great. As I discovered today, femmes – some of them at least – are the absolute perfect people with whom to go shoe-shopping (mmmmmGravityPope) and to indulge in my first-ever professional manicure and pedicure. (On the topic of femininity, it was very odd to have someone female-bodied and feminine attending to my feet – the presence of make-up and cleavage below knee level is a highly unusual experience for me. And the lack of oral attention to the toes during pedicure proceedings was also. But hey, I got what I paid for – twenty cute and happy digits.)

In the past I’ve posted my feelings about the not-quite space that some people, including myself, occupy in the realm of gender identity. So I’m not going to go on a philosophical trip right now about what it is that I feel I am. I’m more interested in noting a few of the observations I’ve made in the past couple of days about other people, or more specifically, other people who do identify as femme. In a way this is part of an ongoing project to examine such things, but today it’s just some musings.

I’ve noticed that many of the people who identify as femme seem to invest pretty heavily in building, maintaining and demonstrating pride in that identity. It’s quite a beautiful thing to see, and it serves the odd function of making me feel simultaneously included (hey, I can talk dresses and lipstick and feminism too!) and like an impostor – because for all that I find femme corporeal and sartorial aesthetics to be extremely pleasing, and for all that I myself occupy those physical spaces on a fairly regular basis, I don’t have a strong investment in my femininity, and I don’t always present as feminine, and sometimes I’m downright uncomfortable with my own feminine shape and would rather crawl out of my skin than wear a dress. Perhaps I would be more comfortable claiming “femme” as my own if I inhabited it more reliably and more passionately, but as it stands, the word ends up feeling more like a too-tight halter dress than like an open space into which the whole of me (or even most of me) can elegantly step.

Others have written far more eloquently than I could hope to on the strength and beauty of femme identity. Chloë Brushwood Rose and Anna Camilleri’s anthology Brazen Femme, for starters, is a worthy read. I wish I remembered more about the particulars of how the contributors articulate their identities, because I am left, tonight, musing about questions such as, What does it mean to be femme? Because surely it’s about more than the clothes and the manicures. What are the defining factors, the common cues, the agreed-upon boundaries of where femme begins and where it ends? Where does the line fall between feminine and femme?Could one conceivably be femme without being queer, or does femme imply queerness in a way that makes the term distinct from the more general idea of femininity?

What flavours of femme are there, and how do they overlap with one another, or intersect, or contradict each other? What does it mean to identify as femme within the context of a butch/femme binary? Is that binary a productive one or a restrictive one? What does it mean that, for good long stretches at a time, I myself find deep relational and erotic satisfaction in exactly that binary, while still not feeling at home within “femme” and without expecting that my counterparts in that dance will necessarily identify as “butch,” and what does it mean to disrupt that binary by shifting one or more of its key elements en cours de route? Is it possible, for a frequently-feminine queer woman, to refuse the word “femme” without having others erroneously interpret that refusal as criticism or an implicit invalidation of their own identity? Is it possible to play, socialize and erotically engage outside the binary without unintentionally sending the message to those who are deeply engaged within it that somehow binary-transgressing is avant-garde and that only dinosaurs would still take part in shoring up or living by said binaries? Is it possible to criticize the prevalence of the binary while simultaneously upholding the need for the respect for each individual’s gender identity and choices – as in, can we criticize the butch-femme binary without implicitly criticizing butches and femmes themselves?

What does it mean to identify as femme when you are a person of colour? How does that identity get articulated, how does it make sense? Where is the room, in “femme,” for people who aren’t white, or aren’t able-bodied, don’t possess any number of the other features that are conjured up so regularly by the term? How does it work to be femme and poor, for example, when so much of the bonding I witness between femme women revolves around the maintenance of feminine characteristics that in some ways may require at least some monetary investment? I don’t doubt that butch maintenance, much like that of any other gender, requires money, but I rarely hear the masculine-spectrum folks discussing the particulars of that maintenance with the same gusto.

What cues do people who are not femme look for when dealing with feminine women to determine whether those women are femme or not, and what do such individuals do with that information? What assumptions to queers make about femme women – do femmes get instantly pegged as bottoms, as tops, as anything specific at all?

I gotta finish this up, as it’s three in the morning and I’ve gotta get out of bed and go join the conference craziness. We’ll do more questioning tomorrow.

desperately seeking a hot bi babe (or, the politics of recruiting)
May 1, 2009

First things first. I must put in a plug (ha!) for the workshop I’m teaching this coming Sunday evening at Come As You Are in Toronto: Anal Play for Beginners. It runs 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., no demo bottoms (ha!) needed. Oy, I really must stop with the terrible puns. Anyway, do register if you are curious about buttholes and are free this weekend!

All puns aside, while I’m in the business of plugging things, I must mention how excited I am that Sheri Winston is coming to Toronto to teach a series of workshops through Good For Her, among others. Sheri absolutely rocks. She has got to be the single most knowledgeable person I have ever met when it comes to the topics of female anatomy, women’s sexual health, sexual energy, breath and orgasm. If I weren’t in Vancouver at Canadian Mayhem, I would probably be signing up for every single class she’s teaching. If you have the chance to attend any of her sessions, do not miss them! Go! Go! Her site, with all the relevant details, is here.

***

Today, I came across a link to a frickin’ hilarious piece of thinking put together by none other than Franklin Veaux, poly writer extraordinaire (check my Poly Resources page for a link to his most excellent site). It’s called the Hot Bi Babe Flowchart. I invite you take a look and laugh, possibly at yourself.

An online discussion a couple of years back had me thinking about exactly that topic, so in slightly edited form, I am posting my thoughts from that time. Franklin is way funnier than me, but if you want the intellectualized take, read on!

(On a related note, speaking of intellectual takes on things, I’m thinking that once I finish the Powerful Pleasures reviews, I may just embark on a project to review the many poly books that are currently out there. Feels like it’d be a fun one…)

***

I’ve been thinking about how I might react if a male-female couple asked me to “join” them. I don’t know if this will reflect the experience of the people who’ve actually been part of such a dynamic, but I can share how my thought process might go…

First, I think I’d be quite concerned about the underlying motivations the couple might have for wanting to bring me into their dynamic. Do they want me to come in and single-handedly rev up their sagging sex life? Does the guy want to watch his wife doing some “hot XXX lesbian action” for his masturbatory pleasure? Does he want me in the bed with them because he likes that “typical” male fantasy of having his needs tended to by not one, but two devoted women? Does the wife want to give me as a “present” to her husband? Is she really into me or is it just because he’s pressured her to try it out?

I’m really not into being objectified or fetishized as a bi girl, and sadly, a lot of the interest in bi women on the part of het couples seems to fall into that pattern. This is exemplified in a lot of the experiences I’ve had in swingers’ culture—bisexuality among women is encouraged, and seen to be sexy, but if two men make out everyone would be horrified. This, to me, indicates a total lack of respect for queerness and for the validity of female-female relationships—it’s all about fetishizing (pseudo-)lesbian sex and not at all about respect for different peoples’ identities or orientations.

My other concern would be that I tend not to entirely trust people who have a clear-cut idea of what sort of relationship they want. When people say, “I want to get married by 26 and have two kids by 33,” or “I want a boyfriend who I can see only on weekends because I’m too busy during the week,” or anything else of the kind, it always makes me wonder what’s behind it. What values do they attach to that particular ideal? What makes them so convinced that Relationship Type XYZ will meet their needs—and what assumptions are they making about the person who might fit into that plan? It’s one thing to know your limits, or have “deal-breakers,” but from there to setting out a “perfect relationship plan?” Not so sure.

To me, a relationship depends entirely upon the people in it, their individual chemistry. You can’t plan it or direct it—or if you do, it’s usually to the detriment of someone or something. In my experience, the path to happiness is to enjoy what comes to you. If you have a sense of what you might like, you can place yourself in situations where the likelihood of that coming to you is greater. But the idea of approaching relationships—existing or hoped-for ones—with the equivalent of a five-year business plan just leaves me cold.

So, to be honest, if I knew of a couple who was actively seeking to bring a bi girl in, it would likely decrease my interest in them because I’d worry about how they’d like to fit me into a pre-existing plan, without necessarily considering that I’m a third person involved in the dynamic, as opposed to the embodiment of their hopes. I’d need to know there was room for me, for what I might want from the relationship—and I’d need to know they liked me for who I am, not simply for what pleasures I might bring them.

None of this indicates that a triad (or occasional threesome) situation holds no appeal for me. I’ve had threesomes of various kinds, and they’ve by and large been stellar experiences. And I can totally see how it would be possible to sustain a viable triad in the longer term when joining a pre-existing couple, if the chemistry was right. But I’d rather see it evolve naturally between me and a given couple, or the three of us as a unit, than feel like I was being “recruited.”

(Note that I originally wrote the above paragraph before I found myself actually in a triad. Apparently a “triad situation” did indeed hold appeal! Mind you, we’re an FTM/F/F triad, and it doesn’t look much like the kind of situation I was describing…)

I can tell you how it’d have to work for me to feel good about it… if a married woman went off on her own and socialized with queer women, made her way in that world independently of her husband, and pursued relationships with women on her own without him necessarily being part and parcel of them, I’d trust her more than if I felt she was on a hunting mission to bring me home to hubby. If we got involved, she could tell me that they were open to threesomes or triads, and let that knowledge sit in the back of my mind. I’d eventually want to meet the husband, and I’d want to feel free to just enjoy his company without the pressure of thinking “oh my goodness, I’m supposed to want to have sex with him!” If I felt any chemistry there too, I’d bring it up myself—if the wife brought it up first, I might start to mistrust the idea. (Of course that all depends on the trust and openness between us in the first place.) Basically any situation in which I felt like a predatory eye was being turned my way, or I was being pressured to hop into bed, would be an instant turn-off.

Of course I can also conceive of meeting a couple in some regular social situation and having instant chemistry between us. It’s happened for me in the past (though more so with queer couples—MM or FF—than with MF ones). But that too would be much more about natural flow than about focused intention.

There’s also the question of the gendered assumptions that come with the search for a “hot bi babe.” On its own, being interested in a hot bi babe is not necessarily problematic—there’s nothing wrong with desiring women. The problem it brings up is, when the quest for a hot bi babe effectively or explicitly becomes a rule about what sort of non-monogamous arrangement is permissible for a given MF couple, what assumptions does such a rule make about the validity or “realness” of same-sex relationships? Such a restriction could trivialize them. It could also idealize or fetishize them. Regardless, it does something unsavoury that’s based on assumptions about gender.

And what does that mean for the potential new female partner in the triad? If I see myself in the situation of being that new person, I’d be really suspicious of the motivation of such a rule. It’s one thing to say “you can only see other people once a week” or “no penetrative sex with other partners” or what-all—and even then, I have my doubts about the effectiveness of and motivations behind such rules—but restricting potential future partnerships to being permitted only with people of a specific gender implies that the people who make that agreement think there is some essential quality or characteristic that one gender has and the other doesn’t, and that a restriction will somehow allow the original couple to avoid dealing with that presumed characteristic. Does the man assume that lesbian sex is less exciting because there’s no penis involved, so his supremacy in the bedroom will reign unchallenged? That women don’t really fall in love with each other so there’s no fear of it getting serious? That eventually the other woman will want to have sex or play with him too so it’s a wise investment? That women don’t transmit STIs to each other so girl-girl sex is safer? That women are understanding and gentle so the new partner won’t push for more time with the woman or express other desires that might challenge the comfort zone?

Perhaps there are some perfectly valid reasons to hold such a restriction, but for the most part it seems really clear to me that it inherently relies on assumptions—in this case about gender characteristics, but really, any poly arrangement that’s based on assumptions is bound to be a problematic one at some point down the line. That sort of restriction would definitely serve as a warning bell to me, the potential new partner, that not all is quite right in the couple’s understanding of what impact I might have on their world, and it suggests that the end result might be an unpleasant one for all concerned. No thanks!

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