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!