Fairly boring person by your column's standards [here], in that I've always identified as a straight male into typical relationships. I've realized, after multiple long-term relationships that were unsatisfying, that monogamy isn't for me. I would like to have a main, fulfilling, and committed relationship without limiting myself sexually or emotionally. I've struggled to remain faithful in the past and don't want to cheat on anyone. I just want the rules to fit me so that I don't have to be considered a cheater. Do you think this detail is something I should disclose to my family and friends? I don't want to cause unnecessary awkwardness, but I also want people to love and accept me for who I am. I feel like this is an issue that activism isn't addressing, and while polyamory seems to be more common today than in the past, I don't see anyone who is publicly "out" as is the case with most of the queer community. I'm also not too deeply involved with that community, so maybe I just don't see the activism happening.
-Pondering over Life's Yearnings
If you're not seeing anyone who is poly and publicly out, POLY, then you're not watching Showtime, which broadcast two seasons of Polyamory: Married & Dating, and you're not paying attention to poly activists who are out—like Diana Adams, an attorney (dianaadamslaw.net) who specializes in nontraditional family relationships.
"I applaud POLY for considering boldly coming out as polyamorous to his family and friends," says Adams. "We need more people to come out in order to destigmatize polyamory. I came out as poly in the national media six years ago, and I built my career as an attorney advocate for queer and polyamorous families."
Adams recognizes that not all poly folks can be out—some work for conservative employers, some could lose custody of their kids—but she believes that poly people who can be out, should be out. "For those of us who have the privilege to be out, I encourage us to speak our truth, which will support a cultural understanding of healthy relationships beyond monogamy—and, of course, help us find like-minded partners. In POLY's case, I urge him to learn more about poly first. Poly has become a major subject of media attention, with profiles of out poly people published practically weekly. Link up with groups like Loving More (lovemore.com) and Open Love NY (openloveny.com), and follow people like me on Twitter (@dianaadamsesq), and he'll get tuned in to the activism that's happening. He'll also get tapped into resources for creating successful poly relationships."
And a word about those successful poly relationships: Just like successful monogamous relationships, poly relationships have limits—both sexual and emotional. But instead of coming to an agreement with one partner about those limits, you have to hammer out agreements with two or more partners. So when you say you want to be poly so that the "rules fit you," POLY, you better be using the plural "you" and not the singular. "Poly may not be easier to maintain than his monogamous relationships," says Adams. "Poly works for emotional ninjas who possess tremendous emotional awareness and communication skills to create their own agreements with their partner(s). If POLY is ready for that level of effort, poly may work for him so well that he'll want to tell the world."
I'm a 27-year-old straight guy, and I've been in a monogamous relationship with an awesome girl for four years. Our sex life is pretty open and healthy, although it has lost some steam since the first couple of years—but that's normal, right? For the last year or so, every time we have sex, I find myself fantasizing that I'm with someone else. A cute barista, an old fling, that MILF on the bus—in my mind, I'm fucking all kinds of people but never my girlfriend. Am I cheating on my partner? Is this a bad sign for our relationship? Should I admit this to my girlfriend? Should we try an open relationship?
-Mind Fucking Other Women
If fantasizing about fucking someone else while fucking your partner is cheating, MFOW, then we're all adulterers. It's not a great sign that you're doing it every time—you might wanna focus on her at least every other time. As for telling her, well, that depends on how secure she is. If she's realistic about the fact that you're both attracted to other people, perhaps you can broach the subject—you may even be able to share your fantasies about others during sex. But that means you'll have to hear about the baristas and DILFs who turn her on, too, MFOW. Which raises another question: How secure are you?
In the wake of the killings at Isla Vista, and all the #YesAllWomen and #NotAllMen campaigns, I want a change in the dialogue. I want to hear the story of the man who warned a woman after he found out a friend was planning on drugging her, the story of the man who dropped a friend when he found out that his friend had assaulted his girlfriend, the story of the man who blamed the vindictive ex for posting private naked photos and not his female partner who was being victimized. I want to hear those stories. Can you ask your readers to send in stories that will give us women hope?
-One Sad Woman
The #YesAllWomen and #NotAllMen were not concurrent, complementary hashtag campaigns, OSW.
After Elliot Rodger decided to murder the women who had rejected him—women he felt entitled to, per his deranged and misogynistic "manifesto"—millions of women began tweeting under #YesAllWomen about the sexism, sexual violence, and misogyny they experience on a daily basis. When some men—but not all men (sorry)—began responding to those tweets with variations on "We're not all like that!" the #NotAllMen hashtag was born, OSW, and it was a critique. As Phil Plait wrote at Slate: "Why is it not helpful to say 'Not all men are like that'? For lots of reasons. For one, women know this. They already know not every man is a rapist, or a murderer, or violent. They don't need you to tell them... Instead of being defensive and distracting... try staying quiet for a while and actually listening to what the thousands upon thousands of women discussing this are saying."
So I'm a little hesitant to invite men to share their not-all-like-that stories, OSW, because I agree with Plait: Maybe men should shut up and listen? It's also entirely possible for a guy to do the right thing on one occasion—dropping a male friend who did something shitty to a female friend—and then immediately turn around and do something deeply shitty himself. Men shouldn't be encouraged to think that one noble act frees them—frees all of us—from our collective responsibility as men to fight sexism and misogyny.
But I'm running your letter, OSW, and inviting women—stick a cork in it, menz—to jump into the comment thread and share your stories about men who've done the right thing. This is not meant to exonerate men of their responsibility to fight sexism and misogyny, or to minimize the problem because "not all men are like that," but to give men who are reading concrete examples of what it looks like when a dude fights sexism and misogyny.