Archive for the 'Polysexuality' Category

Radically Candid Interview: Tackling Polysexuality

by Jason Stotts

I was interviewed by the Radically Candid Podcast again recently and the show is now up!

As is always the case with Radically Candid, we talked about a lot of different topics, but we primarily talked about polysexuality and various issues as related to it.  It was a lot of fun recording and there’s some interesting info in it.  Head over to Radically Candid to check it out!

 

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On Polysexuality (Revised)

by Jason Stotts  

Summary: Our language related to sex must be expanded to capture all of the variations that we see in real life.  And we need to understand this because sex is good and a valuable part of a human life.  The way we structure our relationships and sex lives has a lot of optionality that depends on the people in the relationship and can include multiple loving relationships or multiple sexual relationships, the right way for any particular couple may not be monosexual monoamory, and this would be fine because polysexuality and polyamory are natural and can be perfectly moral choices.  As long as we observe some simple guidelines, leaving societally structured relationships and constructing our own can help us to live the best kind of lives possible.

Continue reading ‘On Polysexuality (Revised)’

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Polysexuality and Cultural Acceptability

by Jason Stotts

I linked to an article the other day on Scientific American that said:

On Valentine’s Day, images of couples are everywhere. They’re buying each other diamond rings, making eyes over expensive restaurant meals and canoodling over chocolate-covered strawberries and champagne. But two-by-two isn’t the only way to go through life. In fact, an estimated 4 to 5 percent of Americans are looking outside their relationship for love and sex — with their partner’s full permission.

Think about that for just a minute. Let’s focus on just this part: “an estimated 4 to 5 percent of Americans [are polysexual].”  Four or five percent.  The current US population (according to the US Census for July 2012) is 313,914,040 people, 313 million people.  So, that means there are 12,556,562 to 15,695,702 people who are actively polysexual in the United States!  And that number is sure to be dramatically underreported as fears about privacy and shame keep people from honestly reporting.  If you put all those polysexual people in one state it would be the 5th most populated state in the US.

You know what’s a shame?  That those 5% of the US population, those 1 in 20 people feel ashamed at their desires and feel like they will be rejected by society at large.  They feel like they need to hide their real selves and their real desires so as not to be shunned by our society.  What’s really a shame is that these 5% of people are the ones acting most naturally according to our human nature.  We are a naturally polysexual species and if it weren’t for the judeo-islamic-christian hatred of the body, then more people would feel free to be themselves and act according to their nature.

Consider a contrast case.  Most estimates put the homosexual population of the US around 3.5%.  Think about that for a minute.  What was life like in the US for the gay population in the 50’s?  What is it like now?  What’s the difference between the gay population now and the polysexual population now?  There are more polysexuals, so it’s not that.  The difference is that some brave gays stood up and fought to be recognized as real people.  They fought against the religious hatred and mysticism and fought to be recognized as a normal and natural sexual orientation (which it is).

Why not the polysexuals?  There are more polysexuals than gay people (although, admittedly  there is definitely overlap between the populations).  Why can’t the polysexual population stand up and say: “We are not ashamed of our sexuality!”  All the movement needs is a charismatic leader who is willing to be the face of the movement and who can argue clearly why polysexual is both natural and normal and nothing to be ashamed about.

Frankly, I think it’s time that polysexual people stop hiding in their closets and come out to their friends and families about their lifestyles.  If 1 in 20 people came out, there would be no stopping the movement.  Even if you don’t think you know someone who is polysexual, if you know more than 20 people, the you definitely do.  It’s time that we end this crazy puritanical fear about sex and started living our lives in whatever way works best for us without any fear or shame.

A world where people can sexually be themselves is a world I want to live in.

—————-

See also my related essay: Sexuality and Privacy

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Sexuality and Privacy

by Jason Stotts

I think that some of the ideas that people hold about sex are quite interesting.  Some people think that monogamy is natural (it isn’t, although it still might be an optimal form of relationship for some people).  Some people think that the purpose of sex is reproduction (that’s only one possible end of sex, the number of live births per sex act is about 1 to 1,000). Some people think that only heterosexuality is natural (it’s not, a certain percentage of the population is homosexual in any culture).

Another interesting idea is that sex is private.  Some people take this idea so far that they won’t discuss anything related to sex: not things related to reproduction, not things related to sexual health, not things related to relationships, not anything at all.  This, however, is completely irrational.

Sex is an important part of a human life.  Unfortunately, we’re not born knowing anything about sex.  Not about how to do it, not about how to do it safely, and especially not how to do it well.  We must learn all this information and we can either do that through trial and error or by learning about sex from others, in the way we learn about everything else.  The problem with trial and error is that, while it works adequately for things like technique, it works terribly for things like sexual health and reproduction.  Many STI’s are incurable and will harm a person’s life.  Getting pregnant when you don’t intend to can be very traumatic and forces a person to choose between options they might not want: carrying a child to term or getting an abortion.  Even with sexual technique, trial and error isn’t a great option.  Most people know little to nothing about sexual anatomy or technique and their lives would be greatly improved by this knowledge.

Thus, a person’s life would be objectively improved by learning about sex and sexuality.  Consequently, to not learn about sex, at least the basics, would be immoral.

Now, admittedly, there is some sense in which sex can, and perhaps should, be private.  The things you do sexually with your partner, or partners, is no one’s business except your own.  You can choose to share that information with others or not.  While I don’t think you should just tell everyone you meet about your sexual exploits, I also think that it’s good to talk to at least some people about it.  Many people, especially before the advent of internet forums and chat rooms, thought that their sexual practices were unique to them and abhorrent, because they went beyond the christian idea that sex is only for reproduction and not for pleasure.

If we more freely shared information about our sex lives, then we would see that others have the same desires, thoughts, fantasies, and feelings.  Sharing information about our sexualities would help to normalize different kinds of behaviors and desires in our culture, behaviors and desires that are actually already common in practice.  Part of what makes certain kinds of sexuality shameful for some people is thinking that their desires are “abnormal” and this troubles them.  But, I doubt anyone has a truly unique sexual desire.  In fact, the range of what’s (statistically) “normal” would probably surprise most people; like, for example, adultery (more than 50% of people in our culture have experienced infidelity).

So, the question is, what is the line that we should walk regarding sex and privacy?  Certainly, we should not tell everything to everyone, but neither should we make the mistake of not even talking about sex with our partners.  We should treat sex as a normal part of a healthy human life and as an important part of what it means to live a happy human life.  We should always talk to our partner or partners about it and about our likes and dislikes, our desires, and our fantasies.  We should seek out information about sexuality to improve our lives and make sure that we have adequate information about sexuality to live well.  Ultimately, the exact amount of information that one shares with others, to whom they share it, and in what contexts, is a matter of personal preference and personality and must be decided by each individual. However, we must not let our personal preference lead us to live less well than we could otherwise.

Another question we should address is why people want to keep their entire sex lives private and feel shame whenever sex is discussed openly.  This shame comes from accepting ideas that that sexuality is base and low, that it is not natural, and that it is unimportant or even detrimental to living a good life.  In our culture, these ideas come from the christian hatred of the body and of this world.  In christianity, copying Plato, the body is nothing but a corporeal prison of the soul that taints it with its desires, urges, and drives.  These base bodily things cloud the purity of the soul and prevent it from reaching its highest possible state in the realm of the forms (heaven).   People who believe these misanthropic things and internalize these beliefs experience shame about their bodies and about natural bodily processes.  They also experience irrational expectations about what their bodies should be like and how they should behave.

Now, it can be perfectly rational to not disclose everything about one’s sexual practices and past to just anyone.  However, if the reason that one doesn’t share any information is due to shame, then this is illegitimate and needs to be worked at to be overcome.  There are lots of reasons why one might not want to disclose information about one’s sexuality, like fear of reprisal, loss of future job prospects, etc.  However, it should be pointed out that the situation won’t ever improve for people with alternative sexualities until they start coming out in large numbers so that “normal” people realize that they actually know people who are gay, or who are polyamorous, or who are swingers, or who are into BDSM, etc.  There is very clear historical evidence for this in the gay movement, where homosexuality was considered aberrant and unnatural, until gay people started coming out in large numbers and demanding recognition for who they were.  Now, although our culture still has some hang-ups about homosexuality, the culture is moving inexorably towards treating gay people as real people who have rights and can participate in societal rituals like marriage.  If other alternative sexual groups want to have the same kind of recognition and acceptance, they too must come out and be open about who they are.

Ultimately, there are good reasons to keep sex private, but there are also very good reasons to be open about sexuality and to share information about sexuality.  The appropriate path for any particular person must be cut by them, but I hope that this essay will have given some useful things to think about when considering whether to share information about sexuality and how much information to share.  I do think that if we are to err in our disclosures, it would be better for all of us to err on the side of too much disclosure rather than too little, because at least with too much disclosure we will see our society change for the better.  Additionally, if we don’t discuss this oh so very important part of human life, this leads us to have a sub-optimal life and will impede our long-term happiness.

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Question: The Moral Hazard of Bisexuality

by Jason Stotts

I love getting questions from readers, even though  I don’t always feature them on Erosophia.  This question is one that many people probably have, so I thought I’d share it and my response for those of you who won’t ask, but still want to know.

Today’s question is on the moral hazard of bisexuality:

Hey Jason,

I just discovered your blog today and it is truly enlightening. It’s great to see such reasoned application of Objectivism to sexuality.

My question is whether you’ve covered this topic before (I did not see it by searching the tab under “Bisexuality”)

Should a bisexual male who can love women and is attracted to them, also have sex with men who he is only attracted to sexually? I am very turned on to the idea of receptive sex with men, sometimes, but I don’t think I can ever “love” them. I guess I’m a Kinsey 2 maybe. I rarely, if ever, see a man in real life and get turned on. But I know receptive sex and having someone turned on by me is appealing.

If one were to fulfill those sexual desires, wouldn’t they be divorcing sex from emotion if they can’t love a man?

Thanks a lot,

Stephen

PS: My girlfriend knows about this attraction (and she is perfectly fine with me exploring it).

It’s a good question, isn’t it?  Here’s my response:

Stephen,

I haven’t covered this topic explicitly in terms of bisexuality, but I have covered issues of non-monogamy before, like in my essay “On Polysexuality” or “Sex without Love.” Basically, my position is just because you have sex with someone you don’t love doesn’t necessarily divorce your sex from your emotions. I don’t think you can think of this issue in terms of “will this particular sex act divorce my emotions and sexuality,” but rather, “is the general way I approach sex and relationships going to divorce sex and emotions from each other.” I think that a person in a committed relationship has less to worry about divorcing sex from love than does a single person, since the person in a committed relationship has already firmly connected love and sex in his life through his relationship. So, check out those essays first.

Now, some practical suggestions. If you don’t want to worry about the risks and strains associated with bringing a new partner into your relationship, there is always the option of pegging (1, 2, 3, 4). If your girlfriend is open to the idea, that would be a way to experience receptive anal sex without the risk of disease, opening of your relationship, or any worry about divorcing sex and emotions.

Also, have you considered a threesome with another bisexual man? if you don’t know any personally, try an alternative sexual lifestyle website like Kasidie or another good site. I would not, however, suggest Craig’s List. There’s a really big difference between the people who are seeking out sex in a swinging context with its established guidelines about how to behave and emphasis on safer sex (no sex is truly safe) and those who are seeking it out on CL. A threesome can make both you and your partner feel safer, since you’re experiencing everything together.

Ultimately, I think that you can safely fulfill your desires and not run any sort of moral risk if you are honest and open with yourself, your partner, and any future lover about what you want and need.

~Jason

P.S. Feel free to write me if you have more questions.

If you have a question you want answered, write to me.  If you want private consultation about your sex life or relationship, we can work out an arrangement for that too.  I’ve been wanting to get into some sex and relationship direct-advice-giving (it’s illegal to call it counseling)  and there’s no time like the present to start.

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Aporia: Sexual Identity

by Jason Stotts

What is sexual identity?  Is it simply being gay or straight?  Is it all possible facts about our sexuality?  Is it how we structure our relationships and love as well?  Does my sexual identity include facts about whether I’m monogamous or practice polyamory?  Should it include whether a person has sexual integrity?  Should fetishes and desires be included?

This issue has captured my attention recently while contemplating sexual orientation.  People often refer to a person’s sexual orientation as their “sexual identity,” yet, that seems much too thin to me.  I certainly don’t think that describing a person as straight or gay exhausts their sexual identity: in fact, it seems like more of a basic starting point than any deep information.  If all straight people were the same as each other, if all bisexual people were the same as each other, if all gay people were the same as each other; then sexual orientation might exhaust sexual identity.   But this is plainly not the case.  Sexual identity must be something more than simply orientation, although orientation is definitely a part of it.

But what else should sexual identity include?  It seems, at least at first blush, like it should include anything and everything about a person’s sexuality to which they are firmly committed and which form the core of their sexual experience.  By this I mean that if a person can’t think about sexuality without thinking of it through the lens of BDSM, then this is an important part of that persons’ sexual identity.  If a person can’t imagine becoming sexually aroused without their fetish, then this is an important part of their sexual identity.  So, tentatively, let us say that anything without which a person couldn’t imagine their sex life being good for them is an important part of their identity.

But, this raises the question, should literally anything be included?  Should we have to include anything in a statement of our sexual identity?  Should I need to say that: “I’m into {a,b,c,f,u}, but not {d, z, r, t}, and sometimes {q, j}?”  That seems much too cumbersome.  Of course, on the other hand, it’s not too likely that any particular person has a large set of sexual things that are very important to him.  Most people could probably communicate their identity with something like: I’m a bisexual woman who is mostly monogamous with slight polyamory leanings and also like some light BDSM.  It certainly seems like the stronger you hold a desire, the more it is part of who you are.

Perhaps it would be useful to delimit identity to just a couple of axes that are the most important, like: orientation, level of overall desire, sexual openness, relationship and love openness, and interest in kink.  Each of these could have a scale of 0-6 denoting orientation (Kinsey Scale), overall level of desire (asexual – nymphomania?), (monosexual – polysexual), (monogamous – polyamorous), (none – very kinky).  It’d be a little awkward to get it going, but it’d be easy to communicate your overall desires to someone quickly as “I’m a {6,6,0,0,6},” which would be a very kinky, very horny, homosexual.

Even if the scale idea doesn’t take off, and there’s no doubt it’d be a lot to get people to go to it and it might not even be worth it, I think I’m at least correct that sexual identity is much more than simply sexual orientation and if we at least move to a richer view of sexual identity, then we will have a better chance to understand our own sexuality and communicate it to others.

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Formspring: Sex without Love?

by Jason Stotts

Another question from a reader from Formspring:

What are your thoughts on relationships that are purely sexual in nature and in which there is no expectation of romance or dating?

This is a complicated question. From a moral standpoint, this can be done perfectly morally.  I’ve talked about the criteria for this kind of relationship before (see “On Polysexuality“), but briefly you need to be open and honest with the other person, share fundamental values, and make sure you don’t treat sex too lightly.  If you can pass these hurdles, then it can be moral.  (For more information on this, see Peikoff’s Podcast, #174 where he states clearly that as long as you share values, it can be moral).

Now, the treating sex lightly one is important as if you only ever have sex without there being a deeper relationship, then you can damage your capacity for intimacy and make it harder, or impossible, to really get close to a person who you do care about. This is the problem that some porn stars and prostitutes complain about, saying that they feel like sex doesn’t have that same kind of intimate connection for them like it does for most people and used to have for them.  Now this is less of a problem if you’re in a pre-existing relationship and you’re being non-monogamous, since you already have a partner you love and you have love and sex wedded together there.  If not, then you can still engage in a purely sexual relationship, but you need to be very aware of what you’re doing, how you feel about it, and work to make sure you’re not devaluing sex.

So, I don’t think they’re ideal, and I do think they could be dangerous, but they can be moral and in the right circumstances they can be very valuable.

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Sexual Distinctions: Candaulism, Cuckold, Threesomes

by Jason Stotts

In this post, I want to draw some distinctions between different, but somewhat similar, sexual practices.

Candaulism

Candaulism is a term that comes to us from the Greek myth of King Candaules. In the myth, the king surreptitiously reveals his wife to one of his ministers. The sexual practice, then, is when one partner gains pleausre by showing off his partner, whether in person or imagery, to others, whether with the consent of his or her partner or not.

Cuckoldry

Traditionally, cuckoldry is the practice of having sex with a person that is not one’s partner, without one’s partner’s knowledge or consent. Thus, traditionally it was synonymous with infidelity.  However, cuckoldry now has taken a different form and refers to the fetish whereby one partner, almost exclusively the male partner in a heterosexual relationship, derives sexual pleasure from either the knowledge that his partner is having sex with someone besides himself or from watching his partner have sex with someone besides himself.

However, in cuckoldry there is a power imbalance and the man is being “forced” to endure this for his more dominant partner. The practice also has very strong connections to humiliation and shame, as the cuckold is seen as powerless to stop his partner from engaging in this behavior and is, thereby, humiliated. It is also important to note that although this deals with shame and humiliation, the man actually does want his partner to do these things. Paradoxically, cuckoldry requires the cooperation and consent of the cuckold. Otherwise, cuckoldry devolves into simple infidelity and/or humiliation. Indeed, the cuckold derives pleasure from being “made” to watch his partner be sexual with someone else or to listen to stories of his partner being sexual with someone else.

Swinging

Swinging is where a couple is polysexual (non-monogamous) together and seeks out other individuals or couples for sexual activities. In this, the partners predominantly act together as a unit and generally “play” together, although some swingers do play separately. In swinging, there is not a power differential. Swinging is distinguished from a simple threesome by being engaged in over a longer period of time as a “lifestyle.” Further, swingers may engage in threesomes, foursomes, or groups of more.

Polyamory

Polyamory is distinguished from the above by being primarily about loving more than one person at a time. While this usually includes sex, it does not necessarily involve sex.

Threesomes

A threesome is a sexual situation where a couple invites a third person into their sexual relationship, whether for a single night or for a longer term, and then either one or both of the partners engage in sexual activities with this person. In this set up, both of the partners in the relationship consent to the arrangement and have equal standing in the relationship.  There is not a power differential as there is in cuckoldry.

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