How to do it is Slate’s sex advice column. Have a question? Send it to Stoya and Rich here. It’s anonymous!
Every Thursday evening, the crew answers a bonus question in the form of a chat.
Dear how to do,
My six-year-old boyfriend recently told me he wouldn’t care if I slept with someone else, and I’m having a hard time figuring out how to take it. Actually, I don’t want to sleep with anyone else – he brought it up out of the blue. I think he meant he wanted to be a good ally? Like, I think he meant he didn’t want to limit me in life.
But saying that he wouldn’t be jealous makes me wonder if he doesn’t love me as much as he used to, because I tend to think that if you love someone, you will probably care that you do. ‘he be with someone else. Maybe it’s because I don’t see feminism as incompatible with monogamy, so I don’t know what to do with it.
– Jealous feminist
Rich: I think that calls for a brief meditation on love? Love is so personal that little about it is truly universal. Maybe the feeling is, although it’s impossible to say. The thing with umwelten is that you can only have one: yours.
Stoya: And love, like couple sex, changes with each relationship. Or vary. It’s different, that’s the goal.
Rich: And it varies over the course of a relationship.
Stoya: Yes! The way you love yourself changes, the way your partners in your relationships love changes, and the way you love yourself changes. I think it’s important to stress that interest in non-monogamy doesn’t necessarily mean a decrease in love or attachment.
Rich: Your own experience cannot be taken as an indicator of someone else’s: “I tend to think that if you love someone, you will probably care if they are with someone. else. This is egocentric thinking. There are approximately 8 billion people on this planet, all with unique combinations of genetics, epigenetic function, and education. There are many different ways to see and experience this.
Stoya: Maybe his idea of love is jealousy or possessiveness.
Rich: The writer feels that way, but it just isn’t like that for everyone. It is a mistake to confuse dealing with someone’s jealousy with their ability to love. Many non-monogamous couples will tell you that.
Stoya: Maybe her love must be in a closed loop.
Rich: Okay, that’s another room: what you need. The human experience varies enormously, but you have every right to want to be loved in a way that is understandable to you. In fact, knowing this about yourself is a way to make sense of the chaos and determine how you fare in such a diverse world.
Stoya: At your point above, maybe what looks like love for that person is mistaken for expressions of jealousy. If so, it’s worth asking why.
Rich: Right! And this is not to pathologize. There are many suggestions in American culture that to love is to be jealous. Indeed, not being jealous requires a unlearning process for some people who are inclined to non-monogamy. For many, this process is on-going.
Stoya: I haven’t checked on pop culture recently other than Prostitutes. How is jealousy handled in the mainstream media these days?
Rich: Good question! I try to think of everything I have seen that deviates from the general “everyone is monogamous and the suggestion to deviate from it is related to jealous rages” that I have seen. In the much-discussed Netflix series Gender / Life, jealousy provides a major motivation for a husband’s character. For decades, European cinema has normalized non-monogamy and presented characters with laissez-faire approaches to the extracurricular activities of their partners (I’m thinking of the French New Wave and Fassbinder, in particular). But in general I think it’s safe to say that the standards remain fixed in the United States.
Stoya: So I think we can assume that part of our writer’s position is influenced by entertainment. Learning about romantic relationships from entertainment is like watching pornography as sex education. You can certainly learn a few things, but you only see part of the whole picture.
Rich: Yeah, this question is imbued with a kind of pressure from the outside: “I don’t see feminism as incompatible with monogamy. Same! Feminism means you can choose monogamy or non-monogamy! Or try both! The point is your agency to make this decision for yourself.
Stoya: I am so confused by this line.
Rich: Here’s my take: Our writer is female, and she feels a preemptive judgment about not being liberated enough to explore non-monogamy, like hypothetical chatter about the limits of her progressivity. Even if they were real, these voices would be worth ignoring.
Stoya: Thank you. It makes sense to me. I have the impression that our writer thinks too much about it.
Rich: Do you know what that reminds me of? Eyes wide closed (cut off his top literary source, Arthur Schnitzler’s Traumnovelle), in which the mere interest expressed in sex outside the union creates a crisis.
Stoya: The simplest solution is to ask your boyfriend what prompted him to declare himself open to this. I’m sure we could find 15 reasons in a few minutes.
Rich: And yes, ha, that’s exactly what I thought: He said it because he wants to hear it. He puts it into the world. He tries to Secret an open relationship.
Stoya: Aaaaah. Wow. Sherlock Juzwiak.
Rich: It’s a tactic that I may or may not have used at times less simple. I think this letter illustrates the hold of monogamy, and why I think the societal emphasis we place on it can be such a burden. It even makes thinking outside of it so intimidating.
More How to do it
My wife and I have been married for 14 years and together for 17 years. We have a pretty strong relationship after a period of stagnation. With the education of the children, our two careers and all the activities, we found ourselves exhausted. Over the past few years we have refocused on ourselves and our desires, our sex life, our intimacy and our oneness has grown and rekindled. During this time, my wife expressed her desire for a more naughty sex life. She enjoys light BDSM getting filled and stretched by big dildos. We explored this. But when it does come back to me, I have a recurring fantasy and I am very reluctant to share it with her. Fear could be a better word.