Why you should care
OZY’s Eugene S. Robinson addresses queries from the love-weary in “Sex With Eugene.”
Poly Wants Some Cracker?
EUGENE, SIR: My wife and I are polyamorous; we hit some snags, but overall we handle concerns well, and we are both very happy. You seem well-versed in the Land of Sexual Relations, so I would love your insight into polyamory. My wife and I have read The Ethical Slut and seek out other information on the topic, yet we find it difficult to find actual people who have successful polyamorous relationships to lend credible advice. I want to note that my wife and I do not have sex with all the people we consider involved in our polyamorous endeavors, so I am looking for that Eugene nuance of yours. Any advice, general or specific, is appreciated. Thank you! — Ian From IN
Dear Man From U.N.C.L.E.: Well, first, I’m going to say something I almost never say and that’s that you both should immediately stop reading books, at least ones on polyamory. Reading books on being poly is like staying inside to read books on going outside. Unless this is part of your “process” and the means by which you two can come to some comfortable conclusions about how you want it to play out, I suggest just going raw dog on this. Two fairly astute, together people shouldn’t need much help making fairly astute, together decisions.
The only word you emphasized was “successful,” so I’d gather those are your marching orders. And that you most likely mean you’ve figured out that unsuccessful ones can be had. For future reference, never forget what made the unsuccessful ones so. The problem with most people is their continued insistence, buoyed by social media and Me-ism, that they matter in the grand scheme of things.
Now, I’m not saying that we don’t matter, but I am saying that it helps most to realize that we only matter to us, not necessarily to others. After embracing that, the next consideration would be to figure out how you matter, if at all, to the people who would make this claim by expressing interest in spending time with you.
In other words, know the room you’re playing. Sometimes the best poly players are people you could almost be friends with. If the friendships are too close, this could cause a problem. If they’re too distant, also a problem. In the near-friend zone, though, you might find people who understand that they are bit players in the prevailing drama, which is you and your partner. One step above a dildo, one step below a paramour.
Also, and this is more important than it might seem, communications between couples should be gender restricted, for planning or chatting. You talk to the other man; she talks to the other woman. When you’re all together, anyone can talk to anyone, but on phone or by email? No crossing gender lines. Same if you two are only inviting in a third. You can thank me later.
Husband vs. Lover: Discuss
EUGENE, SIR: I had an affair after my husband had an affair. At first, I just wanted to get even, and he understood this. What we didn’t understand after 10 years of marriage is that the outside sex might make things tougher. In my case, that was what happened. His affair with a younger woman was a hit to my ego, but she dumped him right around the time I found out. My affair was something else, though. My lover was much better than my husband was in bed. Not just because he was new but also because he was much better in every way. I don’t love him, but going back to the sex I used to have is not going to happen — mostly because my lover figured out that I am into being a sub. My husband won’t be into this even if I tell him how things have changed. Advice. Please. Quickly. — Name withheld by request
Dear Looking at Life From Both Sides Now: If you want to keep your primary relationship in one piece, you must carefully consider the things you do that threaten it. Your husband was gambling on not getting caught. But he did. And without too much thought, it seems, it was decided to give the goose some of what was good for the gander, and you had an affair. The X factor? A more skilled lover and an awakening. While you know that you don’t love the lover, the idea of not knowing what you already know isn’t possible. So what to do? It seems — and I can see many disagreeing with this — that you need time and space to let this play out. Just because your husband got caught and his affair ended doesn’t mean it’s time for you to do the same.
Who opened the door to all of this? He did, so he must either accept whatever flies in or out or leave. If you don’t let this thing play out, you’ll never be at peace with him. If you realize that this affair could destroy your marriage, how does that put you in a worse position than if you played the dutiful (and long-suffering) wife now? Give it a run. If it hasn’t exhausted itself by the end of the year, then you know your course. Good luck.
Doing the Domme
EUGENE, SIR: I have questions about domination work and potentially moving into that community over time. I’m finding that my personal and professional lives are very different, and I’m also finding that I enjoy the idea of being aggressive at work. In my personal life, I wouldn’t define myself as either slave or domme, although I’ve been enjoying working with slaves. Do you think it’s going to make a difference being intrinsically not a domme in my personal life, or is it OK that I enjoy playing that character? — Mistress Ilsa
Dear She-Wolf of the SS: Well, that depends on elemental natures and such. Being a domme is something you do, professionally, with a partner, but personally? Then it’d just be partner play, that is, not a hard-core domme/sub relationship. Which is to say you romantically partner with equals, ideally. A domme/sub relationship is premised on the fact that you are not at all any kind of equal. And if you want to call that a role you are “playing,” fine. But they pay you, you don’t pay them, and you run the show, they do not. So it’s a good role, professionally.
Most tops I know have never had a romantic relationship with anyone they topped for pay or for play. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen; it just means I’ve never heard of it happening. I believe the best dommes are so because it’s in their character. So, yeah, for many, less a character and more part of their character. In any case, it sounds to me like you might be what they call a switch, and so if I were you, I wouldn’t worry about cross-pollination and just enjoy the ride.
And a very practical suggestion: Find a domme and purchase a session just to see how it works. You’ll learn a lot.