Monday, August 09, 2010

Yesterday I read an article about non-monogamy in New York magazine by bloggers/sex-advice-givers Em and Lo entitled "The New Monogamy". It seriously annoyed me, and I’m going to critique it, so this post won’t make a lot of sense unless you read that first. So go do that.

Em and Lo offended me pretty much right out of the chute, with their talk about their ideas about what non-monogamy for their boyfriends would look like.

“We each recently began toying with the idea… of arranging happy endings for our boyfriends at a Chinatown massage parlor, as a sort of gift in honor of long-term monogamy. Who knows where the idea came from? Was it something in the air? Pure generosity? Or a way to beta-test an idea? And could we go through with it? Probably, if we handled the arrangements, we agreed over a bottle of red one night at a Brooklyn wine bar. Naturally, we imagined the most clinical of hand jobs administered by wizened, grandmotherly ladies. But still, we took it as a sign of the times and of our evolution.”


Aside from the fact that I know a number of super-hot-looking women who are, in fact, grandmothers – are Em and Lo really of the opinion that arranging for your lover to be given a hand-job by a woman you’re strongly implying will be not-very-attractive is evolved? Really? Wow. To me this implies that Em and Lo’s partners are so sex-starved and indiscriminate that pretty much any female would excite them, which flatters no one in the equation. And I wonder how Em and Lo would feel if their boyfriends arranged for them to be gotten off by some wizened, grandfatherly men? Would that be evolved, too?

But tacky remarks about sex workers aside, I have a huge issue with the title and premise of this article. Saying that couples having sexual contact with other people is “The New Monogyny” is flatly absurd. Monogamy is when you don’t have sex with other people. When you do, that’s non-monogamy. Neither of these concepts are new, but apparently the existing lexicon isn’t cool enough for Em and Lo. Because when you say the word polyamory, Em and Lo explain that:

“…in most people’s imaginations, you’ve got on the one hand your earnest, hairy polyamorists (see San Francisco) and on the other, doughy, middle-aged swingers (see Minnesota or HBO). These are the bogeymen of today’s hipster open relationships—if we swing tonight, can a purple muumuu and a relocation west be far behind?”
Some of the people Em and Lo discuss in this piece are being monogamous. They simply acknowledge to their partners that they have sexual thoughts about other people, and share their fantasies. Which I think is just fine. But, in a stunning example of Orwellian newspeak, people who do actually have sex with more than one partner are described by Em and Lo as “the new monogamists”.

The New Monogomy looks much like the old in some ways: Em and Lo are blandly confident that the One Penis Policy is the only viable way to do open, honest non-monogamy. Because they didn’t meet anyone who they thought was attractive who was doing anything else. Sexual attractiveness seems to play a very large role in who Em and Lo think is a New Monogamist. Don’t be a grandmother, apparently, and don’t be hairy, or "doughy". This how they described their meeting with one pair of New Monogamists:

“To our pleasant surprise, however, there is absolutely nothing skeevy about Siege and Katie. They’re smart, funny, polite, hip, attractive, self-deprecating, and affectionate with one another. And that’s the most disconcerting thing of all. Call us snobs, but it’s easy to dismiss suburban swingers who show up at orgies with a Tupperware container or Bay Area hippies missing the irony gene. But when a couple like Siege and Katie decry strict monogamy? It makes you wonder, How old-fashioned, socially programmed, and ass-backward am I?”

Um, yeah, since you asked – you’re snobs, ladies, and you are indeed pretty ass-backwards. The one-line disclaimer you tagged on at the end about how, oh, okay, you’ve learned your lesson and you won’t make fun of those crazy swingers anymore? I’m unimpressed. You are not qualified to write knowledgeably about a minority sexual community, because your outlook is provincial, your research is shallow, and you don’t even try to hide, let alone really examine, your bias. Stick to tips on blowjobs and pubic hairstyles, that’s about your speed.

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