Slut-muscle mania

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By Juliette Tang

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While some of us can't even handle being in a single relationship much less multiple relationships, The Ethical Slut author Dossie Easton has been non-monogamous since 1969. Easton will be at the Center for Sex and Culture (1519 Mission St) tomorrow (June 5, 2-4pm, $5-$10 sliding scale) for a book signing, reading, and discussion of The Ethical Slut's recently released second edition, which contains two new chapters (Opening an Existing Relationship, Lifestyles of the Single Slut) and extensive rewrites, particularly around the topic that is inherent in any discussion of polyamory: jealousy. For those who engage in polyamory - or for those merely interested in the possibilities - Easton's book is a straightforward, informative, and illuminating resource on consensual non-monogamy as a lifestyle.

Polyamory will always be a controversial subject as long as monogamy is the cultural norm. Not only is marriage an inherently monogamous institution (and an institution that is now best described as bullshit in the state of California), but we even tend to think of dating as a series of monogamous relationships separated from one another by fallow periods of 'singlehood' that only end when we meet the next person we want to be monogamous with. This idea of having "one" partner is reinforced everywhere, from culture to ethics to law, and it's ingrained in the very rituals and ideologies that dictate our social behavior.

Unlike being in an open relationship, or having a 'don't ask don't tell' policy, being polyamorous requires full disclosure - and love. Polyamorists claim to actually 'love' - or at the very least, feel intimately toward - all the people with whom they are involved. It isn't the non-monogamous aspect that confounds me, because, quite frankly, we've all been there. What fascinates me about polyamory is the notion that deep feeling is an essential aspect of being with multiple people, that the very meaning of "I love you" can exist on the same emotional spectrum as "I love you, you, you, and you". Maybe my heart is closed off, maybe I'm calloused or jaded, but I find it so difficult to even accept the notion that I'll even meet 'the one' that the very concept of meeting 'the many' is so ludicrous to me that I'm tempted to laugh (or, what is more likely, cry). At the same time that it's strange to me that there are those who exist who naturally embrace this lifestyle, it's also comforting to know that there are people out there capable of loving not just another, but others (emphasis on the plural).

What doesn't sit so well with me is the view that many polyamorists hold that monogamy is a myth. Just as monogamists tell ourselves that polyamory is unnatural, weird, or even disgusting, many polyamorists have an equally closed off view of monogamy, proclaiming that a connection between 'merely' two people is somehow bogus, that monogamy is an indoctrinated and fictitious idea, that it's a "recipe for emotional disaster". Just as there are those who are comfortable with waiting until they meet that one special someone and there are those who believe that life is lived fuller with many loves, both types of people should be able to live comfortably with one another in the same world, a world full of many definitions and possibilities for love.

One thing that I love about living in San Francisco is that our city is so accepting of the multiplicities of love and sexuality. San Francisco has some great resources for polyamorous folk, from MeetUp groups to local polyamory conferences. In our city, the poly lifestyle is often associated, though perhaps unfairly, with the hippie residue left over from the Summer of Love. The stereotype is reinforced by the often New Age sensibilities of many public figures associated with polyamory. Easton herself identifies as a "pagan", believes that sex is a "spiritual awakening", and states on her website, "All paths lead up the same mountain. My own path has led me through various forms of yoga, research in medieval mystics, psychedelics, buddhism [sic], tantra, assorted gods and goddesses and connection with Nature and animal spirit medicine." But more and more, young, culturally aware, and (gasp) 'normal' people are identifying as polyamorists, and new life is being blown into the movement. There is even a long list of psychology professionals who are 'poly friendly' in the Bay Area. It appears the polyamorous need 'couples therapy' just as much as actual couples do, and I'm actually relieved. In the area of relationship therapy, it appears we're all equally normal.

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For more information on polyamory, check out the World Polyamorist Association for events and resources. For SEX SF writer Molly Freedenberg's take on polyamory, click here.