Like many little girls, Alex Fine wanted to change the world.
Her approach was a little uncouth — by young adulthood she decided the best way to make things better would be to give people a better understanding of human sexuality. Alex and her partner Janet Lieberman founded Dame Products in 2011 to do just that — and to ensure every single woman could have an orgasm when she wanted one.
The women designed toys that could work WITH couples during sex to ignite arousal and pleasure. Their first product, Eva, launched on Indiegogo and quickly became the most successful crowdsourced sex toy in history. And Dame’s latest invention, the Fin, made news as Kickstarter’s first-ever sex-toy crowdfunding campaign.
“I grew up empowered by sexuality, but aware of its dark side. I have felt empowered by my sexuality since I was very young…”
Even very young, I was aware of my femininity. The only epiphany I ever had about sex was when I grew boobs. I remember waking up and being like, “Oh my God! I officially have boobs.”
I first experienced slut-shaming in sixth grade, when I kissed three boys in one night. They were all my good guy friends and they were like, “What would it feel like to kiss a girl?” and I said, “I’m a girl, I could show you what it feels like to kiss.” I’m an open person. That’s me.
It only bothered me the next day, when I got to school and everybody was talking about it. People were so mean to me that day and called me a slut. I did not kiss a boy for like two years after that.
I caught on early to the power of sharing stories about sexual experiences
In high school, I dated the same guy from freshman to senior year. I lost my virginity to him… and got HPV. I wanted to share what I went through with my health class. My teacher told me not to — she said it would be a really awful idea because kids can be so cruel. I told her that was wrong: “You are telling me not to share my experience and you are perpetuating the cycle.” I refused to shut down and pretend these things hadn’t happened. So I kept talking — and other girls started coming to me to talk through their own stuff.
As high school graduation approached, I was seriously considering becoming a sex therapist. I am so fascinated by the psychology of gender and sex and how it shapes our society. I wanted to be a part of this conversation. I ended up going to Columbia University for a masters in clinical psychology. It was during that time I realized this dialogue was one I wanted to have.
My goal was to figure out how to make the biggest impact
Growing up, my father really instilled in me the entrepreneurial spirit. It was a belief that there were no limitations on what I could do — and if I didn’t know how to do something, I could look it up on the internet and get the answers I needed. I think a good entrepreneur has this really ridiculous belief that they can figure out how to do anything.
I remember mapping possible futures out for myself in grad school. I could become a sex therapist, sex educator, teacher… And then I added, “I could make a vibrator.”
I circled that last sentence on my idea board. The thought resonated with me. My goal has always been to help people — especially women — feel empowered and aware of their own sexual identities.
So, it was in that headspace that I ended up working in a consumer goods company. I wanted to learn about what it means to be a brand and sell a product around the world — and that’s when I started drawing out what would eventually become the Eva hands-free vibrator for women to wear during sex in order to close the orgasm gap.
When I was pregnant, and learned I was going to have a boy, my first thought was “Here’s my chance; I can help put a good man out into the world.” Utter hubris, I know. We only have so much control as parents and we often don’t know what we’re doing. I had no idea how I was going to do this, but I knew I was already ahead of the game, since his father was such a good man. When my second son came along four years later, it was my first thought again: another chance.
There are scores of qualities that make a good man, but as I’ve raised my boys, three values have consistently bubbled to the top: Be honest, be kind, take responsibility. I’m never more proud of my boys when they demonstrate these qualities, and as we’ve all learned the hard way, nothing will make me more angry when they don’t.
I’m about to send my 18-year-old son off until the world. He’ll be 750 miles away, on his own, and he’ll be able to do whatever the hell he wants. Whatever the hell he wants will undoubtedly include having relationships and sex. There is so much I want to say to him, and really, to every young man about to strike out on his own, so much I want to impart about how to be a good man in a relationship. Yet, really, it comes down to the same three things: be honest, be kind, take responsibility.
So here’s my didactic list for my son, who is nearly a man, and anyone else who wants to listen.
1. If you like someone, tell them. Don’t play games. Don’t make them guess. Don’t make them question their judgment.
2. If you love someone, tell them. But not on the first date. Use a little judgment.
3. Don’t pretend to be in a relationship or in love to have sex. If you just want to have sex and fun but not a relationship, be honest about it. It’s up to your partner to decide if that’s what her or she wants, too.
4. If you can’t be yourself in a relationship, find a new one.
5. If you’re trying to be who you think your partner wants you to be, stop it.
6. If you can’t or don’t want to be monogamous, don’t commit to someone who wants monogamy.
7. Get to know your own body before someone else gets to know your body and before you try to figure out theirs.
8. Sex is about being open, vulnerable, and naked. It’s about trusting your partner. You don’t have to be in love. You should be in trust.
9. Sex brings responsibility, for yourself and for someone else. Don’t underestimate that.
10. If you can’t talk to a partner about sex, you shouldn’t be having sex with them.
11. Don’t overestimate and don’t underestimate the importance of sex in a relationship.
12. Figure out birth control before you have sex.
13. Learn how to use condoms. Not just that they exist, but how use them, how to make sure they don’t fail, what to do when you’re done.
Make sure you know about women’s birth control and emergency contraception. This is your responsibility just as much as it is theirs.
14. If you’re too embarrassed to buy birth control, you shouldn’t be having sex.
15. Sex doesn’t always have to mean intercourse. There are plenty of ways to have fun without a pregnancy risk, though these do often come with STI risks. I would enumerate, but I’m sure you don’t want that.
16. Don’t expect to be good at sex right away. Practice, practice, practice.
17. There are words for women who like sex and don’t hide this fact. Self-aware, satisfied, and good company are three that come to mind. Most women like sex. There is no such thing as a slut.
18. Don’t guess whether your partner is as satisfied as you with sex. Ask. If they weren’t, ask what they need and want. If you can’t, you shouldn’t be having sex in the first place.
19. Your partner has had some partners before you? Great. It might mean they know what they’re doing.
20. Laugh during sex. If you can’t, you shouldn’t be having sex. Sex can often be ridiculous; respond accordingly.
23. Porn is a terrible way to learn about sex. This is not what most men look like. This is not what most women look like. This is not what most sex is like. It’s a movie. It’s no more realistic than Star Wars or The Avengers.
24. If you’re going to watch porn, pay for it. Look for feminist, non-exploitative porn. It will be just as fun, just as effective, and your partner may want to watch it with you.
25. One night stands, hooking up, and friends with benefits: not everyone is doing this. Some people can have casual or anonymous sex without damaging themselves physically or emotionally. Some people can’t. Figure out which of these you are and which your partner is, and tread carefully.
26. There are more ways in heaven and earth to be a sexual being and to have relationships. Accept who you are, let others be who they want to be. Unless someone is being coerced or hurt, don’t judge. In their eyes, you may be the weirdo.
Thanks in advance for your assistance, Dr. Dick.
Here’s my dilemma; I’m so in love with my partner, he’s actually the man of my dreams. We met much later in life, he being 45 and I’m 50.
I was married before w/children, out now as a gay man and all is well with my children’s relationship.
My partner has always known he was gay, has had numerable relationships, and was a sexual addict. He has wanted me to understand his past in relationship to his level of happiness now, stating that he was a bottom slut only because he was never truly in love or satisfied.
He wants me to believe that “I’m the one” that has changed his life-long addiction to strange dick up his ass.
I can’t seem to get past his past slut behavior, and oftentimes get so pissed off because he wants me to meet and develop friendships with many of these past fucks (primarily because they were military buddies also).
Why can’t I accept his slutty past and stop the suspicions?
Why do I get so upset just knowing that he was a total bottom slut??
How can I get him to understand that I have no desire to know any more about his sexual past and just focus on creating our lives???
Martin, Martin, Martin! How you do go on, darling.
Take a look at your language, why don’t ‘cha? Could you possibly be any more pejorative when speaking of the sexual experiences of someone who has lived a different lifestyle than you? I doubt it. Look at how many times you use the word “slut” to describe the man you say you love. I’m gonna call you out on that. You simply can’t tell me you love someone that you have so little regard for.
Your man wants you to understand his past, but you won’t take it at face value. You belittle his experience, possibly because it doesn’t match your own very limited, sexually exclusive, predominately heterosexual lifestyle.
Listen, lots of gay men (and some straight men) have loads of sex for lots different reasons. Sometimes just for the fun of it…or, as your man suggests, just to be a big old bottom slut. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. One can be happily sexual without loving each and every one of his partners. And the sex can be really good too. Just as one can have very unsatisfying sex with somebody one loves deeply. Sex, intimacy, and love are not necessarily dependent on the one another. No need to make such a tangle of it all, Martin.
I also want to reinforce my belief that there’s no such thing as a sex addict. Compulsive behavior? Sure! Out of control behavior? You betcha! Self-denigrating behavior? Absolutely! Sexual addiction? No way!
Try for just a minute to extricate yourself from your sex-negative mindset by exchanging the notion of eating when you talk about your friend’s sexual exploits. Would you have the same revulsion if your guy said he had shared food with lots of other guys? Some of it was fast food that didn’t satisfy all that much. Sometimes he ate just because he wanted to, not because he was hungry. And now he wants you and he, as a couple, to be friends with some of the men he ate with. Sounds perfectly reasonable to me!
Your man is inviting you to open yourself up and see life and sex as most openly gay men do. This is fundamentally different from how some formerly closeted men see life and sex. If you let him, he just might help heal you of your sex-negativity.
Finally, jealousy is one of the worst human emotions. It’s actually a kind of hatred, you know. Sometimes it’s hatred of another, but it is always self-hatred. You say you love this man; again, I challenge you on that. It’s clear to me that you have a much greater love of your provincial notions about sex then you have for this guy.
Here’s a tip, Martin. Jettison the unhealthy attitudes about sexual expression and give your guy a chance to be himself, not the idealized man you’ve made him out be, or think he should be. You’d be well served by working with a sex-positive therapist to help you get over this. Do it now, because if you hesitate you will surely ruin the very relationship you claim to treasure.
Today, we visit with a pair of very disgruntled correspondents. How nice!
Have you ever noticed how some folks have an inordinate amount of time on their hands? Time they use to poke around in the lives of the rest of us poor, unfortunate, benighted souls. They love to point out the errors of our ways. Whatever would we do without these guiding lights? It’s always been curious to me how the least capable among us are always the first to set himself or herself up as the arbiter of proper and wholesome living, especially when it comes to sex.
Who was it that said, “remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye”? Oh yeah, now I remember. I am in really good company today. 😉
And today, dear readers, I’ll not bother tidying up my correspondents’ spelling and punctuation. I want you to experience the fullness of their brilliance for yourselves. Besides, I’m too busy trying to dislodge this plank from my eye.
I would really like to know who you are and what are your qualifications in sexual matters. I was just reading one of your replies to a young person whose lover is 17yrs older than her. I am so saddened by your reply. You advised her to have extra relationship affairs which we all know that relationships that incorporates a third party is destined to ruin and the couple is inevitably be living a lie. I do not know what sort of sexual development you had and how you’ve come to separate love and sex but you are surely promoting a negative in this case.
Sex is something that is for the relationship and that relationship alone, not to go all around town giving out at free will. Being a slut. Im sure there are different things that they together as a couple can do with out the help of somebody else. And like slutting around is actually gonna save somebody’s relationship, yea i see that happening every day.
Even if this is a hoax and not a real problem, I’m afraid it is in bad taste. I do not know you from Adam but please think before you answer any of these questions. The gay communities in many places and the gov’t have spent a lot of money in the fight with Aides. One of the things that was being promoted is finding one partner and sticking to him. The more partners one has the higher the risk. There is also the aspect of using another for selfish sexual gratification. Yes you may say It’s Ok if there is consent but really, Is it? After all we all know what happens to our feelings once we have had orgasm. You are a bad person. You shouldn’t be telling anybody anything.
Whoa, what a charmer!
What a dangerous and disturbing thing it is to be so judgmental about the sex lives of others. Isn’t it possible for well-meaning people to have a genuine disagreement on such matters without interjecting all the disparaging and rude remarks?
As I review my response to the person in question, I see I offered her a number of sound suggestions on how to deal with her sexual frustration. The thought, that she might discuss an accommodation with her primary partner, allowing her to seek sexual fulfillment outside her relationship, was just one of the ideas I had. Why did you focus only on that? And would you really characterize that as “slutting around”?
It’s been my experience that many long-term loving relationships continue to be successful precisely because the partners make adjustments for the inevitable disparity of sexual interests that develops between them over time. After all, accommodations and a healthy give and take are hallmarks of a well-adjusted relationship. And who says fidelity is a genital issue? Not me!
As the resident sexual advisor on this website, (you can check out my substantial qualifications in my bio) I offer advice on the problems that my correspondents present me. I stand by my advice. The people who write to me are adults. They can choose from among the helpful hints I offer, or disregard them all together. But it is certainly not my role to choose for them. So, if I had omitted the option that gives you such offense, I would have, at least by default, made part of her choice for her.
You defend your point of view from a position of fear. You claim that we should be sexually exclusive with one partner because there is a higher risk of being infected with AIDS if we aren’t. Is that the best you can come up with? Is that really why we should pair off with just one other person, because we’re afraid of disease? And then there’s this other curious comment: “After all we all know what happens to our feelings once we have had orgasm.” What are you insinuating about “us”? Me thinks you disclose more about your personal prejudices then you intended.
My advice to you, deary, is to sit down and take a deep breath. Your undies are in such a bunch, you’re beginning to screech. I also suggest that you suspend judgment, particularly as it applies to the manner in which others live their lives, or at least till you have more information about the intricacies of life, sex and love.
I am a 27 year old male that has never had sex or been in any kind of a relationship. I’ve looked but all I’ve found is that every guy I’ve met seems only to be controlled by his dick. I’ve come to the conclusion that all men my age are the same. It’s gotten so bad that not only do I hate my own kind but I hate sex because of what it stands for. I have even lost the need to please myself and I think of others as weak and pathetic for not being able to use their hearts. I know that sex is a healthy part of human life but why (especially in our community) is everything based on sex and/or crammed down our throats? Even the simplest of ads has to have some dude brandishing his schlong just to get attention. I can’t even enter a chat room without somebody asking me what my cock size is. I’ve come to hate everything we stand for and it’s left me cold and I tend to shut myself out of any function that is sexually related. Friends tell me to get off my high horse but I can’t see any reason to. Just by observing from up here all I see are a bunch of HIV infected rabbits that have reached the end of their evolutionary path because they no longer communicate with word but only with sex. I thought I’d grow out of this but that was seven years ago.
— Cold, Clinton J.
How in the world did you get to be so incredibly bitter and jaded at such a tender age?
Your friends are right, puppy, get off your high horse. The observations you make about us mere mortals are more than a little skewed, coming as they do from your angelic vantage point.
Listen, it’s true what you say about our community’s obsession with sex. Kudos to you for pointing out the obvious. But hey, it’s not just us homos. Look around and you will find our entire culture is fucked up in this way. You can have a full and life-affirming sex life without participating in or being co-opted by the madness that abounds. You can, like others do, choose a life path that is both sexually enriching and adventurous without succumbing to a preoccupation.
You claim to be 27 and say you’ve never had sex? And you make this proclamation like it’s something to be proud of. I wonder, how much of this bitterness is just sour grapes? Like Bette Midler is fond of sayin’: “You’re crackin’ up from a lack of shackin’ up.” You need to get laid, doll. It’s as simple as that.
And what’s up with this? “…all I see are a bunch of HIV infected rabbits that have reached the end of their evolutionary path…”? Shame on you. Try pumping some life-affirming blood into those icy veins and see what happens. Do not stand in judgment of something you cannot or will not participate in. It makes you look like a bounder.
In the prologue to her new book, What Love Is and What It Could Be, philosopher Carrie Jenkins is walking through Vancouver, from her boyfriend’s apartment to the home she has with her husband. She wonders at how the romantic love she experiences firsthand is so different than the model presented by popular culture and academic theory alike. “If indeed romantic love must be monogamous, then I am making some kind of mistake when I say, ‘I’m in love with you’ — meaning romantically — to both my partners,” she writes. “I am not lying, because I am genuinely trying to be as honest as I can. But if romantic love requires monogamy, then despite my best intentions, what I’m saying at those moments is not, strictly speaking, true.”
Her book examines the long, sometimes awkward legacy of philosophers’ thinking on romantic love, and compares that with a new subfield in close-relationships research — consensual nonmonogamy, or CNM. While singers and thinkers alike have been riffing on a “one and only” for decades, she argues that space is being made in the cultural conversation to “question the universal norm of monogamous love, just as we previously created space to question the universal norm of hetero love.” These norms are more fluid than they appear: In Jenkins’s lifetime alone same-sex and cross-ethnicity relationships have become common.
When I asked Jenkins to describe how it feels to have both a husband and a boyfriend — she rejects the “primary relationship” moniker altogether — she said that it’s like having more loving relationships in your life, like a close family member or friend. She and her boyfriend, whom she’s been with for about five years, used to work in the same building; he was teaching creative writing on the floor above her philosophy department, though they didn’t meet until they matched on OkCupid. While both men have met each other, they’re not close; Jenkins describes the relationship as having a “V shape,” rather than a triangle. Both helped in the development of the book: husband refining philosophical arguments; boyfriend editing the writing, and helping her to sound like a normal person, rather than an academic.
Still, CNM faces lots of stigma; even the study of it is stigmatized. Yet in the limited yet rich vein of research out there, the evidence suggests that it’s a style that, in some populations, leads to greater relationship satisfaction than monogamy. In any case, the researchers tell me, the insights into what makes more-than-two relationships work can be applied to any given dyad, given the communicative finesse required when three or more hearts are involved.
In a forthcoming Perspectives in Psychological Science paper, Terri Conley, a University of Michigan psychologist who’s driven the field, defines CNM as “a relational arrangement in which partners agree that it is acceptable to have more than one sexual and/or romantic relationship at the same time.” That’s distinguished from the “polygamy” practiced by some religious groups, where it’s not always clear whether wives can opt out of the relationship.
I was surprised to discover how common it is: A 2016 study of two nationally representative samples of single Americans — of 3,905 and 4,813 respondents, respectively — found in each case that about one in five people had practiced it during their lifetime. A 2016 YouGov poll found that 31 percent of women and 38 percent of men thought their ideal relationship would be CNM in some way. Other research indicates that around 4 to 5 percent of Americans in relationships are in some sort of CNM, be it swinging, where partners have sex with people outside their relationship at parties and the like; an open relationship, where it’s cool to have sex with other people but not grow emotionally attached to them; or polyamory, where both partners approve of having close emotional, romantic, and sexual relationships outside of the couple itself. People are curious, too: From 2006 to 2015, Google searches for polyamory and open relationships went up. Other data points to how sticking to the boundaries of monogamy doesn’t come easily to lots of people: A 2007 survey of 70,000 Americans found that one in five had cheated on their current partner.
Jenkins says that as a tenured philosophy professor at the University of British Columbia, she’s in a unique, privileged position to openly talk about being in a nonmonogamous marriage. She’d been interested in being in more than one relationship ever since she can remember, but it used to seem like some sort of impossible dream situation — she didn’t realize it could be an option in her real life until she was about 30. (She’s now 37.)
Jenkins met her husband, Jonathan, who’s also a philosopher, back in 2009, at a philosophy workshop that he organized at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland; they later got married in the same hall the conference took place. They took one another’s last names as middle names.
Now married for almost eight years, they talked about polyamory early on, though defining the relationship that way came later. As philosophers are wont to do, they soon wrote a bit of a manifesto about their arrangement. They observed that even if their wedding guests were woke in any number of ways — not batting an eyelid if a colleague was gay or bi, eschewing heteronormative assumptions, and the like — there’s still the shared assumption that a nonmonogamous relationship is less sexually safe and less committed than a regular ol’ monogamous one. “Even our very liberal pocket of our relatively liberal society is massively — and, to us, surprisingly— mononormative,” they write. “Acquaintances, friends, and colleagues are constantly assuming that our relationship, and indeed every relationship that they think of as ‘serious’, is a sexually monogamous one.”
To Jenkins, the biggest struggle with polyamory isn’t from managing multiple relationships — though Google Calendar is a crucial tool — but rather the strong, sometimes violently negative reactions that she gets, especially online. When I spoke with her by phone, she was struck by a comment to a YouTube interview of hers, where a pseudonymous user invited “everyone” to read her column in the Chronicle of Higher Education about having multiple loves.
“THIS WOMAN IS A DISGUSTING ANIMAL,” the troll wrote. “Every bit as twisted and queer as the Mormons with their multiple lives [sic]. This femme-pig is the spectral opposite of Trump; a far far left-wing freak that desires to completely overthrow Western Christian Civilization.” Jenkins walked me through a deep reading of the bile: Bundling in politics — the “left-wing freak” bit — with the monogamy norms signals to her that there’s a judgment of what it means to be a good person in here, since politics is about living correctly, collectively. Plus “if you’re an animal, you’re out of the range of humanity,” she says. She’s also gets a lot of “get herpes and die, slut” suggestions, she says, which speaks to the hypersexualization of CNM. Nonmonogamy leads to lots of sex, the presumption goes, and with that STIs, and it proceeds from there. The way news articles covering CNM tend to be illustrated with images of three or four people in a bath or bed doesn’t help, either.
“The way we normally think about romantic love, we don’t imagine that it’s entirely about sex,” she says. “For a lot of people sex is a part of it; if we’re just having a hookup or a friend with benefits, we don’t call that romantic love. When it comes to polyamorous relationships, if you’re in love with more than one person, the same applies — to fall in love with someone is not the same as to sleep with them. We’re clear with that distinction in monogamous relationships, but in CNM that distinction between love and sex gets collapsed.”
Researchers who have studied stigma around CNM have found lots. In a 2012 paper, Conley and her colleagues found that monogamous relationships were better rated on every metric by different sets of the population, including nonmonogamous people. When 132 participants recruited online read relationship vignettes that were identical except for one being monogamous and the other not, the CNM was seen as riskier sexually, more lonely, less acceptable, and having a lower relationship quality. People in CNM were also seen as worse with non-relational things, like making sure to walk their dog or paying their taxes on time. Amy Moors, a co-author on the paper, says it had some of the biggest effect sizes she’s seen in her research. Elisabeth Sheff, a leading polyamory researcher who left academia for lack of grant funding, now frequently serves as an expert witness in custody battles; she says that often a grandmother or a former spouse will find out that a co-parent has multiple relationships, be scandalized, and demand to take the kids — even though her longitudinal research, reported in The Polyamorists Next Door: Inside Multiple-Partner Relationships and Families, indicates that kids who grow up in polyamorous families aren’t any more screwed up than average American children.
That same paper finds that there were no differences in relationship functioning between monogamous and nonmonogamous couples. People in CNM had lower jealousy and higher trust — yet also lower sexual satisfaction with their partner. Polyamorists were more satisfied than people in open relationships, perhaps because it’s hard to block of feelings for people you sleep with frequently. Polyamorous people were a special case, with higher satisfaction, commitment, trust, and passionate love than monogamous individuals, though they had lower sexual satisfaction. CNM people also had higher sexual satisfaction with their secondary partners than their primary partners, though that difference fell away when controlling for relationship time, with primary relationships averaging three times the length of secondary relationships.
“Overall, the standard for human responses for relationships is habituation,” Conley says. “That involves a loss of sexual attraction, and we can tell that from stats from therapy. And to the extent that a couple is frustrated sexually, it spills over to other parts of life.”
There are other explanations for high satisfaction scores for polyamorous people, she adds. It could be that they’re just acting out a social desirability bias, given that they’re participating in a study about CNM and want the lifestyle to look good; it could also be that people who enter into polyamory have self-selected themselves into a hypercommunicative population — all the poly self-helpbooks emphasize the importance the need to explicitly talk things out. “People interested in polyamory are more relationship-y than the average person,” she says. “They like thinking about relationships, talking about relationships. That’s great in monogamy, but needed in polyamory.”
All this suggests the kind of people that are the right fit for CNM. Beyond being relationship-y, a Portuguese study out this year found that people with a high sociosexuality, or disposal to casual sex, had less relationship satisfaction when in a monogamous relationship, but those effects disappeared if they were in CNM. Still, they were just as committed to their relationships — signaling that exclusivity and commitment may not be one and the same. Harvard sexologist Justin Lehmiller has found that people who are more erotophilic — i.e., that love sex — will be a better fit for CNM; same with if they’re sensation-seeking.
Amy Moors, the Purdue psychologist, has found that people with higher avoidant attachment — where you’re just not that into intimacy — have positive feelings about and a willingness to engage in polyamory, but they were less likely to actually partake of it. While a correlational study, Moors explained that from a subjective perspective, it makes sense: “When you have avoidant attachment, you like a lot of emotional distance, physical distance, time by yourself,” Moors says, which is not a fit for the relationship-y remands of a poly lifestyle. Also, there’s reason to believe that folks who have relational anxiety, and are thus sensitive to separation, might be prone to the jealousy that’s known to flare up in CNM, though it’s not like that doesn’t happen in monogamy, too.
What motivated Jenkins to write What Love Is, she says, was a gap — or silence — in the philosophical literature, that polyamory was rarely discussed or even acknowledged as a possibility. “Noticing these philosophical silences and denials, while simultaneously being made aware of how society at large viewed me for being a polyamorous woman, made me realize there was something important here that I needed to do,” she says. “To do it meant bringing my personal life and my philosophical work into a conversation with one another. The familiar slogan says that the personal is political, but the personal is philosophical, too.”
Two key themes emerge from reading the book: that love is dual-layered, with social scripts overlaying evolutionary, physiological impulses. And that the “romantic mystique,” like the feminine one before it, assumes that love is mysterious and elusive and corrupted from examination — a sentiment that protects the status quo. But with investigation, and conversation, the mechanics of love reveal themselves, and norms can change socially, and be tailored locally. Like Jenkins, you can custom-fit your relationships to your life — if you dare to talk about them.