Cool post about a… peculiarity of a lot of nominally polyamorous behavior from Matisse of Mistress Matisse’s Journal
I think the basis for the One Penis Policy is basically insecurity and sexism.
Her column slamming what she calls the One Penis Policy in Seattle’s alt-weekly The Stranger generated a lot of heat. The policy, evidently pretty common in a lot of open relationships, involves the man saying it’s ok for him to sleep with other women, and it’s ok for his partner to sleep with other women, but it’s not ok for her to sleep with other men.
The post I’ve quoted nicely dismantles the most frequently-raised justifications. For instance
I am utterly unimpressed with any talk about how it’s really about STDs or pregnancy. For one thing, both those can be controlled with a pretty high degree of success. Trust me on that, I’ve been doing it myself for years. Sexual health education, careful management, and planning ahead eliminate a lot of the risks in multiple-partner situations.
Besides, it takes two to pass an STD, or get someone pregnant. I find it hypocritical in the extreme that a man would want to have other female sexual partners himself – thus exposing them to those possible risks – but say it’s too much risk for his original partner. Frankly, I think that type of attitude should not be dignified with the name polyamory.
That that’s not a completely obvious point is kind of, um, gendered? First, because why is it worse for one partner to get an STI than another? Second, because why is a woman getting an STI (intrinsically) worse than a man? Third, because can’t women get STIs from other women? (Yes.) And finally because who, exactly, to straight men tend to get STIs from in the first place? And as far as pregnancy goes, how, exactly, is pregnancy less problematic with a poly man and another woman than for his primary partner and another man?
Matisse is also wonderfully clear about the role other partner’s feelings should take in choosing one’s own partners (assuming one has chosen to take other partners in the first place.)
I am not suggesting that the woman in the hypothetical couple is obligated to have sex with other men, okay? She gets to make that decision. And you know what, if she chooses not to sleep with other guys because she knows her male partner wouldn’t like it – well, that’s her choice.
Of course it’s her choice anyway. But there is a huge difference between your partner saying “No way can you sleep with other men. I cannot handle that.” versus your partner say “It would be hard for me. I’d rather you didn’t. But the choice is yours.” One is pressure, and one is stating a preference.
And getting back to her original point about sexism and insecurity behind the One Penis Policy
Now, feeling of insecurity and sexism are both pretty common (to both men and women), and neither of those things makes someone a Bad Person. But they are traits that can be changed, and being less insecure and less sexist will make someone a better person.
That’s nicely put. Good luck never feeling jealous or insecure (though see also men’s indoctrinated conviction that they’ll always compare unfavorably to every other male lover their partner either remembers or considers.) And, living as we do in a sexism-saturated culture, never being sexist is even harder than it looks. But there really are benefits to working on minimizing both. Whether you’re “polyamorous” or not.
Also: note the oppositional sexism in the notion that it’s ok for a man to get someone pregnant but not ok for a woman to get pregnant. Or that women are vulnerable to STIs but not men?
There’s oppositional sexism as well in the notion that a man, being “naturally promiscuous” can have multiple women partners without threatening his primary relationship but that a woman, being “naturally monogamous” can’t.
As for the perplexing but conventional notions that a) women but not men are somehow “naturally bisexual” yet b) it’s never as much of a male-jealousy trigger for them to have female partners as male ones? You could spend all afternoon unpacking the assumptions and stereotypes behind that!
All in all it’s a nice thought-provoking post
Update: Just to be clear, I’m no more concerned about (hetero) polyamory itself than I am with (hetero) monogamy. The one-penis policy is built right into the definition of monogamy but in practice infidelity in men has long been both expected and tolerated more than infidelity in women. It’s just harder to pretend it’s invisible when it shows up in multi-partner contexts, and thus easier to call out the underlying double standard.