I didn’t anticipate that attending the Open SF conference this past weekend would be as powerful for me as it was. However, having the opportunity to hear the insight and wisdom of presenters speaking on the topic of Poly/Non- Monogamous relationships for two days shifted some major blocks for me. It will not only make me a better partner and model but hopefully the things I learned will make me a better person in general.
I had a strong emotional resistance to the idea of polyamory going into this conference. My friend Stella was integral to the planning of the conference and through her involvement I got involved. I have said I am Polyamorous in the past but never with a full sense of comfort. Because I do sex work I had a grudging acceptance of it, thinking that because I am in porn I would have to just accept a model of relationships that I am uncomfortable with. But it wasn’t until this weekend that I was really forced to think about what exactly makes me so uncomfortable about polyamory.
1. Crappy exes. There are crappy people in all kinds of relationship models but I had a lot of negativity that I associated with Poly because of my woundings around exes who claimed they were polyamorous, but were really just shady people.
An example is a guy I dated who cancelled on our hang out time because there was a “meltdown at work.” This meltdown was apparently something that was having him working well into the night and I wouldn’t be able to see him at all. He lived and worked in San Francisco, so I was dismayed when my OK Cupid phone application let me know that he was in fact in my Oakland neighborhood, where one of his exes lived, rather than working through the night on a work emergency.
Although I didn’t have complete comfort with him being with other people, a poly person in their integrity would have been honest rather than lie about his whereabouts. I threw the baby out with the bathwater on this one. Because I had had some negative experiences I decided that non-monogamy for me = tears, ice cream, days in my pajamas and plummeting self esteem.
Another thing that was uncomfortable for me was:
2. I didn’t have a clear understanding of what Non-Monogamy really meant. What I didn’t realize was that Non Monogamy/Poly was an umbrella term for a whole host of lifestyles. Tristan Taormino had a keynote speech where she listed off multiple things under that umbrella. The list included but was not limited to: casual sex, group marriage, group sex, line families, menage a trois, open marriage or open relationships, Polyamory, Poly families, Polyfidelity, Polygamy, Polyandry, Polygyny, plural marriage, relationship anarchy, swinging. Do a Wikipedia search for a breakdown of some of these terms.
This made me realize that shaping a healthy relationship, whether it be poly or otherwise, was less about the label and more about making sure that there were agreements made and there was honesty in communication. Labels were holding me back like they usually do. Like in any good relationship, work needed to happen. I already have varying types of relationships with people, sexual and non sexual, but instead of perceiving the possibility of maintaining these multiple interactions, I’ve run from the scary notion of poly.
Another thing that I really felt entitled to that heavily contributed to my frustration with polyamory was jealousy.
3. Jealousy burns in me like a forest fire. I blame it on being Scorpio but I rarely examine it. In some ways I felt heavily entitled to my jealousy. At Open SF I had to look at what my jealousy looked like, what percentage of it was fear, sadness or anger. Realizing how massively insecure I am and how much self work I needed to do before I got into a relationship, poly or otherwise, was probably the biggest thing I got out of this conference. I was putting all my self worth in this one other person making me happy and providing me with security balance and center. I wasn’t realizing that my partner loving someone else or being intimate with someone else isn’t necessarily taking away from me. Jealousy is normal and healthy and I won’t ever eradicate it but I can manage it.
I was also surprised to realize that I felt some shame about doing porn that I wasn’t addressing and because of it I was perceiving myself as bringing less to the table relationship wise. I saw poly as a form of settling, thinking that it’s what I deserved since I was in this industry. I think because I so strongly want this adventure in sex work to be a positive experience, I am not checking in with myself enough about my feelings of self-worth . Because as progressive and positive as I am about it, I still am butted up against a puritanical society that has really harsh judgements about what is and isn’t acceptable. I still meet people who think I’m good enough to hang out with or have sex with but commit or marry me? Hell no. And even if I dismiss these perspectives bollocks that doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect me.
4. I didn’t see poly relationships as secure. I do want to marry or have some sort of commitment to someone I love but I perceived a relationship where someone can be with other lovers as a haphazard free for all where I wouldn’t get my needs met. I saw myself powerless but failed to realize that I could find security and shape what I want my relationship to be. People divorce or leave all kinds of relationships so I had to remind myself there is no safety or guarantee in love.
5. I didn’t want another way to be different. I figured being a pansexual, fat, brown, kinky, nerdy, sex worker was enough. I guess part of me was shying away from yet another label that makes me different. But on my good days I relish the beauty of how different I am. And seeing the poly community and its diversity, and not being isolated in my understanding of it really helped changed my perceptions.
This conference made me want to be more active in participating in my community. My community of sex workers, kinksters, sex positive people etc. Isolated in my own experience I live in fear and insecurity and doubt, whereas after one weekend amongst this group of people I grew immensely.
I’m coming out, coming out as poly glamorous. I’m happily shaping a healthy loving open relationship with myself as the primary/anchor partner and actively looking to be a part of a community that embraces that. I’m anxious to hear the experiences of other models, sex workers and poly people. I am reminded again about the power of community and getting outside of my own experience, and I am grateful to have had that opportunity.