Thursday, 29 April 2010

Doldrums

The last person I talk to is Amelia. Amelia is gentle and thoughtful, fragile looking but strong inside. Exploring kink in a most imaginative and personal way, she plays both queens and pony girls. We met in unusual circumstances in a pay-by-the-hour commercial dungeon in the centre of the city, introduced by the Dom, who was, and probably still is, an orchestrator of people. I was presented, naked and collared, to Amelia. She sat masked on a wooden 'throne'. I kissed her brown leather boots and called her Mistress. Then she got to witness the spectacle of the Dom, his enormous frame gleaming white in leather shorts, flogging me first on my knees and then tied to a ceiling beam, while The Four Seasons played in the background. I vaguely remember kneeling on a horse and going down on her while the Dom fucked me from behind. 

The Dom ejaculated and our time was up. Amelia and I were ejected onto the pavement. The Dom swept off on his motorbike and we stumbled onto the tube in rush hour together. We've stayed in touch ever since. Now we are sitting by the side of a wooden dancefloor in the west of the city, recovering from our beginner's class and watching more advanced couples dance Lindy Hop, Charleston and jive. Amelia's partner Thomas is among them. They are quite a new couple too and, in name, have an open relationship.

Like me with Virgil, Amelia met Thomas during a period of exploration and she still occasionally meets other people for BDSM play, "But although it's sexual it's never for actual sex," she says. "Penetrative sex? No... It would be too much."  I explain what Virgil wants from an open relationship. We agree that me and Virgil need to talk much more about what romance means. She also says that although Thomas doesn't seem to object to her occasional assignations, which she tells him about, he doesn't seem to want to talk about them. He just says "Oh," and changes the subject. She would like to be able to discuss them with him and worries slightly about this.

I feel like I've talked to everyone but Virgil this last week. But I don't feel much clearer than I did before. Instead I feel gloomy and doomed. I'm starting to try to imagine life without Virgil. It doesn't help that I have no work, another thing to be miserable about. I can't even get angry about anything this week. Where are the successful poly people? Probably too busy with their rampant sex lives. Everyone I've asked says either that they're doing it but not enjoying it, that they were doing it but had to stop as it was too difficult, or that they've split up for other reasons. It's a small survey sample but it doesn't fill me with confidence. 

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Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Beware the virtual friend

Another person I've asked about open relationships is Aaron. Aaron is stretched out on my massage table and I'm giving him a massage. He has a cold and is feeling shitty, so he's at my mercy. He snuffles and blows his nose while explaining how when they first met Polly was the one with play partners and Aaron felt insecure and had to be persuaded. Now Polly is busy with her career and Aaron is the one who wants to play - and not just play but have romances and relationships on the side.

I ask him how things are going with Polly. There was definitely something wrong when they came (separately) to my birthday breakfast a few weeks ago. "Not good," he says. "We're great sexually and intellectually but I need romance. Polly wouldn't say I'm at all romantic but I am really, just not with her. I need to find someone to feel like that about." I ask if having an open relationship is why they might split up and he says no.

Polly and Aaron have been together for a couple of years. I thought they were one of the most solid of my friends' relationships but a few days ago my newsfeed told me that Aaron is now single. God, don't you hate the way Facebook does that? Me and Virgil have not changed our Facebook statuses to announce our relationship, although I've had moments when I've wanted to and thought it would be nice, like a public avowal of commitment blah... Now I remember why it is an awful idea.

The Facebook page of one of Virgil's Facebook friends, which he flicks closed as I glanced at his laptop screen in bed on Saturday morning, draws a surge of gloom and jealousy. We are about to watch the leaders' debate together. I glimpse a brightly coloured professional shot of a vivaciously attractive woman and think he is flirting with someone. Even if he isn't, I tell myself, this is exactly what he will be doing in the not-too-distant future. Virgil has thousands of Facebook friends. He uses it for his business and for networking, and he knows a lot of performers and pretty girls through his work too. I meet no hot people in my line of work. It's not fair.

We start to watch the debate. I lie stiff and silent as a board. A small cloud gathers over my side of the bed. Virgil's far too sensitive sometimes. "What's up?" he asks, "I don't feel that we're together in this anymore."

I sigh. I say nothing. Then I say "It's nothing," in a very feeble way. I say, "Let's get up and have some breakfast. We haven't time to watch this now." Agh! he says, and goes into the kitchen to cook.

I won't make eye contact. I think I'll keep this bad mood to myself and learn stoicism, but I'm utterly incapable. I wish I were somewhere else, but we live together. Eventually over breakfast I have to tell him what happened. It's embarrassing. I've never been so paranoid and jealous before.

He says it's so and so... - a performer I've heard of. I think he says that I've met her but I can't remember. It's her birthday and he's writing her a birthday message. He says it's ok to feel like that, that it's not stupid or wrong. I feel a bit better, but not much.
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Saturday, 24 April 2010

Sleepovers

Connor disagrees with Dee's view that it's easier if you can vet the other partners and know what's going on. In Connor's opinion open relationships only work when you are in separate cities. Yvonne works for an airline. "Out of sight, out of mind," says Connor.

Virgil and I met Connor and his girlfriend, Yvonne, through a contact site. We went on a date a couple of months ago - and still might have a foursome with them, but we haven't yet. The only definite hitch is that Yvonne has a trout pout and it weirds us out slightly, but she is from south America and I think it's a bit more normal in that culture.

Connor and I are in a similar situation work-wise, as in we do a similar thing and neither has enough work. I'm talking to him while we have coffee one morning. We're about to do a skills swap, so it's sort of professional but we're hanging out too. Connor is of the opinion that men are totally different to women in that they can happily fuck without the least bit of emotional attachment, or even much physical attraction come to that. He adds that a man will never leave the woman who will let him have sex with other people, her generosity and self-assuredness securing his everlasting adoration and commitment.

I'm not convinced. Virgil has a much more emotional, romantic perspective on sex with other people than I do. We have already had a conversation about sleepovers that illustrates this perfectly. It's a day or two after the date story breaking and we're talking about my reaction to the news. Specifically, my shouting "I fucking hate you!" before slamming the bedroom door, pacing from room to room crying, passing a mostly sleepless night, crying again in the morning (I'm back in our bed by then, generously rubbing his face in my misery) while Virgil looks stricken and confused.

"How do you think you'll handle it if I go out one evening and don't come back that night?" he asks. "What are you talking about?" I say. Virgil says quite emphatically that although he has had a couple of one-night stands in his life he almost always spends the night with people he has had sex with. He says that to not be able to do this would cramp his style severely. He points out that public transport stops at a certain time. "You didn't sleep with me the first time we had sex," I counter, "Even though I invited you to. You came round on a Sunday afternoon; we went to bed; you left at nine. Sex can happen at any time of day. It doesn't have to be late in the evening."

I recoil at the thought that Virgil would want to actually sleep with another partner. That kind of affectionate intimacy is something I save for special. I love the warm entanglement of Virgil at night and the cuddles we have. "What, you have sex with someone and then get up and leave?" he asks, somewhat unnecessarily. Of course I do. That's normal when you're having casual sex, isn't it? I am pretty sure that is what most people do. Virgil finds that sterile, perfunctory and a bit sordid. He says that he doesn't want to have that kind of sex and that sex without romance is empty and unexciting.

"What do you mean by romance?" we ask each other. I could scream with frustration. I feel like I know nothing anymore. I can't even explain myself anymore. I know what I mean when I say romance. I know when I feel romantic about someone and I know when I don't. Virgil says that, barring sex parties and orgies, almost everyone he has ever had sex with has registered somewhere on a scale of romance. I imagine a fairground test-your-strength game, where you hit a bell with a hammer and it sends a marker shooting up a pole. That's not me: I have two scales. Romance either is or isn't there. It's a qualitative shift, not a question of degree.

Virgil is driving a hard bargain.
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Friday, 23 April 2010

Research

One thing I've done quite a lot of this last week is to ask friends, and just about anyone I think will talk to me, about their experience of open relationships. Me and Virgil are talking it over still and probably will be for some time. We keep taking breaks because it gets too loaded and sad. I start to talk about bottom lines and breaking up. He brings us back from the brink of saying too much. Meanwhile, I am canvassing opinion.

The first person I ask is Dee. There's been a little distance between us recently. I think it's because I put a veto on Virgil's sexual interest in her as a solo project but I might have been being a little paranoid there. We meet for coffee one sunny morning to talk about a joint project we're working on. She asks how I am and I say I'm shit actually. Then she says that she's been having a hard time too, and it turns out that (among other things of course, like jobs) we have both been having issues about our open relationships.

So we have a fascinating and thought-provoking conversation. It turns out that Dee finds her open relationship really hard and is going along with it more for the sake of Kevin than herself. Kevin lives in New York, and Dee's biggest beef seems to be that she can't be more involved. She wants to meet the other girls and vet them for sanity, poly accountability and so on. She even wrote to a hot mutual friend asking her to have Kevin over for dinner and boy rape. The idea was that as she made her move she would say: "And this is a present from Dee!" But the friend was having a complicated time and not available for this kind of favour. She also said that she prefers to know in advance when Kevin is off on a date so that she can prepare herself for it.

I wish I were as evolved. My own base instinct is that I wouldn't want to know the women Virgil chooses for lovers, unless it was so that I could say to myself: "Hah, well she's not all that and I don't feel threatened at all..." And as for preparing myself, wouldn't it just be best not to know? (I imagine a scene in which Virgil irons his best shirt and I scowl and skulk around in the background, hating him and waiting for him to leave so that I can throw myself on the bed, howl, call a friend for sympathy, blog my vitriol and pain.) Couldn't it just be done comfortably behind my back so that I wouldn't be wondering what he was up to on any given minute that he is with someone else? Somehow I doubt the ethical sluts would advocate this peevish and basically monogamist approach.

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Wednesday, 21 April 2010

The Ethical Slut

Oh where the fuck is my copy of The Ethical Slut?

The only reason I'm blogging right now is because I can't find it anywhere and I want to read it. Indeed, starting this blog and reading The Ethical Slut were my plans for this evening, while I have the flat to myself.

I have vague memories of lending it to someone, I can't remember who. Probably no one. I always think I've lent things to people who have then not returned them: books, clothes, equipment, anything that can conceivably be lent in a moment of generosity (or opportunism on the part of the recipient), when I want to share my good book/outfit/Leki walking poles/strap-on harness/spare bike light, whatever it is that I am now hunting furiously for. The book's probably in storage. I've searched his bookshelves but Virgil's probably got his copy out already (or it's at the bottom of a pile of mess). Since the date bombshell and all the fallout that's ensued, we agreed we probably both need to read it again. Or was it only me?

I was introduced to The Ethical Slut about years ago by Erin, a dreamy Nova Scotian psychiatric nurse my then-boyfriend Isaac introduced me to when I lived with him for some months in British Columbia one winter. Before I showed up, Erin had been a lover of Isaac's and harboured a massive crush, even though she was seriously trying out the idea of girls (mostly by living in a lesbian houseshare, joining a women's street hockey team and having crushes on her teammates).

Soon after I arrived Erin took me for a walk up a mossy, waterlogged lump of rock called the Chief's Face or something. Halfway to the top we smoked some British Columbian weed and as I tottered, almost hallucinating and gasping for breath, up the last ascent, Erin told me about The Ethical Slut. This almost legendary book, written by two amazing, inspirational, Californian, polyamorous, kinky, hippy, motherly goddess types, is one that simply everyone with any pretensions or aspirations to a sexually liberated lifestyle should read, she told me. And then she started talking about threesomes.

Actually that's my precis of it. I read The Ethical Slut from cover to cover and really drank the Kool Aid, in theory at least. Isaac, Erin and I had our threesome. Then Isaac and Erin had an illicit fuck behind my back which wasn't really in the spirit of things, and I was annoyed mostly because it was a sneaky drunken fuck, but Isaac and I were breaking up by then. Isaac and I had make-up sex; Erin and I made up. I went back to London. Years passed.

When I've read it again I'll tell you about it.

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Sunday, 18 April 2010

Typecast

I don't want to typecast myself. I'm more than a one-trick pony and this, I hope, will be more than a blog about my peevishness and inner rages, but to say that I have a bad temper just doesn't do me justice. I probably spend the majority of my time feeling annoyed in some way about something or someone. I range from mildly peevish to furious. I am slightly out of sorts on any average day. Beaming equanimity finds me about, well not often... perhaps a couple of times a year. It is a stroke of poetic justice that I suffer from an almost constantly irritated vagina.

Right now I'm spying on my neighbour, who is crouching in shorts over a disposable barbecue set out on the roof terrace between our flats. He's cooking burgers with squares of cheese and buns in a plume of chemical smoke. I note that if I did want to open my floor to ceiling windows right now I wouldn't be able to unless I wanted the smell of his burnt offerings to permeate my flat. I mean, it's freezing outside. He's finished cauterizing his cheap meat products and darted shivering back inside to eat. What would have been wrong with a grill? By the way, I'm not really cross right now, just noting an opening for some righteous vexation.

I think about why I'm starting this blog and why it might be different from the first blog I started. As well as being a wretch:
  • I like writing about sex
  • I am in a relationship with Virgil
  • my work situation is not great
  • and that Virgil and I are trying to have an open relationship
And that's where this particular story kicks off, because about a week ago Virgil came home late and in response to a direct question told me that he'd been on a date.

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