Friday, 14 March 2008

Flitting About

I was surprised to find, on reading my favourite blogs this lunchtime, that Ex-Courtesan Gillette had written an eloquently insightful post about what monogamy means to her, because in the dark hours of thursday night exacly the same strands of thought were wisping though my sleep clouded mind ...

Whilst lazing in bed and grazing on grapes and shortbread of an evening, as one does(!), I had a call from a good friend of mine, who in fact I haven't actually known for that long. We engage in a lot of indepth conversations and tend to share similar views on many a provocative topic. Especially alike are our ideas about how to conduct relationships with men. Last night was no different, and after a while the talk moved to her current despair at the male population (which is understandable as she recently suffered an unexpected betrayal). To support a particuclar point she was making, my friend asked, with the intention of a rhetorical question as she was sue I would agree, to pretend for a moment that I am married - would I be ok with my imaginary husband sleeping with another woman?

- Yes, I replied, as long as he shared it with me.
She paused.
- But wouldn't you hate that he felt the need to have sex with someone else? Wouldn't that make you feel insecure?
- No. You can't get everything you need emotionally from one person. Thats why we have different friends and colleagues and partners. Besides, you can't have a relationship with double standards, can you.
- What double standard?
- Well I can't conduct relationships with other people and forbid him from doing the same! Thats just rude!
- But why would you be sleeping with other people?!
- Why wouldn't I be?!
- Because you have a husband! Why do you need relationships with other men when you married somebody who you thought was the perfect person for you!
- Because different people fulfil different needs and appeal to different parts of your nature ... you can't get everything from one person. *a little aside*
- But why would you jeapardise your relationship and, most of all, neglect the time and effort you put into your children just for a guy that doesn't even mean anything to you? That is just completely selfish! How can you say it's ok to betray them like that?

By this point, I felt the need to remind her that it was a hypothetical situation which is unlikely to ever arise because, actually, I don't believe in marriage because I am an atheist and I also don't have any children just yet! That calmed her down a bit as she fumed silently, but I too was now shocked because it seemed to me that in my friend's eyes, polyamourousness (what is the correct word for this?!) clambours into bed with neglect and deceipt of those who we love. I can see from my fairly flippant and un-thoughtout responses that yes, what I was implying did seem selfish - that I wanted as much as I could get of what pleases me. But then again, so what? And it was this which sparked Ex-Coutesan Gillette to pen this lovely, more thought-out post here, on the very topic of selfishness.

Now to be honest, I haven't cast my ideas in iron just yet ... which would explain why they are somewhat inarticulate when voiced ... I am not confident that I have an entirely coherent or even backed-up argument ... which brings me to another thought - in matters of the heart, is it necessary to validate our decisions to ourselves? Western philosophy is largely based on a Greek tradition of science and reason which, whether we like it or not, will always inform our thoughts and actions. [a bit like being an atheist with a catholic background - I may not believe in god, but I damn well know I'm going to hell for it!] For the sake of others, perhaps, but for ourselves - that is more complicated.

It is no coincidence that on perusal of a couple of english language dictionaries, the only synonyms I can find for monogamy are chastity and marriage and that adultery, lewdness, nymphomania and promiscuity are the only antonyms provided. No wonder us 'polyamours' are considered by many to be being unfaithful to our partners. And no doubt among those who have subscribed to a life of committed partnership with one sole other, to take part in plurial relationships would not be faithful to the agreement they made. But in a situation where both parties are open about their values and intentions, like in the relationships I have engaged in, to engage with other partners would be in fact remaining true to the mutual agreement, n'est pas?

I did feel I should add something more substantial to the little comment I made in response to Ex-Courtesan Gillette, even if it has become quite tangled in the process of trying to write everything down in clearheaded manner! En effet, I suppose I was simply trying to concur with The Recovering Voice.

It just seems to me that somewhere, at some moment in time, someone altered the common consciousness to accept that it is a virtue to strive for mental and emotional fulfilment in all parts of our lives, with the exception of sexual relationships. The attitudes of both men and women from all walks of life in this, the 21st century, towards sex honestly astound me... but lets not get me started on that for now ... !

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