Sex-First! Polyamory Culture

First, let me get a few things in the open (if you are not already familiar). One, I like sex. I like it a lot and believe it should be talked about, enjoyed and celebrated. Two, I have had a few slutty moments in my life, and I am not above a one-night-stand.

HOWEVER, I can’t stand the “sex first!” culture fostered in several communities I have been a part of. By sex-first, I don’t mean sex positive. Sex positive is enjoy, and embracing and respecting sex and sexuality. Sex-First! puts the emphasis on sleeping with people first, then getting to know and respect them later if you so deem necessary.

I see a lot of sex-first culture, especially in the poly communities I have been a part of. I have seen it in some of the kink communities (there is not as big of an overlap between the two as one might expect), but it tends to be much more prevalent in groups identifying as “poly.”

I have never identified as “polyamorous”for several reasons. I identify as non-monogamous and ethically so, but never poly. One reason for this choice of identification is that I have long-seen the emphasis on sex in poly. I know, I know, I see so many poly folks saying,”Poly is not all about sex!” then turn around and shun anyone not willing to  sleep with someone in their polycule.

Poly and a Sex-First Orientation

Poly doesn’t have to be all about sex. And I know some poly folks who are not all about sex. I know poly folks who do poly the way I am comfortable with and focus on the amorous part – love and connection first. But the reality is, I know way more “poly” folks where sex is the primary focus of their discussions, their online rants, and what they are looking for in any relationship.

My home community right now is Sacramento. I tried to connect with poly folks there mainly because they share some of the same relationship philosophies I do. After attending events over the past couple of years, I really noticed the sex-first culture in this group. I  posted about this issue on a women’s poly board and had several women chime in about never going to poly events and only connecting on line with other women because they often felt “like a piece of meat” at events. This quickly turned to accusations that I did not raise this issue early enough with event organizers, that I was somehow weak and stupid for not confronting each and every dick in the community who was treating me liek a piece of meat only good for fucking, and that taking time to notice how the poly culture was sex-first was really just not appropriate to bring it up “after the fact.”


 

You can’t tell people you are “not all about sex” and then expect someone to put out before they are accepted as part of the community.


 

Keep in mind, these were other women defending this sex-first culture. They could read posts by multiple women expressing discomfort about events because of the constant intrusion on personal space and the inability of community members to not see every person as someone who owes them sex. Several suggested it was “newbies” and I held my tongue instead of putting several of their husbands on blast for not understanding a “no  thank you” response to offers to hook-up.

Ultimately, what came out of the conversation was a couple of things:

  1. Local leaders, including women, are comfortable with a sex-first culture.
  2. I withdrew from the local poly communities after being attacked for calling out this bad behavior and the vocal support of racism on the general board by moderators.
  3. Quite a few women contacted me privately to say, “Thank you. I have been looking for connections that don’t assume I own them sex if I want to hang out!”

Simple Solutions for Better Behavior

So, what should poly communities do:

I think the solutions are pretty simple to make communities welcoming. First, when there are meeting and group events, have the organizers make clear the purpose of the group. If I am going to be social with other adults in a bar or similar space and the purpose is social, go ahead, hit on people. That is appropriate. If the event is a support or learning event, of a family-centered event, make clear that people are not necessarily looking to find sex or romantic partners and that hormones should be kept in check. Finally, recognize that when you put out a sex-first culture you make everyone have to say “No” and “Thanks, but no thanks” way too much and it is uncomfortable for many folks to have to do this ten or fifteen times during an event.

When it comes to “reporting bad behavior” realize that not all behavior requires a “bouncer” as several folks on poly boards suggested. Refusing to speak to new people you don’t want to have sex with is rude, but not worth calling you out on in an event space. Hitting on someone, then getting miffed and walking away while mumbling something makes you an asshole, but as an adult I am not going to “report” this to a bouncer. Being hit on by every other person in the room is not something I am going to report at an event. Especially if the moderators are some of the ones hitting on me.

People organizing poly groups need to know that this behavior, while not “reported” by adults is off-putting. I raised it on a board as a cultural issue and the moderators and leaders in our community lost their shit because they saw their own bad behavior and the behavior of their groups and wanted to defend it. I have tried to introduce multiple folks who wanted to explore poly to our local groups as a way of connecting, learning and finding support. None have come back because the culture is “fuck or leave.” This needs to change and people need to feel they can find education, support and community connection without having to suck a dick to get it.

4 comments

  1. Being in the Sac community I find it disheartening your extreme take on things. I am aware you have had certain experiences. No one denied that. However when asked how we could make change, you said the moderators should do it. Had you been at any of the past 3 or 4 months of Sac meetings, you would have witnessed discussion and action going on about the very thing you have taken issue with. You would have noticed there are those of us trying to make change, especially for those that will not speak up for themselves when they do feel uncomfortable. And when others encouraged you to help make the change we as women in the community were trying to make, you took that as an attack. There are so many sides to each story but not only that, there are so many different ways to perceive things as well as to handle things. Your way, is not the one true way. And instead of continually complaining about it, it’d be productice if you and those of you who agree with your sentiment looked to see what you can do to help facilitate that change. Some of us have been talking about what we can do *ourselves* in our community to make that change, and continual to do so for we understand its not a one shot and you are done. So, you can either complain about it and just show up occasionally or you can show up consistently and help to be part of solving the problem. Your call, in the mean time, the rest of us who understand change requires action will continual to work together to do the best we can.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I suggested the moderators could help… They cannot be the only solution I show up on occasion because I get so fed up with the reception at events it takes a while to get the bad taste out of my mouth. I kept returning hoping for better results.

      As for complaining my post on the board was to bring up the issue in a forum where people could rationally discuss the issue. It quickly turned into me being told I was the problem for not coming forward earlier and was weak and timid. If anyone ever met me you know that is definitely not the case. I told individual offenders of there trespasses and like mentioned in the post, most of this is a cultural issue and not a “please tell the bouncer” issue.

      I don’t think I am “extreme” as you claim. The large number of women who messaged me privately to say the don’t attend events in Sac for the same reasons as I listed would seem to suggest this is a community with the entrance fee of being widely sexually available.

      I also mentioned that I have tried to bring others in interested in poly and everyone had a negative reaction to the reception they got. This makes me sad. Poly is not necessarily my route but I would like to think that people seeking community could find it. That hasn’t been the case of my friends.

      Finally I have spoken with other mods about various issues. The response in Sac is always, “nothing is a problem. If you see one, fix yourself.” I get having had behavior and hurtful things you did pointed out sucks. Denying your issue does not help.

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  2. Poly meetings require upfront “rules” that are enforced by strong moderators…human nature being what is is these days. I would prefer to know ahead of time if a poly meetup was a dating event or a discussion and exchange of poly issues. I prefer the latter as there are many events (as you mentioned bars) that cater to dating. But that’s just me. Maybe guys are mostly attracted to poly because of the opportunity for group sex these days?

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