"Ruby wasn't particular whom
In fact she led a regular mouth-to-mouth existence."
--Lillian Day (1931)
Mind Caviar, Vol. 2 Spring Issue, 2001
Mind Caviar Luminaries go Tete a Tete:
A Discussion on Polyfidelity, Polyamory and Relationships
Qedesha is a regular
contributor to Mind Caviar who identifies as a bisexual polyamorous
tranny (Sabrina "lives" as a man and is a biological male) who has a polyfidelitous
relationship with her heterosexually-oriented wife, Dee.
Sabrina and Jamie Joy's lives and sex lives have crossed and mingled in their mutual home of New Orleans. They both found the following discussion to be so important to them, and to their thoughts on sexuality, that they wished to share it with you, the Mind Caviar reader. They hope it answers your questions and raises even more.
Joy Gatto is the editor-in-chief
and co-founder of Mind Caviar. She's a bisexual activist, a sex activist
and columnist, and a fiction writer whose work has appeared in numerous
The following discussion is in regards to her (usually closed) non-monogamous relationship between her and her bisexual husband of seven years, including their goals of having a working non-monogamous relationship and their dream of an equilateral triad with another man.
Feel free to write to either of us in regard to your feelings on the following conversation.
the Idea of Relationship Triads
Jamie Joy says:
Being in a triad seems to be the most natural, reasonable way of relationship living, to both me and my husband, Alex. I'm not sure why, but it just seems totally right. I'm sure it's not for everyone, but certainly, it must be ideal for many. I'd like to meet others who find this idea interesting. Certainly we can't be the only two on earth? I wonder why so many people are opposed to the idea. Even open-minded friends often say, "Oh, that will be so hard to find another mate, then to pull it off." I even had one woman say, "Why don't you find a woman instead of seeking out a man, because she'd likely get along better with the both of you?" That concept blew my mind. I could not understand why she said that.
Have you and your husband, Alex, found anyone who, even for a while, fit into your partnership as a third? Until you've actually experienced it, it is very difficult (for me, anyway) to imagine why a triad would be hard. I caught some glimpses of this last year with my wife and me and her then boyfriend. Like you, I think a triad (or even a larger group) would be perfectly natural; it would be easier for everyone's needs to be met, because various needs could be taken care of by the person more naturally able to meet those needs.
Jamie Joy Says:
Yes. Alex and I met while dating the same man. Because of this, I immediately knew Alex was bi, and I had always wanted a triad relationship between two men and myself, not a mere sexual threesome, but a total relationship. Alex felt the same way. Because of the character of the man we were both dating, it was not feasible to have a good triad relationship, although Alex and I tried. The man seemed to be only interested in sex, and unfortunately cheating on his then wife. It ended, and we have yet to involve an additional long-term relationship within ours, with the rare exception of me briefly dating a wonderful woman. On our first wedding anniversary, on our second honeymoon, Alex and I vowed to search, or at least remain open to, a triad idea involving another man.
Ever since then, I have been thinking about the triad idea, and the more I talk about it with others, the more they seem to think how hard it would be. I think it would be quite simple, and maybe I am naive for saying that. It seems a bisexual guy would relish the idea of having two mates: one of each sex. But my reasoning goes beyond that. Humans operate as a family unit from the time most of us are born, loving two parents, loving siblings, no matter how many, and the extended family and our friends. I believe humans are capable of having a great number of relationships, and that they were designed to do so, that it is innate-- within us all. To further add to the idea of multiple partners, we are encouraged from a young age to date around, to not get serious. Then, suddenly we are supposed to choose a life partner-- but only one! It makes no sense to me at all. It even seems impossible.
Here are my thoughts on why people seem opposed to the triad idea. For one thing, people who are that close, all the time, can have friction just in the normal course of affairs. This friction can get pretty rough between just two people. Add a third, and there are many new, unforeseeable ways in which friction can combust.
Secondly, most people, even most polyamorous people, have their upbringing to contend with. Personally I believe most humans are "hard-wired" for polyamory and then socialized for monogamy. Even someone who has a very good understanding of his or her romantic and sexual needs and energies will find it hard to overcome all that socialization. One thing that my wife Dee's ex confessed to me, about why he broke things off with Dee, was that he kept feeling that he was "harming" me. Actually, I found that his involvement added a lot of sexual energy, and I reaped the benefits from that (even if he wouldn't let me watch or participate, tsk!). Apparently, when he was formerly married, his wife had cheated on him a great deal and that left him scarred.
I call this second problem "internalized polyphobia," since it is similar to the internalized homophobia that many GBLT people find themselves coping with. So the problem, of course, is that anyone you will meet comes from the real world. The ideal is that you would meet someone who would just naturally give and take energy equally with both of you, and would have no dysfunctional monogamy baggage, but the reality is that people like you and Alex, who are completely and naturally polyfidelitous, are hard to find.
Jamie Joy Says:
Alex and I definitely struggled hard to overcome lots of obstacles in regards to allowing sexual exploration within the relationship. We are not as easily driven to jump people as you might think!
On Bisexuality and Non-monogamy
Actually, I'm not shocked. I know that you are both contemplative and considerate. I'm sure it helps that both you and Alex are bisexual. You can more easily understand that the need to fulfill bi needs does not take away from your attraction to each other. Dee is not bi, so she can not understand what it means to be bi. What do you think, does that make it easier for you, or perhaps more difficult?
Jamie Joy Says:
I don't think being bi has anything to do with it in a direct sense. Neither of us have an overwhelming desire or need to be with both sexes. It is just that we are able to see the beauty in others, and we are sexually attracted to many different types of people, regardless of gender. I think being sexually open is a part of bisexuality, and vice versa, but I think it has little or no direct bearing on our choice of a having closed non-monogamous relationship.
Alex has less qualms than I do regarding exploration, as he was raised differently, and has more experience with accepted non-monogamy within relationships. It is important to me that Alex and I weigh each situation carefully and that we communicate in order to make sure we are both getting what we need and that all parties are comfortable.
This is similar to the arrangement Dee and I have. If she says 'no' to something I may be disappointed, but if I make her uncomfortable it could damage our relationship, which is not something I'm going to do just to get a cock in my mouth. I waver between "less discriminating" to "very picky," depending on the occasion (and consumption of alcohol, which is an area where I've had to learn to listen to Dee's objections more closely). I am learning though that being picky is worthwhile, not just because it is more fun to have sex with someone I care about on some level, but also because I feel that being indiscriminate is disrespectful to Dee -- and to myself -- and to us -- and to the sacredness of sex.
Jamie Joy Says:
On another note, I'd like to add that the first time we had separate sexual encounters away from each other with a different partner was on our anniversary where Alex went with you, Sabrina, and I went with Mr. X. I trusted both you and Mr. X so much that I felt comfortable. Because I knew both you and Mr. X to be good people, I knew I had a very stable, safe situation, that I could allow Alex to explore while I explored separately. It worked out very well for all four of us. Until that time our non-monogamy was always a shared experience, therefore I find the use of the word "non-monogamy" to be somewhat of an oxymoron since I considered all our extraneous encounters (sex with others along with us as a couple) to be a mutual sexual experience between us. But, that is a matter of language and semantics, and we all must agree on words in order to communicate ideas.
Hmm, yeah, it's too bad there isn't some term other than "threesome" or "playing together" that doesn't sound so... sleazy. The few times Dee and I have shared partners I found most of these encounters to be an interesting kind of bonding experience for the two of us. She mostly refuses to do this now, so for over a year we've only had separate encounters.
On the other hand, I find that these experiences were the most fun I'd had sexually, partly from watching her have fun, and partly from all of the wonderful possibilites -- being able to play for hours and never do the same thing twice. I've been hoping to find a couple who would be willing to invite me into something so wonderful, but I won't know until it happens how much of my pleasure from these experiences came from simply watching Dee have fun.
On Jealousy in Polyamory Relationships
Jamie Joy says:
One thing that seems to crop up in non-monogamous relationships and that is TRUE fodder for jealousy is that many others have ulterior motives for wanting to sleep with people. Many relish the idea of breaking up couples, or simply proving their sexual worth by drawing one person to their bed, as in a conquest. Other people are needy emotionally and seek constant affirmation of their self-worth through sexual behavior. The types of toxic possibilities are as endless as the human psyche, so I try to choose partners carefully. I say "I" choose because Alex is far less discriminate than me, and I always have the final say, because I am usually less comfortable with the situation. Alex agrees to defer to me in the decision-making process because he realizes I need to feel safe and more in control in order to reach a comfort zone where non-monogamy is workable to us. He wants to be able to have our non-monogamy work, and he cherishes our relationship above others, so I appreciate that he allows me this privilege. It all takes a lot of consideration and trust, but it is truly rewarding and offers such freedom, that the psychological impact of simply knowing I have a sexually open situation adds an even more dimensional trust to our overall relationship. Because of this our bond is even greater.
Sometimes I wonder if there aren't "relationship" orientations, another kind of "sexual" orientation that determines how comfortable someone is in a monogamous or non-monogamous relationship. What we have found is that I do not get jealous, but Dee does. She has stronger needs than I do, which I am sometimes unwilling or unable to meet. Rather than look at this as "unfair" I try to look at this as a reality that has to be dealt with, free of value-judgment. No one said non-monogamy would be easy.
For example, I have less reservations than my wife when it comes to adding additional partners. In a way the common denominator comes down to what she can accept. I am very accepting and am not troubled, for example, if she has a boyfriend and I do not, as was the case for most of last year. The other way around though can be very troubling for her. She is more "high maintenance" than I am -- I think this is a big factor in how well we navigate between the rocky areas.
Communication is essential. If I allow my end of the line to break or slack the barest bit, if I do not devote enough attention to Dee's concerns, she becomes uncomfortable. I must admit there were moments when I saw her preparing for her dates with one of her boyfriends when I felt a little bad she didn't try to look pretty for me more often.
Jamie Joy Says:
If two people are secure with their love and relationship, and the other additional partners who may share their experience or their lives understand and agree to share and not be there to be some sort of parasite or worse... there is absolutely no room for jealousy, because jealousy is an emotion based upon what you are not getting. Jealousy is not about what others are getting. Jealousy is about protecting the self. Alex and I do not need to protect our relationship anymore than we already do. By the time another person has been invited into our bed, we are sure of the situation, and we have discussed it and found it to be safe.
Often when people ask me about jealousy, I try not to laugh... because if they'd ever seen their lover's eyes, body and face in the throes of ecstasy, and watched as their lover was involved in the rapture of lovemaking, fully knowing the lover would be back in their arms and in their home and in their life, regardless of who they allowed to touch them sexually, they'd know that it is a gift, and precious, and exciting and moving and amazing, and REALLY FUCKING HOT--- but still beautiful, and jealousy has no real place in that kind of love.
Ooh, yes, beautiful and hot, I totally agree with this! It may sound "airy-fairy" but I think in terms of "energy." Every person has their own unique "energy," which is why each new person I have sex with brings a completely unique experience. Some of us need more different types of "sexual energy" from others, and some need less. We also learn new things about ourselves that way; in fact, Dee has learned things about her sexual responses and tastes during dates with other men that we have incorporated into our sex life that have been very valuable.
On Bisexuality and Having a Straight Partner
What I've seen is that many people are willing to pass themselves off as bisexual to get into a couple's bed, where they then focus only on one of the partners. I've talked to several couples that have had this happen. It is profoundly disappointing for them because it took a lot of work and trust for them to get to the point where they were willing to invite someone into their bed, and the excluded partner feels completely cheated by the experience.
I'm sure each couple's reasons for choosing non-monogamy are unique. To be honest though, I have trouble imagining someone who is bisexual (and not just "bi-curious") being happily monogamous for more than, say, five years. I'm certain there are exceptions, but after all, one's needs are one's needs.
As you know, I am bisexual, and my wife is straight. I think this really makes the issue very confused for us. She feels she "cannot compete" when I seek a male partner. I think that if she were bi she would understand that when I seek a male partner it is not about her, it is about my needs. In a technical way it is true that she "can't compete," but in a more loose way, it is not. She can always compete because what we share emotionally and sexually is very deep and fulfilling, and it is hard for me to find a male partner with whom I am able (and willing) to develop such a deep bond.
I often wonder if I would seek other partners if I were not bisexual. In general I have little desire to become involved with women other than my wife. (There are exceptions, of course, but only when I encounter a woman who affects me profoundly and strikes me as exceptional.)
Jamie Joy says:
In my study and observation of bisexual behavior, through hosting a dynamic bi website, an international bisexual newsgroup, and through much reading, networking, and other discussion, I find that most bisexuals do not "crave" the affections of both sexes. I'm sure you are not alone in your preferences, but they are not mine, and not particularly the norm in my experience. As I said, I'm attracted to many people, not to specific gender-related attributes or genitals, per se. But, I do find myself more sexually attracted to men than women and I cannot say why. Like you said, no one ever said non-monogamy would be easy, or bisexuality, or sexuality, or life, for that matter. Relationships are tough, but not impossible, and can be very rewarding. Alex and I have vowed to keep trying, looking and waiting. Our love and promises have, after nine years, kept us and our dreams of finding a lover aloft.
© 2001 Jamie Joy Gatto and Sabrina Qedesha. All rights reserved. Do
not copy or post.
Sabrina and Jamie Joy invite you to share your questions and comments with us regarding this discussion. E-mail Sabrina Qedesha. E-mail Jamie Joy Gatto.
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