The first time I referred to myself as a slut, I was around 16 years old. You see, that was the first time a boy had gone down on me, and I liked it. In my Catholicism addled brain that obviously meant I was a horrible person and all but irredeemable. Then I went off to college, and while I still wasn't having PIV sex, I was making out with guys and giving and receiving oral sex and going back to the guys' places and all round being a "dirty little slut". And hating myself for it.
It took several years (and breaking with the Catholic Church) before I realized that enjoying sex isn't a bad thing. And neither is being a slut.
My experience with polyamory luckily wasn't as fraught. When I went off to college I broke up with my high school boyfriend because I wanted to experience everything college had to offer (read: make out with lots of dudes) without feeling guilty or hurting someone else. I latched onto the concept of "friends with benefits," even before engaging in PIV sex, and (mostly, see earlier) enjoyed the hell out of it. I certainly didn't have the ethical part down yet though. I got back together briefly with that high school boyfriend and wound up cheating on him, while still caring deeply about him. It was about that time that I realized monogamous relationships weren't for me, but I didn't know yet that there was an alternative. What can I say? I'm not the brightest bulb.
After I graduated, I started casually dating a guy I went to college with. He kept on trying to push for a romantic* relationship with me and I kept on telling him, honestly, that I had no desire to see only one person at a time (in fact, he knew I was also casually dating someone else at that time). Finally one night he said he was OK with that and suggested an open relationship. It took me about 2 seconds to realize that this was the counter option to monogamy that I'd been searching for, and I've been happily polyamorous since.**
Enter The Ethical Slut. I don't remember if someone recommended this to me or if I just stumbled upon it at a book store, but this book was a godsend for me. It may not be the best book on polyamory on the market, but it was the first (or at least the first main stream book) and the books that came afterward, like Opening Up, owe a huge debt of gratitude toward The Ethical Slut. Like the book says,
Ethical slutdom is a challenging path: we don't have a polyamorous Miss Manners telling us how to do our thing courteously and respectfully, so we have to make it up as we go along.
The Ethical Slut is a book about the multiple variations of polyamorous relationships (oh yes, there are several), but really it can be applied to any relationship style (possible exception, asexual relationships) that you want to be based on mutual trust and honesty.
I have lost friendships due to being open about my polyamory. Told that I use people and am, yes, unethical, strictly because of this. But I feel that any relationship based on open communication and meeting (or at least trying to meet) the needs of all participants can't help but be an ethical one, and I have no regrets about no longer counting those people among my friends. Not understanding my lifestyle is one thing; actively judging me because of it is a whole other level.
We see ourselves as people who are committed to finding a place of sanity with sex, and to freeing ourselves to enjoy our sexuality and to share it in as many ways as may fit for each of us.
Sounds totally debased, nefarious, and unethical, right? Sluts are just people. We have the same faults and make the same mistakes as anyone else. Polyamorous people are no better or worse that monogamous people.
I can't wait to see what Kit has in store for us with this read along.
* For the sake of ease, when I refer to "romantic" relationships I mean the typical boyfriend-girlfriend (or boyfriends or girlfriends) / spouses / partners dynamic, and if I refer to "sexual" relationship I mean something more along the lines of friends-with-benefits or play partners.
** Leave it to me to find one of the guys who's all about polyamory but still finds a way to cheat. Word to the wise: Telling one partner (no matter how many times she says it's OK and even encourages you to do so) that you aren't seeing anyone else, while telling your other partner that your first partner is monogamously*** minded and can't deal with polyamory is NOT FUCKING ETHICAL!
*** I can't say how much it amuses me that the blogger spell checker recognizes monogamous, monogamy, and even fucking monogamously, but not polyamory or polyamorous.