The Missing Rant, the One-Penis Policy, and the Aromantic Angle

Savage Love Letter of the Day: Reader Advice Round-up

Comments

1

The OPP policy may be misogynistic and homophobic, or it may be a practical recognition that the wife, while bisexual or heteroflexible, is also homoromantic, and her playing with women but not men is about the same as her playing with vibrators and not men.

Or maybe the guy just finds the idea of his wife with other women hot and doesn't find this idea of his wife with other men hot, the same way he finds the idea of fucking other women hot but doesn't find the idea of fucking other men hot.

Or maybe the husband recognizes that his tits/vagina are lacking, and understands his wife, who likes tits and vagina, seeking them elsewhere, the same way someone may not be into diapers but allows their partner to seek diaper play elsewhere.

People are entitled to their sexual preferences. Not wanting to sleep with the same gender - or wanting your spouse to sleep someone of your gender - can have plenty of non-misogynistic / non-homophobic reasons.

"If you want a penis, I've got one" is, on it's own, an entirely reasonable position.

Of course, so is "If you want a vagina, I've got one."

Whether either those positions is acceptable to both parties in a relationship is up to those parties, not the judgement of anyone else not involved.

2

@biggie.
I came to disagree with the writer who said an OPP is homophobic, misogynist, and transphobic only to find you covered it beautifully. So all I can do is chime in with my own experience.
I'm in an open relationship with a slightly heteroflexible woman and I don't care if she gets dick from another guy if I'm not around on the condition that she gets it at a swingers club. Why that requirement? Because I feel comfortable that the people she meets there understand it is just sex, not something ongoing outside the club. That means she has no messages asking for another hookup, no drama, no feeling that she needs to see a particular guy (or guys) at least every so often, etc. Furthermore, when we go to swingers clubs together she makes an effort to get me laid as well even turning down demigods with huge dicks if there isn't a partner for me, making me feel like she is invested in my enjoyment as well.
So in summation, I am comfortable with my partner having lots of dick because the way she gets it keeps it low or drama free, and if other couples have an OPP to achieve the same low or no drama, then don't accuse them of being terrible people.

3

@1 Thanks and good job! Everything doesn't come back to misogyny and/or abuse. Sometimes it's just two people compromising and negotiating a life together.

4

@1: I'm in camp #3. If my girlfriend dates or sleeps with other women, it's not that it's lesser or not "real" or anything; it's just different than what she has with me, and an experience that I can't give her personally but don't want to deny her.

5

I fail to see how letting your partner have additional female sexual partners is more restrictive and misogynistic than not allowing them to have any other sexual partners, which is the legal and de facto standard for most couples. Is it uneven? Sure. But if your partner enjoys engaging with other women, letting them indulge is "strictly better" than the alternative that 99% of women are facing.

6

Agreed with #1-5. OPP can be a sign of something problematic, so it's worth looking at, but it isn't the immediate disqualifier that Entitled Polyvangelist Person claims it is.

And along those lines, no, not wanting to have sex with someone who identifies as a woman but has a penis, or identifies as a man but has a vagina, does not make someone transphobic any more than not wanting to have sex with someone of the same sex makes someone homophobic. But saying it does makes you a self-righteous hypocritical asshole. I don't get to tell you who you're attracted to, and you don't get to tell me who I'm attracted to either. You do however have every right to go fuck yourself.

7

Cheers to everyone trashing the OPP poster. My girlfriend and I are both bi, our deal is that I can date men and she can date women. It's not about same-gender relationships being less valid, it's that we are getting something from out same-gender dates that we don't get in our relationship. But as @1 says, if I want boobs, she's got two.

8

Sometimes I try to explain why ADHD makes it difficult for me to plan things and follow through on those plans, and I do so without making excuses for myself, but in spite of my best efforts my words are frequently misinterpreted. People seem to hear me saying I can't do things because I have ADHD even though that is not what I say.

Something about ADHD also makes it difficult to understand things that are "obvious" and "don't need to be said." So I am frequently frustrated with the list of unspoken demands some people keep in their head. If you want something ask for it.

9

I love this column because it incites me to learn, and it has me reading a number of pieces and opinions on OPP. It seems there's something missing from the original post that - if it were present - would make the scathing comments about misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia true. OPP is problematic in most cases because the man can fuck women and the women can fuck women but not men. Pussy for everyone but only one penis. The original writer is a man who is open to his wife exploring her bisexuality but who is not ok with her getting other dick, and he is not expecting to fuck other women, either. Some points made above resonate, especially about binary definitions, but I don't see anything wrong with not wanting your wife to get dick elsewhere. I have to fully agree with Dan's answer and disagree with the comments above

10

I think it's important people new to non-monogamy learn that certain approaches which initially seem to make a lot of sense ("let's find a woman to share!" or an OPP or insisting everyone in your extended poly network use condoms for oral) often make it harder to find new partners.

If finding new partners is easy for you, then that's not a big problem. But if you find dating challenging, then working through the issues behind those restrictions can help you expand your dating pool.

11

Not sure why Dan is again highlighting letters from people pathologizing what is a reasonable limitation when bi / hetroflexible women seek to open an established monogamous relationship. Many people don’t want their partners fucking anyone else ever, are we going to pathologize monogamy too? If you want something different, the time to ask for that is at the start of the relationship. Otherwise, there is going to have to be compromise.

And to keep pressing the narrative that if people just processed their feelings and thought about things more they would agree to open relationships with fewer restrictions is just nonsense. That tantamount to telling someone they can think their way to enjoying any kink. People can think and process and come to different conclusions. Demanding people think differently starts sounding like totalitarian re-education. People in open relationships over estimate the thinking they have put in while failing to appreciate their original mental outlook that made open relationships appealing.

Dan, people don’t get 100 percent of what they want in a relationship but getting to fuck a man and women is closer to that then most of the compromises you’ll offer letter writers on most any other topic.

12

Granted there are methods of birth control which can make this virtually a nonissue, but — rational or otherwise — risk of accidental pregnancy may be a reason for people to feel stongly that their partners should have only same-sex encounters outside the relationship.

13

@12: Excellent point.

14

Biggie @1: So very well said, thank you. It really is up to the people in the relationship; there is no one-size-fits-all rule book for non-monogamy. Are the people in the relationship negotiating from a place of love, of mutual respect (and respect for the potential outside partners), of a goal of everyone getting their needs met rather than arbitrary scorekeeping? If they're happy with "she fucks women, he fucks women," or "no sex workers," or "we only play together," then they're happy. I'd have greatly preferred a "one penis policy" to the "no pussy policy" my exes insisted upon!

15

The other perfectly appropriate response to the commenter re; OPP would be,

"Yes, I agree that women can be just as much of a threat as men can be so it really would be best if we closed the relationship."

As far as I can tell that isn't misogynist, transphobic, homophobic, or any other phobic or ist.

16

Ghost @15: Certainly -- one option is to decline to open the relationship to any extent, in which case the woman desiring occasional pussy should decide whether the lack thereof is a reasonable price of admission or whether her sexual orientation, and living it fully, is more important than this particular relationship.

IIRC, the original letter that set off the shit storm was from a woman who had never had the opportunity to explore her bisexual desires. This, I think, is a far different situation from someone who has had experience with both men and women and meets a partner who wants to be monogamous. IMO (and many disagreed), depriving someone of the opportunity to discover their true sexuality is a far bigger evil than an "unfair" granting of a hall pass to her but not a corresponding one to him -- a man who knows he's straight, and simply wanted to exploit her anguish to get more pussy for himself. In PFFT's situation, the wife was just being selfish. Apple and orange.

17

The one place where the "OPP" argument holds water is when a straight man married to a bi woman uses her dating other women as leverage to date other women himself when she's not comfortable with that. But that wasn't what was happening in the letter, so once again we got a polyamorous person finding a way to make something all about them. What a surprise.

18

Al @17: That's when the OPP argument is pulled out like a rabbit from a hat, yes, but whether it "holds water" is subject to irreconcilable differences of opinion.

19

@18 I generally think that, regardless of the specifics, it's uncool to agree to let your partner do something and then after the fact use that as leverage to get them to go along with something they're not okay with. But whether a specific thing is okay or not depends on the people in question. There isn't an easy answer to how to handle openness in relationships where the partners have different sexual orientations. It's why I prefer to dodge that question by dating other bi people, but that obviously doesn't work for everyone (especially someone who only came to terms with their sexuality after getting married).

20

@18/BiDanFan: Sorry Bi, but no it’s not pulled out by the the straight man as some trick. He’s not the one asking to open the relationship, the bisexual / heteroflexible is seeking extra relationship sex. The idea that his choice is either (i) have sex with men or (ii) allllw his wife to have sex with women while the relationship is closed to him, after she has asked for outside relationship sex, after agreeing to a monogamous relationship is what is being pulled out of the hat. Your unwillingness to see how events unfold is why your objections to husband asking for sex with other women are flawed.

If bisexual or hetroflexible women want something different they need to negotiate that before entering a monogamous relationship, or forego sex with women.

21

@16

With respect(and I do mean that), I have to disagree.

I think that giving the hall pass to the woman to have sex with women but not the guy means that the guy is taking on significantly more risk than the woman is.

What if the woman finds she likes being with women much better, enough that she rounds up to a lesbian or finds a particular woman that she likes much better than him and leaves him? Or what if she comes down with "kid in a candy store" syndrome and he only sees her once every few weeks? And even if it doesn't get that far dealing with someone who has NRE when you not only don't but can't is pretty painful, especially when the expectation is that you are supposed to be happy for them.

In the scenario you forwarded that isn't a risk for the woman as her male SO isn't with any people other than her, but for the guy it could very easily become a miserable road to hoe with no real gain for him(the happiness of your lover is well and good but it only goes so far).

22

Puzzled and dismayed that Dan decided to spotlight the OPP comment. I found the comment horrendously self-righteous, finger-pointy, intolerant, and bigoted. Dismayed? No, infuriated.

Terrible editorial decision-making Dan, really really bad. And horrible timing too--this comment encapsulates the worst of the Left, just the sort of thing to excite Right-wingers eager to target lefties as assholes. Because that was an all-time asshole comment--right before an election is the worst possible time to highlight the fact that "far left lunatics are every bit the asshole that far right lunatics are."

And to think you were chiding Nancy Pelosi for predicting victory before election day. You're doing your own bit to help Republicans with editorial decision-making on such a fucked up scale.

23

Well, everyone has chimed in about OPP. So by the time I've scrolled down to the comment box, my own .02 has been pared down.

Yes, there seems to be a tendency for supposedly 'poly' relationships to be really the fantasies of the male partner, with the reluctant acquiescence of the female. So yes, the presence of an OPP should rouse at least some suspicion.

But what if the Kinsey Zero husband of the Kinsey 4 wife just doesn't trust that her potential male partners won't be abusive assholes?

24

@23 Good question! He should trust his wife's judgment that she's not going to date terrible people.

25

Sublime @20: Yes, I'm thoroughly familiar with your opinion on this topic, and still disagree.

Ghost @21: Even Sublime, in his detailed manifesto on this topic, admits that it is in fact difficult for married bi women to find female partners. So your hypothetical makes a lot of assumptions that don't actually pan out in reality. The newly-discovered-bi woman -- or the newly-discovered-going-without-pussy-is-harder-than-she-thought-during-the-initial-throes-of-NRE woman -- is NOT going to find hordes of willing female partners. And if that does happen, I go back to my question from comment #14: "Are the people in the relationship negotiating from a place of love, of mutual respect (and respect for the potential outside partners), of a goal of everyone getting their needs met rather than arbitrary scorekeeping?" In your hypothetical, no, this woman is not. She is neglecting her husband's needs and not showing appreciation for his being understanding on this matter. So they revisit the agreement, given the unforeseen reality. And that may indeed mean opening the relationship for both of them, or it may mean she chills out on the outside partners. Again, one size ("I want pussy too!" stamps feet) does not fit all.

Open relationship negotiation is an ongoing process, not a one-time laying down of rules. One very common reason for re-negotiation is that the couple will open themselves for casual sex only, then one develops feelings for their other partner. Again, if they return to the table in good faith and with love and respect for each other, they can adjust to the new situation. Re-negotiations may take place for a lot of reasons in an LTR. One partner contracts a serious illness; is the other bound by the monogamous agreement they made when both were healthy?

To address the "what if she discovers she's a lesbian/falls in love and leaves him," this could happen whether she is granted permission or not, no? Monogamous people leave relationships all the time. And to address the "what's in it for him," I'm not sure if you are poly, but I find an effect of NRE is to give me a tangential NRE boost -for my existing partner-. I'm with this great new person, and it's all possible because my wonderful partner isn't jealous! This translates to a happy wife, who's energised with all sorts of sexual energy. Far more likely than Wife's going out and banging a different woman each night is that she'll stay in and bang her husband far more than she did before, so everybody really does win.

26

Oh, and don't forget the long game: the not insignificant possibility that Wife's girlfriend will also be attracted to Husband. Want that elusive threesome? Let your wife fuck other ladies.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KgkBWZXVLyk

27

I agree with the bulk of the commenters about OPP. It's not (anything)-ist to allow your spouse to be with a different type of sex organs, especially since a lot of people that identify as bisexual are actually hetero romantic.

28

@21 Ghostdog. Fabulously well expressed. Also, separate topic... a top 5 favorite movie of mine (ghostdog).

29

The commenter starts the whole One Penis Policy spiel with "in the polyamory world" and that seems to be the crux of the issue. Many couples who follow a version of OPP are not polyamorous. They have a one-sided open thing going for purely recreational encounters or casual relationships. In the case of a straight man/bi woman couple, the "woman-woman relationship is devalued" because it's for the woman's "pleasure/kicks", to use the commenter's own phrases.

Many (most?) bisexual people's attractions are not 50/50, or they're not biromantic as @27 dirtygerty notes.

30

Ms Fan - "OTHER [l-word]s"? Assumes facts not in evidence.

I can see the appeal in what will likely lead to a reversal of the old practice and produce faithful husbands with bisexual wives boinking whomever they liked. I suspect Eleanor of Aquitaine would approve. FTWL.

The author of the comment Mr Savage chose for this column reminds me of certain people who considered themselves "more highly evolved" than everyone else back in a day that is thankfully long gone.

31

I know this is veering off the OPP comment thread here, but my heart bleeds for the LW, his family, and Jews everywhere, especially in the Divided States. The white supremacist willfully murdering innocent people in a synagogue is beyond inexcusably shameful. The perp should be held criminally accountable. I have a German-born friend and former neighbor who fled her native country with her spouse to flee the Nazis back in the '50s. She's in her 80's and is just sick at what the U.S. has become--exactly the propagandic horror she and her family left for cultural diversity and democracy here. Those among countless millions of lives lost to the Holocaust must be rolling in their graves. Must tragic history repeat itself because too many among us have long forgotten the past, or, worse yet are so hellbent upon reliving it?

32

I don't know. Maybe I'll have better, more positive things to comment on after Tuesday. I have a lot on my mind right now.
:) Griz

33

Add me to the chorus from @1 on that think it's absolute bullshit to characterize an OPP as Tumblr "problematic." Many if not most bi women are lopsided bisexuals and/or monoromantic. These people try to tell us the sort of relationship we want is wrong, themselves misogynists for assuming it was our partner that made the call, as though we can't think for ourselves! They say bi women must or should experience equal attraction to both sexes, essentially saying that there's a "wrong" way of being bi, engaging in monosexual-normative bi shaming (of which I have had more than enough, my goodness.)

P.S. Lesbians are often especially threatened by the prospect of a bi girlfriend leaving her for a man. I wonder if this ignorant commenter has unpacked how heteronormative and whatnot that assumption must be.

34

Ditto biggie@1 that the OPP is not INHERENTLY sexist, heterosexist, or cissexit. What's with the all-or-nothing thinking? An OPP certainly CAN be motivated by any of those biases, but we have no reason to think it is, barring other evidence, because there are physical, mechanical reasons for it as noted (or differences in sexual and romantic preferences, etc.).

I suspect there's heavy crossover between people who think such a policy is necessarily [something]ist and people who think that the only thing than can/should matter to other people is one's identity - not embodiment, expression, sometimes not even behavior (look at all the people who insist on a sexual identity inconsistent with their sexual behavior). Sadly for such people, most everyone else they meet will care more about the parts that actually can impact them - embodiment, expression, behavior - than what's going on inside their brains, and all the activism in the world and a total end to cis-hetero-sexism still won't change that.

A big cheer for BiDanFan@16: "IMO (and many disagreed), depriving someone of the opportunity to discover their true sexuality is a far bigger evil than an 'unfair' granting of a hall pass to her but not a corresponding one to him -- a man who knows he's straight, and simply wanted to exploit her anguish to get more pussy for himself. In PFFT's situation, the wife was just being selfish."

@21: "What if the woman finds she likes being with women much better, enough that she rounds up to a lesbian or finds a particular woman that she likes much better than him and leaves him?"

Then she SHOULD leave him. People shouldn't stay in relationships in which they don't want to stay. People should only make monogamous commitments if they want to - or if they want to more than they want to not, if they desire monogamous commitment more than they want to have sex with other people. I don't think anyone has an obligation to be unhappy for the rest of zir life because ze must stick to a promise ze made based on incomplete information, or even based on complete information but zir personal calculus changed. I think people should strive to stick to commitments they make, and I also think that sometimes circumstances change that merit dissolving an agreement one made, in which case it's best done clearly and honestly.

"Or what if she comes down with 'kid in a candy store' syndrome and he only sees her once every few weeks?"

Then she's a shitty partner, and HE should dump HER.

"In the scenario you forwarded that isn't a risk for the woman as her male SO isn't with any people other than her, but for the guy it could very easily become a miserable road to hoe with no real gain for him(the happiness of your lover is well and good but it only goes so far)."

If you're looking at your relationship as some kind of zero-sum game or contest between its members rather than as a mutually-supportive relationship to which all parties enthusiastically agree, whatever the terms, then something is already very, very wrong and you should break up. I don't really understand fights in relationships in general: if I want my relationship with someone to have a particular feature, there are really only a few possibilities. I want X and the other person either also wants X or is indifferent to X - there's no conflict and I get X. I want X and the other person wants an incompatible Y - conflict. If X is a deal-breaker for me and Y is a deal-breaker for zir, we break up - we want incompatible things more than either of us wants a relationship with the other person without those things. If X is a deal-breaker for me and Y isn't a deal-breaker for zir, we stay together and I get X, perhaps with some kind of compromise; if X isn't a deal-breaker for me and Y is a deal-breaker for zir, we stay together and ze gets Y, perhaps with some kind fo compromise. If neither X nor Y are deal-breakers for either of us, we potentially have more room for compromise in figuring out a solution. I see no reason to fight rather than have a good faith discussion where all parties advocate for their wants and we try to figure our the best solution possible for all parties when we're dealing with people who care about each other a lot.

35

When it comes to relationships, there ain't no such thing as a universal standard. The only standards that matter are what works for the people in the relationship.

When there is a disagreement between the people in the relationship, and they seek third-party opinions, what they're looking for is "I'm right and the other person is wrong". If they get that opinion, that might help them feel better about themselves, but (and this is the key point) doesn't solve the disagreement! There are only 4 real resolutions to it: 1. Person A gets what they want and Person B puts up with it. 2. Person B gets what they want and Person A puts up with it. 3. They compromise and neither gets exactly what they want, and both have to put up with it to a degree. 4. They go their separate ways.

And this applies to the OPP policy discussion as well. It doesn't matter, really, whether the OPP is misogynistic or not. What matters is whether both of the people in the relationship are cool with the OPP for that particular relationship, and the willingness of both of the people to either compromise or end the relationship for the OPP or lack thereof. And no bit of theoretical principles can do much to change that.

36

In my experience, an OPP isn't much of a problem if it applies to a couple. The female half may have trouble finding other females, but I don't know if her odds would be much better at finding another female if she also entertained other male lovers.

Instead, one of the big things feeding their infamy is how often they're expected by unicorn hunters, and how unicorn hunters in general tend to bring a whole list of rules for their prospective thirds to follow before even meeting those thirds. If I expect my wife's partners to also swear off sleeping with other men, or if I expect the girl we just started dating to jump into a throuple sight unseen, that's a much bigger ask and I'd be unreasonable for opening with it.

37

John @34: Thank you, and a big cheer for you too - very well said!

38

ChiTodd @36 - are you assuming that the woman in the couple is bi? I'm straight and if my marriage had an OPP that would mean that my husband could date other women but I could just sit home and twiddle my thumbs.

An OPP works if it works for the people involved.

But both the man and the woman of a couple may find that no women want to date either them if dating them means giving up other dick. If the man will date women who have male partners, while not allowing his wife to date other men, I think that's likely to lead to resentment and I recommend sitting down and talking through the issues behind the OPP.