Harriet @104, heh, when English speakers tell me I have good English, I like to respond with the immortal words of Dennis Kim from Big Bang Theory: "Thanks, so is yours!" ;)

I was born in Russia but moved to the UK when I was 16. I'm in my late 30s now, so I've had plenty of time to practice! But I definitely have some linguistic blindspots, and don't "feel" my second language in a really nuanced way. And definite and indefinite articles will always be the(??) bane of my life :)

And yes, it's she/her pronouns! Please remind me, what are yours? I have a vague memory of you saying you're happy with either/all of them, but I might be mis-remembering...


"in matters of evolution, the height, depth or breadth called for, available or on display is pretty equally divided between different relationship types" (quoting @105 venn)

I will defer to the experience of everyone saying this (which is nearly everyone, except for Lost Margarita who says the NM population are worse).

I must say I am surprised, and would like to see data, because I see factors that suggest that the ENM population might be somewhat better. Because these are people that didn't just accept as a given the societal default of monogamy.

That requires some awareness. Awareness is a quality many people are unaware of let alone possess much of, and awareness is the primary key to all levels of personal growth. One can't make too much of that "know thyself" was inscribed on the front of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi.

But apparently I was wrong to be encouraged by that they have the aforementioned awareness, perhaps they just stop there.

While I was typing this, the following Comment appeared:

@106 Lost Margarita
"that bike analogy was ~the~ argument?"

Thank you for understanding (it means a lot to me that discussions have a degree of responsiveness). But actually the whole of my @97 was the argument.

Really the least of which was that analogy.

(May I take an completely unrelated tangent? I was once trying to explain something to a dim acquaintance, and finally I resorted to an analogy. He quoted a grad school professor who said analogy is the lowest form of argument. I returned fire by telling him his professor was wrong, analogy isn't an argument, it's what you say to someone who's too damn stupid to understand the argument.)

My argument amounted to the simple assertion that a proper name for a relationship model would be aspirational rather than descriptive. Both because that's something worth buying into, and that it appears you more than anyone would be eager to measure them against. (In other words, if you take away the word "ethical" you've undermined your ability to hold them to that standard.)

That seems to me a strong argument.

OTOH, I can see that since you feel like the NM community is worse, you want to highlight this by calling for their "E" to be taken away.

I'm just pointing out that were it actually to be taken away, both they and you (I argued) would in practice have lost the very things you want.

But I get that if you're right that they're worse, they deserve their "E" to be taken away. I just wanted to point out no one would benefit if it /actually/ were taken away.

Oh, and yes, that analogy wasn't great, but it was the best I could come up with on short notice.

OMG I just got to your big paragraph that begins with "IMO", which contains an extremely strong argument. Well, some of it seems a little muddled to me, but what I'm getting out of it is that the thing that makes it ethical is consensuality, so both "ENM" and "CNM" are saying basically the same thing. And if that's true then "CNM" would be better by being more clear.

Saying it this way I get; your original argument seemed instead to be about stripping them of the "E" because they don't live up to it. (But then aren't they equally not living up to the "C"?)

(Incidentally, I don't happen to believe that "Ethics are subjective".)

While I agree with Dan's arguments that there are certain compelling extreme circumstances where monogamous fidelity is not called for, I agree with you, I wouldn't call that ENM either.

"Conversely, someone could be in a consensually non-monogamous relationship, and yet conduct said relationship completely unethically."

I'm sorry, but since by the time I got to this sentence you'd convinced me that the thing that the thing that makes it ethical is consent, it's not clear to me how it can be unethical with consent.

"So if unethical non-monogamy (aka cheating) can be ethical, and ethical non-monogamy (aka poly+) can be unethical, then maybe "ethics" isn't the best qualifier for what we're trying to define?"

That sentence was a doozy. Not complaining; I pondered it a while and I have no complaint about it. Except that as I understand it, it's equally true that ENM can be unethical and CNM can be non-consensual.

(Incidentally, we could very well call cheating 'unethical monogamy'.)

@107 Lost Margarita
"you're happy with either/all of them"

You remember correctly. And I'll be damned if I'm gonna pick pronouns /for/ Harriet, hence I've just keep repeating Harriet's name a million times in a single paragraph.


Thanks to curious, CMD and Bi for understanding my previous snark.

Hey Margarita. I think we got lost in cross-purposes. I agree that it's completely possible for people in any group--"ethically non-monogamous" included--to be unethical bastards. "Consensual" may be a better term, although, in the same vein, changing the term isn't going to mean all people who identify that way actually do it consensually. I sort of like the term to be aspirational--having the "ethical" right in there feels like a nice reminder of what /should/ be going on. But of course you're right that it doesn't mean it /is/ what's going on. Curious's point @97 is just that that's generally true of language, especially around complicated issues. People say "monogamous" when they aren't, etc. Terms are never a perfectly accurate description of reality. (Unless it's the language of math, of course ;)

I do just want to point out that no enm person here said they would actually say "You knew I was enm so don't be upset I slept with someone else" to someone they cared about. The sentence was constructed by Hachacha, who seems to think that emn is the same as 'inconsiderate slut,' and attributed to one of the mean fictional enm girls in his/her head. My response (to H.) was just meant to indicate that the /content/ of that sentence is, in fact, reasonable in the context; I didn't mean I would agree with someone phrasing it like that, especially at an upset partner. Ditto the "If you don't want your partner sleeping with other people, maybe you shouldn't date enm folks." I wouldn't say that, verbatim, to a partner of mine who was upset! But I'd certainly say it to someone who was trying to decide if they wanted to be enm...

In other words, I was being snarky at Hachacha, not meaning to advocate snarkiness at a real-life partner who was navigating jealousy.


Although I'm also interested in just how many of these comments are very negative and feel like envy, I've got a different question based on FIRSTUP's post: what do you, the sex-positive, pretty broadly experienced, fairly diverse group of Savage Love readers think constitutes a 'big dick'? I'm not interested in statistics or studies (I can google those), I'm curious about the opinions of this particular group: what's your personal definition of 'big'? Bonus points for any additional thoughts (importance or utility of size; size vs aesthetics; distribution of sizes in your experience; how do fly's land on the ceiling if they can't fly upside down...)


@110 RationalHuman
"how do fly's land on the ceiling if they can't fly upside down"

Seemed pretty obvious to me that they reached up and grabbed it, and I just googled:

"The fly flies upright, close enough to the ceiling, and reaches upward with its front legs"


@102 - I'll be seeing the old standby first.


@111 the fly part was sort of a joke. Back in the day it was one of those standard interview questions, like why are manhole covers round, intended to test ability to think about a question logically. This was before google.


@Rational @113: My all-time favorite answer to "Why are manhole covers round?" is "Because manholes are."


Mr Curious - It depends on how you establish comparable conditions. Of course, you are perhaps not an Austenian. The original is from the meeting of Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney, when he speculates on how she will describe him in her hypothetical journal, pooh-poohing her rejoinder that perhaps she doesn't keep one by claiming that it is their practice in the keeping of journals which makes the art of writing agreeable letters peculiarly female. When Catherine doubts that ladies write letters that superiour to those of gentlemen, Henry replies that the female style of letter-writing is perfect except for three particulars - a general deficiency of subject, a total inattention to stops, and a very frequent ignorance of grammar.

On the other side, we have Mansfield Park and Mary Crawford's assessment of a brother's letter, founded on how her brother Henry loves, consults and confides in her and will talk to her for an hour altogether, but has never turned the page in a letter, often writing no more than two or three sentences. The downtrodden Fanny Price even dares at this to offer a contradiction, based on the long letters received from her brother William at sea, although she carries a sort of white knighting in later being almost offended on Edmund's behalf that Miss Crawford would tease Edmund about the brevity of anything he might write to Tom.


@115 venn
"you are perhaps not an Austenian"

I'm afraid that's true. I don't even recall the authors/titles, but some novels from that period didn't click for me in high school. Maybe none of them were even by Austen...but I think maybe one was.

I know I love watching any film treatment of her work. (I suppose that'll be true of the newest "Emma." [what on Earth is a period doing in a film title?].)

But to your point as I might have correctly discerned it, I think there's a type evolution I would argue is (as I wrote @108 about ethics) not subjective. I think quite a few things are objective which some think are subjective. Of course I also honor that there are infinite ways of manifesting that objective which are all absolutely equal.


curious @108, wow, that was some rollercoaster of a comment! :) Fun!

Ok, so a couple of points:

Didn't you say further up "Be on notice that I do not sink to talk with people who twist my words"? (I love that kind of duelling talk by the way). Now let's see...

"except for Lost Margarita who says the NM population are worse"

"there's no reason to suppose that abuse in non-monogamous relationships is any less common than in the general population."

"I said that there's no reason to suppose that shitbags are more scarce in the poly communities than they are in the gen pop."

See how I DIDN'T say that non-monogamous people were worse, just that they were no better than the rest of the human race? I half-agree with @ciods assertion that "scoundrels make up the majority of most communities", except I'd be more optimistic and guesstimate the percentage of scoundrels at about 20% of most communities :) It's more of a sliding scale, really. But I do take issue with the idea that non-monogamous people are MORE ethical or evolved because they don't fit the mold and are more aware. I generally agree with the "more aware" bit - discussions about consent, tolerance, communication, etc. tend to be a bit more "varsity level" in poly and poly-friendly communities. This is a good thing in itself. And it can give an impression that non-monogamous people are indeed better at being better. But good awareness alone doesn't necessarily translate to good behaviour, in my experience. I see openly non-monogamous people in fringe communities engage in self-serving, rationalising and enabling behaviour at roughly the same rate as the monogamous mainstream - they just do so in slightly different ways, using a different value system.

"since by the time I got to this sentence you'd convinced me that the thing that the thing that makes it ethical is consent, it's not clear to me how it can be unethical with consent"

There are different schools of thought on this. I've always liked a writing by the late David Stein (of "safe, sane and consensual" fame), called Consent Alone Is Not Enough. He talks about consent in the context of "ethical SM", but the ideas are equally applicable here:

For me, consent is only the beginning, the absolute bare minimum in an ethical sexual relationship or interaction. Consent is RELATIVELY straightforward, whereas relationship ethics is a larger and more complex concept. For instance, The National Domestic Violence Hotline ( gives some typical examples (not an exhaustive list) of red flags to watch out for in a non-monogamous dynamic:

~Your partner has cheated and decides they want to open things up as a result
~Your partner wants to be non-monogamous but doesn’t want you to have sex with or date anyone else
~You feel like you need to open up your relationship in order to keep it going

For me, consent given under these circumstances is still consent, unless the person was actively misled, coerced, or poorly informed. I would still describe the resultant relationship as consensual non-monogamy. But I would need more convincing to describe it as ethical or healthy.

So since there are good and bad ways to have open relationships (as well as many grey areas), calling all of them "ethical" seems like a misnomer. I can understand the "aspirational" argument, but personally I don't feel that giving something a nice aspirational name will help make it so. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea is anything but :)

"as I understand it, it's equally true that ENM can be unethical and CNM can be non-consensual"

For me, the "consensual" part of CNM refers only to "non-monogamy". People in open relationships can violate their partners' consent in many different ways, but if they're not lying about having other partners, then in my view it's still CNM.


@107. LostMargarita. I go for 'all the pronouns'. The last time I said this, an older cisfeminist told me that I didn't care, but that some people did (!). Other perhaps than if, say, someone is accusing me of misogyny, it might be preferable not to be called 'he'; or of misandry, not to be called 'she', etc.

Yes, 'the bane'. When there's a designation of 'this sort of thing', it's 'the'--as in 'THE problem with your theory is...'. There's only one problem, but also an implicit contrast between 'the problem', 'the attraction', 'the strength' of the theory, etc.

Fwiw, I agree with you that poly people are not always more 'ethical', and tend to take themselves as more conscious or ethical. But I have to say this warily, in that I'm not part of any community of self-styling poly people. The group of people I'd have had experience of who might give themselves airs in this way were 'advanced', highly-educated gay men in open or 'realistic' relationships. It was my perception that, quite often, the more articulate partner talked the other into accepting configurations, forms of openness, infidelities or lapses, a certain degree of commitment and no more--and so on--that they wouldn't necessarily have accepted, if they had been more able to advocate for themselves...


@117 Lost Margarita
"See how I DIDN'T say that non-monogamous people were worse"

You're right, I'm sorry. I've been the one saying I see reasons they could be better; I guess I got caught up in the competition of debate and created a straw man. I'm probably also stressed and old and becoming forgetful.
I apologize. I had to go back and read every word you wrote in this thread to discover my error, and I feel that was very well-deserved penance for my error.

And yeah, I don't think scoundrels are the majority of most communities either. (Er, unless we mean political communities then most of some like rightwingers certainly are.)

But I don't think most people are truly evolved enough to be exactly /good/, either, so I think ciods could be right depending upon the degree of scoundrel-hood we're talking about.

Thank you for sharing distinctions I hadn't even tried to imagine between C*onsensual) and E(thical) NM. That makes total sense.

But then of course it is precisely because E is better than C I think it's the proper thing for people to buy into being!

"I don't feel that giving something a nice aspirational name will help make it so"

No one does. I won't repeat myself from previous comments other than to summarize that it's about what they should try to be, and what they should be judged both for not being, and for claiming claiming to be but falling short of.

Really, we got dragged into this semantic territory only out of the inconvenience of needing to distinguish it from the 'other' non-monogamy, that of cheating. If it weren't for that we could, and probably should and would, just call it NM.

And we could now call it CNM. As you mentioned some do. But I think the ENM term has the advantages I've articulated at length precisely because of the failings of ethicality you cite as making it inaccurate. Because failing to hit the mark is not a reason to not have never tried to hit the mark in the first place.


@120 Hachacha
Well, I'm proud to say I think we disagree about everything, but I can beat

"Have you ever seen a faith healing event"

my a country mile. Generally speaking a major function of religion, particularly as regards rightwing fundamentalism, is about the bad people labelling themselves as the good people.

In other words most things people occupy themselves with isn't about what they already are, but about what they aren't and might wish to be (or be seen as).

As for your actual response to me, I have nothing I haven't already said upthread to say.


No congratulations to @curious2 for winning the highly coveted 69 AND the 100th comment awards by Auntie Grizelda?! I hope she’s ok.

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