Judah and I are poly people whose relationship has been closed from Day One. (Saturday was our two-year anniversary!) Adam is monogamous. Our relationship is, and will be until further notice, polyfidelitous. We do not have sexual relationships with anyone outside the relationship.
I am stating this multiple different ways because apparently it is a really difficult concept for some people. Look. Treat us like we are all three monogamous. Mainly: do not initiate sexual activity with us. Any more than you would a monogamous person, unless you are the person they are monogamous with.
(I know, some of you are like "I can't believe you have to spell it out like this." I know, right?)
Flirting != Harassment. Flirting != Sexual Activity
I phrase it like that because the impression that I am getting from certain boundary-challenged people reminds me of the comments on posts about the Readercon harassment issue that whined "does that mean we can't flirt anymore?!?" Flirting and harassment are very different things. Flirting and sexual activity are also very different things. It's not as much a 1:1 comparison because one tends to be flirty with people one is fucking, yes. But I think that non-sociopaths can agree that there is a line between flirting and sexual activity. Where that line is for me is fluid exchange; if you can get an STI from it, I think of it as sexual, because it is right there in the name, guys. This is my line, and I think it is a reasonable one.
I Don't Care If You Think My Line is Reasonable
I actually really don't. You don't have to agree with me in order to respect me and my line. I have any number of friends I disagree with politically, for example, and yet I respect them. I don't understand some things about them, and you don't understand some things about me, and that's okay. Just be respectful.
The way I roll is that I think that in any relationship and set of relationships, one should adhere to the strictest set of boundaries. If one partner is cool with no latex for oral sex, but the other partner's partner requires it, we are using latex. If I need a heads-up before sexual activity (or immediately after if it's totally unexpected, but we'll get to that later) and no one else does, I expect a heads-up. I have dated people who had, or whose SOs had, boundaries that I didn't understand and thought were overly conservative. So the conversation went like this:
Person: "My partner has X boundary."
Me: "Really? Even though [Condition Y]?"
Person: "Yep, no exceptions."
...and I'd never bring it up again. Sometimes boundaries like that mean I don't get to do things I really love to do. That's life. Other people's emotions and relationships are more important than my orgasms. And if that's not how you feel, wow do I ever not want to date you or have one of my SOs date you. Because honestly, I think that's really shitty.
But Why Is Your Boundary There?
I Just Need to Know
I don't like surprises. If you are one of my primary partners - and honestly, I don't think anyone but Judah and Adam ever will be - I don't want to turn around and see someone being sexually intimate with you when I had no idea that that was even a possibility. Hell, Adam has one female friend he gets super-snuggly with at cons, but since he only sees her there, I forget that that's a possibility, so every time I turn around and see her on his lap and giggling, I go through a brief "WHOAWHATTHEohyeah." I get to oh yeah quickly because we've talked about this friend before, and the snuggliness isn't out of the blue. I've noticed that I don't have that startle reaction with secondary partners, only primaries, and it's taken a bit to sort out, because monogamous Adam was my sole primary for a decade. I've never had more than one primary before, and prior to Judah, I haven't had a poly primary partner this century. So we sorted things out and decided that what was bugging me was the surprise factor. If I know sexual activity might happen, I can say "okay" or "LION."
I do not like to use the word crazy because it is ableist. So what Judah and I say, regarding people who are clearly ticking time bombs of massive hideous drama, is "lion", short for "JESUS CHRIST IT'S A LION GET IN THE CAR."
In 2005-06, I was in a relationship with someone whose OSO was such a freaking lion that it clearly left a lot of scars. I refuse to be locked into a relationship dynamic with a lion; I have way too much going on in my life to have my balance wrecked and my home fucked up by someone else's attention-seeking bullshit. I have broken up with people who chase lions. I like to know if my partners are planning sexy funtimes with people because I have a hypersensitive lion detector.
Okay. What if There are Unexpected Makeouts?
Sure. That does happen. When I've unexpectedly had makeouts with someone (read: before I started dating Judah, because closed relationship), I would go home and immediately talk to my partners about that. "So X and I kissed. Is that cool?"
And, since I have found myself in a situation before where the person lied to me and told me their partner was okay with things that they were not okay with, I will always, always, speak directly to my surprise makeout buddy's partner. "So X and I kissed. They said you're okay with that level of contact, but I wanted to double-check. Are we cool?" Sometimes followed up by "I'd like to continue/advance things with X, only if you are totally okay with that."
And that's what I expect from others. I expect respect.
(Of course, if I know that there's interest in advance, I'll ask the partner in advance.)
I think that is it for right now because I just realized I haven't eaten lunch and my body REALLY WANTS LUNCH. But there's more! Expect thoughts on how I got so insistent about my boundaries and how you can tell that I want to have sex with you (hint: I say "I would like to have sex with you!").
1. If you're wondering if I'm talking about you, rest assured that I'm not. I never post anything like this before speaking directly to the person/people I'm having a problem with. If I have a problem with you, you absolutely know it.
2. "I'm difficult!" I said to Judah last night, curled up in bed after a long, exhausting conversation. "I know I'm difficult."
"But you are so very worth it," he said.
(And as long as both of my partners agree that I'm worth it and that my boundaries are reasonable, I do not give a good goddamn what anyone else thinks of 'em.)