I’m a cis man in a monogamous relationship with a strong feminist woman. But I’ve long had qualms about the idea that being with just one person is the defining trait of commitment. Recently, I decided to do some reading about ethical non-monogamy, and it really resonated. I’m starting to think that it may be the best relationship model for me. When I broached the topic with my partner, however, she got angry and dismissed non-monogamy as a ruse of patriarchy designed to justify male sexual predation.
I haven’t dared to bring it up again. I don’t think she’s right and can articulate why, but it’s pretty obvious this is a deal breaker for her.
What are your thoughts on ethical non-monogamy as a sex-positive feminist? I’d also appreciate advice on how to talk about it with my partner. My ultimate fear is that ethical non-monogamy may be the only way I can be happy in a relationship, but that exploring the idea will lead to the end of ours.
Feminist arguments for ethical polyamory abound. For centuries, monogamy was enforced by the patriarchal ownership of women, and even today, exclusive sexual access to one woman is seen by many as a central, nonnegotiable feature of male privilege; notice, for example, the insulting power of the word “cuck” among conservatives on the Internet (the term, which is short for “cuckold,” has in recent years become a frequent right-wing taunt, implying deep terror about wives having sex with other men. Needless to say, no female synonym exists). In the right context, polyamory can offer a way out of such retrograde machismo and slut shaming.
But don’t you think all this is beside the point in your situation? We mostly don’t choose the terms of our relationships for political reasons. Whatever she’s saying, your girlfriend’s resistance to polyamory isn’t about feminism; it’s about her feelings. She does not want to you to sleep with other people. Maybe this will change over time—but if just mentioning the possibility angers her, I doubt it. If she doesn’t want an open relationship, she shouldn’t have one.