Dear Liza, 


I’m a 32-year-old woman who would like to have kids and a life partner in the not-so-distant future. And lucky me! I’ve recently started dating an excellent candidate. But I can’t even pretend to think it’s possible (or desirable) to have sex with just one person for the rest of my life or even, frankly, for a few years. 


Monogamy feels antithetical to the type of feminism and anticapitalism I subscribe to. I am repulsed by the idea of being a man’s property. Also, monogamy—like capitalism—requires us to believe in a false scarcity: that we have to struggle for every little bit and that everything we gain comes at someone else’s expense. The kind of liberatory future I’d like to see is one of abundance and generosity and sharing. One of the few places we can experiment with that now is in our love lives. 


But ALL the decent men I’ve dated are really opposed to open relationships, while the men I’ve slept with who say they fancy the idea don’t ever stick around long enough for the “relationship” part of an open relationship. 


This leaves me feeling like once I find a partner, the options are: 1) cheating (crummy and unethical, also a big anxiety-inducing headache); 2) waiting for the mythical “one” who will magically make me never attracted to anyone else (I’m fairly certain this is a hoax); or 3) retire from my glorious days as a loud, proud slut and gradually wither away inside as I suffocate one of the parts of my life, personality, and politics I cherish most. Please tell me there is another option out there.
—A Marxist-Feminist Slut



Dear Slut,

Yes, there are better options! With your new boyfriend, treat this as you would any other major difference you have before settling down together: patiently and by tolerating some contingencies. If you wanted to live on the noisiest corner in Bushwick and your partner was happiest in rural Tennessee, you might take turns living in each other’s preferred locale, finding unexpected delights there. Experiment with a period of monogamy—remember, many people are most jealousy-prone early in a relationship—on the condition that he agrees to consider other arrangements in the future. Or perhaps some adventures are more acceptable to him than others. (Group sex only? Dalliances that take place out of town? No exes or class enemies?) If so, are you open to such compromises? And please attend closely to the tone of these conversations—you need to be able to discuss your desires with him without being made to feel immoral, disgusting, or greedy. If such talks give you hope, hang in there! If not, he might not be your future baby daddy.

Which would be so sad! But there are men who want exactly what you want. You might have to approach finding them in a deliberate way, which can feel unromantic. Your OkCupid profile should state clearly that you are seeking open relationships only, and that you are looking for a long-term “primary” partner—no hookups. (Those last two words are painful for a slut to type, but if you don’t, you’re just going to continue hosting delightful libertines with no interest in making a domestic life with you.) A good friend of mine, annoyed by the very problem you name (men into open relationships without the relationship part), recently tried this, with excellent results. Also, find your local poly and open-love communities and attend their social events, where many men are seeking someone just like you. Given your political thinking, I’d love to suggest that starting an Engels reading group will bring the right boys to the yard, but alas, we know better: Radicals can be conservative in their personal lives.

Dear Liza, 


I live in a small city with a tight-knit activist community. I would like some advice on how to handle one person who frequently badmouths others in our community for not doing politics her way. Often, I think the criticism is baseless, and it is hurtful to the person she’s disparaging. In a larger city, I would avoid her, but that’s impossible here. Is there any way to address this problem?
—Tired of Listening


Dear Listening,

Complaining about others isn’t always a bad way to bond with fellow malcontents. As David Sedaris once wrote of a stranger in the airport, “If she was just being petty and judgmental, we could go on all day, perhaps form a friendship.” But your interlocutor has misread the situation: You don’t want to be her friend; you would like her to be a comrade and to treat your fellow activists in a comradely manner. For insight, I called political philosopher and activist Jodi Dean, the author of Crowds and Party and a member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, who has been writing on the idea of “the comrade” and what it looks like in practice. She points out that in the absence of a political party, people are left with no concrete way of resolving problems like yours. “A ‘tight-knit activist community’ [is] just a circle of friends,” Dean observes; without a party, “politics just goes away, and everything is personal.” Your community has no mechanism for working through and resolving the merits of the bad-mouther’s political criticisms, whereas a party could discuss the disputed question and determine its position. It’s also easier to address catty, destructive behavior within a party, Dean says. So when your trash-talking acquaintance complains about a person, you’d be able to say, “Well, how do these disagreements affect our work together?” Of course, you can apply this logic even without a party—bring her attention back to the political work needed in your city and how to continue it. You can also gently suggest that in the age of Trump and climate disaster, you’d prefer to focus on the common ground you share with other progressives. But Dean’s ideas are worth heeding. Left parties—Socialist Alternative, Democratic Socialists of America—are growing right now. For you and anyone else weary of endless, personalized political feuds, they may provide a way forward.

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