selling polyamory and deserving sex

Modern marketing, which is very effective, has its origins in psychoanalysis, decades ago. Psychoanalysis starts from the premise that people are basically full of shit, struggling with ambivalence and inner conflict, out of touch with their real, base motivations, etc.

Sex positivity, a modern bullshit story, accepts the idea that there are unconscious influences on sexuality. It’s just not critical of them. All urges are good and should be acted on, in the name of hedonism. Slate’s new sex advice column pushes this agenda.

For example, someone had a pretty generic problem:

I live with my partner of 10 years in a happy, committed relationship. My partner is a fantastic person and very considerate and giving in bed. So what’s the problem? I desperately want to have sex with other people. Every time we have sex or I masturbate I think only of other people. Everywhere I go I get crushes: subway passengers, my bank teller, co-workers, the gamut. I can’t imagine a better partner in life for myself and I really don’t want to break up over this, but I also know that suggesting we open up the relationship would be devastating. I should have known this was going to be a problem before, because even in the beginning it wasn’t his physical appearance that attracted me to him, but we fell in love anyway and have now built a life together. How do I manage this? It’s not going away, and it feels like I’m cheating.

This is a person living in bad faith. Obviously, people happy in their relationships don’t write to advice columnists about how they want to fuck everybody except their partner, who they aren’t present with during sex. They list reasons they think they should be happy with their partner, because their partner is holding up their end of the relationship. They aren’t happy, and this challenges their self-image as the type of person who’d be happy with this partner.

Would the partner be bummed to know this letter was about them? Probably. Hence, guilt.

The role of sex positivity is to cover actually-justifiable guilt with BS:

There’s enough love in this one-paragraph summary of your relationship to make me feel comfortable in being completely earnest for a moment: You touched me. You’ve been putting up with an unsatisfying sex life for the sake of your partner, whom you love so much that by merely facing the reality of your desire, you feel unfaithful. Truly, this sounds like something to hold on to.

But I’m not surprised that your wandering eye is not going away, nor do I think it will. There’s no meeting halfway here, lest you actually cheat. Our bodies have a way of deciding these things for us, even when we think we know better. You’re going to have to talk to him about how you feel, and why you aren’t satisfied. It will hurt him, but I suspect that allowing things to continue the way they are much longer will hurt him even more in the long run if your relationship is as emotionally solid as you portray.

No, the problem is that this “very considerate and giving in bed” partner is…bad in bed. The letter writer is the real victim here, putting up with all that. His body just decided for him. Oh well.

The answer continues:

It’s rare to find a partner who can fulfill your every need. And it’s not a contradiction or even particularly uncommon (especially after 10 years) that you find yourself both wanting to continue this loving relationship and extracting little sexual satisfaction from it. It sucks, but you can manage. You can remain in your state of permanent heat and make best friends with porn (porn that will never show up to your tuba recital or lie about loving your cooking), or you can do what you clearly need to do and have the conversation about opening up your relationship.

It will require patience, sensitivity, and flexibility—all of which I’m fairly certain you possess. I’m not sure why the suggestion should be devastating. In fact, if he is so considerate and giving, (now I’m stage whispering) he probably already knows something is up. He may already be expecting such a discussion. He may actually have similar feelings, as it’s no fun for an empath to have sex with someone who isn’t having fun. Or maybe it will be a genuine shock. Whatever the case, tread lightly as you embark on this necessary journey toward the great sex that you deserve.

I don’t think proponents of monogamy dispute that one person can’t meet every need. The idea is that you like your partner so much that that takes priority over some of those needs. No life will make you feel satisfied all the time either, but we accept that it’s possible to have a good life.

Maybe people have bad interpersonal skills and can’t make peace, so problems fester and prevent them from spontaneously wanting to have sex with each other. This is the part the letter writer is denying when they write about how happy their relationship is.

Is polyamory really the conventional wisdom now, like you clearly need to open up your relationship because it’s been 10 years omg?

He makes up a bunch of emotions the partner might feel, trying to distract the reader from what they already know: it actually sucks when your partner’s eye is wandering because they think you’re bad in bed. It’s a lot of ordinary people’s worst fear, actualized. Maybe the partner’s like-minded and responds to that by pretending polyamory is going to work, but I wouldn’t put my money on it.

Apparently you can deserve great sex. However, this only seems to be possible for people that are generally considered attractive. Does the letter-writer’s partner not deserve great sex in return for already being considerate and giving in bed? That’s less of a consideration. If a conventionally unattractive person claims to deserve great sex on the basis of some behavior or personal characteristics, they’ll get attacked immediately for their sense of entitlement to other people’s bodies, etc.

If we applied this standard across the board, didn’t Elliot Rodger have a point that he deserved a girlfriend? He did the things that seemed to work for other people: the car, the sunglasses, the narcissism, even attendance at a red carpet event due to family connections. Can somebody articulate the conditions for deserving sex, so we’re all clear? Fat people, trans people, racial minorities, disabled people, incels, and others have complained that they deserve love as much as anyone else, and yet it’s systematically harder for them to find it. People just aren’t feelin’ it for those groups, no matter what they do (for historically contingent cultural reasons). But they still have the right to say no.

If deserving sex is a thing, Pandora’s box opens and we’ve got a major social justice problem on our hands. But polyamory is about exactly that: attractive people’s sense of entitlement to multiple partners. People are dying alone all the time, every day, but these people are special and deserve the extra partners. Surely their original partners will understand. They were chosen for being the kind of people who’d put up with that bullshit.

Close