Polyamory and Children

Apparently – and this comes as a complete surprise to me – polyamorists have difficulty convincing other people their arrangement brings about an environment suitable for children. One Gracie X laments thusly:

Six years ago when my husband and new boyfriend all decided to cohabitate under the same roof– I felt pretty smug. I had created a situation where I got to have my husband of 20 years and a new lover as well. We converted our single-family home into a duplex. My husband and his new girlfriend moved into one side of the house, while I lived on the other side with my new man, Oz.

Sounds idyllic. Who’s in charge of the laundry?

But not everyone was thrilled for us. When Oz, told his ex-wife he was giving up his apartment permanently to move in with me, she slapped him with a custody suit. She was determined that their two children would never live in my home. She accused us of all kinds of perversities and insisted the household was unsafe for their children. During the hearings, we were basically investigated for being polyamorous. Thus began my painful education into the fears and bigotry surrounding my alternative chosen family.

Well, yes. Whereas this lady might have been okay with her kids spending time with their father and his new girlfriend, putting them under the same roof as another two adults about which she knows nothing and have no connection to the children whatsoever is a different question altogether. I have a friend who is a single mother, and she would never leave her kid alone with one of her boyfriends, and when the father moved another woman in with him, my friend insisted on meeting her just to get a feel for the sort of woman her daughter would be spending time with. All was fine, but she checked anyway. Sensible woman, my friend.

But even after Oz’s children moved in, we all felt vulnerable. Until there are laws that protect polyamorous people, swingers and those with any openness in their marriage—we are unprotected from people who would use our sexuality to attack us.

They probably couldn’t care less what you do sans enfants, but when kids are involved it becomes another matter entirely. That’s not to say that no polyamorous people should be allowed to have kids, but they ought to expect additional scrutiny of their child-raising environment. That this came as a surprise to Gracie X speaks volumes.

Your sexuality does not determine your effectiveness and goodness as a parent. One mistake we made was trying to justify and explain our lifestyle to the courts. In hindsight this further put our sexuality on display. Better to do just the opposite. Focus on your excellent parenting skills.

Shift the focus off the sexuality, she says. Okay, but:

Utilize local LGBT organizations for legal strategy. Gay rights activist groups have already dealt with the kind of situations and bigotry that you may be confronted with in court.

In other words, make your sexuality an issue. And that’s the problem: polyamory is about sex, despite what its practitioners say. I think these days most people would concede that being gay or lesbian is not a choice, much less a lifestyle choice, but polyamory – which is basically a term to describe how people’s sex lives are organised – can’t possibly be described as a natural condition over which the participants have no control. I hesitate to call it a lifestyle choice because, from what I’ve seen and what others have told me, it is more of a coping mechanism. The reason why people concentrate so much on the sex part of polyamory is because that pretty much defines it: leave the sex out and you have the guts of what most functioning adults enjoy anyway.

Get letters of recommendation from teachers’, friends, co-workers, anyone who has witnessed your parenting and can accurately describe your parental strengths.

I wonder what percentage of polyamorists could get these?

When I look back at this time it was one of the most stressful of my life. I was on edge for the entire two years that we were embroiled with the courts and their appointed evaluator. Reach out to your support network, find ways to calm yourself down and deal with your stress. It’s extremely challenging to deal with the courts and even more so with the potential of losing your children– my heart goes out to anyone going through it.

Makes you wonder if the kids were considered at all, doesn’t it? All of this stress could have been avoided by not getting into a cohabiting polyamorous arrangement. I’d love to see how they turn out.

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The Benefits of Polyamory

Last month the Metro carried an article on polyamory in which they asked the question:

What are the benefits of a poly relationship?

The answer:

You can experience a unique and lasting love with more than one person, which opens you up to lots of different experiences with multiple people.

You can do this without having sex, unless those “different experiences” are having sex.

If you’re feeling down, or need support, you’ll have more than one loving partner to turn to – which will add increased comfort and reassurance.

When in need of support, is it really necessary that it comes from more than one person you’re having sex with?

It’s also a good setup for those who like to get creative in bed – with everyone being into different things in the bedroom, a person who wants to try lots of things can get experimental with more than one person, and learn things from multiple lovers.

Ah, it’s mainly about sex, then. I’ve noticed this before.

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Polygamy or Polyamory?

I find this interesting:

A long-awaited verdict in the trial of two Canadian religious leaders accused of polygamy is expected on Monday.

Winston Blackmore, 61, is accused of having 24 wives and his former brother-in-law James Oler, 53, is alleged to have married four women.

They are both former bishops of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS).

The landmark polygamy trial is expected to test the boundaries of religious freedom in Canada.

Polygamy is illegal under Section 293 of Canada’s Criminal Code.

On the one hand you have old, fat white men being prosecuted for having multiple wives. On the other you have puff-pieces in the NYT and Vice promoting polyamory and agitating for legal and societal recognition of the sleeping arrangements. If polygamy is illegal then the marriages are not valid, so how does this differ from polyamory?

Personally I find both situations rather unsavoury, but if Blackmore wants to avoid a 5-year jail sentence he ought to grow a goatee beard, stop eating until his arms take on a noodle-like girth, move to Brooklyn and start whining to journalists that people continually judge his lifestyle. I’m sure at least one of his 24 wives has a personality disorder of some sort, she could be shoved to the front along with her kids to get the liberals on board. Just get her to dye her hair green and wear an “I’m With Her” badge, she’ll be featured in a column within a week.

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Another attempt at normalising polyamory

Via TJ in the comments, the mainstream media has another go at normalising polyamorous relationships. This time it’s the BBC:

Prof Aviram said she found little appetite for marriage among polyamorous groups when she first started her research in 2004 but she began to see a change around 2012.

Prof Aviram believes changing attitudes may be due to wider acceptance of same-sex marriage around the world, making way for new taboos to be broken.

“Perhaps in the 1970s, same-sex marriage was as unimaginable as group marriage is today,” she says.

When same-sex marriages were legalised, some folks warned that it would put the institute of marriage on a slippery slope to mockery and obsolescence. Reading this, they may have been onto something. Of course, for many people this was the whole point.

[28-year-old DeAnna Rivas] suggested to her husband, Manny, that they start experimenting with another woman in 2014.

After the birth of their second child, DeAnna was struggling with depression and felt she could not get enough emotional support from her husband alone.

“I was so unhappy I couldn’t express my feelings to him. I had another part of me that was missing.

“When we met Melissa it just felt right.”

DeAnna, an art teacher, now lives with both Manny and 20-year-old Melissa James; they share incomes, childcare and household duties, and a bed.

So at twenty years old this Melissa is apparently mature enough to decide getting into a polyamorous relationship with a married couple with kids is the right thing to do. Here’s my prediction. Within a few years Melissa will be out of the relationship and will either:

1. Angrily defend her past choices, screaming abuse at anyone who questions them backed by a veritable phalanx of middle-aged feminists with green hair and neck tattoos. She’ll double down on the stupidity and learn nothing.

2. Write this off as youthful naivety, deal with it, bury it, and move on. With luck, she’ll go on to lead a normal life.

Manny, 30, says some people are upset by the relationship – a previous employer even threatened to sack him as a result – but others are intrigued.

Can we hear from Melissa’s father, please? Or did he walk out when she was 12, which would explain everything.

If things are going to change, there need to be more role models to show people that polyamorous relationships can last long term, she adds.

Manny Rivas says he “would love for us to be able to get legally married and show people there’s nothing wrong with it, show people you can make it work.

Getting married would show us only that the legal system in the US can be manipulated in the interests of social engineering. What would show people polyamorous relationships can work is an interview with three partners who’ve made it work over three decades and whose grown-up children are normal and speak of a happy, stable childhood.

Oddly, these media puff-pieces praising polyamory are remarkably short on such examples.

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The Price of Feminism

Well well well:

Prof Marcia Inhorn, Professor of Anthopolgy at Yale University, said professional women found themselves losing out in a game of “musical chairs” because there were simply too few men of the same calibre to go around.

Experts said “terrifying” demographic shifts had created a “deficit” of educated men and a growing problem of “leftover” professional women, with female graduates vastly outnumbering males in in many countries.

“There is a major gap – they are literally missing men. There are not enough college graduates for them. In simple terms, this is about an oversupply of educated women,” she said.

“These are highly educated, very successful women and one after another they were saying they couldn’t find a partner. How could it be that all these amazing, attractive intelligent women were lamenting about their ability to find a partner?” she said.

“The answer comes in the demographics – growing disparities in the education levels of men and women.

In short: women prefer men who are more educated than them, but as women are slowly becoming the more educated sex they are finding fewer educated men to partner up with. What to do?

The anthropologist suggested some women might need to be prepared to compromise some of their standards in order to find love.

One of the primary reasons middle-aged women are single is because they have an unrealistic idea of the sort of man they can attract. If you could solve this problem you’d not be writing newspaper columns, you’d be drinking gin on your mega-yacht. Fun though Sex in the City was, it ought not to be viewed as a documentary.

But she suggested society should act to increase the number of men going into higher education.

How’s that going to square with the relentless campaigns to put more women in the ranks of corporate management? As I said here, it is these very policies which are putting men off higher education and corporate life in the first place.

“It may be about rethinking the way we approach this,” she said.

“Most women who are educated would like to have an educated partner. Traditionally women have also wanted to ‘marry up’ to go for someone more successful, financially well off.”

“Maybe women need to be prepared to be more open to the idea of a relationship with someone not as educated.

Quite. I think it’s high time educated, intelligent women learned to love the slow-witted manual labourer just as us men are encouraged to love the ageing fatty.

Tell me, oh modern, non-shallow, non-materialistic woman: just what is wrong with you, a high-flying corporate lawyer, dating a builder? Aren’t we past all that gender role stuff in 2017? My pal Smiffy is dying to meet you, he’s the one over there with the cement stuck in his eyebrows.

Some women were paying a high price for feminism, she suggested.

You think? If only someone had warned them.

“As a feminist I think it’s great that women are doing so well but I think there has been a cost that has been paid,” she said, warning that many had been left in “sadness and isolation”.

Makes you wonder how many knew the costs before they were cajoled into it by the sisterhood, doesn’t it?

In some cases, the women taking part in the in-depth interviews said they would be happy to be in a relationship with someone less educated, but they felt they were “intimidating” to the men who were available.

So modern women, having quite deliberately positioned themselves to out-compete men in every field, now find they intimidate men. What did they think would happen?

About a year ago I met a corporate high-flyer here in Paris, a well-educated, smart Frenchwoman who was also rather attractive. She was single, and explained a lot of men were so put off by her lofty status in a giant, well-known corporation that she was reluctant to tell them what she did. I assumed this was down to some innate desire of men to be of higher status than their partner, but once I got to know her I changed my mind on that. Basically, the character traits required to gain the high ranks of a modern corporation are not the ones a man wants to see in a partner, i.e. a ball-breaker.

This might be as much about men being turned off by the personalities of high-flying women as women not wanting to date less-educated men. I suspect it is both, working simultaneously.

(H/T Tim Worstall)

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A tragic end to a polyamorous relationship

I am indebted to commenter Nikw211 in this thread at David Thompson’s for this story:

A member of YouTube’s skeptic community has been arrested in the fatal shooting of a woman, who has since been identified as his female YouTube co-host. Better known as “RDP” or Skeptic Feminist on social media, 29-year-old Aleksandr Kolpakov was arrested by police and is currently being held in Mesa County, Colorado jail on suspicion of second-degree murder.

The victim was identified this Monday afternoon as 31-year-old Heather Anable, a co-streamer in Kolpakov’s videos who viewers knew as “Ivy.” The coroner’s office ruled her death a homicide. Anable was shot multiple times in the neck and chest.

I saw something breaking on Twitter last night about this and couldn’t work out what was going on, so I lost interest. Or rather, I did until I found that Kolpakov and his victim were in a polyamorous relationship with another of their co-hosts of the Skeptic Feminist channel. Here is a video of Anable spelling out the virtues of ‘committed polyamory’ while Kolpakov sits beside her.

According to Twitter, Kolpakov is a US Army veteran and suffers from PTSD as a result of his service in Iraq. As Nikw211 remarks:

I find it quite hard to imagine how the particular stresses and strains involved in living in a polyamorous relationship would have been helpful for the stress levels of someone with an already imbalanced mental state.

Whether Kolpakov has PTSD or not will no doubt be confirmed or otherwise in his trial, but it seems almost certain that he did shoot and kill his lover. For a trio that made themselves vaguely famous by telling everyone that their polyamorous setup was full of advantages and based firmly in love this is a rather ironic ending, albeit tragic.

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Normalising Polyamory

In the comments under a previous post on the subject of polyamory, Tui noted:

Once trans issues become passé, poly living will be the hot new fashion. Gotta keep the sexual revolution chugging along, after all. I’ve seen a few more enthusiastic pieces over the last year or so trying to stir up interest.

Tui wasn’t wrong. The New York Times is but the latest mainstream publication to ask:

Is an Open Marriage a Happier Marriage?

Let’s see.

Daniel, then a 27-year-old who worked in information technology…

Now this may not be relevant, but both the former partners of the polyamorous woman I knew worked in IT. And it goes without saying that they, like the people in this article, lived in New York.

But as with any happy marriage, there were frustrations. Daniel liked sex, and not long after they were married, it became clear that Elizabeth’s interest in it had cooled. She thought hers was the normal response: She was raised by strict Catholics, she would tell Daniel, as if that explained it, and she never saw her own parents hold hands, much less kiss. It was not as if she and Daniel never had sex, but when they did, Daniel often felt lonely in his desire for something more — not necessarily exotic sex but sex in which both partners cared about it, and cared about each other, with one of those interests fueling the other.

So a man gets married and soon gets bored of banging his wife and wouldn’t mind sleeping with other women. How very unusual.

Elizabeth, baffled by Daniel’s disappointment, wondered: How great does sex have to be for a person to be happy? Daniel wondered: Don’t I have the right to care this much about sex, about intimacy?

Woman frets over whether she’s making her man happy in the bed. Man belatedly realises that getting married impacts one’s sex life. This is some groundbreaking stuff right here.

Occasionally, when he decided the answer was yes, and he felt some vital part of himself dwindling, Daniel would think about a radical possibility: opening up their marriage to other relationships.

Man fails to understand that being married is a trade-off.

He would poke around on the internet and read about other couples’ arrangements. It was both an outlandish idea and, to him, a totally rational one. He eventually even wrote about it in 2009 for a friend who had a blog about sexuality. “As our culture becomes more accepting of choices outside the norm, nonmonogamy will expand as an acceptable choice, and the world will have to change as a result,” he predicted.

Some of us are incapable of holding down a normal, functioning relationship and attempt to address severe self-esteem issues with meaningless sex. We demand the rest of society approves of our lifestyle.

He was in his late 30s when he decided to broach the subject with Elizabeth gingerly: Do you ever miss that energy you feel when you’re in love with someone for the first time? They had two children, and he pointed out that having the second did not detract from how much they loved the first one. “Love is additive,” he told her. “It is not finite.”

He’s using his wife’s love of their children in attempt to convince her to let him go and shag other women. Lovely.

He was not surprised when Elizabeth rejected the idea; he had mostly raised it as a way of communicating the urgency of his needs.

Man tells wife about his need to shag other women, wife doesn’t take it well.

Elizabeth did not resent him for bringing it up, but felt stuck: She was not even sure what, exactly, he wanted from her, or how she could give it.

Yes, she’s confused: that’s what happens when you’re stuck with a manipulative shit of a husband.

In the fall of 2015, Elizabeth met a man at a Parkinson’s fund-raiser. Joseph … asked her to tea once, and then a second time. They understood something profound about each other but also barely knew each other, which allowed for a lightness between them, pure fun in the face of everything. They met once more, and that afternoon, in the parking lot, he kissed her beside his car, someone else’s mouth on hers for the first time in 24 years. It did not occur to her to resist. Hadn’t Daniel wanted an open marriage?

Woman rejects concept of open marriage but cops off with a bloke offering her tea at a charity bash. Remember, these polyamory types are perfectly normal, just like you and me.

Elizabeth did not announce that the friendship was turning romantic, but she did not deny it either, when Daniel, uneasy with the frequency of her visits with Joseph, confronted her. That she intended to keep seeing Joseph despite Daniel’s obvious distress shamed him: He was suddenly an outsider in his own marriage, scrambling for scraps of information and a sense of control.

Man who wanted an open marriage fails to understand it’s a two-way street.

This was not at all what Daniel had in mind when he proposed opening the marriage.

No, he thought he’d be banging waitresses and cheerleaders. Instead he’s been cuckolded.

They had not agreed on anything ahead of time; they had not, as a couple, talked about their commitment to each other, about how they would manage and tend to each other’s feelings.

That’s because they weren’t in an open marriage: he suggested it, she said no, and then she went and had an affair. Hubby is now playing catch-up and trying to apply labels which don’t fit.

“It wasn’t like we had a conversation about it,” Daniel said the first time I met him, in April 2016, when they were just starting to put that painful period of their relationship behind them. “It was more like: This is what I’m doing — deal with it.”

Wonderful. What a lovely couple. I’m at a loss to decide who is the bigger selfish, narcissistic, shit here.

Elizabeth’s intransigence, and Daniel’s pain, had brought them back into couples therapy. After several months of surveying the situation, which seemed to be deadlocked, the therapist told them in early March 2016 that she thought they were most likely heading for divorce.

I wonder how much they paid their therapist before she reached this conclusion?

For several nights following that therapy session, they talked in their bedroom, with an attention they had not given each other in years, sitting on the strip of rug between the foot of their bed and the wall. The sex, too, was different, more varied, as if reflecting the inventing going on in their marriage. Elizabeth was still someone’s wife, still her children’s mother, but now she was also somebody’s girlfriend, desired and desiring; now her own marriage was also new to her.

Hmmm. I think the journalist ought to have expressed a little skepticism at this point, don’t you?

When I met Elizabeth and Daniel, Elizabeth had already received Daniel’s permission to keep seeing Joseph

She was seeing him anyway, IIRC.

Daniel was contemplating how he might, in turn, meet someone.

I bet he was. Like a lot of middle-aged men who bail on their marriages in the hope of getting hot and sweaty with pretty young things, he found the reality to be somewhat brutal. I only hope he didn’t grow a pony tail and start wearing hoodies.

Their marriage had already strained to accommodate another person, someone whom Elizabeth would meet while Daniel was at work, whom she texted in the car while her husband drove.

This must do wonders for the self-esteem, which likely wasn’t very high to begin with. I wonder how his “love is not finite” analogy is holding up at this point.

But Daniel said he was past the point of fear. “Basically you could say maybe we loved each other before all this — but maybe we were just asleep. And maybe being asleep is more dangerous and worse to you as a person than what’s going on right now. I want to be married, and I don’t want anything to happen to us. But I have no idea what would happen either way. Would you rather be asleep and have things fall apart? Or rather be alive and have things fall apart?”

Yeah, that therapist really helped, didn’t she?

“The new monogamy is, baldly speaking, the recognition that, for an increasing number of couples, marital attachment involves a more fluid idea of connection to the primary partner than is true of the ‘old monogamy,’  … Within the new notion of monogamy, each partner assumes that the other is, and will remain, the main attachment, but that outside attachments of one kind or another are allowed — as long as they don’t threaten the primary connection.”

In short, the “new monogamy” accepts “But she meant nothing to me!” at face value.

The spectrum of those attachments included one-night stands and ongoing relationships; as she understood it, honesty and transparency, rather than fidelity, were the guiding principles underlying the healthiest of these kinds of marriages.

I wonder just how healthy the healthiest of these marriages are?

The couples did not perceive their desire to see other people as a symptom of dysfunction but rather as a fairly typical human need that they thought they were up to the challenge of navigating.

Well, yes. Everyone would like the freedom to fuck whoever they want if the opportunity arises, but that’s something you give up in order to be in a relationship. You hope that the overall benefits of being with one person are greater than being single and free to do what you like. Nobody says monogamy is easy, but it’s a trade-off. If you could get the benefits of a monogamous relationship without the downsides, everyone would do it.

Terms have long existed for arrangements similar to those she was seeing — they could fall under the category of polyamory, which involves more than one loving relationship, or the more all-encompassing term, consensual nonmonogamy, which also includes more casual sex outside of marriage or a relationship.

Polyfuckery would be a better description for a lot of these arrangements. Or simply shagging around.

Divorce, or not marrying in the first place, might seem like a more logical response to a desire for openness. But even as marriage rates have declined in this country, the institution has retained a seductive status for Americans.

People still believe in marital arrangements that have gone on for millennia. Who would have thought?

And yet the tradition is nonetheless at odds, he argues, with the country’s emphasis on individualism, a tension that leads to high rates of divorce but also to remarriage, with worrisome outcomes for finances and children.

Ah, this old chestnut: traditional marriages often fail so polyamorous ones are worth considering. What nobody ever does is closely examine the rate at which polyamorous relationships fail, the mental state of the people involved in them, and the effect on any children unfortunate enough to be caught up in them.

And yet open marriages — and to a lesser degree open but nonmarital committed relationships — are still considered so taboo that many of the people I interviewed over the last year resisted giving their names, for fear of social disapprobation and of jeopardizing their jobs.

Here’s my own position: I have no objection to consenting adults doing what the hell they like, but don’t try to sell me polyamory as a viable option for those seeking a normal, functioning relationship.

It is no surprise that most conservatives would perceive the concept as a degradation of marriage, of a key foundation of society.

And you know what, perhaps they’re onto something?

But even among progressives I talked to, the subject typically provoked a curled lip or a slack jaw. The thought bubble, or expressed thought: How? How could any married person be comfortable with, or encouraging of, a spouse’s extramarital sex? The subject seemed offensive to many at some primal level, or at least ridiculously self-indulgent, as if those involved — working, married people, people with children — were indecently preoccupied with sexual adventure instead of channeling their energies toward, say, their children, or composting.

An admission, at last, that those who practice polyamory are rather different from the rest of us and are capable of mentally accepting things which most people would find abhorrent.

It was several months after he posted his profile that Daniel went on a date with a woman he met on the site, someone who was also in an open marriage. … Drinks flowed, and around midnight, Daniel found himself in a Ford Explorer, kissing a woman who was not his wife for the first time in 25 years.

Two middle-aged people copping off in an SUV on the first date after meeting online. Anyone who thinks polyamory lacks class better think again.

They were still making awkward conversation at a bar when a woman sitting nearby asked how long they had been together. Daniel and his date exchanged glances; Daniel shrugged, as if to say: “Go ahead.” “He’s married to someone else,” his date said. “I’m married to someone else. We’re on our first date.”

The first rule of polyamory: advertise it to the whole world.

Susan Wenzel, a therapist in Winnipeg, Canada … felt equipped to manage the arrangement, and she and her boyfriend cautiously agreed that they could see other people, so long as those relationships remained casual. Susan did not feel it detracted from the strength of their relationship when she started seeing someone who is, like her, an immigrant from Kenya. But when that faded and her live-in boyfriend started dating someone, she found that jealousy hijacked the relationship.

Meaningless extra-marital sex with African immigrants have detrimental effects on the marriage. Who knew?

She sought therapy with Nelson, working by Skype to identify the source of her own jealousy.

I have no words…

She also had two young children from a previous marriage who lived with them…

Lucky them. And let me tell you how surprised I am to find that a practitioner of polyamory has a feeble track record in holding down a lasting, stable relationship.

She eventually wrote her boyfriend’s female friend a note of apology, adding that she had resolved a lot of her own insecurities.

All perfectly normal, as I’m sure you’ll agree.

The chief adjustment she and her boyfriend made was the one that seemed the least likely: They married, a year and a half after they first opened their relationship. Her boyfriend felt, for the first time, happy to commit to a woman he loved, knowing he had the freedom he wanted; and the symbolism of marriage gave Susan enough security that she could grant him that freedom, and exercise it herself.

Or, more likely, it was a vain attempt to put  a veneer of respectability on a degenerate lifestyle that was causing them to be shut out of ordinary society.

In August, Elizabeth and Daniel made a road trip to a Lower East Side bar in New York to attend Poly Cocktails, a monthly event founded in 2007 for people who are interested in nonmonogamy, or practicing it.

A pickup party, in other words. Not exactly low-key types these polyamorists, are they?

For the most part, the socializing was studiously nonsexual, but a young woman with a retro look — red lipstick, baby-doll dress — was flirting with a tall man in a sleeveless T-shirt, a 45-year-old dad from brownstone Brooklyn, a musician with a corporate day job.

Brooklyn. Where else? And what’s the betting the girl in question has some sort of severe Cluster B personality disorder and enough daddy issues to fill a book? Can we come back and see how she’s doing in ten years time?

Elizabeth and Daniel had ostensibly come to be among people who would not judge them.

Meaning, form opinions as to their chosen lifestyle and characters.

Instead he spent most of the evening talking to a married woman who complained that she felt underappreciated by the crowd at the bar.

Woman who goes to a party for those who practice indiscriminate sex feels underappreciated.

Conventional wisdom has it that men are more likely than women to crave, even need, variety in their sex lives. But of the 25 couples I encountered, a majority of the relationships were opened at the initiation of the women; only in six cases had it been the men.

Sorry but…

When I last wrote about polyamory I said:

It is almost a certainty that the men in a polyamorous relationship will be noodle-armed omegas of hipster persuasion. On the odd occasion this rule doesn’t apply, he will be an astonishingly ugly, middle-aged man with a pot belly and wearing bad knitwear.

Look at the pictures in the article then tell me I’m wrong.

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A Synopsis of The Book

It occurred to me that I should probably tell people what this book I’m writing is about. So here’s a synopsis:

A middle-aged divorcee living in London meets Katya, an intriguing Russian-American woman some eight years his junior on a popular online dating site. With her facial piercings, bohemian style, and artsy outlook she is not his usual type but the two get along fabulously well and soon they are embarked on what promises to be a healthy, long-term relationship.

Then one morning, after a romantic night together, Katya reveals a secret about her past which destroys all his assumptions and makes him realise that he doesn’t know this woman at all. Only he is hopelessly in love, and so instead of leaving he decides to stay with her in the hope her past is behind her and there are no more secrets to be revealed. But the more he learns about Katya the more questions are raised: why did she divorce her husband back in New York? Why is she so drawn to the Burning Man festival that takes place each year in Nevada’s Black Rock desert? And why is she with him in the first place?

In an effort to find out he accompanies her to Brooklyn and enters the world which has shaped her life since she fled Moscow and her estranged family a decade before. What he discovers forces him to confront his own weaknesses and insecurities and question just how far he is willing to go in accepting Katya once the truth is known.

The book is written in the first person and is set on the Eurostar between Paris and London where the protagonist is recounting his experience to some friends, a married couple, he met by chance at Gare du Nord. The actual story takes place in London, moves to New York, and then comes back to London with a brief visit to Vilnius somewhere in the middle.

The themes that are touched on are, to varying degrees (I can’t list all of them because of spoilers): the middle-age dating scene for men, online dating, what men expect from romantic partners in middle-age, the difference in mindset between men in their twenties and middle-aged men vis-a-vis romantic relations, women’s sexual history and how men view them, Russian women and other aspects of Russia, third-wave feminism (and its effect on young women), drug use, sex, artsy types, Burning Man, Brooklyn’s arts scene, and the general interaction between a man and a woman from very different worlds when they attempt to form a relationship.

I appreciate it might not be everybody’s cup of tea but I wrote it mainly because I reckoned I had a complete story with this one, and that’s half the battle. I’ve kept it as realistic as possible in the hope that people – both men and women – will be able to relate to the characters and situations, or at least find it interesting. I am confident that I am saying something different, stuff that hasn’t been put into writing before, at least not in novel format. I’m also confident that the story is interesting enough and my writing is good enough that people will like it.

Only one way to find out, though.

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Middle-Aged Women on Dating Sites

What They WriteWhat They Mean
Looking for a serious relationship.Having spent ten years fucking about, I now want men to take me seriously.
I like Italian food/travel/sunshine/music.Who doesn't? I just have no imagination whatsoever.
I might not reply straight away.I am far too busy and far too important to make the minimal effort to respond to those showing interest in me in a timely manner. How come I still haven't met anyone?
Must have good manners and be polite.I find myself attracting rude, abusive people. None of this has anything to do with my personality.
Sapiosexual.Look at how cool and edgy I am by using descriptions of myself that most people won't understand, thus proving themselves to be less enlightened than I.
I hate smokers!The lack of men in my life has led to me trawling the internet to meet strangers, but I'll throw up extra barriers anyway just to make it a bit harder.
I'm looking for someone non-judgemental.I have issues dating from childhood that were never properly dealt with, and these have led me to engage in extremely dubious sexual practices with substandard men almost non-stop since I was 16, which in turn has left me mentally scarred and not speaking to my parents. I am currently in therapy. Kindly disregard all this when considering me for a lifetime together.
Married men: no thanks!Having found myself in a demographic that overwhelmingly attracts married men looking for a bit on the side, I'll pretend they are a minor nuisance distracting me from all those single guys that are lining up around the block.
Please read my profile!Anyone who contacts me must immediately know exactly what I want, even if my profile is as contradictory and confusing as a tax declaration form.
Must have good personal hygiene.My last boyfriend stank to high heaven. I lived with him for three years anyway.
No bad habits.I will complain incessantly about every tiny thing I don't like.
No time wasters!I am incapable of compromise; only perfection will do.
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How Men Get Married

A couple of years back I met, very briefly, a young Russian woman here in Paris. She was about 30 years old and was, in her words, “looking to settle down”. The method she used in going about this business was to meet men in any way possible, but mainly using dating sites, and ascertain whether they were suitable.

One of her criteria was that they were “serious”. The age range she was looking at was between 30 and 40, although between 33 and 43 was probably more realistic. She told me she’d not had much success since she quit living with an Irish guy who “wasn’t serious”. Before that she was seeing a Frenchman who needed to be ordered to take a shower. That was about as much as I could ascertain regarding her track record with men.

It didn’t take long to understand why she was struggling. She insisted that she would not sleep with any man who did not commit himself to her in a long-term relationship, by which she meant something not far short of promises to marry her. She wanted marriage and kids, she told me, and didn’t have time to waste on guys who just wanted sex. I asked her if she thought she was likely to find a man who would commit to her with such certainty before he’d even slept with her. She seemed the think she would. I asked what sort of man she expected to find in his mid to late thirties who was looking for marriage, she said:

“Somebody who wants to settle down but hasn’t met the right woman yet.”

I thought about it, weighed up the pros and cons, and then decided to break her heart. I did so by gently explaining how men actually get married, as follows.

A guy will spend his early to mid twenties in and out of relationships of varying levels of seriousness, shagging around a bit, basically enjoying himself with little interest in settling down. Then as he gradually moves between 25 and 30 he starts to take life a little more seriously: career, finances, etc. and he gets less and less interested in going to bars, clubs, and meeting random women. If for no other reason, he does this because the hangovers start to hurt. Around about 28 or 29 he notices his mates are all getting long-term girlfriends, then engaged, then married and for the past year or more the group of lads he used to go on the piss with has dwindled almost to nothing. Parties now consist of going to somebody’s house or a pub with partners in tow, not fourteen lads on the lash for a week in Faliraki.

At some point in this period he’ll have the following conversation with himself:

“I’m not sure if I want to settle down just yet, but everyone else seems to be. I’ve been with my current girlfriend for two years now, and she’s a great girl. Sure, there are probably others better looking but I can trust her and she doesn’t drive me fucking nuts. She’s also got a half-decent job, which helps. She’d probably make a good mother, and I’ll want kids at some point. And I really don’t fancy having to go out to clubs or go internet dating to find somebody else; firstly it’s a pain in the arse and I’ve not done that in years, and secondly am I likely to find somebody better? Probably not. Yeah, this one seems okay. I reckon I should think about asking her to marry me.”

By the time they’re in their late twenties or early thirties, they’re married. Sure, there are some hold-outs who keep up the single life into their mid-thirties before settling down. There are others who keep it going indefinitely and never settle down, and I’ll come back to them later. In my experience, almost all of my male friends of my generation got married in this fashion. Recently I was asked if I had any single male friends. I don’t, and not only that: none of my friends has been single for about 10 years! I’m almost 40, so basically nearly every guy I knew (with very few exceptions) was married by their early thirties. Which means in most cases they first met their partners in their mid to late twenties.

My Russian acquaintance really didn’t want to hear this, and nor did she want to hear what men don’t say to themselves:

“Hey, I had a fun time shagging around for 15 years, it was a blast. But I woke up one morning about a year ago and thought I ought to settle down. I was 35, after all. The only problem was, I hadn’t met the right woman yet. The cocktail waitress had great tits but was so thick she didn’t know to come in from the rain. That American girl was heaps of fun what with her tattoos and red hair and she was amazing in bed, but hell she’d done the Orgy Dome at Burning Man and I’m looking for the mother of my kids here! And Jane from college was a sweetheart, but she’s a bit…well, plain. No, I need to get out there and find the right woman for me! I’ll start looking tomorrow.”

I don’t know a single, solitary guy who did this. Well, perhaps one. But he was one of those guys who got women so easily that he didn’t feel the need to hang onto them because he could always pick up another five minutes later. He is now settled with a kid.

That’s not to say there are no single guys out there in their mid to late thirties looking to date. There are, and there is no shortage of them. But they fall into one of three categories:

1. The guys I mentioned earlier who will never settle down, at least not in the way women want them to. These are not going to be hanging around some Russian chick who isn’t putting out until promises of marriage are made. I’d say 30-40% of single guys in this age group in any given city fall into this category.

2. Guys who desperately want to settle down but no woman will touch them with a barge pole and they’ve been single for a decade, not counting the girl he met in a bar in Pattaya. These guys probably make up 60-70% of those on the market. One of the most difficult things in life for a woman in her thirties to accept, to the extent that very few of them do, is the fact that their dating pool is now made up almost exclusively of these men.

3. Decent, successful men who have recently come out of a long-term relationship and enough time has passed that they want to get back into another. There are about twelve of these guys around at any given time and they stay single for about five minutes. They will be looking for women ten years younger, and they’ll find them queuing up.

My Russian acquaintance took serious exception to this, to the point she told me to fuck off and never to speak to her again. I doubt she’d have reacted like this if what I had said wasn’t true.

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