A world without mistresses is a world that prizes honor above all else. This mistress-less world or region or culture raises children not merely to believe in themselves or to obey their parents, but to honor themselves and others.
That is not to imply all mistresses are dishonorable.
What is honor? As a verb (per google), it is to “regard with great respect” and synonymous with “esteem, respect, admire, defer to, look up to; appreciate, value, cherish, adore; reverence, revere, venerate, worship; put on a pedestal.”
It also means “pay public respect to” and is synonymous with “applaud, acclaim, praise, salute, recognize, celebrate, commemorate, commend, hail, lionize, exalt, eulogize, pay homage to, pay tribute to, sing the praises of.”
The second definition is to “fulfill (an obligation) or keep (an agreement).”
The honor that means respect, defer to and appreciate is half the meaning of the honor that eliminates the need for a mistress. For what is it to honor the self?
Honoring self means first knowing the self. Those with self esteem believe the self worthy of curiosity and thereby knowledge. Knowing thyself as the ancients and moderns recommend for a happier life–or more meaningful, anyhow–is key.
To take inventory of the self, one’s traits good and bad, is the first step. It takes honesty, something simple in concept, difficult in practice but is that which makes honor work.
Taking frank inventory is difficult because we delude ourselves, suffer under preconceptions inherited by our parents’ stories and opinions of us that we mistake as our own.
Sometimes we do not know our own voice from others’ in our heads telling us we are kind, pretty or argumentative.
My mother always told me that I needed to have the last word on everything, that I was argumentative.
Did she label me so based on my tendency to challenge or her interpretation and reaction to being questioned? Perhaps that “confrontation” was actually curiosity or clarification by a nervous, perfectionistic kid who wanted to make sure she got everything right. If she told me to do something and I asked “Why?” was I challenging her or trying to understand? Her perception, as a busy mother of 5 kids, was that I argued.
We are complex beings and require vigilant and continuous monitoring, listening and considering to understand what we do and how we do what we do: our motivations, desires and traits.
A culture that prized honor would encourage in schools, on billboards and on television, deeds of self-respect. It would teach children not merely to quietly and mindlessly obey the commands of a teacher or words of an adult, but to stay quiet in order to listen to their heartbeat and breath.
Training them young to focus on their bodies, paying attention to its sounds and sensations, would be a foundational step to knowing themselves, easiest commenced with the physical. They would learn that how they feel is manifest in the physical and certain thoughts create physical reactions. They would know, “When I am afraid, I forget to exhale.”
They would learn yoga to keep their bodies in focus and minds quiet. This preparatory practice for meditation is required daily to hear, feel and understand themselves. It takes a quiet that is deeper and stiller than mere mouth closing.
Not that yoga and meditation are the formula to acquiring knowledge or a happy society. But those “indoctrinated” (we are all indoctrinates of a time and place) in the benefits–the necessity–for what these yield–inner focus and listening to one’s authentic voice–fare better in the odds of achieving self-knowledge requisite to honoring self.
To honor self requires self knowledge and honesty. If I know truly who I am, that I am argumentative, kind, clumsy, perfectionistic, fair, foolish and the rest of the adjectives to fill up the half dozen pages or so, I can fairly represent myself to others and circumscribe or expand my life to fit those known attributes or liabilities.
Able to accurately represent myself, I can choose those with whom I enter into agreements, knowing the wisdom of doing so and understanding humans as organic beings; we change and so our needs and wants shift.
This brings me to the second part of the definition of honor, which is fulfilling agreements. All relationships are agreements and thus negotiable.
If I honor you, I come to you honestly. I tell you who I am to the best of my ability. I present myself in hopes of being accepted as that bundle of stuff at that particular moment.
I look at you and run as fair an assessment as possible of who you are and then evaluate whether we bring enough to one another to enter into a relationship at all or if so, to what extent, degree or duration.
If I know that I am a monogamous person but you are not or are not to the same degree and definition as I am, then I must not expect monogamy from you or not enter into a relationship with you if I cannot change my need or expectation for myself.
This all takes the respect to accept people, including the self, as they/we are. Easier in an ideal world that values honor, honesty, knowledge, and integrity above all else, more than money, competition, power, blind obedience, or equality.
When people enter relationships with a firm grasp of their strengths and weaknesses, they offer an other both limitations and options for growth, romantically, sexually, financially, and communally. They offer avenues of achieving goals and desires.
They also bring liabilities which limit growth and possibility.
Think about the odds of finding the ideal match for child rearing and reproducing, financial and emotional support, sexual compatibility, friendship and trust. If you could design your life and honestly acknowledge that who you are and what you want requires serial relationships or multiple relationships throughout time or at any given time to achieve that, your odds of success would be greater if you found someone(s) like minded.
So, if you lived in a society of candid communicators that believed in respecting self and others, honored them, you could have the frank discussion of who you are and what you need.
And partial honesty severely limits what I can do with you, how much I can depend on you and what barriers I have to create in order to work around you to enjoy other aspects of you. I cannot place delicate and precious things in your hands.
But when the odds are in favor of meeting likeminded open and honest people, I could be engaged with people for as long as and in as many ways as I wanted and needed. I could agree to monogamy until that was not right for either or both of us with the understanding that all relationships are negotiable. Cheating would be eliminated. All would be negotiated.
Not that feelings would be spared and misunderstandings or cheating wouldn’t occur. But the likelihood of cheating would be reduced. The mistress would go out of style if the society that honors self and others, realistically, openly communicated their needs and desires.
Capable of loving many and so consensually enter into relationships with several open, honest and communicative people at once, true polyamorous people contribute to that potential of the mistress-less world.
True polyamory, to my understanding, eliminates cheating. It takes work to live in polyamory, more work than keeping up a lie of monogamy. The former is active and constant while the latter is passive and repressive.
Honesty and communication are acts of honor. They are crucial to monogamy or polyamory or any healthy, happy relationship and are a constant practice for readiness to understanding and acceptance.
The mistress exists and has existed for many reasons. Historically, she filled gaps for royalty politically not romantically married.
Today, she fills another kind of gap, which is the monogamy gap. It appears between what we say we want and need or our society prescribes for us and what we actually do.
She also exists because some live for risk, adventure and danger afforded only by secrecy and the forbidden entwined in her.
In that ideal fantasy world of honoring self and others, where would the clandestine loving seekers go for the thrill of the forbidden?