Monogamy and Us…again

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Two articles on monogamy came out this week, both once again proclaiming monogamy has outlived its origins and is not suitable to our wiring.

In Salon’s Take that, monogamy! We’re actually hard-wired for polygamy, which helps explain why so many cheat, biologist David P. Barash explains that humans are hard wired for poly relationships:

Even though monogamy is mandated throughout the Western world, infidelity is universal.

Anthropologically speaking, Barash contends cultures around the world fulfill their social commitments in monogamy but not their biological commitments, which is more inclined toward polyandry.

In short, when adultery happens—and it happens quite often—what’s going on is that people are behaving as polygynists (if men) or polyandrists (if women), in a culturally defined context of ostensible monogamy. Adultery, infidelity, or “cheating” are only meaningful given a relationship that is otherwise supposed to be monogamous. A polygynously married man—in any of the numerous cultures that permit such an arrangement—wasn’t an adulterer when he had sex with more than one of his wives. (As candidate Barack Obama explained in a somewhat different context, “That was the point.”) By the same token, a polyandrously married Tre-ba woman from Tibet isn’t an adulteress when she has sex with her multiple husbands. Another way of looking at this: when people of either gender act on their polygamous inclinations while living in a monogamous tradition, they are being unfaithful to their sociocultural commitment, but not to their biology.

Meanwhile, in today’s Globe, Science writer Ivan Semeniuk reports on science’s latest findings that monogamy may have its roots (more likely one of them anyhow) in avoiding STD’s in To have, to hold, to avoid STDs in Science tackles evolution of monogamy.

In a paper published on Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers propose that the impact of sexually transmitted diseases may have started pushing humans toward monogamy during the agricultural revolution, when social groups began to grow in size to hundreds of individuals. The culturally imposed reinforcement could have taken hold even though the individuals involved would not have been aware of any longer-term survival benefit to their group over many generations.

Monogamy as an early safe sex device? Seems so unsexy.

My Mistress Keep

 
 
My mistress loves me because I am not hers to keep.

I’m sure this is true.

She told me so herself.

She said, “I get the best of you. The rest your wife gets.”

I cannot deny it.

That I love our secret love,

safe like the internet.

Everyone hides in the safety of their slippers and screen

to enact who they believe they are 

and do their best selves because no one really checks,

no one wants to call bullshit,

end the game so

just go with the make believe.

For us too when we are together, 

 we two for a few,

a cherished time between us to live high just a while.

I mean, who does not want to be loved like crazy?

To meet up in the imagination’s room and lie for a while.

I am not hers,

and she is not mine, 

but I can be sure she keeps me

close in her dreams,

so that upon awakening in warmth and quiet

soft pillows under her head

and silken comfort between her thighs

she feels me beneath the sheets as good as there

from so much practiced production

the fantasy we inhabit

every time we meet.

Oh yes, but she is mine.
 

credit: wikiart.org

Define Love

Curious about the love-relationship labels beginning with the prefix “poly”? Here is an amusing and informative Youtube video to answer some of the basic definitional distinctions between polyamory, polygamy, polyangyny, and other polys.  Enjoy.

Un-dying, Never-ending.



You:  I need to face you.  
Lock in your gaze to help steer me through the grey.  
Though you have not been the voice of reason in the past, 
I have let you be my voice, my reason.  
The lesson is learned.  
Growing up is hard.  
But we did.
We grew up together, confused,
believing two as one.  
We managed, staving off loneliness.  
That is our cement. 
We have suffered deeply and joyed ecstatically.  
No one else has shared that landscape.  
We are bonded.  
I cannot say that I will leave 
you who cannot love me. 
You have not said that you will leave
me who cannot love you.
We who cannot love one another
the way we need to be loved 
whom we love nevertheless, undyingly, do understand.  
You fathered me, my only one true friend.  
I want your cooling songs warmed. 
Find someone who can make you feel 
make you new, admired, special, thrilled, alive, 
awaken the deadened laboring hollow walking shade.  
You need to find the colors of the world, paint your vision.  
I will prop you up as always.  
We can steady our frames while others pump our hearts.  
We always fly home for replenishment, for safekeeping.
Me:  I will see you there.

Feminism Does Not Ruin Anything; Fairy tales do.


Emer O’Toole’s Ten Things Feminism Has Ruined for Me in the Guardian is a well-written satiric yet sincere read on what feminism has spoiled–mostly fun–for this writer from her cat to Catholicism to marriage and monogamy. While humorous, she raises some insightful conundrums in compromising that space of the political to enter the more relaxed place of “Hey, it ain’t correct, but it feels good, so I’ll just shut my mind off.”  
More than the insights and complaints, I love how she works through her queries in writing, watching the process of working through each dilemma. Here is just one example:
You’re a feminist. You’re questioning the gender-related norms in the world around you, trying to figure out which ones are oppressive (eg, sexual objectification; domestic violence; workplace discrimination) and which ones are OK (lipstick). And you begin to feel that a social system in which people claim rights of sexual ownership over each other’s bodies, and get very angry when these exclusive rights are violated, is a system so deeply imbued with patriarchal capitalist ideology as to make gender equality impossible.
So she recognizes the inherent intransigence of an institution, monogamous marriage, so deeply embedded in the larger socio-economic practice and mindset of a country that values possessions including others’ bodies, which is rife for abuse of women in a patriarchal society.  Men still run things around here. Marriage based on ownership filters down to men owning women and children, which was literally true only about a hundred years ago. Women were chattel as Kate Chopin’s ‘”Story of an Hour” reminds us.
Though, I do not doubt that two people can agree that they each have equal “ownership” rights over each other’s body and enjoy those rights, even with jealousy and possession as the basis of policing that arrangement. Two individuals cognizant of their needs and boundaries and respectful of the same in the other certainly can make monogamy work within the patriarchy of capitalism and monogamy. Like everything, it depends on the people entering into and honoring the agreements they make with continuing communication and monitoring about their arrangement when it is not working.
You take your head out of the theoretical clouds and look at the grounded reality of monogamy. You see lying, cheating, shame, even violence, and you think: is this because of love? Or is it because of the idea that we own the sexual function of the people we love? Love should make us happy (I’m looking at you, Anna Karenina). Yet jealousy, so often an excuse for abuse, is romanticised by the logic of monogamy, while love is vilified. Surely, with compassion, commitment and communication, we can find the courage to love differently. Polyamory is the future!
I do not know that romanticizing jealousy correlates to vilifying love, unless she means generally monogamy leads to jealousy and people focus on the keeping possession of bodies rather than the love that binds each to such an arrangement in the first place. Unless she means that love that someone can give to others is curtailed by having it wrapped up in only one other being. There are so many people one comes across in life, many lovable people, and yet many bargain away their love in an exclusivity contract, which seems rather unnatural and doomed as insurmountably contrived and unnatural.  
Polyamory, she applauds as the solution, though too quickly. The same kind of honesty and open communication, continual monitoring and negotiation that works for monogamy pertains even more so, even more than doubly so, to polyamory where there are more moving parts to consider. More people means more agreements, which inevitably means more of everything good and bad.  Polyamory is not for the lazy or the self-deluded. It is not an excuse to go fuck anyone you want as some do parading under the banner of polyamory. You know who you are. 
Compassion, commitment and communication are a lot of bloody work, though. Primary partners, secondary partners: all replete with complex emotions. Sometimes, at 1am on Friday night, when you just want to be out dancing with your friends but are, instead, “processing” with a partner new to poly, you wonder, ‘When did life become one long conversation about everyone’s feelings?’ You remember being 21, and trying to stop your boyfriend from punching a bloke who asked for your number while he was in the jacks. Brutal, yes, but alluringly simple.
Right. Sometimes you want to just fall back into easy patterns, even ones designed, implemented and perpetuated by patriarchy. The familiarity of it is enticing and the noble notion of chivalry is romanticism we have been fed since birth. 
Conscious choice to engage in agreed to relationship roles is what it is all about. A feminist is someone who believes in entering into relationships of any form or context, personal, career or academic, armed with information and analytical skills to see through the sedimented, unthinking practices of our culture. That practice does not have to be a battle within the self so much as a vigilance, an intellectual awareness directed to many aspects of life, not just spotting abuse. We are not dupes to advertising when we know what advertisers are up to, and yet we submit and purchase what’s for sale knowingly and willingly.  
Relationships of any kind are no different. I may submit my body to my partner’s jealous possession knowing all the implications and consequences thereof, and still sleep at night. The problem is not so much monogamy as much as it is about fairytales’ forever after. Humans want to nail down something for life:  this is the way it’s going to be so that I don’t ever have to think about that again.  It’s an insecurity thing. Again, it takes honesty and constant checking in with the self to see if the same old patterns are actively and consciously working or just mindless habits. That practice of checking in is a constant of good living. That is feminism in practice.

A World with no Mistresses

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credit: http://www.troll.me/images/conspiracy-keanu/

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?

Beyond Monogamy: exploring the possibilities of the human heart

No Place For Sheep

monogamy not amrried to the idea

Like many of our abstract sacred moral concepts, the cult of monogamy is reified to the degree that it’s considered “natural” for humans to live within its framework. Never mind that people break out all the time, and that the entirely monogamous relationship exists more in the theory than in the practice, still the monogamous ideal dominates our culture’s sexual and loving relationships.

However, “it just is” has never been a persuasive argument for me, and the reification fallacy of misplaced concreteness always comes in useful when thinking about morality.

I’ve wondered often if one of the unacknowledged goals of monogamy is to protect us from experiencing difficult emotions such as jealousy, insecurity, a sense of abandonment, of being displaced by another. Of loss, of insignificance, and so on. These are emotions we first experience in childhood, for some of us when we acquire siblings, and for all of…

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What’s in a Name? Are you a polyamorous pansexual?

A solar system a vortex,
some believe so,
the sun sucking in
all in its range
in ever closing spirals.
That I am too, no matter,
a vortex with spirals,
children, pets, students,
parents, friends, strangers
and partners and lovers.
As my trajectory spans
the sky of my life,
I feel those close,
farther and further
ahead and behind.
I merge with them,
drag and spin them,
catapulting
their weight and shape
to bend to and for me.
I draw people powerfully
with my own pulse.

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credit: http://i.ytimg.com/vi/cyCtmtIu8Ks/maxresdefault.jpg

As I sometimes do, I asked my oldest daughter recently about her love interests, which appeared to be no one in particular, and as was almost always the case, she was noticeably uncomfortable with the question.

I am never sure when I ask her, that I should ask and what I should ask. My nearly nineteen year old has never been seen openly intimate with anyone thus far, though she clearly has interests to be so.

If I am honest with myself, I ask with more than mere conversational curiosity. It isn't quite concern, either. But as her mother, I want to know about her thoughts, feelings, interests and difficulties. As a budding adult human, however, she appears reluctant to share the complexity of her desires with me. Or maybe she can't articulate them and adopts a defensive posture.

However it is, I feel as uncomfortable asking her after I receive the response: "What are you trying to get from me, Mom?" Or often she will joke, "There's no one who has agreed to join the awkward club."

Yet, I know she goes out with friends, has a seemingly active social life with people of various overt and covert identities, as far as I can tell. Some are declaratively gay or lesbian. Others are more difficult to discern.

Once I asked her outright if she were in a relationship with a friend I knew to be a lesbian. After her usual overly joyous forced laugh, she steered the conversation to a more general discussion of sexual identity. Somewhere in the conversation, she declared she was pansexual.

I thought I knew what that term meant, but I wasn’t so sure she did. However, a sure way to kill the conversation was to get pedantic, probing definitions from her.

But I couldn’t help myself and asked her if she meant polyamory or pansexuality. After a blank look, she gave a decided, slow shake of the head in dismissal of me and the subject and moved on.

These morphing adults are so hard to get a handle on when they are your own offspring. I have better luck with college students I teach, though I never ask about their sexual or romantic orientation. Some offer it up unasked or wear it like a uniform, however.

After our neat little chat, I, of course, retired to my cave for some research on the topic that piqued my curiosity. There are so many terms to identify sexual and intimate orientations or inclinations that I get dizzy sometimes, despite my mastery of Greek and Latin prefixes.

The synthesis of my readings led me to believe that pansexuality is sexual openness for attraction to all gender/sexual identities: gay, lesbian, tran, cis, androgynous, to name a few off the top of an exhaustive list. Admittedly, I had to click the links to some labels.

Polyamory, as the word’s root suggests, is about loving multiply with open honesty (how else could you get away with multiple partners?). Loving is used broadly to encompass emotional intimacy and/or sexual intimacy.

What draws me often to this term–polyamory–is the notion of multiply loving that may or may not include sex. Intuitively and experientially, the idea resonates with me, especially when I reflect on all of the relationships of my life to date.

I have had love/sex relationships, love only relationships and sex only relationships with various gender-identified partners. I have known friends I have loved more than lovers, wanted to be with more than with my monogamous partner at the time. The ratio of sexual to emotional attachment or engagement has differed with each relationship long or short.

Long-distance relationships have been some of the most intense emotionally and romantically, perhaps due to the effort they require to maintain. In those, the physical to emotional calibration is far different from the daily relationship, though both are intense. The challenge of each–lack of physical touch vs. daily friction of minutia–hones different skills and underscores individual strengths and weaknesses.

I have far more patience for promise than reality, I find. Perhaps I am not much different from most in that regard–fantasy is so much more malleable than reality.

But this is why polyamory makes sense to me. I love so many people and each uniquely, which is reasonable given that each brings a specific set of attributes to a relationship. The combinations are endless in light of the global population.

I think we do largely operate polyamorously. At times, we love our girl friends or guy friends as much as or more than we love our chosen ones, our significant others. Why the term is not more widely adopted, however, is the underpinning of the term: honesty.

For all kinds of reasons, the least of which may be cultural, sociological, historical and/or biological, people around me cannot acknowledge they love to various degrees many people. It’s too threatening–to their security or sense of how things should be, as they always have been in the ways of love in monogamy.

And I am not knocking monogamous coupling as it has immeasurable benefits personally and communally. But monogamy may be not only unfit for some people as a lifestyle, but also unfit for any person at any given point along the timeline of his or her lifelong relationships.

We are a fluid people. We change, many of us. This does not suggest we are fickle or shallow lovers. It means we grow and shrink as we move through life. If we are honest, and that is not only critical but terribly challenging, we acknowledge our love and desire flux. If we are brave, we honor it and engage with others who are likewise brave enough to acknowledge it.

That takes continual checking in, open communication and honesty with self and others–a daily life practice.

So while pansexuality is a political term, in my mind, one that respects choice and a host of other attributes derivative of anatomy, biology and psychology, polyamory is the umbrella term of intimacy.

Pansexuality makes sense for my young daughter hell bent on railing against the evils of society, her youth the reason for her informed intimacy deficit.

Polyamory is not about having sex with lots of people. And the question of sexually transmitted diseases is encompassed by the honesty prerequisite. You cannot do polyamory without the honesty.

The choice and the identity is about loving people as we do, when we do and how we do–in our spanning days roaming the earth hunting and gathering, doing the business of living.

Sex Through the Ages

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This week I came upon two features that spanned the age spectrum of the sex timeline. One was by an older teenager complaining, My Boyfriend Broke up with me Because I Wanted to Have Sex in The Huffington Post and the other a podcast by Senior Sexpert (Don’t you just love that jargony term?) Joan Price on polyweekly.com.

The obvious draw to the first title is its immediate incongruence. Isn’t it usually the other way around–girl breaks up with boyfriend because HE wants sex? That is the stereotype of sexual lore in American culture anyhow. But the writer, Nadia, has this to say about stereotyping:

Let me start my rant by saying stereotypes suck. We all know it, but we still take part in it, even parents. Mine told me to be careful when I started dating and not to feel pressured by all the sex-crazy boys. Little did they know, the very things they told me to make me feel “not pressured” fueled the fire of inappropriate generalizations and damaged concepts in society.

She is referring here to the pressure her boyfriend felt from peers and his brother to “go for it”, which caused the break up; he felt he was not ready.

This passage in particular struck me not so much for the irony as much as my own position sandwiched between caretaker of two teenage daughters, one of whom is 18, and of aging parents, one of whom told me the same about pressure and boys from early on in my youth. If my daughters were amenable to a frank discussion about sex (they are not–“Mom, please, no”), I often think what I would tell them. And I yearn to tell them.

I have so much insight to offer them from my own experience as someone who explored sex in my teens despite hearing the age old warnings and typecasting that all boys want is to get in your pants. While that may be true for most teenage boys, saying so is merely a dismissive attempt at preventing pregnancy, a parent doing the minimum to safeguard her daughter.

Posturing boys and girls as enemies or boys as invading armies and girls as defenders of the fortress, sex is framed from a vacuum of reliable information that is only later legitimately informed through actual intimate experience, and therefore distorted. Sex in this opaque light then becomes more a vehicle for rebelliousness than to satiate curiosity and hormonal insistence. It is fraught with youthful daring, irresistible attraction and yet unrealized trepidation.

My mother’s intention was to protect me, shortcutted without giving me the entire picture of sex, through an acquired perspective that comes with time and growth in love and familiarity. Looking now at her frail remnants of a former warrior woman and wife, I realize she did not have the information herself, having married knocked up at 16 by the first or second boy she ever knew. What could she offer her four daughters about sex?

To add to my mother’s advice to fend off the boys and save it for marriage, I grew up in the heat of Second Wave Feminism when of necessity women were also framing sex and womanhood against men and their patriarchy. Capitulating to sex seemed to me like ceding the war. And at the same time, the 70s of my teen years were also a time of free love and sex, a hangover from the 60s revolution.

The cluster of contradictions did nothing for my sex life. I rebelled, had sex young, had lousy sex, felt lousy about sex, like I had unwittingly given up something valuable of myself to the undeserving, all of which led me to the conclusion Nadia came to:

Sex is just sex. It’s an act we perform. Whether this performance is considered sacred or fun, whether you wait until marriage or do it every night, whether you do it as a profession or some kind of proclamation to God doesn’t matter. If it’s your body, your mind, it’s your choice. No one else matters. So if you’re confused about this subject or worried about the choices you make, I’m on your side. Regardless of how you decide, if you make the best decision for you, I’m proud of that. You should be proud of that as well.

While the obvious is true–sex is just sex–the obvious is also not true. Sex is an act, but it is also so much more. It is a reflection of self, an identity, a connection, an oasis, a weapon, a tool, a livelihood, a happiness, an expression, a biological urge, and much, much more. To say that no one else matters in your choice is to deny that we all grow up with voices in our head that become us, parentally and culturally derived. Our attitudes about sex–a force so powerfully destructive or healing–are derived from a variety of sources and so are complex and not wholly our own until fermented experience kicks in to weed out the garbage.

And it changes in time. Sex at 18 is far different from sex at 68. Take it from Joan Price, who enjoys sex in her 70s and is comfortable with herself–her body, her ability to love and her age. The benefit of good physical and mental health cannot be undervalued. Sexual enjoyment is holistically entwined with physical and mental health. I know that once I felt at ease with and knowledgeable about my body correspondingly with accepting others as theirs, I enjoyed sex a whole lot more than in the confusion of unsorted out slogans and untested values of others.

If I could give my teens advice they would listen to, I would tell them to learn their own bodies so well that they do not have to rely on anyone else to figure out how to pleasure them. In that way, they could be both informed and empowered as well as compassionate by helping their partners. Bodies do come with instruction manuals–owners’. Sex, at its best, is sharing in the heights of intimate pleasure.

I would also teach them to consider their own boundaries, where they end and the next person begins, so as not to lose themselves within the borders of someone else’s need and expectation. Sex is a meeting of minds and bodies in mutual satisfaction. Though sometimes, it is a purely giving act even as it is sometimes a pure taking, both fine in the trust between people performing loving acts, or, at minimum, in mutual understanding of those acts.

Sometimes sex is just sex. For me, whose history is largely long-term monogamy, it is release. If I want to use it to cry or scream or slap, I express and decompress upon the foundation of commitment and mutual caring–for that time, that day, that decade or lifetime, whomever the case may be. Even the same person shows up to the act differently day to day.

Cultural expectations particularly of marriage and monogamy, stress the painted picture of procured bliss through intensely connected oneness and love, a romantic notion that puts a lot of pressure on the act, specifically for youth. And sometimes it is that bliss while at other times it is sacrifice and uneventful working out the strategy of keeping things going, in peace. Sex is part and parcel of being, multifarious as hell. All I know is, it is not what I was told it was.

The New Millennial Marriage: Idealistic or Realistic?

Studies show that 45 to 55% of people will stray at some point in their marriage. Some marriages may appear monogamous on the surface, but have secret affairs. Some have affairs and recover, moving on to a more committed type of marriage. Some partners negotiate a more fluid type of monogamy with outside partners or sexual agreements that do not threaten their emotional monogamy. The integrity of the relationship is maintained through emotional commitment, not sexual exclusivity.

This passage excerpted from an article entitled The Future of Marriage by Tammy Nelson, PhD, in a Huffpost Divorce section is both a stark reality and a breath of fresh air. The reality gleaned from the cited statistic is that monogamy is hard pressed these days. Over half of marriages or more, depending upon whether the “some marriages” that “appear monogamous” are included in those statistics, involve cheating, straying, non-monogamy–pick a term that appears descriptive or indicting as you please. The hopeful part is the elasticity potential of marriage as a lasting institution–if the participants acknowledge the nature of marriage as a constant set of negotiable points, as a pact of two (most often the case nationally) with constituent parts of emotionality, physicality, mentality and spirituality, and that all of those constitutional needs are not met in one person.

In addition to a more fluid definition of marriage, the article also addresses a concomitant fluidity about divorce, which reflects current trends of “conscious uncoupling” and “divorcing with integrity,” what the doctor asserts is a possibility given the trend toward mediation and out of court options. She states that “Divorce can be heartbreaking, for both partners,” and so, implicitly, couples would want to seek more civil ways, less heartbreaking ways to divorce, she states.

Though Dr. Nelson may be right about the trends toward mediation and less combative ways of de-coupling, most probably due to financial considerations than the foresight to avoid heartbreaking battles, I am dubious of her prognostication about kinder, gentler divorces.

Having been a divorce lawyer for over two decades, I know divorce is devastating, whether the divorce is consensual or non-consensual. Divorce is like death, includes the same stages of shock, denial, anger and acceptance, in most cases. It IS a death of a relationship, a marriage, an expectation, a family, a future, and a life envisioned and lived. Facilitating hundreds of divorces in 24 years, I cannot deny there is heartbreak, but there is also hatred, fear, insurmountable loss, guilt, sense of failure, vengeance and often temporary insanity, among a host of other human emotions.

Divorces destroy men, women and children, a little or a lot. They often leave permanent scars. And it is not only because people do not know how to behave. It just may be due in part to the delusion of what marriage promises historically but not currently–a life-long betrothal of two, dipped in everlasting love and sacrifice. The probability of two people growing in the same direction with static needs is, well, hovering still at about 50%, which has been the steady first-time divorce rate for at least the last ten years of my practicing law.

The ideology of marriage is endorsed socially through media imagery, parental lore and financial incentives permeating the laws of the land (tax and insurance). Perhaps the broken promise of societal “norms” and the deception of popular television and magazine images are reasons for the incendiary explosion that divorce is oftentimes. Until that ideology changes, divorces will be experienced as they are–the death of a dream.

So, I agree with the doctor that there needs to be revisions to the myth of marriage; it needs adjusting to reflect the realities and trends she outlines in her article. Perhaps a revised marriage concept will lead to corresponding divorce expectations and thereby less destruction. But it’s not there yet.

The article is interesting; the following passages are particularly intriguing, even if perhaps a stretch:

In the future, in order to avoid this, marriage will be defined by shorter, more renewable contracts, in five year increments, or smaller two year contracts with options to renew. These agreements will be revisited at the end of their lease, and either renewed or ended, depending on how the requirements and expectations of the contract are being fulfilled. Both partners will make the decision to stay and renew or both will agree to move on. We renew our license every four years, why not renew our marriage contract?

In the future, gay marriage will have been legal for decades. More arrangements between couples will include open marriages with sexual agreements, polyamory will be more common and perhaps even polygamy will be visited in the legal system.

More of us will be bisexual, transexual and even more sexually androgonous than ever before. More babies will be born without clear gender identity and will not have surgery to assign a sex. We will judge less on sexual identity and more on how we treat one another

Since the majority of her predictions are based on a definition of marriage, she must be right about that definition or the conclusions she draws from those premises fail. Is she right about the five components of marriage?