Since I moved to San Francisco, I’ve been hearing people saying that they are in a polyamorous relationship. Last year, I was dating a guy whose roommate is “poly.” Sam, a 35-year-old nurse living in Concord, has three boyfriends, and her main guy, who just moved in with her is also dating another woman whom he had a kid with. At that time, I didn’t dare to ask more about their relationship arrangement.
“I am married,” said Brad, 40, a Stanford and Princeton graduate who works for an aerospace startup. “My wife and I both see other people. She has a boyfriend, and I have a few casual partners who I see once in a while, though I am looking for something more serious.”
Another friend, Becca, is a successful owner of a startup in New York. The 42-year-old married her husband in 2010 after being together for 12 years. Their marriage has always been open from the start. She now has another boyfriend. I am unfamiliar with all of these stories.
I grew up in a conservative family in Indonesia. What I’ve been told all my life is: no sex before marriage and a man should only be monogamous with one woman “till death do us part.” I am writing this article with an open mind since I have no actual experience of a polyamorous relationship.
The word “polyamory” was first coined in the 1960s and means “many loves” in Latin. The arrangement and number of partners often varies depending on what works for each. For many, polyamory means having multiple committed relationships. It is different from polygamy, which means a state of marriage to many spouses. The level of intimacy and emotional attachment makes it deeper than an open relationship, a hookup, or a one-night-stand, which are mostly based only on sexual acts.
By some estimates, there are now a half-million polyamorous relationships in the United States, though underreporting is common. New York University Sex Researcher Zhana Vrangalova’s recent research suggests that 4 to 5 percent of general heterosexual U.S. adults, or 10 to 12 million people are engaged in consensual nonmonogamy.
Bjarne Holmes, a psychologist at Champlain College in Vermont, is conducting an ongoing study among 5,000 poly individuals. So far, the result shows polyamorists tend to be educated and smart, with more masters and doctoral degrees than the general population.
"My wife and I have been together for 15 years, and we've been married for 10. Six months ago she met someone that she is interested in and she wants the freedom to explore it,” said John, who is on a journey exploring the concept of polyamory in a phone interview. He lives in the Bay Area, works as a senior product manager in a transportation network company, and has a beautiful four-year-old daughter.
“It’s something that my wife is interested in pursuing, and if I am denying something she wants in life, she is going to be unhappy,” the 36-year-old explained. “That won’t make us happy as a couple, and she might leave. The way that we envision love is about supporting each other, empowering each other, and becoming stronger. We don't want our marriage to be limiting and controlling."
So, is polyamory just a term for justifying infidelity? No. Being a polyamorous is the opposite of cheating, which involves deception. The main core of polyamory is communication, full disclosure, openness, trust, and respect – things that are often missing in a monogamous arrangement. "People in these relationships really communicate. They communicate to death," said Holmes to LiveScience. "They're talking a lot, they're negotiating a lot, they're bringing their feelings to the table a lot."
“I’ve introduced everyone that I am with to my wife and everybody is meeting each other. There are a couple of people that I've seen for awhile now, and one of them wants me to leave my wife for her," John admitted. "So you can imagine the very complicated and dangerous situation. I can't keep everybody happy, so I have to break it off."
What started as his wife’s desire now also benefits John as an individual. "I feel that I am far more confident as a person. Frankly, I feel a lot more attractive and desirable,” shared John. “You get to meet new people, you get to have new experiences that you’ve never done, you are constantly expanding your horizon. I still very much enjoy the freedom, the ability to be my authentic self, and not to have artificial restrictions.”
Unfortunately, being polyamorists face many stigmas as swingers, kinksters, promiscuous, and being all about sex. It can be hard for society to wrap around its head around polyamory. The big misconception is that polyamorous relationships are purely sexual and noncommittal, where in fact polyamorous arrangements involve high level of commitment.
"Trust me, there are so much more ways to get laid,” said John. “Polyamory can be emotionally draining since you have to invest in multiple relationships." The inference that John makes is it’s possible to go on dates, drinks, dinners, movies, and sharing lives, just like any other romantic relationships. Sex is just a component of it, but polyamorists connect intellectually, mentally, and (again) emotionally in supporting each other.
The cultural taboo keeps many polyamorous people not want to come out of the closet. “Many poly people stay closeted out of fear of discrimination, social alienation or because they simply prefer privacy,” sociologist Elisabeth Sheff writes in her forthcoming book “The Polyamorists Next Door,” quoted recently from CNN.
In John’s case, most of his friends know, but his family and most people he works with don’t. He said, “They are pretty conservative… They probably wouldn’t expect it.”
What about the fact that there is a child in the mix? John said, "She is a little bit too young now. Once she gets old enough that she asks questions about it, we are not going to hide it from her. The consequence of that is the whole family will find out because she'll be hanging out with grandma and she will be talking about mommy's boyfriends.”
It seems like John doesn't have much to worry about. Sheff has interviewed more than 100 members of polyamorous families, including about two dozen children of polyamorous parents ranging in age from 5 to 17 years old. Her research is suggesting that polyamory doesn't have to have a bad impact on the kids. Children also reported liking having many adults whom they trusted. They also spoke of the advantages of growing up knowing they could make their own decisions about how to build their families.
But what is the hardest thing for John right now? Jealousy. He admits that he still gets jealous and trying to figure it out. “If I am all that person needs, that makes me feel really good,” he said. It’s almost like you need a supreme confidence to be able to be okay with them wanting to have other people in their life beyond what you are doing for them. If I am in a primary relationship with someone, and I have a child with her, then she is thinking about someone else all day – obviously, that makes me feel horrible."
“I think jealousy is caused by a thought that I am not good enough for that person, I am not enough to make them happy in life," John continued. "But it is also almost ridiculous to think that you would be since you are just one person. Ten people, of course, will have far wider range of interesting exposure to life than you, as one person, is able to bring. “
The interesting question is, do we get more from jealousy or freedom? There is another theory that says jealousy is nurtured rather than nature. If we can learn to be jealous, we can unlearn it too. When someone makes us jealous, there is a range of ways that you can respond. Are we more civilized to learn to control our jealousy? Or, are we just fooling ourselves into believing that we’d better be happy with people that have more than just us in their life.
From John’s perspective, it is a new way of life that looks for many like a six-month experiment with an unknown result. However, many testimonials from other couples suggests that it is possible for polyamorous relationships to be successful. People that practice polyamory feel that loving one person does not take away any love from another person. Many claimed that being a poly couple saved their marriage by building an environment of love, openness, and communication. Polyamorists share their trials and tribulations while continuing to go on dates and pursuing other relationships with everyone’s full support.
Poly is not for everyone. We just have to keep an open mind that a relationship can be fluid. If everybody is onboard, and nobody gets hurt, then there is nothing wrong with it. Polyamory can be a viable option to monogamy, and everyone has a right to decide a relationship system that works for him or her. The goal is to create a society swhere people can be free in deciding what they want of their personal relationship with no judgment.
Who Do We Wear Lingerie For?
It was a windy evening in San Francisco’s Union Square; I was standing in front of the Victoria’s Secret store. Lingerie from the latest runway collection including the VS angels’ wings were on display. “Wow, this one was worn by Kendall Jenner,” said a young woman. Her friends nodded and they both entered the store.
You told me, then, why on that day my feet stood still and then walked away from the entrance. I am used to spending a few dreamy hours buying enough bras and hanky-panky panties of every shape and color. So why not then?
Because I was single.
For whom was all that decadent sexiness? No one would see me wearing the boudoir outfit anyway. Then I started to think: Lingerie, was it a gift to myself, or was it a gift for some lover?
Many women like myself wear lingerie for men. Some women only wear the naughty nighty on special occasions, which usually match with the presence of new boyfriends. Women strive for comfort, especially when we assume that we are not going to be seen.
“To sleep, I prefer comfort over anything,” shared Adriana Oliveria, a 24-year-old fashion styling student at Academy of Art University. Many women agree with Oliveria; we tend to wear oversized t-shirts with shorts or cozy flannel pajamas to bed. “I only wear special underwear when my boyfriend and I are doing something special,” she continued.
Marlen Hernandez, 27, a Mexican full-time student and a part-time retailer at Banana Republic added, “One thing I do have more in common with Californian girls, or really most girls regarding sleepwear, is that the bra is off!“ Amen to the free the nipple campaign. Christ Fei, a 25-year-old teacher concluded the previous tip, “Loose your bras, put on a top, and good night!”
We feel like agreeing that women put extra effort into their appearance for our partners; will that last forever?
“I hardly spend anything on lingerie because I have been married for a long, long time,” said Cindy Mesaros, 47, Vice President Marketing of Lundin Calling. “I'm not one of those women who wear sexy lingerie all the time. I prefer cotton underwear and comfortable bras. I also think that men like white cotton underwear on women too!”
Nikita Dancel, 29, one of the women who wears lingerie daily responded, “I believe in everyday glamor. When I look at lingerie, I don’t see it as a sexual thing. For me, wearing lingerie is the same like wearing other clothes. I don’t go out wearing nice undergarment just preparing for an encounter.“
We’ve heard from the women; however, what do guys actually think about women’s lingerie? As a matter of fact, we know that the average guys won’t be able to tell the difference between La Perla and La Senza.
“Lingerie helps create fantasies and provides opportunities for couples to get out of a routine, and explore new things,” said Alex Silver, the 37-year-old Actuary, referring to a way to keep the spark alive. Some, like 3D Modeler Hayden Steinbock, saw lingerie as non-trivial, “I like lingerie but it doesn't matter if the girl doesn't have sexy underwear. If I like the girl enough to be in bed with her then superficial things like that aren't important.”
Reid Walker, 42, a sales director, bluntly agreed to disagree, “Lingerie is just a detail. A hot woman can wear granny panties and be hot. An unattractive woman in hot lingerie is still unattractive.” Ouch! Yes, the truth hurts. “But a hot woman in sexy undies is extra good! I like the effort; it shows pre-planning. Women don’t wear hot undies so they won’t be seen.”
Is that really accurate? Do women use lingerie “merely” to grab men’s attention?
“Women wear it to please men and also dress up for themselves, to feel more powerful,” said artist Tony Salza. He also mentioned the fact that lingerie is often worn underneath the daily clothing, private and unseen. Also, don’t forget one thing, “A lot of women dress to impress other women, to be a trendsetter,” added Mwansa Comba, a 25-year-old female doctor in training.
Using lingerie is clearly not just because women love men’s attention. Deanna Rae Motley, a 21-year-old undergraduate from Atlanta, simplified everything with her comment, “Sometimes people just want to feel sexy and lingerie gets the job done, period.”
Looking back to the history, during the early 20th century, lingerie was worn for three main reasons: to alter the outer shape, for hygienic reason, or for modesty. Instead of the original role as body supports, why do we often correlate lingerie with eroticism? The hypersexualizing counter ` effect of the underwear today predominantly caused by the lingerie advertising that caters to man’s fantasy.
The idea of sexual femininity intriguingly characterized by lacy dainty things, leopard prints, thongs, and suspenders. “Sex never goes out of style” is the motto of Frederick’s of Hollywood, the pioneer of lingerie’s retailer in the United States, founded in 1947. Victoria’s Secret arrived on the scene in the 1980s, overtaking the market of lingerie business with its sexy ambassador angels.
Quoted recently from the New York Times, “Agent Provocateur, which opened its first boutique in London in 1996: ‘Selling whips and pasties alongside bras and panties, the label helped to spark a trend for high-end, overtly erotic lingerie that continues today.’”
There are some online stores where guys can subscribe to pick lingeries as gifts based on sizes and raciness. “I think it is more likely that men buy this for their wives or girlfriends. That seems dangerous to me - because I think maybe men and women have different ideas about what is attractive,” said Mesaros, couldn’t be more right.
So what happens with women who don’t feel sexually attracted to men, does this idea of lingerie also apply in the lesbian community? “No, it’s not the same, at least for me it’s not. I couldn’t care less what my partner wears to bed, I prefer she wears nothing though,” said Hershey Bautista, 28, who also prefers to sleep in her birthday suit. Let’s just assume that the image of two hot girls playing with each other in corsets, garter belts, and stilettos only exists in porn; again to cater men’s fantasy toward women.
Now hold on there a minute. “How about trans? Don’t forget that. Also some guys like wearing lingerie themselves, or gay guys who love using it for a role-play, as well as drag queens,” said Mareldo Prabowo, 23, my gay best friend. Today, people can wear whatever they want across the gender continuum. “Unless they are being forced by their partner or others, then it won’t be a pleasant experience.” Our society is shifting from 'dressing for men' towards 'dressing to fit in the subcultures of the city.’
“I would consider myself old-school. I wear lingerie just for myself,” said Julie Shi, 25, a music production graduate student who vows to save her virginity until her marriage. “Even when you wear lingerie to please your partners, it will make them happy and then it will also make you happy. So, why not? In the end, you still dress up for yourself.”
We are human beings with sex drives, and wanting to be attractive is natural. It's just a way to package ourselves up and if it makes you feel good, then more power to you. (MT)
Fickenscher, Lisa. "Can Frederick’s of Hollywood Become Relevant Again?" New York Post. 15 Jan. 2015. Web. 31 Mar. 2016.
Johnson, Ken. "Built on Historic Foundations." The New York Times. The New York Times, 2014. Web. 31 Mar. 2016.
"Sexy Panties & Gifts For Your Wife: Luxury Delivered | Enclosed." Enclosed. Web. 31 Mar. 2016.