February 22, 2023

SEX ON THURSDAY | Ethical Sluttery and Solo-Polyamory

Print More

The only time I’ve dated anyone was in high school. He was the kind of guy who’s meant to be somebody’s high school boyfriend — sweet and sentimental, with a steady demeanor, good hygiene, a strong bond with his mom and a decent sense of style. So I asked him to be mine, and we entered into what I would call a pretty standard, unproblematic teenage courtship. 

Things started off great. Having secured a person for myself outside my platonic clique, I grew less absorbed in my friend group and soon started to anchor my sense of self outside of my relationships with others. A new sort of agency within my own social landscape was the best thing I got out of that relationship. That, plus phenomenal fingering, great gifts and other stuff that confirmed he was perfect boyfriend material. 

Then I got bored. Not of him as a whole person or as a friend, but of the romantic and sexual partnership between us. I felt bad about my boredom, and really confused. Little to nothing had changed in our relationship – he was the same sweet guy giving me the same sweet handjobs (finger-jobs?). If anything, we were growing more comfortable around each other. I somehow felt a deep appreciation for that growing comfortability while at the same time quickly losing interest in the bond that afforded me that comfort. Our relationship fizzled out right before he started dating my look-alike, and generally personality-alike, best friend who — despite all our alikeness — went on to have a much longer relationship with him that she never seemed to get bored of. 

While we were dating, we would spend remarkable amounts of time together. I don’t think we had a whole lot in common so, finger-fucking aside, I’m not sure what we spent all that time doing. But a whole school day of doing whatever it was we did together never felt enough, and so we’d spend the whole afternoon and sometimes the evening together too. And we’d do that every day. As I’ve since come to understand, that was part of my problem. 

When it comes to romance and sexual relations, I seek novelty. I seek the nervous excitement of a budding romance or an unfamiliar fuck. But I also seek the comfort, reliability, unconditional affection and deep connection fostered within a longer-term romance or fuckbuddyship. My “exclusive” high school relationship supplied me with the latter, but at the expense of that novelty which I now know is equally important to my overall romantic and sexual satisfaction. Only in college did I come to terms with my need for both at once, and with the possibility of ethically having both at once via polyamory. 

Calling myself polyamorous or solo-polyamorous feels a little dramatic. I’d cover a lot of the same truth by calling myself a slut, as so many of us are at this age. But the “polyam” label uniquely captures my desire for multiple relationships at once that are each both sexual and romantic. Some of my relationships seem to sit in a gray area of being sexual and affectionate without necessarily being romantic — for example, fuckbuddies I care about in a “friendly” way. I don’t know how these particular relationships fit into the puzzle of polyamory, but I suppose that calls for a separate conversation on what romance really is. 

But the point is that I find myself most satisfied when in the midst of more than one sexual-emotional relationship. I’m happiest when I’m pursuing new crushes while still relaxing into old patterns with long-time partners. When I’m getting predictably railed by an old friend one day and then having fumbly first-time sex with a new romantic interest on another. When I’m experiencing that bubbly kind of attraction on a second date while still feeling a calm fondness for the old lover I woke up with that morning.

Brat Baby is a student at Cornell University. Comments can be sent to opinion-editor@cornellsun.com. Pillow Princess Diaries runs alternate Sex on Thursdays this semester