Transcript: S1 E1: An A-Z of Consensual Non Monogamy, Pt 1 A-M.
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Jonathan Kent: Hello and Welcome to Beyond Monogamy the podcast that explores relationship options, outside the mainstream, I’m Jonathan Kent,
Zayna Ratty. …and I’m Zayna Ratty, and this first episode is the first half of a two parter. We’re going to kick off by taking you through an A to Z of consensual non monogamy.
JK: And with us today from Manchester is Daniel Cardoso who is a research fellow at Manchester Metropolitan University, and his field of study is consensual non monogamy activism in his native Portugal, and the UK.
ZR And we also have contributions from Angus and Nita, two leading lights of the UK polyamory scene, who we interviewed earlier. Thank you all for joining us.
JK: Okay, Daniel we’re gonna rush through an A to Zed. We’re going to do A to M in this episode, and pick up with N next time. So, let’s start with three terms or beginning with ‘A’ which relate to orientation; asexual, allosexual with two L’s and alosexual with one L. How does that relate to non monogamy.
Daniel Cardoso: So, an asexual person or a person in the asexual spectrum is a person that does not experience attraction, sexual attraction, of any sort, or of some sorts, whereas an allosexual is someone who does, which is basically most people, and this pertains to consensual non monogamies because consensual non monogamies are encompassing and should be welcoming to people with varying types of sexual interests and with varying types of, shall we say sexual proclivities or levels of sexual attraction.
JK: So, an Alosexual with one L is somebody who’s not attracted to anything that they do experience sexual pleasure, but it’s very much a solo thing. So, those people probably are not so orientated around consensual non monogamy, but an Allosexual, somebody who is attracted in some way to something, or right through to an asexual, they can all have something to get out of CNM
DC: Yep, basically because CNM allows you to have all sorts of different relationships. It becomes more about figuring out how different relationships work for different people rather than assuming that someone who is or is not interested in this sort of that thing might fit or not fit into CNM. So basically, anyone can be in a CNM relationship because it doesn’t have necessarily to do with sex so someone who might not be interested in any kind of sexual activity might be in a CNM relationship just as well as someone who is super interested in having sex all the time.
ZR: And I guess that covers A so we’re gonna move on to B for bisexuality. So, Daniel has has bisexuality relevant to cnm
CR: Bisexuality is relevant to cnm in several different ways, on the one hand you have a lot of bi-phobic discrimination in the sense that people who are bisexual tend to be seen as sexually voracious or always trying to get everything and then some more and that’s one form of discrimination. But, at the same time, it is true that, at least according to the statistics that we have a lot of people who are in CNM are actually bisexuals and the rate, shall we say, of heterosexuality within the context of CNM is actually in the minority. So there is some overlap in the sense that people who experience bisexuality can think about consensual non monogamies as a way of exploring a bigger range, shall we say, of sexual interests and erotic interests. At the same time, with a full consent of all those involved. But one thing does not follow the other, necessarily.
JK: Okay, well we’re romping through the alphabet, we’re on to C; communication . Daniel, a lot of people looking at consensual non monogamy from the outside, assume that it’s all about sex, and according to Angus and Nita very much not so!
Nita: We spend a lot more time talking than we actually have having sex with other people.
Angus: We spend a lot more time talking than we do dating other people. One of the pieces of advice that I do give to people who are newly exploring this is, you will have to talk about things that most people in monogamous relationships, never have to talk about.
JK: So, Daniel Is it is it fair that, that actually communication is a much bigger part, along with negotiation, a much bigger part of consensual non monogamy than people assume?
05.08 — DC: I think it is super fair it certainly matches my own personal experience and what exists in research and the thing is that, without communication and without negotiation, there is no consent. So you need to communicate in order for you to consent to stuff and therefore, communication is sort of the baseline, through which you get all to all of the other things that are around consensual non monogamy. And going back to that audio clip that you just played basically what’s unfortunate is that people in in monogamous relationships don’t talk about these things because they should. So there really shouldn’t be any difference about the kinds of conversations that you have in monogamy and in consensual non monogamy.
ZR: C also stands for compassion. Compassion is something you’ll hear a lot about in CNM and again here are Angus and Nita to explain it.
Nita: Another terminology you’ll hear in polyamory circles is compersion. It has a definition of joy at my partner’s joy. So, if I’m happy that Angus and Jay have had a nice date that’s comparison. I being an introvert of a special definition conversion for myself. I like a lot of alone time. I am thrilled when Angus and Jay go out and go away and leave me alone in the house with my box sets and my popcorn and I can just chill out and be with myself, my version of compersion is sending him away. So he goes out does something interesting and comes back and maybe tells me some of it. Because I like happy times away but I want him to be happy as well.
Angus: Compersion is important, but it’s not essential. You can be a good polyamorous person, and still be essentially jealous, and not experience compersion. I’m a bit different to Nita in that I don’t think I’ve ever experienced jealousy. But I’m a very compersive person I’m, I’m, I get those warm fuzzy feelings when anyone I care about is having a good time with somebody else with enjoying a good company, having a meal together or having rip stonkingly good sex.
ZR: That’s one of the best clips we’ve got in the whole podcast, Daniel compersion, a word most people haven’t even heard of before they get involved in CNM.
DC: Yeah, compersion is a lot about feeling good about watching someone else feel good, and you’re not directly involved in that feeling good of the other person. And just last night I was actually reading up on the topic, and there’s lots of different layers for different people sometimes it’s about being happy that someone else is validating your partner for the person that they are. Sometimes it’s a very sexual thing where they get turned on by knowing that that person was sexual with someone else. So there’s a lot of different aspects to it, and it’s still very much an ongoing area of research and is usually referred to as the opposite of jealousy. Not entirely sure if that’s necessarily the case. And obviously you can be compersive, and jealous at the same time. So these things still need to be explored a bit more.
JK: Well, let’s have another C word, in this case consent, and obviously consent is pretty foundational to consensual non monogamy. Is there a brief definition?
Consent is a process by which all of the people involved in a given situation, are aligned in the objectives and in the acts that engage in to follow through with those objectives. This is a very technical definition of consent, but at least it’s a lot better, I think, than just thinking that consent is saying yes or no. And I would say that, beyond consent, we need to have informed consent, which means that you need to have all the proper information for you to consent to what is happening and to keep consent as a ball that is rolling through your life basically.
JK: Consent is a big topic and actually we will be celebrating International, the International Day of consent, which is the 30th of November, with an episode devoted to the subject. So do tune in for that one. When that’s our end of November.
ZR: So another terminology that maybe people aren’t necessarily familiar with Daniel is demisexuality so is that about an attraction based after an emotional connection.
DC: Yeah, demisexuality is within the area of a sexuality in a way, and it basically pertains to when people only feel sexual attraction after they already feel a very strong emotional connection, and what most people will say is ‘Oh but that’s me!’ It’s not exactly the fact that you have an emotional connection and a sexual connection at the same time is that you simply do not feel any sort of attraction to anyone in any situation, unless you already very strongly bonded with that person.
10.15 ZR: I guess if we’re thinking about attraction. It’s really good to think about the fact that there’s more than one type of attraction.
DC: Yeah, there is more than one type of attraction you can be sexually attracted to someone aesthetically attracted to someone romantically attracted to someone so demisexuality is usually about the sexual aspect of attraction. You might find someone gorgeous, but that does not necessarily mean you eroticized that person.
JK: And of course consensual non monogamy makes a lot more room for non standard variations in the way people feel to things outside the mainstream because there is no one set of rules, so you can customise your relationship to fit around your orientation far more.
DC: Exactly. It’s like we said with a sexuality there’s simply less boundaries in how you should organise your intimate relationships and therefore it becomes more encompassing of different ways of relating basically.
JK: Well Another feature of consensual non monogamy you may encounter. Also, beginning with D is, don’t ask don’t tell I’ll let Nita explain it.
Nita: A lot of people in mainstream polyamory don’t like it because it kind of implies that there is a non-consensual relationship going on where basically if don’t ask don’t tell I don’t tell my husband or my partners about anything else that’s going on in my other relationships, I’ll tell them I’m at the office or at the gym instead of telling them I’m meeting someone for a date.
JK: So Daniel is. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, as a way of approaching relationships, necessarily problematic, or does it have a role.
DC: Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is not necessarily problematic, but it’s hard to implement in an ethical way because people need to be super clear about what they don’t want to ask and what they don’t want to tell so it still requires a lot of negotiation, and a lot of communication before you get to the point where you can consensually go into a Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and using loopholes in how people relate to pretend like it’s a don’t ask don’t tell situation is very much problematic like someone’s saying, well, I never said I was monogamous, therefore, there’s no problem, but you’re taking advantage of the presupposition that the other person made and you’re exploiting that. That’s not Don’t Ask Don’t Tell him it’s just an abusive situation, basically.
ZR: And we find ourselves hurtling towards E for
DC: Exclusivity is interesting word to have in a CNM glossary. People can be exclusive with one another in all sorts of different ways and CNM relationships, might entail for instance the idea that you only exclusively watch that particular TV show with that person and no one else. Bet you were thinking about sex, haha. So there’s a lot of different ways you can think about exclusivity any activity any area of your life can be exclusive to someone. The point is, is that exclusivity negotiated or not, is it consensual or not, is it coerced or not. and that’s the main point I would say.
JK: Well, F! that brings us to the F word which is fluid bonding. Fluid bonding. What is it?
DC: Fluid bonding is one approach to sexual health and safety, where you commit to only sharing bodily fluids, with a person or a set of people as a way to potentially reduce the likelihood of spreading or getting an STI a sexually transmitted infection. But it’s interesting to note that a lot of people, for instance, don’t consider the exchange of saliva to be incorporated into fluid bonding. So it’s kind of a misnomer and people should always be clear about what fluids they’re talking about when they’re talking about fluid bonding and they should always discuss their own sexual health in the most explicit way possible.
ZR: And this is, this is going to be quite difficult to cover and keeps succinct. Daniel yes you know what’s coming It’s G for gender.
DC: I’m just not going to define gender. Gender…
ZR: Is a social construct.
DC: Yes, gender is a social construct that tells you nothing and everything at the same time, consensual non monogamy is our or should be encompassing of any type of gender, and even if people who are a-gender, gender queer and so on. So basically, you need to take into account the role that gender plays in your relationships in your power dynamics, and so on. But gender should not determine how you organise your relationships and your intimacies.
15.08 JK: H! Well, that brings us on to a trio of of each terms, the first of which is hierarchical poly. Polyamory we should spell out is a mash up of the Greek and the Latin, meaning to love many. And there are various forms of it, one of which is hierarchical.
DC: Well hierarchical poly is another one of those misnomers that people usually use and I don’t really agree with the way people talk about hierarchical Polly most of the time from an etymological point of view hierarchical means ‘divine power’. So you only have hierarchical power when someone has total power over everyone else involved. So, if I am with person A and person A gets to decide how Person B interacts with me. That would be hierarchical power because person A would have this sort of divine power that is non negotiable and non negotiated over Person B.
JK: That can be elements of that sometimes can’t there…
DC: Yeah, there can be elements of that sometimes but I would say that, in 99.9% of the times, those situations are inherently unethical because you’re talking about divine power and the feature of divine power is that it cannot be negotiated, cannot be contested, cannot be counterpointed in any way. So hierarchical. In that sense, is almost always potentially damaging or even abusive.
ZR: And thank you very much for that really honest answer, Daniel, and we’re moving on to the second of our H trio, and that is honesty, radical, or otherwise.
DC: Well, honesty, means saying what you mean and meaning what you say, but there are so many ways of doing, honesty, and I think that the main element of honesty should be vulnerability. So, to be honest in a vulnerable way is to speak your truth, as you see it in a way that opens you up that makes you vulnerable towards the other person or the other people. So, that you will try to diminish as much as possible the potential negative effects of the things that you are saying.
ZR: Some people can see vulnerability as a weakness whereas actually vulnerability can be a strength in those types of situations can’t it?
DC: I think that vulnerability is a strength, because it is the prerequisite for interpersonal connection. Without vulnerability, there is no way to connect, there is no way to empathise with other people, especially because empathy. Again etymologically it means to suffer with someone else. If you’re not vulnerable you’re not opening to suffering, if you’re not open to suffering, you’re not being able to empathise, you’re not being able to connect basically.
ZR: Cutting out those what we can call the negative emotions also cuts out the joyful ones.
DC: ,Yeah. And if you try to shy away from your negative emotions, you’ll actually be feeding them, because they’ll be there lurking in the dark, and they’ll be growing and they’ll be festering, and they won’t be dealt with. And they’ll still influence the way you think the way you feel, the way you act towards other people and towards yourself.
But sometimes never recognise it. So we’re going to move on to the next one.
JK Yes, H! H for Hookup culture, Young people these days seem to be meeting up randomly over the interwebs simply in order to have sex with one another. Is this a form of consensual non monogamy is it just young people being filthy,
DC: Ah, young people, and the adult concerns over young people are historically problematic. I would say that people meeting online to have sex is not problematic and people knowing that they’re not actually expected to be sexually exclusive with someone else is not problematic. What I would say that it might be problematic within hookup culture is a lack of emotional responsibility and of empathy towards the persons that we are hooking up with. So it’s not about the having sex or not having sex. It’s about how people might sometimes treat each other in a way that makes them expendable. And this is somewhat of a problem because then it becomes unethical and it becomes non consensual because people do not consent beforehand to being treated in that way so it’s a bit different than for instance erotic objectification shall we say.
JK: Should we be talking more seriously about hookup culture within the purview of consensual non monogamy, assuming of course consent, because a lot of the discussion tends to focus on polyamory or perhaps open relationships or swinging and doesn’t really bring people who are experimenting with hookup culture into the picture. Is that a mistake to to sideline it?
20.19 DC: I think it’s a mistake to sideline any form of human interaction, whether we want to engage in it or not we should always look at it, because again, we can’t consent or even self consent to the things that we are doing if we don’t know what options are out there. So I think that hookup culture. Rather, I would say that hookup is perfectly valid, the hookup culture where people treat each other as being expendable is not ethical, but we still need to look at it and we still need to think; ‘Okay, how can we do this thing that we want to do in an ethical way.’
And so moving on to I – Insecurity
DC: In consensual non monogamy is all of the different interactions that we get into, and that our partners get into might actually make us more likely to run into situations where we’ll feel insecure. It’s not that to be insecure, it’s bad to not engage with the reasons of that insecurity, and that usually means therapy. But I’m like, you get therapy and you get therapy and you get therapy and at least 99.99999% of the people should get therapy, because then they dump their insecurities on their partners or their partners’ partners and they need to sort it out themselves. So get to bleeping therapy.
Well we do have a therapist on the show don’t we Zayna…. I suppose they should be to a path to your door.
ZR: No, never heard of her.
JK: J is for jealousy which is not unrelated to insecurity, but we tend to use the term quite loosely don’t we it encompasses a lot of things which are not all the identical, same thing.
DC: Yeah, so I would make two very big distinctions. One is between jealousy and envy, and people tend to mix those up very much and it’s very problematic, I would say. Jealousy is when you want to take something away from the other person so you can have it yourself, and envy is you wanting something that the other person also has.
And those two things are very different. And they can either signal that, again, you have a lot of insecurities or trauma in your past and you should engage with that in a consensual way with the therapist, but it can also be a red flag for some relationship needs that are not being met by the people that you’re engaging with. So this demonising of jealousy or of envy and relationships can sometimes hide actual structural problems in the relationship,
JK: And I’m going to be slightly provocative here because this is a subject that I’ve looked at in, in some detail; there is a sort of a proper evolutionary role for jealousy, as, again a red flag for the fact that one perhaps it’s not just one’s needs aren’t being met, but one is not being taken properly into account so it is not necessarily wholly the responsibility of the jealous person, it can in a very narrow sense in some circumstances, actually be an alert to the fact you’re not being treated well.
DC: I’m very much against essentializing checks on emotions and emotional responses because there’s such cultural diversity and how things like jealousy and envy present themselves, that you can’t really find a pattern that would be valid for all humans in all time. And we barely know about the past, 10, to 12,000 years of history but you actually have humans on this planet for the past 200,000 years. So it’s very hard to extrapolate. What I would say is that every issue or every situation where there is jealousy, insecurity, envy, we should have both an introspective approach to it, an interpersonal approach to it, and a communitary approach to it, where our community of peers, friends, everyone else around us should also be able to check in on us and on our relationship and try to help us understand what’s going on.
JK: And I think that’s actually a very valid point that there is a strong social context of jealousy because what it is to be treated properly owes almost everything to social context.
ZR We’re now onto K and quite often when I go and give talks I like to play a little stand up sit down game with the audience. And I was in a secondary school, talking to some sixth formers, and that is the only term that got those all of those six formers to sit down, was kitchen table poly, and here’s Angus and Nita again,
25.03 – Nita: We do something called kitchen table Polly, whereas people are basically, it’s kind of used that you would be happy if you your partner been out with the partner the night before and you are sat around the breakfast table together, kitchen table Polly, you kind of know each other you have conversations you’re on a friendly basis,
Angus: Yeah, kitchen table polyworks for us it’s probably our preferred way of doing things to at least have cordial and hopefully friendly relationships with our metas and authors. Other people don’t want that much contact with metas and that’s fine. I think that the minimum is that you you have an idea that this person exists and that they know you exist and you have consented to have an ongoing relationship with their partner.
JK: Moving on to L. Life partners, Daniel, a lot of people might think that there’s an essential tension between being non monogamous consensually non monogamous and having a life partner. Are they mutually exclusive?
DC: No they’re not mutually exclusive, especially because consensual non monogamy allows you to keep connecting to someone in different ways, along your life course. And so, for instance, your sexual interest for someone might actually fade out over time, but you can still be very deeply invested into that relationship and you want to keep that person close to you and keep feeling like you are a family, or a part of the family with that person, even if you’re not sexual. And so under this umbrella term of consensual non monogamy is there is no prerequisite there you should get out of that relationship, just because it’s not sexual or whatever so that it actually opens up a lot of situations for, for a lot of different types of lifelong partners.
ZR: And, and it’s for metamour, another term quite specific to polyamory and here’s Nita’s take…
Nita: Another term we use is metamour, which is your partner’s partner. Angus has another person in his life. Let’s say Jay. Jay is my metamour, and Jay has a husband. This person is my orthomour [equally, if not more common is ‘meta-metamour – an infinitely expandable term – Ed.] which is very rarely used, and we call all of these people all these relationships that we have with metamours and orthomours, we call it in London anyway, a polycule because it looks like if you drew it out, it looks like a chemistry molecule.
ZR And obviously there’s matter more Daniel but they will say there’s meta meta more or orthomour that Nita was talking about what, what’s the difference?
DC: Basically it’s the level of distance that you are from that other person as it relates to your partner or partners so think of this as degrees of separation kind of thing. And it has to do mostly with this idea that you don’t need to directly relate to someone to be somewhat involved in the sphere of intimacy and familiality of those other people.
ZR: Was that anything to do with Kevin Bacon?
DC: Not that I’m aware of.
ZR: Isn’t it 12 degrees of separation?
JK: No, I think everybody on the planet is only three degrees of separation removed from Kevin Bacon.
ZR: Is it three?,
JK: I’m sure it’s only three. He gets around. Lastly for this episode. There’s monogamish This is a term that was coined by the relationship advice columnist, a very well known and eminent Relationship Advice columnist, the American Dan Savage. Monogamish What’s monogamish.
DC: Well, Dan Savage used to talk trash about polyamory, and then that came around to bite him in the arse and so he decided to coin a new word called ‘monogamish’, which in my very snarky definition would be where you socially present as having all of the privilege of monogamy except you have sex with other people on the side. But basically it’s this approach where you do the least amount of work possible to address and try to upend the social constructs and the social norms behind monogamy while still being non monogamous,
JK: M I think is also for meow
DC: No it’s ‘hssssssss’
ZR: And that’s, that’s all for this edition chain and for new episodes every month and next time we’ll be going through the rest of the alphabet with Daniel, Nita and Angus.
JK: Even if you know consensual non monogamy we hope you’ll find something thought provoking in the programme.
ZR: In the meantime, if you enjoyed listening. Please leave us a review on Spotify, Apple podcasts or wherever you listen. And if you’d like to support us visit the beyond our website at beyondmonogamy.world and treat us to a coffee courtesy Patreon
JK: Intro and outro music by Jeris via ccmixter. Beyond Monogamy is a Chris P. Duck production. Catch you next time.