On Twitter the other day a friend of mine asked for recommendations on books on polyamory. I saw tweets giving several recommendations, including, several times, the book The Ethical Slut. This intrigued me (as mention of the book always does) and I started following the exchanges, stating that I'd like to read along as a blog project. In the course of the discussion, we found out there was a new (2009) edition. I decided to order the new edition.
My reasons were complicated.
I first read The Ethical Slut in 1997 (I've used the original cover image), the year it came out, which was something of a watershed year for me. It was the year I turned 30. The year I left my then husband. The year I found the newsgroup ASS. The year I began talking with my first play partner (though not actually playing). The year Paul and I started first emailing then talking on the phone.
I was eager for information, eager for a different way to see the world. One of the women I got to know on the newsgroup was Janet Hardy. She's one one of the authors of The Ethical Slut and always seemed to give good advice. So I ordered the book and read it. Carefully. Making notes in the margin.
I'm about to crack the cover of the new edition. But before I do, I want to remember what I took from my first reading of the book (or what I think I took from my reading of the book) some sixteen years ago.
What I remember it being about was negotiation. About trying to know how I feel and communicating that to those I'm intimate with. I remember reading about the idea of jealousy not being something that would kill me. About it being something I could feel, understand where it was coming from and let pass. About the importance of honesty, even when what we have to tell our partners will hurt them.
I remembering the dizzying complexity of the calendaring discussed, my wondering how those involved ever got anything done or ever had any time to themselves.
I remember wondering if I could be polyamorous, if I wanted to be, if Paul did. I remember the thrilling possibilities of if.
What I discovered is that I can play with other people and it doesn't change how I feel about Paul or my relationship with him one way or the other. This has always been true. But I experienced fierce and painful jealousy when Paul first played with others, especially when we were still long distance, still only seeing each other one month in six. This seemed unfair, because intellectually I wanted him to explore, to enjoy play partner friendships the way I did. Still, I hurt when he had feelings for someone else, was not able to believe it didn't diminish what we had together.
Now, I'm not very interested in finding other people for myself. I have good friends, people I play with when we're able (which isn't very often). But on the other hand, it's not painful when Paul plays with other people. What I feel, when I don't just feel happy about it, are stabs of insecurity, not a sense of being diminished, but a wondering if I can possibly be as wonderful as this other person. I don't like myself for feeling this way and try not to indulge it or give it too much space in my brain. I don't want these feelings to control my behavior or Paul's.
So these are my thoughts as I'm about to crack the new edition. I hear there's homework in this one.
Want to read along?
People who are reading along:
Marie - Life, Lemons and Spanking