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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Sexual Ethics and Politics » Tricky Situation

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Author Topic: Tricky Situation
A Posteriori
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Member # 34384

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So I've got a bit of an ethically fuzzy situation on my hands, and I wanna know what you guys would do.

So I'm abroad (I won't say where), and I met this girl. We've hit it off, she's taken a liking to me, and I to her, and she very frankly stated one night that she wanted me to "stay over" (her intent was obvious). I gently declined, leaving the possibility open for later on, but here's the reason why I said no: She has a boyfriend back home.

This would ordinarily be a very cut-and-dry situation for me, but the thing is, she's told me that her boyfriend not only was okay with but even *encouraged* her to see and, yes, sleep with other guys that she might be attracted to while abroad. She claims that he understood that she was going to be a half-a-world away for a very long time, and so he made this allowance.

They're very close, and she says that she was very reluctant to leave him, and that she (understandably) feels conflicted about "swinging." Nevertheless, she made the offer.

I find everything about this woman very attractive, and if this weren't an issue I would have taken her up on her offer, but I still do feel extremely conflicted. I feel like there are two tendencies in my mind pulling me right in half. It's torturous, and I've lost a lot of sleep trying to figure out what the right thing to do is.

So, if the opportunity comes up again, do you think I should refuse?

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Heather
Executive Director & Founder
Member # 3

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I think you should do what feels right for you.

Even if someone is in an open relationship, and thus, isn't breaking any agreements to have another partner, other people may or may not want to be involved in that structure or situation for various reasons. Perhaps because they only want to be involved with someone who doesn't have any other partner at all, perhaps because they have strong feelings about monogamy being the only model they want in their lives, perhaps because they need assurances they aren't getting at the time, like to talk to the boyfriend and be sure it's okay.

Do you want to talk about why you feel conflicted? We certainly don't have to, it's always fine to take a pass on sex and not anything to lose sleep over, but if you'd like to, we can.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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A Posteriori
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quote:
Do you want to talk about why you feel conflicted? We certainly don't have to, it's always fine to take a pass on sex and not anything to lose sleep over, but if you'd like to, we can.
Glad you asked.

It's not that I'm losing sleep over refusing sex. I'm losing sleep over what this decision means for me as a person, or rather, what sort of person I'd be afterward if I took her up on the offer.

See, I grew up (like all of you) in a very monogamy-dominated culture. It didn't matter if someone was religious or not; they still had strong feelings of moral censure for anyone who stepped outside of monogamy. So-called "open relationships" were thought to be cop outs, unrealistic relationship models conjured up by mostly guys to get as much sex out of as many women as possible. If you decided to pursue such an option, you were just covering up for your immaturity and/or manipulative tendencies. Better to just hit the bar scene and get laid by as many people as possible. [Roll Eyes]

In this particular decision, even, I'm extremely concerned about what the people around me would think. Her two roommates are already privy to the situation (there are only 140 students in the entire program), one of whom is extremely religious and highly contemptuous of me for even thinking about this, and I'm sure that news of this little thing would spread to all of the 110 women in the program, sort of lowering my moral (and therefore friendship) status in their eyes.

Any reason that I might think up for going through with this would inevitably be traced back to me thinking with one not-so-morally-reliable part of my body. Still though, we're really attracted to each other and want to do something intimate.

So now you see my dilemma. I hope.

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A Posteriori
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Also, I forgot to mention the fact that even though I have no objection to this sort of thing with respect to the intellectual side of my personality (there's nothing objectively immoral about open relationships), I'm not so sure that I'm emotionally over the morality of my younger, more religious upbringing. So that's inevitably gotta bring out some conflict.
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Heather
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I hear you. Not all of us did grow up that way, mind, but I hear you.

Both my parents have been single for the vast majority of their lives, and I saw them both dating -- sometimes in open scenarios when it came to my father -- or not dating at all more than I saw them monogamously with one person. I also was reared in a pretty progressive, urban area for a lot of my life, so saw a lot of different models around me. My parents both come from European immigrant families who were Catholic, but at the same time, for me, so many of those messages were so full of clear hypocrisy that none of them sunk in. Plus, I had those kinds of messages balanced out by so many others, so. And there are other people who grew up differently that you're presuming everyone did, too, maybe some with scenarios like my upbringing, maybe some with different scenarios, but where nonmonogamy was still not presented as immoral or unacceptable.

Right now, you're talking to someone who presently is in an open relationship. For my part, that involves two serious love and sexual relationships at once. On the part of my primary (don't use that term here, but it's decent enough shorthand) partner, that's more about occasional hookups.

One thing I have experienced as someone who has done or been part of open relationships at various times in her life is that I feel I can safely say that the level of judgment did always feel much more harsh the younger I was. Younger people often do tend to have more black-and-white thinking, and too, having less life experience and less personal experience in relationships over time can result in ideals for relationships that are limited in terms of the way many young people think love and/or sexual relationships "should" be.

I'd certainly say that with any kind of sexual relationship, some measure of privacy will always be an issue, and having that privacy makes a big difference. If you don't feel like you'll be able to have it in this environment, it's totally understandable why it might seem a sound choice to not do this if it's something where one encounter is going to mean a world of judgment, particularly since you seem to be saying that even your immediate environment would be non-supportive.

So, it sounds to me like that's the crux of your decision here: is being with her sexually something that's worth what the fallout might be, both from others as well as from how you think about yourself at this point in time? Might you two even just talk about that together?

Just FYI, what I seem to be hearing from you is that you like her, and this is in some ways a wanted opportunity, but that it may not yet be the right time for you for something like this in your life. It sounds like you have some ethical conflicts to work through first, and also feel -- understandably -- like you'd want or need a more supportive environment for something like this.

[ 02-01-2009, 01:37 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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A Posteriori
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I probably shouldn't have said "like all of you," having thought it would make my remarks sound more sympathetic than they were, because you reasonably took it to mean that I assumed that everyone grew up in monogamy-dominated cultures.

My upbringing isn't quite so monolithic and non-progressive as what was perhaps contained in the impression I might have given in my earlier post. In fact, my mother left my father for a woman she had been in love with since I was 11. He was an abusive, unstable maniac and things are a lot safer and happier than they've ever been. They basically raised me during adolescence, and they instilled in me a security in my sexuality that I rarely see in other guys.

For example, I consider myself to be one of the few heterosexual guys relatively unaffected by homophobia. I freely admit that I've fantasized about and felt sexually attracted to guys at sparse points in my life, but for the most part I just happen to be attracted to women. I can tell when a man is attractive yet not feel that attracted to him. I'm unashamed to ask for role-reversal and male-receptive anal play with sexual partners. Like I said, I just *happen* to prefer women sexually. That sort of thing, you know?

In large part because of my upbringing by two women, I have a self-conscious empathy for the interests and perspectives of women. I hold strongly, almost radically feminist views on most issues of this sort, and I'm ceaselessly self-examining my assumptions and attitudes to make sure that I respect and love women as my sisters. Sometimes this almost borders on paranoia and inappropriate levels of guilt, resolving into me beating myself up for even imaginary slights of sexism or stereotypical male behavior.

I also care passionately about the interests of gay and lesbian people and their struggle for equality. My family participated in protests against Proposition 8, and I am unashamed to talk to friends and even strangers (if I feel like they want to know) about my two female parents. I have a strong activist streak, and have made volunteering and social justice activism a large part of my life.

So my values with respect to sexuality (indeed, all my values) are hardly what one could call paleo-religious or catholic (which was just one of many moral influences, as you can see, in my long and complicated upbringing).

*Nevertheless*, one value which was instilled with vigor, whether from my old or new set of parents, from the media, from religion, from secular and progressive activists with whom I was in close proximity for my entire life, from my conservative father, from my peers, even from online "sex-positive" resources (not Scarleteen, though) - was monogamy. I can see through the hypocrisy and cloudy thinking in their reasoning and rhetoric, but nevertheless it has a hold over me.

So it's this one value of mine, in isolation, that I'm having trouble getting over, and that's what upsetting to me. Someone with such a progressive background, with respect to sexuality and indeed everything else in my life, shouldn't be having this problem.

[ 02-04-2009, 09:57 AM: Message edited by: A Posteriori ]

Posts: 82 | From: United States | Registered: Jun 2007  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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