Cheers Sexy People!
I have found that as I go through this amazing journey of life full of interesting twists and turns, including those that go with being polyamorous, that sometimes having terminology to describe complex ideas is quite helpful! So I thought this blog post could shed some light on what I found to be useful terms in the poly world. Feel free to offer feedback on where you are on the spectrum and let me know if this was helpful!
If you are reading this blog, you most likely understand that the term “polyamorous” means having multiple intimate / loving relationships simultaneously and with consent of all involved. To compare, “polysexual” refers to multiple SEX partners, but only one loving commitment (aka “emotional monogamy”). The other partners are more along the lines of flings, crushes, friends with benefits… but “love” and another “relationship” is not part of the package. Both of these terms though (polyamorous and polysexual) fall under the category of ethical non-monogamy as everything is consensual and out in the open, no one is cheating or lying. Thus both also CAN fall under the term “open relationship” (but the former allows other full-fledged relationships, while the latter does not) IF the partners are open to new partners (versus being closed or not open to new partners).
Me personally, I am polyamorous as I am not built to be polysexual. I can’t “police” my feelings. If loving feelings develop and it grows into a loving relationship with my other partner’s consent and knowledge, then so be it! I simply allow it to happen and see where it takes me. Also, with my partners, I don’t feel or believe that I could ever control another person’s heart. If you are going to get to know someone and spend time with them, is it not possible that loving feelings could develop? Thus this whole “don’t fall in love” idea is strange to me–even if you try to impose it on yourself. Sometimes you can’t help how you feel, especially when being physically intimate with others. Doesn’t it stand to reason that emotional intimacy might happen as well? To me, that’s the beauty of polyamory is the FREEDOM to allow things to grow and develop however they want, and however feels natural without the “chains” around us that most of society deals with (not that there’s anything wrong with monogamy of course, just a different choice) … as long as it’s all happening ethically of course.
So as to the title of this blog post, I have a friend in the poly community who recently introduced me to some new terms to help describe the different types of communication styles when it comes to sex with a new partner. I found it to be very helpful to ease communication with partners when you are negotiating or structuring your relationship and your thoughts on non-monogamy. So I thought that I would share them with you here.
When a non-monogamous relationship is open to new people (versus a closed polyfidelitous relationship), it can be beneficial to distinguish between 3 styles of communication:
a) Open Awareness
b) Open Approval
c) Don’t Ask Don’t Tell
For Open Awareness and Open Approval, the difference in meaning is partly a matter of timing and if you need permission or not from your partner(s). In Open Awareness, if you have sex with a new partner, you are agreeing to make your other partners aware of it as soon as it is convenient, as well as before you have sex with your other partners again. That is “open” in the sense that you make your other partners AWARE of your behavior. You don’t need to ask permission. You date who you want, and have sex when you want, but you are obliged to disclose this behavior to your other intimates. In contrast, if you keep the sex with the new partner a secret, that is cheating.
For Open Approval, that means that you need to ask PERMISSION from your partners BEFORE any sex happens with new partners. If the answer is no, well then it is no and you are agreeing to honor their decision (or at the very least agreeing to have an in depth discussion about why they are asking you to not go down that particular sexy path). There is a lot of discussion about veto power in the poly community. Many people do not agree with the concept. Open Approval is more or less agreeing that veto power is on the table for your partners to use.
Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is pretty obvious. The relationship is consensually “open” but neither party wants to hear the gory details of their partner’s sex-capades. I’m not a fan of this personally with close personal relationships (aka a spouse / lover type). It seems to circle the drain around cheating and that doesn’t jive with me–plus for safety reasons, I like to know when new sexual partners are added and have a short discussion about it. But I know this communication style can work for others depending on their circumstances.
If you are on FetLife and want to read my friend’s original writing on the subject of Open Awareness and Open Approval, please click this link:
What about you? What do you think, if you care to share?
Wishing you love, peace and happiness
(and thrilling fun sex too!)
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I like the terms, which I haven’t run into before. My relationship with my wife is Open Approval and with my girlfriend is Open Aware, though I usually let her know when I have the intention to have sex with someone.
Thanks for the comment. Yes I like the terms too. They seem to work perfectly to describe things in a complex arena. Again, thanks for sharing!
Do you think these conditions apply to emotional intimacy and kink with another?
If I understand your question properly, yes I definitely think the terms apply to emotional intimacy and kink with another. If you’d like to talk directly about it, feel free to write me an email using the contact form and we can discuss offline.
Just to make sure we are on the same page, my definition of the word “kink” would be any type of sexuality based activity that is OUTSIDE the norm (the norm being say, missionary sex between consenting adults and other basic sex acts, or “vanilla” romantic, affectionate acts normally between a man and a woman). So to me, “kink” can be say… anal sex, or bdsm type of activities, or threesomes, etc. Would that be your definition?
If so, to me kink is merely a type of sexual activity between consenting adults. That is really no different than ANY type of relationship between two (or more) people. Sex is sex, whether kinky or vanilla. And within a healthy happy relationship, there are agreements between those people with good communication skills where acceptable behavior is discussed. In a typical monogamous relationship, the “rule” is to be emotionally and physically intimate with me and me alone. Boom. In an ethical non-monogamous relationship (whether the sexually based activity is more “vanilla” OR “kinky”), there are different agreements between the two people. That’s where the terms Open Awareness, Open Approval and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell come in.
So for example, say there are two kink-friendly people who are in a relationship. Let’s say for example, they don’t even have physical sex with each other, but they like to enjoy bdsm type of activities, such as being tied up. If they choose to open their relationship to other people (versus be monogamous and only be emotionally and physically intimate — in this case meaning tie each other up to get each other off — with only each other), they have a choice as to how to allow other people to enter their arrangement (thus they could then have a “polyamorous” arrangement by entertaining several kink relationships in tandem). Again, as an example, Open Awareness would mean, one person could get tied up by a new person, but doesn’t have to inform their original partner until soon after this occurs (versus getting prior approval BEFORE doing this, which would be Open Approval).
Does that make sense and does that answer your question?