Somerset is a man in his seventies who has only recently begun to search for compatible women for open relationships. He prefers sexual variety and treasures his independence. This is the sixth in a series of articles exploring open relationships. The entire series is archived for reference.
In this article I’ll clarify my meaning of terms I use and offer some thoughts about recreational sex, including some ways in which I have found that this interlaces advantageously with other aspects my life.
Recreational sex is sex “as a means of refreshment, diversion, entertainment, or amusement” as distinguished from procreative sex which is sex “for the purpose of reproduction.” (Webster)
My definitions may seem a bit academic to some readers but I offer them, anyway, in an effort to avoid some of the confusion that surrounds sexual discussions.
I prefer to use the term “gender” when distinguishing males and females, reserving the word “sex” for heterosexual or homosexual activity. I usually use “his/her” instead of “his or her”, although I find that equally awkward.
Sex is natural. The term “natural” simply means “determined by nature”, a definition that suggests to me that nature is neither moral nor immoral but is amoral. Like gravity, something is amoral if it is “outside the sphere to which moral judgments apply” (Webster). It just IS. It is only when sex is used in ways not socially approved that it is considered unnatural, abnormal or deviant. Since customs differ significantly between cultures, such pejorative terms are relatively meaningless.
“Love” is defined in my dictionary as “deep affection”, and may relate, not only to humans, but to almost anything under the sun. Sex and love are entirely different things, even though they are often treated synonymously in ordinary conversation. These differences become immediately apparent, for example, when a common opinion is expressed that one can have sex without love, or love without sex, but that when both are present the combination is more ideal. I use the term “lust” for sex that is not accompanied by at least some degree of affection.
I find “passion” to be a useful word to describe strong, emotional feelings and the euphoric state that often occurs during the early stages of sexual alliances. It is usually associated with the phrase, “being in love”, as distinguished from the more rational feelings of deep affection that may occur between friends and companions, or in the more settled phases of long-term, committed relationships, such as in marriage.
Although males and females generally view love and sex in many similar ways, they also view them very differently in other ways. I prefer to celebrate this fact – viva la difference – rather than accept rationalizations to the contrary. A common opinion which recognizes these distinctions is that a man may sometimes give love to a woman if she gives him sex, whereas a woman may sometimes give sex to a man if he gives her love. In that Mexican stand-off, couples commonly play seductive, flirtatious games, each concocted to achieve a personal agenda, he for sex and she for a commitment, via marriage, to provide her with material and emotional support. I must say that, although I find playing these games is sometimes fun, bargaining ploys are, in general, just disguised forms of prostitution.
I’m opposed to the politically correct stance that lumps the genders together in discussions, indiscriminately – they end up with a creature that is “neither fish nor flesh, nor good red herring”; one that “holds with the hare and runs with the hounds.” Having said that, I’ll quickly add that I fully support the Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN in 1948, particularly those sections that oppose discrimination of all kinds between the genders.
So, in any discussion about recreational sex, I feel it is essential that gender differences, as well as similarities, be fully recognized. For example, Lord Byron felt able to say that, “Man’s love is of man’s life a thing apart, ‘Tis woman’s whole existence.” The double standard provides another example. It is generally acknowledged that many, if not most men, would, were it not for cultural and health constraints, have sex with many women, virtually indiscriminately, so long as they feel some mutual compatibility, whereas women generally, and for good reasons, are much more discerning, much more discriminating. I’ll address some of those reasons in my next article.
In my article Living Freely, I said I consider that, if it were not for the unnatural constraints placed by society upon more open forms of intimate relations, many more men and women would probably embrace unique forms of non-exclusive sexual alliances.
People have varying appetites for sex. Some like it daily, some very seldom. This appetite fluctuates considerably, depending upon, for instance, the time of the month, climatic conditions, different levels of stress, working conditions, states of health, the degree of encouragement and response by a partner, and so on. Sometimes women need to curtail or refrain from sexual activity during menarche or pregnancy, or may lose their appetite for sex temporarily, for example, while nursing a child.
Foreplay is an essential ingredient in sex. I suggest that this needs to start at the breakfast table rather than during a dinner-and-a-movie. During the honeymoon stage, when a partner is with a new lover, and they are “in-love,” the chances are good that other polyandrous partners may feel neglected, but only if other equally satisfactory sexual alternatives are unavailable.
Men over the age of about twenty-five are usually unable to have multiple orgasms, there being a necessary refractory period between ejaculations. In polyamorous situations, certain control techniques, such as Karezza or Male Continence may help out. Many women, on the other hand, given appropriate stimulation, available partners, and a favourable environment, may be able to have multiple orgasms without using special techniques. So, in a polyamorous environment it is possible that no partner need ever be left unsatisfied or feel neglected.
At the personal level, I find that I can often have as much, or more, pleasure in helping to bring my lover to as many ecstatic orgasms as she would like, as I have with her helping me to reach one or more orgasms of my own. Giving these sexual gifts to each other is to a large extent dependent upon the level of passion one is able to bring to the moment, and that depends, among other things, upon enjoying a variety of lovers. Polyamory provides that variety.
Non-exclusive sexual alliances offer both males and females companionship, support, and sexual outlets that help them through times which, in a monogamous relationship, they might find have become routine, stale, or stressful. Polyamory offers external stimuli with which to recharge batteries.
I find recreational sex to be a superb way to cure myself of boredom and loneliness; for me, there is nothing else that can or will replace it as well.
As I look around the people in my community, I see scores, even hundreds of people, old and young alike, who look as though they are desperate for the warmth of human contacts and affection. I recommend polyamorous sex -- it provides ecstatic ways to share and enjoy life and one's very being, yet without finding that one has been swallowed up by inconsequential, trivial activities and mundane habits.
Finally, polyamorous relationships introduce an element of healthy discipline into the lives of all those participating. Unless a member is consistently respectful, reasonably considerate of the sexual and other preferences and needs of his/her lovers, and unless he/she presents him/herself to them in generally favourable ways, as each occasion warrants, he/she may find him/herself on the outside of a network, looking in!
So, let’s get serious about polyamory … but light-heartedly!