Editor’s Note: This week’s featured article on relationships and sexuality comes from Mel Mariposa’s Polysingleish blog, where she writes about “Adventures in an Ethical, Anarchic, Solo Polyamorous Lovestyle.” We’d love to read your thoughts in the comments section below. — Amanda
“You have permission to ask for what you want.”
These words of relationship advice, from Marcia Baczynski, shifted my perspective about the relationships I was in at the time, leading to an evolution in the way I have found myself approaching relationships today. I had been growing fed up of intimate relationships where it felt like no one ever knew what they were doing. In bed, I too often felt like a beautiful musical instrument, with a novice randomly plucking strings, hoping to coax a melody — or concerto — from this highly complex form. I didn’t want that any more. I wanted that to change.
Last summer at a music festival, I fell in love on the dance floor. The crowds parted and I became mesmerized by a young man spinning a glowing staff. My attention caught, I complimented him on his dancing, saw him again briefly a few days later — but it wasn’t until running into him several months later in the city that we actually had a chance to connect.
The incredibly beautiful, exotic, fire and poi-spinning Marco had me curious. We chatted online and on the phone for a couple of months before going on a date zero — I was a little hesitant to date someone eight years younger than me, but I soon forgot about that and had an amazing time. On our next date, we discovered that we lived ten minutes walk away from one another.
Marco puts extra anarchy into relationship anarchy, in a really good way. It’s almost impossible to keep up with how many women he might have dates with. His work schedule is on call and often unpredictable and so dates are sometimes really spontaneous. One of the things I enjoy the most is that the dynamic he and I share together is one of experimentation and adventure.
Our dates have included a trip to the STI clinic (followed by lunch), midnight booty calls, loud and kinky morning wake up calls, making a stilt-walking elephant together, an epic sexy after party in our hotel room where we mostly observed and directed our friends having an orgy, eating ice cream together in his bedroom hammock, sensually grinding together on the dance floor after almost 24 hours of no sleep, poi spinning lessons in my back yard, and whispering poetry to one another into the wee hours of the morning. We talk about kinky things we want to try out, we share thoughts about shamanism, and we collaborate on creative projects.
From past relationship experiences, I’ve found myself growing cautious of diving too deep into clothes-ripping passion all the time. I’ve had some really beautiful connections burn out because the focus was so much on physical expression — but not so much on exploration, and as a result I would have great sex the first few times, fuelled by the excitement, adrenaline, novelty and NRE — but it would quickly peter off, resulting in a string of six-week long relationships.
I didn’t want this to be another six-week relationship.
I also found myself in a quandry over spontaneity versus consent. Marco and I were exploring the edges of our kinky personas, and both enjoyed doing so with spontaneity. He knew I was very passionate about enthusiastic consent, and expressed once that, in his perspective, the conversation around consent was taking away from the spontaneous aspect that made things so much fun.
For my part, consent has become an important part of relationships and building trust. I’d experienced holding back a lot in intimate exchanges because I was afraid of having my own boundaries crossed or of crossing someone else’s unintentionally — something that had happened for me in the past. I mean, there’s always that hope that I will find partners who are 100% psychic and can read my mind to see if I’m comfortable or not — but the reality is, we can’t expect someone to know something about our intimate preferences unless we reveal that information to them, and likewise, we need to ask our partners for feedback about whether what we are doing feels good for them or not — instead of just assuming that it probably is.
One night when Marco came over to my place, I decided that I needed to ask for what I wanted. So, I put forward a proposal to him:
“Tonight, I’d like to invite you to explore me. Just do whatever you want. Follow your instincts. And I’ll give you feedback at every step. I want you to learn my body. And if something doesn’t feel good, or doesn’t do anything for me, I’ll communicate. And if it’s amazing- you’ll know, and if I know how to, I’ll guide you on how to enhance the pleasure for me.”
Never before had communication felt so sexy. As we played, I got to show him how my different erogenous zones can be connected, how a slap or a bite in just the right place can make me melt or take me to the edge. I learned things about my own body as he experimented with differing pressures in different places. And after, we talked about all sorts of other things we want to try further down the road.
After that experience, not only was the quality of our physical intimacy enhanced, but our communication around sex grew leaps and bounds too. We’d taken time to learn one another’s language. He, as someone who plays more dominant, had discovered how to read my responses, and I’d learned how to communicate with fewer words and in ways that made the communication part of the play. As a consequence of just that one night, we started to feel more comfortable with greater spontaneity. The trust we share evolved because we took one another to the edges and learned to recognise one another’s “no.”
There is tremendous power in slowing down from the insane devouring passion and finding our way into a natural flow of communication between bodies. Tuning in, and learning how to read our partners, rather than just assuming we know what’s going to feel good, assuming that all people function exactly the same. Think of the difference between someone who sits at a piano and randomly tinkers on the keys hoping to make music, versus someone who has studied and become a piano maestro, effortlessly dancing their fingers across the keys and filling the room with the sweetest music.
We may both be Solo, we may be one another’s ‘proximal’ relationship, we may be in love, but we also know this relationship may not last in this same form for all time. Marco reminds me to be present to what’s in front of me, to be present to the moment. We are growing and learning together, and there is no telling what the future may bring. I pinch myself from time to time that someone as unique and talented an individual wants to hang around with me, let alone undress me and devour me with so much passion- and it’s a passion that seems to just grow deeper and deeper.
Exploring the edges of our comfort zones, and expanding beyond them, has never felt so comfortable, nor been so fun. We explore eachother’s bodies, eachother’s minds, eachother’s souls.
And the lesson in this — that asking for what you want is one of the best things you can possibly do within a relationship — has me contemplating all the other things I have often wished for but never outright asked for from my partners. There’s a sliver of risk involved in asking. What if they say “No,” or judge you for it, or break up with you because you asked for something? That’s the fear dialogue running through our minds holding us back.
We don’t have to listen to the voice of fear. We can embrace the risk and choose — dare — to ask the ones we love and trust if they might be interested in something that we are interested in too. And when we do so, we give ourselves — and our partners — the opportunity to experiment, expand and explore new edges of being.