Friday, September 25, 2009

A Landmark Year

I'm realizing that this has been a landmark year for polyamory in our lives. H and I are celebrating our 16th/13th anniversary in October. Sixteen years since we first dated and fell in love, and thirteen years married. We got engaged one year in. I wanted to behave responsibly for once and I liked calling him my fiance.

We always said we wanted a sexually open relationship but we fell into monogamy by default. We met and fell in love fast and deep. We were extremely busy getting to know one another, bonding, playing, working, raising kids, and having great sex, that we didn't have time for other lovers. But we talked a lot and knew that theoretically at least, we were not sexually exclusive with one another. And as the date of our actual marriage grew closer, we talked more about how we might handle our commitment to being sexually open.

So three years from when we met and fell in love we were married and then fast forward another 3 years to when we threw theory out the window and started practically applying polyamory. That was a little over 10 years ago and we had been together for almost 6 years. Fast forward another 10 years...

Besides a few, fun, loving, sexual encounters with friends here and there along the way, H. and I experienced a 5 year sexually loving relationship with one of my best friends. We were a happy little triad until we weren't. During this same time I fell in love with a young woman, a lesbian, who didn't know what to do with the fact that I had a husband. Our affair was brief and intense and never physically consummated. I had also fallen in-love with Lover Who is Not My Lover and had an on-going, complicated, sexually charged, but basically non physical relationship with him for a little over 4 years. After a long dry spell for both H. and myself, M. came along and she and H. have now been lovers for over a year and a half. I met Lover Who Is My Lover two years ago and we've been dating sexually for a year now come October.

This has been the first year of H.'s and my life together where we've both have had other significant lovers on a regular basis and from both of our perspectives, it's been good for us. It hasn't always been easy. Things aren't perfect--not exactly the way I, or he, would prefer them to be--but to quote myself once again, "We get in relationships, and fall in love with real people, not the made up persona's of our fantasies." I love my boyfriend. He is a good man and a good lover. And his wife is a gem. I love my husband. We've made a sweet life for ourselves. I like who I am, where I am going and what I am doing. I am happy--pretty much--most of the time. And nothing is keeping things from getting better. Lover Who Is Not My Lover is still in my life too and our relationship is sweet and evolving. I feel very blessed to actually be living a polyamorous life. Finally. It's what I've wanted for a very long time. I give thanks.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Women's Sexual Freedom

I've obviously been out of the writing mode. I pushed myself to come into my blog today just to write something. Anything. Okay.

The first thing that comes to mind should be fairly simple to write about--women's sexual freedom. Ha. Simple. Yeah right.

I just watched Deepa Mehta's internationally acclaimed 1996 film, Fire. It made quite the stir in India where fundamentalist Hindu groups attempted to have it banned and did succeed in forcing several movie theatres to close their doors. Mehta received death threats and other actors in the film were also threatened.

Fire is the first in a trilogy of films by Mehta, the other two are Earth and Water. I haven't seen Earth yet but Water was extremely powerful as well and it caused a stir with the right-wingers also.

Fire, places us in the midst of an extended, modern day, urban, Indian family that consists of an elderly invalid mother, her two sons and their wives, all living together under one roof. There is a manservant who also resides in the home who helps with the family's "take out" food business, their video shop, and caring of the mother.

The elder brother, Ashok, is portrayed as a "pious" religious man, devoted to his guru. Because his wife, Radha, is unable to bear him children he has refrained from sex with her for 13 years but forces her to lie next to him while he masturbates. The younger brother, Jutin, secretly rents pornography out of the video store and is devoted to his Chinese lover, to the neglect of his new, young wife, Sita.

The sisters-in-law, strike up a supportive friendship within this unjust and monotonous existence that provides some relief from the obscene and condescending behavior of their respective husbands, a friendship that eventually evolves into sexual love.

The manservant is eventually caught in his nasty little ritual of watching porn and masturbating in front of the bed-ridden mother who is also unable to speak. He is aware of Radha and Sita's love affair and his resentment towards Radha (whose demands that he be forced to leave the house were overruled by her husband) leads him to disclose this information to Ashok. Shamed, Ashok kicks him out of the house and spies on the two women, catching them in bed together. The women decide to leave together and Sita goes first, waiting for Radha, who believes she owes her husband an explanation. Things go poorly between Ashok and Radha and when her sari catches fire in the kitchen he leaves her on her own to be enveloped by the flames.

The religious and cultural significance of this act is immense. Agni (fire) bears witness to the chastity of Hindu women and has been left to decide the fate of women in literal "trials by fire" since time immemorial. In a ritual called Agni Pariksha, women are forced into a fire. If she burns, it proves her guilt. If she emerges unharmed, she is innocence (chaste). This reminds me of the Salem witch trials (although the verdicts are reversed) which forced the accused woman into a lake. If the water refused her and she floated, she was deemed guilty. If she drowned, her death proved her innocence. In Fire, Agni bestows his mercy on Radha, deeming her innocence by releasing her from his flames and she escapes to meet her lover Sita. No wonder this infuriates the homophobic, sexually repressed religious right. Their God has now been portrayed as condoning homosexuality. The realistic portrayal of traditional, yet abusive relationships such as these that Radha and Sita were suffering from are considered more acceptable than the unconventional love and reprieve they found in each other's arms and hearts. In the end, even though Radha emerges from the flames unscathed, the viewer is left to wonder what will become of these two women left on their own in this culture. Their path won't be easy.

Is the path ever easy for a woman's sexual freedom? Even in this culture from which I have emerged? American culture is also sexually repressed and women have been raised to cow tow to the unenlightened needs of their men. Not that women's perceived needs are anymore enlightened. I view traditional, unquestioned, monogamous relationships as a symptom of this malady.

A friend recently mentioned that she thinks I don't respect monogamous relationships. I admitted that generally speaking, no I don't. That doesn't mean that I don't respect a person's choice to be monogamous. I've written before about many "valid" reasons as to why a person may choice monogamy. And I myself am certainly not the one to decide what reasons may or may not be valid--except for myself of course.

My friend also mentioned that she didn't think that monogamy and sexual freedom were necessarily mutually exclusive. I agree. But there is one particular situation that strikes me as clearly not a choice that leads to a woman's sexual freedom. Although there may be many "valid" reasons as to why a woman (or man) may choose monogamy, the threat of her partner ending their relationship if she chooses to have sex with another, is not a "valid" reason--in regards to sexual freedom. Of course she has every right to make this choice and I can most certainly respect that choice. What I am unable to support or respect is the notion that this choice is not a surrender of her sexual freedom. It is a choice that supports his fear of her sexual freedom, along with her fear of losing him. I'm just calling a spade a spade, not judging the rightness or wrongness of this choice.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Perla Batalla sings Suzanne live in Spain

Saw her sing this today at Chico World Music Festival. Beautiful!