How to Disclose Your Non-Monogamy on a Dating App

While I’ve been “non-monogamous in theory” for years, I have limited experience being non-monogamous in practice. I recently started dating someone who has been polyamorous for a while, and has two steady partners other than me – and while it’s been difficult, I’m viewing it as an invitation to step up to the plate and take on the challenge I’ve claimed to want for ages. I am finally going to learn some real-life poly skills and see if I can hack it.

One of the first challenges I’ve come up against – other than my old friends, jealousy, greed, and anxiety – is figuring out how to pursue other dates ethically and honestly. I don’t want to downplay or lie about the existence of my boyfriend, but I also don’t want to make new potential beaux feel like there’s no room for them in my life. I don’t want to spend too much time and energy explaining polyamory to diehard monogamists, nor do I want to exclude people who’ve been monogamous thus far but are curious about their other options.

So many considerations! So let’s start with something small: how to communicate on your dating profile that you are, indeed, polyamorous. Here are some suggestions…

Choose your venue wisely. OkCupid and Tinder are full of young and/or socially liberal people, so you may have better luck with those than you would with services geared toward older folks seeking a marriage-track relationship, like Match and eHarmony. If you want to skip the hassle of disclosing your non-monogamy altogether, you could join a dating site designed specifically for non-monogamous people, like SwingTowns.

Consider what level of privacy you need. Whether because of your career, your family, or some other factor, you might not feel comfortable telling the entire internet that you’re non-monogamous. If that’s the case, it might be best for you to use dating sites where your profile isn’t publicly visible, or that have that option (on OkCupid, for example, you can check “Only allow other members to see my profile” in the settings panel). You could also try mentioning your relationship status within your first few messages instead of disclosing it publicly on your profile, though this is likely to be a lot of extra work on your part when monogamous folks decide to respectfully (or not-so-respectfully) ghost you afterward.

Use the app’s built-in relationship status feature, if it has one. Some dating sites allow you to set your relationship status alongside other relevant info like your gender and sexual orientation. Indicating your non-monogamous status makes it easier for monogamous people to filter you out of their search results, and communicates your “deal” to any profile-lurkers at a glance. However, some people don’t read this info (and some dating apps, like Tinder, don’t even have a structured way for you to provide it), so you may still need to do the legwork of explaining yourself in messages after all.

List your important identities upfront. Lots of people I asked on Twitter said this is their main strategy in online-dating while poly: they roll out their most vital identity words in the opening paragraph(s) of their profile. This might look a lot like my current Twitter bio: “Cis bi kinky non-monogamous femme feminist.” I think these are all important things for people to know, especially if they’re considering dating me. Front-loading this info makes it likelier that your potential paramours will actually read it, and will hopefully spare you some grief and lots of time and energy.

Define your terms. Some people don’t have a precise idea of what “polyamorous” means (let alone other non-monogamy terms like “swinger,” “polyfidelity,” “solo poly” or “primary partner”), so it’s helpful to explain exactly what you mean. For example, my Tinder bio currently includes this: “I’m poly: dating someone rad, and looking for dates/adventures/potential relationships with other cuties.” This hopefully reduces some of the stigma, anxiety, and confusion that might fill someone’s head when they read the word “poly” and aren’t sure what it means. It’s a succinct summary of how I am currently doing poly, and what that might mean for my partners.

Be prepared to explain yourself. Even if you think you’ve been clear in your profile text, folks still might have additional questions. Of course, you don’t have to answer missives you find rude, invasive, or exhausting – but it is part of ethical non-monogamy to ensure people know what they’re getting into before they get into it. (Informed, enthusiastic consent, and all that!) These convos might happen in your first few messages, or on your first few dates, but they should happen at some point. Set boundaries, establish expectations, talk about feelings. It’s all part of the process!

Unmatch ruthlessly as needed. Some people will be jerks about you being non-monogamous. That’s just a fact of life as any kind of “sexual deviant,” unfortunately. But you don’t have to put up with it. Hit “unmatch” or “block” or “report” or whatever the site-specific equivalent is, and move on with your day. Fuck the haterz.

Non-monogamous folks: what are your best tips for disclosing and discussing your non-monogamy on a dating site/app? Got any horror stories or success stories to share?

Heads up: this post was sponsored, and as always, all writing and opinions are my own.

Poly Diaries: So I Guess I’m Poly Now…!

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I remember the exact day I decided monogamy wasn’t for me. Actually, it wasn’t a day; it was a night, in late May 2012. Some friends and I checked out the first-ever Crush T.O. at a small, intimate bar. My then-boyfriend accompanied us, and while I loved him deeply, I found myself wishing I could escape his just-slightly-possessive gaze to go cavort with some cuties in a dark corner somewhere.

That night, we had our first of many arguments about monogamy. “Honestly, I wanted to flirt with people at that party tonight,” I told him when we got home. It was a mild assertion, by my present-day standards, but that boyfriend was (and, as far as I know, still is) one of the most monogamously-minded people I have ever met, so he felt threatened by it.

“Monogamy has felt like an itchy sweater to me recently,” I wrote in my journal that night. “I love ____ so much, but our world together feels limiting and insular… I want to meet new people in a flirty context that gets me giggling with glee, but that’s impossible when my über-monogamous boyfriend is glued to my hip. I miss and long for the feeling of a fresh crush. The exciting open waters of new flirtation.”

Over the ensuing days, we negotiated an arrangement that seemed to be, at first blush, a reasonable compromise. I was allowed to flirt with and kiss other people, to assuage my understimulated heart. But I couldn’t go any further than that, and I wasn’t allowed to tell my boyfriend about these dalliances, because hearing about them would make him uncomfortable.

While this seemed, theoretically, to solve the problem I was experiencing, we quickly realized it wasn’t a perfect solution by any means. For one thing, it’s very confusing for other people when you tell them you’re allowed to kiss them but things have to stop there. Several of my makeout partners wanted more, and so did I; it felt unnatural to stop them, every single time, but I nonetheless did it, every single time.

Secondly, the “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule started to grate on me. My partner was my best friend and closest confidante; it felt unnatural to hide these exciting exploits from him. Plus, in retrospect, it seems to me that he created this rule because he was 100% Not Okay with me romancing people but knew he’d lose me if he corralled me into absolute monogamy, so he basically wanted to pretend I wasn’t doing that stuff. It felt to me like cheating, every time, even though it was ostensibly allowed, because I had to keep it a secret from my love.

Thirdly, our compromise remained unsatisfying to me because I still had the sensation of being “owned.” Beyond just being denied the extracurricular sexual experiences I wanted, I also wasn’t allowed to post nude photos of myself online, perform in sexy cam shows, or even pose solo for the porn company my friends had just launched. My body, mind, and sexuality were controlled by my partner, and while that’s a standard feature of monogamous relationships in “vanilla-world,” it was not what I wanted.

Years later, I had a conversation with a fellow poly-inclined friend in which she said, “Monogamy feels inherently abusive to me.” I agreed completely. This is a controversial statement, so let me explain. I’m not equating happily monogamous relationships with abuse; monogamy is often chosen, and abuse is obviously not. Monogamy makes some people very happy, and abuse obviously does not. But when monogamy is not chosen – when one or both partner(s) is shoehorned into it because it’s the expected default in our sexually possessive culture – it feels like a totalitarian regime is being imposed on your genitals and your heart.

To me, the most upsetting part of monogamy is the sense that another person gets to decide what I do and don’t do with my body, and what I am and am not allowed to feel in my heart. My independence and autonomy are fiercely important to me, and I don’t feel independent or autonomous when I’m in a monogamous relationship.

I bumped up against this issue again four years later. Back in March of this year, I started dating a boy who agreed to non-monogamy immediately when I brought it up. What a relief, I thought, when it seemed we were on the same page about this issue. He wanted us to always ask each other’s permission before each individual encounter with another person, and while this seemed reasonable at first, I quickly discovered it gave me those same “You own me” feelz as my more strictly monogamous relationship had. One time I asked this new boyfriend if he would be cool with me shooting blowjob porn with a friend, and he furrowed his brow and replied, “Yeah, since it’s just for porn, I’m okay with that.” The implication was that he would object to me sucking another guy’s dick if it wasn’t for porn, and, let’s face it – I would definitely want to do that at some point. So it seemed our ideas of non-monogamy didn’t quite line up, and that relationship didn’t last much longer.

Now, I’m dating someone new. We met a few weeks ago, on Twitter of all places. He’s smart, funny, kind, cute, and great in bed – so, of course, I was really hoping our feelings on non-monogamy would align. And so far, it seems that they do! He’s dating someone else, happily encouraged me to keep seeing my beloved occasional fuckbuddy, told me to keep him posted if I start seeing anyone new, and values open ongoing communication the way I do. YAY!

This is my first time delving into #PolyLyfe in any real way, and I’m sure I’ll encounter some challenges: jealousy, communication problems, social stigma, and so on. I hope to write about these as they come up, chronicling my foray into the weird, wild, wonderful world of ethical non-monogamy. But for now, I’m over the moon. It’ll be difficult, but not anywhere near as difficult as it was for me to deny my true self and live an unsatisfied monogamous existence for so long. When you desire the destination bad enough, you’re willing to put some work into the journey!

5 Things I’m More in Touch With, Now That I’m Single Again

God, I can’t believe that prior to my break-up this past weekend, it had been over three years since the last time I was single. I mean, wow, man. In high school I sort of conceptualized myself as a “forever alone” type, so it’s truly astonishing to me that I was in a relationship for that long – that someone actually liked me enough to want to be with me and stay with me.

But what’s even more astonishing is that I wanted to be single again, which is what prompted the break-up – and that I’m enjoying the hell out of it already. Yeah, I miss my ex occasionally, like when I see a movie he would’ve liked or when something hilarious happens to me that I wish I could tell him about – but the benefits outweigh the costs and I am loving the single life.

Here are 5 unexpected things I’ve been getting back in touch with, since my break-up…

1. My natural cycle.

Well, not quite yet, but soon. Yes, an exciting announcement: I’ve gone off hormonal birth control!

While I dig how it’s kept my periods regular and my skin relatively calm, I’ve never been thrilled about pumping myself full of hormones, especially given that I’ve got a family history of breast cancer, a fact that doesn’t bode well when mixed with estrogen. And of course, birth control comes with a host of possible side effects, which, for me, included increased cramps, premenstrual irritability, depression, and sometimes suicidal ideation.

I’m looking forward to seeing what my ovaries and uterus will do when left to their own devices. A couple years before going on HBC, I was diagnosed with a benign ovarian cyst that really messed with my cycles, but it had shrunk considerably at the time that I started on the pill, so it’s possible it’s gone completely now – in which case, I might actually have regular periods! Hooray!

2. My natural vaginal aroma.

Uh, yeah, totally TMI. Sorry-not-sorry.

When I’m sexually active, I’m always worrying about vaginal smells, even though I consider myself body-positive and my partners have always told me not to concern myself with that stuff.

I mean, when I knew I was going to receive oral sex for the first time at age 16, I snuck away to the bathroom and gave myself a pre-cunnilingus scrubdown with DivaWash. And the girl told me I tasted slightly soapy so probably I shouldn’t have bothered.

Well, anyway. Now that no one’s face is down there regularly, I’m being less obsessive about keeping things pristine in that region. And it’s nice. I’m discovering that I actually don’t hate the way I smell. Maybe it’s the changes I’ve made to my diet and exercise routine lately, but the fragrance is actually kind of… sweet. Earthy. Natural. Lovely. Hmm…

3. Flirty energy.

Holy shit, this is blowing my mind.

I may have mentioned here before that my ex and I had an “arrangement” – a compromise between his desire for total monogamy and my complaint that the lack of flirtatious possibilities in my life was making me feel dead inside. (It’s possible that I’m a bit melodramatic.) We had negotiated that we were both allowed to flirt with and kiss other people, on a don’t-ask-don’t-tell basis. (That part wasn’t my idea. You might be able to tell from my blog that I always prefer to talk things out and be 100% honest, but the boyf just wasn’t into that.)

Well, despite this tiny negotiated degree of openness, I never felt quite right about flirting with other people while I was “taken.” I hated hiding it from my partner, and I felt like it was somehow dishonest to the people I was flirting with, too – like they’d believe it could go further than it actually could. Kissing was the hard limit; some folks tried to push past that boundary, thinking surely it would be okay, and I always had to stop them, even though it felt really unnatural to do so.

Obviously, all this guilt and concealment also meant that I couldn’t blog about my adventures, lest they be read by the boyfriend or by a relative or family friend who didn’t know about our monogamishness and wouldn’t have understood it if they did.

Now that all barriers to flirtation have been wrecking-ball’ed into oblivion, I can flirt as much as I damn well please. I haven’t really taken advantage of this fact yet – hell, it hasn’t even been a week yet – but just the option is making me feel giddy and enlivened. And if anything does happen, I can blog about it with wild abandon!

4. Being sexy in public.

By “in public,” I mostly mean “online,” because that’s the kind of person I am: an introvert and a geek. But I’m working on it.

Another thing my boyfriend didn’t like me to do was post naked or otherwise scandalous pictures of myself online. When you’re living in monogamy-land, this sort of makes sense, but every time I mentioned it to my poly friends, they’d be outraged on my behalf. “He doesn’t own your body!” they’d cry. “You can do what you want with your own tits and ass!”

I had really conflicted feelings about this, and I still do – but the fact remains that I do indeed hate the feeling of someone thinking they get to decide what I do and don’t do with my body. Sure, I understand why a monogamous partner wouldn’t want me to share my sexuality with another person… but I don’t consider my naked body to be an inherently sexual thing. Posting those pictures isn’t sexual for me; it’s an act of self-love, a confidence booster, a bold declaration of my womanhood and body-acceptance and unconventional beauty. It feels good, not illicit, and it feels like something I ought to be able to make my own decisions about.

Well, now that I’m single, I can. I’ve been posting as many (anonymous) naked pictures as I feel like posting. I’ve been enjoying the comments, guilt-free. Ohhhh yessss.

5. Being alone.

I don’t mean being single. I mean being physically alone. Being in a room that no one else is in. And not stressing that I “should be” spending time with someone. Just being.

The death knell of my relationship was when I realized that spending time with my partner had started to feel more like an obligation than a joy. It was another thing on my list that I had to do, like completing my sociology readings and emptying the dishwasher.

I have great love and fondness for my ex, but when someone is your Boyfriend-with-a-capital-B, it’s expected that you spend a lot of time with them. They expect it, and so do other people in your life. As an introvert, and someone with a lot of schoolwork and work-work on my plate, that got to feel like a lot of pressure. And the pressure to spend time with him sucked the joy right out of it.

Last night I was lying in bed reading a book, and I stopped and just thought to myself, “There is nowhere I’m supposed to be right now. There is nothing I’m supposed to be doing. There is no one who’s disappointed that I’ve decided to take tonight for myself.” And that realization was BLISSFUL. I sank down into the covers, took a long sip of tea, and buried my head back in my book. Mmm, heaven. Sheer heaven.

Look, I’m not saying the break-up didn’t make me sad. It did. And I’m not saying I’m never lonely, because sometimes I am. But by and large, I can see that this was the right decision for me. I’m thrilled with my life right now, even though I’m busy as hell with school and work and people keep asking me in hushed tones whether I’m “okay.”

I am more than okay. I’m reclaiming myself.

What was the best part of your last break-up? Got any advice for me on this journey of “finding myself” again?

Sharing the Sexy #27

• A new study shows that condoms may boost your vaginal health!

• Even military dudes use Craigslist to find hook-ups.

• Here’s an interesting article on where fetishes come from.

• Margaret Cho came out as non-monogamous.

• Y’all probably already know about the internal clitoris but it’s still fascinating info!

• Appropriate sex shop behaviour, a.k.a. how not to be a dick in a sex shop.

Useful Resources for Sexy, Sex-Positive Sexpots

I’m tempted to begin this post with an affectionate greeting I use with my friends: “Hey, queerz!” However, I recognize that many of you don’t identify as queer, so I won’t do that. (Can we come up with a noun that encompasses “sex-positive people” without offending or excluding anyone who falls into that group? Let me know, in the comments, if you think of anything.)

This blog is still new, so I’m still bouncing around ideas. A lot of blogs do a weekly “link round-up” that points to articles, websites, communities and projects that may be of interest. I’m not sure yet if I’m going to commit to doing something like that, but for now, here’s a list of some of my favorite sex-poz places on the internet. Hope you enjoy! (I know you will.)

Sexxit is a subdivision of the overwhelmingly male-dominated, often misogynist social discussion website Reddit. I’ve rage-quit Reddit a couple of times because of stupid shit like people who deny that there’s a rape culture and people who tell women to go make sandwiches, but I find that if I limit myself to only posting in and reading the Sex community, I don’t get as frustrated. The people there know what they’re talking about (for the most part) and can have actual, in-depth discussions about things like setting kink boundaries and making up for mismatched libidos.

To Be a Slut is a blog about reclaiming female sexuality, being okay with your body, and deconstructing shitty sexual cultural narratives. Its owner, Caitlin, runs Body Pride workshops and is a member of a collective called I’d Tap That which throws mixers for sex-poz people. Don’t you wish you lived where I live?!

If you are interested in consensual nonmonogamy, there are two blogs I can’t recommend highly enough: Taken But Available (run by a Canadian woman in a long-term open relationship) and We Sleep Together (sparsely updated these days, but written by a very clever fellow in an open marriage). When I was cobbling together ideas about what my own ideal relationship structure would look like, I checked in with these folks to learn about issues like jealousy, “new relationship energy,” and the power of dating websites.

Hey Epiphora is simply the best sex toy reviews blog I’ve come across. I also read Dangerous Lilly, Navigator, True Pleasures, and DIY Orgasms. And if you want a great place to find reviews on toys easily, written by people who know how to write, Sex Toy Society is pretty rad. They do a weekly round-up that will keep you on top of what’s going on in the reviewing world.

I love to listen to podcasts, especially when I’m walking to and from my volunteering gig or I’m working on a creative project of some sort. My favorite sex-related ones are Sex is Fun and the Savage Lovecast. Both are consistently entertaining and informative, even for someone like me who’s been obsessively researching sexuality online for years and years.

So, that’s what I’m consuming and participating in lately, as far as sex-poz materials go. Readers: What are your favorite sex-related online resources?