I’ve been meaning to write a blog about open marriage for a while. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to post it on this blog or an anonymous blog I maintain, and I decided I wanted to share this openly. (If you read both, please don’t reveal that here.) It’s a sensitive topic, and I’ve waited so long to write about it to make sure I said exactly what I wanted to say. I want to say why this topic matters to me, even though as anyone who knows me is aware, my wife and I are now, as we have been through out our marriage, sexually monogamous. We have every plan of being so for the rest of my military career (to do otherwise would be a violation of the military code of justice, Article 134).
To understand why open marriage matters me, you have to know a little bit about me. A man is the alloy of his past. I am not just an atheist. I am an atheist who used to be a Christian. It is doubtful to Christians, I’m sure, that a man who can look at a sunset and say honestly, he sees no fingerprint of the Almighty, once believed that in the same God they do, and did so with all his heart.
I was never good at it, but I sought Christ and to be his follower with all my heart. Despite my later de-conversion, I was as sincerely a Christian as I could be. God ways were at the core of everything I thought, and when what I wanted overpowered want I knew I should do I felt an agonizing guilt. Thus at the advanced age of 12 I decided I needed to start looking for a wife!
It was only logical. The Apostle Paul said in First Corinthians 7:9 it is better to marry then be consumed with desire for sex, and around puberty I was consumed. The fact I was 12, unemployed, and hadn’t even started (let alone finished) highschool wasn’t import. God said it was better to marry then to burn, so I needed to marry. This was especially important since I looked lustfully at women and masturbated. To obey God fully, I needed to poke my eyes out and cut my hands off. (Mathew 5:27-30). I felt terrible for so lacking in faith that I couldn’t make myself obey God with regards to mutilation. By seeking marriage, I was able to obey God, yet not hurt myself.
I thought I would never be able to wait till I got married. When as a young man, I was in my first serious relationship (that is to say one where the woman was in as big-a-hurry to get married as I was) I was able to refuse her. Later, when I would meet the woman I would later marry, I found a new dimension to desire that I hadn’t known before. We were both interested in the institution of marriage to get sex, so desire was obviously a component, but there was something else. There was this feeling that I was incomplete and I wouldn’t be complete until I was with her. You’d think that would have made us hop in the sack, but actually it made it easier to wait, because it was something special and we didn’t want to wreck it.
Like all good Christians, waited till we were married. It was (and is) groovy and I don’t regret it waiting for it. The thing is, both of us approaching marriage as God’s blessed vehicle for sex, we didn’t really get the intimacy aspect of it. We’d wanted sex so much, but we’d wanted it as novelty, the way person wants to drive car they’ve only read about. It took us years to understand the intimacy aspect, the way you could love someone so much that you needed to be part of them in the most intimate way possible. When I’d first met my wife, as a product of my Christian upbringing, I didn’t understand how you could feel love and lust for the same person at the same time. Eventually, I would understand the line between merely hungering for sexual release with someone I cared about and needing to drown in her soul.
What of open marriage? Well, my story begins, as I’m sure many men’s do, with my wife’s best friend. She wasn’t just that though. She was one of my best friends too. She was an aunt to our child. She called me brother and I called her sister. She was family, by choice and not by chance. She was part of our life, we all loved one another. I’d been terrified at first, when I realized I loved her, but how could I not? My wife loved her, she loved my wife, she loved my daughter, my daughter loved her. What was I so scared off? Scared of getting hurt? Of disappointing God or myself?
I turned to the Bible, seeking to understand God’s heart about love. What I found was that what made the church different was love. The Bible never says “don’t have close relationships with people of the opposite sex you aren’t married to” that’s a decision the church has made because often such relationships often end badly. Being who I am, that wasn’t enough for me. Morality means doing whats right, regardless of the personal cost. Doing whats right only when its costless is the morality of a sociopath. God commands us to love on another. So…I did.
It was beautiful. I hurt when she hurt. I was happy when she was happy. She was a little ray of sunshine in our lives. A source of continual surprise to me was that I had no desire to have sex with her. It turned out I could love a woman and not be consumed with a desire to screw her! I was ecstatic to learn that. It was wonderful to learn that I wasn’t as broken inside as I thought.
She was a very physical person. She hugged a lot, play fought a lot, flopped onto one of us on the couch a lot, and all the normal things that people who love each other do. It was all just good, clean love. When I finally realized I did want to sleep with her, it was such I totally different feeling then I had expected that I didn’t know when it had started.
I didn’t want to screw her. I didn’t want to ruin what we had or even just have a sexual release with her. I just wanted all of her. As a young man I wanted sex with a woman I loved as a guilt free upgrade from Rosie Palm. As a man who had been married for several years, I wanted sex with a woman I loved because of the incredible power that sex has to bond people who love each other together.
I knew such an act would be a sin, of course. Though the Bible does not forbid polygamy, the Bible does say you must follow the law of your land (Romans 13:1-4) excepting when it tells you to sin (Acts 5:29). Polygamy is illegal in the US, so it would be a sin to do it. What I also knew was the desiring her was not a sin. I didn’t want anything wrong. I wanted to be more deeply bonded to a woman I deeply loved. As I had felt that for my wife, I felt it for our friend. My wife and I talked about it, frequently. When guilt snuck up on me, she would remind me there is no such thing as a bad feeling. Feelings are good, it’s the actions we take that are good or bad.
Eventually, this feeling became so strong that I had to tell her about it, not because I expected her to be comfortable with it, but because there comes a point where if something is on your heart, you have to share it with the people you love. To do otherwise becomes a sort lie by lifestyle. Though I didn’t want tell her, I told her. Knowing it made her horribly uncomfortable which was fair and reasonable.
What wasn’t fair and reasonable we her insisting the desire was wrong. I didn’t mind being told “no” or “Ew gross”. I minded very much being told that I was somehow broken for wanting to be deeply connected to a woman I was in love with. We worked things out but, not perfectly. At some level, she thought I was a pervert for desiring her. When the person you love looks at your insides ands sees damage in the places that make you love them, well that hurts a lot. We drifted apart over the years and my atheism (when I de-converted) broke her heart and scared her. As an atheist, I wasn’t just a man who desired her, I was a man who desired her and no longer had the holy spirit to help control his lusts. Again we tried to keep going…but in the end it just hurt too much. We got sick of hurting each other, and parted ways (mutually and peacefully) each hopping the other person would change.
So, in the end, loving two woman (even though I was only sleeping with the one I married) didn’t work out. Nor do I think it works out for most people. Why, oh why, would want to talk about this? Because I loved. Most relationships don’t “work out”. Very few of the people we are friends with are going to be there forever. People move. People change. People grow. People live and people die. That’s life, and life is better when we love.
I feel for her because I let myself love her. There is an easy solution: I would have never wanted to make love to her if I hadn’t let myself love her first. I could have had safe, empty, riskless, shallow “friendship”. Instead I let myself love, and that love and my honesty about it ultimately cost me the friend. But I would have never had that friend in the first place if I had never loved. The three of us had a great three years together. I wouldn’t trade that for three years of nothing with no heartbreak at the end.
I loved courageously. It was beautiful. I won’t do it the same again, and I highly, highly doubt there will ever be another like her again. I will probably die having never made love to any woman but my wife, and I am totally OK with that. It’s just, I understand now how two people could love someone else so much, that they want that person to part of their marriage. It was so great, even in the little, chaste way we experienced it, I would love to meet a person like that, even as I am at peace with the fact the chance of it is nigh impossible.
Several months ago, I was reading an ongoing message-board about feminism. A lot of the guys were saying things that I found reasonable, and a lot of the women were pretty distraught with the guys’ statements. One women, a self proclaimed feminist, made a point that went something like this…
“You have no idea what you are taking about. You aren’t even entitled to an opinion because you don’t even have the facts to form one. You are reacting to what you think feminism is, instead of what it is. Take a single semester class in women’s studies. Read a single book on feminism. At the least, go to feminism101. Just please, don’t ask a feminist to take the time to argue with your strident ignorance of the most basic principals of feminism. Know what the hell you are talking about, and we will go from there.”
I was offended, and yet…Did I really know anything about feminism besides what I had heard from Rush Limbaugh and my pastors? I had no real facts, instead I had my feelings, about second and third hand “facts”. So, I sat down and read through the Wikipedia article on feminism, read through the feminism101 site, and took a cursory pursing of women’s studies.
The majority of expectations feminism holds for society and the individual strike me as both reasonable and moral, so I make an effort to meet these expectations. Most of them are very simple, like “Women should have the same value as men.” or “Rape is caused by the addition of a rapist.” Some are more complicated, like “Don’t view women objectively”, the subtleties of of which are little difficult at first. Observe the following images…
In this image, the woman’s breasts are the center, the focal point. The eye naturally goes to the central portion of an image. In fact, if you draw an imaginary line from the top left corner to the lower right, and another from the upper right to the lower left, you will see the lines cross almost perfectly in her cleavage.
Now, compare that to this image. Again, the cleavage is perfectly centered in the “cross” of the image. The total focal point of the image is the breast. It’s superficially similar to the first, except something uniquely subtle and horrifying has happened in this image. It’s not a woman anymore! The first image is a naked woman, and breasts are the focal point. The second is just a picture of breasts, completely divorced from the human being that is them and the sum of all her other parts and thoughts. There is no mouth to speak, no eyes to communicate subtle emotional state, no hands to suggest ability, and little body to express body language, age, or strength. The breasts are completely dehumanized, an independent object with no humanity.
I agree with feminist ideology that objectification harms the objectified and the objectifier. That said, I love me some boobies. Often, I make eye contact with women not because I want to, but because my desire to stare at their breasts reminds me to. I find breasts captivating.
There is no real reason to be captivated by them. I haven’t been in middle school for a long time. Seeing something I enjoy no longer produces any fantasies about it. Nor am I in high school anymore, I have no urgency to see women I don’t know, in any state of partial undress. If the opportunity provides itself to glance, I take it, but I’m not out looking for it.
In fact, it’s mildly frustrating. I wish I could turn it off sometimes. Today we were at the grocery store and a woman was going up the same isles we were, but from the opposite directions. Her breasts were just really interesting. I successfully didn’t ogle, stare, ect., but the amount of effort it took not to was irritating. It wasn’t a sexual thing, but a bouncing bosom is simply more fun to observe then rows and rows of nearly identical consumer food products. Why? I dunno. Some people say evolution. Some people say sin. All I know is that for two swinging sacks of mostly adipose tissue, they sure get my attention.
Ultimately, that relates to my greatest disappointment with feminism (and several other ideologies, for that matter). For most males, the female breast, in almost any context, is more fascinating than any other viewable item in that context. When feminism seeks to teach society acceptable and unacceptable ways to act upon that fascination, everyone wins. When it seeks to pathologize that fascination, everyone loses.
My apologizes to the vast majority of feminists who respect the makeup of both sexes and merely seek to see women valued equally to men, you folks are not whom I am referring to. Thanks for reading, all.
So the last post was actually supposed to lightly touch on feminism and talk about an experience I had recently. I realized that I would have to explain what I meant by values so much in the comment section I made it another post of it. Anyway…
Feminism means different things to different people. Ask one person what it means to be a good feminist and they will give you different answer than another person. Despite the lack of clear guidelines, I think “feminism” is an implied value system. Like all value systems, the resident values thereof are self evident to the practitioners and somewhat arbitrary to everyone else.
I have over the last 6 to 9 months become functionally aware of some basic feminist thought. Aware enough that I know some feminist would say that parts of my thought life are wrong (ie, a sin against the feminist value system.) So I want some feedback (preferably from feminists) on the following story.
A while ago, I had had some things to do which required me to sit through the standard “boiler plate” reading of some instructions. The task took seconds, the instructions took about 20 minutes. Even though we were all done, the person had to read all the instructions. This had to be done twice. So, I had about 40 minutes to do nothing but stare at the person talking.
The speaker was a woman. The first thing I noticed were her eyes, they were the deep brown-black of espresso. She had glossy, black hair which bounced on its slight wave as she spoke. Her skin was a creamy camel brown, with a dusting of chocolate freckles. The makeup and clothes she wore were very tasteful and classy. She was full figured, and I thought she was beautiful.
My form was filled out, and my mind wandered as she spoke. I thought about how beautiful she was. I thought about how I would like to be seen with her or someone who looks like her. I thought about how lovely her skin must feel. I wondered if she was married or single. A glance at the enormous rock on her platinum wedding band told me she was married and to someone of some comfortable income. I wondered if she was clever or funny, if she was a good story teller, if she knew good jokes. If I could magically take her out to dinner without it being wrong for either of us, I wondered what we would talk about. I wondered what she would look like naked, and wondered what kind of partner she would be in bed. I wondered if her husband found her as desirable as I did.
At the end of it of the instructions, I had to turn in my papers to her desk at the front of the room, and wait as she looked them over. I’d noticed earlier, she was wearing a low-cut blouse, and I took a fraction of a second’s view at her cleavage, which I found quite pleasant.
Now, I pose this to any feminist who wishes to help me understand. Did I do anything wrong by your values? Never once did I think I had a right to stare at her, nor did I stare inappropriately. I was supposed to be looking at her, and I spent the vast portion of the time looking at her beautiful, brown eyes and freckled face. I didn’t oogle. I didn’t think then, nor do I now, that she was an object. I did think about sex with her, but I thought about it in passing, and in the context of a relationship.
Was I not supposed to notice that she was attractive? Is there something wrong with desiring sex with an attractive woman? Is anything I did or thought, somehow unethical?
I welcome all comments on this one.