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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Poly pickings at the skin show.

Recently, and those who read my blog regularly will recognize the theme here, I found myself in a conversation with a couple about their Polyamorous lifestyle. Without going into a lot of detail this couple is struggling a bit with Poly and as also seems to happen sometimes I found myself in a counseling type of role.

So here we were just chatting away. . .

She: We go to strip clubs sometimes.

Me: Oh?

She: Yeah, we find partners that way.

Me: Really?

Him: We have a hard time finding people we both like. And finding Poly people.

She: So we go to the strip clubs and look until we find someone we both like.

Me: Uh-huh

She: So then I go to them and give them a business card with our information. I tell them we might like to have massages or something. Or give them a massage.

Me: Okay. . .

She: I let them know we might like to hire them, for massages or whatever.

Me: So these are the strippers you are approaching?

She: Yeah, dancers. I tell them we would like to hire them or maybe party with them. Well, but, if we party with them we will give them some money if they need it.

Me: Um, okay.

Him: We have met some nice people that way.

She: And we let them know we want to have a relationship with them. So like, this one woman we had a relationship with, it went pretty well but she got demanding.

Me: Demanding? What do you mean?

She: Well, she wanted more and more from us.

Me: I don't understand what you mean.

Him: She wanted more money.

Me: So you were paying her while you were in a relationship?

She: No, not paying her. Just giving her money if she needed it. And we gave her lots of gifts. Stuff she needed.

At that point the conversation refocused on why my mouth was hanging open for so long.

My brain was screaming at me: "They are hiring prostitutes, having an ongoing arrangement with them, and calling it Polyamory!!"

I honestly didn't know what to say at that point. Even worse, it really turned me off to the point I wasn't even that interested in continuing our meeting. I did so as nicely as possible and have been social the few times I've seen them since then. Sadly I liked and felt somewhat attracted to them both but after that conversation there is no way I would enter into a relationship, particularly a physical one, with either of them. In my mind they just aren't safe anymore.

Disclaimer: I'm not at all saying prostitutes are bad people or that there isn't cause for their services. Nor am I saying all strippers or exotic dancers are prostitutes. And 'safety' is a personal decision which used in the context above refers to the safety of the couple in question, not the prostitutes or strippers.

But I digress. What really stuck in my mind was the thought; if you are paying someone to have a physical or emotional relationship with you that isn't Polyamory. It is prostitution. As much as I tried to comprehend the idea I just couldn't come up with a way to call what this couple was doing Polyamory.

It got me to thinking what my limits might be when it comes to finding loves. Would I pay someone to have a relationship with me? Jokes about a guy "paying for it anyway" aside, the answer is no. Never. Nuh-uh.

What about someone in the Swing lifestyle? I wouldn't cross them off the list just because they were a Swinger but it would require some serious conversations. I would need to know our relationship was more than sex, at a minimum.

What about fishing in the Monogamy pond? I have but when I do I'm pretty up-front about being Poly. Before the first date actually. I've had mixed results doing that and it definitely isn't my favorite place to find a love.

Fortunately I socialize in a fairly liberal crowd where folks are not only comfortable talking about their lifestyle but very accepting of all lifestyles. I also try to remain active in the Poly groups near me. Though some have an incestuous feel, some don't and make for a nice place to meet other Polyfolk for potential dating.

So what do you think? Was the above couple engaging in prostitution or was what they were doing okay? Would you ever try to start relationships in that way?

And what limits do you have? Do you completely stay away from the Mono pond or another group? Have you ever made the mistake of fishing in the wrong pond?


  1. I want to acknowledge you for proposing an interesting thought provoking question.

    About the couple who go to strip clubs to engage in relationships: based on my context, I would think that is a dangerous place to create a relationship in the Poly lifestyle. I say dangerous, because I lived in the hard core, motorcycle club lifestyle. Many "clubbers" have "ol' ladies" who work the strip clubs. Without even going into the sexual activities of people who "work" strip clubs, from my first-hand experience of knowing women who are "property" of motorcycle club members, I would never enter into a relationship with someone who "works" a strip club. It is judgmental on my part. Not every woman who "works" a strip club is property of another person or associated with a motorcycle club dude. This is an unsavory choice for productive, honest, sincere relationships.

    I will not give a label to what the above couple engaged in with the woman from the strip club. But it feels like a pathetic and desperate arrangement, not connected to love. But then, I'm relating only to my context of love.

    Although I've been in multiple partner relationships since the 70s, I've never been to a Poly group meeting until about two years ago. It is my experience that just about any variety of sexual possibilities shows up at Poly meetings. It is a place where one or a couple can comfort themselves with a feeling of acceptance for having any kind of relationship other than monogamy. It sounds to me like the above mentioned couple were cruising the poly meeting scene to see what is shakin'. (I'm obviously assuming that the writer of this blog met this couple at a poly meeting).

    I want to say that I have limits, but I know that I've participated and revealed too much about my personal life here in this forum to announce that I have limits. I go to swinger clubs. It is not a place where I meet couples to form a poly relationship. But what is surprising to me is that during the two years that I've been attending one particular club, I've grown fond of certain play partners. Although we do not meet for playtime outside of the club, I find that there is a certain amount of care taken among the regular guests at the club. It is an on-site club, which means that couples and singles have sexual activity at the swing club scene. During my multitude of visits, I've observed the safe practices of the guests. Frankly, the care taken for safety is a turn-on. I've become attracted to and attractive to members at the club. Although it is a swing-scene, the level of caring among the regular attendees is a bit like having a poly relationship; but with an entire group of people.

    I wish I could say that I stay away from the Mono pond, but that is not always true. My limit in the Mono pond is that I am always up front about my capacity to love. Sometimes, a mono man will knowingly engage with me, believing that he will change my nature. It can be frustrating for me. But sometimes, a mono person will feel the expansive nature of feeling love in a free, expanding, and flowing love force that can come in the form of loving many. When I am in that person's presence, I feel it as an awakening and akin to being born-again into another dimension of relationships.

    One more word about limits and swing clubs. Tonight I am choosing to go to a swing club over going to a local Poly Group meeting. I'm finding that although the Poly meeting will have a provocative discussion, it is the swing club which appears to offer more honesty. Weird as it seems, the Poly group seems to try to gather approval for whatever one's particular brand of poly looks like. At the swing club, people are upfront, honest, and not trying to glean approval for their particular brand or flavor of relating.

    What are you doing on this Saturday night?

  2. Kameshwari,

    Thanks for the comment, very thought provoking as always!

    Your assumption was correct that I met the couple at a poly meeting. Rather than cruising the scene they genuinely have some issues in their relationship and were trying to find some help. They were hoping to get ideas and find other polyfolk with which they could talk and figure out how to fix their relationship. Despite how they were finding partners that didn’t seem to be causing the problems. After talking to them a bit it sounds as if one of them wants long-term loving relationships with possibly a family type living situation. The other one is okay with a family type living situation but would prefer to change the couple’s partners every few months in the interest of variety. The result was some conflict in their relationship when the second person was ready to switch partners but the first person wasn’t.

    I understand what you are saying about the swing club and developing relationships. Sex is fun and when you find someone who satisfies you well you want to continue enjoying them. At least I do. I think most people will try to develop at least some type of relationship if there is compatibility at that point.

    Believe it or not, I even believe it is possible to find true love at a swing club. I wouldn’t recommend getting involved in a swing club for that purpose, nor do I think it is the ideal place to find true love. But I do believe it is possible. You can find love at work, at the grocery store, at a concert, just about anywhere so why not a swing club? For the same reason I have to admit I think it is also possible to find love at a strip joint. Why not? The people there are still people with emotions and desires.

    What bothered me wasn’t so much where the couple mentioned was finding love. Nor was it with who they were attempting to find love. It was with how they were approaching the situation. In my opinion paying someone, either directly or indirectly, to have a relationship creates dependencies and expectations that are unhealthy. If and when a loving relationship does develop it will require overcoming those dependencies and expectations adding another level of complexity and difficulty to building the relationship. I look at it like trying to build a skyscraper from the top down, rather than from the bottom up. Much as how I have viewed swing type relationships in the past. (More on that below).

    continued on next comment. . .

  3. continued. . .

    Interesting perspective on swing club vs. a poly group meeting. Though I have some swing experience, I don’t feel I’m experienced in that lifestyle so I hesitate to comment on the comparison though it does surprise me. I participate in several poly groups in my area and though people often spend a lot of time explaining their flavor of polyamory I haven’t felt their goal was gleaning approval or that anyone was being less than honest. (There are always exceptions of course). The main feeling I get from poly group meetings is that the people are very open minded and know it is a place they can come and be accepted regardless of their beliefs or relationship style. I would imagine there is a significant difference between that and a swing club which is much more focused on a specific activity where folks probably care little about beliefs. In other words, there is a difference between accepting someone’s beliefs and not caring about someone’s beliefs.

    I must say, our conversations about swing have piqued my interest. I’m beginning to feel like I need to explore the swing lifestyle a bit to understand it better. It is a lifestyle in which I’ve never had much interest but the more we talk the more I’m beginning to believe it fills a need but that I don’t fully understand how it does that.

    Sorry I’ve been away a few days. Life caught up with me and demanded a lot of my attention all the sudden! I realized this when I saw your question, “What are you doing on this Saturday night?” I wish I had been having as much fun as you and going to a swing club or a poly group meeting. Instead I spent the day at football games which did nothing but remind me how uninterested I am in sports. After the games I had invited my family over for dinner and spent the evening cooking and socializing with them. When everyone finally went home I collapsed on the couch with a movie and enjoyed the silence.