A Black Man’s Place in Ethical Non-Monogamy

Guest Post by Sacred Ed

Perrine Bridge

Around age five, I knew when I saw myself in the mirror it didn’t match what I saw on TV. People with white skin made the decisions, announced the news, led the adventures, and ran the world. People like me were barely seen and heard except for some recurring roles on TV shows or the occasional mention that this person was the “first” of our kind to be heading an important seat.

My mom made sure I got a good education because having a strong education background could make my life “easier”.  I excelled in reading and other subjects. I tried sports, but the idea of playing in sports didn’t work.

My time in the military exposed me to the world and allowed me to parlay my abilities to show that I can navigate through any social circles. However, no matter the places I went to or the people I met;  no matter my background or how I spoke; no matter my education or how well I could integrate between both the Black and Caucasian worlds I could never fully be included into their world. The systemic racism built into every part of our social construct would be a stumbling block for full integration and acceptance.

When I came into the Ethical Non-Monogamy world I hoped this could be a place for me to fit in without much effort. That wasn’t the case in this community either. Many times I find myself–like many people of color— as a person (or people) on the outside looking in. But the woman who was with me is White, Irtish/Scottish, and knew the scene better than I did. Without her, I think I’d be on a different path in the scene.

I could rail away about club owners or organizers not doing enough to integrate more and creating an equal space so no one was left out. Nor do I blame those who painstakingly tried to create conferences for ENM communities could flourish.  I do believe there are people who try their best to include people of color in the mix. My thought is really listening and having an honest discussion on how the chasm can be filled between Whites, Blacks, and all other minority groups.

In light of the recent shootings and deaths of Black people around the country in the past few decades that include the death of Minneapolis resident George Floyd, the non-monogamous community must not just change but have some deep discussions about where we go from here.  I think if we want the type of community Ethical Non-Monogamous people strive to have–one where everyone is equal, integrated, and striving for diverse relationships–it will happen when we start to discuss the issues facing us as a nation. It will also mean the White community must really listen to Black/Brown people about their experience in such settings.

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Growing up in Northeast Ohio as a Black African-American we were never taught in school or home about the idea of having more than one person to love. Nor did we ever get lessons about enjoying having multiple partners in various scenarios or even find joy in our sexuality. No, my sexuality summed up by my mother’s stern warning to me at the time to not “make any grand-babies right now because I’m too old for that shit”. I was also the product of both the Catholic and Protestant churches where sex equated to purity and the right of passage once one is married. Sex outside of marriage–be it before or during– had no place in the world they wanted me to live in. The problem was I LOVE SEX and all the trappings with it!

I would learn later in life about these things in a classroom from a trained human sexuality teacher that all the guilt and hang-ups I had with my faith walk were wrong and that sex is pleasurable and can be enjoyed regardless of where I was in life.

I needed to hear that from someone outside of the realm I lived in. Sadly, the marriage I had before was over and in hindsight was okay. If we both got a more informed background on practices like Swinging, Polyamory, or Open Relationships the marriage could at least have a chance to survive.

The crux of it all regarding sexuality and my race is how at the time the amount of good information was available to my community. We fended for ourselves trying to figure out what is out there in the world and what is acceptable by our peers. I didn’t know any Black men or women who took the time to read up and find out about such things to get proper information.

I identify as a swinger in an Interracial Relationship. With our first circle of friends we met in the club I was the only Black person in the group. They were great people and we were fortunate to pair up with them. However, they don’t realize some of the things they would say (“you are the whitest Black person I know”) really hurt me. Just because I carried myself well and have an interest beyond the Black world doesn’t mean I’m trying to be White, nor does it mean that White people are the only ones who have a command of the English language. What many don’t realize is we do this to blend into, to try and defuse any tension among my White friends and show my desire to be included in the world. Even at my best I still find myself on the outside looking in.

I was always curious about swinging and open relationships. But because of the heavy influence of the church in our community or just any sexual relationship other than monogamous relationship pursuing such activities would be seen as trying to be “white”. When I came to such settings in Swing clubs and House parties I found other people of color were finding this stuff out too. Unless a black person or couple found themselves in a good group many found themselves on the outside looking in.

The other thing which was/is hurtful and makes Black men invisible is the whole “Mandigo”, “BBC–Big Black Cock” troupe where every Black male is expected to have the mythical Unicorn horn length cock stealing white women from their white men.

I wish.

Some may enjoy this fetish, but a lot of us want to be seen based on our personality, our desires, and who we are as people— not as a fetish.

And being a Woman of Color is also troubling as well. From what I observe, the frustration Black and Brown women in the lifestyle face range from being invisible to being treated by White men as a “trophy” instead of a person. Only they can tell their story more adequately, but I stand in solidarity that their desire for relationships would be treated not as “exotic” but natural.

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Our current circle of swinger friends have enough people of color (and middle age persons and couples) where it is comfortable and a safe place for everyone to strive to connect on all levels. It really helps to feel like you’re not the only one in the group and you are included in the fun.

If you could see the group room sometimes where we “play” together it is a beautiful mesh of Black and White bodies enjoying one another. What is even better is we truly care about one another and want the best for each other–both in and out of the setting.

What now?

What do we do now that the world realizes what the Black community said about abuse, murder, and systematic racism is true? How do the Ethical Non-Monogamy communities as a whole do to create a better relationship with Black/Brown patrons of the lifestyle?

I hope Polyamory communities and sites will take up the challenge and delve into the hard work ahead. I hope Swingers groups will not avoid talking about it, but create such a safe space for couples and single people to share and talk about the issues which affect both worlds. I hope in time the communities will strive to pull together and be under one tent together growing the community as a whole and not be separate. This can only happen when both groups strive to meet together in the middle instead of just one group doing all the heavy lifting.

This will require bloggers, podcast hosts, group leaders, and even finding the right party to facilitate a moment to lay down the rules. And it may be even important for each of us to place in our profiles just how important it is to make sure that first #BlackLivesMatter and secondly make safe spaces to talk about such issues in relation to Ethical Non-Monogamy.

Conclusion

Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful that White America and the World are finally wanting to join us in the streets to protest and talk with us about how we enter under the sheets together in the bedroom. I think it is a talk we needed a long time ago, to be honest. However, I make no illusions that by the time I/we hang up our time in the Lifestyle or in the end of my life the World will look a lot better and a lot more connected together regardless of race. I do hope things will be better, people are treated with respect, and how and who we chose to pair up with we pair knowing where we came from and where we are going together.

For more from Sacred Ed, please check out the following articles on medium:

“Love With No Expectations” by Sacred Ed

I’m not ashamed… about sexuality!” by Sacred Ed

New Outlook for Non-Monogamy

New outlook for Non-monogamy

On March 30th 2020, I wrote Put Non-Monogamy on Hold, and yes, I did say please for any of you who missed it.  We are nearly 2 months to the day from that plea, and as you are all probably aware there just seems to be no end in sight of this uncertainty.  Sadly, this is an emotion that I have been living with for far longer than this pandemic due to some douche-nozzle in my past, which I only bring up, because after 4 years of dealing with pending doom lurking over my every move, I have some experience with what we are likely feeling today. And that is why, we need a new outlook for non-monogamy.

When this pandemic started, the amazing non-monogamous community rallied on my Twitter feed, giving hope and promise a pot of gold at the end of isolation.  We all spoke about the crazy, wild party that would happen when all of this was over, and things would go back to normal.  A few of us made plans to meet up, and sent our well meaning wishes throughout this global community, inspiring a feeling of “this is only temporary”, and “small pains for big gains”.  I for one, was eagerly awaiting that drunken beer fest that I was sure would occur on a date in the very near future. And I made the decision to not partake in any virtual parties, with the hope that it wouldn’t be necessary to meet people that way, but… I may have been optimistic.

I don’t want you to stop reading thinking that this post is going to be a doom and gloom explanation of my vision for our new dystopian future.  That is not where I am heading with this.  Instead, I am offering something different, incremental hope rather than the biggest orgie we have ever seen.  As it turns out, the bubble burst without us even knowing it, and quite frankly, it will never look the same again.  Non-monogamy and large gatherings will be fractured, for at least a generation. There is no longer an all-encompassing goal, where we all put our differences aside, and come together (pun intended). 

Instead, we must celebrate and embrace smaller interactions.  More intimate settings, and learn to talk not only about safe sex, but also about safe social interactions.   And yes, this will have to happen long after a vaccine is discovered.  Why? Because there are people who are elderly, immune compromised, and youth with whom we globally have to protect. And unfortunately there are anti-vaccers, and an alarming amount of people who see this as no different than a flu, and are actively working to ensure this sticks around for a hell of a lot longer than it needs to. As a result, we are stuck in this new reality.  Our lives must change.  There is no going back to normal, and thinking that will leave you disappointed at the very least. 

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And I don’t want to be the one to let you down.  instead, I want to inspire hope, and share my vision of our non-monogamous community that becomes stronger, safer, and…. Sexier! Very slowly, I believe small pairings and sexy gatherings will start popping up.  These intimate settings will be vetted, and I hope will include not only condoms, and lube, but also a general health check.  Which, if I am being honest, I wish had always been happening.  No one wants to spend the last day of a sexy weekend battling a cold, flu, or something worse instead of basking in that orgasmic afterglow.  And let us be completely honest, if you are keeping your lifestyle activities on the down low, it is going to be tough to explain that you need to isolate for 14 days after what was supposed to be just a weekend in the mountains secluded with your wife, because someone was positive for COVID-19.

So club owners, app designers, and anyone who wants to host a sexy gathering, keep it simple, and mandate a health check along with a recommendation for safe sex or STI/STD verification.  Protect the community, not only yourselves.  It’s a subtle shift, but I think one that we are better equipped for than the vanilla community.  We have an opportunity to lead by example and set the new normal, while having an incredibly sexy time in the process.  In short, let us all work towards small bubbles.  More intimate settings with heightened screening and health checks, along with following the guidelines of your particular location (2 meters apart, masks, or using an app for location verification).  If we do this, we can slowly embrace the new non-monogamy and the exploration I know I so desperately miss in a safer way. 

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Depression, Isolation, and Social Shaming

Bullying in the Wake of COVID-19

Depression and Isolation

We are supposed to be living in a time where we are trying to end the stigma around mental health issues and yet, everywhere I look, there is something tragic going on, social shaming. As of right now, there is a rallying cry for people to stay home, isolate, and immediately end the spread of COVID-19.  We are at the critical containment phase, based on our best scientific information.  The current directive is to self quarantine for 14 days if you have any symptoms, and to seek medical assistance if your health gets worse.  But with that directive, something else is bubbling up.  People on social media are starting to panic, get incredibly passionate, and emotional about the current events.  And sadly, this is leading to actual bullying and social shaming of all of those who are socializing in public spaces.  And for me, it is difficult to watch.  Why? Because I have a very close connection to depression, and part of what keeps this at bay is socialization. 

Hanging out with friends, going out into the sunshine, and interacting with strangers is all part of my house holds mental health regime.  Whenever we are feeling low, the boost that comes from getting out of the house is enormous.  In fact, it is necessary for both of us to ensue that we keep a clean bill of health.  And yes, I know what you are going to say, that we are selfish.  That the only way to stop the spread of this virus is to just stay home.  That it is only for 14 days. But at what cost is this to individuals around the world who are social extroverts and need human interaction?

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I recognize this is a complicated matter.  And no, I am not saying I have all the answers, or even that my opinion is valid in the grand scheme of containment.  But, I am very much attached to the humans in my household.  And I fully believe that small bars, breweries, and pubs are doing everything they can to sanitize their facilities and try to keep their patrons safe.  And this is why, I will, for the time being continue to support their businesses.  And no, I am not doing this to be selfish, or with a blind eye to the pandemic we are facing. 

I am doing this because my mental health matters too.  We cannot just pick and choose which parts of ourselves we are willing to protect or keep safe.  We need to understand that we are whole human beings, and with an increase of depression, or increased stress levels, the science does back up the fact that we become more susceptible to disease and infections.  Perhaps not with corona virus, and I doubt there will be any time in the rampant spread to conduct studies about this, and nor am I asking any doctor to spend any time investigating this. It is far more important to try and find a cure, vaccine, and to treat all the individuals currently facing this incredibly fast moving infection. 

COVID-19 is spreading.  And it is spreading at an alarming rate.  But please, understand that there is new information coming out hourly about it.  So please, stop bullying or social shaming those who absolutely have to get out of the house.  Let those who require socialization to remain calm in the wake of this panic do what they need to do.  Isolation is hard on all of us, but, it can be life or death for those with depression.  Do not waste a minute more shaming or judging others.  Instead, concern your efforts on protecting yourself and your family.  And for goodness sake, wash your hands, and stop hoarding toilet paper!

Edit: After writing this post, and really listening to the information out there, and all you kind readers who took the time to say I was right out on left field… thank you. Sometimes I blog to work through something, vent my frustrations, or just simply voice an opinion that I may change with more information. And with that additional research and information I was able able to write a positive resource on Non-monogamy in Isolation that I hope helps us all!

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Imagine a World Where Monogamy Didn’t Exist

 

What if you had never heard the term monogamy?  Instead, you were raised to believe that loving whom you wanted was possible and even encouraged.  That when you fell in lust, you were not shamed, but instead praised and even encouraged to share your good fortune or some sexy stories to an accepting audience.  What if your partnership was enhanced, by for example, morning videos of sexy times that new acquaintances or loved ones shared, and that became a part of your sexual experience?  What if instead of sex shaming, we were a sex positive community that promoted safe sex, and human growth in whatever sexuality made the most sense or was even intriguing in the moment?  What if our sexuality was a guilt free experience?

I was raised in monogamy.  I was raised to feel guilty for not settling down and raising a family at the first chance I got.  I was shamed for ending an engagement and not trying harder to stay with my first love and overcome any and all obstacles together.  I was told that forever was finding a partner and uniting to become you and him against the world.  That was true piece of mind, and the ultimate goal.  Forever, with your soul mate, never having a wandering eye or straying from the one partner you would share your bed with exclusively, forever.  I was raised with the absence of non-monogamy.  I knew nothing about the spectrum outside of a monogamous reality.  And if anything outside creeped into my reality, it was judged, squashed and shamed, so vigorously that I barely had time to give it a second thought.

But after waking up this morning to sexy video of a new couple we are exited to hang out with, I was exuberant in the fact that I could enjoy sex with my partner, and my ongoing fantasies completely shame free.  I felt normal, and healthy and sex positive!  Even now, I feel zero guilt for my imagination running wild with possibilities and what ifs.  And the bonus of being able to share the sexual highs with my partner, or to be on the receiving end of his sexual excitement, sigh, it is exhilarating and liberating.  And I almost wish this had always been my adult reality.

I don’t necessarily regret monogamy, as that is how I was raised, and I accept that.  But I do wonder how much further ahead in life I would be if I had overcome jealousy earlier in life.  How that would have impacted my work and family life.  And more to the fact, how much closer I would have gotten to people sooner.  I lived a very closed life, safely guarded for decades.  And now that I have opened the doors wide to opportunity, closeness and love, I feel this incredible joy.  Hugging people I care about is no longer awkward.  Saying I love you, to a platonic female friend is hard to even put into words.  I am actually stumbling to describe the feeling, other than to say, I sit here with a full heart, and a huge smile on my face just thinking about how great we both felt texting a quick “I love you” after an update on our lives.  I wish, in a very profound way, that I was raised to believe that expressing yourself in a full and complete way, had always been acceptable.

As I write this, I cannot help feeling that speaking my truth will be construed as bragging.  And while blogging in the way I do, has definitely helped to silence the fear I get from naysayers or criticisms, if nothing else by thickening my skin considerably, I still feel this is important to share regardless of the negative opinions of others.  I have found considerable joy in non-monogamy.  And I find it exciting to imagine a world not confined by the social constructs of one man for one women, till death do they part.  We have already seen a huge social uprising, fighting for equality of the sexes and huge exposure of sexuality and gender issues.  It is a remarkable time to be alive.  So much social change is occurring, I am honestly excited for the next generation to be raised free of gender norms, in the same way I feel I was raised free of racial issues.  It’s a step forward, and one that I feel will ultimately bring us closer together.  While multiple love may not work for everyone, at least being tolerant of it, and accepting it in friends and family, in my opinion would be a pretty cool society to live in.  A place that maybe one day, had never even heard of the word monogamy.  Love who you want, when you want, and for however long that you want, so long as it is mutual and brings joy to your life.  In short, the possibility of living in a world where monogamy didn’t exist.

 

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Part II: Rejection in the World of Non-Monogamy

In Part I, I talked about how in a monogamous driven society, rejection is something that we try to avoid.  It is not something that is viewed as a necessary skill-set to have.  Instead, it is something that we accept as part of our adolescence but strive to avoid it in adulthood.  We do not regard it as a very important piece of the adult emotional repertoire.  But, as I mentioned at the end of the piece, in the world of non-monogamy things are very different, because not only is rejection unavoidable, but it is a skill-set that you have to be more than proficient at using.  Rejection becomes a natural part of your relationships, and you must be ethical in how you reject others, and emotionally stable enough to handle rejection in return.  Therefor rejections is a skill-set in non-monogamy.

At this point, I am going to make a bold statement.  That being non-monogamous is far more intense for your emotional spectrum than monogamy is.  And further, to actually flourish in non-monogamy, you need an emotional IQ that is far more developed, especially comparison to the requirements of monogamy.  And why do I feel this way?  Because, the road traveled in non-monogamy is filled with heartbreak, rejection and requires a heightened awareness of your wants and needs and of all those you want to interact with.  And quite honestly, if you cannot handle that, you are not ready to explore the amazing world of multiple people, even if it is just for sex.  While I am not specifically trying to scare people off, I hope that those who cannot handle their own emotions, take a moment here for some serious reflection.  Even if you have the ability to turn off your emotions when it comes to sex, there is zero guarantee that your partner or the people you are intimate with are doing the same.  And if you cannot handle that fact, then you have zero business opening up your body or mind to others.

I recall reading on a swingers forum a few weeks ago, a post from a guy who said that he could no longer swing because he had just been ghosted by a woman he and his wife were seeing.  The rejection was just too much for him and his marriage, so they were quitting the lifestyle.  He made a choice to avoid negative emotions and the only way to actually accomplish that was to walk away.  And when I read that initially I judged him pretty harshly.  Don’t worry it was only in my head.  But then I realized, it takes a huge amount of emotional intelligence to understand what he could and could not handle in his life.  And rather than trying to pretend that non-monogamy could be a perfect little world free of heartache, he took the more realistic and quite pragmatic view.

And for many when entering a lifestyle filled with more than one person, you become attracted to the shiny and new, and forget to take into consideration all the bad or negative, with rejection being incredibly high on that list.  Just think about the singles dating pool, and how many people you just were not attracted to.  I dare say that you had a connection with 1 – 5 % of the people you met?  Now shrink that pool almost infinitesimally, and try to make a connection, physical attraction or even an emotional spark.  There is a very slim chance that things are actually going be 100% great right from the get go.  And thus, you need to be mature enough for both you and your partner to politely decline people.  While at the same time remembering that it is a small pool, so you do not want to be an ass about it and get a bad reputation.  Nor do you want to be in a position of taking one for the team, or doing anything you are not absolutely on board with.  It’s difficult to navigate.  And for those who hate rejection or try to avoid confrontation at all costs, will find this part of the lifestyle incredibly challenging.  And let’s face it, ghosting is never OK, so there is no way to avoid this.  You just cannot sleep or engage with everyone just because you cannot say a polite, “no thanks”, that would be pretty unreasonable.  So guess what?  You have to toughen up a bit and both accept a “no thanks” with grace, and learn to give the same with courtesy and compassion.  It’s important to dig deep and develop those skills that we often wish we could just avoid.

After reading this, you may ask why in the world would you ever subject yourself to a lifestyle where you are constantly setting yourself up for heartbreak.  Honestly, because the highs are so amazing, it supersedes the pain.  Most people would agree, that the joys of falling in love far outweigh the heartache in trying to find love.  You would be missing out on amazing things if you tried to just avoid being in pain or causing pain, and thus the brave among us, rip off the Band-aid and put ourselves out there.  We open up to the possibilities, despite the potential downfall.  Non-Monogamy is a high, a rush and a bliss that while I could always remember my life in monogamy as sacred with my partner, I instead chose a life where I live to put myself out there, pain and all, for the chance of butterflies or a new connection, and I do it with my partner lovingly by my side.  I accept that in non-monogamy rejection is unavoidable and I take great pride in handling it, and being kind when I have to flex that skill and I hope you do the same.

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