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ISSUE 119 VOL 3 PUBLISHED 9/30/2005

Sex on the Hill: Sluttery

By Lisa Gulya
Staff Writer


Friday, September 30, 2005

Order an Ole to "get thee to a nunnery" on campus, and the fourth floor of Ellingson would be the logical first choice (it's nicknamed the nunnery). But can you point me toward the sluttery?

Not long ago, there was a pod full of polyamorous women, though it's doubtable they called themselves the sluttery. But armed with "The Ethical Slut: A Guide to Infinite Sexual Possibilities," by Dossie Easton and Catherine A. Liszt, these women explored "ethical sluttery" or polyamory, a relationship style that holds the possibility of having several sexual partners at once.

Granted, people at St. Olaf do have multiple partners. But for most of us, polyamory is not something we claim to take part in, unless jokingly stating our relationship status as "swinger" on a myspace.com profile. Polyamory is about relationships in which all the participants are aware of and consenting to the presence of other partners. It's not about sex as sport - you don't get points for sleeping with the most people.

Ethical sluttery doesn't have to be left to mockery, artists or residents of San Francisco. It can find a home again at St. Olaf with those who are bold enough to experiment, responsibly, with polyamory. It's a tradition worth reviving. Ethical sluttery is not an escape from the responsibilities of monogamy. It's not a guarantee that every night will be filled with wild sex. To start, you need to have the skills that would make you successful in a monogamous relationship: respect and care for the emotional and physical well-being of your partner(s), good communication skills and, most important for realistically having several lovers, amazing time-management skills. Being a slut - an ethical slut - leads to greater self-knowledge. Ethical sluttery calls for considering relationship hurdles that even monogamous couples face. What relationship is completely devoid of jealousy? Furthermore, ethical sluttery has nothing to do with regrettable drunken one-night stands. Nor is sluttery something shameful that should be confined to alternative personal ads that you giggle over with your friends.

Some important things to consider:

-Polyamory is for people who like sex. Otherwise, why go to the extra trouble? It may not jive with some religious beliefs, but it can be done in an ethical and respectful way.

-Polyamory is not only about kinky sex, orgies and sex parties. Remember, you define sex for yourself, and it doesn't have to mean just intercourse. And ethical sluts talk with their partners, negotiating boundaries and respecting them. If you're not ready to have these conversations - sober - then you're not ready for polyamory.

-You have to choose polyamory for yourself. Like the old admonition not to get pregnant to keep your boyfriend, it's unwise to enter into polyamory to save a relationship. And you shouldn't do it just because all your friends are, either.

-Polyamory doesn't have to be about flitting from partner to partner. Polyamorists can have one primary partner, even their spouse. In a respectful primary relationship, you can negotiate with your partner so that you'll have as much or as little information about his or her trysts as you want, and you can agree on what he or she can or cannot do with others. Maybe you want to keep certain activities, like penetration, confined to your primary relationship.

-You can be single or celibate and still be an ethical slut. It's the same concept as bisexuals who enter into a committed relationship - just because they've chosen a specific person doesn't mean their attraction to the other sex has disappeared. Similarly, just because you're not having sex doesn't mean your desire has disappeared. But sometimes you have more pressing obligations. Becoming a polyamorist during finals week, for instance, is probably a bad choice.

These points are only a brief and condensed discussion of polyamory. It's a relationship style that comes with a lot of caveats. Polyamory won't save you from relationship problems and may create new ones. But it is eye opening to think about relationships outside of the all-or-nothing, friend or one-and-only binary. And having multiple sexual partners allows you to learn the techniques and preferences of multiple people, which hopefully makes you a better lover - good for those of you who prefer experiential learning rather than poring over sex manuals for ideas.

Talk sex: Are you waiting for marriage before sex - or the first kiss? Are you abstaining but still in a relationship? Let me know at sexcolumnist@stolaf.edu.





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