03.27.2008  BY EM & LO

After our post the other day on open relationships, specifically the one between Dan and Carrie being recounted on TangoMag.com, we got a note from an acquaintance who's in an open relationship:
Do you think y'all have a subconscious bias against open relationships? Or that you're consciously sexually open-minded, but that it's riding atop a foundation of sexual conservatism? I'm curious what your self-perception is in this regard.
Our annoyance was only outweighed by our secret fear that we had unintentionally poo-poo-ed on Carrie and Dan's relationship. So we wrote them:
We've never professed to be open-relationship material ourselves--it's not our own cup of tea, at least not right now--though we do think we're pretty open-minded and we are definitely impressed by those who can pull it off. So, as a couple who are pulling it off quite nicely (and as the subjects of our post), did you think our post had some sort of bias against you? Or that deep down we're prudes? Our intention was to reflect suspicions people might have about the viability of open relationships but to ultimately suggest that  whatever works for each individual couple is cool, no matter how untraditional. Did we fail? Be honest, we can take it.
While waiting for a response from Carrie and Dan, we thought long and hard about our acquaintance's original question--which the more we read, the more we found totally condescending--and replied:

Hmmm. We don't think we have a bias against open relationships, we have an admiration for them, in the way you admire someone for doing something you don't think you yourself either would want or could ever do, like sky-diving or being a contestant on Survivor. When Carrie wrote to us about her "hate mail" in response to their intended wedding, here was our response from Lo, verbatim:

Congrats on the weddin'! I love it, and those closed-minded fucks in the comments section can go fuck themselves. I'll never understand why people care what other consenting adults decide to do if it doesn't hurt anyone else!?!?!?

So, no, nothing against open relationships here.

However, that doesn't stop us from wondering how they can possibly work, in the same way we question how traditional relationships can possibly work (because we'll be the first to admit they, the traditional ones, don't work most of the time). And our talk of jealousy is a reflection--and an intended one at that--of our own personalities when it comes to relationships, not an indictment of anyone else's.

We've never pretended to be been-there-done-it-all sex writers--we still blush, we have our own taboos, our own sexual shortcomings, and we think that makes our perspective more approachable and relatable to a general audience. We certainly don't pick up our pom-poms indiscriminately and start spazzing out for every iteration of sexuality out there. But in general we think we're pretty consistent on the to-each-his/her-own front.

Here's a recent post of ours that reflects all of the above nicely.
Then we heard back from Dan and Carrie jointly:

We're assuming the bit that got your friend worked up was this: "Of course, it's hard not to wonder how Dan can think he won't be replaced with a new side dish someday--or how the flames of jealousy don't shoot out of Carrie's ears, for that matter."

But we think you actually went above and beyond the call of duty there, in what seems to be a pretty obvious effort to be fair. From what we can tell, you were simply stating your own curiousities about how each one of us is able to deal with the things we have to deal with in order to keep our open relationship healthy. Hell, Dan doesn't quite understand how flames of jealousy don't shoot out of Carrie's ears, either!

We think what it really comes down to is this: Open relationships are a little strange, and in our society at least, they're definitely socially deviant. And probably for those reasons alone, they're also something that almost everyone is at least a little bit curious about. Just because you two are curious about them doesn't necessarily mean you have a subconscious bias against them. But if you do, so what? Your job as journalists is to fairly and properly *document* the world of sex and relationships. And even though you've both written extensively about your own sexual experiences, we don't think anyone expects you to be a couple of female George Plimptons, out there trying on every last bizarre sexual kink known to man.
That made us feel better. We still haven't heard from our acquaintance. He still might write back and make us cry. What do you think? Does the world just hate on couples who can make work what the rest of can't?

UPDATE: Our open-relationship acquaintance wrote us back, and he didn't make us cry!:

Didn't mean to come off as pissed or anything, and certainly not condescending (any more than your article at least), I think if I came across that way it's due to my aforementioned crazy schedule and forced brevity. Sorry for that.

I was just honestly curious about what your own self-perceptions are in regard to sexual open-mindedness, especially as it relates to open relationships. Because in your writings I do detect a conflict. On the one hand you try hard to come off as open minded about it all, impressed even, but all the while there's also a not-so-subtle amount of blushing and tongue-clucking and disbelief.

Which is fine, I'm sure, for an average citizen. And perhaps that's who you're selling to, so it's the safe route to go, and that's why you often fall back into the "we're just prudes writing about sex, wow look at these freaks, well, to each his own" style.

I would just find it very interesting that one could write about sex for so long and still be at all amazed or confused by a relationship arrangement that's no more shocking or rare than a gay marriage at this point.

I love y'all, I just think you think you're more open-minded than you are, at least on paper. And that's cool, I have no dog in the fight. Just curious.


Jennifer said:

I think the world hates on anyone who isn't doing exactly what everyone else does.

I got the same kind of reactions when I was in an open relationship. I especially loved the people who said, "He's CHEATING ON YOU!!!" Uh, no he's not doing anything I don't know about, thanks. But people really, really freak out when you are going outside of THEIR comfort zone. A guy I dated after the breakup of the open relationship (who didn't last long) was all, "Well, I would NEVER do that to a girl! Never EVER!" and he was so sanctimonious and so sure that HE was such a GOOD GUY...um, yeah. Did not want. People acted like I was a stupid sucker who had no clue, that my ex was an evil cheating bastard, etc. They'd even try to talk me up at parties- "Technically she's single!" to find me other, more monogamous, men.

Ugh. So really, it's just that you're doing something different. People will probably react similarly at any "different" thing you do, though.

(For the record, I could go poly or mono, I don't consider myself either one. There are definite advantages and disadvantages either way, and I'd happily get into another poly relationship with the right people.)

Ju said:

friends of mine are in an open relation ship. Both of them told me the other night that they think anal sex is something completely disgusting something they would never ever try.
it's not that easy black and white. open relationship=cool, open-minded vs. monogamous=prude.
and to me there's no ranking in what's more or less open-minded. open-mindedness is an attitude. tolerance for others is the only key to that and not what you yourself (and your partner(s)) do or what you don't do.
This whole "you are not as cool as you think you are if you don't d o it the exact way w e do it" is so high school and ridiculous.

Jamie said:

I've never felt anything in your writing to be anti-poly. I probably wouldn't stick around if I did, to be honest, because I get enough crap in my life for being a poly kinky transsexual lesbian slut. Albeit the most undersexed slut on the continent.

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Calling a time-out on a relationship so you can have your cake and eat it too (i.e. so you can get laid by someone else without permanently breaking up with your current partner) is like putting your elbow in your ear: damn near impossible. And so, nine times out of 10, taking a breather is a precursor to an "official" breakup. But some people are greedy, delusional, hopeful bastards who will continue to insist on getting married a second time, playing the lottery, and taking mini-breaks. Don't be one of them.
--From Buh Bye: The Ultimate Guide to Dumping and Getting Dumped

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Em & Lo, more formally known as Emma Taylor and Lorelei Sharkey, are the self-proclaimed Emily Posts of the modern bedroom.

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