Doesn’t Any Kind of Promiscuity Destabilise a Relationship?

By Garrett Jones, part three

Before going any further it is obviously necessary to deal with this question since, if we decide the answer is ‘yes’, there can be no possibility of a bisexual lifestyle which promotes stable relationships.

A compromise solution might be to say two stable relationships might co-exist, one homosexual and the other heterosexual, but anything beyond that would be destabilising. Even this might seem to some people to be going too far.

The question arises because of the monogamous tradition which has governed the Judaeo-Christian sexual ethos for centuries. Islamic practice has allowed for polygamy, as has the custom in many other cultures in various parts of the world. Even within Christendom, there have been dissident groups like the Mormons who have sanctioned polygamy.

The attitude towards same-sex relationships has also been decidedly hostile in the Judaeo-Christian tradition, often occasioning savage penalties, even execution. This again is in sharp contrast to what obtains in many other cultures in other parts of the world.

To-day there are countless people who still claim some measure of allegiance to the Jewish or Christian traditions but who are vehemently opposed to the traditional sexual taboos associated with these religions. Still more people who live within the borders of traditionally Judaeo-Christian countries, even though they are not immigrants from other areas, have totally dissociated themselves from these religions and now regard themselves as secular agnostics or humanists.

Even these people may be affected more than they realise by ideas which have no sanction other than in the faith they have theoretically abandoned.

The greatest gain of the monogamous tradition has been the value it has attached to a sexual relationship between a man and a woman and to the family unit which usually results from such a relationship.

The biggest defect of it is its impossible rigidity. In trying to coerce everybody into treading the same path – chastity before marriage and fidelity within marriage – it has engendered the sins, and sometimes crimes, of ‘self-abuse’, ‘fornication’, ‘adultery’, ‘sodomy’, etc. In order to avoid the stigma of having committed these sins (or crimes), the tradition has fostered endless furtiveness and hypocrisy as well as a great deal of pain and unhappiness on the part of people who have toed the line at the cost of being trapped in a loveless relationship or been debarred from the one relationship their hearts have yearned for.

It is virtually certain any tradition which has sustained a culture for centuries will have elements within it of lasting value. It is equally certain, since this tradition inevitably had its roots in a pre-scientific age, when little if anything was known about traditions prevailing in other parts of the world, still less about the detailed workings of the human mind and body, it is bound at times to seem ignorant, naive and chauvinistic by modern standards, claiming for itself an authority and a validity which it can no longer command.

At the heart of the battle with tradition within the Judaeo-Christian world is the modern perception of the function of sex. The received biblical view of the matter is God created male and female in order to beget children: “whom God hath joined, let no man put asunder”.

The modern perception is only a very little sex will suffice to keep the planet populated, yet human beings have been endowed with a stronger and much less reproductively regulated sex drive than almost any other animal; it makes no sense, knowing what we now do, to treat sex as if its only function were reproductive.

Some of those who have rebelled against the tradition have gone to the other extreme and tried to dissociate sex entirely from procreation – it is not difficult to find sex manuals in which children are not even mentioned – or even from relationships, confining their sex lives to a succession of ‘one-night stands’ with ever-changing partners, sometimes partners of both genders. Such rebels have given ‘promiscuity’ a bad name, especially when their lifestyles have become associated with dire STDs like AIDS.

For rebels like these, the question before us is meaningless anyway since they are not interested in relationships, stable or otherwise. Since people of this persuasion are unlikely to be reading this book, it seems safe to assume those who are reading will be concerned to foster good relationships and will therefore have an interest in the issues raised by the question.

The word ‘promiscuity’ needs careful definition. My dictionary defines “promiscuous sexual relations” as those which are “unrestricted by marriage or cohabitation”. On this definition, any sex apart from what happens within a marriage or partnership is ‘promiscuous’.

If this definition is accepted and if such promiscuity is held to be culpable, then any kind of defection from sex with one’s recognised partner is regarded as ‘cheating’ and liable to cause a breakdown of the partnership.

Notice how this definition of ‘promiscuity’ inherits the rigidity of the Judaeo-Christian tradition. It puts all kinds of extra-marital (or equivalent) sex in the same category, regardless of whether or not it happens with the partner’s knowledge and consent, whether it consists of a haphazard series of couplings unprotected by contraceptives on the one hand, or carefully regulated, safety-conscious acts, many of which are in the context of a continuing relationship, on the other.

It is now generally recognised sex performs a variety of functions but not necessarily all at the same time. It can be a source of solitary pleasure, a means of achieving the variety which is the ‘spice of life’, a way of deepening and perfecting a relationship, a path to parenthood, a refreshing way of revelling in one’s animality, a form of relaxation, an antidote to stress – and many other things.

At this point it may be helpful to appeal to personal experience. What has worked so well for me will not work for everybody of course. No two people are exactly alike and this applies as much to their sexuality as to any other aspect of their personality. Apart from intrinsic differences between people, there are also the widely varying sets of circumstances and influences which helped to shape them. For this reason, after a brief biographical excursion, I shall return to a more generalised look at the question, but against that personal background.

My own experience suggests it pays to have a clear sense of priorities. Since my marriage, I have tried to avoid any kind of sexual involvement which would threaten this central relationship. Because it is both a cohabiting and co-parenting relationship, it is unique. I know there are people who seem to live quite happily in communes or in various kinds of polygamous household but the nuclear kind of relationship my wife and I enjoy works so well for us I would not want to tinker with it.

Another important factor giving our marriage a unique place in my life is the exclusion of sex with other women. This presents no problems as my dominant drive is homosexual. When I want sexual relationships or episodes outside the marriage, I want them to be with a man, not a woman. I have had other opportunities with the fair sex from time to time; resisting them has not been a matter of morality or even mainly of sex drive but primarily of a sense that involvement with another woman would detract from, perhaps even destroy, the marriage relationship. I would hate that to happen.

When I decided I could no longer live contentedly on an exclusively heterosexual diet, my original hope was I would discover another married man with similarly bisexual inclinations with whom I could form a sexual friendship alongside the marriage. My search for such a friend began in India and, during my later years there, met with some success. Amongst a number of exciting encounters I was able to establish one or two more enduring friendships, although none of these, alas, survived after we, as a family, returned to Britain in 1966.

The next six years were spent in England, mainly lecturing in a College of Education. The search continued, but bore no lasting fruit.

In 1972, I was appointed to a lectureship in a New Zealand University. Again the search continued, with the result, during the last three years of my stay there, I had a gay friend with whom I was able to spend a few hours regularly each week. He was not married but was quite content to give me a slot in his life alongside his other friendships and occasional casual encounters.

In 1983, our family again returned to Britain (except for one daughter, who eventually settled down with her partner in Auckland and gave birth to a daughter and a son). My search began again and, perhaps mainly because this time I had no intention of moving to yet another continent, I found what I was looking for.

I have enjoyed a most satisfying sexual friendship for well over fifteen years now. I met ‘A’ when he was only twenty; he is now in his late thirties. He is unmarried, but not by choice. Although all his sex so far has been either solitary or homosexual, his dominant drive is, curiously enough, heterosexual. His problem is, owing to an accident in his early childhood, he can appear ‘sort of spastic’ (as one of his former schoolmates described him to me). He is actually very intelligent and, within his limitations, very competent, but he lacks the kind of social graces which would make him attractive to a woman. Their loss has been my gain, though I wish for his sake it could have been otherwise; he is a gem of a guy.

As well as ‘A’, I have recently found another very close friend with whom I am able to have sex regularly. He also lives a good distance from our home but, unlike ‘A’, has a car and is able to come here at approximately monthly intervals. During the past summer, ‘A’ and I were able to meet up with him at the beach and enjoy a mutually exciting threesome. This has left very little space in my life for the other male friends I meet occasionally. A system of priorities has to operate or life would become unliveable.

‘A’ and I first met in a swimming pool. It was he who approached me, not I him. In view of the big age-gap, I find this reassuring. My other main male friendship began on a naturist beach. This friend is still working but is closer to me in age. Like ‘A’ he is unmarried but, also like ‘A’, he finds women more sexually attractive than I do.

Climate is, in my experience, an important factor in liberating the libido. When the weather is wet and chill, one has little incentive to stray outside the home and the central relationship which it enshrines. When the sun shines brightly, the scene changes dramatically. It becomes a positive joy to shed most or all of one’s clothes, becoming much more relaxed and expansive in the process. It is the ideal state in which to extend the range of one’s friendships.

In this regard, I have been extremely fortunate. More than a decade in India got me acclimatised to this much more outgoing sexual wavelength. In New Zealand, I discovered a beach which was largely frequented by gay and bisexual men, only a few miles from where we lived. The dunes and woodland behind this beach made an ideal setting for getting to know each other, sexually as well as in other ways. It was here I met ‘O’, with whom I formed the sexual friendship lasting over three years, as well as a number of other less frequently encountered friends.

Since returning to Britain, Margaret and I have, for nearly a decade now, gone for two weeks every March to a naturist timeshare on the Costa del Sol where again the climate and the setting encourage sexual expansiveness. The same kind of thing is true for a growing number of Britons these days and has had a good deal to do with our rapidly changing attitudes to matters sexual and erotic.

There are two other things of some importance which my personal sexual journey has taught me.

The first is something I learned during the years before I had found friends I could count on seeing at reasonably regular intervals. Although these years were full of frustration, they did teach me to value even a relatively casual encounter or a very spasmodic friendship. As I have said, my original hope was to find one stable male friend, preferably a married but bisexually-inclined man like myself, whose wife would know what was going on (at least in general terms) and who would live close enough for us to meet regularly and form a rounded and deepening sex-based relationship.

I never quite found what I had hoped for, but I count myself incredibly lucky to have found ‘A’ and, more recently, this second friend. However, in the process of searching for someone like them, I discovered, on the male front, variety certainly is the spice of life: not a substantial meal, certainly, and nowhere near even a main course but, provided the relationships which one can really feed on are firmly in place, a most welcome garnish to the meal, making the whole more appetising and more digestible.

This has not, of course, been true of all the sexual encounters I have had. Some of them have been non-events, though almost none of them has been really revolting. Most of them have generated a surprising degree of tenderness and closeness even though they may have been one-off affairs with little or no chance of there ever being a sequel.

Surprisingly enough, it is precisely under these circumstances it can be easiest to give oneself wholeheartedly to another person. Neither of you knows the first thing about the other, so each of you has everything to learn, sexually as in other ways. I still have very vivid memories of men I met just once, maybe many years ago – how their bodies looked and felt, how they made love, things they told me about other relationships of theirs, and so on. I can think of very few men with whom I have been non-sexually involved of whom this is true.

The second thing I learned is merely being able to see desirable guys naked can be highly satisfying, both erotically and aesthetically (provided one shares Michelangelo-and-company’s devotion to the male form). You can feel quite relaxed when you stand on the fringe of a group who are naked in a non-sexual context because you are spared the frustration of wanting to do more than view, knowing there is no way you can!

When I was in New Zealand, I started swimming regularly, a habit I still keep up. I went to a private pool which was open to the public between certain hours, then used by squads of youngsters who were training to compete in the Commonwealth or even the Olympic Games. I discovered, if I went straight from work to the public session which finished at five in the evening, and if I got into the changing room at ten to five, I could see a whole row of young fellows, aged from around twelve to the late teens, stark naked.

I did this so regularly the lads got to know me as well as I them. I think they rapidly sensed how much I appreciated their beauty and their sexiness and they were unbelievably generous in letting me view what they had to offer. The ‘changing room’ was simply an enclosed corridor, running the length of the pool, ‘ladies’ to the left and ‘gents’ on the right.

At ten to five, I could look backwards and forwards along this line of gorgeous lads in varying states of undress, most of them dawdling for minutes together in the nude as they talked randily with their pals, turning from side to side as they did so to give me the fullest possible picture. There was one fellow called Bruce who had one of the most graceful cocks I have seen. It never seemed to shrivel or wilt but always seemed to hang, long and shapely, pushed forward by the fullness of his balls. There was another boy, one of the youngest, whose cock was thicker and more imposing in all its dimensions than that of any of the older swimmers.

It was not just their cocks, of course. These were lads in the bloom of youth and at a peak of physical fitness. There was no superfluous fat but an ocean of taut, smooth skin over compact bellies and backs, slim waists, finely muscled thighs.

Regarding their cocks, I was also made to realise, although I never saw one of them erect, they could, provided they had the requisite size and grace, be at least as sexy as pricks. This has been confirmed by my viewing of men on the Net. Some of my favourites are not displaying rampant pricks, just lovely meaty cocks which thrill by what they promise.

Although just viewing naked guys who are sexy and attractive can get frustrating if there are no male bodies you can actually tangle with at a given period, it does have the great merit of being endlessly sustainable. There are times when one feels it would be wonderful to be able to have sex with (almost) everybody on the planet. The reality, alas, is that satisfying sex can only happen with a relative handful of people.

Viewing is another matter. Whether in the flesh or on a screen or in a photograph, there literally is endless scope these days for viewing naked guys from every conceivable age, race and type. The computer age and our changed attitudes to eroticism have at last made this possible, and I find it very satisfying. It largely offsets the frustration of not being able to view in all their glory the sometimes breathtaking beauties one has to pass, fully clothed, in the street.

[NOTE added in November 2008: since writing this book in 2002, tremendous strides have been made in internet technology, particularly in the graphic and audio sphere. It is now possible to view explicit videos (according to taste) without any charge at all. There must be literally millions of males who have bared all for our benefit. Some of the Yahoo groups (including the one founded by myself in September 2008 - see the home page of this site - and a group like "skinnydip-freehike") provide visual excitement for any who are especially turned on by frontal images of the nude male form]

It is time to return to the question: doesn’t any kind of promiscuity destabilise a relationship?

The short answer is: no

A longer answer would begin with misgivings about the word ‘promiscuity’. Because of its history within the monogamous tradition, it already seems to imply something illicit, something which should not be happening. I therefore propose to rephrase the question to bring it into line with modern thinking and research about sex. The question then becomes: does sex have to be confined to one relationship if that relationship is to prosper?

If the answer were to be ‘yes’, then obviously a bisexual lifestyle would be impossible unless one were to say, ‘yes, all my relational sex is in the context of the cohabiting relationship; none of my other sex is relational’.

I for one would never want to say this. I would certainly concede that some of my extra-marital sex is, like my occasional wanking, non-relational. But most of it isn’t. I have had sex with too many guys for it all to have been relational in any meaningful sense, but, though I would not dream of disparaging this kind of sex, I know the homosexual side of me could never happily subsist on just this diet. Without a shadow of a doubt, the chief value of my male-male sex has been that the core part of it has been relational.

So far from destabilising the cohabiting relationship, my male-male sexual friendships, especially the ones with ‘A’ and my more recently found friend, have greatly enriched it. I will try to identify some of the ways in which this has happened:-

Completeness: without these male-male friendships, I should have been trying to stifle a side of myself which, because my dominant drive is homosexual, is extremely important to me. Because I have been able to foster these friendships, I have been able to become a whole person instead of the stunted and warped half-person I would otherwise have been; this must surely have made me a much more satisfying person to live with inside the marriage than could otherwise have been the case.

Honesty: I have been spared the deception of pretending my male-male sex is just a matter of physical release whilst my heterosexual life is fully rounded, catering for emotion and the full gamut of personality. I have been free to love a man, indeed more than one man, as deeply and as tenderly as I love my wife even though I have not been free to live with him or to co-parent with him.

Integrity: because sex with a man is quite different from sex with a woman, it does not invite invidious comparisons. The homosexual sex complements the other; it does not compete with it. Because my wife knows I have these male friends (without knowing, or wanting to know, precisely what goes on between us) and because my male friends know I am happily married and have not the slightest intention of ‘moving out’, there has never been any suggestion of deception or furtiveness or accusations of ‘cheating’ or infidelity. Both our daughters have also known about my bisexual lifestyle since their early teens.

Variety: whilst our home has been a richly prized physical and relational base for both of us, it has never felt like a prison or a trap. We have both felt free to go off and do our own thing from time to time, each informing the other of expected times of departure and return – and honouring those times as far as possible! We have both benefited by this freedom. When one partner in a relationship wants and needs more sex than the other, our lifestyle provides an ideal solution, taking the strain off the less eager partner and saving the other one from an ugly mood of frustration and resentment.

Haven: particularly when we were in New Zealand, we knew a number of gay men who, even though I may not have been sexually involved with them, obviously greatly enjoyed coming round for a meal and a chat and being regarded as family friends without being required to dissemble about their gayness.

Openness: where there is a bisexual lifestyle on the part of at least one of the partners, a marriage cannot be a closed circuit but must always retain a certain openness which acts as an antidote to jealousy or possessiveness. This implies that both partners, whether both live bisexually or not, need to be outgoing – which will be easier if both feel secure in the knowledge that their own little kingdom is inviolable.

Polyamory: this is a word which seems to have been coined in the States and is useful to indicate an ethos in which more than one love is allowed. Just as most parents are capable of loving all their children, each of them calling forth a bond of love and affection which is not weaker or stronger than what is felt for the others, just different, so bisexual living and loving calls forth unique but multiple bonds of love and affection which are perfectly sustainable alongside each other. It must be said this is more easily realisable if one’s extra-marital (or ‘extra-cohabitant’) sexual involvements are with partners of one’s own gender. In the case of couples cohabiting homosexually, the reverse would obviously apply.

Health: because this is a lifestyle which permits sex with both genders [<>the point here being that a man living bisexually has no need to get into penetrative sex - and anal sex is much the most risky kind - with another man], yet is carefully controlled and never degenerates into a free-for-all, it is possible to keep the sex virtually as safe as it would be if confined to just the one partner.

I am aware what I am writing will seem strange to many men, even though they may be bisexually inclined. There will be those who, like myself, have a predominantly homosexual drive but who cohabit with a male lover. Their need will be to balance that relationship with at least one heterosexual friendship. There will be those who, like myself, cohabit with a female lover, but whose dominant drive, unlike mine, is heterosexual. They may only have become aware of the homosexual side of themselves because a man they found attractive made advances toward them. Having discovered it, they don’t want to lose it.

There will be those who, either because of the type of work they do or from personal inclination, prefer to live alone but enjoy having partners of both genders, either on a casual or a relational basis – or a mixture of both. There will be those who are like myself both as regards their female cohabitant and their predominantly homosexual drive but whose homosexual need is of a quite different type from mine. More will be said about this last group in the following chapter.

What all these groups have in common is an awareness of bisexual need; beyond that, there are wide differences. It is really up to each individual to try to discover, as precisely as possible, what kind of combination of sexual acts and relationships brings the greatest satisfaction to them and their partners. There is a wide range of possible sexual lifestyles which work extremely well just so long as the people involved in them feel at home in them.

Obviously, I can only vouch for the lifestyle which I have myself tried and tested over a long period and found to work admirably. Many of the men with whom I have been sexually involved over this period are married like myself and, with minor variations here and there, have opted for a similar lifestyle to my own. On the other hand, I have had some very frank encounters and conversations with men who are very different from myself in almost every way except for a mutual desire to enjoy sex over the widest possible spectrum whilst, at the same time, staying healthy and fostering stable and loving relationships. That combination – variety with health / bisexuality which includes loving relationships with both genders – is probably what means most to most people.

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