On a long enough timeline, nothing ever works out

Helen Fisher on Open Marriages: “They never end up working long-term.”

“I think the most damaging piece of Fisher’s approach is her generalization of her beliefs to all humans. The valuable thing about modern relationships is the ability to individually negotiate a relationship, based upon each partners’ needs, strengths and deficits.”

Monogamy is right for some people, and it’s right for some couples, but it’s not right for every person or every couple. People in open relationships aren’t failing at monogamy. Many of us attempted to be monogamous—we made monogamous commitments we strived to keep—but we couldn’t do it. But, again, we didn’t fail monogamy. Monogamy failed us.

Insisting that monogamy is the ultimate/best/only proof of love and devotion—and insisting that all non-monogamous marriages are doomed to fail (unlike those bulletproof monogamous ones)—doesn’t magically create stable monogamous marriages. Quite the opposite. People who shouldn’t be making monogamous commitments wind up making monogamous commitments they cannot keep. Because they want to be good people, because they want to have love in their lives, because they don’t want their relationship to fail.

Today in intersectional feminism: They call this Ghostbusters reboot feminist. Not for black women via my boyfriend’s wife, lel.

I admit that when I saw the trailer the black character made me cringe for the reasons laid out above. But, seeing this Ghostbusters is going to be like sex for me. I can be critical of it and still enjoy it.

Speaking of critical of sex, my friend Kelly Vee wrote a nuanced and fair critique of a common misconstruance of the term “sex-positive,” called Yes and No: Women’s Sexual Liberation is a Package Deal. Unfortunately “sex-positive” is a bit of a misnomer, and hella counterintuitive. Not that all the confusion can be blamed on the term.

I’m reading All the Single Ladies, which starts off in the 90s, when sex-positive really kind of came into being, along with Riot Grrrl and third-wave feminism generally. It’s when it started to be somewhat okay to be queer as a woman. It’s when my first friends came out as bi. It’s when Ricki put eyeliner on in the girls’ bathroom in My So-Called Life.

Maybe that’s why I chose 90s for my summer aesthetic. We’re going through another cultural shift in what is okay for women. In the 90s it became okay for us to have sex before we got married. Now it’s becoming okay for us to not get married at all.

Sex-positive means sex is neutral, not good or bad. The moral neutrality of sex is a really important concept to grasp, it is really useful to correcting the excesses in both directions. And Kelly does a great job of explaining why it’s important to recognize the moral neutrality of sex. So in this way her piece is a great explanation/definition of what sex-positivity is and why it matters.

But it’s frustrating to read these kinds of critiques of sex-positive feminism, because every time I feel like I could have written them. And I’ve tried. Because sex-positivity IS sex-critical. But it’s also tough because I’m a 90s girl. When I was coming up, separating sex from shame was really new and interesting. And it was incredibly important for me, with my proclivities and background, to embrace. I’m still in the process of embracing that sex can be good and fine outside the confines of a committed monogamous heterosexual marriage.

But it’s not the 90s anymore. Kids today are coming up in a different world, one in which women are much less likely to be shamed for being too sexual and more likely to be shamed for being not sexual enough. Being slutty isn’t the same thing it was at the first Slutwalk. It’s now almost a requirement, less someone think you’re uptight. Which, this has ALWAYS been the case. “Women are caught in a constant war between the pressure to have sex and the pressure not to,” Kelly writes. Women have never been able to win, we’ve always been in a constant double-bind between Madonna and whore. But the pendulum has shifted in ways that aren’t as obvious or pressing to older feminists like myself.

Could CANNABIS boost your sex life? Smoking pot ‘increases libido, heightens the intensity of orgasms and helps men with erectile dysfunction perform’ Daily Mail



  1. With regard to pressure — I sense an underlying problem. Why should any woman care about what others want them to do or not do. The locus of control should be internal.

  2. Nicholas Weininger

    Have you read Brennan and Jaworski’s _Markets Without Limits_? It seems to me that their argument about markets is closely analogous to your saying “sex positivity means sex is neutral.” The core (slight oversimplification) of their argument is that the ethical acceptability of a transaction or interaction between people doesn’t depend on whether money changes hands. And similarly what you’re saying, if I understand correctly, is that the ethics of a human interaction doesn’t depend– or at least doesn’t depend as much as, or in the ways, people think it does– on whether certain body parts and/or fluids are involved. Sex isn’t morally special that way, just like cash isn’t.

    I think it’d certainly be right to describe Brennan and Jaworski as “market positive” too, in that they conclude that many kinds of market transaction most people disdain today should be, not just legal, but socially acceptable. But they are definitely *not* saying “all market transactions are awesome” and take pains to avoid being strawmanned that way.

    All this feeds into an argument I’ve been thinking for awhile needs to be made. Namely, that the tenets of consent culture as I understand them, if properly generalized to all areas of human association/interaction– because sex isn’t morally special!– logically entail quite a large chunk of libertarianism, and drastically undermine the most popular ethical defenses of the welfare/regulatory state. You’re probably a better person to evaluate and/or make that argument than I.

    (and btw if you want a copy of _Markets without Limits_ I have an extra one.)

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