Artwork: Nikki Pecasso
Welcome to Sex With Stoya, the advice column in which you get the v rare opportunity to ask actress, writer, oh and adult film superstar, Stoya, your deepest, darkest, most ‘I can’t believe I’m even admitting this’ questions about love and sex. No topic is too personal, vulgar or embarrassing, but do know that our girl is going to hit you with some goddamn truth. This is definitely no Dear Abby.
I’m in an amazing relationship of six years. Four years ago, we opened our relationship. While we’ve occasionally had fun together and separately, there’s something I’ve never quite figured out:
The few women that I’ve been with, I’ve met through dating sites like OkCupid, which makes disclosing my relationships status and what I’m looking for (and finding women looking for the same thing) much easier.
But what’s the ethical way of being monogam-ish with women I’m interested in offline?
There have been a handful of occasions where a woman and I have a great chemistry and have an amazing flirting session, but I don’t escalate it or ask her out because I have no idea what to say to let her know I’m in an open relationship.
Every line I’ve thought of feels creepy—like a lie some guy who wants to cheat would say, or like it just wouldn’t work.
Would it be better for me to just stick to finding women who are open to non-monogamous encounters online? Or is there a good way to approach women I’m interested offline and disclose my situation?
Polyamory isn’t new, but the kind of attention it’s been getting in the past few years is. This means more people opening up their relationships, and more discussion of what poly is and how to do it well.
I think it’s great that your instinct is to disclose early. We still live in a world where monogamy is the presumed default, and where many people don’t even realize that other relationship structures are possible.
Ethics are sticky and subjective. Your open relationship is probably deeply unethical to many dedicated religious monogamists. You have your own set of guidelines and beliefs that make up the ethical system you use to decide what is right or wrong, and that system is informed to some extent by the standards of your communities.
OkCupid does streamline the dating and disclosure processes—think of it as the far left point on a disclosure-discomfort-and-stakes scale. The far right point is opening up your existing relationship, which you’ve successfully done.
The middle—telling a woman, who you barely know, in person—has the same basic features as the other two. The concept of open relationships must be introduced and possibly explained, some consideration must be done by one or more parties, and then a positive or negative response to dating within that framework occurs.
Language can always be co-opted. If there were a standardized disclosure phrase with the poly stamp of ethical approval on it, it’d be just as easy for someone sneaking around their partner’s back to use it as it would be for you.
So: don’t use a line. State your open relationship with confidence like any other fact of your life and be prepared to have a conversation about what that means for other relationships you might start.