“You’re poly?” he says. “I feel kind of bad for you.”
I raise an eyebrow. “Oh?”
“Everyone knows that polyamory is just a thing that straight dudes made up so that their girlfriends will let them have some extra sex without looking like a creep.”
“What?” he asks. “You’re not gonna argue?”
“Well,” I say. “Even if that’s the case, that’s not really the way it plays out. Joke’s on any guy who thinks otherwise. He’s in for a switcheroo.”
“What do you mean?”
“In the game of poly, straight male is basically the hardest setting you can play on. It’s kind of the opposite of normal privilege patterns,” I say.
“So the extra sex?”
“It takes some doing,” I say. “And meanwhile, they’re likely gonna see their female partner overwhelmed with takers and rejecting offers.”
“Oh shit,” he says. “Just like monogamous online dating.”
“Exactly. Except he’s going to be sitting alone while she’s out on the town.”
“Huh,” he says. “Never thought about that. What about evening the odds?”
“How?” I ask.
“Well, what if you can only date people together, as a couple? A package deal.”
“Ah yes,” I say. “Unicorn hunters. That’s even harder in some ways.”
“A unicorn is a bi woman who will date both of halves of a couple,” I explain.
“Awww yeah,” he says. “That’s what I’m talking about! Living the dream. That sounds perfect. What’s so hard about that?”
“First off, your girlfriend has to be bisexual herself. I don’t care what you’ve seen in bars. Not all women are bisexual.”
“Sadly,” he replies.
“Dude, I’m even sadder about it than you are. You get to at least be with women when they’re straight.”
He laughs. “True. I mean, provided they like me.”
“Which is a big if.”
“Touché, ” he says, “But okay, let’s say the girlfriend is bi herself. And you find another bi girl. Why’s it hard?”
“Well, not all bi girls date couples. And even if she does, she’s not necessarily into both halves of the couple. Forcing her to be into both of you is icky. And frankly, it doesn’t work, and that’s even weirder. Can you imagine? Someone dating me, fucking me because what she really wants is my husband.”
“That doesn’t sound good. She might want to steal him,” he says.
“Well not really that,” I say, “It’s more that I’d feel like the weird timeshare sales pitch that people sit through to get their free tickets to the show.”
“Wow, that’s shitty,” he says.
“Well, okay,” he says. “Let’s say you luck out. Bi girlfriend, bi unicorn, unicorn digs both people. Sounds good.”
“Oh, it’s fantastic,” I say. “But here’s the thing. It’s rare. And 95% of newly poly people? Looking for that. Unicorns have a ton of power in choosing who they want to date. As well they should, they’re outnumbered. Gotta balance it out somehow.”
“Huh,” he says.
“But back to your point about straight guys forcing anybody to do anything… guess what? It’s women calling the shots again.”
“Okay, okay, I see what you mean,” he replies. “So let’s level the playing field another way. What if they can both date on their own, but the woman can only date other women?”
I burst into laughter.
“What? It’s brilliant. Woman are hard to find, right? If you’re both looking for women, you’ll have roughly the same challenge. Boom. Problem solved.”
“It’s called the one penis policy,” I say.
“What?” he says. “That’s a thing, too?”
“It is indeed.”
“Well, what’s wrong with this one?” he says.
“Okay. So remember how everybody is not bisexual? If you say that your straight girlfriend can only date women but no men, then you’re a straight-up asshole.”
He laughs. “Why? You’re both allowed to date women, so it’s equal, right?”
I roll my eyes. “Equal and fair are so not the same. Flip it around. Straight guy can have all the cocks he wants and so can she.”
“Oook ooook. I see,” he says. “It’s like telling a vegetarian they can eat all the meat they want and that’s all.”
“You got it,” I say.
“Okay, so let’s be generous and say like before that the girlfriend is bisexual,” he says.
“Generous bisexual girlfriend. Got it.”
“What’s the problem then? You’re both at the buffet. Both happy.”
“Ah, but the vast majority of poly people? Take one penis policy as a really bad sign. If somebody only wants one male partner, fine, that’s on them. I personally get dicked out really fast and date fewer men than women. But to have it as a rule? That I couldn’t date boys? Yuck.”
“Yeah,” he says. “So you wouldn’t want to do it, but would you be okay dating someone who had a one penis policy?”
“I’d have to be really fucking into them,” I say. “And even then, I’d proceed with caution.”
“Really?” he asks. “Why?”
“Having a one penis policy can mean that people haven’t handled their insecurities. And poly’s complicated enough with secure individuals that are willing to challenge themselves. Forget doing it with people who aren’t secure and open to growing or changing,” I say.
“Okay, so poly people aren’t into the one penis policy,” he says.
“We really aren’t.”
“Well,” he says. “Who says you have to date poly people? Maybe you could date monogamous people that are open to a poly thing.”
“It happens,” I say. “But they can be even harder to find than poly people. Plus, when you do find people that are willing, you often run into a lot of problems. Because most monogamous people want… well, to be monogamous. So it takes a lot of convincing. They struggle with jealousy. And they might even try to cowboy.”
“Cowboy?” he says. “Do poly cowboys ride unicorns?”
“Seriously though, what’s a cowboy?” he asks.
“A cowboy is a monogamous person who thinks that polyamorous relationships are less stable or meaningful than monogamous ones. They start dating a poly person, thinking that when the poly person truly falls for them that they’ll be cool with it just being the two of them. You know, ride in on their horse, swing their lasso and rope one filly off from the herd.”
“So this mono person might think they’re gonna break the couple up.”
“Yes,” I say.
“Well, that kind of defeats the whole purpose of poly, doesn’t it?” he says.
“It totally does. Not all mono people try to cowboy or anything, but it does happen.”
“Wow,” he says. “So poly women really do have a lot of power.”
I nod. “Polyamory is a matriarchy.”
“Still feel bad for me?” I ask.
Update (8/28/2020): Just a quick note that I wrote a followup piece that better explains the statement “Polyamory is a matriarchy.”
Fiction by Page Turner: