ALEX: I think it's detrimental in two ways. One is in the longer-term fight for legal protections for people who might face difficulties in this country and two is for thegay community. I think there's a difference between what we'd say about our lives and the values we have in a conversation—there's a difference between those andthe conversations we want to have about laws. Laws should be like a fence to protect everyone in this country and it's dangerous when values or stories or narratives about what we think as a culture is valuable get inscribed in those laws.SARAH: Are you saying queer communities have a unique opportunity to look different than the history of straight communities? ALEX: Just like there are all sorts of straight people, all sorts of men and all sorts of women, there are all sorts of queer folks. And I know there are many people whohave these great love stories. I know those people and I've heard those stories and I think those people should be able to get married if they want to. But I thinkthere is also something perhaps unique in a lot of gay culture about the ways communities get formed. There are relationships that are not quite romantic, marriage,monogamous relationships that are important and form important social bonds. Whether it's couples that aren't monogamous and therefore don't quite fit into a pair of two or because childrearing gets difficult when you have two men or two women, the improvised structures that have happened in the history of queer communities are really exciting. And that's something I think is really different from broader culture now, where you have a lot of isolated people and isolated twoperson couples. ALEX: How does all this political and legal talk about monogamy in the courtroom affect you personally? Do you feel like in your life you've tried to present as the"marrying type of gay" and you're worried about non monogamous relationships? Or has it not affected you much at all?I've been super blessed in that I've always lived in places where I didn't feel like I had to present in a certain way. I think it's hard enough, whether you're on amonogamous road or a non monogamous road, to have respectful relationships. That's constantly a struggle, I imagine, for everyone. In part, thinking about theseissues and arguing with people about it has forced me to articulate what I value about those non monogamous relationships. But I think they're a hard battle—insome ways a harder battle—to make work in a way that's really respectful and does justice to everybody's dignity.SARAH: I always think it's funny when people describe relationships as a battle. ALEX: Yeah!SARAH: Relationships are full of war metaphors and so are politics. You can use the same exact language to describe trying to be in love with someone as youwould to describe trying to get someone elected president. Why is it so hard just to love somebody? Or many people? ALEX: Right! In some ways, it's nice that it's always about the particular person that you're dealing with.SARAH: Do you think you're be married someday? Or will you always be non monogamous? ALEX: I don't know. It depends on the people involved, I guess. I'm hesitant to make predictions and that's why I want to defend the non monogamous ground ingeneral.SARAH: That was Alexander Borinsky, who's also currently working on a musical about Earth First.[music]SARAH: Next, we're taking time with Tristan Taormino, a woman who is very busy.TRISTAN TAORMINO: Hi, this is Tristan Taormino. I'm a writer, sex educator, filmmaker, and radio host. And right now I'm promoting my brand new book,
TheFeminist Porn Book: The Politics of Producing Pleasure
and I'm also the host of my podcast, Sex Out Loud.SARAH: I know you travel all around teaching workshops to people who, some of them are non-monogamous, some of them are thinking of being non-monogamous, and some of them are just curious about what the heck all this is about. So what are the main questions people ask you in your workshops?TRISTAN: I think for the people who are just starting out, the want some kind of guidance about how to set up rules and boundaries that make sense. I think peopleare always kind of looking for models and examples. Not that they want to make a carbon copy of what those are, but I feel like we have so few role models for people in non monogamous relationships that once you start navigating that territory, it's not like you can look to your parents, your aunt and uncle, that couple youbabysat for for five years. It's not like we have a huge pool of adult role models to draw on and say, "How might I navigate my open relationship and what might itlook like?" So it feels like really uncharted territory. People are constantly being confronted with situations where they want to take responsibility for their own actionsand their own feelings but they also want to grow and learn and get past some of these pre-programmed ideas, like that, for example, we're supposed to be jealous.Our culture places jealousy right alongside love and commitment. So some of it is a deprogramming that people do—they need help and want to feel validated thatthey're trying to work through these really difficult issues when they see all around them elements of jealousy and how jealousy is really encouraged by our society.SARAH: I think you're right that it's in some ways validated. Jealousy is something that we're expected to feel, even though it's a negative emotion. You know, peoplearen't shocked if you're not an angry person, they're not shocked if you're not a spiteful person, but they are shocked if you're not jealous in relationships.TRISTAN: Right, because, again, it's been linked to love in these really particular ways. It's a plot point in every kind of media we have. So when I say jealousy andyou say jealousy and we nod like we're speaking the same language, actually jealousy manifests itself in all these different ways for all these different people. Soyou have to figure out how jealousy manifests itself for you. Are you feeling envy? Are you feeling competitiveness? Are you feeling possessive? Are you feeling leftout? Are you feeling insecure? Is it touching on some of your fears and anxieties? Are you getting obsessive about it? What fears and behaviors does it result in?Sometimes, it's really not a matter of, "I wish my partner weren't doing that" but "I wish I were doing that, too."So it's different for every person and the first step is really unpacking it and seeing what comes up for you and then how to cope with those feelings in ways thatmake sense.SARAH: Some days it seems like monogamy is a fundamental part of society that's just in the ether all around us. How much do you find yourself thinking thatpeople believe monogamy is a building block of modern society?TRISTAN: Oh absolutely, I think even people who are non monogamous believe that because we've been taught that and told that by all these institutions around us.People are rewarded in many ways, some that are practical and material, for being monogamous. I think that there's a lot of pushback and a lot of resistance, there'sthis sense that no one wants to believe it's happening except for a handful of weird people, which is just not true. I also feel like no matter how many signs I point tothat monogamy may not be working for a lot of people or may not be a functional model anymore for the way we live now, there still seems to be a level of pushback."But it's the right thing! It's the natural thing! It's the best thing for the kids!" There's always a comeback for people. It seems like they're desperate to hold up thisinstitution that, if it were so natural, normal, and beneficial, wouldn't need so much propping up. If it's such a solid institution, why do we need to support it so much,like it might crumble if we blow on it wrong?SARAH: Do you remember when you first came to understand that you could be a non monogamous person, that there were other options?TRISTAN: In my own life, the first open relationship I explored was when I was in college. Certainly when it was presented to me, it made sense. It seemed like itshould be an option for everyone, though it was clear even back then that some people wouldn't even consider it an option. For me, it made sense given thecircumstances that I was in and I definitely didn't know anything and was trying to figure out as I went along. It all didn't make much sense and it wasn't verysuccessful, but it was the first try and like lots of things, you need a little practice.