thinking man

When we originally had the urge to explore alternative sexual activities, a lot of emotions arose that we had to get a wrangle on. It would seem that most people encounter feelings of curiosity, jealousy, shame, excitement, and even fear when they begin their journey into opening their sexual lives. These would, to most people, seem like normal reactions to the idea. After all, most of us have spent years being told to conform to the moral and behavioral norms of monogamy reinforced by everything from religion to the tax code.

Overcoming these emotions is a necessary yet daunting hurdle to experiencing the benefits of non-monogamy and doing so is no easy feat. For us (or more specifically, Jonathan), part of processing and understanding these emotions was to take a more objective and intellectual view of sex, love, jealousy, marriage, and human relationships. This post details some of the intellectual resources and thoughts that we used to get a handle on the new ideas and feelings we had entering the swinger and hotwife lifestyles.

The first thing we wanted to do was get some context around sex as a biological and social function. The biology part we pretty much knew from school and, well, having two kids. However, social and even evolutionary perspectives were a little less clear. Sure, we knew sex, and by consequence gender roles, power, repression, marriage for love, etc. have all been constructed and evolved over the millennia but we wanted to understand the high-level how and why.

While it may feel a bit gender-biased, our focus was primarily on Mina’s sexuality. Between her strict upbringing (sex after marriage, one partner, etc.), social pressures on female promiscuity (promiscuous women are sluts while men are stallions), and social pressures demanding male possessiveness (“your” woman sleeping with another man makes you a beta :/); it seemed like the most obvious focal point.

Please note that in this post we reference some wildly different lifestyles including hotwifing, hothusbanding, cuckolding, swinging, and ethical non-monogamy (ENM). Yes, we know there are differences and yes, people get touchy about nomenclature. For the sake of brevity, just assume that whenever we use any of these terms, we are referring to the overarching amalgam of “ethical non-monogamy” in the various forms that it takes of which we feel the above terms are included.

Now, before you jump to conclusions and start yelling to yourself, “well duh! It’s feminism/male patriarchy/cause society/#metoo/insert trendy term here…” please remember that this was a long time ago for us (back in roughly 2008-9) as we began exploring this lifestyle.

Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality

Sex at Dawn is an interesting and humorous book by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha that explores the historical context of human sexuality from the perspectives of anthropology, zoology, and evolutionary biology. They draw not only on the “recent” socio-cultural perspectives of sex as exercises in power, domination, property assertion, lineage, and the like; they also make a convincing argument for sex-positivity through evolutionary terms.

What stood out to us was their analysis of bonobo and chimp sexual behavior. To make a long story very short…bonobos and chimps are some of our closest evolutionary relatives and they love sex. Like…all the time…with anyone. That really doesn’t sound like much of an argument but of course, the authors lay this out in much more detail and finesse. The general argument being that from an evolutionary perspective, sex for our species lineage was never really artificially constrained like it is today. Nearly all of the sexual restrictions we have today (barring the obvious matters of consent) are social constructions created “recently” with the rise of agriculture and modern civilization. Pair bonding (marriage), monogamy, the nuclear family…these are all social restrictions we place on ourselves for a variety of reasons (moral, economic, religious, etc.) none of which are truly biological necessities. Additionally, most of these restrictions, when viewed from a critical theory perspective, are blatant attempts at controlling female sexuality in favor of male dominance.

These ideas, along with a lot of critical thinking and reflection, opened our eyes to realize that sexuality (especially female sexuality) is a self-limiting endeavor by most social standards in place today. This lead us to ask a lot of, “why” questions. Why are men jealous of female sexual freedom (aka promiscuity in certain circles)? Why do women have to repress their sexual desires for multiple partners? Why are promiscuous women shamed while promiscuous men prized? Why do we marry? Why is promiscuity in general viewed so pejoratively? Why are men supposed to feel threatened when another man looks upon “his” woman with sexual desire (much less actually has sex with her)? The history of cuckoldry and the cuckold literature here is absolutely fascinating and terrifying at the same time.

Questions like these opened up a whole can of worms and took a lot of discussions to work through. In general, Sex at Dawn convinced us that sex with multiple partners (especially for women) is more natural than unnatural. It showed Jonathan in particular that most of the time, sexual jealousy is severely misplaced. It opened our eyes to the idea that promiscuity (female in particular) is not a negative thing but rather a natural and exciting opportunity for exploration and experience.

Next, we turned our attention to learning more about female sexuality with Why Women Have Sex, The Ethical Slut, and Insatiable Wives.

Why Women Have Sex: Understanding Sexual Motivations from Adventure to Revenge (and Everything in Between)

If there was ever a question that was so simple to answer…this one is NOT it! Written by Cindy Meston and David Buss, this thought-provoking book is based on interviews with 1,006 women all over the world with the expressed goal of answering the simple question of why women have sex. The authors found exactly 237 different reasons. That seems like an odd number but once we started reading first-hand accounts of some of these reasons, boy was it eye-opening.

Yes, romantic/love reasons seem to be important but it’s second to “because it feels good!” Some of the more interesting reasons include:

  • self-esteem
  • to keep a lover
  • rape
  • coercion
  • promotion
  • money
  • drugs
  • bartering
  • revenge
  • pitty
  • jealousy

Let’s remember the basics here (as also outlined by Meston and Buss). In general (barring forced copulation), the reasons women have sex fall into two broad categories: genetic benefits and resource benefits. Genetic benefits are pretty obvious and include the health and genetic strength of offspring. Women are driven to have sex with attractive and fit men (McLovin) for their genes. Period. Attractive men, for their part, are driven to “spread their love” as wide and far as possible (hehe). That’s their genetic driver. That’s not a great prospect for mother and child who need a stable partner (not necessarily a male mind you) around for a multitude of support reasons (financial, physical protection, etc.). Enter resource benefits!

Like it or not, women will settle for Average Joe as a decent tradeoff or compromise. Joe may not be the most attractive genetically, but he certainly gets the job done in other areas. He might have access to limited resources that would greatly benefit mother and child in the long run like high income, high education, a big home, a car, insurance, etc. Thus from a practical perspective, Joe is, “marriage material” whereas McLovin is just a really great night of carnal desire. Sex in this context is used to bag a more practical partner!

Stepping away from the notion of sex for securing a mate, reasons like pitty, jealousy, self-esteem, and coercion (almost all the other reasons as well) also fall into this category as they address social or personal/emotional resource benefits. Some may be practical (barter, money, drugs, promotion) while others manipulative (pitty, stringing someone along, jealousy) with some even being borderline evil (revenge). Regardless of why, they all address some kind of resource need or effect a personal or social response that addresses such a need. In these cases, sex seems to be a utility…a tool, or in Kantian terms, an immoral means to an end.

There is so much great content in this book that we just have to cut to the chase and say that it helped us see that voluntary exhibitions of female sexuality are wildly varied and complex and rely on things far more complicated than just pleasure or love. The fact that so many other “reasons” for women to have sex exist helped reinforce the idea that any of our relatively tame motivations for Mina opening up her sexual horizons were not only rational but normal as well. For us, this is where the hammer hit the nail on the head. Jonathan loves to watch Mina have sex but he struggled with why/if this was ok. Mina struggled with ideas of infidelity and the moral ambiguity of multiple sexual partners. Now we had a framework for justifying to ourselves why the behaviors we participate in are quite reasonable!

The Ethical Slut

We love this title! The Ethical Slut is a bit closer to a how-to guide for people entering a polyamorous lifestyle than swinging or hotwifing/hothusbanding but there is certainly a lot of overlap. The focus of the book is on strategies, issues, and experiences in getting ethical non-monogamous relationships working the best they can. To be honest, we didn’t get a whole lot from this book as we are not necessarily looking for polyamory per se. Additionally, the book is more anecdotal and subjective than objectively evidence-based which is fine for most folks to get a general direction in their thinking and understanding of the subject but it didn’t go very far with us.

Despite this, we wanted to include the book here as it did prompt us to think a little deeper about a different angle of a closely-related lifestyle. This kind of tertiary approach helps give a more holistic view of the land in which you may be traveling even if it’s not the exact path.

One of the things we tend to hear a bit when chatting with other lifestylers is that swinging is sometimes just a bit too superficial…too carnal if you will. Some folks, we included, sometimes prefer a more emotive connection than just a physical (and largely passive) one. We want to hang out, we want to share experiences and relate with others on a non-sexual level such that it enhances the sexual one. Of course in doing so, we run the risk of developing feelings that are traditionally reserved for romantic and committed relationships. That’s where this book provided value to us. It not only addresses these emotions and feelings but offers (albeit subjective) a framework for working through them should you still want to wade deeper into those waters (or find yourself lost in them).

Insatiable Wives: Women Who Stray and the Men Who Love Them

Now we’re talking! Jonathan was quite excited when he came across Insatiable Wives by David Ley. It seemed like just the thing he was looking for that would directly address the concept of wife sharing from a historical and academic perspective! For the most part, it did just that. The book takes the reader through a lovely history of female infidelity turned erotic fetish and touches on almost all the obvious concerns addressed in Sex at Dawn and Why Women Have Sex including issues of domination/patriarchy, pleasure, power, punishment, marriage, lineage, jealousy, etc.

Yet, the author also brings in a lot more cultural relevance as it relates to wifely infidelity, hotwifing, cuckolding, and the like. He dives into the documented history of wife sharing and cuckoldry as far back as biblical times and brings the reader through such practices in medieval Europe and the early Americas through today; juxtaposing them against marriage, human sexuality, art, film, literature, the sexual revolution, and fetishism & fantasy. It’s a truly fascinating journey! He gives specific documented stories of peasants and nobles and their experiences with wife sharing/cuckolding and the reasons for it (sometimes voluntary…sometimes not so much). The point being, of course, to frame these practices as not only old as time but also as normal (if not always socially accepted) as any other kind of relationship dynamic.

Ley does a fantastic job of deconstructing some of the reasons people engage in these lifestyles from biological, social, economic, psychological, and fetishistic perspectives. Many relate back to topics we talked about earlier but in Chapter 9 in particular, he delves into modern behaviors of the hotwife and cuckold lifestyles. He covers issues like how the internet has changed these lifestyles, why men love to post pictures of their wives online, dogging, bulls/stags, etc. He even has a chapter devoted to, “Fecund Fluids” and merges biology with psychology and fetishism around sperm competition, breeding fetishes, and the like all while contextualizing this around popular (though I would argue niche) practices like forced male chastity.

Interspersed between history and science (and there is A LOT of both) are personal interviews with couples and individuals engaged in various aspects of hotwifing, cuckolding, non-monogamy, and everything in between. The stories and perspectives are quite eye-opening and have a very real personal attribute to them. Some are from the male’s perspective while others are from the female; both are telling and approachable for those in the lifestyle.

For us, Insatiable Wives wrapped everything up very nicely and we would recommend that if you are considering reading any of these books, make this one the last one. It seemed to pull everything else we had read into the context of hotwifing and provided not only justification but also reassurance that what we were considering venturing into was not only normal (though not necessarily common) but could be a fun, satisfying, and fulfilling aspect of our sexual lives together.

Conclusion

To wrap up this rather long post, we just want to say that at the end of the day, it’s how you feel about hotwifing/hothusbanding/swinging /ENM that should definitely dictate your participation in it. For us (particularly Jonathan), we wanted to explore the more intellectual underpinnings of what and why we were feeling what we were. This is obviously not everyone’s cup of tea but for you intellectually minded ENM folks out there, we hope that this overview provided some food for thought and might prod you into picking up one or more of these books.

In the end, these books provided us the justification, clarity, framework, and context to pursue our own aspects of ENM. We hope they might provide you with the same!

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