New Sexual Life Styles

I recently received several old Playboy Magazines I had ordered from Ebay. I was initially humored by the advertisements and technology of the late sixties and early seventies. Now it is the articles that have captured my attention. Nearly forty years later we are still suffering many of the same problems.  These articles discuss an unpopular war that we were losing, an corrupt and ineffective presidency, abortion rights (pre-Roe v. Wade), the sins of the religious right, the environment, high gas prices and the legalization of drugs. Sound familiar? Many of the articles, in fact, could be published in today’s periodicals with only a few minor changes of names and dates. The use and legalization of pot are discussed in the old magazines much more then they are today.   And women’s liberation was a major issue.

In lieu of an interview for Playboy’s September 1973 issue, they assembled a panel for a symposium to discuss emerging sexual behavior patterns, from open marriage to group sex.  The discussion transcription is titled New Sexual Life Styles (.pdf). Click the link to download the complete text.

I think we are more accepting of gays and lesbians than we were back then, which is good, but I don’t think open marriage, group sex or other alternative sexual life styles are as prevalent today. They certainly aren’t socially acceptable now. That’s regression. I’m sure they weren’t then, either, but at least there were people actively pushing these lifestyles as options. Who is the Alfred Kinsey of my generation?

Those of you who know me or who read my blog already know that I am deeply opposed to traditional misogynistic marriage. It was refreshing this afternoon to read some of the panelists’ criticisms.

POMEROY (pg. 76) – After all, living together has some advantages over getting married. If one partner doesn’t demonstrate concern, the other can get up and leave at any time, so they have to remain in more of a state of courtship.

I’ve been saying this for a long time. Most people look at me like I’m nuts. Thank you, Wardell, for agreeing.

DODSON (76) – Unfortunately, marriage is the only formal protection a woman has if she has children and is financially dependent, and I don’t think that’s much protection; she often ends up with all the responsibility–including financial.

I don’t think this is as great an issue today, since so many American families have multiple incomes and women are less financially dependent.  However, there continues to be financial and social reasons for marrying, and divorce is still far too difficult and expensive. Progress is slow, but hopefully it will continue until the genders are equal and people realize that marriage is an unnecessary antiquated institution.

DAVIS (76) – I don’t think the fact that two people love each other needs to be formalized. Being married means being blessed by the power structure, by the establishment, and I don’t want that. I don’t want this fucked-up society to say my relationship is OK. I’d feel really weird, probably, if they said to me, “OK, within the frameework of our beliefs, we will allow you to love each other.” I don’t need that.

Hear, hear. Exactly.

RIMMER (78) – A license to have outside sex almost goes along with the license in many marriages today.

That certainly isn’t my experience or the experience of anybody I know. Extramarital affairs go on, no doubt, but I’m sure the participants don’t feel they have a license to engage in sexual activity outside their marriage.  This is almost certainly the result of religious conditioning.

MONEY (78) – Consensual adultery is a marvelous invention for some people. But others are absolutely unequipped emotionally to cope with it; they’ll be lucky if they can cope with even the suggestion of it in their children or grandchildren. Still, many have discovered that consensual adultery doesn’t have to jeopardize the family unit at all.

Based on a discussion I’ve recently had on the subject, I’d conclude that most people are NOT emotionally equipped to handle consensual adultery. People are too jealous and insecure. At least some experts agree with me that having multiple sex partners can be beneficial in a committed relationship.

E. KRONHAUSEN (78) – We believe outside relationships frequently help sexually troubled marriages simply because of what is called the transfer effect. Once you’re excited from the group situation or from an individual affair, that new sexual attraction very often transfers into the marriage relationship. But even if it doesn’t, let’s accept it as OK. It doesn’t mean you love the person you live with–your primary partner–any less.

DODSON (78) – The marriages I see that are expanding–or at least breathing–are the ones in which both the woman and the man are trying to get some sexual variety outside the marriage while maintaining the pair-bond unit. Together but seperate. The open-ended marriage.

I think the notion of “together but separate” is the only way for a relationship to be truly healthy and satisfying for both individuals. That is not to say I agree with Betty that we need to have an open-ended marriage to be happy, but that people should not sacrifice who they are for the sake of their relationship. That’s a recipe for unhappiness and failure.

PERRY (80) – In an open marriage, you know that some sex act with some other person at some other time or place isn’t going to destroy your relationship. And you don’t have to lie about it or feel guilty about it.

That’s the way it should be. When I hear people (almost always women) say they would leave their spouse if they ever caught them being “unfaithful”, I see a big red warning flag spring high into the air.  Is sexual fidelity ALL that matters to some?  I think it is, unfortunately.

I’ll end with four more excerpts that echo my sentiments exactly. But be sure to read the entire exchange. Marriage is just a small part of the lengthy discussion. The more these issues are discussed the more people will have viable alternatives and not feel trapped by traditional social pressures. The recipe for happiness isn’t the same for each individual, as religionists would have us believe.

LOVELACE (80) – Part of being with somebody is trusting him. If you’re subject to fits of jealousy, you’re just insecure.

P. KRONHAUSEN (82) – If you really love somebody, anything that makes him or her happy ought to make you happy, too, shouldn’t it?

P. KRONHAUSEN (84) – Sex should be for recreation, not procreation.

GOLDSTEIN (85) – Items like these [vibrators] are helping us to stop deifying sex, which should be considered just another part of life, another joy.

9 Comment

  1. tenacious_snail says: Reply

    I think you need to have a different set of friends. I recently became sexually involved with a close friend, and his wife thanked me for making him so happy.

  2. “I don’t think open marriage, group sex or other alternative sexual life styles are as prevalent today. They certainly aren’t socially acceptable now.”

    “Socially acceptable” depends on where you live. I live in Oakland, just south of Berkeley and across the bay from San Francisco. Few of my friends would even blink at being told someone’s poly. Or a swinger. Or kinky. Or transgender. Or asexual. Or, really, anything that doesn’t involve nonconsensually harming someone.

  3. @tenacious_snail – That’s awesome. Thanks for sharing.

    @Lexica – Of course I was referring to the larger demographic of the US as a whole. You are fortunate to live in a community where people are tolerant and accepting.

  4. How absolutely fantastically enlightened of you. God, what brilliance.

    @tenacious_snail please do follow up in a year or two. Curious to hear how your close friend’s marriage is going.

    @Lexica good on ya, mate. Damned fortunate. *gag*

    @Brent Danley give me a break.

    Seriously, I’ve *never* seen a “open” marriage last past two years. Bar none. Either they crash and burn or become “closed” in order to save the marriage. (And by marriage, I mean committed relationship: straight, gay, whatever — I’ve pretty damn near seen it all.)

    You know why swinging isn’t “socially acceptable” now? Because _it doesn’t work_. If you want to impress me with your enlightenment have your wife post about how awesome your open marriage is working out.

  5. @Jack – Last I checked “closed” marriages have about a fifty-fifty chance of “success”. Then again, I know a lot of people who’s “successful” monogamous marriages are less than fulfilling or happy. So do you.

    Having said that, I think you missed the point of the entire post. There is no one right way for all people. Different strokes. Monogamy is good for some, no doubt. Probably for most. Because most people are insecure. That’s just the facts.

    To suggest that human beings are naturally monogamous is just naive. What percentage of people remain monogamous even after marriage? Need any more evidence?

    Your anecdotal experience is hardly representative. And (this is a big and), people don’t “fail” in their relationship because of who each partner is having sex with. Relationships fail because they lack trust, respect, commonalities and love. Period. Divorce IS success in most cases. Moving on is very healthy and natural. Why do we equate longevity with success? I don’t give a fuck how long people are married. What I want to know is how happy they are. Staying married to someone who does not appreciably increase happiness is failure.

    Sex is a scapegoat. When a marriage “fails” we tend to blame the infidelity. Bullshit.

  6. Charles Longfellow says: Reply

    Happy you. Happy me. If we ended our relationships on the fleeting measure of “happy”, how long would any last? Do you know anyone who wakes up happy, stays happy throughout the day, and goes to bed, (alone or with other/others), happy? Gee, I wonder if other measures might be useful? If we changed business partners everytime they didn’t make us money, we wouldn’t stay in that business for long. Is that a good and progressive thing? Maybe. If sex is a scapegoat, where else might we get clues to pending relationship failure? Look at your partner. Are they smiling? If not, leave.

  7. @Charles – You’re being sophomoric and argumentative. You’re also erecting a straw man. You seem to suppose that I suggest leaving your partner on a whim. Please, think before posting in the future. Your entire post is stupid. There isn’t anything in it which is sufficiently substantive to deserve rebuttal. Try again…or don’t.

    One point. If you don’t know where to “get clues to pending relationship failure” besides sex, you don’t have the experience or intellect to engage in this type of discussion.

  8. To paraphrase Dan Akroyd; Brent, you ignorant slut!

    Monogamy is unarguably the most common (ergo “natural”) sexual strategy among Humans. It is hardly naïve to suggest that. While extramarital affairs are frequent enough to be more than mere aberrations (about 17% for women and 25% for men), and there are obvious cultural exceptions, one can hardly conclude from the statistics that marriage is a farce, and promiscuity the norm [Diamond, 1993].

    For sake of contrast, Gorillas have evolved a polygamist strategy; Bonobos, a hyper-promiscuous one. Ironically, your arguments as an Armchair Swinger take on more than a passing resemblance to my grandfather’s (an Armchair Polygamist). Pace you and my grandfather, we are neither Bonobos nor Gorillas, no matter how much you both may respectively wish.

    Not that I care much for seeking evolutionary answers to moral questions or social contracts. While biology may be great for providing explanations, that’s about all its good for, sociologically. Rape, murder, infanticide, xenophobia, religion, and genocide are also all excellent Human evolutionary strategies and just as natural as adultery.

    Honestly I think you’re one of those people who would just prefer to behave as though they’re not married at all. They’re not in love, so their marriage is just an extension of their singlehood, and not really a marriage in any way.


    Diamond, Jared (1993, reissued 2006). The Science of Adultery. In “The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal” (pp. 85-98). New York: HarperCollins Publishers.

  9. @Jack –

    Honestly I think you’re one of those people who would just prefer to behave as though they’re not married at all.

    That’s an interesting analysis. Especially considering the fact that YOU DON’T KNOW ME.

    I am one of those persons who would prefer to not be married at all.

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