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Queeries: can I be in a monogamous relationship and have group sex?

Our Fagony Aunt guides a reader through navigating different desires in a monogamous relationship.

29 Jul

Soofiya

Dear Fagony,

My partner and I have been together for nearly three years (t4t lesbian monogamous relationship) and we have a rewarding, conscious relationship. However, I have a deep desire for group sex. My girlfriend has only been monog. I have some experience of being open and being poly and I enjoyed it, but don’t feel a need to be poly in general. We’re both disabled and are each other’s main supports. 

When I was growing up I spent a lot of time camping with my friends, and my early sexual experiences were kissing in tents in a group. I feel like it is kind of baked into my sexuality and now, as an adult, I want to be in a tent with a bunch of hot queers making out. Various traumatic stuff happened that meant I got quite cut off from that kind of pleasure and I haven’t really found a way back in. It makes me really sad that it is incompatible to be lifelong partners with my girlfriend and to have the occasional group tent sex thing. I just feel an internal stalemate when I think about this. 

My partner and I have talked about this at length and she expressed that it wouldn’t be something she was comfortable with as part of our relationship. I expressed that her boundaries are important, as is this relationship, and so I am ok with staying full monog. But maybe I’m not?

I do not want to change my partner or to persuade her to be ok with it, because that would be coercive and fucked up. My desire for the queer group tent sex thing is about more than just physical pleasure, it’s a desire for intimacy and fluidity and spontaneity and lightness and connectedness. I feel like it would be super healing for me. I just want to have my cake and eat it? Arghhhhh, I just go round in circles and don’t know what to do. 

Serena69

Dear Serena69,

I must start by saying you deserve this pleasure, this play, this lightness. It’s not wrong to want it and actually it’s so beautiful to desire it. In a world that tries endlessly to eliminate queer desire and contain our imaginations to matters of survival, you really said, “No – I will snog a bunch of hotties in a tent.” I admire that. But really, thank you for sharing your dilemma. These troubling thoughts that swoosh around the head and the “internal stalemate” that you describe can be really confusing, painful and lonely-making no matter how loving your relationship is. In fact, when a relationship is so good, when there’s mutual love and respect and futurity, the bits that don’t quite fit can be even more jarring. Anyway, let’s take a deep breath and get into it.

I might be being obtuse here but I can’t tell from your question whether your partner has given you a HELLno, or whether there is still room for further conversation, so I’m gonna answer both ways. I would recommend figuring out ASAP whether this is a non-negotiable boundary or something that they’re open to continue thinking through though, as it could save you both time and heartache. 

“When a relationship is so good, when there’s mutual love and respect and futurity, the bits that don’t quite fit can be even more jarring”

You’ve talked about this with your partner at length, and maybe you both feel there’s nowhere else for that conversation to go. I agree that it would be coercive and wrong to pressure or manipulate your partner into doing something they don’t want to. A no is, after all, a no. I also think given how important this is to you, it’s necessary to respectfully and holistically investigate the issue. Asking questions with the intention of understanding, is not forcing anything. 

Some questions I have are: does your partner know how important this is to you? Does she know it’s causing some level of doubt for you as to the longevity of the relationship? Does she fully understand your motivations and desires? Do you fully understand her trepidation? Does she know she’s invited?! That she gets to have a say and set boundaries and that it isn’t a threat to your love for her? 

Now, I feel for your partner, I really do! She wants things as they are, her beloved partner, to herself. No need to rock the boat, no need to shake the tent etc. It sounds like you’re a big part of each other’s lives not only romantically, but emotionally and practically too. I can’t make assumptions about why your partner is saying no, or why they’re taking monogamy as seriously as they are. I will assume though, that being queer and trans, she’s probably not overly attached to arbitrary labels, which I think monogamy can sometimes be. 

There’s probably deeper stuff going on, right? Around desirability, jealousy, scarcity, fear of being left alone. I know I can relate to the all-consuming fear of being abandoned by a lover in favour of someone new. I think this is the reason many people choose total monogamy even though it doesn’t always make sense. Even though monogamous people get left alone all the bloody time. That fear is real though, and needs to be taken seriously and nurtured – especially for a queer, trans and disabled couple of colour for whom their relationship is also a haven, a safe house, a mechanism of literal survival. I get it, it’s precious as fuck.

“I know I can relate to the all-consuming fear of being abandoned by a lover in favour of someone new”

It sounds like you’re doing kind of a lot of work here to honour your partner’s needs while advocating for your own. You’re doing the work of sharing your desires while being wary of your partner’s boundaries. You sound like a very thoughtful person to be in a relationship with and also you’re doing a lot of holding! Is your partner doing the same amount of work for you? 

I get it, for some people monogamy is an air-tight, rock solid concept. i.e. my partner will never desire/kiss/fuck/love another. I, personally, despite being heavily monogamous-leaning myself, think this is weird, but understand and respect that for some people an alternative is not an option! Still, in a situation such as the one you’ve shared, you’re being asked to compromise your desire to the point of it simply never being acted on. I just think life’s too short.

Putting the actual group sex to the side for a sec, is your partner willing to play with the idea between you both? To imagine how it might look or feel, to role-play the scene you have in your head together and examine the feelings that come up for you both when you try? Like, would she be down to put up a tent up in the garden and act it out with you? Could you pretend to be friends? Could you start small and slow with other people? Flirting in group chats with others or sexy video calls?

Perhaps you two could seek out resources, videos or books about ethical non-monogamy from a queer/trans/disability justice lens to learn and think through together. Maybe your partner would feel less alone/fearful/disinterested if they heard the stories and experiences of others and felt like they had a bit more of a community around these transitions? This could be fun and transformative, even if you decide to stay monogamous. 

“You’re being asked to compromise your desire to the point of it simply never being acted on. I just think life’s too short”

I really hear you when you say the tent sex is not just about the pleasure but about fun, excitement, lightness and connection. That is such an important reflection here. I’m not saying the tent sex isn’t important – you know how I feel about the tent sex. I’m saying what are the other ways you could potentially meet these needs? Do you need more alone time? Do you need your support network more closely involved in your day-to-day life? Do you need to do more silly things like trying to learn how to skateboard past the age of 19 or going on chat roulette? Do you need funnier friends? (Sorry to your friends).

Maybe it’s the case that it’s a firm No from your partner on this, or maybe you’re on an intimate journey of compromise, understanding and challenge together. Either way, acting on this clear info you have about yourself, finding ways to work it into your life in non-groupsex contexts will only ease the burden.

I wish you two the best fucking luck ever, I really do. I would recommend couples therapy if you can afford it, to think through stuff in an environment where you both feel supported and heard. Even just a few sessions to talk through this one issue mediated and held by someone impartial could be helpful for you both. If your partner is giving a hard No on this, I want you to know that it’s ok to walk away from a relationship to fulfill desire, though I can see how sad that would be for you.

I sincerely hope you get to have your cake and eat it, and I hope your partner, with some gentle, brave introspection, realises she fucking loves cake too. And that there’s actually enough cake for everyone, and so many different types of cake, and that you can still be each other’s favourite cakes and that she doesn’t mind sharing her cake once in a while, and that it might make her slice of cake taste a little better anyway. 

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