What are the advantages and disadvantages of polyamory for men?
What are the advantages and disadvantages of polyamory for men?
I think the question is pretty subjective, so let’s keep that in mind as I formulate a response. And call me a pessimist, but I don’t see a lot of obvious advantages to being a man in this lifestyle. But there’s plenty we seem to be at a disadvantage with, so I’ll present some of those as warnings, obstacles to prepare for in an otherwise wonderful lifestyle. Let’s try doing this with a few of the practical-type topics that come to my mind:
It is my opinion that women seem to have a better support infrastructure when it comes to sexual health. Programs like Planned Parenthood and others offer free, low-cost, or scaled-cost sexual health services to women. It’s not to say some of these services won’t provide for men as well – in point of fact with the PP example, many of their services are available to men, too – but they definitely have the focus of their outreach to women. When I started going to Planned Parenthood as a teenager for regular or situational STD/STI testing, they seemed to screen for fewer problems on me than on my female friends, and I always got this feeling that I wasn’t entirely welcome. This kind of atmosphere of, “Oh we have a man in the office. He probably womanized some girl and now he’s feeling guilty and here to see if he caught anything…” Don’t get me wrong, they were always discreet and professional, but very reserved and guarded, and sometimes would try to get me out of their offices as fast as possible. Hasn’t stopped me from donating regularly over the years to repay them over for the free services I enjoyed. Point is, my observation is that there is much more sexual health outreach aimed at women. The resources are there for men, sure, but they don’t seem plentiful. And if that opinion is wrong, then I submit that as an illustration that the outreach to educate men is lacking. It’s one of a long laundry list of things I’m trying to correct with my male sexuality project (see profile if interested).
Also consider contraceptive methods. Most women are able to take advantage of one of many methods of chemical contraceptive. There’s the pill, the patch, IUD’s, just to name a few. They’re not perfect but many of them have extremely high success statistics. And on top of that, for safer sex to help protect against STD/STI’s, they can still use barriers such as condoms. It gives women a lot of control over accidental conception. Men simply don’t have such a varied catalog of effective contraceptive methods. We can get our tubes tied or severed, or we can use a condom. What if she forgets to take her pill on its regular interval? What if she lapsed with the patch or the shot? Or maybe she’s one of those crazy ones that’s looking to have a baby and doesn’t care (at least now) who that father is? We have a lot less control over a female partner getting pregnant than she does. In the end, if you’re practicing safer sex, you’re using a condom or a barrier, and it shouldn’t be an issue, but accidents can always happen. And it means that you potentially have more overhead of things and variables to be worrying about at all times than a woman does.
Unfortunately, men tend to behave on impulse, without thinking about how these nervous behaviors are perceived at large. The truth is this isn’t limited to men – we all do it, men and women – but for whatever reason our impulsive, nervous behaviors tend to be a little less savory than the reaction women tend to give. Women might make sexy, coy come-ons or shy smiles that are adorable. Men will start busting out the douchey pick-up lines before they realize their mouths are open. Or getting grabby without permission.
If you’re like me, you try really damn hard not to ever be That Guy. But it’s tough, because you’ll go into a lot of situations where ladies expect you to be That Guy. It’s hard to try to fix this reputation on our gender because no matter how hard you try to be a genuine, respectful gentlemen, chances are good that at a bar, club, party or social function of any kind there will be several douchebags using really bad male reputation marring tactics to get in a gal’s pants.
Inequity of Demand
Like it or not, in just about any scene, there are more men actively looking for partnership or companionship of some kind than women. I’m not saying that women aren’t on the lookout, but actively looking for it. Women are more in demand then men in the dating world, poly or not. Just watch the dynamic at any bar or club, or even online on dating sites or personal ads. In personal ads, you will nearly always find more men putting themselves out there than women. And when you look at how that goes down, women’s ads will get a lot of attention, where on the average a man’s well-formed ad will get a lot less activity. And this often leads to…
Because of this inequity of demand, this gives women a lot of power. It’s a perceived power, but even perceived power becomes real. And it’s a power of demand, too, and that’s a very powerful power. Ok so a few real-world examples: Some of it is financial. Women get into many “hookup” type events and venues without cover charge. Or drinks or free. Or ladies nights. They get a lot of breaks. And those perks are all designed at bringing in more women to even out the male population and raise chances for all the men looking for women to court. In my poly/kink community, there are a lot of clubs and organizations that offer free or reduced-price membership to women for this reason.
And speaking of poly/kink events, since while it is an assumption, many poly people are involved in kink: You’re going to see a lot of rules at kink clubs and events that place a lot of power in the hands of women, and a lot of active restraints on men. Let’s look at swing clubs, where the dynamic is primarily man/woman couples attending parties: While reservation policies firmly encourage reserving admittance as a hetero couple, single women are often allowed immediately (partly owing to the fact that woman/woman sexual activities are encouraged where male/male sexual activities are widely discouraged); after all single women might find the setting intimidating, and there’s always that couple that wants to play with an unattached female for some hot FMF action. But single men are either barred entrance, or put on a waiting list to see if a single female RSVP’s. What this leads to are men seeking out any woman that will be their date to these parties as a free pass in. Sometimes this is a great arrangement: a single female will partner up with a single male, both will feel safe and welcome, and possibly have a great time together and really find something between them. Sometimes this practice is downright predatory or dangerous…cases of men gaining admittance and then their “date” just quietly leaves, men basically employing prostitutes off the street or from Craigslist, on and on and you get the picture.
Whatever the reason men do what they feel they must to have the freedoms they desire, it can get us into trouble with that whole reputation thing. Using the swing club example just a little bit more, many swing clubs have a hard rule: Men are not allowed into the main play area without being accompanied by a woman.
It’s sexist! But I you look at the behaviors that our gender has exhibited to prompt these sexist rules…I kind of get it. I don’t like the end result, but I understand it.
This one is definitely more controversial, or arguable. So as with this entire response, remember that this is a subjective opinion of my own based on my observations. It seems to me that, speaking very generally, men who date more than one partner at a time tend to be viewed as players and womanizers. Indeed, some men who do sleep around exhibit those behaviors, but I’d defend that most of those guys also aren’t being open about their various relationships. And so that kind of makes them players and not truly poly. At least not ethically. Women who are poly, or “sleep around”, are often viewed as sluts or other derogatories, but it feels like there’s usually more acceptance. I’ve known a lot of gals that sleep around but, hey gosh darn it, they’re open and honest about it. They’ve thought about it, they usually know why they’re doing it at least on a surface level, and they’re not bullshitting around. It seems that for women to be poly is sometimes more acceptable than it is for a man to be. It’s something I’ve perceived, anyways. I go to poly events and I see the variously interconnected couples and triads and play partners, and there’s a sense of women sort of being the nuclei and the men just the lucky guys that get to tag along for a bit. It’s not always that way, but I see that environment a lot.
Of course, this is always argued that polyamorous women are viewed as sluts while it seems more acceptable for men to lead that lifestyle. I think that different situations, approaches, attitudes, styles, all of that can change the appearances of these situations and the people in them. I think we can all agree that perceptions are everything, and we all have different ones.
Take that perception and interpret that as you will. It might not be one shared by as many people as I think. But if you see it, too, you might think about how you want to fit into those perceptions.
Whatever you do, I encourage you to stick true to yourself and be yourself, and do what feels right and brings you happiness. My only ulterior request is to do whatever you can for our gender, if you are a fellow man, to help repair some of our good name. Have fun, be safe, and don’t lose heart when being a guy in this lifestyle seems really hard.
Photo credit: “Naked man and woman waiting for their Apocalypse” by Pablo Casamanita on Flickr. CC, Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0), Some Rights Reserved.