Monogamy and touch

We all know what monogamy means, right? “Not having penetrative sex with anyone who isn’t your current partner”. But, in my experience, lots of people who count themselves as monogamous feel jealousy about their partner sharing other forms of touch with someone else.

How about sharing a lingering hug? Having a cuddle? Dancing with each other? Giving each other a massage? Sharing a hot tub? Washing each other in a shower? Sharing a bed for the night, just to cuddle, without touching genitals or kissing? Kissing? And how much difference does it make if both partners are naked at the time? (What assumption did you make on first reading these, about the state of dress or undress?) What if a group of you were stroking someone who was naked, and hands brushed over genitals and breasts, neither focussing on them, nor deliberately excluding them? What if a man receiving this touch got an erection? Do any of these count as “getting sexual” with somebody? So, which of these can you do, and still call yourself “monogamous”?

I ask, because I have done all of these things, on occasions, with lots of different people, some male, some female. Sometimes I was clothed, lots of the time I was naked. Mostly, for me, the touch didn’t feel sexual. (OK, the kissing did. And the erection was clearly aroused – but neither of us did anything with it.) What they did feel was extremely intimate. They were clearly boundaried, respectful and consensual. On many occasions, I was in a steady relationship with someone else at the time, who knew what I was doing, and these touch experiences did not detract in any way from how loving or committed I felt towards my regular partner, nor did they impinge on our sex life.

Intimacy. So often we shy away from it, except with a committed partner, because we assume it’s going to lead to sex, and sex with someone else is barred. So often, with our regular partner, it does involve sex, so we don’t learn to distinguish the two. But I feel hugely nourished, my soul is fed, by these experiences of intimate touch. I feel passionate about them, I don’t want anyone to miss out on them, because I believe we are all happier, healthier, better-adjusted people if we have nourishing touch in our lives, from as many people as possible.

Polyamorous people would, I imagine, expect to have conversations with their partners about these boundaries, and make clear agreements about what they were or weren’t comfortable with their partner doing with someone else. I think those who count themselves monogamous need to have exactly the same conversations, but I suspect most of them don’t, because they assume everyone knows what the rules are – until a rule in one partner’s book gets unintentionally crossed by the other, and then all hell breaks loose.

If you’d like the opportunity to explore a variety of intimate touch, I recommend the “Love, Intimacy and Sexuality” events run by the Human Awareness Institute (HAI). Their workshops are not specifically aimed at monogamy or non-monogamy: they offer a range of safely held, experiential activities, including respectful touch and expression of feelings, where individuals can choose for themselves what boundaries they want, and how loving, or intimate or sexual (or how monogamous) exercises feel. They offer a free taster session near Notting Hill Gate on the evening of Thursday 24th May, or residential weekends 13-15 July, and 5-7th October 2018. All genders and orientations welcome. or


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