joreth: (polyamory)
This has come up in several venues lately, so when a friend posted an article by Mistress Matisse, I decided to re-post it.

Control Tower
The One-Penis Policy
by Mistress Matisse

I am naughty by nature, but I'm actually not down with OPP. Surprised? Well, OPP has a different meaning to me. OPP means this: A bisexual female/heterosexual male couple are discussing polyamory, but he doesn't like the idea of her fucking other guys. So he says, "Okay, you can sleep with women—but no other men." Sometimes they'll just leave it at that: She'll get him plus her girlfriends, but he'll remain monogamous. Often, however, the next sentence out of his mouth is "And if you get to sleep with other women, then so do I." This is what polyamorous people refer to, disparagingly, as the One-Penis Policy.

Why disparagingly? On the surface, the OPP sounds equitable: Both partners get to do exactly the same thing. Only it's not. It's about as fair and balanced as Fox News. Under the OPP, the straight man is free to pursue any woman he wishes, while his bisexual partner must limit her choices because of his fears.

And fear is the reason for an OPP. Fears like: If another man fucks "my" woman, he'll steal her away. Only by isolating her can I keep her. Men who fuck lots of women are studs, but women who fuck more than one man are dirty whores; my partner cannot be a dirty whore! (Sex with other women, though—that's different. If there's no penis, then it's not real sex, merely foreplay for me.)

Fear of the woman getting an STD from a new male partner is often mentioned as additional justification—which conveniently ignores the fact that straight men can get STDs from women, and thus the One Penis is also capable of bringing one home. Also implied is that a vicious, Highlander-esque competition for status and dominance is biologically inherent to men. They can't help it; it's just their nature. A good, loving woman restricts her sexuality so she doesn't tarnish her man's image and rouse his inner beast.

Women in this position often reluctantly accept the OPP as a stepping-stone. In time, she thinks, he'll relax the rule and let me have sex with other men, too. But it's a rare individual who willingly gives up an arrangement where he gets everything he wants and nothing he doesn't. If you want the freedom to have sex with other men, then work out the jealousy issues in some other fashion. But don't adopt the OPP, because it builds resentment and the temptation to lie.

Male practitioners of the OPP say, "It's not unfair! She doesn't want to fuck other men." If she doesn't want to, obviously she doesn't have to. But why have a rule forbidding it? Lift the gender ban and let her choose as freely as you do. Or stay monogamous and let OPP stand for One-Pussy as well as One-Penis.
This was written by Mistress Matisse.

The OPP is couched in a lot of rational-sounding reasons.  But humans are very, very good at having an emotional reaction and then rationalizing it later to the point that even they don't understand what they just did.  An MRI study just recently showed that almost all our decisions are decided up to 10 seconds before we act on them (actually giving the MRI reader the opportunity to predict someone's actions), and another one showed that the act-on-this part of the brain lit up before the rational-reason-making part of the brain did. (wish I had the links to cite my references).  This means that we do stuff, then we explain why we did it after the fact.  

Franklin also likes to reference an interesting study where they looked at people who had the connection between the hemispheres of the brain missing, for whatever reason.  When that connection is gone, both eyes can still see and can still send images to the brain, but only one half of the brain has the ability to talk about it.  That half of the brain has absolutely no clue what the other half of the brain is doing, since the connection is gone.  

So, for example, let's say you show one of these people 2 pictures - one to each eye.  To the eye that can send images to the half of the brain that communicates, you show a chicken coop.  To the other eye, you show a picture of a snow bank.  Next, you hand them a pile of toys and have them pick out one toy with each hand that references the picture they saw.  The hand that correlates to the eye that saw the chicken coop picks out a stuffed chicken.  The other hand picks out a toy shovel.  Next, ask the person why he chose those toys.  Remember, the half of the brain that speaks has absolutely no idea that the other half of the brain recorded a snowbank.  Without noticeable hesitation, the person says the chicken goes in the chicken coop, and the shovel is to clean up the bird shit.

So we are very, very good at making shit up and rationalizing and justifying our actions, even to ourselves.

In one particular thread online, a couple of guys were absolutely standing by their excuse to limit their woman to only female partners by way of progeny.  You see, they did not want to spend resources raising someone else's kid.  The only progeny allowed in his house, by god, would be of his own bloodline!  He also wanted to make sure that his genetic heritage remain in an unbroken line from wherever it is he started counting.  And since you can never really be sure who the father is, the only way to control that he was the father was to restrict his partner from any and all male partners to avoid accidents from happening.

I threw out the adoption argument (how dare you say my mother couldn't love me as much as my natural mother) because the idea that bloodlines have anything to do with love is offensive.  What I didn't bother to get into is that he has no way of knowing that his line is "unbroken" already and that even with his rule restricting his woman, she could *still* produce offspring that wasn't his, if she wanted to.  If he was convinced that he had her properly isolated, he would have no reason to ask for a paternity test when she gets pregnant, and, as he pointed out in his rationale for being against other male partners, the paternity test takes place after the baby is conceived anyway and it's too late to do anything about limiting the fatherhood.  

When Franklin proposed letting men who have vasectomies be potential partners, how did Mr. Caveman feel about that?  Funny enough, no response the last time I checked the thread.  That tells me that it's NOT about progeny at all, it's about rationalizing an emotional reaction without understanding the emotional reaction at all.  Color me shocked that this argument might be a rationale.

As Franklin likes to say, if your partners are loving and kind and considerate and genuinely do not want to hurt you, then rules are not necessary.  If they are not loving and kind and considerate and genuinely don't care if they hurt you, then the rules won't stop them.

When I do not want my partner to be with a particular partner, I can express my fears to my partner, who will then seriously consider the consequences of taking on said new partner.  A kind, loving, considerate, and compassionate partner will evaluate the fears for their real impact and decide that either yes, the fears have merit and refrain, or no, the fears are about something internal and work with me on resolving that internal issue.  It is not necessary for me to forbid him from doing anything.

As Mistress Matisse says, if your wife just happens to be only interested in other woman, you don't need the rule to forbid it.  But if she is interested in men, and you feel the need to restrict her behaviour, that says an awful lot about you, none of it good.

It says you're insecure.  It says you're an asshole.  It says you let your emotions cloud your judgement.  It says you don't believe your wife can make her own decisions, because if she does, she will necessarily choose something harmful to you and to your relationships  That says your relationship is awfully weak and fragile..  It says you believe your relationship can be threatened by the mere presence of another partner based on their genitalia.  It says that you devalue the importance of same-gender (and that you also conflate gender with plumbing) relationships because other woman couldn't possibly be threatening to your relationship the way other men could.  

It says you believe you actually have the ability and the right to control another human being, which is textbook abuse.  It says you believe you are entitled to your wife's body, time, and sexuality, as opposed to it being a shared experience between the two of you that you are both *offering* to each other.  It says you have no idea about your own emotional and psychological makeup because you adhere to a 1950s Flintstones' version of biology that has been discarded by actual scientists decades ago to justify internal insecurities as "just what a man has evolved to do".  

It says that you are completely self-centric and selfish, and that's a sign of someone who hasn't grown up yet.  It says that you still live on the junior high playground where everyone is a competitor and no one can communicate their feelings in an honest and considerate fashion, while the rest of us grew up and moved on to adulthood.  It says that you are in for some huge shocks when you realize that the world does not, in fact, revolve around you, and that your partners are whole and complete human beings that you can't actually control - only their consent to acquiesce maintains that illusion at all, in which case, we're back to the main point, which is that rules are either unnecessary or unenforceable. 

It says that you have Little Dog Syndrome, which is someone who is actually very small, but who doesn't know it (or who does and won't admit it) and overcompensates by barking a lot and annoying everyone else around him.  The problem is that little dogs often pick fights with bigger dogs, and when the bigger dog isn't a lovable pushover, that little dog often gets injured or killed.  Meanwhile, the bigger dog doesn't have to go around barking at everyone to stay off his property because he's confident and secure in his place in the world.  

Where the analogy fails, of course, is that men are *not* territorial, protective-by-nature animals.  That goes back to the '50s Flintstones' view of history.  Some individuals may be territorial, and some cultures have certainly encouraged territoriality, but the idea that one's mate falls under the category of one's territory is a concept that was culturally evolved, not biologically, in humans, along with the idea of material possessions.  Our closest relatives are much more communistic.  

It's also plain offensive to a species of animal that can think, make predictions of consequences, and can override much of biology because of it (birth-control anyone?).  I am absolutely not anyone's "territory", you're damn lucky just to have me spend any of my time and attention on you, what with all the other things I want to spend my time and energy on.

It says that I should stay the hell away from you.  I prefer to date grown ups, not scared little boys overcompensating for their inadequacies with machismo attitudes and a reign of fear.  And even being around you at all, in any context, is cause for concern because of your devaluing and dismissing of the agency of the women around you.  You are not a safe person.

Date: 10/2/09 08:18 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] leora.livejournal.com
Severing the connection between the hemispheres is generally done for otherwise untreatable epilepsy. The seizures can become severe enough to cause brain damage, so radical steps can be worthwhile. By severing the connection, it prevents the seizures from traveling, which I think stops them from becoming as severe. It's been a while since I studied split-brains, but that's the basic idea. I do think it's good to point out that this wasn't just done casually. The psych research is fascinating, and so much fascinating psych research has less than ideal ethical roots. But this was actually done with a really good medical reason, and then psych people just swooped in and said, hey, let's study you now! Apparently the people generally live very normally, since most of the info outside of laboratory conditions still gets to both hemispheres.

Being straight means I've never considered accepting an OPP. But it wouldn't work for me. I want to be poly so that I don't have to reject somebody I love because someone else created some rule that feels arbitrary and nonsensical to me. An OPP would obviously not help with my primary reason for being poly.

Date: 10/2/09 09:30 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] vicariance.livejournal.com
The first couple I ever met who self-described as polyamorous had the OPP in effect. This was before I knew there were actual polyamorous people who could make it work, and it made me fucking furious that they were claiming to be something I imagined as legendary and sacred, like the holy grail, and yet they were SHITTING it up with that insecure bullshit. It struck me as hypocritical, deluded, and basically if you'll pardon the melodrama, blasphemous. It depressed me! It made me feel like my dreams less possible. I refused to talk to them about it thereafter, even when I became (truly) polyamorous myself, until they broke up, when I finally heatedly railed on the unfairness of their old arrangement. They laughed. Grr.

Date: 10/2/09 10:08 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] tregare.livejournal.com
I could never see the point of OPP and I'm a male. like you said above, the OPP shows significant insecurity and fear. if you have to insist on OPP then you have already lost your partner, you have just not realized it yet.

if you are going to be poly (or hell, mono for that matter) you have to trust that your partner is going to return to you, otherwise you will spend all your time suspicious, jealous and miserable.

Date: 10/3/09 12:22 am (UTC)From: [identity profile] terriaminute.livejournal.com
Being straight, and poly, OPP was never an option for me. My first husband was and is poly, my second (legal) husband is poly. I have never been in a monogamous relationship myself but I was raised by a couple who are still married (53 years) and happy. I know both lifestyles work by direct example, and I feel very lucky for that! I wish everyone could have that. It would clear up a lot of trouble, maybe. :-)

We do not control each other. Our one rule is to talk. And, if there is a failure in communication, apologize and make it better. What else do you need?

Date: 10/3/09 04:15 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] redheadlass.livejournal.com
I've never understood that either. If I'm having sex with a woman, it boils down to the same thing as having sex with a man. If [livejournal.com profile] zensidhe wanted to have a sexual relationship with another man, it would be the same thing to me as him wanting to have a sexual relationship with another woman.

It's still a relationship. If an additional relationship is going to cause problems, then you needn't be pursuing them or you need to do a lot more talking...

Date: 10/3/09 07:35 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile] may-dryad.livejournal.com
And since you can never really be sure who the father is, the only way to control that he was the father was to restrict his partner from any and all male partners to avoid accidents from happening.


Podunk western European monarchs had this one sussed back in the day. Kindoms were inherited by the king's sister-son, or nephew, not by the king's own son. Progeny of the king's sister was guaranteed to be of his bloodline as long as both the king and his sister had the same mother, whereas progeny of the king's wife, that sneaky slut, could've been fathered by anybody.

How heartwarming that this long tradition of misogyny still has adherents among the commoners today.

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