If girls need free our bodies, now we have to surrender our concern of infidelity

About three years ago I got an unexpected text message: We just asked James, but we wanted to ask you too. We hope to be able to use his sperm to get pregnant.

The text is from a friend. She and her wife had researched the complicated process (and astronomical cost) of artificial insemination and decided to try a more conventional – if not necessarily traditional – route of impregnation first.

To be clear, James is my partner, and we recently fathered a second time ourselves. She and James are long-time friends: he was the best man at their wedding.

My first thought: why is she asking me? It’s not my sperm.

Don’t we want men to think about women’s bodies, health and reproductive rights?

Don’t ask me – it’s not my body.

My question is this: Can women hold onto the concept of “cheating” and still make progress on women’s rights?

Radical body autonomy

I first opted for radical body autonomy when my ex-husband and I got into an argument over the fact that I was hypothetically carrying my sister’s child. My sister and her husband had difficulty getting pregnant; like most couples in their situation, they were anxious and anxious.

One day I said casually, “If they don’t get pregnant soon, I will offer to be a surrogate mother. Perhaps the mere knowledge that they have the opportunity to relax – let go of some of their fears – will help. “

“No way,” he countered angrily. “I would never allow you that.”

I was completely thrown, although I probably shouldn’t have been. Although he professed feminism, he was actually controlling, manipulative, jealous, and repeatedly issuing ultimatums.

But the fact that he really believed I had a say in what I was doing with my own body for my own sister was still shocking. I had never really thought about how deep his perception of his “obsession” ran from me. But now I knew.

He thought he owned me.

* Sip *

Let me tell you right away – I’m not here to discredit how real or painful it is for a partner to have a sexual experience “behind your back”.

Being lied to by someone you love is always devastating. Your sexual health is inextricably linked even in a long-term relationship, so the fear of unsafe sexual practices is justified.

If you and your partner have a well-defined, indefinite exclusivity, then someone who breaks that “promise” gives you the right to be angry.

But here’s the caveat: the mandatory sexual monogamy that most of us are entangled in may be a bigger problem that needs to be investigated. It is embedded in our institutions and generously dispersed in our social norms. As
Elle Beau ❇︎ makes it clear that our need to police means it, but that this cannot be taken for granted.

Most of us do it by default. But it all has to do with our idea that we have exclusive “rights” to our partner’s body. When exclusivity falls, it feels like the relationship isn’t on solid ground. Cheating feels like the end of security.

In reality, however, devotion and sexual exclusivity are like the burger and the fries in a happy meal: two separate elements. You can buy them together, but you don’t have to.

They are not the same.

“Fraud as an infringement of property”

When I was looking for “Reasons why infidelity is so painful,” the article that appeared in Psychology Today said the following:

“Though you can’t own another person, if If you are in a committed relationship, you may have ownership rights in certain activities with your loved one, like romantic dinners, dirty text messages, and sex.

When these rights are violated, it can feel a little like your car or home is being ravaged. It is painful when a thief ransack your personal belongings in your house, but it is even more painful to have to involuntarily share your husband. “

Um. What?

You don’t have to subscribe to the full polyamory to see how two partners proclaiming “ownership” of each other’s bodies could shore up some of the most controversial examples of patriarchal culture.

For example: anti-abortion laws, which insist that men whose sperm helped conceive a fetus somehow give them a say in what a woman does to her body afterward.

Let me give a less obvious example from my own experience:

A few hours after our daughter was born three years ago, James and I filled out her birth certificate. I had to list “all previous marriages” on it – even though my ex-husband and I were divorced seven years back then. It was a painful and gruesome reminder that the state was still enforcing an official connection between my perpetrator and me.

Why exactly was that necessary?

Patriarchy has a long, long arm, all of you.

And we never dare to forget it.

So that I don’t forget, my ex-husband’s name will forever be entered on my daughter’s official proof of life. In a way, his “right” to my body outlived our relationship and was passed on to my daughter.

Monogamy is not a money-back guarantee

The Cambridge Dictionary defines infidelity as “the fact of having a sexual relationship or experience with someone other than your husband, wife, or ordinary sexual partner”.

Not so long ago – and still today in some countries and communities – such “infidelity” extended not only past the date of the commitment, but also before it. For example, the Church I grew up in thought it was in good biblical sense that one should “betray” one’s future husband and therefore revoke one’s virginity for marriage.

Unless you’re in that kind of community, that idea sounds pretty silly, doesn’t it?

What if our current general assumption is that monogamy is preferable because it is hypothetical?

  • safer for your health
  • economically safer
  • more ethical (in a vague, abstract sense)
  • more committed

is just as ridiculous? We have combined all of these ideas into a social, legal, and in some cases religious contract. We have oversized a relationship to the point that it should feed us for a lifetime.

But the truth is that one partner could tick all of these boxes – practice safe sex, treat each other with loving and respect, share a mortgage, stay until death do us part – and not be sexually exclusive. Conversely, I was monogamous for seven years and received neither security nor commitment.

In short, we trade in our body’s possessions to buy a meal that hardly ever seems to nourish us adequately.

The hard truth is that nothing we do will ever guarantee the honesty and respect we deserve. So let’s not sell our freedom so cheap.

Radical body autonomy in practice

When I think about what’s behind people’s pain about cheating on their partner, I wonder how much of that is fear. The fear is so great that it is difficult to consider what is behind it. Since we put security, security and love in a huge sex basket, it is becoming more and more difficult to talk about what we specifically want or fear.

In addition, people can have very different definitions and expectations. For example, I have had male partners who have felt threatened by my casual friendships with men while defending their freedom to watch porn. Something is fishy for me.

Our cultural double standards tend to decline, so the things men are more likely to want to do (watch porn, go to the strippers) are supposedly fine, while the things women seek outwardly (intimacy) are demonized.

By default, when we agree that “cheating is bad” it is much harder to get into the weeds of what we find hurtful and why.

Many of us fear that a sexually non-exclusive relationship will harm our economic security. That is legitimate – and yet also a separate topic.

Are you afraid of losing your partner’s time?

Are you afraid that they will leave you?

Are you afraid that they are lying?

Maybe I’m completely wrong – honestly, I’d love to hear what scares you.

Whatever the underlying fear is The assumption that relationships will forever be exclusive and monogamous makes it infinitely more difficult to have open, vulnerable conversations. Once the relationship becomes a cooperative and evolving situation, in my experience, both parties feel more free to express their fears and wishes.

No doubt there are couples who are happy to be exclusive from start to finish. For the rest of us, how often does fear keep us from saying I had a wild fantasy the other day. Would you like to hear about it?

In practice, ethical non-monogamy is not a “one-way ticket” for most people, as Lindsay Soberano-Wilson puts it so eloquently. She and her husband have an ongoing discussion – and sometimes negotiations – about what their relationship is like.

Unless monogamy is assumed, I can say to my partner, ‘I would love to date women in the near future.’
And he doesn’t immediately hear: I’m thinking about breaking up with you.

Because that’s the on / off switch that monogamy leaves us with. We are faithful together. Or we don’t.

But it doesn’t have to be like that. We don’t have to jump with both feet into the unknown. But we can at least think about letting go of our death hold on “loyalty” as the defining characteristic of a healthy, happy relationship.

Regardless of whether you are (still) open to non-monogamy or not, as women, exchanging our body autonomy for security is a precedent.

Because I had sexually “given” my ex-husband exclusive rights to my body, he believed he could forbid me from carrying my sister’s child.

He actually forbade me to do a lot. Like meeting friends or traveling alone. I couldn’t wear shoes he didn’t like or style my hair in a way he found less attractive.

Because I had promised not to cheat, I opened the door to escalating rules about what I was allowed to do and not do with my body.

No, it’s not exactly the same.

But it’s a related thing. Something women need to think more carefully about. Because what I ultimately want to hear – be it from a partner, a police officer or a judge – is this:

Don’t ask me – it’s not my body.

Danielle Loewen writes passionately on many feminist topics. You can find more of her work here.

This post was previously published on medium.com.


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