My Monogamous History

Thu, 06/18/2015 - 07:36
Submitted by Betty Dodson

In my twenties, I was a very traditional young woman. Once I had sex with a boyfriend, he had to promise to only have sex with me. Of course my being faithful was assumed. Thus began my mini-monogamous romantic sex affairs that lasted a few months to a year or so throughout the decade of my twenties.

Getting married at 29 made me to question a sexual practice that was taken for granted. After all, marriage is a contract meant to last a lifetime while all those mini-monogamies had an expiration date. Although I was on the rebound dumped by my last beloved, I was also exhausted from trying to survive as a commercial artist working free-lance while I longed to pursue fine art full time.

On our second date, my future husband referred to himself as my patron— he was very impressed with my talent. The problem was that he mostly came too fast for me to have an orgasm, but every thing else seemed so perfect. He was handsome, attentive and earned a big salary as the advertising director for a large Textile firm. Our candle light dinners in his favorite French restaurant were delightfully romantic.

During a session with my therapist to discuss my fears about making this commitment, I complained about our sexlife. She said it took most couples at least a year to make their marital adjustment. Besides if it didn’t work out, I could always get a divorce. This was an option that had never dawned on me because in the fifties, marriages lasted a lifetime-- just like my parents. Divorce was viewed as a failure. Today with over half of all marriages ending in divorce, it’s now become the norm. After seventies feminists established serial monogamy, it simply turned into what we have today— serial marriages. A lifestyle that breaks up families, often hurts children and makes lawyers rich.

I was so worried about having sex with only my husband for a lifetime that I cheated our first year of marriage— just to make sure I could. However, the guilt was so overwhelming; I resigned myself to marital sex with an occasional orgasm for me. Every now and then, he’d be a stud and last long enough for me to come. Each time I’d hope that we’d finally achieved our “marital adjustment,” but I’d end up relying on a sneaky quick climax after he went to sleep. In the second year, we moved to an apartment and once I had my art studio to myself again, I became a compulsive marital masturbator. We finally let go of having sex altogether in the second year and lived together comfortably as compatible roommates. After seven years, my husband ran off with his secretary.

In short order, I teamed up with an equally compulsive marital masturbator just out of a seventeen year monogamous marriage. Together, we embraced the sex revolution of the seventies with open arms. At first, I had the standard struggle of jealousy and possiveness that soon disappeared with all the sexual abundance and joy in my life. Every so often my female conditioning would circle my thoughts. Everyone knows that a woman’s security is ultimately based upon getting married and having at least one child. So when friends questioned me about my lifestyle with all this “sexual freedom business” I would tell them I’d settle down when I was in my seventies. And that's just what I did!

Once young Eric moved in with me he was indeed the "man of my dreams." He was just out of college at 22 and I was a seasoned 69 year old sexual sage. He wanted a teacher and I had a devoted student which led to 10 years of orgasmic monogamous sex with him and him alone. Meanwhile, I encouraged him to enjoy sex with other girls his own age as part of his apprenticeship. However, all good things must come to an end including life itself. I'd always known he would eventually move along. It’s the only way older/younger love affairs can have happy endings. It’s my belief that love has the capacity to let go and I knew we’d always be friends. Today he’s very much like a grandson that I adore.

My complaint is the practice of Monogamy is a given for women, a social construct taken for granted. Those of us who are uncomfortable with that life style don't have a voice or other images of how to enjoy alternative sexlives. Monogamy is also at the core of the sexual double standard. Many men have told me they never fully intended to have sex with only one person “forever.” But most men demand to know their children belong to them so they’ll inherit Daddy’s property. Actually I believe the demand for "monogamy" is still based on this along with men's insecurity about their sexual prowess. Since most of us are not "naturally" monogamous, it ends up making liars out of both sexes. We’re just another one of the big Apes.

For me, monogamous marriage seems like an ancient religious relic that has repressed society far too long. Surely we can come up with more joyful and artful lifestyles that incorporate sexual variety with an abundance of orgasms for both sexes for those who want this. There is a time and place for monogamy if a couple wants to procreate. Except we know that competing sperm is very desirable for begetting the healthiest babies. And once paternity is hidden, men naturally take better care of all the children instead of the possessive and narrow practice we have today based on inheritance.

The vision I hold is people choosing from a wealth of sex styles. Along with "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" or "Middle Class" could include “Lifestyles of the Sexually Adventurous.” Or successful men and women Singles who never marry. We already know that polygamy with many wives is still around. Less known was polyandry which was a woman with many husbands. While rare this did exist for goddesses, queens and women in power. Recently I read about a group of people that had “Walking Marriages” where a male lover stayed the night and left the next morning. All children belong to mothers who raised them. Today we have polyamory which is gaining in popularity and Kinky Salons where people can meet for group sex. Hopefully society will eventually evolve to embrace “Sex by Design” just like any other art form.

Now that I'm half way through my 80's, I'm monogamous with me except for cheating on myself a few times. I must include the Bodysex workshops with our all-women’s sacred initiation ritual of group masturbation. Also my private clients are like having a sex date where I get paid. These women are all potential prospects to expand the army of orgasmic women to kick off the next sexual revolution. So yes, I have opted for a plural sexlife with as many people as possible. I consider myself a sexual gourmet the same as a person who loves food and travels the world to savor all the varied and wonderful taste thrills! This has been my chosen lifestyle. I’m grateful to all the people who have so generously shared sexual intimacy with me. I thank each and every one of you.

Liberating women one orgasm at a time

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Fri, 06/19/2015 - 00:59
Vince C. (not verified)

Along with your response to "The Vagina Monologues," this is perhaps my favorite essay of yours, Betty.

"At first, I had the standard struggle of jealousy and possiveness that soon disappeared with all the sexual abundance and joy in my life."

Such an incredible and poignant statement on moving on from being bitter and angry at former and current lovers to being grateful about the shared sexual experience. What I took away from this is to not let yourself become a victim. A powerful mindset, indeed.


In your line of subject, Betty:

Fri, 06/19/2015 - 13:46
Carla Magenta (not verified)

A contact of mine told me the following story.

He was 24 and about to graduate from college when he met her in a Dutch pub and said the same night he wanted to live with her and create a new human being with her. She, 38, said yes.

Within the same month she met a woman of 29 who was also smitten with her and who proposed marriage to her yet did not want to live together. She said yes again. Between professional projects she frequents her wife with her boyfriend at their home. The 24 and the 29 get along well and are not jealous of each other this contact told me.

Now six years onwards, she has a daughter by whose birthing her boyfriend and her wife were, after some explaining and persisting in the hospital, were present. The staff could simply not phantom this construction of partners.

All individuals in this amasing love story are Dutch, living in the Netherlands.
For practical reasons, also with consideration for the child, things have been stipulated for the future of the three by a notary, instigated by the eldest involved. 
Is this not an extraordinary combination of lives?

feminists established serial monogamy?

Sat, 06/20/2015 - 17:32
J Lynn (not verified)

After seventies feminists established serial monogamy, it simply turned into what we have today— serial marriages.
  Hi Betty,
I love reading these bits of autobiography! 

I am curious about the above sentence quoted from your article. I was only a baby in the 70s so naturally I don't remember much first-hand about that decade or the early 80s. I was wondering if you could elaborate on this? I always just assumed serial monogamy became the default after divorce became common, but I had never heard before of serial monogamy as an end in itself, or that it was a feminist invention/position. 

I hope my question doesn't sound challenging, because I am genuinely curious about how things went down in the 1970s, from the point of view of someone who was there in the mix!

I strongly agree with you that we need more ways of living sexually, and that many of our norms are based on patriarchal ideas of owning and controlling women. And that the current serial marriage model isn't ideal for either adults or children. (Except of course where there is abuse, then safety is top priority, a conversation of its own.) Economic liberation for women also seems to be a necessity to have sexual liberation and vice-versa ... I could be wrong, but it seems like we can't have one without the other. 

Monogamy: Pause for thought

Sun, 06/21/2015 - 09:37

Reading Betty's blog "My Monogamous History" together with Princess's recent piece "I believe in Serial Monogamy has given me some pause for thought. Some disclosure: Practising Married Christian (&yes, practising rather than succeeding at both the married bit & the Christian bit)

It isn't clear to me that marriage is a particularly holy state of being, that there is anything intrinsically moral or good about monogamy or otherwise. I have no problem with other people practising different, diverse ways of being, including but not limited to different family constructs.

The problem with monogamy is that it works.

It works for most of the people, for most of the time. Whilst a great marriage is the holy grail of relationships, an "okay" marriage still works for most of the people, most of the time. We work our way through the tricky times, hoping things will get better as life changes. It often does. Though it's important to recognise that marriage never works for all of the people all of the time and it's those down times that lead towards a more serial form of the tradition: marriage, break-up, re-marriage etc

And for some of the people, marriage seems to never or rarely work at all, ever. This could be because the people involved are too social, are interested in lots of  social or sexual contact.

Men who are interested in the status that being seen as sexually hyper-active might bring them would fall into this category. Women  looking to make some kind of social connection or intimacy might fall into this category as well. The reasons I would ascribe are different, because society prescribes different kinds of behaviour for men and women, and it's remarkably hard to swim against that tide, at least openly.

But also sometimes, maybe interchangeably, it's because men and women are looking to avoid soical and sexual intimacy. They want limited contact with other people, only the physical and none of that messy emotional stuff. They want to have fun. Who can argue with the desire to have fun? It seems entirely reasonable and just to experiment in one's 20s, maybe even 30s. And some people just stick in that stage of life, they're enjoying it so much.

The problem arrives when we start to want more, whether that's wanting to start a family with children or just to build a family with a partner, sharing a deeper emotional intimacy. Mankind is a social animal and at some level, most of us are driven to share our lives with someone else, long-term. Ofcourse with increased life-expectancy, long-term is getting longer.

Maybe those of us who are driven by a passion, a gift for art, for music, an obsession with success in some field or another, maybe those people can get by without the comfort of knowing someone knows them and loves them. Maybe.

Because being a single mother is hard work (and for once, can we stop pretending that anything other than a tiny minority of fathers pick up this burden).Parenthood is much easier, not least financially, if two people are available to share the job. And fathers are much more likely to stick around long term if they have some genetic connection to the child(ren) involved. So whilst being a single-mother household is undoubtedly better than being in a bad marriage, being a two parent family in an at least okay marriage works.

An "okay" marriage is not abusive, not miserable nor a daily disaster waiting to happen. Everyone draws their own lines, and for some of us they can be quite tight. For some of us, kindness and commitment between partners is enough. For others, financial security comes first. Some of us want all of this, and sex that's worth having too.

And undoubtedly part of the reason that marriage works, is because of the social, political and financial investment that society commits to marriage. In the UK, without a marriage contract you have no inheritance rights. You can't decide what medical treatment your partner may or may not receive. You can't even visit your partner in hospital. You will not receive automatic visitation rights to your children, or be able to take them out of the country on holiday.You will not receive any of the tax benefits or allowances that married couples may be entitled to.

Marriage works on a practical level, because society has invested in it. Clearly there are family arrangements that do not fit into the standard heterosexual couple marriage. Whilst marriage is being extended to same-sex couples, can we extend recognition even further?  There is no social construct available currently to recognise non-standard marriage. Society has a vested interest in building very stable blocks called families so how could we build a more flexible contract that could at least accommodate the polygamous or polyamorous?

In the UK we have a legal arrangement known as a civil partnership originally designed to accomodate same sex couples looking for the same legal and financial (tax) benefits accrued to married heterosexual couples. But ofcourse partnerships could be structured to involve more than two people. They are structured in exactly this fashion in some of the biggest business arrangements around the world.

Maybe civil partnerships could be extended to recognise less standard family units, families with three or four parents, some biological, some not, some caring physically and emotionally for the children (and/or elders in the family) whilst others commit financially. Maybe a family doesn't have to have children at all. Perhaps it is enough to come together as close friends or lovers and agree to share resources, to make a life together at whatever stage of life.

Serial monogamy led to serial marriages?

Betty Dodson's picture
Mon, 06/22/2015 - 11:31
Betty Dodson

3 lynn wanted more info on that statement I made. In looking back, it just was more or less a consenses between NYC Feminists that it was OK to have more than one serious lover BUT never more than one-at-a-time. Otherwise the woman in question was indeed walking a fine line that would lead to a bad reputation. This was in response to my promoting group sex as a marvelously safe way to learn about sex because there was always saftey in numbers versus having sex with one man at a time. Looking back on the late fiftiees and earliy sixties, it was daring to date several guys at once and by the end of that decade, many women had claimed the freedom to do as they pleased. In NYC, a portion of us really cut loose with sex parties nearly every weekend. Far more entertaining than an evening of bridge.

Life --- not just sex is the learning and teaching of community

Tue, 07/07/2015 - 12:35
feminist indignation (not verified)


     I think I am hearing several very distinct themes, which seem to revolve around relationship diversity, culture, religion, monogamy, sexual learning, sexual fun, and safety for lack of a better word (secure bonds, maybe with more words). It's hard to generalize any of these
being dominate in any one person's life. The diversity of conflicting chaotic
biologies within an individual do not produce consistency therefore conformity
within community is no more realistic.

     It's my understanding based on your learning and teaching that you gained significant insight into how to develop orgasm within your body by learning from other people through sex parties of the seventies. This learning about the relationship of orgasm within and
between people was something that was missing from your first marriage. What
you learned from other people about sexual relations became your life's work of
teaching sex.

     A mission if you will to teach women and men about the wonders of sexual ecstasy they unknowingly lock in their bodies.

     Your sexual teaching helps people who desire sex just for fun a) within long-term relationships and b) with different people. Sex is not the same as "attachment" or "love" even
though sex can be but certainly not always a bonding agent that helps couples create secure bonds. Sex is not important at all for a parent child bond or a best friend bond or even more causal best friends bonds. "Attachment" is all important.

     So I understand your essay as saying how gratifying it was to learn about sex. And how difficult it was to do that within the confines of your first marriage. How delightful it was having
acquired this knowledge to spend 10 years with Eric in for you pair bonded
monogamous relationship and by agreement a sexually open for him but still pair
bonded for both of you. It seems both sad that the bonds with Eric loosened and
something wonderfully natural about the separation because of a forty-year age
difference. So I am not hearing in this essay the rough talk about love stuff. I'm
hearing about the great need for attachment and how hard it is to maintain it.
One could read your words in full support of love and long-term monogamy!

      But you don't want readers to forget " My complaint is the practice of
Monogamy is a given for women, a social construct taken for granted. Those of us who are uncomfortable with that life style don't have a voice or other images of how to enjoy alternative sex lives."

     Would you be willing to drop the "for women" and thus allow both sexes,
transgenders, and homosexuals to engage a) in stigma free promiscuity, b)
maintain monogamous pair bonded - life time secularly attached relationships
-marriage or c) any other life style meets security, attachment and sexual

      My guess is you would as that is the meaning I get from your essay is that life not just
sex is the learning and teaching of community

Hey feminist indignation. I enjoy your thoughtful observations.

Betty Dodson's picture
Thu, 07/09/2015 - 14:08
Betty Dodson

Yes, absolutely willing to drop "women" in the statement you mentioned. I even like it better that way."My complaint is the practice of Monogamy is a given for people, a social construct taken for granted. Those of us who are uncomfortable with that life style don't have a voice or other images of how to enjoy alternative sex lives."

I totally approve of inclusive!

Separating from Eric as lovers was essential in line with my understanding of what it means to be a "teacher." It's my belief from experience that it takes 10 years to master any dicispline. When we reached the 9 year mark, I realized Eric had learned the basics of how I work. Our age difference was never an issue. However, I do not approve of the guru model of studying with a teacher pass the 10 year mark.

Although it was tempting, I also knew it was an opportunity to pracitce one of my basic principles: That love has the capacity to let go. This would be especially true for parents, teachers and even long term friends. We all need to move along at some poiint in order to grow.

Today, Eric and I are the best of friends. I'd love to have the occasional fuck but he has chosen to be in a monogamous marriage. I accept that. He visits frequently and stays with me as does his wife at times. They are part of my extended chosen family.

For me, change is very demanding and also important in my growth process. Just as my concept of community has come to rest on the army of Orgasmic Women running Bodysex workshops the world over. The concept of sisterhood, women trusting women, seems to point to our ancient past when we were sexual healers and goddesses were revered. Not necessarily worhipped but viewed as we would any wise mother. For me that's what feminism promised and I'm just following through to create a community where women are honored and "in control" of all things important without abusing our power. Yes, I know, it's a tall order, but artists are always dreamers.

Beautiful new ones can grow from what is.

Mon, 07/13/2015 - 15:46
feminist indignation (not verified)

     The way I understand you want me to understand you is that we have gotten to the point we are attempting to understand how community interplays with individuals. I am guessing that 10-year apprenticeship is arbitrary but what you want me to know is that the
Eric relationship has grown to include his wife. What I am hearing even though
you did not say it is very different from an on/off either/or view of ending
relationships. That while you miss the physical comfort of what was; you
greatly enjoy the addition of Eric's new life into your life.

     That broadening and growth of relationships in a healthy manor is not the ending of one but the creation of a more complex and satisfying fabric of relations as community. Our relationships don't leave us even if we totally cut them off. What I hear you saying is while aspects of that relationship have ended; beautiful new ones have taken place. Even in the
extreme a partner my die, their "presence" after death will be woven
into the fabric of the new relationships - sexual ones as well.

     I'm not hearing your last paragraph as "where women are honored and "in control" of all things important".  I'm hearing in the context of creating equality, respect and dignity between people and as community where no one has to worry about abusing power. Creating Community where they is dignity for all is an endeavor Sisyphus would understand.

     It nice to dream of a better world but in the meantime let us celebrate your expanded, relationships with Eric, his wife and their families as community. May the rest us grow such relationship and thus community.