PolyAnna’s Musings: Different is good right?
I am just getting back from vacation and back into the normal rhythm of our days. My days are basically ruled by the whims of the school distract. I am a slave to their calender and whims.
I have been thinking about how humans seem to enjoy different things for awhile now. We go on vacation to explore different places. We go to ethnic restaurants to experience different flavor combinations. We travel for pleasure, to experience different cultures. We read a variety of texts, to experience different points of view. We switch the TV channel or radio dial to see or hear different shows and musical styles. Most of us do not eat or drink the same thing every single day of our lives.
I think the book Sex at Dawn does an amazing job, explaining that for humans, monogamy is likely not the “most natural state of being” for human sexual relations. If you have not read this book, I think you should. Fair warning, some of it is dry and academic, but for the most part it is an assessable read with some real social science.
I also have been devouring documentaries and foreign films via Netflix of late. (Sidenote: the Smart TV is amazing.) I stumbled upon a very disturbing PBS documentary about the organized and rather wide spread practice of Bacha bazi (dancing boys) where boys are sold to Masters and force to dress as women and provide party entertainment and sex in Afghanistan. This was very disturbing to me. When asked why they engaged in this practice, countless men said, “to enjoy something different, something hot.” Never mind that this practice is in direct violation of half a dozen Afghan/International laws and the Koran’s teachings, these men were well organized and many very powerful political leaders were involved. In short they were going to great lengths to break the law.
I switched gears and watched an Austrian documentary about sex work in Thailand, Bangladesh, and Mexico. The film Whore’s Glory— is shot without narration. The filmmaker obvious talked with both the customers and the sex workers, brothel owners and shows footage from those moments. In all three countries and all three brothels, the customers said nearly the same thing, they craved variety, that was why they were there. Some customers were married, others were not. Consistently the refrain was, it was fun to have sex and it was about variety. The married ones spoke of loving their wives or some of feeling trapped with them.
While I completely condemn the practice of Bacha bazi, there is no place for adults to have sex with children, ever, I do not condemn consensual sex work, trafficking yes, sex work, no. Of the three countries featured, Thailand seemed to have a mostly consensual employment scheme. The girls did not live there and they clocked in and out. In Bangladesh and Mexico, it seemed less clear who was there by choice (and given the abject poverty, was it really a choice) and who was there by force?
As I drank my tea after lunch I had some thoughts. One of the reasons sex work is dangerous and often controlled by organized crime bosses, is we refuse to legitimize it. The exchange of sex for money or security and basic necessities dates back to the beginning of time. In some places around the globe, marriage is little more than legitimized sex work and sometimes less than consensual and women/girls are sold into marriage, just as many are sold to brothels around the world. The patriarchal control of sex and money is more profound in some cultures.
How does this relate to polyamory you say? Well my thinking was centered around the idea of variety. Almost every john mentioned variety as a reason for frequenting brothels. Variety and convenience. It is uncomplicated one said. It is for a few hours and the rules are clear.
That leads me to wonder. Is denial of the human need for sexual variety, in the monogamist context, the reason that there continues to be exploitation of both poor young men and women? Are we as a global community creating a huge problem, simply because we refuse to acknowledge the importance of sex and the desire for variety as basic human needs?
I do not mean to oversimplify this global problem, but I think it bears consideration. The monogamist assumption is present in almost every global culture and it boldly denies what seems to be for many a very real desire or need, sexual variety. I also think it isn’t just male sexual desire. There is a section of the documentary that shows the girls from the Thai club going to a “host bar” where male hosts are working. The girls also liked the variety.
I will be honest. For me part of being poly is very much rooted in the acknowledgement of my desire for a myriad of sexual experiences. It is also possible, that one’s ideal life partner/live in partner, the person you build a life long or domestic relationship with, may or may not share similar sexual desires. Here is another thought, those sexual desires might change. Variety.
I think this is something we all need to be asking ourselves and talking about. We keep trying to solve the “problems” of sex work, by stating sex work is wrong, amoral, and somehow deviant. Perhaps we need to take a more rational business approach and ask ourselves, why despite all the obvious legal and social obstacles is sex work flourishing around the globe. Would it not be better to acknowledge the role sex work plays in allowing individuals to satisfy their need/desire for sexual variety. If we stop judging and insisting that monogamy is the only correct way to have sex and relationships, perhaps legitimate opportunities would open up for those seeking to pursue sex work as a career/way of life. Might this shift in thinking also make the need for secret, pay by the hour relationships less of a necessity for some and allow for the creation of sexual relationships in a way that suits the parties involved.
In short, I am saying that our culturally programed blanket denial of the need for sexual variety, might actually be at the heart of a number of the social problems/issues depicted in these two short films.