Fucking Patriarchy Through Radical Relationships
There is no remedy for love, but to love more.
—Henry David Thoreau
I’m an activist of the heart. I have always felt as if I have an enormous capacity to love everyone — the homeless guy down the street, the little old lady next door, someone I just had a 5-hour mind-blowing conversation with, and then, of course, my friends, lovers, and family. When I finally was able to admit to myself (without guilt) that I have a human right and obligation to myself to love as many people as I wanted or needed, then I became aware of how a monogamous relationship, outlined by the status quo, was never going to work for me. I would never be able to conform. Radical love, or the freedom to love as many as you desire, has become a way of life for me.
I am the author and publisher of Redefining Our Relationships: Guidelines for Responsible Open Relationships. Having been in a healthy, responsible, open relationship for thirteen years inspired me to write the book, as well as a lot of encouragement from friends. Despite the ending of that relationship, we spent a great deal of time negotiating what our relationship could be, or could have the potential to be, if we put our hearts and minds into it. We laid down a foundation of trust based on mutually agreed upon rules that helped us to grow and evolve as a couple. We have shared lovers, supported each other in having outside lovers, as well as supported our friends to forge relationships that better suited their lifestyles, particularly in the late 80’s and early 90’s when many of us had no real role models to follow.
I’ll be the last one to advocate one type of relationship over another, monogamy versus non-monogamy. What I am most interested in is planting the seeds of autonomy. We have choices. We have options. There simply cannot be just one formula for everyone. Carve out your own lifestyle. Imagine your own ideal relationship. Radicalize your life and challenge yourself to have deep, meaningful relationships with anyone who you feel is important to you — including your parents, siblings, friends, lovers, pen pals, and neighbors. If you define “open” to include cuddling, kissing, and heartfelt communication, then work that into your life. If open means sexual liberation, then be honest with yourself and your partner(s), and take the responsible steps to achieve this. Love is a revolution that starts in the privacy of your home and touches everyone you love and come in contact with.
I am advocating responsible relationships that are entrenched in the principles of honesty, communication, and consent. All relationships and friendships have certain guidelines that are agreed upon. When you go outside the mutually agreed upon rules, then you betray yourself and your loved ones. That’s cheating, and people get hurt. This is how jealousy gets flared and how couples start lying when they’re not being honest about their true desires. This is the gray area of intimacy. We all have natural tendencies to feel desire, to flirt, to fantasize — this is a healthy part of being human. It’s when we deny these urges and suppress them that we run into trouble. In an ideal relationship of any kind, I would imagine that having an open and honest discussion about these fantasies would be a healthy place to start. In many ways, I wrote my book precisely for the people who don’t want to scare away their partner with their desires to open up the relationship, but rather for those who want to make a commitment to avoiding stagnation, instilling honesty, giving voice to their true desires, dedicating themselves to creative options, and supporting one another in their pursuit of the personal freedom to love many people.
The societal and cultural reality is that we are a far cry from sexual equality in this day and age. Men, straight or gay, have benefited from the luxury of sexual liberation without so much as their moral values being scrutinized by society. Women, whether straight or queer, have no such freedom. Labels such as slut or “nympho” continue to plague women who seek sexual autonomy. These stereotypes and misconceptions are perpetuated in the media, government, educational system, religious institutions, and even within the women’s movement. We still have a long way to go before we can dismantle these derogatory perceptions and liberate ourselves from the social constraints that have been imposed upon us since birth. The first place to start is with one’s self, confronting your own self-imposed guilt and your fears of stepping outside the standards of societal norms. It starts with freeing your mind, body, and heart to love openly despite judgment.
I seek to dispel the misconceptions and offer insight into an alternative view. It is my hope that my book reflects both the struggle inherent in living an alternative lifestyle as well as the work that still needs to be done before there is greater societal acceptance. I write from one woman’s experience and fight for autonomy. Part of my awareness and radicalization as a woman, under institutionalized patriarchy, is this struggle to break free of male concepts of a relationship, male domination of sexuality, male control over my freedom to live how I want, love who I want, and so on. I believe that we have a responsibility to challenge this patriarchal notion of a relationship and redefine something more empowering and more fulfilling for ourselves. But ultimately you have the right to love and live as you see fit, based on your ideals and values, while keeping respect and integrity at the core.
It’s not easy to start being an activist in your own “backyard,” in your own personal life and relationships. Even the most adventurous and most open-minded will struggle with their own imbedded stereotypes. It’s not a simple task to open a discussion up with your partner or lovers about how patriarchy affects you in bed, between the sheets. Most of us find it challenging to grapple with our own insecurities, jealousy, and possessiveness. Often we don’t even have the safe space to discuss these topics openly. Non-monogamy takes a lot of work, commitment, and emotional maturity, and it is often easier to conform, rather than face all your fears and deal with the criticism and misunderstandings from others who may not support or understand. The bottom line is you have choices. If you don’t honor these choices and the inherent responsibility that comes with them, than you’ll never know the true potential of your heart.
Loving openly and freely in this day and age, whether you’re straight or queer, is a political act. We are conditioned by outmoded social norms that limit our perceptions and shackle us to unhealthy cycles of dissatisfying relationships. Yet we live in a time where we can choose our own gender or redefine our own sexual identity. Isn’t it safe to assume that we also have a right to decide what kind of relationship is more suitable to our lifestyle? Declare yourself a revolutionary of the heart. Find out how you can expand your potential to love, radicalize your lifestyle, and together we can threaten the social fabric of patriarchy!
The place to improve the world is first in one’s own heart and head and hands.
—Robert M. Pirsig
Wendy-O Matik teachs Radical Love & Relationship Workshops. Visit her website: www.wendyomatik.com.