New review: Loving outside the line of monogamy – Tristan Taormino’s new guide to open relationships

Two-person relationships are the default in our culture, but why? Red Chidgey reviews a book which lays open the potential for different kinds of relationships

Cover of Opening UpTristan Taormino has a solid background in promoting radical, provocative feminist sex education. An award-winning author, editor and adult film producer, this busy lady is responsible for gems such as The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women and True Lust: Adventures in Sex, Porn and Perversion. Smart and outspoken, Taormino delivers her latest book, Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships, as “a study and a road map, a guidebook and a manifesto” for people who want to abandon monogamy. In a well-researched relationship self-help manual, Taormino drops the latex gloves, dons a scholar’s hat, and takes us into the heartland of her beloved research community: the erotic and intellectual lives of creative, ambitious, polyamorous lovers. Taormino provides history, rationale, challenges and suggestions in her commendable, holistic treatment of open relationships – and demonstrates that nonmonogamy can be a healthy, sustainable partnership style.

A hunk of people who love and live in nonmonogamous relationships have contributed their stories to this book (from the US; not everything translates to over here). Two underlying mottos, however, seem to emerge from these snapshot case studies: More Love is worthwhile, and Unfulfilling Situations can be changed into Something Better. Whereas sneaks and cheats give lovin’ a bad name, the purpose of nonmonogamy, it emerges, is to practice ethical, compassionate connections outside of a ‘closed’ one-to-one amour – whether that’s Lena (54) and Gavin (43) who are members of the Unitarian Universalist church and consider sharing a lover together, or Lewis (50), Turner (37) and Ivan (37) who are part of a loving, live-in, gay triad.

The possibilities are of course endless – consent, above-board negotiation and time management pending. Nonmonogamous lovers often wax lyrical about love, sex, emotional needs, spiritual connections, flirting and romance – whatever turns you on and helps you get satisfied; but why do people pursue open relationships? Really, isn’t one person enough? Does Taormino and her cohorts convince in this book about the perks of this taboo relationship style?

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