This originally appeared on Charlie Glickman’s website. Republished here with permission.
One of the things that often surprises people is the fact that being queer, kinky, and polyamorous doesn’t have to mean that someone is promiscuous.
“Promiscuous” is such an interesting word. My dictionary has two definitions for it:
- having or characterized by many transient sexual relationships
- demonstrating or implying an undiscriminating or unselective approach; indiscriminate or casual
Now, I’ve had quite a few “transient sexual relationships” in my time. Some of them were no longer than half an hour and others have included dates once or twice a year, over the course of many years. Sometimes, I’ll have a series of dates with the same person for a few months before we part ways, and other times we’ll develop a sexual connection based on “I’ll see you when I see you.” I think that most folks would consider the majority of these “transient.” At the same time, my approach has been anything but “undiscriminating or casual.”
I have high standards for what I want from a sexual connection, and I have high standards for the people I create those with. I expect people to come to it with an open heart, to be able to tell me their wants, needs, and boundaries, to be able to hear mine in return, and to find a way to have fun within those parameters. I require honesty around their safer sex and STI background. And I demand that they respect both my relationship with my partner, and the boundaries that grow from that. That’s a lot to ask for, and that doesn’t even begin to cover the question of our individual sexual preferences and kinks. Granted, I enjoy a fairly wide range of pleasures, but that doesn’t guarantee a good fit.
So I’m definitely not “promiscuous” by the second definition of the term and I think it’s pretty telling that the word is based on the assumption that having many sexual partners means not having a selective approach. I filter out a lot of people. It’s just that the circles I move through are full of folks who are tall enough to ride this ride, so I can have high standards and still have multiple partners.
When a friend jokingly told me that I’m easy, I instantly replied, “I’m not easy. I’m selectively convenient.” I don’t play hard to get, and that doesn’t mean that I’m easy. I expect a lot and if I don’t get it, I’ll start a conversation to see if that will change. If it becomes clear that I won’t get what I want and need, or that I’m not offering what the other person needs, I’ll disengage with as much grace as possible. On the other hand, once I know that things line up, it all becomes pretty straightforward. That’s where the “selectively convenient” piece comes in, because I’ll do what I can to make things as smooth as possible.
Being selectively convenient is sort of similar to how some dogs and cats operate. They’ll check someone out to see if they want their attention. If the answer is yes, they go all in. If the answer is no, they back off. And for some animals, the “yes” list is pretty small, but they don’t hold back from the people who are on it.
I think “selectively convenient” is a fine thing in any kind of relationship. If you’re monogamous, all that means is that your selection process is different from mine. For that matter, if you have multiple partners, you probably a have different selection process than I do because you have different needs. Within whatever structure you create, can you make your sexual relationship more graceful? Can you reduce the friction and increase the pleasure? Can you bring more flow to your sex? What would it look like to bring more ease to your sex life, to your partner(s), and to your relationship(s)?
If you want to figure out what “selectively convenient” means for you, start by thinking about what your selection process is. What are your wants and needs? What are your filters? Can you share them with a partner in such a way that they can hear it and respond? Are you open to their replies? And how will you talk with them to find the overlap between what you each offer and what you each want?
Those conversations take a bit of practice to manage with grace, especially when there aren’t a lot of role models for how to do it. Fortunately, there are some great resources that can help. Reid Mihalko’s safer sex elevator speech makes it easier to talk about your safer sex needs. Tristan Taormino’s book Opening Up is great for anyone interested in having multiple partners because she interviewed folks in many different kinds of open relationships about what worked for them. I really like yes/no/maybe lists for figuring out what kinds of sexual pleasures might be fun. In many U.S. cities, there are growing communities and social scenes where you can meet other folks who are exploring similar experiences. Even if you’re not looking for another partner, simply going to events and meeting other selectively convenient people can be a wonderful experience. And if you want some suggestions that are more tailored to your needs, you might consider working with a sex or relationship coach. That’s a great way to get some support and ideas that are specific to your situation and your goals.
Whatever your personal vision of what “selectively convenient” might mean, and whatever path you choose, think about how you’re holding yourself back. Then imagine what it would be like if you didn’t do that anymore. You’ll probably discover that it’s a lot easier to get there and the rewards are definitely worth it.
Charlie Glickman is a sexuality educator, occasional university professor, writer, blogger, and coach. In addition to working with individuals and couples to help them create happier sex lives, he teaches workshops and classes on sex-positivity, sex & shame, sexual practices, communities of erotic affiliation, and sexual authenticity. Find out more about him on his website (www.charlieglickman.com), on Facebook (www.facebook.com/drcharliegli