...is it normal for me to both want to seek loving relationships, and at the same time also desire more casual things? Is this taking "slut"hood to an extreme? Am i just a ho?
(Asked in an e-mail list discussion this week by a woman who lamented the struggle to reconcile her sexuality with societal norms.)
Ah the challenges of being a whole sexual being in a sex-negative culture! The answers depend on how you define normal. Normal doesn't always equal healthy, as it does not in this instance. As practices go, it is not especially normal in our society to act on the desire to have both committed sexually intimate relationships as well as more casual sexual encounters, because for centuries we've been taught (or more accurately, manipulated into believing) that sexual freedom is wrong, bad, sinful, unhealthy, etc., ESPECIALLY for women.
According to cultural anthropologists and biologists it is exceedingly normal for humans to pair bond non-exclusively. As humans evolved, non-exclusive pair bonding became ingrained deep in our DNA, a compulsion that historically supported the conceiving and raising of children at least until they are weaned. That's the pair-bonding part. As to the non-exclusively part, we are also compelled behaviorally from time-to-time to have other lovers. All of this is nature's way of better enhancing the likelihood of the survival of the species, i.e. by both pair bonding for the raising of children, but not so exclusively that we pass up opportunities to share our reproductive resources with others as well.
If you'd like to learn more about this, read the works of anthropologist Helen Fisher.
So, that's all well and good, but how do we reconcile our desires with the sex-negative culture in which we are all so thoroughly marinated? With polyamory still in the very early stages of becoming known in the mainstream, this is a challenge that practically all people new to polyamory face. The only one who can decide what works individually are the individuals who are affected. I personally don't think this woman has anything to be ashamed of so long as she always acts as lovingly and honestly as she can with her relationship partner(s) and herself. People who embrace their sexuality are to be admired, not criticized and villified. Bravo to her for being true to who she is and doing her best to live her life with authenticity.
And by the way, she is not at all unique in her desire for both multiple committed romantic relationships and lighter sexual ones. There are plenty of poly/swinger hybrids like her out there. A friend of mine calls them swollies. And with all due respect to my beloved poly community, I must say that when it comes to being whole, sex-positive women, few women embrace their sexuality as fully as do women in the swing community.
Bottom line - it's all good.