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The Ethical Slut Read-Along: Personal Background

Posted in Life, Media, and The Ethical Slut Read Along

The Ethical Slut, 2nd edition

I am starting a read-along of the Ethical Slut, 2nd edition. You should start with the Introduction to this series. This installment consists of background about mysel: how I relate to The Ethical Slut in specific, and polyamory in general.

I first encountered the idea of ethical non-monogamy in my mid- and late-teens. I encountered it in fiction like Robert Heinlein’s A Stranger In A Strange Land. More influential was my experimentation with some online social roleplaying environments geared toward furries. Many of the characters people played there — including some of my own — entered into non-monogamous relationships with other characters (or ‘open matings’ as they were sometimes called in furry parlance).

Various factors, including beginning to have sex in the real world, led to me losing interest in furry fandom. The idea of non-monogamy really appealed to me, but as far as I could tell it just wasn’t something real people did — just free-loving space hippies in fiction and pretend talking animals. Since I am a romantic at heart, I wholeheartedly bought into a lot of ideals about relationships including monogamy and the idea of ‘one true love.’ In my early 20s, I moved from New England to Texas to be in a (short-lived) monogamous relationship that landed me quite happily in Austin.

Then life threw me some curve balls. When a lover asked me if I minded if she dated an old flame who came back into town I realized that no, I didn’t mind a bit (it turned out he did, though, and our relationship soon ended). With my next serious relationship, we began monogamously but then began to experiment with opening things up at her insistence. It was difficult and sometimes scary, but we tried.

It was around this time that I attended my first Burning Flipside in 2001. That first Burn event was a life-changing experience for me. A big part of it was realizing how I had not been fully living my life, and that in order to do so I needed to embrace the philosophy of hedonism — the idea that shared pleasure and experience were the highest goal in life. Becoming polyamorous just made good sense, and soon after I got my first copy of the first edition of the Ethical Slut through my job at Half Price Books.

Though I read the book and loved it, and I’ve been polyamorous ever since, there were many bumps along the path to getting where I am today. Each time I’ve reread it I’ve learned new things. It’s helped me to avoid many land mines but also lent me hindsight into past mistakes. I’ve given away or loaned copies to many others as well.

I’ve often thought some of the content of the book could use expansion — I’ve even considered writing my own follow-up at times — so it was exciting to hear about the second edition. I haven’t had the chance to read it till now, though, which is why we’re doing this read-along.

As for me, since reading the original Ethical Slut for the first time, I’ve become much more successfully polyamorous. I was in a 5 year relationship which was extremely open as it began, including eventually even sharing a home with my lover and her other boyfriend. However, as our girlfriend became less stable, our relationship did too — as did the freedoms available to me. When it became too much, that relationship ended (in early 2009) and I moved to Houston.

The author of this read-along and his pet. Photo by Fyrehart.

I dated a number of people in Houston, including the woman with whom I have the most involved and entangled relationship today (what some might call my ‘primary’); she is the one I refer to in these pages as my Pet. We have a loving D/s relationship that is about to enter its second year. We’ve weathered a number of hardships, including the loss of another partner of mine whom Pet had bonded with as a sister. My pet is still in Houston for now and I’m in Austin, but she’s hoping to join me in this city soon. I also have a few other lovers in town and elsewhere.

I’m excited about this project as an opportunity to renew my acquaintance with a book that helped launch me on this path and to consider how it has shaped my experiences and how my experiences have shaped my reaction to it.

The read-along will be back later on Thursday, December 30, 2010 with an entry covering Chapter 1, “Who Is An Ethical Slut?” In the meantime, let’s get to know each other — leave a comment, even an anonymous one. Tell me about how you came to this read-through and a little about yourself and your perspective on relationship styles and The Ethical Slut.

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  • nikki55125

    Hello Kit, this is my intro you asked for.

    i found this link on fet to do the read along and am very interested. i am fairly new to BDSM, and have recently been accepted as a slave to my Master, this will be a 24/7 tpe relationship.

    i however am struggling with the poly part a lot, although i have already experienced this with Him, and know that he requires this. A part of me is very into to it as well, but I still need some help to get there, all the way. i can’t get past my fears, and insecurities about it right now. We do talk at length about it, and i hate that it is the last remaining huge issue i am having.

    I bought this book recently, with the hopes of it guiding me through my fears. and have looked through it some, but it seems more geared toward poly relationships where both parties are free to play as they like, mine will be one where he will play as he likes, and then will have me played with by whom he chooses. This seems to be a very different dynamic, than what ‘i think’ the book is about.

    But, nonetheless…. i am here to learn and hope for the ability to ‘get there’…. all the way, so i can please my Master, and in the end, myself as well.

    Thank you for starting this…
    nikki

    • Kit

      @Nikki: Thanks so much for jumping in and giving the first comment of our Ethical Slut discussion! You get a gold star for that!

      Congrats on your new 24/7 M/s relationship. I hope that it continues to work so well for you. I definitely wanted to lure in people from FetLife to this discussion because I feel like the interaction between polyamory and BDSM can be especially complex (but probably also especially rewarding at times). I definitely hope to get more into this topic as we go, and I look forward to your input.

      One of the reasons I liked this book on previous read-throughs of the first edition is it seemed quite adaptable to different relationship styles. Although a lot of the book is geared toward people who choose polyamory for themselves, I think there’s a lot here that addresses issues like jealousy, communication, insecurity, and so on in ways that I hope are universal.

      It sounds like you and your Master are on the right track in openly discussing your fears. I also hope that this read-along will help you — please don’t be afraid to speak up about places you feel the book leaves you behind. Hopefully in our discussions we can make up the difference!

      I’ve also asked my own pet to join us here when she can, as she may have some similar experiences. Though she is generally free to play as she chooses (with my permission), I am definitely the more polyamorous of the two of us, while she generally prefers to play with others only when I am actually around. At times I have struggled with feeling like I am ‘unfair’ to her by being how I am and remaining with her, but in the end I always come back to how happy our relationship makes the both of us, even when it raises insecurities.

      Looking forward to your input!
      -Kit

  • I kind of had polyamory dropped into my lap. I knew what it was and that it worked for some people, but for some reason never made the connection that that was what I already was until an ex I was resistent to starting a romantic relationship with (because I didn’t want to date only one person, and I told him so) suggested we make our relationship open. It all clicked then and I’ve been openly poly since (I’ll probably expand on this more on my blog tonight).

    I’ve lost a couple friends because of this and I haven’t always gone about things in the most ethical way, but polyamory makes me feel happy, instead of trapped like I did with monogamy.

    I don’t remember how I came across The Ethical Slut but it (and Opening Up) has been a great teaching tool for me in figuring out what my limits are and how to keep things open and honest with any partners. Definitely looking forward to this read-along, Kit!

    By the way, will you be pointing out the main differences between the 1st and 2nd editions? I only have the 1st to work from.

    • Kit

      @Groggette: Always great to hear from you. I hope you make it to Austin someday so we can hang out again and you can attend the Austin Art Nerds.

      I keep hearing how great Opening Up is. I’m actually about to get a Kindle for Christmas and I see that the book is available on it. I plan to buy Opening Up for Kindle and review it here. If there’s enough interest in it I may do a read-along of that book too after I’m done with this one. I’m also supposed to get a review copy of Sex At Dawn, which is a science book that many poly folk are going gaga over right now.

      I think a lot of people ‘stumble into’ poly one way or another, often through a lover who opens up their eyes. I too have made some mistakes and even decisions I regret having made in how I handled a situation, but all along I’ve learned poly is the way for me and like you it keeps me from feeling ‘trapped.’ In my 5 year relationship which I mention above, I even went through a period of enforced monogamy that helped me relearn how crucial this way of life is to my sanity. Though it was painful I’m grateful to have learned just how much a part of my life this is — I don’t think I’ll ever make the mistake of trying to go back again.

      As to your final question, I have both editions in front of my as I write this read-along and I do plan to address the differences.

  • KitsPet

    Hello to all.

    My introduction to polyamory began mostly with my introduction to Kit. Before Kit, I was aware of the concept of poly, and had even considered whether or not I would enjoy have such a relationship dynamic. I had also had some previous experiences with *swingers*, and my share of non-consensual non-monogamy, also known as *cheating*. Neither of those experiences necessarily raised my hackles in such a way as to turn me away from non-monogamy, nor did they push me toward seeking it out.

    When I first started talking to Kit, I immediately sensed a kindred spirit in him, and also felt a good deal of attraction. I knew that whatever reservations I may have about him being poly and whether or not it was a match for me, the kinship I felt with him was too strong to ignore, so I decided to meet him. It’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

    As our relationship has progressed, I have encountered a few bumps along the way in accepting polyamory into my life. In some ways it has been scary and painful. And in other ways it has been liberating and rewarding, and truly lovely.

    Kit gave me a copy of the first edition of The Ethical Slut at a time when there was a lot of change going on in our/his relationship/s. It helped me make a little bit of sense out of some of the chaos. At the time, there were several passages that I cam across while reading that I wanted to discuss with him, but for whatever reason we didn’t. That is why I am participating in this read-along. I’m also hoping to learn from other participants experiences, and to help others with my own. I’m excited to get started.

    • Kit

      @Pet: Thanks for joining us and leaving your introduction. I am looking forward to discussing the book with you too.

      The last year has definitely been one in which I’ve made some mistakes and a bunch of really right decisions, and some really rewarding and painful experiences have happened in my poly life. I’m glad I’ve had you around to share some of the good ones and as a shoulder for some of the scary and painful parts.

  • Arwen

    Hi Kit,

    I’m Arwen, a 30 year old woman from The Netherlands. English is not my first language, so forgive me, if my spelling isn’t always correct.

    I’m involved in the BDSM scene for three years now but I don’t have a lot of experience. That’s because I only want a D/s relationship when there’s also a love affair between me and my Dom and that’s very hard to find.

    I’m raised in a Christian village in The Netherlands where a monogamous relationship is the only right commitment. I still believe that monogamy for me is the right way but I’m very interested in “The Ethical Slut”.
    A friend of mine told me three months ago about this subject and the main principles of the book. I’m open to the idea of sharing love with other people and maybe my point of view towards polyamory will change, I don’t now. At this moment I’m in a period of my life where I’m growing in many ways and a lot of principles I had are now crumble away.

    I don’t have a copy of the book yet, but I ordered it and it will be delivered next week. I’m looking forward to this read-along and I hope it will give me new insights.

    Greetings Arwen

    • Kit

      Hi Arwen, thanks for joining us! It’s great to know that this read-along has a global audience.

      To me, one of the single most important things a person can do in life is question the assumptions which society gives them. You’ve already done this by realizing that a convention, vanilla relationship is not for you. Once you’ve questioned one aspect of conventionality, it is both healthy and logical to go on and question others such as the concept of strict monogamy. I’m glad you’re maintaining an open mind through this process, whatever you end up choosing for yourself.

      I think it’s important to remember that our answers to these questions about how we live our life often change over time, and there’s not a single right answer. There are many, many ways of doing non-monogamy — for example, my Pet who introduced herself above prefers to only play with others when I am around, at least at this time in her life. Based on what I remember from past read-throughs, I think the Ethical Slut can offer a lot of good advice about things like communication and jealousy regardless of what relationship style they choose.

      We’re just touching on the first, short chapter of the book tomorrow, so you shouldn’t have any trouble catching up next week! Welcome.

  • Sil.

    Hi I am Sil. from the Netherlands. Currently I am living in a poly-amoric relation. My girlfriend B/beatnik was quite enthousiast about the book and currently I am reading it. The notion of the authors that there is no shortage of love brought about an avelange of ideas and experiments which I would like to share during this read along. Basically, I am especially enthousiast about sharing love (of which sex might be a part). Also, I am very interested in the ideas of the other participants.

    Greetings Sil.

    • Kit

      Thanks, Sil! It’s great to have you on board this read-along. It’s amazing how once you start opening yourself up to new possibilities, it can set off all kinds of exciting personal growth. It’s great to have you as part of the read along.

  • Beatnik

    Hello! My (online)name is Beatnik – a 37-year-old female living in The Netherlands.
    Sil. is one of my partners – the other one is called Yggy. I am the hinge of our triade.
    We have been together in this constellation for almost two years now.
    I have just finished reading “The Ethical Slut” (2nd edition) and I really liked the book.
    Since Sil. has borrowed my copy of the book – I will not be able to go into detail but I will give my input where I can.

    In the past I have encountered the concept several times and found myself in poly-situations before. I’ve always known that I am not ‘the jealous type’ but couldn’t really explain why.
    My relationship with Sil. and Yggy is my first conscious encounter with the subject – I have mainly trusted my gut feeling until now.
    Janet and Dossie have made big impression on me with other books – so as soon as I had the time I have read “The Ethical Slut” and I was glad to learn that there is more of us out there who are driven by love not (exclusively) lust… 

    • Kit

      Welcome Beatnik! It’s great to have so many visitors from a country I hope to visit someday. I look forward to your input in this series and that of your partner Sil as well.

      I think it’s interesting that you came to polyamory sort of ‘naturally’ before doing so consciously and I’ll be interested on your perspective. I also have enjoyed some of Janet & Dossie’s other books — especially the Bottoming Book and the Topping Book. I think I need to find new copies as I may have loaned both out never to return…

  • yookske

    Hello

    I’m yookske, from Belgium,I’m 34 years old. I’m in a relationship, we started as vanilla and as the way goes, we are in a D/s relationship.
    My english is not that good, so I’m sorry for the mistakes I’m make.
    A friend ask me if I would read allong, and I’m a very curious woman, so here I am :-).
    I’m not sure if Polyamory would do it for us, but I’m willing to read about it, learn about and we’ll see ….

    greets yookske

    • Kit

      @yookske: Welcome, Yookske. I hope you’ll gain a lot from the read-along too. I look forward to your input.

      @Minishka: I think there may be people who can go either way — who can happily be monogamous and also adapt to polyamory. But I know for me, trying to do otherwise makes me feel trapped and unhappy. It’s not even that I want to constantly be looking for new partners — right now, for example, my plate is pretty full. But it’s the freedom and openness — the ability to be open to what life brings me that helps me feel free. Thanks for joining us!

  • Minishka

    Hey there

    I stumbled across your blog somewhat serendipitously, having decided to re-read The Ethical Slut, and having also decided to buy the new edition for my Kindle rather than carry the paperback 1st edition around with me. (At the same time, I downloaded samples of the Topping book and the Bottoming book – both next on the list).

    I’m queer and not new to either poly or BDSM, but have had rather limited experience with both (particularly topping) – and having been in a hetero/vanilla/monog relationship for the past 5 1/2 years, I feel like I’m just coming out. Again.

    So far it does seem rather like riding a bike (I don’t think I’ve forgotten how to do anything, just a bit rusty & occasionally wobbly) but re-reading The Ethical Slut has been an absolute revelation. I don’t remember feeling this elated last time around – maybe, like Kit, that hiatus has been enough to tell me in no uncertain terms, that there is no way back now…

    I look forward to reading what everyone has to say, and thanks for your excellent timing!

  • Stacy

    Hey Kit,

    Eric and I have been married now for 10 years. We discussed poly for most of them, but I wasn’t comfortable with the idea. I finally decided to green-light it about 3 years ago, and it’s been an interesting ride. A few lost friends and a lot of therapy later though, and I think we’re reaching a stable point, thankfully.

    I read through part of ‘The Ethical Slut’ when we started out, and found the tone to be really off-putting. There seemed to be an attitude that people are only monogamous because they’re unimaginative, controlling, or in some other way psychologically or ethically damaged- or just small-minded. As someone who feels that monogamy is a perfectly fine choice for some people for part of even all of their lives, that was really grating.

    But I have heard too many poly folks swear by this book, so I’m willing to at least follow along with your read-along.

    For the record, my poly bible has been ‘Polyamory: Roadmaps for the Clueless & Hopeful’ by Anthony Ravenscroft.

    Cheers,
    Stacy

    • Kit

      Stacy:

      It’s great to have you here and sharing your experiences. I think yours might be especially interesting to some readers, as it’s one I can’t speak to in the same way — taking a successful monogamous marriage and opening it up to become a successful polyamorous one. I definitely welcome any comments and stories you want to share as we write about this topic.

      Of course there are many sluts out there who feel ‘trapped’ in monogamous situations, but as your experiences and (Arwen’s, above) suggest this is far from always the case. Although I can’t speak to the rest of the book yet, I think the second edition may have improved this some. The first edition opened with two long anecdotes about the authors’ bad experiences with monogamy, and I think this may have been a big turn off to a lot of readers they might have otherwise reached.

      I’ve heard of the Ravenscroft book before, I’ll have to check it out someday.

      Cheers,
      Kit

  • Dawn

    I know I am coming to this read along a bit later than when you did it but hope that it is alright that I attempt to participate…anywho, I have always thought of myself as a non-traditional monogamist. I have had many partners, participated with multiple partners, even allowed relationships to fluctuate as “on and off” while both parties would date others for a while. My first intro to polyamory was with someone who I had only sexual relations with since the idea of it scared me. I couldn’t quite let my emotions get involved with someone who I knew wouldn’t just be there for me. But he always was and that was something… surprising after years of horrible relationships based on lies and manipulation from my partners. These past relationships led to me now having a lot of mistrust, old pain, and easy jealousy. My second encounter with the idea of polyamory is with my current partner who has been poly but agreed to be monogamous with me while we get to know each other. I have talked with him quite a bit about it and this has spiked my interest in the book. If nothing else I do severely want to get over my jealousy and increase my self-love. I am also very keen on him being happy :)

    • Kit

      @Dawn: Hi Dawn, Thanks for dropping in & commenting even late. It’s great that you seem interested in growing and learning more about relationships. Remember that jealousy is something even seasoned polyamorists struggle with sometimes, and it’s all a matter of learning about ourselves and practice. It does actually get easier with time, and as you learn to trust the people you are with. Shared happiness is a great goal of any relationship. Keep us posted on how this goes & whether you read the book.

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