How do I transition well from ‘off limits’ mononormative culture to poly ‘available’ status


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Quick background: I’m a bisexual female who has been in a happy monogamous long-term relationship with my wife. We have recently been exploring the possibility of opening up to polyamory. In my twenties, I had to deal with a male stalker which was scary at times, extremely unpleasant and very draining. As a single person, the experience caused me to be less than my authentic self with my male acquaintances to dissuade unwanted sexual advances (e.g. don’t talk too long, don’t laugh too much, don’t make too much eye contact). This behavioural pattern was unhealthy and became very damaging to me. I stopped using these behavioural limitations once I was married and considered ‘off limits’ and since we hang with respectful, mature friends and family at home, I very infrequently run into this problem except when I travel. I still choose to use an effective deception in these cases if ignoring the unwanted advance doesn’t work (other methods are so much less effective). I say ‘my husband is up at the pool or back at the hotel’. I’ve tried versions of ‘I’m not interested’ (which almost invariably elicits the lengthy explanation that, in fact, he is extremely interesting!) and once made the mistake of saying I had a wife (twice as interesting!). If I decide to join the poly community I would not be comfortable presenting as anything less than my authentic self and certainly can’t (nor want) to say ‘my husband is up at the pool’.

Current issue: Recently, someone aware I was exploring poly reached out to ask for friendship, and I was immediately transported back to my single twenties and the unhealthy limitations I put on my authentic self. It was the last time I was ‘available’ by mononormative standards. I realized that I hadn’t really thought about the ‘protection’ a monogamous relationship (most often assumed structure by society) offered from much unwanted attention. If I come out as poly (at least in some circles) I do worry about those who misunderstand poly and are expecting an easy hook-up or casual sex partner. And, I also worry about cretins (mainly male but could be female) trying to prey on the culture. I’m hopeful (and suspect) that there are respectful poly communities out there where ‘no means no’ and those who harass others are unwelcome. I’m interested in knowing other’s thoughts and experiences (female, male, non-binary points of view are all welcome) on their transition experiences from monogamy to poly and how prevalent these unfortunate experiences are.
It seems like you are most concerned about times when you are traveling alone, maybe for work, staying at hotels, eating in restaurants, etc., and many men seem to think you are attractive enough to hit on. How do you get them to leave you alone? Or maybe you'd be fine with some relaxed conversation to pass the time, but don't want them to get too insistent about joining them for sex.

I don't have this problem since, 1. I am older (I look good for my age, but still...), 2. I am rarely, if ever, alone at hotels or restaurants.

Maybe some women here who do travel alone a lot will share their experiences.

If I think back to my late teens and early 20s when I had to walk alone, either in the suburbs or cities, I did have to change my behavior after being literally attacked in an apartment building hallway after a man stalked me for a few blocks. I was a naive 19 year old college freshman at that time. I was walking along in a pretty midi skirt, with my coat open, on a spring evening. After that experience, I took to wearing bulky jackets, baggy jeans or overalls as much as possible when I had to walk alone, and I tried to walk in a masculine manner, fast, looking straight ahead, and without wiggling!

It sucks that we have to do these protective behaviors.

Here is an article with tips that also include mentioning your (imaginary) husband. One tip is to wear a ring on your left ring finger, but I don't know if that would really deter those men intent on casual sex.

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I wasn't sure if you wanted to talk about going out alone as a woman and getting unwanted attention, of if there was something more about "joining the poly community," and getting attention from other poly people. Are you talking about in actual poly group meetups?

I don't go to those much, but I have heard about males who cruise those meetups solely to hit on women, without contributing in otherwise meaningful ways, just making pests of themselves. I understand this is frowned on and these kinds of men are sometimes asked not to return, if they don't modify their behavior. After all, just because a poly woman may be open to exploring other relationships doesn't mean she is open to every Tom, Dick or Harry who doesn't want much more than to get laid by an "easy" woman.

Even in swinging situations, where sex is the focus, a woman won't want to have sex with every man in the club. She gets to pick out someone she finds attractive, and not be harassed by the men she does not find attractive.
I am sorry to hear about your horrible experience at college Magdlyn and can empathize with the effects that can have on personality and behaviour. Thanks for the link. I will take a look, but yes, I, like many women, have had years of practice deflecting unwanted attention. I am interested particularly in the prevalence of predatory men (or women) at both swing and poly events since, in their minds, the likelihood of sex is even higher at these places. I would like to meet people and make friends in the poly community because I like people who are open-minded and can think outside typical paradigms, but my historical pattern has always been friends first, with very few making it to my bed In long-term relationships. I am interested in exploring this aspect of myself, but I would like to take the smartest path forward to meeting psychologically mature poly people and avoiding energy expenditure on ‘drifters’.
Hello phoenix,

I take it that you're thinking you'll retire the old, "My husband is up at the pool." And maybe you're thinking of replacing it with something like, "I'm sorry, I'm just not interested." So maybe you feel you know what to do, you just don't know how to work up the courage to do it? or maybe you're looking for a new statement that you can depend on to drive unwanted men away? or you're seeking a new way to present yourself that will turn men off in general, and you won't have to say anything to them in the first place?

Are you worried that if you are a poly, a man will physically attack you? Is that something you have already worried about as a mono? What has been your way of dealing with this danger in the past? Do you feel that as a poly, you should update your way of protecting yourself from this danger?

It seems to me that poly does not require you to upgrade your verbal and somatic practices for protecting yourself from unwanted men. You're still dealing with the same world after you become poly. Is this something that has less to do with transitioning to poly, and more to do with being somewhat unsatisfied with the methods you've used in the past, and just wanting to improve your methods in tandem with transitioning to poly? Do you want to invite more attention without inviting unwanted attention?

From your posts so far, you seem to be mostly concerned about not wanting men to stalk you, and about not wanting men to hit on you. But maybe you are thinking that if you are going to transition to poly, you should allow men a little more leeway (within reason). I know I've asked a lot of questions, but let me know if this is the case.

Really, society as a whole needs to be revamped; men in general need to learn when to take "No" for an answer. This will probably happen eventually, but perhaps not in our lifetime. This leaves women with the unfortunate necessity of dealing with aggressive men. Other men can call the aggressive ones on the carpet, but this is another widespread change in society, that might not happen in this lifetime. I don't mean suck up and deal, but I do think that for the time being, we are stuck with some men acting like jerks.

Based on what I know so far, I think you should try to adopt the new statement, "I'm sorry, I'm just not interested." I don't know how to work up the courage to say this to unwanted men. I don't know how much therapy you've had for this, but maybe more therapy is something to consider.

Just some thoughts,
Kevin T.
I am interested particularly in the prevalence of predatory men (or women) at both swing and poly events since, in their minds, the likelihood of sex is even higher at these places.
Well, sex is certainly likely at swing events! That's the whole point. I've never been to a swing event. I'm sure you could find out more at website geared to that "lifestyle." I've dated a couple of swingers and they told me there is certain etiquette that people are expected to follow. Personally, one of my exes told me about an ex of his he swung with, and she was out in the hallway near the restrooms just blowing every guy that came her way, to much applause. All I could think of when he told me that was "the disease!" Yikes.

But guys at swing parties/clubs are encouraged to never touch a woman without getting an express invitation. I have read that prior to the sex starting, there is a sort of happy hour situation, where you might chat people up to see if you click, followed by dancing, where sometimes a bell rings and the women are expected to drop their outer layers to reveal sexy lingerie. Um. Not my cup of tea, but whatever. It's a certain mindset.
I would like to meet people and make friends in the poly community because I like people who are open-minded and can think outside typical paradigms, but my historical pattern has always been friends first, with very few making it to my bed In long-term relationships. I am interested in exploring this aspect of myself, but I would like to take the smartest path forward to meeting psychologically mature poly people and avoiding energy expenditure on ‘drifters’.
I am currently deeply involved with my bf Aries, who I spent 3 years chatting to as friends on Fetlife before we finally met. I admit, that was not my usual way of getting to know a guy, but it sure worked out!

Before meeting him, I had given up on meeting guys on dating sites for about a year, then we had the pandemic and of course, I didn't meet anyone new for a good 2 more years.

If you find a good poly meetup group in your area, let us know how it goes. As I said, I believe predatory behaviors are discouraged.
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Thanks for your thoughts Kevin. To answer some of your inquiries, I have never felt unsafe in Toronto and I don’t think I’m very likely in danger of physical attack. I am reasonably tall for a woman and athletic, as well as trained in enough karate/self-defence to feel comfortable. I do not mind men approaching me for conversation or even flirting/stating interest in a respectful manner. What I do not like is giving up the energy required on my part to handle infatuation or persistent unwanted interest. I do plan to use truth such as ‘I’m not interested, I’m here to educate myself on poly only‘ if I choose to attend a local poly meetup. I have read their policy and they do dismiss those who are disrespectful, from both the website and their meetings. I am in a profession where people seem very interested in following my movements. For example, a woman I worked with told me her coworker had seen me getting out of the back seat of a car at a particular house one weekend, when I had been nowhere near that address. I told her she was mistaken. She insisted it was me who her coworker saw, then looked at me like I was trying to deceive her and cover something up! This kind of thing really freaks me out, so I lean toward educating myself and preparing for new situations as much as possible to have a feel for what to expect.

I think you are a sci-fi fan so here is one of my friend‘s fave expressions……No Cling-ons! (I am definitely open to Klingons however!)

Thanks again.
Thanks for your reply Magdlyn. If I choose to attend a sex party/viewing event I am definitely going with friends just to watch (and I may go as my cosplay alter ego for fun). Sounds eye-opening! 😳 I think it’s fantastic that there are increasingly additional ways to meet potential partners out there…….you never know when someone is going to appear in your life like Aries did for you. I think the poly group we found seems like the right place to start locally, so will let you know. Appreciate all your feedback!
Hi phoenix,

Sometimes women can be a problem, it's not always just men. Sometimes you just have to say, "Hey, back off! It wasn't me whom your coworker saw." Some people (male or female) just don't know how to take "No" for an answer. You seem to be reasonably prepared for a physical attack, but that doesn't stop people from stalking you and hitting on you. Sometimes you have to be very direct, almost rude. "I said no, now back off." Hopefully you won't have to use that statement very often.

Haha, I am a sci-fi fan and I get your pun. I've heard it as, "What does the Enterprise have to do with toilet paper?" ... and ... "They both go around Uranus looking for Klingons." LOL!

Kevin T.
Thanks Kevin. Your responses have made me think carefully about why I have had this sudden concern when I haven’t felt uncertain about anything like this in many years. I know there will be sexually objectifying men out there (there always are) and yes, I may run into a few more again because I may try dating, but I realized that my mind had just taken a ‘time warp’ back to my twenties, when I was still working out the best mental and emotional ways to navigate the world. Luckily something about your last post brought me ‘back to the future’ (had to throw a sci-fi pun in!) and I realized that I would never engage in a conversation where I was not comfortable disclosing information, and if the person was persistent, I would shut them down immediately. There is not even a question in my mind about how I would act. So, this has been a fascinating experience for me, since I’ve never experienced a trigger before. I’m very grateful to you and Magdlyn for the conversation. Through conversing with you both, I realized I am not the younger version of myself. I have all the tools and confidence in my judgement, adaptability and self-expression to work at making poly successful if this is what I choose. Thank you 🙏

BTW, loved the Star Trek joke, it’s a classic!
It sounds like you are blowing the dust off from some of the coping mechanisms you developed in your twenties. In doing so, you can check each mechanism to make sure it is healthy. It's possible you have some anxiety about that, like what will you do if a mechanism is unhealthy. You will have to develop a replacement mechanism, and that can be a nerve-racking prospect. I certainly don't know that that is the case for you, I am just thinking out loud.
That’s actually exactly what happened. My anxiety was stemming from the thought of needing to cover up authentic self when I have worked very hard to become (and share with others) my entire authentic being. I was associating being available again with having to cover up certain aspects of self like I did in my twenties, when, in fact, I don’t have to do that (nor would I want to) any longer. That was the root of the issue for me. I will continue to present as my entire self to others I meet and I feel completely at peace with this 😌. Thank you for helping me work through this thought process.
No problem, I'm happy to help. I agree with you, that you don't have to hide parts of yourself in order to repel unwanted attention. Just say "No" when that's what you feel, and add emphasis as necessary.