If a man says that all men want a harem of submissive, subservient women, should you be concerned?
That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help.
Discussion Topic: If you could create your ideal pornography, what would it feature?
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Thank you to Chris Albery-Jones at albery-jones.com for the theme music and a big thanks for the podcast art to Dom Duong at domduong.com.
I’m new to non-monogamy and kink. I’ve been exploring non-monogamy for about 1.5 years and kink for 6 months. They’re related because I want to explore different things sexually with different partners and different things romantically with different partners.
There’s one person I’ve had an on and off thing for about a year, P. P and I work together. So, I see him everyday and work with him everyday and have lunch with him most days (usually in a group). Every time one of us has a breakup or is in a vulnerable [space], we know that the other person will be there in a crisis, so we end up getting emotionally (and physically, usually) entangled. Last year, in the fall, I finally realized the reason we are on and off is because P wasn’t providing the assurance and support that I needed to know that I was an important person in his life.
I asked for this and he was unable to provide it in a way that felt right to me. P has partners, who he calls partners, and friends, who he calls friends. He always called me a friend, but said our relationship was “messy.” I realized he could never give me what I wanted- saying that he cared about me and that I was important in his life. (Relatedly, I could never get a clear answer on his polyam theory. Is he a relationship anarchist, solo, etc? So, I couldn’t tell if I was not accommodating his relationship style or what.)
So, in the fall, I broke up with P. For me, it felt like a breakup. (He still says “how is it a breakup if we weren’t dating?”) I went through stages of grief and found a therapist and felt totally over it. I reduced the amount of time I saw him, texted him outside of work, and ate lunch with him as much as I could. But then, after trying a monogamous relationship for 6 months – putting my kink and polyam explorations on hold, I broke up with that person.
And I fell hard into P’s arms. And he was there for me. P held me while I cried and reminded me how special I am and told me that even though this other guy was a good person, that I said I needed more and I had the right to ask for more from him and if we couldn’t meet up more or this other guy didn’t allow me to have other sexual partners, then I was allowed to make the decision that was best for me.
The issue I have with P is what I feel is a fundamental incompatibility in our values. I deeply believe that society is structured to privilege some and punish others for things that are out of their control (gender, race, ability). And he agrees that things are unequal but doesn’t agree that we should try to change anything. We are both over-thinkers and a bunch of our conversations end up discussing politics or consciousness or what equality and equity should/shouldn’t look like.
This comes into our personal lives and our relationship to each other. He has, in the past, and continues to seek partnerships where he holds a lot of power. He has dated women who have just moved to the country and don’t speak English so he can show them around. He prefers dating smaller women. To me, this all relates to his beliefs about the binary gender system being unequal for a reason and he tolerates (and seeks) inequality in his relationships because of that belief.
He has joked about wanting a harem and his preferred structure to be submissive/subservient women answering to and providing for him and how he loves girls with “daddy issues.” And the worst part is he repeatedly says that “all men” would want that if they just “thought about it long enough.” I know that isn’t true. And it reminds me of why I shouldn’t want to date this person, because I’m afraid I would end up like the women he does date.
Unfortunately, I’m in love with him. I told him so about a month ago now, but we also agree that we shouldn’t date because we work together and because we have this incompatibility in how we see the world (gender specifically but also other areas of privilege).
I guess I’m wondering if this second incompatibility is one that makes sense to you. I keep hearing in your podcast that I can’t judge or control the other person’s relationships with others, and since our relationship is just “messy” but I’m not in a submissive or subservient role, is it ok to break up with him over his beliefs and subsequently his other relationship‘s power imbalances?
The other part of my question is How do I get over this person who I see every day?
So. Yeah. I don’t know if I’ve ever said that you can’t judge other people’s relationships with others. I think that you’re more than welcome to have opinions about how people run their relationships, and sometimes it just so happens in polyamory that we witness people treating other people like crap, and that changes how we feel about the person that we fall in love with. And polyamory is really funny thing in that you know you do get to see your partner in other relationships, and even though you shouldn’t necessarily make comparisons with you and other partners, you can kind of look at the way that they’re treating other partners and think about how that plays into the context of your relationships.
And then the other thing that you kind of say is, that I do say you can’t control another person’s relationship with others. I mean you can attempt to. The point that I make with that is that when people attempt to control other people’s relationships, it doesn’t tend to work out well. What they’re trying to do and generally speaking, they’re trying to control others relationships because they feel insecure about the partnership that they have with that person. So they want to end the other partnerships or control those, so that they can feel better about the partnership they have with that person.
My point is that you can’t— you can’t fix what’s broken in your relationship by restraining someone else’s relationships. That’s not how it works. That has absolutely nothing to do with this wider point, which is… You do not have to— and if no one ever gets anything else from any of my columns except this one line. This is a very very important line— wanting to break up with somebody is a good enough reason to break up with them. I see this like all the time and not even in polyamory but also in monogamy.
It’s just people thinking that they don’t have a good enough reason to break up with somebody. And I actually tweeted this relatively recently. It’s not going to be recently when this comes out because it’s, you know, going to be in December, but I tweeted through the Non-Monogamy help account that polyamory isn’t about— It’s about finding multiple fulfilling relationships. It’s not about collecting a series of unfulfilling relationships that together form some kind of reasonable stasis for you as a human being,
That’s not what it’s about. But a lot of people just want to use it as a reason to not break up with somebody because it’s like, “oh, we can just sort of downgrade our relationship or we can change it” because they don’t want to break up with somebody. If
you are not feeling it. Then you’re not feeling it and it can be hard to suss that out when you have a lot of emotions in play. You know you like this guy. You care about him. But if it’s not actually serving you, and if you know— there’s a lot of other reasons to not want to be in a relationship with this person so you don’t really have to have a good reason.
You can just be like “you know what actually your politics are kind of shit, and I don’t want to be a subservient submissive woman who’s part of your harem”. And, I mean, just even just like, just think about what he saying. He agrees that society is unequal but doesn’t think we should try to change it. Well of course he fucking doesn’t because he likes it that way. And you have to think about, “okay, do I really want to be with someone who” — it is what you say a fundamental in compatibility, to the point where I don’t even know how you end up in conversations with this person.
Because the second that somebody basically says to me, “yeah I think society is equal but that’s okay”. I would really struggle because that… you have to understand that, you know, people have differences of opinion. You know not liking pineapple on pizza is a difference of opinion. And it’s good I guess that he’s not— I guess it’s good he’s acknowledging that society is unequal, but it comes down to humanity, and people should be treated well and not be taken advantage of and you kind of have to think about that when you’re actually, you know, talking to him about this stuff. Like he fundamentally disagrees. You know he acknowledges that society does privilege some and punish others based on things people can’t control, like gender, like race like ability, and he doesn’t think you should try to change anything.
I mean, yeah, I just, I mean, sit with that for a little bit, and I know it’s really hard because like you do have all these feelings, but that is— that in and of itself forget like all this other horrible stuff that you said that in and of itself is a good reason not to date him. Other good reasons not to date him he won’t— I, you know— it’s really really funny because you’re sitting here and you’re saying you’re afraid you’re going to end up like the women he does date, and you specifically say that he intentionally or maybe not knowingly, but it seems like he always dates people he has a power over, so like you said he will find somebody who’s new to the country and who doesn’t speak English that well and he’ll show them around.
He’ll date women with “daddy issues” which… Yikes. With a capital Yikes. You are in a less power position and he’s not telling you where you stand in his life to have power over you. And it’s working. So you think you’re not stuck in this but you are. He’s continually holding power over you. He’s gaslighting you. You know you’re saying, “this feels like a breakup” and he’s going “well it’s not a breakup”. Well you feel like it is. So even if he doesn’t feel strongly about you, he knows that you feel strongly about him.
And every time that you have these like situations in your life, you go back to him. So are you not subservient to him in some way? Are you not in some way kind of reliant on him in a way that he probably enjoys? And he knows that the second that he defines this for you, and gives you a clarity, then you can go “okay or nah”. And maybe that’s why he’s not giving you clarity, because the second he gives you clarity, you will go “Yes or no”. So he keeps you in this limbo. Maybe intentionally for a reason.
So, I mean that in and of itself— all of these reasons are fantastic reasons on their own to break up with somebody: someone will not give you a clear idea of where you stand in their life and continuously denies your reality when you are— you try to break up with them and I’m really really confused because you said, “I broke up with him.” And you went through stages of grief you
reduced the amount of talk— the amount of time you saw him. I assume you also reduced how much you texted him or ate lunch with him.
But you know, He’s— you still kind of fall back into him which I’m not blaming you for like that’s totally understandable. But
this is kind of where your power lies and I have no doubt— like I’m not sitting there watching your debates with him on these fundamental societal issues. But, you know, some of these issues are going to be things where you can have a debate because they won’t affect you. I mean i don’t know if gender, race and ability as things that you can’t control affects you on all three accounts. It could. And that’s even worse.
If it does affect you on all accounts and maybe it doesn’t affect him on all accounts, so this is another way that he’s kind of probably playing devil’s advocate, and I just— it makes my skin crawl. Someone who has all the power in society in a lot of ways, and knows it, and is going to sit here and discuss politics and consciousness and equity and equality with you when you in the ways that you’ve experienced marginalisation, you are the one who should be saying, “Yeah, this is what that is”.
This is what, you know, if you experience, you know, discrimination based on these things then you get to say, ah this is sexism. This is heterosexism. This is, you know, transphobia. If you experienced those things you get to talk about things which affect you and you get to define them and he shouldn’t be debating with you about that. He can be asking questions. He can be learning. But where he experiences the privilege and you experience the marginalisation, he should be listening to you but he’s not.
And that’s kind of another way that he’s kind of playing this kind of power game. So, yeah. And then everything else you mentioned in this massive paragraph about how he basically just wants tons of subservient women— like I would barely call this person polyamorous. I don’t know if he defines him— I mean he doesn’t define himself. So, *shrugs*. There isn’t anything great about anything that he mentions here. Like dating women who he knows he has some kind of power over, and to some extent consciously doing this, seeking those relationships, and the ”daddy issue” thing like… That’s so creepy. Triple creepy, like, ugh.
So you know and then thinking that this is the way all men are. So clearly all of your debates in your politicking and your higher consciousness discussions about equity and equality are not doing anything. They’re not convincing him. He’s wasting your time. So yeah, I know that you’re in love with him. And that really sucks, but you need to break up with him again.
This is really hard because like, the best thing that I can recommend for you is like get another job. And I know that that’s like a shitty thing to say because, you know, I don’t know what your life circumstances are. I don’t know what kind of job you have. I don’t know how easy it is. But whatever you can do to distance yourself from him and really, really put that boundary down, you need to do that, you know. You really really really need to do that.
And, ugh, it’s really hard but you need to make— if he’s not going to define the relationship, then you can define it, and you can say, “We are just friends. And we are co-working friends”. And you need to not have one on one lunches with him. If there’s a group lunch, then you know maybe eat lunch by yourself or find someone else each lunch with. I know like office politics and shit are really horrible. So maybe you’ll be like the odd one out but you know what? How feasible is it for you to stay in this job? Like even if you don’t still love him? Even when you do break through all of that, it’s going to be really hard to just stay there with, you know, I mean once all this— I feel like once all the love haze fades and you actually start realising what a horrible person this guy is this, it’s going to be hard for you to want to be around him in general.
So I really would kind of be looking on the horizon for a different career option or somewhere else to work, so that you can stay away from him. Do not answer his phone calls. Do not respond to his text. Basically treat him like— you know, and make that clear to him. Be like “Look, this isn’t going anywhere. I need it to go somewhere. We don’t agree politically on things. We need to shut this down. We’re acquaintances now, and I would appreciate it if you would treat me like an acquaintance.” And he might not. I would bet anything that the second you start trying to put some boundaries down, he’s going to test them and don’t think he’s going to respect them at all.
Because he’s trying to assert power in the way that you know that he wants to. And if you need to get HR involved— well, I would if you have a union, I would get your union involved first, or at least speak to a union. If you’re not a member of the union, look at Industrial Workers of the World is a union you could check out that as global, and as in lots of different places or if you have a specific career type there might be a specific type of union that has a lot of members. Ask, you know— do a google I’m not quite sure what to recommend. IWW is good for all different kinds of work. It doesn’t have to be just industrial work.
So speak to a union and have them work with you to talk to HR, if you need to and say, “We’ve had a bit of a kind of not really but kind of relationship and I want to end it and I want to remain professional”. And if he— you know make that really clear and then when he violates those boundaries, make sure you have documentation of your response saying “please don’t do this” but you know— and document everything. Because you know he’s also given— I hope he never said all this to you in a work environment. Like I really hope it wasn’t— I know that— Ugh, gosh, and even just like thinking about it’s horrible, like all of these things he said like… Ughh. Just ugh. Ugh. Triple yikes, like quadruple— I don’t know any higher multiples of yikes. It’s a big yikes. It’s a very big yikes.
But you know, having that documentation on your side if he does decide to be more assertive in his assumption that he is entitled to more power than you are, then you can have that in your back pocket but— I really hate this advice in terms of telling you to switch jobs because that’s, you know, I’ve been in career situations where that is just not a friggin option for me. And I don’t know what your options are. But yeah, that is probably the best thing I think for you is to physically get yourself away from the situation. If you can’t or if it’s going to take a while then like I said, I’ll reiterate— redefine your relationship clearly. It’s not messy anymore. It’s very clean. It’s an acquaintance relationship. You’re not even close friends. We’re acquaintances. The end.
And treat him as you would any other random co-worker you have no history with. And if you have to get a friend or someone else involved in your life to check you. Every time you feel like texting him. Every time you know— Find some other friends. like distract yourself. If you’re new to a town or you’re new to a place, you probably maybe hopefully have other friends you can send an online chat to and explain to them. You don’t have to talk to them about all of polyamory stuff or anything but you can say like, Look. Or you can just go into on a polyamory community and just be like “I need someone to talk to, to tell me that not text
this person”. That’s what friends are for. They’re supposed to be there for you to say “Don’t. Don’t you dare. Don’t text him. Don’t talk to him”. Pretend that he is a zombie.
And if you go anywhere near him he’ll bite you and you will be a zombie for for the rest of your life. That’s it every time— like do like… This isn’t real advice. I’m just gonna say like you know do some associations where like every time you see him picture a zombie and, you know, hopefully that that message will go through. I know it’s gonna suck because you are feeling the feels for him. And you’ve got probably goo goo eyes that are distracting you from these truly truly horrible things that this man has said, and I’m hoping that by telling you that you are in a submissive role in this situation, that might snap you out of it a little bit.
But it’ll be shitty. It’ll be sucky. It’ll hurt, but you have to just step away from this dude. They’re like, even if you just— Even if all you told me was that he wants a harem and thinks that all men want harems— that was enough. Like I would have said no no no no no no. Stay away from this dude like so… the fact that all of this other background… ai yay yay. Just… that’s my best advice. You know, it’s okay— it’s always okay to break up with someone if you want to break up with them. You know, generally speaking, I think that it’s always worth, if you’re in a long, long term relationship where there are lots of bonds, thinking about the reasons behind them. You know, I don’t always advocate people break up right away but that hasn’t anything to do with judging other relationships.
That has to do with you know how attached you are. You know whether or not the person involved has shown a commitment to recognising where they’ve hurt you, things like that, like, yeah, it’s tricky. But I’m just saying that like, yes, it is okay for you in this situation to break up with him over his horrible, truly disgusting beliefs and the power imbalances that he seeks and has in your relationship with him as well. Yes, that is okay, and in the future if you were just not feeling it, if somebody isn’t meeting your needs, if it’s just not working out, and they have no desire, not only to fix the problems in life, but to fix the problems in your relationships to the point where they deny your reality, then yes, you can absolutely break up with them. Absolutely, yes.
My secondary advice I know that it’s… I know— If you can find on the job, please try, because it’s going to be really really hard and I honestly like— if he believes all of this horrible, horrible stuff. I just don’t think he’s going to be respectful of your boundaries. I don’t think he’s going to make this easy for you. And I bet if we continue talking, and you told me more about him and about these situations where you’ve fallen into his arms, I’m betting that there was something he did.
I think there’s more to that story so. So yeah please if you can try to get out of that situation. Find a union, talk to them about the situation. Make boundaries very clear with him and absolutely firm, and then document the hell out of when he doesn’t respect them as much as you can. Always try to get witnesses. Never be alone with him in any situation. And if you need your union to talk to your HR department and say there was a previous situation with him. You have some history, and you don’t feel comfortable being alone with him, then do that.
If you have the union behind you. Don’t trust HR. They’re there to protect the company. They’re not there to protect you. And if he is in a higher position than you, than more likely than not, they’re going to get rid of you than actually trying to fix the situation. So be wary of HR but if you have a union on your side then they will protect you and advise you of what your rights are and what you can ask for and argue for.
So yeah, I’m so sorry you’re in this situation because it really really sucks but I’m just hoping that the clarity that I’ve been able to provide for this situation have helped you realise that you deserve a lot better than this. And you don’t deserve to be this ridiculous push pull tug of war crap for this guy. And as much as he might— I mean, honestly like— such a low bar. P walked into a bar because it was so low. Like telling you have the right to, you know, ask for more sexual partners if that’s what you want, telling you that you are special… Anyone can do that. That’s being a friend, and maybe you haven’t had very good friends in your life and I can relate.
But he’s not doing, you know— there’s another episode I did ages ago about gold medals. Please go look that one up, because you’re giving him gold medals for shit that basic friends should do. Friends should be able to tell you all this stuff, he’s not doing anything amazing by doing that he’s just, you know, doing what he should do as a friend. So yeah, I’m gonna stop— I just feel really bad for your situation. I really really hope that you’re able to do all these things because you definitely definitely don’t deserve to be this weird second fiddle in this guy’s bizarre harem. Okay. I hope that helps. Good luck.