The Unethical Slut

Category: Points Of View

Author: Rachel Elizabeth

Around this time last year, I was just coming out of a month-long weeping spell owing to a particularly incendiary dumpster fire of a breakup I had zero control over, or as my therapist likes to call it “the result of my own actions which I had complete control over every step of the way”.

Okay, calling it a *~breakup~* might be a little too charitable given that we were never together to begin with because he was ‘together’ with his wife. But whatever our year-and-a-half of D/s debauchery was, I was certain its end was the end of me. Not in a jump-off-a-bridge way, but in a much more melodramatic “I don’t even know who I am without an older man to dom me into drinking enough water” type of way.

That being said, I did phone a crisis hotline at one point after my friends stopped picking up my woeful 3am calls. While it wasn’t a particularly productive experience in terms of processing emotional trauma, it did provide me with a temporary (and completely unfounded) sense of intellectual superiority, as I spent most of the conversation unpacking the BDSM acronym to first-responder Pamela. Nothing lifts my spirits like educating a mild-mannered woman from Tampa on proper pervert lingo.

Thankfully, time really does heal all (belt) wounds! Now that it’s been about a year and change since our split, I’m no longer neck-deep in a quagmire of existential quandaries and heartache. I’ve re-downloaded the apps, gone on some rebound dates, and endured a half hour of awkward pleasantries for the sake of some sloppy under-the-table fingering on an Irish pub’s back patio. I even sent out a few salacious photo sets of myself crawling around on the floor in a red lace teddy I bought at the outlet mall for $18.99 but claimed was Saks Fifth Avenue’s finest lingerie. Nothing turns me on like pretending to be a bourgeois little debutant in need of utter desecration by a politically righteous working man sexting me from his Android.

Needless to say, I’m back on my submissive bullshit. But as I begin to remerge from my cocoon of sorrow-induced celibacy, I can’t help but notice just how drastically the affair reshaped my entire concept of intimacy. There is one common feature all my recent attempts at securing a good fuck buddy share: a desire for strict monogamy.

Before him, I approached sex as anything but committal. Sure, some of that was due to internalized fatphobia, insofar as I didn't think I deserved anything more than an inconspicuous face-fuck in some law student’s PT Cruiser. But even in years prior to gaining weight, I had a very carefree relationship to physical intimacy and struggled to understand the exclusivity my partners just seemed to expect of me by default.

Unfortunately, I didn’t know much about ethical non-monogamy back then. I remember countless nights in college where I would be sitting next to my boyfriend surrounded by our beautiful friends, so in love with him but so desperate to taste everyone else. Often, he would watch while I kissed other women, and occasionally he would kiss them too. The most connected I ever felt to him was standing quietly nursing a cigarette while he made out with my roommate. It was as if I wasn’t even there, no expectation to restrain himself or police his own pleasure. For years I dreamed of a partnership devoid of those constraints altogether, as opposed to one where they were occasionally lifted owing to a few Bud Light Lime-A-Ritas and a desire to show off.

Cut to present day. The thought of being in another situation where I am invisible to someone as they enjoy another makes me physically ill. Intimacy no longer feels like a communal good but more like a scarce resource to be hoarded. Gone are the days when it felt freeing to fuck casually at 1am in some discreet parking lot, not knowing if I’d ever even see the person again. If I’m going to let someone’s hand grip my throat, they better make daytime plans with me first. I want to be perceived! No more skulking around in the shadows while a brooding accountant from New Jersey prays his wife doesn’t call in the middle of you calling him “Daddy”.

These are the sort of vows I made to myself immediately after the affair ended and have continued to hold onto until very recently. Of course, when I vocalized them to my friends and therapist, my value shift was met with nothing but relief and encouragement. “Yes! You finally are coming around to the idea that you deserve to be someone’s main priority!” or “You deserve to have someone all to yourself, you’re finally seeing your worth!” were among the words of affirmation people showered me with. And while they were all said in good faith, I’m realizing that these sentiments are centered around the far too common yet regressive idea that sexual exclusivity is synonymous with self-respect.

Even more disturbingly, I’m realizing how the pain of the affair has brought me dangerously close to adopting this view myself. How after nearly eight months of being someone’s slam piece, I started to subconsciously equate anything other than monogamy with dehumanization. Obviously, this is not a perspective that is authentic to me, and is very much the result of prolonged exposure to non-ideal sexual circumstances. But at the same time, I can’t just will my way into being who I was pre-adultery. The affair was transformative whether I like it or not.

This leaves me wondering: which of our sexual values are authentic and which are a reaction to previous negative encounters? If the latter ones win out, how can we maintain a sense of sexual empowerment?

It feels like an impossible question to answer, as it’s hard to tell where the perspective I gained from involving myself in such a morally bankrupt shit storm begins and the purely reactionary, envy-driven values end. Especially since for a good while after the break-up, I was certain I was enlightened, even though it did feel ridiculous hearing myself boast to my friends about how “I to sub for someone who won’t overtly smack my ass in the middle of TJ Maxx” because I’m DONE being kept a secret. Watch out everyone, she’s finally raised the bar!

Fortunately, it seems I’ve been given a chance to finally experiment with ethical non-monogamy the right way. I have been talking with a potential new dom who’s in a serious-but-open relationship, and while it’s taken me a while to determine whether being a secondary casual partner is something I am able to handle again, I think I am finally ready to explore!

We haven’t even hooked up yet (only talked/sexted furiously), and the vibe already feels more positive and open than things ever did with my ex-dom whose idea of quality time was briefly stopping by my Manhattan apartment for a quick facial before getting on the train back to his comfortably dispassionate Hoboken townhome. There’s no more schedule of when it’s acceptable to text, no feelings of guilt or immorality when my phone lights up with an exquisitely perverse vignette and I squirt all over my floral print IKEA sheets.

Most importantly, there is not another woman on the other side unknowingly living within a lie that I’m complicit in weaving. From what I have surmised, he and his partner share a happy, peaceful life together. Plus, even if he and I end up not vibing as play partners, I can now start forming new associations with causal sex and reconnecting with the values I had before the affair distorted my lens.

The purpose of this piece is not just to navel gaze at my own sexual values like some kind of horny Descartes sitting by the fire, mommy milkers spilling out of my long white nightgown. It’s also to encourage whoever may be reading to take some time to reflect on the experiences that have come to shape your notion(s) of intimacy. Certainly, I do not think everyone is non-monogamous deep down or that it’s somehow disempowering to desire exclusivity! I suppose I just believe there is great value in imagining what intimacy might look like without the pain, trauma and marginalization that so often informs how we come to define it.

For me personally, there is no going back to exactly who I was before. The pain of the affair may dull, but my relationship to sex will always be informed by those experiences as much as it’s also informed by other traumas like sexual assault and the difficulties of having a fat body. And while this pain may always live within me, the past doesn’t have to dictate future encounters. Imagination is a powerful tool for making progress. Something tells me the best I can do right now is continue to open my mind, make room for new memories, and surround myself with people who share my vision of sexual freedom.

Here’s to a new chapter of (ethical) depravity!

Podcast Transcript:

Around this time last year, I was just coming out of a month-long weeping spell owing to a particularly incendiary dumpster fire of a breakup I had zero control over, or as my therapist likes to call it “the result of my own actions which I had complete control over every step of the way”.

Okay, calling it a *~breakup~* might be a little too charitable given that we were never together to begin with because he was ‘together’ with his wife. But whatever our year-and-a-half of D/s debauchery was, I was certain its end was the end of me. Not in a jump-off-a-bridge way, but in a much more melodramatic “I don’t even know who I am without an older man to dom me into drinking enough water” type of way.

That being said, I did phone a crisis hotline at one point after my friends stopped picking up my woeful 3am calls. While it wasn’t a particularly productive experience in terms of processing emotional trauma, it did provide me with a temporary (and completely unfounded) sense of intellectual superiority, as I spent most of the conversation unpacking the BDSM acronym to first-responder Pamela. Nothing lifts my spirits like educating a mild-mannered woman from Tampa on proper pervert lingo.

Thankfully, time really does heal all (belt) wounds! Now that it’s been about a year and change since our split, I’m no longer neck-deep in a quagmire of existential quandaries and heartache. I’ve re-downloaded the apps, gone on some rebound dates, and endured a half hour of awkward pleasantries for the sake of some sloppy under-the-table fingering on an Irish pub’s back patio. I even sent out a few salacious photo sets of myself crawling around on the floor in a red lace teddy I bought at the outlet mall for $18.99 but claimed was Saks Fifth Avenue’s finest lingerie. Nothing turns me on like pretending to be a bourgeois little debutant in need of utter desecration by a politically righteous working man sexting me from his Android.

Needless to say, I’m back on my submissive bullshit. But as I begin to remerge from my cocoon of sorrow-induced celibacy, I can’t help but notice just how drastically the affair reshaped my entire concept of intimacy. There is one common feature all my recent attempts at securing a good fuck buddy share: a desire for strict monogamy.

Before him, I approached sex as anything but committal. Sure, some of that was due to internalized fatphobia, insofar as I didn't think I deserved anything more than an inconspicuous face-fuck in some law student’s PT Cruiser. But even in years prior to gaining weight, I had a very carefree relationship to physical intimacy and struggled to understand the exclusivity my partners just seemed to expect of me by default.

Unfortunately, I didn’t know much about ethical non-monogamy back then. I remember countless nights in college where I would be sitting next to my boyfriend surrounded by our beautiful friends, so in love with him but so desperate to taste everyone else. Often, he would watch while I kissed other women, and occasionally he would kiss them too. The most connected I ever felt to him was standing quietly nursing a cigarette while he made out with my roommate. It was as if I wasn’t even there, no expectation to restrain himself or police his own pleasure. For years I dreamed of a partnership devoid of those constraints altogether, as opposed to one where they were occasionally lifted owing to a few Bud Light Lime-A-Ritas and a desire to show off.

Cut to present day. The thought of being in another situation where I am invisible to someone as they enjoy another makes me physically ill. Intimacy no longer feels like a communal good but more like a scarce resource to be hoarded. Gone are the days when it felt freeing to fuck casually at 1am in some discreet parking lot, not knowing if I’d ever even see the person again. If I’m going to let someone’s hand grip my throat, they better make daytime plans with me first. I want to be perceived! No more skulking around in the shadows while a brooding accountant from New Jersey prays his wife doesn’t call in the middle of you calling him “Daddy”.

These are the sort of vows I made to myself immediately after the affair ended and have continued to hold onto until very recently. Of course, when I vocalized them to my friends and therapist, my value shift was met with nothing but relief and encouragement. “Yes! You finally are coming around to the idea that you deserve to be someone’s main priority!” or “You deserve to have someone all to yourself, you’re finally seeing your worth!” were among the words of affirmation people showered me with. And while they were all said in good faith, I’m realizing that these sentiments are centered around the far too common yet regressive idea that sexual exclusivity is synonymous with self-respect.

Even more disturbingly, I’m realizing how the pain of the affair has brought me dangerously close to adopting this view myself. How after nearly eight months of being someone’s slam piece, I started to subconsciously equate anything other than monogamy with dehumanization. Obviously, this is not a perspective that is authentic to me, and is very much the result of prolonged exposure to non-ideal sexual circumstances. But at the same time, I can’t just will my way into being who I was pre-adultery. The affair was transformative whether I like it or not.

This leaves me wondering: which of our sexual values are authentic and which are a reaction to previous negative encounters? If the latter ones win out, how can we maintain a sense of sexual empowerment?

It feels like an impossible question to answer, as it’s hard to tell where the perspective I gained from involving myself in such a morally bankrupt shit storm begins and the purely reactionary, envy-driven values end. Especially since for a good while after the break-up, I was certain I was enlightened, even though it did feel ridiculous hearing myself boast to my friends about how “I to sub for someone who won’t overtly smack my ass in the middle of TJ Maxx” because I’m DONE being kept a secret. Watch out everyone, she’s finally raised the bar!

Fortunately, it seems I’ve been given a chance to finally experiment with ethical non-monogamy the right way. I have been talking with a potential new dom who’s in a serious-but-open relationship, and while it’s taken me a while to determine whether being a secondary casual partner is something I am able to handle again, I think I am finally ready to explore!

We haven’t even hooked up yet (only talked/sexted furiously), and the vibe already feels more positive and open than things ever did with my ex-dom whose idea of quality time was briefly stopping by my Manhattan apartment for a quick facial before getting on the train back to his comfortably dispassionate Hoboken townhome. There’s no more schedule of when it’s acceptable to text, no feelings of guilt or immorality when my phone lights up with an exquisitely perverse vignette and I squirt all over my floral print IKEA sheets.

Most importantly, there is not another woman on the other side unknowingly living within a lie that I’m complicit in weaving. From what I have surmised, he and his partner share a happy, peaceful life together. Plus, even if he and I end up not vibing as play partners, I can now start forming new associations with causal sex and reconnecting with the values I had before the affair distorted my lens.

The purpose of this piece is not just to navel gaze at my own sexual values like some kind of horny Descartes sitting by the fire, mommy milkers spilling out of my long white nightgown. It’s also to encourage whoever may be reading to take some time to reflect on the experiences that have come to shape your notion(s) of intimacy. Certainly, I do not think everyone is non-monogamous deep down or that it’s somehow disempowering to desire exclusivity! I suppose I just believe there is great value in imagining what intimacy might look like without the pain, trauma and marginalization that so often informs how we come to define it.

For me personally, there is no going back to exactly who I was before. The pain of the affair may dull, but my relationship to sex will always be informed by those experiences as much as it’s also informed by other traumas like sexual assault and the difficulties of having a fat body. And while this pain may always live within me, the past doesn’t have to dictate future encounters. Imagination is a powerful tool for making progress. Something tells me the best I can do right now is continue to open my mind, make room for new memories, and surround myself with people who share my vision of sexual freedom.

Here’s to a new chapter of (ethical) depravity!