How do we navigate this frontier of non-exclusive fornication with compassion and grace? How do we resolve relationship conflicts in a way de-centered from heteronormativity?
For these questions and more, polyamory pundit Andre Shakti is here for you.
My husband is dating a sex worker. When we first opened our marriage I set a boundary that I wanted to get tested with any new partners of his. This helps me feel confident he's being safe and can sometimes be a fun friend date. But she won't get tested with me. She says she prefers clinics that specifically treat sex workers, and doesn't feel comfortable bringing me along into that space. I'm frustrated. I think this is unreasonable and petty, like she's trying to exclude me from her little world. But she's not a Freemason, she has sex for money. I'm at the point of putting my foot down with my husband about dating her. Am I wrong?
I’m going to break your question down into addressing three separate issues:
1. The sex worker not feeling comfortable getting tested with you.
I don’t mean to sound insensitive, but not everything is all about you. As a sex worker myself, I will tell you that it can be enormously difficult (particularly if you’re not in a progressive urban area) to receive comprehensive, non-discriminatory healthcare of any kind.
Many sex workers are uninsured as our work still isn’t considered legitimate labor by mainstream society—that significantly limits our options.
Most healthcare providers are never trained to work with sex worker populations, which means that many times when we go to the doctor we’re put in the uncomfortable and unfair position of having to educate them about our work and its inherent risks (instead of the other way around).
Some doctors will even refuse to treat us and/or will insist on addressing us as victims. As such, once we finally find an inclusive provider we can afford and feel comfortable with, we’re apt to stick with that person or clinic. And yes, some of those places (such as the amazing St James Infirmary in San Francisco) exclusively serve sex workers and their partners, and you just have to respect that.
2. You not trusting the sex worker.
This seems to be the catalyst for my first point. You don’t trust the sex worker’s word, so you want to get tested together so she can’t lie about her results. All I can say is that both building and earning trust take time. There are scores of nonmonogamous individuals out there who aren’t immediately put at ease by a partner’s new partner, but they don’t present them with an incredibly invasive ultimatum: share their personal medical information with a stranger or disappear from their circle.
3. This particular negotiation with your husband...
...which obviously is not working and, frankly, kind of sucks. I’m truly happy that you seem to be both educated about safe(r) sex practices and committed to maintaining your health and the health of your partner. That being said, not everyone feels the same nonchalant “sharing-is-caring” way about their private health information, and that’s okay! I can easily see how the thought of a relative stranger accompanying you to a testing appointment in the very beginning stages of your relationship with their partner would feel like overkill, no matter how well-intentioned.
I’m curious as to whether your husband has had past partners agree to this, or if this is the first woman who you’ve tried it with. I’m also left wondering how “informed” this woman was of this particular negotiation before getting involved with your husband. Perhaps he never told her about your rule, or waited until after intimacy had developed already. Regardless, here are some alternatives
(Warning: they all involve renegotiating your rule):
a) You scrap the rule entirely.
b) You acknowledge her desire to get tested at a place of her choosing with respect, and if you feel the desire is partially or entirely financially motivated, you offer to pay for her testing at a location of your choice. Just know that without comprehensive healthcare, full STD panels usually run around $200.00.
c) You allow her to get tested where she wants, but ask for a printout or screen shot of her test results. Keep in mind, however, that some clinics don’t routinely supply them, instead opting to communicate results over the phone.
d) You reevaluate how much you trust your husband and his judgement in choosing partners, and the two of you renegotiate your rule so that he’s using protection and having a conversation about safe(r) sex and sexual history before pulling a new person into bed. Make sure you’re both on the same page about which safe(r) sex practices he’s utilizing, though, as many men think that using condoms during penetration means they’re eliminating all risk. Introduce the idea of using nitrile or latex gloves for fingering and handjobs, as well as dental dams for oral sex. Then it’s up to your husband to be an ethical, considerate person and respect your wishes. If you don’t trust him to do that, then you guys probably shouldn’t be open in the first place.
I run a local poly meetup at a space I rent (I don't live there, but it's still "my" space and not shared/safe/communal, etc). There's a couple that practice cuckoldry who've asked to attend the next one and I'm feeling really pensive and uncomfortable. From my experience the cuckolding lifestyle is built on racism and punishing men for failing to live up to masculinity. To me it seems beyond kink, more like a toxic behavior pattern. But I realize there's a generational gap, and cuckolds and swingers are kind of our predecessors in a way and I don't want to enact a sort of ageism. I'm torn. What do you think?
I’m all about transparency, and in the spirit of full disclosure I’ll let you know that I had to outsource in order to answer your question! The cuckolding fetish is one of a few that I’ve yet to indulge in. So I phoned my friend Alex Morgan, a Bay Area sex and relationship coach with a fluency in cuckolding:
“Cuckolding in a fetish context is eroticizing real or imagined infidelity. For cuckolds, the psychological and emotional discomfort are as much of a turn-on as the physical arousal. After all, masochism isn’t limited to the physical body. 'Cuckolding' is the term for the general act. Interracial BBC cuckolding, or ‘black stud cuckolding’, are typically used to distinguish the race-dependent flavor, which is a combination of cuckolding and racial objectification. Cuckolding is not itself about treating all Black men like walking dildos.”
“The thing that surprised me the most about cuckolding was how sweet it can be. No matter how many ‘bulls’ the woman has, how sexually lacking her husband is, or how she humiliates him, their love always remains in focus. Cuckolds get to fail sexually, still see their partners happy, participate indirectly in their partner's sex life, and not be abandoned.”
Now for my two cents. I’m unclear as to whether your poly meetup actually involves intimate play, or whether it’s just a social happy hour for like-minded individuals. It’s one thing to be concerned about a couple enacting a racially-charged scene in the midst of a crowd of potentially non-consenting attendees. But it’s an entirely other thing to presume knowledge of someone’s predilections and pass judgment on them based on your assumptions, so much so that you’re considering banning them from an event. Does that make sense?
If it’s a social non-play gathering, I’m inclined to tell you to mind your own beeswax and avoid “yucking someone’s yum”. If they seem open to it (and don’t find it inappropriate or invasive), I’d also encourage you to ask them questions about cuckolding so you can perhaps gain a better understanding of it. Come at it from a place of compassion and genuine curiosity rather than preexisting notions and bias.
If we’re in fact speaking of a play event, however, and the couple in question is an interracial one, perhaps kindly outlining your concerns and asking what kind of play they typically engage in in public spaces ahead of time can help you vet anything potentially problematic. Good luck!