There are at least a half dozen posts that I’ve promised to write in my previous posts, but I find myself constantly finding something more immediately interesting to talk about. So I’ll put off those for another time and today write about a particular interest of mine and why it makes my nonmonogamy adventure with SexyThing so much fun.
Everyone who’s spent time in the waters of over-intellectualized non-monogamy, this podcast/blog, Opening Up, The Ethical Slut, etc., knows the word ‘compersion’. But just in case, simply put, compersion is the opposite of jealousy: it is the phenomenon of experiencing pleasure for oneself from the pleasure a person close to you experiences from their interactions with a third party. SexyThing, for example, is highly compersive, and often would prefer to watch me with another woman than participate herself with either of us. In unscientific surveys, it seems to be more common amongst women than men, but who knows if that’s actually true or not.
Compersion is a wonderful thing; it creates a self-reinforcing positive cycle of pleasure. It turns solo experiences into joint experiences. It allows a couple in a non-monogamous relationship to very easily maximize pleasure and happiness without undermining the primary bond. The fact that SexyThing is compersive is the main reason we’re in this community, and it has made everything we’ve done in it even better.
I wish I were compersive. On an intellectual level, I like to think I am; there are few things in this world that bring me more joy than seeing her smile, and her happiness is my highest goal. But when push comes to shove, I just don’t feel it the way she does. Sure, watching her with another woman turns me on, but that’s less about experiencing pleasure from her pleasure and more about watching really sexy stuff happening. And while watching her with another guy doesn’t bother me the way I’d originally feared it would, it’s not something I get off on. I have spent many hours, and shed a few tears, trying to unlock the compersive door in my brain, but I haven’t done it yet. Maybe someday.
The closest I’ve come, and what I think might someday lead to a similar place, is my extreme exhibitionist streak. I think that, at its core, exhibitionism is showing off. Not just in a literal sense that you are showing people things, but in the figurative sense: hey, everyone, look at this; isn’t it awesome? For me, my exhibitionist streak extends to SexyThing. Hell, it’s probably almost entirely about SexyThing. I know I married up, and I want everyone to know it, too. I want to show her off, I want everyone to look at her and admire her, I want her to be seen. At the first party we went to, one of the big moments for us was when I convinced her to take her top off and walk around the room so that everyone could see her topless. At its core, I think I do it as a form of bragging; hey, everyone, look at this incredibly sexy woman; isn’t she awesome? and guess what…she’s mine.
There are certainly feminist theory folks who are going to cringe at that language, but she is mine. And I am hers. It goes both ways for us, though I’d freely admit that, when it comes to sex, it’s more about me possessing her than her possessing me. Sex and power are inherently intertwined for a lot of people, and we are no exception; the powerplay is part of what gets us going. And in this context, it leads to me wanting to show off the most incredible, invaluable, awesome thing I have: my SexyThing.
The way this blurs into an almost-compersion is that there is an element of sharing involved in the exhibitionism. I want to show her off, not just in having other people look at her, but also in having them experience just how incredible she is. It is of course fundamentally not compersion in the sense that my pleasure in the experience is not about her pleasure, it is about the pleasure of the third party, the person (man or woman) with whom I’m sharing her. Obviously in practice this is not the way it works: she picks all her play partners and is always in total control of the situation. But in the fantasy, I am the one who gives the other person the chance to experience this pleasure. I let them have, for a brief moment, and in a fundamentally incomplete way, what I get every day. And if that small taste elicits a little jealousy, then I’m certainly not going to say no to that, either.
One of the things I was most excited about at Desire was her being naked in public. That only really happened outside the hottub on the last day, when the bikini bottoms finally came off out on the beach. Even though we experienced some truly amazing sexy things that week, all the public nudity, even just the toplessness, was a highlight for us both. I knew everyone was looking at her, wanting her, maybe even a little jealous of me that I have her. And she knew that I was loving every second of it, which made her enjoy it. And truth be told, her enjoyment of it also made me enjoy it even more. So I guess in some ways, I actually am compersive after all.