Survey for our book: How are your relationships off the escalator?


January 13, 2013 by aggiesez

Love was never one-size-fits-all. Generally we don’t hear much that’s positive (or much at all) about significant intimate relationships which don’t conform to the two-people-monogamous-shared-household-kids-til-death-do-us-part model — or at least, relationships on a clear path toward that goal.

Still, people manage to have all kinds of intimate relationships that nurture their spirit and sexuality — and that enrich their lives, families and communities. In fact, there are enough ways to have relationships that don’t involve riding society’s standard relationship escalator that those alternatives could fill a book.

So: A book you shall have! My friend Lily Lloyd and I are writing a book tentatively titled: Off the escalator: Great relationships that don’t follow society’s rules. You can help us make this book great by taking our survey.

Lily’s blog, The Black Leather Belt, is quite popular in kink and poly circles. She’s also the author of a new book: Discipline: adding rules & discipline to your BDSM relationship (which is a great read and useful even if you’re not kinky). I recently interviewed her for this blog about what polyamory can learn from kink.

As we work on this book, we’re collecting stories about all kinds of alternative relationships. We’d love to hear your story. So we’ve created a survey to make it easy to gather stories and data about off-the-escalator relationships.

Take our survey now!

Tell your friends! Share this shortlink to our surveyinvitation:

This survey can be completed in as little as 3-5 minutes. But feel free to take as much time as you need to offer as much detail as you like.

Anyone at all is welcome to take our survey — but obviously we’re especially interested in hearing from people whose current, former, or desired future relationships do not conform to the standard relationship escalator in some significant way.

Off-escalator relationships can take many forms: honest and fully consensual non-monogamy (including polyamory), kink partners, swinging, casual hookups, monogamish arrangements, non-cohabitating primaries, and much more.

We want to hear what your off-escalator relationships are like, what they’ve been like in the past, and what you desire for the future. What advantages and disadvantages did they offer? We want to hear your direct experiences. We want to collect and reflect a diverse range of views.

People who take our survey agree that we can use the information they supply in our book and on our blog. Anonymous or pseudonymous responses are allowed. We do request an e-mail address so we can ask follow-up questions. We will not share our database of responses, or your e-mail address, with anyone.

Thanks, and looking forward to your insight to help move this project forward!

16 thoughts on “Survey for our book: How are your relationships off the escalator?

  1. Jesse says:

    Would it be helpful to you if multiple partners in the same relationship took the survey? (does that make sense) Like would you want me to send this to my life partner or just have me fill it out?

  2. lisamadeleineu says:

    Don’t ask for “Your gender assignment at birth” – it’s irrelevant. And especially don’t make it mandatory!

    • aggiesez says:

      I appreciate your perspective on this. Here’s our quandary: A big reason why we’re doing this survey is to gather perspectives from a diversity of people, representing a diversity of relationship approaches. We definitely want to be able to give voice to trans people, who often have unique perspectives and experiences which are often underrepresented in books about relationships.

      Which means: we need some way to identify trans people. Listing “trans male/female” as a gender identity option is unsatisfactory and offensive to many trans people.

      Asking about gender assignment at birth vs gender identity allows us to search through the high volume of responses to easily find the stories of trans people. If we did not ask for this, it would be much more difficult for us to find trans stories to highlight. Just searching the raw text of all responses for references to a character string like “trans” is unreliable, since people use all sorts of terminology to discuss gender topics. (And that’s not even taking typos into account!)

      So: We’re trying to balance the goal of making sure trans voices/views don’t get lost in crowd, with the need to make the results of this survey fairly efficient to delve into and grasp as we create this book.

      I’m sure our current solution is imperfect — and I doubt there is a perfect solution that will please everyone. But considering that goal and that need, can you suggest a better approach?

      • Thanks for your response. I can tell you that as a trans person, my response to this situation was to not answer the survey at all – so you end up losing my voice.

        I would recommend asking people for their gender identity, and afterwards asking people to check any of the following boxes that they identify with which could have “trans”, “intersex”, and “other” with fillable field, and list these with multiple selections possible. This way, you can highlight the voices of trans people who choose to identify themselves as such, while not forcing anyone to do so. From my part, I’m completely happy to identify myself as trans, but not to report my assigned gender as though it’s some pertinent information about me.

      • aggiesez says:

        That’s a good suggestion. Let me see if there’s a way I could do that without screwing up the database of the hundreds of surveys already received. Thank you. I’ll see what I can do.

      • Sounds good. Let me know how it goes, and if you figure something out I’ll do the survey.

  3. code16 says:

    Apologies for being another ‘hey, how about ___’ person, but I wanted to point out that by saying “intimate (sexual/romantic/erotic) relationship”, you are leaving out queerplatonic relationships, as well as basically any asexual aromantic relationships, both the monogamous and the polyamorous ones. If these are not relationships you want to include in your survey, that’s your decision to make, but not mentioning them at all, and equating ‘intimate’ with ‘sexual/romantic/erotic’ is contributing to the erasure of these relationships and to the idea that they are less valid/important/etc.

    (I enjoy reading your blog, think the survey is interesting and awesome, and look forward to seeing the results. I’m sorry for my first comment instead being critical. But, this is an issue that’s close to me and that tends to get left out a lot, so I wanted to bring it up).

    • aggiesez says:


      I will try to adapt the survey, but please bear in mind that I’m doing this on top of my paying work, which means sometimes I’ll have less time than others to try to adapt. This week is one of those weeks, I’m slammed. I will try to get to this over the weekend.

      That said, bear in mind that the survey is only one way we can gather info for this book. Stories are more important than data for this project. If you don’t think our survey is the best way to share what you have to tell, you can always e-mail me. The survey makes it easier for Lily and me to spot trends and decide which people we’d like to try to interview; e-mails are harder to manage from a process perspective, but I try very hard to follow up on contributions sent by e-mail.

      Re: aromantic relationships: The difficulty there will be distinguishing them from close friendships. I’m not sure how to do that — or even if such a distinction should be made. I do think friendship is an important topic but it’s way more than what we can cover in this project. If someone can share their experiences of this kind of platonic/aromantic relationship specifically in the context of how it’s an alternative to the standard relationship escalator, and also how it’s different from friendship, that could be very interesting and relevant for this project.

      I don’t want to devalue aromantic relationships. But we need to keep this project focused if we hope to get it finished and out there someday 🙂 And this book definitely won’t be the last word on anything.


      • code16 says:

        Perfectly understood, and I’m sorry again – I wanted to comment more out of ‘this is something that gets overlooked a lot, and I think it’s important to have visibility and draw attention to it’ than out of ‘this is something you’re doing wrong’ feelings. As noted, I think the survey is rather great.

        It’s been on my mind, because I recently came across a search for specific resources for asexuals and aromantics involved in polyamorous/polyplatonic relationships, where the person looking said “everything I can find defines an intimate relationship as being romantic and/or sexual”.

        re: aromantic relationships. Yeah, it’s the ‘distinction from close friendships’ issue that causes me to bring it up, because I’ve run into similar responses before. I think the central point is, the different between the two is the way the people involved think about it and define it – people are in a relationship when they feel and say that they are.

        And, for people who desire these relationships, they’re often caught between two parts of the relationship escalator. On one hand, the escalator ideology says that life partners should be sexual and romantic. This is an issue for the people who want asexual aromantic life partners. On the other hand, escalator ideology also says that people should have life partners and be monogamous with them. So, some people then want monogamous asexual aromantic life partners. And, some people don’t, which puts them off the escalator on that count too. And, polyamory can be very relevant to people who want asexual aromantic partners, but have this desire toward people who are not themselves asexual and/or aromantic.

        Anyway, thanks again for your writing and for helping me think about a lot of stuff I hadn’t been thinking about. Lots of good wishes and such for this project.

      • aggiesez says:

        Thanks for starting to explain this, but I must admit (and this may be my own failing) I’m not grasping what exactly you mean and how/whether our book might approach it.

        Could you perhaps explain an example or two of how this might work in real life? Right now it’s all feeling rather abstract and philosophical to me — and I’m just not seeing the difference between what you’re describing and, say, sharing a house with your best friend. (Again, not trivializing that, I’d do that in a heartbeat. But that might be outside the scope of our book.)

      • code16 says:


        Well, let’s say I do share a house with my best friend. My friend and I happen to have romantic feelings toward each other. However, we’re still friends and not in a relationship.
        Alternatively, let’s say my friend and I are having sex – we like to do that and it works for us. However, we are, again, still friends and not in a relationship. So, sex and romantic feelings are not the deciding factors between friendship and a relationship.

        The thing that would make us in a relationship would be us deciding/agreeing that we are in a relationship. If that’s something we both want, that’s a step we both want to take, so we do. Maybe one of us ‘asked the other out’, and the other said yes. Etc. At that point, we’re in a relationship. What particularly this means to us is an individual thing, but it is something we’re feeling and acting with accordingly.

        Similarly, people in queerplatonic relationships have decided/agreed that this is the case. Maybe one of them asked the other ‘would you like to be my queerplatonic partner’, and the other said yes. Etc. What particularly this means to them is an individual thing, but it is something they’re feeling and acting with accordingly.

        And, this doesn’t necessarily mean this needs to be in your book – a book can be devoted to just romantic, sexual, and erotic relationships.

        But, I’m curious, given what you’re asking – what then to you is the difference between a relationship and a friendship?

      • aggiesez says:

        OK, Thank you for explaining. I think I’m getting closer, but not quite there yet.

        This may sound silly, but: is there any fiction (short stories, novels, films) that shows this in action? I relate really well to stories, that might help me get it.

      • code16 says:

        That doesn’t sound silly at all. *Thinks*. Sadly part of invisibility tends to mean being left out of most media portrayals, and also a lot of work-creators often don’t include relationship negotiation in the relationships they write/show.

        I tried looking up ‘queerplatonic’ on Archive of Our Own – this is the first one I found that I think might convey the idea well (it also happens to me nonmonogamous).

      • Clare says:

        (I know this is more than a month later, but code16 is expressing the exact same feelings I have, so I really wanted to reply)

        re: media portrayals of asexual relationships, what’s going on between Holmes and Watson on the tv show Elementary certainly applies. Joan and Sherlock live together and are becoming emotionally attached to each other, but there’s no sexual component at all. At the end of episode 1×16 Sherlock gives a speech to Joan where he asks her to, essentially, make their relationship official.

  4. Stella says:

    I really understand and feel for code16. All human connection can be powerful and is always a little bit o love. Sometimes even more so when it is not sexual. It doesnt mean there is not desire of one sort or another. Its eros in the larger sense of the word. I support uou!

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