August 1, 2013 by aggiesez
EDITOR’S NOTE: I’ve written a fair amount about safer sex vs. “fluid bonding” (barrier-free sex) — particularly, the reasoning behind my own personal choice to avoid unprotected sex. I’ve made this choice in part for for sexual health reasons — but also because I enjoy safer sex immensely. And I’ve found that safer sex with all partners vastly simplifies my relationships by avoiding the complications that often arise when people make fluid bonding a symbol of love or commitment.
Of course, some people do feel very strongly that fluid bonding enhances their sense of emotional intimacy, sensual pleasure, etc. That’s totally fine, and it’s usually not a problem when people think and communicate clearly about this choice.
This guest post, by Master SoNSo (who writes Toastology) eloquently expresses the perspective of how fluid bonding can be important to emotional bonding in a relationship — and how to handle that decision responsibly. I’m publishing his remarks here to demonstrate a different but equally valid way that solo poly people (or anyone) can approach this issue.
This post was written as a contribution to a discussion on the Fetlife group Living as a Single Secondary, and is republished here with his permission.
Master SoNSo writes:
Fluid bonding for me is absolutely an emotional space. Reaching a point where I’m comfortable fluid bonding with someone is absolutely a signifier of the emotional significance of the relationship, and I’m very clear about this up front.
Especially as a solo polyamorist who tends to date married women, the point at which we start even discussing a fluid bond is, in itself, a milestone marker when measuring the intimacy and importance of the relationship. For me, it shows that I’m no longer just a source of entertainment, but have become someone who has been embraced as a whole human being — that she recognizes my flaws and my strengths and still wishes to find a place for me in her life. For her, it is quite often demonstrative of a desire to really, truly understand and embrace me, and all my quirks.
Hrm…I don’t think I’m phrasing that well. Let me try again. Because a fluid bond with me isn’t part of the Relationship Escalator Ride, it symbolizes a desire to include me in her life as a long-term commitment. It also symbolizes her interest in understanding exactly who I am, who else I love in my life, and the exact nature of what sort of STI risks I bring into her life.
It also suggests an acceptance of me by my metamour, her husband, because my partners are usually already fluid bonded with their existing partners. We all have to sit down and understand exactly what sort of risks we’ve just shifted into our lives.
As someone who used to engage in extremely anonymous yet STI-aware play, as someone who has been in a long-term relationship with a partner who had a non-communicable immunity deficiency disorder, I am VERY aware of STI risks and super active when it comes to my sexual health. I’m also “effectively single” in 99% of the social situations I engage in, which means I optimize my sexual availability by being able to be concise, proactive and unhesitating when assessing new sexual risk vectors that approach me — not just for the obvious sexual acts, but also in terms of how STIs might transmit across my toys and fetishes.
My rough guidelines are as follows:
- Most importantly: I choose who I fluid bond with. You choose who you fluid bond with. There are no other factors, considerations or claimants on that discussion. If you need to manage your other relationships before discussing a fluid bond with me, that is your responsibility, same goes for me.
- Once I choose to fluid bond with one partner, there is a “grace period” during which we have made the decision but not yet consummated the act. We use this time to notify other partners, deal with fallout, reconsider expectations, and truly measure our willingness to engage in this step — also, to make sure that the emotional resonance is understood and properly measured
- As a male, I do not require condoms to receive oral sex, regardless of fluid bonding level. All the research that I’ve shown indicates that the primary risk of transmission is from me to my partner, so if s/he doesn’t insist, I’m not going to. That said, I try to make a point of offering, and I carry poly-isoprene condoms for both sex and oral sex. (In other words, I have condom preferences for oral sex, and take responsibility for having my preferences be available).
- I don’t do “temporary bonds.” I once had a partner who I would visit for several weeks at a time, and she wanted us to be fluid bonded when together, but didn’t want to consider us fluid bonded when we were apart. This is no longer something I’m willing to do. A fluid bond is a milestone event for me, not a health management technique.
- Exit strategies. After reading a recent K&P essay (available to Fetlife members), I think I may implement a new rule that the fluid bonding conversation must also include an “Exit Strategies” conversation. If I’m going to fluid bond with someone, then their value to me is far greater than just the sex, and I want to keep them in my life. This essay makes some very good points about preparing your relationship ahead of time to survive difficulties including the end of romance — and I think that saying, “Okay, I’m willing to take this incredibly vulnerable step with you” simply OUGHT to include a discussion about how to handle that vulnerability. The end of a fluid-bonded relationship is infinitely more painful than other relationships for me. It makes sense that I should take that into account when taking that step.