Writer’s Wednesday: The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton & Janet Hardy

Ethical_slutThe Ethical Slut: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships & Other Adventures by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy is a fascinating look at different ways of doing relationships. It doesn’t tell you how to live your life one way or another, but it asks thought-provoking questions that helps you to consciously choose what kind of relationship(s) you want, and it gives you the tools to make the most of said relationships(s).

One of the main things I took away from The Ethical Slut is that I have, at least emotionally, been stuck thinking about life in terms of so-called “starvation economies”, i.e., the idea that life is a zero-sum game and that if someone else has something that means there is less for you. While there are a few things in your life, e.g., time and resources, that are indeed limited, most things are not. There is no set limit of beauty, intelligence, sexiness or love.

Another important point is learning to trust yourself, that you do have the skills to look after yourself and that you don’t need to (and in my opinion shouldn’t) rely on another person to take care of you. Learning to ask for what you need (but also knowing and respecting that that doesn’t necessarily mean getting it, or getting it when you want it), daring to be brave and vulnerable by opening up to people, setting and respecting boundaries, knowing yourself and owning your own feelings.

When you respect your own limits, others will learn to respect them too. People tend to live up to your standards when you are not afraid to set them.

To truly know yourself is to live on a constant journey of self-exploration, to learn about yourself from reading, therapy, and, best of all, talking incessantly with others who are traveling on similar paths. This hard work is well worth it because it is the way you become free to choose how you want to live and love, own your life, and become truly the author of your experience.

A basic precept of intimate communication is that each person owns her own feelings. No one “makes” you feel jealous or insecure – the person who makes you feel that way is you. No matter what the other person is doing, what you feel in response is determined inside you.

The problem is that when you blame someone else for how you feel, you disempower yourself from finding solutions. If this is someone else’s fault, only that person can fix it, right? So poor you can’t do anything but sit there and moan.
On the other hand, when you own your feelings you have lots of choices. You can talk about how you feel, you can choose whether or not you want to act on those feelings (no more “the devil made me do it”), you can learn how to understand yourself better, you can comfort yourself or ask for comfort. Owning your feelings is basic to understanding the boundaries of where you end and the next person begins and the perfect first step towards self-acceptance and self-love.

Perhaps the most important step in dealing with problems is to recognize that they will happen and that it’s okay that they do. You’ll make mistakes. You’ll encounter beliefs, myths, and “buttons” you never knew you had. There will be times when you’ll feel pretty awful.

Knowing, loving, and respecting yourself is an absolute prerequisite to knowing, loving, and respecting someone else. Cut yourself some slack.

Everybody feels bad sometimes, so you are in excellent company. And when you have the courage to be open about a vulnerable feeling, everyone around you gets permission to be open with theirs.

Actually this book is so quotable, my copy has many many yellow highlights. In this review I have chosen to focus on the parts that I believe are applicable to everyone (and I honestly do feel like everyone could gain something from reading it), it does also have plenty of information on ethical/consensual non-monogamy (in all its variations), as well as safe and safer sex practices.

4 Comments

  1. I’ve not read the book, but from what you write about it, I can say I like there are books like that. Everything that makes people wake up and question given cultural or societal standards is good and widens perspective. Things don’t have to be the way they’re taught and practiced usually! This is why intercultural studies are so freeing for the mind: By learning that elsewhere people do otherwise (and consider that “normal”), you get the idea of healthy relativism.

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    • I agree with you wholeheartedly Kath. I’m not necessarily against people living a “mainstream” life, but I am against people living an unexamined life. I think it is incredibly healthy to take a good hard look at things, and the way we do them, and decide if that makes sense to you or not.

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