Beyond Serial Monogamy

Betty Dodson's picture
Mon, 04/27/2009 - 14:45
Submitted by Betty Dodson

Christmas Day 1966: After we exchanged gifts, I noticed Grant was staring off into empty space, a sign he was about to sink into one of his morbid depressions. To alter his mood, I asked if he'd like to make love before dinner. Instead of responding to my offer of sex, he began talking about how my gifts presented a problem. I'd given him my first pussy self portrait beautifully framed along with an old fashioned Victorian photo album with pictures he'd taken of us having sex with a Polaroid camera. He said the album would have to be hidden and he'd never be comfortable hanging my genital portrait. After all, he had to think of his maid's feelings as well as friends who visited.
At first I couldn't believe he'd said that. After feeling crushed, my rage surfaced. "You can take my goddamn Christmas present and shove it up your ass! No one will think to look there." I got my coat, and stormed out- slamming the door so hard it shook the wall.

A chill wind had just blown through our sexual Garden of Eden. For days, I obsessed over Grant ruining our first Christmas together. All those years he'd been looking at Girlie magazines of women with open inviting legs, how could he reject my first pussy portrait because of what his stupid maid might think? He could have hung it sideways and kept his big mouth shut. One minute I loved him, the next minute I hated him. But in spite of my decision to dump him, the magnetic pull of orgasms had me back in his bed the following weekend.

Sunday morning. I blink, stirred by a sexual charge. He's behind me in the spoon position with a wet finger caressing my clitoris, the head of his penis poised at the opening of my moist vagina. Lying perfectly still, he tenses and releases the muscles in his erect penis, causing subtle movements that send a sweet welling of desire throughout my body. Half awake, I began to rock back onto his firm cock, first the velvet tip, and then slowly, I suck him inside an inch at a time. As we merge, our connection creates a suction that makes each small movement hugely erotic. We began a slow rhythm leading upward, beat by beat, tiny thrust by thrust, until we both awaken fully in the midst of orgasmic splendor.

Later over a delicious brunch of waffles and bacon, out of the blue he began to criticize the way I dressed. He claimed to prefer a classical look instead of my artsy, extreme high fashion. Our mutual incriminations crossed in mid-air as I complained about his black moods messing up our sexlife. Suddenly I stopped. Instead of escalating the argument I calmly said, "I think we could both use some emotional distance. Let's start dating other people and still have sex every so often."

The minute the words were out of my mouth I felt a wave of relief. His face brightened and he thanked me for being so straightforward. He then admitted that he'd been agonizing over how to tell me that although he wanted to be with me, he also longed for sexual variety. After seventeen years of monogamy, except for the last year when he cheated, he wanted a little time to enjoy being single again, to date other women, but he could never find the right words for fear he might lose me.

That afternoon following a hot session of sex on his leather daybed in the living room, Grant was filled with theories about sexual freedom and non possessive love.

"Just think," he said pacing the floor, "If we both have the freedom to date other people without any secrecy or guilt, we'd have the best of both worlds: the security of an ongoing primary relationship along with sexual variety. Once we were past all the possessiveness inherent in Western society's notion of love, we could share a deeper level of sexual honesty with one another that would allow our relationship to last indefinitely."

The idea of getting married and having sex with one person an entire lifetime never made sense to me, but I didn't see any other way to live. Now at thirty-six, I'd met a man who was secure enough to try an alternative. The idea of sex being inclusive rather than exclusive had an integrity that appealed to both of our souls. What did I have to lose? If it didn't work out, I could always go back to having one lover at a time. That night we agreed to remain a primary couple while dating other people- a decision that would present a far bigger challenge that I could ever have imagined.

The following week I ran into Buddy, a rugged seaman I'd known for a couple of years, but never dated. His appearance was quite masculine and I figured he'd be fun in bed so I invited him over for dinner that weekend. Now confident in my sexuality, I visualized a seduction scene of the century. But when we got into bed my leading man couldn't get an erection and then had the colossal nerve to blame me!

He pointed to my new black lizard boots lying on the floor and snarled, "I like my women to be more feminine, but you remind me of Pussy Galore who will leave a path of broken genitals stomping around in those boots!" Then he abruptly up, got dressed and left without even so much as a goodnight kiss.

Confused and humiliated, I sank into a chair with a jumble of questions careening though my mind. What the hell had gone wrong? Why had I kept my mouth shut? How could I have let that "Pussy Galore" line go by without saying a word? That little macho prick! If he'd been more like James Bond we would have had a ball. That night I made a resolution: Next time I'd be on the alert for those macho types who want to fuck a sweet, young, helpless thing rather than have sex with a sophisticated, multi-orgasmic woman.

I'd just encountered my first rejection for stepping outside the traditional passive female sex role. Instead of waiting for Buddy to make the first move, I'd come right out and suggested we have sex first and eat later. Foolish me! At the time, I was not fully aware that I was challenging society's definition of the appropriate sexual behavior for women and had no idea what lay in store for me.

When I called Grant to tell him about my unsuccessful first sex date, he said he couldn't talk at the moment. His date had slept over and she was still there. He acted like a jerk, pretending it wasn't me on the phone, which made me so furious I hung up. It had been a long time since I'd had the sickening feeling of jealousy. Or was it envy? He'd probably had hot sex while my date was a bust. Later in the day, he called and apologized for not handling the phone call better. Then he assured me that the woman he'd been with had only made him appreciate me all the more. After we talked, I felt a little better and I also felt competitive. I'd grown up playing with three brothers as an equal, and I was determined to play this new non possessive sex game the same way. If men could date and enjoy casual sex, there was no reason why a woman couldn't do the same.

"My girlfriend's cousin Norman might fit the bill," I thought to myself. His lean, muscular body and craggy face, framed by a receding hairline like my father's, appealed to me. He also had a good sense of humor. On our second date I got very close to orgasm, just missing by a pubic hair. So far we'd only done straight fucking with no direct clitoral stimulation for me and we'd never had oralsex. Revving up my courage, I took a deep breath and asked him if he was interested in whether or not I had an orgasm? Shit! I couldn't believe it came out like that. My voice sounded so pathetic that I wanted to suck the words back into my mouth.

"Didn't you come?" he asked with his eyebrows raised. "All the other women I've made love to have orgasms. What's your problem?"

"Well, it's not exactly what I'd call a problem. I just need a little direct clitoral stimulation." Finally, I'd stated my pleasure. But the words "clitoral stimulation" set him off.

"My ex wife wanted everything stimulated. Sex with her was like being on a Hollywood set with all the goddamn candles, just the right music, and then after an hour of eating her pussy, she'd finally scream, 'Fuckme! Fuckme!' By then, I was too tired to get it up."

"Norman," I laughed, "It's not such a big deal. If I get on top and do my clitoris while we're making love I'll be able to have an orgasm." But to him my proposal sounded like I just wanted to use him as a dildo. He said he was a simple guy who liked old fashioned man on top sex. Heat from embarrassment flushed my face as I laid there listening in silence. He ended his monologue by saying something about civilization with its discontented women. When he told me I was too hung up on my clitoris and that I should learn to sensitize my vagina, I told him to go sensitize his asshole which ended that brief affair.

One Sunday afternoon I decided it would be fun to cruise the Museum of Modern Art for a spontaneous encounter. Standing in front of my favorite Modigliani nude, I started a conversation with a man who looked to be in his late thirties. He introduced himself as Stefano. His dark curly hair framed his pretty blue eyes and although I had a fleeting thought, "Don't make a date," I ended up giving him my address so we could meet later that same evening.

At eight o'clock sharp when the doorbell rang, in came Stefano, wired and ready to get laid, filling my foyer with alcohol fumes. That did it! Even though I was wearing my diaphragm I began my maneuvers to get him out. I told him I was a bit feverish and didn't feeling that well. Perhaps we could make a date some other time soon when I didn't have the flu coming on.

"You goddamn women are all alike," he exploded. "You make a date for sex, and then try to back out of it. What's the matter with you crazy, fucking broads anyway?"

He was right! I had made a sex date. Changing my mind mid-seduction had definitely put me in a precarious position. Sensing potential violence, I quickly sized up the situation. He was solidly built like a middleweight boxer. With my mind on red alert, I opted for self-preservation and decided I'd rather have a fast fuck than go toe to toe with Mr. Muscles and get the shit beat out of me. After all, I wasn't a timid little virgin and the sex might turn out to be better than the last date.
Once my decision was made, I calmly walked ahead of him toward the bedroom. When I began to undress he whipped off his clothes and fell flat on his back on top of the bed with his socks still on. The visual was actually humorous. Instead of following the advice Victorian mothers gave to their daughters, "Just close your eyes and think of England," I climbed on top, spit on his dick, put it in and clamped down with my pussy muscle. When he saw it was going to be a fast ride, he gave it all he had and after a dozen strokes, the little prick got off. I was amazed that someone could have an orgasm that big in so little time. Once he'd gotten his rocks off, he appeared quite peaceful. That's when I sweetly told him he'd better leave because my husband would be home pretty soon. He was dressed and out the door in a flash.
After he left, a trickling of his semen turned into a torrent of revulsion as I headed for the bathroom. After taking a white vinegar douche, I sank into a steaming hot bath to cleanse my feelings of disgust. As I soaked, I tried to analyze why I was feeling so upset and angry. I'd just had sex with someone I didn't like. So why was that such a big deal? I was never this miserable when I had to white out a canvas I'd worked on for months or erase most of a drawing I'd spent hours creating. The only way to learn about anything was by making mistakes. I concluded it was because I'd been brain washed to always associate sex with love not as a tactic to avoid violence.

When I finally had the grace to forgive myself I made a vow: From now on, I'd never again give a stranger my phone number or address. They could give me their information and I'd be the one to decide if I wanted to see them later or not at all.

This dating other people business wasn't going that well for me. Yet I remembered how I longed to have this kind of freedom when I was married. So far, the guys I'd encountered were not that good at sex and I wasn't interested in putting out if it didn't result in mutual pleasure and orgasm. No wonder women wanted to grab onto the first guy who sexually satisfied them. Meantime, Grant was deliriously happy and positive that we were on the right track. My intuition told me not to give up, and besides, there was nothing like a challenge to get my juices flowing. Maybe I'd just had a string of bad luck at my first few attempts with orgasmic casual sex.

The following week when I was fixing dinner for my girlfriend Karen Evans, my soon-to-be ex-husband showed up unexpectedly. High as a kite on martinis, he'd dropped by to tell me he was on his way to Mexico to get a fast divorce. His newly beloved was pregnant and they wanted to get married as soon as possible. After I faked being glad to see him, I disappeared into the kitchen to put dinner on hold. When I walked back into the living room, he was kissing Karen. I could see how embarrassed she was so I passed it off lightly. He was probably having a Henry Miller fantasy of visiting his ex wife and fucking her girlfriend. When he continued to hang around, I was angry with myself for not asking him to leave. The worst part was I knew why I'd kept my mouth shut- I was still dependent upon him for money since we'd signed our separation agreement.

After he left, Karen apologized saying she didn't know what to do when he grabbed her and started the kissing routine. I reassured her that it wasn't her fault. Then I told her about the Pussy Galore incident with Buddy, and we laughed ourselves silly as I imitated the appropriate stride for walking on broken genitals.

That night I tossed and turned in bed, racking my brain wondering why I felt so miserable. Finally a moment of clarity: No wonder I was feeling wretched, trapped, and helpless. I was dependent on Grant for my orgasms and dependent on my husband for money. It was like being married to two men! Who ever heard of a liberated woman with a double dependency on two men who were happily doing their own thing? No wonder I felt boxed in on all sides.

The first time Grant and I accidentally crossed paths at the same party, I was with an older man who wasn't really "my type" and Grant walked in with a gorgeous young blonde clinging to him adoringly. He was so busy with his new piece of ass that he didn't even see me. This time jealousy hit me like a ton of bricks- making me feel physically ill. I was about to faint, throw up, or both when I asked my date to take me home. Once alone in my apartment, I cried out in anger and frustration until my jealous rage melted into a torrent of tears as I lay across my bed.

In the middle of my crying jag, I abruptly stopped and sat up. This was the same emotional drama I'd been performing my entire adult life- falling into love, getting my heart broken, breaking up, and then falling into love again and again, ad nauseam. The last dramatic performance had been the night my husband moved out when I threw myself across the same bed, sobbing just like they did in the movies. Now here I was again, playing the same stupid melodramatic role of the helpless woman who'd been wronged by her man.

"Come on, Betty Anne," I told myself as I blew my nose, "Stop running this second-rate movie and get on with your life."

I walked into the bathroom, bent over the sink and splashed cold water on my face. Just then, a calm settled over me and beneath that, a bed rock of determination was forming. Jealousy was a form of temporary insanity. It drained my integrity and made me feel desperate. No orgasm, no matter how ecstatic, with any man, no matter how wonderful, was worth this kind of emotional pain and suffering. I looked into the bathroom mirror and renewed my commitment to becoming an independent woman who was no longer dependent upon one man for my orgasms, money, security, or happiness. Just then, I felt the first warm rush of my period. My pact had been sealed in blood!

Before going to bed, I remembered a comment Bertrand Russell made about jealousy. Changing the pronouns to fit myself, I copied it onto the wall with a magic marker next to the bathroom door where I could see it every day:
"Jealousy must be regarded not as a justifiable insistence upon one's rights but as a misfortune to the one who feels it and a wrong towards its object. When possessive elements intrude upon love, it loses its vivifying power. She who fears to lose that which makes the happiness in her life has already lost it."
As I stood admiring the precision of his words, I thought about the meaning of the word "love" for the first time. I was shocked to realize that my idea of love was based on romantic sentiments that were all basically self-serving. If I claimed to love Grant, why wouldn't I be happy that he was happy? And if I loved myself, why would I be so afraid of losing him to another woman? If either one of us discovered we were happier with someone else, it would make sense to pursue happiness rather than remain miserable and stay together.

Later in the week while writing in my journal, I had a flash of insight: I wasn't jealous of other women, I was jealous of men! Grant was the one who was having all the fun. Not only was he enjoying fabulous sex in our relationship, but he was also having orgasms with other women. On top of that, he had financial security with his investments, as well as social approval for his sexual adventures. I, on the other hand, was struggling to pay the bills with a measly monthly settlement; unable to have orgasms outside our primary relationship, and all of my girlfriends thought I was behaving like a tramp. None of them understood why I'd want to have sex with another man when I already had a lover. They wanted to know what on earth I was trying to prove. Believe me, there were moments I couldn't answer that question for myself.

The next time Grant and I got together, I read off a list of complaints. I ended by saying I didn't want to possess him. I wanted to be equal. He was seen as a desirable man, a successful bachelor, but society had no equivalent role for me other than a slut or a tramp. He nodded, saying I was describing the sexual double standard. While it had been around a long time, I'd just locked horns with it for the first time. He was surprised that I'd never noticed how society supported two views of women in a million ways- the virginal wife and mother was put on a pedestal and the fallen woman, the whore was debased.

"I don't believe in any goddamn double standard" I stormed. "I'm an artist and ordinary rules don't interest me! I'm claiming the right to have the same sexual freedom that men have."

"More power to you, Betty," he said thoughtfully. "Actually a woman who's into sex has many advantages because men are more readily available."

Then he began telling me about a date he'd had with a sexually repressed woman, and because he was patient enough to do a little teaching, she'd had her first orgasm with him. That did it! Jealousy consumed me once again and a rush of anger had my blood boiling. I wasn't about to sit there and listen to him talking about some other woman on my time. As far as I was concerned, he could take his non possessive sex and shove it. Another dramatic exit took place only this time I knocked over a lamp that crashed dramatically to the floor.

Now as an adult woman, was I going to accept defeat and buckle under to a sexual double standard? Sex could either enslave or liberate me. It was obvious that sex had been a form of slavery when I was trying to get or keep a man. So why couldn't sex become a path to liberation? I was determined to prove that as a woman, I could handle sexual mobility, make my own money, and be a bachelor with a fulfilling, orgasmic sexlife.

Following another month of trial and error, I finally broke through my orgasm dependency from ancient female conditioning of having sex with one-man-at-a-time. That orgasm was better than hitting a home run with the bases loaded. It happened the second time I went to bed with Charlie Smithers, a cute, easy going guy in his forties. While we were fucking, I stimulated my clitoris until I came. Fortunately, Charlie was secure enough not to insist that his penis had to be the sole creator of my pleasure. It invariably threw me off when a guy acted weird or seemed offended if I touched my clitoris during sex. I'd been protecting the male ego for so long it was second nature to stop whatever I was doing the minute a man showed signs of displeasure.

Liberating my orgasms from the iron grip of monogamy was only half of the equation. My financial dependency was put off until the day my former husband called and said he'd lost his job and there'd be no check that month. After I'd received a modest monthly payment for nearly a year, my vacation abruptly ended. With my back against the wall I quickly found a free lance job designing novelty items for an import company that paid the same amount I'd been getting: Five hundred dollars a month, an amount that was sufficient to live on modestly in the mid-sixties.

On our next date, Grant told me that I was the sexual woman of his dreams. He wanted me to understand that although I thought all of his dates were sexually perfect, it was far from true. Most of the women he'd gone out with didn't even like sex. When I reminded him that he got to determine what happened during sex because men were in control, he laughed, and said men only had the illusion of control. On several occasions he didn't have an orgasm because his date was either too begrudging about putting out, or showed impatience when it took him more than five minutes to come. In the end, men's illusion of having power netted them mere sexual crumbs. As I listened in amazement, I realized that guys were far more vulnerable than I had imagined. While the financial and sexual double standard appeared to favor men, his experiences made it clear that it ended up repressing male sexuality as well.

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FANTASTIC!!! Yes, I used all

Mon, 04/27/2009 - 21:48
A.U. (not verified)

FANTASTIC!!! Yes, I used all caps. I was so fascinated and riveted by your writing!! Betty, do you have an autobiography out already? I mean, I know youre an artist, but you are really a writer.

Im in a great "friends with benefits" kind of situation lately that I feel guilty about sometimes. I know, in this day and age we are all supposed to be hooking up all over the place, with no qualms. The sex is so amazing, so much better than with my ex-husband, and after reading your experiences I pledge to appreciate it every day.

Your story also made me wonder if women these days expect orgasms with their one-night hookups. Things have changed of course, but I really wonder. Have you done any research of that kind?

Love this. Betty definitely

Wed, 04/29/2009 - 04:29
Anonymous User (not verified)

Love this. Betty definitely needs to write an autobiography if she doesn't have one already. Amazing.

Truly Inspiring

Nina's picture
Wed, 04/29/2009 - 13:59

Each piece gets better than the last (if thats possible!). I could read your writings again and again Betty! Love it all Smile

Clear, concise and makes good sense!

tom.penry's picture
Wed, 04/29/2009 - 15:04

This is excellent, Betty.

Fantastic Writer

old-man's picture
Wed, 04/29/2009 - 23:15

You are a fantastic writer. You captivate me with every word. I am waiting for the day when your memoir hits the bookstores. You are really a very fascinating woman. Grant was a lucky man, God bless his soul.

Excellent essay

Fri, 05/22/2009 - 08:05
Ray McCabe (not verified)

Hi Betty,

We met a few years back at an AASECT conference. I have not attended for a few years and missed saying hi so reading this essay is the next best thing. Excellent job and very clear at framing the evolution of your sexual philosophy.



Thu, 05/28/2009 - 21:28
Cleoxcat (not verified)

Betty, what a great essay from your life! I really appreciate your straightforward plain-talking description of what you felt and thought. To me it feels so daring to put yourself out there, openly expressing your truth. You are an inspiration to me and to many others. Interesting what you describe about your unconscious attitude towards men and sexuality: I am 10 years behind you and also bought into the men-as-master-of-sex belief, and spent way too much time making them feel good at my own expense. I also agree with you about the way relationships in our society manifest themselves as one-on-one exclusivity, when the natural way for humans to be is to follow their curiousity. I am hoping the culture will change to be more accepting of all kinds of relationships. People shouldn't be limited to a finite number of boxes and labels. ---Cleo

Betty's Story

Wed, 11/08/2017 - 21:29
Catherine Adam (not verified)

Your story is so interesting.  I was in an open marriage for seventeen years and had a great variety of relationships.  With some men, I was orgasmic but not all.  I got involved with one man for eight years, he became good friends with my husband.  They even got together and bought me my birthday present one year.  It was a great time.
I realized that an open relationship takes a lot of honesty and trust.  It worked well for seventeen years until my husband had an affair with a woman who wanted to steal him from me.  She promised him that she would never have an affair and would give him a child, which I couldn't.
We divorced, they had a daughter and she had an affair.  They were divorced and we got back together, but he wanted a monogamous relationship, which was fine with me.  I was depressed and the antidepressants killed my libido. So I agreed.  It's been another seventeen years and we are really happy. 
I really hope you write your autobiography; it would be fascinating.  I really hope you do.  I've been following you since the 70's and you have always been fascinating.  Best of luck with the rest of your life, wishing you health, happiness and wealth.