I found this comment on open relationships in the archives, posted 8 years ago. I gave a joke response at the time, never having been in any sort of relationship except a closed, and suffocatingly monogamous one.
“You’ve gotta understand the man’s rules for an open relationship. He is able to sleep with anyone, ogle and chat up any of your girlfriends and his exes, either in front of you or behind your back, and take off without telling you. The girl must only “have relations” with pre-agreed characters, who must be dweebs of some sort or other, to avoid shattering the fragile male ego, and every situation must be discussed and assessed on it’s merits.”
Since, I’ve had many conversations about polyamoury with Dani and my closest friends. The conclusion is that every open relationship is different, but being in an open relationship is nowhere like being single. Sexual jealousy is an unpleasant, destructive emotion evolved to ensure the survival of your genes in your offspring. It exists across a huge range of species; it is nasty, powerful and real. Unlike other animals though, we can recognize it for what it is, and regulate it to allow ourselves some sexual novelty.
“We all, subconsciously or consciously, control the bodies of our lovers.” A friend of mine told me, when I was getting worked up about why we’re still stuck in an old patriarchal framework that is the cultural manifestation of our selfish genes. That line stuck with me for how it re-framed the way I thought about sexual jealousy. I think part of its impact was that it came from a gay man talking about his experience, so it was not riddled with the burden of male entitlement. I guess up till that point, I had felt that every man I had dated got jealous because of the whole power-based, women as property belief entrenched in the world we live in. But put like that; I guess it’s natural to feel jealous when your lover, of any gender, exceeds the bounds of freedom in a relationship that are drawn to keep the relationship safe and secure. Which is the whole point of a relationship.
In response to that old comment, the rules of an open relationship are drawn by both or more, male, female or otherwise. Open relationships that work, I find, are very fair. And at least among my friends, nobody takes more freedom than they’re willing to give.