"As I write this, my children are asleep in their room, Loretta Lynn is on the stereo, and my wife is out on a date with a man named Paulo"
Hah! Paulo! Love that name! Paulo the Portuguese horndog!
And no, the above isn't a text to a suicide hotline. It's a manifesto, by a writer for New York magazine named Michael Sonmore, titled "What Open Marriage Taught Me About Feminism."
The idea is that "closed marriage"–monogamy, fidelity, and all that vow stuff–is actually a form of patriarchy. So a guy whose wife is out getting her steak broiled with some Latin sizzle while he stays home and babysits the kids isn't a "cuckold"–please don't use that outdated misogynist word! He's, yes, the ultimate in sensitive, caring, and ideologically advanced spouses.
Before my wife started sleeping with other men, I certainly considered myself a feminist, but I really only understood it in the abstract. When I quit working to stay at home with the kids, I began to understand it on a whole new level. I am an economically dependent househusband coping with the withering drudgery of child-rearing. Now that I understand the reality of that situation, I don’t blame women for demanding more for themselves than the life of the housewife….
Monogamy meant I controlled her sexual expression, and, not to get all women’s-studies major about it, patriarchal oppression essentially boils down to a man’s fear that a woman with sexual agency is a woman he can’t control. We aren’t afraid of their intellect or their spirit or their ability to bear children. We are afraid that when it comes time for sex, they won’t choose us. This petty fear has led us as a culture to place judgments on the entire spectrum of female sexual expression: If a woman likes sex, she’s a whore and a slut; if she only likes sex with her husband or boyfriend, she’s boring and lame; if she doesn’t like sex at all, she’s frigid and unfeeling. Every option is a trap.
Feminism always comes back to sex, even when we’re talking about everything else. The point isn’t that all women should be sexual adventurers. Celibacy is as valid an expression of sexuality as profligacy. The point is that it should be women who choose, not men — even the men they’re married to. For my wife, the choice between honoring our vows and fulfilling her desires was a false choice, another trap. She knew how deep our love was, and knew that her wanting a variety of sexual experiences as we traveled through life together would not diminish or disrupt that love. It took me about six months — many long, intense conversations, and an ocean of red wine — before I knew it, too.
When my wife told me she wanted to open our marriage and take other lovers, she wasn’t rejecting me, she was embracing herself. When I understood that, I finally became a feminist.
Of course it's not all paradise and no trouble in the very open Sonmore marriage:
Recently, my wife went on a date and fell asleep at his apartment. I hadn’t heard from her since 10 p.m., she still wasn’t home at 6 a.m. My texts went unanswered and my calls went to voicemail. A tight knot of dread lodged in my stomach as I imagined all kinds of dire scenarios and realized that I not only didn’t know where she was, I had no idea whom she was with. I pictured myself going to the police saying, “I think she’s in Red Hook with a guy named Ryan. I don’t know his last name, but I think he’s a graphic designer?” I’m not sure there’s actually a word for the unique blend of acute terror and unforgivable shame I felt that morning imagining that I’d lost my wife to Ryan, the maybe graphic designer. When she finally texted me at 7:30 a.m., relief coursed through me like morphine. She wrote, “fuckfuckfuckfuck Im soooooo sorry. Fell asleep.”
Ha ha! "Fell asleep"!
Now, Sonmore strikes me as the kind of guy to whom I could sell that bridge I've got in Brooklyn. First his wife talks him into being the passive stay-at-home dad while she goes out and wins the bread and gets to call the shots. Then she pulls out the big piece of feminist wool: "I need to embrace myself." Isn't there a Roman comedy about a situation like this?
Sonmore hastens to assure us that he, too, has "carte blanche" in the extra-marital sex department: "I just don’t use mine as much as my wife uses hers.
I bet not. Would you want to have sex with a twerp who gives you some twaddle about "feminism" when his wife is out under the limbo stick with "Paulo." Furthermore–and here's a hint, Mr. Sonmore–most women actually like small children, and they don't cotton up to men who whine that raising them is "withering drudgery."
As Glenn Reynolds puts it, "Paulo's not a feminist.