I agree with a lot of this and also feel like you’ve provided some perspective from your age group and experiences that I don’t have. But what you’ve described here is what I think of as poly — just a slightly different version since it’s not a shift from once-monogamous relationships. It doesn’t sound to me like these younger people who are starting off with poly are in closed relationships most of the time, and that was my point. I don’t come across much poly that is closed. With few exceptions (your relationship being one) the relationships are open to other people, at least in theory.

As I described in something I wrote recently, (but can’t remember what now), we met a young woman (probably 25 or so) at a club several years ago. She was in a cohabitating partnership with another woman but also had a boyfriend. We met her because he was bartending at the club we were at and she was there, meeting and sexually engaging with other people while he worked. Then they were going to go home together and the next day she’d go back to her house. That’s very different from what you were talking about about a woman expected to be available to a couple but not see other people in between.

I’m also going to keep challenging your distinction between a “booty call” and something more. When we were seeing Nat in person, it was only ever once a month. That’s about how often we see Tam. We see Lane even less than that because he lives in a nearby state. As I recently wrote, sex isn’t the same as emotional connection and intimacy, except for when it is. I don’t think that someone on the outside can speak to what is truly going on in other people’s relationships just based on how the externals look to them.

The beauty but also the challenge of these types of things is that there aren’t always ready-made names for them, and even when there are, they may not completely reflect all the nuances of the relationship. How serious or casual, meaningful or non-meaningful a relationship is isn’t determined by how it appears to other people. Humans like to label things and put them in boxes, but I don’t know that it always works in this case.

We see Lane every couple of months for the purposes of having sex and although we talk some in between, it’s a much more casual relationship than I have with the other people I’m involved with. But to call it a booty call would be to belie how deeply sweet and meaningful it is to both me and James. We have a lot of emotional intimacy with Lane, which is one of the reasons that we keep spending time with him rather than somebody who lives closer who we could get together with more often. What’s the right word for that relationship? Who knows and who cares?!

Dispelling cultural myths with research-driven stories. My favorite word is “specious.” Not fragile like a flower; fragile like a bomb! Twitter @ElleBeau

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