"When You Have 3 Boyfriends, Getting An IUD Is Complicated"
Rachael Cromidas writes, "I just published an essay in BuzzFeed about a slice of my experience as a polyamorous woman. I've been a journalist for almost a decade but never written about my personal life until now." She says that years of reading Polyamory in the News "helped me get the confidence to do this."
Confidence is what it must've took to publish this intimate, wild, part ghastly, part puppy-cuddle piece of cringy-funny under her real name. Go you!
I have opinions about the subject matter. But first, excerpts to get you started:
When You Have 3 Boyfriends, Getting An IUD Is Complicated
Mikyung Lee for BuzzFeed News
Because I'm polyamorous, my decision to get on [non-condom] birth control had to go through an unusual chain of command.
By Rachel Cromidas
Desire can make you do strange things, like ... decide to have unprotected sex, in spite of all the sexual health podcasts you’ve ever listened to, you big nerd.
Last summer, this was me. A couple months into dating Sam, an indie musician–slash–dog walker with soulful brown eyes, I got that itch — the one that fills your brain with hormones and urges you to forget to wear a condom. I know for some couples who consider themselves perfectly responsible people, this decision can be as simple as having a talk about sexual exclusivity, getting tested, and then getting down to it. Not so for us — because we’re polyamorous, our decision had to go through an unusual chain of command first. Specifically, I had to talk to my partner Charlie, whom I lived with and had been dating for four years, and Daniel, my boyfriend of two years. Sam’s other girlfriend wanted to know how it would affect her, too. Our intimate, personal choice had quickly become something squeamishly bureaucratic.
...This network of connections dictates almost everything we do together in some way, whether it's a matter of who's having sex with whom, who gets the bigger bedroom on date night, or how the heck you share your time and process your feelings when all of your friends are sleeping with each other.
...Polyamorists call the decision to stop using condoms “fluid-bonding.” ... Some use their fluid bond ... as a symbol of status or a marker that they are special. I was a slut, not a romantic, and I didn't want it to be so significant. My loves knew this, but still, they knew I had never done this with someone before, and they had questions.
For Charlie, a quiet introvert who relishes his alone time and practiced impeccable, unwavering safer sex (if you can get him talking, he’ll brag about how much fun he can have with a latex glove), the decision to put my sexual health in the hands of a man I’d only known for a few months called into question my sense of self-preservation.
And Daniel, my best friend and confidante in all matters since we’d fallen in love a year ago, wanted to know why I had never asked to go barrier-free with him. I thought the answer was obvious: He and his other girlfriend had been fluid-bonding since before I even met them, so the option had never seemed real. Her needs and preferences usually came first, and I didn’t want to step on her toes or let myself be disappointed.
...Sam was newly polyamorous, a term some sensitive artists use to mean “doing whatever I want.” And he had already made some questionable safer sex choices, such as sometimes forgoing condoms with a casual hookup. He also had a little bit of a bad-boy vibe going — tattoos, cigarettes, a thing for staying out til 5 a.m. — and was nothing like anyone I’d been with before. But in spite of some yellow flags, I wanted him, the same way I suddenly wanted to put my day-to-day obligations and responsibilities on hold; to let it get late; to walk around my neighborhood in the middle of the night and look at how the sunflowers catch the amber street light. Maybe you can see where this is going — I had a crush, and after spending years playing by my boyfriends’ rules, I wanted to be a little bit bad, too.
No surprise, my doctor marked me down as “high risk” when I went in for my STI test and a birth control consultation. She asked me if my boyfriend had recently had any unprotected sex and I said, “Which one?” She knew that Charlie had a vasectomy, so I patiently explained that it wasn’t him I was getting the IUD for, but another man. “Well, is he currently having unprotected sex with other people right now?” She asked. “I honestly have no clue,” I replied. Charlie came back with me for my IUD appointment, only confusing the doctor more.
It’s not unusual for women to bring their boyfriends when they go in for a ParaGard IUD. The procedure is known to be quick but painful, and it can be helpful to have moral support. I fully expected to be going it alone, but to my shock, Charlie and Daniel both offered to take me. It’s no fun to watch your girlfriend writhe with discomfort on an exam table, and furthermore, it's not like they had anything to “gain” from my experience. There’s no less-ugly way to say it — I wanted to protect myself from getting pregnant while raw-dogging someone else. They were uncomfortable, turned off even, and yet, they were still game. If that's not love, I thought as I made the appointment, I don't know what is. ...
Read on (July 23, 2018). It gets bloody, but the ending is happy or at least a relief.
Everybody's safer-sex decisions are inevitably their own. No matter how you wish a partner would comport themselves in the heat of the moment when you're not around, you're not taking care of yourself if you hand off the responsibility for your sexual health to someone else. At least not in a polyamorous network. Cheers to her guys for supporting her, but a huge missing piece in this story is what extra precautions they planned to take, if any, with Yellow Flag Bad-Boy's fluids entering the picture.
This is why I go with Michael Rios's simple safe-sex rule: It's your job to protect yourself. Period.
Michael is one of the people who run the Abrams Creek Retreat in West Virginia, which hosts many poly, gender, and New Culture events. At these events he offers a practical safe-sex workshop with the current scientific assessment of risks and prevention measures. He also tells of "many, many" polycules he has seen break up in fury and recrimination because a person relied on others to manage the person's own risk.
"Condom compacts," where a fluid-bonded group agrees that no one will have unprotected sex outside the group, are a road to catastrophe in his experience. Even with the best intentions, for instance, condoms break. Does the person now come back and inform the rest of the group about it — which may require them to take precautions that are new to them for, maybe, the next several months until tests give the all-clear? The actual chance of passing an infection during one such event is very low, so there's a temptation to say nothing. Which taints the group with a hidden layer of falsehood and betrayal of trust. Which makes the next betrayal easier.
And if an STI does get loose, the group is torn by crisis over who infected the group.
On the other hand, when each person takes full charge of their own protection, at the level each chooses for themselves, it's a lot easier for everyone to just be honest with each other. And more protection will actually happen.
● Speaking of the Abrams Creek retreat center, I'm going to their Endless Poly Summer August 17–22. See you there?