What happens in Atlantic City… April 11, 2011Posted by shaunphilly in religion, atheism, polyamory, culture.
Tags: Bachelor Party, monogamy
…stays in Atlantic City?
Except when you blog about it.
And no, I will not be posting pictures.
And no, I actually will not be writing about what occurred in Atlantic City over the weekend at my friend’s bachelor party. First, it really was not that rowdy that it would be worth divulging. Second, the other mens’ wives would not approve…even though not much happened that would be very upsetting. Third, it’s none of your damned business!
There was a moment, the day after the primary revelry, while we were sitting around the beach while a bit hung over, under slept, and digesting our brunch, that someone clearly asked; “so, what’s the story for the wives?” It sounded like a joke, but it was only partially so. The truth is that some of what happened, even if tame compared to the things I do with my girlfriend while out at clubs and bars, would be problematic for them if their partner’s knew.
And this got me thinking (as well as one does while hung over) about what this implies about the nature of marriage in our largely heteronormative and monogamous culture. (This is a subject I have written about before). It got me thinking about the expectations, insecurities, and fears that underlie the need for such a question. And, especially since these are people (both the men and some of their wives) whom I know quite well, having known them for years, I began to see things that I had not quite known. Those details are not important, and even if they are they are personal so they will not be illuminated further here.
It seems that the bachelor party is a ritual of our culture wherein monogamous men can allow themselves to behave a little past (or, in some cases, a lot past) the boundaries of their relationships, so long as the details of said ritual are not exposed. That secrecy seems to be part of the ritual. It is a time to let loose a little, to step outside of their normal life and into an alternate reality for themselves, and there is an understanding that what happens there stays between the participants of said ritual.
In another sense, this ritual seems to partially be designed as a temptation exercise. Described as a last chance to live the bachelor’s life before the plunge into marriage and commitment (even though the couple has usually been committed for some time at that point), it seems like an excuse to put the groom-to-be in a position to test their willpower, usually while quite drunk, in the face of scantily clad young women. In a sense, if you can avoid said temptation under the circumstances of this ritual, you supposedly can do so for the rest of your life, even if the two things really don’t have much to do with each other. In other words, specific temptations are not the same as a personal set of needs and desires that are eschewed over time and which may conflict with the confines of a specific relationship.
An Alternative Point of View
Coming from the point of view of being polyamorous, which includes the pragmatic necessity of communication, honesty, and openness about my desires and needs, I find myself wondering to what extent this ritual still has meaning. More interestingly, perhaps, is the question of whether the concept of a bachelor party is even meaningful to someone in my situation, at least in the same way. If I were getting married (which I may do at some point) the ritual would be meaningless, although it still could be a great time.
It would, in fact, just be an expensive night out on the town where I am not paying for anything, including the possibility of strippers, sluts, or prostitutes (sluts would be preferable, being one myself). And the irony is that this does not really sound like that much fun, mostly because it would all be activities which would be acceptable any other time for me. I suppose it sounds like more fun when it is outside of what is acceptable; most of us like to be bad sometimes, especially if we think we can get away with it.
I would much prefer to skip the pretense of the swanky clubs with their cover charges, expensive drinks, and gobs of sexy women in little dresses…ok, keep those…and just go out for a few drinks with some friends like I would any Friday or Saturday night. But then, I’m missing something important here; the revelry that such a night allows is not only for me, but for the other men who are in monogamous relationships and who may want an excuse to let out their inner slut, even if only in drunken exclamation and not in action. Further, it is understood to be a safe place to act in this way; what happens at the bachelor party stays there.
Except that any women I would marry would not only want to hear about what would happen during such revelry, but they might want to see pictures and, perhaps, to be there to help my inner slut come out a little bit more. (But then the other men would have to behave because there is a woman there…and she might tell the other women…). And that, my friends, is the main benefit of an open, honest, and slutty relationship with a polyamorous woman; I don’t have to hide my inner slut, so there is no wild self that gets freed at such parties because that part of me gets regular exercise. And therefore such a bachelor party which may look like a release or a freeing of pent-up desires from most people’s point of view looks, from my point of view, tame.
Cultural Expectations and Monogamy
Because of the expectations of our culture, most men who get married might not be honest with themselves about what they want sexually because those things might become out-of-bounds. So how could they share that with their partners if they can’t admit it to themselves? Also, their partners are supposed to feel, according to the cultural expectations referred to above, threatened or jealous about those desires if they were to surface. But those desires of many men, well-hidden they may be under usual circumstances, become clear to the other participants of this ritual with the alchemy of alcohol and the other not-so-sacred rites of the bachelor party. Add those ingredients to the presence of drunk women who are either at bachelorette parties at the same club (and therefore possibly experiencing a similar desires) or who are trying to pry more dollar bills from the stack in front of these men (obviously at another kind of club).
Perhaps people have, in some sense, settled for what they see as the better choice between sexual freedom and the benefits of commitment. And perhaps the occasional desire, like the ones presented at such parties of a bachelor nature, are but a blip within a larger happiness encased in such commitment. But I don’t think that this, even if true, makes these desires trivial. I think it is meaningful to point out that there does not have to be a choice between sexual freedom and commitment. And this ritual of a bachelor party is part of the narrative that tells me that monogamy is not a value outside of uncertainty.
I, for example, have the wonderful joys of a meaningful, emotionally enriching, and sexually fulfilling relationship with Ginny. And there is no contradiction, in either of our minds, with this and the ability to have other sexual partners, relationships, and even other meaningful and emotionally enriching relationships. Because we both try to be honest with ourselves about what we want, are honest with each other about those same desires, and are secure enough with the status of our relationship that we don’t feel necessarily threatened by flirtation, enjoying the sight of, or the sexual activity with other people.
Wrapping Up this Bachelor’s Party
So, here I was yesterday with these other men, most of whom are married and in monogamous relationships (or at least want to be) and feeling no compulsion to hide any of what happened from anyone. And because of the ramifications for the other men with their partners, I have to keep it under wraps for their sake, at least insofar as their wives don’t find out. Ginny, on the other hand, was somewhat amused by some of what happened that night. And perhaps that is the other part of it; illuminating the truth of human behavior openly exposes truths that many people are not quite comfortable with. To share those activities with our partners allows them to see the secret rites of the bachelor party, which is to see what is hidden beneath the sometimes facadesque bliss of married life.
And, again, very little happened that would be a problem for these men and their relationships. And, in fact, a few were very well behaved because apparently) they are genuinely content with their relationships and therefore the temptations were not pressing. It was just a night out (an expensive one, granted) with some friends with more drinking than we really needed and being up very late. Those whose desires did press, even if they did not press far, will not face relationship problems because it really was quite tame.
One question remains; what kind of activity could I get into that could get me in trouble at my potential future bachelor party? Whatever activities might be included in such an evening, most of the men I was with Saturday night certainly could not participate. Hell, they might not even want to because it would be past their own boundaries. Even the single ones, in most cases.
More likely my bachelor party would bore them because I would feel no desire to find bachelorette parties, strippers, or prostitutes. It’s just not my thing. I prefer a few slutty friends, some good beer, and a large bed. I can’t really invite the guys for that, can I?
Well, maybe they can bring their wives. That would be interesting.