Thursday, June 26, 2008

the numbers game

Ménage, threesomes, foursomes, group sex—polygamy. Different words with similar meanings. Men have admitted for years that having two or more women at once is one of their ultimate fantasies. I read a LOT of it during my college years in Robert Heinlein’s later works, including Time Enough for Love, Cat Who Walked through Walls, and To Sail beyond the Sunset. Whole cultures and religions have been built around polygyny (one man, many women) after all. And you know sometimes those sultans, or sheiks, or whatever, weren’t only doing one concubine at a time.

So now we’re starting to see an open interest in polyandry—one woman, multiple men. Is this new? Not really. I remember being faintly horrified by Paint your Wagon, as a kid. It started on Broadway in 1951. The movie with Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin came out in 1969—an apt year, no?

Face it folks, in the last 50 years, women have come a long way in understanding and expressing their own sexuality. The fantasy of having multiple partners do things to your body that require more than one mouth, two hands, and one set of sex organs is pretty powerful, no matter which washroom you use.

We’ve seen this week that ménage á trois is properly defined as a situation where the multiple partners are all committed and emotionally attached to one another in a living arrangement. In other words—polygamy. Does polygamy, or true ménage work in real life? I’d have to say that like any lifestyle choice it works for some and not others. There are certainly going to be issues. First of all there are social ramifications. No hospital in the world is going to acknowledge two fathers in the birthing room (okay, maybe a few, but not most). Same for schools. Legal issues like health coverage and mortgages can get awkward. It may work, but I’m bloody damn certain it isn’t easy. Also I’d imagine it’s very hard to maintain a relationship where all three bonds remain equal, and where two of the partnership don’t eventually edge the third out. I know I’m too insecure to share my partner, not even with another man. I need to know that in our relationship, he’s all about me, just as I’m all about him.

But the fantasy—yeah, that’s powerful. Just like vampire romance is powerful because those characters truly get their happy-ever-after. And one thing my dear cohorts on this blog have forgotten to mention, is that right now, ménage romances sell. Sometimes folks, the bottom line is, really, the bottom line. I looked at sales figures one month when all the bills were overdue and weighed my options. McDonalds or ménage? Guess what won?

Now with that said, once I told myself to do it, I had a blast. It’s silly and fun and again, it’s fantasy. The characters are two elves (m/f) and a demon (the other m). And I enjoyed every minute of writing their story. (Three for All, Ellora’s Cave, October 2008) It is an m-m-f story, which means, I’m told, that the guys get into each other as well as the girl. I find this a lot more believable on an emotional level. If three people are rolling around in the bed, eventually, penis is going to rub against penis. It’s a pretty thin membrane between the two holes, folks. It just doesn’t work for me, logically, if the guys aren’t at least a little turned on by each other. The exceptions to this I’ve seen in fantasy, include Anny’s Honeysuckle, where the two brothers are sort of two halves of the same being. I can suspend disbelief if you give me a reason. I just have less problems accepting it the other way. As Regina said, sometimes paranormal elements make the whole thing work better. In my elf and demon cultures, there’s no prejudice against same gender attraction or groups.

So, yes, I wrote a story because the market is there. Does that make me a hack? If so, that’s fine with me. I think the story will stand on its own merit. It's a true romance, just with three protagonists. I enjoyed writing it, and I like the characters as well as their HEA. Does that make me depraved? Snort. I have the most conservative lifestyle of anyone I know. I’ve been happily married for almost 23 years to the only man I’ve ever been with. No real desire to broaden my personal experience. But in my stories? Ah there, the sky is the limit.

Seriously…sex in flight…gotta write that sometime. Got a gargoyle/half dragon story coming up…could work there…


  1. I feel that polygamous relationships work only as far as fantasy or experimentation goes. Otherwise they are a disaster.

    I have seen that in my home... My father was married to two women who stayed with him in the same house, along with children of both the women. As a relationships, it is disastrous for all...

    I am writing an autobiography on the unique arrangement that our lives have been...The intrigues, the politics, the unfairness of it all....

  2. Mona, I think that autobiography will be very interesting. Something I didn't mention--and should have is s comment about power. In many cultures that practice polygamy, it's not about love and commitment, but about one man having power over many woman. That can work as a social structure, as long as the power is maintained. But it's not an equitable way to live.

  3. I can imagine ALL sorts of emotional entanglements in a true menage partnership. The sexual stuff is a piece of cake in comparision. The parties would need to be really SECURE and grounded to be able to share this way.

    Thought provoking post, Cindy!

  4. Great thought-provoking post Cindy. Very, very good.

    I grew up in the area of the southwest were polygamy was quite common--even if no one admitted it. And yes, it was certainly about power.

  5. Wow, interesting to hear about real-life situations. But they involve polygamy and rarely, if ever, polyandry.

    Maybe that's why our (meaning erotic-romance writers') version of menage so appeals to women. It flies in the face of these male-centered, male-indulgent arrangements. 'Bout damned time, too!

  6. Cindy, I couldn't agree with you more. I've never been able to see how two men could be so close in such an intimate way and not have some degree of sexual involvement with each other.

    And I can't imagine how an m/f/m menage would work in real life, without one party feeling like a third wheel. But for the fantasy to work, the writer has to convince the reader that it's at least possible. Which I've found emotionally exhausting.

    After Gift of the Goddess I swore I wouldn't put myself through that again. Hah! I ended up with Tailspin where the two guys both have wings and wicked feathery tails. It got quite complex, what with all those appendages available for naughtiness! *grin*

    And we did the three-way sex in flight thing. Hoo boy, now that was complicated! Fun though. heh heh

  7. Forgot to add . . . I think m-f-m scenes (those in which the men avoid each other) are a copout. I vastly prefer menages in which the men interact--enthusiastically, without any hint of distaste. Not only does this ramp up the heat level, it makes the heroine seem less self-centered. Any heroine who's all about being the focus of attention kind of turns me off.

  8. Excellent points, Cindy.

    McDonalds or ménage?

    Either way you were still going to wind up with a sandwich, lol.

  9. Oooooh, you're wicked James! Heh. I love that.

  10. Great post, Cindy. I do agree about involvement for all three in the relationship. I find this works better for me as a reader, although it depends on the author execution.

  11. Ha, james, you got that right. And Shelley, you're right of course. Author execution really is the make-or-break point of any story. KZ--damn, I'm impressed. Three and in flight? Gotta go find me that book.

  12. In fantasy just about anything works. In reality what works for some won't work for others. Like a two-person relationship, whether a multi-partner relationship works or not depends on the individuals involved. In books I don't really have a preference about whether or not the story is m/m/f, m/f/m, f/f/m or f/m/f. As long as I like the characters, their relationship is convincing and the story is interesting, it works for me.

  13. I think for me the key thing here is that all three partners are interested in the relationship of all three. I agree it works better when there is at least a sense of bisensuality between the two same-sex members of a menage.

  14. I know exactly where you're coming from. I choose the menage over McD's, too. And although I find it sexy to fantasize about, I'm pretty sure I couldn't handle a polygamy relationship in real life.

  15. The wonderful thing about being an author is you can et your mind run wild and wrie about all your fantasies. The first menage I wrote flew off the charts and I thought, Well, hell! Maybe I'm opnto something here. So I just kept going. It's amazing the things your brain can come up with at three in the morning. But I'm like everyone else here. You don't have to DO it to WRITE aboujt it, just have a really good imagination and let your senses flow.
    Excellent, excellent blog, Cindy.