Aug 3 • 15M

#22: Authenticity Arena – No. 07

'H’, 37, queer, white British, woman (cis), married, London

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Almaz Ohene
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[Image description: Text ‘Authenticity Arena No. 07’ on a navy blue background with a lilac paintbrush stroke highlighted segment]

Almaz note: Please do listen to the audio extract, while simultaneously following the text transcription, as it makes for a richer experience.

The audio recording (above) and transcript (below) represent 15 minutes of a background research interview (rather than sexuality survey follow-up chat) I set up with ‘H’, who’s a queer, white British, woman (cis), who, at the time of interview in May 2021 was 37, and living in London with her husband and small son.

‘H’ is someone whose work I’d been following online for a while, and I knew that she had an open marriage and was also open about that. The interview extract I’m sharing here gives some insight into how just how wonderfully generative conversations can be, between strangers who work within the same sphere and discover that they share a worldview.

‘H’ – 07:34mins
So we… Oh, sorry, I think one of my cats is stuck in the wardrobe.

Almaz – 07:43mins
Okay, okay.

‘H’ – 07:45mins
Yeah. He is.

[both laugh]

‘H’ – 07:46mins
I can just hear this scratching, and I was like “Uh-oh!” (to cat: “Sorry dude!”)

So, we first opened up the relationship before we got married, but we didn’t… Did we date anyone? So, we started out by, kind of, like, trying to find people to have threesomes and stuff. Which, I feel a bit embarrassed a bit by now ‘cause it’s such a cliché.

Almaz – 07:58mins
Yeah.

‘H’ – 08:09mins
But that’s what we did. And we did that a bunch. And then I think, basically, by that point, I was starting to feel more comfortable identifying as bi[sexual], and starting to, kind of, come out to a few people.

And really felt like, “I need to date women by myself. Like, that has to be something I do by myself. That is nothing to do with [REDACTED].”

Almaz – 08:47mins
Yeah.

‘H’ – 08:47mins
And not in that relationship because, like, I need to work out what that is for me. So that was a big part of it. And then yeah, I think that before we got married, I did go on maybe, like, one or two dates with women. And then… Weirdly, I think the year that we got married was, sort of, the year that we, kind of, got more into it.

Because we’d been away, and we’d done a bit of backpacking, and then we, like, came back. That’s when I launched my freelance career. And [REDACTED] started a new job. And we were getting married that summer. And it was sort of like “Right, we’re back in the UK, like, now we’re gonna launch our new life,” I guess.

So I think we’d got quite into the idea of, like, threesomes and, like, dating people and stuff like that. So yeah, so we both dated people a bit. I can’t remember if he dated anyone on his own. He must have done. Yeah, he must have done. But it was around the time we got married, that we started dating people separately, and I guess in my head that’s, kind of, when it went up a notch from just experimenting to being like, “Okay, this is something we’re actually gonna pursue”.

Almaz – 10:06mins
Yeah, yeah. And how did friends and people within your network react to that? Or maybe you didn’t tell them at all? Or...?

‘H’ – 10:19mins
No. I mean, even now, like, friends, know. But there are the friends that will ask. And there are the friends that just, like, it would never come up in conversation. And I would feel super awkward about being like, “So, I’m seeing someone.”

At the beginning, we didn’t really tell that many people, I guess, because we didn’t… I dunno, I guess we were still figuring it out. Now, I would say most [chuckles]

Funnily enough, I would say most of my close friends know. And then there’s a big gap of, like… If you think about your friendships and the people in your life in, like, concentric circles, right? I feel like the people in the closest circle know. And then there’s a circle around that, where they don’t really know. And then there’s the general public who all know because I write about it [chuckles], like, talk about it on podcast and like,,on Twitter.

And so I’m like, “This is really weird.” Which, makes me think that basically, probably people in that middle circle do actually know, it’s just that we never speak of it.

Almaz – 11:34mins
Yeah.

‘H’ – 11:34mins
[chuckles]

Almaz – 11:36mins
That’s really interesting, because this is something that I also want to explore a bit. The, kind of, gap between people who do, like, sex and relationships in a public way for work. And it’s completely acceptable, and all their acquaintances know what they do. But then on a personal level, it almost seems… Well, I’m still trying to work out in my head… whether it does seem like it’s something that… it’s still not really socially okay to talk about radical stuff on that personal level.

‘H’ – 12:21mins
Interesting.

Almaz – 12:21mins
And I’m really trying to figure out why that is.

‘H’ – 12:25mins
I mean, I think the two go hand in hand, and somebody said to me recently, like, “Oh, you’ve created this infrastructure for yourself through your work, via which you can be this, like, openly horny person, essentially”. And I was like, “Oh, fuck. Yeah, like, you’ve nailed it!”

Like, that’s kind of what I’ve done. So then, like, I have this platform, from which I can be really open about this stuff. But then I haven’t… It’s almost like I haven’t built the steps up to the platform.

Almaz – 13:02mins
Yeah.

‘H’ – 13:02mins
I’ve just, like, hauled myself up on this platform? I’m now I’m like, “Shit, I can’t get down!”

Almaz – 13:07mins
Yeah. Yeah.

‘H’ – 13:08mins
Yeah, I mean, I don’t have the answer to that. But I think that you’re right, there is a weird, sort of… A really good example would be with, like, my old school friends, and also my NCT group. When I had my son, I did, like, NCT and, like, the birth classes and stuff. And I would say those two groups of people are analogous in the sense that they all know what I do for my job. And so they know. But we don’t ever talk about how it relates to my personal life.

Almaz – 13:45mins
Yeah. That’s really, really, really interesting. Yeah, it’s almost like work has become… So, for people who are quite conservative socially, in their heads, work is a proxy for people to be able to express themselves in a radical way. But for them, they still wouldn’t be able to talk about the radical stuff that’s happening in someone’s professional life, within that personal realm.

‘H’ – 14:26mins
I think, yeah. And also, first of all they can, kind of, can detach themselves from it, because they’re, kind of, like, “Oh, this is the work life”…

Almaz – 14:37mins
Yeah.

‘H’ – 14:37mins
“So I can talk about your work and we never have to brush against the fact that it does affect the personal life”.

Almaz – 14:44mins
Yeah.

‘H’– 14:44mins
As well, I think on some level, they can still hold this idea of you as not that radical person.

Almaz – 14:53mins
Yeah.

‘H’ – 14:53mins
I guess more, kind of, more, like, small ‘c’ conservative type thing.

Almaz – 14:59mins
Yeah, yeah.

‘H’ – 15:00mins
Which could, maybe, be feel safer for them?

Almaz – 15:07mins
Yeah, yeah.

‘H’ – 15:07mins
So they’re like, “Oh, that’s where all that stuff goes in your, like, work realm. But when I talk to you, we’ll just talk about, like, you know, kid chat and family.”

Almaz – 15:18mins
Yeah, yeah.

‘H’ – 15:18mins
That stuff.

Almaz – 15:19mins
Yeah.

‘H’ – 15:18mins
They can somehow tell themselves that actually, you’re not really like that. That’s just your work self. And I have to admit that I go along with that sometimes.

Almaz – 15:32mins
Yeah, there’s really something in that… Because I’ve been thinking a lot about conservatism with a small ‘c’, and how even in London that’s so open-minded, within things that are to do with, like, professionalism, and making money and making a living, you can’t really be radical, and still be… still be…

Yes, it’s not it’s not fully worked out in my head yet. But that’s the kind of stuff that I’ve been thinking about.

Almaz – 16:15mins
Okay, so, what is it about polyamory that you think is right for you and your family?

‘H’ – 16:32mins
I think that for me, probably the biggest thing is the whole thing about how you are… Like, I really reject the idea of, kind of, a nuclear family. And, like, the way we, kind of, fetishise coupledom, has never sat right with me, because I’ve always had lots of friends and social life.

And I’ve got very close relationships with both my siblings, and, you know, the idea that this one person, or then, you know, kids as well, like, kids is a bit, it’s tricky, I’ll come back to that in a sec. So that there’s one person would somehow be elevated above all those other important relationships in my life. That just doesn’t make sense.

Almaz – 17:29mins
Mmm, mmm.

‘H’ – 17:30mins
And I think, if anything, this last year is really hammered that home for me, because, you know, we’ve all been stuck at home with whatever our ‘household’ is. And it isn’t enough.

Almaz – 17:48mins
Mmmm!

‘H’ – 17:48mins
It’s not enough to only have those people. And also, it’s not just that it’s not enough for me, it’s too much for the other person, to have that pressure of being your world.

Almaz – 18:02mins
Yeah.

‘H’ – 18:02mins
It’s too much for me, I don’t want to be somebody’s world. I don’t want to be the person that someone is always going to turn to you for absolutely everything because, like…

Almaz – 18:13mins
Yeah.

‘H’ – 18:14mins
[gasps] Because, like, it’s too much to ask of one person. And I think as time has gone on, I’ve also, kind of, like, urm, read stuff about, like, relationship anarchy. And things about, you know, kind of, giving friendships and other kinds of relationships, equal standing with your romantic ones.

Almaz – 18:41mins
Yeah.

‘H’ – 18:41mins
That makes so much sense to me. And I think that my… I’ve always had quite polyamorous friendships, I guess. I’ve never been somebody who had a best friend, for example. I’ve always had networks of friends. And I’ve always been reasonably comfortable with the fact that you go through phases of being really close to one friend, and then you sort of drift apart for whatever reason.

It’s not a bad thing. It’s just your lives move in different directions. But then maybe work brings you into contact with somebody new, and then you get, like, really fired up about that person.

Almaz – 19:18mins
Mmm, mmm.

‘H’ – 19:18mins
You’re like, “Oh, my God”, you know, and then you’ll get like, your ‘work wife’, or whatever.

Almaz – 19:22mins
Yeah, yeah.

‘H’ – 19:22mins
Like, that’s always been my experience of platonic relationships anyway. So then when I started reading about it, and, sort of, like I said, retroactively applying the theory to it, it just, kind of, made total sense that I was like…

I mean, you know, people are different, aren’t they? But this is what makes the most sense to me and how I… what I need, but also what I want to give, and how I want to exist in the world. And how I want to contribute to the world is by having these networks, and being able to give to lots of different people in lots of different ways.

Almaz – 20:06mins
Yeah, yeah.

Yeah, that’s great. During the first lockdown or soon after, I think I saw something that you’d written on social media about… it was to do with the households thing, and how you hadn’t envisaged bringing your child up just in your unit of two.

‘H’– 20:34mins
Yeah.

Almaz – 20:24mins
I should have bookmarked it.

I don’t have children. I would love to have children, but I’m not sure that it will happen for me. But I love the idea of having, like, a more of an extended family village, kind of thing…

‘H’ – 20:53mins
Oh my God, me too!

Almaz – 20:54mins
Because it’s just… child-rearing is so hard. And also the dynamics can get just ridiculously intense. And it’s, like, if you have aunts and friends around, that particular dynamic just is diffused, if there’s conflict within that dynamic.

But I’ve been thinking a lot about late capitalism, and how where we are now makes it really difficult to do anything that’s not already out there.

‘H’ – 21:32mins
Yeah. For real. Like, everything you’re saying, makes so much sense to me. I mean, I was thinking about this with a friend the other day, because, like, there’s a big part of me that would love, like, commune living [chuckles].

But there’s also a big part of me that obviously has an introverted side and, like, really needs my own space. So I’m always, like “Do I want to live in a commune? Or do I actually just want to be a hermit”. And, you know, those two things could be in conflict. But I think the whole, like, chosen family, sort of, trope, is just such an aspiration for me.

[CONVERSATION CONTINUES FOR ANOTHER 50 MINUTES]

[Image description: White speech box with black border shadows. Black text ‘As part of my research for my book, I’m running an anonymous online sexuality survey’. Dark orange text ‘bit.ly/ao_sexsurvey’. Black text ‘Anyone over 18 can fill it in, wherever you are in the world.’ Picture of coloured rectangles placed at angles with black border shadows. White text ‘Do you have guilt or shame around desire, sex or pleasure? Why/why not? Do you support compulsory sex and relationships education?’ on top rectangle]

The sexuality survey is still open, so in the meantime please do fill in/share it as all of the responses are helping me make connections between the ways in which we’ve been socialised and our relationship to sexuality.

Fill in survey


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I’m Almaz Ohene, a Creative CopywriterFreelance Journalist and Accidental Sexpert.
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This content is free, but it takes time to create and upload each piece. If you enjoy this project would like to support it, please consider becoming a paid subscriber of ‘She Dares to Say’.

If you would prefer to make a one-off donation, feel free to send a contribution via PayPal.

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