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Compersion vs. cuckold

Dear Sasha, I was quite disconcerted with your reply to Desperate Puppy [“Cuckold Me,” Dec. 22], so much so that I feel compelled to respond. It was so very uncharacteristic of you, and not at all what I’ve “come to expect from this forum.” It makes me think that it might not have been you who wrote the reply. I believe it takes a great deal of courage and no less amount of trust to confide in your partner about your fantasies—because it can leave a person open to ridicule and seclusion. Maybe there’s more to her letter than was printed, but it seems to me that you tarred and feathered Desperate Puppy’s boyfriend and then slammed the door in his face.

Fantasizing about one’s spouse having sex with someone else is not just a guy thing. A few years ago you replied to a woman who, while having sex, continually imagined watching her man having sex with another woman. I believe she said it was the only way she could reach orgasm. It sort of changed my life. It made me feel less alone, and less like a freak. And the fact that it was a woman who wrote that let-ter…wow, how cool was that! Thank you for putting that one to print.

There’s a relevant term my wife and I came across while further exploring this particular fantasy. It’s called “compersion,” and we found it in Tristan Taormino’s book Opening Up. Yes, there could be an element of selfishness to it, but I assure you it’s NOT a macho thing. You might want to research it.

—Chris

Dear Chris, Fantasizing about one’s spouse having sex with someone else isn’t just a straight thing either. According to the name on his e-mail, Desperate Puppy is a man with a male partner. I know right? What in the world?! Like almost everyone, my feelings shift and evolve and devolve and transform from time to time; it is precisely because I write my own column that it is erratic and contradictory. Over the past 17 years, there are only a few occasions I can remember when I’ve handed over the reins.

1.        Last year when I was in Montreal, after having spent the night playing a game called “Floor Vodka” with a bunch of very bad women, I paid a friend 50 dollars to answer one of the questions. Before you fire off another disillusioned missive, let me assure you that she’s an award-winning writer and generally a very reflective person. I’ll just say Governor General award and nominee and we’ll leave it at that.

2.        When I publish extra long quotes or extra long letters because I’m not in a good frame of mind to write my column, polyamorist BDSM brainiac Andrea Zanin is excellent at writing my column for me. She doesn’t know it but when I was languishing with undiagnosed POF she wrote my column at least twice. The simple fact is, I’ve had my column for longer than I lived at home. I get fed up of it hanging around waiting for answers like some sort of horny teenager, especially when I have to go through times where my own horniness has been compromised. It is at times like this when I want to punch the word “compersion” in the ass.

Chris, I’ve read Tristan’s book and I think it contains a lot of really important information about exploring different relationship models. But as I understand it, compersion is not the same as fan­tasizing about your partner fucking someone else and wanting all the gory details to expedite your own fantasies. Compersion is often defined by polyamorists as the opposite of jealousy. One of the distinguishing qualities of compersion might be the profound relief you feel that you’re actually not exploding with jealousy at the idea of your partner having sex with someone else. While you may very well be happy for your partner, you are also happy that you aren’t feeling like you want to collapse from heartache. It’s the wondrous sensation of a truth being revealed to you that defies the one you’ve been told all your life. And it is extra awesome because you sought that truth out on your own, despite some pretty intense obstacles.

What Desperate Puppy’s boyfriend wants seems more along the lines of using his boyfriend as a lightening rod for a fantasy he has about watching him fuck someone else. He doesn’t want to be happy that his boyfriend is fucking other men. He wants to be horny that his boyfriend is fucking other people. He wants his boyfriend to fuck other people primarily for his pleasure, not Des­perate Puppy’s pleasure.