Tristan Taormino’s guide to open relationships

Image by Cyan Del Mar.

In this week’s SF Chronicle column, I interview Tristan Taormino about her new book Opening Up, and the resulting piece Open Relationships, Demystified is quite revealing. I’m really a n00b about open relationships and tend to be monogamous-yet-always-questioning, so my queries are not from a place of experience — or ignorance. So I think you’ll find it interesting and useful. Plus, Disco Stu is in it. Here’s a snip:

For some reason, when I think of open relationships I think of Disco Stu. The hippest dude in the Simpsons’ pantheon of characters, Disco Stu always wears his sunglasses and refers to himself exclusively in the third person. Based only on that criteria, Disco Stu is inarguably cool. A babe magnet. But most of all, I think we all agree that if we had to guess, we’d conclude that Disco Stu is a swinger.

And if Disco Stu were a senator, I can’t help but think that the cultural conversation about sex scandals would be different if a supposedly cuckolded Mrs. Stu made a statement to the press that, actually, she didn’t care about the other woman. Because you see, they have an agreement. Then, the sex scandal would no longer be such a scandal. And that wouldn’t get ratings, now would it?

Of course, open relationships are in reality far from the playful cartoon caricatures of swingers, or the other end of the non-monogamy spectrum: nightmarish Texan polygamous fundamentalist sects. As the No. 1 request I’ve gotten for topics to be covered in this column is non-monogamy, and there is only one Disco Stu, I think the question is simply, “What are open relationships?”

It just so happens that the interest in non-monogamous advice has been reaching a peak in my inbox at the same time that infamous New York sex educator Tristan Taormino ( has released her newest book “Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships” (Cleis Press). The book has its own blog, chock-full of resources for couples and singles interested in understanding and exploring options outside of monogamy. What’s more, Taormino lands in town this weekend for two events to celebrate and raise awareness about the indispensable information in her book. Monday, she’ll be hosting a workshop called “Making Open Relationships Work,” and on June 5, she’ll be celebrating at a free release party for both the book and her new “reality porn” video “Chemistry #4”, along with stars from the film Penny Flame, Adrianna Nicole and Sinnamon Love.

Even if you don’t consider monogamy monotony, the book is an eye opener. Disco Stu could not be reached for comment, but Taormino patiently answered my questions about threesomes, changing relationships and more.

Violet Blue: What’s the biggest myth about open relationships?

Tristan Taormino: There are so many myths about open relationships. I think one of the most popular is that people in open relationships have intimacy issues and trouble with commitment. (… read more!)

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  1. Miss T –

    I don’t mind being a deviant. The “normal” people where I am are the frightening ones.

    Then again, they’d probably say much the same thing about me with regard to being frightening. Being a taoist swordsman in the bible belt is, to say the least, occasionally an interesting trip. lol

  2. Liked the article and the comments that didn’t say non-monogamy was bad. It always cheers me when I hear others positive views on non-monogamy, makes me feel like less of a … deviant.

  3. Thanks Violet!! Very cool and insightful interview, I really liked Tristan’s analogy on the myth that love is a quantifiable thing. I think American society’s sexuality would really benefit from a more polyamorous lifestyle, anything to break us out of our Neo-Christian shell and join the rest of the global enlightened society.

  4. Thank you, thank you, Violet. Every bit of public thought put out there that isn’t “Open relationships are a one-way ticket to DOOOOOOM” is a wonderful thing. My husband, his girlfriend, the man I’m dating, the woman I’m dating, and I…we all appreciate this.

    At least two of us will be at the workshop Monday night!

  5. Well, I can demystify the comments proclaiming it’s always the “men” who want it all…
    But, first, thank you Violet Blue, I loved the article! I am in an open marriage and it pleases me when I read articles that bring OM to the attention of the nay-sayers out there. I blog about my experiences being open daily. Check it out for more examples that women are as desirous of extracurricular activities as men. xoxo~Sadie

  6. You have to love the comments in the article. Almost all of them are of the “anything that isn’t monogamous is evil” or “it’s all the fault of men who ‘want it all’ and can’t keep it in their pants” sort.

    Personally, I’ve never seen what was wrong with non-monogamous relationships as long as everyone involved was fine with it. Then again, I get accused of being immoral (and occasionally of being evil) around here.

    Oh the joys of “living” in the bible belt…

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