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In this episode of The Turn On, Erica and Kenrya talk to Michelle B. about what ethical non-monogamists can teach us all about maintaining healthy relationships, what it looks like to have multiple partners during the pandemic, getting off the relationship escalator and leaving the dating scarcity mindset behind.
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Kenrya: So before we get started, we're here to do some begging.
Erica: We are here to beg like 1980s and 1990 R&B stars like who? Keith Sweat.
Kenrya: Keith Sweat, yeah. Remember when we saw him in concert?
Erica: It was like the apex of niggas in linen pants, those little A tank tops, and Stacy Adams.
Kenrya: It's true, but it was a damn good show. We were in our 20s when we went to that show.
Kenrya: We were very young.
Erica: Now I wouldn't be mad at a fine gentleman in some nice linen pants.
Kenrya: Me too. And I can still appreciate the begging of Keith Sweat.
Erica: Can we? Like he says, he begs to your woman so you don't have to.
Kenrya: Exactly, but today we actually do have to beg.
Erica: We doing our own begging, right?
Kenrya: Yeah. And you don't have to break out your linen, but what we do want is for y’all to tell us what you think about the show.
Erica: Yeah, so it sounds like work, I promise it does, but it's painless. All you're going to do is head to TheTurnOnPodcast.com/Survey and answer a few questions. It will help us give you more of what you love.
Kenrya: Yes, help us, help you.
Erica: Yeah. On the survey, is one of the questions, “Do you guys enjoy Erica singing?”
Kenrya: That is not one of the questions on the survey.
Erica: I feel like it should be.
Kenrya: You think it should be?
Erica: I feel like it should be, but whatever.
Kenrya: Just yo, if you all give us a few minutes of your time, you can help us give you more of the show that you love. And all you got to do is head to TheTurnOnPodcast.com/Survey. Yes, please, and thank you.
Erica: Okay, so let's start the show.
Kenrya: All right.
Kenrya: So back in my hoe days, I used to fuck this nigga who liked to fuck with his socks on. I used to always be like, "Why you ain't take off your socks?" And he'd be like, "Because I need some traction." And I was like, "Oh, okay."
Erica: He was wearing the hospital joints?
Kenrya: He was just wearing regular ass socks. Honestly I feel like-
Erica: Slide around crew socks.
Kenrya: ... his feet might've been a little fucked up, too, like he was embarrassed about his feet, but also he said it gave him some leverage and...
Kenrya: Did better when he wore socks, right?
Erica: I mean, yeah. I guess.
Kenrya: Yeah. If he had some Clap Cleats-
Erica: Clap Cleats! I love the name. Clap cleats.
Kenrya: It is a really good name.
Erica: The socks for your feet while you beat them cheeks under the sheets.
Kenrya: That's not they tagline, but I kind of love it. So Clap Cleats-
Erica: I kind of love it.
Kenrya: I kind of do. They're made of a high-performance bamboo material, which makes them cooler than cotton. And they wick away sweat, because you know, if you really doing what you're supposed to be doing, you sweating everywhere.
Erica: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Kenrya: This keeps you from being all sweaty in the feet, but they also have grips on the soles.
Erica: Little grippers on the bottom?
Kenrya: Yes, like hospitals socks but better, because hospital socks don't really do the job.
Erica: And you throw your feet up on the wall and not have to worry about... You know, throw it back on the wall and not have to worry about sliding down. You become a gecko.
Kenrya: Yes. See, everybody can wear these no matter what position you're going to be in!
Kenrya: Exactly. So you figure they got socks for everything. There's socks if you play certain sports. I'm sure there's socks for hiking for people who do shit like that.
Erica: Fucking's a sport.
Kenrya: Fucking is a sport, so why not make sure that you got your shit together with Clap Cleats? I'm just saying.
Erica: Claplete. Fucking claplete. So in order to become a claplete, claplete, claplete... Yes. In order to become a claplete, go to ClapCleats.com, use the promotion code "TheTurnOn," all one word. Happy fucking.
Erica: Clap Cleats. The socks for your feet while you beat them cheeks in the sheets.
Kenrya: Oh my God. That's ClapCleats.com/discount/TheTurnOn, and then put in the code "TheTurnOn" all together for 10% off.
Kenrya: Yay, now let's get started.
Kenrya: Come here. Get off.
Kenrya: Hey, good people. Today we are talking to Michelle B., a social scientist and mom who happens to be polyamorous. Hey, Michelle.
Michelle B.: Hey.
Kenrya: Thanks for joining us.
Michelle B.: Thank you for having me.
Erica: Thanks for coming on, Michelle. Let's just jump right in. What was the prevailing attitude about sex in your home when you were growing up?
Michelle B.: That sex is shameful, and sex is reserved for marriage, and that it is something that is primarily the domain of the man whose prerogative it is to pick out a woman that he finds desirable.
Kenrya: So trying to “get chose.”
Michelle B.: Yes. All about being chosen and being worthy and being pure.
Kenrya: Wow. Was that rooted in religion, or?
Michelle B.: I think so. But even beyond religion, I think ... I mean, even my mom didn't want me to go see a gynecologist when I was 18 because it's like everything should be perfect down there because you haven't been doing anything. So just sort of lacking general knowledge about women even just being comfortable with their own bodies and it just being this really taboo topic.
Erica: How do you think that impacts the way you move through the world now?
Michelle B.: Now I'm very intentional about being sex positive and being open and transparent with people, including my kid, that sex is a normal, natural, very human thing that people do, and it's really not a big deal.
Kenrya: Okay. I'm wondering how did you get from there to here? How did you get from coming from people that were like, "Nah, don't do that," to being really intentional about not instilling that in your own child?
Michelle B.: Yeah. I took the traditional path, and it sucked. I got married. I had a house with a picket fence and a dog and two kids, and I realized that this ideal of where, as a society, we place this burden on women to accomplish marriage and motherhood, that it just wasn't all it was cracked up to be. It wasn't what I thought it was going to be. Just because you pursue that particular pathway, it may be great for some people, but, for me, it just sort of pulled the veil back, that you can have all of these things that we say make you a woman, and it actually has nothing to do with your womanhood or your humanity.
Erica: We asked you to come on to the show today because we read this story called “Be Mine,” by Savannah J. ... Frierson?
Kenrya: I've been saying Frierson in my head, but I don't know.
Erica: Okay. And it featured-
Kenrya: I'll look it up.
Erica: Okay. Good. It featured a Black woman that found herself unexpectedly in a relationship with three men. Tell us about your journey to polyamory. That sounds like an album. Like the Ohio Players-
Kenrya: Journey to polyamory?
Erica: Journey to polyamory.
Michelle B.: One thing I do want to clarify, I'm going to use an umbrella term of ethical non-monogamy because-
Kenrya: Ethical non-monogamy.
Michelle B.: ... polyamory falls under that, but not every relationship that I've had under the ethical non-monogamy umbrella has been polyamory. But-
Kenrya: Thank you for that.
Erica: Thank you.
Michelle B.: ... basically, I had a span of years where I went through a divorce, and then I moved around a lot. I lived in three different major metro areas in a period of four to five years. I knew that I was going to be moving around a lot, and so the relationship escalator just wasn't an option for me. I mean, I still wanted to get laid and have fun and have-
Erica: Bust it open.
Michelle B.: ... companionship and all that good stuff, but I knew I was not going to be on the relationship escalator. And so that kind of opened me up to, okay, what kind of relationship could I have? One of the people that I dated was also in a transition kind of situation, where he was only going to be there for a year, so let's just have something casual. That was my first exposure to it. This was early, before OkCupid decided to brand themselves as the platform for ENM.
Erica: I did not know that.
Kenrya: Me neither.
Michelle B.: Yeah. They have a whole interface where you indicate whether you're open to non-monogamy or strictly non-monogamy or whatever, which none of the other platforms, to my knowledge, do that. I haven't been on all of them. But, back then, nobody had that on their platform, Tinder, Match, OkCupid, whatever. I would meet people, and I would say, "Look, I'm only going to be living here for a certain amount of time. I know that I'm going to be moving. So I'm open to this." And, for the most part, guys were like, "Yeah, cool." That's sort of how that started.
Michelle B.: I also had a relationship with a woman for my first polyamory, where I had two committed relationships with a man and a woman. I think that I learned a lot from that. It was really challenging because she really wanted to be in a permanent, monogamous relationship with me. I think that she agreed to non-monogamy because she wanted the relationship with me. And so, from that point, I became an advocate of enthusiastic consent, for not just consent in a sexual way, but consent for the form of the relationship, that we actually need to talk about what this means and what our boundaries are. That's a really important thing for me to do upfront.
Kenrya: Word. I have never heard anyone use that term in that way. I love it.
Erica: Wait. I'm sorry. What term were you talking about?
Kenrya: Where she said that she started being an advocate for enthusiastic consent, not just in terms of sexual acts, but in terms of the structure of the union.
Erica: I got it. Yeah. Okay. Sorry.
Kenrya: I think that's pretty powerful, especially because people change. Relationships change. Things are typically in flux. It sounds like that flux is part of what attracted you to joining in this way. So it would make sense to be checking in, in that way. Yeah.
Michelle B.: Right. Actually, one of my partners, we joke about the DTR, the define-the-relationship conversation, I think, is something that needs to happen on a regular basis. It's not just a one-time thing, which is in the relationship escalator model. There's all these implied ... This is where we're going. When you step away from that model, it's important to regularly figure out, based on what's going on, who's met who, where we are in our relationship.
Kenrya: Right. It feels like a best practice for all relationships.
Erica: I was about to say this sounds like this is something that everyone should do. I find, as we look at different relationship styles, to me, the more nontraditional the relationship, the more y'all doing shit that actually works how it's supposed to work, because it's-
Michelle B.: It's the norms.
Erica: Yeah. When you're just fucking somebody and somebody's like, "This is leading somewhere," and then, three years in, they're like, "I consider you a companion." And so-
Michelle B.: On that point, I had a lot of destructive, heteronormative, monogamous relationships in the past, and also, I'm a victim of sexual assault. I actually find the norms of ethical non-monogamy to be protective because, generally, it's easy to find people who are very open about talking about the things that should be discussed, talking about boundaries, talking about consent, talking about testing, everyone getting tested on a regular basis. Things that are awkward or taboo in relationships that I had in the past are now just out on the table. It actually is a way that I am able to be more open and be more myself, because I just feel safer in those scenarios.
Erica: Can we go back really quickly? You mentioned that you want to use the term ethical non-monogamy versus polyamory. Can you explain the difference between the two?
Michelle B.: Yeah. To me, polyamory is when someone has multiple committed relationships, and ethical non-monogamy is a situation where there are more than two people, but everyone is engaging in enthusiastic consent. It could be a married couple who decide to open their marriage. It could be someone who's doing friends with benefits and has other relationships. It could be kitchen table polyamory where everyone knows everyone, or even there's some couples who have four or five people who all live together. So it could be a lot of different things. But, to me, polyamory is more emotionally intensive because I'm entering into a committed relationship with this person, and I'm giving fully of myself in an emotionally intimate way that I maybe wouldn't in some other types of relationships.
Erica: Thank you.
Kenrya: In the book that we read, the relationship at the center story is absolutely polyamorous. They are in, all four of them, together, and they all love one another emotionally and sexually and all of the ways. There's a woman who is really the glue between her and then three men. But, as we just talked about, ethical non-monogamy can look a lot of different ways. I'm wondering, what does it look like for you now?
Michelle B.: It has evolved because of the pandemic. I have a nesting partner who I live with and have been with in various forms of ... You could call it from monogamish to polyamorous for about four years. And right now, I have two other partners who are in the immediate vicinity. We all live in the same area. And then I have a long-distance lover who I wouldn't consider to be a partner.
Kenrya: How has the pandemic influenced the way ... Yeah. I see you shaking your-
Michelle B.: It sucks. Way less D. Like way less D. The challenge is everybody's been home. Spouses, partners, kids. Where do you get privacy to form that bond? One of my partners, we met shortly before the pandemic, so like January, before the lockdown. Everything was so scary, we just went for walks with masks on, for months and months and months. We didn't sleep together for a year, and we ended up forming this really tight friendship. And then, when we finally did sleep together, it was like, okay, so we're going to have this testing protocol, and then we're going to be isolated, and then we got to find an Airbnb, and we got to make sure the cleaning protocols ... I mean, it was a whole-
Erica: All of that-
Michelle B.: It was a production.
Kenrya: ... for some dick or puss.
Michelle B.: For some D. The thing that's so crazy about it is I'm trying to figure ... So I have another partner who is newer. We haven't slept together. It's really challenging because you kind of want these things to evolve a bit organically, but by the time you have hung out with someone for a year that you're attracted to, you're like, "When are we going to get to what we're going to get to?" If we don't have a place that we can easily be private with each other, then it means we have to be very intentional and say, "I think I would like to have sex with you. Can we plan it down to the minute details?" That's a little bit awkward.
Kenrya: Or fun.
Michelle B.: Yeah.
Erica: To me, it seems like a lot of pressure on the situation, you know?
Michelle B.: Exactly. Because I don't actually know how things are going to go, and I don't want to assume that-
Erica: That we're going to fuck the-
Michelle B.: ... we have to have intercourse or whatever. Yeah. I mean, we're attracted to each other, but we both need that time. Everyone needs to feel safe and comfortable. And when you have spent money on an Airbnb and arranged with the calendar god, make sure-
Erica: Somebody's putting out.
Michelle B.: ... someone's watching the kids, it does. It does put a lot of pressure on it. So that makes it a little bit harder, and there's just less sex as a result.
Erica: In the book, the main character, she doesn't tell others about her relationship just for fear of judgment. We are doing this interview anonymous, so we don't have all your business out on the streets. Why do you think people stigmatize these relationships?
Michelle B.: Yeah. I'm not sure that stigma is the right word, in terms of how I think about it. I think it's fear, and I think it's an issue of identity. In our society, monogamy confers benefits. It's something we don't talk about, but you think about the term friend with benefits. It's like as separate from monogamy because we know that ... implied there's all these benefits that come with monogamous relationships. And we have all kinds of ways. Capitalism and our political system favors a certain kind of family structure, and we have couple privilege. I think that people are either afraid of losing those benefits or them being compromised in some way, sort of like how white people are worried about losing the benefits of white supremacy. Even if they think it's wrong, they're not eager to sign up to release those benefits.
Michelle B.: I think it's also an identity issue because, at the end of the day, we socialize women to see their worth in relation to others, in relationships and families. I mean, look at the ways that we celebrate women for getting married and having children. Compare that to any other kind of accomplishment. It can't even be compared. When you have something that's so powerful as a part of someone's identity, to try and strip that away can be really terrifying, I think, for some people. So I think that's probably where the stigma comes in, is in that fear response, that either I have something that I don't want to lose, or I have an identity that I don't want that identity to be threatened by the way that other people are living their lives.
Kenrya: That's always interesting to me. I mean, I often describe white supremacy as like ... Well, I mean, it's got a lot of pieces to it, but part of it is that white people don't like to mind their own fucking business.
Erica: I was just about to say there is an element of minding your own goddamn business that just ... Mind your own fucking business.
Kenrya: How does it threaten this-
Michelle B.: Yeah. Because white supremacy is so great for them, they're vigilant. They're all on the lookout to make sure that it stays in place. Any situation where it might be undermined in some way, they feel like they need to step in and do something about it.
Erica: White supremacy is vigilant. That is ... Yeah. It makes all the sense in the ... I keep doing this, and I got broken nails. White supremacy is super vigilant. Sorry, y'all.
Kenrya: It's fine. We talked a little bit earlier about the things that at least we see as people on the outside looking in, that it takes to make these types of relationships work, right? Tremendous amount of communication. Boundary setting. Not being a fucking child. Being mature. But I'm wondering, from the inside looking out, what does it really take to be happy in this kind of relationship? I think that people have ideas about what that looks like, but I'm wondering what it really looks like.
Michelle B.: Honestly, I think being happy in a non-monogamous relationship is more about, one, your internal state than it is about the dynamic between you and the other person, because it requires you to think broader than you might be used to. One way that I think about this is I used to be broke, going through a divorce, single mom, struggling. When I needed clothes, I would go somewhere cheap, Target, TJ Maxx, and I would go straight to the clearance rack because that's just the way I shop. And so my clothes didn't really fit-
Erica: Target is my chi. But okay.
Kenrya: I'm about to say I still shop at Target.
Michelle B.: The Target clearance rack at 70%? Come on now.
Kenrya: Okay. Yeah. I have at least a couple of things in my closet that came from that clearance rack.
Michelle B.: I have some cute clothes. I got this from Target.
Michelle B.: Okay. And I have a matching blazer that I throw on over it.
Erica: Yes. See?
Michelle B.: Anyway. Look. Don't come for Target.
Erica: No. But yeah.
Kenrya: We would never.
Erica: 70% clearance rack is like ... The arms are like this.
Kenrya: So I know a lot of times that stuff is just out of season, and if you plan, then you can come up on some real deals. Anyway, go ahead.
Michelle B.: Okay. For a long time, that was just what was possible for me. It was an important mental shift for me to give myself permission to buy full-price clothes and to not buy something that I didn't love. I think I had a lot of those same kind of ideas about relationships. It's like, okay, the relationship escalator says that eventually I want to have this, this, and this. So maybe, even though this guy ... I mean, he's okay looking. He's all right. He might be a good provider or whatever. There's already all these calculations where I have to fit myself into this box because I see it as a constraint.
Michelle B.: Now I'm like, "You know what? I'm only going to buy stuff that I love. If I put it on and it doesn't fit, so what? I don't have to buy that just because I was in this little box." Now I'm like, "You know what? If I kiss this guy and my panties don't get wet, this is not it. I am only going to sleep with men who make me feel absolutely head over heels horny, like I can't wait to get into his pants. I only want to surround myself with men who make me feel like that, who make me feel seen and beautiful."
Michelle B.: When you don't have to make all these calculations about the benefits of monogamy and, well, if I deal with this, I can settle for that, it's really me giving myself freedom to be in many different kinds of relationships and to allow myself to enjoy many different kinds of people, rather than placing all of that on one partner. But, more importantly, just being free myself has been the most important part.
Michelle B.: So that's what I would say. Ultimately, it's not really going to matter if you have a partner who's a good communicator or whatever, but you have this own mental prison that you're in about how it has to go and what it has to be and what you can do and what you can't do and everything. And you don't have the freedom to go outside of that and say, "You know what? How about I just go for what I actually want? How about I just recognize that I deserve to have these relationships?"
Michelle B.: I can just go with what is good and safe and pleasurable for me. I can just define my own boundaries and pursue that. And I know that there are people out there who will meet those requirements, because that's another big thing. I think we have a scarcity model about relationships. And especially me, as a single mom, I had this mentality that I was like damaged goods, and I don't. I mean, I recognize my own value, but also, I have been out there enough to know that there are men, there are women, there are people, there are billions of people in the world. I know that I can find people to enjoy and who can enjoy my companionship and so forth, that we can really enrich each other's lives.
Kenrya: I love that for you.
Erica: Yeah. I am just-
Michelle B.: Me, too.
Erica: ... in love with all that you just said. I feel like that's a powerful manifesto that needs to be shared and shouted from the mountaintops. It's beautiful that you are able to articulate that, and you came to realize that in the space of ethical non-monogamous relationships, but, girl, you need to be teaching to this to our monogamist sisters, because, yeah, I think the scarcity model ... I mean, I even think back about when I was in relationships before my marriage. It was just like, okay, this is good. This is okay. I mean, I've been saying I'm searching for perfection. This hand is really bothering me. Granted, there's no such thing as perfection, but I'm looking for what is perfect for me. I'm not going to settle for that shit because I remember how it feels in a relationship, in a marriage that is falling apart, and it's like fuck that.
Michelle B.: Yes. Right. Not worth it.
Erica: No more Marshalls 70% off.
Kenrya: That's how I developed my strong block hand.
Michelle B.: But let me tell you, when I go to Target, I still hit that clearance rack.
Erica: Because you might find something good.
Michelle B.: Look, I will enjoy the thrill of a cute dress for $17.43. Okay? But that's not the only place that I can go. When I want what I want, I go and I get what I want. But I can hit that clearance rack, too. So there's no judgment. No judgment.
Erica: I love it. How does being Black color the way you show up as an ethical non-monogamous person?
Michelle B.: Yeah. I mean, at the end of the day, I encounter far fewer Black people who are interested in ethical non-monogamy than white people. That's just my sample. It means that most of my partners are white, and I'm good with that. My nesting partner is Black, and I think that I will always want that because it's like I have someone that speaks my native language of Ebonics at home. There's literally nothing that I can't say to him. There's a level of safety and communication that we have in a shared struggle of being Black that is absent from my other relationships. So I like that. But, yeah, I don't say the N-word around my white partners.
Erica: I think it's dope that-
Michelle B.: It is what it is.
Erica: ... because you're not expecting your partner to be your everything, you're okay with it. Like you said, I'm good with it because I don't need that.
Kenrya: I can say nigga at home.
Erica: Yeah, exactly.
Michelle B.: Yes. And I do. That's probably the only boundary, because it's like, okay, you can't say it, so I'm not going to say it around you because I don't want to put you in a position where you're like, "Well, how come I can't?" I just don't even want to go there. Everything else, though, I don't code switch around my partners. It's funny that my long-distance lover is Polish. Actually, two of them are immigrants. I decided I was going to pick up some Polish language on Duolingo, and studied it for a year and got to the point where I could read children's books. It was awesome and a learning experience.
Michelle B.: And I taught him a little bit about African American Vernacular English just so that he could better understand some of the things that I would say. He always came at it with just sort of wanting to learn, not wanting to co-opt. And I would call him out if I felt like there were some appropriation. He plays guitar. Once he sends me this guitar lick, and I'm like, "Dude, this is Tony! Toni! Toné!, the beginning." He's like, "Oh, no, this is ..." I'm like, "No, I'm about to play this song for you." He's like, "I stole it from this white dude." This white dude stole it from-
Kenrya: From Tony! Toni! Toné!.
Erica: Tony! Toni! Toné!.
Michelle B.: ... Tony! Toni! Toné!. Okay? Because that guitar lick that you just played, let me tell you, you need to give attribution where it's needed. So I have no problem calling it out. But going back to freedom in relationships, I just am who I am, and I happen to be Black. I'm in a phase of my life where I'm not an activist except in the ways that I show up in settings where I'm underrepresented, and I'm okay with that. I don't bring race as an agenda to my relationships. Certainly, there are people that I have weeded out because they're not where they need to be in order to be with me. But yeah, I mean, I just am who I am. I just only use the N-word with my partner at home.
Kenrya: Okay. You're a mom, and we talked a little bit about how that contributed to it being a bit more difficult to be in your relationships during the pandemic. I'm wondering how being a parent impacts the way that you relate in general.
Michelle B.: The way that I relate to-
Kenrya: Your partners.
Michelle B.: ... my partners?
Kenrya: Mm-hmm (affirmative). For me, it means that I don't always get to have sex when I want to have it, because I got this little person roaming around my fucking house.
Michelle B.: Right. That is a huge challenge. It really came to the forefront in the pandemic. I love to be in relationships with people that I can learn a lot from. My nesting partner has no children and wants no children. But two of my other partners are married. One has a child that is a little younger than mine, and one has two kids that are in college. I'm like, "Wow." So it's really interesting to see how white people parent is very different from how I parent. It's something that I became very aware of in my relationships with white men in particular, white fathers.
Michelle B.: I think it's interesting for me to see what the empty nest situation is. Sometimes I would talk to my partner about when your kids were getting on your nerves, now that you're looking back and they're in college, how would you put in perspective those very difficult teen years, for example? That's something we can talk about. So it's cool. It's just another layer of exposure for me to kind of get out of my own bubble. I think now that things are opening up again and kids are going back to school, I'm looking forward to having a lot more sex. But other than that, I think it's really just sort of observing how other people do what they do with their kids.
Erica: What do you think people get wrong about ethical non-monogamy?
Michelle B.: People who are in those relationships or on the outside?
Erica: Outside looking in.
Michelle B.: I think that they get wrong the emotional capacity of someone to love multiple people. I think another thing that they get wrong is imagining that people are exchangeable or interchangeable. I mean, I think about I am blessed to have my mother and father in my life. I love them both, and me loving one doesn't mean I can't love the other. I think about how we can have people who are in a similar role. You have someone who is parenting, but you can have a totally different relationship with one parent than you do with the other parent. And that's okay. That can be totally fine and normal.
Michelle B.: I think that's one challenge, the thought that if I'm doing relationships right, then there's something problematic about me loving this other person in that kind of way. I just don't think that is necessarily true. It may be for some people, but I don't think it is something that should constrain all relationships. So emotional capacity is one and then interchangeable people. People are not interchangeable.
Michelle B.: I think that people on the outside imagine like oh, well, great. If you have two partners and one you break up with one, you just get another one then. No. When I'm in a relationship and a relationship ends, I experience all the same span of emotions. I go through the same grieving process. And my relationships have evolved. One partner who broke up with me, I went home and cried myself to sleep. This was after I had already met my nesting partner. So we were together, and the fact that I had this other relationship didn't matter because what I had with him was our thing. It was unique. It was special. It was our dynamic that is very different from what I have with anyone else. So it's still something that was important to me, and it hurt when it didn't go well. I think, also, people think it's mostly about sex, which it might be for some people. But it doesn't have to just be about sex.
Kenrya: Right. Related to that question, I'm wondering how do you feel about the way that ethical non-monogamy is portrayed in the media?
Michelle B.: Huh. I don't see a lot of examples of it in the media. Maybe that's just me being workaholic and not watching enough TV. Oh, gosh. I saw the question list, and I thought about I watched a movie about it, and now I can't remember the name of the movie. And I thought, oh, yeah, I could talk about that movie.
Kenrya: I'm wondering what movie that was.
Michelle B.: This is about a movie about a guy who ... He and his girlfriend decided to open up their relationship. She went off and met this super great guy while he was struggling. And then there was a big reveal at the end of the movie. And then I went and when I watch movies and I'm really impacted by them, I go and read a thousand think pieces.
Kenrya: Me, too.
Michelle B.: It's my way of processing what I just saw. I remember reading all of these think pieces about how problematic it was, where there were just boundary violations, not enough communication, the challenges of symmetry. I think it raised a lot of questions. But, anyways, I'm sorry that's not as coherent as I would like it to be. But I think I will say that some portrayals that I have seen present it as very heteronormative, monogamous centered. It's like we have a regular couple who now they're deciding to branch out from monogamy to kind of supplement. They're keeping their relationship escalator intact while also exploring what they can do outside of that, which is fine for some people. But I think that is pretty narrow. I hope that as TV writing and film writing and so forth become more diverse, that more representations of relationships will be represented, and that we don't always have to start from the typical relationship structure.
Erica: Sorry. Phone wanted to be a [inaudible 00:40:09]. What are you reading right now?
Michelle B.: I am reading a lot about education. You mentioned that I'm a social scientist, and so I'm reading “Unequal City” by Carla Shedd. It is about young people in Chicago and how they are navigating their education and trying to avoid being sucked into the school-to-prison pipeline.
Kenrya: Word. What's turning you on today?
Michelle B.: Whew. What is turning me on? Hmm. I think the vaccines are turning me on because I'm about to have a hot girl summer. I'm so excited to travel and go and meet people. I'm going to see my long-distance partner in less than two weeks. I'm going to get just all kinds of D this summer. It's going to be great. And all the dating sites now have little signifiers if you're vaccinated. It is the sexiest thing right now. So I'm just like they got Juvenile and Mannie Fresh talking about “Vax That Thang Up.”
Kenrya: “Vax That Thang Up.” I fell out.
Michelle B.: I'm like, "Yeah. Yep."
Erica: Okay. We're going to do a quick lightning round. I will say a word, and you will tell me the first thing that comes to mind, okay?
Michelle B.: All right.
Michelle B.: Sex.
Kenrya: Now I'm reminiscing.
Kenrya: Sorry. I ain't had vacation sex in a long time.
Michelle B.: Mimosas.
Erica: Okay. Smell.
Michelle B.: Mint. That's the first thing that popped in my mind.
Erica: Good. That's what we want. Joy.
Michelle B.: Books.
Michelle B.: Black Widow. I just watched it.
Erica: I did, too, and it wasn't bad.
Michelle B.: It wasn't bad.
Kenrya: Well, Michelle, thank you so much for coming on the show. We really enjoyed having you on.
Michelle B.: Thank you for having me.
Kenrya: That's it for this week's episode of The Turn On. Thanks for listening. We'll be back next week.
Kenrya: This episode was produced by us, Kenrya and Erica, and edited by B'Lystic. The theme music is from Brazy. Hit subscribe right now in your favorite podcast app and at YouTube.com/TheTurnOnPodcast, so you'll never miss an episode.
Erica: Then follow us on Twitter @TheTurnOnPod, and Instagram @TheTurnOnPodcast. You can find links to books, transcripts, guest information, what's turning us on, and other fun stuff at TheTurnOnPodcast.com.
Kenrya: And don't forget to email us at TheTurnOnPodcast@Gmail.com with your book recommendations and your pressing sex and related questions.
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Kenrya: Thanks for listening. We'll see you soon. Holla.
The Turn On
The Turn On is a podcast for Black people who want to get off. To open their minds. To learn. To be part of a community. To show that we love and fuck too, and it doesn't have to be political or scandalous or dirty. Unless we want it to be.