Monday, October 11, 2021

Erez’s Journey to a Polyamorous Lifestyle

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“Polyamory is the non possessive, honest, responsible, and ethical philosophy and practice of loving multiple people simultaneously. Polyamory emphasizes consciously choosing how many partners one wishes to be involved with rather than accepting social norms which dictate loving only one person at a time.”

  • Introduction to Polyamory, The Polyamory Societ

Growing up as an outcast in Israel and showing no interest in traditional “boy” activities like sports and guns, Erez Benari preferred the company of the fictional characters he read about in science fiction novels to his classmates. The friends he did have were supportive of his non-traditional interests, and their parents became surrogates to Erez, teaching him good values and how to be a decent person in society, as his relationship with his own parents was strained. Erez grew up with a half-brother who is ten years younger than he is and Erez was often overlooked. His brother was afforded not only more opportunities than Erez was, but he grew up feeling loved and accepted by his family, something Erez would not get.

Battling with self-esteem issues and living with neglectful parents, Erez found comfort in frequenting his local library, where he discovered and devoured any book written by author Robert Heinlein after checking out Number of the Beast 666. Known as “the dean of science fiction writers”, Heinlein made a successful career as an author from 1939-1988 and was one of the first to accurately portray the scientific aspect in his science fiction novels. He used his writing to explore more provocative political and social ideas, speculating how the future of politics, religion, race, and sex would be shaped by science and engineering and repeatedly delved into the social themes like the importance of self-reliance and individual liberty, the nature of one’s own sexual relationships, how organized religion influences culture and government, societal obligations, and the tendencies of repressing nonconformist thoughts.

Erez found himself resonating with the libertarian themes found in Heinlein’s books, specifically the lack of monogamy and jealousy, and the sharing of love and romantic partners. As Erez grew into a teenager in a society dominated by monogamistic values, Heinlein’s ideas shaped Erez’s personality and he began to embrace the notion that love is not something that should be limited to one person.

Love is the condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own. – Robert Heinlein

In his late teens, Erez conformed to society’s monogamist notions, dating only one person at a time and entering a relationship where he would feel unfulfilled, but too shy to disrupt the social norms, until he met Dalit. Erez met Dalitat at his Army base and they eventually fell in love. Although she refused to be his girlfriend officially because she had a relationship with someone else at the time, Erez didn’t feel pangs of jealousy and wasn’t bothered by her choice to date two people at once. His family, on the other hand, was shocked that this didn’t bother him, citing monogamous values.

His relationship with Dalit helped him to explore the world of non-monogamy and open relationships outside of what he read in Heinlein’s books. This exploration also allowed him to look internally at his own values and the type of relationships he wanted in life.

During his relationship with Dalit, Erez had already been forming a friendship with the woman who would later become his wife. The two would hang out regularly with a group of friends, and after his relationship with Dalit ended, he began a more intimate relationship with his soon-to-be wife. She moved to his city for her studies, living down the street from Erez. Together they would watch TV and share meals, eventually becoming a romantic couple. During their time together, Erez was open about his values, and she seemed to share the same ideas about relationships. They often discussed jealousy and cheating after watching a television program or movie with infidelity as part of its storyline, agreeing it was ridiculous. “Why would you secretly have sex behind your partner’s back,” they wondered, “when you can simply ask their permission and enjoy yourself openly?”

In their early twenties, the two were married and lived ordinary, monogamist lives. Erez’s career in the 9 to 5 world as an engineer in the tech industry supported them and as he and his wife were not practicing an open relationship at the time, there were no opportunities for extra-marital affairs. He had no female friends outside of his marriage and the two business trips to Europe he eventually went on did not provide opportunities for exploring an open marriage.

Several years into the marriage, Erez met and became close friends with a lesbian woman. She introduced Erez to the world of LGBTQ and the spectrum of sexuality. It was then that Erez realized he was likely bisexual. After years of believing a person could only be gay or straight, he discussed this realization with his wife, and asked for permission to explore this newfound identity. Wanting to keep her husband happy and not disrupt the marriage, she agreed. Erez met and had sexual encounters with a few men, and while he enjoyed the ability to express this side of himself sexually, it was not as fun or fulfilling as he hoped it would be, so he decided he did not need to explore this further.

As their monogamous married life continued, in 2008 Erez applied and entered the American Diversity Immigrant Visa (DV) program. He and his wife were selected to move to the United States and decided to settle in Washington state, just outside of Seattle. Two years after their move, they welcomed their son into the world.

During the formative years of his son’s life, Erez was a devoted father, teaching him foundational lessons and celebrating his son’s milestones.

When their son turned five, his wife wanted to take a vacation and visit their family in Israel. Being averse to flying, and not desiring to return to Israel, Erez expressed wanting to stay in Washington. So after a lengthy discussion, he and his wife agreed that she would go with their son on vacation, and he would remain in Washington for a few weeks.

For the first time in almost twenty years, Erez was on his own. Looking for a way to occupy his time with his wife and child on the other side of the world, he found an event called “Kink Lab”. This event was for individuals in the sex-positive community to meet and discuss their different and varied interests. While Erez had an understanding of kink from a bunkmate in his Army days, he didn’t know much about the intricacies and this event afforded him the opportunity to explore the dynamics of it. At the event, he met the organizers and enjoyed being around others who were open in their discussions of sex and passion without feeling awkwardness or shame.

At the Kink Lab, Erez was able to learn about Erotic Hypnosis, Gender Identity and Power Dynamics, Making D/S Work, Expressing or Receiving Love Without A Relationship, How To Help Newcomers, Kinky/ Sex-Positive Non-Profits, Owning a Sex-Positive Business, Reconciling Pushing with the Need For Consent, and more. During this event, Erez was able to get to know other participants, and many of them would speak to him or each other about visiting the “CSPC”. After his time at the Kink Lab, Erez looked up what the “CSPC” was, and found that it’s short for “The Center for Sex Positive Culture”, a non-profit organization that has a club in Seattle.

Sex positivity is a belief and movement to replace shame and judgment with pleasure and freedom in regard to sexual activity. Members of the CSPC community are able to attend events run by the non-profit organization and can explore and celebrate their sexuality. Depending on the event, this can involve play (BDSM, sensation, etc.), sex (voyeurism / exhibitionism, group, etc.), and socializing. Consent and respect are of the utmost importance, and the CSPC has trained staff overseeing activities.

After attending an orientation, Erez joined the club and visited daily to explore this side of himself while his wife and son were on vacation. During his weeks at the club, he didn’t partake in any sexual activities, instead he socialized and learned more about the community – excited to tell his wife of his new discovery when she came back from Israel.

To Erez, the CSPC felt like home; a place where for the first time in his life he could feel free in his element, interact and talk with people in the community about any topic, and explore himself and his desires safely. His regular attendance at the club over the next year was filled with non-sexual group cuddle sessions and socializing with others in the community about the different types of relationships they had with each other and outside the CSPC.

In 2016, at the age of 42, Erez Benari finally begun to explore the possibility of having polyamorous relationships.

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