“It's your thing, do what you wanna do, I can't tell you who to sock it to” -- The Isley Brothers
The Isley Brothers have been a part of my life since early childhood. I have hummed and car danced to “It’s Your Thing” for decades. Suddenly, a few years ago, I gleaned an awareness of what the lyrics really meant. The singer is saying, “It’s your pussy, and you got pussy control.” The lyrics tell a story of NO ownership, NO exclusivity, and NO control of the other person in the relationship. This song came out in 1969, which was in the middle of the Black Arts Movement. Black people were exploring the taboo.
I would love to say that I came into this enlightenment by way of a spontaneous combustion of introspective work. The truth is that my world view on beliefs like: “Who I am in a relationship with?”, “How many people I am in a relationship with?”, “When can I be in relationships?” has socially and culturally shifted. In Rewriting the Rules, Meg-John Barker speaks to the political, popular and psychological discourses that tend to present monogamous coupledom as the only natural and/or morally correct form of human relating. The ultimate goal, in this view, is to be married, and if you are bonded with that one person then you are complete. The Isley Brothers, once I had really heard their words, helped me rewrite the rules and the way of thinking in my life.
Today, my shift, conceptually and behaviorally, is constructed with choice, autonomy, and agency. Through the painful and difficult deconstruction of my blackness, my womanhood, my sexuality, my parameters of existing are liberated.
“Black feminist thought can be highly empowering because they provide alternatives to the way things are supposed to be.” – Patricia Collins
Monogamy is an institution. The institution stands on values and beliefs that dictate socially acceptable relationship structures and how those relationships behave. As long as the prescribed parameters of the institution are complied with, they promise an inevitable “happily ever after”. If you do not achieve this “happily ever after”, you are doing something wrong. I had 35 years of existing on a foundation of dichotomies: normal/abnormal, ladylike/whoreish, man’s role/woman’s role. Life’s matters were clearly delineated. Faithful/cheating was included in those dichotomies. These defacto institutions predetermined the course of my life.
I did not know that there is an alternative those options.
During my journey into polyamory, I learned to appreciate Audre Lorde, bell hooks, Patricia Collins, James Baldwin, Maya Angelou, and others. Black feminist thought can be highly empowering because they provide alternatives to the way things are supposed to be. First, empowerment is gaining the critical consciousness to unpack hegemonic ideologies. Second, the follow up to critical consciousness consists in constructing new knowledge.
My Womanhood, My Sexuality
“I began writing about power because I had so little.” – Octavia Butler
Black woman devalued. The narrative of my life was that being somebody’s someone is all you need. What I’m speaking of is the belief that I am nothing, an empty shell, unless somebody loves me. I became complicit in my own oppression and marginalization. I oppressed my possibilities and marginalized my wants, needs, and desires. I created rules on top of rules on top of rules to protect that narrative. Lies, justifications, accepting what is unacceptable was a daily practice.
Does that sound like liberation?
Moving out of the relationships that were stifled by the desperation of finding The One was the first taste of sweet freedom. I did not have to excuse, explain away, or deny who the person is that is sitting in front me. Polyamory is more than a relationship dynamic. It shatters constraints and arbitrary benchmarks of successful relationships. It allows room for authenticity develop without the pressure of “Where is this going?” or “What’s next?” It allows room for infinite possibilities. Polyamory is many loves. The loves are friendships, groups, family, chosen family, lovers, and so much more.
Blackness and Sexuality
“We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.” -- Anais Nin
My perception versus reality is an area that I can write ad nauseum about. I perceived myself as ugly and black, set against a background of the beautiful world that I didn’t belong to. I fantasized that I was everyone else but me. I did not have the admiration, fondness, affection for my skin as I do today. Throughout this journey, the new relationship with my skin has illuminated my sexuality. I am no longer in the closet. My community gave me much affirmation and acceptance. I did not have to be and they did not ask me to be anyone. Ruby is pretty cool to them. My black is beautiful and my sexuality is owned by me.
Polyamory means many loves; my first love had to be me.
Ruby Bouie Johnson is a clinical social worker and sex therapist located in Plano, Texas. Ruby’s primary client base are folks who are kinky, in consensual nonmonogamous relationships, queer, lesbian, bisexual, and gay, and sexual challenges. She works with individuals, couples, triads, quads, and polycules with power dynamics within their relationships. Ruby has published in various journals and in the African American Encyclopedia on Criminology. Ruby has presented at Kinky Kollege, Consent Summit, Association of Black Sexologist and Clinicians, and will present at the upcoming American Association of Sexologists, Educators, Counselors, and Therapists Conference. Ruby Johnson is a contributor for HuffPo and Black and Poly Magazine. Ruby Johnson is on faculty for the Kink Knowledgeable Program. Mrs. Johnson serves on the board for the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom.
Ruby is the CEO, Founder, and organizer for PolyDallas Millennium LLC. Our 3rd Annual Symposium is July 14-16 in Dallas Texas. www.polydallasmillennium.comhttp://www.facebook.com/polydallas