The One Penis Policy

Today I’m going to introduce you to the One Penis Policy.  If this term is totally new to you, it may conjure images of some kind of civil policy, much like China’s recently repealed one child policy.  My brain thinks of a fun, government-subsidized sex toy distribution program to encourage sex positivity.  I’m pretty sure it was Herbert Hoover who said, “A chicken in every pot, a car in every garage, and a dildo on every bedside table.”  I still have to fact-check that quote, but seriously,

I hope I live to see the day there are government subsidized dildos.

In reality, One Penis Policy, or OPP as it’s usually called, is a particular format for polyamorous relationships.  Usually, it involves an agreement wherein a man can have one or more female partners, but those female partners are not allowed to have male partners.  Sometimes this also shows up in mono/poly couples, where the monogamous-leaning man is okay with his female partner being open and polyamorous, but only with other women.  Only one penis allowed, hence the name.  

The flip side of OPP would be a One Vagina Policy, where a woman would be allowed multiple male partners, but those male partners could not engage romantically or sexually with other women.  I have only ever personally witnessed this once--in a closed triad of one woman and two bisexual men who had all lived together for years.  One of the men was interested in adding another female partner, but the threesome had not yet figured out how to do this in a way that would not be disruptive or threatening to the existing woman.  She was a short, fiesty woman with shocking magenta hair, very progressive and non-traditional, and yet, she confessed while laughing at herself, “I want to add in another partner and spread the love, but I go crazy over the thought of another woman in my kitchen!”  

Other than this one instance, I haven’t seen any other One Vagina Policy relationships.  OPP relationships, on the other hand, seem to be common.  This immediately makes me raise an eyebrow.  Why the wide disparity?

I have to stop here and get really honest.  I’m having a hard time maintaining a close-to-objective tone because OPP relationships make me shudder.  On the surface, all I can see is inequality, patriarchy, and out-of-control insecurities.  I would never agree to be in a relationship like this.  But I don’t want to trash a relationship style just because it isn’t what I would want.  I reached out to some online poly communities, asking to hear from people in OPP relationships who were happy with the arrangement.

Descriptive vs. Prescriptive

I got an interesting range of responses.  It quickly became clear that there is a difference between single-gender dating naturally occurring in one’s relationship versus it being laid down as a strict policy or rule within the agreements of the relationship.  There were a number of queer people who were in these kind of relationships, not because it was part of the relationship agreements, but just because they weren’t particularly interested in pursuing male-bodied individuals.  I also heard from people in BDSM Dom/sub relationships, where restricting access to the sub’s partners or specific sexual experiences was a part of the power play.  When not engaging in this kind of play though, both partners generally had equal access to partners of whatever gender they desired.

In these instances it’s descriptive OPP at play.  There is no formal policy or rule; the circumstances are just such that only one man is engaged in the relationship at that given time. And it makes sense.  If a person genuinely has no interest in pursuing men as it is, then there should be no need for a policy to be laid down restricting it.  

Prescriptive or prescribed OPP is what makes me nervous.  In online communities, many people justify prescribed OPP as a “baby step” on the way to a fully open polyamorous relationship.  If the man is too threatened by the notion of his female partner getting involved with other men, the theory is that experiencing her dating women might be a gentler, easier-to-swallow step on the road to an open relationship. Many people espouse the practice of moving forward at the rate of the slowest person, not forcing anyone to rush into something they are uncomfortable with.  I can understand the thinking behind this, but it requires two important factors:

  1. The woman must be bisexual.  That may seem obvious, but I’ve actually witnessed a number of men just assuming that their female partners will have a healthy interest in women that is equally as intense and fulfilling as their interest in men.
  2. It eventually transitions to an equal-opportunity open relationship once the man feels safe.

Unfortunately, #2 seems to be the sticking point for many OPP relationships.  The idea of other male partners may never feel as “safe” as female partners.

Women are Safe, Men are Threatening

So why is this the case?  Feminists will cry havoc and claim that these men are just trying to hunt down a threesome or that these men don’t think that romantic relationships between women are “real” relationships.  We’ve discussed gender perceptions on the podcast many times, and this transitory, “girlish fun” attitude toward bisexual female relationships ruffles my feathers like no one’s business.  There have been many cases of men in OPP relationships who get an uncomfortable wake-up call when they realize that their female partner’s new relationship actually has a life of its own.  This can be a particularly challenging realization if his partner’s relationship with a woman is autonomous, and he does not have any kind of romantic or sexual access to her girlfriend.  

But it’s dangerous to paint people with a broad brush.  I’d venture to guess there are few open-minded men out there who consciously think that relationships between women are fake or ingenuine.  And it’s also unlikely that these men are nothing but insecure control freaks crippled by their own sense of competition with other males.  The most common justifications for OPP are presented much more logically and positively than that.  

Beyond the Genitals

If you are a man currently in or considering an OPP arrangement with your bi-curious or bisexual girlfriend or wife, try writing out a list of all the reasons you are interested in this format.  Your reasons probably will be very positive on the surface:

Benefits of My Girlfriend Dating Women

  1. Offers new and different sexual explorations

  2. Provides a unique romantic and emotional experience

  3. Allows her to have different needs fulfilled

  4. She gets access to things that I can’t offer

  5. Could be hot

These are all fantastic reasons for letting your female partner explore relationships with women.  However, I would invite you to make a slight modification to your list and give it a second look.

Benefits of My Girlfriend Dating Women Anybody

  1. Offers new and different sexual explorations

  2. Provides a unique romantic and emotional experience

  3. Allows her to have different needs fulfilled

  4. She gets access to things I can’t offer

  5. Could be hot

See what I did there?

The benefits of having multiple partners extend beyond what genitals happen to be attached to those partners.  If the only thing holding you back from being okay with your partner dating both men and women is insecurity, then face it head on.  Talk openly with your partner about what makes you feel uncomfortable or threatened by other men. Brainstorm ideas on how to change your thinking or how your partner can help you feel more reassured and stable in your relationship.  

Lastly, for those of you protesting reason #5, I’m not just referring to being aroused by thinking about or possibly witnessing the kind of sex your female partner would be having with someone else.  I’m referring to the hotness of getting to know your partner more intimately as they share this adventure with you, of seeing them discover new sources of happiness as well as supporting you in your own explorations.  I’m talking about the undeniable hotness of witnessing your partner reinvigorating their own sexual and romantic energy, then bringing that energy back into your relationship.

Which is just as good, if not better, than a government subsidized dildo distribution program. 

Dedeker Winston is a relationship coach, writer, belly dancer, model, nomad, and chapstick-addict.  Follow her here: @DedekerWinston |