Some people are aroused by being spanked or handcuffed or having their hair pulled. In my case, I’m turned on not by physical pain but by jealousy. Specifically, watching my partner with another man.
I first realized this during a hot August night, days before entering my senior year in college. My then girlfriend and I had spent the previous year in separate European countries, and I’d discovered she’d cheated on me with a very tall, very kind basketball player. At first she denied that they'd had sex, but later, while we were going at it, her tight maroon dress bunched up around her waist, I had a sudden intuition of the truth, which, amped up herself, she admitted to. Maybe if we hadn't been having sex at that moment I would have felt more upset than turned on, but, serendipitously, instead of hurt I felt intensely aroused.
My fantasy took hold of the image of her with the basketball player and began to branch out into the sexual space of my imagination. I wondered, "Did she like it more with him? Do his arms or his height or his broad chest turn her on? Did he give her head in a way that I don't? How about his dick?" My jealousy mixed with the idea of her pleasure was sexually intoxicating.
After that, I often envisioned my partner with another man, sometimes even reframing intimate moments with her as a scene I was watching rather than one I was participating in, as though her moans, her bucking, were for someone else.
Some anthropologists would say that this is completely natural, that as non-monogamous creatures, it makes sense that I'm turned on by a sperm competition with other men. That, apparently, is the biological explanation for why I get an irresistible lust to reclaim her by upping my game and being the better lover. It brings out the competitive spirit, the desire to win, to be the male that passes on his genes. In my case, because of contraception, the trophy is not an heir but only my partner's desire for me over others. (I admit in the end it’s a vanity thing. Sexual attraction in general is mediated by vanity — but that's a longer story.)
The more frenzied her actions, the hungrier she becomes for him, the more threat there is to my supremacy, the more painful it becomes for me — the higher I get.
Eventually, with a willing partner, the fantasy became reality. Right now, in fact, I’m in a fairly normal relationship with a beautiful woman. We live together, get along well, love each other, go on bike rides, cook dinner, read on the couch with our feet touching each other's legs. We have sex often. It’s just that every once in a while, that sex happens to include another person.
Some people wonder how this works, why I’m not tortured by the jealousy we’re all taught to impose on our partner in the form of monogamous restrictions.
First, I refuse to be the kind of person who limits the experience of my partner’s life because of insecurities that I have. So there’s that — the moral satisfaction of being the kind of person I respect. Second, the jealousy is necessary to amplify my desire. The stronger the jealousy the more intense my arousal. Ideally, her eyes roll back and she screams in a way I've never heard before. Or she reaches for his ass to pull him deeper into her. The more frenzied her actions, the hungrier she becomes for him, the more threat there is to my supremacy, the more painful it becomes for me — the higher I get.
There's another vital component to my fantasy. I need to believe that other men genuinely long to have sex with my partner. Maybe part of this is a validation of her attractiveness. And maybe part is that human desire is not ever truly spontaneous, but something that is sparked by the desire of others. For me to be turned on by her in the first place, I need to feel, whether it's true or not, that other men should want her — and that if they don't, it's no failing of hers, but a difference in their taste.
Interestingly, I also fall painfully in love with her again, and every part of her — her smile, the slender slope of her neck, her voice, especially that hip — acquires a sudden, powerful meaning that culminates in the incessant repetition in my mind of "Marry me, marry me, marry me."
Of course, there’s the very practical matter of finding a second guy, which, despite men's reputation as horn dogs, isn’t as easy as you’d think. It’s not that difficult, though. My partner and I have gone to sex parties, created an OKCupid profile specifically naming our interest, and tried to pick guys up at bars. The last one seems to be the most challenging. The guys tend to get scared once they learn that another man is in the picture. Maybe they're insecure about their performance being judged. Some have claimed that being watched, or a threesome with another male — I first like to watch and later participate — is too homoerotic or “gay” for them.
The threesome part is really just about both of us pleasing her. I’ve never had an urge to engage sexually with the guy. So, their worry about it being gay is unfounded, and, I have to say, kind of silly anyway. I wouldn't care if it were gay. In fact, I'd actually prefer not being as heterosexual as I am so that I could enjoy both the competition for my partner and the orgiastic pleasure that would come with having two simultaneously arousing partners.
By now, I guess, it’s pretty clear what I get out of it. But I think she gets something out of it as well. Of course, she knows that I enjoy it, so naturally that factors into her wanting to do it. I find it difficult, if not impossible, to extricate what I desire from what she enjoys, and I imagine she feels similarly. But she also enjoys new men, new experiences, pushing her sexual boundaries, and is turned on by novelty in general. This gives her an opportunity to feel like she’s growing and having experiences with new people without having to break up a good relationship out of curiosity for what else is out there. She can find out any time she’d like.
Anyway, the results have been pretty good for me. A little more mixed for her, maybe. She's kind of taxed by it in moments because, after all the sex she just had, she now has to deal with my desire gone into overdrive. Every memory of the experience re-ignites my lust. Small, even fragmentary images, like the curve of her hip pressed down into the mattress by the curve of his, her agonized contortions of ecstasy, or some of the words she screams that I might not have heard in a while — or ever. Every bit comes with an uncomfortable tension that I need to discharge into her.
Interestingly, I also fall painfully in love with her again, and every part of her — her smile, the slender slope of her neck, her voice, especially that hip — acquires a sudden, powerful meaning that culminates in the incessant repetition in my mind of "Marry me, marry me, marry me." Some version of this can last for days, and, even once it settles, seems to leave a semi-permanent afterglow of satisfying vulnerability. How it feels for her, though? I don't think it comes close to how it feels for me. For her it's a small adventure, one that we did together, but nothing so serious. Whereas I'm left ravaged, torn open and raw.
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Images: Guillermo A.Passache/Flickr; Giphy