What is Ethical Non-Monogamy and why am I seeing it all over my apps?

Ethical non-monogamy (ENM) is a term you may have seen quite often on various websites, blogs and forums in recent months.

As a professional male companion, I often write about my clients, many of whom have been hurt by dishonesty and poor communication. It is therefore reassuring to know that there are communities out there with the emotional maturity to recognise and express their sexual needs, and who feel comfortable exploring alternatives to the traditional monogamous status quo that we have come to accept as 'normal.'

For many years, I was a faithful husband, deeply loving and caring for my wife. Sexually, however, we were mismatched. Then, over a fateful few weeks, my heart and morals were tested when a friend revealed she was in an open marriage and wanted to be with me. I had never cheated before, but the prospect excited me – or more accurately, the prospect of sleeping with someone other than my wife excited me.

I'd been raised to be a good person and to do right by others, but infidelity (and relationships in general) had never been discussed in depth at home or in school. I knew that cheating was 'wrong,' but nevertheless, it quickly became an all-consuming fantasy. 

Watch: Changing the way we think about consensual non-monogamy. Post continues below.

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After a short time, my wife discovered my flirtatious messages and our marriage suffered. I initially justified my sadness by accusing her of invading my privacy, but in reality, I was deeply ashamed of myself and incredibly sorry for the damage I had caused.

In all honesty, I was also disappointed that I could no longer experience the feeling of being desired by someone else or the possibility of being with another woman. After the initial excitement, it felt like a basic human right was being denied to me, and that society was to blame for forcing me into a corner where I never felt truly comfortable.

After careful research, my wife eventually agreed to an open marriage, though I'm sure she was reluctant. The euphoric sense of freedom I felt immediately was incredible. I didn't necessarily want to sleep with anyone in particular, but I relished the thought that I could. When I finally did, however, the guilt and unfamiliarity of another woman's body felt strange, and the experience was not as I imagined it would be.

I've described my experiences for two reasons. 

Firstly, I know that my initial sexual frustrations and the feeling of freedom I describe are common. I've heard this from countless clients, both when I was an escort and now as a relationship coach. 

Secondly, I've had more sexual partners than most. My work required me to play a polyamorous role, supporting multiple regular clients simultaneously. My journey from being married and committed, to being with women professionally, to now being monogamous again, has been unique. 


Along the way, I've gained extraordinary insights into my own sexual and emotional capabilities. I've also learned a lot from my friends who have lived and breathed alternate sexual lifestyles for decades.

What is Ethical Non-Monogamy?

In simple terms, ENM refers to any scenario where one person has the explicit consent of another to be intimate with someone else. It may seem straightforward at first, but in reality, ENM is a broad term encompassing many different situations but is usually physical in nature – with less emphasis on emotional or romantic attachments.

Polyamory, a subset of ENM, involves deeper emotional connections, and those involved often don't have a primary partner. For instance, swinging is an example of ENM, where couples allow physical relationships with others without emotional attachment. On the flip side, a poly arrangement like a 'quad' entails four individuals who mutually consent to emotional and sexual connections with each other, without any single pair having a primary relationship.

Human emotions are complex, so polyamory takes many forms, including 'hierarchical polyamory', 'polyfidelity', and 'relationship anarchy', but in the interests of brevity, I'll leave a deeper dive into those for another time. 

After I learned about them, I encourage you to do the same. It's fascinating from a sociological perspective and sadly, and not unlike sex work, is often negatively judged by uninformed or uninterested people.


How to know if Ethical Non-Monogamy is for you.

People from various age groups and socio-economic backgrounds embrace ethically non-monogamous and polyamorous lifestyles.

I've been friends with many colleagues in the adult industry, particularly younger ones, who formed close-knit circles centred around their shared passion for sex and intimacy. Many collaborate to make online content, and some have primary partners who may or may not be involved. Drawing from my recent experiences over the years, and this is just from my perspective, I believe most are very similar to the clients I saw as an escort. 

What ties them together is not just a recognition of their desires, but the emotional maturity and determination to actively pursue and explore them.

So where do I stand now? I believe in loving kindness, however it's achieved. When my wife and I were considering an open marriage, it was from a place of conflict and an attempt to stay together. 

A polyamorous friend advised that if both partners are not 100 per cent comfortable with the idea, it's best to avoid it. An open marriage should not be seen as a tool to fix a relationship, but rather as an alternative lifestyle where everyone enthusiastically consents and love is allowed to flourish and I believe that can only be a wonderful thing.

Mitch Larsson is a former escort, relationship coach and author of 'Time For Her - A Memoir of True Romance' available here.

Feature Image: Getty.

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