Updated: Sep 4, 2021
Author's Notes: While this is primarily a novel about sexual politics, it is also a Southern novel. In this novel I present the culture that I know and the people with whom I share my Southern home. Just as much as To Kill a Mockingbird is a Southern novel, this too is a novel firmly grounded in the world of the rural American south. While Harper Lee wrote about racial oppression in the 1930's, I write about sexual oppression today. Significantly, the characters that oppose the protagonists in my novel are remarkably similar in their outlook Ms. Lee's. It is a sad commentary that in the intervening eighty years between her story and mine, the basic world view of the white population in this region has changed very little.
In Search of the Final Freedom:
An Erotic Socio-Political Novel
A Couple On the Brink of Change
Cooper realized the fundamental change in their life sooner than Bonnie did herself. He had known even before she said it that her tryst with Vic was not to be a one off thing. It would not be the last time his wife would feel Vic inside her, and in all likelihood, Bonnie would not limit her sexual explorations to just Jill and Vic. After twenty years, he knew his wife in some ways better than she knew herself.
Heretofore their life had been predictable and non-controversial as befitted a leading family in a small Southern town. The Campbell’s had been among the first families in the community, the old cemetery behind Saint Thomas United Methodist Church had Campbell’s going back to before the Civil War. Cooper was an architect in a major firm based in Atlanta. His daily commute to the southern edge of Atlanta took slightly more than an hour most days, but he enjoyed the time listening to the news on NPR and old music. He was a member of the local Rotary Club and as generations of his forbearers had been, was a teacher, and trustee at St. Thomas Methodist. On Sunday mornings he taught the couples Bible study class and on Sunday evenings he and Bonnie led the youth group.
Bonnie had grown up in rural Tennessee, the sixth child of a typical Appalachian family. Her mother was a pious Primitive Baptist who had never had a drink of alcohol in her life. Her father, the son of a well know moonshiner, was far more flexible in his moral attitudes. None of her siblings had gone past high school but she won a series of partial scholarships and was awarded a large grant allowing her to be the first in her family to go to college. As she had told Jill, her first sexual experience was with her best friend in high school. But that was more in the tradition of teenage girls “practicing” with one another than lesbian sex. It had never gone to the point she’d gone with Jill. Later in high school she had become sexually active with boys and had a good many partners before she met Cooper. They were both attending Vanderbilt and he became the last person she had been sexual with for two decades, until that first time with Jill. They dated on an off for two years before marrying the year he graduated with a masters in architecture, and she with a bachelors in secondary English education. She only taught two years before Misty was born and she never had any desire to go back to the classroom. For the past fifteen years she had been a full time Southern mom. Her only “work”, outside of being chauffer, class mom, chaperone and other motherly tasks, was in the form of volunteer work in a variety of social clubs and at the church. Though she and Cooper were jointly the church’s youth sponsors, she did most of the planning and work that had led to their very successful Sunday night program.
All in all their lives had a comfortable, even if somewhat disappointingly dull, routine. They tried to keep their marriage exciting by going on regular dates and playing sex games and taking sexy nude photos of Bonnie. By this time both of their children were old enough to be aware their parents were still very sexually active. They by intent chosen, from before they had kids, never to lock or even fully close the bedroom door when they made love. Thus over the years the kids had seen them engaged in sex on many occasions. Though when they were in elementary school the kids never thought anything of walking in and seeing Mom and Dad engaged in any manner of sexual activity; however, once their daughter reached middle-school she chastised them more than once for not shutting the door, or for them to “do it” with less noise. For several years, Bonnie had made an effort to remember to at least mostly shut the door when she and Cooper played, or during her regular afternoon “relaxation sessions” with her sex toys. But those complaints had ceased not long after Misty reached high school.
Since it had been normal all their lives, the kids didn’t even take note that Mom’s sex toys often sat right out on the dresser. When they were younger they would play with the vibrators, making their faces buzz. Bonnie had even heard the kids refer to them as “Mom’s toys”, but she wasn’t sure they'd heard her or Cooper call them that or did the kids just know they were hers. More than a few times they had interrupted her “relaxation session” over the years. So they knew they were moms long before they understood their use or significance. Interestingly, even during the year or two when Misty complained about their sex lives and their ‘out of the bedroom’ household nudity, their pubescent daughter had never made any comment about the vibrators or even dildos. Perhaps some things were just so normal that even during that awkward time for Misty the toys themselves were not embarrassing. And Lamar just seemed oblivious to everything unless it was a video game.
Thus Bonnie and Cooper were quite progressive for their region, but this did not prepare them for the real difficulties that a family faces when faced with the challenges of converting to a non-monogamous marriage.
The process toward adopting open marriage had really begun years before when, as part of their service to the church, she and Cooper had mentored a husband and wife in the church who were dealing with this issue. Rev. McBride had asked them to spend time with the couple and help them through the hard process of reconciliation after the wife had an affair. He and Bonnie had taken the task seriously and spent a long time looking both at the sex lives of Bible figures as well as a book he’d picked up in Atlanta at a bookstore near his office. At first their assumption was that monogamy was required, but the more they considered how nearly all the Old Testament “men of God” had both wives and mistresses. Therefore it was obvious that the commandment “thou shalt not commit adultery” could not possibly apply to all sex outside marriage of one man an one woman. One book he’d found in Atlanta had a whole chapter devoted to something called polyamory, which seemed to be what the families in the Old Testament practiced. Of course, being Methodist, they couldn’t see that it could be OK for the “Man of God” to have multiple wives and mistresses, but not afford the same privilege for the women. He’d gone to Rev. McBride with his startling preliminary conclusion. Much to his surprise, the minister, rather than just dismissing Cooper’s conclusion, gave him more reading materials to continue his study on the subject. After another few months and much deliberation, Cooper and Bonnie jointly agreed that monogamy was not the only path for a Christian marriage. Again when Cooper went to his pastor, Rev. McBride did not disagree with the conclusion, but he did not directly agree either. The minister suggested to Cooper that he should start working on some sort of formal treatise on the subject to present to the larger Christian community.
Using their new perspective, Bonnie and Cooper helped the other couple to understand that the problem in their marriage was one of broken trust, not sex. The sex the wife had outside of marriage was simply the outward sign that she had withdrawn her trust in her husband to understand her needs. It was that lack of faith in him that led her to breaking his trust. It took several months, but one evening at their house, the couple seemed to have a light come on in their head and they understood that sex outside marriage is only a symptom of the sin of betrayal of trust, not a sin in itself.
It was while they were working with that couple, Bonnie and Cooper had come to internalize the truth that sex outside of marriage was not inherently wrong. So, one night, after a session with the other couple, Cooper told Bonnie if she wanted to have sex outside their marriage, she was free to do so. Bonnie responded that she could not see that happening, but she also said Cooper could do the same.
Given the quiet nature of their life it could have been many years before a situation arose where this agreement would be put to the test. Given their two personalities, they initially agreed it would be far more likely that Bonnie would find a man she wanted to do it with than Cooper would find a woman. As Bonnie pondered the idea, she realized if they did actually share their bed with someone else, she had the perfect person already in her life. Not a man, but her "little sister" Gina. Bonnie had sort of adopted the young single mother a decade ago when their two girls were in first grade together. She was very pretty, bisexual and most importantly had a crush on Cooper. Her virtual disappearance when she became involved with a controlling man had put an end to that idea. As it turned out, it was almost twelve months to the day, from the first time they explicitly made that agreement, until the afternoon when she first had sex with Vic.
As spring moved toward summer, with her ongoing relationship with Jill and Vic, Bonnie could see her self-image was changing, but she was not sure exactly how that would manifest itself. Cooper also knew his wife was different. Not bad different, but she was different all the same. Now the gate had been opened to the things he suspected that deep down she always wanted to be; it was unlikely she would ever go back to the quite Southern housewife role she'd been playing for the last sixteen years. He knew she was on one hand reverting the person she had been before they had kids and on the other hand she was becoming something new and more mature. Whatever she was becoming he doubted it included monogamy.
The first clear sign of the change came sooner than Cooper had thought it would.
It was the first very warm Saturday morning in April. Spring was in full gear; Cooper lay in bed thinking of his chores for the day: put up the space heaters, take the winter cover off the pool and bring the summer clothes from the storage room. He reflected on the changes in their lives. Bonnie’s relationship with Jill was now the new normal and he knew she looked forward to each time Vic was free to join them. The two women began to make their afternoon sessions longer and longer, adding more languorous naked snuggling to their sexual encounters. Once before they were almost caught laying nude in the bed by Bonnie's kids. That time it had happened because there was an afterschool science fair, Jill didn’t have to go pick up her kids at the normal time. They were in that lovely afterglow, filled with gentle caresses and sweet nothings, when they heard the sound of the front door closing. This danger was new since Misty had only gotten her driver’s license a few weeks before. It was close but they came up with a semi-plausible cover story about trying on clothes. Afterward, they laughed how it was good Misty had no reason to even begin to suspect what was going on between her mother and her best friend because their weak cover story would have been totally transparent if the teen knew they were lovers.
On the other hand Bonnie and Cooper’s love making over the past months was the best it had been since before their daughter, Misty, had been born. He wondered if it weren’t because her enormous libido had finally been satisfied to the point caressing was more important than her orgasms. In fact he considered how their love life had made a significant improvement for the better since that day when Jill and she first had sex.
He looked at the clock it was already 8:30 AM and he could hear their fourteen year old son Lamar playing video games from all the way across the house. He knew Misty would still be dead to the world for a few more hours. It was warm so he planned to go through the living room to the kitchen to get his coffee before he put on any clothes at all. Years ago, he and Bonnie decided that though, they were no nudist, that clothes or a lack thereof should be no big deal around the house. Thus occasional parental nudity in the house or more than occasional skinny dipping in the swimming pool received little notice before Misty reached adolescence. Only in the two years when Misty was transitioning through puberty did they get comments about how gross it was to see them naked. Even though Misty was no longer complaining like she had before, neither he nor Bonnie just went naked as they walked around the house the way they had done in years past.
On this day, Cooper stepped from their bedroom and saw his wife comfortably reading a book in the living room, he was more than a little surprised that she too was fully unclothed. Since the kids bedrooms were upstairs, early in the mornings or late at night she still regularly went to and from the kitchen in the nude. Since Misty first objected, Cooper had not seen his wife outside the bedroom in the nude for an extended time like this. In fact it had been four full years since he found her reading in the living room in the raw. That is unless the two of them were skinny dipping which they continued to do after the kids began moving through puberty. He reflected how those kinds of complains had peeked three summers ago, but they hadn’t heard any such comments in two years. “Perhaps she’s grown out of that phase” he thought to himself. Perhaps, he reasoned, Bonnie knows that and that is why she is just sitting there naked.
Later, when he was working at taking off the winter cover from their swimming pool he again was surprised. She came to tell him she was heading to the grocery store. What surprised him was that she was wearing a pale yellow tank top, but did not have a bra underneath. It wasn’t that she was indecent, the shirt wasn’t sheer, but it was obvious she was braless and that was the point of it. That was something he had not seen her do since they were in college. When he asked why she was dressed this way she simply asked, “Should I change?” to which he quickly said “No, you look fine, I was just wondering,”
“It was warm today, and I just thought it looked nice” she said before turning to leave.
Through the month of April she developed a pattern of wearing more skimpy or provocative clothing than she had in a very long time. Sure she'd dress very sexy in school, but that ended when they had moved to Sparta to raise their family. At home, she was more likely to be wearing just a tee-shirt and her panties or sometimes skipping either the shirt or panties, or both. He wasn't sure where the short skirts and shorts had come from, but she seemed to wear one or the other any time she left the house. In a small town such things do get noticed.
By the last week in April, the temperature was reaching the low 80’s nearly every day. Bonnie had the pool service company come out and complete the process to open the pool for the season. The next day, Bonnie lay out by their pool for the first time of the season. She wore just her bikini bottoms.
She considered how last August, when she was right in this chaise lounge that she had actually begun to liberalize her behavior. It was funny how she completely missed the significance of the moment at the time, yet now it was so obvious. At the end of last summer, Jill had been coming to her Wednesday’s ladies tanning social for a month or so. Every Wednesday for the past five years, Bonnie had hosted a Woman’s Fellowship meeting. Though it sounds lofty, in fact it was just a time for the younger women of St. Thomas to get together and talk. Each year, from late spring till early autumn, they lay out and tanned and talked by the Campbell’s pool. It was not a very formal group and they just took turns bringing light snacks. Being Methodist, and not Baptist, they also drank wine as they enjoyed one another’s company.
The day Jill made the surprising request, Bonnie was just getting to know her well. She had already realized that the newcomer was, unlike the rest of the women, no social conservative. Even still she was taken off guard. The small but momentous event was that Jill had asked if it would be OK if she removed her top while she sunned by the Campbell’s pool. This was a huge step away from proper Southern behavior.
Attendance was down that day and only she, Trisha Simms (Bonnie’s oldest church friend), Ashley Ericson-Webber and Lois Drayman were there that particular day. That made it easier. What put her on the spot was that in trying to let Jill know that she wasn’t a right wing crazy, the week before she’d confided in her new friend that she often sunned topless or even nude when she was by herself. But what Jill had asked to do was totally different than Bonnie sunning in private. Bonnie’s immediate concern had been that Trish, Ashley or Lois might be offended, but since it was just the five women that day, she hoped it would be OK. After giving Jill permission to remove her top, she felt obligated to follow the lead and removed hers as well. Bonnie’s fear was unfounded as Trish removed her top without the slightest hesitation. The other three women were not offended, even though Lois did not take off her top.
Over the next two weeks Jill encouraged other women, particularly the younger ones in the group to try it as well. Thus expanded the group of topless tanners from four to eight in those last two weeks of August. Bonnie had no idea that first day that her change of the social norm would become permanent. She was surprised when at church one of the younger women stopped by the nursery to tell her and Jill that she was looking forward to going “European” with them on Wednesday.
Laying in the sun Bonnie mused on how easily her friends, whom she had known as conservative dressers for a dozen years, so quickly warmed to the idea of topless sunbathing. This was particularly surprising in that for the first year of the Wednesday women’s tanning group she was the only one to wear a true bikini. So for those ladies to go from one-piece swimsuits to well over half the women going topless before cool weather put an end to their weekly tanning sessions was quite the transition. Now, eight months later she wondered how much her snap decision to allow topless tanning at the Wednesday group paved the way for the events of the fall and winter.
Before it got too cold to sun in early October, Bonnie had heard several of the women thank Jill for breaking the ice. She was quite surprise to hear that a couple of the women had wanted to make that same proposal for a couple of years, but just couldn’t bring themselves to do so. In those weeks before the warm weather came to an end nearly all of the women in the little Wednesday’s tanning group had shed their top at least once. The most striking thing of all was that not one of the women quit the group over this, and it appeared that their bare breasted sunning had not found its way to the church gossip chain.
Looking back to the couple of months leading up to Bonnie and Jill’s sexual debut, she could now see her new friend had been moving toward a sexual relationship from nearly the very beginning. When Jill had "joked" that the husbands should be invited to tan with them, at the time it seemed she was just being provocative; but now, Bonnie could see that her lover had been building up to their “accidental” first sexual encounter. Since then Jill had led her down paths that she didn’t even know existed. There was no question that Jill had changed her life. When the next Wednesday the woman's group moved outside for their first tanning session of the season, Bonnie got the first glimpse of what it would be like this year. Topless was the attire de jure for the tanning group.
Bonnie's change of attire that was noticed by her husband was not as incidental as Cooper had supposed. With the beginning of spring, Bonnie had talked a lot to Jill about wanting to explore a part of herself that was more than just a Southern housewife. It was not she wanted to stop being a homemaker, but she wanted to expand her identity as well as her sexuality. One way to do this was to emulate how Jill dressed. Hence the miniskirts and braless look. But, at home Bonnie and Cooper had long practiced a level of comfort with nudity around the house that even Jill had never tried. So, Bonnie became her own guide as to attire in the home and at their pool. Right off she completely swore off bikini tops at the pool unless there were visitors at the house. Though she and Cooper had never stopped skinny dipping at home during Misty's adolescent phase, sunning in the nude had always been rare.
In mid May Bonnie tested to see Misty's tolerance for her mothers self-exploration. While her daughter sunned in her bikini, mom walked out in nothing but a towel, then dropped the towel and lay down beside her fully in the nude. Misty looked over to see her mother's action but made no response. Had Bonnie not seen her eyes, she would have guessed Misty had not even noticed what her mother had just done. This was quite a change from three years prior when Misty was at her height of embarrassment over nudity. But still, no reaction at all simply meant that her daughter was not ready to reveal what she was thinking.
The last Saturday night in May was an important night for Bonnie. So far, all her extra marital play had been with just her and Jill and Vic. She wanted to move her sex play from just her thing with her friends to something that Cooper was a part of as well. So that night she had arranged for Cooper to join them for a night out. She knew how clumsy Cooper was in social situations with women. Even way back when they began dating, he’d looked frightened to death. If she hadn’t practically dragged him to her dorm room, they might never have had sex that first time. So, tonight she wanted to see if Cooper could relax enough to talk casually about sex with her “two lovers”. The end game was to see if he would be up to the four of them renting a cabin in the mountains north of Atlanta for a weekend in late June.
She’d tried to grease the wheels by giving Cooper a huge surprise the night before. Two weeks prior, when Vic had joined Jill at the Campbell house, Bonnie had made a video. She’d used Cooper’s fancy new Cannon DSLR camera and tripod to make a video with not only sex but a story. It was just under thirty minutes long and they had role played that Vic and Jill’s car had broken down in front of their house. They had knocked on the front door but no one answered. So they went around and entered the back yard gate where they heard music. Inside they found Bonnie nude, masturbating on one of the chaise lounges. They didn’t interrupt but watched and stripped down themselves. Of course eventually Bonnie saw them and they all have sex by the pool. It had taken most of the day to shoot, but Bonnie wanted it to be something special. Each new shot had to be just so. Some were easy, but some took repeated takes. The one that took the longest to get right, but the one she was most proud of was of her laying on one of the umbrella tables. She set the camera to be in profile of her and Vic as he held her legs straight up making long strokes into her. She also wanted Jill in the shot, sitting behind them sipping wine as she watched her husband fuck the woman they had just met. The shot was a real challenge to light just right and to make it worse, several times the table started to tip when she was n