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Open Marriage is not a Fuck Fest

Updated: Apr 3, 2023

One day about six years ago, Paula and I were talking to another couple and something came up about the number of sexual partners she's had since we have been married. I noted that while neither of us knew for sure, I could look to the narrative I've kept for a general idea of the number. I told them that while it did not record all the men and women with whom she has had sex, it would be a good place to start looking.

Over the next week, I decided to try to figure out that number. The problem I ran into when I tried to make that assessment is "What constitutes a sexual partner?"

If you recall this was a big question during the Monica Lewinsky affair. Is oral sex, sex? If it is, what if oral sex is not to orgasm is it sex? And what about two women? If they make love but don't go down on each other, is it sex?

And what about sex play? In the narrative of our decades of open marriage there were a number of times when one of us engaged in what looked like sex, but was intended as just showing off or playing around. For instance, on one occasion we were with two other couples (who do not have open marriages) shooting nude photos of the wives. For several photos, the women decided to "pose" like they were eating each other out. As the photographer, I can say for sure they were kissing/licking one another's labia and, at least briefly, put their tongues to clits; but, it was all for show. To me they were not 'having sex.'

In these two photos, Paula's friend actually did technically give her oral sex. There was no question she licked down between Paula's labia majoria and worked on her clit for several minutes. Later in the afternoon, I shot photos of Paula doing the same thing to her. Despite the fact I have photos of them licking each other's clits, I would not say they had sex that day. We were just having fun. It was a performance and Paula's laughter in this photo makes that clear.

Another time, we were at an event where about fifty people got naked in a completely dark room. Over the hour or so we "played" I felt a number of people take my penis in their mouth and I, in turn, sucked tits, clits, and dicks. All counted I'm sure I had sexual contact with at least two dozen people for at least a few seconds. While I tasted the genitals of several women and several more men, I only gave one genuine blow job. So, should I count that as one, six, or twenty sexual partners?

When trying to count our sexual partners, it did not seem to make sense that such a count gives equal weight to the woman with whom Paula had a ten-year relationship and had over a hundred sexual encounters with the same weight as the people she met, fucked, and never saw again.

Still, the question was about the actual number of different people, so I scanned all 400 pages of the narrative to get a number.

In that first conversation with the other couples, I had estimated that over the prior twenty-something years, Paula had sex with nearly a hundred people. She was adamant that was too high, but I didn’t think so. I also told them I thought I'd been with around a dozen women over the years of our open marriage (I did not tell those couples I’d also had sex with men).

I made that subjective judgment on what constituted sex primarily based on penile penetration and/or sustained oral-genital contact. The very fact my narrative mostly recorded what she’d told me about what she’d done, I assumed that if what had happened was enough for her to call it sex, then I should count it. Though my narrative did not catch all of the time she had one-off casual sex

In reviewing the history of our open marriage all at one time, what stood out was that our sexual activity was very episodic. Several times there was a year with lots of sex outside our marriage, then a quiet period that lasted a year or more. What I had no way of knowing then was that we were getting quite close to the end of our “active” open marriage. After all, even before Paula had sex with someone else for the first time, I had formulated the idea that open-marriage was not primarily about having sex with other people; but the freedom to do so if one of us wishes. Between Covid and Paula’s illness, it has now been around four years since we have actually had sex outside of our marriage; however, that does not mean we don’t have an open marriage. We are both hoping for a miracle for her health so we can resume our social life; but even if that doesn’t happen, we still have an open marriage.

So to answer the other couples’ question, I calculated that twenty-five years (at that time), which was three-hundred months since she first had sex with someone else, Paula has only had somewhere between eighty and a hundred different sexual partners with roughly 80% being men. So my guess was pretty good. That is really not very many given the time span. In my case, I've had less than a third as many partners. Importantly, for the majority of those years, she had sex with fewer than two people outside of our marriage and I had sex with none.

In Paula's case, if she had been consistent over time, she would have had one new partner every three months or so; but as I said we did not have a steady level of extra-marital sex. In practice, she went a handful of months with five or more partners, yet for the vast majority of months over those years she had no new partners at all. For instance, we've only been in one true orgy, and Paula had four or five different penises (we weren't sure) in her vagina that night in addition to oral sex with one or two women (again the details became blurry even the next day). See how that one night skews the numbers.

Our experience is that couples who try to keep up a wild extra-marital sex life year after year burn out and become monogamous or worse yet, their marriage falls apart. It just takes too much time and energy to keep up. Open marriage is an approach to the marriage contract, not an event. The reality is that many "closed" marriages will have quite a few outside sexual contacts over the years. Paula has had many female friends who have had regular sexual flings and even extended affairs, yet would never say they have an open marriage. In some cases, their husband pretends not to know, but in most, the husband has no idea. And in many circles, it is simply expected that successful men bed pretty young women without their wives’ knowledge or consent. Sadly, in all too many cases, this pattern of behavior leads to hurt, anger, and disillusion of the family unit.

For us, however, our sexual adventures with others have been part of our shared life as a married couple since the 1990’s. I still remember the day she came home and gave me a deep kiss after she’d given her best friend’s husband a blow job for the first time. When I put my tongue in her mouth which had just half an hour before been filled with another man’s cock, it turned both of us on so much that in a matter of minutes, we’d made it upstairs, our clothes were off, and we were making love.

Paula and her lover in our bed. Circa 1998

Now all these years later, we can (and do) laugh about past love affairs or crazy sexual times. Contrast that with the fact that most marriages have at least one "cheater" and his/her actions act as a cancer on the marriage. Isn't better to embrace our desire to enjoy others sexually, even if it is only from time to time?

I write this to dispel the idea that open marriage brings an unending fuck fest. From our friends who have had open marriages over a period of years, I would say that our pattern is pretty typical. Periods of months actively going to swing clubs and/or dating, with longer periods of tending to home matters and not having sex outside of marriage at all.

So, I shall repeat what I formulated over thirty years ago: Open marriage is not about having sex with other people, it is about the freedom to do so if you wish.

That being said, open marriage does allow for a fuck fest every now and then.

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I ask this because in my view my brains are possibly my strongest sexual organ

Jun 16, 2023
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To answer both questions: Sex starts with the intention of arousal, then foreplay and then... It all begins in our minds. The goal of sex is not orgasm, but to be in the present moment, to experience life to the fullest. An aroused mind see the world differently than an angry mind. I prefer to go through life aroused than angry.


Is thinking about sex, phantasizing about sex, which means that your brains are sort of waken up to get ready for sex, also considered to be sex, although there is not yet an physical handling like masturbation or findling?


Apr 21, 2023

Well, I like to joke that four people having sex is a "foursome." Three having sex, a "threesome." Two, of course comprise a "twosome." But one having sex, to allude to Sandra's first post, is "handsome." I have lots of handsome sex, and practically no twosome--much less moresome. Even though I've been married for 46 years.


To me it all comes down to intention: were they just playing around for the camera? then it's not sex. Were they trying to share pleasure and experience all the feelings that comes with making love? then it's sex

Mar 24, 2023
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There is nothing wrong with being silly. I really love the pictures. Sex should be fun too.


Mar 13, 2023

Professor, you wrote, "Open marriage is not about having sex with other people, it is about the freedom to do so if you wish." If it's true that the important thing is the openness, not the notches on your belt, then "playing around" the way Pula and the other two women are doing in the first photo is a pretty big deal. The other two couples will cherish that event for the rest of their lives.

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