Don’t ask, don’t tell

passionate.jpgI’ve always been fascinated by the psychology of "open relationships." The emotional turmoil of caring for someone and watching them be interested in someone else is too much for most people. In some parts of the world, the social technology of "don’t ask, don’t tell" policies protect members of open relationships from knowledge that might make them jealous or insecure. Swingers have employed a similar technique in separating sexual relationships from emotional ones.

In STD literature, these relationships are called "concurrent partnerships." Pamina Gorbach, professor of behavioral epidemiology at UCLA has created a taxonomy of concurrent partnerships in order to calculate the risk of contracting STDs for various motivating reasons. In 260 interviews with STD clinic attendees, she identified six main forms of concurrency:

  • Experimental: Players. Working the scene, these peeps are looking for action not emotion.
  • Separational: Baby’s gone. Jail, college, the military.. and they’re not going to let on that they’re having sex with other people to pass the time.
  • Transitional: Testing the waters. Going in or coming out of a long term relationship, some people look outside to make their decision.
  • Reactive: Tit for tat. One person makes a point of the fact that they’re sleeping with other people. What is the other person to do but go out and get laid as quickly as possible?
  • Reciprocal: Your standard "open relationship." Mutual nonmonogamy. Consentual sleeping around. This pattern was only reported by white respondents.
  • Compensatory: Baby’s not putting out. People not sexually satisfied by their main partner may look outside to find what they’re looking for.

Of course these categories reflect standard relationships; group sex and prostitution are also forms of concurrent partnerships that can lead to STD transmission. In the cases where concurrency is secretive (separational, transitional, compensatory), most subjects didn’t use condoms with their main partner (otherwise they’d be caught out!) and thus greatly increased the chance for STD transmission to their unsuspecting lovers.

Source: Pamina Gorbach, Bradly Stoner, Sevgi Aral, William Whittington and King Holmes, 2002. It takes a Village: Understanding Concurrent Relationships in Seattle, Washington, Journal of Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 29(8) pages 453-62

Back 2 school

Unbeknownst to most of my friends, I snuck back into Cambridge undetected last Friday night. Of course most of the sneaking happened in the last few minutes before getting off the Mass Pike, while the previous 15 hours was spent on the road. Given that it was Labor Day Weekend eve, I decided to avoid I-95, the tried and trusted East coast connector (Richmond, VA, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Newark, New York City, Providence and Boston) in favor of a less populated but slightly longer I-81 (switching over to I-84 to avoid ALL major cities). The trip was just over my threshold for driving in one day, so I decided to stay in Knoxville Thursday night and make the rest of the trek on Friday.

my route home
I-81: The Appalachian trail

Having grown up in California, I’m a professional long-distance driver. I don’t have any problem driving alone for 12 or 15 hours straight with only required stops for gas, drive-thrus and rest stops. I have a number of patent-pending techniques for passing the time, such as the infamous "breath-holding practice," where I repeatedly time myself to see how long I can go on one breath. Sure, it might be dangerous, but it makes the trip fly by! And I broke my own record this trip with a time of 1:56.

So, suffice to say I’m back in Cambridge, and I do miss the ATL quite a bit. Even though it’s not a coastal city (not even the third coast), I think it’s one of the sweetest cities in America to live in. Based on my experience I have observed the following inequality:

NYC > Atlanta ~ Chicago ~ S.F. >> Boston

Sorry Boston!