Open, by Jenny Block

I just read Open by Jenny Block- read and finished it in one day. It was that good (and yes, I am on break, so I have nothing else going on, but I would have read it that quickly anyway). This book complemented The Purity Myth; I had gotten less than 20 pages in before she quoted Jessica Valenti, and discussed the issue of virginity and hypersexualization of young women.

I can’t believe the similarities in our stories. The differences in our stories is nothing new to me; no one’s open relationship is the same as any one else’s. But her sentiments toward growing up with double-standard and conflicting messages (virgin-whore), toward enjoying casual encounters with a variety of people, and toward her realization of her attraction to women resonated with me. Another topic that she discusses at length, because it is central to why she needed to open up her marriage, is that of her and her partner/husband’s vastly different sexual libidos. I could relate immediately with this, as J and I have fairly different needs when it comes to touch and frequency of sex. Our libidos have been more in sync since opening up, but there are still times when I feel wanting more touch; the way that Block described these feelings was so similar to how I would describe them. Reading her book felt at times like looking at myself in a mirror. I felt like many of the words she wrote regarding her path toward an open relationship were very similar to the words I would have written.

Her story is so simple and yet so complicated at the same time. It is yet another variation on the open relationship concept; J and I have yet to hear of another couple whose open relationship is modeled exactly like ours, or was motivated by the same reasons. Reading Block’s story, however, increased my sense of security and comfort in doing what J and I are doing and my sense of community.

The one thing I disagreed with was Block’s attitude toward talking about her intimate relationships with her daughter. I realize that at the time of writing, her daughter was 8, and I agree that she probably doesn’t need to know about her mom’s sex life. However, I don’t think there is anything wrong with her daughter knowing that both her mom and dad love other people like they love each other. Block expresses relief at the realization that her daughter doesn’t think of Block and her girlfriend as anything more than “best friends” who sleep over at each other’s houses because they are best friends. I think Block may be missing the boat on reshaping the way a younger generation views normalcy in intimate relationships. Maybe her philosophy has and will change as her daughter becomes older and doesn’t fall for the “mom sleeps over at Jemma’s house because they’re best friends” story. The reason why Block and myself and so many others that we have met have had such interesting journeys is partly because of all of the work that we have had to do in unlearning so many cultural myths and stories about love, sex, and relationships. It has no doubt been interesting, but why force the next generation to figure it out on their own? We teach our children values around so many other things; if we ourselves lead open and honest sexual and romantic lives, why wouldn’t we also impart those values to our children?

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