Sharing is Caring: Compersion in Life & Work

Just as I can’t pick a favorite food, color or book: I cannot pick a favorite person. Each one of my relationships provides a unique contribution to my well-being because each one nourishes me in a unique way. I can’t merely take more Vitamin-C if I’m deficient in Vitamin-D; I need both in their proper doses to be healthy.

I Don’t Play Favorites

I’ve never been one for favorites.

I roll my eyes at online dating profiles and advertising platforms that ask me to tell potential suitors what’s my favorite food, what’s my favorite color, and what’s my favorite book. I suppose to some people these questions seem direct and easy to answer, but not for me. I toil over the keyboard, writing and erasing answers over and over that all feel right yet still manage to feel like lies.

Is this an accurate representation of myself?’ I think as I sip my third cup of coffee.

Last month, I ate more Italian but this month all I’m craving is sushi. I love yellow but right now I’m feeling red, dark red. I can’t even address the issue of a favorite book; that concept is completely baffling to me! How can they ask me to narrow it down to simply one of anything?’

I suppose the real problem is that I’ve always had too many favorites.

My interests are many and my tastes can vary depending on any number of factors. The weather might inspire a hike instead of the gym or a new influence might inspire me to pause my writing and tackle photoshop. I’m always interested in The New: learning new things and meeting new people. This means that even when I love something very much, I may have to reprioritize the time I dedicate to it or even take a break from it altogether because I need to foster this new, potential love that I’ve found.

I will always love you Mint Chocolate-Chip, but right now
Chocolate-Peanut Butter & I need to be exclusive. Don’t worry, I’ll be back in a few months after I see you at a friend’s house.

This makes picking a single “favorite” impossible for me. Whether it’s my favorite right now because I’m newly passionate about it (like the glass dildo I was recently introduced to) or because it’s a long-term, consistent part of my life (like Mr. Hitachi) isn’t the point: the point is that I have the freedom to explore both as much or as little as I need to.

Just as I can’t pick a favorite food, color or book: I cannot pick a favorite person. Each one of my relationships provides a unique contribution to my well-being because each one nourishes me in a unique way. I can’t merely take more Vitamin-C if I’m deficient in Vitamin-D; I need both in their proper doses to be healthy.

The Green Monster

Just because I don’t pick favorites doesn’t mean I don’t still experience jealousy.

For the sake of this essay, I’ll define “jealous” as the feeling of fear or worry that someone else will take what you have.

Everyone gets jealous sometimes. Jealousy is simply an emotional response to either an unfulfilled need or lingering personal insecurity (though sometimes, it’s both). Those feelings are just that, feelings: they’re blaring alarm bells trying to bring attention to a root problem. If I’m feeling jealous because my girlfriend is going on a date with someone else, I can stop that jealousy from growing into anger or self-righteousness and ask myself, “Why?”

Is it because we haven’t been on a proper date in 2 weeks and I’m craving some quality time together? Or is it because I’m afraid this new person will outshine and replace me in my lover’s life? The former has a simple solution: respectfully communicate my needs for some 1-on-1 with my partner and schedule a date. The latter, however, can require a bit more introspection and self-awareness. This is usually the time when I light a joint, grab my journal and start asking myself the harder questions.

Has my partner done anything to make me feel unloved or replaceable? If so, what are those specific behaviors or actions? When was the last time my partner said they loved or appreciated me? Am I feeling connected to my partner physically and emotionally? If not, why? Am I feeling confident and secure in other areas of my life?

We each have a choice in how we deal with jealousy. I can choose to do the emotional labor to unpack my own shit or I can choose to punish my partner by limiting their autonomy to ease my own insecurities. We live in a culture of monogamy which has normalized toxic traits like possessiveness and entitlement over a partner’s time & body as a regular part of any loving relationship. Much of this is left over from our religion-based culture & legislation, but instead of fading away, it’s continued to be reimagined as romantic in mainstream television, literature, and film (Twilight and its fanfiction BDSM inspired spin-off, 50 Shades of Grey, for example).

Toxic-monogamy isn’t romantic, it’s a slippery slope towards abuse and violence.

Client/Professional relationships are no exception to the green monster and they’re also rooted in fear and insecurity. Fear that a provider doesn’t truly value the relationship, fear that a good client will take their business elsewhere without notice, fear that a lack of exclusivity somehow equals a lack of importance. This lack of respect for one another can lead to hurt feelings, at best, and violated boundaries or violence, at worst.

I’m not suggesting that all people who have monogamous relationships are living in a toxic pit of quicksand or that everyone in the poly or provider communities is a more philosophically enlightened guru. What I am suggesting is that everyone can leave the worst parts of monogamy behind and we can fill our lives with something better: compersion.

Compersion

“Compersion” is a term coined by the Kerista Commune, a group who lived in San Francisco through the 1970s and 80s. It’s now a key term in polyamorist communities and it’s loosely defined as the “non-sexual feeling of joy that one receives from seeing a partner happy with another partner”. The key here is that it’s a “non-sexual feeling of joy”, which doesn’t mean that people who share sexual and romantic partners can’t also feel compersion but that compersion is a specific feeling of happiness that is not associated with a sexual experience. An example of feeling compersion would be feeling happy to see my partner smiling after a good date or feeling giddy for my client because they saw a new Mistress and had a fantastic time!

Side note: Compersion is an American term but polyamorists in the United Kingdom call this feeling “Frubbly”! How adorable is that?

Compersion might seem a little strange at first but, to me, it’s a natural stepping stone from learning to share. As children, we are taught to work through many jealous feelings and behaviors by sharing. For example, we share our toys and learn we will get to play with them again once someone else has had a turn. We learned to share cookies after dinner, share our friends at recess, and even share Mom and Dad’s love when the new baby was born. What many people find is that sharing brings a certain joy to their lives, the same type of unique joy you feel when giving someone else a gift.

That’s what I think compersion feels like: the gift of seeing someone I love being brought joy.

As I mentioned earlier, I have many favorites. I also enjoy being the favorite of many. This mindset makes it easier for me to find the joy in seeing my partners genuinely connect with others, especially over things I have no interest in! It relieves so much pressure off me, as an individual, to meet all the needs of any single partner because I can feel content with them having those needs met by someone else who will truly enjoy the experience.

“Ya know, I really would not enjoy the car show and I don’t think I’d be the best company. Is there someone else who would be more excited to do that with you?”

And vice-versa.

“Okay, I get that pegging isn’t your thing so I won’t ask you about it again. However, I’m really into it so I’ll be exploring that elsewhere.”

While those who practice monogamy may not be totally chill with their partner getting pegged by someone else, I urge everyone to try and practice compersion in their own relationships even if it’s merely at a platonic level.

I challenge you to analyze where your jealousy comes from, identify your needs and insecurities, own your own shit, and try to find true joy in seeing your partner happy doing something with someone else. It’s cheesy but it’s true: sharing is caring.

Introductions can be Awkward

Introductions as a poly whore can be awkward.


There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to telling a stranger that your whole life revolves around sex within the first 10 minutes of meeting them, but as I move through the world, bumping into new people, it’s something that I do quite often. A would-be fairy tale meeting at the bookstore can quickly become an uncomfortable exchange:


“Wow, I love Octavia Butler, too! So, what do you do for work?”


“Oh, um, I’m a professional companion.”


“…. what does that mean?”


“I’m an escort.”


“Wow. Have you ever had a real relationship while in this line of ‘work’?”


“Yes, all 3 of my current partners are very supportive of my career.”


“You have 3 partners?!”


“Yes, I’m polyamorous. And pansexual.”


This is usually the point where the other person realizes I’m not what they had in mind for their fairy tale princess and they excuse themselves from the awkward situation they’ve stumbled into.


It’s not merely potential romantic scenarios that can take an unexpected turn, but nearly any time I meet a new person I’m tasked with figuring out the right amount of information to both be honest and keep myself safe. Polyamory is based on honesty and transparency with all involved while professional companionship promises to honor the world of discretion, some would even say secrecy, within which it operates. The intersection of these ethical codes poses some interesting questions: Should we tell my partner’s best friend I’m an escort? What about their parents? What should I say when my regular barista asks me what I do for work? Does my partner’s partner need to know I’m an escort? My partner’s partner’s partner? How will the server react if I say I’m waiting for my boyfriend and my girlfriend? Does my sugar-daddy count as a partner?


As awkward as they can be, I must admit that I love introductions. I savor the rush of meeting new people, of opening my life to new opportunities, of creating spaces where we can share experiences and knowledge that helps us both grow. It’s a roller coaster that has different twists and loops every time I get on: the perfect ride for an adrenaline junkie.


There are a lot of assumptions about what it means to be poly, what it means to be a professional companion, and how these two identities intersect. It’s also true that these identities mean different things to the different people who own them. Personally, my poly orientation and career choice are connected, but not interchangeable, and their relationship is always evolving. I hope that through this blog, I can add something valuable to the conversation about dating, sex, and life. But first, we must get past the introductions.


Hi, my name is Ivy Quill and I’m the Poly Whore.


I can’t recall a time where I wasn’t thinking about sex. Not simply the physical act of sex but everything related to and surrounding it: meeting and being swooned by a new lover, connecting, falling in love, the honeymoon phase, making up after the first fight, experiencing true intimacy and vulnerability with another. I’m a hopeless romantic, I can’t help myself! I saw too many Audrey Hepburn movies as a young girl. My astrologist friends would say this is ‘typical Gemini behavior’.


My mother was also a stripper for 15 years. As a result, I was surrounded by interesting, beautiful and sexually powerful people – particularly women – from my earliest memories. Alternative choices and lifestyles were always on display as potential role models: I was raised within the counter-culture. Sex work was always a respectable and well-paid employment option in my house and no one in my family was surprised or disappointed when I made the choice to start dancing or when I finally settled on professional companionship.


As a polyamorous pansexual, I don’t limit myself in the number of sexual or romantic partners I can take at one time (as long as everyone is having their needs met) and I don’t limit my attraction to any specific gender identity or physical characteristic. In other words: if I’m attracted to what’s goin’ on inside your head, I’m attracted to whatever you’ve got goin’ on under your clothes.


I was in monogamous relationships for many years, including my first year of professional companionship. I’ve learned that for me, that’s not a healthy way to live. I require the variety of energies and physical connections that come with different partners to feel rejuvenated and inspired. I need to feel free to pursue the relationships which call my heart to them and the relationships with a stern paddle and my bottom bent over their knee. My romantic and sexual needs are so diverse that it’s impossible to ask them all from a single individual. So, I don’t.

Now that we’ve gotten through our awkward introductions, I hope this is the start of a beautiful new relationship.