Required Reading: The Ethical Slut

slut coverThe Ethical Slut | A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships and Other Freedoms in Sex and Love

Janet W. Hardy & Dossie Easton

3rd Edition (2017)

Other editions: 1997, 2009

Ten Speed Press | ISBN 978-0-39957-966-0


About The Book

On its Amazon product page, the publishers refer to this book as “the classic guide to love, sex, and intimacy beyond the limits of conventional monogamy.”

And it has probably legit earned that adjective, classic. There’s no doubt this is a seminal work in the area of polyamory. It’s become sort of the non-monogamy primer since the first edition was published in 1997. You’ll have a difficult time not having this book recommended to you by someone, if you are beginning to explore ethical non-monogamy.

If you are curious about the book’s origins, history, or its authors, Anna Fitzpatrick wrote a good article about it for Rolling Stone when the book was updated to its 3rd edition in 2017.

Hardy and Easton
Easton and Hardy  photo |Stephanie Mohan

How do the authors define the term slut? Thusly: “To us, a slut is a person of any gender who celebrates sexuality according to the radical proposition that sex is nice and pleasure is good for you. Sluts may choose to have no sex at all or to get cozy with the Fifth Fleet. They may be heterosexual, homosexual, asexual, or bisexual, radical activists or peaceful suburbanites.

The book is divided into four parts, plus a conclusion:

Part One | Welcome
Part Two | The Practice of Sluthood
Part Three | Navigating Challenges
Part Four | Sluts in Love
Conclusion | A Slut Utopia

It also includes a glossary, suggestions for further reading, and nearly 20 “exercises” the reader can choose to try.

Read it before? Wondering what’s new in the updated version? The authors write: “You’ll find that we’ve given more attention to people of color, asexual and aromantic people, people in their teens and early twenties, people of nonbinary gender, and other groups that too often receive short shrift from sex-positive communities….We’ve also included a new chapter on [sexual consent].


What We Thought

In part, we agree with reader Joey, who commented on GoodReads in this way, “I wish someone could write a book about having multiple sexual or romantic partners without sounding like a god damn flake hippy,” and also somewhat with his fellow GoodReads reviewer, Nicola, who says, “People who find self-help jargon grating should proceed with caution.”

That is to say — this book is highly informational but, make no mistake about it, reads as something out of the self-help section. There is a lot of content that leans heavily in the self-affirmation, self-love, self-acceptance direction. Not that there’s anything wrong with that….if you are into self-help as a genre. We tend not to be. The “exercises,” especially, make this feel like a text your therapist might assign you.

I mean, that makes sense, given that Dossie Easton is a therapist. Her co-author, Janet Hardy, is a writer and educator. They state that “together, we have been lovers, dear friends, coauthors, and coconspirators for a quarter century.

Another GoodReads reviewer, Rita, made us giggle when she quipped, “I feel like it is written for/by pagan couples in their fifties who go to the Renaissance Faire.” Yes. There is definitely some of that going on, too. Which is typically not our thing. And yet…

…and yet, we recommend reading this book. If for no other reason than the fact that it IS a seminal text on the subject. And it is chock-full of high quality content and good information and food for thought. If we were teaching a course on polyamory, this would be on our Required Reading List.

If we were teaching a course on polyamory, this would be on our Required Reading List.

Having said that, we do not recommend buying this book and giving it to your unsuspecting spouse/partner to read as some kind of initial introduction to the Lifestyle the way some parents give their preteen kids a book on reproduction and hope it clears things up without having to engage in awkward conversation.

Chapter 18 is about “Opening An Existing Relationship,” and includes some solid advice and information for couples who have been living monogamously and may be considering swinging or some other form of polyamory — but it is preceded by seventeen chapters of content that require the reader to have an already open mind toward the subject matter. We can’t imagine too many unsuspecting spouses making it all the way to Chapter 18 without throwing the book (literally) at you.

We do not recommend buying this book and giving it to your unsuspecting spouse/partner to read as an initial introduction to the Lifestyle.

In that chapter, the authors write, “We really hope you didn’t get this book as a Valentine’s Day surprise, but we know that could be the case.” Yeah….no. Don’t do that to anyone. Buying this book and asking your spouse or partner to read it as a coy introduction to your feelings about opening your sex life is a rotten, rotten idea.

But once you’ve opened the discussion, and possibly your marriage, we solidly recommend reading The Ethical Slut as part of your learning curve.


CLICK HERE to see what else is on our reading list for 2019 or CLICK HERE to read our other REVIEWS.


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featured photo | Nicoleta Ionescu

 

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