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The New Monogamy

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When Siege moved to New York, he knew what he wanted. “I didn’t want to fuck it up,” says Siege, “but I knew I couldn’t do the fidelity thing.” A prior seven-year monogamous relationship had ended when they both cheated. Katie had also recently ended a seven-year relationship when she discovered her boyfriend was fooling around—with both women and men. “It hit me that humans aren’t meant to be with just one person,” she says. “It’s like, you have this best friend, and you want the best for him. So if he’s hot for that chick over there, you want to be like, ‘Yeah, go for it!’ ”

These two are open in every sense of the word: with each other, with everyone they meet, even with the public (Siege has a blog on Nerve.com to which he posts documentation of their escapades). When we requested an interview, Siege invited us to the Williamsburg apartment he shares with Katie. We both hesitated, then Em suggested a coffee shop two doors down instead. We’re usually fearless about nosing into people’s relationships, but knowing that this couple entertains guests on a more intimate basis threw us off balance. “What if they hit on us?” Em asked, insisting that she be the stenographer so Lo could handle the majority of the eye contact. “What if they don’t?” replied Lo.

It’s a response Siege and Katie are familiar with. “If you’re attracted to a friend, it’s like, are you going to skeeve them out?” says Siege. “But if you’re not, are you going to insult them?” Like George C. Scott reportedly once told an actress, “I apologize if I get an erection, and I apologize if I don’t.”

To our pleasant surprise, however, there is absolutely nothing skeevy about Siege and Katie. They’re smart, funny, polite, hip, attractive, self-deprecating, and affectionate with one another. And that’s the most disconcerting thing of all. Call us snobs, but it’s easy to dismiss suburban swingers who show up at orgies with a Tupperware container or Bay Area hippies missing the irony gene. But when a couple like Siege and Katie decry strict monogamy? It makes you wonder, How old-fashioned, socially programmed, and ass-backward am I?

These two can certainly teach most couples a thing or two about communication: They finish each other’s sentences and tease one another gently about the few times they’ve failed to follow their own simple yet strict rules. (1) The Vampire Rule: If they’re both in the same city, they have to make it back by dawn. (2) The Three-Strikes Rule: All pinch hitters must be interested in befriending both Siege and Katie (and vice versa); however, up to three solo dates are acceptable to warm someone up. (3) The Postcards Rule: If they’re seeing someone else on their own, they must bring home photographic evidence. (4) The Woman-Only Rule: Katie is bisexual, Siege is not—thus, for pinch hitters to meet rule No. 2, they must be female. (5) The Veto Rule: for Katie’s benefit, allowing her to rule out potential home-wreckers. (6) The Safety Rule: What some couples call “body-fluid monogamy,” i.e., always use condoms when having sex with a third . . . or a fourth . . . or a fifth . . .

Above and beyond the rules, what makes their relationship work, say Siege and Katie, is that they’re a team, and that comes before anything (hence the Three-Strikes Rule). In fact, this idea of working together came up repeatedly with couples who have tweaked monogamy: Part of the appeal, it seems, is a sort of “us against the world” vibe. More than one couple referred to their additional partners as living, breathing sex toys.

After about an hour of enlightened coffee-shop conversation, even we started coming round to their way of thinking. Now ashamed of our own measly massage-parlor schemes, we started seeing ourselves as sexual Neanderthals introduced to the advanced civilization of lust. But then Katie said something that jolted us out of our daydreams:

“Sometimes we’ll go for months when it’s just the two of us. But if I just happen to be busy or not in the mood, then I’m not going to stop him. For example, the other night I had a bunch of work to do, so when Siege brought a new girl home, I stayed in the bedroom while they took a bath. I walked past and just said hi.”

Em typed away without skipping a beat and Lo nodded professionally, as if to say, “Ah, yes, you simply popped your head in politely, as one is wont to do when one finds one’s boyfriend screwing a total stranger in one’s bathtub.” What?! We kicked each other under the table—our previously worked-out, intricate signal for “Holy crap!” We were no longer wondering whether we got it; we now knew for sure. We didn’t. No matter how appealing the spokespeople, there are some things that will just never compute for your average (i.e., occasionally insecure or jealous) couple. There is no way not to admire Siege and Katie, but there is an otherworldly quality to their relationship—talking to them brings on a slight feeling of disconnect, not unlike walking into your local bar and spotting a celebrity.


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