The OPP Rule

The OPP rule

Or to make it gender-neutral, the O.G.P rule (one genital policy)

To the uninitiated, here is what it means:

A one penis/vagina policy refers to when a one or both people in a couple insist on an agreement that limits their partner in who they could have sex with. In heterosexual couples, it means my partner can not have sex with anyone that is the same gender as me (crudely identifying genitals with gender). In a gay or lesbian couple, could would mean the agreement is to only have sex with people of a different gender.

Does this happen a lot?

Yes and it is often the first ‘rule’ that is negotiated when a couple agrees to open up their relationship. For straights, it tends to be more often the man who insists his woman partner can have sex with other women but not other men. If the couple is gay/lesbian, one or both may by bi/pan sexual and agree that they can have sex outside of their relationship with people of a different gender.

Why do people want this policy?

The first rationalisation is simple – I am already providing my partner with sex involving my genitals, so they have no need to interact with the same genitals of someone else. My penis/vagina is all that they need, but it’s ok if they get something that I can’t give them, from someone else.

But there is more to this. Often the perspective is quite narrow and self-focused. A straight or gay man might feel that his relationship will not be threatened by his partner seeing a woman, but will feel threatened if another man enters the picture. A straight or gay woman might consider her partner connecting to another man less of a threat than a woman.

Is it such a problem?

Normally we tend to say that mutual agreements, fully consented to by all people involved, are not a problem. Sometimes couples make this agreement initially and then revise and expand it after some time and experience. From a mononormative, heteronormative cultural perspective it is understandable why people have these initial fears. However, it is important and worthwhile to unpack all the insecurities and myths that play into wanting such a policy in the first place.

What are these myths and fears that push people to request an O.G.P?

Genitals = Gender

Inherent in this policy, is the notion that your gender orientation is defined by the genitals you have. It can be said that this is transphobic. Using a heterosexual couple as the example, would the man not see a trans-man as threatening if they do not have a penis? Conversely, might they feel that a trans-woman with a penis is acceptable or not? We really need to accept, as a society, that biological appendages do not always define your gender or orientation and that is not a threat to anyone else.

Relationships that don’t look like mine are less valid

It is very natural to judge everyone else according to our own values and world-view, but it is also wrong. A straight man makes an assumption that his partner won’t leave him for another woman, but might leave him for a man, because up until the point of opening up, they were in a heterosexual relationships. But if the woman is happy to connect with woman, she may be bi or pan. It is possible she would fall in love with a woman at the same or greater intensity as with him.

Emotional and sexual connections are always linked

By restricting access to certain kinds of sex, we think we gain control over our partner’s potential to cause us harm. This idea of control is an illusion. A partner could develop emotions for someone else without having intercourse with them. Or they could have a lot of sex and not develop deep emotional bonds. People are different in this regard, falling anywhere along the sexual expression spectrum. They could be demisexual, megasexual, asexual etc.

The magic cock or pussy fallacy

What is the thought process that leads to me believing that if she has my cock, she would not want or need any other; or if he likes my pussy, he would have no need to look for another’s pussy? To start, there is the belief that our sexual connection is special and unique because our genitals are so compatible, so if she tells me she loves my cock, why would she want another one?

Sexual compatibility does not come from the physical compatibility of the genitals, though it may feel like it sometimes. Partners have a unique connection because of who they both are, and that cannot be replicated with anyone else.

Both people in the couple might not be motivated by the exact same reasons every time they have sex. They might want sex for validation or affirmation, to release tension, to feel desired, from a need of touch and comfort, or other reasons. My partner wanting to have sex with another man, for example, could be for reasons that I don’t share, so it’s worth having that discussion in an open minded way.

Do we have a right to make rules that restrict our partner?

The bottom line, for me, is how does my need for security conflate with my partner’s boundaries around their autonomy and agency? Wanting to place any kind of rule based policy serves to restrict their agency. Who and how they date others is not up to me. By resorting to crude policies such as this, we avoid going deeper to understand the reasons why we feel insecure. If we allow more expansiveness in the connection and accept that we do not have the right to control our partner, we will get to that deeper place of recognising where our insecurities come from. Then, we can address those issues directly, with the support of our partner or in coaching/therapy.

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