Risky Business

My skills with a computer were not very robust, so I decided to pony up enough money for a website / software package that would let me connect people during the pandemic shutdown.  It was designed originally for political campaigns, and I figured keeping the kink community together was pretty much the same.   The features included the ability to post and respond to things, or submit questions.  I figured we could use it to post a regular blog / newsletter from Floggin’ Brews, and allow people to build pages and subgroups around different topics.

It became clear very quickly that people were very concerned with the question of who they were going to be living with (or not living with) during the shutdown.  So I set up a chat space for that. 

For those who had multiple partners (in any sense of the word), the stay-at-home order created an enormous sense of loss.  For those who were in an unhealthy relationship with a person they lived with, it created a sense of fear and risk.  And the whole notion of “staying at home” seemed to mean something different to everyone.

Molly and Lenny were among the first to start squabbling about how to “stay at home.” Molly had recently broken up with Hassan, so Lenny was her only current romantic interest. Lenny also had a relationship with Flora, and an on-again, off-again thing with Jim, and Flora had romantic relationships with Amos and Jeb, and was a play partner of Devon’s.  Molly, Lenny, and Flora each had their own place, and Lenny more or less floated between the three.

Got that?  Good.  There may be a test later.

Molly wanted Lenny to move in with her.  Or at the very least, for the two of them to spend as much time together, at her place or his, as they previously had.   But Lenny wanted to see Flora, too, and that’s where it got complicated.  Molly wanted to keep her risk of getting Covid-19 as low as possible, and she was afraid Flora would get it from someone and pass it along to Lenny. Or somehow infect Lenny’s apartment.

Their personal kerfuffle showed up in the Floggin’ Brews chat space in a discussion of risk.  How did you decide what risks you were willing to take?  Was Covid-19 like an STI?  What role did consent play?  Molly posted a sad tale about her dilemma, saying how she felt it was unfair for an unnamed metamour to put their shared partner at risk, when the metamour had other relationships and didn’t need the shared partner as much as she did.

I almost shot back a request to Molly to take down the post, or I’d do it for her, because I thought it violated the cardinal rule of the website:  do no harm.  Which meant no gossip, and no trying to enlist others to participate in your personal drama.  There were plenty of other spaces for that.

Instead, I dropped Molly a line and asked if she’d be willing to help me test the software and have a virtual beer with me.  She agreed, and once we both logged in, I asked her about her post.

“Yeah, I’m having some problems with Flora.  Lenny says she isn’t going to see anyone else, or at least not very often, but she’s still working and who knows how many people she’s going to have contact with.”

“It seems to me that the issue isn’t Flora,” I said, sipping my Banshee Cutter (it’s a coffee golden ale – don’t ask me how that works, but it does).  “It’s how much risk you’re willing to take to see Lenny.”

That took Molly by surprise.  “Um.  I did try to talk him out of seeing Flora.”

“And he said no?”

“He said seeing just Flora wasn’t going to be a big deal – he sees her all the time anyway.  I guess that’s kind of a no.”   She frowned over her beer.  (She’d poured it into a glass so I wasn’t sure what it was.) “Maybe he’s right.”

Aha.  It’s not just the pandemic risk, it’s about having Lenny all to herself for awhile.

“Have you thought about doing a polycule diagram?”

“A what?”

“A diagram of your relationships.  You know, one circle is you, and that’s connected to Lenny, and he’s connected to Flora. . .”

Molly nodded.  “I get it.  Why would I do that?”

I shrugged.  “It might help you talk about how big your risk group is.  And how your decisions affect them, and visa versa.”

“My decisions?”  Molly looked confused.  “I’m working from home, I’m not planning to see anybody.”

“Not even the clerk at the grocery store?”

“Well, but that’s an ‘essential business,’ right?  And it’s okay to do that.”

“You’re right, no one is saying you can’t do that.  But it still involves a risk of catching the virus. The grocery store, the drive through, any time you’re physically close to someone or something they’ve touched.”

Molly sighed.  “Yeah, ok.  But what am I supposed to do, just sit alone in a closet?”

I shook my head.  “Of course not.  But you can decide how much of a risk you want to take. And that might mean not having too many people in your risk group, which now includes everyone anyone sees, and how much each of them goes out.”

“I guess I hadn’t thought about it that way,” said Molly.  “I was just trying to not have Lenny get whatever Flora picks up from work, or whatever.  Whomever.  I’m asthmatic, I’m worried what will happen if I get it.”

I hadn’t known about the asthma part.  No wonder she was a bit nervous.  “That makes sense. Talk to Lenny about it.  But at the end of the day, you can only enforce limits on yourself.  If he wants to see Flora, tell him what that means for you, and then decide what you’re going to do.  Flora can hardly help seeing other people, doesn’t she work in a clinic?”

“Yes, she’s a receptionist or something.  I’m not sure where.”

“As for Lenny, I suspect he’s not going anywhere, even if you don’t live with him, or see him.  Actually, I suspect none of us are going anywhere.”

We went on to talk about other things.  Her work, her elderly dog who liked walks but not too far, her neighbor who always seemed to be in the front yard when Lenny came over.  What life would be like without munches or parties or being able to see your friends.  Neither of us had any answers for any of it.

I don’t know what happened with Lenny, but Molly dropped me a note the next day that she’d talked to Flora, and everyone had come to some sort of agreement.  And I quietly deleted her post.

But I kept thinking about the idea of “risk groups.”  Kinky people take risks all the time, whether it was being honest about what they liked to do, and with whom, whether it was behind closed doors or in front of a crowd.  And some liked really risky behaviors, like needles or rope.  Many had multiple partners.  Our community might have a hard time keeping a lid on it all.   

But that gave me an idea, and I sent a text to Fizz, a sub I know and respect:  Would you be interested in writing something about the joys of abstaining and delayed gratification?  I have a feeling we’re all going to need some advice from the experts.

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