"Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." The phrase came to me this morning while musing over the predicament of my friend, the sex blogger Jefferson. Because his ex-wife recently discovered he is bisexual, he is now fighting for custody of his kids. It's an ironic twist that the man who took as his pseudonym Jefferson, in homage to freedom-loving Thomas Jefferson, should have that man's basic principles now used against him in a court of law.
Jefferson's love for his kids had been well documented on his popular blog, One Life, Take Two. He began writing the blog after being left by his wife of fifteen years; later, he came out as a bisexual man. It was clear through his writing that his sexual liaisons occurred outside his home or when the kids were not around. Even his ex-wife has stated in court that Jefferson is a "great" father who loves his children. However, among her claims is that his "bisexuality makes him an unfit parent."
As a woman who has dabbled with bisexuality myself, and written about my sexual adventures both on my blog and in a couple of sexual memoirs, I can empathize with Jefferson. Not so long ago, one of the UK's biggest mid-market tabloids and self-identified upholder of "family values" -- the ultra-conservative Daily Mail -- implied I was a bad mother simply because my children had expressed their wish that their friends not find out about my sexual exploits. I regularly receive emails from readers as well -- curious, not necessarily accusatory -- asking how my behavior has an impact on my children.
I tell my readers what I told the Daily Mail writer, information that is abundantly clear from what I've written: I have sex on the two free weekends a month when my children are with their father, my ex. In the seven years since my divorce I've brought home three men, all serious boyfriends at the time. I have always been discrete, but for my children's sake I write under a pseudonym. My children don't ask about my activities and I don't tell them. It's that simple.
Jenny Block's recently released memoir Open: Love, Sex, and Life in an Open Marriage, recounts her journey from monogamy (a monogamous relationship with her husband) to polyamory (being one-third of a triad with her husband and another woman, whom Block calls her "friend"). Her daughter, too young to understand the sexual dynamics of the relationship, nevertheless understands that mummy has a special friend that she loves very much. Although Block's life is nontraditional, it is obvious to the reader that Block's daughter is healthy and happy and that the family unit is strong. Block is lucky to have an understanding husband, just as I'm lucky to have an understanding ex-husband who isn't bothered by my sexual shenanigans.
What happens when one's partner is not so understanding? The answer can be found on the website of the Sexual Freedom Legal Defense and Education Fund, an organization whose primary job is to support parents forced to fight for custody of their children when their alternative sexual lifestyle is used against them in court. The website makes alarming reading, if only to highlight the high risk of losing custody that so many parents face if their interest in polyamory, swinging, BDSM, or fetishism is revealed. Read a few case histories and you'll think the 60s never happened.
"Under the law of nature, all men are born free, every one comes into the world with a right to his own person, which includes the liberty of moving and using it at his own will. This is what is called personal liberty." Thomas Jefferson's words. The irony of the slave-owning third president's words do not escape us today; historians have found plenty of biological evidence, in the form of mixed-race descendants, of Thomas Jefferson's own enjoyment of sexual liberty. Two centuries on, too many consenting adults find that their private sexual freedom comes at a price. The blogger Jefferson needs $20,000 to fight for his kids (visit www.sfldef.org for more information on his case). That's a lousy price to pay for freedom.