A (Conditional) Defense of One Penis Policies

Stock image of a single banana on a square white plate, with a knife and fork to the plate's left and an empty drinking glass to its right. The table on which the plate lies is a warm brown colour and the banana itself is ripe, but not speckled. It is supposed to represent a penis.

The One Penis Policy is exactly what it sounds like: it’s a rule within a non-monogamous relationship that (usually) dictates that the vagina-owning party can only be sexually and/or romantically involved with one penis-owner. Usually, this happens in relationships with cis people, where the vagina-owning lady partner is bi, and usually it’s brutally criticised by other non-monogamous people for being phallocentric (that is, for putting the penis on a pedestal) and for diminishing the validity of vagina-on-vagina or otherwise sapphic relationships by virtue of deeming them less threatening, less jealousy-inducing and/or less “real” than penis-on-vagina or otherwise heterosexual relationships.

And I totally understand those criticisms. I do. “It doesn’t count if it’s with a girl” is an icky sentiment which manages to be misogynistic (in that it positions women and their relationships as less important than men) and manages to dismiss female sexuality (in that it suggests non-phallocentric sex acts are less important than phallocentric ones) in one fell swoop. Your penis-owning partner deeming your relationship(s) with women less important than your relationships with him (because he’s usually cis, let’s be real) can really hurt, so a lot of people avoid One Penis Policies in their relationships. And that’s their boundary and their right, and I respect that.

But.

We can’t wash societal bullshit out of our brains. (This is why I still have an eating disorder, Impostor Syndrome about my depression, and freshly-shaven armpits.) Even if we know it’s societal bullshit, even if we’ve read all the books and blog posts and hot takes and we’re logically aware that our feelings are being influenced by external structures, we still have the emotional responses that society has wired our brains to have. So even if a dude desperately wants to discard society’s phallocentric bullshit, he’ll still feel hurt and threatened and the rest of it when his partner interacts with another penis. It would take a lifetime to undo that societal programming.

Phallocentrism also means that an alarming amount of a dude’s identity is connected to his dick. In much the same way as my identity is tied to being a blue-haired autistic sex nerd with big boobs and lots of facial piercings, a lot of dudes’ identity is tied to their dicks – so in the same way I’d be hurt and insecure if my partner started seeing another person with blue hair and big boobs and so on, dudes are hurt and insecure about other penises entering your life. It’s much easier to draw comparison when there are similar traits to compare, and living in a phallocentric patriarchy means that the first place a guy is going to look to draw comparison is genitally. Again, he might be fully aware of how bullshit that is, but that won’t stop him from feeling anxious about you replacing his penis (the part of him that society deems most important) with another, “better” penis.

As for the diminishing of female or sapphic sexuality, that depends on the person. It can be hard to untangle phallocentric bullshit and the bullshit that suggests vagina-related sexuality is less valid, but frankly, if you’re dating someone homophobic enough to state or suggest that “it doesn’t count if it’s with a girl”, the absence or presence of a One Penis Policy is not going to save your relationship and you should run for the hills. If your partner, phallocentric bullshit aside, respects and values your relationships with women, it should show, regardless of whether or not he feels threatened by them. His behaviour as a metamour, the things he says to you in private and how readily he objectifies you, your girl partner(s) and your sapphic experiences are all things to take into account, but that’s a conversation for another day. Simply put, if your partner is homophobic, you’ll know, regardless of penis policies.

So do you have to instate and abide by a One Penis Policy because your partner can’t shake off society’s phallocentrism and misogyny? Of course not. I personally weighed up the hurt and insecurity my partner might feel about other penises against the desire I had to interact with other penises and decided, in the kindest way possible, that my encountering new dicks wouldn’t be worth the emotional labour for either of us. My partner didn’t explicitly veto other penises; he told me that he’d have a lot of difficult feelings about them, and I decided I’d rather spare him those feelings and leave other penises alone. That might change in the future, but it might not, and I’m truly happy with that: I feel like I can ask my partner for contact with his dick, or for penetration, or for any other unique experience that penises offer, and he’ll provide it at my earliest convenience, so there’s very little I’m missing out on in abiding by an unofficial One Penis Policy. And that’s the ideal setup.

All 800-odd words of this was to say: if multiple penises are important to you, you have every right to only enter/maintain relationships that are absent of a One Penis Policy. But if you have a partner whose feelings might be shielded by a One Penis Policy and multiple penises aren’t that important to you, there’s no shame in sticking to an OPP. There’s no right way to do non-monogamy, you and your dude needn’t feel bad for being susceptible to millennia of patriarchal brainwashing, and your boundaries are always, always allowed. Regardless of what they are, I hope you enjoy the genitals you interact with, or that you enjoy non-genital-related activities, to the fullest extent possible, and I hope to see y’all next week for another blog post.

#PrideMonth: a love letter

Photo of red, orange, yellow, green and indigo round pieces of candy arranged into the shape of a love heart

I’m super fucking queer.

I use the word ‘queer’ deliberately, in the same way I describe myself as a ‘slut’. I know it’s a word that gets whispered behind my back, and occasionally yelled at me in the street. It’s supposed to hurt me, to make me feel like every fibre of my being is odd and unwelcome. Unfortunately for queerphobic assholes, I pride myself on being contrary, so I have stolen the word ‘queer’ with my gay little hands.

When they hurled it at me, I caught it. It’s mine now.


I’m bisexual.

I realised this the moment I found the language for it. Before then, I’d been weighing up my attractions, trying to figure out which gender I fancied more often, more intensely, more legitimately. I thought, for a while, that I was a lesbian who was just really bad at resisting the patriarchal imperative to have crushes on men. Before then, I’d thought I was straight, and that all my feelings of unease and fascination centred around women were a mix of admiration and envy.

I don’t remember where I found the word ‘bisexual’, but I do remember that it felt like suddenly remembering where I’d left my keys, fourteen years after losing them. As cliché as it sounds, identifying as bisexual felt like coming home.

I found the word ‘pansexual’ too, and toyed with that, but my attraction to all genders wasn’t attraction regardless of gender. I tended to have gooey, romantic, heart-eyes-emoji-esque feelings towards girls before any sexual ones, and the inverse when I fancied boys. Something indescribable separated my experiences of attraction to both of the genders I knew about at the time – and when I learned about nonbinary people, I experienced yet another set of feelings about them. (Plus, the pan flag has yellow in it, and I’m not a fan. I’d rather have the jewel-tone bi flag any day, and fourteen-year-old Morgan was very shallow.)

Armed with a word that accurately summed up how I experienced love and lust, I did what any confused autistic teen might do: I researched it. I found lists of celebrities and public figures who were (or were thought to be) bisexual. It was 2012, so I found memes. And, naturally, I found bigots. I had expected to run into homophobia, but I hadn’t expected to run into gatekeeping from the gay community itself. I wasn’t prepared to be told to ‘pick a side’ or that I was ‘actually gay’ and lying to myself. I wasn’t ready to be called ‘greedy’ when I’d had two relationships in my adolescence, one of which only featured a single, brief kiss. I wasn’t expecting to be hurt by people who knew what homophobia felt like.

And this, dear reader, is where this post becomes a love letter.

Because for every one voice that was calling my orientation greedy or fake or ‘not gay enough’, there were dozens more bi people and allies countering their bullshit. I was learning new ways to backchat biphobes all the time. I learned queer history, the split attraction model, new ways to define gender and more through the vocal dissent of people who were fucking sick of biphobia; and, more importantly, I learned that I had hundreds upon hundreds of strangers’ voices rallying around me and defending my existence. I found a community.

It was through this vocal, loving, ready-to-educate community that I ended up finding my gender identity. It took me three or four years after growing into the label of ‘bisexuality’ to realise that, on top of being super bi, I wasn’t cis – and in a lot of ways, it felt scarier. Either online biphobia had subsided somewhat in those four years, or I’d just got better at making my social media environment more welcoming; regardless, I felt very comfortable in my bisexual skin.

But even some bi people were insisting I couldn’t be nonbinary.

I was confident in my belief that there were more than two genders. I’d read plenty of material, ranging from nonbinary people’s blog posts to accounts of olden-days rejection of gender binaries to the abstracts of actual studies on the subject, so I was pretty certain that nonbinary people were A Thing™. The problem lay in whether or not I was nonbinary.

I’ve blogged about my experiences of gender before now, so I won’t repeat myself, but I will add that I was scared of claiming the labels ‘nonbinary’ and ‘trans’ for months. (I still sort of cringe when I call myself ‘trans’, waiting for someone somewhere to insist that only binary trans people ‘count’.) But, again, it was the loud, brave voices of other queer folk that comforted me, and made me realise the importance of claiming words that fit me. I realised that, being white and academically inclined, I could use my voice to legitimise nonbinary experiences; being a human being, I deserved to legitimise my own experiences too.


Again, I’ve managed to prune my social circles and my social media consumption so that a lot of cissexism doesn’t reach me, especially online. I’ve educated some of my IRL friends and given up on others, and I have done myself the enormous favour of swearing off dating straight men. I owe huge portions of my self-confidence, comfort and personal growth to the LGBTQ+ community.

We are brave. We are strong. We are loving.

We are also doing real fuckin’ badly on some fronts, like including people of colour, making Pride accessible and eliminating, among other things, cissexism, slutshaming, acephobia and gatekeeping.

I know we can do better than this, because I’ve been on the right side of it. When we put our energy into activism, into educating each other and the cishets, and into being compassionate and welcoming, we can do incredible shit. We can make kids like fourteen-year-old Morgan feel at home in their acne-prone, super-queer skin.

I guess this is a tough-love letter now. Let’s get our shit together, and make each Pride shine brighter than the last. We owe it to ourselves and each other, and I know – I know – we’re capable of it.