Have you ever been curious about polyamory? Have you ever had a desire to explore an open relationship but don’t know where to begin? Well, we’ve got just the place to start.
Rachel Krantz recently published her reporter memoir Open, which is both a personal account of one’s journey into polyamory and a heavily researched brief complete with interviews with experts. While Rachel is seemingly fearless at these sex party rendezvous and swingers’ retreats she writes about, she also bears her more intimate side, describing her troubles and bouts of uncertainty in her previous manipulative relationship.
“I also wanted to write [the book] as a record of my own nonmonogamous journey and descent into losing trust in my own reality,” she shares with SHAME. “I really wanted to write it for myself and make sense of it, but also offer it to other people who are either in that situation or might get into that situation.”
Since 2010, and the publishing of Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality, monogamy and its deeply gendered conventions have been challenged. In the years since the book's publication, alternative relationship structures have started to become less taboo and more talked about. With that visibility, a slew of writers and sex experts have been sharing their advice on how to practice it effectively. Among them is Krantz, a journalist and founding editor of Bustle.
“I wanted to open up possibilities for people in their romantic and sexual lives, make sense of it for myself, and also help someone like me,” she says over zoom.
In our interview, Rachel provides us with more insight into the process of writing the book (which she shares was cathartic and therapeutic in itself) as well as thoughts on kink and learning to march to the beat of your own drum. For more from Rachel, read below.
SHAME: Hi Rachel, thanks for chatting with us. The first thing I wanted to ask you was why did you set out to write this book?
Rachel Krantz: Part of it was writing to an imaginary reader that was basically like you. Someone in college or someone in their early 20s. But I also wanted to write it as a record of my own nonmonogamous journey and descent into losing trust in my own reality. I really wanted to write it for myself and make sense of it, but also offer it to other people who are either in that situation or might get into that situation. So it was a culmination of all those things. I wanted to open up possibilities for people in their romantic and sexual lives, make sense of it for myself and also help someone like me, or a younger version of myself.
SHAME: It came out a few months ago. What has been the reaction to your memoir?
RK: I have been pleasantly surprised by the response. I think I had a lot of nightmarish situations in my head about what could happen when a woman talks about all these things and I imagined a lot of harassment. I did take certain preventative measures to protect my identity in terms of certain private details online and I took down the contact form on my website because I was getting some trolling on that.
RK: Largely, it’s just been a lot of love coming my way. A lot of people are sliding into my DMs and write that they feel seen or grateful. Even people who are nonmonogamous write they are appreciative of a more nuanced depiction. And there are also people reaching out who are maybe in a monogamous situation that was toxic or abusive and say they really appreciate the depiction of gaslighting and how it works. But it has been harder than I’d hoped to get it received at the most prestigious places. NPR did a great one, which is awesome, but I was disappointed that it wasn’t maybe picked up by The New York Times or The New Yorker. I get that they may be overloaded with so many books but perhaps it’s being a little bit discounted as a topic or not viewed as serious journalism. That’s very much part of the statement I’m making with the book. It’s explicitly sexual and very personal, but also very reported. I’m hopeful that it’ll continue to spread through word of mouth. Hopefully, it’ll make more people curious and they’ll be like, ‘What is this?’
SHAME: In the book, you talk about your manipulative and toxic relationship with Adam and your ultimate break out of the situation. What advice would you give people in a similar situation? How did you get out of it?
RK: There were lots of little bits of letting go along the way. But I did self isolate a lot, which is another one of the things that happen. In the end, I don't want to ruin the moment in the book that makes it happen. It was major, for sure. But it wasn't necessarily as bad of a thing as maybe some other things that happened in the book. So it's surprising that that's what does it. Sometimes that just happens; something happens for some reason and it can actually be even smaller than it was in the book. Whatever illusion you're dependent on, sometimes it just takes a little shattering of that illusion and you being ready for it on some level.
RK: I think for everyone it's different. But I guess my advice would just be to listen to your intuition. Don’t beat yourself up. You're not crazy. If people are telling you that your emotions are invalid or untrue [then] those are major red flags to listen to. Talking to a counselor is probably the most important thing to do. Also find other support and have a practical plan before you get out. Find a friend you can live with or talk to because it’s very scary. Your identity gets so meshed that you feel like you’re cutting off your arm. Remember that you are a separate, capable individual.
SHAME: You also talk about the dom/sub or daddy/girl dynamic in the book. How would you advise people to safely practice kinks?
RK: I think this is definitely something where I wanted people to learn from my mistakes and learn where there are resources to pull from. There are BDSM coaches and different psychologists who work with kink. I suggest googling the sex exploration questionnaire and you can use that as a jumping-off point to talk with your partner(s) about what turns each of you on and what the overlap could be. The Loving Dominant is also a good book that talks about power play and community. So even if you don’t want to go to a meet-up in person, read some of the top books about it or listen to the top podcasts. You can also join a Facebook group and pose questions. I would also make sure that you’re practicing it with someone who can communicate around it and acknowledge what’s going on. Also, put a safe word in place when you’re not comfortable anymore.
SHAME: A big theme that I took away in this book is differentiating what society wants from what you may want. How did you know there was a rift between these two wants and how would you suggest others navigate this rift?
RK: I think it’s an ongoing process. There’s no point that I’ve been like, ‘I’ve figured it out and feel liberated and exited all the constraints.’ It’s rather a constant examination. Bringing your awareness to it and how those societal expectations are driving what you think your life has to look like. Then begin to untangle your actual desires from [these expectations]. I think writing can be a great way, meditation and therapy are great ways. Just think about what you actually want and not others’ expectations of you.
SHAME: And final question for you. What’s next? What are you looking to explore in the future?
RK: I am trying to learn how to pause enough to figure that out. My book came out two and a half months ago and interviews are starting to slow down. So I can feel I need rest and I am resting, but there’s a resistance inside of me trying to figure out the next thing and where my income is going to come from. I’m trying to move with compassion for myself and also take this time to savor the time to rest and pause and reflect. I do hope I’ll write another book though. So I’m thinking about what I want to spend the next two or three years thinking about and also what would be the most helpful to readers.
If you do read [the memoir], and it means something to you, please reach out to me. I love hearing from people and knowing if it made a difference in your life or just any reflections you have.
You can find Rachel Krantz on Instagram and Twitter and order her book here (Don't forget to rate it after reading!).