The OPP and Polyamory

So, unlike in the Naughty by Nature song, in polyamorous community and polyam relationships, OPP stands for One Penis Policy. I've talked about this kind of relationship policy once before on the blog, but in a kind of round-up post, and today it gets its own. I don't like them very much, and neither does much of the community, although of course, as with every other choice, consenting adults can agree to what they want.


But, what does One Penis Policy mean? It's the name for a situation where a cis man says that his cis woman partners can only date other cis women (or, sometimes, if he's 'progressive' [ironic eyeroll here] trans men) and no cis men or trans women. Basically, no one else with a penis. Everyone in the relationship can date as many people with vulvas as they like. Usually the situation comes up when a couple is opening up and one of them is a straight cis man and the other is a bisexual cis woman. He says "Well, everyone gets what they want, then" - not considering the numbers game alone of straight people to LGBT people or the way this ends up appearing to devalue woman-to-woman relationships.



Often it leaves the women in these relationships doing a lot of emotional labor around jealousy, replacement worries, attachment, etc; and sidestepping some of that for the man because he's convinced himself that his relationship is unique simply in and of his genitals. What sparks jealousy or not is to some extent socially programmed and less controllable than the refusal to face the things you know will while making your partner do so - the double standard is a very unfortunate aspect of this. In my opinion, which is shared by many, it's homophobic to assume that you don't need to do the same work around jealousy and attachment because of a meta's gender, because it implies that you think less of those relationships or find them less real. It's also absolutely transphobic to reduce people to their genitals in applying these policies and then pat yourself on the back for not excluding all men by "allowing" your partners to see trans men because you don't "see them as men" or "as a threat" in the same way you don't see lesbians as a threat.


Can people with vulvas, or trans women, impose these policies? Yes. I have sometimes seen OPP listed as "One Part Policy" because a cis woman was using it to either functionally create a reverse harem situation or have one bi male partner successfully date men while the others only saw her; and the only limitation I've ever seen any trans people state of their polycule is choosing to build entirely t4t polycules with the agreement of all members, and it may be that some of those folks were less enthusiastic about that than others, but honestly I couldn't tell from the outside and no one ever told me so; but in 15 years of being polyamorous and in community with polyamorous people I have seen people with vulvas of any gender or trans women present gender limitations to their polycules are count on my fingers numbers, and One Penis Policies suggested by cis men who thought that was an amazing idea women should be very excited about are count upon the stars numbers.


Most often, this is an opening up baby step that folks end up suggesting as a compromise when the man is the person less comfortable with opening up; but it's one that ends up devaluing people and relationships, treating them badly, and not building the emotional resilience and skills you need to get comfortable with polyamory in the long run. So my suggestion would be to skip it, if you want my advice. (Like I said at the top, consenting adults can agree to anything, so it's ok if you don't, too.) If you show up in a forum asking for advice and open with "well we're both only allowed to date women" just be aware that you're going to get some blowback on that.


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