• Laura Boyle

What is a One Penis Policy, and What are Unicorn Hunters?

One Penis Policies:


“One Penis Policy,” occasionally called a “One <part> Policy” or changed to “One Vagina Policy” based on the genders of the folks involved, is a situation (typically centered around a cisman, hence the most common name) where someone tells their partner “Oh, we’ll both date other people, but only ones who don’t share my genitals.” It’s most often when a couple of cis people are opening up their relationship, and the man says “You’re <heteroflexible or bi> so let’s both just date women, either separately or together,” although sometimes a charismatic cisman collects a bit of a harem with this kind of policy, and sometimes it’s carried out by people with vulvas, hence the alternate names.


My apologies in advance, readers, for assuming throughout this explanation that it’s a cisman suggesting it, but in a baker’s dozen years of participating in non-monogamy, I’ve encountered that more times than I’ve kept count of and One Vagina Policies exactly twice.


While, as always, consenting adults can agree to anything they’d like to agree to, this is largely considered a big red flag, especially if it involves a woman who’s only kind of heteroflexible and a straight man, so she’s got a lot fewer options or less opportunity to date than he. It’s also just kind of awful to tell your partner that you mind a lot, to the point of forbidding, their heterosexual connections, but don’t mind at all a homosexual connection - it implies the latter “isn’t real.” It also completely ignores or mistreats transpeople, as if only genitals define gender; or is outright transphobic in application for the same reason - when the partner suggesting the policy discovers a particular woman has a penis, he suddenly denies her gender, or “is ok with transmen, so see? You can date men.” Essentially, the man gives up nothing of what he wants, while letting the woman or women he's with only have access to a limited population (or sometimes, almost no one) of who they'd like to to be seeing.


It tends, like the unicorn hunters we’ll learn about in a minute, to be a “baby step” or “sticking your toes in the water” of nonmonogamy for people who are uncertain if this is for them yet, or think that rules will help them minimize their jealousy. Unfortunately, it usually hurts people outside your agreement along the way, and in a general sense is a pretty crappy “baby step” to take because of that. That’s why, even though “adults can get into any agreement they want” lots of people run very fast when they realize this is in place.


Unicorn Hunters:


Unicorn Hunters are people who aren’t just only seeking triads, they’re only seeking triads with bisexual women who will want and love them both equally, be willing to do and try anything they want, and won’t see anyone else in the mean time. They are so called because finding someone willing to put up with/meet these standards is as mythic and impossible as a search for a unicorn.





Rightfully, this gets a bad reputation because it ignores a person’s preferences and throws the “primacy” of the existing couple and their priorities into the face of that third person. It is, unfortunately, something that an existing couple may not realize they’re doing - if they don’t outright state that they don’t want the “single woman to meet for some fun and maybe a relationship if we’re compatible” to stop dating everyone else, they might not recognize that they’re implying it heavily; and people are generally sure of their own good intentions and slow to see their own negative patterns. If the third party isn’t experienced in polyamory, it’s easy for all of them to know something’s a little off but not be sure where to attribute that, or for the third party to feel badly but not realize why or what to do about it. And since usually, the original couple are who heard of polyamory first, they become the “authority” the third person turns to… which is a recipe for mistreatment of the third person, whether intentional or not. This mistreatment has burned enough of us (a summary of my brief stint unicorning is here) that it makes a lot of people leery.


This pattern is common enough that not only does it have a name, it has multiple websites claiming to teach you how not to do it. Anyone who joins a polyamory forum online and posts “Hi! Me and my partner are looking for a woman to date together and aren’t having much luck yet, and we’re wondering if it’s because we haven’t learnt enough about polyamory yet” is going to be inundated with a combination of those links and being scolded about being accidental unicorn hunters, whether or not they would have been, had they had any luck meeting people online.


Overall, I try to assume that people have good intentions, and that they mean well; and that if any of them have done some reading about polyamory or some talking to polyamorous folks, they aren’t unicorn hunters, just people who like triads even though they’re actually really hard. I also try to assume, unless I’m directly told otherwise, that people dating a penis haver who won’t date any more of those just happen to be in the relationships they’re in, even if there’s a group of them connected to one person. I honestly believe that any polyamorous relationship format that people mutually agree to is fine, but that these patterns can be entered into with malice, and even when they aren’t malicious, can still do damage.


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