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The Ethical Slut: A Guide to Infinite Sexual Possibilities
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"Introduction to Challenges and Possibilities of Polyamory and Healthy Relationships"

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The Good
Good general overview of polyamorous communities and behaviors, encourages healthy mindsets towards polyamorous situations (dating multiple women)
The Bad
Afraid to give hard practical advice to act on, "too politically correct" and fluffy shying away from some hard truths of psychology and human behavior
The Bottom Line
A good book to pick up to open your mind up a bit if you are new to polyamory communities or polyamory.

Some good mature advice focused on 'healthy relationships' and 'healthy polyamory' that could give you ideas about what you want, don't want and what you should strive for in your relationships.

Main weakness is that it lacks practical 'action' advice and specifics. Stays too fluffy and abstract, afraid of giving you action specific advice.


The Ethical Slut is one of the best known and most popular books within the various polyamory communities. First published in 1997, with a few revisions and updates coming afterwards - notably the 2nd edition, which this review is based on, it has been used as a reference for many polyamorists. In fact, if you ask any polyamorist which books you should read first to learn about polyamory they virtually always tell you this book, as well as "Opening Up".

As background, while I'm not new to polyamory and open relationships, it hasn't been a permanent part of my life. It comes and goes in phases. There are times I prefer an exclusive relationship - with the right girl. So I have never been an active member of any of the polyamory communities - although I have recently been connecting and talking with more of them as I explore the subject of dating multiple women in more depth.

Are You Aware of the Many Versions of Polyamory?
This is a good place to start if you don't know anything about polyamory, dating multiple women and all the different ways this is being done today.

When you know what is being done elsewhere it naturally will open your eyes to ideas you didn't have before, a first stage of learning about any topic.

So this book covers a variety of polyamory situations: heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, BDSM (Bondage and Discipline, Sadism and Masochism), married, non-married, love communities and groups.

This kept my interest through the first few chapters of the book, but pretty quickly, it started to get shallow in 'insights'. It wasn't bad as a first primer, but I felt I learned a lot more from just talking to women involved in different versions of polyamory.

Also, the book was pretty shallow on psychological insights. Within the first half hour of getting to know polyamorous women I found I was learning more about the psychology and basis of their relationships, than this book had managed to convey. So, I guess the point here is that it is a little 'shy' on insights. It seems that the authors, Donnie Easton and Janet Hardy are holding back, perhaps for 'political' reasons (yes, even in polyamory circles there is politics).

This is a shame. The book would have come far more to life and prepared people better with more specific case studies, more discussion of the psychology behind people's actions, the specific motivations and so on.

The takeway is that it's ok to take this book as a primer to start from. Open your eyes a bit. But there is a lot more to be explored than is covered here - so keep your eyes open and looking for more.

Mature and Healthy Points Made on Safety and Mutually Beneficial Relationships
The strongest point of this book is that it approaches the whole subject from a perspective of attempting to create mutually beneficial and healthy polyamorous relationships (or indeed healthy sexuality and healthy relationships with yourself and others in general).

It will make you think more about topics such as STDs (Sexually Transmitted Diseases), how to deal with boundaries in polyamorous relationships (what is ok, what is not, for you, for them), and also potential ways to deal with conflictual or difficult situations that arise.

You are encouraged to think more healthily on many of these areas, and I think that's commendable. For that reason, if you are not "satisfied" with your dating life, with your relationships - this could open your eyes to 'more satisfactory' opportunities out there. It could also give you ideas on what you should no longer be accepting in your relationships - or bringing into your life via polyamorous or monogamous relationships.

Note: This isn't a research driven book. It's an experiential book. So you're not going to find clear advice on topics like STD risk and exactly how it affects you. The authors do give sound advice on the risks however, and ideas on how to potentially balance your life between the fun and experiences of polyamory while minimizing the health risk (STD) downsides.

Some Good Points, But "Very Fluffy" on Execution
There are snippets of practical tips here and there throughout this book that you can discover through the case studies mostly. This mostly comes up where the authors discuss how they, or a friend or acquaintance dealt with a situation. Sometimes this results in great takeaways that you could apply yourself. Other times it's pretty weak.

In general, this is more of a philosophical, abstract work. The authors are not prescribing actions, most of the time they just prescribe the need to communicate, share and be open minded. These are good points - but just saying this isn't the most helpful or practical that could be done - a lot more could be said.

So a lot of the principles are "reasonable". That is what concerns me most about this book. It's all too often a bit too reasonable, balanced and unwilling to take a stance on anything. Because of this it lacks clarity. I also feel that it is shying away from the less than completely "healthy" motivations and drives of many people involved in polyamory. We are human and we come bundled with a different 'truth' than I felt the one that was being presented here represented.

To make this book more practical - it needed to look more at some of the less desirable situations, people and motivations that come up (and how to understand them) as well as giving some clear action tips and advice - what could work in this situation? What would their experience say is a good approach?

Not a Guide for Introducing Girls to Polyamory
If you are looking to bring existing girlfriends into polyamory (opening your relationships up), or learning how to bring new girls into multiple dating situations, this book doesn't look at the topic in a very practical way.

The authors approach everything as an outright discussion - healthy relationship style - but the reality is that many women won't be ready to discuss the topic this way. Women already in polyamorous situations - Yes. Women who have to date been monogamous - No.

So there is very little advice on how to create, develop and manage a lifestyle of dating multiple women unless you wish to limit the girls you are interested in to those already in polyamorous relationships and the community in general.

The Bottom Line
If you're new to polyamorous ideas this is an ok book to pick up to open your mind up a bit. It's a little thin on insights and useful information from around 60% of the way through, but the first half is worth a read and pushing through.

It contains some good mature advice focused on 'healthy relationships' and 'healthy polyamory' (that benefits all the people involved as well as possible).

The weakness of this book is that it falls short on practical 'action' advice and specifics. It remains too fluffy and abstract, seemingly afraid to take a stand on many things and so prescribes very little action.

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