Opening Up: Book Review

By Tristan Taormino.

If you’ve ever thought about living with an open relationship, this is the guidebook to cheer you on by showing you that even the wildest options already exist and are flourishing, and they’re being practiced by regular people. Or are they?

In this book that covers non-monogamy in its many ways, having many partners (whether they be one-nighters, sex partners, romantic partners or live-ins) is differentiated from cheating on one’s significant other or non-commitment to one person by the fact that non-monogamy is based on consent.

“Opening Up” takes you through various styles of non-monogamy – swinging, polyamory, polyfidelity and other concepts that sound like long words for “getting it wherever you can”. It is written in a way that makes it easy to understand people’s choices to become non-monogamous, even if they have never delved into this unknown world before.

It is not difficult to understand the pull of non-monogamy, which is well covered, but the book does not shy away from the dirt either. There is jealously, misunderstanding and violation of contract, just to name a few of the realities of this lifestyle, and they are properly confronted, with tips and techniques to maneuver through them. These are important things to know before getting involved, and Taormino’s lists, scattered throughout the book, demonstrate the complexity of setting up and modifying such relationships.

Although this appears to be an interesting read for voyeurs, wondering what makes people do it and dieing to know what its really like, the level of details and the repetition sometimes leave the concept of open relationships looking like more hassle than its worth. Some chapters are excessive, since they deal with redundant information, but are there in order to exploit the many quotations and stories that the author wanted included. Intellectually, it makes the book more of the same, but if we consider this book as a support system or curiosity buster, it may be helpful to read more and more about others who are doing it and speaking up. The resource lists at the back are comprehensive and could be important for people just entering the lifestyle and seeking support.

If you’re just looking for some thrills, reading the personal stories is interesting in itself, but don’t expect erotica: this is a book that takes itself seriously and tries to present open relationships as a way of conducting a lifestyle of integrity while fully fulfilling each person’s needs. Whether is succeeds is dependent on what the reader is searching for.

If there is one message to hold onto, it should be to think carefully before following any whims to satisfy yourself or your relationship. While Taormino and non-monogamists always espouse the belief that monogamy is not natural, they are starting their argument on a point that is not well-founded.


    • Written by a non-fiction writer
    • Written in simple layperson’s language
    • Based on interviews with individuals and couples in open relationships
    • Rich in personal stories
    • Lists provide how-to guides to planning and protecting open relationships
    • Impressive polyamory resource list for around the US and internationally


Cleis Press, 2008


Dinah Rates      

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