Jealousy can be mild and flattering and endearing, and sometimes it gets violent and murderous. None of us are immune to feelings of insecurity. When somebody loves us and makes us feel secure we are bound to want to avoid losing them. The more we doubt our own worth, the more likely we are to suspect that a lover will find somebody better than us and jump ship. Sadly, the more we mistrust somebody, the more likely they are to believe that they can never make us happy and leave anyway.

One strong possible reason for sexual jealousy in men is (bio)logical: doubt about the paternity of one’s offspring. If you are 100% certain that you are the only man your partner has slept with in a certain period of time, you will feel secure that you are the father if a baby comes along. Add to this thousands of years of habit. Men apparently being in control of their wives in public is one example – even if a woman is very clear that she is not interested in sex with anyone else, a man can still experience pressure from other people to show her ‘who’s in charge’.

Why do women get jealous? Women being ‘provided for’ is another example of habit – even though most women work very hard, it is still true that a lot of women have depended on men for material security – for money or protection from other men. More or less intentionally, we have created societies in which men control financial resources far more than women do. If another woman is attracted to her partner a woman might be afraid of losing her income, her home, her family, her survival, not just her lover. Sexual prestige can also be as important for many women as it is for many men.

Why do same-sex partners get jealous? As above, everybody has insecurities – while being in a loving relationship can help us feel valued, special, wanted, etc., it also gives us something really big which we can lose. People leave, people die, people disappear. Every pair bond is as vulnerable to death and decay as our own bodies. While the idea that the only way to be happy is to be paired off is a rather horrible one, when it works well coupledom has a lot of rewards and couples don’t want to give them up without a fight.

In theory, we should only be committed to one sexual partner if we genuinely don’t want more than one. Sometimes people vow to stick to one without meaning it, because they love and want that person and don’t see the possibility of living happily if they are honest. Oftentimes one can be a lot. Some people decide to have no sexual relationships. Sex can be an incredibly powerful form of communication (especially when it’s done well and with a good listener) – we don’t want to be doing it so much that we can’t hear ourselves think.

Even in relationships where partners agree that sex with other people is allowed, jealousy is common and understandable. Jealousy is always understandable. How we express jealousy is what matters. The Sleep Project is not a way to make somebody jealous, or to test your ability to overcome jealousy. It’s a way to free ourselves from the causes of jealousy.


Sexuality politics

Sharp readers may be wondering whether I am assuming heterosexuality to be ‘normal’, especially when I suggest that friends of the same sex might already be regular sleep-together-ers. On the contrary, I think homosexuality and bi-sexuality have a lot to add to this discussion.

I don’t have much time for stereotypes such as ‘homosexuals are more promiscuous’. But I do suspect that when people have already had to wade (or fight) through a certain amount of ‘traditional’ morality to find out where their own sexuality lies, they have often learnt to take that morality with a pinch of salt. I think it’s easier for heterosexuals to get into a relationship and then just stay there indefinitely, for better or worse, because society tells us all that this is normal. Being normal doesn’t appeal to everyone, but it does make life a lot easier, and all creatures are lazy.

Bisexual, homosexual and heterosexual are all labels that we would not need to use if we were genuinely free to love, have sex with, and sleep with whoever we wanted. We do not need to identify as bisexual simply so that the correct group of potential sexual partners can identify us as potential sexual partners. We identify as bisexual in the hope that other people will not get confused by our behaviour and harass or intimidate us for not being what they thought we were.

Once society really gets that many people are not straight, we will be far less likely to assume that friends of the same sex are never going to be sexually attracted to us. When that finally sinks in, perhaps we will be less likely to assume that friends of the opposite sex are going to be sexually attracted to us as soon as we step into their personal space. Will we live to see that day? You decide.