By Vanessa Mendis
Hushed whispers about the elephant in the room, and the elephant has had enough. The elephant is bored. Unmasking perceived taboos has been in the works for a while now, and it requires insightful understanding. That’s why we sat down with Kumuduni David, artist, female advocate with a background in psychology, and unapologetic survivor, to discuss relationships deviating from the social norm while being honest about it.
Enjoying the impeccable hospitality and drinks at her favorite hangout spot, t-Lounge by Dilmah at One Galle Face, Kumu is a ball of undeniable energy and spirit. She’s rearing to go, and so with no sugarcoating, we dive headfirst into the deep end.
What do you think about the modern-day notion of love, and how you perceive it?
I honestly don’t know what the modern-day notion of love is, because it is a minefield of its own. Love means different things to different people. But to me, it is unconditional. That’s what it should be when you are giving and receiving it, with no conditions put on it.
But have you noticed that this unconditional love gets misconstrued as neediness, insecurity, or desperation?
Yes. I think the world is tripping up on itself. While people are working towards self-awareness, this “woke” society concept is about asking others to mind your triggers, and tiptoe around that, which is absolute crap. Your triggers are your responsibility and it’s a form of abuse to impose that on another person. If you’re getting triggered, you need internal work and the help of a therapist.
Do you believe that human beings are capable of monogamy?
Yes, but that requires tremendous self-discipline, knowing your errors, urges, and how you make your decisions. If you’re capable of sticking to your word and are selfless, yes it will work; but most humans aren’t.
Most people cheat on their partners because they have not been honest with each other. Have open communication, and if you aren’t sure that you can commit, don’t take the vows. It’s not easy. Nothing I say is easy, but it is simple. You just have to think past the nonsense that others have put on you.
Polygamy and polyamory are widely misunderstood. What is the difference?
Polyamory, according to me, is dating multiple people and having sex with them. Polygamy is you having commitments to multiple people, like being married to more than one partner. I won’t say that’s wrong, because it may work for you, but in most countries it is illegal.
However, polygamy can be restrictive. I prefer polyamory, because you only commit to a certain extent with others, and because I cannot bend over backwards to fit into another’s life, unless they’re extremely compatible. They need to understand why polyamory is needed – variety, unless you are extremely experimental and adventurous in your sex life, which you should do if you are married. Polyamory is needed because sex is never the same from one person to another, and I prefer to be free to explore.
Polyamory requires mental stability and security. Do you agree?
Definitely. To be truly polyamorous you need to be absolutely true to yourself. You can’t hide parts of yourself, because that’s a good way of going into disaster. Most people are not capable of productive polyamory.
You need to not project your crap onto the other person. It needs to be a meeting of respectful minds. “Oh I get to play the field” is not polyamory. Self-respect and respect for the others is key, and if you lack even one, please don’t do it. You need to love yourself unconditionally.
Boundaries are crucial in polyamory too, correct?
Absolutely. You need to know what you like and dislike, and explore your body. For example, golden showers or water sports to me in sex is a no-go. To me it’s a mark of disrespect. Hair pulling is a no-go as well, because I don’t enjoy it. Communicate these and all your boundaries, because if you don’t, how will the other person know?
Are open marriages more sustainable than the conventional marriage?
I know a lot of couples who pull it off beautifully. I absolutely think open marriages are more sustainable and I am advocating for it, because conventional marriage is no longer working. There are so many divorces and so many getting married for the wrong reasons. Know why you want it before you do it. I know couples who have been in open marriages for 30, 40 years and they sustain it beautifully, purely because there is no acrimony.
So if you can have the conversation, do so by all means. I know a lot of people are going to be appalled that I am contaminating you by introducing this concept, and let me reiterate – that is your problem, not mine, so don’t bring it my way. If you understand why you have a problem with it and you want to have a productive conversation, let’s talk. But otherwise, don’t.
You’re a mother. Would you advocate polyamory to your children?
Absolutely. I believe that I have no right to inflict my sexuality on my son. But my son will know about my sexuality. Because if I don’t show him by example that it is ok for him to explore and find out what is right for him, I am confining him to an unhappy life. My son is by far the most important person to me and I want him to have a happy, healthy sex life. I want him to safely explore.
Is sexual abuse and gaslighting likely with experimental sex, BDSM or polyamory, because to many, these are a novelty?
Yes! Know what you will not put up with and communicate that. We open the door to gaslighting and unconscious sexual abuse by not communicating. I am not excusing this behaviour, but, for example, if I don’t tell my partner that I dislike hair-pulling, how will he know? In that case, a person saying “I’m sorry I didn’t know” is not gaslighting. That’s on me.
Now, there are people who you have communicated to and take your “no” as a yes in disguise or a maybe – both men and women. That is wrong. You have to say yes to being spanked, being in a threesome, bondage, or otherwise. Say yes to yourself and your partner. Going into something unsure and then feeling used, is on you.
Our country deems sex toys illegal, but there is rape happening in our religious institutions, and I have seen it with my own eyes. Sexual abuse and gaslighting is everywhere. Experiment with vigilance.
You’re a progressive thinker opening up ‘taboo topics’ by social norms. And with that comes internet hate. How do you deal with it?
I’m very amused by this, because they don’t have the guts to talk to me directly. Why do you not have the courage to talk to me, and speak around me instead? I will be intolerant if you are offensive. If you want to talk constructively, please express your opposing views. Let’s talk. But this whole acid and vitriol behind my back does not concern me, and I will not tolerate it.
So are you saying that it takes no toll on you?
No it doesn’t. Let me put it this way. I knew before I started speaking, what I was setting myself up for. So I was proactive about it, and I front-loaded on what I could expect. Let’s not be stupid, people. You don’t open yourself up to opposing the social norm, unless you are ready to take it on. I am ready to face people. Hate however, I will rip apart.
Most people lack the wherewithal to have a productive confrontation, because emotions are not your friends when it comes to confrontation. Emotions are great for understanding yourself. Most people don’t have a good hold of their emotions. Leave that at home and then come talk to me about my views. I love the fact that I’m being treated like a tiger though (laughs). I love it!
What would help others who want to tackle these topics, handle internet hate without it taking an emotional toll?
Learn and recognise your triggers because not everyone knows what they are. Take responsibility for your emotional wellbeing. You can’t react to everything and be a drama queen. I am a drama queen, albeit, a purposeful one.
There are a lot of good things about the younger generations like non-conformity, retaining individuality and having a voice. But, you’re here because the doors were opened for you by your predecessors. Get a hold of yourself, go for counselling. Don’t talk to your personal cheerleaders; they cannot give you perspective. Use the resources that are available like therapists, and prepare.
Self-love is a ubiquitous term today, but how does one actually cultivate it for healthier relationships?
Before you get into polyamory or any relationship, get to know yourself. I have called out abusive behaviour in sexual partners and I don’t tolerate toxic masculinity or femininity. Show people how you expect to be treated. Also know what is acceptable from you.
Introspection is an art. I love meditating, It clarifies so much; may not work for everyone, but investing time in yourself is never a waste. Take yourself for coffee, travel and self-dates. Be happy in yourself. Don’t spiral and catastrophise though. Catastrophising is cowardly, because you avoid situations thinking the worst will happen. That’s a fear response.
I learned long ago, that the only thing I fear is fear. I will do anything to overcome fear, because when you’re afraid of it, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy where you manifest it. The cure for fear is knowledge, so learn. Don’t be a passenger in your own life. Take control of it. You are the only one who can.
While we fight for empowerment, freedom, and individuality, for most of us, preconceived societal norms cage us from taking to the skies. The foundation of any healthy relationship, conventional or otherwise, is understanding oneself, as Kumu so blatantly reiterated. And it’s true – cheating is abundant and so are divorces, but we may tread warily to speak about the concepts of polyamory or open relationships, exploring sexuality, and being adventurous. We throw terms like gaslighting, sexual abuse, and narcissism around with wanton nonchalance but fail to comprehend how and why it may happen.
The world is changing, and so are the dynamics of our relationships. We seem to be hiding parts of ourselves from ourselves and from others. The questions here are ones that we all need to ask ourselves. What are we afraid of, and at what cost?
PHOTOS: Krishan Kariyawasam