Disclosures Vol. 4: Boyfriend # Who?

By: Urfavfilosopher/Polyamorous Black Girl

We had fun with this one. After going back and forth about how we should interpret Pleasure P’s “Boyfriend #2”, we had quite a bit to say about it. We thought it’d be dope for yall to choose your own adventure. So if you’re interested in our (slightly) more serious analysis, read 1). If you wanna check out our alternative analysis that is probably a little more fun, read 2).

Honestly, we think you should read boffum. (*ye shrug*… is that still cool?)

1)

Entanglements. If you get the reference it’s probably because you were tapped in to the the summer’s celebrity drama surrounding Jada Pinkett Smith, WIll Smith, and August Alsina. For many people, Alsina and the Smith’s provided an occasion to talk about “side niggas”. Pretty Ricky solo star Pleasure P’s “Boyfriend #2” seems to present another one.

Urfavfilosopher pointed out that “the reduction of Alsina to the sexual satisfaction that he might provide is an extension of the same politics of white supremacy that understands Black men as hypersexual beasts”. Yet, Pleasure P pretty much owns his role being primarily one of sexual satisfaction. He knows she “likes it freaky, so [he’s] gotta” [emphatic pause] “give it to [her]”. In the song’s second bridge, he resonantly calls out to the ladies who gotta man and a B.U.D.D.Y on the side. The song tries to reclaim power for side niggas around the world.

But we not finna talk about side niggas. We chose to take the song’s title at face value — an interpretation where “Boyfriend #2” is not a proxy for a side nigga, but instead its a honest attempt at describing Pleasure P’s positioning as a second boyfriend in a ethically non-monogamous relationship (ENM). On this interpretation, Pleasure P is involved in a non-monogamous relationship with a woman he knows to be in an additional romantic relationship with another man.

In social discourse surrounding black folks and non-monogamy OPP — one penis policy, not to be confused with Naughty by Nature’s take on other people’s pussy — comes up frequently. Both versions have a way of centralizing men’s desires and experiences in problematic ways. Naughty by Nature’s version extends the possessive beliefs that women and their bodies are properties of men; and that non-monogamous sex is exclusively a tool for Black men to weild some kind of social capital over other Black men. Black polyamorists that uphold OPP also follow a restrictive patriarchal ethic that upholds the double standard that it is acceptable for men to have multiple partners, but unacceptable for women.

Instead of upholding this standard, Boyfriend #2 highlights the transformative potential of polyamory and other non-monogamous relationship structures. For example, in FMM relationship dynamics men are challenged to confront and deconstruct the very same possessiveness that Naughty by Nature’s OPP centers. By acknowledging her Boyfriend #1, Pleasure P subtly disrupts compulsory heterosexuality as a mechanism of men’s dominance over women in virtue of his epistemic standing.

The numerical designation of “#2” in the song’s title suggests that there may be a hierarchical relationship structure at play as well. Discourse around relationships hierarchies and their undesirability is common among Black polyamorous circles. Hierarchical relationships can be identified by the usage of labels like “primary”, “secondary”, or “tertiary” (among others) to describe the parties to the relationship. Among Black polyamorists hierarchies are often explicitly disavowed and frowned upon. Contrasted with egalitarian polyamorous sturctures where all parties to the relationships, and the relationships themselves are treated equally, the source of disapprobation lies in the belief that hierarchies are inherently unequal and thereby, unfair. That is, by fixing relationships according to various and asymmetrical levels of importance, hierarchies unnaturally limit and cap a relationship’s natural progression at an unfair cost to one’s “secondary” or “tertiary” relata (or person that one’ relates to).

But hierarchical relationships work for some non-monogamous relationships. The “unnatural limit” is only a problem when it is unilaterally imposed or experienced. If all or both parties to the relationship agree to boundaries and limits that cap the development of relationships in consensual ways that suit them (or their schedules lol), the problem goes away.

Some Black polyamorists say that hierarchical relationships also have the toxic effect of upholding monogamy. This can be the case when atop the hierarchy is one’s spouse or in “unicorn hunting”. In the case of spouses, given that marriage protects dyads (relationships of two and only two people), relational power is often exclusively maintained by the “primary” dyad socially and politically. The same can be said of unicorn hunting where a couple (sometimes monogamous and sometimes non-monogamous) seeks out an extrarelational sex partner to share the benifits of sexual participation in the reltaionship but not other associated benefits. There’s teeth to these arguments. The first point highlights the urgent need for expansive marriage reform, as is being seen in places like Sommervile, MA. The second, again, can be okay when these are agreed upon and shared boundaries.

Yet, Pleasure P’s “Boyfriend #2” draws attention to under-discussed benefits to Black women who are non-monogamous or polyamorous. Insofar as it is a FMM triad, it straightforwardly speaks to the permissibility of black women having their sexual and relational needs met by multiple partners. And although he speaks to there being a deficiency in her primary relationships, she is the beneficiary of boyfriend #2 trying to prove himself, so-to-speak. Hit tone is competitive but not confrontational; boyfriend #2 wants a merit-based promotion — because “the first one, he don’t really seem like he know what to do.” Pleasure P’s response is to not fuss, fight or argue/cause second place always got a whole lot to prove.” His lover is gifted a partner that is working to be the least problematic as he can relationally. These possibilities for Black women are not celebrated as they should be.

Boyfriend #2 should be anthemic for Polyamorous Black Girls.

2)

Our second analysis comes from the video. The video presumably features a Black woman in a monogamous relationship where despite her many advances, her nesting partner (a partner she lives with) is demonstrating a lack of interest in her. It is not uncommon for partners in monogamous relationships to get “comfortable” after new relationship energy fades away. Perhaps the culture around heteronormative monogamous possesiveness contributes in no small way. When relationships are viewed by men as a conquest, there is little motivation to sustain the relationship or to keep that same energy.

In spite of Boyfriend #1’s role as a provider/caregiver, what is clear is that she has sexual needs that he is not (and perhaps cannot fulfill). The narrative unfolds in a way that seems to position her as stepping out on her romantic relationship to engage in an unethical non-monogamous relationship — she’s a cheater and a ho.

But what if we told you that this was a very elaborate kinky role play? One where the three are engaged in an ethically non-monogamous relationship and decided to carryout a role play “as if” they were monogamous in order to spice up their sex life? At 2:11 the two men cross paths. Boyfriend #1 gets back home to Boyfriend #2, in full-on UPS man outfit tipping his hat to boyfriend #1 after yet another successful “D-livery”. The non-confrontational interaction between the two might suggest that they are at least familiar with each other — like, Brandy &Monica familiar. Their familiarity is emphasised by Pleasure P’s knowing that he isn’t boyfriend #1, but instead, boyfriend #2.

In Black polyamorous communities, there can sometimes be quite a significant overlap with kinksters. Also, doing the work to keep a ENM relationship ethical can be a lot of work that isn’t always fun. Role playing as a part of sexual scenes or actualizing your partner’s fantasies within the sexual dimension of your romantic relationship can promote a healthy and satisfying sex life. It can also be an indicator of feeling emotionally and physically safe with your sexual partner(s). In the land of the ethically non-monogamous, where monogamy is often verboten, a role play involving monogamy might become enticing.

We can imagine several situations where the three of them came together and agreed to this role play. Some of these situations involve the video’s lead actress being a bratty or masochistic sub/dom switch. In this case, the lack of attention from boyfriend number #1 is pre-negotiated and is being carried out in real time (as can be the case in some 24/7 sub/dom dynamics). She derives pleasure from being told no. Lack of attention is not only desired, but required of boyfriend #1 by her. She is not, therefore, disempowered, but empowered.

Furthermore, introducing the play dynamic where she is the ignored partner in a monogamous relationship may feed her desire to be adored. Her dynamic with Boyfriend #2 becomes one where she can occupy that space as well.

In addition to his adoration, Pleasure P offers to “get the camera” so that they “can make a movie”. In the video, he makes good on this promise. Now, mind you, the song came out in an era where camcorders were a thing (we gon’ leave that alone). Nowadays, many folks probably have some nudes and ameteur sex tapes stored away in password protected digital spaces. But a homemade vhs from a camcorder would have been really hard to hide in shared living space. On this interpretation though, she’s wouldn’t have had to hide it from boyfriend #1 because it was a pre-negotiated part of the scene.

Under our analysis of the video, then, “Boyfriend #2” not only speaks to how Black women might benefit from non-monogamy in the romantic, polyamorous sense; but also in the sense of sexual satisfaction and erotic desire.

Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Santa Clara University. Prof. Clardy’s scholarship and public writing focus on love, justice, and race in the Americas.