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Cambridge Lit Fest author Rosie Wilby asks: “Is monogamy dead?”

Rosie Wilby, author of Is Monogamy Dead?
Rosie Wilby, author of Is Monogamy Dead?

Award-winning comedian Rosie Wilby has dived deep into what makes relationships tick in her new book: Is Monogamy Dead?

Rosie Wilby, author of Is Monogamy Dead
Rosie Wilby, author of Is Monogamy Dead

A gripping account of Rosie’s very personal quest to grapple with the science of modern relationships, her book was shortlisted in the memoir category for the Diva Literary Awards 2017 and has just been longlisted for the Polari First Book Prize 2018. She will be discussing her findings with an audience at the Cambridge Literature Festival next month and promises to share some of her surprising findings, plus excerpts from her stand-up routine, and frank discussions about negotiating open relationships.

“When I started writing the book I was in a relationship with a woman that was more like a really deep platonic connection, although it would be wrong to suggest we didn’t have any romantic or sexual intimacy because we did, but it felt like it had become a deep friendship and moved into that relatively quickly,” she said.

“This topic became quite personal to me because if we were going to stay in this partnership, which was very lovely on so many levels, we would have to sacrifice something about our sexual personas because we didn’t have that connection any more. I think that is quite a universal conundrum that many couples face.”

Around the same time, many of the couples she knew began breaking up relationships that “on many levels seemed very good” and she began to question whether monogamy was not able to offer everything you could want in a relationship.

“I started investigating people who were approaching relationships differently, as well as talking to scientists about how the brain works in different genders, and reading research about sexual desire and whether it would be possible to be in love with more than one person,” says Rosie.

She looked into the idea of open relationships, talking to couples who have negotiated this successfully, as well as the idea of ‘conscious uncoupling’ from a partner amicably, as popularised by actress Gwyneth Paltrow.

“It wasn’t Gwyneth’s idea. Everyone credits her with it but the idea of conscious uncoupling has been around for many years and the phrase was first coined by a therapist.”

In the end, the book details how Rosie and her partner went about ‘ethically breaking up’ and are now in new relationships but remain close.

“The idea of having an open relationship for me seems incredibly hard to negotiate in the real world. I know some people who do it very well. But for me I found the idea easier than the actual practice of doing it,” she explains.

Is Monogamy Dead? (Accent Press) follows her TEDx talk of the same name, BBC Radio 4 piece A New Currency of Commitment and a trilogy of solo shows investigating love and relationships.

Research took the comedian to some unusual places.

“I threw myself into adventure,” she says. “I performed comedy at a sex party which was really fun because everyone was in such a good mood.”

She also went along to some typical places where people meet for casual sex. “I took myself out of my comfort zone and went along to the lesbian sauna for a bit of an adventure to reconnect with my sexuality, but I ended up just chatting and drinking tea,” she laughs.

“Many times my lesbian friends have said I wish I was a gay man because many gay men seem to have open relationships and are able to separate out love and sex.”

Rosie is currently gathering ideas and inspiration for her second book in her new monthly podcast The Break-up Monologues, featuring acclaimed comedy friends telling her their break-up stories. The Break-up Monologues was recommended by Metro as one of the top five love and relationships podcasts worldwide.

Is Monogamy Dead?, Palmerston Room, St John’s College, 7pm, Saturday, November 24. Tickets: £10. Box office: cambridgeliteraryfestival.com or 01223 357851.

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