“I just like the idea of a little sexual adventure. You can understand that, can’t you?”
In Jo Bloom’s novel, Permission, a happily married couple decide to grant each other permission to step out of the confines of monogamy. With clear rules laid out, what could possibly go wrong???
The novel begins explosively with married couple Steve and Fay involved in a fight between friends Mike and Katie In an evening spent between the two married couples, Mike discovers that Katie has been cheating on him; things quickly escalate and Steve and Fay must intervene. The incident leads to a discussion between Fay and Steve regarding monogamy. They’ve been married for over 20 years, finally have a nice home, have 2 kids together, and while sex is good, somehow Fay thinks she is missing out on life. She brings up the idea of giving each other ‘permission’ for extra-marital sex. Steve is reluctant but agrees mainly to keep Fay happy. Big mistake. We all have certain morality boundaries, and those boundaries are sometimes invisible and untested until a situation arises. It’s clear that Steve has no interest in Fay’s suggestion, and it’s an ego blow. Fay meanwhile has her eye on the first extra-marital lover. …
British author Jo Bloom shows how a couple who actually have a decent life together screw it all up when Fay, feeling bored and a bit short-changed by a lack of sexual experience, decides she wants to branch out. Reading Permission is like watching a train wreck. You can see collision ahead and know it won’t be pretty, but your eyes are drawn to it nonetheless.
I don’t think Permission is meant to be funny, but there were sections I found savagely, grubbily funny. Other parts were just sad. There’s Steve gloomily scrolling through Tinder and then actually writing and printing out ‘the rules’ of the arrangement for extra-marital relationships for both he and Fay to sign. Probably not a good analogy here, but imagine writing out rules for animals at the zoo and then letting them out of their cages. That analogy probably says a lot about my opinions of marriage and human nature–two things which are inexorably intertwined. When a monogamous couple decides to step out of the boundaries of marriage or some other exclusive relationship, you can write as many rules as you want. It simply doesn’t matter because whatever rules you dream up, you cannot predict the consequences going forward and the rules are not going to fix things once those boundaries are crossed. Neither Steve nor Fay conceive of the issues they will face post monogamy. So in that sense, this is a cautionary tale.