My Review of Open by Rachel Krantz
Spoiler: It's Not Good
Open: An Uncensored Memoir of Love, Liberation, and Non-Monogamy by Rachel Krantz
I have so many thoughts about this book, but ultimately it's just a one-sided, self-serving account of a bad relationship by an author that I do not trust. The important thing to remember when reading this book is that there are two sides to every story and the author only presents one. She presents it as a story of manipulation and gaslighting, but if you ignore the parts where she talks about how she felt and focus only on what she and her boyfriend did and said, you're left with a story of the author simply refusing to exercise agency over her own life and blaming "the patriarchy" for it. From the start, her feelings are treated as the only ones that matter. Any thoughts, feelings, or desires anyone else has are either nonexistent or exist only to describe how they affect her. In particularly, she treats her boyfriend's feelings and desires as inherently illegitimate unless they make her feel good. Even when he doesn't tell her what he wants, but she senses it through body language or tone, he gets blamed for "pressuring" her simply by having feelings she doesn't like.
Basically, the author's issue seems to be that she doesn't like herself very much, and she tries half-heartedly to be her ideal self, fails, feels bad about herself, and blames everyone else for it. Her ideal self is polyamorous, secure, agentic, and powerful, but her actual self is controlling, possessive, consumed by anxiety and jealousy, and wants her man to take full responsibility for her well-being and emotional state. She will never admit how she actually is, so she spends the entire book trying to be this other person and feeling like shit about it.
Right from the start, she falls into a dom/sub relationship style that she absolutely loves, is super enthusiastic about, and tells her boyfriend constantly that she's into. Yet somehow he's cast as the villain and she heavily implies that he imposed this dynamic on her. This seems like another case of the author's ideal vision of her self (a prominent feminist author) being independent and egalitarian, but her actual self being codependent and wanting to be taken care of and dominated.
There's also a real issue that she keeps framing rationality as a patriarchal value, as if women aren't or can't be rational. As someone who thinks rationality is really important, it's rather offensive (not to mention self-defeating).
Ultimately, I don't believe her accounts of what happened. I think the broad strokes are probably true, but the details seem questionable and I have no doubt she's leaving out important context. Anything another person (especially her boyfriend) says to her in anger or frustration gets quoted verbatim, but any time she gets emotional or irrational, it's just summarized as "I started yelling" or similar nonspecific language. In most of these situations, if a few details were changed or if there was additional context, she would come across as the monster and her boyfriend would be the sympathetic one.
In one of the latter chapters, she quotes a conversation verbatim that she recorded (though obviously it's selectively edited). This robs her of her ability to put her words in her boyfriend's mouth, and he actually comes across as kind of a tool, but not unreasonable. So instead, she attaches a footnotes to nearly every statement of his describing how even though he might sound reasonable, what he's actually doing is manipulating and gaslighting her, complete with quotes from a shockingly unethical therapist who armchair diagnoses the guy without ever talking to him. I think she includes some throat-clearing about how it's not an actual clinical diagnosis, but it's obvious what's happening.
Overall, this story should be viewed as fiction, and as a work of fiction it's not terribly compelling.
DO NOT read this book and think this is what open relationships are like. The disaster here was the result of these particular personalities.
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