Friday, November 30, 2012

Marriage & Family Counseling??

I feel like I am all over the place. But in the past few weeks I have become increasingly interested in being a marriage and family counselor. Here is part of the statement I have written for one school:

 -->"I have navigated complex and non-traditional intimate relationships and desire to work with other couples and families navigating non-traditional and alternative relationship structures. In the course of this navigation, I have had a difficult time finding a therapist who could understand and validate my experiences, perspectives, and feelings. I feel a sense of hope in thinking about being the therapist I have always wanted for myself...
I hope to contribute to the field after finishing the program by being a progressive, open-minded, and compassionate therapist for individuals, couples, and families choosing alternative and non-conforming relationship structures. I wish to be an advocate for those in less traditional relationships and help people in these relationships understand that their needs and desires are valid and to subsequently help them have the healthiest relationships possible."

I feel into this. Comparing to how a PhD program makes me feel, this seems like a better fit for me. I want to have a highly practical degree, with which I feel like I can make a difference, a client at a time. The compassion and interpersonal skills that counseling takes seem to be natural inclinations of mine. My biggest concern with a Marriage & Family program is the foundation which, from what I know, is highly monoga-normative. I am fairly confident that my own background will help balance out those messages and frameworks. Now I am just stressed out trying to get applications done by the priority deadlines (early to mid January). But I am grateful that I have a life where I can investigate, research, and follow the things that give me pleasure.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Profiting from Stripping: Expectations & Entitlement

I posted a review of "Strip City" a few days ago. Remember this quote?

"In every strip club I've been to, the stage is a sacred space. Girls Only. Men can approach the side of the stage to tip, but that's it...The sanctity of the stage is highly symbolic- like a woman's virtue, her bedroom, her sex- violate it and you violate her." (p158-9)

It seems like a lot of girls I work with feel extremely entitled to earning well above $20 an hour; if they are earning closer to $40 an hour they stop complaining.

My first reaction to hearing this is "Why do you feel so entitled to earning so much money? It is well above minimum wage, and you only work part-time. Stop complaining!"

And then I realize: so many girls that I have met view their bodies as private or off-limits, and in order to display their "virtue," their "private" parts, they must be well compensated. And I realize that this is in part due to the history of strip tease and strip. Our puritanical roots tell us that our bodies are shameful. In order to see other naked bodies, people have long been willing to pay well. (I also fully validate the idea that everyone has their own physical, spiritual, and other boundaries, and for some dancers, showing their pussy is crossing a boundary.)

For me, I expect to leave work with a substantial amount of cash because of the stigmatized and taboo nature of stripping and because of the fact that I am not an employee and so do not receive an hourly wage or benefits. There has to be substantial pros to stripping to make it worth it to me to forgo social normalcy and employee benefits I could find working at the gym or restaurant. The amount of money that I have the potential to make is one of those pros. (The other pros being those I have discussed in other posts: achieving a state of "flow," being an exhibitionist, being around other naked women, exercising, socializing, getting pretty for work, etc.)

For better or worse, or for simply what it's worth, I just don't really view my body, or anyone else's, as sacred. My body is a body. I value it and nourish it and take care of it. Just as I value other people's bodies. But I don't see them as shameful or dirty. And so I don't expect to be paid simply for getting naked. I understand, however, that that is precisely why I am getting paid: because I am getting naked and because it is a taboo and socially unacceptable form of work, there aren't as many people willing to do it. So I can reap the benefits of a larger societal issue with slut-shaming and sex negativity.

Ideally, I think sex work, including stripping, would get paid wages comparable to other high-end service industry work. There were would be hourly wages, benefits, sick days, etc. And these wages might (and probably would) still be higher because of the high value of the work involved. But it is fascinating to me that high pay is expected purely because of the fact that there is a naked pussy, versus the fact that the work is taboo and doesn't provide hourly wages or other benefits given to employees.

Happy Birthday to J!

Happy Birthday to a sexy, funny, intelligent, thoughtful, amazing, communicative, compassionate, inquisitive, adventurous, and all-around rockin' individual and partner!

I hope that this year is even more wonderful than your previous years! And I am so excited to be sharing it with you :D

Here's to some fabulous sexy time to celebrate!

Love, K

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Belated Turkey Day Funny

I sent this to some sexy friends but thought that it deserved to be shared with a wider audience. Because it is just that good. 

Inline image 1

Dreams & Implications

All of my sexual dreams from the past couple of weeks include women. There is my good friend dressed in a hot garter set, ordering me around, not letting me come until she says so. There's another one I can't quite remember. It's too fuzzy. (Darn!) And then one with a woman I just met, who I don't feel attracted to when I see her, but in the dream it was really fun and sexy. We wrestled on the floor, laughing and grinding. It was hot.

I have been so into ladies and lady sex. My desire for emotional and physical intimacy with women is back.

I lost my romantic inclinations toward women for a couple months. But in the past month or so, they have come roaring back to life. Why? I don't really know. Maybe because I have finally shaken off the last vestiges of the summer drama and my heart is ready again to trust women and to be with them. Whatever the reason, I take my sexy lady dreams to be an indication that my subconscious is diggin' the lady vibe again. Which makes me really happy. And horny.

Also, I had a pretty phenomenal dream in which I tell my parents that I am dancing. In my dream, my mom takes it pretty well. She is concerned, but she receives it well, without judgement or blame or guilt or shaming. And my conversation I have had with her since my dream, I have this state of mind that she already knows and I feel so much more comfortable talking about other things and not stressing out about the fact that she doesn't know that I dance. It's quite nice to have that kind of release and resolution, even if it wasn't "real" (it was still real for me even though it didn't actually involve my mom).

Bam! :D

Monday, November 26, 2012

Follow-Up Post: Polyamory Identity/Orientation

Dan Savage posted this today:

Is Polyamory a Sexual Orientation?

Posted by on Mon, Nov 26, 2012 at 10:23 AM

I said "no" in last week's Savage Love, kicking off a shitstorm in the comments thread, in my e-mail inbox, and here and there on the interwebs. (Even the right-wing nutjobs have taken notice.) At least one poly person agrees with me:
There are a few problems with describing polyamory as a sexual orientation. The first of which is that polyamory is not sexual. Polyamory is about relationships, honesty, and intimacy. Look back at the definitions given by Loving More. Not a single one mentions sex. Calling polyamory a sexual orientation is a joke.
Secondly, polyamory is not an orientation. Polyamory is not a physical desire or a feeling. While there is not complete agreement on what polyamory is, there is clear agreement about it isn’t. And it isn’t just an attraction to multiple people. As Shaun pointed out, if you define polyamory as a feeling or an inclination, then half of the country is polyamorous, which is an absurd result. Almost everyone feels attraction for multiple people at the same time. This does not make them polyamorous.
A third problem with describing poly as a sexual orientation is that being poly is nothing like being GLB. Being GLB is about the type of person to whom you are sexually attracted. Being polyamorous is about the amount of people you love. Describing polyamory as a sexual orientation suggests a false equivalence between the groups, and seems like an attempt to coopt the sympathy that the GLBT community has built up.
I'm hearing from lots of poly folks who disagree. I'm going to let them have their say in next week's Savage Love.

Thank you, Dan, for giving J and I a voice in the camp that disagrees with your view. 

A big thing that I find issue with here is that polyamory, to me, is not a sexual orientation, but rather, a relationship orientation to have Dan continuing to describe it as a "sexual orientation" is a tad annoying for me. An individual can "orient" poly and, for whatever reason (by choice or circumstance), have one partner. I really appreciate Anita Wagner Illig's comment from Dan's post. A lot of what she wrote resonates with my own perspectives, and I find her explanation quite articulate: 

Dan, thanks for being open to all the feedback, including my own, and thanks for giving our community the opportunity to address this question in your next column.

I agree, as I did in my blog post, that polyamory is not per se sexual orientation. And you are quite right that PP uses the word poly incorrectly. Still, I don't want to be too hard on poor PP, he has enough to deal with without our taking him to task for misusing words. I created and moderated a very large yahoogroup for several years that serves people in PP's situation (LivingPolyMono). I have seen SO many people come into the polyamory community trying to work out this kind of conflict, and I know we will continue to see it happen as more and more people realize that monogamy isn't their only option.

As to the question of orientation, it's important to acknowledge that for a significant number of polyamorists, having more than one romantic partner with everyone's knowledge and consent truly is something they experience as a part of who they are. Like being gay, it doesn't go away if they happen not to have other partners at any given time, so it's not to them about what they do. It's still how they see themselves, the way they frame their lives, or at least the part of their lives that have to do with love and intimate romance. Yes, they can make a choice to not have other partners. Some do so more comfortably than others do. Some have happy monogamous relationships regardless - and some don't. The choice is definitely much more difficult for some than for others. And just as regardless of your sexual orientation you can choose not to partner with men, polyamorists can choose not to partner with more than one - but it doesn't change their orientation toward nonmonogamy.

I believe we need new language for this. Sexual relationship orientation or romantic relationship orientation is a mouth full, but it's all I've got. I've been using those terms to refer to myself for lack of anything better for a few years now.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

When New Desires Emerge

At the recommendation by a friend a while ago, J and I took this interactive sex questionnaire. At the time we didn't have a whole lot that took us by surprise. We are usually pretty honest about desires and fantasies that come up.

Well last night we took it again. And there were a couple of new things!! I imagine this questionnaire would be fun to take together every six months or so to find out if new desires have emerged for someone and hadn't yet been verbalized.

The most surprising one (to both of us) is that we both desired me (K) to be slapped during sex. Slapped on the face. SLAPPED! Haha! We both kind of looked at each other, and were like, Yeah! That could be hot!

Well during a raunch session last night I was wrestling a little with J, holding his arms back while I rode him. He whispered excitedly to me, I want to slap you! I said Do it! He forcefully sat up, and slapped me. It was a rush!! I told him to do it again, and he did. The anticipation, the physical sting, and the rush of endorphins afterward was awesome! 

You never know when a new exciting thing will be discovered. I am not sure how far this physical pain thing will extend for me (I already knew I like really hard spanks and I like my boobs squeezed pretty hard), but so far it's all been really positive! I like it as part of my healthy sexual diet. I don't want to be slapped every time we have sex or spanked every time for that matter. But as part of our explorations and taking part in the full spectrum of sexual experience, it's pretty great!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Poly: Orientation or Identity?

Read this on my new site, SexualityReclaimed!


J and I had a lively conversation about whether poly was an identity or orientation sparked by Dan Savage's recent column responding to someone who identified as "a poly." Dan is adamant that poly is a relationship structure, and that you choose to have a poly relationship; no one is "a poly" according to Dan. He says that if you have a preference for poly it can be overcome, because it is simply a preference and thus requires a simple decision. We disagree, to say the least. Of course poly is a relationship structure, but it can be much more than that for many people (in our opinion). (We both contributed to this post, by the way!)

What makes an identity versus an orientation? Here are some thoughts we had from our very long conversation about it:

-An orientation seems like an immutable, innate characteristic someone is born with. (We're still thinking about this one. Sexual orientation, for example, is often thought of as something you are born with, but my experience alone makes me question this. Was I always bisexual, since I was born? I don't feel like I "chose" that orientation, but that I discovered it. Sexual orientation is also often described as fluid... So this one is confusing!)

-An identity seems like something you can choose based on an orientation, or something that you choose based on a group or culture you are a part of. Being part of different cultures or groups can mean you identify with those groups. Maybe you identify as a nerd, a foodie, or a runner.

-It definitely seems like some people "orient" poly. They express feeling like they have felt poly all their lives. J and some other people we have met fall more into this camp. J expresses that he felt a lot of dissonance with monogamy for most of his dating life, and it feels much more natural now in an open/poly relationship. He could never go back to monogamy because it just feels so wrong for him.

-Other people (like K) seem to choose poly as an identity based on ideas and culture. I (K) don't feel innately poly, even though I don't think I could ever be monogamous again (just to make our conversation a little more puzzling). I identify more with with the culture and ideas and values of polyamory and so I identify in this way.

-Something we also talked about was whether humans are "blank slates" with regards to their preferences/orientations for polyamory or monogamy. As J asked, if I don't feel innately poly, do I feel innately monogamous? My answer is No. So do some come into this world "pre-wired" for one or the other? Are some people more heavily socialized for one or the other? (Nature versus nurture?) One of my ideas is that humans have an innate capacity to love multiple people, and that our social and cultural values around monogamy is what shapes our brains to understand that you can only have one romantic love at a time. I think I may have just been hit a little harder by all of that socialization, because even though I logically agree with poly values and hold them as my own, I have a lot of gut-level reactions that run counter to those values.

-It seems like it would make sense that just as gender or sexual orientation could be fluid throughout someone's life, that someone's relationship preferences could also be fluid throughout their life. Maybe for two years you prefer monogamy and then later prefer a poly structure. Similarly, it seems like within the open or poly community there is a spectrum of feelings on identity or orientation. Someone may be in a poly relationship because they feel like they are innately poly and simply could not operate romantically any other way, and someone else may choose to live a poly lifestyle even though all of their deeper-seated/right brain reactions make it difficult because of monogamy norms and socialization.

-Part of what has helped me make these distinctions is the ease in which J and other people we have met express their poly selves. Jealousy comes up, but it's very rarely debilitating for people who "orient" poly. Poly principles are more easily believed and adhered to, rather than having to experience specific situations and people and having to get comfortable with each new thing. I feel like I have to do a lot more internal work to have a similar outward expression of poly, like I am having to rewire my right brain to match up with my left.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Repost: 15 Things You Should Give Up to Be Happy

I have this hanging on our fridge after seeing a million Facebook friends post it a year ago. I think it is a wonderful reminder. J is adamant that the person who wrote it is poly. It definitely fits within an open relationship framework. I try to read it every day and Zen out. The hardest ones for me are 2, 9, 11, 14, and 15. It's a process, baby. Below is the text, and the above link will take you straight to the original posting of it.


15 Things You Should Give Up To Be Happy

Here is a list of 15 things which, if you give up on them, will make your life a lot easier and much, much happier. We hold on to so many things that cause us a great deal of pain, stress and suffering – and instead of letting them all go, instead of allowing ourselves to be stress free and happy – we cling on to them. Not anymore. Starting today we will give up on all those things that no longer serve us, and we will embrace change. Ready? Here we go:
1. Give up your need to always be right
 There are so many of us who can’t stand the idea of being wrong – wanting to always be right – even at the risk of ending great relationships or causing a great deal of stress and pain, for us and for others. It’s just not worth it. Whenever you feel the ‘urgent’ need to jump into a fight over who is right and who is wrong, ask yourself this question: “Would I rather be right, or would I rather be kind?” Wayne Dyer. What difference will that make? Is your ego really that big?
2. Give up your need for control
Be willing to give up your need to always control everything that happens to you and around you – situations, events, people, etc. Whether they are loved ones, coworkers, or just strangers you meet on the street – just allow them to be. Allow everything and everyone to be just as they are and you will see how much better will that make you feel.

“By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try. The world is beyond winning.” Lao Tzu
3. Give up on blame
 Give up on your need to blame others for what you have or don’t have, for what you feel or don’t feel. Stop giving your powers away and start taking responsibility for your life.
4. Give up your self-defeating self-talk
 Oh my. How many people are hurting themselves because of their negative, polluted and repetitive self-defeating mindset? Don’t believe everything that your mind is telling you – especially if it’s negative and self-defeating. You are better than that.
“The mind is a superb instrument if used rightly. Used wrongly, however, it becomes very destructive.” Eckhart Tolle
5. Give up your limiting beliefs
about what you can or cannot do, about what is possible or impossible. From now on, you are no longer going to allow your limiting beliefs to keep you stuck in the wrong place. Spread your wings and fly!
“A belief is not an idea held by the mind, it is an idea that holds the mind” Elly Roselle
6. Give up complaining
 Give up your constant need to complain about those many, many, maaany things – people, situations, events that make you unhappy, sad and depressed. Nobody can make you unhappy, no situation can make you sad or miserable unless you allow it to. It’s not the situation that triggers those feelings in you, but how you choose to look at it. Never underestimate the power of positive thinking.
7. Give up the luxury of criticism
Give up your need to criticize things, events or people that are different than you. We are all different, yet we are all the same. We all want to be happy, we all want to love and be loved and we all want to be understood. We all want something, and something is wished by us all.
8. Give up your need to impress others
Stop trying so hard to be something that you’re not just to make others like you. It doesn’t work this way. The moment you stop trying so hard to be something that you’re not, the moment you take off all your masks, the moment you accept and embrace the real you, you will find people will be drawn to you, effortlessly.
9. Give up your resistance to change
 Change is good. Change will help you move from A to B. Change will help you make improvements in your life and also the lives of those around you. Follow your bliss, embrace change – don’t resist it.
“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls” 
Joseph Campbell

10. Give up labels
 Stop labeling those things, people or events that you don’t understand as being weird or different and try opening your mind, little by little. Minds only work when open. “The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about.” Wayne Dyer
11. Give up on your fears
Fear is just an illusion, it doesn’t exist – you created it. It’s all in your mind. Correct the inside and the outside will fall into place.
“The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.”
 Franklin D. Roosevelt

12. Give up your excuses
Send them packing and tell them they’re fired. You no longer need them. A lot of times we limit ourselves because of the many excuses we use. Instead of growing and working on improving ourselves and our lives, we get stuck, lying to ourselves, using all kind of excuses – excuses that 99.9% of the time are not even real.
13. Give up the past
I know, I know. It’s hard. Especially when the past looks so much better than the present and the future looks so frightening, but you have to take into consideration the fact that the present moment is all you have and all you will ever have. The past you are now longing for – the past that you are now dreaming about – was ignored by you when it was present. Stop deluding yourself. Be present in everything you do and enjoy life. After all life is a journey not a destination. Have a clear vision for the future, prepare yourself, but always be present in the now.
14. Give up attachment
This is a concept that, for most of us is so hard to grasp and I have to tell you that it was for me too, (it still is) but it’s not something impossible. You get better and better at with time and practice. The moment you detach yourself from all things, (and that doesn’t mean you give up your love for them – because love and attachment have nothing to do with one another,  attachment comes from a place of fear, while love… well, real love is pure, kind, and self less, where there is love there can’t be fear, and because of that, attachment and love cannot coexist) you become so peaceful, so tolerant, so kind, and so serene. You will get to a place where you will be able to understand all things without even trying. A state beyond words.
15. Give up living your life to other people’s expectations
Way too many people are living a life that is not theirs to live. They live their lives according to what others think is best for them, they live their lives according to what their parents think is best for them, to what their friends, their enemies and their teachers, their government and the media think is best for them. They ignore their inner voice, that inner calling. They are so busy with pleasing everybody, with living up to other people’s expectations, that they lose control over their lives. They forget what makes them happy, what they want, what they need….and eventually they forget about themselves.  You have one life – this one right now – you must live it, own it, and especially don’t let other people’s opinions distract you from your path.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Strip City: A Stripper's Farewell Journey Across America

I finished this one: it was pretty excellent. Burana is an awesome writer, and even though I don't agree with some of her perspectives on stripping (as they don't resonate with me), she really does capture a lot of the complexities that stripping entails. There are a lot of passages that spoke to me in different ways, and while I would want to type them all up here (okay, I practically did type them all up- I couldn't help it!), it would take too long. Although I could recap her story and talk about what I thought in detail, it sounds more enriching for me to go back through and find the places that meant something to me. So here they are.

These first three passages are ones I take issue with, because I think it shows some differences in how I think about my body and how I share it with people while I dance compared to how she thinks about these things. She seems to have some different ideas about female virtue and what exposed genitals mean than I do. I think these passages could resonate with a lot of dancers who haven't worked through societal messages about female purity and virtue and thus may feel "dirty" or guilty working in strip clubs:

"In every strip club I've been to, the stage is a sacred space. Girls Only. Men can approach the side of the stage to tip, but that's it...The sanctity of the stage is highly symbolic- like a woman's virtue, her bedroom, her sex- violate it and you violate her." (p158-9)

Questioning nude strip clubs where dancers do "spread shows" (dancers show their genitalia to customers): "I wonder about the intangibles: Is it frightening to have so many men get close to you at one time? What is it like to go home after spenging the night bouncing your crotch over the faces of people you don't know? How long does it take to settle back into your body, because you'd have to go pretty far away in order to be that exposed for that long, wouldn't you?" (p 162)

"Retail vagina...I feel as if the roiling in the pit of my stomach is what has queered my complexion. Retail vagina. That's got to be what's at the core of my unease with working nude, at least at a 'spread club'..." (p 164)

The rest of these passages I love; they resonated with me and my experiences so far, as well as with ideas that I have thought about:

"It takes real nerve for a woman to come to a strip club and it's a form of female misbehavior I think should be richly rewarded. So I work it-belly to belly, breast to breast. I nuzzle her neck, inhaling her scent. It's so rare to get any kind of approval from women not involved in this line of wok, I want to draw her excitement deep into my lungs, as if to keep it with me always. If I rubbed up against this woman any harder, I'd end up standing behind her, and she really seems to enjoy it. Here's to claiming new territory, sweetie. Sisterhood is powerful." (p84)

"After days and nights of listening to couched offers, half-sincere compliments, and flat-out lies, both giving and receiving, I am desperate to hear soemthing wholly-felt and true." (p120)

"Stripping takes out of me things that I didn't even realize I had. The near-nudity isn't the problem, or the physical vulnerability, or working well outside the margins of acceptable female behavior. It's the damn neediness: Angry men scowling at me like they can buy me for a dollar, lonely men professing love after a ten-minute chat with the specter of femininity that wafts before them, and confused and desperate men convinced that only if they could get a girl to do what they ask, however outlandish, things will be better somehow." (p121)

With regards to striptease and burlesque dancing: "Stripping today is more athletic- less subtle and more high energy. We're in an accelerated culture now. Who's got ten minutes to spend taking off a glove?" (p141)

"The nine o'clock sun...sneaks in behind the partition and gleams off of the girl's deeply tanned flank. Her upper body is rather petite- under her shiny red PVC teddy, she has no breasts to speak of, and her face is a little girl's, but her ankles are thick, her calves sturdy and her thighs firm and mighty. The stuff of R. Crumb's dreams, the inspiration for a thousand hiphop songs. This girl is a masterpiece. Mother Nature's magnum opus." (p168)

Applying at the Lusty Lady in SF: "The only thing dancers have to do is dance naked on the stage behind glass. They earn an hourly wage, so there is no hustling for tips, and many of the dancers are artists, activists, and college students working their way through school...The application is full of unusual questions: How do you feel about men's sexuality? How do you feel about yourown? Are you comfortable with your body?" (p199)

"Dancing together, naked, side-by-side onstage, we Lusties grow very aware of the individual beauty of our bodies. Not having to compete with one another for tips, we become friends. We become agents of our own path." (p204)

"I had always lived uncomfortably with the notion that making sex a significant area of inquiry meant that you were a bimbo, a head case, or a person with no better bargaining chip. The implication was that a woman had to choose between her sexuality and her credibility- you couldn't have both....Like every woman in this country, I came of age sexually bent under the weight of guilt and judgement. My sexuality was something I knew how to use for financial advantage, but enjoying it to the fullest was a foreign concept." (p204)

"...I couldn't believe dancers everywhere weren't up in arms about fees and tip-outs, but traveling the country has mellowed me. Not everyone can tilt at windmills, and most dancers just want to make their money with as little fanfare and frustration as possible." (p246)

"I haven't written anything since June. I don't have the mental energy to spare. My thoughts are absorbed in processing, organizing, evaluating what is happening to me, all that I'm seeing. I don't mind it being this way, exactly. In fact, it's kind of nice, like I've been given a break from adulthood. My mind has veered away from the demands of the straight world and has lapsed into a luxuriant, meditative dumbness, a lazy inward gaze. My perception is right on, my observations acute, but my intake is skewed. It's as if everything I see, hear, or touch is cushioned by a layer of cotton batting. Some knob has been twiddled, making the world appear to operate on a several second delay." (p262)

And probably my most favorite passage near the end of her book:
"Whatever compulsion I've got that makes me love stripping, this is that it sounds like. I don't know if it's skill, comfort, risk, dissociation, or a combination of them all that, in rare moments, makes stripping seem like a borderline ecstatic state. But I know I'm having one of those moments now. When it just feels right. Righteous. At times like this, I can believe that I have all the hearsts in the room gathered into the palm of my hand. I will never get old. I will never know harm...
It's like I'm suspended in a narcotic bubble, yet I'm more fiercely aware and alive than I've ever felt...It's indescribable bliss resting on the blade of a knife, the most strange and foreign place I was ever meant to be. I would be helpless to try to explain it, but if had ever known that sensation, you'd never want to leave that warm, wet spot on the lip of the maw." (p300)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Performance Anxiety

happens both ways! Thanks to an excellent conversation with the awesome B&B this morning, and an analogy that they illustrated for me, I feel like I have a bit better handle on my own psychological workings when it comes to developing intimacy.

Most of the men that we know have experienced sexual performance issues at one time or another. We know some women who have as well (I have, too). It's pretty clear to me why this might happen: relaxation is a prerequisite to having the physical ability to getting turned on. If you're not relaxed, for whatever reason, you can't "perform." Some people might completely shut down to sex at this point and not even be interested because the cycle feels too difficult to break. The more pressure you put on yourself, the less relaxed you get, you can't get turned on, and you put more pressure on yourself. Yuck.

Well. Just so happens that phenomenon also describes pretty well my own psychological battle with emotional intimacy. I have put a lot of pressure on myself in the past to be in a certain head and heart space with a new partner or partners, even if I know I probably am not there because chemistry isn't there. Or, when we are seeing a new couple and I am witness to the chemistry and emotional intimacy that J is building with someone new, I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself to experience the same thing that J is. Part of that reason is because I really want to experience those things, too. But I have to relax because if I don't, I end up shutting down emotionally to new partners. And then I get even more freaked out because I really don't feel emotionally intimate with these new partners. And then I freak out more. It is a reminder to be present and relax. Sheesh. :-)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Boundaries: Respecting Your Heart

It was my last evening of training for my crisis line volunteer work. So, while this topic was brought up in the context of sexual violence advocacy work, the topic spoke to me with how it applies to relationships.

Our trainer drew a heart on the board and asked for things that we might reserve parts of our heart for. People called out Self-Love, Family, Friends, Work, Activism, Dancing, Spirituality, Romance, etc. She segmented the heart with lines and wrote each facet inside a segment. She then discussed how when we let a facet of our lives (in this instance, work or advocacy work; the implication being that we are essentially putting other people and their problems first) take over and allow our boundaries to be crossed, other pieces of our lives and things that we love are taken over and diminished. She started erasing the lines and the words of the other things that we reserve our hearts for. We start reserving less and less time and energy for other parts of our lives; we start giving less priority to other things in our lives that give us meaning and nourishment. Our self-care and ability to love ourselves lessens as our boundaries give way to this other thing (in this case, direct service advocacy and/or work). The lessen: keep your boundaries clear and stick to them so that you can take care of yourself.

This caught my attention because of the word "boundaries;" it is a word commonly used between J and I and in the open community. Tonight's discussion gave me an opportunity to reflect on what boundaries are and what purpose they serve.

For me, a boundary (in a relationship) is something that I have for myself or something that I want in my relationship with J to establish expectations. The boundary can deal with an emotional, physical, sexual, or logistical (time, scheduling, financial, etc) aspect of a relationship. The goal of boundaries (for me) are often to alleviate anxiety around a new situation until that anxiety is reduced, to establish trust with new romantic partners, or to prioritize my primary relationship. For me, boundaries can be important in retaining my sense of what my primary relationship with J looks and feels like. J and I differ on these ideas a bit I think; I don't think he needs the same kinds of boundaries and I am not so sure boundaries mean the same things to him.

Time is probably my biggest boundary right now, and has been for a while. Because time is finite and holds emotional meanings, it is difficult for me to think about spending less time with J than I otherwise would because another relationship was taking precedence. Another boundary is around emotional intimacy. While I have never said that I don't want J to have a deeply emotional relationship with another partner (in fact, I make a point to verbalize that I want him to have this because it is important to him), it is the more difficult kind of intimacy for me to deal with him having. Therefore, I have had to express and relate my feelings of being challenged and I think that has had the effect of J moving more slowly with secondary partners. It has become somewhat of a "soft" boundary in this way, in which J knows that I need some building up of trust and comfort in order to relax and have my anxieties reduced around this new partner and relationship. J, on the other hand, has very few boundaries of his own; I'm not even sure I could pinpoint one. What happens when the boundaries of two people don't match up perfectly? For example, in the case of J and I: I have a harder time with him having emotional intimacy with other partners and he doesn't have any problem with me having emotional intimacy with others. I think what I have discovered for us is that we have to meet each other in the middle. Neither of us can have a satisfying relationship if we don't try to compromise and work together. I have to work on pushing my boundaries slowly (through working on fears and insecurities) and he has to work on patience, reassurance, and working with me. I know for some couples, though, boundaries are set by one partner instead of both partners. While this works for some couples, it doesn't work for us.

Rules, as opposed to boundaries, are to me things that establish codes of conduct or parameters around behaviors. I think we only have one main rule right now: condoms must be used with other partners during vaginal sex (and anal sex if we had anal sex with other partners). We have discussed how this rule could be changed in the future if one or both of us had a long-term partner. For now, though, and the foreseeable future, this is pretty non-negotiable. Other rules we have are related to keeping each other informed ("in the loop" as we like to say) about our interests in and attractions to other partners, so that we can each stay appraised of how those relationships are unfolding and what direction they are moving in.

So to bring this post back to my original thoughts: boundaries are important to establish within myself. Both in terms of the kind of work I am doing and engaging with to keep myself emotionally healthy, and also in terms of how I engage in my relationships. Boundaries are made apparent to me when I feel very uncomfortable about something. They don't mean that they are untestable or can't be pushed or recreated; they do tell me something about myself, about my insecurities or fears, and give me a chance to be explicit with J and others about my comfort levels, needs, and desires. I know from experience that when I let a boundary be crossed (because I don't speak up when I am uncomfortable), I end up feeling used or violated or displaced or devalued in some way. I let someone else's desires take extreme precedence over my own feelings. Boundaries should be more mutually discussed and managed (at least in our relationship). It is extremely important to make them clear to retain a sense of cooperation in my relationship and ownership of my feelings and experiences.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

HUMP 2012!!!


was so awesome :D

Here's a link to the Mercury's brief description of all of the entries. Here is what J and I thought about our favorites and the ones that stood out to us:

-Magic Love was J's favorite and one of my favorites. It was super cute and funny with how they used stop-motion animation. The FMF at the end looked cute and fun, and the packing peanut cum was hilarious.

-We both thought The Beat was hysterical. I voted that one Best Sex (I also voted a masturbation entry last year as Best Sex- there is something about masturbation that is so hot to me)- the guy was just totally diggin it. And the end (spoiler alert!) where we see he is a Mormon is just awesome.

-Dueling Dames was great. It was one of the entries where the sex actually looked fun- like everyone involved was really into what they were doing. And the premise of a competition devolving into sexy awesomeness and cooperation was fabulous. 

-Toe The Line was awesome!! J loved the political nature of this one. I thought it was really clever, too. They say fuck off, so we say get off! :D Want to stick it to the anti-gay evangelists? Jack off to Romney on TV and get it on in the Mars Hill church parking lot. Done and done.

-Boyfriend was spectacular. It was as well done (in my mind) as Teenage Dream was last year. Extremely well choreographed and planned and filmed and clever! Loved it. I think we both voted for it as Best in Show.

-I was so happy to see an entry featuring a differently-abled individual. I think Krutch really helped expose the sexuality and sensuality of the individual in the film. I am hopeful that it got people thinking about people with disabilities, and the fact that we are trained to see these folks as not being sexual. Being alive means experiencing sexuality, and just because someone looks different doesn't mean they don't also desire sex and experience their sexuality.

-Neither of us are artsy enough to pick up on the subtlety and intention of Milking Honeys. It was the only "art film" submission, and I am sad to say the meaning was lost on me.

-This post would be incomplete if I didn't mention Mansmash. Why? Because the Mercury's description of it is completely accurate for both of us: "Jam-packed with horrifying images that will instantly sear into your brain, this flick combines masochism, absurdity, and coconut milk with a speed metal soundtrack." This film is (unfortunately) seared into my brain. I respect kink and BDSM and fetishes, and I think it is awesome when people find other people to explore those things with. And I think it's great that people (like audiences at HUMP) can be exposed to ideas and turn-ons like this, if they haven't been already. But Christ Almighty- it was just too much for both of us. I wish I had covered my eyes. I did vote this one as Best Kink.

Some overall impressions: there was a lot of group sex this year!! A lot more than we remember last year. It was kind of odd to see so much of it because of how normalized it made group sex seem. Also- even though lesbian sex was one of the qualifications for bonus points and thus there was a lot of girl-girl sex, there were only a few submissions where the two women actually looked like they were into each other (I am thinking of Beyondeep, Dueling Dames, and Produce). And, I was totally waiting to see some squirting. None!! I will have to change that next year I think. As I will also have to change the fact that there were no multiple men-single women (aka gangbang or goddess worship) entries. :D

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Hypnotic O

I meant to blog about this a while ago, but about three or four weeks ago J started looking at self-hypnosis videos on YouTube. It started out as a quest for meditation videos, and quickly became a hunt for good hands-free orgasm videos.

We decided to try it together. We laid down on the bed and turned off the light. The computer was set up and the video started playing. We first did a "beginner" hypnosis video so we knew what to basically expect and how to start zoning out. Then we moved to the "advanced" self hypnosis hands-free orgasm video.

Let me tell you: we both experienced physiological reactions to being zoned out or hypnotized or meditative (whatever you want to call it!). Neither of us came, but we had clenched up and contracting pelvic muscles and the sensations of coming without touching ourselves. It just shows you how your brain is your biggest sex organ. It was crazy!! I recommend giving this sex toy a try during a self-love session or with a partner- you might be as surprised as we were with how well it got us relaxed, turned on, and wanting to come for reals! (It isn't that surprising I suppose since you have to be relaxed before you can get turned on- so the deep relaxation that the video helps you get into coupled with thinking about being turned on means that it is probably relatively easy to have a hands-free orgasm.)

J just found this two-person video. We have plans to try it out later tonight ;-)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Marriage Equality!!!

A big frickin' WAHOO for marriage equality is Maine, Maryland, and Minnesota (and hopefully Washington!)! Thank goodness for progress in recognizing love can occur among any two people, and that those people should have the same benefits as hetero couples.

These victories are necessary. They also give me pause in reflecting on the institution of marriage, what it means for J and I, and what it means for the poly community.

It makes so much sense, and at the same time none at all, that the gay marriage movement threw poly families under the bus when working toward marriage equality for gay couples. J actually had a gay classmate tonight express the opinion that he thought the gay movement spent too much effort on "marriage" instead of relationship diversity and benefits for whoever your family is. I had one professor in my masters program that such rights would come with radical welfare reform, in which we could name a certain number of people as beneficiaries, regardless of their relationship to us. I think that's a pretty rad idea, but like J, I am more of the opinion that we needed to change more perspectives on the emotional meaning of marriage before we could extend domestic partnership rights to more-than-two partnerships.

In fact, J and I were just discussing this yesterday with regards to marijuana legalization initiatives. Radicals usually have creative and innovative ideas. They are also dubbed "radicals" because they are the fringe and not the majority. More moderate thinkers are needed to bridge the divide. And so I understand from a political perspective that marriage rights for two-partner gay couples probably needs to come first before we can expect partnership rights for more-than-two configurations.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Some Crisis Line Training Tidbits

Tonight's training topic was Dynamics of Abusers. We covered a lot related to why and how abusers abuse, whether abusers can change, and what kind of treatment is available. All of that was fascinating stuff and crucial to my continued understanding of sexual violence dynamics.

Some of the things that I took away as relevant to my own relationships are:

-One of the most basic psychological principles is that if you want a successful outcome, focus on the process and not on the outcome itself. Focusing on the outcome itself can lead to trying to control your environment and others, which is not healthy. Focusing on the process means staying in the moment and doing your best in the moment. Worrying and agonizing over past mistakes or potential future mishaps will not serve your purpose. Live in the moment. For me in an open relationship this transfers to the idea that sometimes J or I make mistakes. The goal is to have a satisfying and healthy relationship, and what matters are the small things in the present. Worrying about a past mistake or about making one in the future is not conducive to having a peaceful and happy relationship. Putting your energy into trying to control others, versus putting your energy into understanding yourself and understanding your partner, is also not helpful. Focusing on communication, compassion, and understanding are key, and if we are both doing the best we can in the present to prioritize these things, then we will succeed.

-The dynamics of narcissism. Everyone is narcissistic to a degree, and a healthy narcissism means that you are able to be flexible about how your behavior and your image of yourself may or may not match up. If someone gives you feedback about your behavior or image that then does not line up with how you see yourself, you are able to take the feedback and either change your image of yourself or change your behavior. Unhealthy narcissism means that you will defend your image of yourself and your behavior at whatever cost. You respond to feedback with defensiveness, denial, and anger/aggression, and will deflect responsibility and blame others. Everyone can experience this kind of interaction (not just abusers, obviously!) and it's a potentially unhealthy one if it can take precedence in interactions between partners. So: take responsibility for your actions and work on taking constructive criticism and feedback to integrate your image of yourself with your behaviors. Call out deflection and and aggression, and gently help partners see that they need to own their actions (given that it is safe to do so, of course; I have non-abusive relationships in mind here).

-Attachment theory and attachment in adults. I have learned about attachment theory before, but basically it is the idea that our caregivers help us form the style of attachment that we generally carry into adulthood. You can take a quiz here to being to explore your own attachment style. This is something I have thought a great deal about, as I generally score as a secure or insecure-anxious person. The insecure-anxious person, and this description fits me well (from the quiz website hyperlinked above):
"You love to be very close to your romantic partners and have the capacity for great intimacy. You often fear, however, that your partner does not wish to be as close as you would like him/her to be. Relationships tend to consume a large part of your emotional energy. You tend to be very sensitive to small fluctuations in your partner's moods and actions, and although your senses are often accurate, you take your partner's behaviors overly personally. As a result you tend to act out and say things you later regret."
For better or worse, these are my natural inclinations in relationships. And it's something I continually work on.

Sunday, November 4, 2012


I have been feeling exceptionally vulnerable the past couple of days. Part of it comes from this unrelenting emotional force that my messy girl breakup has had on me. And part of it comes from meeting some amazing people.

I feel afraid of being as emotionally open as I once was. I am fearful of being hurt again. I didn't want to admit this to myself or to J. But it's true. I have to be honest with myself and I have to keep J in the loop about my mental and emotional state. The excitement I feel about meeting and getting to know new sexy friends is not really impacted by my fraidy-cat-ness, but my ability to feel as heart-wide-open as I would like is impacted by it.

I worked today, and because it was deathly slow there tonight, I had more time than I wanted to simply sit around and think. I really enjoy the fact that at work I am in another world and can let other things settle in my brain before examining them. I can let things take a back burner and they will be there after I have had time to enjoy myself and "dance it off." But tonight, with hardly anything to do, I started feeling especially emotional and vulnerable. I decided I wanted to leave. I had 40 minutes left of my shift, there were only two customers in there, and both were decidedly talking with the other dancers. No one had come up to the stage for me the last two sets. I decided that I would tell the bartender that I wasn't feeling well and go home.

The result? One of the most negative, judging, and rude interactions I have had with another human being in a long time. It was awful!! And made me never want to go back. I will go back, because this was just one negative experience and I have had so many positive ones. And I know all work has ups and downs. But to be so disrespected and treated so rudely made my already emotional state worse. J can attest to that. Thankfully, he knows very well how to help me calm down, and he did a great job at that. I love that I have a partner who can communicate so well with me and be so supportive no matter the circumstances.

One of the unexpected things for me about the interaction I had was related to the fact that it was with the bartender I have had a crush on. The crush feelings had worn off a bit the past couple of weeks, but I still found her fun and nice and cute. But our brief, albeit hostile, conversation tonight felt especially raw and crummy because of the lovey-dovey feelings I had for her (yes, had!). I realized that simply feeling a crush or having romantic inclinations for someone makes me vulnerable. That had not ever really occurred to me before in such a concrete way. 

Which brings me back to my original thoughts. I can't keep my heart closed off. It just won't work. Those feelings make me vulnerable already, and they will deepen whether I fight it or not. And it doesn't feel right to me that I would fight such positive and loving feelings. It's more of a matter of trusting myself and people in general again to create loving and trusting romantic situations and relationships.

Having Sex to Connect & De-Stress

The benefits of sex:

Huffington Post

Lower blood pressure, better sleep, stronger pelvic floor muscles, relieves pain, creates deeper intimacy, burns calories, boost immunity, relieve stress, etc.

If I am ever feeling stressed out for whatever reason, I find that if J and I are physically intimate (which includes cuddling, massaging, and/or having sex) my stress no longer is the predominant force in my mind. I can look at my stressors, but they don't control my emotions in the same way that they did before we were intimate.

Today was a really good example. I was feeling overwhelmed by PhD applications, by the unresolved emotions from a break up, and general feelings of anxiety. He hugged me and after a little bit, we had some awesome and raunchy lovin' time. I felt totally zoned out and blissed out. I stopped thinking about the things that were bothering me, and focused on the present state of connecting with him. I left reality and just sort of floated for a while. We got our hearts pumping and felt each other and fantasized together. And afterwards, it was like my mental state was reset and I was pretty much back to normal.

Some bonus info about our raunchy sex:

-We shared some steamy fantasies about gangbangs, both planned ones and ideal ones. It was hot, hot, hot!!
-J figured out how to make me come buckets. And I mean buckets. Apparently a lot of pressure on my mound while he penetrated me built up a ton of pressure until I couldn't take it anymore. And then it was a glass worth of come that came shooting out. Insane!

Chemistry & Intimacy

More on chemistry- yay!!

What happens when I am in a space with, say, nine people that I feel varying levels of attraction to and chemistry with? 

I go a little nuts! Having the experience of being around so many sexy and fun people showed me how I satisfying it feels to have an open relationship. I can experience my desire and attraction inside myself- it literally makes me feel a little buzzed. I feel super energetic and happy and on top of the world.

Talking with J revealed some possible differences in how we experience chemistry and attraction. For him (possibly- he hasn't totally decided if this is accurate for him), he thinks that he may only be able to feel chemistry with another person besides me. Because he is seeking one other main emotional/romantic relationship, he thinks he may put his energy into only really feeling the attraction he has for another person.

Whereas I am kind of chemistry slut, you could say. I feed off of it and I feel like I radiate it back. Also, though, in situations like the one I found myself in, I am then unable to focus on any one person and my relationship with them. I end up acting a little more casually, which is unintentional.

Which brings me to another point that I have been talking about with J: I used to think that I could have casual sex relatively easily. And we have had some casual encounters in the past year and a half. But more and more, I realize that I need chemistry and attraction to build. I need the "mystery," if you will, to last a little longer than a night. In order to have satisfying sex with another person, it needs to feel more intimate and holisitic. And something like that just generally can't be built in an evening. I want soft kisses and dancing and flirting and cuddling. I don't want every encounter to be sexual. I want things to build and a history and foundation to be established.

I still think casual sex can happen and be really fun for me. Given good chemistry. But I think that chemistry plus intimacy equals much more satisfying sex. And I have been more into that latter experience lately. It feels safer somehow, perhaps emotionally. I will continue to ponder :)

Hope you all sin this weekend like we did ;-)