Thursday, February 28, 2013

Enjoyment & Emotional Health

A question from someone on OKC:
"You are probably asked this question all the time due to your unique circumstances but what do you enjoy about being in an open relationship or with multiple partners? How do you both stay emotionally 'Okay' with that?" 

What I enjoy:
Personal growth: I enjoy the opportunity/ies to continually work on personal growth. When things feel uncomfortable or yucky, it is a chance to work on something of my own (insecurities, fears, and other irrational beliefs and belief systems).
My sense of self and sexuality: I am queer, and love being able to explore being with people (emotionally, sensually, sexually, romantically) of different genders. I also have a strengthened sense of who I am- physically, sexually, emotionally, and spiritually, and how those things collide to create my sexual and romantic desires. I have a bolstered body image and self-appreciation, and a higher self esteem.
Sexual adventurousness and exploration: Being in an open relationship means that I am continually exposed to new and different ways of relating sensually and sexually, and it means that J and I are constantly talking about new things that we are interested in. That can take the form of D/S encounters, rough sex, tantra/energy play, gangbangs, threesomes, anal play, prostate play, using porn or erotica or toys to add spice, exhibitionism, rope play, etc.
Sexual variety: I am able to experience being with new partners sexually and romantically. Every person is unique and every person moves differently in their sexual space.
Emotional independence: Because my long-standing pattern was to become emotionally dependent on a romantic partner, being in an open relationship has meant that I have diversified my emotional relationships. This has been fantastic for me, for the health of my friendships and other relationships, and for my relationship with J. I have also been able to experience the love and caring that I feel for other people, and feel even more happy and loving in my life because of that emotional involvement with other people.
Flirting: I love flirting. And I can do that. Yay!
Conscientious and intentional relationship choices: Moving from a monogamous to an open relationship has meant that I have had my own "awakening" the past couple of years. Each relationship in my life is there intentionally now, and I invest in each one with relish.
Honesty, Communication, Integrity: My ability to be honest with myself and others, to communicate effectively, and to live with integrity have all become increasingly better. 
Choice and Freedom: I feel like I have the freedom to choose who I am partnered with. And knowing that J feels the same way makes me feel so much more connected to him, because I know he is choosing to be with me, too.

 
Staying emotionally "okay":
For me, this takes the form of self-care: blogging, journaling, manicures/pedicures, exercising, meditating, yoga, crying, talking to friends, eating good food, drinking tea, taking baths, masturbating, watching guilty pleasure TV, etc.
It also takes a lot of honesty and communication. It is necessary for me to stay emotionally connected to J even when things feel difficult, sticky, rough, or sensitive. I have to be able to talk to him honestly in order to stay connected. As long as we have open lines of communication, we can help each other (as much as we can do for each other) stay "okay." Although ultimately, it is up to each of us to stay healthy and happy, to know what we each need and want, and to communicate and negotiate with each other.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Reid Mihalko & Tantra/Energetic Play Workshop

J and I attended a workshop facilitated by Reid Mihalko, and it was quite the experience!

Here is the description of the workshop from Reid's website, so you have some understanding of what we got ourselves into:

"Explore Kundalini, the “Tantric Twitchies” and the Dance of Vibrational Luvin’ Without the Woo-Woo! (with live Demos, too)

Remember that Cosmo magazine article that talked about how Tantra and breathing could give you explosive orgasms? How about the urban legend about Sting having sex for eight hour stints?
Regardless of your tolerance for words like “chakras” and “yoni,” there is a non New Agey way to understanding and incorporating ecstatic experiences into your bedroom routine that is fun, easy, and explosive.
If you or a lover have ever experienced post-orgasmic spasms or “twitches” after lovemaking, or feelings of heat and tension in your lower back, hands, neck or throat… You might be more energetic in your sex life than you think! And if you’ve never experienced those things but would like to, you might be pleasantly surprised how easily dancing with energetic sex is, and that YOU can grasp and play with.
Join sex and relationship expert Reid Mihalko of ReidAboutSex.com for an evening of frank, fun, and electrifying learning targeted for folks who aren’t necessarily New Agey. Reid promises to drop the woo-woo and leave his Sandskrit-to-English dictionary at home! And, for those of you who say NamastĂ© instead of “thank you,” Reid’s got you covered, too!

You will be introduced to:


  • Reid’s particular views on how sexual energy “behaves” and how it “works,” as well as ways you can begin accessing more energetic awareness in the bedroom, on the dance floor, and throughout your life
  • What Kriyas (“the twitchys”) can look like and what to do when you or a lover experiences them
  • Three possible approaches for engaging sexual energy and expanding it when exploring energetic sex with a partner or solo with yourself
  • What playing a singing saw has to do with energetic sex and expanding your lovemaking
  • Simple breathing and “presence” techniques to build up energetic awareness
  • How to use “pressure play” and where so you can help unlock and activate points on your lover’s body to augment energetic experiences during love making
  • A few advance tips and tricks that will make you smile and your partner moan regardless of whether “the twitchys” happen or not!
Whatever your level of experience with sex that seems to be “more than just sex,” Reid’s humorous and informative instruction, sex education, and live demonstrations on this esoteric (and yet more common than you think) realm of energetic sex is not to be missed!"

Okay, well J and I were a little our of element here. We both anticipated the workshop being a bit more basic than it was. I was really excited about the breathing and presence techniques, as well as the pressure play. We didn't touch at all on those topics (disappointment on my part).

Reid was really great at talking about how energy play experiences can make a ton of sense or no sense at all, depending on whether you are a "science" person or a "mystic." He was very honest with how he has a foot in both camps, and doesn't fully understand where his own "tantric twitching" comes from. And for some people, he said, maybe they are really just faking. But then, who cares? If everyone is enjoying themselves, what does it matter if it is "real"? I can get behind that philosophy, although as J said, it can make it more difficult to teach and understand.

The beginning part was really awesome, because Reid consistently got us breathing deeply and exhaling with sound. That was grounding and calming. When he had us do visualization exercises of what our energy felt and looked like to us, I found that really valuable. He had us think about what our energy looked like internally, how it moved and felt, what it might look like or smell or taste or feel like. He had us do an exercise, pretending we were making a wine glass sing. He asked us to remember what that felt like and where we felt it.

It was really empowering to hear about his concept of "resonating" with another person's energy. He contrasted this to the concept of "cording" in Shamanism, in which one person sends out energetic cords to another person. Energy flows through these cords, which can be really amazing but also really destructive if the relationship becomes destructive. With his concept of "resonating" though, you simply share energy, and then when the experience is over, you simply pull your energy back in and make the outside of yourself smooth so that the other person's energy cannot stick to you anymore. He used the metaphor of velcro, in that the outside of yourself is like the sticky part of velcro and when you are resonating with someone and sharing energy you can stick to each other. But when you are done, you simply flatten out the little velcro hairs and suck them back in so that nothing can stick to you. This was an empowering concept, because I think we are often taught to give and give and give to partners and other important people in our lives. But that can be quite draining. You can literally feel like you don't have any energy left over for yourself. But if you can learn how to share and then ground back into yourself after an interaction, you have shared the positive parts and then can continue on without taking on anyone else's needs or issues, or expect someone else to fix you or save you or solve your problems.

The rest of the evening, though, went more "woo-woo" as Reid exchanged and played with energy with different workshop participants. I would never doubt that what the two people felt and experienced was real, but I did not have a frame for understanding what it could feel like for me. I was just trying to hold onto the small feelings that I sense from my own energy.

Something that I really appreciated from the end of his workshop, was a discussion about energy play and different chakras. He used the idea that there are seven chakras, and within each chakra there are seven registers. So if you think about the groin chakra as the place where you feel totally grindy, thumpy, and humpy, there are seven places within that chakra that you can play. You can play at the high end, where you feel "om Shanti, Shanti" or you can play on the opposite end where you feel even more grindy, thumpy, and humpy. That was an enlightening concept for me to hear about because I have had this idea that to have "Tantric sex" means that you would have intercourse while feeling out-of-body (so in using his language, it would mean accessing the groin chakra and playing in that upper register so that you feel all floaty, angelic, and above the cloud- om Shanti, Shanti if you will). But he did not place any value judgements on different places of energy play/tantric play- if it was fun and consensual, it was worth doing. It was also really fascinating to hear about how he can play with another person's energy in a "non-sexual" chakra (for example, the heart chakra), and then access the lower register (the grindy, thumpy, humpy register)- in effect, "fucking someone's heart chakra." It was a little above my head. I just haven't done enough of my own investigating, thinking, and experimenting to fully grasp everything he talked about. But it was certainly thought-provoking.

Lastly, I wish he would have simply provided more "beginner" type information. I want to know what his favorite book is on the topic, or if he has some simple meditation or visualization exercises that you could do solo or partnered. J and I discussed how our experiences with the hypnosis videos a while back are a kind of bridge to understanding how to "play with energy," and I think using hypnosis as a frame of reference could be helpful to us in exploring energy play/tantric play.

I am really glad we went into a space we don't normally go, to learn about something that neither of us has done very much researching on!!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Relationship Models (And the Lack Thereof)

J and I have had a few conversations about this topic lately: what does it mean for a relationship's sustainability and longer-term presence when there isn't a model for it? What I mean specifically about this, is how secondary and other romantic relationships look and whether or not they last because of the lack of models for what these relationships can look like.

We are bombarded with messages from family, friends, religious institutions, and the media about what a healthy, loving, and long-term primary partnership should look like. It is monogamous, for sure. Cohabitation is encouraged, marriage is encouraged, children are encouraged. 

But we already know that having an ethically nonmonogamous or open relationship means that you are stepping out of the bounds of mainstream culture and looking elsewhere for relationship models. Ultimately, you have to look inward toward your needs, desires, and wants to know what you want your relationship to look like. And then you need to communicate this to your partner, while also hearing what they are after. It is beautiful when these things complement one another. And yet, even that is difficult, because there is not a widespread model for what a healthy, loving, and long-term open relationship looks like. Even within the open community, there is a rich diversity of models and frameworks. (Which makes sense, because if everyone is looking inward and communicating with other individuals about what they want, then of course relationships are going to be as diverse and unique as the people in them.)

So that seems challenging enough. But then what happens for secondary or other romantic relationships? We don't even have models (in mainstream culture) to look at for our primary partnerships; how on earth can we figure out how we want our secondary or other relationships to look like? (I realize this post is very hierarchical-oriented; this may not apply so much to folks practicing non-hierarchical forms of open relationships.)

I was running into this myself the past few days. I had been feeling anxious about what I wanted out of a particular relationship and explaining to J that I  only really desired it to look the way that it has been and yet feeling like it was boxed in. I was also expressing some sentiments of maybe that the relationship wouldn't last very long, or that I didn't know if the structure of it would allow for sustainability. When J reflected back to me that it seemed like I was simply experiencing dissonance with what I wanted and with feeling like it "should" look a different way, I was able to relax. I realized I was feeling like it didn't look like a long-term primary partnership (which of course it doesn't, because right now I am not looking for another one), and so it should be changed. But I am happy with the structure of that relationship, so really, I should just enjoy it! (And I am now back in a place of enjoying what it is. Yay!)

Again, I think the lesson for this is to remember that you are your own compass, your own guide. It is about reclaiming your power, strength, knowledge, and intuition about what you want and what works for you, and not relying on cultural messaging and frames for what your relationships should look like. If after reflection, you decide that a mainstream model does work for you, awesome! But if not, know that you have the internal strength to choose and to be happy.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Hotwifing- Some Online Resources

I wanted to simply list some other online resources that I know about for people interested in or curious about hotwifing.

Hot Wife Blog: This site has awesome blog posts, discussions, and information from people in the lifestyle.

Hotwife Experiences Blog: This blog is written by a couple who have been very active with hotwifing, and their blog has a lot of content on it.

Cuckolds Forum- Hotwifing, Swinging and Swapping Board: I haven't checked this site out extensively, but it might be a good place to create a sense of community, reach out to other people with similar interests, and share stories.

Our Hotwives Forum: Another place to post questions and stories, share with others, and find people who love their hot wives. 

Enjoy!!


Hotwifing- Thoughts & Trends

View this on my new site, SexualityReclaimed!

***

It has struck me in the past couple of weeks that my most popular blog post is about hotwifing (and by a wide, wide margin). The majority of new readers of this blog find it through searching keywords like: hotwife, hot wife, cuckold, and hotwifing. I think the fantasy, turn-on, and lifestyle is much more popular and widespread than I ever realized. 

I have tried searching the interwebs for more concrete information about how widespread hotwifing, cuckolding, and similar arrangements are. I really can't find anything. David Ley's Insatiable Wives is about as close as we are right now, I think, to knowing the historical trends and popularity of wife-sharing and hotwifing.

J recalls that Dan Savage has called hotwifing a phenomenon created by the Internet and something that will dissipate quickly in the next 10-20 years. Based on Ley's book and on our experiences talking about hotwifing and reading up on it, I don't think it's going anywhere. (As an aside, I am also fascinated with how hotwifing and cuckolding relationships fit within nonmonogamous relationships structures for different people, whether they be partnered nonmonogamous, swinging, or polyamorous relationships. I am also really curious how hotwifing or cuckolding relationships overlap with the larger BDSM community.)

I finally found this interview with David Ley done on HotWifeBlog. Here it is; I think it is fascinating. I have highlighted parts that I think are particularly thought-provoking.

December 6, 2009


David Ley Interviewed

I’ve had some great feedback recently from our posts focusing on the psychological nature of our lifestyle. Seems we are all fascinated with why we are sexually wired the way we are. Personally I love to reflect on what makes us all horny and find it really interesting when someone manages to touch something in my mind that I can relate to.
So today I am pleased to present an exclusive interview with author David Ley, a clinical psychologist and the author of a new book, Insatiable Wives, Women Who Stray and the Men Who Love Them. To see if he can shed any light on why we do indeed love our women that stray.
David Ley
hotwifeblog: Welcome David and thanks for taking the time out to speak to us…. Tell us where are you based in the world? David: I live and work in Albuquerque New Mexico, though I travel a lot for business. For my book, I interviewed couples across the country.
hotwifeblog: Tell us briefly about your new book? David: My book is called Insatiable Wives, Women Who Stray and the Men Who Love Them. It’s available on Amazon. It is an examination of the history of cuckoldry and permissive female sexual infidelity, along with the research that explains some of this phenomenon. In the book, I talk about women through history who have been sexually liberated, with their husband’s permission and encouragement. The book began after I encountered some couples who live a hotwife lifestyle, and discovered that there has been nothing published about this phenomenon, even though there are lots of people pursuing it currently as well as many stories of it in history and literature. I wrote the book in part because so many of my fellow counselors and therapists believe that couples who are not monogamous are automatically unhealthy in some way, a belief that I did not find to be true.
hotwifeblog: So hotwifing/cuckoldry is not a new phenomenon? David: I think a lot of people believe it is new, though I found evidence that this lifestyle has truly been around as long as human sexuality has. In my book, I talk about examples of this lifestyle in the Bible, in many non-Western cultures, and throughout Western history. I’ll give you a few examples: in some island cultures, festivals were celebrated with unrestrained sexuality. One story I cite describes a wife who took on over a hundred men in one night, during a tribal ceremony. Amongst Western civilization, examples of historical hotwives include Pauline, the sister of Napoleon Bonaparte, and Wallis Simpson, the divorcĂ© who married the King of England in 1936. Wallis Simpson had famously had a threesome in China with a former husband, and practiced a technique in bed that she called the “Shanghai Squeeze,” which was allegedly able to make a “matchstick feel like a Havana cigar.”
What is new today is that the Internet has allowed more men and women who might be interested in this lifestyle to learn that they are not alone in these desires. In the past, people suppressed their desires for fear of social rejection and stigma. Finding that there are others out there who share these desires has led more husbands to be brave enough to express their desires to their wives, and more wives to be willing and able to explore their sexuality outside their marriage. The resource of the Internet has also offered them more venues through which to pursue fulfillment of their desires and fantasies.
hotwifeblog: Where does the lifestyle come from? David: I argue in my book that there are lots of reasons for this phenomenon. For women, it is a means to explore the full reaches of their sexuality, safe within a marriage and with the knowledge that their sexual explorations will not cost them their husband. Sometimes, it is an avenue to explore male bisexuality, even if only vicariously through the wife’s adventures. It can also be a means in which men can “experience” the greater capacity of sexual fulfillment available to women, getting sexual excitement by watching their wife achieve greater sexual pleasure through the attentions of more than one man. Some men celebrate that they have a wife that other men want - they can even share their wife with other men, and enjoy the admiration and envy they get for having such a sexy and uninhibited wife. Some of the men I interviewed talked about feeling like they are a “king” with something other men want (some women talk about the feeling of being a “queen” desired by so many men and so powerful in holding that desire). Some men, as in the story of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, have physiological difficulties satisfying their wife sexually, and do not want her to “lose out as a result.”
hotwifeblog: How do we end up with this kink? David: I think there is a lot of biology at play here, in different ways. Our brain chemistry changes over the course of a relationship. When we first start a sexual relationship, we are driven by our neurochemicals to have lots and lots of sex, and think about our partner all day long. After a few months though, those chemicals subside, and our sexuality changes somewhat, becoming more nurturing and bit less passionate. But, when we start a relationship with other people, those early exciting neurochemicals roar back at full strength. When the wife goes off with another man, she then brings that chemical excitement back to her husband, and her primary relationship.
hotwifeblog: Do you think exposure to the lifestyle at an early age has made cuckoldry stronger for men than if they found it say recently? David: I saw more men who had these desires from an early age, and who experienced them quite strongly, and relatively fewer men who had the desires emerge suddenly. The common fantasy is that the husband finds the wife being unfaithful, and finds himself surprisingly aroused by it. But the great majority of the couples I saw intentionally began their sexual explorations at the initiation of the husband, based upon long-standing desires he had to see his women, and especially his wife, enjoy sex with another man.
hotwifeblog: We get a lot of regular guys out there, even regular guys that swing, that can’t seem to understand that we enjoy our wives/girlfriends behaving like sluts. Are we that different to conventionally minded men? David: I think this is a fascinating question, and one that isn’t really answered. I argue in my book that the things that underlie these desires are basic, natural parts of human sexuality that are just taken to an extreme by men who pursue hotwifing or cuckoldry. But why and how these men end up going to these extremes is still something of a mystery. Hopefully, my book will start some questions and research into this area.
hotwifeblog: How would you say guys into this lifestyle are able to control the jealousy emotion in their minds that so many men would never be able to do? David: First, I think that the jealousy is often still there, but comes out in their sexual excitement, rather than through fear or anger. But more so, I see that these men and couples have developed high levels of communication, and learned to talk about situations that would trigger jealousy, then either avoid them or manage them. And some people seem to just be immune to jealousy, either by virtue of their own personality, or by their confidence in the security of their relationship and the love they share with their wives.
hotwifeblog: Why do you think some men get so excited about seeing their wife or girlfriend with another guy? David: I think another form of biology is involved here, that of sperm competition. Sperm competition is a theory of evolutionary sexuality based on the theory that male sexual biology responds to the risk of cuckoldry with increased sexual energy and by ejaculating more sperm behave more aggressively, in order to combat the sperm of another man. A case in point - the overwhelming male fantasy is for a threesome with two females, but surprisingly, research shows that the overwhelming image present in pornography is a single woman with multiple males. Why? Because when a man watches pornography with multiple men and a single woman, his ejaculate contains more sperm, he ejaculates harder and longer and, is more disposed to become erect again and ejaculate again. Hotwife and cuckold couples have unconsciously found ways to use that biological mechanism in order to trigger enormous sexual excitement in their primary relationship, as the husband’s sexual chemistry is kicked into overdrive by his wife’s sexual explorations with another man. At the same time, the wife is often more orgasmic with a man other than her husband, as her body reacts with physiological excitement to the possibility of becoming pregnant by another man.
hotwifeblog: Do you think women have this lifestyle within them or are they driven to it and adapt to it by the freedom their partners give them? David: Female sexual capacity is infinitely greater than male sexuality. A woman can have as many as fifty orgasms in an hour; a man is limited to at most three or four. But society has condemned and constrained female sexuality for millennia, and it is only in cultures where women had economic power that women could resist those constraints upon their sexuality. In our society, it has been the rare woman who innately embraces the full capacity of her sexuality, and explores it outside social dictates regarding monogamy, and being “proper.” Most, but not all, of these couples start on the path of hotwifing at the husband’s initiation. But, as the wives explore the sexual and personal freedoms in it, many of them enjoy the ability to reject the social pressures upon their sexuality that they have experienced throughout their lives, and embrace the opportunity to pursue unrestrained sexual explorations with other men.
hotwifeblog: Do you think all or most women have potential to live life as a hotwife? David: I saw a lot of men who desired to find ways to turn their wives into hotwives. But women are under intense social pressures from an early age, telling them to be “nice,” to suppress their sexuality, and to avoid ever being a “slut.” This history of pressure is difficult for most women or couples to overcome. Also, while many women enjoy casual sex, few women truly embrace the exploration of casual sex, even with the support and encouragement of their husband – the social conditioning is just too strong. And, for some women, even sexually liberated women, this lifestyle just doesn’t fit their desires for intimacy.
hotwifeblog: How did you yourself find an interest in the lifestyle? David: I have worked with sexuality and counseling throughout much of my career, but most of it focused upon unhealthy aspects of sexuality. Gradually, I found that there were lots of people quietly exploring aspects of sexuality that people judged as unhealthy, just because they were rare or uncommon, not because anyone was getting hurt or because there were issues of nonconsent. When I first met some people living the hotwife lifestyle, I confess that I initially thought that their lifestyle must be unhealthy, or damaging to their relationship. When I found that my initial assumptions were ungrounded, I became fascinated that people were healthily living a lifestyle that rejected so many strong social taboos. The more I learned, the more fascinated I became, as I found how much the lifestyle had to say about human sexuality and marriage in general.
hotwifeblog: Do you have any personal cuck feelings lurking within? David: Everybody asks whether I wrote this book about my own sexuality. What I found is that cuckoldry has been involved in human sexuality throughout our evolution. Sure, I found some of the stories these couples told me to be quite arousing. As a man, I have always found female sexuality very alluring, and sexually confident women to be extremely attractive. Having learned more about female sexuality in the course of this book, my admiration for female eroticism has grown.
hotwifeblog: Have you ever been in a relationship that was this way inclined? David: My wife and I have been married for ten years. She has always joked about her one day having a harem of husbands. At least, before I wrote this book, I always thought she was joking. Now I’m not so sure. Having written this book, I find that I’m no longer so threatened by that idea. If these other husbands came with some useful skills, like being a gourmet chef who loves to do yard work for instance, I might even be willing to consider the possibility.
hotwifeblog: Do you really think people can live this lifestyle and still have a healthy marriage? David: Ultimately, I think that the core components of a healthy relationship, such as good communication, trust, mutual respect, and mutual support, can be implemented in a monogamous or nonmonogamous marriage. I saw several couples who had been happily married for over thirty years, who were pursuing hotwife encounters. I also saw some who got into hotwifing, and got in over their heads pretty quickly, and watched their marriages fall apart. The differences, I think, go back to the health and strength of the relationship’s foundation. With a healthy foundation, couples can explore beyond a lot of boundaries.
hotwifeblog: What advice would you give to couples thinking of trying out this lifestyle? David: To be successful, I think couples have to communicate very carefully and clearly about their desires and needs. They shouldn’t try to sneak into this, or “set up” situations where the wife has sex with another man, without consent being established beforehand. Those are traps that will devastate trust in a marriage. I saw many women who simply couldn’t believe that their husbands really loved them, when they told their wives to be a slut with other men. Couples who explore this lifestyle have to work really hard to establish love, open communication and trust.
hotwifeblog: What is your next project? David: Right now, I’m recruiting couples to appear in a documentary about hotwifing. It will be based on my book, and will explore the lives and sexual adventures of these couples. Like my book, the goal is to present these couples in an honest, respectful fashion, showing them as normal people exploring an extraordinary and exciting sexual lifestyle. If any of your readers are interested in being in the film, and I hope some of them are, they can contact me through my blog, at insatiablewives.wordpress.com
 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Girls & The L Word

I have experienced major, major, tingly, heart-beat-rushing, butterflies-in-my-stomach, blush-inducing crushes on only a few girls. I have experienced many other attractions to other women, ranging from mild to spicy. But god, I love the crushes. I feel so awkward, like how I remember feeling in high school around guys I totally crushed on. It's kind of delicious. (And who likes feeling awkward? I do in these cases. Ha.)

Also, I sat on my butt a lot this week and finally finished the sixth season of The L Word. Why do I do that to myself?! I get so darn antsy (aka sexually antsy) watching the hot sex scenes. I watched three episodes last night, which yes,  I realize is a total of 2 hours and 40 minutes of being glued to a screen. Yikes. But I couldn't help myself. I love me some hot ladies.

This is how I feel right now: SIGH. I have been absolutely loving my friendships with women the past couple of months and have been feeling a lot more satisfied overall with the amount of woman in my life, even though there hasn't been any romance or sex involved. And yet, I feel like a piece of me is waiting in a crouched position. Aching, aching for some woman desire to be returned and acted on. Haha, and watching The L Word, I realize, isn't helping much.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Relationship "Issues" & Satisfying Needs

Have you heard of the two following messages in open literature?

1. Never open up a relationship that has "problems" or "issues," or that you consider rocky. Opening up a rocky monogamous relationship is a recipe for disaster.
2. One person cannot satisfy 100% of your relationship needs/wants/desires, or vice versa.


J and I have been discussing how to square these two messages. I think it's about how you define "relationship issues" and your attitude toward them. If your issue is that you don't communicate effectively or that feelings of dependency or possessiveness keep you from experiencing other relationships, perhaps that should be worked on and addressed before adding more people to your relationship. Similarly, if both individuals have not spent any time time working themselves (learning to manage jealousy, finding different ways of communicating or relating, etc) this should probably be done before those individuals can expect to make another simultaneous romantic relationship work. However, if your issue is that one partner is really into BDSM related activities or tantra or anal sex or has a foot fetish and the other one isn't, then maybe that isn't an "issue," but rather an incompatibility that can be resolved by seeking another relationship that can satisfy that need or desire. (A parallel idea here would be to think about non sex or romantic activities. If one person is really into scuba diving, knitting, or talking about politics and the other isn't, it is quite natural and healthy to explore and enjoy those activities by oneself or with other people. We would probably consider a relationship to be unhealthy if one partner kept the other from exploring those things because of deeper issues.) More importantly, though, I think is the recognition that perhaps opening up a tumultuous monogamous relationship is not a great idea, but experiencing challenges within an already open relationship and then using that structure to your advantage to move through challenges makes a whole lot of sense.

I don't think these two messages are necessarily at odds with each other. I think they can be major difficulties if one partner's desire is to have a need met exclusively by the one partner who is simply not interested in whatever activity it is (for example, if one partner has a strong desire for anal sex and is only interested in doing that with their primary partner, and yet their primary partner is not interested in anal sex). I think, too, if one partner approaches this "issue" as a relationship deficiency rather than a simple incompatibility, then it starts to create difficulties in squaring those two messages. If one partner is genuinely unhappy with their relationship because a particular need is not met by that relationship, then it probably won't suffice to have that need met elsewhere, and it may be that that partner needs to find a different partner where that need is met within the relationship. (For example: Perhaps a couple is having challenges because one person really wants to explore D/S and the other is not interested, or has tried it and decided that it's not for them. Is this relationship considered "rocky"? How does each individual think of this challenge? How is it framed? Is it necessary for the D/S relationship to be part of their relationship, or can the one person who wants to explore the D/S relationship fulfill this need with another interested partner?)

So, I think it has as much to do with the framing of the "issue" and the individuals' approaches toward it as it does with the "issue" itself. 

Lastly, I think that first message is pretty interesting because it is couched within a monogamy framework. It assumes that all healthy open relationships come from healthy monogamous ones. I think there is some merit to allowing two people to come together and build trust and honesty and to create a shared history together. And, a relationship should have healthy characteristics: good communication, healthy emotional and practical boundaries, honesty, trust, respect, consent, etc. But starting off a relationship as open to avoid issues I don't think is necessarily a bad idea if the people involved are happy with that decision and it makes sense based on the individuals' needs and desires.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Self Care Time

Inspired by Barbara Wynne's blog dedicated to documenting her 60 days of self pleasure, and inspired by my own knowledge that I have to be able to provide to myself things that I need, I decided to actually schedule time in my calendar for self care.

I bought some yummy bubble bath at the store (two different kinds- why not?), and when I got home I ran a steaming hot bath and lit a candle. I did some chores while the tub filled (because a picked up living environment is part of how I feel sane and calm), and then put on a face mask. When the tub was filled, I closed the door and turned off the bathroom light. It was super lovely to just have the candle light. I dipped in and let my whole body sink into the hot water. The smell was heavenly, and I remembered how much I love bubbles in my bath. Since dancing, the hot water I have enjoyed has either been an epsom salt bath (which is amazing for sore muscles) or the hot tub at our gym (which I love because of the jets, but the chlorine kills me). This was perfect, though, because what I was really going for was aromatherapy and silky water. I got it.

And almost immediately after getting settled in, I felt turned on. I wanted to really be with myself. I have been feeling pretty down about myself lately, body image wise. I focused on simply meditating: appreciating each part of my body, and trying to send loving energy to each part of my body. I caressed my whole body slowly and gently, thinking nice thoughts to myself. Eventually, I began to play with my pussy and ass and tits and had an enveloping orgasm. I squeezed my tits hard, fingered my ass, vigorously rubbed my clit, and even murmured dirty things to myself. I felt deeply relaxed and at peace afterward and felt my afterglow until I had drained the tub and rinsed off in the shower with cool water.

Remember to care for yourself and to truly appreciate yourself. Take time to remember why you love you. Honor yourself.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Wonderful Women

I had the great fortune of participating in a film discussion and screening of Bodysex. It was a really empowering to see women in the film engaging in a body positive and sex positive space, and supporting each other in loving their bodies. The clips we watched of the women admiring one another's vulvas took my by surprise: women oohed and awed over each other's, complimenting the different shapes and sizes. I loved it. And, the masturbation/self pleasure circle was pretty hot, and awesome. It was quite something to watch seven women pleasure themselves. Also, I found it wonderful and beautiful to see such different body shapes and sizes (naked). Old, young, small, large, and in between. It was a really empowering film for me to see parts of, especially in how it relates to my own body image and sexuality. I am excited about the potential of participating in a similar women's self-pleasure group (see Barbara Wynne's website to get in touch with her if you are similarly interested).

Then, a couple days later, I was so grateful to be part of the first session of an open women's group. These women are all so special and important to me, and each relationship is unique. I wouldn't give up any of these friendships for anything. Again, I found myself in such an empowering space, listening to these wonderful women talk about their experiences, their challenges and triumphs. We talked about our various relationships structures, our sexual orientations and identities, how we prefer to communicate with our partners, what some of our boundaries are, whether we have come out to our families, and what it's like to be open and to also be raising kids. We talked about jealousy (obviously) and cheating/boundary violations. One of the most lovely things to me about the space was not the similarities among us (although there were some that took me by surprise- who knew how many of us lived with family?), but the diversity of opinion and experience. From how we define "open relationship," "nonmonogamy," "polyamory" to how we conceive of sex (is it "play," about physical connection, about emotional connection?) to what we want out of our open relationships, we all had different ideas and attitudes. Again, I was amazed at the intricacies inherent in this community and felt at home feeling safe and supported despite feeling different. We supported each other, gave each other hugs, let each other cry, and made each other laugh. I feel so blessed to have so many lovely friends, and to have been part of space where we could all come together.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Right Brain Reassurance

We met a couple a while back, and a romantic relationship never manifested. But something the woman said to me has stuck with me.

"I will never, ever try to steal J away from you. I want you to trust me and to know that I would never, ever try to hurt you. I promise that you can feel safe with me. I will never, ever try to take him away from you."

When she said it, it sort of irritated me. My left brain said to me: Well no shit. I know that you can't "take away" someone. That person (J) chooses who he wants to be with. You don't need to coddle me!

But it has stuck with me, because to my right brain, it was a relief to hear that kind of reassurance. It was basic and simple, but it really resonated with my base fears and insecurities. I have felt soothed when I now look back on that conversation with her.

I would like to brainstorm how to communicate a similar message to other women that I may become involved with in the future, as something to say to them if I am involved with their partner. And I would like to be able to ask to hear that kind of reassurance from women that J sees in the future, if I am able to develop any kind of relationship with them. For one reason or another, that message felt very connecting and safe space-creating, and I think it is really good to know what kind of reassurance makes such a difference in my own sense of security and trust.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Intuitve Eating & Intuitive Relating

I posted about my connections between food and love back in December, and I recently started reading my favorite food book again, Intuitive Eating. Whenever I notice myself starting to slip back into old food patterns that have typically felt unhealthy, un-loving, and destructive, I pick up my book again and read it through. Having the gentle reminder to engage with how I feel usually helps me to get back to enjoying food and exercise and not feeling guilty, restrictive, or self-hating. 

Because this book has been so helpful for my body image, food behaviors, and self-love and respect, I thought it would be really interesting to parallel their concepts to to monogamism and open relationships. So, instead of having steps for how to relearn intuitive eating, I have created some steps for relearning how to relate to others, outside of a mono-normative paradigm. (And maybe this is just a total stretch, but it was a valuable exercise for me! :-) )

Here are the authors' principles for being an intuitive eater:

Principle 1: Reject the Diet Mentality
Principle 2: Honor Your Hunger
Principle 3: Make Peace With Food
Principle 4: Challenge the Food Police
Principle 5: Feel Your Fullness
Principle 6: Discover the Satisfaction Factor
Principle 7: Cope With Your Emotions Without Using Food
Principle 8: Respect Your Body
Principle 9: Exercise-Feel the Difference
Principle 10: Honor Your Health- Gentle Nutrition

Here are my parallel steps, with explanation (I was not able to parallel all of the steps; I didn't want to force this analogy. Also, many of these ideas have been expressed in so many other resources, including Labriola's Love in Abundance, Taormino's Opening Up, Zanin's rules for good relationships, and so many more. This was just another framework for expressing those ideas):

1. Reject Monogamism/Mono-normativity
You must reject the romantic comedies (for example, "The Ugly Truth" which J and I watched recently. It's terrible; don't bother), Disney stories, the Man are from Mars & Women are from Venus mentality, and magazine propaganda which have fed you lies since you were born. Get angry with the fact that what you have been taught about love and relationships means that you feel entitled to your partner and their mind, soul, body, and heart. Get angry that you have been taught to be possessive, controlling, and suspicious, and get angry that you have been encouraged and rewarded for acting on jealous feelings. Reject monogomism, because it has meant that you limit who you can relate to and love and it has meant that you have been encouraged to think that you can control who your partner interacts with, relates to, and loves. After you no longer deny that monogamism has royally screwed up your conception of what love is, get angry at the people and structures that have reinforced mono-normativity, allow yourself to grieve what monogamism may have offered you once, and once you are at a place of accepting a new way of being and loving and relating, move on.
2. Make Peace with Your Body, Self Love, and Sex 
It would be amazing to me to meet someone who hasn't worked through, or doesn't still work through, some body image issues. I think every woman I know (and many men as well) has something about her body she doesn't like. Love your body. Respect your body. Treat it gently and well. How does your body feel good? Does it feel good when you eat your favorite meal? When you take a walk or lift weights or practice yoga? When you get enough sleep? When you dress it in clothes that make you feel good? When you use your favorite lotion? What about masturbation? How do you feel about your body when you pleasure yourself? Do you allow your body to just be while you masturbate? Do you feel connected to yourself when you are being the most intimate with yourself? Do you have any guilt or shame around your body or around how it responds to sexual pleasure? Honor your body and honor your sex. Do you feel guilt, shame, or anxiety around partnered sex? Why? What is it from? Make peace with what sex means for you. What kind of sex feels natural? How can sex feel differently and mean different things for you in different contexts, and with different people? Honor what your body and mind tell you, but don't be afraid to expand and grow your ideas and conceptions of what satisfying sex can look like.  
3. Honor Your Sexual and Emotional Desires
You must honor how your mind, body, and heart feel in relation to yourself and others. Notice what turns you on, what feeds your soul, what makes your heart pump. Is it chocolate dipped strawberries? Your favorite erotica or porn? The feeling of leather? The idea of your partner fucking someone in front of you? An erotic massage? Orgasm denial? Hot wax? Feeding your lover by candlelight? Dancing to your favorite music? Getting naked in a public place? The idea of being sexually with two women or two men or three of each at once? Being tied up? Role play? Non-consent fantasies? Having your nipples pinched? Do you like sucking, licking, biting, scratching, spanking, slapping, caressing, tickling, tender kisses? What turns you on, and when, and how? Know yourself. Love yourself and accept yourself unconditionally for who you are and what makes your sex tick. Work on embracing sex positivity and sexual intelligence so that your sexual repertoire is continually expanding and a dynamic part of your life. Begin to articulate your sexual and emotional desires to yourself, and then honor them by bringing them to light in your current and future relationships. 
4. Challenge the Sex & Love Police 
The Sex & Love Police is the voice inside your head, deep in the recesses of your brain, spewing mono-normative diatribe.
"If he loved you, he wouldn't want to have sex with other people."
"You can only romantically love one person at a time."
"If you find yourself in love with someone while you are with someone else, it's a sign you should break up with your current partner."
"If you break up, the relationship was a failure."
The Sex & Love Police will do everything in their power to keep you from expanding your notions of what sex and love mean; all they know is that monogamy means you can only be with one person romantically/sexually at any given time (and ideally, for a very long time). Your job is to notice what the Police are saying, and gently, but firmly, tell them to back the hell off. You can choose to let your thought processes take you to dark regions of your brain where you will start to feel overwhelmed and angry and afraid and insecure. Or you can choose to notice your thoughts, let them go, and turn to other thoughts that support you in your new journey. (Yes, this process is so much more easier said than done. And it is a process. Focus on your baby steps, not on the end goal.)
5. Discover How Relationships Feel Satisfying to You  
What does your ideal love life involve? Do you want one lover and a constellation of intimate friends? Do you want a loose network of casual lovers? Do you desire two partners that you live with? Do you want one primary partner and a few secondary partners? And maybe also think about what would work for you, even if it doesn't look like your "ideal" relationship structure. Could you handle a long-distance relationship? Do you want to live with your partner(s)? Do you prefer to have secondary partners who live in another town? How integrated into your life do you want your romantic partners to be? What kind of activities and behaviors are part of a romantic relationship for you? What level of communication and intensity is required for you to feel satisfied? Begin to articulate these desires and limits for yourself, and work on communicating that to your partner(s). 
6. Engage in Action to Experiment & Notice Change   
There is only so much introspection and inward-looking you can do before you have to experiment and take action. Life is messy, love is messy, sex is messy. Relationships are dynamic. Get your feet wet. Get your head wet. You have the tools of introspection and self-awareness to not drown. Feel your strength and resilience. If you need to get out and sit on the side of the pool for a little while to catch your breath, that is perfectly fine and a healthy coping mechanism. But remember to not get paralyzed by your experimentation. At some point, you just have to swim and go for it. Sometimes it is helpful to take a break, and to notice how far you have come. How much more endurance you have for self growth and enduring pain and reworking your conceptions of love and sex, how much better you are able to challenge the Sex & Love Police, how much your communication skills have improved, how much happier you are overall with your love life. And then after appreciating your hard work through taking a rest on the side of the pool, get in and float. Enjoy yourself.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Sessions & Sex Surrogacy

J and I finally watched "The Sessions." I had been dying to ever since I heard it was about a sex therapist (correction, actually about a sex surrogate, Cheryl Cohen-Greene) and her client, a man who had been paralyzed by polio, Mark O'Brien. I highly recommend the film to anyone who hasn't yet seen it. The movie was based on O'Brien's article "On Seeing a Sex Surrogate".  I definitely recommend reading his original article as well. He is brutally honest about his own personal insecurities, guilt, and frustrations about being an individual with such a debilitating disability and still yearning for sexual relationships and experiences.

Something that J and I noticed pretty quickly with the film is that condoms were not shown or discussed, and presumably, not used. The events took place in 1988 or so, and the AIDS outbreak was in full force. We were both pretty surprised that condoms weren't mentioned, and it is not clear from his article if they were used or not. 

The most fascinating part of this film, for me, was the difference between a sex surrogate and a prostitute. Masters and Johnson introduced the idea of sex surrogacy in the 70s as a therapeutic tool. To them, you can explain and explain how to ride a bike, but eventually you need to get on a bike and learn, and sometimes you need someone's help to figure out the action and mechanics of it. They believed the same to be true of sex. Oftentimes, sex surrogacy not only includes help with the mechanical aspects of sexual intimacy, but also includes a focus on other psychological and emotional challenges (self esteem, guilt, anxiety, shyness, etc). Many times, too, a sex surrogate is part of a team of mental health professionals, and so the treatment that a sex surrogate recommends and engages in with the client is part of a wider treatment plan created with the client's therapist. So, a sex surrogate engages in legal work as it is part of therapy (although at some base level, they may be paid for having sex with someone), while a prostitute does not. I think the distinction is thought-provoking, as I have heard of accounts of prostitutes' customers who decide to pay for sex because they want the experience or boost to their sexual confidence or esteem, or because they have dating anxiety, or because they find it challenging to meet people with whom they could have sex.

Lastly, it was really interesting that, in the film and also in O'Brien's article, vaginal intercourse was the pinnacle of sexual experience. He hadn't truly experienced sex until his penis was in a vagina (even though later he acknowledges that he enjoyed the foreplay and other sexual acts more). From what was portrayed in the movie, there seemed to be a lack of sexual IQ on the part of the surrogate, even though that would not make a whole lot of sense to me in reality. She is surprised when O'Brien wants to make her come, and her whole treatment plan is driven toward vaginal intercourse. I understand that his desires for this probably played a role in the treatment plan, but I also expected more conversation between the two of them about the wide spectrum of intimate, sensual, and sexual touch and connection.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Monogamy Gap

"If we had more cultural discourse about the value of open relationships in society, as well as other forms of nonmonogamies, we might better empower individuals to have honest conversations about their sexual and romantic feelings. We might find (as I suspect) that monogamy might be a sensible way to grow a relationship, before couples open up sexually."
~Anderson, The Monogamy Gap

I finally finished Anderson's The Monogamy Gap. Here is a good synopsis.


Anderson's bottom-line solution to the prevalence of cheating among young men is to have emotionally monogamous/sexually promiscuous relationships. He refers to this set-up as an "open relationship" (he does not use the term the way I would). So for Anderson, an open relationship is just a sexually nonmonogamous one (not an emotionally nonmonogamous one). He makes a distinction, too, between "cheating" and an "affair." The difference he sees is that "cheating" is about sexual gratification and variety, and an "affair" is about an emotional entanglement. Because all of the young men he interviews claim to have cheated because of wanting sexual variety and also claim to be very much in love with the partner they cheated on, Anderson seems to then reach the conclusion that openly emotionally monogamous/sexually nonmonogamous relationships are a solid solution to how widespread cheating is among young men.

Like I posted a week or so ago, I really liked his brief chapter on jealousy. I thought it offered some simple, but practical, advice on how to manage jealousy and transform it, based on research about how high self esteem and confidence lessen the feelings and effects of jealousy. I thought this section of the book was solid.

An undercurrent of the book that I did not enjoy, however, was the focus on how so many of the young men he interviewed saw their cheating as a quest for pure sexual variety. The language used, by both Anderson and his interviewees, was borderline crass at times, and the focus on "fucking" sort of irked me. I understand the need for sexual variety; I also have this desire. The desire for sexual variety is what initially prompted J and I to open our relationship. So I get it. But the framing of it also left out aspects of casual sex that are often necessary for me: respect, sex positivity, and (some level of) sobriety. I'm not saying Anderson was advocating for disrespectful and drunken casual sex encounters as a means of letting young men satisfy their needs for extradyadic sex. But he did not address the etiquette of sexual nonmonogamy, including how these young men should ideally treat their casual sex partners.

Also, Anderson did not really get into other forms of nonmonogamy, including polyamory. He briefly mentions poly as an option in the beginning and end of his book, and then for the bulk of the book focuses on what he refers to as "open relationships."

It struck me that this solution Anderson offers is still fairly couched in the monogamy paradigm. I think it has been fairly well accepted that cheating occurs, affairs occur, and that people desire extradyadic sex after the honeymoon period wears off. But it is not accepted at all that you might desire romantic intimacy with more than one partner at a time; you are still expected to romantically love only one person. Like traditional swinging, I see Anderson's solution as a a sort of bridge between absolute monogamy and polyamory. I think it has limitations, obviously: what happens when you start to care for a casual sex partner? Just cut them out of your life? (My reaction: meh/sad face.) However, I do think this approach is a step above dishonest "monogamous" relationships.


In addition, he discusses the difference between spontaneous cheating and premeditated, recurring cheating. According to Anderson, the men he interviewed that cheated more than once cheated "out of love." He argues that if the young man didn't love his partner, he would simply break up and leave the relationship. But because the young man desired the emotional intimacy of his relationship and loved his partner, the young man cheats as a means of staying in his relationship and getting the sexual variety that he desires. (Getting his cake and eating it too.) However, many (if not all) of the men would never bring up an open relationship with their partner because the thought of their partner with another drives them insane. My question is: how does love include possessiveness, control, and a majorly dishonest double standard? My answer to myself: this conception of love comes from a monogamist society.

I have already recommended this book to several men. I think it probably resonates with men who have desired sexual variety and don't mind being (or desire to be) emotionally monogamous. I think Anderson does a good job of accurately reflecting the current trend of cheating among young men, and I would love to read a similar book about young women. My guess is that the trend is similar, although I could see possibly the motivations (maybe not though; I think both alcohol and a desire for sexual variety play similar roles in young women's cheating) and the repercussions (e.g., slut shaming) being different.

I thought his conclusion chapter summarized many of his main points well, so I included some of it here. Happy Reading!
"In this book I used a combination of well-known theories to explain how men transitioned from believing that they want monogamy, to simultaneously wanting but not wanting it; and ultimately how they rationalized cheating as a way to maintain symbiosis and longevity with their monogamous partners. The “dyad” in my theory refers to a couple, and the “dissonance” refers to the growing cognitive dissonance that monogamism places them into. My theory showed why men desire monogamy in the first place (using hegemony theory), how they grew conflicted as sexual habituation set in (using cognitive dissonance theory), and ultimately how cheating makes sense as a tool in navigating this dissonance (rational choice theory). The basis of my theory is that our cultural affinity for monogamy and stigma of any other form of sexual/romantic coupling places men into a Catch-22. Here, if they stick by the rules of monogamy, they are destined to a life of anger and contempt at not being permitted to have what they so desperately desire. Yet if they cheat, they suffer from anxiety and guilt — and ultimately they could lose their romantic partners if they are caught. Whereas sexually open relationships solve this Catch-22, we are nonetheless prevented from even entertaining the idea of being in one because of the hegemony that monogamy maintains, monogamism...
I described the monogamy gap as a transitional space in a couple’s relationship. Upon first entering a dyadic relationship, men experienced fantastic and frequent sex, and this made it easy to fall into the practice and valuing of monogamy without criticism. However, as a relationship progressed throughout the stages from romance to performing, sex became less frequent and less enjoyable. Men grew desensitized to their sex, and efforts to spice it up only lasted so long. But just because men started to develop sexual desires for others, it did not mean that they desired a sexually open relationship. These men so continue to subscribe to the value of monogamy, and the immorality of open relationships, that they either thought that they must no longer love their partners because they desired sex with others, or they suff ered in silence. The monogamy gap emerged at diff erent times in their relationship for different men, but on average it seemed fairly predictable that it would almost always have emerged within 2 years of constant monogamy. I also suggested that the pornication of society, the frequent and easier access to sex before being in a monogamous relationship, and the rich sexual marketplace these men belonged to brought about desensitization to sex with their partner sooner. Not wanting an open relationship, but desperately wanting sex with someone else, these men got drunk, placed themselves into a situation where they could be tempted, and found a way to temporarily rectify the dissonance of the monogamy gap: cheating..."