Sunday, March 31, 2013

Sacred Sexuality

How interesting that I am posting this on Easter, which some contend results from Ishtar, the Babylonian goddess of fertility and sexuality and love. :D
I recently came across this post on Life on the Swingset, and then J saw this one. Both deal with the ideas of sacred sexuality and spiritual sex.

The first post is basically a rant- the author is frustrated that within the alternative sexualities community, and that even within the sacred sexuality community, people refer to sacred sexuality practices as "woo woo."
"So when you reduce what we they do, arts of many different wondrous varieties, down to this ONE derogatory term, does no one realize how much it devalues what they HAVE done, are doing, and hope to continue to do for sex positivity and sacred sexuality in the future? And it’s happening publicly on a massive scale, in front of listeners who are looking for authorities on what is worth trying or not. That’s not being sex positive and GGG to me, my fellow sex travelers."
I understand her complaint; I have also complained about folks in the alternative sexualities community "othering" one another. And even I used "woo woo" in my post a few weeks ago about Reid Mihalko's tantra workshop. I understand why she is offended by the term, when it feels demeaning or belittling to practices that have been an integral part of her expression of sexuality, love, and relationships. 

The second post was really cool to read- the author connects her experience delving into the world of Unitarian Universalism with her experience swinging. She uses some of the UU principles, like recognizing the inherent worth and dignity of every person, and letting each person discover their own path of truth of meaning, to describe her revelations at a recent swing party. Her big light bulb thought: "As I listened to the minister– the earnest and thoughtful minister– an epiphany hit me: swinging can be a path to discovering not only my own sexuality, but it can also be a model for how I want to interact with all people." I think that line of thought is exemplary. I have typically used other models, frameworks, and theories to guide my behavior in my open/poly journey (for example, the evolutionary psych stuff in Sex at Dawn or Taormino's or Labriola's frameworks for creating an open relationship), which would be analogous to the author of this post using UU principles to guide the way she treats play partners. Instead, she identifies swinging as the model which can direct her future interpersonal behavior, with not just other swingers, but with her broader community. I think it's pretty neat!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Say No to the Dress?

In the midst of our party planning (I am calling our wedding a commitment ceremony, but I prefer "party" to everything else because of the celebration aspect of it!), J read this opinion piece on the New York Times: "Say No to the Dress." 

I was intrigued by the title; I thought it would be a metaphor for saying no to having a wedding or the wedding establishment, or no to a long-term, committed relationship, or no to something else. When I got to the end and realized it was a metaphor for growing up and speaking your mind, I was a little disappointed at how shallow the whole piece seemed. Instead of going with the dress that the author's mom loves, the author finally "says no to the dress" and opts for the one she really loves. Yay! (Bleh)

But, as many people close to me probably know, I have had my own challenges sticking up for my values when planning this party. I wanted a smaller guest list (inviting maybe 100 people instead of 200, or whatever the hell number it is). I wanted a same-site ceremony and reception. Those factors significantly increased the cost of our party, and it was/is important to me to keep the costs down as low as possible. While I want to party with friends and family, I also know that everyone in our lives already knows we love each other and I think it is silly to blow so much money on one day of our lives when we clearly have loved each other every day for the past 6 1/2 years.

Here are the things that I have been able to advocate for though: a Mexican buffet for the reception dinner (instead of "fancy chicken" dinners); cupcakes (instead of the traditional cake); Friends of Honor (instead of a wedding party, and with mixed gender friends); a knee-length dress (instead of a T length or longer one); brightly colored shoes (probably red or purple); simple flower arrangements (with local and seasonal flowers); a really low-key "rehearsal"/night-before dinner (probably BBQ or pizza! yum!); and funds set aside to pay for our Friends of Honor sleeping accommodations (since they are all so poor, like us. haha). So, I haven't been completely subsumed by the maternal whirlwinds. Other things that J and I have done that have been intentional: telling our officiant that we have an open relationship, and planning on writing our own vows.

I am excited that I have consciously and happily said "yes" to so many things about our ceremony and party. And that I am not only advocating for myself and what I want out of this process, but that we are able to celebrate our relationship with so many people that care about us.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Lubrication & Breast Size

I have noticed that I am not as wet as I used to be. J heard on one of his podcasts that this can happen as a result of taking oral birth control; supposedly, it can throw your natural testosterone levels out of whack. I took oral BC for two years before getting my IUD, and I wouldn't be surprised if the systemic hormones, and even if the local ones in my IUD, have affected my natural lubrication.

It was surprising for me to feel somewhat inadequate once I consciously realized that I wasn't very wet during sex. I have noticed more dryness with new partners, due to be less comfortable, but when I realized that I almost always use lube with J, I felt self-conscious. I am extremely turned on when I have sex with J, and so I don't want him to perceive it to be an indication that I'm not into our sex. I also feel like there is a lot of cultural messaging that wetness is extremely sexy. And from personal experience, it seems like many people consider wetness to be sexy and a clear indication that the person is turned on, and being turned on is sexy. And I think all of that is fine, if the person is truly turned on, and if we remember that our bodies change. I think it is part of sexual intelligence: wetness/dryness does not automatically equal being aroused or not; lube is a perfectly amazing tool for going about the sex that you want; and our bodies change (especially as we age) and so our cues of what being aroused meant as teenagers does not translate into our cues as we age.

On another note of (sexual) body image, I have blogged before about breast size and size envy... I think I have finally am able to admit that my tits are a full A cup (maybe a small B). I am pretty sure I have been wearing the wrong size bra most of my life (or Victoria's Secret bras have recently become bigger. Which may be possible, because I swear a B bra from there fit me really nicely in high school. Now I swim in them. Or now I just notice the extra room). Tit size is hard for me (much, much harder for me than natural lubrication), but I am committed to living a life journey where I honor my natural shape and size. It is who I am. And also- who doesn't love tits? Sure, people can have preferences. But really, all tits are pretty amazing. And that includes mine.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Monogamy versus Open Relationships: Pros & Cons

My third post went live today on

I had a difficult time writing this one (on the pros and cons of monogamy versus open relationships). I feel like a lot of the pros and cons for each relationship style can apply to one another; it just really depends on the people involved in the relationship. For example, I know that some monogamous couples allow quite a bit of freedom within the relationship, and some open couples have quite restrictive boundaries and rules. There is a spectrum of freedoms and honest communication I think.

If you are a regular and loyal reader of mine, I would love it if you took a minute to go read my post on and leave a comment. I would really love to see some of DA's regular readers commenting on my posts, but I think they may be tentative in starting the conversation. Thanks! :)

Single Male Swingers

I am a good looking, single, fit, down to earth guy that wants to be more involved in the swinging lifestyle. I find it hard as a single male though. Can you give me any advice? 

I can try! As a partnered female, I definitely have a different experience in the swinging community than a single male (most likely) does. Here are my thoughts:

Put yourself out there: Use lifestyle sites (examples: SwingLifestyle, Lifestyle Lounge, Lust Lab, Kasidie; there are tons of sites, and many of them geography-specific), Craigslist, and other online resources that you are comfortable with. Use the profile to demonstrate your intelligence, sense of humor, charm, sense of adventure, desires, and fantasies. Post pictures that truly represent yourself (remember, you will meet people eventually and you don't want to have posted photos from a decade ago). Show up to in-person events if you have them in your area (clubs, parties, and other social gatherings). This is an especially great way to get to know people in your local swing community. If you live in a small area, take advantage of the community online to begin exploring and meeting other swingers. Cultivate your social skills, which leads to...

Respect relationships, boundaries, and rules: Respect the couple's relationship. You are not there to "replace" the male partner, make up for any of his inadequacies, or break them up; quite the opposite. Communicate with potential playmates about their rule and boundaries. These could include sexual boundaries like no kissing, no penetration, or recent STI testing. These could also include relationship boundaries like no phone calls or dates. Or they might include logistical boundaries like play dates only happen at parties or clubs, or only every other Friday. It is important to know what you are getting yourself into so that you can make an informed choice as to whether you will be satisfied (sexually, emotionally, etc.) interacting with potential partners.
This also includes other common points of etiquette, like:
-Always ask before touching, and
-"No" means "no"

Expand your sense of sexual intelligence & sex positivity: This means learning about and keeping an open mind about different sexual behaviors, expressions, acts, and different erotic activities. You don't have to be into them (or even understand them), but it is important to stay open-minded. This is especially important when you are mingling within a sexually open and adventurous crowd. Also, swinging is a pretty heteronormative space (for males); that is, while female bisexuality is highly encouraged and admired, men are not given the same space to explore same sex sexual activity. (I think this is my single biggest gripe with swinger spaces. What the hell is so threatening about men exploring their sexuality? I know so many women that find it incredibly hot. I think men police each other, à la internalized homophobia. Just my little bit of ranting and theorizing.) Even though (male) heteronormativity is the norm, I would highly encourage you to examine your own comfort levels and desires around same sex interactions. I would encourage you to reach a space where you are truly comfortable being naked around other naked men (who wants to be uncomfortable in a group sex scenario, especially if you are intentionally putting yourself in those situations?). What I am really trying to say is: homophobic attitudes are not cool. Don't be homophobic, even if you don't want to engage in any kind of sexual activity with another guy. Be an ally, and be open to the fact that some men are heteroflexible (will play with other men if it's right and fun for them), some are bisexual to varying degrees, and some are gay. Be respectful. Respect is sexy.

Become familiar with MFMs, gangbangs, and hotwifing: These are common configurations when couples add in single males. MFMs are threesomes with two men. Gangbangs are single female-multiple male encounters. Hotwifing may involved the women's male partner present or not, but regardless of his presence, you should remember that hotwifing implicitly involve a hot husband. Generally speaking (but not always), these configurations involve you being naked with other men around, who are often naked themselves. Also, it may be interesting for you to read up a little on sperm competition so that you can understand some of the possible reasoning behind why multiple male encounters can be such a huge turn-on for men. I know a couple of single men who truly, genuinely enjoy being the third to a couple in sexual encounters; they are turned on most by experiences with couples, and thus have a lot of success in having hot encounters. They are able to explain their desires clearly and genuinely, and have ideas themselves about positions, behaviors, and activities that they want to try with a couple. There is definitely a difference between a guy that just wants to get laid and will settle for playing with a couple so he can have sex with a girl, and a guy that actually enjoys the group sex dynamic that playing with a couple (or a group) creates.

Remember you are a whole person and deserve to be treated with respect: Traditional swingers tend to focus on sexual encounters and shy away from emotional intimacy. "Progressive swingers" tend to desire some level of friendship to accompany sexual intimacy. Think about what sounds best to you, and experiment with different encounters to find the right mix of sexual and emotional intimacy for you. It is important to remember that many partnered (traditional) swingers find that swinging kicks their partnered sex life into overdrive, and so other partners they have may fulfill fantasies or desires. This can, I think, be a double-edged sword: you may find it very hot to be the single person that adds some serious heat to a couple's sex life, and you may also feel somewhat discarded after the encounter is over. I think it is really important to know why you want to be involved in the very couple-centric swinging community, so that you are emotionally and/or mentally guarded against unintentional hurt. And remember that regardless of the situation, you deserve to ask for a sexually satisfying experience and be treated with respect.

Does anyone else have any good pointers for single men in the swinging community?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Hard To Get

I recently started Hard To Get by Leslie Bell. I have not yet finished it, and I will be sure to post an updated review once I have.

I was skeptical at first of her premise; I have heard arguments before about the mixed messages women get about independence versus interdependence within in a relationship, and how that is detrimental to young women's success in relationships. I have been turned off by those messages, because they have seemed so black-and-white. However, I was wrong about her premise, and I am really enjoying reading it so far.

She argues that since the early 70s, women have received very mixed messages about how to explore and demonstrate their gender and sexuality due to the various waves of feminism and increasing equality of women in American culture (workplace, education, media, etc.): you can do and be anything you want to, don't let a relationship get in the way of your education or career, stay in control of your life, you should know what you like sexually and be comfortable getting it, if you're not married by the time you are 30 you are at risk of never getting married, have kids by 35 if you want them, etc. She contends that this has resulted in young women (and by "young women" she is referring to her study subjects, which are college educated, more liberal, less Protestant, more queer, more of color, and higher class than the national averages) being very confused about how to square their desires around sex and love. She refers to this process, which results for many women in choosing between sex and love, as splitting. It is basically a psychological process of either/or decision-making; women decide that they are able to either have heir sexual desires fulfilled or their relational desires fulfilled.

She mapped out three archetypes that stood out most among her participants: The Sexual Women, the Relational Women, and the Desiring Women. Women who were very comfortable expressing and investigating their sexual desires, but not with intimate relationships, acted as Sexual Women. Women in the reverse, who were comfortable engaging in intimate relationships but not in expressing their sexuality, acted as Relational Women. There were a small number that Bell interviewed that were able to effectively have both without splitting, and she refers to these women as Desiring Women.

I am excited to continue reading (I am really at the very beginning) and learn what she did from her participants.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Lesbian Camp?!

I don't know how I hadn't ever heard of Autostraddle. Thank goodness for my sister's GF 

[and by the way, yes, she is adorable and I love her!!! And quick aside, because this story is too good:
So my mom had been freaking out for the past few weeks. All of us were going to be home for spring break, and she was having a really difficult time thinking about my sister and her GF spending the night in the same room. And yes, sis and GF stay together all the time while they are at school. My mom said to me a couple weeks ago "I think I'll just put an air mattress down on the floor next to sis's bed... pause pause while I don't say anything because it was completely ridiculous... I know, I know! It's superficial and stupid but I feel awkward!" Why? I ask. She never responded. Then, the day J and I were heading home, she tells me, as she is in the car, "Oh so you are coming tonight? Okay. We are just trying to figure out our basic arrangements. Our sleeping arrangements. Sis said she would just sleep in the living room on the couch." Pause pause pause as I don't say a word because I find the whole thing insane. "Well I guess we'll just see you in a bit." "Yep."
We see sis and GF the next day. Apparently while they were all in the car together, my mom decides to talk to them about it. "It's really none of my business if you have sexual relations. You can sleep in the same bed." Bahahaha!! GF was so funny! "What is this?? The Monica Lewinsky scandal?!" Jesus. I can't imagine having that kind of conversation with a new partner present like that. In a car. With no way to escape. In typical Dad fashion, all my Dad says during the conversational ambush is "I'm just driving!"]

ANYWAYS: Autostraddle puts on a queer women's camp. Their third one is coming up in late May. I WANT TO GO. SO BAD. Ugh. It sounds so amazing!! Look at this agenda from a past A-Camp:

Please, oh, please??? I would love to figure out how to get myself there...

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Psychology Today: Infidelity & Social Networks

I was pretty interested in this Psychology Today article, as well: Infidelity See, Infidelity Do.

Basically, Haltzman argues that people who want to stay monogamously married should hang out with other people who have the same desires. The premise is based on the effects of social networks. If you have friends that cheat, Haltzman argues you are more likely to cheat, because you will have a social network that supports bending the rules.

My qualms with this piece: Haltzman doesn't actually cite any evidence that people who have friends who cheat are more likely to themselves. He mentions a sociology professor who has studied cheating behavior among professional athletes, and he mentions another study which showed that happily married couples who attend religious services are less likely to cheat; he extrapolates from these two studies that people who have friends who cheat or have cheated are more likely to cheat themselves. I can follow his logic, but I am not entirely convinced of his conclusions. (It just seems like there are many other factors at play, and I found his logic a bit simplistic. That being said, I think social network theory to be really fascinating, and it makes sense that "birds of a feather flock together.")

A question I would pose to Haltzman: What if a monogamous couple has friends who are in an open relationship? Is it just a matter of time in this case as well that the monogamous couple try ethical nonmonogamy? I'm not sure what he would say.

I think his advice makes sense: if you are monogamous, and want to remain monogamous, then surround yourself with people who have similar values. It seems really similar to the idea of surrounding yourself with fitness enthusiasts if you are also into exercise, or of surrounding yourself with eco-conscious folks if you are as well. But, I also think it discounts the inevitability of change, and how wonderful it is to have a diverse and dynamic social network that may influence you to change. While cheating is dishonest, and not (in my opinion) a preferred nonmonogamous behavior, it can also open us up to new ways of relating, learning about ourselves, and growing.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Psychology Today: Your Sex Number

I really enjoyed this Psychology Today article, "Your Sex Number: A Scale of Sexual Desire and Libido."

His idea is that there is a libido spectrum, and figuring out where you are on the spectrum, as well as where you partner is, can be helpful in avoiding tension around the frequency of sex within your relationship. So according to Meyers, it can diffuse a lot of frustration if a couple realizes that one individual has a high libido number and the other has a low libido number. It can help individuals realize they are just different, and help keep it from feeling personal if sex isn't happening as frequently as one of them would like.

His first recommendation "discuss a menu of sexual acts" is very much like Marty Klein's idea of sexual intelligence, and I was happy to see it at the top of his list. I think it is continually important to expand your ideas of what it means to be intimate, romantic, and sexual. 

His next recommendation floored me: "Rethink monogamy." What?! Totally awesome! His full explanation:
The vast majority of romantic couples in American society report that they're monogamous, despite the fact that a high percentage of individuals within those couples secretly seek out sexual adventures with others. Secrets, of course, are bad news for the obvious way that they can destroy intimacy. If you and your partner have vastly different sex numbers and the less sexual one isn’t interested in compromising to have more sexual activity, you both should consider creative ways that the more sexual partner can get those needs met. If you’re a couple who would consider letting each other have the occasional sexual dalliance outside the relationship, make sure to keep the lines of communication open to avoid growing apart. Perhaps you’re a couple that must set specific rules: never engage in sexual activity with the same person more than once, only seek out adventures on vacation or far away from home, and so forth.
I am impressed!

His next recommendation is pretty interesting: sublimate sexual energy. Basically, try to harness your sexual energy into other activities, like art or exercise, that produce tangible results. He describes sublimation as a high-level defense mechanism (although I wonder about calling it a defense versus coping mechanism), and that it can be a very healthy way to manage a long-term relationship in which the sexual energy has gone stale.

Lastly, he offers the possibility that a couple break up if a libido incompatibility is too great. This part was interesting to me: 
As a therapist, I'm hard-pressed to believe that ending a relationship for sexual reasons is a good idea. Given that the are so many alternatives (sublimating the energy, changing the parameters of monogamy, and compromise), my hope is that couples find a way to keep the good parts of the relationship rather than throw it away.
I appreciate his approach: why turn a relationship into an either-or situation when there are alternatives to keeping the relationship and finding ways of staying sexually satisfied? However, I also question the idea that sexual incompatibility is not a good reason for ending a relationship. Why? Sex is such a basic human need, and we all deserve pleasure and satisfaction and physical intimacy. (Granted, he goes on to say that after a couple has exhausted ways to salvage the relationship, it may be time to break up and move on.) It seems like, to me, that sex is still so taboo and tangential to what relationships are supposed to be about in our culture, that to even suggest that two people break up because of sexual incompatibility is sacrilegious.

Just my two cents!! But I was impressed with his ideas and happy to see some broader ideas of what can be done with different libidos in a relationship.

Thursday, March 21, 2013


In counseling yesterday:

"Well, I feel like a lot of people have told me- people in my innermost circles- have said I see you with a PhD. What does that even mean? What does that mean they see me with a PhD? What does that even look like? How would I look different with another Masters? It's the image thing. That I am more valued with a PhD than with another Masters. I am just trying to figure out which program is in alignment with my goals afterwards. A research PhD program at Indiana University, where the Kinsey Institute is, sounds so, so, SO amazing. The person they assigned to be my advisor is AMAZING! But... research and academia does not sound like my cup of tea long term. So I think I better do the Masters."

My counselor looks at me. She nods her head. I already know what I should do.

She validates me and my desires and she says: "This work you are doing is beautiful, and is so important to the work you want to do."

I love that. I used that in one of my interview answers- that it is really important to me to be in a program that focuses on self-awareness. It is really awesome to me that my counselor goes to counseling, because it tells me that even counselors continue to benefit from and integrate their own self awareness and growth work into their personal and professional lives.

So, the decisions I (and J) have to make in the next 1-2 weeks:
-Which schools to put deposits down at/confirm that I am coming, so that
-We have more time to bide before J knows better about potential job opportunities, so that
-J knows which state to take his licensing exams in, so that
-We know where the hell we are moving to this summer/fall

Whew. We'll get there. These are exciting decisions to be making :)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Erotic Dream

We had decided to just be friends. I have been feeling sad and disappointed. We were hanging out, in a beautiful house. For some reason, we both have our shirts off. Your tits are so firm and round and lovely and fit perfectly into my hands. I turn to leave, somewhat remorseful and feeling pitiful that it wasn't ever going to be more. You catch my arm, turn me back around, and say Wait. You smile and lean in. You kiss me. Long and sweet. I smile, ecstatic. I had been waiting to show you how much I love you. We fall onto a large bed, rolling around, kissing, laughing. We start to tear each other's clothes off. I reach down in between your legs, and feel a cock. I feel absolutely neutral. You could have a pussy or a cock or something in between, and I wouldn't care. Because you are a beautiful, amazing soul and I don't care what bits you have in between your legs. You look at me concerned, but I tell you with my body and eyes that I love you. You relax, releasing yourself into my arms. We continue to play, loving each other's bodies.

I wake up, sad that it was only a dream, but grateful that at least I had one of you.

The Different Types of Open Relationships

It has been really interesting guest blogging for, mostly because I have had to keep my posts between 350-450 words. It is challenging being that succinct! J mentioned last night that I write a little differently for DA, and I think it is because I don't elaborate on things I otherwise would. My next post went live today- yay!

If I had more space, I would have included labels like "monogamish," and expanded on some of the things I only mention (solo polyamory and poly/mono combos). I also would have gone into more depth about each form, and I also would have talked about the overlap with the kink community and how BDSM relationships can fit really well with open relationships. But leaving it simple sometimes is good, especially as an introduction to what open relationships can look like.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


How does the whole polygamy thing work out? Just curious, no one cares really? Or there's just no emotional attachment ?

This is probably one of the biggest misconceptions of what polyamory is. There are tons of other amazing sex and poly bloggers who have addressed this, but I will now, too.

So first of all:

Polygamy refers to a marriage with more than two partners. Polygny is the more well-known type of polygamy, and is the custom of one man marrying several women. The parallel custom (one women who has several husbands) is called polyandry.

Polyamory, on the other hand, does not necessarily involve a marriage, although it can. Polyamory is about multiple, loving relationships and the ways that it is carried out is unique to the individuals within the relationship.

Next point:

What does that mean, "no one cares" or "there's just no emotional attachment"? No one cares about sexual promiscuity? And is your second question informed by an assumption that sexual nonmonogamy would be easier if there was no emotional relationship or intimacy involved?

There are definitely relationship styles that are based more on sexual and erotic nonmonogamy and less so about emotional intimacy. Typically, this is referred to as partnered nonmonogamy. Polyamory, however, allows for emotional or romantic intimacy as well as erotic intimacy. So, some people find sexual nonmonogamy easier without emotional intimacy, while others prefer to have both sexual and emotional intimacy present within their other relationships. People within ethically nonmonogamous relationships most certainly care very much about their relationship structure, as they have intentionally and consciously crafted and agreed to it.


Assuming you question meant to read "So how does the whole polyamory thing work out?" I would answer with: self awareness, communication, honesty, and fidelity. You have to know what you want and why, be able to communicate that to your partner(s), strive to be honest and transparent with yourself and others, and honor your commitments and promises. Those are awesome and healthy characteristics to hold in any kind of relationship, and they are also highly important to polyamorous relationships (and open relationships more broadly).

Bottom line:

Polygamy is not the same thing as polyamory, and emotional intimacy with other partners may or may not be part of an ethically nonmonogamous relationship structure. Ethically nonmonogaous relationships work because of self awareness, communication, honesty, and fidelity.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Venn Diagram: Open & Kink

I feel pretty well integrated and knowledgeable about my local open/ethically nonmonogamous relationship community. I am not integrated in the local kink community and culture. However, there are definitely aspects of my relationship with J, and my own interests, that would mean that we could easily find community within the kink community. What is interesting to me, though, is that I have met few couples within the open relationship community that have a relationship dynamic or structure or interests that overlap with the kink community.

Maybe I would find more people in the reverse: maybe there are more people in the kink community that have some kind of open relationship (rather than people who have open relationships that also have an established BDSM component to their relationship). I don't know. My idea behind that is that folks in the kink community often have (in my experience) excellent communication skills around boundaries and agreements, and so it would make sense to me that those skills would spill over into the broader relationship structure.

On a related not, I remember writing a post about this way back when, but I always get kind of skeezed out when I encounter judgements within the alternative sexualities community about other folks within the community that do something different. (Ex: A poly person being weirded out and disdainful of swingers. And vice versa. BDSM practitioners being looked down upon by non-BDSM practitioners. Etc.) (This is probably a good reason why I haven't met many people within that middle section of the Venn diagram- if you are shamed or have been shamed within your alternative sexualities community, you are probably much less likely to try to share your kinks with your open friends, or vice versa). Wasn't there a Catalyst Con workshop about this that I wanted to go to? Ah, yes, I found it:

"Slut Shaming in Sex-Positive Communities Serpent Libertine, Femcar, Crysta Heart, jessica drake, Carol Queen #cconshaming

Does “sex positive” always mean acceptance of the sexual appetites of others or other communities we’re not involved in? Why is it acceptable for sex-positive individuals to bash or criticize the sexual proclivities of others while claiming to be supportive allies? Based on our collective experiences within the sex worker, BDSM, swinger, poly, and queer communities, our panel will lead a discussion that examines some of the ways we’ve witnessed slut-shaming from those we’ve expected it least. Additionally, we’ll discuss why initiating conversations about these incidents can be even more challenging than speaking with folks in the vanilla world. By confronting this issue, we hope to find better ways to stimulate conversations among sex-positive individuals and learn how our words and actions can have an impact on others who lack understanding of our communities."

Just a little rant :-) Thanks for reading! 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Women's Self Pleasure Circle

Last night I participated in a women's pleasure circle (maybe a different name for a circle jerk? haha). It was inspired in part by Betty Dodson's pleasure workshops and the BodySex film. But instead of a workshop with a "genital show-and-tell" and other workshop-y type things, last night involved movement and warming up mentally and physically, and a pleasure circle. The lovely Barbara Wynn facilitated and hosted five of us.

We started of by introducing ourselves, including how we were feeling and what we were hoping to get out of our experience. Yesterday I was feeling especially stressed out, from trying to decide what to do with moving and school, and also feeling disconnected from J. I have also been dealing with some, at times paralyzing, negative body image self-talk, and have been feeling pretty disconnected from myself in a positive way. I was hoping to use the experience to reconnect with myself and forget about those stressors for a bit. I was definitely pushing my comfort zone; even though I have been in plenty of exhibitionist and group sex spaces, I really wasn't sure that I would be able to relax into a self-pleasure space in the presence of other people. I was reminded of one of the discussion questions from the BodySex screening- have you ever found yourself "performing" during sex? I really wanted to use my experience in the pleasure circle to have an authentic solo sex session, and I was nervous that my anticipated discomfort would mean I would be "performing" and not having genuine fun with myself.

We started off with a movement exercise, in which we simply moved around the space however it felt comfortable to us. I walked and stretched out my body (it was really tight and tense from working yesterday). We also paired up three different times and answered questions with our partner: what is something you love about your sexual being, describe a self love experience that was transformative in some way, and what do you do to get turned on? As we moved around, we were encouraged to peel off layers of clothes, and practiced soft looks instead of hard looks (basically, noticing and looking with curiosity and awe instead of judgement or criticism). 

After getting warmed up, we regrouped. Many of us were down to bras and pants or bras and underwear. Barbara talked to us about her experience with communal masturbation and gave us an overview for how the pleasure circle would be facilitated after we took a break. She discussed the idea of the pleasure circle space as containing three concentric circles. If you decided to sit as far back as possible, you were in the outer ring and in the role of the witness. You could watch and observe what was going on. In the second ring, you were in an active, turning-yourself-on and acting-on-it space. In the third, middle ring, you would be in a "look at me!" space, celebrating yourself and wanting to be looked at and appreciated. She told us we could be in any of those places at any point throughout the time of the pleasure circle. It was nice to take a break after all of that to sort of mentally process everything and take time to pay attention to my hunger and thirst, and not worry about anything else going on.

Then, the pleasure circle got started. Barbara led us though some guided movement, asking us to experiment with different kinds of self-touch: light fingertips and caresses, scratches, grabbing, squeezing and pinching, pulling, slapping. She asked us to really notice what we liked and what turned us on. She asked us to feel our vulvas, to breathe deeply, and to pay attention. And then, she released us into the play session.

I had brought my glass dildo and my Hitachi and a bottle of lube, a blanket and pillow, and a towel. I noticed that it took a little longer than normal for me to get turned on and warmed up because I was a little uncomfortable at first in the space, and I think also because it was 83 degrees (which was amazing for my naked body), but I am also used to different temperature sensations on my skin (our apartment is usually between 60 and 65 degrees and I have grown to like the cold air on my skin). But, I eventually got into it. I was so surprised with how many orgasms I had. I lost count, because I decided to turn on off my cognitive processing for a bit, but I think it was around 10 or 12. It was amazing to me the high I could reach from allowing myself the time and space to get turned on, reach orgasm, rest for a minute, and do it over and over and over. I loved it. Being in a space with other turned-on, moaning, groaning, laughing women for an hour was a pretty awesome experience. It felt really freeing to just be responsible for myself, and to witness other women simply being responsible for themselves. We weren't doing anything "for" each other, we weren't having partnered sex. We were just in the presence of one another in self-pleasure. For the last five minutes or so, I simply laid on my back, closed me eyes, and drifted.

After we played for about an hour, we ended with a savasana and debriefed. I loved how meditative and peaceful, and happy, I felt.

Another participant said that the experience felt like it was something so old that her cells remembered it, but older than her brain could remember. I liked that sentiment a lot; it resonated with me. Also, I really loved what the space did for my body image. Seeing older women's bodies, bigger women's bodies, and smaller women's bodies made me less fearful about my body changing and made me feel stronger in myself. And, I found myself so comfortable in that space by the end of it. It really is quite amazing to me what getting naked with people and being sexual in the same space will do for comfort. It makes a lot of sense to me that some of my closest friends are those that I have been sexual with, in some way. There just doesn't seem to be anything quite as primal and authentic as sexual pleasuring.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

5 Tips for People New to Open Relationships

A new friend on OKC recently asked me for five tips that I would offer him and his wife, as they are relatively new to poly and their open relationship. After some reflection and discussion with J, here is what I have to offer:

1. Read, read, and read some more
If you are new to the land of open relationships, then you most likely will need some new frameworks for understanding relationships, love, and sex. Even if many open relationship concepts feel familiar, it can be helpful to have some new cognitive frameworks and new language to go along with your feelings. Check out the Resources page for some books, websites, and other blogs that can help.
2. Practice self-awareness
Make sure to figure out why you want an open relationship, what needs you are hoping to fulfill, what structure sounds best to you (at least initially), and what things make you uncomfortable. Figure out what boundaries feel good to you. Notice when things feel good and when things feel challenging. Ask yourself "why?" and treat yourself with gentleness, respect, and curiosity. I think this post and this one can be helpful in getting the ball rolling, if you haven't looked inward in a while or are out of practice (both also include other good lists of tips about finding health and happiness in an open relationship and mirror this post a bit).
3. Communicate honestly
Open relationships are marked by honesty, integrity, and fidelity (honoring your commitments and promises). Treat yourself, your partner(s), and your relationships with respect by giving honest information about your needs, desires, and boundaries. Expect and ask for honesty in return. Know that open relationships rarely sit on "auto-pilot" (at least in my experience); communication is a dynamic and daily process. Without constant communication, feelings can fester and boundaries can be unintentionally violated. Expect to talk a lot, to listen a lot, and to work on your own communication skills. I highly recommend reading up on nonviolent communication skills, and how to incorporate meta communication into your interactions.
4. Expect to make mistakes and for your partner(s) to make mistakes
Life is messy. Everyone makes mistakes, especially when they are stepping outside the bounds of social norms (in this case, monogamy) for the first (intentional) time. Practice self-compassion and be compassionate toward your partner(s). Remember that you have good intentions, and that your partner(s) does too. And, if you welcome mistakes into your life, you also welcome successes and happiness. Mistakes can turn into blessings, as well, and teach you something new about yourself. Take the chance to grow and become the person you want to be.
5. Find support outside of your relationship
This is healthy regardless of your relationship structure, but it is especially helpful when you are transitioning an integral part of your worldview and way of relating to others. If friends and family in your life are not supportive of open relationships, then it is time to build an intentional community of folks who are supportive of them. Find support groups online or in person, find a poly-friendly therapist, and reach out to friends who can support and love you no matter what.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Dating Game

When J and I met 6 1/2 years ago, I had this distinct feeling of absolute relief flood over me. I felt so gosh darn happy that I had met someone that I could tell I was going to be with for a long time. I had gone through a series of flings and shorter relationships after my one serious relationship ended in high school, and I was ready to just be with someone. I wanted the stability, and the depth, and I was so ready to be done with dating games. I remember when we first started seeing each other, I made a decision: I was not going to wait for him to message, or text, or call me first. I like him, I was totally into him, and I was going to let him know. I wanted to be an independent and forward person, capable of being an equal contributor to the development of a new relationship. 
Since being open, I have, for the most part, dated/created relationships with other people who are familiar with or have experience with open relationships. This makes the communication around relationship formation so much easier. Most of the people I know in open relationships are used to a deeper level of honesty and have more frank and clear communication skills. This makes dating and relationship formation a less stressful experience. There is not so much of a "dating game." I like that. But the few experiences I have had (generally when I have fallen hard for someone in vanilla-land) where that isn't the case, the dating game hits me full force. And I am without strategy. Literally.

All I have in my arsenal is my intuition, honesty, and communication. My ability to play the game, with mainstream social cues and patterns of behavior, is nonexistent. I am still, like I was 6 1/2 years ago, tired and done with the game and with traditional "dating." If I like you, I'm going to tell you. If I am not interested, I am going to tell you. And because I expect the same in return, it is really challenging when I am interacting with someone playing the game. I say, nuts to the dating game.

Speaking of which, I have not been actively dating for the past few months now. I prefer just meeting people with the intention of connecting on a friend level; it doesn't happen that often where I actually feel a spark of chemistry. Also, I get burned out, sometimes, because even though many people I know are great at communication, and I try to do my best too, it can feel exhausting to communicate so much about feelings and intentions and desires and motivations and needs and etc etc. And, I get burned out on relationships not matching up for whatever reason: we want different kinds of relationships, they are attracted to me and I'm not to them, I'm attracted to them and they aren't to me, etc etc. (That last one is especially draining for me: it is relatively easy for me to put myself out there, but I haven't yet cultivated a very good mechanism for guarding my heart against rejection. I think it's happened a lot in the past year and a half. Bummer. Which reminds me of Dan Savage's advice of recognizing the common denominator of relationships: you. Am I doing something wrong? Do other women not see me as queer- do I not put out the vibe? Am I too dramatic or intense or do I not communicate very well? Or is it a bit simpler- have I just not met someone who wants similar things to me? I really don't know; maybe it's all of those things.) Right now, I think I am just in a dating lull, which is fine. Like I said to J the other night: I feel so grateful and lucky to have one amazing partner with whom I can have a connected and meaningful relationship with. Any more than that would be pretty incredible to me.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Open Relationship Posts: Rant

J pointed out these open relationship posts on to me today (they come up as related posts to my own, which was posted yesterday- yay!) and I am now feeling especially rant-y, so please excuse me while I go on an extended rant:

1. The Pros and Cons of Open Relationships
2. The Effect of Open Relationships 
3. Are Open Relationships a Good Idea?

I have so many gripes with them all, I don't even know where to start... let's start with the first one:

1. The Pros and Cons of Open Relationships
The author starts off his article with:
"My favorite oxymorons include: “jumbo shrimp,” “government intelligence,” “reasonable woman” (just kidding, ladies!) and “open relationship.” If it’s open, how can it be a relationship?"
Wtf. First of all, the whole "just kidding ladies" doesn't cut it for me. Just don't make sexist jokes like that, okay? Second of all, what the hell does "If it's open, how can it be a relationship?" even mean? What he means, obviously, by "relationship" is "monogamous relationship." So say that next time.
Next: his one, and only, pro to having an open relationship includes the following sentiment:
"Hey, variety is the spice of life, and a little hanky-panky with a brand new faceless, nameless female body might be just what the doctor ordered to keep your head screwed on straight when it comes to your real, uh, relationship."
Again, wtf. Faceless, nameless?? Can you say, "objectification of women"? Why does having an open relationship necessitate having sex with someone that doesn't have a face or a name?
His first con:
"Several guys — maybe even some guys you know — will be making love to the girl who gives meaning to your life. They will be tainting your favorite part of her anatomy with their most vile and disgusting appendage. And she’s going to like it. ‘Nuff said."
First: I hope there is more to your life that gives it meaning than just your partner. Second: maybe there is something else about her that is your favorite- besides her pussy?? (say, I don't know, like her smile or maybe even her brain?) Third: Why, all of a sudden, is a cock considered the "most vile and disgusting appendage"? Doesn't the author realize he has one of those? Fourth: Of course she is going to like it!!! Why the hell wouldn't she, or shouldn't she? And isn't that the point? To like your (open) relationship?
Cons 2-4: 
He obviously doesn't have any experience with open relationships. Those cons, those very ideas, are what some people (not all, of course) actually are looking for when they open up their relationships. Falling in love and having love returned are not total game-changers or destructive forces, and for some people, are welcomed.
Con 5:
This is disgusting to me: "And if she put up with it just to hold on to you, she might resent the fact that you turned her into a whore and hurt her with your activities on a regular basis." You turned her into a whore. Let's just take away a little more of this hypothetical woman's agency and power. Cool.
And his conclusion: 
"But the truth is that an open relationship will never grow because the core of the relationship is tortured instead of nurtured. It is not a road to a more committed relationship. It is a temporary rest stop while you’re looking for something better."
What evidence does he have for the core of the relationship being tortured instead of nurtured? I am sure there are some people, who in the course of having an open relationship, find that the relationship isn't something they want long-term, but that doesn't mean it wasn't healthy and satisfying while it was functioning. Also, I am sure there are plenty of people in monogamous relationships who are "looking for something better" or who aren't committed to their partner. Having an open relationship does not mean that the people in one are not committed or are unhappy with their current partner.

2. The Effect of Open Relationships 
Again, this post reeks from a lack of evidence, and perpetuates cultural norms without any kind of critical examination.
Point #1: "A sexual relationship can turn into love." Okay... and? Couples who are not okay with this kind of emotional intimacy will stop seeing other partners that they grow to love. Couples who are okay with this kind of emotional intimacy are, well... okay with it. Her point that developing intimate feelings for someone else is irreversible is unfounded. I have experienced for myself the ebb and flow of platonic and romantic feelings for other partners. And let's be honest- doesn't that ebb and flow happen within the confines of monogamy, too?
Point #2: "Both partners begin on the same page, but things change." Yes, relationships, like life, are dynamic and they do change. Communication, honesty, and an openness to change are key. Things change within a monogamous relationship, too.
Point #3: "New sex may seem hotter and hurt the marriage." If a primary partner is hurt because of NRE, that is not the new (other/secondary) partner's fault, or the fault of great and hot new sex. It is the responsibility of the primary partners to ensure that NRE does not cloud or neglect the primary relationship.
Point #4: "Sex as a bonding tool loses its power." What??? Sex, in and of itself, is not necessarily powerful. It is the relationship within which it is used that is powerful, and of course we can simply ascribe sex with meaning and power. Sex is still very much a "bonding tool" for J and I, despite the fact that we have both had several other sexual partners in the past two years. Why? Because we have a deep and intimate relationship, and sex is quite meaningful between the two of us.
Point #5: "Open marriages expose the family to greater risk." I don't know where she gets this fact from, except her own perceptions. The little research (I like this one too) that has been done on people in open relationships shows that those individuals (as opposed to monogamous couples where cheating occurs) have lower transmission rates of STIs and safer sex practices because the communication around STIs and safer sex practices is much greater and more honest.
 Point #6: Okay, so she recognizes that "open relationships can be positive for certain couples." But she definitely does not allot any space or time to explaining why, which is very unfortunate and one-sided.
Her conclusion that "Research shows that monogamous marriage leads to better physical and mental health" is, again, unfounded. I would like to see what "research" she is referring to. Yes, I have seen studies showing that those who are married live longer and are happier than those who are not. But I have not seen a study that found that monogamous marriage is the key.

Alright, last rant (for today):
3. Are Open Relationships a Good Idea?
Her opening: "Couples in an open relationship remain mentally and emotionally committed but are free to explore other interests sexually. This can conceivably become a rather tricky situation to navigate." This is just one definition of what an "open relationship" is. In mainstream culture (think Facebook), I suppose "open relationship" means an emotionally monogamous/sexually promiscuous arrangement, but her opening thus excludes all other open relationship configurations. 
She mentions that "If you find yourself craving the affection and attention of other men while your boyfriend is by your side, suggesting taking on additional partners could be hurtful. For some people, it works. But for most, this loss of intimacy is often the beginning of the end of a relationship. If you find your mind wandering astray, maybe try turning inward and facing the issues with your partner before pulling in other people." I don't understand. How does having sex with other people take away intimacy from your current relationship? And I agree- if your current relationship has issues that need to be worked on, definitely turn inward and work on those issues before adding more people to the mix. But the simple desire for sexual variety isn't necessarily an issue that needs to be worked on.
Later, she states that "Even if you don’t normally consider yourself the jealous type, it’s OK to not want to share." Yikes!! This is exactly the kind of societal norm crap that perpetuates the attitude that jealousy and possessiveness and control equals love. It's gross. I think it's one thing to consciously choose a sexually monogamous relationship; it's another to simply say "No, I am not going to share you with anyone else, or let you choose how you want to relate to other people because I control you."
Her conclusion, however, took me by surprise and I appreciated it: "By the same token, if an open relationship works for you and works for your partner, don’t get bogged down in other people’s judgments. It’s OK if your friends don’t get it or think it’s a bad idea. They don’t live inside your head. Relationships are weird. They are the best kind of weird, but they’re all weird nonetheless. Do what works best for yours." I like that. So I am ending on a good note :-)