Saturday, September 28, 2013

Stripping, Counseling Ethics, and Personal Values

So I had a meeting with one of my professors to discuss the fact that I dance and my anxiety around coming out to my cohort during a class presentation next week. What ensued was a very kind conversation in which I unexpectedly cried, and agreed with a lot of things that she talked to me about- primarily the ethical dilemma I will face if and when I have a client that has seen me perform (and yes, perform naked- the sexuality of it is the key piece here).

I came home and immediately broke down (I had been holding in everything during a three hour class). J didn't really know what to do with me. He held me and got angry and confused on my behalf. It was helpful.

And basically where I am at right now is this:

What feels more unethical to me is to perpetuate a system that sees sex, sexuality, and female sexual empowerment as sinful, dirty, slutty, and abhorrent. I will not not go to our swingers' clubs or to nude beaches or to strip clubs or gay bars or poly gatherings or dance because of the possibility that I might run into future clients. I will not not live my life in some tiny little box when I have done so much to live in a vast, fluid, and dynamic world.

There is something quite different to me about having an intimate and loving relationship with someone while simultaneously expecting to fulfill a professional role in the mental health care of that person's life. Knowing a client in other superficial ways are quite different to me than intentionally creating a confusing and complicated layered relationship with someone.

[The code of ethics for MFTs stipulates that you, as a therapist, must not have sex with a client. Okay. And to refrain from having sex with a previous client for at least two years after termination of the therapist-client relationship. Hm, okay. Seems arbitrary, but okay. And with regards to multiple relationships, the code states:
Marriage and family therapists are aware of their influential positions with respect to clients, and they avoid exploiting the trust and dependency of such persons. Therapists, therefore, make every effort to avoid conditions and multiple relationships with clients that could impair professional judgment or increase the risk of exploitation. Such relationships include, but are not limited to, business or close personal relationships with a client or the client’s immediate family. When the risk of impairment or exploitation exists due to conditions or multiple roles, therapists document the appropriate precautions taken. 
This is vague, and leaves a lot of gray area to be dealt with, and is in fact the basis for my ethics paper this semester- how to behave as a minority therapist seeking to work within minority communities (queer and poly, specifically). And this also relates to my potential multiple relationship with clients who could also be or were my customers in the strip club.]

My professor's ethical dilemma example:
What if a couple comes to you for therapy, and one of the partners, let's say the man, has seen you dance? What if you don't realize it, but he does, and they continue coming to see you, and then his partner, a woman, finds out after a couple of months? What will that do to her?

My response during our meeting was: Yes, that's really complicated. I hadn't thought about that yet. That's really complicated.

My response now:
If I were to realize when a new client walked in, I would be up-front about it, and offer to refer the person to another therapist. If I didn't know right away, and the client realized later on and told me, I would refer the client to another therapist.

I am not about to further stigmatize or oppress my various sexual minority communities (queer, poly, sex worker) or myself by not allowing myself to be who I am in order to "protect" a client. This is life, and people deserve to live their lives. Including therapists. Including me.

Any readers out there who have had to navigate this in various ways? Please drop me a line :)

Social Justice & Polyamory Update

I used the power of Reddit to address the recent post I wrote on social justice and polyamory (and dancing). Luckily for all of us, there are smart people out there on the interwebs...

Some excellent points made were:

-Polyamory is a Western framing of ethical nonmonogamy. I remember reading Sex at Dawn and being amazed at the descriptions of cultures where people aren't sexual property of others, where children are raised communally, and where patriarchy doesn't dictate women's bodies. Ethical nonmonogamy has and does exist among many different human cultures, although it may go by different names, have different motivations, and have different forms and practices. Polyamory, though, is a relatively new and certainly Western concept, and thus will fail to capture people in the US and around the world who practice something similar and do not call it the same thing.

[An aside: I also think the term "polyamory," its definition, and its history still try to subvert mainstream meaning by tying "love" to "sex." "Well yes, we can have multiple sexual relationships but these relationships are also about love." Inherently, this discourse shows the attempts in Western history of separating body from heart, of separating dirty sex from pure love, and tries to placate the Puritans still alive that we polyamorists do indeed have love in mind in having multiple relationships.]

-Perhaps the reason that the polyamorous culture looks so homogenous in terms of class and race is because the people that can afford to be out are those with the most privilege (white, middle to upper class)- thus, people engaging in multiple, intimate relationships who are also minorities in other ways (race, class, etc) may be far less able to come out to their families, employers/employees/coworkers, neighbors, and broader communities. I think this is an excellent point (and in fact reminds me of some reading I did recently in which it was mentioned that for many LGBTQ individuals with multiple minority identities, it is sometimes a better approach to not come out as LGBTQ, in order to protect the relationships and communities they already have. I think the same could certainly apply to people with open/ethically nonmonogamous/polyamorous relationships. In fact, conversations in the Facebook group I am part of has shown the diversity in opinions on this topic, and depicts how coming out is a very individual decision dependent on many factors, including diverse community identification and cultural ties.)

-I haven't yet had the opportunity to read this article (The privilege of perversities: race, class and education among polyamorists and kinksters), but it looks pretty delicious. Thank you to the redditor who posted it. I am excited to read it!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Social Justice, Polyamory, and Dancing

As I have been putting together my notes for a project I am presenting on next week, I have had several things rise the surface related to ethical nonmonogamy, stripping, race, and class.

-Something that has been increasingly apparent to me in my explorations, especially academically, around poly issues is the severe lack of discussion on the intersections of race and class with relationship orientation. Being poly is (so far) a distinctly white and upper class experience, although ethically nonmonogamous relationships have been existent in many different cultures around the world. Being poly in such a monoga-normative culture and society means (to me) that you have to (generally) first have your basic needs met and have time to focus on breaking norms before you are able to spend inordinate amounts of time on your relationships (including your relationship with yourself). 

-Interesting, too, has been my discovery that even though disclosing my status as a dancer is nerve-wracking for me depending on my audience, I command a sense of respect and curiosity, typically, and it’s because of my whiteness, my class, and my education level. If I was a woman of color who hadn’t gone to college, I don’t think people would necessarily listen to my story as much. I also think that dancing in Portland is probably one of the most privileged places, geographically, to dance- it is so much more normalized here, and there is a large sex positive community that emphasizes a woman’s right to choose to control her body and feel empowered through her sexuality. Because of my geographic location, race, and socioeconomic status, I feel at least a little comfortable disclosing my experiences dancing. 

I have come across a few different blog posts and articles online about the lack of discussion around race and polyamory, but there is really an overall dearth of discussion. And all I can think of as an explanation is that, so far, ethical nonmonogamy is an experience of wealthy whiteness. If you know of resources related to people of color experience in open relationships, please pass them on!

Nominate Your Favorite Sex Blogs!

Don't forget to nominate your favorite sex blogs on In Between My Sheets!!! The deadline is September 30th :)

Prenuptial Agreement & Getting (Legally) Hitched!

School has officially taken over my life... I am hoping that it will slow down to a reasonable pace in a couple of weeks, but until then, I am eternally grateful to J for everything he has been doing: walking the dog, making the bed, making AMAZING meals, watching Games of Thrones, doing the dishes, doing laundry, and more. Sadly, blogging has taken a temporary backseat to all of my other reading and writing, but I am confident it will come back soon.

Anyways, one of the things that J and I did this past weekend was work on our prenup. Why?, you might ask. Because! We are going to get legally married soon!

Legal marriage, to us, is just about a legal financial arrangement. And we don't agree with the way the state lays out that financial agreement. For instance, I don't want alimony (spousal support) if J and I were to break up. And neither does he. So it was important to us to have a pre-written agreement prior to getting married.

We are thankful to J's brother and sister-in-law for allowing us to use their postnup agreement as a starting place for ours. With J's legal knowledge, it was relatively easy to construct our own, and then for me to send it off to a lawyer who will represent me in making sure I fully understand it and consent to it. J is representing himself (wahoo!!)

There is some weird information out there about prenups- I think there is a stereotype that they are unfair and a symbol of a broken relationship. I think, rather, they are a symbol of a communicative and healthy relationship. 

The current form of legal marriage makes sense to us in the context of a couple in which one person works outside the home and the other within it, raising kids or not. If the marriage agreement is that one person earns money and the other is a homemaker and/or raises children, it makes sense that if that couple were to divorce, the homemaker deserves some sort of spousal support.

Because this situation is not the one that J and I are entering (or plan to have), we wanted something that felt more relevant to us.

In any case, we are both excited to be legally married and reap the societal benefits offered by legal marriage. (Yes, another example of couple privilege.) If you are interested in seeing our prenup, feel free to email us and we would be happy to share this resource :)

Friday, September 20, 2013

Recognizing the Third in Monogamous Relationships

My latest post is live: Can You Be Monogamous and Attracted to Other People? (I like my title better, haha) I based this post off of Esther Perel's Mating in Captivity, in which she mentions the specter of "the third" (i.e. other people you may be attracted to) and how some couples choose to ignore the third, recognize the third, or invite the third in to their relationship. I wanted to explore some ways that monogamous couples could push the boundaries of their relationship to incorporate sexual explorations, and deepen their sense of honesty and trust.

Here's my intro:
In Esther Perel’s “Mating in Captivity,” she discusses the “shadow of the third.”
That is the fact that even when in coupled relationships marked by commitment and love, we often (maybe always) find ourselves attracted to other people.
By acknowledging the third, keeping your communication transparent and striving to know and understand your partner and yourself, cheating may be less likely to happen (thus preserving the commitment to monogamy you both have made).
What are ways two people can be sexually monogamous, but widen the door for more honesty and trust around sexual desires, fantasies and exploration?
The foundation for this is solid trust in your partner and relationship as sexually monogamous and a healthy way of managing your jealousy and insecurities.
I also believe it is a privilege to learn new things about someone, not a right. Being in a romantic relationship doesn’t give you the right to know about your partner’s private sexual thoughts.
If they, and you, are able to share this information, you should take it as a sign of the health and resiliency of your relationship.
I go on to offer the following ways that couples can be monogamous but add honesty and new sexual flavors to their lives; make sure to go read the post on DA so you can see my further explanation!:

Having opposite sex/opposite gender friends
Reminisce about the past
Watch porn and read erotica together
Share fantasies and attractions
Is flirting ok?
Visit strip clubs together
Visit a swingers' club or party to watch and be watched 

I would love to hear from others: what are other ways that you can be monogamous and recognize "the third" in your relationship?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Need Advice or Support?

I just wanted to remind readers that you are welcome to send in questions and experiences around relationships and sexuality, and I will be happy to give you my two cents! I love using your questions and experiences (similar and different) as a springboard for exploring topics around sexuality and relationships, and (hopefully) providing you with support and sense of community. The email address to use is: If you prefer to send in something anonymous, leave an anonymous comment on this post (or any other post); I moderate comments, so comments are not automatically published. :)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Vasectomy, Kids, & LGBTQ Research

The time will come soon enough when J and I will be having a vasectomy shower. Ha, not really. We (apparently; I don't remember being the origin of this joke but J insists I/we made it up) go around talking about our "little baby vasectomy." So it's happening soon.

I feel really good about the fact that I have a partner who feels the need to do this. I am of the belief that I don't control him or his body. For me, it seems somewhat similar to being in control of my decision to get an abortion. What if I was with someone who really wanted kids, and even if we both decided that "now wasn't a good time to get pregnant," wanted me to follow through with an unplanned/unintended pregnancy? I would want the choice and control to get an abortion if I didn't feel ready to have a child. I don't want kids right now, but let's say I did. Even if I wanted kids, I don't think that I, as J's primary partner, really have the right to instill control over his body. I think we, as primary partners, could join together in a conversation about what we each want long-term and what we want to be priorities in our lives, and then go from there. I don't think that I get some sort of ultimate say over how he controls his fertility.

I also feel really good about the fact that if I change my mind about wanting kids or raising kids, I would want to adopt. Ethically, it feels like the best thing to me, given all of the kids who are in foster care and are put up for adoption. J feels similarly.

Also, ideally, if I were to raise children, I would want more than one other co-parent. Yes, I think this could complicate relationships and life logistics. But I watch friends and family members and neighbors who are one- or two-parent households and it just looks so difficult. I would want more help. I would want more community. Three adults raising a kid? Four adults raising a couple of kids? Sounds way more ideal, sane, and humane to me (for everyone involved). In fact, reading a bunch of research this week on LGBTQ individuals and couples and their decisions to parent or not and how was really enlightening for me. Many LGBTQ couples end up raising children from previous straight relationships, parent children in their extended family (chosen and of origin), and use methods like surrogacy to create unique family structures. In addition, many LGBTQ individuals around the world have unique family relationships and structures that allow for more fluid and communal parent-child relationships.

I wish that more than condoms and vasectomies existed for male-bodied individuals wanting to be mindful of their fertility. Female-bodied folks have lots of options, and males deserve the same family planning mechanisms. Until then, J and I will be celebrating our little baby vasectomy.

PS: J's urologist informed him, too, that vasectomy reversal is actually quite successful ("they" just don't want that published too much). So in the rare event we drastically change our minds in the future, we can probably make some baby Ks and Js. ;)

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Happy Seven Years!!

Today is our 7 Year Anniversary!!! And I feel so happy (and old, haha) saying that. Happy Anniversary, J. I love you to the moon and back babycakes.

More on Enneagrams & Stories

I meant to tack on another train of thought to my previous/most recent post:

Becoming attached to stories happens in lots of ways. In the context of open relationships, it is common to hear someone say "I am a jealous person, so X, Y, Z is hard for me." Say that over and over, and you really start to believe that. How is anything else possible then?

Putting aside our thought patterns and stories can be so uncomfortable. Giving space to alternative possibilities is scary. Trying to imagine other possibilities is a big unknown. But if you practice thinking new thoughts, or trying out new stories that explain you, you will be surprised at the wonderful outcomes you experience as new.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Enneagram, Therapy, & Relationships

We get attached to our stories about ourselves, about our partners and friends and family, and about the world. What happens when that story changes? Paradigm shift.

If you have never taken the Enneagram, I strongly encourage you to do so. You can find a free (unvalidated) test here (that website also offers a scientifically validated test for $10).

This website offers another $10 validated test; the instructor I had for a Enneagram workshop this week prefers this test- he actually said that this is the only test that has accurately reflected his personality (all other Enneagram tests says he is an 8, but "knows" he is a 4; this test says he is a 4).

So. I have always scored as a 2. Called the Helper, Giver, Connector, the 2 is concerned with giving (their attention goes to other people's needs), which is lovely, but the underbelly of it is, giving in order to receive. At their best altruistic and at their worst emotionally manipulative. Tend to try to perform for others really well in order to get approval, love, and appreciation. When stressed out, they become more assertive and aggressive and when in good space, they become independent and creative.

Up until yesterday, J has identified as an 8- the Challenger, the Protector. Strong energy, concerned with fairness and justice, afraid of someone else or something else controlling them, desire for autonomy. At their best powerful and fair leaders, at their worst aggressive and maybe even violent. Trying to figure out how and if they matter. When stressed out, they become withdrawn and secretive, and when in good space they become compassionate and open-hearted.

This is all interesting to me because these are the stories that I have been telling myself about J and I: this is me. This is him. And because of how we are, we relate to each other in these ways. This has meant telling this particular story:

J (as an 8) is afraid of someone else controlling him. So when I (a 2) am most afraid of not being loved, try to illicit more love by getting clingy, J hides and withdraws, and we enter into a downward cycle. 

But more recently (and especially yesterday when I came home from my workshop) J has been questioning his 8-ness. A lot of the characterization around force and anger doesn''t resonate as much with him. Taking the second test I provided above led him to realize that he thinks he is actually a 3 (which years ago in college he determined to be a close second to being an 8).

I think the result for me might be a similar experience to someone extremely identified with their astrological sign finding out that they were actually born in a different month. You mean I'm not all of these things that this map says I am?

The truth is, we have all of these characteristics and tendencies within us. Identifying prominent traits and worldviews can be quite helpful though in figuring out how to relate to other people.

So now, I am adjusting to thinking about J as a 3. Which actually makes quite a bit of sense to me. 3s are often concerned about goals, tasks, image. They become apathetic and withdrawn when stressed out and committed and security-oriented when in good space. This description also sounds like J to me. And really, the story that I told above about our downward cycle, still applies: when I get stressed out and try to "get love" from him, he shuts down and becomes apathetic, which further stresses me out. We have learned how to stop this cycle if we can, but it's work. I thank this tool for providing some much needed insight into our relationship dynamics, even if J is a 3 and not an 8 like he/we originally thought.

Anyways, I think the Enneagram is a super useful tool for self-growth, self-awareness, and I think it can add a really awesome dynamic to relationship growth if all people involved are willing to look at both their light and dark parts of self. And, for all of my personal friends out there reading this, if I keep talking about the Enneagram and I start to bug you, just tell me. I'll shut up about it eventually :)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Recent Articles From J

Here are some articles and blog posts J sent me recently... 

This is a fabulous article on foundations for relationships, and how regardless of structure, people would benefit from working on recognizing these foundations... and then leaving the structure to do its thing without judgment:
Why you shouldn't (and should) be monogamous

This one is fabulous!! It's great to see the different types of monogamy delineated so clearly. Also, I hadn't come across the phrase "activity monogamy" before although J and I have certainly experienced the effects of (me) identifying with it before:
The Four Monogamies

Researchers investigated the possible link between attachment styles and fantasy frequency and content. I'm a little skeptical about the generalizability (is that a word? ha) of the study, but it's interesting for sure:
An Inside Look at Fantasies

This last one is especially interesting as it was written on a Christian blog, discussing the fear that gay marriages will redefine straight marriage as nonmonogamous. J said the comments that people left fascinating.
What You Should Know About "Monogamish" Relationships

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Husband Swap

J recently read The Husband Swap by Louisa Leontiades. Because he isn't as into blogging, I decided to interview him about the book and type up his responses instead :)

The basic premise of the memoir: the author and her husband adventure into the world of open relationships and polyamory.

J says Leontiades' story is the classic "why you don't open up a struggling relationship" example. J sees through the author's description that there was very little wrong with the open relationship itself. Instead, the people within the relationship were not happy with each other and wanted different things leading to dramatic experiences.

Leontiades and her husband decide that they want to meet another couple to explore nonmonogamy with. The other couple they end up exploring with also struggles within their coupled relationship (serious mental health issues plague the other woman). J mentioned that it was really interesting to see the different relationship dynamics the author experiences with each man (her first husband and with the other man)- in the fashion of Arianne Cohen's The Sex Diaries Project, the author has more of a lovers relationship with her first husband and more of an aspirers relationship with the other man.

SPOILER ALERT: The author and her husband are not together at the end of the story. Both couples end up divorcing and actually "swapped partners." The author has been with the other man from the other couple, married for seven years, has children with him, and they have an open relationship. (Her ex husband and the other woman were also together for a little time.) J was quite shocked to read at the end that Leontiades and her new husband still have an open relationship, given all of the drama that the two couples went through together. Pretty interesting, yeah? It definitely speaks to the potential fluidity of relationships.

This story is a pretty dramatic example of open relationships. J doesn't see the story as a very positive representation of open relationships, but the author doesn't blame the relationship structure (she blames "messy" individuals). Leontiades gives a great deal of insight into her emotional world, which is helpful and insightful into the dynamics of her particular story. In fact, the story made J question if poly relationships can ever really work, as the story represented a pattern that he has seen between me and other women we have been in relation to (situations spiraling out of control between the women involved). (However, I have to say J in response: this is blaming the "failure" of poly relationships to the structure and not the individuals in relation to each other. To which I also say: I have been a "messy" individual myself, as you well know. And my internal world has become a lot cleaner in the past couple of years, and in the past year in particular!)

J doesn't know if he would recommend this story to others; it definitely is not for the poly/open faint-hearted, and probably not the best for someone just exploring open relationships (it sounds like it could scare people away! ha!). It also has little to no advice or how-to structure; it really is just a personal story. It is awesome to have another memoir out there about open relationship experiences (we both really love Jenny Block's Open) and we hope to read more and more as people have the courage to share so publicly their experiences.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

LGBTQ & Family Therapy

I just had to write a brief post saying that this class today rocked my socks!! I am so glad I am taking it. Even better:

My textbook includes a chapter on poly-families, and the blending of LGBTQ and poly dynamics within families.


My professor has a guest lecturer coming in to talk specifically about poly and (maybe) BDSM relationships.

I am so excited! And feel so lucky to be in a more progressive town with a more progressive marriage, couples, and family therapy program. I feel like I am in such a good place!

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Incredible Hunk

J and I finally played with our newest toy last night. Yes, it really is called The Incredible Hunk. I liked it! And was able to use more of it than I thought! The feeling is similar to fisting or DVP- really full. It's made of silicone and has really nice ridges and texture, and so has an amazing feel. I recommend!! :D

I've got to admit: I'm just as taken with the marketing. It cracks me up! "A NEW league of HEROES has arrived just in time to SAVE you from BORING bedroom play!" Haha! (*easily amused*)

Hotwifing: What's the Big Deal?

I have been noticing, for about 8 months now, that the vast majority of new visitors to my blog reach it through the few posts I have on hotwifing.

Look at these stats:

What's the big deal folks?

Here's my take:

Men are taught that one should never give up "their woman" to another man- to do so is emasculating. To enjoy the fact that one's female/woman partner has a sexual relationship with another man emasculates and demoralizes you. To enjoy and get turned on by being with a woman who you are not in a relationship with (who is in fact in a coupled relationship with another man) is also taboo and rule-breaking.

I think there are a lot of you men out there looking for explanations, for community, to feel normal in your sexual desires and fantasies and turn ons.

You know what I think?

I think you're all awesome. Talk about turning patriarchy on its head, folks! Talk about subverting misogynistic values upside down!! (Assuming, OF COURSE, that you are not coercing or forcing your partner to be intimate with anyone that they don't want to be intimate with.) (And maybe I am completely wrong about this.)

I would love to hear from those of you who reach my blog via hotwife searches. Leave me some comments, send me an email, tell me your stories. Maybe we can create some more hotwife content on here- fantasies, real stories, motivations, experiences.

PS: Who is searching for "the different kinds we ended"? What does that mean, and how do you arrive at this blog?

Also: Props to cock sheaths!!! THEY ARE SO MUCH FUN! BUY ONE! OR TWO! OR MORE! :D

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Jealousy Teleseminar

I was happy to listen to a jealousy teleseminar facilitated by Kathy Labriola and Dawn Davidson last week. They discussed some new techniques for managing jealousy- who doesn't like those?? :)

One of these techniques was Kathy's jealousy pie chart- you can read more about it in her new Jealousy Workbook (available for pre-order). Essentially, you create a pie chart and assign what she names as the three main emotions behind jealousy: sadness, anger, and fear. By targeting which emotions, and inquiring further into what specifically you are sad, angry, or fearful about, you can work on drastically cutting down your experience of jealousy. Here was the quick pie chart I constructed while I was on the phone last week (the questions are taken from one of the worksheets Kathy provided; I bolded those things that I found to resonate most with my experiences of jealousy):

In addition, Dawn discussed a self-applied Eye Moment, Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) technique. EMDR is not recommended for use except for with a highly skilled therapist, but this simple exercise can be used on your own. Basically:

Sit comfortably. Close your eyes. Cross your arms and put one hand on each shoulder (your right hand on your left shoulder and vice versa). Think about an event that triggered jealous feelings for you. Immerse yourself as best you can in that experience- what happened, how you felt, what your reaction was. As you think about that experience, begin to tap your shoulders, alternating between your right and left shoulder. As you tap, allow your eyes (while closed) to look at your right and left shoulders. So when you tap your left shoulder, look at your left shoulder, and then tap your right shoulder and move your eyes to look at your right shoulder. Try to hold onto you jealousy-provoking experience as best you can while you do this. You may notice that you have a more and more difficult time remembering and paying attention to your memory. 

This technique is interesting to me- I think it is basically a feeling-diffusion technique, one meant to simmer yourself down. One caller during the Q&A mentioned that she found it extremely useful for all sorts of stressful situations and feelings. I actually have used it laying in bed as a way to quiet my mind: I don't even need to physically tap my shoulders. I simply imagine my right hand tapping my left shoulder and vice versa and move my eyes back and forth across the midline of my vision. It's worked to help me relax and fall asleep.

I love coming across new jealousy management techniques and hearing how other people treat and manage this (sometimes) gnarly emotion. It was really awesome to listen to other people ask questions, and then during their brief conversations with the facilitators, go through pretty quick "ah-ha" moments about how they could better negotiate boundaries, ask for things they want, and manage their jealousy. It's pretty transformational!

Friday, September 6, 2013

More: Disclosing Stripping

Another thing that I did talk about with my counselor, and something that J brought up with me today after reading my last post, was that people do all sorts of jobs for all sorts of reasons.

My counselor: "Everyone has 'daddy issues,' or 'parent issues.' Strippers, counselors, doctors- maybe most of all, doctors." We both laughed.

I think she's right, and I think J is right. The further complexity comes, for me, with the fact that sex workers are marginalized, not well understood, and stigmatized. As is common with most minority group experiences, a minority members ends up standing for everyone in that minority group, while a member from a dominant group is allowed the freedom to stand alone in their experience. (Bob [a white man] succeeded at building a business simply because he had the ambition, etc, whereas "all Asians" are smart. Dominant group stereotypes can and do exist, but they are rarely used to explain dominant member experiences.)

So- I feel a lot of personal pressure and responsibility for not contributing to negative stereotypes about strippers. To admit that I have "mommy issues," love getting attention and approval, and embrace my sexuality (on a wide spectrum) makes me nervous.

I again dodged a question about work today while at school. As I was beginning to tell a group of classmates about my work, we got interrupted and the conversation didn't return to me. This gives me more time to reflect :)

Merging the Academic with the Personal

I explored something kind of uncomfortable, but necessary, in counseling this week:

When and how will (or if) I decide to disclose 1) that I am in an open relationship, and 2) that I am a stripper now that I am back in school (which, yes, is fabulous so far!)

I told my counselor that being in an open relationship is not shameful for me and that I am proud of it. I feel like that part of me is an easy share. I have already shared that in my personal statement for my school applications. During the interview process, I shared that my main goal is to work with folks in plural relationship structures. So I am not that concerned about disclosing my personal experience with open relationships.

But, stripping feels like another matter. I feel like as much as nonmonogamy is misunderstood and stigmatized, sex work is even more misunderstood and stigmatized. Interestingly, I feel like if I used to strip, but didn't any more, I wouldn't feel as weird sharing my experience. But because I am still actively stripping, and plan to continue stripping, my experience moves into the present, rendering me still sexually deviant. There is an element of shame to my stripping experience, as much as I don't like or want to admit it. And it's related, I think, to my realization that stripping feeds several things for me, and I don't want to contribute to a misunderstanding that strippers engage in the work they do because they have "daddy issues" or are "attention whores." I have articulated for myself that stripping was, in the beginning of my journey, about exploring my sexuality and sense of exhibitionism, reclaiming my sexual power in a very loud way, and about the empowerment and feminist stance of using my body however damn way I chose (related to struggles I had with my mom growing up). In the middle, and up until a couple months ago, it was about feeding my deep desire of being seen and heard. Most recently, it has mainly been about performance, about exercise, about perfecting my sense of presence and gratitude to move my body sensually and artistically. 

Some organizations classify stripping as a form of sex work, in that a stripper exchanges sexual energy for money. And yet, I more readily identify as a "dancer" and less so as a "stripper" or "sex worker." Could I proudly raise my hand in class and say "I am a dancer"? "I am a stripper"? "I am a sex worker"? I don't know.

And honestly, I am concerned about the implications of disclosing this personal experience on my future job, work, volunteer, etc opportunities. Again, I really don't know if I could proudly raise my hand without knowing what kind of ripples this might have for my future self.

And, in what context would sharing this be appropriate? Just tonight, in my first class, a fellow classmate said to me: "Do you not work? What do you do with all your free time??" To which I shrugged off and deflected. It didn't feel like the right time and place for some reason to say: I do in fact work. I am a dancer.

I imagine the context in which I might want to share would be one in which we are discussing working with vulnerable populations, including those working in marginalized occupations (including sex workers). I really dislike and feel aggravated by "othering" conversations (oh "those" people, "they" blah blah blah). I would feel compelled, and like it would be the right thing to do, to disclose my status and experience to bring some humanity to the conversation.

I also recognize that disclosing both of these things about myself feeds a "look at me" desire. The attention whore at work. I want to be seen, noticed, heard. And being "different" and then telling people about that feeds that circuit loop.

I'll figure this all out, in time, and as it happens. But it's been a little stressful and weighing on me. I think I would feel best to me if I could just tell everyone about my experiences without worrying about judgements and prejudices- but I can't control other people's reactions or thoughts or behaviors toward me.

My counselor reminded me that even if I decide to keep something private, it doesn't mean I am ashamed of it. So now I am trying to really figure out: am I ashamed of dancing? Or am I ashamed of the discomfort I may cause people (ie, taking on the feelings and needs of others again)? Or am I ashamed of why dancing is so fun and satisfying for me?
It's still a rub: how to manage the private, the personal, the academic, the professional.

Thoughts, feedback, love? :)

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Recent Articles & Resources

Some recently seen articles I wanted to pass on:

J found these great (/annoyingly funny) pieces on The Onion:

On a family watching sexually explicit movies
Abstinent only sex education
Marriage counseling is a scam
Hatred of marriage counselor

For those of you as fed up as me with all of the hype about "hook up culture," here is a study that discusses how it's a bit (and by "a bit" I mean very) overblown: Study dispels notions of 'no-holds barred' sex on campus

Anyone want more of Marty Klein's great wisdom? Sign up for his teleseminar series!! (Probably most interesting to those working in the mental health/psychology/counseling field)

And, lastly, today Dawn Davidson and Kathy Labriola are offering a free teleseminar on managing jealousy! It's going to be awesome! RSVP even if you can't listen live so you can listen to the recording later!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Top 100 Sex Blogs

Nominations are open for the Top 100 Sex Blogs!! Get yourself over there and nominate this blog and your other favorite sex blogs :-) It's fun to look at past lists to discover other scintillating blogs, and remember to look at Rori's list for 2013!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Psychology Today: Happily Never After

I received my latest "Psychology Today" last week, and was happily stunned to see the following piece in the beginning (click for a bigger, higher resolution picture):

Thanks to Poly in the News for sharing the image!!

Another Swingers Club! & Drag Queens, Flogging, Male Strippers

J and I finally visited the other swingers' club in town, and just happened to go on its grand reopening night.

Overall, I like the aesthetic of our regular club better. But, this other club is better for just lounging and chatting with other people. Which J and I both liked.

Highlights of the night included:

-Performances by a couple of drag queens (side note: for some reason I haven't been able to pinpoint yet, drag queens turn me on. I don't know if I would want to have sex with one, or if it's just the super beautiful feminine appearance, or if I just a huge erotic charge from being around non-normative gender displays. But I loved being there in the front row to watch!! Which leads me to...)

-Both J and I were incorporated into a couple of performances. It was so much fun! J got his clothes torn off of him while she lip synched "Closer." And he got us free tickets to the Erotic Ball for his cooperation! I am so excited to experience another sexy event! And I got my clothes ripped off and FLOGGED (note: a first for me). I really loved the flogging! It wasn't super hard- it just felt like a really even slap or spank. It was good pressure and left the right amount of sting.

[Another note: something super interesting was that the drag queen did not seek consent of her participants. She just ripped off people's clothes without asking, touched people without asking- it was poor modeling for a space that espouses itself on consent.]

-A rope suspension demonstration, led by a lovely friend of ours who has tied me up several times. It was awesome to see someone suspended so quickly and well!

-A male stripper group. They were okay. Not quite the level of skill that I was expecting, but still fun to watch. I may have had quite the time with one of them later on... ;)

The club felt more like a divvied up office building, but some of the spaces were neat. One plus was their dancing pole had quite a bit more room around it so dancing there was a little more fun (than at our regular club). The music was lower, so we were actually able to talk to some new people. The food was decent. And this club has hot tubs, which was a lot more appealing than I thought it would be (the rule is to finish playing elsewhere. Thank goodness...) We also both really appreciated the fact that this club seems to attract a wider spectrum of sexual orientations and gender identities and appearances- we both appreciated the diversity and felt "at home" there. (That's my biggest gripe with our regular club- that it doesn't feel welcoming to gay men, trans people, or cross dressers- although we have seen and met some at our regular club. Having a drag queen MC an evening or more gender fluid events would definitely help shake things up.) I don't know if we'll go back to this club or not, but I am so glad we finally checked it out!