Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Helen of Troy Does Countertop Dancing by Margaret Atwood

Wanted to share this amazing poem:

Helen of Troy Does Countertop Dancing
by Margaret Atwood

The world is full of women
who’d tell me I should be ashamed of myself
if they had the chance. Quit dancing.
Get some self-respect
and a day job.
Right. And minimum wage,
and varicose veins, just standing
in one place for eight hours
behind a glass counter
bundled up to the neck, instead of
naked as a meat sandwich.
Selling gloves, or something.
Instead of what I do sell.
You have to have talent
to peddle a thing so nebulous
and without material form.
Exploited, they’d say. Yes, any way
you cut it, but I’ve a choice
of how, and I’ll take the money.
I do give value.
Like preachers, I sell vision,
like perfume ads, desire
or its facsimile. Like jokes
or war, it’s all in the timing.
I sell men back their worse suspicions:
that everything’s for sale,
and piecemeal. They gaze at me and see
a chain-saw murder just before it happens,
when thigh, ass, inkblot, crevice, tit, and nipple
are still connected.
Such hatred leaps in them,
my beery worshippers! That, or a bleary
hopeless love. Seeing the rows of heads
and upturned eyes, imploring
but ready to snap at my ankles,
I understand floods and earthquakes, and the urge
to step on ants. I keep the beat,
and dance for them because
they can’t. The music smells like foxes,
crisp as heated metal
searing the nostrils
or humid as August, hazy and languorous
as a looted city the day after,
when all the rape’s been done
already, and the killing,
and the survivors wander around
looking for garbage
to eat, and there’s only a bleak exhaustion.
Speaking of which, it’s the smiling
tires me out the most.
This, and the pretence
that I can’t hear them.
And I can’t, because I’m after all
a foreigner to them.
The speech here is all warty gutturals,
obvious as a slab of ham,
but I come from the province of the gods
where meanings are lilting and oblique.
I don’t let on to everyone,
but lean close, and I’ll whisper:
My mother was raped by a holy swan.
You believe that? You can take me out to dinner.
That’s what we tell all the husbands.
There sure are a lot of dangerous birds around.
Not that anyone here
but you would understand.
The rest of them would like to watch me
and feel nothing. Reduce me to components
as in a clock factory or abattoir.
Crush out the mystery.
Wall me up alive
in my own body.
They’d like to see through me,
but nothing is more opaque
than absolute transparency.
Look–my feet don’t hit the marble!
Like breath or a balloon, I’m rising,
I hover six inches in the air
in my blazing swan-egg of light.
You think I’m not a goddess?
Try me.
This is a torch song.
Touch me and you’ll burn

Monday, October 28, 2013

Fat Stigma & Acceptance

Another really fascinating part of school last week was a presentation on fat studies, fat stigma, and fat acceptance.

Here are my notes from class (a lot of it is verbatim from the presentation slides; contact me if you want the reference):

-Fat studies: interdisciplinary; primary focus on identification/elimination of bias based on body weight, shape and size; deconstructs and critiques research related to weight and obesity; challenges cultural and political meanings ascribed to the fat body; challenges medical models that pathologize fat and prescribe weight-loss as a means of attaining health; weight/size bias combined with oppression based on other areas of difference such as gender, race, social class, and sexual identity

-Fat bias in the dominant culture:
  • Research related to systemic fat/size discrimination is less common, but no less valid, than findings that continue to report ongoing oppression in race and gender
  • Discrimination evident in hiring, wages, promotion, employment termination, delays in obtaining necessary healthcare, ability to obtain health care coverage, acceptance to college, parental financial support for college
  • Similar pattern of discrimination (but more research needed) in public accommodations, jury selection, housing, adoption, representation of overweight participants in research
  • Stereotypes of people perceived as overweight: lazy, less conscientious, less competent, sloppy, disagreeable, emotionally unstable, slower, poor attendance records, stupid, and worthless 
    • These stereotypes are based simply on appearance or perception and are unrelated to actual health
-Dominant culture belief that being fat is a moral choice related to a lack of discipline: if fat people simply ate less and exercised more, they would lose weight and thus not have to experience the stigma and shame of being fat

-Losing/regaining weight can be more physically damaging to people than remaining at higher weights

-Counselors must challenge their own biases and assumptions about fat clients and presumptions of weight loss to promote genuine emotional and physical health, regardless of size

-Health at Every Size: a fast-growing approach that work to separate the issue of size and health

-Fatosphere: fat blogosphere

-My main question at the end of the presentation was: how do fat studies address the issues of food desserts, cheap unhealthy food, and the intersection of those with class and SES? What about the politics of safe public spaces, gentrification, etc?

This is a fabulous article I ran across the next day after my class; I love it:
Let's Talk About Thin Privilege

Fatness brings up a lot of emotions for me. My mom gave my sister and I a lot of training around the "right" body shape and size, even while also trying to help us love our bodies "no matter what." From my public health education, I have been acculturated to medicalize bodies: obesity=bad for health. I have my own body image stuff, which has been at times both exacerbated and soothed by comparing myself to movie stars, models in magazines, my friends, stripping, and being in an open relationship (and being more exposed to naked bodies). 

J and I have had a number of conversations, and sometimes with other people, that attempt to delineate the difference between discrimination against certain body types/shapes/sizes and preference/attraction/chemistry. There is clearly a difference to me and it feels quite different. However, I have seen the two conflated very unattractively in open spaces. For instance, I know that our swingers' clubs attract a wide variety of people, and I am glad that the spaces are relatively inclusive. But when I meet people who disparage fat people and their presence at our clubs and then cloak that sentiment in "well I don't want to go somewhere where I'm just not attracted to the people," my social (in)justice radar goes nuts. Just say it: you don't like fat people. Or, when J and I were socializing with a couple at a club, J asked the guy if he and his partner have a "type." He responded simply with "thin people." Why? I'm guessing because, for him, "thin people" connotes other positive qualities: good, healthy, smart, hardworking, etc. 

Want to test your own implicit attitudes toward fat people and thin people? Take the Implicit Association Test! You can take the test on myriad other categories of people, too. My own results: moderate preference for thin people. (I wonder when they'll add a category for alternative relationship structures?)

Friday, October 25, 2013

Patriarchy & Stripping

We had a pretty thought-provoking panel this week in my equity class: all three guest were white, straight men talking about their experiences with patriarchy. It was really interesting because they have all taken a path to counter patriarchy in their lives, and they discussed how this has affected their relationships with their families of origin, how they view the world, etc. 

One little comment at the end was evident to me that the men took different feminist views than me:

One man made some disparaging remark about "ugh strip clubs" and "yeah, isn't it crazy Portland has like the highest number per capita?" [Subtext: isn't that awful??]

I caught my professor's eye and she sort of apologetically/nervously smiled at me. I felt pretty calm; I expect to encounter that kind of attitude sometimes. I know it's a pretty dominant discourse (strippers are oppressed women who have internalized patriarchy; there is no other explanation that tells us why women engage in sex work. Or, women are forced to strip or engage in sex work to make money. The power flows from the dominant group-men-to women in the form of exchanging money for sexual energy.)

The thing is: I can't really argue that strip clubs don't support patriarchy. I also can't say that I'm not stripping outside the patriarchal system. I know I have been socialized to desire attention and to dress and present myself in ways that are pleasing to those gazing upon me (namely, men). 

But the explanation that patriarchy has oppressed me and forced me to strip is too simplistic for me. There are so many other factors at play (which I have discussed at length in various posts).

It's fascinating to me, and I try as best I can to simply remain curious about, the variety of views within the folks who identify as a feminist. This particular guy, who so clearly and evidently opposed men powering over women and supported women as equals, inadvertently took agency and power away from the women who engage in sex work. Simply by making a negative comment, and assuming he knows the motivations and stories of all sex workers, he once again assumed the dominant role: "I know what's best for women: not stripping."

[Of course: people can have different views, and I think that first-wave feminism language is powerful and persuasive. But again: for me, it takes away power from individual women and is too simplistic. This picture assumes that one cohesive "feminism" has the answers to dismantling a thousands-year system of privilege and oppression, when in reality, there are so many diverse beliefs under that umbrella and so many ways of subverting power.)

The truth is, for me, is that all of these factors (including the system of patriarchy) have influenced me. Which means I embrace the "both, and" approach to life, not the "either/or." I can be a stripper and a feminist and queer and straight-looking and a lover of consent and someone who has non-consent fantasies. I hold many complex, seemingly opposing desires and beliefs and identities, inside me, as do (I believe) most people.

Therapy Student Syndrome?

(like Medical Student Syndrome?)

I seriously don't know some days...

Oh god! I'm not differentiated enough from J! Or from my parents! Or from my friends! Or from anyone else!

Oh no! I create double binds!! How awful! (Another blog post on that to come, I think)

I ruminate. I can be pessimistic. Gottman's divorce indicators?! Oh jesus.  

Do I have signs of major depression? Schizophrenia?? 

I'm anxious! Tendency to be OCD! 

And more!

I'm also human. Like all y'all and everyone. (Side note: I'm definitely leaning toward a theory of therapy that is based on present-moment experience, mindfulness, and not pathologizing of experience and emotions. Whew)

People in My Corner

It was so affirming to hear from my advisor this week:

Stripping is not an ethical issue. You're not harming anyone.

No kidding!

And, another lovely part:

If you get any pushback from anyone around here, just use feminist language and they'll back off. If you have any problems with people, just let me know. Especially if it's a professor.

I had reached this place a couple weeks ago, of feeling like it really didn't matter to me what my advisor was going to say to me about this potential ethical issue of dancing and being a therapist. Which itself felt great. And it also felt great, like a big awesome hug, to hear that.

Also, to have another fellow classmate disclose to me that she felt really good hearing me disclose my dancing experience because she has a history of doing it as well. And to have my advisor say that outing yourself is important in giving those marginalized communities a voice. If you can out yourself (and I can, in many ways, and have), then it can be such a powerful thing.

I have so many affirming and strong people who back me up, and I feel so lucky and so grateful to have them (you) in my life. Thank you.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Queering Myself

I have been struggling a little with the following lately:

I look so damn straight.

I can't (and definitely don't!!) want to change my primary relationship. But that makes me look straight.

I like my feminine gender expression, and some of the traditional things that go with that: make-up, long hair, etc. That makes me look straight, too.

How do I tell other hot queer chicks that I am "one of them"??

I don't want to change myself to gain "acceptance." I want to just be me, long hair, mascara, and all.

Does the fact that I don't seem to be "noticed" by other queer people mean that I don't put out the vibe that I identify that way? Does it tell me that I'm not actually queer?

Haha, oh goodness... that can't be! Right?? Because I know how I feel across gender and sex lines. I know when I'm into someone and what that means (i.e., jump them, take them home, and spend hours with them doing lots of things...).

I want to be noticed and appreciated by other queer people.


Maybe I need to try noticing and appreciating other queer people?
Maybe I need to put myself out there more? (*what does that mean exactly?)
Maybe I should try hitting on people?
Maybe I should try harder to meet people?

Does it have to to do with the vibe you get from people (me) when they are already in a relationship, versus when they're single? Am I entering an age group where people want to "settle down" with one person, and aren't interested in dating someone who already has a partner? Is that dynamic perhaps more true for queer women? Am I finding that my dating pool is simply declining, as people rule me out for not wanting to date someone in an open relationship, not attracted to a straight-looking girl, etc.?

Why do I have more questions than answers? :-P

Porn & Condoms

Apparently I am a little late to this scene, but Tristan Taormino has added a new twist to her condoms-in-porn stance. You can read her full piece here and the CNN coverage about it here. (yeah, they were published in late September. I don't know how I just found out about this!)

Taormino was deeply against Measure B, proposed in LA county this past year, mandating condom use on porn sets. A big reason she cited was the fact that the use of condoms while shooting porn can create major internal wear and tear for female-bodied people, actually increasing their susceptibility to contracting STIs. Another was that condoms don't protect against all STIs. Some people develop latex allergies. She also thinks that the government involvement in porn is about politics and not about sex worker rights, health, and safety.

However, her commitment to porn actor health and safety, and her own personal story (her father died of AIDS in the mid-90s), has caused her to change her professional standards. While before she allowed actors to freely choose to shoot scenes with condoms or without, now she will be requiring condom use in her porn productions. 

I definitely encourage you to read the piece on her site (the first link) and read on to hear from porn actors about their preferences for shooting with condoms or not and why. It was fascinating and enlightening for me to read about, and there are a variety of views represented. One major theme from many people was that they would prefer condom use be normalized.

I would tend to agree with Taormino- that the fight over condom-use regulation is about politics and not the actual safety of sex workers. I think porn actors should truly have the choice to use condoms or not; they shouldn't have to worry about marketability, profit, or branding in making the choice to have sex with a barrier. Safer sex shouldn't be dependent on a company's profit margins. 

My logical brain wants condom-use in porn to be normalized. Actors deserve to practice safer sex, just like anyone else. My lustful brain fantasizes about condom-free sex and probably would be a bit more turned on watching condom-free sex. But this also relatively moot, since I don't watch porn. I opt for erotica that simply describes condom-free sex :-P

Regardless, I am glad that Taormino is as brave, ethical, and reflective as she is: it takes guts to have complex motivations and reasoning behind professional decisions, to own personal experiences that inform them, and to publicly acknowledge when your professional stance changes.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

AAMFT Conference: Day 2

My second day at the AAMFT conference was less sparkly than my first, but still interesting. My two workshops were centered around the neurobiology of childhood trauma (which I find fascinating) and using play therapy to treat traumatized kids, and around situational couples violence and using an attachment-based theory to treat it. 

While I love learning about trauma, I am going to focus this blog post on situational couples violence and attachment theory.

First, some definitions:

Intimate terrorism: uni-directional, violence is based in a desire for power and control, associated with higher levels of injury, the victim tends to be fearful of the violent partner and of the relationship
Mutual violence: two intimate terrorists vying for control and power, violence escalates very quickly
Situational couple violence: bi-directional, violence is often based in frustration and escalates, associated with a lower level of injury, both people tend to be fearful of the violence when it happens in-the-moment (but not of their partners or the relationship)

So in talking about situational couple violence, the presenters proposed using a theory that encompasses attachment theory to help couples deescalate emotionally charged situations and remain violence-free.

I love attachment theory; I've mentioned it several times on this blog in various posts. This is one model describing the four attachment styles:

  • Secure - It is relatively easy for me to become emotionally close to others. I am comfortable depending on others and having others depend on me. I don't worry about being alone or having others not accept me.
  • Dismissive - I am comfortable without close emotional relationships. It is very important to me to feel independent and self-sufficient, and I prefer not to depend on others or have others depend on me.
  • Preoccupied - I want to be completely emotionally intimate with others, but I often find that others are reluctant to get as close as I would like. I am uncomfortable being without close relationships, but I sometimes worry that others don't value me as much as I value them.
  • Fearful - I am somewhat uncomfortable getting close to others. I want emotionally close relationships, but I find it difficult to trust others completely, or to depend on them. I sometimes worry that I will be hurt if I allow myself to become too close to others. (From Wikipedia)
In the workshop I went to, the presenters proposed that violence within the context of situational couple violence can be a response to attachment related fears or panic, and that people can or may use violence to regulate their attachment distress. So, a preoccupier might become violent to regain proximity to their partner, or a dismissive type might use violence to become more distant.

[**Remember, of course: this is never an EXCUSE for violence!! Simply another layer that may be going on within a person and relationship!**]

The presenters described how trying to change the "dance" for couples could help them deescalate conflict. If one partner knows they are a preoccupied type and the other knows they are a dismissive type (which, by the way, is a very common dynamic in couples), they can create strategies that help both of them reduce their attachment fears so that violence doesn't occur. So during a conflict, they might decide that the dismissive partner can take a break, but when they are back, the two of them will discuss the conflict and the dismissive partner will give the preoccupied partner reassurance about their love for them.

This "dance" is very similar to the pursuer/distancer dynamic that I think I have mentioned elsewhere on this blog (it describes the roles J and I take on under relationship stress and conflict, although our awareness of our dance has helped the dance slow down and become less extreme).

Yay, learning! :)

Friday, October 18, 2013

AAMFT Conference: Day 1

I had the opportunity to attend the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (AAMFT) annual conference- it was pretty convenient given it is in Portland this year :)

I was most excited about today, because my events included:
A workshop on Sexuality in Family Therapy
A discussion on LGBTQ youth
And a workshop on Plural Families

Tomorrow includes a workshop on treating children with trauma and how to treat couples where abuse has occurred.

So many things to say!

1. Sexuality in Family Therapy: The facilitators of the workshop conducted research on therapist attitudes toward client perceived sexual problems (presenting as a sex addict) based on whether the client was monogamous or in an open marriage and a man or a woman. Participants in the study in which they read one vignette; the four possible vignettes only differed in the gender of the client and the relationship style. Women in open marriages were rated most negatively and pathologized the most, meaning that therapists were most likely to refer a woman in an open marriage for treatment and to label her sexual behaviors as problematic. Next worst were men in open marriages. Next were men in monogamous marriages. Women in monogamous marriages were rated least negatively (least likely to have their behaviors labeled as problematic). My takeaway: our society still very much pathologizes and demonizes female sexuality. Promiscuous women=bad news. Promiscuous men? Bad, but expected. Monogamous women? Virtuous.

The presenters also discussed the issue of including children and teenagers as part of family therapy, even when issues of sexuality needs to be discussed- of course, in age-appropriate, developmentally-appropriate ways. Also, therapists must be aware of their own reservations or issues around sexuality so that they can best serve their clients by using explicit language, calm demeanor, and engage in frank conversation about sexuality and sex. (I think I will be okay regarding that!)

2. LGBTQ & Youth: We talked a lot about queer therapists self-disclosing their queer identity to queer clients. Is it appropriate? When? What are the effects of self-disclosure? Also: why aren't queer issues a bigger part of the AAMFT conference? Why aren't queer issues given a workshop space or a keynote address??

3. Plural Families: I was so jazzed for this one, because I thought for sure it would be addressing polyamorous families. Wrong! The presenters intentionally stayed away from polyamory, and instead focused on polygamous and plural marriages. It was still super interesting, and when I asked the presenters why they chose to focus on polygamy and didn't include polyamory, their reasoning was that they didn't want to just lump all of these alternative relationship structures together and ultimately do a disservice to both. That made sense to me. There was also some good discussion that I participated in about ensuring that therapists do not collude with polynormativity and remembering that poly relationships come in all shapes, sizes, and flavors. I also talked to one of the presenters after the workshop, and she works with people in poly relationships, people in the BDSM community, and trans* folks. So awesome!!! She told me there are only a handful of loud and proud marriage and family therapists serving those communities. I'm excited to join the ranks! They handed out some fabulous resources. The following one is my favorite; I can't believe I hadn't run across it before!! Cory Davis made a monogamy privilege questionnaire, akin to Peggy McIntosh's Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack targeted toward discovering white privilege. It's fabulous: Monogamous Privilege Checklist.

In fact, I am just going to copy and paste it here as well:

For the purposes of this list, I will refer to one’s position on the diagram of monogamy vs. various types of non-monogamy (polyamory, open marriage, swinging, religious polygyny, etc.) as simply “relationship orientation”.

Note that for the purposes of this list, “relationship orientation” does NOT refer to one’s sexual orientation re: the Kinsey scale (heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, etc.). Monogamous individuals who are LGBTQ and/or in interracial and/or intergenerational romantic relationships may well be exempt from some (though not all) of these privileges, especially those marked with an asterisk at the end.
Monogamous Privilege Checklist:
1) I can legally marry whomever I wish, with all the legal, medical, and financial benefits of marriage universally recognized for me and my family no matter where I live.*
2) I am not accused of being abused, warped, immoral, unethical, or psychologically confused because of my relationship orientation.
3) No one ever questions the validity of my love because of my relationship orientation.
4) It is not assumed based on my relationship orientation that I or any of my former or current partners has been misled, coerced, manipulated, or used in any way.
5) No one argues that my relationship orientation is impractical, unstable, incompatible with commitment, or otherwise effectively impossible to realize. No one argues that my relationship orientation works better in theory than in practice.
6) It is not assumed that my life must be overly-complicated because of my relationship orientation.
7) No one tries to convert me to their relationship orientation.
8 It is not assumed that I will switch relationship orientations as soon as I find the “right” person.
9) It is not generally understood that I am unfit to raise children because of my relationship orientation.
10) I can feel certain that my government will not suddenly remove my children to a foster home based on my relationship orientation.
11) As a responsible and loving parent, I won’t lose my children in a custody battle because of my relationship orientation.
12) As a responsible and loving adult, I can adopt children without lying about my relationship orientation.
13) I can be certain that my children won’t be harassed because of my relationship orientation.
14) My children are given texts and information at school that validates my family structure – two parents with kids, two sets of grandparents, etc.
15) It is not assumed based on my relationship orientation that my children are/were raised in an unstable environment.
16) No one assumes or speculates based on my relationship orientation that my children experience or ever will experience emotional, psychological, social, or behavioral problems.
17) I do not have to explain my relationship orientation to strangers whenever it comes up.
18) People don’t ask why I made my choice of relationship orientation.
19) People don’t ask why I made my choice to be public about my relationship orientation.
20) I don’t have to defend my relationship orientation.
21) I am not identified, categorized or grouped by my relationship orientation.
22) I am never asked to speak for everyone who shares my relationship orientation.
23) My individual behavior is not thought to reflect on all persons who identify with my relationship orientation.
24) If a romantic relationship of mine ends, no one blames my relationship orientation.
25) I can be sure that all of my roommates, classmates, and coworkers will be comfortable with my relationship orientation.
26) When I talk about my monogamy (such as in a joke or talking about my relationships), I am never accused of pushing my relationship orientation onto others.
27) I do not have to fear revealing my relationship orientation to friends or family. It’s assumed.
28) I do not have to fear that if my family, friends, or professional community find out about my relationship orientation there will be economic, emotional, physical, or psychological consequences for me or for others.
29) I can run for political office without expecting that my relationship orientation will disqualify me.
30) I can depart from most meetings, classes, and conversations without feeling fearful, excluded, isolated, attacked, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance, stereotyped or feared because of my relationship orientation.
31) I can date whomever I wish, regardless of whether or not they previously identified with my relationship orientation, without fear that my new partner will be shunned by their friends and family due to their choice to embark upon a relationship with someone of my relationship orientation.
32) I am guaranteed to find people of my relationship orientation represented in my workplace.
33) I can be sure that my classes/courses/training will require curricular materials that testify to the existence of people with my relationship orientation.
34) I can easily find a religious community that will not exclude me based on my relationship orientation.
35) I am guaranteed to find sex education literature for people with my relationship orientation.
36) I can count on finding a therapist or doctor who will recognize my relationship orientation as valid, should I seek their services.
37) I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help my relationship orientation will not work against me.
38) Public hand-holding with my love is seen as acceptable and endearing. I can walk in public with my partner and not have people stare or do a double-take.*

39) I can choose not to think politically about my relationship orientation.
40) I can remain oblivious to the language and culture of other relationship orientations (i.e. polyamory, swinging, etc.) without paying any penalty for such obliviousness.
41) Even if I am oblivious about other relationship orientations, my culture affords me the privilege of judging those orientations and being an authoritative source of relationship advice because I am monogamous. This is especially true if I am a therapist, researcher, media darling, or other authority figure.
42) In everyday conversation, the language my friends and I use generally assumes my relationship orientation. For example, “family” meaning monogamous relationships with children.
43) Nobody calls me monogamous with malice.
44) I am not asked to think about why I am monogamous.
45) Society encourages me to marry and celebrates my commitment.*
46) My relationship orientation is commonly represented in music, television, movies, books, magazines, greeting cards, and postcards.
47) Major, mainstream social networking websites such as Facebook allow me to set my relationship status according to my relationship orientation.
48) I can go to relationship and dating events (i.e. singles events, relationship skills workshops) secure in the knowledge that my relationship orientation will be the standard and will be catered to.
49) I never need to change pronouns when describing the events of my life in order to protect my job, my family, or my friendships.*
50) If I’m a teenager, I can enjoy dating, first loves, and all the social approval of learning to love appropriately within my relationship orientation.*
51) If I’m called to work with children or to serve God (in most denominations), I don’t have to lie about my relationship orientation in order to keep my job.
52) I can count on my community of friends, acquaintances, strangers, and various institutions to celebrate my love and my family, mourn my losses, and support my relationships.*
53) It is not assumed merely because of my relationship orientation that I am experienced in sex (or that I even have it at all!).
54) It is not assumed that I am inclined toward my relationship orientation purely for sexual reasons.
55) It is not assumed based on my relationship orientation that I am more likely than average to have STIs.
56) It is not assumed based on my relationship orientation that I am unaware of the risks posed by my sexual behavior.
57) I am not assumed based on my relationship orientation to be sexually indiscriminate.
58) I do not have to deal with the language and culture of my relationship orientation being co-opted, redefined, and demonized by an unfriendly majority which controls the media.
59) No one ever calls my relationship orientation “creepy” or “disturbing”.
60) I can befriend people without them and/or their romantic partners assuming that I am trying to convert them to my relationship orientation.
61) No one takes issue with their children being around me based on my relationship orientation.
62) I can be fairly certain that anyone who is in a committed, romantic relationship with me will also be invited to most parties, weddings, and other social events to which I am invited.*
63) No one makes assumptions about my political views or religious beliefs based on my relationship orientation.
64) No one refers to my relationship orientation by the wrong term or label, either intentionally or inadvertently.
65) I do not have to coin or invent terms to describe my relationship orientation and familial connections to others, because the language describing my relationship orientation already exists and is known throughout the culture.
66) No one ever ridicules or makes jokes about the terminology that people with my relationship orientation commonly use to describe their relationship structures and familial connections.

Rough Patches in Our Open Relationship

My latest DA post went live: The Cons I've Experienced in My Open Relationship.

This one was tough for me to write at the time, and is still not my favorite to read. It's just kind of downer for me to reflect on some of the major difficulties I have had! Haha :) But I suppose it's also a great thing to see that I/we got through them.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Hotwifing Porn?

I received an anonymous comment about the lack of hotwifing porn. Specifically, this person expressed a desire for less explicit porn that leaves most of the story up to the imagination, but shows the soft lead-up: sexy outfit, having drinks, flirting, making out, grinding on the dance floor. Another primary component of the porn this person is seeking shows the progression of the woman's attitude, from "No way am I fucking someone else!" to "Okay, just one drink" to flirting and grinding on the dance floor to having sex. The personality of the hotwife matters to this reader: instead of acting like a "porn star," the hotwife in the porn should show more reserve and progression in attitude.

I don't seek out hotwifing porn, so I can't really speak to where to find this kind or if it exists (and this reader was adamant that it doesn't). However, I do have some other thoughts (J helped with some of these). 

-Most men who are turned on by hotwifing fantasies are usually only really turned thinking about their significant others/partners/wives as the hotwife. So hotwifing porn, no matter how well it's done, may not be satisfying because it's not your wife in the porn

-If you want to show your potential hotwife porn from the genre as a means to show her what hotwifing is about, maybe you want to rethink your strategy, given the lack of softer hotwifing porn. What about reading erotica together? Create your own fantasy plot lines. Dirty talk together, with her as the star.

-Maybe you have a blockbuster porn idea! :-) Maybe write to some porn companies??

-I'm out of ideas. I wish I had more! Thanks for comment, friend! I've been trying to get my hotwife readers to write to me for a long time...

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Dating Monogamous People

How would you usually deal or cope with the idea if J was interested in seeing someone that was single and not familiar with the open concept, but wanting to know more? I'm having a difficult time relaxing about it, so I thought maybe hearing someone else's perspective on it might help a bit.

I think this is a pretty common sentiment. Many people I know in open relationships, myself included, feel threatened thinking about their partner dating someone who may be monogamously oriented and not respect my relationship with J.

I think, too, the idea of J dating single people was initially more threatening for me, because those single people don't have other partners taking up time and commitment, and so may demand more time and commitment from J. There wasn't a sort of predetermined "cap" on where the relationship "could go" because other relationships took up time and energy in that person's life. (I am aware these feelings reflect couple privilege, and a bias toward considering romantic relationships versus familial ones or friendships. These have been feelings of mine, and not my logical conclusions around this issue.)

However, I think it is really important to figure out what exactly you feel threatened by and communicating this to your partner. You can then either ask for something (a behavior change, reassurance, etc.) or simply trust that by expressing your concerns to your partner, they will be sensitive to your feelings.

Also, it is important to try to remember that each person is different. This new  person may end up deciding that they don't want to operate in an open relationship. The new person may end up deciding they absolutely love open relationships and want more from your partner, happy with how much they have, or are ready to move on from your partner. The person may be someone you get along with really well or someone that you don't. They may convey a lot of respect toward you and your relationship or disinterest or disdain. So many situations and dynamics are possible, and you simply can't account for all of them. And you can drive yourself crazy trying to prepare for everything, when it simply isn't possible.

I think being open as you can toward the unknown can help. What do you know? You know yourself, and you know as much as you can about your partner. You know your work, where you live, what you stand by. Remain in your core to stay open and compassionate.

Practically, figure out strategies that may help alleviate your anxiety: Ask your partner about basic information about the person. Ask to meet the new dating partner. These things may help you get evidence for yourself that the new partner is someone you can basically trust to respect you and your relationship. 

Also: role model what being in an open relationship is all about. This person is new to the world of open relationships? Show them how it's done! With clear, transparent, and compassionate communication, integrity, and an open heart. By showing yourself, your partner, and the new partner who you are and how you operate, how can you not elicit some level or respect? :)

Contacting Exes

I loved this article on how exes "live on" in our lives because of social media. We may still be connected via so many different sites, it can be impossible to escape their ongoing lives. Short of unfriending people, blocking them, and using extreme willpower to keep yourself from checking up on people, exes live on in our social spheres.

What's the protocol for contacting an ex? The author of this article seemed to have the attitude that contacting exes is simply a consequence of our social media environment. It may bring about uncomfortable, awkward, or self-pitying moments, but it's not something we can really help at this stage of being so overwhelmingly connected.

Here's my reality check: we can help it. You can unfriend people, block them so they don't show up in your feeds- if you really don't want to be connected to your exes anymore. My personal philosophy about relationship leads me to believe that exes can be friends; relationships have the ability to be dynamic and flexible, given that the individuals are willing to move through that change. 

However, I don't think this means there aren't some basic rules of etiquette around contacting exes. An ex asked you to not contact them anymore? Don't contact them. You and an ex parted amicably but haven't talked in months? Don't text them to tell them about your latest sexcapades. You and an ex parted amidst super drama? Don't message them on Facebook to offer your latest fantasy. All of this, in my opinion, is weird.

Analyze your motivations for contacting exes, and for "checking up on them." What are you hoping to gain? Does the communication you want to engage in make sense given where your romantic relationship ended, and where any friendship after the break-up has gone? Explicit communication is key: if you want to be friends again, tell them that. Then respect the relationship for how it moves and shifts; don't force it.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Hot Springs

J and I had plans this weekend to meet up with some open friends at some hot springs near Portland. While, for whatever reason, we didn't end up running into them, he and I had a pretty fantastic time together.

I had class all day and was super exhausted. But J packed us dinner and offered to drive there and back. We had a nice time talking with each other in the car- I like to talk his ear off about all of my cool psychology and counseling stuffs :) We were able to see amazingly beautiful fall color on our drive. Even seeing the color from the car was refreshing. Our short hike to the hot springs was quiet and lovely.

Once we found a tub to use, we both stripped and got in the tub naked (despite new rules that the outside tubs are not clothing-optional; we heeded the advice of some regulars who asserted that going nude was the way to go). We had a lovely time together: massaging each other, stroking each other... J even fingered me and made me come, and I got him hard several times while we whispered dirty things to each other.

[Despite the multitude of smokers there, who eventually drove us out with their second-hand smoke, we did enjoy ourselves.]

Another fabulous part? After our satisfying walk back to the car, we got into the backseat, tore off our clothes, and did it in the car like a couple of teenagers. J and I haven't had sex in a car in... years. It was really awesome. We got the windows foggy, I rode him, he rubbed my clit. It was hot.

A rejuvenating end to a long week. Thank you my love.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Being Lovers & Not Having Sex

This article was recently posted in my FB Open group, and it sparked a number of thoughts for me:

1. Having a bunch of people that I can be physically (but not necessarily sexually) close with sounds really lovely. Luckily, I feel like I have that. I feel like I have a number of people I can hold hands with, sit close next to, hug, and massage. I love that.

2. I don't need to "combine stuff" in order to be sexual with someone (I know my regular readers/friends who read my blog already know this about me). But this article again brought up this question for me: What is it about sex for some people that necessitates so much integration with another person before you can have sex? I have theories about individual experiences with sex that could produce this conclusion (insecurities, trauma, personal philosophy, etc.), but this train of thought just doesn't really resonate with me.
-There's also the distinction between combining practical life "stuff" (finances, living space, etc.) and intra/interpersonal "stuff" (cognitive, emotional, spiritual, etc.). My perspective still holds, regardless of which "stuff" we're talking about- that is, I don't need to be able to "combine stuff" to have a meaningful, enjoyable, satisfying sexual relationship with someone. (Although I understand that for various reasons, some people need to combine various "stuffs" to make their sexual relationships meaningful, enjoyable, and satisfying.)

3. To me, this article was written by someone who values very deep one-on-one interactions with others. Not all of us have the same value structure in our lives around relationships- some of us (and I suppose I am talking about myself here) value a mix of relationships- deep, close, more superficial, casual, etc- in our lives. Each type of relationship adds something important to my life.

4. Also for me: love is present in all of these types of relationships. The intensity varies, the meaning of the relationship varies, the ties I feel to each relationship varies. But love is always there.

What are your thoughts?

Friday, October 11, 2013

Cuckold Reads

I was contacted by an editor asking if I would like to review a couple of new cuckold books coming out in the next couple of months. Although I am slammed with school, how can I pass on something like that?! I hope to be able to read them by the end of December and post my reviews of them. (It's funny: J is not even interested because cuckolding stories totally turn him off. They don't turn me on, but I am sure I will at least be entertained by them!)

Here are the cover descriptions:

The Education of a Cuckold ($12.95/5x8 Trade Paperback, $4.95/eBook; 182 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-544-4)
Jason is a smart, handsome high school kid, but when he falls hard for Beth, he just can’t drum up enough confidence to bring their close friendship to the next level. Meanwhile he has to watch her date other guys. At the end of the summer before college, Jason finally discovers Beth’s secret: she is sexually voracious. He also makes an uncomfortable discovery about himself: he is too poorly endowed to ever satisfy a woman like Beth. But wait … watching her make it with other men is no small turn-on. College brings more brutal lessons in humility, and Jason despairs of finding his place in the sexual universe. Then, as he begins his adult life, he meets Kristen and for the first time begins to take his extracurricular studies in submission seriously. Under Kristen’s cruel and compassionate tutelage, he learns exactly what it means to embrace his true cuckold nature.

Southern Belle Cuckold ($12.95/5x8 Trade Paperback, $4.95/eBook, 176 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-491-1)
When divorcĂ© Michael meets divorcĂ©e Catherine at the gym, he’s convinced that she’s the perfect southern girl whose family will blend harmoniously with his. But Cat is not what she seems, not a tame little southern lamb, cultivated and gently reared to stroke his ego. No, she is a wild rose of Texas, a vixen who will stop at nothing to get satisfaction, even if it means jumping the chauffeur in their wedding limo. And that’s only the beginning. After all, Michael is a loving dad and a good provider, but as far as God’s gifts go, his package isn’t quite what it should be. Catherine needs more, a lot more, and he’d better come to terms with that … or else.

Recent Reads

Many Teens Admit To Coercing Others Into Sex
Consent people- teach your kids, please.
What Humans Can Learn From A Simple Kiss
I thought this was a neat article! I love the Inuit kiss the author mentions near the end. I'm going to start doing it :D

All My Exes Live in Texts: Why the Social Media Generation Never Really Breaks Up
Still working on this last one- it's long! But really interesting! And definitely resonates with me.

Read up! :)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Good Fucking Never Hurts & Always Helps

... After J and I saw "Breaking Through" we stopped off at our swingers' club to meet up with a sexy friend. 

I think my blog post title really sums my feelings from the evening:
A Good Fucking Never Hurts & Always Helps.

Maybe that isn't always true, but I think it might be (for me)!

It was just a sexy night. I rarely drink, but last night I got nice and buzzed and really felt like my inhibitions were lowered (not that I needed them to be- but it was still fun). My friend and I made out and groped each other, and after not too long, I took him into a room. Delicious oral sex, lots of coming, and lots of pounding ensued. It was so fun! And such a release, so cathartic.

And then coming home with J, and doing that again complete with dirty talking and my Hitachi. Sometimes I feel like my life is so delicious, it just makes me want to laugh and cry.

And then I wake up the next morning, after a kind of crappy day yesterday, and think to myself: I fucking got this. I am ME and I'll do what feels right! And if it's being a kick-ass therapist who has different ideas about sexuality and relationships and a different way of operating and a different environment she wants to work in, so be it. I got this.

Breaking Through, Being Out in Politics, & Microaggressions

J and I went to one film from the Portland Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, "Breaking Through," and it was really fabulous. It was about politicians and public figures who are out. There were a number of gay men and lesbians in the film, as well as one transgender and one bisexual. The point of the film, the filmmaker said, was to inspire hope in LGBTQ people of all ages (but mainly youth) that things can be better. It was inspirational and really well done. I found myself tearing up a number of times at the stories and experiences described. 

It was an important thing for me to attend because I had just gone through the whole day falling apart (which J can attest to). What am I doing? Do I really want to be a therapist? Is this a workable plan? Can I fully be myself and do this as a job? If it's not this, what do I want to do?

Attending the screening was like the universe's way of saying: Breathe. Be Yourself. Do What You Want. That's basically how the filmmaker introduced the film: to anyone living on the margins of society, live authentically to live a joyous life. I almost started crying (again) right then.

So I really can't say enough good things about the film, except there's always something :-P

While I thought every person in the film was well-intentioned with their comments and articulations of their experiences, there was one sentence, that once I heard it, I had difficult truly experiencing the rest of the film.

Kate Brown, Oregon's Secretary of State and bisexual, was recalling the story of how one constituent asked her about being bisexual and what that meant (something along those lines). In response she said something like, Well I'll tell you that I am monogamous and that's more than the rest of the guys [politicians] around here could tell you! It was meant to be funny, and many people in the audience laughed.

A microaggression is a brief and subtle way of indicating hostility toward a group and asserting power and privilege over that group. Microaggressions come in many forms:
Women are just emotional.
You know your life will be hard if you are gay, right?
I can't believe you speak English so well! [to an ethnic minority]
Or, like what my first therapist told me (several times) in response to hearing about our open relationship: You know he (J) could leave you if he met someone else, right?

Kate Brown, although well-intentioned, committed a microaggression (or maybe she did intend it). I think the most common stereotype of bisexual people is that they "all are nonmonogamous" and I could see her wanting to ward off any further stigma. In fact, when J and I introduced ourselves and J asked her a question about the experience of being out as bi but in a straight marriage, she again reiterated "but I am monogamous." In person, it felt like information (albeit not relevant to the conversation we were trying to have); in the film, it was an aggression toward people who practice nonmonogamy.

Although I do think her statement was made in the context of highlighting cheating/unethical nonmonogamy, she still asserted monogamy as the moral and social preference over not being monogamous. It was difficult for me, from this point in the film on, to remember the filmmaker's introduction: that this film, while made for the LGBTQ community, was meant to inspire anyone living on society's margins to live authentically and out.

J and I are going to write to Kate Brown (of course we are!) and just tell her how her comment impacted us.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Schemas, The New Sex Rules, and Women Liking Sex

Taking notes for my basic psychology class has been a good thing for me, especially when I get to learn about and relearn basic concepts. For example, schemas are cognitive structures for perceiving, processing, and organizing information. Scripts are sequential schemas (for example, going to the movies, or going on a traditional straight date: most people understand these scripts and act in accordance with them without needing explicit instruction).

In his most recent blog post, Marty Klein discusses The New Sex Rules, and how even though we (as a society) have worked past old, harmful rules about sex (you shouldn't tell your partner you masturbate, real women orgasm from intercourse, etc.), we have new ones floating around (everyone should masturbate, you should be able to orgasm from oral sex, etc.). All of these rules introduce scripts for sexual relationships that can provide "easy" ways of going through the motions of having sex, but also mean that sexual relationships may not have explicit communication embedded within them, resulting in sex that is not satisfying or fun for either or both (or more) individuals. 

J also passed along this NPR article about an interview done with Erica Jong, author of Fear of Flying. In the summary about the interview, Jong also introduces her own schematic understandings of sexual relationships, some of which are more progressive than others. Her own ways of structuring sexuality and sexual and romantic relationships, although progressive for when she wrote her book 40 years ago, clearly impact her perception of kinky relationships (ala Fifty Shades of Grey) and "college hook-up culture" (which I place in quotes because I think it is completely overblown).

She says something like "If you look at Fifty Shades of Gray, it's a very, very retrograde book, because if you're tied up and aroused, what are you really doing? You're giving up all responsibility for your sexuality. So, you cannot be a bad girl, because you're tied up. ... You can be a victim." And with regards to college hook-ups: "I think that [young] women today — particularly in universities and so on — are doing hook-ups... But I don't think that they're getting much joy out of it. If you look at Girls, Lena Dunham's program ... in many ways is very dark — these girls are not getting any pleasure. They're watching the men get pleasure. And so if hook-ups are so wonderful, why are these shows so dark and disappointing?" It's pretty clear to me that even if you create and act on a new and revolutionary schema for yourself that women can and do enjoy sex, you may get to 2013 and not have a cognitive structure that allows for kinky sex to be enjoyable or for casual sex to be enjoyable. Maybe I am out of bounds here, but that's what it seems like to me from this interview summary. 

Any other thoughts out there?

Asexuality & Dan Savage

Dan Savage recently responded to a nosy family member about her brother-in-law's asexual orientation.

While his advice to BTFO (butt the fuck out) was right on, there were some lines that did not resonate with me. Namely: 

"Someone who is incapable of meeting a sexual's needs has no business dating a sexual in the first place, if you ask me. At the very least, asexuality must be disclosed."

I would agree with Dan that people with out-of-the-ordinary sexual interests/non-interests should lay those cards out early enough in the relationship that the potential partner can make a more informed relationship decision. This applies to "extreme" kinks (like wanting a 24/7 master-slave relationship or wanting to get pooped on), and I think it can also apply then for someone who has zero interest in sex. Dan's sentiment that asexuals should not date sexuals is getting into dangerous territory. What about other potential relationships where one partner no longer can have sex, or never could, for physical or health reasons? How is this sentiment any different from saying that kinky people have no business dating non-kinky people? I think the world is too big to make such statements, and also assumes that many people don't have the thinking power to come up with creative solutions to relationship compatibility issues. Maybe it would be easier if an asexual dated another asexual, just as it might be easier for both people in a relationship if they were both turned on from pooping on each other. But love seems to be bigger than having the same exact sexual, nonsexual, romantic, intimate, emotional desires, and I am willing to bet that there are satisfied and happy asexual/sexual couples out there.

What do you think?

Here are a couple of resources on asexuality:
The Asexuality Visibility and Education Network
Asexuals: Who are They and Why are They Important?

Friday, October 4, 2013

Hands-Free Orgasms

I loved this article J passed along to me this past week: I'll Have What She's Thinking

I love the idea, possibility, and reality of hands-free orgasms. The brain is so cool. I really kind of love how we don't understand everything about the biology and physiology of sex still- I think it speaks to the obvious fact that we can't even possibly understand the complexities of the psychology and social influences surrounding our sexuality and sexual experiences.

[We have a friend who talked to us once about her hands-free orgasm experiences at the gym while she uses the leg-lift equipment. Hot, hot, hot.]

Remember my post about self-hypnosis and masturbation? This applies here, too.

Have you ever had a hands-free orgasm? How do you do it? Wanna teach me your method? I am a willing student!

I Did It

I disclosed dancing to my cohort this week. I thought I was going to throw up, but I did it! Also, now that it's over with, I feel like school and talking to people in my cohort feels easy-breezy.

In counseling this week, I began opening up this new idea of mine: that my professors don't control my future. I can disagree with them about the ethics of dancing and client safety, and I can still be an awesome therapist when I am done with my program. I don't need their approval. I just need mine. That is huge for me. Really, really huge.

I am going home this weekend (the first time in 3 years!) and I feel so much more relieved just thinking about it. Somehow, coming out to my class has taken a huge amount of pressure off of my guilt and weirdness about not telling my parents. I think, too, that piece about not needing my professor's approval is beginning (super slowly and tiny bit by tiny bit) to spread to other deeply-rooted associations (i.e., my parents). I have pretty much always needed and wanted and sought my parents approval- but I am feeling that pressure alleviating a bit. Thank goodness.

Happy Weekend!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Mindfulness Meditation Resources

I have been such a nutty person these past few weeks (which J can certainly attest to). I love school, and I hate school. I love learning and I love reading and I love synthesizing new information... but I hate being busy. I hate feeling like my to-do list is literally never-ending and that it's possible that, this time, I won't get it all done.

Speaking of which, there is yet another class I may take this semester, more of a workshop really. But I am trying to hold myself back for the sake of my mental health, and for the sake of my relationship with J. (thank you, love, for being so amazing and supportive)

So in the event I don't go to this amazing-looking workshop, on Implementing Mindfulness in Therapy, here are some resources I found on the facilitator's website:
I love applying mindfulness to my own life; it's been immensely helpful in managing complicated emotions, especially within the context of relationship issues. I'd love to hear from others about their favorite mindfulness articles!