Thursday, December 6, 2012

Monogamy/Polyamory Scale

When people speak of being polyamourous and monogamous, different things can mean different things to different people. Most people are familiar with the Kinsey scale of sexuality, and it provides us a useful parlance for how straight or gay one is. I feel that a similar scale for monogamy/polyamoury would be useful.

I present the Smart Love Scale

1 – I am completely monogamous. My partner and I have no sexual contact with other people. I am not comfortable with my partner checking out other people, looking at porn or even thinking about other people sexually.

2 – I am monogamous, but I am okay with my partner fantasizing about other people, as long as those thoughts are not leading towards action. Checking someone out and looking at porn are just fine, but flirting, online or otherwise, is not acceptable.

3 – For the most part, it is just us, but under certain circumstances, we might play around a little bit. Playing with other people at a play space, or kissing other people at a night club. On very rare, extremely specific occasions, there might be sexual contact with someone else, but it would be after extensive discussion and negotiation.

4 – Occasionally it is okay for my partner to sleep with someone else, but under very specific rules. I may need to meet and approve the person. It may mean that casual sex is okay, but there can be no emotional attachment. It could also be that only committed secondary relationships are acceptable but casual sex is not.

5 – The rules are much looser but they still exist. It is still very important to check in. There may be an approval process or very specific criteria for an outside partner. A great deal of communication is used to make sure everyone is comfortable.

6 – I am my partner's bro and wingman. If I see my partner flirting with a very attractive person, I'll give them a high five when I see them again. I might even help to find partners for my partner. I want to hear the details because I want to be part of my partner's adventures.

Keep in mind that one might be generally a 5, but in the early part of a relationship a 3 until comfort is established. Other people go the other direction, and start at a 6 but work towards a 2 as the relationship becomes more serious. There are even relationships where one person is a 6 and the other is a 3. As long as both people are comfortable with this, it's a fine way to be.

It's not a strict identity, just a terminology to explain where in the mono/poly scale a person or situation might lie.

Friday, November 23, 2012

24/7 Dominants - The True Unicorns

In the BDSM scene, there are two very kinds of people that are considered very rare. The first, which is referred to by many, is the "Hot Bi Babe". This is shorthand for the bisexual woman who is willing to join into an existing heterosexual relationship. Such women are considered to be quite rare because they are highly in demand. It's not so much that there are not many women who would be interested in that dynamic, as there are so many unappealing offers to them that they retreat and become more difficult to approach. It's tough to arrange something with someone who has been previously approached by a dozen mouth breathing creepers.

Another, much rarer beast that I find many to be looking for a is a full time dominant. This is a dom who will not just be dominant in scenes, but actually be a 24/7 dom, or something in that direction. Training their sub. Expecting service. Etc.

Many submissives seeking such doms, but finding none. They are quite confused at their lack of success. After all, here they are, willing to do anything! Why can't they find someone to accept that.

The thing about a full time D/s relationship is that it's a lot of work. The dom has to be responsible for themselves as well as their sub. When it works out, it is an amazing connection, experience, feeling. However, it requires deep commitment, deeper than most marriages.

Briefly, what does it take to be a good full-time dom? The key thing is that the dom serves the sub. What? The sub serves physically, doing the dom's bidding, following orders, but the dom must also serve, thinking of the sub's needs so that they do not have to, addressing their concerns before they come up, and creating an uninterrupted fabric of trust, safety, and security. Uninterrupted. A missed date or forgotten instruction can rapidly erode trust, corrupting the relationship. Most importantly, the dom must do this because they enjoy taking care of the sub, not because they enjoy being taken care of. It must be based on both people giving, not both people taking. The later will never last. The former is difficult enough.

Obviously, with this level of commitment, a dom like this can only have one (or maybe two) subs. To go back to my economics roots, this means that the supply of positions for submissives is more limited than, say, rope bottoms, where a rope top can play with dozens of bottoms. Thus, we have less doms who can dominate less subs than most other partners one might seek.

Another complication is that 24/7 D/s sounds really awesome until you actually try it and realize it's really really difficult. If, after realizing how difficult it is, you still want to do it, you have many submissives looking to do it, and thus can find one relatively easily, if and only if you are good at it.

Thus, self proclaimed full-time doms mostly are either inexperienced and don't know what they are getting into or already with someone. Additionally, of course, there is a third category of someone who didn't know what they were getting into, learned the hard way, and are no longer arrogant enough to think that they have the time and mental resources to give that kind of relationship the attention it requires.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Rape Is Complicated

Now that I have your attention, allow me to explain the title of this post. I am sure that many of you read that title and say, possibly out loud, "No! It's not. It's simple. No means no!" Of course it does, and when there is a clear "no" and one continues the activity, rape clearly occurs. That is 100% clear, unquestionably.

What if the penetration is with a finger rather than a penis? Still pretty clearly rape.

What if, instead of a clear "no", it's more of a "well, I don't know if I want to?" Many would still see this as an unambiguous rape situation, if he continues, but what if he does not understand that her uncertain protests are the strongest protests she can muster and misunderstands them. Those who are well immersed in the world of Kink or sexual education have learned the importance of negotiation and clear consent, because they are in a culture where such things are discussed openly and honestly. But for the 19 year old vanilla guy having one of his first encounters, who taught him how to read the signals? Clearly he does wrong if he continues, but is it worthy of 10-15 years and a felony conviction?

Now let's go into even greyer area. A female bottom and male top negotiate a scene in which she will be bound and gagged. They agree that he should beat and humiliate her but no sex. All consensual and good. During the course of the scene there is penetration, perhaps with a finger or other non-penis object. To her definition, "sex" is any form of penetration. To his, "sex" involves genital to genital contact. The different definition was not made clear.

Is this rape? Is this assault? Is this miscommunication? Is this an innocent error?
Does this man deserve years in prison and a felony conviction? Does he deserve to be ostracized from the community? Should he feel bad about what he did?

Many accusations of rape are the clear situations where she says "no" and he keeps going. They are unambiguous, monstrous acts of selfishness and cruelty. Many others are more complicated. I do not make this post to attempt to define where the lines lie, but simply to suggest that the lines may not be as bright as some people like to think.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Don't Let Kink Distract From Sex

There is a continuum of sexual behavior. At one end are people who are purely vanilla: nothing exceptional, same position every time. At the other end are people who are so kinky that traditional sex is almost a distraction from their sexual activities. In the middle, of course, are those who engage in sex and have a fair amount of creativity to keep it interesting and engaging.

This article is intended for people for whom kinky play is more than just something they do once in a while to spice things up, especially for those for whom kink is more of a hobby, not that there is anything wrong with that.

Kink is a wonderful way to have a more exciting and fulfilling sex life. It can increase intimacy between partners and increase the intensity of an experience. It can even be helpful for working through certain issues in ones past.

Like everything else in life, the key is moderation. When some people first get into kink they find that it is the coolest thing ever!!! Not only will they enjoy it in the bedroom, but they will turn it into a hobby. Studying knots and ties. Finding teachers from whom to learn the secrets of flogging and whipping and anything else that suits their fancy. There is nothing wrong with any of this.

The pitfall to watch out for is when kink becomes so consuming that sex becomes an afterthought. Vanilla sex can actually become boring. The danger in this is that the partner can also become an afterthought, simply the vehicle by which kink can be exercised. By becoming overly immersed in kink, what should be a sacred and intimate act can become reduced to nothing more than an exhibition of skill. The intimacy that sex should create in a relationship is lost and replaced with a weaker, intellectual connection.

This is not to say that one should limit how kinky one is or what one does in the bedroom. Whatever you are into is just fine. There is nothing wrong with any kink, no matter how extreme, as long as it is safe, sane, risk-aware, etc. Just make sure that, every once in a while, you take a little time to connect to your partner as a person, not just as an activity partner.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

New Relationship Energy

A reader asked me to discuss the concept of New Relationship Energy.

New Relationship Energy (NRE) is the term for that exciting, euphoric feeling that comes with the start of a new relationship. It is sometimes referred to as infatuation as well. If you have been in a relationship, you have probably experienced it. You feel like this is the greatest person ever and nothing could ever go wrong. The sun shines brighter, the birds sing prettier, even the car horns in traffic sound more musical. Most love poetry and love songs are written about this phenomenon.

NRE has different and important implications in a monogamous or polyamorous context. In a monogamous context, the greatest challenge that NRE poses is the transition from the beginning of the relationship to the long haul. For polyamorous situations, NRE can cause issues for the previously existing relationships.

When a relationship first starts, everything seems perfect and like it will never change. This is a beautiful emotional state to be in, but a terrible state to make decisions in.

I love her so much, we'll be together forever, so why shouldn't I move across the country to be with her?

Ever heard something like that? NRE makes people do dumb things: committing to long term decisions based on short term emotional states. Like any other altered state of consciousness, it is important to consider when making decisions at the start of a relationship whether these decisions are based on good sound reason or ephemeral emotions?

The greatest test of many relationships is the transition out of the NRE phase. Since too many people mistake NRE for love, this leads many relationships to break up because they "fall out of love." The challenge for a relationship as it leaves the NRE phase and goes into the long term relationship phase is to move from a hot, boiling romance based on passion and emotion into a slow simmering, comfortable partnership based on shared life goals and common values. It's not as exciting as the endless possibilities of NRE, but it is the kind of stable, long term relationship that holds everything together.

Of course, the desire for that exciting, roaring passion often remains after the NRE fades. The temptation of this often leads many a monogamous partner to stray when things get "stale".

This would suggest that polyamory would solve this problem, giving the roaming partner an outlet for their desires. However, NRE in polyamory brings in a whole new array of concerns. The greatest danger when someone with existing relationships enters into a new relationship is the NRE. Suddenly, the existing, comfortable relationship with a person who is known, good parts and bad, is being compared to the beautiful example of perfection found in the eye of the smitten.

Those who are more experienced with polyamory and NRE understand that this is an altered state of consciousness, enjoy it but recognize it for what it is. Even if the person experiencing the NRE recognizes this, there is also the issue that the existing partner may worry that they are in danger of being replaced, especially if there are existing insecurities. After all, it is natural for one to want to spend a great deal of time with a new partner and to overlook their flaws. When dealing with a partner enjoying NRE, it is important to realize that it is a temporary condition and to be happy for them in their happiness. Trying to compete with the new partner will only force the comparison of old and new, which will never go well.

NRE is a wonderful and exciting emotion, but it is just that, an emotion. No more, no less. It's not a life changing event. It's not the beginning of eternal joy. Enjoy it but don't be carried away with it.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

How Young is Too Young to Tell The Kids?

MyNameIsMaam from Fetlife asks:
How young is too young to tell your kids the details about your lifestyle?

The transition from childless to parent is a very challenging transition for people who live alternative lifestyles. In traditional lifestyles, there are many generations behind you that have done the exact same thing as you so nothing is new. However, if your lifestyle is different from those who have come before you, and especially if you family is not approving of your lifestyle, it can be a challenge to know how to merge the lifestyle and the proper raising of children.

Let us start with one basic fact that is often lost on our modern American culture. Kids are smart and kids a resilient. They know what is right and wrong based on what their parents teach them. In other words, kids will be able to understand and process what you tell them as long as you portray it as an acceptable thing.

So before we go on to how to present your lifestyle to your children, let's talk about how you present your lifestyle to yourself. Is it something that you are ashamed of or is it something that you know is morally and ethically acceptable even if others may not accept it? If you are morally conflicted about your lifestyle, that will come across when you discuss it with your children or anyone else. Before you should consider talking to your children, you should get right with yourself. If you feel that your lifestyle is immoral or unethical, you either need to reconsider your moral frame work under which you consider your lifestyle, or you need to change your lifestyle. To do anything else would make you a hypocrite.

If you are leading a moral and ethical lifestyle, even if it is non-traditional, you will find explaining your lifestyle to your children much easier. After all, how can you explain something to be acceptable if you don't even think it is?

As to the original question, I believe in openness and honesty in all things within bounds of propriety. Think back and ask yourself, when did you parents tell you the details of their lifestyle? You probably cannot remember because there was no specific moment. Or, perhaps, you asked a question which they answered with the explanation of how marriage worked.

If you don't make it a big deal, the kids won't think it's a big deal. Don't sit them down and have a big talk. This makes is awkward for you and traumatic for them. The easiest guide is to answer their questions openly and honestly. Children are not born monogamous or vanilla. They learn these things like anything else, and like anything else you want to teach your children, use teachable moments to teach these things as well.

Emily Says: When I was in preschool, I told my mom that I wanted to marry my best male friend and my best female friend. She took that opportunity to explain bisexuality to me, explaining that some people are attracted to men and some attracted to women and some attracted to both and that there is nothing wrong with any of these lifestyles.

You don't need to go into great detail about what you do personally. If you are polyamorous, you might explain what polyamory is in general, using explanations and examples. However, when discussing your personal situation, they don't need to know more than "I am involved with Bob and Suzy who are not involved with each other." They don't need to know what you do with Bob and Suzy behind closed doors. They neither need to nor want to know what you do with a rubber chicken, surgical tubing, or that thing that goes bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Just think of what your parents told you and apply that same level of detail to your lifestyle.

So, the short answer to the question is that the right age to tell the kids is the age when they start asking questions. Most importantly...

Do not ever ever ever lie to your children

Your children trust you and are building their entire moral framework based on your teachings. If you lie to them, even once, you can break that trust. If you tell them that the proper way for people to have relationships is monogamy and tell them 10 years later that you have been polyamorous for their entire lives, they will feel deeply betrayed. They will wonder what else you have lied about and be forced to reexamine everything that you have ever taught them.

I know that my lifestyle is moral, and my children will understand that as well, but what about the rest of the world? Ex-husbands and ex-wives, child protective services and teachers and the rest? How can I tell my child that everything I do is okay but at the same time ask them to lie to the outside world?

If you are reading this blog, you are probably smarter than the average bear. Hopefully your kids are as well. We all have things that we tell the public and things that we do not. It's not that the things that we hide from the public are wrong, it's simply that the public would not understand. And, frankly, if you have smart kids, it's not a hard sell that most of the public is kind of dumb and would not understand anything more complex than what is on Jerry Springer, so why draw unwanted attention to our perfectly moral family by confusing the poor, ignorant minds of the public?

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Coming Out to Family, Do They Need To Know

Many people find the holidays a stressful time, with holiday shopping and cooking and making plans to travel. For people who live alternative lifestyles it can be even more stressful. Perhaps there is a part of your lifestyle that your parents do not know about and would not approve of. Maybe they know and are openly judgmental. As the holidays approach and people go home to visit family, many people wonder if they should come out to their family.

Many people have this idea that they want to be able to tell their parents anything and everything. Some feel that they already do. If you already tell your parents everything, then there is nothing to come out about. You already told them.

If you haven't, the question is: should you? Do they need to know? If you are gay, that is something that they probably need to know. If they expect you to come home for Christmas with Eve and you bring Steve instead, they are probably going to figure out that something non-traditional is going on.

However, what about being poly or kinky? Let us address each question separately.

For many in the kink scene, it is more than a sexual proclivity, it is a community and a lifestyle. You may go to munches and have many friends you met through the scene. Your main hobbies may be scene related like rope or building rigging equipment. Obviously, the judgment of whether you should or should not come out is entirely up to you, but consider this question, does any part of this lifestyle affect your family at all. If you are only kinky in the bedroom, I would suggest that there is no reason for your family to know. You don't know what your family does in their bedrooms and you are likely happier for the lack of knowledge. Why would they what to know what you do with a rubber chicken suit and a seventy feet of silk rope in your private time? Of course, if your full time profession is making sex toys it might be good to let them in on the secret. Otherwise, simple conversations like, "how's work going, honey?" could get quite awkward.

When it comes to coming out as poly, it is a similar issue. Do they need to know? Does it affect them? This would largely depend on the nature of the polyamory that you practice. If you have a primary and a few friends with benefits, this probably falls into the kind of behind closed bedroom doors information that you family does not want to know. On the other hand, if you have two primaries who are both equally important, then you might want to explain ahead of time why you are bringing both Eve and Steve home for Christmas.

Should you decide that coming out is the right choice for you and your family, I offer two pieces of advice. Don't make it a bigger deal than it really is, and find common ground.

When I say not to make it a bigger deal than it really is, I mean that if you don't make a big deal of it, they may not either. Don't preface your explanation something like this, "Mom, Dad, I need to tell you something and I'm not sure how you'll react. I know that you always raised me to be a moral and proper person, and I hope that you approve of what I'm about to tell you but I'm not sure if you will..." That's how you introduce a confession of guilt. You should not be guilty about your lifestyle, and, if you are, you should get straight with your own morality before you go dragging your family into it. Rather, introduce the concept with confidence. If you act like there's nothing wrong with it, no one else will have a reason to think so either.

Second, find a way to explain the concept so that others can understand it. You're not coming out as a martian. We all have the same psychological needs, and we all fulfill them in similar ways. Your way might just be slightly less common than theirs. Also, it is important to understand that your family may have difficulty understanding exactly what you are saying. They may have pre-existing notions from television or other media which may be completely inaccurate to your situation. Understand that their questions are likely not meant as judgments, just as a way to gain better understanding. Unless your parents are quite disturbed, they probably have your best interests in mind and want to make sure that you are making right choices to be safe and happy.

Candy Says: I once had a very interesting discussion with a friend's grandfather about bisexuality. He asked all kinds of questions. Turns out he had no problem with homosexuality but he only knew gay and straight and was confused by bisexuality. He asked, "How do you decide which one you are? Do you flip a coin every morning?" It wasn't meant to be offensive at all. It was just the best question he could think of with the background he had.

Let's also remember that if you haven't come out to them, they haven't come out to you. For all you know, you might not be the only poly or kinky person in your family. Wouldn't it be a kick if you came out and some family member said "yeah, me too."

Whether you are out to your family, completely closeted, or about to come out this weekend, I wish you the very best holiday.