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"3 Insights About Kinky and Nonmonogamous Sex"

on Monday, 02 May 2016. Posted in Front Page Headline, Media Updates

Science of Us

By Debra Soh

Kinky sex has been around for eons, since long before Richard von Krafft-Ebing popularized the terms “sadism” and “masochism” in 1886 with his seminal work, Psychopathia Sexualis. But for a long time, it hasn’t really been spoken about in polite company. Only recently, with the wildly popular Fifty Shades of Grey franchise, has kink — generally defined as BDSM, which includes bondage, dominance and submission, and the consensual use of pain and humiliation for pleasure — earned a sort of mainstream acceptance. People are now willing to test the waters more than ever before.

 

Naturally, this is an area rife with misinformation and stigma. That’s part of why the Alt Sex NYC Conference, held last week in New York, was so important. The conference allowed researchers, clinicians, sex educators, and community members to discuss the most up-to-date research on what is known in the field as alternative sexuality (a term which encompasses kink, consensual non-monogamy, polyamory, and non-traditional relationship structures). For a population that has long been misunderstood and marginalized, the sharing of this information was much needed. Presentations ranged from myths about non-monogamy to best clinical practices when working with individuals from the community.

 

In honor of the conference — I streamed it remotely from Toronto — here are three key insights from the scientific study of kinky sex and non-monogamy.

 

(1) Swingers don’t get more STIs than everyone else

 

“Consensual non-monogamy” is an umbrella term referring to relationships in which partners agree that romantic and/or sexual relationships with other people are allowed. This includes swinging (which is primarily sexual in nature), polyamory (which is primarily romantic in nature), and open relationships (which are a mix of both sex and romance).

 

A frequent theme throughout the conference was the preconceived notion that monogamy is associated with better sexual health. It is widely believed that monogamy prevents the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and many people will say fear of getting HIV is their main reason for not “opening it up.” In theory, this makes sense, considering how nonmonogamous couples are exposed to a greater number of sexual partners (and if those partners are also nonmonogamous, then their partners, too, by proxy). In actuality, though, this isn’t the case, as research has shown that rates of STIs do not differ between monogamous and consensually nonmonogamous people.

 

The similarity in STI rates between the two groups exists for a few reasons. First of all, nonmonogamous people are more likely to engage in safe-sex practices, such as discussing their sexual history and being tested for STIs (roughly 78 percent compared to 69 percent of monogamous folk). When engaging with other partners sexually, nonmonogamous people are also less likely to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol — substances that can impair one’s judgment and lead to high-risk (or condomless) sex.

 

By contrast, monogamous couples don’t tend to follow these sexual health practices. They typically stop using condoms as soon as they decide to be exclusive with each other, and don’t often get tested for STIs or discuss their sexual-partner history before doing so. Needless to say, going exclusive doesn’t get rid of any STIs that are already there. This would also suggest that rates of STIs in monogamous relationships are, in fact, underreported.

 

And although consensual non-monogamy may appear to be driven by reckless passion and spontaneous sexual encounters, a great deal of thoughtful planning and preventive measures are involved. These relationships revolve around consent, transparency, and communication, and — at least in the best cases — any “extracurricular” sexual activities are discussed between partners well in advance to ensure that personal boundaries are respected. ...

"25 Facts About BDSM That You Won’t Learn In “Fifty Shades Of Grey”"

on Sunday, 15 February 2015. Posted in NCSF in the News!, Front Page Headline, Media Updates

Forget Fifty Shades of Grey. Here’s your real primer on all things kink.

Buzzfeed

by Casey Gueren

1. First things first: Here’s what BDSM actually stands for:

 

BDSM includes bondage and discipline (B&D), dominance and submission (D&S), and sadism & masochism (S&M). The terms are lumped together that way because BDSM can be a lot of different things to different people with different preferences, BDSM writer and educator Clarisse Thorn, author of The S&M Feminist, tells BuzzFeed Life. Most of the time, a person’s interests fall into one or two of those categories, rather than all of them.

 

2. It doesn’t always involve sex, but it can.

 

Most people think BDSM is always tied to sex, and while it can be for some people, others draw a hard line between the two. “Both are bodily experiences that are very intense and sensual and cause a lot of very strong feelings in people who practice them, but they’re not the same thing,” says Thorn. The metaphor she uses for it: a massage. Sometimes a massage, however sensual it feels, is just a massage. For others, a rubdown pretty much always leads to sex. It’s kind of similar with BDSM; it’s a matter of personal and sexual preference.

3. There is nothing inherently wrong or damaged with people if they’re into it.

 

This is one of the most common and frustrating misconceptions about BDSM, says Thorn. BDSM isn’t something that emerges from abuse or domestic violence, and engaging in it does not mean that you enjoy abuse or abusing.

 

Instead, enjoying BDSM is just one facet of someone’s sexuality and lifestyle. “It’s just regular people who happen to get off that way,” sex expert Gloria Brame, Ph.D., author of Different Loving, tells BuzzFeed Life. “It’s your neighbors and your teachers and the people bagging your groceries. The biggest myth is that you need this special set of circumstances. It’s regular people who have a need for that to be their intimate dynamic.” ...

 

24. There is an immensely helpful list of kink-aware professionals so you can find a doctor or therapist who uniquely understands your lifestyle.

 

Maybe you’re worried that your gynecologist or your lawyer won’t be sensitive to your lifestyle or doesn’t allow you to feel comfortable talking about it. Check out the Kink Aware Professionals Directory from the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom to find someone who will be more accepting. ...

 

"A Lexicon of Alternative Sexualities, Part 2: Two Tribes of Non-Monogamists"

on Wednesday, 27 November 2013. Posted in Front Page Headline, Media Updates

Slate

You can read about the origins of this series in the first entry. Today, the distinction between swingers and polyamorists—the groups overlap, but there are important differences—and a few neologisms invented by polyamorists to discuss their relationships. There are probably neologisms like these among swingers, too; I’m just not familiar with them.

polyamory


The practice of pursuing multiple intimate, loving relationships. This term was coined in the 1990s, but it descends from the 1960s counterculture, and the “free love” philosophy can be traced all the way back to the 18th century, to people like Mary Wollstonecraft and her better-known daughter. During the 1970s, the Kerista Commune in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco coined the term polyfidelity to describe sexual freedom within the group while remaining exclusive with respect to non-members. In the modern poly community, you’ll sometimes encounter polyfidelitous triads or quads. However, I’ve observed a lot more people who form fairly traditional dyads but have agreements to allow additional relationships. The dyadic partners agree that while their secondary relationships may be important and emotionally fulfilling, they will never displace the primary partnership.

primary and secondary


I will note, before my poly peers show up to do it for me, that a fair number of people dislike the hierarchical sound of primary and secondary. The terms definitely miss something important. Relationships with different people aren’t better or worse, more or less important. They’re qualitatively different; they make you into different versions of yourself. Still, these words convey something true about how poly works for many practitioners. If you have a shared home and bank account with somebody, have bound yourself to them legally, and most especially if you’ve had children together, maintaining that relationship is going to require a special level of effort and attention.

There are cases where people end up having more than one relationship with this level of commitment and intensity. A triad or quad that develops when everyone is living separately may decide to move in as a group. An existing dyad may invite a third into their household or merge with another couple to form a quad. In such cases, two people who share a common primary may refer to each other as co-primary. On the other hand, some people practice solo poly, in which they consciously avoid settling into any one primary relationship. They may choose never to move in with an intimate partner, preferring to live alone or perhaps with roommates who are friends but not lovers. Or they may move in with one or more partners, but only after reaching a clear agreement that giving each other space and freedom will remain a high priority.

A secondary relationship may look pretty similar to how a monogamist might interact with a girl- or boyfriend at a stage of their relationship before moving in together—a couple might go out to dinner and a movie, or cook at home and spend the evening talking, or happily curl up together to read for a few hours. Different people have different arrangements about what happens physically, whether and when sleepovers are allowed, and so on. It’s fairly common to see primaries trying to set dates with secondaries for the same evening, thus reducing the number of evenings that they miss quality time with each other. This can lead to situations where someone three degrees away from you has some kind of crisis, and the effects ripple into your calendar. There’s a longstanding joke in the community that the hardest thing about being poly isn’t jealousy—it’s scheduling.

There are as many permutations of relationship agreements as there are couples making them. But, as is the case with gay families, if you observed a poly family at any given time, chances are it would seem pretty pedestrian. I go to work, cook dinner with my wife, deal with laundry and other chores, waste time in front of the television. I once spent a long summer afternoon with my secondary and her primary, helping to paint the apartment where they’d just moved in together. This sounds like the set-up for a Penthouse letter, but if things got steamy, it was only because of the weather.

swing


According to the folk histories I’ve heard, the modern American culture of swinging developed among U.S. Air Force fighter pilots during World War II. (This story is reported in investigative journalist Terry Gould’s book The Lifestyle: A Look at the Erotic Rites of Swingers, and swingers themselves certainly seem to believe it.) Couples would engage in “wife swapping” with the understanding that they were developing intimate bonds; wives whose husbands died in combat would be taken care of, financially and emotionally, by the surviving men and their wives. ...