“Inviting others in is the practice of accepting the discomfort of fear.”
What does “good at poly” mean? I hear this statement often. The scenario that typically precedes this self-judging statement is the person criticizing their own feelings of “jealousy, envy, or fear.”
My question is this – Who set the standard of “good at poly”? What does that look like? From my experience both personally, professionally, and from reading other’s experiences, it appears that if a person deviates from the expected outcome of absolute enthusiastic compersion (the positive feelings one gets when a lover is enjoying another relationship) or the appearance of enthusiastic compersion, they are not good at poly. There are a few words that pop into my mind when I read these words from lovers, wives, husbands, or partners who are emotionally and mentally shackled by the shame jealousy, envy, or fear and others judging, condemning, or making these statements of “how to do it better?” Some say, “you need to simply read this workbook or go to this website”…what happens if that workbook does not alleviate and erase those feelings?
I get a call or an email. I listen or read, “I read all the books and did everything they told me. Something is wrong with me that I still feel this way.”
“Not good at poly” means “I am bad at poly.” This is:
Over-identifying with The Myth
Folks berate themselves for feeling jealousy, envy, and anxiety; in turn, folks judge themselves for not being joyous and ecstatic for their partner’s prospective lover. This is compounded by the fear of sharing with their partner that this new situation is uncomfortable for them. So, the anxiety of a partner’s prospective partner; the self-imposed expectation of this is not “what a poly person is supposed to feel?;” and, possibly, the social media representation of the perfect poly couple creates an incongruence of what is and what it’s supposed to be. The self-doubt “is there something wrong with me? Am I doing this wrong?” The result of measuring and comparing others Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat posts to the how “poly people” are supposed to look is a trap. The trap is the jealousy - compersion dichotomy.
The Danger of the False Dichotomy
A dichotomy is the contrast between two opposing elements, concepts, or states. There is a false dichotomy that has been created or perpetuated in many communities - jealousy or compersion. This is the dilemma. It's the same conundrum that society has placed on intimate relationships in general – monogamous (the gold standard) or unfaithful (cheater, slut, or sociopath) or “you are just unable to commit.” The either/or, more than/less than/, and better/worse are the extremes that trap one in discontent, resentment, and gut wrenching insecurity.
Where is the humanity of those extremes?
Mindful and Present
Grounding oneself to BE in the relationship rather than DO the relationship can be more advantageous for some. This is the shift in my therapeutic approach with working with couples who are questioning, starting, and living in consensual nonmonogamous relationships. In the last few years, I have read several books on polyamory and open relationships. There is much about naming the concepts, defining the concepts, and putting into action those concepts within their relationships. It seems logistical. These books identified themselves as guides or frameworks for consensual nonmonogamous relationships.
As a result of my experience, I have created questionnaires for couples and, recently, for prospective partners, relationship dynamic genograms, conversational exercises, and the educational components for the intersectionality of power, consent, and honesty in being in a polyamorous relationship. This allows for the practice and empowerment for getting out of the dichotomy and into “holding the space for the middle.” Savoring the moments of change and staying present with “what you know to be true.” The difference is that there is no value placed on that what is within the space. The space is – what it is – in that moment.
In most polyamorous communities in the United States, the majority of the community members are either bisexual (especially the women) or heterosexual (especially the men). Both in person and online, mainstream polyamorous communities have a marked lack of people in exclusively same-sex relationships. I do not mean that people in same-sex relationships are not having consensually non-monogamous relationships, but that they are just not doing it in the mainstream poly community. This blog explores five reasons why lesbians and gay men might not appear in the mainstream US poly scene as much as their bisexual and heterosexual counterparts.
Although my research indicates that poly communities tend to have lower levels of homophobia than conventional society, it does not mean that they are without homophobia. Parallel to mainstream society, poly communities value female bisexuality and same-sex contact among women far more than same-sex interaction among men. Gay men usually do not enjoy dealing with homophobia in their social environments, so it is no surprise that they are rare in mainstream poly circles.
The flip side of homophobia is objectifying sex among women for male consumption. Given the tremendous popularity of “girl on girl” porn in the US, many heterosexual American men are obsessed with watching women have sex with each other. Even better, in many of their minds, they hope to “get in on it” with the women in a threesome where the man comes in and “finishes off” at least one of the women (I know this because they have expressed it to me in vivid detail far, far too many times). Many lesbians are tired of fending off straight guys who want a threesome with two women. Because of the comparative rarity of single women in many poly communities, lesbians would be competing with hetero men for a limited pool of bisexual women while simultaneously avoiding the enthusiastic men – too much work for too little fun. Rather, many lesbians who want polyamorous relationships socialize in lesbian groups and skip the mainstream poly scene.[i]
3. Gay men invented Consensual Non-Monogamy (CNM)
When I asked a dear friend – who had been partnered with the same man for more than 10 years and both had regular flings with friends and strangers – why he and his partner did not identify as polyamorous, he responded: “Honey, we invented open relationships and certainly don’t need another label for them.” OK, so maybe they didn’t actually invent it, but research indicates that CNM is a regular feature of gay male society in the US.[ii] With community norms already in place and a social pool of potential dates already open to CNM, gay men don’t have to approach a different community to find partners or seek advice. Remaining in gay settings also means they don’t have to deal with homophobia (or at least not as much). ...
Meditation makes most Americans think of a Middle Eastern Indian or Tibetan Monk sitting in a lotus position at a monastery in the middle of nowhere, remaining still for many long, agonizing hours in their silent search for enlightenment. Most of us, however, have neither the patience nor the hip flexibility for such activities, and because we weren’t raised practicing meditation, we have only this skewed image of the practice that has been given to us by the media.
Guess what though? Driving a race car, coloring, watching a movie, or practicing BDSM can all be forms of meditation too. It’s not about the yoga poses — it’s about letting go of the relentless mind chatter and focusing solely on the present moment.
According to the Institute of Noetic Sciences,
“The most popular, widely adapted, and widely researched meditation technique in the West is known as mindfulness meditation, which is a combination of concentration and open awareness. Mindfulness is found in many contemplative traditions, but is most often identified with the Theravadan Buddhist practice of vipassana, or “insight meditation.” The practitioner focuses on an object, such as the breath, bodily sensations, thoughts, feelings, or sounds. The focus is not as narrow as in concentrative meditation, for there is a simultaneous awareness of other phenomena. This mindfulness practice is often extended to daily actions, such as eating, walking, driving, or housework.”
In my free time, I like to go rock scrambling and ride a motorcycle, both of which can be dangerous and potentially fatal if I let my attention wander. When I participate, I have to be completely focused on what I’m doing and fully mindful of my surroundings. I can’t be thinking about work, the electric bill, a boyfriend, or getting my car to the garage for a tune-up. The activity is intense and demanding, and therefore my mind is — must be — clear. When this happens, I lower my blood pressure, strengthen my immune system, and decrease my emotional anxiety just as much as if I were sitting quietly, meditating on a yoga mat.
The meditative form of BDSM is called “subspace.” My submissive clients describe it as an altered state of consciousness in which they feel completely liberated from stress. It’s a practice that allows you to completely let go of internal and external stress so that you can fully immerse yourself in the present moment. As the Dominatrix, I also experience a corresponding mental state of relaxation from my deep focus and concentration. ...
I have a pretty cane that I use during the colder seasons. It is my best friend. I walk everywhere with it and it has helped me from falling on my ass.
I also wield a flogger, handcuffs and a Hitachi magic wand. I am into orgasm denial (both giving and receiving). I also am into power play. I could go on and on about the shit I’m into, but I’ll leave it at: I am a filthy femme witchy Domme that switches between top or bottom.
Yes, I am disabled. But I am also kinky.
A lot of folks don’t realize that the two go hand in hand. Often, the articles that are out there talking about how to explore BDSM or kink don’t touch on the fact that there are disabled folks that indulge. And even more so, there are disabled folks that prefer to top and/or Dom(me). And here comes the question of: where the fuck do I go? Where are the spots I can go? How the fuck do I find play partners?
We are constantly desexualized — and we’re tired of it.
So, here are some tips for folks who are into some type of kink and want to explore, but have constantly shied away because guides like this didn’t exist for them.
While this is centered a bit towards Dom(me)s or tops, it can also apply to subs or bottoms.
Know your limits.
This is not just limited to the sub or bottom. It is important to know your limits and when you need breaks. Consent is important. Fetishization is never cute. If someone makes you feel uncomfortable, you are NOT obliged to continue the session. If they’re invalidating your accessibility needs, even after a discussion, leave. You don’t need to stay and tolerate someone who doesn’t accept you and treats you like a fuck toy or a burden.
Fetlife can be your friend.
Yes, Fetlife has a lot of creeps. I have the unsolicited dick pics to prove it. But Fetlife can also link you to events — like munches, where you can meet kinksters in street clothes, and play parties, where you can have a bit of fun. Often, events will mention if they’re accessible and if it is possible for you, you can meet other folks to help guide you in kink or join the journey with you. ...
The Sexual Freedom Resolution is a stand against discrimination by professionals in the field of sexuality and sexual health. This Resolution can be submitted to civil, criminal and family courts by people who are stigmatized because of their sexual expression in order to help them get a fair trial on the merits of their case. We encourage organizations that serve mental and health professionals to sign onto this resolution, as well as educational groups and Kink Aware Professionals.
To sign on, email
Sexual Freedom Resolution Working within the framework of social justice and human rights, we support the right of freedom of sexual expression among consenting adults. We affirm that sexual expression is central to the human experience, that this right is central to overall health and well-being, and that this right must be honored. We support the right to be free from discrimination, oppression, exploitation and violence due to one’s sexual expression. The best contemporary scientific evidence finds that consenting adults who practice BDSM, fetishes, cross-dressing and non-monogamy can be presumed healthy as a group. We believe that any sexuality education or therapies that treat sexual problems must avoid stigmatizing or pathologizing these forms of sexual expressions between fully informed consenting adults. As professionals in the field of sexuality and sexual health, we actively seek to destigmatize consensual sexual expression and sexual practices among consenting adults, as well as to help create and maintain safe space for those who have been traditionally marginalized.
I recently realized that the benefits I get from practicing yoga—peace, energy, strength—I also get from another activity: BDSM. With yoga, when I hit the mat, nothing else matters. I am no longer a student, I don’t have homework or responsibilities. I just go through the motions, shift poses as I breathe in and out, move my body, push it further. In BDSM, I identify as a “bottom,” which means that in a scene—the space and scenario in which my partner and I play—I’m not necessarily submissive, but I am on the receiving end of pain and/or sensations. BDSM is a vital force in my life, part of my sexual identity, though not always sexual. It’s something I need on a regular basis, much like exercise.
According to a research team studying the science of BDSM at Northern Illinois University, it makes sense that yoga and bottoming have similar benefits, especially when it comes to altered states of consciousness. NIU’s team, led by professor of social and evolutionary psychology, Dr. Brad Sagarin, had participants put into pairs for a scene with one person topping and the other bottoming. Using questionnaires, cognitive testing (specifically the Stroop test), and saliva samples to measure the stress hormone cortisol before and after the scenes, Sagarin’s team concluded that both tops and bottoms enter into (different) altered states of consciousness.
For tops, this state is called “flow” (or here, topspace). Kathryn Klement, a doctoral candidate in the social psychology program at NIU, says, “In topspace, individuals feel like they are in the moment and [aware of their] next steps. While people in subspace report feeling sort of dreamy and out of it, people in topspace are very focused and driven.”
While flow is an altered state of consciousness, it doesn’t affect one’s cognitive functioning as much as a bottom's state of altered consciousness, called “transient hypofrontality” (here, subspace). Arne Dietrich originally proposed the transient hypofrontality hypothesis and investigated it as runner’s high. He suggested it was possibly analogous to meditation, and other mind states, such dreaming, hypnosis, and various drug highs. Klement explains that “when we engage in certain activities, our brain has to redirect bloodflow to certain parts based on priorities.” She added that the theory of transient hypofrontality suggests that “during this altered state, there is reduced bloodflow to the part of the brain which handles a lot of executive function, like working memory, attention, and temporal integration.”
This state was also reflected when researchers found that bottoms' cortisol levels went up during the scene (as their bodies responded to stress), but their self-reported levels of stress went down. “This is why,” Klement says, “people in such an altered state report effects of time distortion, disinhibition from social constraints, and changes in focused attention.” Other subjective experiences of subspace include reduction of pain; feelings of floating, peacefulness, living in the here and now; and little active decision making. ...
Love doesn’t just come in pairs. Is it time that marriage laws come to recognise the fact?
By Melissa Hogenboom / Pictures by Olivia Howitt
As a child Franklin Veaux recalls hearing his school teacher read a story about a princess who had a tantalising dilemma. Two male suitors had been wooing her and she had to choose between them. Franklin wondered why she could not choose both.
This early insight was revealing. Franklin has to this day never stuck to one relationship at a time. “I have never been in a monogamous relationship in my life. When I was in high school I took two dates to my senior prom. I lost my virginity as a threesome.”
Today he lives with his long-term girlfriend in a home he shares with her other boyfriend. Occasionally his partner’s teenage daughter also stays over. He is also in four other long-distance relationships, people he sees with varying degrees of frequency.
Franklin and his girlfriends are what’s called polyamorous or “poly” as the community tends to call it. Being poly simply means you can be in more than one relationship, with the full support and trust of however many partners they choose to have.
Polyamory does not feature in any census tick box but anecdotal evidence suggests that it is on the rise. Some are even calling for it to be recognised by law following the legalisation of gay marriage in the UK and the US. All this raises of the question of whether the future of love may be very different from our current conceptions of romance.
But love has always been the same, right? A man falls for a woman, they get married, pop out a few children and stay together in a harmonious and monogamous relationship for life.
Sorry romantics. This wasn’t, and still isn’t, always the picture of love. Polygamy – where more than one spouse is allowed – was the norm for many of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Monogamy started flourishing when our ancestors began to settle down. A preference for it then appears to have arisen, among many other reasons, for economic purposes.
As many as 83% of societies around the world allow polygamy
It made it easier for fathers to divide and share valuable commodities such as land with their children. Monogamy later got hijacked by romantic love by idealistic 19th Century Victorians. “The idea of sexual exclusivity started emerging fairly late in the game,” says professor of law Hadar Aviram at UC Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, US.
Even today monogamy is the minority relationship style around the world. Cultural estimates suggest that as many as 83% of societies around the world allow polygamy.
Now there is a fairly new player in the relationship game, at least as far as the public are concerned. In the last two decades, sociologists, legal scholars and the public have shown great interest towards polyamory and it’s making them reassess the very nature of romance.
The word polyamory was first coined in the 1960s and literally means “many loves” in Latin. That’s exactly what it is, but talking to poly individuals makes it quickly apparent that there is no one way to be poly. There are no immediate rules. Some people, like Franklin have live-in partners with additional liaisons outside the home. Others have a mixture of short and long-term relationships.
Some live in a big group with their partners and their partner’s other partner(s), so called “family style polyamory”. You get the idea. The one thing they all have in common is openness, understanding, trust and acceptance from all involved.
As you might imagine these kinds of relationships take a lot of work to maintain, so being poly is far from an easy option. For starters, to keep more than one relationship going, small logistical matters require a lot of communication. “Our relationships are a lot more challenging,” says Eve Rickert, one of Franklin’s long distance partners and co-author of their polyamory book More than Two. ...
Welcome to Louisiana, where women who are old enough to vote and join the military have just been declared children under the state law, at least when it comes to sex and certain forms of employment.
Why? Ostensibly, it has to do with sex trafficking. Under the new law, "sex trafficking victims" ages 18-20 cannot be convicted of prostitution. Sounds reasonable, right? But Louisiana law already declares that sex-trafficking victims—of any age—are to be excluded from prostitution charges ("No victim of trafficking ... shall be prosecuted for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked"). What the new law actually does is declare all 18- to 20-year-old sex workers as de facto trafficking victims, even if they're workin 100 percent willingly and independenty. No matter if there's no "trafficker" exerting force or coercion, Louisiana law considers them victims, rather than perpetrators, of a crime.
So Louisiana just effectively decriminalized prostitution for 18-to-20 year olds? That's the positive spin we can put on it.
Conversely, however, the state has made anyone who works with or helps young-adult sex workers—a friend who gives them a ride, escort agency owners, other sex workers, and their clients—into folks guilty of the crime of human trafficking. And not knowing the age of the "victim" is no defense.
Those convicted must register as sex offenders and spend a minimum of 15 years in prison. The law, which takes effect August 1, allows for a maximum sentence of up to 50 years. So a 20-year-old woman working in the sex trade independently—posting her own ads online, running her own website, arranging appointments with clients, keeping any money she makes—cannot be charged with prostitution, but anyone who books an appointment with her could face a lifetime on the sex-offender registery and a mandatory minimum prison sentence of over a decade.
The age of consent in Louisiana, by the way, is 17-years-old. Fourteen, 15, and 16-year-olds can legally consent to sex with someone up to age 17. But if a 17-year-old attempts to pay an 19-year-old for sex, they could spend 50 years behind bars. ...