More than 19 states including Hawai‘i have legalized gay marriage in the past decade due to increased public awareness and changing social views on what constitutes a romantic relationship. While this is great news, Americans are still strongly opposed to the idea of romance between more than two people. Here are a few guidelines on experimenting with ethical non-monogamy, or polyamory.
NOT JUST WILD ORGIES
Polyamory comes from the Greek words for “many” and “love” and refers to maintaining loving, intimate relationships with more than one other person. While sex is generally a natural part of romance, polyamory is more than just hooking up with various people. Swingers contrast with polyamory, focusing on sexual encounters over close relationships.
Love isn't scarce like natural resources and doesn't diminish as people are added to a relationship. Each relationship is unique and can have many or few rules, depending on the people involved. For instance, "polyfidelity” refers to a closed group of three to four individuals who may cohabitate over an extended period of time. Another group of polyamorous people may have a "condom contract" with each other – specifying under what conditions a new person may be added to the barrier-free group, if at all. Regular testing for sexually transmitted diseases after new partners enter the relationship is important and free in the state of Hawai‘i. Condom or barrier use is also a good idea for new partners.
While there is nothing wrong with traditional monogamy, it's historically been presented as the only option in life. In reality, there exists a diverse spectrum of relationship possibilities to explore beyond the typical single, dating and married option.
HONESTY AND JEALOUSY
The most important aspect of polyamorous relationships is honesty between partners. Jealousy can be a destructive force in all relationships, romantic or otherwise, stemming from fear of the unknown – fear that a lover may leave or that one is insufficient.
Open and frank discussion about topics like goals, desires and sexual boundaries can solve serious problems before they start by reassuring participants that their needs are being met and that everyone is comfortable.
Polyamory doesn't permit the ability to “cheat” on a partner at any time, as cheating implies deceit or dishonesty. If anyone involved isn't fully informed of and consenting to the existence of the other participants, then it's not truly a polyamorous relationship.
POLYAMORY AND THE LAW
Last year, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law, allowing children to have three or more parents or legal guardians to reflect changing family structures. This is progress, but the status of households with multiple adults is ambiguous in the other 49 states. Furthermore, children could potentially be separated from the persons they know as parents. ...
Want to question a partner's sobriety before giving consent for sex? There's an app for that.
It's called Good2Go, and its launch comes days after California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that defines when "yes means yes" and requires all state colleges to adopt a "affirmative consent" policy. The app, which is free to download on iTunes and Google Play, targets college-age adults and includes a sobriety questionnaire that asks users who they're sleeping with, when they're doing it, and how drunk or sober they are.
Lee Ann Allman, the app's creator, told Slate the inspiration for Good2Go came after she talked with college students about sexual assault on campuses across the country. "(They) are very aware of what's happening, and they're worried about it, but they're confused about what to do," she said. Since "kids are so used to having technology that helps them with issues in their lives," Allman believes the app will ultimately remind college student that consent to sex should be affirmatively given and revoked at any time.
The app claims to be "easy to use" and only one partner needs to download the app to use it. The Daily Mail documented how the app works:
To use Good2Go, users must launch the app, before handing the phone to their potential partner. Using a euphemism for sex, the app then asks the person: 'Are we Good2Go?', before offering them three choices: 'No, thanks,' 'Yes, but... we need to talk,' and 'I'm Good2Go.' If the individual chooses 'No, thanks,' a black screen pops up reading: 'Remember! No means No! Only Yes means Yes. BUT can be changed to NO at anytime!.' Meanwhile, the 'Yes, but... we need to talk' option leads to a pause, during which the couple are given time to discuss their mutual interest in sex.
The final choice, 'I'm Good2Go,' sends the user to a second screen, which asks them how intoxicated they are: a) 'Sober,' b) 'Mildly Intoxicated,' c) 'Intoxicated but Good2Go' or d) 'Pretty Wasted.' If the individual picks 'Pretty Wasted,' they are then informed that they 'cannot consent' to sexual activity and are instructed to hand the phone back to their potential partner....
You and your BDSM partner and group members may be having a great time, but there’s a lot going on that you need to know about. On the one hand, prosecutors and courts across the country are bringing criminal cases, even against consensual BDSM. But on the other hand, NCSF is making real progress for our communities—helping to change the psychiatric profession’s DSM criteria so that we are no longer defined as mentally ill, preventing prosecutions and filing legal briefs, and pursuing a nationwide Consent Counts project to decriminalize consensual BDSM.
Richard O. Cunningham, B.S., M.A., J.D., has advocated for over 40 years on issues of gender, race and sex. He has played a leading role in landmark legal cases, including being the supervising attorney on the U.S. Supreme Court case to allow women in military academies and the initiating attorney for the lawsuit during the Vietnam War that resulted in the “Fairness Doctrine” to require balanced media coverage of political issues. He is senior international trade partner at Steptoe & Johnson, LLP in Washington, D.C. He is the former Chair of the Boards of the NCSF Foundation and the Woodhull Freedom Foundation. Dick currently serves as NCSF’s Legal Counsel.
Judy Guerin is a well-known activist, writer, speaker and educator on issues of sexual freedom and gender expression. She is also a long-time practitioner of BDSM and sex educator on BDSM activities. She is a former board member of GenderPAC, the Woodhull Freedom Foundation, Forum 21 and the Black Rose. She is a former steering committee member of the National Policy Roundtable of GLBTQ/HIV groups, former executive director of the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom and advisor to the European Union Human Rights Commission on issues of sexual freedom and GLBTQ issues. She currently directs NCSF’s Consent Counts Project to decriminalize consensual BDSM in the U.S.
Advance registration required for dinner. Drinks and gratuity not included in ticket price. Event is 7pm-9pm.
***Please note: The BalMar's upstairs meeting room is accessible only by stairs.
This event is presented by the Foundation for Sex Positive Culture. Please go to TheFSPC.org for more information.
Dean and Cristy Parave, from Florida, have been married for seven years and are devout Christians.
Cristy, 44, is bisexual. She indulges in extra-marital sex with the consent of Dean, 50.
She told Barcroft Media: “I don’t think God would be mad at what we are doing. At first I was conflicted but the more we looked at it, the more it makes sense to us. Dean and I are both in agreement with this lifestyle, so we’re not committing adultery.
“God put people on the earth to breed and enjoy each other. I feel God is always with me and he has put us here for a reason.”
The couple also enter bodybuilding competitions.
“I’ve always been adventurous when it comes to sex,” Christy said. “The sex between my first husband and I was miserable. I was undersexed before I met Dean but now we do it twice a day. It’s incredible.”
They were introduced to the world of sex-swapping after a chance encounter in Home Depot.
“A couple approached me in Home Depot out of nowhere and asked if we were swingers,” Christy said. “I was so naive I thought they were talking about swing dancing. I said, ‘I used to love to but my husband doesn’t, I’d love to get him lessons.’ Cristy then invited a friend over, and the two women surprised Dean in the shower.
Dean was an alcoholic and a drug addict before he converted to Christianity. He told Barcroft: “For me every day used to involve a case of beer and a bottle of Jack Daniel’s. After my fifth arrest for driving under the influence I begged God for help. I should have been looking at 10 years, but the judge sentenced me to just 10 months in prison. For me that was a sign.”
After he release, Dean built a 40-foot cross in his back yard and vowed to spread the word of God. “I turned my life around, began bodybuilding, and now I try to live pure,” he said. “God has put me here to spread his word and our lifestyle community is a great place to do it.” ...
As the saying goes in New Orleans, let the good times roll.
And at no time is that mantra on display more than during the Naughty in N’Awlins, an annual swingers convention.
Roughly 1,300 swingers from across the country, some who have been married for years and have children, gathered in New Orleans last month for a convention that took over a luxury hotel for four days.
Bob Hannaford, who has made a business around the swinging lifestyle with events like these and a number of cruises, put the convention together. He and his staff of 45 people replaced tables and chairs in conference rooms with beds to create “playrooms” -- a dungeon room, a bondage room and a sensual magic room just to name a few.
An introductory sex toy class, an introduction-to-bondage class, naked speed dating and body painting were just some of the 20 seminars the convention offered, not to mention the 25 wild themed parties, such as the red-dress charity party.
In true New Orleans fashion, the convention was kicked off with a first-ever Swingers Pride parade down Bourbon Street.
The convention is not just about bringing the swinging community together, Hannafold said, but it makes a statement about their lifestyle choice.
"I just want to live in a world where people accept us," Hannaford said. "We just want to live our lives, make our own choices. What we do in private is our own business and there’s a lot of people who do kinky things in private. Most people don’t want to tell people about it, but I’m here to tell the world, 'I’m a kinky guy, you gotta accept me.'"
Hannaford knows swinging isn’t for everyone, but while critics of the swinger lifestyle say it’s just an excuse to cheat on your partner, he believes it can actually help make a marriage stronger....
While tabling for my group, Alternative Sexualities at Duke, I had a conversation with a friend about sexual identity. “What is the purpose of your group?” they asked me, wondering what we covered that the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity did not. I told them that the purpose was to provide a safe space for people who identify as sex-positive, polyamorous or kinky to discuss their sexual orientation. They looked at me, confused. “Is that a sexual orientation?”
LGBTQIA. That’s an important acronym, and a huge focus of attention in the media today. But most people are unaware that there are sex-positive, polyamorous and kinky communities, and they often face discrimination and legal issues. Let’s start with sex-positivity.
“It’s the cultural philosophy that understands sexuality as a potentially positive force in one’s life, and it can, of course, be contrasted with sex-negativity, which sees sex as problematic, disruptive, dangerous. Sex-positivity allows for and in fact celebrates sexual diversity, differing desires and relationships structures, and individual choices based on consent.”
The discrimination associated with sex-positivity is, unfortunately, usually aimed at young women. In popular culture, sex negativity is commonly manifested as “slut-shaming,” the act of creating a double standard by condemning the actual or presumed sexual behavior of women. But it extends further than that. A sex-negative culture exists and is endemic in many American institutions, particularly in advertising. The sex-positive community is one that promotes sexual equality for men, women and intersex people. But it’s not just an abstract community and it’s not a theoretical, sexually utopian society that exists in a sexological cloud. The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom exists to promote sex positivity and sexual freedom, and there are events all over the world that cater to people who identify as being sex-positive.
Polyamory is extremely difficult to describe, because it takes so many different forms. Morethantwo.com defines polyamory as,
“…the non-possessive, honest, responsible and ethical philosophy and practice of loving multiple people simultaneously. Polyamory emphasizes consciously choosing how many partners one wishes to be involved with rather than accepting social norms which dictate loving only one person at a time.”
Many people confuse polyamorous relationships with open relationships, but they’re very different. An open relationship is typically based around the idea that sexual exploration and self-discovery should not be inhibited by the confines of a traditional two-person relationship. Polyamory is much more than that. It can be two guys and a girl, it can be two girls and a guy, it can be three guys, three girls or a few genderless folks. There are, however, some legal issues that arise, because polyamory is not traditional and thus not fully accounted for legally. Before you get your panties in a bunch, allow me to point out that polyamory is not like the show "Sister Wives." Consenting adults, who all love each other and want to be together, enter into polyamorous relationships.
PsychologyToday lists the greatest issues facing polyamorists as child custody, corporate morality clauses that often result in job termination, housing and state law. Only two parents can be the legal guardians of a child. A person can be fired from their job if their employer views their polyamorous relationship as immoral. Housing regulations often prohibit so many adults living under one roof. Simply crossing state lines can make some marriages illegitimate, which leads to issues in respect to Power of Attorney. If you’re in a polyamorous triad, and you’re lying in a hospital bed, shouldn’t both of your spouses be allowed to visit you? It may seem like a far-fetched scenario, but many polyamorists feel they do not reserve the same rights as many Americans.
The kink community is perhaps one of the most highly stigmatized alternative communities, although the popularity of the "50 Shades of Grey" series has helped bring the community into the light. Many people found the sexual practices described in those books to be arousing, and perhaps a magnified version of many sexual practices common to “vanilla” couples, or couples that aren’t kinky. Those furry handcuffs? They might just be your introduction into the world of BDSM—Bondage & Discipline, Dominance & Submission and Sadism & Masochism.
It seems harmless, right? Consenting adults should be allowed to engage in sexual acts that the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom describes as “safe, sane, and consensual.” ...
Inside an unmarked warehouse in downtown San Francisco, a woman greets guests with a riding crop. She is not there to beat them, but to initiate them with a set of firm and binding rules. A chart posted on the wall reads:
State your boundaries.
Play safely and consensually.
Have sensible safe sex practices.
Respect our space and each other.
Don’t linger unaccompanied in play spaces.
Don’t cruise aggressively.
Don’t get too intoxicated.
Don’t take photographs.
Don’t use your cellphone.
Don’t gossip about what goes on here.
Using the riding crop as a pointer, she lays out the basics for guests entering Mission Control’s Kinky Salon, a monthly San Francisco sex party that dates back to 2003. “Kinky Salon is a global movement that promotes sexual liberation by hosting community gatherings where sex is integrated into the social fabric of the events,” reads the Kinky Salon manual, a guidebook to on how to safely construct a sexual play world where no one gets hurt. That means a strict set of boundaries.
The rules are the portal at Kinky Salon. After guests pass this point of initiation, they enter the warehouse—a two-story adult playground. Upstairs are performances, a DJ, and arts activities like portraiture and body painting. There are low-slung couches, people dancing, and a BYOB bar with a bartender who doles out your own liquor. It’s just a really good party. The play space where the actual group sex scene takes place is downstairs, tucked away in a corner.
There are rules about consent, about how to solicit sex, how to negotiate for something different, how to say no. There are rules about protection, about fluid exchange, about staring, about drunkenness. The rules that dictate the boundaries of this seemingly boundariless space are the same rules that people often break in mainstream society: You have to ask before you touch. You can’t get extremely drunk. You have to honor when someone says “no.”
Rules and group sex have gone hand in hand for decades. The more risqué the sexual party, the tighter the guidelines, particularly in the BDSM world where partygoers consent to physical pain. “The space, people’s bodies are sacred,” Kinky Salon co-founder Polly Whittaker, aka Polly Superstar, recalls from her many years in the BDSM and fetish scene. “You do not talk while someone is having a scene, you don’t laugh, you don’t stare … They’ve created this incredibly strict structure because what they’re doing there is working through some really heavy shit and they need safety for that.”
“Kinky Salon is only one step away from the super strict rules of BDSM and there’s a reason for that,” Whittaker goes on, “which is that I think that women, particularly women in our culture, are not trained to state their boundaries.” The usual script that guides the more typical sexual encounter is replaced by a new one. In setting limits, edges, and rules of play, the possibilities for safely exploring new sexual horizons and thresholds become tangible.
Group sex parties run the gamut and are available for all types of people. The New York scene, which just last month opened a Kinky Salon, joining their list of hosted parties in Copenhagen, Austin, Berlin, Portland, New Orleans, and London, has its fair share of parties across the board. There are the parties just for single heterosexual couples, like Bowery Bliss, a weekly swingers party in lower Manhattan, for which “The term couple refers to a Male and Female. Two men are NOT considered a couple.” At others, like Submit in Brooklyn, a party for “women and trans folk” interested in all types of BDSM play, “There’s a shower, a boot black station, slings, a cross, bondage set-ups, beds, peep holes, and more.” One Leg Up requires their guests to leave together if they arrive together, and Chemistry, another Brooklyn scene, asks a series of questions to pre-screen their guests like, “What is your favorite non-sexual hobby?” or “What role does sexuality play in your life?” School of Sex’s Behind Closed Doors party requires an application and has four cardinal rules:
Ladies make the rules
No means no
Men cannot approach women
In constructing a separate world around non-monogamous sex, these parties are building small behind-the-scenes exits to dominant cultural expectations. The rules define the new sexual paradigm that guests willingly enter. ...
A master-slave relationship between the accused kidnappers of two Amish children will likely complicate the criminal case against them, a lawyer for one of the defendants said today.
Bradford Riendeau, a lawyer for Nicole Vaisey, said after court today that she and her boyfriend, Stephen Howells, were in a relationship that was "at the extreme end of the continuum."
"At one end of a continuum, it starts with bondage and discipline and includes sado-masochism," he said. "It was at the far end of that continuum."
The relationship included power and control elements that make "dealing with the facts of this case complicated," Riendeau said. He would not be more specific.
Their relationship started more than a year ago, apparently throught the Internet, Riendeau said. They lived about 18 miles apart, he said.
In court, Riendeau asked U.S. Magistrate Judge Therese Wiley Dancks to order that Vaisey and Howells not be transported together. The judge granted the order.
In their first court appearance last week, deputy U.S. marshals transported Vaisey and Howells in the same van from St. Lawrence County.
"I don't know how she could not have been afraid of him," Riendeau said. But as has been demonstrated on the domestic violence cases involving National Football League players, women stay in abusive relationships, he said. ...