From time to time, The Bed Post features other voices opening up about what gets in the way of good sex. This week, I speak with relationship coach Effy Blue.
Effy Blue does not believe that one relationship size fits all. It's a belief that is hard-won from her repeat attempts — and failures — to adhere to the dictates of monogamy. After her marriage crumbled in the wake of infidelity on her part, Turkish-born and U.K.-raised Effy gave up on relationships altogether. "I poured myself into my career, and I had this great job [at a marketing agency] that took me around the world, which also helped me not build relationships because I was moving from country to country about every six to eight months or a year," she tells me.
When Effy eventually settled in New York City and discovered the city's sex-positive community, she recognized her own sexual and romantic identity in the polyamorists she met. Now a relationship coach, she helps couples design consensually non-monogamous arrangements in pursuit of the fulfillment Effy finally enjoys in her own relationships — emphasis on the plural. As she writes on her website, "A romantic relationship is collaboration, a joint creative project to build something as unique and individual as the people creating it." And Effy practices what she preaches. I spoke with Effy about her journey from married monogamy to polyamory, her coaching practice, and why polyamorists' most difficult challenge isn't jealousy (it's scheduling).
What do you do as a relationship coach?
"I focus on very hands-on, practical, problem-solving guiding and facilitation. I predominantly focus on couples who are either transitioning or curious about ethical non-monogamy. I also have some single clients who are looking to develop a relationship that is ethically non-monogamous, and I work with them also on figuring out what that is."
How did you find your way to this work?
"I’d been married and divorced, and one of the recurring questions that I was having in my relationships is that I would go in a relationship, I would settle in the relationship, I would be very, very happy and content in that relationship, and then I would cheat.
"And then I would go back to my partner and confess and say, 'Look, I’m sorry this happened, I still love you, but this is just something that I’ve done and I’m not proud of it.' And it would end in tears and it would end in heartbreak and this kept happening and happening and happening, and then I sort of gave up on relationships and I figured that they just weren’t for me. In one of the discussions with my ex-partner, I remember in the middle of an argument, he was like, ‘How do you think I feel?' I was like, 'I don’t know, maybe you feel okay about it?' and he was like ‘Are you out of your mind?' I remember that moment very clearly — Are you out of your mind? My gut was like, I don’t think I am, but I see what you’re saying — maybe I am.
"Then I came to New York, and I decided that New York was going to be home, that I wasn’t going to travel anymore, and one of the things that I was really interested in exploring was my kinky side. I was so off relationships, but I really wanted to explore my sexual expression, and through the world of kink, I was introduced to polyamory. And I met polyamorous people and I listened into their conversations and learned about their relationships and just a lightbulb went off. It was like Oh, I’m not the only person that thinks she can do this.
"It was a huge shift in my life. I realized that there were a bunch of people who felt the same way as I did, that they could have multiple relationships and still sustain one special one and that relationships came in all the shapes and sizes, and that monogamy as we know it is just one way of doing it — it’s just very heavily prescribed, so that’s the only way we know how to do it. ...
Polyamory may sound sexy on Saturday night. But on Tuesday morning, you still have multiple relationships to maintain with multiple humans with multiple real-life feelings. Polyamorous relationships can be astonishingly fulfilling, exciting, and fun. But they're also incredibly challenging. There's no one-size-fits-all for figuring out whom -- and how -- to love.
After 10 years in various poly relationships, I've learned a lot of things; many of which would have made a big difference in how I approached this lifestyle if I'd known them when I was still a poly newbie.
There's no "right" way to be polyamorous
There are as many different configurations for polyamorous relationships as there are people on the planet. People who are new to polyamory often want to know what the rules are. They want to feel secure that they are doing it "right."
The truth? The only steadfast rules of poly are the same rules that apply to any relationship... no matter if you have two or five partners. Ethical polyamory includes transparent communication, authenticity of self, and an openness to others' wants and needs. Beyond that, polyamory is completely customizable according to your comfort and experience. The key is to share your needs and fears with your partners, and be honest about your intentions and behavior.
As long as you're being ethical, there's no wrong -- or right -- way to have a polyamorous relationship.
Google Calendars will save you
There's an inside joke that the only people who actually use Google Calendars are polyamorists. Splitting time between multiple partners can be a bit like keeping several plates spinning at once. Google Calendars can be shared with multiple people and help everyone communicate and stay on the same page.
If you're a poly couple, planning your dates away from your primary partner on the same night can help ward off lonely feelings or worrying about the partner left home. Just offering to share a calendar with a partner can help assure them you're genuine in your desire to maintain open communication and honesty -- which can go a long way in establishing trust in your polyamorous relationships.
Polyamory will not fix relationship issues
If you're having difficulty being ethical in your monogamous relationships, polyamory is not the solution to your romantic woes. Yes, it’s possible to cheat in a polyamorous relationship. This may sound obvious, but all of your partners have to be aware that they are dating someone polyamorous for the relationship to be polyamorous. Otherwise, you're cheating.
Likewise, adding a partner to the mix is not likely to "spice up" your relationship if someone isn't getting their needs met. People are not need-filling machines. It takes a lot of communication, self-reflection, and emotional maturity to maintain romantic and sexual relationships with multiple partners. ...
Charles Gatewood, the prolific San Francisco based visionary and photographer who was called “the family photographer of America’s erotic underground” died early this Thursday morning, April 28th. He had been in the ICU at SF General Hospital after suffering complications from a three-story fall that tragically ended his life at age 74.
News of his death falls on the eve of the date he took his first published picture of rock musician Bob Dylan, on April 29th, 1966. Gatewood would later say, “Taking the Bob Dylan photo gave me faith I could actually be a professional photographer.” He built his career documenting the antics of the beat generation with Dylan, Ginsberg, and Burroughs, and legends alike, including Martin Luther King, Jr., Ornette Coleman, Sonny Rollins, Joan Baez, Duke Ellington, and Ella Fitzgerald. His documentation of body modification, fetish, and radical sex communities also paved the way for those subcultures and sex-positive players like Annie Sprinkle to enter into the mainstream.
Family, friends, and fellow artists from around the world are taking to social media to offer their respects and memories of the great photographer:
“Charles was in with the beat generation, not many can say that.” – Bill Macdonald, “Forbidden Photographs”, producer
“He was legendary for his photos of both ‘famous’ counterculture- Burroughs, Dylan, etc… but he was also a true believer in the REAL counterculture- which never makes the headlines- and he devoted his entire life to chronicling all of the gay rights struggles, feminist marches, and subcultural tendencies in in NY and SF, and he was lauded for it.” – Anthony Buchanan, filmmaker
“You will live on forever through your stories, artwork & vision of life. You were a game changer, my friend.” – Jean Jett, model and friend ...
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. ...
If “Fifty Shades of Grey” was meant for the “mom” crowd, then Showtime’s new scripted mini-series “Submission” is for the more adventurous type.
From the mind of acclaimed adult film director Jacky St. James, the six half-hour episodes debuting May 12 dive deep into the world of BDSM. The series follows a young woman, Ashley, who becomes involved with a mysterious erotic novelist, Nolan Keats, after reading his book, Slave.
Anastasia-Steele-turned-up enters into the complex world of whips, chains, swings and more, as she falls into a dangerous love triangle only to discover her own sexual boundaries and the endless possibilities of BDSM.
“Submission” premieres May 12 on Showtime at 11 p.m. ET.
SadistFaction's coffee table is innocuous at first glance, but it's actually one of the most provocative pieces of home furnishing you're likely to ever see. That's because, unlike the generic stuff found in your average furniture outlet, this coffee table is also great for flogging, spanking, and general bondage fun.
These are things the only male, heterosexual professional dominatrix in Montreal needs to consider when he's entertaining company.
The restraints built into the table can be stowed away when more vanilla company is over, as can the whips and other toys on display in the retired teacher's apartment/dungeon. When SadistFaction's non-kinky friends are present, the only hint of sadomasochism is the Montreal Expos memorabilia, a constant reminder of the torture Major League Baseball put the team's fans through.
After first discovering his taste for kink at the age of 12 in the pre-internet 1970s, SadistFaction found kindred spirits through an ad in a swinger's magazine. Guys would get in touch to trade porn tapes; women would write hoping to get a spanking. In the 80s and 90s, he witnessed Montreal's kink scene come into its own as the taboo around BDSM began to lighten.
As more people got involved, though, the need for safe practices and awareness of how consent intertwines with domination also became more important.
"A few years ago, I started hearing these stories of women who wanted to get spanked or tied up but didn't want to have sex. They were placing ads on Craigslist or something like that. And the first thing someone would do is they would tie them up and they would [want to] fuck them, which is not what they wanted. So I decided to see if there was a market for women to pay for domination services."
It turns out that there is a market. SadistFaction charges $50 an hour for teaching services, where in he teaches couples how to safely indulge in BDSM sex.When it comes to actual domination, usually in the form of spanking, he accepts whatever someone is willing to pay. (He's also got some diversity in his portfolio in that he charges to rent out his dungeon to couples or for parties.) ...
See Tristan Taormino's Keynote Speech on NCSF's YouTube Channel
Sold Out Crowd at the NCSF Consent Summit!
The NCSF Consent Summit™ on April 23rd welcomed over 100 people for an all-day discussion about consent at the Center for Sex Positive Culture. The live broadcast of the event drew nearly 50 people who attended throughout the day.
Tristan Taormino's Keynote Speech is posted on the NCSF YouTube channel for everyone to see. The State of Consent Plenary and all three Panel Discussions will be posted over the next week, so tune back in to see what's new.