Monogamy is rare, no matter what we might tell ourselves. We need a new currency of commitment.
by Rosie Wilby
Back in April, Helen Croydon’s New Statesman article entitled “Screw The Fairytale” sparked quite some heated debate from vociferous defenders of the ideal exclusive lifelong partnership. I too have faced occasionally challenging and often fascinating questions as I have toured my comedy show posing the question: Is Monogamy Dead? Yet I’ve come to realise that so many of us define fidelity along emotional rather than sexual lines, it becomes almost impossible to say with authority that anybody at all is monogamous... unless we can read minds.
I conducted an anonymous online survey as research for my show asking what behaviours would be considered infidelity. 73 out of 100 respondents thought that falling in love with someone else with no sexual contact still counted, 31 per cent selected staying up all night talking to someone else, while a scary 7 per cent decided that merely thinking about someone else was unacceptable. How you would police this I don’t know.
Perhaps the only way to remain truly faithful would be to lock yourselves into a sealed box and both stay there without interacting with any other human beings. Yet this would be torture. Human connections are the lifeblood and oxygen that aid our emotional survival. Even the most fleeting kindnesses and flirtations with strangers enhance our wellbeing. These brief moments of love feed our key relationships. Three and a half years in, my girlfriend and I might not always find it easy to generate huge sexual energy in a vacuum on our own. But if we go off into the world and connect, communicate, flirt with and enjoy other people, become energised by them and then come back together, our passion can still burn strongly. Other people act as our kindling. Love breeds love. It isn’t a finite resource that we need to hide away in the attic.
I asked my ex, now good friend, if she would ever have an open relationship and she said, “no, I don’t think I could do that” then after a pause and a smile, “but what about love affair friendships?” She went on to describe an impenetrable fortress of female friendship, her own group of best mates who’d known each other since school and had supported and loved each other through almost all of their lifetimes. They sounded far more bonded to, and in love with one another, than their respective husbands. It struck me that we don’t have the language to reflect the diversity and breadth of connections we experience. Why is sex the thing we tend to define a relationship by, when in fact it can be simple casual fun without a deep emotional transaction? Why do we say “just friends” when, for some of us, a friendship goes deeper? Can we define a new currency of commitment that celebrates and values this? Instead of having multiple confusing interpretations of the same word, could we have different words? What if we viewed our relationships as a pyramid structure with our primary partner at the top and a host of lovers, friends, spiritual soul mates, colleagues and acquaintances beneath that?
This isn’t a million miles away from the central ideas of polyamory – consensual multiple loving connections, some sexual, some not, in a myriad of combinations and hierarchies. It was a new word and world to me, yet when I interviewed a few polyamorous women (meetings had to be scheduled months ahead due to their ridiculously hectic romantic and social diaries) it struck me that they weren’t behaving so differently to anyone else I knew. Yet instead of shrouding some of their most intimate connections in secrecy as many of my “monogamous” friends have to, boundaries and priorities were honestly negotiated and declared. ...
The small Valencian village of Vilafranca, with only 2,500 inhabitants, would have gained notoriety on Friday had the opening of Spain’s first BDSM (bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, sadism and masochism) hotel gone ahead.
“With the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon in full swing, I saw a business opportunity that hadn’t been exploited yet in Spain,” the businessman, who preferred to remain anonymous, told The Local.
The entrepreneur rented out Vilafranca’s L'Om del Llosar hotel with plans to cater the roadside property to a ‘niche’ market, announcing the launch on Facebook for August 1st.
Renaming it the Roissy Castle in honour of the French chateau featured in classic erotic novel The Story of O, he has told potential guests they’ll “be able to enjoy games, flaunt themselves and share experiences with other visitors” in the twenty hotel rooms and four dungeons, three of which are private.
Vilafranca’s town council representatives aren’t too happy with the news however, arguing that it is “unsuitable” to “have an establishment of this nature in the village” and so close to the “chapel where dozens of people come every day to visit the village’s patron saint”.
“Our restaurant and bar have been full of villagers since we opened at the start of the summer,” the savvy businessman told The Local.
“It wasn’t until just a few days ago that one of Vilafranca’s online dailies ran a piece on our plans to open the sadomasochist hotel and this huge uproar began.” ...
Why assume you need to make compromises to achieve connubial bliss?
In an article for The Atlantic, Olga Khazan profiles several polyamorous couples and wonders whether more families should consider open (non-monogamous) marriages. Khazan argues that polyamory’s great advantage is that practitioners better divide up and delegate the duties and pleasures of a relationship, mixing and matching for the best of all possible marriages. She writes:
Even many devout monogamists admit that it can be hard for one partner to supply the full smorgasbord of the other’s sexual and emotional needs. When critics decry polys as escapists who have simply “gotten bored” in traditional relationships, polys counter that the more people they can draw close to them, the more self-actualized they can be.
There’s an enormous assumption tucked into that first sentence. Monogamy isn’t premised on the idea that one person can ever be everything to a partner. When a marriage fails to fulfill “the full smorgasbord” it’s not a sign that anything’s wrong. An expectation that a partner (or full set of them) is meant to be a perfect complement is destructive to romantic and platonic relationships.
Unfortunately, the premises of Khazan aren’t confined to a negligible niche (polyamorous or otherwise). A survey commissioned by USA Network of 18-34 year olds in four cities (Austin, Omaha, Nashville, and Phoenix) found that 10 percent of respondents endorsed multiple partners within a marriage, “each of whom fulfills a need in your life.”
What does this mean in practice? One of the women profiled in the Atlantic story explains that she and her husband looked to add partners to their marriages because the spouses couldn’t fulfill all of each other’s needs. Her husband was interested in kinky sex, so he found a woman to practice BDSM with him, but the wife’s new boyfriend was picked for a more prosaic need: the boyfriend goes to the theatre with her and sees shows her husband wouldn’t enjoy.
The reporter asks what she calls “the logical, mono-normative question” why the wife didn’t simply leave her husband for her theatre-boyfriend, but the more relevant question is: why she didn’t just book season tickets for herself and a friend? Kinky sex is, well, sexual, but going out to the theatre isn’t an activity that’s reserved to lovers.
It’s natural for friends to fill the gaps in a marital relationship, indulging interests that aren’t shared with the spouse, providing emotional support, and simply varying our lens on the world. After all, C.S. Lewis’s observation in The Four Loves that “Lovers are normally face to face, absorbed in each other. Friends, side by side, absorbed in some common interest,” wasn’t meant as an aspirational image for spouses.
Spouses shouldn’t wind up completely sated by a relationship, able to retreat from the rest of the world. Married people, just like singles, have some needs that are best met by a friend or by a neighbor or by family. Our mutual, unsated needs draw us together in service to each other.
Few partners will be in danger of making a complete retreat, utterly emotionally self-sufficient as a dyad, but aiming at this goal is as destructive as achieving it. Spouses in this situation are likely to sell their friendships short, failing to rely on them, as the theatre-going wife does. ...
Since San Francisco’s infamous Up Your Alley (this weekend) and Folsom Street Fair (September) are upon us, it’s a good time to get into the photographic spirit of leather, flesh, and all things BDSM. Who better to help out than a German photographer, in this case Peter Lichreich?
“I call myself ‘body photographer’,” Lichreich tells Queerty. “I take pictures of men with no restrictions.”
Lichreich was born in Berlin and lives in Duesseldorf. He began working as a photographer in 2007 and has had exhibitions in Mannheim, Amsterdam, Rome, Israel and Monaco.
Lichreich’s models are often nude and bathed in shadow. There is a sense of seediness and sometimes even danger to his work, but it’s also very beautiful.
“My pictures are rather dark and gloomy and invite the viewer to look deeper beyond the flesh,” Lichreich says. “They obscure and stimulate the imagination.” ...
Outside of Comic-Con, there isn’t much happening in the movie world. Oh wait, there’s that 50 Shades of Greytrailer that was released this week in an attempt to bring balance to the force of nerd movie goodness. This is a different kind of nerdy, as we’ve found out over the course of tracking the movie’s development. It involves whips, chains and plenty of suppressed emotions from your mom’s neighborhood book club. It’s something that plenty of us around here aren’t really into — at least that anyone in the office is willing to admit — the world of BDSM. With that in mind, we might not be the right people to dissect the mix of pain and pleasure that make E.L. James’ book such a sensation.
In order to fully understand the first trailer for Sam Taylor-Johnson’s upcoming film adaptation, we asked fetish porn performer Chanel Preston to answer a few questions about the trailer, the book and even her thoughts on the Beyonce song. We wanted an expert opinion on the tale of Christian Grey and his riding crop, and that’s exactly what we got…
Seeing as we’re not familiar with your work (sorry, my mom reads the site), let’s establish some credentials. What are the names of some of the fetish movies / scenes you’ve starred in?
Two of my most popular are “Get My Belt” by Kelly Madison Productions (this scene won Most Outrageous Sex Scene at the 2014 AVN Awards) and “Strap For Teacher” by Evil Angel. Most of my traditional fetish / BDSM (bondage & discipline, dominance & submission) scenes are web-based and can be found at kink.com.
Did you ever read the book “Fifty Shades of Grey”? If so, what was your impression?
I actually read the book a little before it became whatever it became. Christian Grey did have vampire-like qualities, and I know it was initially meant to be in that realm, so that’s how I approached it. I loved vampire books growing up, so this fed that guilty pleasure. I tried to read on to the second and third book, but I lost interest after the first chapter…
Have you been looking forward to the movie?
I can’t say I have been really looking forward to the movie, but I am a little curious about it…
What do you think of the actors they cast to play the roles of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey? How is their acting in the trailer?
I know a lot of people are not very happy with the casting, but I think they did really well. I love that they used actors who are not extremely well known. It gives the movie a bit of an indie feel, which I am a huge fan of.
I’m reading that people don’t feel Dakota Johnson is as beautiful as Anastasia was portrayed in the book, but I think she is very beautiful. She definitely does not depict the sensationalized, Hollywood notion of beauty, but that’s what makes her relatable. I think the movie would have been horrible had they cast anyone of this type. Once people see the movie, I think people will feel differently about her. I will say that at the point where she says, “Then enlighten me” I wanted to suck on her lips, so she clearly did it for me.
I’m still waiting to get a feel for Jamie Dornan as Christian… so far I like him. He has a bit more of a baby face then I imagined, but I do think he will do well. However, that could be because I’m not as passionate about seeing the perfect Christian Grey as many people seem to be. I just hope he spanks Ana hard enough! ;) ...
Local and international leather community reacts to sudden loss
By Julie Cruikshank, Brandon Matheson
Jon Letke, the reigning Mr Leather Ottawa (MLO), died suddenly the evening of Thursday, July 24 in an apparent suicide.
Letke, 25, known in the leather community as Nizzi Greatpup, was a well-loved member of Ottawa’s queer community. He had moved to the city from Toronto in June 2013.
“We are all shocked by his sudden death. It is the ones closest to Jon that are on my mind in this rough time; I wish there was something I could do to ease their hearts,” Mike Tattersall, MLO 2010, tells Xtra.
Letke leaves behind many friends in the leather community, as well as his partner, Steve Loki.
“Tonight, Zelda Marshall and I will hold a moment of silence in his honour at Centretown Pub,” says Tattersall.
As news of his death became known late Thursday night, messages of grief, tribute and condolence from friends across North America and in the international leather community had begun to fill Letke’s Facebook profile.
“With a smile from knowing you and quite a few tears I’m headed to bed; glad that you’ll rest well brother. (Pats and scritches) We will make sure Loki’s taken care of,” wrote Woody Woodruff, International Mr Leather 2012.
A poignant photo of the leather pride flag flying at half mast was posted by Youkali Youkali, Ms Leather Toronto 2013.
“Jon, my Canadian brother, a kindred spirit. I am in shock and sad beyond belief. Thank you for the gifts that you gave me and so many,” wrote Patty, International Ms Leather 2014.
Many expressed shock and surprise, and some shared resources for suicide awareness and prevention.
“There are also people with a lot of anger, as well, as is common in these situations,” notes Tattersall. “We all deal with the stages of grief, and yes, all emotional responses are valid.”
“Many people have banded together, in person and in constant contact on-line, to gather strength from each other, both here and in the IML Class of 36,” says Tattersall. “Jon’s IML Brothers took it hard.”
“I am so saddened by this. I still cannot believe it. We shared so much before and during the IML process. I feel that a brother has been taken... and will not sleep tonight,” Peter Reid posted last night upon learning the news. ...
Denver swingers can't catch a break. 3090 Eden, the members-only swingers' club that opened for business just last March, has closed, as has the Downing Street Grill, which was located in the same building at 3090 Downing Street. "It was a lot of money spent, but there wasn't enough support from the community that we were hoping to tap into," says James Riggs, a construction-industry exec who ran both businesses. "If we had opened up the right way, with everything the way we had wanted it, maybe it would have stayed open. But we just didn't have everything in place the way that the swinging world wanted it."
In other words, there wasn't enough swinging going on.
While 3090 provided a bar, food and a place for members of "the lifestyle" to gather, it didn't allow nudity, sex or "play." Riggs says he was trying to work with Denver officials on fire code, building code, liquor-license rules and other issues so that he could establish "play areas," but found himself buried in paperwork -- and swingers weren't willing to wait around.
After all, they'd already been loaded down with rules on the 3090 Eden website: Do Not Be Creepy; Ask Before You Touch -- Ask Once and Only Once; Do Not Open Closed Curtains; Do Not Interrupt Others; Nudity only in designated areas; No sex of any kind past the doors of the play area; Clean Up Your Own Mess.
The building at 3090 Downing has had trouble getting lucky as well. Decades ago it was a church, then for many years it was home to Tosh's Hacienda, which got overly ambitious with an expansion and wound up reneging on a city loan and closing altogether. The spot was later purchased by the folks behind Tracks and Exdo, and since then it's hosted an assortment of restaurants, including Kiva, Blackberries Bar, Swallows and, most recently, Eden, a lesbian-centric vegetarian spot that closed last summer.
The recent history of Denver swingers' clubs has been equally tumultuous. Sugar House, which was founded by infamous escort-service magnate Scotty Ewing on West Alameda Avenue, closed in March 2012 after a liquor-license violation. Ewing, who moved to San Diego, recently returned to Denver, however, and has promised to host a series of patio and pool parties, under the name Sugar House Events, targeting Denver's "young, fit, fun, and sexy open-minded couples and women."
And the Scarlet Ranch, which had occupied a nondescript building at 424 Broadway, was run out of town that same year, following raids and investigations by both the Denver fire and police departments. Owner Kendall Seifert later sued the city, but he has since opened a sprawling new place, called Squirrel Creek Lodge, in the former Northwoods Inn...of all places.
If you're into leather daddies and BDSM — this is the event for you. Think of it as a prelude to Folsom Street Fair, or as the Up Your Alley site refers to it: "Folsom Street Fair's Dirty Little Brother."
This little brother event is just as kinky as Folsom, and will bring out more than 15,000 "leather men" for some BDSM play on Dore Alley and the section of Folsom Street between Ninth and 11th streets. There will also be dancing and vendors selling fetish accessories; if you need some new whips, chains, and rubber items, then this may be the time to stock up!
But heed these words of caution from their site: "Up Your Alley is for real players — and not for the faint of heart..." So if you're more into gawking than participating, it's best to just stay out of the way, you don't want to get a whip to the eye!
Also, check back here on Monday where we'll have a review of the Exhibitionist's first time to the event.
Up Your Alley, July 26, 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Dore Alley (at Howard).