Monogamy isn’t for everyone, even the betrothed. Here’s how polyamory can open up your options, from the people who are making it work.
by Rachel Kramer Bussel
In the pilot of the FX comedy Married, wife Lina suggests to her husband, Russ, that he have an affair, not because she’s looking explore polyamory per se, but because she, as the mother of three kids, is too tired to deal with his sexual overtures. His attempt to sleep with another woman goes disastrously awry (his buying her a puppy is the least of his mistakes). And, as it turns out, Lina didn’t really mean it: She becomes jealous when she catches wind of his potential extramarital hookup.
A similar situation happens early on in the new memoir Wide Open: My Adventures in Polyamory, Open Marriage, and Loving on My Own Terms by Gracie X. When X and her husband Hank first got together, they settled on this agreement: “If one of us became attracted to another person, we would allow ourselves one sexual encounter. But after that we were to shut it down and bring our focus back to the relationship.” As it turns out, once wasn’t enough for her. She wanted more than just a quick roll in the hay; instead, she longed for a romantic and sexual connection with someone. The book recounts the story of how, after going back to an unsatisfying (for her) monogamous relationship, they successfully began an open marriage that allowed her to get her needs met—but not without tackling some of the deep-seated issues around their differing libidos.
I wanted to find out what makes open marriages work, especially since we live in a society that is highly skeptical of the prospect. For example, when Margaret Cho and her husband, Al Ridenour, announced they were divorcing, gossip sites asked whether their open marriage was to blame, even though she’s spoken highly of the practice, calling it “more respectful to my nature.” We assume the non-monogamy is to blame when the marriage doesn’t endure because the openness goes against the deeply ingrained linking of marriage and monogamy in the public imagination. Yes, sometimes open marriages end—but many not only survive, but thrive. In fact, those in open marriages often credit polyamory with strengthening the marriage and making each of them better spouses.
Open marriages come in different forms
The first thing to know about open marriages is that there’s no single way of conducting them. Some couples have rules; some don’t. Some couples have a live-and-let-live attitude, of the “as long as I don’t find out, it’s okay” variety, while others, like erotica author Malin James, want their primary partners to meet their other lovers, and vice versa. James even had her girlfriend as one of her bridesmaids when she married her husband. There’s a whole lot of variety and options when figuring out the type of open relationship that might work for you.
Some may not even call theirs an “open marriage,” per se, but still practice selective non-monogamy, as did actress Jada Pinkett Smith, who addressed the nature of her arrangement with husband, Will Smith, in a Facebook post, stating, “Will and I BOTH can do WHATEVER we want, because we TRUST each other to do so. This does NOT mean we have an open relationship … this means we have a GROWN one.”
Rather than both partners being gung-ho about polyamory from the start, one partner’s interest in opening up their relationship may sparks the initial inquiry into it. This happened for my friend Lola, who’s been married for eight years, and with her husband for 13. Prior to meeting her husband when she was 20, she enjoyed having more than one partner, and said, “I fully intended to just live my life loving multiple people and hoping they’d be okay with that.” But falling head over heels made her question that intention. “I figured all of my indecisiveness was because I was waiting for the perfect person.”
When she was about to get engaged, she reconnected with her first love, and realized she still had feelings for him. They began an affair. She brought up the idea of polyamory to her now-husband of polyamory, but “he didn’t understand that me being in love with someone else didn’t mean I loved him less. He couldn’t wrap his head around it.” She agreed to set aside the idea, yet it stayed with her. Two years into their marriage, she began exploring her inclination toward submission and BDSM online, with his reluctant blessing. He still wasn’t fully on board, but knew this was important to her. Lola calls this transition period a rough one, admitting, “There were times when he was spiteful and mean and there were times when I hid things because I didn’t want to deal with him, but we got through all of it mostly intact.” ...
introduction to the concept of polyamory, or Polyamory 101 as I like to think of it, occurred a few months ago when I was walking with a friend across Harvard Yard. My friend, who's in her late 20s, mentioned that she engages in polyamorous relationships.
For a second, I thought: A poly-who?
Then, my knowledge of Greek and Latin kicked in and helped me divine the word's meaning. Still, I didn't know it was a thing. Or, maybe I should say, a new thing.
A polyamorous relationship is one in which consenting adults openly have several deeply intimate, monogamous-like relationships, but without exclusivity. It may, as my friend described, include sex. It may not.
Confused? Keep reading.
In my mind, it's a concept that used to be called "playing the field" if you were single and "swinging" (or engaging in an "open relationship") if you were married. Now, it's been repackaged and hybridized into a heady euphemism for millennials.
I must tell you that I conducted a highly non-scientific survey of several Gen Xers and baby boomers, folks between the ages of 38 and 60, and asked them if they'd heard of polyamorous relationships. They hadn't.
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To be clear, the concept is not new. (We're just late to the party, so to speak.) For my research, I found the websites of several local polyamory meet-up groups, one started in 2012. And it's not strictly the purview of millennials. Older married folks are also practitioners.
So what distinguishes polyamory from "swinging" or "playing the field?"
The big difference, said my friend, is that it's a way of negotiating a relationship — talking about how you feel and what you want in your many companionships — and not merely negotiating sex.
Additionally, polyamory may be custom made for folks who are too busy with their careers to invest a lot of time in monogamy. With polyamory, a participant doesn't expect all (or even a majority) of her needs to be met by one person, and she doesn't have to meet all of her partners' needs. ...
My earliest sexual fantasies had nothing to do sex. They were all about getting kidnapped.
I imagined a car stopping short beside me as I was walking home from school. Two men—always two—jumped out and grabbed me. I imagined a dark, dank basement made even darker by the fact that I was, of course, blindfolded. I imagined a wet rag stuffed in my mouth and my wrists tied behind me.
This detail, my bound wrists, was the most important thing of all. My wrists had to be tied. This was the sun around which all other details revolved.
My attackers had shifting, indistinct faces: unclear and anonymous. They didn’t need faces. The fantasies weren’t about them. They were props. I didn’t understand what I was feeling as I imagined all this; I just let myself enjoy it.
This isn’t to say that if a car had actually stopped short beside me, I would have welcomed my faceless attackers with open arms. My fantasies were satisfying because I was in control. Every choice was mine.
Fortunately, the world of children’s media is incredibly kind to the burgeoning bondage enthusiast. It seemed like no matter what I watched or read, characters got tied up right and left. So many obliging villains!
I thought Nancy Drew, girl detective, was pretentious and stuck up, but as she seemed physically incapable of getting through one of her mysteries without being tied up, I stuck with the series.
One of my favorite books was about two sisters searching for treasure. In the third act, the bad guys caught them and tied them up with twine. Twine? Twine! Here I was imagining being tied up with rope, like some kind of neophyte, when twine existed for the taking?
Back in the real world, sex—actual sex—had begun to make itself known. It was the disgusting thing grown-ups did to produce a child. I never got a formal Talk. My parents, incredibly loving and somewhat strict, were happy to let me live in ignorance.
And why not? I was clearly too distracted by thoughts of restraint to seduce the neighborhood boys. Sure, I had a few “boyfriends”—a “boyfriend” in this case being whichever T-ball teammate I had just kissed against his will, but this didn’t titillate me as much as, say, asking my two best friends to tie me to a chair. With belts! And hey, while you’re at it, stuff a kerchief in my mouth!
They did it, too. None of us understood that I was totally getting off on it.
In fifth grade, I was in a friend’s basement rec room and we set out to find naked people on the SPICE channel. Does the SPICE Channel still exist? Does it have to? Probably not.
My friend’s parents didn’t get SPICE, so we had to “watch” it through static. We couldn’t see the naked people, but we could hear what they were doing. Those sounds of rough abandontriggered something inside me I had until now known only in those dark basements of my imagination. This was my big bingo moment.
“Oh,” I thought, trying to reconcile this tickle in the underbrush with the longing of my poor, lonely wrists. That’s what my fantasies meant. They were about sex, even before I understood what sex was.
I was turned on by submission and danger and the threat of pain. Maybe even, actual pain. I didn’t want romance and love. I wanted fear. I was one of the bad guys.
In that moment, I thought I understood myself and I was ashamed. …
I.e. How to ask him to be rougher (but not a psychopath) in bed.
By Lane Moore
If you're reading this right now, you've probably had a moment when you were hooking up with a guy and thought, "God it would be so great if he pulled my hair right now," but it feels so weird to ask someone that — not to mention it can seem legitimately scary to ask someone to be a little rougher with you, but not so rough you end up in your own Law & Order: SVU episode. But just because it seems scary and weird doesn't make it impossible to do.
Asking for rougher sex really does just boil down to having an actual Grown Ups Using Potentially Formal-Sounding Words discussion with your partner. It's not as simple as just saying, "Be rougher!" because that could mean 40 different things and odds are, you'll only want it to mean a very specific 10 things. Here's how to do that.
1. Tell him you want to be tied up and spanked, no more, no less. ?I can't stress enough the importance of having a pre-sex conversation about your own limits and making sure that he understands them — and I mean really, really understands them, not just "gets the gist". You can even have him repeat them back to you to make sure you're not playing a game of sexy telephone (Cut to: You whisper "light bondage" in his ear and somehow next thing you know you're in a sex swing with a whip like, "Not this at all! Nope! Noooope!") or just walk him through it. So when you say, "I want you to tie my wrists above my head and then fuck me," get out the tie and tell him when it's tight enough but not too tight and then get into the position you want him to fuck you in. Which brings me to... ?
2. BYOP (Bring your own props). If you want him to blindfold you and then he's like, "Yeah sure! Where's the blindfold?" and you're like, "Oh, uh, I don't have one because I was too busy thinking of a way to ask you to blindfold me without sounding like I was asking for a whole Fifty Shades scenario because I really just want to start there. At any rate, I didn't pick one up," that'll put a pause on that right quick. Even if it's just a t-shirt or a scarf, have it by the bed so when you ask and he says yes, you can go for it. (And back to the Fifty Shades thing, if you're at his place, a tie makes a real nice blindfold or wrist binder.)
3. If you don't know where to start: hair-pulling, spanking, wrist-tying, and blindfolding are popular ones.? Ask him to tie your wrists above your head and do you missionary style (or he can just hold your hands up there with his hands). Or tie something soft over your eyes and then go down on you. Or pull your hair back during doggy style. Or spank you as foreplay. All very hot options.
4. Don't be afraid to say "Oh hell no" when he's gone too damn far. If once you get into it you realize "eh, spanking isn't for me" or "ow, too hard! what the hell, David?" you need to feel comfortable saying, "back off, bro." Seriously, do not engage in even the slightest amount of rough sex play if you feel like you can't communicate your needs with him. Do it with someone you already know respects your boundaries (also if he doesn't respect your boundaries kindly show him the door and blast him on the Internet for real because that guy shouldn't be having sex with anyone ever for life.) ...
My sweet six-month-old baby is lying on his dressing table looking up at Mommy with a big smile on his face. He is the happiest at changing and feeding time. He seems pleased when the cool baby powder covers his bottom, and I gently press down the sticky tape tabs that secure his diaper, which is covered with blue teddy bears. Now that he's clean and dry, I will fill his belly with warm milk while I rock him lovingly and tenderly in my arms.
Once he's fed and his belly is full, I allow him to suck on his baby blue butterfly pacifier to relax and fall asleep.
Nearly all mothers experience this at least three times a day when raising a little one. My baby, however, is not really six months old... he's sixty-three.
The first time I had a potential client contact me for an "Adult Baby" session, I was taken aback. It wasn't as if I judged the request or the powerfully successful middle-aged man asking, but the situation forced me to take a deep look inside of myself. Could I step into the role-play authentically? Could I be a positive facilitator of this man's sexual authenticity? Or would I find myself making a personal judgment? Would I find the scene so unbelievable that I would crack and not be able to stay in character?
In spite of my doubts, I decided to try, and I'm so happy I did.
As a practitioner in fetish and domination, my role is to help facilitate a client's authenticity and sexual expression. Many times, I am contacted by men who are expressing their deepest desires and feelings out loud to another person for the first time in their entire lives.
The first time I spent a session powdering and diapering my client, I realized that when I leave judgment at the door and embrace curiosity, the physical modality stops being the forefront of the experience -- and what's left is the positive energy and enthusiasm generated between my client and myself.
The intimate and non-judgmental relationships I have with my clients are built on trust and respect. During our sessions, clients may take on a feminine role and dress in lingerie, make-up, nail polish, and wigs to help assist in the expression of being female, while others may have a foot fetish, adult baby fetish, or kidnapping and death fetish. For example, I have a client who takes on the role of a little lamb, and I role-play that I'm going to slaughter him for dinner. The client I mentioned earlier needs to act out like a baby, so I powder and diaper his bottom and feed him a bottle while rocking him in my arms.
Many may wonder, What kind of person likes this sort of thing? ...
The City of West Linn has ordered a local man to stop operating a bondage and discipline-sadomasochism room out of his home.
On its website, Mead Hall Dungeon is advertised as a private play space available for rental. David Levine said he hosts parties at the space twice a month.
“It’s simply people who enjoy gathering together and being in a fetish world with each other,” he explained.
The city began looking into Mead Hall Dungeon after a neighbor complained about several cars parking along West A Street, where the building is located.
Police determined no criminal activity was taking place, but the city then issued a cease and desist letter when they learned Levine did not have a business permit.
The city said Levine is violating code by operating without an adult business permit, but Levine said he doesn’t consider Mead Hall to be a business.
“We’re not using this to make income,” he said. “We’re using donations and stuff to be able to continue to supply paper plates and water and keep the electricity on.”
The dungeon is in a soundproofed, converted garage that sits off a long driveway.
Neighbors only recently learned about the adult activities taking place at the gatherings.
“All the neighbors around here were concerned because of the Friday night, Saturday night parking and the interesting people that seemed to be walking down the street and up the driveway,” said Robert Hoffman.
Mary Wendling said she was shocked when she found out about Mead Hall, especially because it’s located a few blocks down from West Linn High School.
“I just find it just totally inappropriate,” she said. “If people want to do that, that’s fine. But please, not in a neighborhood."...
A lawsuit filed by the owners of a planned swingers club in Summit Township was thrown out by a county judge.
Renovations to a private club in Summit Township remain stalled after property owners failed to submit a conditional use permit to township officials and instead sued the municipality last month.
Jackson County Circuit Judge Richard LaFlamme ruled against the private club owners' suit and directed them to file an appeal with the township.
"I'm sure I'll be seeing everyone here again in the future," he said Tuesday, Aug. 11.
The property at 4200 Spring Arbor Road was purchased by Epicurean Developments LLC in December, Jackson County records indicate, and has since created a storm of controversy, with area residents wondering what kind of business property owners plan to open at the location.
Several concerned residents have pointed to a website that states a swingers club dubbed "The Club at 4200" is set to open this spring in Jackson. An address for the club is not listed on the site.
Epicurean's legal counsel admitted Tuesday that the website is advertising for the Summit Township property, but said no illegal activities will occur and the township is at fault for issuing a construction permit and then reneging on the agreement.
"My client expended significant funds on this project," said Frederick Lucas, Epicurean's lawyer. "There is no sex allowed on the premises, this is not a brothel. This is consenting adults getting together to mingle.
"If they wish to engage in sexual acts, they need to go elsewhere," Lucas continued.
Township lawyer William Fahey said three words in the township ordinances are at question "clubs and lodges" and said the wording refers to "clubs like Rotary Clubs and lodges like the Masons."
"That is the common understanding," he said. "I don't think 'clubs and lodges' is an ambiguous term." ...
For many freshmen around the country, college orientation this year will include more than learning to manage a meal plan or figuring out when to declare a major. It could also mean sitting through lectures about sexual behavior on campus, sexual assault and affirmative consent. Some also will require students to fill out honor code forms agreeing to behave in a sexually appropriate manner. Among the schools that have incorporated sexual assault and consent awareness into their freshman curricula in recent years are Elon University, George Washington University, Indiana University, Rutgers and Stanford.
Cindy Pierce is a New Hampshire-based sex educator, the author of the soon-to-be-released book “Sexploitation” and a popular speaker on campuses around the country. And while some argue that the programs are overkill, since students today have access to more information than any generation that preceded them, Pierce argues that it’s exactly because there’s so much information out there that today’s students need more guidance.
Pierce joins Here & Now’s Robin Young from the studios of Dartmouth University in New Hampshire to discuss her work.
Interview Highlights: Cindy Pierce
On how to effectively teach young adults about consent
“This is really about reorienting people, because teaching people that ‘no means no’ hasn’t worked. We all know young women who have not reported being sexually assaulted, and we all know women who have been sexually assaulted, who have gone through the process.
“So instead of a checklist, instead of thinking of that as a checklist, it’s not that unreasonable to ask people to say, ‘Is this OK? Do you like this?’ And the question is ‘Do you know this person well enough? Are you connected in a way well enough not through text? Did you meet through text, is that how you interact?’ And now the reality is there’s no app to get you through the face-to-face naked place, so you’ve gotta communicate and you’ve gotta communicate clearly.”
On male involvement in the consent movement
“This is what’s shifting. I almost gave up speaking on some campuses, because I felt like there wasn’t a lot of change. But here at Dartmouth, these young men came to me, and asked me to speak at an event, and I thought, you know what? This is the first time that young men have come to me and said ‘come and speak.’ Because I think that there’s a lot of fear that they’re gonna be scolded and blamed and that we’re gonna wag our finger and, you know, that has traditionally been the case.”
On porn and sexual education
“I want educated viewers, I want viewers aware of what’s real, what’s not real, so my feeling is when I talk to young guys about porn they have so many questions, because it’s not working. When they try to convert what they’re learning into a sexual encounter, it’s not working. And they’re confused about female pleasure. They ask, ‘So women really like to be raped, is that true? So women really like to be tied up?’ They ask you that straight up. They’re looking for answers and the first place they go is porn. I tell young women: be the GPS, guide them in, but once again, so many women say ‘If he asked, I’d tell him everything,’ and the guy said, ‘I don’t want to ask, because I think I’m supposed to know.’ ...