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"There's a Conversation About Polyamory We're Not Having"

on Monday, 21 March 2016. Hits 403

Connections.Mic

By Sophie Saint Thomas

A few weeks ago, I attended a Play Party Etiquette Workshop, a class for people interested in learning about how to behave at play (sex) parties). At the event, attendees were given a worksheet to express their "desires, intentions and boundaries," featuring such checklist items as, "During this party, I would like to be clear about my boundaries while connecting with strangers."

 

The Play Party Etiquette Workshop was held at Hacienda Villa, a sex-positive community in Brooklyn known for polyamory and play parties, led by sex educator Kenneth Play and relationship expert Effy Blue. Along with this worksheet, the workshop included a slideshow presentation with multiple slides on the importance of "enthusiastic consent," a concept also taught in schools, advised by feminist writers and even passed as legislature in California as the "affirmative consent" bill.

 

Both Blue and Play practice polyamory, as did many of the attendees. (While one doesn't need to be polyamorous to attend a sex party, there is often overlap between the two groups.) Polyamorous people have multiple partners, meaning they can date, love and fuck more than one person. That can make establishing consent and firm boundaries even more complicated than it is in monogamous relationships.

 

Poly people take specific approaches for everything from how to establish safe-sex boundaries with other partners to warding off aggressive come-ons. For starters, while those in committed, monogamous relationships only need to agree on a safe-sex practice for the two of them, those in poly relationships need to continually discuss it as their partners change.

 

Within poly relationships, "consent is more complicated because you need the consent of every partner for every action," John*, a 35-year-old polyamorous man, told Mic. "I can't just start barebacking one partner, because that can have an effect on the sexual health of my other partners."

 

For this reason, polyamorous people need to discuss things like condoms perhaps more often than monogamous couples do. In fact, a 2012 study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine indicated that couples who practice consensual non-monogamy generally have fewer STIs and practice safer sex than monogamous couples where one partner has been unfaithful.

 

"What is typically common is that poly people will have very explicit conversations around safe sex with other partners. What are their boundaries, what are their preferences, what are their deal breakers," Zhana Vrangalova, an adjunct professor at New York University and founder of the Casual Sex Project, told Mic.

 

Poly people also have to deal with people outside the poly community constantly assuming that they're sexually available. "On one hand, a poly person is like a single person in the sense that they are not 'taken.' So when someone else learns that someone is poly, the perception is that: 'Okay, well, they are at least potentially available. Proceed as if this is a single person,'" Vrangalova told Mic.

 

John agreed: "It's certainly happened that people have assumed I'm down [for sex] purely because I'm poly, even in the most inappropriate situations."

 

But even though people outside the community might believe that poly people are up for anything, that's far from the case: Different poly couples have different guidelines for their relationship. While John said he personally is available to play with other partners, others in the polyamory community need permission from their primary partner before starting something with someone new. Some people prefer to discuss new partners with their primary partners beforehand.

 

Additionally, Vrangalova said that people outside the poly community tend to perceive poly people to be more kinky and sexual than monogamous folks. While that can be true for certain couples, polyamory is an identity that encompasses all ranges of kink and sexuality.

 

"I think those two things [perception of availability and sexual appetite] get inflated to get people extra sexually interested in poly people — and then extra disappointed if the poly person is not responding to them," Vrangalova said. ...

"One Man Shares The Lessons He Learned From A Year Of Polyamory"

on Sunday, 20 March 2016. Hits 288

Refinery29

by CORIN FAIFE

My introduction to polyamory came when I was drunk and horny. Walking back to my house after a first date, arm in arm with a smart, attractive, olive-skinned punk girl, we burst in through the front door, giggling and kissing. There was a pause and she looked me in the eye, suddenly serious.

 

“Before we go any further I need to tell you: I have a long term boyfriend. But I don’t believe in monogamy. I hope that’s okay.”

 

“Oh, that’s fine. Totally fine,” I said.

 

Truthfully, at that exact moment I would have accepted almost anything. But it really did feel fine. We went on a series of dates over the next few months; saw films together, cooked meals, held hands. Basically, did couple stuff.

 

I often asked questions about her other relationships and she was happy to answer. When she talked about love and sex she was thoughtful and eloquent. She made me want to learn more. A door had been opened.

 

If there was a Theory of Polyamory 101, it would probably start with the principle that love is not a finite resource, and so we should stop treating it as if scarcity applies. We know that love for old friends doesn’t decrease with making new ones, or that love for our brothers, sisters or children isn’t reduced with new additions to the family; but from an early age we absorb, unconsciously for the most part, the idea that romantic love exists in limited supply, is shared between a couple, and is tainted by any affections that stray elsewhere.

 

If this idea doesn’t sit well with you, the alternatives suggested by mainstream culture are few and far between, consisting more or less of serial dating, empty promiscuity, or lonely death in a house full of cats. Hence the widespread habit of what we could call "monogamy by default" – not an active choice between a range of options, but the acceptance of the only game in town.

 

In this context, polyamory is not so much a whole new game as an attempt to renegotiate the rules: it suggests that romantic love for one partner does not have to rule out attraction to another, or that the deep fulfilment and security of long term commitment should not banish away the excitement of new sexual encounters. All these things and more are up for discussion, provided it can be done in a transparent and consensual way.

 

However, regardless of how much you support the theory, putting it into practice still brings a huge potential for jealousy, hurt and insecurity. It's not that polyamory is too good to be true, but it's definitely too good to be easy.

 

When I first actively decided on polyamory as a lifestyle choice, I felt like I’d stumbled upon a way to hack the rules of relationships – to have all the benefits of romance, but without the inconvenience of compromise.

 

It was just over a year ago, January 2015, and I was starting two new relationships at the same time. Both of these people were unique: creative, unconventional, attractive to me on many levels. But instead of being blissfully happy with these two wonderful partners, I felt like I was in a constant state of crisis: neither relationship felt stable, and after a short while, each one was constantly on the verge of collapse. It was as if two plates were spinning slowly at the end of long sticks, far apart, and I was caught in the middle, frantically sprinting between them.

 

Looking back now, I can see the mistakes I made, but I wanted to know if it was typical to struggle when starting to experiment with non-monogamy. So I called Mel Mariposa Cassidy, a radical relationship coach and self-described “queer polyamorous relationship anarchist” to ask about some of the problems that she helps her clients to address. One of the biggest hurdles, she told me, is being absolutely honest about the reasons for exploring open relationships in the first place:

 

“You might be wanting to open up a relationship because you're not sexually satisfied by your partner, or you might open your relationship because you want to leave your partner and you feel like this is a safe way to do it. Some people explore polyamory because they want to consciously challenge the societal norms around monogamy and ownership dynamics in relationships, and jealousy and so forth. I try not to judge anyone’s reasons, but where I see problems is when people are not honest with themselves or their partners about it. Often people have core needs which aren't being met, and instead of really talking about those things they just decide to go and get them somewhere else.” ...

"Lots of people like kinky sex psychologists call abnormal"

on Sunday, 20 March 2016. Hits 320

Reuters

by Lisa Rapaport

Reuters Health - Lots of ordinary people are into sex with a dash of voyeurism, fetishism and masochism – all habits classified as deviant in the manual doctors use to diagnose mental health disorders, a survey of Quebec residents suggests.

 

Researchers focused on what the manual calls paraphilic disorders – sexual behaviors labeled as abnormal, illegal or inducing suffering or impairment – and so-called normophilic, or typical, activities.

 

Most people have probably never heard of the guidebook in question, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

 

But this book that once called homosexuality a deviant act can still help create and reinforce negative stereotypes for perfectly healthy sexual behavior, said lead study author Christian Joyal, a psychology researcher at the University of Quebec Trois-Rivieres.

 

“The adjective `abnormal’ is judgmental,” Joyal said by email. “I don’t think it should appear in a psychiatry manual.”

 

“Paraphilic disorders are rare because people who practice kinky or atypical sex are virtually all happy with it,” Joyal added.

 

Researchers surveyed 1,040 adults in Quebec to see how often they desired or practiced eight sexual behaviors defined as outside the norm in the manual – fetishizing objects, wearing clothes from the opposite sex, spying on strangers, displaying genitals to unsuspecting strangers, rubbing against a stranger, pedophilia, masochism and sadism.

 

Overall, almost half of the respondents expressed interest in at least one of these eight sexual behaviors that the manual labels as deviant, researchers reported in the Journal of Sexual Research.

 

Roughly one third of the people surveyed said they had experienced one of these behaviors at least once, the survey found.

 

Participants either practiced or fantasized about four behaviors so often that it’s difficult to consider them outside the norm, the authors point out.

 

Slightly more than one third of people were interested in voyeurism, while 26 percent expressed interest in fetishism or rubbing up against strangers, and 19 percent liked masochism, the survey found. ...

"Lots of people like kinky sex that psychologists call abnormal"

on Saturday, 19 March 2016. Hits 257

Fox News Health

Lots of ordinary people are into sex with a dash of voyeurism, fetishism and masochism - all habits classified as deviant in the manual doctors use to diagnose mental health disorders, a survey of Quebec residents suggests.

 

Researchers focused on what the manual calls paraphilic disorders - sexual behaviors labeled as abnormal, illegal or inducing suffering or impairment - and so-called normophilic, or typical, activities.

 

Most people have probably never heard of the guidebook in question, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

 

But this book that once called homosexuality a deviant act can still help create and reinforce negative stereotypes for perfectly healthy sexual behavior, said lead study author Christian Joyal, a psychology researcher at the University of Quebec Trois-Rivieres.

 

"The adjective `abnormal' is judgmental," Joyal said by email. "I don't think it should appear in a psychiatry manual."

 

"Paraphilic disorders are rare because people who practice kinky or atypical sex are virtually all happy with it," Joyal added.

 

Researchers surveyed 1,040 adults in Quebec to see how often they desired or practiced eight sexual behaviors defined as outside the norm in the manual - fetishizing objects, wearing clothes from the opposite sex, spying on strangers, displaying genitals to unsuspecting strangers, rubbing against a stranger, pedophilia, masochism and sadism.

 

Overall, almost half of the respondents expressed interest in at least one of these eight sexual behaviors that the manual labels as deviant, researchers reported in the Journal of Sexual Research. ...

"Sexual Assault Survivor Stages Powerful S&M Photos At Frat Where She Was Raped"

on Tuesday, 15 March 2016. Hits 424

Huffington Post

by Priscilla Frank

During her freshman year at Wesleyan University, Karmenife Paulino was raped in the basement of the Psi Upsilon fraternity. Up until her junior year, Paulino said nothing of the assault, feeling that, as a woman of color, the attack on her body and mind would go unrecognized.

 

On campus in Middletown, Connecticut, Paulino saw her rapist everywhere. As she explains in her short memoir Sea Salt and Sandalwood (she was an English major with an emphasis in creative writing): "I would see him in the eating hall, in the coffee shop, in the campus grocery store. I would see the length of his limbs stretching over the steps of the library. I would smell his presence wafting through the mailroom. I'd freeze, my brain begging my legs to stretch and take me away from his frame, his eyes. M.'s eyes would shoot straight into my abdomen, twisting my insides until I found myself in a bathroom assuming the position."

 

Paulino also saw her rapist's name all over campus. He came from a wealthy background, she said, and two of the buildings in which Paulino had classes bore plaques reading his family name.

 

But, during her junior year, the same frat, Psi Upsilon, was hit with a separate sexual assault lawsuit, and Paulino couldn't stay quiet any longer. "I felt so powerless on campus," she explained in an interview with The Huffington Post.

 

In September of 2015, Paulino reported her rape to the university administration and Eclectic House, the co-ed housing collective of creative-minded individuals. "They were my best friends, my family," Paulino said. However, when she asked the house to ban her rapist from the property, Paulino said she was verbally attacked in return, interrogated and asked to explain why she was with him in the first place. "It turned into this horrific cycle with all of these people I considered to be my people," she recounted. "I had to deal with not only with my attacker on campus but this house full of people who would either look at me in disgust or not at all."

 

Because of the lack of support she received from her classmates and administrators, reporting her rape only made Paulino feel more powerless. "It was a very dark time," she said. "The administration basically laughed at me. My anxiety was so bad I couldn’t leave my room for days. I had hand tremors and anxiety-induced vomiting."

 

So Paulino found a source of strength through making art. Her first artistic endeavor was a performance piece addressing themes of campus sexual assault and accountability. "I had people dress up as Eclectic members and I did a monologue about everything that happened to me, and then these people violently tied me up in front of the audience," she said. "The audience then had to decide: am I going to help her or am I going to watch her writhe in pain? On a campus, that's really what it's like. People know what happened and they don’t do anything. We’re all a part of rape culture."

 

For the first time in a long time, Paulino felt empowered. And she wanted to do more. Specifically, she wanted to use art to make her school feel safe again. "I thought: I need to do something where I can reclaim this space and just exist."

 

For the resulting photo series, titled "Reclamation," Paulino collaborated with friend and photographer Tess Altman to reclaim her campus, her body and her life. In the images, Paulino dons dominatrix attire -- "something I feel powerful and really beautiful and confident in" -- and revisits both Psi Upsilon and Eclectic House, assuming positions of authority and control. ...

"Is the Family of the Future Polyamorous?"

on Tuesday, 15 March 2016. Hits 353

Connections.Mic

By Oliver Bateman

When it comes to marriage, three is still a crowd. But that might be changing sooner than we think. According to a 2015 Gallup poll, a small-yet-growing percentage of Americans report that they find the concept of plural marriage "morally acceptable," while polyamorous relationships are increasingly receiving mainstream media coverage. A 2014 Newsweek article even estimates that there are more than 500,000 openly polyamorous families living in the United States today.

 

Of course, not everyone is thrilled with the prospect of polyamory becoming more socially acceptable, particularly the remaining conservative jurists on the Supreme Court. Writing in dissent in the 2015 Supreme Court decision that made same-sex sexual activity legal throughout the United States, Chief Justice John Roberts, wrote that the legalization of same-sex marriage "would apply with equal force to the claim of a fundamental right to plural marriage," echoing anti-same-sex marriage arguments Justice Antonin Scalia had made years before.

 

The rise of polyamory (as well as the possibility of a more liberal replacement for Scalia, who passed away in February) begs the question: Will multiple-partner relationships eventually become the norm? And if so, what would actually change from a legal perspective?

 

When discussing plural relationships, it's important to note that polygamy (usually understood by to mean polygyny, or the taking of multiple simultaneous wives) is often conflated with polyamory, a term that refers to the practice of maintaining intimate, consensual relationships with two or more people.

 

While there are many differences between the two — for starters, polygamy is usually religious in nature and refers to a man having multiple wives, while polyamory is secular and refers to people of all genders having multiple partners — both polygamists and polyamorists live on the fringes of society. In fact, despite increasingly visible activism and public recognition, individuals in polyamorous unions remain outside the mainstream of American life, in part thanks to cultural discrimination against alternative lifestyles.

 

"Our entire system is geared toward the nuclear family model, two biological parents," Sandy Peace told Mic. Peace is a California psychologist and sex educator who has done extensive work with people involved in the polyamory community. "Many polyamorous families don't 'come out' to neighbors and school administrators because of concerns about prejudice and misunderstanding."

 

Yet there are also "real logistical problems" that are posed by polyamorous unions from a legal perspective. Peace said that issues related to divorce and custody in particular are complicated.

 

"Lawyers who are motivated to secure a better custody arrangement for the non-poly parent could make an issue of poly relationships, stressing that they are having a negative impact on the child's development," she said.

 

Although plural marriage is illegal, meaning that those in polyamorous unions do not receive the insurance or social security benefits that most spouses are entitled to, many polyamorous couples aren't particularly anxious for legal recognition.

 

Whether or not plural marriage should be legalized is "debated within our own community, similar to the gay community — there are people who don't believe we should go after plural marriage, and there are those who do," Robyn Trask, the executive director of the polyamory support organization Loving More, told U.S. News & World Report in 2015. ...

"Consent Accidents and Consent Violations"

on Sunday, 13 March 2016. Hits 389

Make Sex Easy

by Charlie Glickman

I was at a discussion group recently and someone shared a term that I hadn’t heard before: consent accidents. This is a really valuable nuance in the ongoing conversations about consent and nurturance culture because it recognizes that there’s a difference between a consent violation and a consent accident.

A consent violation happens when someone chooses to ignore or cross someone’s boundaries. People do that for a lot of reasons, including selfishness, arrogance, not caring about their partner, getting off on harming someone (which is distinct from the consensual experience of BDSM), or being somewhere else on the douchebag-rapist spectrum.

Consent accidents, however, are different because they happen because of error, miscommunication, misunderstanding, or not having all the information. That doesn’t make it less painful. If you step on my toes, it hurts whether it was an accident or on purpose. But how I approach the situation and what we do to resolve it might look very different.

There are some really big challenges for navigating this. First, if something happens that leaves you feeling hurt, it can really difficult to know the difference between accident and violation. That might be because of past experiences, wounds, triggers, or trauma which can amplify the hurt. It might be because it’s often difficult to know what someone’s intentions and motivations are. And in a world that excuses perpetrator’s actions and blames victims by saying things like “they didn’t mean to do it,” it can be incredibly hard to stand up for yourself.

Another difficulty is that identifying where things went awry is really hard when you’re feeling hurt. Pain, fear, anger, shame, sadness, and grief are all ways that you might feel when your consent isn’t attended to, whether it’s an accident or a violation. Any of those emotions, individually or in combination, can make it hard to see the situation with clarity, to talk about it with compassion for yourself and your partner, and to hold each of yourselves accountable for your choices and actions.

On the flip side, if you tell the other person what happened, they’ll also have their emotional reactions. Shame, in particular, tends to make us either attack the other person by blaming them or attack ourselves by giving up our right to our feelings and needs. If your partner gets defensive, they might try to dodge responsibility, take on all the blame, or attack you. Those are pretty common ways of reacting to shame, and most of us have done them at one point or another. Unfortunately, they also dovetail with victim-blaming, gaslighting, and the many other ways in which people who have been assaulted or abused get silenced.

Since it can be really difficult to identify what happened and know whether an event was a consent accident or violation, I’m really happy to have discovered this flow chart that Josh Weaver developed (used with permission). This was specifically designed for BDSM scenarios, so the acronym in the blue rectangle might not be familiar to you. WIITWD = What It Is That We Do (I think there’s a typo in the flowchart). ...

"This BDSM Consultant Teaches Famous Actors How to Use Whips"

on Sunday, 13 March 2016. Hits 264

Vice UK

By Julia Alsop

Growing up, Olivia Troy dreamed of being just like Xaviera Hollander, the high-class call girl who ran 1960s New York's busiest brothel and wrote a best-selling memoir called The Happy Hooker. When parents and teachers asked her what she wanted to do when she grew up, she said madam.

 

Troy's childhood fantasy didn't come to fruition, but sex is still her professional domain. For the past decade, Troy has become a career BDSM expert, consulting for TV shows, film sets, and Broadway plays to help actors and writers get it right when it comes to portraying kink on screen or stage. Her resume includes advising Paul Giamatti about the submissive he plays on Showtime's Billions and training actors on the Zach Braff-starring Broadway play Trust, and she's currently working on the forthcoming movie The Books.

 

A native New Yorker, Troy began exploring BDSM in her mid-twenties after an acquaintance confessed his shoe fetish to her at a company holiday party. They spent the rest of the night holed up in a corner while he pointed out women's shoes and explained what makes a hard stiletto so sexy. Her interest piqued, she began going to fetish parties, reading BDSM literature, and practicing the art of domination. At the time, she was a freelance lifestyle writer covering food, music, and relationships. But her curiosity for BDSM led her down the rabbit hole, and she eventually set up her own private dungeon.

 

Now in her mid-30s, Troy practices her kink personally, professionally, and legally with her business Kink on Set. At her consulting studio in New York's Flatiron District, she teaches actors, writers, and private clients how to play and punish. The studio is a BDSM enthusiast's dream, with over £62,500 worth of equipment she often rents out to production crews. Recently, I sat down with Troy among her whipping benches, puppy cages, and gimp masks to talk sex and power, on set and off.

 

VICE: Can you tell me about how someone becomes a BDSM consultant? What does the job actually entail?

Olivia Troy: Like a lot of the things I've gotten into in life, I fell into this unintentionally. It was 2010, I was practicing as a domme, and a colleague of mine was helping out with the Broadway play Trust, about a guy who goes to see a professional dominatrix who turns out to be his high school classmate. She wanted to show the crew what a real dungeon looks like and how to handle some of the equipment, so she brought one of the producers and three of the principle actors over to my space.

 

I ended up talking to the actors and coaching them on everything, from things like how to handle a flogger to how create that dominant presence. From there it snowballed, mostly via word of mouth.

 

What do you mean by dominant presence?

Like, how you talk to a submissive: the tone of voice you use, the different cues you use. When you talk, you talk with intention; you speak with purpose. The idea is to seduce, to be very clear and active. [A dominant presence] is very much about owning your power. There are no questions when I speak to someone. The language is very decisive. ...

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