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"Monogamous: To Be or Not to Be?"

on Tuesday, 12 November 2013. Hits 746

Huffington Post

The one thing you don't expect to see in any of the Bible Belt states (most of which have amended their constitutions to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman) is an organization promoting polyamory.

Last month at Atlanta's pride parade, the group Atlanta Polyamory Inc. did just that -- and out in the light of day. The result was the shock, awe, and disgust of a mixed group.

Atlanta Polyamory Inc.'s purple-lettered banner read, "Polyamory: Having simultaneous close emotional relationships with two or more other individuals."

While many religious conservatives might argue that the legalization of same-gender marriage and shows like HBO's Big Love, about a fictional polygamist Mormon family, plant seeds to destroy the conventional family unit, we have to ask ourselves whether monogamy is a natural instinct in us or a social construct devised to protect and regulate the institution of heterosexual marriage.

Being nonmonogamous in this culture carries a stigma for both heterosexuals and LGBTQs. Nonmonogamous people are widely assumed to be sexually promiscuous, sex- and love-addicted and unable to achieve emotional and sexual intimacy. But this assumption ignores the reality that some people really are in polyamorous relationships, and their ability to love more than one person at a time is not about a lust-fest for them.

Deepak Chopra, a renowned spiritual master and director of educational programs at the Chopra Center for Well Being in California, told The Advocate in 1998:

As far as monogamy is concerned, I honestly believe that human beings are not monogamous biologically; they were not created that way. However, it is certainly helpful in society and social structure ... because of the family structure. ... [W]ith gay and lesbian relationships, I think you're going to see families. You're going to see children. ... So in the interest of family structure, we've evolved biologically to the point where we are social creatures.

But the purported evolutionary benefits of monogamy have not panned out as expected. The biggest claim touted in support of monogamy is that it's the best social and psychological arrangement for children. However, if a couples is in a monogamous relationship solely for the kids, the children suffer because they witness no love, compassion or respect between the parents. ...

"What’s So Bad About an Open Marriage?"

on Tuesday, 12 November 2013. Hits 397

Daily Beast

Will and Jada Smith found themselves at the center of a scandal last week, when the tabloid Star Magazine allegedly caught Will canoodling with Margot Robbie, a 23-year-old actress and a costar of Focus, a movie he’s shooting in New Orleans.

The tabloid ran pictures from a photo booth photo shoot of Will and Robbie hamming it up. In one picture they are baring their chests at the camera; in another they are flashing peace signs; in the third, he’s hugging her from behind and throwing the peace sign. It looks pretty chummy, if not necessarily lascivious.

But Star’s spin on the cover story might be missing a key ingredient to the Smiths’ marriage. While the cover blared: “Will & Jada: The Photos That Will Tear Them Apart!” and alleged, “Will cheats with sexy 23-year-old in New Orleans,” it has long been rumored that the Smiths have an open relationship.

Robbie’s already taken to Twitter to issue a denial:

But in April, Jada Smith told Huff Post Live: “I’ve always told Will, ‘You can do whatever you want as long as you can look at yourself in the mirror and be OK. Because at the end of the day, Will is his own man,” she said. “It comes from respecting that you are in a partnership and that also you are an individual as well.”

Later, she clarified in a Facebook post: “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.”

Though they aren’t totally fessing up, the Smiths aren’t the first celebrity couple to face open marriage speculation/rumors and open relationship talk. When the picture of Robin Thicke with his hand on Lana Scolaro’s butt at a VMA afterparty was Instagrammed and Tweeted around the world, the typical narrative of the celebrity scandal was upended. This time, Thicke wasn’t in trouble with his wife; she wasn’t about to leave him; and he wasn’t getting dumped for being a dog.

Perhaps that has to do with Thicke’s carefully cultivated—and relatively new— image as a Lothario (see: “Blurred Lines.”) But in this narrative, his wife, actress Paula Patton, was supposedly cool with it all. Scolaro told the tabs that Patton was in the next room, and didn’t mind. “He mentioned that he and his wife are very chill. He was like, “Be nice to her, she’ll like you, she’ll love you,” she told Life&Style.

And Thicke’s interview with Howard Stern last July also seemed to imply that they had an unconventional relationship. “We’ve done just about everything,” he said. But he stopped short of saying they were in an open marriage. “Out of respect for her, we just won’t answer that one.”

Later, Patton’s rep denied it all: “It’s just a girl looking for some attention.”

***

If the Smiths and Thicke and his wife do have a very French arrangement, they wouldn’t be alone. Polyamory and open relationships have been gaining prominence with the public. From TV shows like Polyamory: Married and Dating to celebrities like Mo’Nique coming out about being in an open relationship, polyamorous (loosely defined as loving more than one person at a time) relationships are becoming more visible. If you are on a dating site like OkCupid, chances are you’ve encountered someone who is already in a relationship looking to spice things up.

“I think more people are participating in open marriages and polyamory now than ever before,” says Jenny Block, author of Open: Love, Sex, and Life in an Open Marriage. “It’s becoming clear that heterosexual monogamous marriage simply doesn’t work for most people. And I think people are tired of being unhappy and dissatisfied.”

With 50 percent of marriages ending in divorce, monogamy may seem like impossible ideal. “We cannot control our own desires and we certainly cannot control the desires of others,” says Block, who has been in an open marriage for the past 10 years. “You cannot tell someone, ‘Don’t be attracted to anyone else. Don’t desire anyone else.’ You can say, ‘If we’re going to be together, I want it to be monogamous.’ But you cannot control the other person’s heart and mind. The heart wants what it wants.” ...

"BDSM Consent"

on Monday, 11 November 2013. Hits 307

The Oxford Student

Talking about sex can be an incredibly frustrating experience. I realised this the other week, when I was telling a friend how turned on I am by boys who are really good at consent. I was trying to communicate how I find the mutual communication of care and concern intensely arousing: something which, I hoped, would be greeted by the fairly unsurprised agreement that, yes, consent is pretty awesome.

Instead, I was greeted with the objection that having to ask for permission ‘kills the mood’. Make no mistake, if expressions of mutual respect and desire are going to kill your mood, then your mood is deeply rapey and you really ought to kill it as quickly and thoroughly as possible. Nothing is more important in sex than the enthusiastic communication of consent, and a total respect for someone’s right to say ‘no’. This might seem fairly obvious, but it hardly takes a glance around at our culture to see how messed up our attitudes to sex are.

Take the stigmatization of BDSM, for example (an acronym which stands for different things depending on whom you ask, but is a general designation for sexual practices involving dominance and submission, bondage and sadomasochism). The great thing about the practice of BDSM is that it foregrounds the necessity of consent in good sex. Robust BDSM consent practices, involving the discussion and clarification of acts that both desire, and the setting of limits not to be crossed, are based on the notion, too rare in ‘normal’, vanilla sexual encounters, that nothing is permitted unless explicitly stated. The pre-packaged and oppressively rigid script that our culture gives us for sexual encounters makes certain desires compulsory and forbids others.

We need to re-examine all the harmful assumptions that are often made in ‘normal’ sex: that there is some kind of natural sexual arc (often employing the odd sporting metaphor of ‘bases’ and a ‘homerun’) beginning with kissing, moving on to foreplay — that is, things that aren’t considered ‘real’ sex — and finally, to use a faintly ridiculous term, ‘full sex’. What is half-full sex like, I wonder? Or maybe just one third sex, two thirds chastity? ...

 

"Life Beyond Therapy: BDSM, Fetish, Leather, Kink

on Friday, 08 November 2013. Hits 387

San Diego Gay and Lesbian News

After the recent Folsom Street Fair, a client said that he saw me on a list of “kink-friendly” therapists. I was intrigued. I wanted to know what that meant, so I Googled “kink” and got: “unusual sexual behaviors or practices.”

 

 

 

To this I reply: Who defines what is “unusual” and “unusual for whom?”

 

 

 

My curiosity piqued, I Googled:

 

 

 

Fetish—an object or a part of the body that arouses sexual desire or is necessary for one to reach full sexual satisfaction.

 

 

 

Leather—a community where people of varying body types are celebrated; a form of self-expression; being proud of your sexuality by displaying it in your (leather) outfit or gear.

 

 

 

BDSM—sexual practices or activities involving bondage, discipline, sadism, masochism or acts or domination and submission.

 

 

 

Ah yes, BDSM. Years ago, as a new therapist, I felt that if I was going to work with the LGBT community, I wanted to know about aspects of the community that weren’t so mainstream. So, I signed up for a workshop on BDSM. It was quite enlightening. I can’t easily summarize it here, but there is so much more to it than I was aware. There were subtleties and nuances that pretty much blew the lid off my Ohio farmboy mindset.

 

 

 

I am ashamed to admit that psychotherapy and psychology have—historically—not been friends to “practitioners of BDSM/Leather/Kink Lifestyles” (the term recommended by the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom). I am adding “fetish” to this community and calling it “the BFLK community.”

 

 

 

Unfortunately, a lot of psychologists still view the BFLK community quite negatively, labeling them as “deviant.” To me, alternatives to traditional sexual behaviors and roles are not deviant, they are different. Just because someone else likes to do something that doesn’t appeal to you doesn’t mean it’s deviant, unhealthy or wrong.

 

 

 

Many of us have never examined the moral codes that we were raised with. Believe me: growing up on a farm in Ohio, I was neither encouraged to experiment with nor explore alternatives to traditional, conservative sexual roles.

 

 

 

After working with clients over the years, I have learned that BFLK can be a practice, a lifestyle, an identity and an orientation. Regardless of how much a person incorporates elements of BFLK into their life, BFLK practitioners deserve respect and sensitivity, which has not always been forthcoming from San Diego’s LGBT community.

 

 

 

Some psychologists label anything BFLK as unhealthy or harmful to your own mental health and that of your partner(s). To me, as a BFLK–friendly psychotherapist, I find that there are many ways to express healthy adult sexuality. For example, you might be tentatively exploring some of your (formerly secret) sexual/erotic fantasies. This exploration could take many forms. It could be as simple as being turned on a bit by the presence of leather or it could involve a major shift in your core sexual identity and lifestyle.

 

 

 

The choice is yours. It’s your life and you get to decide what is “healthy” (or not) for you.

 

 

 

If you decide to bring elements of the BFLK world into your erotic life, I encourage you to find supportive partners who can help you find a safe space to do so and will give you the support you need in your explorations. Thank God for the Internet, where it’s possible to find others who share your unique and specific fantasies and let you know that you are but one of many. ...

 

To this I reply: Who defines what is “unusual” and “unusual for whom?”

My curiosity piqued, I Googled:

Fetish—an object or a part of the body that arouses sexual desire or is necessary for one to reach full sexual satisfaction.

Leather—a community where people of varying body types are celebrated; a form of self-expression; being proud of your sexuality by displaying it in your (leather) outfit or gear.

BDSM—sexual practices or activities involving bondage, discipline, sadism, masochism or acts or domination and submission.

Ah yes, BDSM. Years ago, as a new therapist, I felt that if I was going to work with the LGBT community, I wanted to know about aspects of the community that weren’t so mainstream. So, I signed up for a workshop on BDSM. It was quite enlightening. I can’t easily summarize it here, but there is so much more to it than I was aware. There were subtleties and nuances that pretty much blew the lid off my Ohio farmboy mindset.

I am ashamed to admit that psychotherapy and psychology have—historically—not been friends to “practitioners of BDSM/Leather/Kink Lifestyles” (the term recommended by the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom). I am adding “fetish” to this community and calling it “the BFLK community.”

Unfortunately, a lot of psychologists still view the BFLK community quite negatively, labeling them as “deviant.” To me, alternatives to traditional sexual behaviors and roles are not deviant, they are different. Just because someone else likes to do something that doesn’t appeal to you doesn’t mean it’s deviant, unhealthy or wrong.

Many of us have never examined the moral codes that we were raised with. Believe me: growing up on a farm in Ohio, I was neither encouraged to experiment with nor explore alternatives to traditional, conservative sexual roles.

After working with clients over the years, I have learned that BFLK can be a practice, a lifestyle, an identity and an orientation. Regardless of how much a person incorporates elements of BFLK into their life, BFLK practitioners deserve respect and sensitivity, which has not always been forthcoming from San Diego’s LGBT community.

Some psychologists label anything BFLK as unhealthy or harmful to your own mental health and that of your partner(s). To me, as a BFLK–friendly psychotherapist, I find that there are many ways to express healthy adult sexuality. For example, you might be tentatively exploring some of your (formerly secret) sexual/erotic fantasies. This exploration could take many forms. It could be as simple as being turned on a bit by the presence of leather or it could involve a major shift in your core sexual identity and lifestyle.

The choice is yours. It’s your life and you get to decide what is “healthy” (or not) for you.

If you decide to bring elements of the BFLK world into your erotic life, I encourage you to find supportive partners who can help you find a safe space to do so and will give you the support you need in your explorations. Thank God for the Internet, where it’s possible to find others who share your unique and specific fantasies and let you know that you are but one of many.

- See more at: http://www.sdgln.com/health/2013/11/06/life-beyond-therapy-bdsm-fetish-leather-kink#sthash.i5nkEK3w.dpuf
he recent Folsom Street Fair, a client said that he saw me on a list of “kink-friendly” therapists. I was intrigued. I wanted to know what that meant, so I Googled “kink” and got: “unusual sexual behaviors or practices.” - See more at: http://www.sdgln.com/health/2013/11/06/life-beyond-therapy-bdsm-fetish-leather-kink#sthash.i5nkEK3w.dpuf
After the recent Folsom Street Fair, a client said that he saw me on a list of “kink-friendly” therapists. I was intrigued. I wanted to know what that meant, so I Googled “kink” and got: “unusual sexual behaviors or practices.” - See more at: http://www.sdgln.com/health/2013/11/06/life-beyond-therapy-bdsm-fetish-leather-kink#sthash.i5nkEK3w.dpuf

"Exploring the ‘kinkier’ things in life"

on Monday, 04 November 2013. Hits 304

UConn Daily Campus

The joys, trials and stereotypes of kinky sex in college were among the topics brought up during “Kinky in College,” a panel-led discussion hosted by the student organization DARTS (Diverse Approaches to Relationship Types and Sexualities) in the Rainbow Center on Friday afternoon.

Most of the six panelists preferred not to disclose their names. Rowan, a member of DARTS who hosted the discussion, explained that a person’s future employment and family relationships could be put in jeopardy if that person was revealed to be associated with BDSM.

About 30 people attended the discussion, which Rowan explained was part of an effort to “give people a better understanding of what it means to be kinky.”

“Kink is becoming more of a public phenomenon,” Rowan said. “We’re trying to dispel a lot of myths.”

According to the panelists, many of these myths and negative stereotypes have been propagated through “50 Shades of Grey,” a popular erotic romance novel.

In “50 Shades,” Christian Grey is the dominant, which means that he has control over the sexual situations that take place between him and Anastasia Steele, who submits to Grey’s will as the submissive.

“50 Shades is a romance novel, and romance novels are not necessarily indicative of how sex actually happens,” said a panelist who explained that one of Grey’s problems is his failure to comply with safe words.

Safe words are specific words that are discussed by participants beforehand that act as a means of telling a person to stop what he or she is doing. These are especially important in BDSM scenes in which “no” doesn’t necessarily mean “no.”

The panelists explained that it’s important to distinguish between BDSM scenes and the actual relationship between two or more people.

“It’s bounded by the knowledge that this is not the relationship,” said one of the panelists. “This is the entertainment, this is the fun, this is the sex.”

It’s crucial for participants to communicate ahead of time and this doesn’t happen very thoroughly in “50 Shades.”

“There is not a level of communication within their relationship outside of sex that would carry over to the level of communication that is absolutely necessary during kinky sex,” said Jade, a panelist. “BDSM above everything else is about trust and communication.”

The panel helped define many terms for the audience, such as tops, bottoms, hard limits, soft limits, impact play, play parties and munches.

Tops are people who give sensation during sex, while bottoms are people who receive the sensation.

Soft limits are activities or sensations that a person may not be interested in but that he or she might consent to if a scene happened to entail it. For instance, if a top accidentally drew blood during a scene, although the bottom is not necessarily interested in it at first, he or she might still consent and continue with the scene. Hard limits, on the other hand, are activities that a person would absolutely never consent to. ...

“Invitation to Participate in a Needs Assessment Interview on Intimate Partner Abuse Among Practitioners of BDSM/Leather/Kink Lifestyles”

on Thursday, 31 October 2013. Hits 817

Posted on October 31, 2013

Eligibility

*Adult, aged 18 or over,

* have ever been in a Leather/BDSM/kink relationship in which you experienced intimate partner abuse, and

* sought help from publicly available domestic violence/intimate partner abuse services, or

* wanted to seek help from publicly available domestic violence/intimate partner abuse services, but did not do so.

 

The interview will take no more than 2 hours to complete.

 

Please respond no later than January 10, 2014.

 

Your participation is voluntary. All responses are confidential. However, there is potential risk of loss of confidentiality in all email, downloading and internet transactions. The final results of this study will be used for research and may also be published in a summary format in a peer-reviewed journal.

 

The purpose of this interview is to gather information regarding the quality of experiences had by those who sought help from domestic violence/intimate partner abuse service providers, or those who wanted to seek help, but did not do so. The overall goal is to help service providers and outreach educators improve the quality of information, responses and interventions regarding the unique needs and experiences of individuals who live a BDSM, Leather or kinky lifestyle.

 

Would you be interested in participating in an in-depth face-to-face or telephone interview (to last no more than 2 hours) about your experiences? If so, please contact Dr. Elizabeth Fawcett at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or call 972-742-7717 to set up an interview.

 

If you have any questions about the interview, please contact Elizabeth Fawcett, Ph.D., M.P.H., at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . This study has been reviewed according to accepted Institutional Review Board (IRB) procedures for research involving human subjects, and approved. If you have questions about the rights of research participants or the way this study is being conducted, you may contact Texas Woman’s University Office of Research and Sponsored Programs at 940-898-3378 or via email at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 

There is potential risk of loss of confidentiality in all email, downloading and internet transactions.

Unitarian Universalist Association: Make it clear: Alt-Sex UUA employees deserve protections, too!

on Thursday, 31 October 2013. Hits 736

Please sign NCSF Coalition Partner's Leather & Grace - UUs for BDSM Awareness's Change.org petition. Join us in our call for the UUA to make it clear that their kinky and poly employees also deserve protection!

Petitioning Rob Molla:

In April 2013, a delegation from Leather & Grace ~ Unitarian Universalists for BDSM Awareness met with the Trustees and senior administrators of the Unitarian Universalist Association, to share concerns and engage in dialogue.

One major issue was the work environment at UUA headquarters.Some UUA employees had reported being silenced merely for identifying with alternative sexuality communities, or sharing educational information about kink or polyamory.

In discussing this with Board members and UUA senior administrators, one of the Trustees recommended that a proactive memo be sent to all employees of the UUA, clarifying that the Association’s nondiscrimination policy applies to all sexual identities, including kink and polyamory, and identifying boundaries for appropriate office behavior.Senior administrators responded positively to the idea of sending such a memo.

Since that meeting, the leadership of Leather & Grace has followed up with UUA leadership, and even drafted proposed content for this memo – and still the UUA has not issued a clarifying memo to their staff, nor have they given any reasons why they won't do so.

The UUA and its member congregations have a proud history of inclusion, affirmation, advocacy and education for people of diverse sexual orientations.With the rise in public awareness around BDSM, kink, and other forms of consensual sexual expression, isn’t it time that this progressive faith movement catch up with the rest of society?

Tell the UUA’s Director of Human Resources, Rob Molla, and other top Unitarian Universalist leaders to make it clear that kinky and polyamorous employees have basic workplace protections at UUA headquarters.Sign this petition calling for them to issue a proactive memo as discussed, and to work with groups like Leather & Grace and UUs for Polyamory Awareness to make the UUA a safer place to work for all their employees.

To:
Rob Molla, Director of Human Resources, UUA
Rev. Peter Morales, President, UUA
Rev. Harlan Limpert, Chief Operating Officer, UUA
Jim Key, Moderator and Chief Governance Officer, UUA
Annette Marquis, LGBTQ and Multicultural Ministries Program Manager, UUA
Make it clear: Alt-Sex UUA employees deserve protections, too!

Sincerely,
[Your name]

Sign here:

http://www.change.org/petitions/unitarian-universalist-association-make-it-clear-alt-sex-uua-employees-deserve-protections-too

"Polyamory: Not Harmful to Society"

on Thursday, 31 October 2013. Hits 406

Huffington Post

Recently, in an blog post titled "Gay Marriage: Good; Polyamory: Bad," Eli Lehrer offered his opinion on why polyamory will never be widely accepted. In Lehrer's words, "Gay marriage is, at the very worst, neutral for society while polyamory is pretty clearly harmful to society." But as a polyamorous feminist who is firmly committed to all varieties of social justice, it's important to me to refute what Lehrer sees as the "obvious harms" brought on society by families like my own.

Though Lehrer uses the term "polyamory" throughout his piece, the only form of multi-partner relationships he addresses are those of a fundamentalist, patriarchal variety. Though such relationships clearly do exist -- and are problematic in many ways -- they are not the only form that multi-partner relationships take. Though exact numbers are unknown, it's estimated that between 4 and 5 percent of Americans are in some form of openly non-monogamous relationship, many of them polyamorous. Defined as the practice of romantically loving more than one partner simultaneously, polyamorous relationships do not adhere to a patriarchal, heterosexual "one husband, many wives" model, but instead include every imaginable combination of genders and sexual orientations. Many polyamorous women, like myself, are in loving, committed relationships with multiple men. And a large number of us -- from my observation, seemingly a larger percentage than of the general population -- consider feminist values to be central to our relationships.

Lehrer is also concerned with the social problem of polyamory creating an inherent scarcity of partners. But again, this is only a concern if you assume that polyamory only means one man with many women. But given the reality of modern, egalitarian polyamorous relationship configurations that include one woman with several men, three or more men or women all in a relationship together, quads made up of two men and two women, and many more, it is difficult to imagine how polyamory can create a scarcity of available partners of one gender or the other.

It is of course true that granting legal recognition to polyamorous families would also have the effect of granting legal recognition to patriarchal polygamous families as well. But the unfortunate reality is that many women still live in oppressive, fundamentalist monogamous marriages, and we do not use that as an excuse to eschew marriage all together. The problem is patriarchy itself, not the particular form relationships take. If anything, decriminalization of multi-partner relationships would allow more women in polygamous relationships who are being abused to access social services without fear of punishment.

Though I am living in a life-committed relationship with two men myself, I am not particularly interested in arguing for the legal recognition of polyamorous marriages anytime soon. Like the vast majority of polyamorous activists, I am much more interested in simply increasing social awareness and acceptance of families like mine. Lehrer might be correct that increased acceptance of polyamory would lead more people to live polyamorously, but this is only something to fear if one accepts the premise that polyamory is in fact harmful to society. Increased acceptance of same-sex relationships has obviously not caused people to become gay, but it has lead to more gay and lesbian men and women being able to live openly as who they authentically are. For many of us, polyamory feels like the most authentic way to love and relate to our romantic partners. I believe a vast majority of people will always be more comfortable with monogamy. But the increased visibility of polyamorous relationships will help more of us who do not feel comfortable with monogamy live and love in a way that feels most authentic to us.

If we're going to discuss what's harmful to society, I'd argue that things like racism and sexism and heterosexism and every other form of oppression we live with are far larger threats to the common good than my two partners, my daughter, and me, who have the audacity to live in a modest home in the suburbs together, where we regularly commit such scandalous acts as playing board games, watching Netflix, and cuddling with dachshunds. But ordinary, loving families like mine certainly do suffer when people like Lehrer choose to perpetuate misunderstandings about who and what we are.

No matter how much opponents of polyamory wish to claim that it has nothing at all in common with gay marriage, these alarmist cries about how polyamory will destroy the moral fabric of America sound awfully similar to the discourse surrounding same-sex marriage a decade or so ago. And just as though there has never actually been a serious threat that same-sex marriage would destroy the institution of heterosexual marriage as we know it, we polyamorous folks have no agenda of destroying the institution of monogamy. We only want a future where monogamy as seen as just one possible way among many ways to love, make commitments, and build families.

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