Opening Up

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I was recently read a book called Opening Up but Tristan Taormino.

If you are in an open relationship, or if you want to be in one, I think this book is an excellent choice for reading up on how to do it. There is some very useful information on effective communication, as well as some balance sheets that (if you really think about your answers) can help you decide if an open relationship is for you or not.

Obviously in theory it sounds great to be able to have sex with different people. We’re all curious and we have all had that moment of attraction with a stranger that makes us desire to be daring and try something new.

And of course, as I have mentioned before, cheating in “monogamous” relationships is a real problem, which is one of the many reasons the book gives for considering an open relationship.

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However, the author also covers the many reasons it may not work for your relationship. There are lots of things to consider, such as how your are affected by jealousy, and how willing you are to own your feelings (rather than blaming a partner for them.)

It is rare to find a discussion of a topic such as this which is sex positive and overall well thought out. I must say this book contains both of those things in spades. It really is a useful tool to help anyone determine how they feel about an open relationship. and how to make it work.

A lot of us in the kink/sex-positive community struggle to define boundaries and to make the rules as we go along. When you step out of the traditional paradigm, suddenly it can be hard to know where to go from there and how to know what is “normal” any more.

This book gives guidelines and points to ponder that will help you find your way, and help you cope with a situation outside of the comfort of clearly defined boundaries and social conventions.

It is a worthy addition to my bookshelf, and I hope you’ll all consider reading it.

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Guest Post by Nell Gwyn

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(Note: This post is written by a sex worker whom I admire. Obviously it is not representative of all people in the industry. But it is a beautiful insight into a world often kept in the shadows. I hope you enjoy it. Without further ado, here is Nell.)

Nell Gwyn here, legendary whore and magical unicorn. My friend Violet asked me to write a post for her blog, and I thought it might be good to go over some of the basic questions people ask me when they find out how I earn a living. I see one of my primary roles as a sex worker rights’ activist as an educator and demystifier. The stigma surrounding sex work is a huge problem both in the US, where I operate, and worldwide. It promotes violence against us, contributes to the criminalization of our work, and causes very really repercussions in our families and communities. I figure that if I can help just a few more people understand what it really means to do consensual sex work, perhaps I can help to break down some of these walls between we sex workers and you muggles.

Before I begin with the FAQ, it is important to note that I am just one sex worker out there in a vast sea of many. I can only tell you about my own experience. I have known many other sex workers with life experiences similar to mine, but I would never assume I speak for them. This is also not an exhaustive list of every question I end up getting asked; it’s more a list of basics and then some of the more annoying questions and explanations as to why they’re bad.

 It is important to remember as you read this that someone you know has probably done a form of sex work at one time or another in their life, or may even be a current sex worker. We often don’t disclose that information to everyone we know. If a person is female and/ or (gender) queer, the chances that they have done sex work begin to go up. Sex workers are probably literally your friends and family, and you may not even know it.

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Q: Wait, what’s a sex worker?

A: The term “sex work” was coined in the late 70’s by self-described prostitute and activist Carol Leigh. It is actually an umbrella term used to refer to all forms of sexual labor, including but not limited to full service (actual sex, usually penetrative), stripping/ exotic dancing, erotic/ sensual massage, pro domination/ submission/ switching, sugar babying (with sex), adult film performers, adult photography modeling, web camming, phone sex, and hands-on education or therapy, sometimes called surrogacy or sexual surrogacy.

If you are curious what type of sex work I do, I have done many of these, both in the past and currently. I make the bulk of my income as a full service provider and sugar baby. I also do adult film performance, live performance, modeling, pro switching, and, arguably, sex therapy and surrogacy.

Q: Why do y’all use an umbrella term to describe yourselves? Why not just say you’re a prostitute?

A: Many of us often do identify with other terms for sex work amongst our friends and in safe spaces. However, there are a couple of problems with many of the terms used to described sex work.

The first is that the more illegal and/ or stigmatized the work you do is, the more unsafe it is to use the individual terms in unfamiliar situations or spaces. This is especially true for full service sex workers, but can also be true no matter what sort of sex work you do. Anything that can be construed to be similar to prostitution is a seedy and scary place to find oneself amongst the wrong company. And using the P word in reference to yourself can, in theory, get you arrested. Or bring trouble your way at the very least.

 The second reason is because many of the only words used to describe our work have also been used to stigmatize our work in modern history. Words like whore, prostitute, stripper, dominatrix, gold-digger, etc. are hardly ever used kindly or with nearly the reverence we feel they deserve. Calling all of them sex work draws attention the fact that it is work. It is, in fact, difficult yet often rewarding emotional labor. It also calls to attention the fact that many of us do many different sorts of sex work, and can’t always identify as just one.

 And on that note, how a whore like me self-identifies does not give you permission to call me anything other than a sex worker or, under the right circumstances, a full service provider. I am the lenient sort who let my friends and those I trust use those words to describe me, but for the love of God please at least check in with a sex worker before your start using pejorative terms to describe them or their work.

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Q: How do you advertise? How do full service sex workers find clients?

A: There are as many different hustles for clients out there as there are full service providers; each one of us usually has our own unique approach that works for us. In some ways it is not safe to talk about the ways in which this all goes down; teaching others how to practice full service or teaching clients how to hire us is also criminalized, and can be conflated with pimping and pandering, both felony charges in the US.

 But, to give you a basic overview, most indoor full service sex work gets negotiated over the Internet these days. There are sites where you can advertise and you can handle potential clients through email. You can build your own website and optimize it for google searches. You can have a social media presence. You can do background checks on your clients and check national blacklists for their names. Those who work on their own are called independent providers, and some independent providers who are doing well hire assistants to do this administrative work for them. Others work for agencies who do their advertising and security for them in exchange for a cut. There are some brothels, and some independent sex workers who work together and share space cooperatively.

 Outdoor sex work is still also done, but from what I can tell is much more rare since the advent of the Internet. Since I do not do this sort of work, I cannot speak to how it goes down. But I will say that the sensationalized trope of a scantily clad woman approaching a man in a car and asking him if he’s looking for a good time is not always accurate. Outdoor and street workers deserve just as much respect and societal protections as indoor workers- or workers in legal areas of sex work- do.

 Q: Isn’t it dangerous? What about STDs, rape, abuse, murder, drugs, fear, fear and more fear?

A: Yes, it can be risky. So is driving your car to work every day. So are jobs in healthcare, construction, logging, mining, professional driving, warehouse labor, home maintenance, you name it. Being a person of color, LGBTQ, disabled or even just being a woman is dangerous no matter what sort of work you do. You could argue that choosing to be a sex worker on top of being born into less privilege is adding insult to injury, but that argument starts to fall apart when you consider how much those groups of people tend to be discriminated against when searching for “real” work. It is a risk that many choose to take when faced with other options such as poverty or inability to obtain upward mobility.

 Many sex workers do take measures to insure their safety, to the best of their ability. We screen clients, we give references to each other, we maintain a national blacklist here in the US. We use condoms and other barriers and get tested frequently. We do have strategies. Not included in our strategies is reporting to the police when we are attacked, because the police either don’t take us seriously or arrest us. This, right here, is the crux of what makes sex work dangerous. And it doesn’t have to be. If stigma and criminalization could be eliminated, we could take further measures to insure our safety.

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Q: Aren’t you afraid no one will ever love you again? – Or- Isn’t your partner jealous?

A: Ha! I’m really glad you asked this, as I’m the perfect person to bust that myth all to shit.

 Many sex workers do have problems finding love, and it’s all your fault. If this sort of question even occurs to you at all, consider what it might be like to love a sex worker for just one second. We tend to be extremely compassionate, loving and giving individuals. We also know a few things about sex, though some of us may be sexually exhausted from using those skills in our work. I’m not always one of those people; for me it usually depends on the day and the amount of effort I have expended at work.

 I was very lucky to enter into the industry as a non-monogamous individual with numerous romantic partners and a very supportive community. For the most part I tend to fraternize with people who understand that their jealousy is their problem, and not mine. This doesn’t mean I’m unwilling to discuss problems when they come up, or adjust my behavior in order to help a partner feel more comfortable with our relationship. It just means I have a low tolerance for possessiveness or ownership, or other forms of relational entitlement.

 For me personally, non-monogamy has worked very well for my career and personal relationship choices. Many sex workers are non-monogamous like me, and others are monogamous with one partner outside of their work. Others are waiting to leave the industry to find a partner(s). I do think it’s important to point out, though, that we are definitely capable of feeling love without financial incentive. Assuming we are not is another layer of damaging rhetoric that is used against us.

 

Q: If there was one thing you wish you could tell the rest of the world about sex work, what would it be?

A: In case you haven’t gathered this from the way I answered these other questions, I think the most important thing to remember about sex workers is that we’re just normal, average people. Yes, there may be ways in which we conduct our lives that make us seem extraordinary to an outsider. But we’re not an alien super-breed of sexed up babes out to steal your husbands. Nor are we your worst nightmare of a life gone terribly wrong. We’re not victims for your tragedy porn and we’re not evil succubi set on eroding your morality.

 We’re just people and we deserve a little respect.

 

 

I Don’t Cheat

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As I have mentioned before on my blog, I have an OKcupid profile. I have met some interesting people over the years through OKC, but it takes a lot of sifting through assholes to find them.

Recently a guy messaged me saying he was on Guam for work and asked if I wanted to hang out. He said he had read my profile and my blog, and that we had a lot of similar interests.

However, I already had stuff to do on both of the days he was in town, and I didn’t have time to go meet him.

As his messages got more and more desperate, he told me to blow off my husband, my friends, and my job interview. Obviously, I would not do any of those things. He was a jerk for asking.

But here’s the thing that really pissed me off: He admitted that he had a wife and kids and was in a monogamous relationship.

imagesWhen I said I wasn’t cool with cheating, he said; “But you’re doing it too.”

*Sigh*

I am going to make this point again, because I guess I don’t say it enough on this blog: Being poly-amorous is not cheating. Unlike this asshole’s poor wife, my husband is not in the dark. I share conversations with him often with folks I talk to online, and when I go meet people I tell him about it.

We negotiated this as the way we want our relationship to be set up. Often, some new detail will come up and we will have to revisit some aspect of our relationship in light of new feelings (turns out I wasn’t okay with him sleeping with a former porn star because she was broke and car-less and expected me to drive them on a date and have him pay.)

See; we discuss the situations we find ourselves in and we decide what we’re okay with and what we’re not okay with. It’s okay for those things to change, but it isn’t okay to sneak around and lie.

Cheating is when you lie to your partner.

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Every relationship has its own rules, and only the people in that relationship can decide what they should be. We have decided that it’s okay to sleep with other people. That is how our relationship is structured. And again, every single relationship is structured differently.

I once dated a married guy who said his wife was fine with sex outside the marriage, but he couldn’t stay the night. At various key parties or group events, there are sometimes folks with rules like “no kissing” or “no penetration.”

Everyone makes their own rules. I am not cheating on my husband by talking to various guys and girls online, because he knows and we feel that it’s okay. But the guy who wanted to sleep with me while he was in town was cheating, because he and his wife agreed on a monogamous relationship and he was lying and breaking the rules and her trust.

You can perhaps see the important distinction there that he could not?

I seriously considered taking a screen shot of the conversation and of his picture, and posting it on reddit or somewhere else, in hopes that his wife might find out. After all, I do not like to see innocent people lied to. If he tried to cheat with me, then I am sure he has cheated with other women and that is putting her life in danger. He could contract HIV or Syphilis and give it to her.

However, I don’t generally butt into the lives of others. So, I just quietly hoped that his wife would find out in some other way, because it’s unfair to her for him to behave the way he is.

My point is: don’t lie to people if you love them. Respect the boundaries you negotiate for your relationship. And, as I have said before, if you’re going to lie, don’t bring me into it.

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The Best

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Recently, one of my Portland pets asked me how he rated compare to other guys I had slept with. He said: “Tell me I am in the top 5 at least.”

I do not know if other people rank the people they sleep with. But I do not. I find the entire concept ridiculous. After all, variety is the spice of life and everyone fills different needs for me. In general I have trouble switching with the same person. I’m not good at going from the role of domme to the role of sub with a single individual. So for me, if a person is a good submissive then I appreciate them for that. And on rare occasions I find someone who can be a Dom for me, and when I do I enjoy that. And then you meet those amazing people who are really good at going down on girls and who can make you cum over and over. And those are great too, (sometimes even good enough for me to write about).

And of course I love sex with women a little more than sex with men, as I have always leaned in the female direction when it comes to attraction, so there’s that whole thing to consider too.

Anyway, it’s just an unfair question to ask someone how you rank in their little black book. It’s one of the many unfair questions that women get asked, along with questions from guys about if their penises are big enough. (What the hell are we supposed to say to that?!)

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I really think it’s not fair to ask how you rate to another person when it comes to sex. And you shouldn’t have to anyway! If you have good chemistry and the sex is great, then you should both just know it without saying anything. If you have to ask, it probably didn’t shake the Earth for me.

So I tried to avoid the question about a million different ways before finally making some shit up. I don’t remember what I said, but it was some platitude about being in the top 20 or so. I think out of around 200 people, anyone should take that as a compliment, but of course he was hurt that he wasn’t THE BEST.

I couldn’t help but think that other people often try to get you to fix their insecurities for them. Little do they realize, no one can fix your insecurities but you.

So take some advice from a magically delicious super slut; never ask where you rank. Just don’t do it.

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Big Love

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I recently had someone tell me that I should watch “Big Love” because I am Poly. Obviously I was insulted that my lifestyle was compared to the abusive relationships that some Mormons promote, but I agreed to “keep an open mind” and watch it anyway.

Big Love is about an oppressive system of control imposed by a faction of the Mormon religion. All of the Mormon religion teaches women to shut up and obey, and so I hate it in general. But in specific, those who follow the polygamy path are awful. They kick boys out of their homes when they are 14 or 15 because they don’t want them to get interested in  the girls. And the girls they marry to old, misogynistic men who are often decades older than them.

So for the record, I am deeply offended by everything to do with this show, even before it was compared to my lifestyle.

There are so many differences between the kink style of poly love and the Mormon idea of it that I hardly know where to begin. I guess I should note that kids and religion are not necessary parts of the poly lifestyle for kinky folks. For me personally, I can not have children and I am not religious. Those things do not factor at all into my life, even a little. Also, when poly people choose to have children, they think it through, They’re not tying to overrun the earth with children of their religion. They’re not breeding for the sake of breeding. Poly couples do not think of children as tools in a war against Satan. They think of them as tiny people, because that is what they are.

The show is centered around religion, and they live their lifestyle because they believe in a god who wants them to have an unnecessary amount of children. I can’t tell you how horrible I find that. Those poor women!

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Also, while the show is centered around the historical Mormon practice of a man having multiple wives, all the wives are expected to be monogamous with their one husband. Some kink couples may choose to have a poly/monogamous relationship. But it is a choice not a requirement, and it is the exception rather than the rule. Poly life usually means freedom for BOTH partners; not just the man.

(I did have one poly/monogamous relationship. He just didn’t seem to be able to find any other girl that would date him. Poor thing. But I wasn’t going to let that stop me from living MY life. It lasted nearly a decade and I think we were both happy, though he sometimes struggled to manage his jealousy.)

Anyway, if you’ve ever read Escape by Carolyn Jessop, you know that Polygamous compounds are full of unspeakable abuse. They make it look cute in the show, but it’s NOT. I am from Arizona and I have seen boys come through the shelter I volunteered at after being run off the compound in Colorado City. Not only were these boys uneducated and afraid, but they missed their families, who tossed them out like trash so they wouldn’t “steal” the young girls in the compound.

Meanwhile women are only dumped in the desert after they have had all the children they can. Often once they reach menopause a husband will decide they are useless and just drive them off the compound and leave them, forbidding them to come back or see their children. And because these folks give birth at home and don’t file birth certificates with the state, the women have no way to prove that they even have children, (nor any money to fight a court case.)

I actually can’t list all the ways that this show glorifies a horrible and abusive lifestyle. I can’t begin to describe my revulsion at the abuse in Colorado City and other Mormon Compounds in Mexico, the USA, and Canada. But I must insist that being a Mormon Polygamist is NOTHING like my lifestyle at all.

In the kink community, we are all equal. We all deserve respect. And I think none of us would support the lifestyle depicted in “Big Love” for the same reason we don’t support the relationship described in “50 Shades of Grey;” because we don’t tolerate abuse. Our object is to be open-minded, not closed-minded. And I think that is a worthy goal for anyone, kinky or not.

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Real Names

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Facebook recently decided that everyone should have to use their “real name” on their web site. I can’t tell you how mad this made me.

When I first entered the kink scene nearly two decades ago, I was named “Lady Violet” for my Dominant nature and my purple eye shadow. I have continued using the name Violet in most instances in the kink scene.

This is due to the nature of jobs I have held where being kinky would be considered a scandal, as well as the job my husband holds which has strict rules about conduct in and outside the workplace.

Obviously, there are  a great many people who have jobs that would be difficult to do under their real name. Fear of stalkers, being fired from jobs, and other concerns make adopting a “scene name” a no-brainier for a lot of people from a lot of different walks of life.

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I have been asked how one chooses a “scene name,” and that is something I have precious little advice on. I legally changed my real name when I was old enough to do so (for a myriad of personal reasons) and I think that naming yourself is the hardest thing a person can do. Perhaps without realizing it, I think we are all influenced by the names that we were given. Choosing a new name is like trying to re-invent yourself. It’s not easy for everyone.

The only guidance I can offer is to pick a name that you are sure you like, because it’s very hard to change your name more than once. You have to learn to respond to something completely new, and to become accustomed to people knowing you by that name.

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I know it can seem silly if you have a job that wouldn’t be damaged by knowledge of your bedroom preferences getting out. I know some people are comfortable using their real names and do not feel threatened by anyone knowing their “real identity.” They “come out” as kinky to friends, family, and co-workers. And that is totally okay too! If you prefer to use your real name, then I am proud of you for not being afraid of the consequences.

However I do highly recommend that in particular anyone who performs in the community give consideration to using a name other than the one on their birth certificates.

For me, I was happy to adopt the name Violet, and I am glad that it is passable as a real name so that it can be used on Facebook and other social media sites. I even feel like it helps me switch from “real life” to the kink mentality when I go from one name to the other. I think it helps me to get into character.

So if you are new to the scene and you are still telling people your real name, I guess I hope you’ll consider this food for thought. Obviously it is up to every person to consider what their own comfort level is, but I know that I have been happier using a scene name and writing under a pen name, and I think that there are good reasons to think about doing it when you get involved with kink.

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Bisexual People

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There are a lot of myths surrounding bisexual people. As a bisexual person, I just wanted to write a little bit about it.

The first and most important point is that bisexual people are not always poly, and it is really not okay to assume a bisexual person will want to become the third in your couple.

I admit, some people might be bisexual and also interested in dating a couple. But you can’t ever assume that, and it’s not true for most bisexual people. They are usually monogamous.

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The other thing about bisexuals is that if they make a long-term commitment to a person of one sex or the other, it doesn’t not mean that they have “chosen” that sex. I am married to a man. That does not mean that I am no longer attracted to women, and it does not mean that I like women less than men.

Being with a person of one sex does mean that your feelings for the other sex are invalidated. It just means that you fell in love with a person of a specific sex. It might be confusing for you, but it is confusing for us too.

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Sometimes people ask which gender I was attracted to first, as though it matters.

For the record, it does not matter. The gender I felt attraction to first is not my “real” sexual orientation.

I was just over 10 years old when I first felt sexually attracted to anyone. Her name was Samantha. She was blonde, and she was outgoing and fun.

I didn’t understand at the time what the feelings were, just like how straight people don’t understand. Attraction in general manifest before a complete understanding of sexuality.

So, the fact that I stared out being attracted to women, and am still attracted to women, does not mean that I am a lesbian. It just means that my attraction to men manifested later.

Sexuality is different for everyone.

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Occasionally, bisexual people can be discriminated against by gay people, as well as by straight people.

Gay people sometimes feel resentful that a bisexual can “go straight” and “pass” with heterosexuals (therefore avoiding being marginalized and subjugated by the world at large.) Not all gay people are like that, of course. Many of them are wonderful and nice. However many bisexuals say they have experienced resentment at the hands of gay friends, who think the person is being less than genuine about their sexual orientation because they sometimes date opposite gender partners.

Straight people sometimes fetishize bisexuals. They can think of them as sluts who will have sex with anyone. It is very common, for example, for a straight male to ask a female who is attarcted to women if they can watch, or if they can join in. The assumption is that a bisexual is into weird things and different kinds of sex with multiple partners.

However, bisexuals are not to be fetishized as sluts who want to sleep with everyone. They are mostly very normal people, and the vast majority are looking for a committed relationship with one sex or the other; not an orgy like you saw on Pornhub.com.

I know that to some of you it will seem like this doesn’t need explaining. I wish that were true. However, as a life-long bisexual, I have experienced all of these things first-hand, and so I can assure you that they are real.

I would ask both straight and gay people to understanding that being bisexual is just another sexual orientation. We are still people; just like you.

 

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