Note: I am working on a lecture series that I will be giving, but I am also going to put the things I am talking about on the blog, because even though it is for vanilla folks, some of it may help you too!
Figuring Out What You Want
The first step is to figure out what matters to you. This is a big step, because we are all individuals and so we all have different ideas about what is important. In order to effectively communicate with others, you must first look inside yourself and determine where your limits are. That way, you will be able to let other people know. There are several key things that you should determine for yourself when it comes to sex.
1. Do you wish to be monogamous?
This is a question that requires a lot of thought. If you want to be able to have sex with other people, then you also have to be comfortable with your partner having sex with other people. That can be difficult for some people, and so if you think you are curious about polyamory, it’s important to be honest with yourself and your partner and make sure you are not looking for an excuse to “cheat,” but instead have a legitimate interest in both of you perusing loving relationships outside your own.
Good questions to ask yourself:
1. How would I feel if my partner went out on a date and I was at home alone?
2. How would I feel if my partner developed feelings for another person?
3. How would I feel if my partner decided another relationship was more valuable to him or her, and therefore moved me from the primary position to a secondary position in their life?
4. What rules would be have in place to ensure good communication ?
Note: It is okay if you decide to be monogamous. It doesn’t mean that you are not open-minded and interested in sex. Just make sure that you are making a conscious choice to be monogamous or polyamorous. Don’t let yourself be pushed or coerced into anything that you are not comfortable with.
2. What is your comfort level when it comes to STDs?
Some of you may have grown up before this was a big concern, so let me start by telling you that HIV is a big deal, more aggressive strains of Herpes are going around, and there is also an untreatable strain of Chlamydia that has developed. This means the days of just taking a pill if you get something are over, and STDs are a real concern.
Personally, I prefer to exchange STD tests with potential partners prior to having sex with them. This is not a guarantee of safety since some things can take time to show up on a test. However, it is an added layer of safety that helps me to feel more comfortable with new partners.
Now, this is not always possible for me. My partner and I occasionally attend orgies. In those situations, I have to realize that I am taking a risk, and that there may be terrible consequences. We have decided in our relationship that we are okay with occasionally taking this risk if we are attending a sex party together, and we do try to minimize our risk by using condoms. It is still dangerous because many STDs can be spread by skin-to-skin contact. However, we don’t engage in orgies very often, and we feel that an occasional risk is acceptable for the same reason that we are willing to drive cars and fly in airplanes. Sometimes risk is required in order to have fun, and each person must decide for themselves what they consider to be acceptable risks.
Good questions to ask yourself:
1. Have I considered all the possible consequences?
2. Have I decided what risk level is acceptable to me?
3. Have I decided on a plan to make sure that my risk level is met?
Note: Remember that most couples negotiate exceptions so there are not absolute RULES per se. My husband and I trade STD tests with partners before having sexual contact, but we have negotiated an exception for an orgy. This is risky, but it is a risk we have decided that we are okay with on the rare occasion that such a thing comes up.
3. What kind of sex do I want to have?
Some people are very uncomfortable with oral sex. I have found that comfortable levels actually vary widely about a lot of things. In the kink community, we like to talk about “hard limits” and “soft limits.” So for example, you might be completely uncomfortable with the idea of anal sex, but only a little uncomfortable with oral sex. Hard limits are the things that you will communicate to your partner as unbreakable. You refuse to consider doing those things, and you do not want to be asked or have them try to coerce you into them. Soft limits are the things that you may be okay with sometimes, such as a blowjob on Valentine’s Day.
Good questions to ask yourself:
1. What you are hard limits?
2. What are your soft limits?
3. What are things you are unsure about?
* Remember that these things change over time, and it is okay to renegotiate if your feelings on something have changed.
4. What are your fantasies?
Most people have things that they fantasize about, but that they have never done before. Or, perhaps they have tried them before with an ex, but don’t know how to broach the subject with their partner. Fantasies are a healthy part of life, and there is nothing wrong with trying new things that you and your partner may enjoy.
However, please remember that sometimes you have a fantasy, but it might not be a good idea to actually do it. An example might be a gang bang. Maybe the fantasy excites you, but in reality you would be sore and unhappy, and your partner would be hurt. So be honest with yourself about which fantasies you actually want to play out, and which ones are just for fun. You do not have to act on every idea that goes through your head.
Questions to ask yourself:
1. Are you sure that you are comfortable with this?
2. Are you sure it is fair to ask your partner for this?
3. What are the things that could go wrong, and are you willing to accept responsibility for those things?
Example: If your partner has been raped and you ask her to play a rape scene with you, she may agree. However, afterwards she may fall apart in tears. You need to be ready for that possibility and prepared to comfort them.
So, now that you have asked yourself some really important questions, you have a better idea of what you want and what you are comfortable with. Great! Knowing yourself is important and some people go their whole lives without ever looking inside themselves and exploring their dreams and desires. You are already ahead of the pack!
There are always different things that each person needs to consider, so take some time to reflect/meditate/thought diagram or whatever you do to make sure that you haven’t missed anything. For example, I excluded the complication of children and pregnancy because it isn’t relevant to me. My son is grown, and I am no longer able to have children. In addition, my husband has had a vasectomy, so I don’t have to worry about him getting any of his girlfriend’s pregnant. Therefore, this isn’t a concern in my universe. But your universe may be different. So make sure you haven’t missed anything before you move on to the next step, which is to communicate your desires.
We’ll talk about communicating in Part Two!