Talking About Sex: Part One

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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.

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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.
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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.

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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. 

Summary

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!

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Things You May Not Know

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A recent reddit thread upset me to no end, and I want to talk about that.

It was a thread about Herpes, so naturally, most of the people in the thread had HSV-1 or HSV-2.

As such, they all talked about it with this completely cavalier attitude. “It’s no big deal,” one random idiot said to me. “It’s only made to sound like a big deal because drug companies want to make money off of treatments.”

Wrong.

I am going to set the record straight for all the people in that thread right the hell now: If you have ANY kind of STD at all it really, really IS a big deal. And if you knowingly spread it to other people because “It’s just a rash, so who cares?” then you should be locked away for the rest of your goddamn life.

 

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Lots of people in this thread confessed that they did not tell sexual partners about their infection, even though they knew there was a 70% chance of passing the virus to their partner even while using a condom.

I have said before that it only takes one cell for an STD to be passed from carrier to new host. I have said that condoms aren’t enough, and that you need to have clean STD tests going back 6 months. (By which I mean, one from right then, and one from 6 months back.) I have again and again cautioned that STDs are spread by skin to skin contact, and a condom does not prevent some guys balls from touching your ass and giving you a rash you’ll have for the rest of your life.

And I am pleading with all of you; take this seriously.

*NSFW*

(And I’m going to show you some very graphic images so you might take this more seriously.)

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Obviously, what I want is for everyone to get tested often.

I do.

And I think every single responsible adult should. Because if you end up with an STD that can not be treated, then you need to stop having sex with people that don’t have that STD. Seriously. And I don’t care how much that sucks for you.

I knew a girl when I was living in South Korea who had HSV-2. (That means she had genital herpes.) And she would often take guys home from the bar and have sex with them. She justified this with excuses like “Well I was drunk” or “We used a condom” or “I’m not having an outbreak right now.”

I want to dispel all those myths right now:

1. I don’t care how drunk you are. If you have an incurable disease there is no fucking excuse for spreading it.

2. Condoms are only 30% effective in preventing the spread of Herpes between partners. Ergo, that still isn’t okay.

3. The virus “sheds” even when you are not having an outbreak and so YES you can absolutely pass it on when you don’t have sores.

4. And, because I hear this one a lot too, NO it does not matter if you are taking medicine to help prevent you from having outbreaks. You are still contagious. You are always contagious. Period. We have no way to prevent the spread of Herpes.

I am not saying you can never ever have sex again. Far from it. You CAN have sex with the millions of other people who are already infected, just like you. There are loads of special dating sites just for people who are HIV positive and HSV positive.

But the sheer amount of infected people on reddit who told me the disease was “no big deal” and that they’re fine with spreading it made me furious.

Look, I want you all to take a moment and consider this amazing fact:

STDs could die out in one generation if we stopped spreading them. 

Think about that. I mean really think about it. Sure, 10,000 years ago there was no way to kill off an STD. No one could get tested, and loads of people can just be carriers and never actually have symptoms. So all those people spreading STDs couldn’t really prevent it the way we can now.

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See now, you can get tested. And if you find out you have something, you can choose to be a responsible adult and not have sex with people who don’t have it. You can choose to not spread it. And if everyone does this, STDs will not get passed on. The viruses will die out. And we’ll make a way better world for everyone.

Now, I ask for STD tests before sex. I do this to spite the fact that I mostly go for innocent-type folks who haven’t slept around. I do this even if I trust them. And I get a lot of negative reactions. People can be downright mean.

“This means you don’t trust me.”

“Do you have any idea how hard it is for me to get an STD test?”

“Why should I have to prove I don’t have an STD if we use condoms?”

Etc… etc…

And society is on the side of these folks. That’s why I know preppies who actually brag that they have never been tested, because they’re happier not knowing if they have something. No one wants to talk about STDs. Even my fucking doctor last time I went for a test was a dick about it.

“Well,” he said, “why do you want the test? I mean, what have you been doing? Anyway the HSV tests are expensive and you should only get them if you think you have been exposed.”

Fuck you doctor. And fuck you people who don’t get tested. And fuck everyone on reddit who knows they have HSV 1 or 2 and thinks it’s “no big deal.”

If I sound angry, it’s because I am. We’re talking about the wanton spread of disease. We’re talking about people who don’t care that they’re infecting others. And that is NOT okay. I don’t care what rationalizations you use. It’s just not okay.

Fun things I learned from the reddit thread (for those too lazy to read through it.)

1. You can get Herpes anywhere. It’s most commonly on the mouth or genitalia, but you can get it on your forehead if you’re a wrestler who ends up with your sweaty head against some guys sweaty balls (yes, this happened to a guy.)

2. A huge portion of new cases on genitalia are actually HSV-1, and are obtained when a person with a cold sore performs oral sex on someone.

3. Viral researchers think Herpes is 100,000 years old.

So those were neat things to learn.

Now: One last thing. I want to talk  about how I would solve this issue. I think the system that porn stars use is great. Mandatory tests every six months. And when you test positive your name is EVERYWHERE so everyone knows.

No one talks about STDs. They get really uncomfortable if you even bring it up (and this includes my doctors.) But there is no reason for this. If we taught kids the truth about STDs, and if we would all be more mature about talking about them, then we could actually eradicate these diseases. And that would be awesome.

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Intro to Poly Life

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I’m in a few relationships right now, and because some of them are fairly new, I’m going to write a post about polyamory. Now please note that I am not saying the rules are the same for everyone. I’m just saying that this is how I do things, and I think these rules work well for me.

First: The most important thing to remember about the poly lifestyle is that STDs are a big deal. To explore this in greater detail, let’s think about how many people are directly effected by one partner getting an STD.

I am currently sleeping with my husband, as well as a man we’ll call Mr. Greyson, and a man we’ll call Mr. Slick. So on the first tier, all of those people are directly effected. (That’s 3 people.)

Now my husband is sleeping with two other girls. So if I get an STD, those other girls will have a problem as well. Mr. Greyson is also sleeping with two other girls. and so they are also effected. And Mr. Slick is dating two girls besides me as well, bringing the grand total of the second tier of people effected to six (adding first tier people this is a total of 9 so far).

AND if the girlfriends of my husband, Mr. Greyson, and Mr. Slick are sleeping with other people (and they likely are) then the effects spread even farther.

It can get confusing enough to need a white board...

It can get confusing enough to need a white board…

Now let’s talk about how STDs spread, for those who are unaware.

An STD (or sexually transmitted disease) is a virus or bacteria that lives in your penis or vagina, and depending on the STD, also in your blood. (This is why for a full panel of STD tests they take both a swab and a few vials of blood.) Keep in mind that these viruses and bacteria are capable of being spread through a single cell. Just one cell getting from a sexual partner onto you can infect you. So even if you wear a condom, the skin to skin contact from more vigorous sex can certainly spread an STD from one person to the other. Not to mention that any oral sex can spread cells from one person to another as well. STDs are very contagious, and thinking “if I wear condoms everything will be okay” is crazy talk.

Now, another important thing to note is that many STDs are completely symptom-free. So if you have HPV or Clymidia (for example) you will not know it. You won’t have a rash, or strange smells, or any discharge. Many STDs present with no symptoms at all, and you can spread them even if you don’t know you have them.

So how do you keep from giving something to your partners, who will pass it on to their partners?

The very best way to handle this is simple: Every single time you add a new partner, you must require an STD test from them (and provide them one in return). Many places offer cheap testing based on your income, and colleges often have partnerships with health organizations to offer free testing a few times a year. You can go see your regular doctor as well, but I understand that some people are too shy to ask their family doctor for STD tests, and I respect shyness to a point (just go get tested somewhere else!!!)

It’s also necessary to have a honest and frank discussion with each partner, explaining that when they  add a new partner, they need to require paperwork too. And if they refuse, then however attractive and awesome they may be, you have to go and find someone else who can handle a mature poly relationship. Because when you take risks on untested people who refuse to provide documentation that they are STD-free, you are risking a lot more than just yourself.

Just one tiny cell can ruin your entire life, and the lives of the people you love...

Just one tiny cell can ruin your entire life, and the lives of the people you love…

Thankfully, most STDs are treatable. A simple course of antibiotics will fix the problem, and then you’re free to go back to a slutty lifestyle.

Remember that trust is important, and that sometimes you place your trust in people that don’t deserve it. I have a friend who did that, and I am sad for her because she is now living with Herpes. There is no cure, and it has ruined her sex life and her hopes of settling down and having a husband and kids.

*This is because she’d have to find a partner that also had it, and that she liked enough- a very tiny intersection of a large ven diagram.

Every time I think that I’d like to just take a guy or girl home from the bar and have wild sex with them, I remember her and I know it’s not worth the risk.

Anyway, sorry for that. I know talk of STDs is heavy and no one ever wants to talk about it. I make folks uncomfortable all the time by forcing the issue, and I know that sometimes they wish I wouldn’t.

Alice's chart, from "The L Word"

Alice’s chart, from “The L Word”

Second: Jealousy is a thing.

Look; I know a lot of people in poly relationships like to act like they are above jealousy. They pretend that they don’t care at all about who their partners sleep with. But there will always be little stabs of jealousy that crop up from time to time, because that is how humans work.

There is no easy cure for this problem. I can’t give you some quick-fix advice for how to avoid being jealous. But I can share with you the way I like to look at my partners other partners, and maybe that will help just a little.

So when I sleep with someone I bond with them to some extent, because oxytocin (a bonding hormone released during sex) is a powerful thing. And you can assume that bonding with someone means caring at least a little bit about their well-being. So I like to look at things from their point of view.

Let’s take the example of Mr. Greyson, who I have been seeing for a few months now. Prior to dating me, he had been single for 3 years following a somewhat painful divorce. So, when he tells me about a girl he met or someone that he plans to sleep with or has slept with, I am proud of him for being gutsy enough to put himself out there are take risks again. I am happy for him, because each new person he adds to his life helps him build up his confidence and self-worth. When I look at it this way, how could I be jealous? I am happy that he is happy, and that tends to drown out any other emotions.

Every situation is different and every bond is different. No two relationships are ever the same. So obviously the bond I have with Mr. Greyson is different than with other people I am seeing. But in each relationship, I can look at things from the other person’s point of view and find reasons to be happy because they are happy. So, that usually makes the jealousy melt away.

If you do end up feeling jealous, take some time to think about why.

One of my husband’s girlfriends bothered me and I wasn’t sure why at first. But over time I came to realize that it was because she wished he was married to her, and she wanted me out of the picture. Because of this, I found myself uncomfortable with the relationship, and my husband ended things with her.

Talk to your partners about feelings that you have and be open and honest. It is the only way to solve your problems and to make sure everyone is happy.

Yes, you should use whatever term you want to describe it.

Yes, you should use whatever term you want to describe it.

Third: Logistics are a bitch, and that is never going to change.

I hate Valentine’s day. I hate it so much that I really have no words to describe my utter loathing for this stupid fucking holiday.

Do I spend Valentine’s day with my husband? Do I spend it with whatever partner is most emotionally needy? If I want to spend it with one partner, but they want to spend it with someone else, am I allowed to feel hurt about that?

I usually solve this problem by spending it at work, or by myself. I just give up.

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But there’s a lot more to logistics than who you should spend holidays with. For example: Do I want my partners to meet each other? Would they react well to one another? What happens if they don’t like each other? Or what happens if they REALLY like each other and they both forget about me all the time and hang with each other instead?

Everyone tackles the problem of logistics differently, and they should because everyone feels differently about this issue. I can tell you that for me personally, I find it easiest to keep things as separate as possible. This is mostly because I am seeing people both 10 years younger than me and 10 years older than me, and I think 20-year ago gaps can make things a little weird.

I also am seeing people who are pretty new to the poly lifestyle, and I am afraid they would start trying to compare one another. I don’t need my 21-year-old boy feeling insecure because my 42-year-old lover might know more about sex than him, nor do I want my 42-year-old lover feeling insecure because my 21-year-old boy-toy has a better body. And I don’t want any of them comparing penis size because that would make me break out in hives! YOU guys know how much I hate guys who measure their worth by the size of their cock.

In the past, with a different set of people, I did introduce one to the other. And they all became friends and never fought over my time because they liked each other and wanted to share. Sometimes this can lead to wonderful friendships and amazing leather families forming. Love can multiply so much between two people, and it seems it can multiply an order of magnitude more between three and an order of magnitude more between four.

I guess the moral of the story is to take it one day at a time, and be willing to accept change and evolution of relationships over time.

These are just some of the key points. Obviously I could write a book about the poly lifestyle because, for those who are new to it, there is an overwhelming amount of information to process. It is a whole new way of seeing relationships and of seeing the world. But for now, I feel this blog entry is long enough. So, I’ll leave you with one final thought on the lifestyle:

Poly relationships require a great deal of responsibility. You are responsible for the health and love of many people, and it is important to realize what kind of a commitment that is. The lifestyle is not for everyone, and it’s okay if you try it and realize it’s not for you. Lots of people feel safer and happier in a monogamous relationship, and I will never judge them for that.

Until next time, be safe and happy all you crazy kids!

Poly pride!

Poly pride!