The Five Dimensions of Relationship Openness

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polyfidelity2

When we say that someone is monogamous, we usually mean that he/she is sexually exclusive with one partner. But does that mean only intercourse or all sexual acts? Does that include emotional intimacy? How about cuddling or other nonsexual types of intimacy? Since we relate to people in so many ways, how we draw the boundary between monogamy and non-monogamy varies from relationship to relationship. It turns out that monogamy is not a binary, any more than polyamory can be described as simply the opposite of monogamy. Both monogamy and polyamory are on a continuum with multiple dimensions, which I’ll describe here as social, emotional, physical, sexual, and familial.

polyfidelitySocial:

Humans are social creatures, and even though most of us want to pair up with a special someone, we often maintain social bonds with others. Do you go out to dinner, see a movie, go hiking or shopping with friends by yourself, or do you prefer to do those things with your significant other? People who are socially monogamous feel that forming a social bond with a person of the opposite sex (or same sex if homosexual) is a slippery slope to infidelity. Therefore they may prioritize socializing with other couples, keeping very transparent and casual all relationships with the opposite sex, and socializing as a unit as much as possible.

Emotional:

Sometimes friendships turn into deep emotional bonds and couples find themselves having to negotiate to what extent they feel emotional intimacy with others is acceptable. For example, would you be ok with your partner having a close friendship with his ex-lover? Would you be ok with your partner forming a close friendship with a person of the opposite sex? Would you be ok with your partner saying, “I love you,” to someone of the opposite sex? Some emotionally intimate couples are purely platonic while others develop romantic feelings. How would you feel about your partner being romantically involved with someone without sex? Do you need emotional exclusivity with your partner?

Physical:

Not all physical ways of relating are sexual, and they may or may not be within the bounds of a monogamous relationship. Some individuals are very affectionate and can kiss, hug, and cuddle with their friends and it’s not at all sexual. Some cultures are more physically expressive than others. Some monogamous couples are fine with their partners hugging and even flirting with others, but draw the line at kissing. Others may engage in massage or sensual touching but agree not to have sex with others.

Sexual:

We tend to think of sex as the last stop on the monogamy train. Some people need sexual dancing_together_naked_and_freeexclusivity to feel safe with their partner, even when they are permissive in all other areas. For others, sex is not the ultimate symbol of love and devotion, but emotional intimacy is. One person may feel that “it’s fine for my partner to have sex with someone else, but I’m the only person who is allowed to cut his hair!” Some couples reserve specific sexual acts with each other or permit certain ones with others. For example, a couple may decide that BDSM with other partners is ok but they will only make love with each other. Some couples are ok with their partners having sex with others but don’t want them to sleep with other partners or go on vacation with them. Swinging is considered to be the type of non-monogamy that is sexually open but reserves emotional intimacy for the primary couple.

Familial:

While love may be infinite and potentially shared with an unlimited number of individuals, time, space, and money are limited and we may be able to share them with only one or two individuals. It is quite common that individuals who are polyamorous in all aspects may only share finances, parenting, or cohabitation with one partner. In those cases extra partners are like friends of the family or extended family. If other partners become integral members of the nuclear family and they become exclusive with each other, this type of arrangement is sometimes called polyfidelity. Even with people who consider themselves totally polyamorous, not every partner can be equal when it comes to the limited resources of time, money, and space.

As we can see, monogamy is not as straightforward as we may think it is. A couple may be emotionally monogamous but not physically or sexually so. Or they may be sexually exclusive but physically and emotionally open to others. Polyamory also has social, emotional, physical sexual, and familial dimensions. It is important to ask specific questions and understand each other’s level of openness instead of assuming we know what someone else needs. Understanding our own and other’s boundaries can also help us stretch them and grow in directions that will benefit us and our relationships.

I have a cold, sinking feeling in my stomach

Name: Scott
Gender: Male
Age: 20
Location: Kansas
I am a 20 year old virgin who has never even had phone- or cybersex. The reason for this is that when I am complimented in a sexual or sensual manner — for example “your voice is sexy” or “your intelligence is a major turn on” or even something as simple as “you’re cute (or adorable or whatever)” — I am aroused but I also have a very negative reaction. I have a cold, sinking feeling in my stomach, become slightly dizzy and even occasionally nauseous. I’ve been having these reactions since 7th grade, which was the first time I was propositioned. When I find the woman of my dreams I want to be able to satisfy her every want and need, but I won’t be able to if I continue to have these reactions. Can you help me get rid of this or at least give me an idea of where it comes from or what is causing it?

Sounds to me, pup, like you got yourself a bad case of sexphobia; an irrational fear of sex. This is classic: “I am aroused but I also have a very negative reaction. I have a cold, sinking feeling in my stomach, become slightly dizzy and even occasionally nauseous.” You should also know that this isn’t a particularly uncommon problem.

There’s probably a good reason why you’re experiencing this phobia. If you and I were working together I’d want to take a look at the incident you report happened to you in the 7th grade. You said you were propositioned. What does that mean? You were 12 and someone came on to you? A peer? Someone older? Was it someone inappropriate; say a family member, a clergy person, or a teacher? And why did you have such a negative response?stop

  • That being said, getting over a phobia, of whatever kind — fear of flying, snakes, spiders, public speaking, or sex — can be accomplished without dredging up the past. It may be as simple as:
    Identify the specifics of your fear as they play themselves out in your life now. What precisely frightens you about sex and/or intimacy?
  • Create a plan to take the edge off your fear in small steps. For example, start out with holding hands, move to embracing, then kissing. What behaviors push the panic button for you?
  • Address each and every thing that hampers your progress. For example, why does kissing push your buttons and holding hands and/or cuddling doesn’t?
  • Be firm in your resolve to push past your discomfort and stretch your limits. Sinking to the lowest common denominator will not do.
  • Address the emotional response you have to each aspect of your phobia before moving on to the next one. Build on your successes.

This is kinda hard to do on one’s one, but it’s not impossible. There are loads of books and programs on the market that help an individual move through a phobia. You might want to look online, look for something like: overcoming a phobia.

Some people have success with visualization techniques, for others hypnotherapy works. Basically, it’s simply a matter of desensitization — defusing the feared thing, and doing it incrementally.

Good luck

Is this gonna warp me?

Name: Jake
Gender: male
Age: 23
Location: Omaha
I’m 23, and I’ve been dating 30-year-old chick for nearly a year now. I come from a very conservative Christian upbringing and I love that she is more experienced than me. My girlfriend likes to tie me up. I’m a college gymnast so I have very defined muscles. They are a huge turn on for my girlfriend, which I guess explains why she likes to see me struggle against the rope. I get real turned on too when I’m tied up. Sometimes she teases my penis and testicles with a feather or a piece of leather, which drives me wild. I’m worried though, because I think this is gonna warp me somehow. Do you think this is perverted? Why is it so much fun?

Ahhh yeah Jake, I do think it’s perverted. I think your girlfriend is a big fat pervert and I think you’re still a little tiny pervert, but well on your way to being a big fat pervert, just like your girlfriend. So YAY for that!

bondage236And why is this bondage thing so much fun? It’s such a blast because it’s perverted, nasty and forbidden, silly! One can only guess what your fundamentalist Christian mom and dad would think about their star athlete son trussed up like a thanksgiving turkey while a considerably older dominatrix punishes his family jewels. I fear this apple has fallen a great distance from the tree, right Jake? I absolutely love it!

Bondage is fun for you because you have to relinquish all your male privileged, Christian, preppy frat boy control to this unlikely kinky lady friend of yours. And what’s even better, you let her have her way with you. I have a feeling you’re not telling us everything about what she does to you when you’re all tied up. I’d be willing to guess there is a lot more perversion here than meets the eye. Not that that’s a bad thing, necessarily. I think it can be very therapeutic as well as amazingly hot to be completely helpless and in the control of another.

For a dominatrix, like your girlfriend, there is, as you say, the visual aspect to bondage. I think she’d agree, there’s nothing sexier then young masculine, muscular male flesh wrapped in ropes while having his cock and balls available for discipline. It’s the ultimate form of objectification. And, I might add, that you guys are turning all of society’s conventions — particularly the sacred “male as top” thing — on their head. YOU GO!

This has got to turn your crank, on some base psychological level too. I would so love to know how you and your girlfriend met. How she introduced you to all this pervy stuff. And more importantly, how you came to submit so unequivocally. That’s the real story here.bondage237

Jake, you are on the cutting edge. I think you have some sense as to how radical your play really is, don’t you? And I think it’s the radical nature of your play that gives you pause, right? It’s not the actual bondage, discipline, and possible humiliation that concerns you as much as you feel like you are losing your moral moorings. Nothing about what you are currently experiencing at the hand of this woman has any connection to the life you were brought up in. That has to be a bit of a jolt, which makes it all the more enticing. And there is virtually no turning back, is there? Once you’ve tasted the sweetness of surrender, vanilla will never again be enough.

Trust me, none of this makes you a bad person. On the contrary, if you embrace and integrate all this new information about yourself and live your life with authenticity and integrity, it will make you exemplary.

I do have one fear, however. I fear that one-day you will begin to second guess your harmless submissive eroticism and cave to the dictates of the popular culture. The worst case scenario would be for you to continue to enjoy your BDSM lifestyle on Saturday nights, then rush off to church on Sunday morning to join the choir of sanctimonious hypocrites who do one thing in private, but who publicly endorse and promote a sex-negative message of repression and denial. That, my friend, would be criminal…and a real perversion.

Good luck

5 Tips for Better Married Sex

Becoming a sex educator didn’t prepare me for the challenges of married sex, but here’s what I learned along the way.

M:F couple2By Jeana Jorgensen

Around the same time I graduated with a Ph.D. and started to pursue a career as a part-time academic and part-time sex educator, I got married.

I’d heard about how marriage can change a relationship, and I was confident that with my budding sex ed knowledge set and tool kit, I could handle it. After all, I was going to major sex education conferences like Woodhull and AASECT, networking with the stars of our field, voraciously reading books, taking workshops (like the SAR, or Sexual Attitude Reassessment), writing for sites like MySexProfessor and Kinkly, and stuffing as much sexuality knowledge into my head as I could. What could go wrong with this plan?Plenty, as it turns out. I was so focused on acquiring sex facts and tips that I forgot to take into account my own needs, and the needs of my partner, in our marriage. I forgot about how much of a toll major life transitions – and concurrent ones at that – could take on a person’s sex life. Plus, I wasn’t really prepared for how much intertwining my life with another person’s would change how we interacted, which in turn impacted my ideas and expectations around sex. The good news is that we put in the work, and I was able to use my sex ed skills to level up my married sex. Here’s how I did it.

Start With Self-knowledge and Communication.

The ancient Greek oracle Pythia reputedly had the words “Know thyself” inscribed at the entrance to her shrine at Delphi. This is nowhere truer than with married sex.

You need to take responsibility for knowing your sexual preferences. Your spouse cannot know what goes on inside your head, heart or genitals. It’s on you to know what facilitates or impedes your arousal, and then to use your words to tell your partner these things.

Some things it might be useful to know about yourself include:

  • Is there a time of day or night when you feel most aroused or desirous of sex? How can you synchronize your schedules to spend time together then?
  • Do you know if you tend to have responsive or spontaneous arousal, in the words of Dr. Emily Nagoski? Knowing how you respond to sexual stimuli can help you coordinate your arousal patterns with your partner’s.
  • What do you fantasize about? Which fantasies can you share with your partner, either verbally or in the form of role play?
  • What do you need in terms of environment to feel comfortable having sex? Some people like to have sex in every room of a house once they start living together, while others prefer the comfort of a bed. Is having toys, lube and safer sex supplies within reach important to you? Or is part of the fun the sense of immediacy, which can work with a scramble to get your hands on the basics?

Schedule Sex Dates. Yes, Really.

Scheduling sex sounds like such a drag, and many people assume it’ll just kill the mood. But it’s really about being realistic. Married adults tend to get really busy really fast. Sometimes, if you don’t make time for sex, it’ll slide lower on the priority list until it’s rarely happening.

Give Yourself Permission to Play Sensually Without Committing to Sex.

At the same time, if every time you engage with your partner you’re thinking that it has to result in sex or else it’s a meaningless encounter, that’s also a potential mood-killer. Feeling pressured to have sex, even when no one’s intending to apply pressure, can be off-putting to many folks. One way to get around this is to engage in sessions that focus on sensual touch alone. Can you set a timer to make out for just five minutes, promising not to escalate at all? You might be surprised at how sexy that feels!

Learn Your Partner’s Love Language and Use It. Advocate the Same in Return.

If you’re not familiar with the concept of love languages, the brief version is that most people are geared to be more receptive toward affection expressed in one of five ways: giving gifts, physical touch, words of affirmation/praise, quality time, and acts of service. While you can read Gary Chapman’s books that introduce these concepts, be aware that they’re a bit heterosexist and mono-centric, as I note in my review of the first book.

The truth is that learning to speak someone else’s love language can feel weird, arbitrary and fake at first. Poly writer Ferrett describes this awkwardness, and counsels everyone – regardless of their relationship style – to suck it up and learn to speak your partner’s love language anyway. It’ll pay off later.

However, the flip side is that you have to gently, constantly remind your partner to keep taking those baby steps to speak to you in your love language. You have to remember when they’ve failed yet again to do the one thing you’ve asked them to try to do, that it’s probably not malicious. It simply didn’t occur to them because it’s not how their brain works.

Find Ways to Break the Touch Barrier.

The term “touch barrier” has been used by dating coaches and pick-up artists alike (in ways that are sometimes creepy and consent-obscuring), but I believe that in the context of a married or long-term co-habitating couple, it takes on a special connotation. Probably you two have already been physically intimate in some fashion, whatever that looks like in your relationship, so it’s not a matter of touching someone for the very first time.

Instead, my sense is that in a marriage, spouses can get so used to practical touching moments (handing off a baby, folding laundry together) that it becomes difficult to initiate sensual or sexual touching moments. It’s important to challenge the experiences that pile up that reinforce the sense that you’re domestic partners first and foremost, because as Esther Perel has brilliantly noted in her TED talk, security and arousal are often at opposite poles of human experience.

So, what are some ways that you can (consensually, of course) initiate touch with your spouse outside of daily tasks? My spouse, whose main love language is physical touch while mine is most definitely not, suggested playing a game where we competed to see who would remember to lovingly touch the other person first as soon as we both entered the same room. Who won? We both did – it helped put affectionate touch on my radar more often, and he got his touch needs met more frequently.

Even if you’re intelligent and good at relationship communication, and even if you’ve got a background in gender/sexuality studies like I do, married sex can pose unique challenges. Take advantage of resources like Adult Sex Ed Month here at Kinkly to stay engaged in learning about not only concrete sex topics but also what sex means to you!

Complete Article HERE!

The Joys of Muff Diving

Name: Carol
Gender: Female
Age: 28
Location: Montreal
I like oral sex, but my new BF doesn’t know what he’s doing down there. He’s really sweet and I like him a lot. Unfortunately, he thinks he’s like this really great lover when actually he sucks…and not in a good way. I know he reads your column, he was the one that turned me on to your site, so could you give him some pointers on how to orally pleasure a woman. He doesn’t listen to me.

keep-calm

Alrighty then, Carol! Instead of me, who has no pussy, pontificating on the joys of muff diving, I turned to my #1 friend of the lesbian persuasion, Joy. Not only does she have her very own pussy, she sure as shootin’ knows her way around other pussies as well. I shared your letter with her and asked her for her advice. I figure, if you wanna learn how to do something right, ya talk to a pro. Simply put, no one sucks cock as good as a homo; no one gobbles clam like a dyke. Enough said!

Joy’s first comment was…and I quote; “What’s this chick doin’ with a dude? If she wants good head, he should bed a dyke. Once you go lezzie, you never go back.” Ahhh, Joy is such a…joy!

Ok, so giving a chick some head is about the most perfect sexual thing you can do for a woman. It makes her feel special. What woman doesn’t groove on knowin’ her partner finds her finger-lickin’ good? And maybe that’s a real good place to start this tutorial. If you don’t like the taste or smell of pussy juice, give up on the idea that you’ll be a fabulous lover. However, if you want to give this whole eating out at the Y thing a try, but you don’t know if you can handle your partner smell, or she’s unsure about you bein’ down there, thinking she might smell, you guys could start off by showering or bathing together.

Many women prefer oral to intercourse, because it has the potential to give her an exceptional orgasm. And for all those gals out there who need loads direct clitoral work to get off, mouth-to-clit stimulation is one of the easiest, most enjoyable ways to get make that happen.

Joy says that the biggest mistake a guy can make with a pussy is divin’ in without knowing his way around. And like I always say, ladies, it is absolutely up to you to introduce your partner to your particular beaver. Remember, just because he might have been with other women, don’t make him an expert on your parts. Get it? Got it? GOOD!

muff2The novice cunt lapper will do well to approach this amazing piece of human anatomy very gently…at first. If the woman you’re eatin’ wants it more vigorous, she will ask for it. So relax and enjoy! If all this licking and sucking isn’t a turn on for you, it won’t be much of a pleasure for her, either. So, if you’re heart is not in it; don’t bother.

Don’t make the mistake that Carol’s boyfriend makes. Listen to the feedback you’re gettin on the job you’re doin’. If you’re not gettin feedback, ask for it. Just don’t talk with your mouth full. Once you hit on something that works with the gal you’re with, stick with it for a while. Unless of course you’re trying to drive her wild with some tongue teasing.

Joy insists that a soft tongue and a relaxed jaw works best. And holy cow, she knows of what she speaks. She always starts out licking her pal from vaginal entrance up to her clit. She follows the outer edges of her pal’s pussy along both sides —s lowly at first, then more rapidly. Sometimes she’ll even throw in a little raspberries. You know, the vibrating sound you make when you force breath through lightly closed lips. Joy stands by this technique, don’t cha know! Sounds like so much fun I kinda wish I had me a cooch.

Don’t be caught with idle hands while you’re eating out at the Y. Gently press the two outer vaginal lips together then run your tongue between the inner and outer labia one side at a time. Try poking your tongue into her vagina. The extent of the nerve endings for the typical woman’s vagina are around the opening and within the first couple of inches inside. Target them with a darting tongue motion. Insert a hardened tongue into her hole. Try moving your tongue in and out, as well as in circles around the inside of her opening.

Spread her outer vaginal lips with your fingers. With your tongue pointed, gently flick your tongue around her clit. Feel free to roam around in there, but keep coming back to her clit, because it’s the most sensitive area…just like your dick head, you dickhead! Some women find the direct approach too intense. If this is the case with your woman, blow a stream of warm breath over and around the clit. This lighter breathy touch might just do the trick. Again, be sure to ask for feedback and then do precisely what she says.

Once your partner is good and hot and juicy wet, Joy suggests you kick things up a notch. Spread her lips, expose her clit and give it a quick little suck. If this hits the spot, you might want to lightly pull back her clitoral hood and repeat the quick sucking motion. Joy assures me that this feels incredible, and it’s just the thing to do if you feel like tormenting your partner. Now take her exposed clit into your mouth and gently suck on it, simultaneously flicking your tongue over and around it. This combined with fingering her vag, will usually produce an intense orgasm.

Keep your tongue and hands busy flicking and massaging, poking and prodding lapping and kneading. In other words, find out what she likes and how she likes it and let her have it just that way.

Finally, Joy suggests you surprise the little woman by having a mint or an ice chip in your mouth while you eat her out. These can create a very intense tingling sensation and will enhance your performance immeasurably.

Good luck