Category Archives: Intimacy

There’s No Such Thing as Everlasting Love (According to Science)

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Just in time for Valentine’s day!

A new book argues that the emotion happens in “micro-moments of positivity resonance.”

love story

By Emily Esfahani Smith

In her new book Love 2.0: How Our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, Do, and Become, the psychologist Barbara Fredrickson offers a radically new conception of love.

Fredrickson, a leading researcher of positive emotions at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, presents scientific evidence to argue that love is not what we think it is. It is not a long-lasting, continually present emotion that sustains a marriage; it is not the yearning and passion that characterizes young love; and it is not the blood-tie of kinship.

Rather, it is what she calls a “micro-moment of positivity resonance.” She means that love is a connection, characterized by a flood of positive emotions, which you share with another person—any other person—whom you happen to connect with in the course of your day. You can experience these micro-moments with your romantic partner, child, or close friend. But you can also fall in love, however momentarily, with less likely candidates, like a stranger on the street, a colleague at work, or an attendant at a grocery store. Louis Armstrong put it best in “It’s a Wonderful World” when he sang, “I see friends shaking hands, sayin ‘how do you do?’ / They’re really sayin’, ‘I love you.'”

sad on valentine's day

Fredrickson’s unconventional ideas are important to think about at this time of year. With Valentine’s Day around the corner, many Americans are facing a grim reality: They are love-starved. Rates of loneliness are on the rise as social supports are disintegrating. In 1985, when the General Social Survey polled Americans on the number of confidants they have in their lives, the most common response was three. In 2004, when the survey was given again, the most common response was zero.

According to the University of Chicago’s John Cacioppo, an expert on loneliness, and his co-author William Patrick, “at any given time, roughly 20 percent of individuals—that would be 60 million people in the U.S. alone—feel sufficiently isolated for it to be a major source of unhappiness in their lives.” For older Americans, that number is closer to 35 percent. At the same time, rates of depression have been on the rise. In his 2011 book Flourish, the psychologist Martin Seligman notes that according to some estimates, depression is 10 times more prevalent now than it was five decades ago. Depression affects about 10 percent of the American population, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

A global poll taken last Valentine’s Day showed that most married people—or those with a significant other—list their romantic partner as the greatest source of happiness in their lives. According to the same poll, nearly half of all single people are looking for a romantic partner, saying that finding a special person to love would contribute greatly to their happiness.

But to Fredrickson, these numbers reveal a “worldwide collapse of imagination,” as she writes in her book. “Thinking of love purely as romance or commitment that you share with one special person—as it appears most on earth do—surely limits the health and happiness you derive” from love.

“My conception of love,” she tells me, “gives hope to people who are single or divorced or widowed this Valentine’s Day to find smaller ways to experience love.”

Vincent Valentine RIDEHARD

You have to physically be with the person to experience the micro-moment. For example, if you and your significant other are not physically together—if you are reading this at work alone in your office—then you two are not in love. You may feel connected or bonded to your partner—you may long to be in his company—but your body is completely loveless.

To understand why, it’s important to see how love works biologically. Like all emotions, love has a biochemical and physiological component. But unlike some of the other positive emotions, like joy or happiness, love cannot be kindled individually—it only exists in the physical connection between two people. Specifically, there are three players in the biological love system—mirror neurons, oxytocin, and vagal tone. Each involves connection and each contributes to those micro-moment of positivity resonance that Fredrickson calls love.

When you experience love, your brain mirrors the person’s you are connecting with in a special way. Pioneering research by Princeton University’s Uri Hasson shows what happens inside the brains of two people who connect in conversation. Because brains are scanned inside of noisy fMRI machines, where carrying on a conversation is nearly impossible, Hasson’s team had his subjects mimic a natural conversation in an ingenious way. They recorded a young woman telling a lively, long, and circuitous story about her high school prom. Then, they played the recording for the participants in the study, who were listening to it as their brains were being scanned. Next, the researchers asked each participant to recreate the story so they, the researchers, could determine who was listening well and who was not. Good listeners, the logic goes, would probably be the ones who clicked in a natural conversation with the story-teller.

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What they found was remarkable. In some cases, the brain patterns of the listener mirrored those of the storyteller after a short time gap. The listener needed time to process the story after all. In other cases, the brain activity was almost perfectly synchronized; there was no time lag at all between the speaker and the listener. But in some rare cases, if the listener was particularly tuned in to the story—if he was hanging on to every word of the story and really got it—his brain activity actually anticipated the story-teller’s in some cortical areas.

The mutual understanding and shared emotions, especially in that third category of listener, generated a micro-moment of love, which “is a single act, performed by two brains,” as Fredrickson writes in her book.

valentine

Oxytocin, the so-called love and cuddle hormone, facilitates these moments of shared intimacy and is part of the mammalian “calm-and-connect” system (as opposed to the more stressful “fight-or-flight” system that closes us off to others). The hormone, which is released in huge quantities during sex, and in lesser amounts during other moments of intimate connection, works by making people feel more trusting and open to connection. This is the hormone of attachment and bonding that spikes during micro-moments of love. Researchers have found, for instance, that when a parent acts affectionately with his or her infant—through micro-moments of love like making eye contact, smiling, hugging, and playing—oxytocin levels in both the parent and the child rise in sync.

The final player is the vagus nerve, which connects your brain to your heart and subtly but sophisticatedly allows you to meaningfully experience love. As Fredrickson explains in her book, “Your vagus nerve stimulates tiny facial muscles that better enable you to make eye contact and synchronize your facial expressions with another person. It even adjusts the miniscule muscles of your middle ear so you can better track her voice against any background noise.”

The vagus nerve’s potential for love can actually be measured by examining a person’s heart rate in association with his breathing rate, what’s called “vagal tone.” Having a high vagal tone is good: People who have a high “vagal tone” can regulate their biological processes like their glucose levels better; they have more control over their emotions, behavior, and attention; they are socially adept and can kindle more positive connections with others; and, most importantly, they are more loving. In research from her lab, Fredrickson found that people with high vagal tone report more experiences of love in their days than those with a lower vagal tone.

Historically, vagal tone was considered stable from person to person. You either had a high one or you didn’t; you either had a high potential for love or you didn’t. Fredrickson’s recent research has debunked that notion.valentine's_pose

In a 2010 study from her lab, Fredrickson randomly assigned half of her participants to a “love” condition and half to a control condition. In the love condition, participants devoted about one hour of their weeks for several months to the ancient Buddhist practice of loving-kindness meditation. In loving-kindness meditation, you sit in silence for a period of time and cultivate feelings of tenderness, warmth, and compassion for another person by repeating a series of phrases to yourself wishing them love, peace, strength, and general well-being. Ultimately, the practice helps people step outside of themselves and become more aware of other people and their needs, desires, and struggles—something that can be difficult to do in our hyper individualistic culture.

Fredrickson measured the participants’ vagal tone before and after the intervention. The results were so powerful that she was invited to present them before the Dalai Lama himself in 2010. Fredrickson and her team found that, contrary to the conventional wisdom, people could significantly increase their vagal tone by self-generating love through loving-kindness meditation. Since vagal tone mediates social connections and bonds, people whose vagal tones increased were suddenly capable of experiencing more micro-moments of love in their days. Beyond that, their growing capacity to love more will translate into health benefits given that high vagal tone is associated with lowered risk of inflammation, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and stroke.

Fredrickson likes to call love a nutrient. If you are getting enough of the nutrient, then the health benefits of love can dramatically alter your biochemistry in ways that perpetuate more micro-moments of love in your life, and which ultimately contribute to your health, well-being, and longevity.

Fredrickson’s ideas about love are not exactly the stuff of romantic comedies. Describing love as a “micro-moment of positivity resonance” seems like a buzz-kill. But if love now seems less glamorous and mysterious then you thought it was, then good. Part of Fredrickson’s project is to lower cultural expectations about love—expectations that are so misguidedly high today that they have inflated love into something that it isn’t, and into something that no sane person could actually experience.

Jonathan Haidt, another psychologist, calls these unrealistic expectations “the love myth” in his 2006 book The Happiness Hypothesis:

True love is passionate love that never fades; if you are in true love, you should marry that person; if love ends, you should leave that person because it was not true love; and if you can find the right person, you will have true love forever. You might not believe this myth yourself, particularly if you are older than thirty; but many young people in Western nations are raised on it, and it acts as an ideal that they unconsciously carry with them even if they scoff at it… But if true love is defined as eternal passion, it is biologically impossible.

Love 2.0 is, by contrast, far humbler. Fredrickson tells me, “I love the idea that it lowers the bar of love. If you don’t have a Valentine, that doesn’t mean that you don’t have love. It puts love much more in our reach everyday regardless of our relationship status.”

Lonely people who are looking for love are making a mistake if they are sitting around and waiting for love in the form of the “love myth” to take hold of them. If they instead sought out love in little moments of connection that we all experience many times a day, perhaps their loneliness would begin to subside.

Complete Article HERE!

7 Tips For Better Sex

By Chloe Kraven

sensual

Sex is a craft; and just like any other craft, one improves with study and practice. In our Western Society, sex is taboo, and most of us look on it with varying degrees of shame and embarrassment, but this need not be the case. Whatever your feelings are personally about sex, the fact remains that the more you practice sex with one partner or with many, the better at it you will become. This holds especially true if you take interest in actually being good at it, which is a loaded situation, especially for women. You don’t want to be ‘too good’ because then you’ll raise suspicions about how many men you’ve slept with, but you also want to be ‘good enough’ to please your partner and keep them satisfied.

So as I’ve mentioned, for many sex is a minefield, both emotionally, psychologically and physically. Since I am not a licensed therapist, I cannot walk you through the emotional or psychological aspects of this situation; however, since sex is my craft, something I’ve spent years and years of my life indirectly studying and practicing, I can offer you some physical tips to improve the quality of sex you are or will have. Whether you’re a male or a female, gay or straight or bi, in a monogamous relationship or seeing multiple partners, these tips should improve the sex you’re having. They are general, all around tips for increasing satisfaction and intimacy levels.

Let’s get started!

7. Just Relax!black-lesbian-couple

First of all, sex, as mentioned above, is a very loaded experience for many people. Even for men, despite what most women thing. Men, as much as women, and perhaps more so, experience a large amount of anxiety when it comes to sex, even if they don’t show it, or don’t admit to. Mostly, men are anxious about the actual performance, and if they are with a new partner, being able to please their partner. This is a huge male insecurity—to somehow come up short on actually pleasing the person they are with. Women tend to be more insecure about their looks and their bodies; but either way, there’s a ton of anxiety that happens whenever sex is involved.

Anxiety has no place in the bedroom, though. It makes sex a rushed and shameful affair, and anyone would be hard pressed to enjoy sex if they are too worried about their performance or their looks. So relax! Maybe have a drink beforehand (but not too many!), take a hot bath, sit and meditate for a while. Do something that loosens you up and gets you out of your head, and into your body. Sex is best experienced in a physical way, so when you’re having it, the place to be, mentally, is inside your body, not your head! This is especially true for women, because so much of our orgasm is mentally based. If you can’t let go and get outside of your own insecurities, you’re never going to have a great orgasm. Men as well can experience performance problems if they are too nervous, so do what you can to minimize the anxiety, and also know that whoever your partner is, they obviously like you enough to want to have sex with you, so bare it all! What have you got to lose?

And women—know that not all men are into the type of so-called perfect bodies you see in the magazines. Plenty of men love a muffin top, or a tummy, so even if you think your body isn’t perfect, chances are the man you’re seeing probably disagrees with you. For every body type, there is a man who fetishizes it. Got stretch marks? Some men love that. Saggy boobs? There’s a man who loves those too. And men, your woman wouldn’t be with you in the first place if you didn’t satisfy her. Women don’t need or generally want a 12” penis and 3 hours of hard sex. Your 5” or 4” one is great because it’s attached to you, and so what if you only last 5 minutes? You’re your own worst critic and probably comparing yourself to male porn actors, which is absolutely ridiculous because no woman wants to have sex like that. Don’t aspire to it!

6. Be Gentle

senior coupleAgain, most people don’t want or even like porn sex in real life! Women like a soft touch, and most men like to start off slow, even if they enjoy harder stuff later on. The most erotic thing to both sexes is a soft and velvet touch.

Caress and undress your partner like they were a porcelain doll, and move with caution around them. Do not throw your entire body weight on top of them or accidentally smack them in the face with your elbow because you were not paying attention to where they were anticipating a move. Be aware of your own body and how it’s interacting with your partners, which is a key part of what I mean when I say ‘be in your body’. Be aware of where it is and what it’s doing. And make full use of subtle touches; a piece of hair that drags slowly across their face, or a breath of hot air from your mouth before placing your lips on their stomach. Sex is about the small, gentle, intimate moments between two individuals, and whether you’re going to see this person again or not should be irrelevant. If you’ve chosen to be intimate with someone, no matter who they are or what they mean to you, they deserve to be treated with respect and care because it’s a scary thing indeed to be intimate with anyone. We forget that sometimes, we forget the bravery involved in sex and intimacy, and how much we all risk in sharing this with each other.

So be gentle physically and emotionally with your partner. If they want something rougher later on, you can build to that. It helps to also ask your partner what they want out of the sexual encounter and what type of sex they generally like; however, most people who really enjoy rough sex with share that with you before starting sex, or pretty blatantly indicate it once sex has begun. If you are with a partner who enjoys rough sex, please do remember that human beings are fragile and even then start slowly and build pressure. If they like to be choked, don’t start with a full on grasp of the throat. Start with a gentle but firm grasp of the neck and continue to apply pressure, while gauging their reaction. This applies to all sorts of situations, anal included. Always start slow and gentle.

5. Move Slowly

Slow is always sexy. Always. Sure, there are times, especially towards the end of sex that things torsocan get faster and heavier, but in the initial seduction and foreplay of sex, rushing things and moving fast is really a buzz kill. Unless you’re having a quickie in the coat closet, take your time to enjoy your partner.

Move slowly and pour like water over your partner. A large part of sex is just simply the way you move—be smooth and have rhythm. The best sex is always with people who have a kinesthetic intelligence; i.e. they are very gifted with the way they move. Not all of us can be so gifted and some of us are clumsy and awkward, but that’s where practice comes in. Practice moving in slow motion, trying to feel all parts of your body at once and to glide them over things very slightly. It helps to be in good physical shape, not for looks, but simply because being in good shape makes this aspect of sex much easier. If you’re strong enough to hold yourself up off of your partner instead of laying, full body weight on top of them, it’s much more enjoyable for your partner; plus, later on, once the sex gets going, you’re going to be able to have better rhythmic strokes and you’ll be able to last longer on top and not end up sweaty and winded after 2 minutes of pumping.

Foreplay is an important, if not the most, important part of sex, and when you’re playing with your partner, do it slowly. Most people rush through foreplay or forget it all together, skipping straight to the actual insertion. This is a mistake because foreplay is the singular best way to build intimacy between partners. Sticking something inside of someone doesn’t build intimacy—laying next to each other, gazing into each others eyes, and running ones fingers across one’s skin, that does. The act of sex, in and of itself, is not intimate which is why porn stars don’t fall in love with each other. If you’re with a person you love deeply, or desire to, give them the time to get to know your body as well as your mind and soul. Use your hands to caress their hair and their head while you’re kissing them, and pull them closer to you, or sit on their lap and use your breath to tickle their earlobes. Ears are such an underrated erogenous zone on both men and women.

Even if you’re not trying to emotionally connect with your partner, these slow, sexy moments do help turn them on. Women especially need a lot of foreplay to get close to orgasm, and most men forget this or rush through it, despite wanting to please their partner. Men, in general, watch too much porn and focus too much on the orgasm a woman has during penetration, which is a mistake. Most women don’t orgasm from penetration, despite misleading porn movies. So if you’re genuine and want to please a woman, give her slow foreplay! There’s a reason the word ‘slowly’ shows up often in erotica—it is simply sexier.

4. Skin To Skin Contact

nude-black-couple-photographyOne of the greatest things in sex is the feeling of another human being’s skin touching your skin. It’s an underrated pleasure, and one that many people don’t notice until they haven’t experienced it for a while. Skin to skin contact stimulates a vast variety of neurotransmitters in our brain that bring us feelings of connection and empathy with each other. Not only that, but the feeling of another human’s skin on yours is also a very big turn on. No matter how badly you may want to keep your bra on if you’re ashamed of your boobs, or no matter how much you might want to be lazy and not get fully undressed, I urge you to get over your fear and don’t be lazy and go ahead and get fully naked. You cannot have a truly enjoyable sexual experience without a bit of skin to skin contact.

Even if you’re in a hurry and having a quickie, make time to touch each other. Put your hands up her shirt or down her pants, or kiss his neck and let your hands brush against his stomach. Make sure that your bodies touch and get close to each other; sex should be intimate even if it’s with someone you’re not interested in falling in love with. If the sex is robotic and lacking in human connection, you’re doing a disservice to your partner and it borders on being unhealthy. As I’ve said before, you don’t have to love someone to be intimate with them, and everyone deserves human compassion and care if they are willing be to brave enough to be intimate with you. So make and effort to connect with your partner through skin to skin contact and other things, such as kissing and eye contact.

And lastly, one of my favorite things to do is to smell your partner. Not smell their cologne or their perfume, but to really smell their body and their scent. This is especially important for couples who are in love, as smelling your partner should turn you on and help stimulate you for sex. One of the largest signs of basic compatibility is finding your partner’s natural body scent attractive. It’s also, on the scientific side, a good indicator of reproductive compatibility and a sign of a good genetic match for you.

3. Focus On Your Partner

Focusing on your partner is so important! For a mutually satisfying sexual experience, you must always keep an eye on your partner’s reactions to your sexual moves. Do not just continue doing what you’re doing, and as assume that because a previous sexual partner enjoyed your technique, that your current sexual partner will enjoy it as well. This also applies to what you see in pornography—just because a woman paid to pretend she enjoys some sexual move you saw in a porn does not mean a real woman, or the woman you are with, will enjoy it as well. Always keep an eye out to gauge how your partner is reacting to how you’re treating them and if they look uncomfortable or even bored, switch it up!holding hands

This is especially important during intercourse, because you can learn a lot about your partner and their likes and dislikes by just watching their body react to the things you’re doing together. A man’s body is more obvious about whether it likes or dislikes something, but women have tell tale signs of arousal too; namely, perky nipples, flushed cheeks or faces, and becoming lubricated. If you’re having sex and you don’t see these signs of arousal, switch it up and try something else. Don’t keep doing what you’re doing, and expect your partner to tell you if they dislike something. A lot of people have a hard time voicing their feelings during sex, or in the bedroom, so it’s always good to either make the first move yourself and ask “are you enjoying this?” or if they are obviously not, try something else or ask them what they would prefer. Women especially think that being assertive and knowing what they like and dislike during sex and voicing these opinions and thoughts is a turn off for most men, and are unlikely to really be sexually forward in that manner. However, women should remember that in general, this is NOT true and that most men actually love a woman who knows what she likes and dislikes and who isn’t afraid to tell them straight away!

Which leads me too….

2. Communicate, communicate, communicate!

Whether you’re shy or reserved or outgoing and outspoken, you must, either verbally or nonverbally, communicate with your partner! This is very, very important and it is one of the most important things to do if you’re looking to have better sex!

kissing.jpgSex is all about learning what another person likes and learning what you like. Sex is about exploration, and if you’ve chosen to include another partner, it is very important that you share that experience with them. You cannot properly share the experience or have any intimacy with someone who you don’t communicate with. Whether it’s telling them your life’s story and all of your personal turn ons, or simply telling them “faster” or “slower”, communication helps both of you figure out how to please each other. Otherwise, it’s a crap shoot, as human sexual preferences are infinitely variable. What works for one person, won’t for another; what is appealing to one man or woman, is disgusting to another one. Don’t ever assume that you know everything there is to know about sex, or that you know the one true way to great sex and that you will force that one way of having sex onto every partner you may have! The most important thing to remember is that there is no one right or wrong way to have sex because every single person has a special and different sexual “formula” that they prefer and the only way to figure out this formula is to communicate with your partner!

There are two ways to communicate—either verbally or non-verbally. You can either talk to your partner and ask them outright what they like or prefer, or if that’s uncomfortable, be very aware of their reactions to the moves you make in bed. It’s often easy, if you’re paying attention, to figure out what someone prefers in bed. If they are into slow, soft sex, if you experiment and go faster, they will give you signs of discomfort. Obviously it’s easier and more ethical to ask up front, but many, many people are too uncomfortable with the topic of sex to be that forthright. So switch things up and gauge reactions and find out what turns on your partner and what doesn’t, and don’t for a minute think that you can “change someone’s mind” or “turn them on” to a sex act, such as anal, that they show a fundamental dislike towards. Not everyone likes the same thing, and just because your ex-girlfriend was really into anal does NOT mean all women are into it! We are all born with our own sexual formula and it doesn’t change, in general, ever; and if it does change, it’s a self discovered change, and it happens when we are ready to explore more or different sides of our own sexuality. You cannot force anyone to like or to try a sexual experience simply because you want to, or because you yourself enjoy it. That is always unethical and uncalled for.

On the flip side of this, it is also advisable for you to be expressive in your enjoyment during sex. Be appreciative of your partner when they are doing something you are really enjoying! Be vocal, be intimate—grab their butt and pull them deeper into you or closer to you, or reach up and kiss them passionately! It’s never attractive to be a dead fish in bed (male or female). People want to know how you’re feeling, what’s going on with you, and there’s no better reward for good sex than returned passion. Don’t be afraid to look stupid, and don’t be self-conscious; sex has no room for such hang ups. Let the feelings and sensations flow through you and generously release passion. Your partner will love it, guaranteed.

1. Eye Contact

This is the very first thing I say to people who ask me how to have better sex. Eye contact. And I always get the same response, every time: “But isn’t that creepy/weird/uncomfortable/awkward??”.

I feel complete when I'm with you

I feel complete when I’m with you

Short answer: NO. I’m not asking you to stare at your partner, unblinkingly, for 10 minutes straight. I’m simply telling you to make prolonged eye contact with them while being intimate. Eye contact, more than anything else, builds intimacy and connection and eyes express more emotion than words, pictures and hand gestures combined.

Women especially feel awkward making strong eye contact with men because it’s inherently an aggressive thing to do. If you think about it, we find eye contact to be aggressive even in normal situations; aggressive and intrusive. However, if you ask a man what makes a blow job average or phenomenal, chances are he will say ‘eye contact’. So there is a fine line between staring too long and not at all, but I have a 3 to 4 second rule that seems to work well. If you’re having intercourse or oral, take a moment to look deeply into your partners eyes for 3 to 4 seconds, and if you want the connection, bare your soul in those moments. It’s difficult to describe how one bares ones soul through a look, but if you just think about an emotion you’d like to convey while looking at your partner, chances are it will come through your eyes. So if you’re truly enjoying yourself, look deeply at your partner with joy and happiness. They will pick up on that emotion, somehow. That’s the mystery and beauty of human connection; somehow, these things transfer.

Take my word for it—eye contact is sexy and it helps build intimacy and helps further communication between both partners!

I hope that this helps everyone who is looking for a better sexual experience, and remember that while love is not mandatory for all sexual activities, mutual respect and intimacy is! No matter who you are intimate with, whether it’s a one night stand, an escort, your wife, or your girlfriend or possibly a third partner, everyone who is brave enough to get naked and expose themselves to you deserves both respect and mutual intimacy. We must all remember and respect the power that the act of sex holds, and so while it can be fun and light hearted, it must always stem from a mutual and equal point of openness and willingness to be vulnerable with each other.

Complete Article HERE!

REVIEW: My Life on the Swingset

Hey sex fans!

Have I got some marvelous news for you! My friend and colleague, Cooper S. Beckett, has written a new book.  It impressed me no end so I thought, rather than keep this all to myself, I’d share it with you.

Ya’ll remember Cooper, right? OK, maybe ya don’t; it’s been a long time since he was last seen skulking around my site. Way back in March of 2011 I had the pleasure of welcoming Cooper and his ever so lovely sidekick, Ginger, to my Sex EDGE-U-cation show for a two-part interview. You can find both parts in the Podcast Archive HERE and HERE!

Cooper and Ginger are the hosts of the Life On The Swingset podcasts, where they discuss a wide range of topics, with a focus on consensual non-monogamy. swingset

Cooper’s new book: My Life on the Swingset: Adventures in Swinging & Polyamory, is a collection of essays on…wait for it…his personal journey through ethical non-monogamy. This is what he says about it in the Introduction:

You should read this book because it represents my journey. From starry-eyed newbie swinger, through my dealing with jealousy and conflict, through the triumphs of orgies and play parties, through the devastation of breaking up, through exploring polyamory, through divorce, through major life changes, through depression, through success and failure, through the rise and fall of new relationships.

Triumphs of orgies?? How you do go on, sir!

It’s no secret that Cooper is unabashedly biased when it comes to swinging, polyamory, as well as other forms of ethical non-monogamy. And why shouldn’t he be? As he plainly states he has grown in his appreciation of himself and his sexuality in the process. Now, how many of us can make a similar claim? However, in his enthusiasm, he doesn’t gloss over the difficulties. He speaks honestly and earnestly about this particular way to live one’s life. He describes the opportunities that allow for growth in terms of understanding one’s sexuality and one’s loving relationships through experimentation and self-reflection.

To my mind, there is nothing more compelling than a “coming out” story. It’s one thing to quietly self-identify as a fellow big-fat-pervert, as I am apt to say on my podcasts, it’s quite another to tell the whole world. I am pleased to welcome Cooper to the Out-There-Come-What-May club.  It’s good to have you here, my friend.

One of my favorite chapters in the book is titled: Bi The Way – Male Bisexuality and Swinging. Cooper, Ginger, and I talked about this very thing, at length, in our podcast together. So it was delightful to find him exploring this concept in print as well.

There is a huge double standard in the swinging lifestyle when it comes to acceptance of bisexual males. We all know this, it’s endemic. As swingers we seem perfectly happy that our women are bisexual. We encourage and expect them to be so often. Some more than others, but by and large, definitely bisexual. Now don’t jump down my throat here, I’m well aware that straight swinging females exist, and probably in a decent sized number, but wouldn’t we all agree that the VAST majority of females in the lifestyle are bi? This fact isn’t really shocking, as even the mainstream vanilla world has embraced girl-on-girl dalliance action in the past ten to fifteen years. So when a lifestyle such as swinging presents itself as an option, affording them the opportunity to play with girls, well, there ya go, that’s where the bi girl inside comes out. Many of the swing couples I’ve met said that this was one of the prominent reasons they got into this lifestyle in the first place. So Mrs. could play with another woman. You raise the call for bisexual males, however, and tumbleweeds blow by. Invisible because it’s been made very clear in club and party rules and pricing that a man who wants to play with another man is an unwelcome addition to the scene. This doesn’t make sense.

See why I like Cooper so much?

Another thing I liked a lot about the book, and I think every reader will echo my feelings about this, is Cooper’s thoughtful addition of a glossary of pertinent lingo. If you don’t know the difference between a Full Swap and a Soft Swap or don’t know PIV and PIA from a hole in your head (someone’s gonna appreciate that pun, don’t cha know), not to worry because Cooper takes great pains to spell it out for you.

On a personal note, I want to say a special thanks to Cooper for his chapter titled: Podcasting Can be Lonely. I thought I was the only person who thought this way.

Podcasting can be a lonely pursuit at times. You predominantly interact with people that don’t have physicality in your world. They’re avatars, they’re ones and zeros. They exist for real somewhere, of course. (Most of them, there are the bots after all.) But few exist beyond text on a screen. Writing for a website is the same way. It’s a lot of work, and a tremendous output of self. We sex bloggers reveal so much to so many people (at least we hope for “so many”) and can often get to wondering if we’re just shouting into the void.

Funny, erotic, thought provoking, authentic, and true. My Life on the Swingset: Adventures in Swinging & Polyamory raises the bar for all of us who are trying to live honest ethical non-monogamy and talk with others about our experiences. Cooper Beckett, you are an inspiration!

My Life on the Swingset is available exclusively as an Amazon Kindle e-book. A print edition will follow later this month. And be sure to look for the audiobook release in the spring. Check it out, sex fans; you’ll be so glad you did.

Open Hearts, Open Minds, And Open Relationships

Name: Deborah
Gender: female
Age: 36
Location: Rome
I like your site very much. Thank you for some much honesty. I have a question; do open relationships really work?

Well gee, thanks for your kind words, darlin’; I appreciate it.

To your question about open relationships, I guess that depends on the maturity level of the people considering opening their sexually exclusive relationship. And how much work they are willing to put forward to communicate with one another through all the details that such a decision entails.open relationship

That being said, there are a few things us sex researchers know for sure. In most cultures, people claim to practice sexual exclusivity, which is commonly referred to as monogamy. Although I think that’s a misnomer. Monogamy literally means having one union, which, as we all know, tells us nothing about sexual expression of either or both partners.

Lifetime sexual exclusivity (being sexually involved with only one person for one’s entire life) is rare. Serial sexual exclusivity (having a series of exclusive relationships over one’s life) is much more common. And despite knowing that we humans do not mate for life, we continue to presume that sexual exclusivity, or monogamy is the only legitimate kind of coupling.

This, unfortunately, leads to our culture’s obsession with cheating — that is, having sex with someone outside of a monogamous relationship. And frankly, what I know about humans, human relationships, and human sexuality; I can say for certain that fidelity is not necessarily a genital issue. One can indeed be faithful to someone else and still have the freedom to express him/herself sexually with others. It happens all the time. In these cases, fidelity is to the relationship and the agreements, parameters, and boundaries mutually agreed upon by the partners. Which get me back to my opening comment about the need for communication. Of course, it’s much easier to presume that everyone in a relationship is working under the same rubric, but that kind of presumption is a fool’s paradise.

polyamory1Another shortcoming of setting up sexual exclusivity, or monogamy as the only legitimate kind of coupling is that it diminishes all the other types of relationships that flourish albeit in a more covert sort of way. And here I’m talking about an array of open relationship models and polyamory. The fact that we don’t hear a lot about these non-traditional relationships shouldn’t suggest to you, or anyone, that they don’t exist or that they aren’t practical or practiced my a lot of people. They are! It just means that most people in non-traditional relationships know not to go public in a society that would denigrate them for their lifestyle choices. That’s how things are here in the good old US of A; and I’ll wager it’s also true for you Italians. Am I right, or am I right?

Open relationships and polyamorous relationships work because the people in them adhere to some basic tenets about how to conduct themselves.

First among them is the notion that these alternative relationships must be chosen; they can’t be mandated. If one or another of the persons considering an open or poly relationship is being pressured to go along with the flow, or is fearful that he/she will be alone if he/she doesn’t comply with the will of the other(s), that kind of duress is not gonna work.

Each person in the relationship needs to take responsibility for the choices he/she is making. If you’re not up for the task, or if this kind of arrangement is not compatible with your personality type, don’t attempt to override that. You will only jeopardize the relationship for the other(s) involved. However if the idea appeals to you, give it your best shot. I can guarantee it will be a learning experience. Just remember, exploring something and having it carved in stone are two very different things.

Second, communication is key. The more complex the relationship structure the greater the need for open lines of communication. Know your boundaries and express them clearly. Ask questions; never assume you know something when you don’t. If you will allow me some shameless self-promotion, I’d like to direct your attention to my latest book, The Gospel Of Kink — A Modern Guide To Asking For What You Want And Getting What You Ask For. It’s a communication and relationship-building workshop, for folks in nontraditional relationships, in workbook form. I think you will find it most enlightening. GOK small cover

Third, know yourself! You must be able to deal with your emotions, particularly jealousy, in an up-front, adult way. This is often much easier said than done. If you need to be the center of attention just so you can feel good about yourself, or you have serious territorial issues — this is mine, this is mine, and this is mine! Alternative relationships are probably not for you.

Know what keeps you even keel in terms of what you need and what you are able to give. There has got to be a healthy tension between these two things. If you’re the kind who gives too much and resents not being rewarded for your gifts, stay away from alternative relationships. Or if you are so needy that you can’t stand it when someone else is enjoying his/her time in the sun; open or poly relationships are decidedly not for you.

You should also know that alternative relationships, of whatever stripe, are, for the most part, on the fringes of what society will accept. And some are outright taboo. This doesn’t mean you will have to slug it out on your own, in a vacuum of support. On the contrary, you will no doubt find that the people who are living contrary to the expectations of the popular culture are often a whole lot more generous with their support and compassion then those following all the rules.

You will find that your support system will shift from more traditional sources like family, church, and community to alternative sources like clubs and social groupings of other like-minded individuals as yourself. A common mistake made by those in non-traditional relationships is to take their problems and issues to their traditional support systems. This rarely works because the traditional support system will inevitably blame the non-traditional relationship setup for the problem. This is not true, of course, but how would those in traditional relationships know otherwise.

I always suggest that those in non-traditional relationships bring their issues to their non-traditional support system. Here you are less likely to encounter judgments about your life choices and more help with overcoming the problems at hand.

Good luck

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Opening Things Up

And not we hear from a very long-winded soul…

Name: Needing help badly
Gender: Male
Age: late 30s
Location: North America
Good day, and hoping this email finds you well. Me and my partner of nearly 10 years are experiencing a problem, it goes something like this. I am always interested in having sex; he is almost never interested in having sex.need your dick sucked

Initially we started out with the typical “honeymoon” period where there was sex nearly every night and twice on Sundays (grin). After a brief while this preceded normally to a couple times a week maybe a little less. After a few years it has deteriorated to me almost always having to beg for even a hand job and perhaps we do more (oral/anal) a handful of times a month and I only get to top once or twice a year.

My partner almost never initiates sexual interaction and complains that I am “always asking.” We are very compatible in other respects and really love each other, but I have a 20 libido on a scale of 1 to 10 and he has a 1 or 2 on the same scale.

This is starting to lead to tension in other parts of our relationship even though we try our best not to allow it. We are currently in a closed relationship, with my partner citing, in the past, personal beliefs about monogamy and monogamous relationships. Recently he has been entertaining the idea of opening the relationship up to allow me to seek relief for my sexual needs through other channels. He states that of late his views have changed and that he is taking a more realistic view at how we should proceed.

We just discussed rules for the opening of the relationship and are in the process of looking at our options for secondary partners. The rules we have thus far are as follows:jeans03

  1. Either of us may play with other people outside the relationship.
  2. The primary partner has ABSOLUTE veto powers over the choice of another play partner.
  3. Safe sex must be observed at ALL times and absolutely no transfer of bodily fluids outside of the primary partnership.
  4. If a play partner comes to our house to play and the primary partner is home, an offer to allow them to join in must be made.
  5. As soon as possible after an outside encounter, or preferably before, the primary partner must be told of the play session. Not the gory details, just “hey me and _____ had some fun last night” to keep the lines of communication open.
  6. More discussion may be initiated at the request of the non-playing partner, but not readily offered.
  7. You always, always, always come home to your primary partner at night.
  8. Secondary play partners must maintain discretion about our play sessions and respect the boundaries established by the primary partnership.

Can you advise me on the following:

  • Do you think this will help or hindering our relationship?
  • Do you think the rules we have set down are adequate?
  • Any other suggestions for the rules.
  • Any other comments or suggestions in general?

Thank you.

First, I’d suggest you guys rethink your choice of words when taking about your relationship. Monogamous means one wife…ya know, as opposed to polygamous, meaning more than one wife. Since neither one of you is a woman, that word doesn’t fit your situation.

I know, I know, the popular culture uses that word indiscriminately to describe any sexually exclusive relationship, but we don’t have to misuse words just because everyone else does. Language is important. And in some instances, like this one, precise language is not only helps with clarity, it helps you better understand what is possible between you two. Besides, as we all know, some monogamous relationships are not sexually exclusive.

haloTry using the less culturally encumbered word “exclusive” as opposed to the culturally laden “monogamous” when speaking about your primary relationship. I think you’ll find that it will free you up from outdated ways of thinking about your relationship. It will also help in dispelling guilt associated with violating cultural norms. Don’t believe me? Try it yourself. Say out loud — “Ours is not an exclusive relationship.” Now say — We are not monogamous.” There is a big difference, huh? I told you so.

And the best part about all of this is you get to define what “non-exclusive” means. For instance, you guys seem to want your primary relationship to be emotionally exclusive, but not necessarily sexually exclusive. In other words you are not considering polyamory, right? Nothing wrong with polyamory, it’s just not what you are considering at this time, I’m guessing.

I applaud your negotiating skills. I think you guys have come up with a viable framework for launching out in search of satellite relationships. You will probably find that some fine-tuning is necessary as you make your way, but I believe your foundation is sound.

There’s one thing for sure, your bullet point #8 is completely outside of your control. You will learn, in short order, that you won’t be able to manage your satellite partners’ behaviors. Expecting discretion from a casual hook-up or even a newly found fuck-buddy is unrealistic. The “girls” are gonna talk, hun, no matter what you say.

Finally, I suggest that you and your primary partner keep an open mind about it all. You’d also do well to maintain a sense of humor.

Good luck