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How to talk to kids about sex

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“I do know how babies are made,” my then-8-year-old son recently told his 13-year-old sister. She ignored him. “Mom, he really doesn’t,” she said. “You better tell him before he goes to camp and hears it from older kids.” She was right. I had talked to him about love for years, but I must have glossed over the mechanical piece.

According to Deborah Roffman, a teacher and author of “Talk to Me First: Everything You Need to Know to Become Your Kids’ ‘Go-To’ Person About Sex,” I was late to the game. “If we’re not deliberately reaching out to kids by third grade, almost everything they learn after that is going to be remedial,” she says. “Sexual intercourse in the service of reproduction is thoroughly age-appropriate for 6-year-olds.”

Not long after I got my son up to speed, I taught middle school health and wellness for the first time. No amount of parenting readies you for a roomful of curious 13-year-olds. To prepare me, my principal showed me questions kids had asked in the past. “How many times can you ask a girl out before it becomes sexual harassment?” “Is it possible for a boy to put his privates in the wrong hole?” “What are all the different sex positions?”

Well, okay then. I could do this. As Roffman notes, these conversations are simply part of the nurturing process, and we miss the big picture when we focus on “the talk.” “That’s where I start with parents. It’s about how we can raise sexually healthy young people from birth,” she says.

Kids have five core needs when it comes to sexuality, Roffman explains. They need affirmation and unconditional love; information about healthy and unhealthy behaviors; clarity about values such as respect and integrity; appropriate boundaries and limits; and guidance about making responsible, safe choices. Within that framework, here are seven tips to help parents raise kids who know how to make well-considered decisions.

Fill in gaps and debunk myths

Karen Rayne, a sex educator in Texas and author of “GIRL: Love, Sex, Romance and Being You,” says that parents shouldn’t make assumptions about what their kids know. She recalls a student who avoided trampolines because she believed that every time a girl is jostled, an egg dies. Another girl sobbed in a bathroom at a water park when she got her period for the first time. “She was being raised by a single dad who never talked to her about it, and she thought she was dying,” she says.

Yuri Ohlrichs, an author and sex educator at Rutgers Netherlands, says that kids are picking up information from peers and the Internet and that parents need to debunk myths. One boy told him that if you clean your genitals with a medical disinfectant after sex, you can’t get a sexually transmitted disease. “Some of the misconceptions are disturbing, and as responsible adults we can take away the tension they create,” he says.

Admit discomfort and stay calm

For parents, acknowledging discomfort is a good first step. “You can begin the conversation with, ‘This is going to be awkward, but we’re going to talk about it anyway because it’s important,’ ” Rayne says. Even if parents are fine, it doesn’t mean their kids are. “Parents need to normalize the dialogue and provide a space where kids can ask anything,” she says. “If young people say something shocking, it’s okay to say, ‘That’s surprising to me.’ ” Still, she recommends parents stay calm and delay their gut reaction. “Process with a friend, partner or religious figure, and then respond in your best emotional state,” she says.

Talk about your family’s values

When Roffman talks to parents, she asks them to list at least five values they want their children to bring to all sexual situations they encounter in their lives. She then urges them to name those values to their kids as young as possible.

By taking this approach, parents can teach the importance of compassion, honesty and respect long before they broach them in a sexual context. “Parents can say, ‘You’re standing too close to me. You’re not respecting my boundaries,’ and talk to children about how no one is allowed to touch them without their permission,” Roffman says.

Last year, her eighth-graders wanted to teach fifth-
graders about consent. They showed an image of the prince kissing Sleeping Beauty along with nonsexual examples of consent. By the end of the presentation, the students understood why Sleeping Beauty was incapable of agreeing to the kiss.

Share personal stories with caution

Before sharing personal information, parents need to think deeply about why they’re sharing it, Roffman says. “There should be a point to the story. What do they hope their child will learn?” She notes that trying to steer a kid’s behavior is not a good motive. “The goal should be to help your child think through decisions they’re going to make,” she says.

Parents also can draw a line when kids ask intrusive questions. “The act of drawing boundaries is powerful, and parents can say, ‘That’s a personal question, and maybe I’ll answer it when you’re older,’ ” Rayne says.

Address stereotypes and gender differences

Ohlrichs encourages adults to take a positive approach to both male and female sexuality. “Not all boys or men are going out there to have sex as much as they can,” he says, noting that boys have insecurities but may struggle to express them. “We have to make sure that boys understand that you’re just as much a man if you’re not experienced sexually as if you are.”

He also urges parents to explain that although there are no hard-and-fast distinctions, males and females might approach sexual scenarios differently. “Boys don’t always understand that a girl might stop kissing because she’s focused on what’s going on around them,” he says. “Boys might be all green lights, but if a girl hears someone in the house or the boy says something that reminds her of a negative experience, it’s over.” Parents can explain that it’s not necessarily a rejection and that the couple needs to work together to make it comfortable. He also suggests that parents tell teens that if someone is giggling or nervous, “it might not be a positive situation for them.”

Ohlrichs urges parents to address stereotypes about female sexuality, noting that girls throughout the world internalize the idea that they need to protect their reputation. “They’re getting the message that they need to conceal excitement and avoid taking initiative, and it’s still one-sided,” he says.

Use media and other sources to start a conversation

“Everything in life can be connected to human sexuality,” Roffman says, and parents can find natural segues in a variety of topics, such as music and sports. Sexetc.org, a website that is run by teens and affiliated with Rutgers University, features polls that parents can use to start a dialogue. Scarleteen.com also has a parenting section and an adult-moderated dialogue board for teens.

Rayne has used the movie “Wonder Woman” and the TV show “Grey’s Anatomy” to talk about gender issues with her own children. She also talks to her kids about sexting and shares other Internet cautionary tales when they unfold publicly. Books about sex, gender and reproduction are readily available in her home.

Complete Article HERE!

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Visualizing Sex as a Spectrum

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Infographic reveals the startling complexity of sex determination

Infographic by Pitch Interactive and Amanda Montañez

By Amanda Montañez

Sex and gender pervade nearly every aspect of our lives. Each time we use a public restroom, shop for clothes, or fill out a form, we are insistently reminded that we must be either male or female; men or women; boys or girls. Even things that ostensibly have nothing to do with sex or gender—what we eat, for example, or the books we read—are often sold to us as if they are necessarily feminine or masculine.

Some of these conventions currently face challenges, some more polarizing than others. On the milder end of things, enterprising online retailers promote gender-neutral clothing for babies, and city transport authorities mercifully abolish the phrase “ladies and gentlemen” from public announcements. And on the other side of the controversy scale, U.S. state legislators debate so-called “bathroom bills,” which would prohibit transgender individuals from using public restrooms corresponding to their gender identity. This dispute has prompted some venues to offer a gender-neutral restroom option, or simply to do away with gender distinctions altogether in their facilities.

Much of the public discourse in this arena centers on gender rather than sex, presumably because gender is understood to be somewhat subjective; it is a social construct that can be complex, fluid, multifaceted. Biological sex, on the other hand, appears to leave less room for debate. You either have two X chromosomes or an X and a Y; ovaries or testes; a vagina or a penis. Regardless of how an individual ends up identifying, they are assigned to one sex or the other at birth based on these binary sets of characteristics.

But of course, sex is not that simple either.

The September issue of Scientific American explores the fascinating and evolving science of sex and gender. One of the graphics I had the pleasure of working on breaks down the idea of biological sex as a non-binary attribute, focusing largely on what clinicians refer to as disorders of sex development (DSD), also known as intersex.

The project was originally conceived as a data-driven graphic exploring the spectra of sex and gender. I wondered, for instance, what data could tell us about the frequency of transgender and non-binary identities, what proportion of the population is intersex, and how that value might break down into rates of specific DSDs.

I hired the researcher Amanda Hobbs to look into these questions, and what she came back with, rather than answers, looked more like a series of new questions. The search for solid data on transgender and intersex populations proved challenging, and was confounded by a variety of factors. For example, surveys often lump transgender in with gay, lesbian, and bisexual identities. And DSDs, in addition to being variously defined by different entities, sometimes go undetected or emerge unexpectedly, either during sexual development or later in life.

The project abruptly transformed into an exercise in visualizing complexity. First, it seemed imperative to define a few terms. Sex, gender, and sexuality are all distinct from one another (although they are often related), and each exists on its own spectrum. Moreover, sex cannot be depicted as a simple, one-dimensional scale. In the world of DSDs, an individual may shift along the spectrum as development brings new biological factors into play. The density of science underlying this phenomenon compelled a shift towards intersex as the primary focus of the visualization.

Now that my task was clear, I set about assembling the content of the graphic and putting it down on paper. In part, this process clarified how much I could include, as the complete list of known DSDs and their various manifestations proved unwieldy for a single spread in a print magazine. I ended up with a visual outline of sorts depicting a diverse selection of conditions and their convoluted pathways of development over time. Although not an especially pretty sketch, it captured the sense of intricacy the topic demanded.

Visual outline

Next I consulted with Dr. Amy Winsiewski, a DSD specialist at the University of Oklahoma, who was kind enough to review the content of my sketch for accuracy. And finally, I called upon the visualization experts at Pitch Interactive to help bring the project to life.

[caption id="attachment_2328558" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Sketch

Once the aesthetic of the graphic had been established, I continued to refine both the text and design elements, guided by feedback from my colleagues who helped identify areas that were unclear or difficult to follow.

The finished print graphic

Detail of the finished print graphic

The resulting visualization is a source of pride for me, as I hope it is for everyone who contributed to its development. (You can see a larger version here in the September digital issue.) Design and visual communication feats aside, I believe the content itself is of critical importance from a social and policy perspective.

DSDs—which, broadly defined, may affect about one percent of the population—represent a robust, evidence-based argument to reject rigid assignations of sex and gender. Certain recent developments, such as the Swedish adoption of a gender-neutral singular pronoun, and the growing call to stop medically unnecessary surgeries on intersex babies, indicate a shift in the right direction. I am hopeful that raising public awareness of intersex, along with transgender and non-binary identities, will help align policies more closely with scientific reality, and by extension, social justice.

Complete Article HERE!

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‘I’m 62 and my sex life is more important now than ever’

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‘I don’t believe I shouldn’t have a sex life just because I haven’t met ‘the one’’

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Sex is just as important for women after 50: that’s what the European Court of Human Rights made clear when it ruled that the judges who reduced a 50-year-old woman’s compensation for a botched gynaecological operation had discriminated against her.

Maria Morais, who is Portuguese and has two children, sought compensation on the grounds that she was unable to continue a normal sex life, but the judges in the original case had argued that the importance of sex declines for women as they get older.

The European Court of Human Rights found that this constituted sexual discrimination, and that the judges had “ignored the physical and psychological importance of sexuality for women’s self-fulfilment and other dimensions of women’s sexuality”.

Sex doesn’t stop at a certain age

In popular culture, portrayals of relationships among older people are becoming more common, implying a greater acknowledgement of older women’s sexuality

In popular culture, portrayals of relationships among older people are becoming more common, implying a greater acknowledgement of older women’s sexuality. The film It’s Complicated (2009) starred Meryl Streep (inset), whose character has an affair with her ex, played by Alec Baldwin, decades after their divorce. This year, Hampstead saw Diane Keaton as a widow falling in love with a man living wild on Hampstead Heath, played by Brendan Gleeson.

Data backs up her case, too. In 2014, a Saga survey of 9,685 people aged over 50 found three-fifths are sexually active and 23 per cent are having sex once a week.

Research released by the Longevity Centre in 2016 showed that 60 per cent of men and 37 per cent of women aged over 65 had sexual activity in the past year.

Caitlin (not her real name), 62, needs no court ruling or Hollywood film to tell her that her sex life is important. She has been in a number of monogamous relationships, but is now having intimate relationships with more than one man.

Having an active sex life makes me feel alive. There’s a deliciousness about it.

I’m single and I have sex regularly, but I’ve been celibate in an earlier relationship when my partner lost interest. I have also been a mistress, where I discovered the thrill of coming to terms with my non-vanilla side. I feel more in touch with my sexuality now than I ever have done.

Sex is not the be all and end all. While I’m passionate about sex for those who want it, I’m also very aware that other people can get satisfaction from other things. But I think if one has the desire, sex is such a fabulous, life-enforcing thing at any age. It’s just a marvellous sensation.

Being 62 doesn’t mean I have to settle

I talk openly about my sex life with my close friends; it’s a running joke with them about what my neighbours would make of me.

I’m not hankering for my ‘one and only’. If I met them, that would be delightful. But I don’t believe I shouldn’t have a sex life just because I haven’t met ‘the one’. You can have good enough relationships that are absolutely fine without being the big thing. I don’t like compromising – just because I’m 62, it doesn’t mean I have to settle.

It would be fabulous to meet somebody who ticks all of the boxes, but I don’t feel I’m missing out because I haven’t got that. Having a sense of adventure and not knowing who I may meet is great fun.

I wanted to be open minded about sex

‘I was stood in the college library and thought, ‘I’m going to go and masturbate’

I grew up in a village South Wales and lost my virginity aged 18 to the man I thought I was going to marry. It was a huge thing because I was still a practising Catholic and it was not the done thing to have sex at school.

At that age, I wanted to be open minded about sex. I enjoyed it. I loved the power of being able to turn a man on, But with everything around you [at that age] you have a patriarchal version of sexuality. The whole thing of ‘what is sexy’ comes from the images you see.

I never masturbated as a teenager – I think I was quite proud that I didn’t. Then I got into this relationship and started to think there must be more to sex than this. When I was 19, I was stood in the college library and thought, ‘I’m going to go and masturbate.’ And I went back to my room and I did!

I began exploring my sexuality in my forties

‘I set myself a goal of being able to use a computer.’

I’ve always had sexual fantasies about spanking, which meant I had a life time of growing up with these suppressed fantasies that I thought were sort of dangerous.

I began exploring my sexuality in my forties when I posted adverts in a magazine. I met someone I thought I was going to be with for the rest of my life when he responded to my advert.

He already knew that I had these fantasies from reading my advert. Our sex life was completely vanilla but fantastic and very active until about six years in, when he developed an illness and went off sex. He seemed almost relieved of the burden.

I cared about him and so I put up with it and set myself a couple of personal goals. One was to learn to use a computer properly. Another was to start creative writing – I had always wanted to write erotica.

Things changed with this exploration of female sexuality and fantasies. I realised I wasn’t going to bring the world crashing down because I have sexual fantasies.

Age 56, I started advertising for lovers

‘I discovered this community out there with the same interest.’

Writing erotica was fun and I was curious to find out if what worked for me sexually worked for other people. I discovered this community out there with the same interest and it brought me back to life.

I started communicating with a man online. We discovered we were both in sexless relationships. I had never been unfaithful and took monogamy very seriously but I was getting to the point where I couldn’t continue like this. I told my partner I was going to struggle to stay faithful if our relationship remained non-sexual.

Suddenly, we had a fantastic sex life again. But it only lasted a fortnight.I told my partner again that I would not be able to be faithful in a sexless marriage and he left me. The man I was talking to online became my lover.

I began putting adverts out online to meet other people and started having other sexual partners. I was 56 at this time.

Sex has to be intimate

We have the rituals you have as a couple; going out together, watching TV, going on holidays

For me, there has to be a level of intimacy in sexual encounters. I met a couple of guys where there was a coldness and that is just not right for me. But there can be a level of intimacy without love.

There’s a chap I’ve been seeing for a few years and we’re very comfortable with each other. We have the rituals you have as a couple; going out together, watching TV, going on holidays.

I see other people because the time we have together is limited and I want more. The ages of the people I see varies; I recently stopped seeing someone who was five years older. The oldest chap I was seeing was about 69. But I’ve also had relationships with people in their thirties and forties.

I’ve now moved back to the village where I grew up. I’m part of the Women’s Institutes and I’ve done relatively serious things work wise. It’s just nice that there is this other part of you that is private, such fun and so life-enhancing.

Complete Article HERE!

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What does kink really mean?

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All your NSFW questions answered

If you want to get kinky, sex isn’t even necessary.

Looking to leave your vanilla sex life behind and break into the exciting world of kink? You’ve probably heard the term thrown around on the internet or mentioned mysteriously on popular TV shows. But what does kink mean? What does being kinky entail? How do you discover your kinks and find out what works for you and your partner?

We suggest putting aside your Fifty Shades of Grey and Twilight kink fanfiction for a much more interesting and inclusive look into what it really means to be kinky—and how kink can change sex and intimacy.

What does kink mean?

There are a lot of different ways to define “kink” that range from extraordinarily broad to super specific. But put very simply, a kink is anything that falls under non-traditional sexual and intimate desires, practices, or fantasies. The word non-traditional will mean different things to different people based on cultural backgrounds, but in most contexts, the definition encompasses anything that falls outside or romantic, intercourse-based sex between two people. This can include things that range from light bondage like handcuffs, ropes, or tape, to practices like public humiliation, foot-worship, domination/submission, and group sex.

What’s the difference between having a kink and being kinky? 

Let’s say you like being choked and occasionally have group sex with your partner, but other than that, you mostly subscribe to the standard sexual and romantic practices your parents could barely bring themselves to educate you about. A few kinks or kinky habits don’t brand you as a kinkster if that’s not how you identify. Conversely, there’s absolutely no rule telling you that you can’t identify as kinky on the basis of one or two kinks. Identity is largely helpful in finding community and for you to define yourself—you get to make that choice over whether you identify as kinky or not.

I’m kinky. Does that automatically make me queer?

If you’re a cisgender, heterosexual kinky person, the short answer is no.

Earlier this year HuffPo’s “Queer Voices” made the argument that non-normative sex and fetishes fall under the umbrella of queer. There are several problems with the argument, one of them that the crux of it lies in the author reducing the lives of queer/non-binary/LGBTQ folks to fetishes. Calling all kink inherently queer also diminishes the experiences of folks who have been dehumanized, banned from using the correct bathroom, denied public services, or murdered because of they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, or nonbinary.

As a writer on Huck Magazine puts it:

Queerness is an all-encompassing thing—an act of political resistance through its very existence—not just a rejection of what’s considered “normal” through alternative sexual practices. To reduce the queer identity to that is an over-simplification and an insult. Queerness steps outside these norms, and defies the gender and sexual binary. Being queer is about identity, and that is more powerful and goes far beyond the sex we do (or don’t) have.

How do my partner(s) and I get kinky? 

Before all else, make sure to honor the two most important rules of kink: communication and consent.

If you’re thinking of trying something kinky in bed (or elsewhere, since beds are pretty traditional places to have sex, after all) have an open and honest conversation with anyone who will be involved and outline your desires—but not without asking them about theirs, too. A kinky desire alone doesn’t give you a free pass to enact it; as with all sex and romantic activity, there must be explicit consent to move forward and that consent is not written in stone. You or your partner can change your mind at any time about what’s comfortable and what’s not OK.

Now onto the fun stuff: One of the best ways to get started on your kink journey is research. The internet is a bottomless resource hub for all your kink questions, which includes kink education videos, kink communities, step-by-step guides, kink and feminism/racial identity blogs, equipment guides for beginners, resources for specific kinks, and lots more videos.

How do I learn about my own kink(s)?

Both kink beginners and veterans can use the “Yes, No, Maybe So” checklist as a tool to learn about their own kinks and, if they’re comfortable, share the list with a partner. Scarleteen recommends filling it out by hand or reading it through before discussing with a partner, but it all depends on your individual comfort level. As the authors point out, “Lists like this are not finish lines but starting points: for evaluating your own sexuality and/or for deeper conversations with someone else. This is so you can start thinking about things for yourself, or start having conversations with a partner.” There are many different versions of the “Yes, No, Maybe So” checklist, like this visual guide from Autostraddle, this polyamory checklist, and this kink rating system to also peruse through.

Many people also use this online BDSM quiz, which lets you answer questions on a spectrum rather than a simple “yes” or “no.” But the quiz doesn’t explicitly include space for queer, trans, or nonbinary folks—though you can mark “bicurious,” “bisexual,” “heteroflexible,” or “strictly lesbian/gay” in the “Sexual Orientation” section.

What’s the difference between BDSM and kink?

For many people, BDSM—an acronym for bondage/discipline, dominance/submission, sadism/masochism—is a subcategory of kink. The desires and practices that fall under BDSM can be classified as non-traditional sexual, intimate, or romantic behaviors—pain, domination, submission, and being tied up can all be considered kinky things.

For others, there are important or notable differences between kink and BDSM. A post on Kink Weekly states: “As I see it—and this is simply my opinion—the difference [between kink and BDSM] is that BDSM has an implied power exchange; kink does not. It is really that simple. BDSM has a lot more structure—and thus it has greater ‘staying power.’”

Whether you see BDSM as a way to have kinky sex or believe that the two exist outside one another is largely up to you. Plus, if you ever hear a partner using the two together, you can always ask how or why they conflate or differentiate (though asking doesn’t always entitle you to an answer). Such a conversation can give you a better idea of their boundaries and desires.

Is forcing someone to do something they don’t want to kinky?

Any kinky activity done without consent is abuse, plain and simple.

Does kink always have to involve sex?

Definitely not. You can be kinky during foreplay, kinky over the phone, use kinky language, or simply create a kinky scenario. You don’t have to touch, or even orgasm, to get kinky.

Ready to get started and want more kink resources? Check out Whiplr, Kinkly, any book or movie other than Fifty Shades of Grey, and read these facts about kink.

Complete Article HERE!

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A new way to love: in praise of polyamory

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Polyamory isn’t monogamy and it isn’t swinging, it’s being open to having loving relationships with different people of different sexes at the same time, and in that way learning to love yourself, too

‘It’s like any normal relationship, except with more time management’: Elf Lyons.

By Elf Lyons

I have never enjoyed typical monogamy. It makes me think of dowries and possessive prairie voles who mate for life, and historically all monogamous relationship models have owned women in some way, with marriage there for financial purposes and the ownership of property.

For the last few years I’ve defined myself as a polyamorist. Friends before defined me as a “friendly philanderer”. I love to kiss people. Friends usually, or women who wear polo-necks. Polyamory is consensual non- monogamy. It’s a philosophy. Rather than the active pursuing of multiple partners in a lascivious way, it’s the embracing and understanding that it’s possible to fall in love, and have relationships, with more than one person at the same time.

Alongside developing CEO-worthy skills in multitasking, polyamory is the most empowering way of loving that I have encountered. It gives women more autonomy than other relationship models ever have. Although monogamous relationship models work for many, they’re not the only way to have relationships in society. In non-monogamous relationships, their success relies on everything being on the table from the start. I believe that it could be the huge relationship revolution that the feminist movement needs.

Many think it’s about sex – it’s not. It’s not swinging. It’s not Pokémon Go, you don’t have to catch them all. It’s about the freedom to be honest about the evolving ways you feel. It opens up the boundaries between friend and lover in a safe and transparent way.

‘As a teen I questioned what it was to be adulterous. I saw infidelities on a different level to other friends’: Elf Lyons.

As a teen I questioned what it was to be adulterous. I saw infidelities on a different level to other friends. When partners mentioned they found other people attractive, I never minded. It made sense. “Why wouldn’t you want to kiss Stephanie? She’s a legend!” Apparently that was not considered a normal way to react.

If I had known as a teenager it was possible to love more than one person, it would have saved so much anxiety, guilt and time spent writing awful poetry. I spent years beating myself up about it. It often caused me to end relationships rashly, giving excuses like “I’m not ready to be in a relationship,” or “I have commitment issues,” or “I’m not into Warhammer as much as you think.” I didn’t want to end the relationships, but admitting how I felt seemed a worse betrayal, so I would lie, breaking friendships in the process.

I discovered polyamory when I was 23. I met a parliament of poly performers at the Adelaide Festival who were hippyish, liberal and kind. These performers spoke about their partners, children, poly-families. There were ex-couples who were working together on shows while their other poly families toured elsewhere, married couples who had live-in partners, triumvirates where they all balanced an equal partnership. I was entranced by their openness. It seemed symbolic of our changing global world, and most peoples developing nomadic lifestyles where we travel for work and find love with others on the way.

So when I went to study at theatre school in Paris (fresh out of a relationship with a 45-year-old French father of three), I decided to embrace my inner Barbarella. And the reality? Non-monogamy is rather ordinary and occasionally dull. Stereotypes of weird Eyes Wide Shut sex parties and Sartre/de Beauvoir/Olga ménages à trois aside, it’s like any normal relationship, except with more time- management, more conversations about “feelings” and more awkward encounters with acquaintances at parties who try to use you as their “Sexual Awakening Friend Bicycle”, ie that shy girl from book club will get drunk and put her hand on your leg, before leaning in to kiss you, hiccuping: “I really loved Orange Is the New Black…”

‘Sexual awakenings do not mean the absence of consent’: Elf Lyons.

There are misconceptions – a date once grabbed me for a kiss unexpectedly despite the fact I had made it clear I was in no way interested (my words were exactly: “This is not going to work. We have entirely different opinions on the EU and you have just told me I am ‘very funny for a woman’.”) When I pushed him away he was shocked. He believed because I was “sexually awakened” he could do what he liked. Luckily my experiences have meant that I am more vocal and confident, and able to stand up for myself. Yes I am open about my relationships and desires, but that doesn’t mean anyone’s allowed to touch me without my permission. Sexual awakenings do not mean the absence of consent.

I must admit, when I first dipped my toes into polyamory I misunderstood, went overboard with Tinder. The experience was stressful and would involve me asking awkward questions like: “Do you think crabs think fish can fly?” while wandering around the National Gallery for the third time that month. (There is no denying that polyamory suits the self-employed schedule). I learned that when people don’t know what polyamory is, they misunderstand it as another term for “hook up”, which it’s not. So previous partners have usually been friends I trust.

People often ask: “How can you truly love someone if you want to be with someone else?” and “Don’t you get jealous?” I think these statements enforce unhealthy relationship ideals. I feel it’s dangerous to think that you’re the only person that can complete someone else’s life, and be their confidant, their friend, their support network and their sexual partner. It’s too much pressure! When you take a step back, drop your ego and realise you’re one unique component of someone’s life, it’s liberating and freeing. Jealousy ebbs away and you realise that, of course, they may find another person attractive, because we’re all different pieces of a puzzle. This has made me more comfortable about myself – I am not holding myself up to standards about traditional female beauty, because I can experience it in a hundred different ways.

Of course, there have been tears, heartbreaks, existential crises and moments when I felt left out. I’ve wondered if it was actually making me more free, or more insecure, with jealousy popping up at the most inconvenient times. I’ve dated people who have lied and I’ve had relationships that have ended because they didn’t trust or believe in polyamory.

But, despite the downs, non-monogamy has revolutionised the way I view love. First, it made me less ashamed of my sexuality. I fancied girls way before I fancied boys. But as a teenager at house parties I remember being made to think that female sexual relationships were purely to turn men on. We’d all seen that scene in Cruel Intentions. I remember girls kissing at parties and the guys cheering. It was performative. Except, I wanted to kiss girls because I liked girls.

When I started getting to know people in the poly community it was as liberating as taking off an underwired bra. I have had partners of both genders. I didn’t have to “choose”: the people I met understood that it was possible to give infinite, equal love to both sexes. My confidence soared. I wasn’t hiding. Men and women had equal place in my life. I no longer felt like a pendulum, swinging from one to another. This refreshing awakening did result in many awkward conversations with my mum and dad though, which would go something like this:

Elf: “Mum and Dad, I am queer.” [Mum puts the hummus down.]

Mum: “What does that mean?”

Elf: “It means I have relationships with men and women”. [Mum picks the hummus up.]

Mum: “Oh! Well, I’m queer. Your father’s queer, your grandmother’s queer, we’re all queer darling!”

Elf: “No you don’t understand. I mean I have sex with men and women.” [Mum drops the hummus.]

Mum: “Oh Elfy… No wonder you’re so tired.”

Although I love sex, because of past unpleasant experiences I’m also mildly afraid of it. So when I started experimenting with non-monogamy the idea of being intimate emotionally as well as physically with more than one person was a challenge. But, the choice gave me a power and ownership over my wants which I felt I had lost and been made to feel ashamed about. I’m not saying I jumped in the sack with everyone I met. God no. I’m too busy. But through being less judgemental on myself, I relaxed, opened up to the people I trusted and started loving myself again. It forces you to be really honest, to live life with an undefended heart.

It’s not been plain sailing. But to quote RuPaul: “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell can you love anyone else” – this is integral to non-monogamy. You can’t use multiple relationships to fill the void and give you the gratification that you should be able to give yourself. More love doesn’t mean better love. If you are dating multiple people in order to enhance your self-worth, you end up feeling like out-of-date hummus, feeling jealous anytime anyone chooses to spend time with anyone else, resulting in you treating your partners badly and without respect.

We shouldn’t feel ashamed about being socially and sexually confident. Women have been made to feel embarrassed for their desires for too long. It’s about having the trust to speak our minds and behave the way we want to. The moment you start to crumble you need to stop and ask exactly what it is you want and if it makes you happy. Being loved and loving multiple people should make you feel stronger, not weaker.

In a time of censorship on women, increases in assault and constant critiques on how we should behave, polyamory and its manifesto of embracing our evolving feelings, sharing responsibility and communicating and working effectively with people from all around the world could help revolutionise the way we tackle privilege, inequality and control of women’s rights.

I have an authority and a voice that I didn’t feel I had before. My friendships are better, my health is better. Through being polyamorous and being a part of the community I have been made aware of issues, both personal and political, that need to be uncovered and addressed.

The world would be a better place if everybody was more open to polyamory. As well as that traditional idea, that it takes a village to raise a child, it would mean we’d all love more, and love better. Loving different people at the same time is like learning a different language. There are different rules every time and it’s always open for discussion. You start to realise that love is infinite. Every time you say “I love you” to someone it takes on a new meaning. It’s retranslated, and it’s wonderful.

Complete Article HERE!

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