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How Mindfulness Killed My Sex Life

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The spiritual path will burn away all illusions, including the sexual kind. The good news is that something better is reborn in the ashes.

by Jessica Graham

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Mel was tall and lanky with short dark hair, good tattoos, and a black motorcycle. I wanted her bad. Lucky for me I was in an open relationship with my partner and he was all for it. It had been a long time since I had gone for a bad girl like Mel. I figured since it was just going to be a fling, it didn’t matter that a truck full of red flags were dropped on the first date, the biggest of which was the dopamine rush coming on hard and fast like a fat line of cocaine after a long time sober. I knew I was in trouble the first time I smelled her salty skin and felt her nicotine stained fingertips on my throat.

I wasn’t practicing polyamory, per se, and my partner was my top priority. I’ve always been fluid when it comes to monogamy, depending on the relationship I’m in and how I’m currently feeling. I’m sure my poly friends probably cringe and call me a swinger. I prefer to think of myself as a free spirit. Since I wasn’t looking for another serious relationship, I needed to keep my feelings in check for the sexy butch I was drooling over. This meant getting mindful about lust.

You know the way it goes. Constantly checking your phone, even on the freeway, thinking you see the object of your desire everywhere you go, dreaming about them, the extreme highs and lows that come with seeing or not seeing them. The throes of a new relationship make most of us temporary drug addicts looking for the next fix. I didn’t want to get carried away with this culturally acceptable insanity. Lucky for me, as a meditation practitioner, I had all the tools to observe this crazy ride without climbing on it.

So I let the affair run its course (trust me, it burnt out quick—I’m not a kid anymore), while I deconstructed and carefully explored the activity of my body and mind. At first I fell into the lust trap and caused some trouble with my partner. But soon I was able to ride the wave of new relationship energy like a pro. It was absolutely comical how the chemicals would flood my system and my mind would start to swirl when I got a text from her. Pretty soon the experience became something I could just watch without getting involved in. Those sensations and thoughts were just impermanent activity and they were certainly not me. How could they be if I was witnessing them?

This wasn’t the first time I’d had the insight that I am not my mind or my emotions. Each time that insight deepens, I experience a period of disillusionment. It had happened with my career, with habits, and so on. Basically I see the emptiness in the experience and I “lose” it. That’s to say I lose my attachment to it and my ability to get a fix from it. When I saw through the self who viewed herself as an actor, my acting career crumbled. Once I knew that my enjoyment of a film or a big piece of chocolate cake was simply a collection of thoughts and emotions, I lost my taste for them as well.

This can be a painful and scary part of spiritual development. It can feel like nothing is enjoyable or meaningful. I often have meditation students report that they feel depressed and apathetic during this stage. My first meditation teacher sat me down after few classes and told me, “Meditation is going to ruin your life.” He wasn’t joking. The cost of waking up is everything. With each awakening I’ve “lost’ a little more, but I wouldn’t want to give any of it back.

So here I was getting mindful about the off-the-hook sexual attraction I had for Mel. I didn’t really consider that I was in the process of screwing up my sex life, just like I had once screwed up my career, and my love of cake. The road to hell is paved with good intentions I suppose. By the time my bad girl fling had run out of steam, my sex drive was plummeting overall. Sex just didn’t seem that important anymore. Thanks to good old mindfulness, sexual disillusionment had kicked in.

Now, let me be clear, up until this point my sex drive couldn’t get any higher. I had never had a partner male or female who wanted as much sex as I did. I was insatiable. One might say that I used sex to get “high,” to ease stress, to encourage creativity, and to feel more connected to myself and others. I had been told that one day I’d have to let my attachment to sex go too, just like everything else. But let me tell you I was hanging on tight to this last frontier. Little did I know the romp with Mel was my last hurrah.

My partner and I had always had a phenomenal sex life. It was never less than great, even after three years together. But my merciless dissection of my obsession with Mel launched us into an awkward period. I just didn’t care about sex anymore. Plus we were going through some relationship growing pains (due mostly to my actions in the early days of Mel), and not being able to use sex as a way to connect created a huge sense of separation.

It was incredibly strange for me to feel sexually removed. My sexuality was something I felt so identified with. I was Jessica, the girl who loves to fuck. Meditation has the side effect of tearing your identities from you piece by piece, and this one was no exception. That part of me had vanished. I could no longer use sex as a salve for whatever ailed me. It didn’t work anymore.

As you can imagine, my partner was none too fond of this development and honestly neither was I. I trusted it would shift, but who knew how long that would take? My desire and drive to be an actor took years to come back. But I knew that when my sex drive returned sex would be better than ever. That’s what happened with my creative work. When I lost my attachment to being an actor I became a better actor and started to have a lot more fun doing it. I just hoped my new and improved sex life would materialize before my partner walked out the door.

We had sex every once in awhile, but it wasn’t great or even always good. We didn’t open up the “sex cabinet” next to our bed even once. It started to get a little dark at the homestead so my partner and I decided to keep the focus on having fun and enjoying each other’s company. It was kind of like a lovingkindness meditation for our relationship. I practiced something I call the “Just Be Nice Campaign.” It’s just what it sounds like. I was just nice. When I got annoyed, scared, frustrated, felt not heard, got triggered—I was just nice. Sometimes that meant leaving the room for a moment, but no matter what, I was just nice. I focused on being the best partner I could be and took any focus off of what I thought he was doing wrong. I kept my side of the street clean. I still spoke to someone and/or wrote about my feelings, but I didn’t take problems or negativity to my partner. I also got more clarity on what was actually a problem versus me simply being reactive.

I kept using my mindfulness practice to work with the thoughts and emotions that came up about my lack of interest in sex. People can get stuck in the meaningless trap that can arise along the spiritual path. In reality the self that thinks everything is meaningless is just another self that can be deconstructed. So, I just continued to peel back the layers, keeping my eyes and heart open as I woke up to new truths. Spiritual development is neverending. There is no graduation date. As I learned to be without my nympho identity I found new ways to ease tension and connect with others. I also found I didn’t need sex to be creative.

Not having sex to fall back on also gave my partner and I the opportunity to work through some issues that had been hiding under the surface up until then. A new kind of love and trust bloomed between us, and we started laughing a lot more. We spoke openly about the lack of sex and the challenges that it brought. We don’t lose hope. We figured it could only go on that way for so long. And then one day a few months later, as quickly as it had vanished, my sex drive reappeared. And the angels of carnal joy sang Hallelujah!

When I say it came back I don’t mean that it was recognizable. My relationship to sex had been transformed. It felt fresh, clean, and fluid. It no longer gave me a fix. Without the attachment sex became more fun, more connected, and way more pleasurable. I had been grasping at the pleasure, and now I just let it run through me, unimpeded by my mind. My partner and I dove into a whole new kind of connection during sex. I felt a deeper freedom to let loose. I was no longer limited to a fixed sense of self when it came to my sexuality. I let my sexual self die in the fire of awakening and it had reemerged shining and alive.

So yes, mindfulness essentially screwed up my sex life. But then it was reconstructed into something I never imagined possible. The self that needed to have sex all the time hasn’t returned. Previously I would pass up a good night’s sleep or a social engagement for sex. Now my priorities are a little different. Life feels fuller now, less uneven. My sexuality will continue to evolve as I evolve, and I’m willing to lose it again if need be. I’m also fully willing to embrace a period of non-stop sex. Whatever it takes. Anything to keep waking up.

Complete Article HERE!

Jessica Drake Wants Us All To Have Happier, Healthier Sex Lives

By:

Jessica Drake

At her sex ed workshops, Jessica Drake passes around a box with the words “live, laugh, love” printed on it. Inside are index cards of sex questions that people have written to Jessica under the cover of anonymity. During the workshop, she reads them out loud, and then answers them with compassion and useful tips from her experience directing and starring in adult films.

Drake’s workshops are mainly geared towards heterosexual couples, and touch on similar topics as Jessica Drake’s Guide To Wicked Sex, her line of instructional DVDs. So the questions tended to reflect the sorts of things that that straight couples might be interested in, but have no idea how to approach. Case in point: the majority of the questions when I attended were about how to have anal sex. Drake addressed the discomfort that men and women might have about the topic with compassion.

“If you’re reluctant to have anal sex, why might that be?” she asked. “Or if a woman doesn’t want to have anal sex, why?”

She wrote down the answers on a dry erase board: pain, mess, bacterial infections, stigma, and reciprocity were some. Then she addressed each issue with care.

“Pain shouldn’t really be an issue,” she said. “I tell people all the time that it’s a completely different sensation. It’s something you have to get used to.”

She stressed that pain was important because it tells us when something is wrong, but that lots of lube helps make the act feel more enjoyable, especially a water based product that has the viscosity to provide a cushion between one’s butt and penis. So does trying positions where the woman is on top, or both people are spooning, allowing the woman to control the depth and speed. This is unlike doggy style, a position that looks good on camera, but which is not necessarily great for those just starting to have anal sex.

For mess, there’s the simple solution of taking a shower, or the more thorough precaution of having an enema, a process that Drake explained step-by-step. In terms of bacterial infection, Drake stressed the important of not going back and forth between anal and vaginal intercourse, whether it’s with your penis or with toys.

Drake addressed questions about reciprocity in anal sex with a steady calm too. “I think it’s all a matter of an introduction,” she said, suggesting that people not to bring up anal sex or another type of act as something to do right away, but by discussing it over a romantic dinner, by watching a movie about it, and “build it up like it’s a fantasy,” without having to commit to trying it right away.

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Drake started getting into sex ed not only to give sex tips, but because of fans approaching her, asking if there was something wrong with them or their partner. She discovered that they were trying to model their sex lives after porn — which wasn’t as easy as it looked.

She takes great care to dispel such myths.

For example, when you cut to an anal scene in porn, you usually don’t see the actress wearing a butt plug in the makeup chair to prepare, or you don’t see the foreplay that goes on before the camera starts rolling. In porn it’s all urgent and immediate — which is sexy, but is also a fantasy. Urgent, immediate, wild sex takes some prep.

You also don’t see the consent conversation that happens between actors as to what they like, and what they won’t do in a scene. This is important — consent is a huge deal and Drake covers it in detail in her DVDs.

“Guys are like, ‘How do I make my wife or girlfriend have anal sex?’ Jessica recalled. “It’s easy, you don’t make anyone do anything.” Instead, she explained, you figure out if they’d be into it through an open conversation, and go from there.

She also makes sure that men — who often feel pressure to measure up literally and metaphorically to what they see in porn — don’t have to like everything they see.

“I’ve had guys speak up in seminars and really you can tell that they’re really grossed out [by anal sex],” she explained. “And I tell them, ‘If you’re that squeamish, you shouldn’t be having anal sex. That’s just the reality of the situation.’”

Drake’s career and fanbase put her in a unique position to talk about sex with authority, to breakdown stigmas, and to bring important conversations (like consent) to the fore. Here’s the best part: it seems to be helping people.

Complete Article HERE!

Men and Affection: Three Practices to Raise Boys Unafraid to Love

Your boys are watching and learning from your examples.

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By Dwayne D Hayes

When I was twenty-one I spent two months living in London with a group of young people from around the world as part of a summer mission project. It was a great opportunity to meet people from various countries and to learn more about the world. I was part of a small team that included men and women from Germany, Finland, South Africa, Jordan, Brazil, and several others countries.

One afternoon Kamal, a young Jordanian, and I went to meet some others in Hyde Park. Along the way, he grabbed my hand as we walked side-by-side. I quickly removed my hand from his grasp and Kamal kindly explained that it was common for Arab men to hold hands as a sign of friendship and affection. But it was a sign of friendship and affection that I was not comfortable with, not mature enough for and, though he repeated this several times over the summer, I always let go of his hand as quickly as possible.

As a boy, I loved to hold my younger brother’s hand. He was my best friend and, though he was 001only eighteen months younger, feeling his soft little hand in mine made me feel good, and protective. That tenderness quickly moved into aggression and we would wrestle, punch, and kick each other. Yes, often in fun. But seldom have we, after our early years, expressed our affection for each other in a physical way (with the exception of a bro-hug).

Now, over twenty years after Kamal reached for my hand, my son is in kindergarten and I love to watch him interact with his male friends. They hug each other, can often be found with hands on each other’s face or in hair, rest their heads on each other when they talk and, yes, even hold hands.

Logan clearly loves his male buddies.

When and why do we stop expressing affection for our male friends? As adults, this extends beyond the physical. I can do “bro hugs” easily but find it difficult to speak if I try to tell a male friend how much I appreciate him.

002For boys as they age there is the pressure to avoid being a “sissy”. Girls, we’re told (and shown) are emotional, weak, and cry. If you’re like a girl you must be gay. And sadly, of course, for many people that is still unacceptable.

It is this pressure that quenches some of the natural physical affection that boys express for each other when they are young and we learn to express our affection violently, through punches, teasing, and other forms of verbal abuse.

It saddens me to think it will happen to my son.

So, what can we do to help our sons express affection for their male friends? The following three practices can help our sons learn to be unafraid about showing affection.

1. Watch our words.

Don’t speak in demeaning terms about girls, crying, homosexuals, or the expression of emotion. Don’t react negatively when our sons share their affection in a physical way.

2.  Demonstrate appropriate physical touch with your male friends.

Hug your best buds, shake hands and stand with your arm around your friends. And tell them how important they are to you. Avoid confusing affection with violence or verbal attacks. There are various ways to express affection. Make a practice of demonstrating them in front of your son.

3. Express physical affection for your father and/or male siblings.

I kiss my father on the cheek when I see him. I do this not only to show my love for him but also because I want my son to always kiss me and not be afraid to show affection for me.

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Did you see the film Eat Pray Love, starring Julia Roberts? I don’t remember much about the film, but what I do remember is Felipe, the character played by Javier Bardem, a Brazilian divorcé, whose college-age son visits. Felipe kisses his adult son on the lips and openly weeps when his son departs the country.

Rarely do you see an American father express this type of affection for his son. I was a new father when I saw the movie and thought: that is exactly how I will be when my son is older.

Every night, before I go to bed, I silently enter my son’s room (he is approaching six now) and kiss him and whisper that I love him.

I know, soon enough, he will likely ask me to end this nightly show of affection.

But he’s a deep sleeper. Don’t tell him and I just might get away with it until he goes away to college.

Complete Article HERE!

When you want to be into BDSM but it’s too soon because you’re black

by Luna Malbroux

Black BDSM

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t have fantasies about being dominated. I would imagine someone gripping my hair tightly or a stinging slap on my ass—all very exciting. But every time I would let my thoughts run wild, they would get rudely interrupted, like an angry grandmother unplugging the cord while you’re sneakily watching TV after 2 a.m., yelling “Turn this OFF!” As soon as my brain camera spanned to any props—whips, chains, that sort of thing—all I could think about was Roots.

Let me tell you something. Nothing dries you up quicker than Roots. If it’s not Roots, it’s Amistad, or Beloved, or the slave-revolt TV show Underground. Anyone who’s seen a slave movie knows that there are plenty of examples of black slaves having to whip other slaves’ backs, so a whip is a whip to me, no matter who’s holding it. Even if my fantasy involves no props and just a little garden-variety submission, Hollywood’s love of nostalgic “Remember When Negroes Were All Our Servants?” movies gives my brain enough ammo to cockblock my heart’s deepest desires.

It’s not just Hollywood that makes it difficult for me to SWB (Sub While Black). Even the present-day black experience in America can get in the way of exploring different types of sexual “play.” Can you imagine what a black person might picture if her partner wants to roleplay as a cop? The growing list of victims—Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, just to name a few—are a constant reminder that as a black person in America, you are never safe. Which is a hard thing to balance when the very thrill of BDSM plays with our notions of safety.

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My first impression of the BDSM scene was that it was overwhelmingly white—like, really white, as white as a Rascal Flatts concert at a country club in Montana. Even the watered-down pop franchise, 50 Shades of Grey, has to be one of the whitest franchises ever. BDSM has been around for centuries, originating with the writings of Marquis de Sade in the 1700s. There have been historical examples of BDSM in African sexual, spiritual, and religious culture and early black leather culture of “The Old Guard” (returning black gay male veterans of World War II). But black people into BDSM were rarely seen in the media until the early 1970s.

Regardless of their environment, people of color constantly have to navigate stereotypes, discrimination and personal prejudices, and BDSM is no exception. Just being a young, black woman who owns her sexuality yields enough social stigma as it is. Throw in a desire to explore BDSM in a culture where freely enjoying sex is already taboo, and that is quite the mountain to climb.

But my fantasies weren’t going away anytime soon. Like the strong black people of all those tear-jerking slavery movies, my sexual appetite will not go down without a fight! So I began to ask myself: How does one be black and get into BDSM at the same time?

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When I first started having sex in college, I was determined to explore all my sexual fantasies, a la my personal hero, Samantha Jones of Sex in the City. But life at a historically black college in the South doesn’t exactly lend itself to the sexual freedom of a fictional, upper-middle class, white publicist in New York. The thick stew of the Bible Belt and racial oppression created pressure to be a Good, Christian, Black Woman. In other words: Don’t be a ‘ho.

l took baby steps in exploring my proclivities. I would whisper a few encouraging words like “Bite me harder” and “Tell me what you want me to do,” only to be met with “Wow, you’re so kinky!” (Really?) I wanted to go further, but I didn’t know how to dive deeper when my partners didn’t seem game at all. I bought handcuffs and shackles, but they ended up collecting dust in the corner. There were online resources at my fingertips—chat rooms, websites, books, articles—but the jargon intimidated me.

So I let go of my dreams of exploring my deeper BDSM fantasies until years later, when I packed my bags and moved to California.

In San Francisco, people proudly let their “freak flag” fly. There are tons of communities that explore BDSM, from dungeons to classes to meetup groups. I fell in love with exploring the different scenes of the Bay’s sexual subcultures and even created Live Sex, an interactive comedy talk show uniting sexperts and comedians.

It was doing this show that I stumbled upon a man who seemed promising in helping me explore my BDSM fantasies. The anonymity of my partners is important, so let’s just call him Ted Cruz.

Ted, a handsome and slightly dorky white guy with Paul Rudd-esque appeal, caught my attention after one Live Sex show. A history teacher, he piqued my interests immediately by flirtatiously debating the best ways to solve Middle Eastern conflict, the refugee crisis and the importance of critical thinking in schools. Check, please!

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Our night of drinks led to an invite to his house. He was a great kisser. He really took his time. He asked me if there was anything I wanted to do, and I told him I had the desire to explore a kinkier side but never quite found the right opportunity or partner. He nodded. It escalated.

“Your safe word is eggplant,” he told me, pulling my hair as he kissed me. “Say ‘eggplant’ if anything gives you too much pain.” It was clear it was about to go down, full-on 50 Shades of Grey style, minus all the money, so it was more like 50 Shades of Broke but hey, I’ll take it!

He was incredibly communicative, consistently checking in about consent. “This guy’s read a book or three!” I thought, high-fiving myself in my head. I was writing my triumphant journal entry as it happened. I pictured Kim Cattrall’s nodding smile of approval: “You’re the new Samantha Jones now, Luna,” she proclaimed.

Then, everything came to a screeching halt with one simple phrase:

“Call me master.”

Eggplant. That hurt. Immediately, all I could think about was my ancestors rolling over in their graves, breaking out like zombies in the Michael Jackson Thriller video. All my worst fears had come alive. I thought of Harriet Tubman admonishing me: “19 times! 19 times I came back, to save our people from slavery. All for you to be here willy-nilly, calling some white dude ‘master’?”

Life tip: No dick is so good that it’s worth being haunted by Harriet Tubman.

Ted was very receptive to my objections and apologized for his major blindspot. The history of slavery was something he was not reminded of every day so he was able to separate “master” in the context of BDSM play, whereas I…was not. I had failed again, even with a seemingly perfect partner.

I decided to investigate this problem further. First I discovered I was not alone in my anxieties.

“I am interested in going to BDSM meets, but I haven’t, mostly because I’m wary of being the only person of color there,” said Lynn, a young black woman I met in a sex-positive Meetup group. “Also, I’m not interested in being hit on because I’m the only black woman, which has definitely happened to me before.”

I can relate. Half of my stand-up material is derived from my experiences being fetishized. Joking about being told, “I want to look at those big black tittays” or the constant prodding of my hair has always been one of the best ways to cope.

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And because of these experiences, I always hesitated to join kink mixers in real life because I assumed a bunch of white people would be hoping I would come in and “Strong Angry Black Woman” them—i.e. play out their racists stereotypes of what they imagine a black woman to be. Lynn suggested I explore Fet Life, a social network for the BDSM, fetish, and kink community. It was a space she felt comfortable in, but even there, space has to be made for folks of color.

“When I first joined in 2010, there were over 300 groups, at least, and there were no groups for folks of color” said Daniel*, a black BDSM enthusiast who is quite the character. He quickly remedied that by becoming the leader of one of the largest groups for blacks on the site, Black Dominants/Tops and Black Submissives/Bottoms. The members offer each other support while navigating kink; he told me about one woman who reached out to the community after coming across a picaninny fetish.

For anyone confused, a picaninny was a racialized caricature (think blackface) that depicted dark-skinned cartoon children with bulging eyes and grins. It’s an image that painfully captures our history of racism. The idea of someone doing sex play around this was incredibly disturbing to me.

“We have this saying in the black kink community—my kink ain’t your kink,” said Feminista Jones, sex-positive feminist writer, community activist, and author of the book Push the Button. “There is something called race play, and it ain’t for everyone, and it’s not for me.”

Jones told me about an interview she did with writer and race-play expert Mollena Williams, an authority on race play who says that engaging in this kind of play may be empowering but always should be done with caution and consideration. (You can listen to her talk about a particular experience with race play in the Risk Podcast, Slave.) That’s all well and good, but I realized that it was the very idea of race play that had always deferred my BDSM dream. I can assure Langston Hughes that my fantasy indeed “dries up like a raisin in the sun” (along with my vagina) after hearing about a picaninny fetish.

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Luckily, one can experience and engage with BDSM without incorporating race play.

“It was a long path of reconciliation for me,” Feminista Jones said. “But some of the language of BDSM like ‘master’ and ‘slave’ has existed since before black people were enslaved. Most relationships have a dominant and submissive dynamic to them, particularly in religious communities, which many black people are a part of.”

There are endless explanations of why people, black or not, are into BDSM. Sex and relationship expert Celeste Hirshman told me our fantasies “are an unconscious attempt to soothe ourselves around challenging experiences that we’ve had or positive experiences that we’ve missed out on.” Others, like notable black kinkster Craig Fleming, suggest that one’s proclivities have to do more with nature than nurture, and although “people can use [BDSM] as a way to come to terms with a particular experience…it’s not therapy. It’s not the place to work out racial issues, or abuse.” Sometimes it’s as simple as: What arouses you arouses you.

For me, it’s more about exploring power dynamics. Before the “master” debacle, Ted rhetorically asked me, “Why does a strong, assertive, powerful woman such as yourself enjoy being submissive? Is it because you can let go of control? Because you don’t have to worry, or take care of someone?” His hunch may have been right. I was able to experience a type of attention and care that led to unbelievable pleasure. I felt freedom in moments of not having to be the decision maker, nurturer, or advisor.

“The key elements in BDSM is developing that trust in relationships,” Jones said.

For me, trust is the most arousing thing of all, and seeing a partner respond and adapt to a voiced need is one of the most important things in building trust with a partner. The experience taught me more about my limits and desires and how to communicate them. So even though it didn’t go the way I expected, I have hopes for exploring more kinky play in the future. As for, you know, the slavery stuff: Knowing that one can separate race play from BDSM gives me peace of mind. I know I can’t engage in anything that conjures up those images without getting angry or turned off. So for now, my safeword might just have to be “Harriet Tubman.”

Complete Article HERE!

10 Topics Gay Guys Never Discuss With Their Parents

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When you’re gay, it’s hard to talk to your parents about certain things. No matter how accepting or open-minded they may be, gay relationships, gay culture, and the mechanics of gay sex will stay a mystery to them — unless, of course, one of your parents is gay — or both.

Anyone who has been out of the closet for any amount of time knows that “gay” is more than a label to define your sexuality. It is a core part of your identity, and words like “queer,” “bi,” and “LGBTQ” constitute a significant part of your life — your people, your language, and your interests, both politically and socially. These words define a culture that our straight parents will never fully know. They may watch softened depictions of it on Modern Family, but they have never sung drunk karaoke at your favorite gay watering hole or queened out to Britney. They’ve never danced in a sea of sweaty men till 6 a.m. and they have no idea what Nasty Pig is.

Much of our culture can be hard to explain. Poppers and anal plugs will probably never warrant a conversation with mom, but other conversations — about PrEP and nonmonogamy, for example — can lead to greater understandings. Here’s a list of all those things gay men don’t talk about with their parents, with a small smattering of advice on how to do so!

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1. Douching

The thought of you having sex with another man crossed your parents’ minds from the moment they found out you were gay. Though they would never admit it, they still wonder about it from time to time. The image flashes when they’re trying to go to sleep, when they’re taking the dog out for a walk. Like many straight people, they may be clueless as to how it all works and may mistakenly believe it to be a very messy business. But douching — the process of cleaning out the anal cavity before sex — is one of those off-limits topics, one I would never bring with to them.

One way to hint at it without having to say anything is to have your parents over to your place for a night where there is, regrettably, only one shower. You must conveniently forget to unscrew the metal douching hose from its attachment at the side of your shower head. I’m not saying you should picture your mother naked, but envision her standing in your shower, looking through your assortment of overpriced sugar scrubs, charcoal-infused body bars, and organic, woodsy-smelling shampoos, and frowning over that dangling hose with the phallic-shaped metal attachment at the end. Then, hopefully, it will click, and she’ll deduce that your sex is not quite as messy as she thought.

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2. Poppers

When I’m talking to guys on Scruff whose profiles read “No PnP,” I usually ask, “Do you use poppers?” Most frequently, the answer is, “Sure. Love poppers.”

Poppers, while still a drug, are so mild that many gay men do not consider them in the same “sex drug” category that Tina (crystal meth) and G fall into. They’ve become staples of gay sex, gay culture, and gay history. We’ve been using them since the ’70s for their particular power of relaxing the anal sphincter for a few minutes, just long enough to get sex revved up. But if you try to explain the process of inhaling alkyl nitrites — video head cleaner — to your parents, they will likely conjure the imagine of junkies snorting glue in the school supplies aisle.

As with many items on this list, you could make the reasonable argument that poppers — like most facets of gay sex — never need to be brought up to your parents, since your sex life is not any of their business. But if they ever wonder why you have a few small amber bottles of some chemical that smells like nail polish in the freezer, poppers may inadvertently become a discussion topic in the kitchen.

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3. Fisting

Even if you don’t do it, you know someone who does. Fisting has long lost its shock value in gay circles, and has crossed over from dark sex dungeons into the arena of mainstream gay life. Many guys who aren’t regularly seen in leather harnesses now enjoy fisting. But imagine explaining to Dad how some guys take hands (and more) up the anus — especially when the idea of taking an erect penis up there is already outside the realm of his imagination. Many people, gay and straight, do not believe — or have not accepted — that fisting, when done safely and correctly, does not create long-term damage and can be an incredibly passionate and enjoyable sexual experience.

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4. Drag

Even though words like “slay” and “werq” have broken into the straight lexicon — primarily thanks to RuPaul’s Drag Race — the art and culture of drag is still a queer creation and belongs to us. Straight people are welcome to enjoy drag shows at their local gay bar, so long as they tip, but theirs is not a history of disenfranchisement and oppression, abuse and homelessness, poverty and sex work — a queer history in which drag emerged as an act of self-empowerment.

Drag can be hard to explain to your parents. It was hard to explain to mine. My parents assumed that all gay men dress up in women’s clothes and sing diva power ballads, so the concept of drag was indistinguishable from the rest of gay life to them. They could not appreciate drag’s cultural importance because it’s not their culture, and they did not understand its complicated history with the transgender movement because they do not understand, and refuse to understand, the concept of transgender identity.

To them, as well as to many others, drag artists and trans people are the same thing — a deeply incorrect assumption that has led to something of a modern cultural rift between trans activists and the drag world. The two camps have an overlapped history, since many trans folks first discovered their true identities through drag. In the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, when the concept of “transgender” was not as developed as it is today, many transgender people could only express themselves through drag art. As our cultural understandings both of drag and transgender identity have evolved, the two have split, and the burden has fallen on many transgender folks and trans activists to highlight and explain the significant difference between the two. Many people, my parents included, consider a trans woman to be “a man in a dress” — essentially a drag performer — and the phrase has become a terribly offensive slur against transgender women.

Take your parents to a drag show. Give them bills to tip the queens. (This assumes that your parents, unlike mine, are wiling to set foot in a gay bar.) Let them see drag in all its ferocity and kitschy wonder, then afterward, walking home, highlight the fact that what they saw was performance art, a toss-up between cabaret and camp. Explain to them that even if a transgender person does drag, the drag is the performance, but their trans identity is not. Regardless of what someone does onstage, transgender identity is a person’s authentic identity. “While drag is done for an audience, coming out as transgender is done solely for oneself,” a trans friend once told me. “And it is just as healthy and important to do as any coming-out, any form of self-acceptance that your mental health depends on.”

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5. Bears, Otters, and Pups, Oh My!

The labels will be the bane and the delight of your gay life. Gay men have long established the bizarre practice of defining and stereotyping ourselves into labels based on body type and sex practices. In the gay lexicon, burly, hairy men over a certain age are “bears.” Young bears are “cubs.” Skinnier, scruffier guys are “otters.” Young, lean, hairless guys are “twinks.” Guys into puppy play (a kink scene that was listed on my list of 30 kinky terms every gay man should know) who enjoy the “pup” role are “pups,” both in and out of the scene. Guys who prefer condomless sex are “pigs.” Tall, skinny gay guys are “giraffes” (a lesser-known label).

How did we come up with these? Regardless of where they came from, and in spite of their much-debated value, the labels are likely here to stay. While they are common parts of our speak, your parents would probably be confused to learn that you think bears are sexy or that your boyfriend is a puppy.

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6. Nonmonogamy

Nonmonogamy works out for gay men. In fact, this writer believes that nonmonogamous pairings, open and semi-open relationships, and relationships with relaxed sexual parameters are ideal for us — much more so than the monogamous alternative. The concept of nonmonogamy may seem foreign to our parents. Having a frank conversation about the parameters of your particular gay relationship with your parents may be awkward, but it can lead to something good. Explaining the distinction between sex and love may not leave everyone in agreement, especially if your parents are religious, conservative, or both. But at the very least, it will be an illuminating window into your life.

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7. HIV

Gay men are still disproportionately affected by HIV compared to our straight counterparts. While no one needs to come out as HIV-positive, least of all to their parents, many poz gay men choose to do so at some point, for various reasons. Coming out to my parents about my status was hard; I did it the same morning an op-ed I wrote about coming out as poz was published in The Advocate last December.

Many of our parents remember the early days of the AIDS epidemic, so the news can be hard for them. They may mistakenly believe that the outlook for an HIV-positive person in 2016 is the same as it was 30 years ago. Most well-informed gay men, particularly those who live in urban areas, are up to speed on modern HIV care and know that with antiretroviral treatment, HIV has become a livable chronic illness that is more preventable today than ever before. Our parents aren’t accustomed to seeing testing trucks outside of gay clubs or HIV pamphlets disseminated in chic gayborhoods, so they will probably need some information to alleviate the initial fear. Give them resources and time.

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8. PrEP

There may never be a need to talk about your once-daily Truvada pill to your parents, but if they see the medicine bottle by the sink one day when the family is sharing a beach condo, you need to have answers ready.

PrEP is the once-a-day pill regimen for HIV-negative people that has proven extremely effective at preventing HIV transmission. Statistically, it’s more reliable than regular condom use. Upon initial explanation, your parents will likely respond the way many have responded to PrEP and see it as an excuse to have raucous unprotected sex. Even if you are having raucous condomless sex, you will have to explain to them that you are still protected from HIV.

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9. Top/Bottom

Just as your parents have been envisioning your sex from the moment they first learned you were gay, they have been wondering “what you do.” When/if they meet your boyfriend, they will wonder “what he does.” They won’t say it aloud, but they wonder, late at night, after the dinner dishes have been put away, whether you’re the top or the bottom. (I always find it remarkable how straight people assume every gay man is one or the other — versatile guys don’t exist in straight visions of gay sex.)

Like douching, this is one I will never talk about to my parents, no matter how chummy we get.

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10. Kink

My parents know I am gay. They know I am having sex. They know I date and have sex with other men. But they do not know and will not be told how much I love having used underwear stuffed in my mouth and my wrists tied together with duct tape. The only time I ever came close to explaining my kink practices was at the beach a few years ago when I realized there were still red caning lines on my butt and legs. I lay in the tanning bed to darken the skin around the marks and opted for a pair of baggier, less flattering board shorts.

While kink is not restricted to gay men, we have certainly been longtime practitioners of the rougher arts. Like drag, leather was originally our thing and has by and large remained so. Kink and fetish play are things that gay men of all stripes can at least be familiar with, and have probably dabbled in at one time or another. But it is one area of gay life that our parents may have a hard time distinguishing from rape and abuse, perversion and degeneracy. Explaining it can be tough.

Its accouterments can be hard to hide — all those ass toys and leather gear require storage, and that sling in the bedroom cannot reasonably be disguised as a place to hang laundry. Have a regimen prepared for surprise visits and dinners, and if you enjoy getting backlashes or caning down your legs, try not to do so before a family beach trip.

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