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What’s the difference between sexual abuse, sexual assault, sexual harassment and rape?

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Physician Larry Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for the sexual assault of girls on the USA Gymnastics team.

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The terms “sexual abuse,” “sexual assault,” “sexual harassment” – and even “rape” – crop up daily in the news. We are likely to see these terms more as the #MeToo movement continues.

Many people want to understand these behaviors and work to prevent them. It helps if we are consistent and as precise as possible when we use these terms.

But what does each term mean?

We are three scholars who have specialized in the scientific study of sexual abuse, rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment over several decades.

Let’s start by defining each of these terms. Then, we can look at how these behaviors sometimes overlap.

Sexual abuse

The term that has been in the news most recently with reference to sports doctor Larry Nassar’s trial is sexual abuse, a form of mistreating children. Sexual abuse is mainly used to describe behavior toward children, not adults.

All 50 states have laws that recognize that children are not capable of giving informed consent to any sex act. In the United States, the age at which consent can be given ranges from 16 to 18 years.

Sexual abuse can include many different things, from touching a victim in a sexual manner to forcing a victim to touch the perpetrator in a sexual way to making a victim look at sexual body parts or watch sexual activity. Sexual abuse of a child is a criminal act.

Rape

In 2012, the FBI issued a revised definition of rape as “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” The revised law is gender neutral, meaning that anyone can be a victim.

When carefully examined, the FBI definition does not look like most people’s idea of rape – typically perpetrated by a stranger through force. The FBI definition says nothing about the relationship between the victim and the perpetrator and it says nothing about force. It does, however, say something about consent, or rather, the lack of it. Think about consent as your ability to make a decision about what happens to your body.

A perpetrator can compel a victim into a penetrative sex act in multiple ways. A perpetrator can ignore verbal resistance – like saying “no,” “stop” or “I don’t want to” – or overpower physical resistance by holding a person down so they cannot move. A person can penetrate a victim who is incapable of giving consent because he or she is drunk, unconscious, asleep, or mentally or physically incapacitated; or can threaten or use physical force or a weapon against a person. Essentially, these methods either ignore or remove the person’s ability to make an autonomous decision about what happens to their body. State laws vary in how they define removing or ignoring consent.

Perpetrators can’t defend against charges of rape by claiming they were drunk themselves or by saying they are married to the victim.

In November 2017, participants combined the ‘Take Back the Workplace March’ and the ‘#MeToo Survivors March’ in Hollywood.

Sexual assault

Rape and sexual assault have been used interchangeably in coverage of events leading to the #MeToo movement, and this practice, though unintentional, is confusing. In contrast to the specific criminal act of rape, the term sexual assault can describe a range of criminal acts that are sexual in nature, from unwanted touching and kissing, to rubbing, groping or forcing the victim to touch the perpetrator in sexual ways. But sexual assault overlaps with rape because the term includes rape.

Social and behavioral scientists often use the term “sexual violence.” This term is far more broad than sexual assault. It include acts that are not codified in law as criminal but are harmful and traumatic. Sexual violence includes using false promises, insistent pressure, abusive comments or reputational threats to coerce sex acts. It can encompass noncontact acts like catcalls and whistles, which can make women feel objectified and victimized. It includes nonconsensual electronic sharing of explicit images, exposure of genitals and surreptitious viewing of others naked or during sex.

Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is a much broader term than sexual assault, encompassing three categories of impermissible behavior.

One is sexual coercion – legally termed “quid pro quo harassment” – referring to implicit or explicit attempts to make work conditions contingent upon sexual cooperation. The classic “sleep with me or you’re fired” scenario is a perfect example of sexual coercion. It is the most stereotypical form of sexual harassment, but also the rarest.

A second, and more common, form of sexual harassment is unwanted sexual attention: unwanted touching, hugging, stroking, kissing, relentless pressure for dates or sexual behavior. Note that romantic and sexual overtures come in many varieties at work, not all of them harassing. To constitute unlawful sexual harassment, the sexual advances must be unwelcome and unpleasant to the recipient. They must be “sufficiently severe or pervasive” to “create an abusive working environment,” according to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Unwanted sexual attention can include sexual assault and even rape. If an employer were to forcibly kiss and grope a receptionist without her consent, this would be an example of both unwanted sexual attention and sexual assault – both a civil offense and a crime.

Most sexual harassment, however, entails no sexual advance. This third and most common manifestation is gender harassment: conduct that disparages people based on gender, but implies no sexual interest. Gender harassment can include crude sexual terms and images, for example, degrading comments about bodies or sexual activities, graffiti calling women “cunts” or men “pussies.” More often than not, though, it is purely sexist, such as contemptuous remarks about women being ill-suited for leadership or men having no place in childcare. Such actions constitute “sexual” harassment because they are sex-based, not because they involve sexuality.

Come-ons, put-downs: They’re both bad

In lay terms, sexual coercion and unwanted sexual attention are come-ons, whereas gender harassment is a put-down. Still, they are all forms of sexual harassment and can all violate law, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Historically, social attitudes towards all these hostile actions have assumed a continuum of severity. Sexist graffiti and insults are offensive, but no big deal, right? Verbal sexual overtures cannot be as bad as physical ones. And, if there was no penetration, it can’t have been all that bad.

These assumptions do not hold up to scientific scrutiny, however. For example, researchers at the University of Melbourne analyzed data from 73,877 working women. They found that experiences of gender harassment, sexist discrimination and the like are more corrosive to work and well-being, compared to encounters with unwanted sexual attention and sexual coercion.

We have tried to clarify terms that are now becoming household words. Of course, life is complicated. Abusive, assaulting or harassing behavior cannot always be neatly divided into one category or another – sometimes it belongs in more than one. Nevertheless, it is important to use terms in accurate ways to promote the public’s understanding.

Finally, we take heed that society is in a period like no other and one we thought we would never see. People are reflecting on, and talking about, and considering and reconsidering their experiences and their behavior. Definitions, criminal and otherwise, change with social standards. This time next year, we may be writing a new column.

Complete Article HERE!

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7 Reasons Why Your Crotch Itches

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It may not be the most couth move men make, but there are occasions when guys grab at their balls for a quick scratch or adjustment. There are also times, however, when the urge to scratch is intense because you are experiencing a serious itching sensation, perhaps one that keeps recurring. Should you be concerned? Would you like to know why your crotch itches and what you can do about it?

Here are seven reasons why your crotch itches and, thankfully, ways you can stop itchy balls in their tracks. Some fixes are quick while others take a bit more time, but follow the suggestions and you should have your hand out of your pants in no time.

Chafing

Running and other athletic activities that can cause your thighs to rub together are typical causes of chafing. The rubbing can result in inflammation and minute cracks in the outer skin layer, resulting in a burning or itchy rash. You can protect your skin and eliminate the itching and burning by using a moisturizing cream that contains colloidal oatmeal along with one that provides zinc oxide. Natural remedies include aloe vera gel or olive oil rubbed into the affected area.

Contact dermatitis

This super itchy condition is caused when your skin makes contact with an allergen, which could be the material in your underwear, a new laundry detergent, fabric softener, or soap, or towels. Contact dermatitis usually looks like a bumpy red rash that may be accompanied by an oozing fluid. The effective treatment is to eliminate the cause, which may take a little detective work. If you recently started using a new soap, laundry detergent, or fabric softener, return to your old one. If you have new underwear, you may need to wash it several times (in your tried-and-true) detergent before wearing them. If you have contact dermatitis, you should notice results within 10 to 14 days or sooner.

Fungal infections

If a fungal infection is the cause of your itchiness, you likely will also have a rash or other noticeable skin condition. A yeast infection, for example, is usually accompanied by moist, shiny skin on the penis as well as white deposits in the skin folds and an itchy red rash. Other fungal infections may appear slightly differently. All fungal infections can be treated with antifungal cream (e.g., clotrimazole). A natural alternative is coconut oil, while other remedies (e.g., tea tree oil, oregano oil), when mixed with an appropriate amount of carrier oil, can be helpful as well. Discuss the best mixture of oils with a knowledgeable practitioner.

Genital warts

The human papillomavirus (HPV) is characterized by the presence of genital warts, which are usually soft, skin-colored growths that may even look like tiny florets of cauliflower. Fortunately, these itchy warts don’t cause any other symptoms, but they also are merely a visible representation of a systemic virus. You can successfully treat genital warts with topical medications available over the counter (e.g., imiquimod, podofilox, sinecatechins) or by prescription (e.g., podophyllin, trichloroacetic acid) or have the warts frozen or burned off by your doctor. However, the virus will remain in your system, and the warts may return at a later time.

Herpes

Sometimes itching is the first symptom of an infection with the herpes virus, a sexually transmitted disease. The itching quickly turns into burning, after which blisters can develop. If the blisters break, they can result in painful ulcers. The best treatment strategy is to see your physician, who can prescribe an antiviral medication such as acyclovir or valacyclovir hydrochloride. You also should inform any sexual partners of your infection so they can treated as well.

Intertrigo

Intertrigo is an inflammatory condition that forms in the folds of the skin. It is usually chronic, and along with itching you can experience burning, pain, and stinging. Intertrigo is caused and aggravated by exposure to friction, heat, moisture, and lack of air circulation. In some cases, intertrigo is complicated by a fungal, bacterial, or viral infection. Men who are obese and/or who have diabetes are frequently affected.

Treatment includes keeping the affected area as clean and dry as possible. Avoid wearing tight clothing that restricts air circulation. Use a barrier cream to help prevent irritation. Your doctor may suggest short-term use of a topical steroid to manage inflammation. If you have an infection, an antifungal or antibiotic ointment may be necessary.

Pubic lice

If you notice tiny yellowish or white specks near the roots of your pubic hair and the itching is intense, there’s a good chance you have eggs belonging to pubic lice (aka, crabs). Once the eggs hatch, the parasites are gray-white or tan and can cause quite a bit of itching and irritation as they crawl. You should see your healthcare provider as soon as possible for an accurate diagnosis.

Treatment of pubic lice typically includes use of a lotion or shampoo that contains either permethrin or pyrethrins with piperonyl butoxide, which kills lice. Natural remedies include holding a soft cloth soaked with equal amounts of apple cider vinegar and water on the affected area for about 30 minutes. Repeat daily as needed. Both peppermint and tea tree oils, mixed with an appropriate amount of carrier oil, can help eliminate pubic lice as well.

Complete Article HERE!

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‘Grace and Frankie’ raises an interesting question: Where are all the sex toys for seniors?

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The struggle is real.

It isn’t every day you see a sex toy on a billboard, and it’s even more rare you’ll see one in the hands of a person in their seventies.

But thanks to Grace and Frankie, the Netflix sitcom starring Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda, that’s exactly what people saw when the show’s third season premiered last year. The series, which centers around two friends who face many challenges while trying to create a vibrator for seniors, has brought to light an interesting real-life question: Where are all the sex toys for older people?

Last season followed the unlikely roommates as they conceptualized, prototyped, and focus-grouped the “Ménage à Moi.” It’s a vibrator made for and — perhaps more importantly — marketed to older women, particularly those who have a hard time using traditional models because of their arthritis.

Their fictional creation has a soft grip gel sleeve, is lightweight, can be easily repositioned, and even features glow-in-the-dark control buttons. Sounds ideal — except no such thing exists in the real world.

There’s no question about it, Grace and Frankie (which returns to Netflix for a fourth season on Jan. 19) is in uncharted sex-positive territory. While sex toys have made a fleeting appearance in other popular TV shows, basing a major series storyline around them is on another level. And having the sex toy be the brainchild of postmenopausal women who talk openly about their experiences developing and using it? Well, that’s pretty subversive.

A missed opportunity

Senior sexuality is often used as an ageist punchline — even in some of the most “progressive” of shows. The most recent season of Broad City, for example, featured an older woman named Garol shopping for a comically large dildo.

But beyond jokes, there’s a persistent lack of representation of older adults in sexual scenarios. It’s almost enough to make you think that older people have lost their interest in sex, which is a generalization that’s simply not true.

​According to a 2017 survey conducted by the sex toy company TENGA, the​ average baby boomer reported masturbating an average of 3.3 times a week (compared to 6.3 for millennials and 4.6 times for Gen X-ers.) ​A​ 2010 study conducted by AARP found that 28 percent of older adults had sexual intercourse at least once a week, and 85 percent of these men and 61 percent of the women agreed sex is important to their overall quality of life.

“In our society and culture, we see sexuality displayed by a lot of very young people. But sexuality most certainly doesn’t turn off,”  said Lisa Lawless, a psychotherapist and owner of a boutique sex toy business and online resource center. “We have customers well into their eighties, and even their nineties.”

But often, she notes, they don’t know quite where to start.

This is why advocates of a less ageist, more sex-positive culture say they’re hopeful Grace and Frankie can serve as a pivotal moment for making senior sexuality a more mainstream topic.

Grace and Frankie inspect their creation.

Emily Ferry is the prop master on Grace and Frankie, and she scoured both the web and brick-and-mortar stores to find inspirations for the Ménage à Moi vibrator that would eventually appear on the show.

“There was nothing that I could find that was aimed at older women,” said Ferry, estimating that her team charged 40 vibrators to the production studio as part of their research. “There were some items that [would make] someone say, ‘This would be good for older women,’ but there was nothing that had been manufactured with the older woman in mind.”

A baby boomer herself, Ferry says that many women she’s spoken with in her peer group have expressed an interest in buying a real-life version of the product. “I want one of those, how do I get one of those?” they ask her.

It’s easy to understand why Ferry’s peers are having a hard time: There really aren’t many sex toys specifically marketed to older users. Until now, this is something that demographic has been forced to navigate for themselves.

Senior sex ed

Watching Joan Price give a webinar on sex toys for seniors, it’s easy to imagine that she was equally adept in two of her earlier careers: a high school English teacher and physical fitness instructor. She speaks breezily about the sex toys she recommends for seniors, talking for over an hour straight. It’s clear she’s perfectly comfortable holding a rabbit vibrator up to her face to demonstrate size. Her curly grey hair bobs as she earnestly impersonates different styles of buzzing vibration pattern. In one taped presentation, she wears a silver clitoris ring and t-shirt emblazoned with a Magic Wand design under the words “Knowledge is power” that she shows off proudly.

“Sex toys are a gift to seniors,” the 74-year-old award-winning author tells Mashable.

“So many things change as we age, or our medical conditions can get in the way. There are so many things going on, but for every problem there is a solution.”

Joan Price teaching one of her webinars

Price has been blogging about sex from a senior’s perspective for the past 13 years. It’s a job she kind of fell into after meeting her “great love” Robert, an artist and teacher, at age 57. Their sexual relationship inspired her to publish her first book, “Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty.” Touring the country and checking her inbox, she found she was among the lucky ones.

While she was having great partnered sex, many of her peers were not. She decided she was going to help. She has since written two more books about sexual pleasure for older adults and has reviewed over 100 sex toys from the senior perspective. She also travels to sex-positive feminist stores like the Pleasure Chest, Tool Shed, and Smitten Kitten to hold workshops and help educate retail staff on this topic.

The criteria Price uses to determine whether or not a sex toy might be especially appealing to those in her age group are wide-ranging. She asks herself: Does it give off vibrations strong enough for those who are finding they now need extra sensation? Is it ergonomic? Lightweight? Can it go for long periods of time without overheating or running out of charge, seeing as arousal now takes longer? Can the controls be easily identified without having to reach for reading glasses? If it’s insertable, will it be an appropriate size for those who are now more likely to experience vaginal soreness and decreased elasticity?

Lawless also acknowledges that the seniors who call her customer service line with trepidation about buying these products — often for the first time — have distinct preferences and inquiries. Take USB chargers, for instance, which can be confusing to those who are less tech-savvy. And if a USB charger seems intimidating, forget the whole new world of WiFi-enabled teledildonic toys.

Designing with older people in mind

Despite the specific needs of older adults, both Lawless and Price are hesitant to say a hypothetical sex toy specifically built for and marketed to older adults (like the Ménage à Moi) is wholly necessary. After all, they tell Mashable, there are already ergonomically-designed vibrators on the market that do meet many of the physical needs of, say, an arthritic older person.

Are glow-in-the-dark control buttons really a make-or-break feature? What about instruction manuals printed in a larger font size? It’s hard to say for sure. But regardless, this Grace and Frankie plot point does reflect how older adults are notably underrepresented in the booming adult product market. Online, where most people shop for their pleasure products, it’s rare you’ll stumble across photos of older models or language in product descriptions that address their particular concerns.

Among the companies that are consciously working to address and court this demographic is Tantus, which has been actively creating sex toys with disabled users in mind for years. There’s also the Fiera pre-intimacy vibrator for generating arousal, whose creators told Mic it’s made with seniors in mind.

And then there’s Hot Octopuss’ “guybrator” products like the PULSE III, which does not require the penis to be erect for use. This can be of significant benefit to older people who may have issues with erectile function. In an email to Mashable, Hot Octopuss founder Adam Lewis said the technological basis for this product came from “a medical device that was used in hospitals to allow men with spinal cord injuries and severe erectile dysfunction to ejaculate.”

“As a company we feel strongly that the industry needs to change its approach to aging and sex (and disability and sex, which is a different but associated debate),” he adds.

Complete Article HERE!

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We Need Bodice-Ripper Sex Ed

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Where did you learn about sex?

In my personal pie chart, 10 percent of the credit goes to Mom and Dad, who taught me that sex was for marriage, or at the very least, for a committed, loving, monogamous relationship that would, God willing, occur once I was out of the house.

I’ll credit another 10 percent to sex ed, the junior-high health classes that taught me the names of the body parts and explained what went where in the straight-people intercourse it was assumed we’d all be having. Sex, I learned, was bad news, every act risking pregnancy or disease. Think Coach Carr’s speech in the 2004 movie “Mean Girls” — “Don’t have sex, because you will get pregnant, and die.”

Which left 80 percent to be filled in by my friends and pop culture: what I heard on the school bus and at sleepover parties, what I saw in movies and heard on the radio, the glimpses I got of dirty magazines, kept behind brown paper wrappers on the high shelves.

But I was a reader, and most of what I knew came from books, starting with the copy of Judy Blume’s “Forever …” that made the rounds of the cafeteria in seventh grade to the dozens of Harlequin romances I devoured to the best sellers by Judith Krantz, Shirley Conran, Jean Auel, Susan Isaacs and Erica Jong that I snagged from my mom’s shelves.

I’ve been thinking about sex education in light of what must, by now, be the most-discussed bad date in history.

By now, you’ve most likely heard about the encounter between an anonymous 23-year-old photographer and the comedian and actor Aziz Ansari. They met at a party, which led to a dinner date, which led to a sexual encounter that she came to deeply regret, she told a reporter, believing Mr. Ansari ignored verbal and nonverbal cues that she wasn’t into what was happening. Now that she has gone public with her account, everyone seems to have an opinion about what she did, what he did and whether talking about gray-zone sex, where the man believes that everything that happened was consensual and the woman feels otherwise, spells the end of the #MeToo movement.

Reading about it all, I realize how lucky I am that so much of my sex ed came from Harlequins.

The literary establishment doesn’t have much love for women’s fiction, whether it’s romance or erotica or popular novels about love and marriage. Romance novels come in for an extra helping of scorn. Critics sneer that they’re all heaving bosoms and throbbing manhoods, unrealistic, poorly written and politically incorrect.

But those books, for all their soft-core covers and happily-ever-afters, were quietly and not-so-quietly subversive. They taught readers that sexual pleasure was something women could not just hope for but insist upon. They shaped my interactions with boys and men. They helped make me a feminist.

Because these books were written for and consumed by women, female pleasure was an essential part of every story. Villains were easy to spot: They were the ones who left a woman “burning and unsatisfied.” Shirley Conran’s “Lace” features a heroine telling her feckless husband that she’d used an egg timer to determine how long it took her to achieve orgasm on her own and that she’d be happy to teach him what to do.

At 14, I never looked at hard-boiled eggs the same way again.

The books not only covered blissful sex but also described a whole range of intimate moments, from the awkward to the funny to the very bad, including rape of both the stranger and intimate-partner variety. Beyond the dirty bits, the books I read described the moments before and after the main event, the stuff you don’t see in mainstream movies, where zippers don’t get stuck and teeth don’t bump when you’re kissing; the stuff you don’t see in porn, where almost no time elapses between the repair guy’s arrival and the start of activities that do not involve the clogged kitchen sink.

Objectification doesn’t exist just in porn, of course. “So many men cannot get their heads around the idea that women are not first and foremost sexual objects,” the novelist Jenny Crusie told me. “You don’t get that from porn; you get that from a persistent worldview modeled by the men around you that you’ve been taught to admire.”

I have no idea how much, if any, X-rated material Mr. Ansari or his date consumes. Statistically, we know that modern men and women have access to every kind of explicit material, literally in their pockets. And they’re watching: One recent study found that 79 percent of men and 76 percent of women between 18 and 30 look at pornographic websites at least once each month, while another showed that three out of 10 men in that age group were daily viewers.

Sex might be easy, but relationships are hard. And a 400-page novel can teach you more about them than any X-rated clip. Fiction has time to draw a deeper picture, covering the getting-to-know-you stuff, the starts and stops and circling back that take boy and girl from first date to first kiss to the moment where they’re both naked and hopefully into what’s going to happen next.

“Romance novels teach readers that all partners are equal participants in a sexual relationship,” said Bea Koch, the 28-year-old co-owner (with her 25-year-old sister, Leah) of the Ripped Bodice, a bookstore in Culver City, Calif., that exclusively sells romance titles. “They highlight conversations about consent, birth control and myriad other topics that people generally find difficult to talk about. In some instances, it can be a literal script for how to bring up difficult topics with a partner. They give a road map to people wanting to experiment with their sexuality, or even just get in touch with what they want and need in a sexual relationship.”

Porn, necessarily, cuts to the chase: a little less conversation, a little more action.

Talking’s not sexy, people complain.

But when you don’t know how to ask, when you can’t bring yourself to tell, when you don’t possess the language with which to talk about desire, that’s when you can end up with crossed wires, missed signals, mixed messages, a guy who goes to sleep thinking, “That was fun!” and a girl who goes home crying in an Uber.

If we want men and women equally empowered to form real connections, to talk, honestly and openly about who they are and what they want, there are worse places to start than curling up with a good book.

Complete Article HERE!

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‘Discovering my true sexual self’: why I embraced polyamory

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My husband and I were together for 12 years and had two children – but while he was happy with one person, I needed more

By Anita Cassidy

It was the hardest thing I’d ever had to say to my husband, Marc. Three years ago, I sat down and told him: “The idea of having sex just with you for the next 40 years – I can’t do it any more.” But I had come to realise that my life was built around something I didn’t believe in: monogamy.

We had been together for 12 years and had two children, now nine and seven. I love being a mother and I set the bar high from the start – cloth nappies and cooking from scratch. But I needed something more in my emotional and sexual life.

Marc’s reaction was remarkable; he agreed to support me and open our marriage to other partners, although it wasn’t really what he wanted. We started counselling to try to identify the best of what we had, to save it and protect it. Sex is a big part of a relationship, but it is only a part. We didn’t want it to scupper us.

If that sounds difficult, it was. I don’t think we could have done it if we hadn’t spent most of our marriage reading, talking and exploring together.

I quickly embraced the dating scene and discovered another side of my sexual self. I enrolled on lots of sites, where you are asked specific questions about yourself and your preferences. It was illuminating: do I like this? Yes. Do I like that? Well, let’s see. They were the kind of questions I’d never been asked before – and had never asked myself.

I became convinced that traditional relationships are like an air lock. You meet someone. It’s amazing and it’s rare, and then you lock it; you shut the windows and doors, and you try desperately to keep it all to yourselves. Then the air turns sour because there’s no oxygen. You might make a sexual mistake on the spur of the moment because you are craving some – any – contact. Why not live in a world where you can have room for that connection, that spark?

I think most people’s reaction was that Marc should have kicked me out. My immediate family have been supportive, although my mother is still ambivalent. We discuss everything openly, and she understands where I’m coming from, but worries that I’m going to end up on my own. If I do, though, it will be because I have chosen that.

People who choose to be polyamorous often do so after delving deep into themselves and their desires, so it runs close to the kink scene, which was also something I wanted to explore. There’s a temptation to think that, had Marc and I explored these things together, our marriage might have worked without opening it up. I’m not sure that it would have, though, given that he wasn’t into it. It can seem quite intimidating, but I was so ready for it. The first time I went to a fetish club, I felt like I was at home – that I’d found my people.

I now have a partner of two years, Andrea. We work as a couple, but we also have sex with friends. He’s the only partner I have introduced to my children. I love Andrea and I’m very lucky to have him, but I don’t want to live with him – we both value our solitude too much. He and I can flirt with other people and ask for their number, but I still feel jealous sometimes. He went away with another woman and, yes, it was difficult.

Anita, Marc and Andrea, too: ‘I’m not sure our marriage would have worked without opening it up.’

Meanwhile, Marc and I realised we were no longer compatible. I had changed too much. We still share the family home and parent our children together. We still get on. We have counselling together, we spend Christmas together – we are still reading and learning as we used to. We wanted to keep all the bits that worked.

We have had to learn so much about communicating better, and I think the children have benefited from that. We have explained that Dad needs one person to be with and Mum needs more people to make her happy. The talk is ongoing; we won’t wait to sit them down when they are teenagers, expecting them suddenly to get it. Understanding polyamory is complicated, but monogamy is fraught with ambiguity, too.

You can craft your own polyamory, but I’m not sure I would want more than two or three other partners. I’m hoping two people I met recently will become lovers, but there’s no rush. People assume that I’m constantly having sex, but it’s not as simple as that. I want an emotional and mental connection with someone, so it takes time to build up to that.

Monogamy, meanwhile, feels more like a competition where you need to bag someone before anyone else does. None of that applies in a poly setup, which is incredibly liberating. Think how strange it would be to have only one friend. You can’t get everything from one platonic relationship. Why would you try with one lover?

But it’s a challenge: you’re swimming against the cultural norm and it’s difficult emotionally, with or without the support of an existing partner. On top of that, the amount of work involved in maintaining multiple relationships, sexual and platonic, is huge.

Andrea and I look to the future, but there are no expectations. We are part of a broader community and we think developing that is more important. Put it this way: I don’t see myself sitting on a park bench at 80 with one other person. I’d like to be part of a group of people, a community. We seem to want a silver bullet for everything. One God. One partner. But life is plural.

Marc’s view

I’d realised for a few years that Anita wasn’t completely happy, so it wasn’t a total shock when she told me she wanted to explore non-monogamy. It was upsetting to hear that what we had wasn’t meeting her needs, but it was very important to me that she was happy. If that meant her exploring a different relationship style, then I would be there to support her.

I did a lot of reading around the subject of ethical non-monogamy. It makes a lot of sense intellectually, but it doesn’t resonate with me emotionally. It didn’t feel right. I was prepared for our marriage to continue, with me being monogamous and Anita having other partners, but that proved more difficult than we envisaged.

I completely support Anita. I’m glad she has been able to share with me what she’s discovering about the honesty and communication needed to make polyamory work. It’s also true of monogamous relationships, and I hope to take what I have learned from this experience into my future relationships.

What I have always wanted – and still do – is to be with one partner, long-term, with whom I can share all of life’s rich experiences, to enjoy the journey and the inevitable changes together.

Complete Article HERE!

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