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What I Learned From a Decade of Polyamory

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Polyamory may sound sexy on Saturday night. But on Tuesday morning, you still have multiple relationships to maintain with multiple humans with multiple real-life feelings. Polyamorous relationships can be astonishingly fulfilling, exciting, and fun. But they’re also incredibly challenging. There’s no one-size-fits-all for figuring out whom — and how — to love.

After 10 years in various poly relationships, I’ve learned a lot of things; many of which would have made a big difference in how I approached this lifestyle if I’d known them when I was still a poly newbie.

There’s no “right” way to be polyamorous

There are as many different configurations for polyamorous relationships as there are people on the planet. People who are new to polyamory often want to know what the rules are. They want to feel secure that they are doing it “right.”

The truth? The only steadfast rules of poly are the same rules that apply to any relationship… no matter if you have two or five partners. Ethical polyamory includes transparent communication, authenticity of self, and an openness to others’ wants and needs. Beyond that, polyamory is completely customizable according to your comfort and experience. The key is to share your needs and fears with your partners, and be honest about your intentions and behavior.

As long as you’re being ethical, there’s no wrong — or right — way to have a polyamorous relationship.

Google Calendars will save you

There’s an inside joke that the only people who actually use Google Calendars are polyamorists. Splitting time between multiple partners can be a bit like keeping several plates spinning at once. Google Calendars can be shared with multiple people and help everyone communicate and stay on the same page.

If you’re a poly couple, planning your dates away from your primary partner on the same night can help ward off lonely feelings or worrying about the partner left home. Just offering to share a calendar with a partner can help assure them you’re genuine in your desire to maintain open communication and honesty — which can go a long way in establishing trust in your polyamorous relationships.

Polyamory will not fix relationship issues

If you’re having difficulty being ethical in your monogamous relationships, polyamory is not the solution to your romantic woes. Yes, it’s possible to cheat in a polyamorous relationship. This may sound obvious, but all of your partners have to be aware that they are dating someone polyamorous for the relationship to be polyamorous. Otherwise, you’re cheating.

Likewise, adding a partner to the mix is not likely to “spice up” your relationship if someone isn’t getting their needs met. People are not need-filling machines. It takes a lot of communication, self-reflection, and emotional maturity to maintain romantic and sexual relationships with multiple partners.

We don’t always choose metamours

In polyamory, the person your partner is dating besides you is referred to as a “metamour,” or the love of your love. It’s really a wonderful situation when everyone can hang out and play Cards Against Humanity together. You may not be attracted to your partner’s metamour, but accepting him or her as your partner’s partner and maintaining a cordial — if not friendly — relationship makes everything a lot less sticky.

I love being friendly with metamours, but there have been a couple of times in my experience when I had to ask myself, “How can someone I love, love someone like her? We’re so different!” Part of the joy of polyamory is, for some people, variety. That means you might always like the person that your partner dates. But it takes a lot of stamina and emotional maturity to smile and be polite with someone that you don’t have friendly feelings toward.

Some partners negotiate “veto rights,” where partners agree not to date anyone their partner “vetoes.” Other poly people don’t appreciate these kinds of restrictions. Either way has its pros and cons. Regardless of how you choose to manage your metamours, it’s something to discuss with your partners well before the situation presents itself, when everyone is feeling secure, and there is no New Relationship Energy to contend with.

Polyamorous partners are not immune to jealousy

In 10 years of polyamory, I can’t count the number of times someone has said, “Oh I could never be polyamorous. I’m too jealous.” There’s a myth that polyamorous people don’t ever experience jealousy. I wish!

Jealousy is the only emotion that we are allowed to use to excuse all kinds of reprehensible behavior. But the truth is that jealousy is a cover for deep, often intense insecurity and fear. And, I ought to point out, all of this is perfectly normal — and prevalent — for most people. The best way I have found to deal with my own jealousy is to spend time with the person I’m jealous of. They are usually way less threatening and monstrous than I make them out to be in my head.

You won’t always be cured of these insecurities, but over time you develop coping and communication skills that help you get through those difficult moments of self-doubt.

Raising kids in a polyamorous family is complicated

Many of us still believe in this concept that it takes a village to raise a child. And nowadays many of us are well adjusted to the idea of multiple sets of parents providing care for children. In some demographics, more than half of children have step-parents, and split their time between households. Our culture is quickly returning to more communal living, and more step-parenting. So the concept of multi-partner parenting is not entirely new.

The benefit of polyamorous parenting is that children get more one-on-one time with parents, which aids in healthy emotional and social development. And according to some recent studies, children in polyamorous families spend less time in daycare, and have a wider variety of interests and hobbies just from having more people in the household.

The drawback is obviously the occasionally fluid nature of relationships in polyamory. Children can feel some negative emotions when a polycule breaks up and certain parental figures are no longer around. Of course, this also happens in monogamous relationships, evidenced by more single-parent households than ever before.

Love is unlimited. Resources are not.

You may be able to love five different people at once, but that doesn’t mean you have enough resources to maintain that many relationships successfully. There are only 160 hours in each week, and each partner requires time and affection to maintain healthy connections. Don’t forget about the actual costs of dating. All those dinners and movie nights can add up fast. So while your love for all these people may be sincere, you have to balance those romantic feelings with what is practical in the real world.

After looking at the cost/benefit analysis of all your romantic entanglements, you might find in the end that fewer is better.

Compersion is possible

Compersion is the feeling of joy someone gets when they witness their love being well loved by another. It’s the opposite of jealousy. It’s the kind of emotion that fills your heart to the brim and overflows love into a relationship. It’s not easy to reach — more like trying to experience nirvana.

But when you arrive at compersion, there’s almost nothing better. It happens when everyone in the relationship has their needs for time, affection, and attention met; and when everyone is confident that his or her relationship is secure. It happens suddenly. The first time it happened to me, I watched my boyfriend kiss my girlfriend, and the look of peace and contentment on their faces brought me to tears.

I was so thrilled that the people I love loved each other that I couldn’t contain my own joy. I haven’t felt that emotion in every polyamorous relationship I’ve been in, but the times I have felt compersion make it all worth it, and then some.

Complete Article HERE!

How Mindfulness Killed My Sex Life

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

How-Mindfulness-Killed-My-Sex-Life

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

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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.

Jessica Drake2

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!

How to Have an Open Relationship Without Annoying the Shit Out of Everyone

By April Adam

non-monogamy

So you decided to open your relationship. Congratulations! Monogamy certainly seems tough, and since puberty, I have thought it profoundly wasteful to set up a game of chicken between commitment and the id. But I warn you: You may begin to find network television toothless, as so many plots lazily circle around infidelity, the threat of infidelity, or humor based in tension surrounding infidelity.

Also, you fantastic free-thinker, a poly lifestyle isn’t all Caligula all the time. The bacchanalian vibe you imagine may not come to pass, and you run some serious risks. I’m not talking about existential dangers to your coupledom, but a more mundane concern: namely that people in fresh open relationships can be annoying as shit.

I know what I’m talking about, because in my personal life I’m a target for a lot of open couples: I’m relatively promiscuous and think dating as a triad is cute and kinda hot. While I’m not saying there’s a right way to approach non-monogamy, there are definitely a few wrong ways. As someone who answered searchable poly questions on OkCupid honestly, those wrong ways frequently get aimed right at my face.

So before you screenshot Sex at Dawn for your joint OkCupid profile, allow me to provide you some tips for having an open relationship in the real world.

Getting laid still takes work

This goes out, I’m sorry to say, more to men than women. As I mentioned before, I answered a few questions on OkCupid truthfully: Yes, I would date someone in an open relationship. I would! That’s true. But now half the salvos I get on that dating site go something like this: “Hey April-I’m in an open marriage, and I love my wife. You’ve got a great ass! I’d like for us to become fuck buddies. Write back quickly.”

Ask yourself: Did you have to have game when you were single? Your wedding ring isn’t Spanish fly, and the fact that some woman likes you enough to share a bathroom doesn’t make you Justin Trudeau’s younger brother. Be polite, at a bare minimum.

Not everyone wants to hear about your sex life

The universe of people interested in the mechanics of your open relationship is almost certainly the exact same one that heard details of your pre-poly sex life. Your close pals, married wing-woman, that college roommate you ask about butt stuff—it’s wonderful to have a large pool of candid friends. But if someone isn’t in that circle, he or she doesn’t need to hear about “my wife’s lover.” You don’t need to bring up The Ethical Slut at Thanksgiving to your 75-year-old aunt. Your co-worker in the next cubicle isn’t being close-minded if they don’t want to hear about your foursome—he didn’t want to visualize you naked last year, and he still doesn’t. You don’t need to keep your new relationship status a secret; allude to it a few times, perhaps, and people who are interested will ask about it.

In most circumstances, a cold open request to fuck you and your partner is rude

It’s the same as asking complete strangers to pee on you, i.e. asking them to complete a fantasy of yours without first ascertaining whether they’re into it. That might fly at a sex party, but even if you’re on a dating site, a proposition requires preamble. Leading with an unsolicited sexual appeal is trolling. It doesn’t matter if you used the words “please” and “thank you.” This is still true if you’re a woman. Ladies, if I don’t know you, don’t assume that I’m interested in “slow sensuality,” or that I want to see your husband’s dick because “we’re sisters.” (We aren’t, and if we were that would be even weirder.) If you have a two-person profile, say hi and mention something we have in common, same as if you were single. I’ll get the idea, and if I’m interested, I’ll write back.

Baggage is still unattractive, even if it’s a couple’s set

Asking single people to date you singly, but describing yourself mostly in relation to your partner and how committed you are and how you’re in process with this whole non-monogamy thing isn’t going to turn people on or make them think they’d have a good time with you. The only thing less likely to get my panties in a twist than asking me for sex in your first five words is making it clear that you are a big ball of defensive, confused feelings, and you need free therapy that comes with head.

I understand that going from a lifetime of clear rules that can be spelled out with country songs to a new world of ambiguity is a big deal. My life is full of my big deals, too. Wait ’til the second date to wax large with the big deals, and try to understand that they aren’t my problem.

Low-stakes auxiliary sex Is probably easier with other non-monogamous people

When I tweak my dating profile to indicate “partnered but available,” the deluge of “third” emails slows to a trickle. The implications of this are nasty—it means that men (and couples) are looking for some kind of fantasy fulfillment robot with no life of her own, a convenient threesome partner and nothing more. That’s a lousy deal, especially for a single person looking for an emotional connection, not a role in a harem. This seems like a no-brainer, but I guess it needs to be said: If most of your emotional needs are covered by your primary partner, and all you really want is sexual variety and friendship, you might want to look for someone who is in a committed relationship of his or her own.

Non-monogamy isn’t the only way, and you don’t get to tell everyone else they’re doing it wrong

There are myriad reasons why people might prefer monogamy, including religion, ease of navigating the world, or because it just feels right. Respect that, even if you choose differently. You know how you complain all the time about monogamous bores telling you you’re going to hell/divorce court? They don’t need your advice, either.

Complete Article HERE!

When Did Porn Become Sex Ed?

Conversations between adults and teenagers about what happens after “yes” remain rare.

By

porn:sex ed

THE other day, I got an email from a 21-year-old college senior about sex — or perhaps more correctly, about how ill equipped she was to talk about sex. The abstinence-only curriculum in her middle and high schools had taught her little more than “don’t,” and she’d told me that although her otherwise liberal parents would have been willing to answer any questions, it was pretty clear the topic made them even more uncomfortable than it made her.

So she had turned to pornography. “There’s a lot of problems with porn,” she wrote. “But it is kind of nice to be able to use it to gain some knowledge of sex.”

I wish I could say her sentiments were unusual, but I heard them repeatedly during the three years I spent interviewing young women in high school and college for a book on girls and sex. In fact, according to a survey of college students in Britain, 60 percent consult pornography, at least in part, as though it were an instruction manual, even as nearly three-quarters say that they know it is as realistic as pro wrestling. (Its depictions of women, meanwhile, are about as accurate as those of the “The Real Housewives” franchise.)

The statistics on sexual assault may have forced a national dialogue on consent, but honest conversations between adults and teenagers about what happens after yes — discussions about ethics, respect, decision making, sensuality, reciprocity, relationship building, the ability to assert desires and set limits — remain rare. And while we are more often telling children that both parties must agree unequivocally to a sexual encounter, we still tend to avoid the biggest taboo of all: women’s capacity for and entitlement to sexual pleasure.

It starts, whether intentionally or not, with parents. When my daughter was a baby, I remember reading somewhere that while labeling infants’ body parts (“here’s your nose,” “here are your toes”), parents often include a boy’s genitals but not a girl’s. Leaving something unnamed, of course, makes it quite literally unspeakable.

Nor does that silence change much as girls get older. President Obama is trying — finally — in his 2017 budget to remove all federal funding for abstinence education (research has shown repeatedly that the nearly $2 billion spent on it over the past quarter-century may as well have been set on fire). Yet according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fewer than half of high schools and only a fifth of middle schools teach all 16 components the agency recommends as essential to sex education. Only 23 states mandate sex ed at all; 13 require it to be medically accurate.

Even the most comprehensive classes generally stick with a woman’s internal parts: uteruses, fallopian tubes, ovaries. Those classic diagrams of a woman’s reproductive system, the ones shaped like the head of a steer, blur into a gray Y between the legs, as if the vulva and the labia, let alone the clitoris, don’t exist. And whereas males’ puberty is often characterized in terms of erections, ejaculation and the emergence of a near-unstoppable sex drive, females’ is defined by periods. And the possibility of unwanted pregnancy. When do we explain the miraculous nuances of their anatomy? When do we address exploration, self-knowledge?

No wonder that according to the largest survey on American sexual behavior conducted in decades, published in 2010 in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, researchers at Indiana University found only about a third of girls between 14 and 17 reported masturbating regularly and fewer than half have even tried once. When I asked about the subject, girls would tell me, “I have a boyfriend to do that,” though, in addition to placing their pleasure in someone else’s hands, few had ever climaxed with a partner.

Boys, meanwhile, used masturbating on their own as a reason girls should perform oral sex, which was typically not reciprocated. As one of a group of college sophomores informed me, “Guys will say, ‘A hand job is a man job, a blow job is yo’ job.’ ” The other women nodded their heads in agreement.

Frustrated by such stories, I asked a high school senior how she would feel if guys expected girls to, say, fetch a glass of water from the kitchen whenever they were together yet never (or only grudgingly) offered to do so in return? She burst out laughing. “Well, I guess when you put it that way,” she said.

The rise of oral sex, as well as its demotion to an act less intimate than intercourse, was among the most significant transformations in American sexual behavior during the 20th century. In the 21st, the biggest change appears to be an increase in anal sex. In 1992, 16 percent of women aged 18 to 24 said they had tried anal sex. Today, according to the Indiana University study, 20 percent of women 18 to 19 have, and by ages 20 to 24 it’s up to 40 percent.

A 2014 study of 16- to 18-year-old heterosexuals — and can we just pause a moment to consider just how young that is? — published in a British medical journal found that it was mainly boys who pushed for “fifth base,” approaching it less as a form of intimacy with a partner (who they assumed would both need to be and could be coerced into it) than a competition with other boys. They expected girls to endure the act, which young women in the study consistently reported as painful. Both sexes blamed the girls themselves for the discomfort, calling them “naïve or flawed,” unable to “relax.”

According to Debby Herbenick, director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University and one of the researchers on its sexual behavior survey, when anal sex is included, 70 percent of women report pain in their sexual encounters. Even when it’s not, about a third of young women experience pain, as opposed to about 5 percent of men. What’s more, according to Sara McClelland, a psychologist at the University of Michigan, college women are more likely than men to use their partner’s physical pleasure as the yardstick for their satisfaction, saying things like “If he’s sexually satisfied, then I’m sexually satisfied.” Men are more likely to measure satisfaction by their own orgasm.

Professor McClelland writes about sexuality as a matter of “intimate justice.” It touches on fundamental issues of gender inequality, economic disparity, violence, bodily integrity, physical and mental health, self-efficacy and power dynamics in our most personal relationships, whether they last two hours or 20 years. She asks us to consider: Who has the right to engage in sexual behavior? Who has the right to enjoy it? Who is the primary beneficiary of the experience? Who feels deserving? How does each partner define “good enough”? Those are thorny questions when looking at female sexuality at any age, but particularly when considering girls’ formative experiences.

We are learning to support girls as they “lean in” educationally and professionally, yet in this most personal of realms, we allow them to topple. It is almost as if parents believe that if they don’t tell their daughters that sex should feel good, they won’t find out. And perhaps that’s correct: They don’t, not easily anyway. But the outcome is hardly what adults could have hoped.

What if we went the other way? What if we spoke to kids about sex more instead of less, what if we could normalize it, integrate it into everyday life and shift our thinking in the ways that we (mostly) have about women’s public roles? Because the truth is, the more frankly and fully teachers, parents and doctors talk to young people about sexuality, the more likely kids are both to delay sexual activity and to behave responsibly and ethically when they do engage in it.

Consider a 2010 study published in The International Journal of Sexual Health comparing the early experiences of nearly 300 randomly chosen American and Dutch women at two similar colleges — mostly white, middle class, with similar religious backgrounds. So, apples to apples. The Americans had become sexually active at a younger age than the Dutch, had had more encounters with more partners and were less likely to use birth control. They were also more likely to say that they’d first had intercourse because of pressure from friends or partners.

In subsequent interviews with some of the participants, the Americans, much like the ones I met, described interactions that were “driven by hormones,” in which the guys determined relationships, both sexes prioritized male pleasure, and reciprocity was rare. As for the Dutch? Their early sexual activity took place in caring, respectful relationships in which they communicated openly with their partners (whom they said they knew “very well”) about what felt good and what didn’t, about how far they wanted to go, and about what kind of protection they would need along the way. They reported more comfort with their bodies and their desires than the Americans and were more in touch with their own pleasure.

What’s their secret? The Dutch said that teachers and doctors had talked candidly to them about sex, pleasure and the importance of a mutual trust, even love. More than that, though, there was a stark difference in how their parents approached those topics.

While the survey did not reveal a significant difference in how comfortable parents were talking about sex, the subsequent interviews showed that the American moms had focused on the potential risks and dangers, while their dads, if they said anything at all, stuck to lame jokes.

Dutch parents, by contrast, had talked to their daughters from an early age about both joy and responsibility. As a result, one Dutch woman said she told her mother immediately after she first had intercourse, and that “my friend’s mother also asked me how it was, if I had an orgasm and if he had one.”

MEANWHILE, according to Amy T. Schalet, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and the author of “Not Under My Roof: Parents, Teens, and the Culture of Sex, ” young Dutch men expect to combine sex and love. In interviews, they generally credited their fathers with teaching them that their partners must be equally up for any sexual activity, that the women could (and should) enjoy themselves as much as men, and that, as one respondent said, he would be stupid to have sex “with a drunken head.” Although she found that young Dutch and American men both often yearned for love, only the Americans considered that a personal quirk.

I thought about all of that that recently when, driving home with my daughter, who is now in middle school, we passed a billboard whose giant letters on a neon-orange background read, “Porn kills love.” I asked her if she knew what pornography was. She rolled her eyes and said in that jaded tone that parents of preteenagers know so well, “Yes, Mom, but I’ve never seen it.”

I could’ve let the matter drop, felt relieved that she might yet make it to her first kiss unencumbered by those images.

Goodness knows, that would’ve been easier. Instead I took a deep breath and started the conversation: “I know, Honey, but you will, and there are a few things you need to know.”

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