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Death Is Way More Complicated When You’re Polyamorous

By Simon Davis

death become her

Screencap via ‘Death Becomes Her’

In February, Robert McGarey’s partner of 24 years died. It was the most devastating loss McGarey had ever encountered, and yet, there was a silver lining: “I had this profound sadness, but I don’t feel lonely,” McGarey told me. “I’m not without support, I’m not without companionship.”

That’s because he has other partners: Jane, who he’s been with for 16 years, and Mary, who he’s been with for eight. (Those are not their real names.) And while his grief for Pam, the girlfriend who died, was still immense, polyamory helped him deal with it.

There’s not a lot of research into how poly families cope with death—probably because there’s not a lot of research about how poly families choose to live. By rough estimates, there are several million poly people in the United States. And while polyamory can bring people tremendous benefits in life and in death, our social and legal systems weren’t designed to deal with people with more than one romantic partner—so when one person dies, it can usher in a slew of complicating legal and emotional problems.

“Whether people realize it or not, the partner to whom they are married will have more benefits and rights once a death happens,” explained Diana Adams, who runs a boutique law firm that practices “traditional and non-traditional family law with support for positive beginnings and endings of family relationships.”

Since married partners rights’ trump everyone else’s, the non-married partners don’t automatically have a say in end-of-life decisions, funeral arrangements, or inheritance. That’s true for non-married monogamous relationships, too, but the problem can be exacerbated in polyamorous relationships where partners are not disclosed or acknowledged by family members. In her work, Adams has seen poly partners get muscled out of hospital visits and hospice by family members who refused to recognize a poly partner as a legitimate partner.

McGarey and his girlfriend Pam weren’t married, so the decision to take her off life support had to go through Pam’s two sisters. The money Pam left behind—which McGarey would’ve inherited had they been married—went to her sisters too, who also organized Pam’s funeral.

This kind of power struggle can also happen among multiple partners who have all been romantically involved with the deceased. The only real way to ensure that everything is doled out evenly is to draft up a detailed prenuptial agreement and estate plan. Adams works with clients to employ “creative estate planning” to ensure that other partners are each acknowledged and taken care of.

Adams is a big proponent of structured mediation as a way of minimizing post-mortem surprises, like when families discover the existence of mysterious extra-marital partners in someone’s will. It’s much better to have those conversations in life than on someone’s deathbed, or after death.

But many poly people remain closeted in life and in death, according to sociologist Elisabeth Sheff, who has studied polyamorous families for 15 years and authored The Polyamorists Next Door: Inside Multiple-Partner Relationships and Families. A person might have a public primary partner—someone they’re married to, for example—plus other private relationships. That can make it harder to grieve when one of the non-primary partners dies, because others don’t recognize the relationship as “real” or legitimate in the way the death of a spouse might be.

Take, for example, something like an employee bereavement policy. Guidelines from the Society for Human Resource Management spell out the length of time off given in the event of the death of a loved one: a spouse, a parent, a child, a sibling, in-laws, aunts, uncles, grandparents. Unsurprisingly, extra-marital boyfriend or girlfriend is not on the list. (Actually, “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” aren’t on the list at all.) It’s possible for an employee to explain unique circumstances to an employer, but in her research, Sheff has found that some poly people prefer not to “out” themselves this way. People still disapprove of extra-marital affairs and some poly people, according to Sheff, have even lost their jobs from being outed, due to corporate “morality clauses.”

It’s similar, she says, to the experiences of same-sex couples who are closeted. “It’s much less so now because they’re more acknowledged and recognized, but 20 years ago, it was routine for [the family of the deceased] to muscle out the partner and ignore their wishes—even if [the deceased] hadn’t seen their family for years and years,” Sheff said. “They would come and descend on the funeral and take over. Or when the person was in the ICU. That same vulnerability that gays and lesbians have moved away from to some extent is still potentially very problematic for polyamorous people.”

Legal recognition of polyamorous unions could provide some relief. After the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013 and legalized same-sex marriage in 2015, calls for legalizing plural marriage have only become louder. Adams noted that an argument put forth in Chief Justice John Roberts’s 2015 dissent may provide a legal foothold for legalization advocates. “As Roberts points out, if there’s going to be a rejection of some of the traditional man-woman elements of marriage… those same arguments could easily be applied to three or four-person unions,” she said in an interview with US News & World Report earlier this year.

In 2006, Melissa Hall’s husband Paul died at the age of 52. Both were polyamorous, but Paul’s death presented “no special problems,” since they were legally married and Hall had all the rights of a spouse. Instead, she found unexpected benefits in dealing with her husband’s death: In particular, she told me that “being poly made it easier to love again.” Since they had both dated other people during their life together, Hall knew her husband’s death wouldn’t stop her from dating again.

In traditional relationships, it’s not uncommon for people to impose dating restrictions on themselves to honor the desires of their dead spouses, or to feel guilty when they start dating again. Of course, you don’t win if you don’t date either, as people eventually get on your case to “move on with your life.” All this goes out the window when you’re polyamorous, where dating doesn’t necessarily signal the end of an arbitrary acceptable period of mourning.

More partners in a relationship can certainly mean more support. It can also mean more people dying, and with that comes more grief. In an article about loss among polys published in the polyamory magazine Loving More, one man wrote: “Those of us who have practiced polyamory through our lifetime must be grateful for the abundance of love in our lives. But having those wonderful other loves means we must accept a little more grieving as well, when our times come.”

Is the trade off worth it? McGarey certainly seems to think so. “There is more grieving, but… we are held and cradled in the love of other people at the same time.”

He compares his relationship to the Disney movie Up, which starts with a guy falling in love and marrying his childhood sweetheart. “And then [she] dies, and he turns into this grumpy old man because he lost his love,” McGarey said. “I don’t see myself turning into a grumpy old man. I don’t know if I can attribute that to poly, but maybe that’s why.”

Complete Article HERE!

2.5 Years Later, Zero Cases Of HIV In Large San Francisco PrEP Group

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A new study reveals that after 2.5 years, a group of more than 600 San Francisco men who have sex with men (MSM) taking Truvada as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) have had zero cases of HIV contraction.

The study also finds that many of these individuals are using condoms less and more than half of those in the group study had contracted at least one sexually transmitted infection (STI) within a year.

From POZ.com:

Researchers at Kaiser Permanente published their findings in Clinical Infectious Diseases. The paper represents a powerful endorsement of PrEP’s ability, in a real-world setting, to prevent HIV infection among those at very high risk of contracting the virus. The lack of new HIV infections among these men challenges the stance of AIDS Healthcare Foundation president Michael Weinstein, who has vigorously campaigned that PrEPshould not be used as a widescale public health intervention.

On the flip side, the Kaiser findings challenge the received wisdom from PrEP clinical trials that those taking Truvada as HIV prevention do not increase sexual risk-taking while on the medication.

“Our study is the first to extend the understanding of the use of PrEP in a real-world setting and suggests that the treatment may prevent new HIV infections even in a high-risk setting,” reports lead author Jonathan Volk, MD, MPH, a physician and epidemiologist at Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Medical Center. “Until now, evidence supporting the efficacy of PrEP to prevent HIV infection had come from clinical trials and a demonstration project.”

It’s important to reiterate that according to Kaiser, though no one using PrEP contracted HIV, there was a very high rate of other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

POZ.com breaks it down:

After six months, the clinicians at Kaiser surveyed 143 of the cohort about their sexual risk-taking. At that time, 74 percent reported that their number of recent sexual partners had not changed since starting PrEP, while 15 percent said they had fewer sexual partners and 11 percent said they had more. Regarding condom use, 56 percent said they used them at the same rate after starting Truvada, 41 percent used them less and 3 percent used them more.

Because these individuals were not engaged in a clinical trial, there is no control group to measure the change in these men’s sexual risk-taking against. So there is no way to tell if the group would have changed their risk-taking in a similar pattern if they had not been taking PrEP.

One thing is clear, however: These men would have been at very high risk of contracting HIV had they not been taking PrEP while engaging in the same level of sexual risk-taking. The evidence is in their very high rate of STIs. Six months into taking PrEP, 30 percent of the PrEP users had been diagnosed with at least one STI. After a year, half of them had contracted one or more STIs, with 33 percent diagnosed with a rectal STI, 33 percent with chlamydia, 28 percent with gonorrhea, and 5.5 percent with syphilis. As noted, two of them contracted hep C.

“Without a control group, we don’t know if these STI rates were higher than what we would have seen without PrEP,” stressed the paper’s co-author Julia Marcus, PhD, MPH, postdoctoral fellow at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research. “Ongoing screening and treatments for STIs, including hepatitis C, are an essential component of a PrEP treatment program.”

No one in the group has been diagnosed with HIV.

Our takeaway, PrEP is clearly doing its job in HIV prevention, however we need to remain vigilant in testing and treatment for STIs. The choice to use or not use condoms is up to the individual, but be aware of the risks and ensure that you’re regularly being tested to protect your health and potentially that of your sexual partners.
Complete Article HERE!

The Thrill Is Gone

Name: Billy
Gender: Male
Age: 46
Location:
I have heard it’s normal for sex drive to diminish as you age. I’ll run this by you. I’m a 46 year old male and the last time I was at a strip club with bare boobs bouncing around me, you may as well have rolled a grapefruit across the floor. Actually, I can see more use from the grapefruit. I don’t recall the last time I did it, and jerking off was almost disgusting. My tool has shrank to nothing. I barely touch it and it just dribbles, it doesn’t fire off anymore. I don’t even like to touch it to go piss anymore. I’ve had to shave around it, so I actually find it, to keep from pissing my pants. Is this normal?

No, Billy, this isn’t normal. I think you already know that too, right?

andropauseDo you know anything about andropause? If not, you ought to. Here’s what I suggest. Use this site’s search function in the sidebar. Type in the key word: “andropause” and you will come up with a wealth of information about this issue.

You can also use the CATEGORY pull down menu. Look for the subcategory: Sex and Aging, under the main category: Aging. Everything is alphabetized.

But for the time being, here’s a typical question and response —

Name: Wilson
Gender: male
Age: 58
Location: Lancing MI
I’m a successful entrepreneur, in decent health (I could stand to lose a few pounds.) I have just about everything a man could want in life, but I’m miserable. I have no energy and I feel like I’m sleepwalking through my life. I have no sex drive at all; my wife thinks I’m having an affair…I wish. Even Viagra doesn’t do the trick anymore. Is this just old age, or what?

Old age, at 58? Middle age, perhaps! Regardless what we call it, you sound like you’re in the throws of andropause — male menopause — ya know, the change of life!

Never heard of such a thing? You’re not alone. It’s only been recently has the medical industry has begun to pay attention to the impact changing hormonal levels has on the male mind and body. Most often andropause is misdiagnosed as depression and treated with an antidepressant. WRONG!andropause-1

Every man will experience a decrease testosterone, the “male” hormone, as he ages. This decline is gradual, often spanning ten to fifteen years on average. While the gradual decrease of testosterone does not display the profound effects that menopause does, the end results are similar.

There is no doubt that a man’s sexual response changes with advancing age and the decrease of testosterone. Sexual urges diminish, erections are harder to come by, they’re not as rigid, there’s less jizz shot with less oomph. And our refractory period (or interval) between erections is more pronounced too.

While most all of us have heard of a mid-life crisis, and it’s tragic consequences — red convertible sports cars, comb-overs, and the trophy wife or lover — fewer have heard of andropause. A mid-life crisis is essentially a psycho-social adjustment to aging — bored at work, bored at home, bored with the wife or partner — that sort of thing. Andropause, although it may coincide with a mid-life crisis, is not the same thing. Andropause is a distinct physiological phenomenon that is in many ways akin to female menopause.

Unlike women, men can continue to father children after andropause, but like I said, the production of testosterone diminishes gradually after age 40. I suppose you know that testosterone is the hormone that stimulates sexual development in the male infant, bone and muscle growth in adult males, and is responsible for our sexual drive. But did you know that by the age of 55, the amount of testosterone secreted into our bloodstream is significantly lower than at 45. And by age 80, most male hormone levels have decreased to pre-puberty levels.

Men, are you over 50? Are you feeling weak, lethargic, depressed, and irritable? Do you have mood swings, hot flashes, insomnia, and decreased libido, like our buddy Wilson, here? Then you too may be andropausal. You need to get some lead back in your pencil!

mutateAll kidding aside, andropausal men might want to consider Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT). Ask your physician about this. Just know that some medical professionals resist testosterone therapy, mistakenly linking Testosterone Replacement Therapy with prostate cancer. Even though recent evidence shows prostatic disease is estrogen-dependent rather than testosterone-dependent. However, before starting a testosterone regiment, insist on a complete physical, including blood work and a rectal examine. Mmmm, rectal exams!

Testosterone is available in many forms — oral, injectable, trans-dermal and by way of implants. The oral form is not recommended because of the high risk of liver damage. But injections, patches, pellets, creams and gels might be just the answer. I encourage you to be informed about TRT before you approach your doctor, because the best medicine is practiced collaboratively — by you and your doctor.

Good luck

Family History and Addiction Risk: What You Need to Know to Beat the Odds

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You grew up in a family of substance users. You know that your risk for developing an addiction to drugs or alcohol is greater because of this hereditary factor. But what exactly are your risks? And is there anything you can do to reduce your risk?

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), the single most reliable indicator for risk of future alcohol or drug dependence is family history. In an article written for NCADD, Robert Morse, MD, former Director of Addictive Disorders Services at the Mayo Clinic and member of NCADD’s Medical/Scientific Committee, says, “Research has shown conclusively that family history of alcoholism or drug addiction is in part genetic and not just the result of the family environment…millions of Americans are living proof. Plain and simple, alcoholism and drug dependence run in families.”

How Family History Affects your Chances for Addiction

Family history affects your chances of addiction in many ways. Genes are one important factor. But alcoholism and drug addiction are “genetically complex.”

Recent research has identified numerous genes, and variations within these genes, that are 005associated with the addictive process. One way genes affect a person’s risk for addiction involves how genes metabolize alcohol. Another is how nerve cells signal one another and regulate their activity. Such changes in genes can be passed down from one generation to another.

Perhaps the strongest evidence for heredity’s role in addiction comes from twin studies and adoption studies. Studies of twins found a 60% rate of similarity regarding addiction in identical twins vs. a 39% rate of similarity in fraternal twins. Studies of children adopted in infancy and studied for addiction risk in adulthood found that biological sons of alcoholics were four times more likely to become alcoholics, even when the adoptive parent had no issues with addiction, so the l factor of family environment was minimal.

But genetic predispositions are not the only factor in predicting the role of family history in addiction risk. Environmental aspects also play a role, even though they may be less significant in some cases.

Researchers have identified several family-related risks for increased vulnerability:

  • Family dysfunction (conflicts or aggression)
  • A parent who is depressed or has other psychological issues
  • One or more parents who abuses or is addicted to drugs or alcohol

Additional social and personal issues that contribute to risk include:

  • Limited social skills
  • Fragile self-esteem
  • Minimal or no support system
  • Personal history of impulsivity, aggression or difficulty managing emotions
  • A history of trauma or abuse (high risk for post traumatic stress)
  • Other psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety or bi-polar disorder
  • Friends or acquaintances who are regular users and who provide easy access to drugs or alcohol

Addressing and Reducing Risks

An alternative viewpoint regarding a family history link for addiction comes from a National Institute of Health (NIH) meta-study of 65 published papers documenting 766 study participants who were college or university students. Controlling for alcohol consumption and use disorders, family history was reviewed as the variable. The meta-study found that students who had family histories of alcohol or drug problems did not drink more but they were likely to be more at risk for problems that are associated with drug or alcohol use (ex: causing shame or embarrassment to someone; passing out or fainting; or having problems with school).

The bottom line is that there are still a lot of uncertainties when it comes to assessing drug and alcohol risks as they relate to family history. The good news is that even if you come from a family with a troubled history, or a history of addictions, that does not mean you will automatically become an addict. The risk is higher, but there are ways to prevent that from happening. You can choose to be proactive and greatly reduce your addiction risk.

Here are a few suggestions to reduce your addiction risk:

  • Avoid under-age drinking or substance use; early-onset of use increases risk
  • Choose abstinence or carefully monitor your consumption
  • Avoid associating with heavy drinkers or substance users
  • Manage your psychological health; seek assistance from a mental health provider if you are highly stressed, anxious or depressed
  • Participate in workplace or school prevention programs

Intervention Strategies

Should you already find yourself dealing with an alcohol or drug issue, here are some intervention strategies provided by the National Institute of Health, in their publication, Alcohol Alert:

  • Motivational Interview: This strategy focuses on enhancing your motivation and commitment to changing your behavior, if you are currently abusing drugs or alcohol. Typically you would work with an addictions counselor or mental health professional and discuss your beliefs, choices and behaviors associated with substance use. The purpose of the interview is to help you develop a realistic view of your use, problems associated with it and your treatment goals and expectations.
  • Cognitive–Behavioral Interventions: These strategies are taught by a counselor or therapist, or they can sometimes can be accessed via an online self-help program. They help you change your behavior by helping you recognize when and why you drink excessively or use illegal substances. Cognitive-behavioral approaches challenge irrational expectations about substance use and raise your awareness of how drugs or alcohol affect your health and well-being. They provide tools for mentally and emotionally addressing denial, resistance, self-criticism and shame.
  • Drug-Free Workplace programs: Many workplaces now help their employees who are abusing alcohol or drugs. Lifestyle campaigns encourage workers to ease stress, improve nutrition and exercise, and reduce risky behaviors such as drinking, smoking, or drug use. Other programs promote social support and volunteerism. Many Employee Assistance Programs offer employees referrals to substance abuse or other treatment programs, and may help pay for treatment.

Remember, the risk for alcohol and drug addiction does run in families. But you can manage the risk and avoid an addiction problem in your own life. Be proactive in monitoring your substance use, manage your mental and emotional health and seek support if you need it. The final outcome will depend on you and the choices you make today, not on your history.
Complete Article HERE!

20 Interesting Facts You Never Knew

Everyone took a sexual education course in middle or high school to learn about the “birds and the bees.” However, there are a lot of facts that sex ed teachers leave out. These facts are sometimes the most interesting and the most useful in real-life situations. Here are 20 little known facts about “doing it.”

Patterns In Sexual Desire

Most women have an increase in sexual desire around the time that they ovulate each month. This is nature’s way of making sure the Earth stays well-populated.

It Sounds Gross But…

Semen can be great for the facial pores and can even help with acne. The male-produced “facial cream” can also prevent wrinkles.

Headache

A Headache Is A Bad Excuse

We’ve all heard the cliche “my head hurts” excuse for turning down sex. However, sex often helps with pain, especially with headaches.

We’re Not Judging

Many straight men enjoy having their anal areas stimulated, and that is totally okay! Sexual experts say that the anal areas are packed full of nerves and can make a male orgasm so much better.

1, 2, 3…And They Keep Coming!

Women can orgasm an unlimited amount of times. Men generally need a period of time after orgasming to recover. However, women need barely any time and are ready to go as many times as they please.

Men Are Erect…A Lot

It is said that many men experience about 11 erections every single day. While they may not be raging every single time, it does happen pretty often.

Celery Can Arouse

Yes, celery. The pheromones in celery can cause arousal in men. In addition to the arousal, the vegetable also makes men who eat it more attractive to women.

The Left Side Is The Best Side

A group of scientists found the upper left quadrant of the clitoral head is the most pleasurable spot to touch. So, it’s okay to tell him to go “a little to the left.” It’ll be sure to make the sex even more enjoyable.

Orgasms Are Different

A man’s orgasm lasts about 22 seconds while a woman’s lasts about 18. It is also very common for it to be uncomfortable to pee after having sex because of an antidiuretic hormone that prevents urine from freely flowing.

Sex Can IMPROVE With Age

Sexual attraction is a life-long drive. The reason most older people don’t have sex very often is that there is a lack of opportunity to have sexual encounters.

Get Your Heart Going

Sex is a great way of getting in your daily cardio exercise. During an orgasm, heart rates can reach between 140 and 180 bpm.

spunklube

Lube Can Make A Difference

While lube is considered a sex tool for older people, many sexual experts say that a little lubricate can make the difference between pain and pleasure during sex. This doesn’t mean the woman is not turned on. Natural “lube” can come and go without any warning.

Penetration Is NOT The Secret

Most women do not orgasm from penetration alone. The majority of women need some type of clitoral stimulation to reach their climax. It has nothing to do with size or penetration.

Everything Expands

The penis is not the only thing that grows during a sexual encounter. In fact, the testes grow by 50% and the vagina can double in size when aroused.

More Sex Makes You More Appealing

After having sex, a woman’s estrogen levels double. When estrogen levels are higher, a woman’s hair can look shinier and her skin can even feel softer.

Not Only People Can Be Arousing

Some people have sexual attraction to objects instead of specific people. There is a woman known to be sexually aroused by the Eiffel Tower.

Have Sex, Live Longer

Scientists have found that orgasms can actually prolong your life. That’s right, the more sex you have, the longer you can live.

Humans & Dolphins Alike

As far as sex is considered, dolphins and humans have one key fact in common. The two mammals are the only animals in the world that have sex for pleasure.

Sex Everyday Keeps The Doctor Away

Sex can actually help you stay healthy. Many doctors believe this is because sex can lower blood pressure and greatly decrease stress levels.

It’s Like Two Puzzle Pieces

Not every penis, or vagina, is the same. If a guy is too large, women can control penetration by changing positions. If he is too small, there are many toys, etc that couples can invest in.