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Death Is Way More Complicated When You’re Polyamorous

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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!

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What does kink really mean?

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All your NSFW questions answered

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

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

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

What does kink mean?

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

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

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

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

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

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

As a writer on Huck Magazine puts it:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s the difference between BDSM and kink?

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

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

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

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

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

Does kink always have to involve sex?

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

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

Complete Article HERE!

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New Film Explores Wonder Woman’s Origins In BDSM And Feminist Kink

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Wonder Woman is one of DC Comic’s most iconic heroes. She’s more popular than ever after the record-smashing success of this year’s Wonder Woman movie. But not many people know about the character’s origins in BDSM and kink.

A new film by director Angela Robinson, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, hopes to change that.

The sex-positive origins of Wonder Woman

If you’ve ever picked up any of the early edition comics, their raunchiness might come as a surprise. There’s spanking, sadomasochism, bondage and double entendres galore.

The origins of these unorthodox comics can be traced to their creator, psychologist William Moulton Marston, who combined an interest in bondage and submission with feminist principles. In addition to his sex-positive ideals, he believed that women were superior to men and should rule the world.

The comics were created with the help of his wife, Elizabeth Holloway (who came up with the iconic quip, “Suffering Saffo”) and his former student Olive Bryne. The three were in a polyamorous relationship and had four children together.

Robinson’s new film aims to explore the dynamics between the Marstons and Olive Byrne, and shed light on the enormous influence the women in William Marston’s life had on his work. In exploring the sex-positive origins of the Wonder Woman comics, Robinson will touch on the topics of polyamory, bisexuality and feminism, as they were viewed in 1940s America.

The film has a stellar cast and team behind it. Angela Robinson, the film’s director, was behind one of the top queer cult classics of the noughties, D.E.B.S. She’s also been a writer on The L Word and True BloodTransparent creator, Jill Soloway, is producing the film, which will star Rebecca Hall, Bella Heathcote, and Luke Evans.

Watch the trailer for Professor Marston and the Wonder Women below:

Complete Article HERE!

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The New Hanky Code Is an Actual Thing. Do You Know It Yet?

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The hanky code (aka. “flagging”) was a ‘60s and ‘70s era way for gay men and BDSM fetishists to covertly signal their sexual interests in an age when seeking and having gay sex could get you arrested, beaten up or fired (it can still get you fired, by the way). Though it has largely fallen out of disuse, several queer artists have created new hanky codes in new and interesting ways.

What was the old hanky code?

Different colored handkerchiefs signified what sex acts you wanted (red for fisting and yellow for water sports, for example) and the pocket position indicated whether you were a dominant/top (left pocket) or submissive/bottom (right pocket).

Here’s a simple hanky code color chart:

The old (simplified) hanky code chart

As the hanky code became better known, marketers began creating meanings for every bandana color imaginable (dark pink for tit torture and leopard print for tattoo lovers, for example), but it’s likely that few people actually knew the entire spectrum because — as you’ll see in the chart below — who could possibly remember all 65 variations or tell the difference between orange and coral in a dark bar?

The waaaaay over-complicated hanky code

What is “the new hanky code”?

In our modern age of legalized gay sex and social apps, the hanky code has become more of a fashionable conversation starter at leather bars rather than an active way to solicit sex. Nevertheless, around 2014, a queer Los Angeles art collective called Die Kränken (The Havoc) began discussing what a new hanky code might look like.

Incorporating the sexual inclinations and gender identities of their members, Die Kränken designed 12 new hankies and created an exhibition entitled, “The New Rules of Flagging.” Their new hankies included ones for polyamory, outdoor sex, the app generation, womyn power, Truvada warriors and “original plumbing” (which was either a reference to the transgender male magazine or to urine and bathroom sex).

You should see all 12, but here’s some of our favorites:

Bossy bottom

Queens

Queer Punk

In addition to displaying the hankies, Die Kränken gave surveyed and interviewed attendees to figure out what hanky best fit them. He then invited the attendees to perform a short, pre-choreographed dance demonstrating the spirit of each hanky. The Truvada warrior’s dance, for instance, had people mimic a scorpion crawling up their arm before confidently brushing it off and flinging invisible pills into the air.

We asked Jonesy and Jaime C. Knight, two members of Die Kränken, why their hankies were so much more explicitly designed than the in-the-know ’70s era hanky code. They more or less responded, “Because we wanted to design something cool.” Their handkerchiefs aren’t for sale, sadly.

“The New Hanky Code” is also a hilarious stand-up routine….

In his 2014 stand-up routine, gay comedian Justin Sayre, plays the Chairman of the International Order of Sodomites who announces, “The board is thrilled to announce that we will be bringing back the hanky code, but this time, it’s to talk about your damage.”

“Long have these issues laid in the shadows of a second date,” Sayre says, “but no more. We’d like to put it out there.”

In Sayre’s new hanky code, wearing a handkerchief in your right pocket means that you self-identifying as having a particular issue whereas the left pocket means you’ve only been called out on it, “so it becomes a playful game amongst friends.”


 
According to Sayre, white hankies now signify racists, gray equals boring, yellow is for commitment-phobes, baby blue means you have mother issues, pink stands for ingrained homophobia (i.e. “masc-seekers”), mustard means you drink too much, magenta is poor personal hygiene and so on for conspiracy theorists, those who don’t like The Golden Girls and others.

In Sayre’s version, people can make up their own personal hankies (like charcoal for workaholic and eggshell for undiagnosed) and also assign hankies to one another. “We ask you all to be kind when assigning colors to other people,” he concludes. “because remember: You’ll be wearing them too.”

… and there’s also a Hanky Code film for queer fetish fans too.

Hanky Code is also the name of a 2015 queer indie film made up of 25 shorts from different international queer directors that each explore a different color and fetish from the hanky code. It’s quite artistic, avant-garde and even a little graphic (the segment on piercing almost made our squeamish editor pass out), but it’s a fine piece of film that re-interprets the decades-old hanky code for a new age.


 
Complete Article HERE!

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Drinking Alcohol Makes Straight Men More Sexually Fluid

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‘Beer Goggles’ Boost Physical Attraction To Same Sex

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Many of us are all too familiar with the “beer goggles” effect: friends and strangers alike become more attractive after a drink or two. Undoubtedly, drinking alcohol lowers our inhibitions and makes us more open to experimentation with the same sex. In a new study, published in The Journal of Social Psychology, straight men were found to be more physically attracted to other men after a few drinks.

“Most notably, alcohol intake was related to increased sexual willingness of men with a same-sex partner, suggesting a potential shift in normative casual sexual behavior among heterosexual men,” wrote the authors in the study.

Researchers recruited a total of 83 straight men and women who were bar hopping in the Midwest at night. The participants were asked to complete a survey about how many drinks they’d had that night. In addition, they had to watch a 40-second video of either a physically attractive man or woman drinking at a bar and chatting with the bartender. Then, the participants rated their sexual interest in the person in the video, from buying them a drink to going home together to have sex.

Unsurprisingly, men showed high interest when the attractive woman was on the screen; women naturally were more attracted to the man. Moreover, men were more likely to make sexual comments about the woman after the video. Overall, they expressed more sexual interest in the women, regardless of how much they had. This coincides with previous research that concedes men tend to be more lax about casual sex with strangers.

However, the researchers noted an interesting observation: the more alcohol men drank, the more interested they became in the man in the video. Men who had nothing to drink showed no interest. Those who consumed over 10 alcoholic drinks were more likely to entertain the idea of gay sex just as much as having sex with a woman.

“Sexual willingness was only influenced by alcohol intake and perceived attractiveness of a same-sex prospective partner,” the authors wrote.

In women, the more alcohol they drank, the more interested they were in other women, and the opposite sex.

This suggests sexuality for men and women does not fall under straight and gay, but instead is fluid. A 2016 study found women have been evolutionarily designed to have same-sex encounters. The researchers proposed women’s sexuality has evolved to be more fluid than men’s as a mechanism to reduce conflict and tension among co-wives in polygynous marriages.

In men, studies have found a large number of straight men watch gay porn and even have gay sexual fantasies. Researchers believe homosexuality has evolved in humans because it helps us bond with one another. In other words, sexual behavior is not a means to an end of reproduction, but it can also be used to help form and maintain social bonds.

It’s no surprise drinking alcohol leads to sexual behavior, and even makes us sexually fluid, and less inhibited. Alcohol’s influence on specific brain circuits has led us to feel euphoric and less anxious. It makes us more empathetic and leads us to see other people — even the same sex — as more attractive.

Alcohol may allow us to freely express our sexual side, without judgment or reservations.

Complete Article HERE!

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