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The Open Relationship Model


Podcasts will resume next Monday, September 6th.

Deviating from the norm. Is it worth it?

Since the launch of the Sex EDGE-U-cation podcast series in early 2009; I’ve been hearing from a lot of people who are considering opening their relationships to include additional partners to augment their primary relationships. People point to the increasing media attention polyamory is garnering as a way of justifying their interest.

It’s true; polyamory is enjoying an efflorescence in popular culture these days. But this mirrors the spike in interest that swinging had a couple of decades ago. This suggests to me that there is a fissure at the foundation of the dominant relationship model of the monogamous heterosexual, reproductive pair. All the sociological underpinnings of why our culture promotes this paradigm aside, I think it is undeniable that there is a level of dissatisfaction on the part of many who initially bought into this model as the only way to live, love and raise small herds of children. But is it?

People may feel trapped in the traditional expression of a committed relationship. But while they may be second-guessing the party line, they are equally wary of throwing open the doors in a haphazard way, and rightfully so.

I’ve been reading a lot about polyamory lately. It seems it’s the topic du jour in all the women’s magazines. Do open relationships really work?

For starters, the viability of an open relationship depends on the maturity level of the people who are considering opening up their sexually exclusive relationship. And how much they’re willing to work at communicating with one another through all the little details that such a decision entails. One thing for sure, I am willing to go on record to say that the devil, in this case, really is in the details.

That being said, there are a few things us sex researchers know for sure. In most cultures, people claim to practice sexual exclusivity, which is commonly referred to as monogamy. Although I think that’s a misnomer. Monogamy literally means having one union, which as we all know tells us nothing about the sexual expression either or both partners are supposedly sharing in.

Lifetime sexual exclusivity (being sexually involved with only one person for one’s entire life) is rare. Serial sexual exclusivity (having a series of exclusive relationships over one’s life) is much more common. And despite knowing that we humans do not mate for life, we continue to presume that sexual exclusivity, or monogamy is the only legitimate form of coupling.

This, unfortunately, leads to our culture’s obsession with cheating—that is, having sex with someone outside of a monogamous relationship. And frankly, what I know about humans, human relationships and human sexuality; I can say for certain that fidelity is not necessarily a genital issue. One can indeed be faithful to someone else and still have the freedom to express him/herself sexually with others. It happens all the time. In these cases, fidelity is to the relationship and the agreements, parameters and boundaries mutually agreed upon by the partners. Which gets me back to my opening comment about the need for communication. Of course, it’s much easier to presume that everyone in a relationship is working under the same rubric, but that kind of presumption is a fool’s paradise.

Another shortcoming of setting up sexual exclusivity or monogamy as the only legitimate type of coupling is that it diminishes all the other types of relationships that flourish, albeit in a more covert way. And here I’m talking about an array of open relationship models—and polyamory. The fact that we’re only now hearing about these non-traditional relationships shouldn’t suggest to you, or anyone, that they don’t exist; or that they aren’t practical alternatives to the traditional monogamous model, or that they aren’t practiced by a lot of people. They do and they are! It just means that most people in non-traditional relationships know not to go public in a society that would denigrate them for their lifestyle choices. That’s how things are here in the good old US of A; and I’ll wager it’s also true for the rest of the world. Am I right, or am I right?

Open relationships and polyamorous relationships work because the people in them adhere to some basic tenets about how to conduct themselves.

First among them is the notion that these alternative relationships must be chosen; they can’t be mandated. If one or another of the persons considering an open or poly relationship is being pressured to go along with the flow, or is fearful that he/she will be alone if he/she doesn’t comply with the will of the other(s). That kind of emotional duress will not work.

Each person in the relationship needs to take responsibility for the choices he/she is making. If you’re not up for the task, or if this kind of arrangement is not compatible with your personality type, don’t attempt to override that. You will only jeopardize the relationship for the other(s) involved. However, if the idea appeals to you, give it your best shot. I can guarantee that it will be a learning experience. Just remember, exploring something and having it carved in stone are two very different things.

Second, communication is key. The more complex the relationship structure, the greater the need for open lines of communication. Know your boundaries and express them clearly. Ask questions; never assume you know something when you don’t.

Third, know yourself! You must be able to deal with your emotions, particularly jealousy, in an up-front, adult way. This is often much easier said than done. If you need to be the center of attention just so you can feel good about yourself, or you have serious territorial issues—this is mine, this is mine, and THIS is mine!—then alternative relationship models are probably not for you.

Know what keeps you even keel in terms of what you need and what you are able to give. There has got to be a healthy tension between these two things. If you’re the kind who gives too much and resents not being rewarded for your gifts, stay away from alternative relationships. Or if you are so needy that you can’t stand it when someone else is enjoying his/her time in the sun; open or poly relationships are decidedly not for you.

You should also know that alternative relationships, of whatever stripe, are, for the most part, on the fringes of what society will accept. And some are outright taboo. This doesn’t mean you will have to slug it out on your own in a vacuum of support. On the contrary, you will, no doubt, find that the people who are living contrary to the expectations of the popular culture are often a whole lot more generous with their support and compassion then those following all the rules.

You will find that your support system will shift from more traditional sources like traditional family, church and community to alternative sources like clubs and social groupings of other like-minded individuals as yourself. A common mistake made by those in non-traditional relationships is to take their problems and issues to their traditional support systems. This rarely works because the traditional support system will inevitably blame the non-traditional relationship setup for the problem. This is not true, of course, but how would those in traditional relationships know otherwise.

I always suggest that those in non-traditional relationships bring their issues to a non-traditional support system. Here you are less likely to encounter judgments about your life choices and more help with overcoming the problems at hand.

In the end, it’s your call. Are the potential rewards as well as challenges associated with an open relationship worth taking more than the voyeuristic peek behind the curtain that the women’s magazines provide you?

Good luck!

Sex EDGE-U-cation with Mistress Matisse – Podcast #217 – 07/07/10

Hey sex fans,

Mistress Matisse is back with us again today and this week she’s here as part of the Sex EDGE-U-cation podcast series. As you know, this series takes a look at the world of fetish sex and kink with prominent educators, practitioners and advocates of unconventional sexual expressions and lifestyles from all over the world. And who better to talk with about all of this than my favorite sex columnist, blogger and podcaster, the internationally acclaimed Pro-Dom, Mistress Matisse.

But wait; did you happen to miss Part 1 of our conversation that appeared here last week at this time? Well not to worry if ya did, because you can find it and all my podcasts in my Podcast Archive. All ya gotta do is use the search function in the sidebar to your right; type in Podcast #215 and VOILÀ! But don’t forget the #sign when you do your search.

Matisse and I discuss:

  • Her comfort with self-identifying as a sex worker.
  • The practice involved with becoming an upfront sexual being.
  • Unlearning early messages about sex.
  • The “problem” with porn.
  • Endorphins and adrenaline in power play.
  • Being dominant and submissive.
  • How the language has changed as kink moved mainstream.
  • BDSM — recreation, cathartic and her profession.
  • At this point in her career.
  • Being polyamorous.
  • Tips for looking for sex-positive and kink-positive healing and helping professionals.

Matisse invites you to enter her world and visit her on one or all of her websites HERE, HERE or HERE! Or read her Control Tower column at The Stranger HERE!

See another slideshow of Matisse & friends at work and play.

Click on the thumbnails below.

[nggallery id=77]



Check out The Lick-A-Dee-Split Connection. That’s Dr Dick’s toll free podcast voicemail HOTLINE. Don’t worry people; no one will personally answer the phone. Your message goes directly to voicemail.

Got a question or a comment? Wanna rant or rave? Or maybe you’d just like to talk dirty for a minute or two. Why not get it off your chest! Give Dr Dick a call at (866) 422-5680.



Look for all my podcasts on iTunes. You’ll find me in the podcast section, obviously. Just search for Dr Dick Sex Advice. And don’t forget to subscribe. I wouldn’t want you to miss even one episode.

Wild Things

Name: Terre
Age: 54
Location: Nashville
I’ve been in a relationship for over 11 years. For sex, I was always the top; occasionally I would bottom. However, now that I have developed erectile dysfunction, I’m lucky to get slightly hard. I cannot penetrate my partner any longer. I’ve tried reversing roles; however, my partner is no good at being a top/aggressive and I’ve found anal sex much too painful including bleeding and profound pain after only attempting to be penetrated by my partner. What can I do to get over this hump? What other things can I try to maintain sexual balance in my relationship?

Get over this “hump,” Terre? You’re such a punster!

Have you tried a cock ring to keep yourself hard enough to bugger your old man? How about dildo play? You still get to be the top and he still gets to be the bottom, it’s just that you’re using a meat substitute instead of your salami.

And what’s all this about you being unable to take it in your bum? I have written extensively about learning to bottom. Check out some of my earlier postings, especially Liberating The B.O.B. Within. Use the site’s search function in the sidebar to your right; type in “Tutorial for a Bottom” and/or “Tutorial for a Top” and PRESTO! Once you’ve read through those tutorials you can find loads of other helpful hints on the site by clicking on the CATEGORIES section, also in the sidebar; scroll down till you find “Ass Fucking”.

Maybe you need to look at alternative sex practices that don’t involve his rump and your rod? Is ass fucking the only thing you guys can think of in terms of sex play and mutual pleasuring? That seems pretty limiting. How about some kinky power play? That sure enough will keep the sexual balance in your relationship. There’s bondage, discipline, milking, jelqing, CBT, edging, fantasy play, watersports, fisting, flogging, massage, rimming, cock sucking, role playing, group sex and vibrators — just to name a few.

How about hiring a pro to attend to your needs? A hot, hunky escort to fuck your partner and do god knows what to you. You see, darling, just because you are 54 and live in Nashville don’t mean your brain’s gone dead…or has it? Like I always say, if there’s a will there’s a way. And hey, maybe that’s a good place to start. Maybe it’s time to check in with your partner to see what new things he’d like to investigate and go from there.

Name: Gilbert
Gender: male
Age: 53
Location: Ohio
I discovered plushie sex long before I knew there were other people in the world who love their stuffed animals as much as I do. At first, I just cuddled and slept with my special plushie, but then I couldn’t help but show my feelings. I wanted to consummate my love for my plushy. The first time I did this I didn’t do anything to my plushie directly. I simply embraced it while I pleasured myself to orgasm. Now my favorite method of expressing my love is to press myself tenderly into my lovers’ plush fur. It’s a truly exquisite sensation!

Lonely are we, Gilbert? YIKES! Say, is your plushie a girl plushie or a boy plushie? Are you sure your plushie, regardless of its gender, likes having you be so…how shall I say this…intimate? And what about the clean up? You say you press yourself tenderly into the plush fur. Good god; it can’t be all that much fun for your plushie tryin to get all your goopy spooge out of its polyester fur, now can it?

And your message isn’t so much of a question as it is a statement, huh Gilbert? Can I assume then that you just wanted to tell the world about gettin your freak on with your beloved plushie? DONE!

For those in my audience who are unable to fathom plushy sex, here is the 411 on this fetish. Some folks, like old Gilbert here, get started down this path by innocently stroking the stuffed animal over their naughty bits. This, I am told, can be the beginning of an intense connection with his/her plushie. Other enthusiasts aren’t satisfied till there is penetration. This is accomplished by modifying the creature at hand by creating what plushies call a ‘strategically-placed hole’ (SPH) on a said plushie. I suppose depending on the gender of the plushie; the ‘strategically-placed hole’ is either a plushie pussy or a plushie asshole, but I digress.

Some fetishists are on the receiving end of plushie sex. That is they create a ‘strategically-placed appendage’ (SPA) on their long-suffering plushie partner and make the little creature fuck them silly(er). SPA, indeed! I mean, god forbid that we call it what it actually is — a freakin’ stuffed animal with a strap-on.

Beyond the human on stuffed animal sex the plushie world also offers plushie on plushie sex too. Of course these are really humans dressed up as plush animals…I mean from head to toe…REALLY! These enthusiasts are generally referred to as furries. Isn’t that adorable?

There are furry sex parties, the like of which I will leave to your fevered imagination, where there’s no end to plushie perversion. I am told that it’s imperative that participants at these parties stay in character. How do you tell the gender of the furry, you might ask? Girl furries often have a bow in their fur. Boy furries, not so often. Ok, I made that part up.

Anyway, the furry outfits are equipped with Velcro held flaps in front and in back. These ‘strategically-placed flaps’ (SPF) give furries access to a fellow furry’s naughty parts. Full-on humping is proceeded by lots of sniffing and nuzzling…you know, exactly like ordinary animals do…only completely different. This is called yiffing. Honestly! Look it up.

I’ve had only two close-up encounters with real live furries. One was a client of mine. Another I met in an online chat room. The chat room connection was so delighted to discover that I was a sexologist that he could hardly contain himself as he revealed to me every gory detail of his furry sex life.

The guy who was my client revealed his furry persuasion in one of his early visits to my office. You see he was having this deep sexual conflict, and as it turned out, it wasn’t that he was dressing up as a big brown bear to get his rocks off.

Here’s how my client related the story.  “So here’s the deal,” the guy says. “I’ve been completely straight all my life. A couple of years ago when I discovered I was a furry I went to a few furry sex parties. At one of the parties another male furry began sniffing me and making sexual advances. I would have decked him if I hadn’t been in my bear suit. But because I was being my furry-self his advances were like this complete new turn on. To make a long story short, I got it up the ass but good that night for the very first time.”

You see my client was suddenly conflicted not because he was a furry, don’t ‘cha know. He was conflicted by the discovery that, despite being an exclusively straight macho dude out of costume, he was a freakin’ fag furry in costume. And that, my dear audience, is one of the most bizarre things the good doctor has ever heard.

Good luck ya’ll!

Well then…

Name: Stanford
Gender: male
Age: 25
Location: Green Bay
I was wondering if you have any suggestions for a homemade dildo?

Do you actually want to craft a dildo yourself? Or is this more a question about what might be readily available to safely bugger yourself with?

If you want to make one yourself, there are several “Make-your-own-dildo” kits out there. You can find them online. They supply you with everything you need to make a latex dildo cast of your own dong. And from that the dildo is made. How fun! But wait, what if you are princess tiny-meat? Cloning your you own willie will satisfy no one, no how. Unless you know someone with a more ample endowment that will lend you his hog for the mold, this is probably not the way for you to go.

A trip to the supermarket might be your next best bet. People have been stuffing fruits and vegetables in every possible orifice for as long as there have been fruits and vegetables…and orifices to stuff. Bananas, zucchini, corn cobs, cucumbers, and well the list goes on and on. One word of caution, make sure that whatever you’re poppin’ in your pooper is long enough that you can keep hold of it while you are workin’ your magic. You definitely don’t want it to let whatever slip past your sphincter and lodge itself inside your rectum. There’s nothing more embarrassing than a trip to the emergency room to have someone fish whatever you got in there out of you bum.

If you’re the least bit competent as a woodworker you could fashion something pleasurable from a hardwood, like maple or oak. The do-it-yourself craftsman will be able to make the exact size he needs and wants. He’ll take pride in sanding, buffing and curing his creation with olive oil before use.

No woodturning tools? Not to worry. A trip to the local Homo Depot may be the answer. Look for wooden dowels. They come in many widths and lengths. Since doweling is often made of a softer wood, the dildo craftsman will be able to round off the top of the dowel using a rasp with relative ease. But because the wood is soft, he’ll have to seal his creation in a smooth varathane or polyurethane finish. Never, ever insert uncured or unfinished wood. Besides the danger of splinters, untreated wood is very porous and you’ll never get the damned thing clean after the first use.

Another word of caution; some people are allergic to various materials or polishes. So test all materials first.

Here’s a dildo-making project just about anyone can do. Make your own beanie baby dildo. You will need several latex condoms, water based lube and whole dried beans or peas. Take a condom fill it with the dried beans and/or peas and tie off the end. Coat the condom with lube and slip it into another condom and tie that one off too. If you want to be super-safe, add a third condom. The beauty part of using dried peas or beans is that, should the condoms break while you’re pleasuring yourself and you lose some of the contents in your love cave, you’ll be able to eliminate them with ease with your next bowel movement. And there’s nothing toxic in dried beans!

But what if you want something more stiff? Building a dildo out of modeling clay might be the answer. You can find this material at your local crafts store. You can be very creative with the shape and size. You’ll also be able to flare the end of the thing so there won’t be a worry of it getting past your sphincter. Before the clay dries, consider pressing dried beans into the shaft for some added texture. Once your new phallus is completely dry you can finish it with a polyurethane seal. However, I encourage you to use a condom over your newly created cock substitute. Even with a sealed dildo like this one.

Name: Heidi & Werner
Gender: couple
Age: 32 & 34
Location: Arizona
My husband and I have been married for 12 years, we love each other very much. About five years into our marriage, while on a retreat for couples, we discovered we are both bisexual. As a consequence we gave each other permission to explore our same-sex interests. For the most part this has worked out really well. At this point in our marriage, however, we’d like to move beyond the casual semi-furtive affairs we’ve been having and embrace polyamory. Problem is we don’t know any other people who are living in successful polyamorous relationships. Is polyamory a viable option even for a few lucky souls?

Congratulations on living a successful marriage, especially since you guys are taking such a non-traditional approach. That can’t be easy. I wish there was a way the two you could bottle whatever it is that you apparently have in spades that allows you to make such an honest assessment of yourselves and your marriage. You must be remarkable people. I’m so glad that you took the time to write.

As a matter of fact, I know a bunch of very successful, long-lasting polyamorous relationships. Most are comprised of people already on the sexual fringe — queer folk, currant and former swingers and kinksters. However, they all tend to keep the dimensions of their relationships relatively private. It takes a lot of psychic energy to live polyamorously, exponentially more than in a traditional marriage. This tends to leave less psychic energy for flying in the face of the popular culture. Of course the down side of this is there are, as you suggest, few good public role models for polyamory.

Connecting with other like-minded people is less of a challenge these days than in years past thanks to the marvels of the internets, don’t cha know. And being bisexuals, as you are, my make things even easier. I suppose you know this already, but for those in my audience who don’t, polyamory is not the same thing as swinging. Swinging is more about recreational or sport sex; partners having consensual casual sex with others, either other couples or individuals. Swinging is also generally a heterosexual phenomenon. Female bisexual behavior is allowed and even encouraged. The same cannot be said about male bisexual behavior. This seems like an unfortunate double standard to me, but in this respect swinging reflects traditional sexual mores.

Polyamory, on the other hand, connotes more of an emotional bond, a relationship that exceeds pure sport fucking. But not surprisingly many polyamorous relationships evolve from more casual swinger connections. So let’s not knock that.

If you both are seriously into polyamory you’ll have an easier time of it too. The downfall of many budding polyamorists has to do with the reservations one or another in the couple may have about the lifestyle. The one with reservations may play along for a while thinking that this new venture will grow on him/her, but it doesn’t. Some folks are monogamous and it’s breed in the bone. Others are non-monogamous, equally breed in the bone. Trying to convert one or the other to an alternative way of thinking is simply not gonna happen.

The big bugaboo in any type of relationship will be jealousy. You guys seem to have avoided that poison, and again congratulations. The couples retreat you mentioned my have provided you the communication tools you needed to open yourselves to one another in an honest and forthright way. These communication skills will be particularly useful in forming polyamorous relationships too. Whatever the configuration of your future relationships, all parties must allow for and invite an honest and open exchange about passions, desires and needs. And from time to time each individual in the polyamorous relationship will prioritize these things differently. Expect lots of diversity. For more about this see my friend, polyamorous proDOM, Mistress Matisse’s column HERE!

There’s no “one way” to be polyamorous. Some people express their polyamory by having one primary partnership with one or more satellite relationships. They prefer monogamy with one partner but have an open relationship with others. Some polyamorists live in triads or loosely structured groups. Some people express their polyamory by having all partners and lovers as part of an extended family— raising kids together and taking care of elders together. Strong polyamorous relationships carried a number of my closest friends through the worst of the AIDS crisis in the mid 80’s. While you guys seem pretty clear on what you want for yourselves, you may want to be on the lookout for potential partners with incompatible passions needs and desires.

As we all know, a big part of effective communication in a relationship is exploring and expressing feelings. Another part, one that is often overlooked, is the art of negotiation. How do partners and lovers negotiate for what they need and want? “I want to try something new with someone new.” “My lover and I need some private time.” Mature people are flexible, but they also have healthy boundaries. Giving your partner the freedom to share him/herself intimately with others as he/she desires is easier when it is based on the guidelines that you and your partner agree to first. Of course these will need to be readjusted from time to time as new situations evolve.

A secret to successful polyamory is working to maintain a strong primary partnership, in your case, with each other. The more comfortable and secure you guys are with one another, the easier it will be for you to free one another up for others. When the primary relationship is healthy and safe, the polyamorous relationship will add to the support structure, not diminishes it.

Interestingly enough, not all polyamorous relationships are sexual in nature. For example, one person in the group relationship may have a sexual connection with another, while that person enjoys a platonic relationship with that someone else.

One thing for certain, you guys will have to decide what sort of people will be positive additions to your lives. And that will entail a good deal of trial and error. Like my daddy always used to say, “ya gotta walk through a lot of manure before you find the pony.” Remember not everyone who aspires to polyamory is capable of it, nor is everyone one who is capable of being polyamorous suited to be with everyone else who is.

For more about this timely topic I refer you to the two podcasts I did with the insanely marvelous Cunning Minx of PolyWeekly. Look for them HERE and HERE!

Good luck ya’ll

Andrea Zanin, Part 2 – Podcast #174 – 12/09/09

Hey sex fans,

Today I bring you the very last word in the Sex EDGE-U-cation podcast series for 2009.  We will be back with a slew of other prominent educators, practitioners and advocates of unconventional sexual expressions the first Wednesday of the New Year.  But in the meantime, we go out with a bang.  The brilliant and oh so charming Andrea Zanin is back with us to conclude the chat we began last week.


You didn’t miss Part 1 of this insightful conversation, did you?  If ya snooze ya lose!  Actually, that’s not completely true, because all of my podcast are archived on my site.  Use the search function to your right, type in Podcast #172 and Voilà.  Just remember to include the #sign when you do your search.

Andrea and I discuss:

  • A working definition of polyamory.
  • Her poly life.
  • The sociology behind the monogamous heterosexual, reproductive pair.
  • Marriage and queer folk.
  • Changing attitudes toward polyamory in the popular culture.
  • The connection, if any, between poly and other nontraditional sexual expressions.
  • Coming out as poly or kinky.
  • The right to culturally competent healing and helping care.

For more of Andrea check out her website HERE!


Check out The Lick-A-Dee-Split Connection. That’s Dr Dick’s toll free podcast voicemail HOTLINE. Don’t worry people; no one will personally answer the phone. Your message goes directly to voicemail.

Got a question or a comment? Wanna rant or rave? Or maybe you’d just like to talk dirty for a minute or two. Why not get it off your chest! Give Dr Dick a call at (866) 422-5680.


Look for all my podcasts on iTunes.  You’ll find me in the podcast section, obviously. Just search for Dr Dick Sex Advice. And don’t forget to subscribe. I wouldn’t want you to miss even one episode.

Today’s Podcast is bought to you by: The Holiday Sale at Eden Fantasys.


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