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TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING

Today, I will start with a declaration. A “Thus Sayth Doctor Dick,” sorta deal. I know I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. I reject the concept of sex addiction, that is floating around in the popular culture these days. I know this will rankle a bunch of you, but you need to get over it. Ya see, there ain’t no such thing as a sex addiction. Period!

That being said, I hasten to add that there are sexual compulsions, plenty of ‘em. However, compulsions are not addictions and addictions, while they may involve irresistible impulses, are not the same thing as compulsions. Get it? Got it? Good!

Check it out. With the help of my handy-dandy dictionary, a good place to start in all such discussions, I discovered these two very distinct definitions.

Addiction — a need for and use of a habit-forming substance (as heroin, nicotine, or alcohol) characterized by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal. Broadly: persistent use of a substance known by the user to be harmful. A state of physiological and psychological dependence on a drug.

Compulsive — driven by an irresistible inner force to do something; i.e. a compulsive liar.See! Different words. Different meanings. Not a particularly complex notion to grasp, right?

And listen, just because a bunch of pseudo-intelligent afternoon talks show hosts banter the two concepts about like they were interchangeable doesn’t make it so. In fact, we do ourselves a huge disservice by jumbling these two very specific concepts. Because finding the proper intervention for either an addiction or a compulsive behavior will be as specific as the problem itself. One thing is for certain; misidentifying one of the things, as the other will surly complicate the problem solving. It’s kinda like going to the doctor with a headache, and when the doc asks where it hurts, you point to your stomach. It simply won’t do.

Dear Dr. Dick, I’ve been married for 5 years now and truly love my wife, however I can never seem to get enough sex. I am 30 and she’s 29, but I constantly find myself in the chat rooms and porn sites lookin for more sex. It’s more than just a hobby; it’s a habit! And if I have a few cocktails in me, and that happens more and more, I really can’t stop myself. I once lost a job once because I used the work computer to search the web for sex. It’s like I’m addicted to sex. My wife knows I have played around (we even did a 3-way once and it was totally hot) but she has no idea how extreme it’s become. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I’m not unhappy with my wife. I just can’t seem to stop wanting sex. Any suggestions?   — Brian

Dear Brian,

You got it bad, and that ain’t good!porn.jpg

It’s interesting to note that you tell me about your compulsive sexual behavior in the same breath that you claim to love your wife. Love and sex are two very different things. And as you’ve probably guessed already, there’s no necessary connection between the two. Sometimes they go together, but not always. So it is possible to love someone dearly and deeply, but still be consumed with pursuing sex with others.

It appears to me that you’ve really got two problems happening simultaneously. First, your compulsive prowling of the internet for sex. (This is complicated by your alcohol abuse.) Second, the deception you’re practicing on your wife. Let’s deal with each of these in turn.

Your particular sexual activity, like any compulsive behavior (over eating, excessive shopping, etc.), is more than just a bad habit. It’s a serious dysfunction. Take it from me, breaking this behavior pattern will be very difficult, if not impossible, without some professional help. If the problem is as serious as you say, then you’d better seek help right away. This sort of thing, if left untreated, will not only destroy your marriage; it will ruin your life. When you seek professional help, I encourage you to include information about your alcohol consumption. If there is an addiction in all of this, it’s the alcohol, not the sex. And in your case, your (alcohol) addiction may be fueling your (sex) compulsion.

Look for a sex-positive therapist, someone who has experience working with other people similarly challenged. A support group may also be an option. Since you’re not alone in this, there is probably a group already meeting in where you live. You’ll need to do some legwork to uncover these resources, but I promise you it will be well worth your effort.

Now, regarding your relationship. It’s imperative that you come clean with your wife about your (sex) compulsion and probable (alcohol) addiction. Not only will you feel better not having to deceive her anymore, but you’ll also need her support in overcoming these problems. I suggest that you attend to this right away. There’s not a moment to lose.

Good luck

Hey doc! I think I’m addicted to having sex on the internet. I haven’t told my partner. Do you think this is a form of cheating or is it just harmless fun? I like getting off with guys in chat rooms and with my webcam. I feel guilty about it so I guess this tells me something!— Luke

Dear Luke,

You’re having what is commonly known as cyber sex, right? If that’s a good call on myfingering.jpg part, I don’t consider it a form of “cheating” on your partner, any more than I would consider jerking off to porn to be cheating. (We’ll address this notion of cheating in a later column.)

However, your feelings of guilt are another thing all together. They tell me that you are not at peace with your sexual practices. Maybe you need to take a look at this. Are your cyber pursuits a serious concern? Do you squander your sexual energy on cyber sex, instead of sharing it with your partner? Only you can determine this for sure. I can assure you that the guilt feelings will continue to plague you until you dump the sexual practices that are hurtful to you and those you love, and integrate healthier ones in their place.

Good luck

Hi Dr. Dick, My boyfriend cheats on me. Every time he does he begs me for forgiveness. I think ok, but don’t do that again. I love him, but I hate feeling bad all the time. I feel stupid putting up with all of this, but I can’t leave him. I still love him. Please give me some advice. Thank You. Hope to here from you soon, Denise

Dear Denise,cunny_illus.jpg

Before we turn our attention to your boyfriend, let me make a quick observation about you, Denise. You’re a mess, girl! I mean really, take a long hard look at yourself, you’re a freakin’ doormat! How’s the BF supposed to respect you when you have no respect for yourself? How can you say that you love a person that makes you feel bad? You are deceiving yourself, girlfriend, cuz LOVE don’t ever make you feel bad.

As screwed up as your BF is, and he is pretty fucked up, he is just part of the problem. You’ve got some obsession issues yourself that you need to address.Your boyfriend probably has you pegged as a pussy…and not in a good way. He knows you will tolerate his misbehavior, which of course gives him permission to do whatever he feels like doing whenever he feel like doing it. If you’re really serious about reining in the bastard, you’d better come up with a clear, unambiguous message about what you will and will not tolerate. Until you do precisely that he’ll just think that he can roam wherever he wants and whenever he wants.

There are root causes for his behavior, just like there is a root cause for your behavior. To get to the bottom of all of this each of you will need to invest a good deal of time and energy with a therapist. One can only hope that there’s a bank of goodwill between the two of you, enough to carry the day. However, if I had to guess, I’d say there was a slim to no chance for that, right? If so, I advise you throw the bum out. And no more relationships for you till you get your head screwed on tighter.

Good Luck

Stop, I Want To Get Off!

Name: Stefanni
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Gender:
Age: 28
Location: California

Dr Dick: I get off on making out or having sex in public spaces? Is this illegal? Am I Sick? Stefanni

All depends, Stefanni. Most jurisdictions, particularly there in the Golden State would

probably wink at a couple making out in public. I suppose you’d be pushing the envelope if the make-out session included heavy petting. And as to full-on sex in public…CumOn, honey, a 28 year-old female who can’t discern if fucking in public is illegal or not, needs to be in supervised care 24/7. You’re not sick, dearie, you’re retarded.

Good Luck!

Name: stefan
Gender:
Age: 24
Location: GA

Is it weird if I can suck my own dick? Sometimes I do it when I’m really horny?

dares-selfsuck.jpg

Reminds me of the old joke about two guys sittin’ around shootin’ the shit. When they notice a dog over yonder lickin his balls. One guy turns to the other and says; “I wish I could do that!” And the other guy says, “Gee, I hope the dog doesn’t bite!”

Is it weird that you can suck your own cock? Dude, it’s every man’s freakin’ dream! Anyone who is limber enough and/or has a big enough dick to blow himself — wins, IMHO.

Good Luck!

Name: Chris
Gender:
Age: 18
Location: TN

Dr Dick: I’m an uncut male, but am thinking about getting circumcised for the sake of appearance? I don’t like how my dick looks like an anteater. Is this safe? Any suggestions where or what type of doctor to consult? Should I go to a urologist? Plastic Surgeon? Thanks, Chris

Whoa, puppy, stop right there. This ain’t like getting a haircut or trimmin’ your toe nails or even gettin pierced. Circumcision is irreversible and it’s mighty risky too.

I need to say one thing from the outset. Circumcision is a particularly thorny issue for

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me. I firmly believe in the right of an adult to augment, adorn and embellish, or in any other way customize his or her body. Just as long as that person has taken enough time to think it through. None of this, “OMG, I got so drunk and then the next thing I know I have this tattoo emblazoned across my chest!”

At the same time I am a furious proponent of genital integrity. So you see my conflict.

There are, of course, medical reasons for adult circumcision. But having a foreskin that looks like an anteater is not one of them. Besides, no self-respecting physician is gonna start cutting on an 18 year old guy’s cock, just because the fella doesn’t like the way his unit looks.

Here’s what I want you to do, Chris. Take a really close look at your foreskin. I mean a really close look. What do you see? Veins, right? Now pinch your foreskin between

your thumb and forefinger as hard as you can. OUCH! Ya know why that is? Your foreskin is just chock-full of nerve endings, darlin’. Your foreskin contains about 240 feet of nerve fibers and tens of thousands of specialized nerve endings, which can feel the slightest pressure, the lightest touch, the smallest motion, the subtlest changes in temperature, and the finest gradations in texture.

In many ways, your foreskin is just like your eyelid. It covers, cleans, and protects your dickhead just like your eyelid covers, cleans, and protects your eye. Your foreskin keeps the surface of your dickhead healthy, clean, shiny, warm, soft, moist, and sensitive. And there are a whole lot of us who think a foreskin is like totally hot.

Your foreskin is a specialized, sensitive, and functional organ of touch. No other part of the body serves the same purpose. You may be too young to have noticed how pleasurable having an intact dick can be, how it enhances your sexual enjoyment. You

certainly have no frame of reference to the contrary. Therefore, I encourage you to hold on to your lace curtains till you have a little more experience. Besides, if you get cut it removes 50% of the skin of the cock. Do you really have that much to give away?

Finally, I’m of the mind that millions of years of evolution has provided us a covering for our dickhead for a purpose. And to remove it is simply unnatural.

So, Chris, keep your skin unless there’s a medical necessary to remove it!

Good Luck!

Name: Nick
Gender:
Age: 64
Location: Chicago

Are there any vitamins or minerals that will increase the amount of ejaculate? Thanks…your site is very cool and provides a great service!

Why, aren’t you a sweetheart, Nick. Thank you for your kind words.

There sure are loads and loads of companies out there who claim to have products that will increase the volume of a man’s ejaculate. When I search the web for products that promote male sexual enhancement of any sort, I do so as a skeptic. That’s how anyone should go about such a search. If you keep your eyes open and look beyond the pseudo-medical babble you’ll discover two things, as I did.

First, every site I visited advertises their product as a miracle medical breakthrough. Often there is a testimonial or two from some doctor (MD) or doctor (Ph.D.) who substantiates the claims being made. We never really discover who these professionals are, but we are encouraged to take their words as gospel…well because we all know that professional types would never knowingly try and hoodwink us. Exactly! And if you buy that we have some swampland in Louisiana for you too.

Each site also claimed that the product they hawk has undergone rigorous clinical studies proving its efficacy. But they never actually cite any of the studies in question or where these supposed studies were published. Here’s a tip, If there is a sited study and that study was sponsored by the company that produced the product, or is published by them, then you know you’re in trouble.

Second, inevitably each product makes the most outlandish claims. Take this one for instance. I’ll not disclose the product name, because that would be like shooting fish in a barrel. But this is actual copy from one site. Product X will…

  • Intensify ejaculatory contractions due to the strengthening of the vas deferens muscle (the muscle responsible for the expulsion of semen)
  • Increase volume of released ejaculate
  • Produce faster recovery for second orgasms
  • Improve semen quality
  • Produce more satisfying orgasms due to increased contractions and ejaculate
  • Improve prostate health
  • Improve Erectile Dysfunction caused by diabetes
  • Increase sexual well-being and vitality
  • Cure cancer
  • End world hunger

Ok, I made the last two up.

One only has to look closely at the claims to realize they’re hogwash. Besides, they don’t really tell us anything other than the product in question might somehow improve something that may have something to do with male virility. The same could be said about a glass of water. Please read on…

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The truth is, Nick, you can probably do just as well with a modest daily intake of zinc and lecithin supplements. For some, these nutrients have a noticeable effect on the volume of ejaculate. And they’re a whole lot cheaper and easier to get then the trumped-up stuff you see online.

Also keeping yourself hydrated also will also increase the volume of your spunk. It just

stands to reason, the more hydrated you are the easier and more efficiently all your glands responsible for secreting a watery substance, like your prostate, will have getting water from the bloodstream. If you’re dehydrated, your prostate will not have as much water available, and subsequently you’ll spooge considerably less.

Good Luck!

Boys Will Be Boys

Name: James
Gender: Male
Age: 19
Location:
I want to know if I should have sex with a man for the first time.

Well gee, darlin’, I suppose that would all depend on if you are into man-sex or not. If you are, I suppose having your first encounter will be like falling off a log. However, if you’re not into gay sex, then why would you even be considering such a thing.boys kissing

For the sake of argument, let’s just say you are into some hot man-on-man action, or think you are. If that’s the case, I have some questions. Do you have a particular partner in mind? If you do, what is it about this guy that makes you want to get physical with him? If you’re honest with yourself about this, you will probably be able to determine what kind of sexual contact you want to have with the dude. Which brings me to my next set of questions.

What kind of gay sex are you looking to experiment with? Something light, like kissing, making out, mutual masturbation, shared hand-jobs? For more information on this, check out my swell tutorial about hand jobs titled: The Art Of The Humble Hand Job.

Perhaps you’re looking to be a bit more adventurous, like cock sucking. That’s great too. But wait! Would you know how to smoke some pole with grace and ease? If not, check out my tutorial: So Ya Wanna Be A World-Class Cocksucker …Or How To Give The Perfect Blow Job. To find this brilliant expose and lots more information about the humble hummer, go to the CATEGORY pull down menu in the sidebar and look for “ORAL.” Then look for Cock Sucking.

Maybe you’re considering butt fucking. That’s a bit advanced for the gay sex novice, but it’s not unheard of. If I were you, I’d return to the CATEGORY pull down menu in the sidebar and check out the heading “ANAL”. There you will be treated to loads of information about being a good top, like my tutorial, Finessing That Ass Fuck — A Tutorial For a Top. As well as my tutorial for being a good bottom, Liberating The B.O.B Within.

There’s only one thing you absolutely need to know when it comes to ass fuckin, regardless of what position floats your boat. Be sure that whoever is on top uses a condom. And if you don’t know why you need to do that, then darlin’, you’re just not ready for sex with any kind of partner…same sex or otherwise.

Good luck

Name: Tony
Gender: Male
Age: 24
Location:
I’m trying to find out how to get ink marks off my dick without hurting my dickhead.

Whoops! Looks like you need to reevaluate the company you keep when you drink to the point of passing out, my friend.

I realize writin’ shit on a guy’s johnson while he’s unconscious is a hilarious practical joke among the frat-boy crowd. I mean, what could be funnier, right? Of course being on the receiving end of this little prank, like our friend Tony here, is considerably less comical.

i enjoy penisRidding oneself of ink marks, particularly the indelible variety, from one’s privates is a pain — both literally and figuratively. The best one can say about this clean-up chore is that it will probably cure the guy of binge drinking, at least with a bunch of rowdy adolescent-minded companions with Sharpie markers and too much time on their hands.

OK, Tony, here’s what you do. First, apply a liberal coat of baby oil or mineral oil to the effected area. Take your time massaging the oil into your skin. You may discover that this oily massage gives you a woody. That may be the silver lining to your ink-stained cloud. Actually having an erection will help expand the skin of your dickhead and allow the mineral oil to better penetrate the skin. The oil will sink into your skin and help lift the ink stain to the surface.

Follow this part of the treatment with lots of warm soap and water. You should see ink stain lessening.

Next, massage in a liberal mount of rubbing alcohol. Follow this with more warm soap and water.

Continue alternating between mineral oil followed by soap and water and rubbing alcohol followed by soap and water. Always ending the treatment with the soap and water part. A couple applications like this should do the trick. I would, however, recommend that you be as gentle as possible. If the satin persists after two such applications, give your prick a day to rest before attacking the stain again.

Good luck

Hey dr dick! What’s that toll-free podcast voicemail telephone number? Why, it’s: (866) 422-5680. DON’T BE SHY, LET IT FLY!

Nick’s got a problem

I want to share an exchange I had with a fellow named Nick. He’s 30 years old and writes from Canberra.

Nick: “So here’s the situation and some facts. Newly out – i.e. just started hooking up with guys last year (I’m 30 years old) and in fact just started having sex last year.”

Dr Dick: Better late than never, huh Nick? 😉

Nick: “I have meet up with a few guys now but it has mostly been to have a bit of fun – often without sex. When I do have sex I get more enjoyment out of being topped rather than topping.”

DD: I would say that you are in the majority in this regard. There are more bottoms in the gay-dom than tops.

Nick: “When I do try to give anal, I go partially soft and actually cannot feel anything, even though the guy I’m topping can feel me and gets off.”

DD: Again, not a particularly uncommon complaint. If I had to guess you are like a lot of men who are new to gay sex. They often experience what we, in the business, call performance anxiety. I’ve written and spoken a great deal about this. You can find all these posting by going to the CATEGORIES section in the sidebar of my site. Scroll down till you find the heading: SEX THERAPY. Under that heading you will find numerous sub-categories. The one you are looking for is titles: Performance Anxiety.

Nick: “My cock is a fairly decent size (7.5 inches and fairly thick).”

DD: Mmmm, lovely! 😉

Nick: “The same is the case for when I am getting oral — I just cant feel it or enjoy it.”

DD: Again, this is pretty familiar territory for me. I see a lot of this in my practice. Generally speaking, guys get so into their head that they are unable to enjoy the pleasure sensations in the rest of their body.

Nick: “As a result I have never cum with a guy, even though I come close, especially when I am being topped.”

DD: Yep, this is pretty classic. Sounds more and more like performance anxiety.

Nick: “This is proving to be a problem. I have started getting serious with a guy and he is getting frustrated that I don’t cum.”

DD: I can pretty much assure you that things will only get worse if you don’t nip this in the bud, my friend. Have you ever thought about talking to a therapist about this? I really encourage you do so before this becomes a full-blown sexual dysfunction. You may have noticed this already, since you said you’ve visited my site. I offer therapy by phone and online through Skype for my clients who don’t live in Seattle. You can get all the details by clicking the Therapy Available tab in the header above.

Nick: “I get hard just seeing him and kissing him and being close to him, but when it comes time to have sex, I start getting a bit nervous, go soft and loose all the sexual arousal.”

DD: Your use of the word “nervous” is the clincher. You got it bad, sir, and that ain’t good.

Nick: “So I guess my question is — What’s up with not being able to feel anything when I’m on top? Is it just a question of position? Should I try other positions when I’m topping someone?”

DD: It’s not about positions, not at all. It’s about being disconnected from your dick in partnered sex.

Nick: “I have reassured my partner that I am attracted to him (he’s hot!) and that I am turned on but its starting to be an issue — what can I do to get over this?”

DD: In this instance, Nick, there is no substitute for talking to a professional. And there’s no shame in that. You just need to learn how to jettison the anxiety and relax into it your newfound identity as a sexually liberated gay man. There is a program of sensate focus and relaxation exercises that would certainly help you.

Nick: “That’s my rather long rant for tonight.”

DD: Thanks for writing Nick. I wish you well as you address this. Let me know if I can be of further assistance.

Good luck

Maybe Monogamy Isn’t the Only Way to Love

By

In the prologue to her new book, What Love Is and What It Could Be, philosopher Carrie Jenkins is walking through Vancouver, from her boyfriend’s apartment to the home she has with her husband. She wonders at how the romantic love she experiences firsthand is so different than the model presented by popular culture and academic theory alike. “If indeed romantic love must be monogamous, then I am making some kind of mistake when I say, ‘I’m in love with you’ — meaning romantically — to both my partners,” she writes. “I am not lying, because I am genuinely trying to be as honest as I can. But if romantic love requires monogamy, then despite my best intentions, what I’m saying at those moments is not, strictly speaking, true.”

Her book examines the long, sometimes awkward legacy of philosophers’ thinking on romantic love, and compares that with a new subfield in close-relationships research — consensual nonmonogamy, or CNM. While singers and thinkers alike have been riffing on a “one and only” for decades, she argues that space is being made in the cultural conversation to “question the universal norm of monogamous love, just as we previously created space to question the universal norm of hetero love.” These norms are more fluid than they appear: In Jenkins’s lifetime alone same-sex and cross-ethnicity relationships have become common.

When I asked Jenkins to describe how it feels to have both a husband and a boyfriend — she rejects the “primary relationship” moniker altogether — she said that it’s like having more loving relationships in your life, like a close family member or friend. She and her boyfriend, whom she’s been with for about five years, used to work in the same building; he was teaching creative writing on the floor above her philosophy department, though they didn’t meet until they matched on OkCupid. While both men have met each other, they’re not close; Jenkins describes the relationship as having a “V shape,” rather than a triangle. Both helped in the development of the book: husband refining philosophical arguments; boyfriend editing the writing, and helping her to sound like a normal person, rather than an academic.

Still, CNM faces lots of stigma; even the study of it is stigmatized. Yet in the limited yet rich vein of research out there, the evidence suggests that it’s a style that, in some populations, leads to greater relationship satisfaction than monogamy. In any case, the researchers tell me, the insights into what makes more-than-two relationships work can be applied to any given dyad, given the communicative finesse required when three or more hearts are involved.

In a forthcoming Perspectives in Psychological Science paper, Terri Conley, a University of Michigan psychologist who’s driven the field, defines CNM as “a relational arrangement in which partners agree that it is acceptable to have more than one sexual and/or romantic relationship at the same time.” That’s distinguished from the “polygamy” practiced by some religious groups, where it’s not always clear whether wives can opt out of the relationship.

I was surprised to discover how common it is: A 2016 study of two nationally representative samples of single Americans — of 3,905 and 4,813 respondents, respectively — found in each case that about one in five people had practiced it during their lifetime. A 2016 YouGov poll found that 31 percent of women and 38 percent of men thought their ideal relationship would be CNM in some way. Other research indicates that around 4 to 5 percent of Americans in relationships are in some sort of CNM, be it swinging, where partners have sex with people outside their relationship at parties and the like; an open relationship, where it’s cool to have sex with other people but not grow emotionally attached to them; or polyamory, where both partners approve of having close emotional, romantic, and sexual relationships outside of the couple itself. People are curious, too: From 2006 to 2015, Google searches for polyamory and open relationships went up. Other data points to how sticking to the boundaries of monogamy doesn’t come easily to lots of people: A 2007 survey of 70,000 Americans found that one in five had cheated on their current partner.

Jenkins says that as a tenured philosophy professor at the University of British Columbia, she’s in a unique, privileged position to openly talk about being in a nonmonogamous marriage. She’d been interested in being in more than one relationship ever since she can remember, but it used to seem like some sort of impossible dream situation — she didn’t realize it could be an option in her real life until she was about 30. (She’s now 37.)

Jenkins met her husband, Jonathan, who’s also a philosopher, back in 2009, at a philosophy workshop that he organized at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland; they later got married in the same hall the conference took place. They took one another’s last names as middle names.

Now married for almost eight years, they talked about polyamory early on, though defining the relationship that way came later. As philosophers are wont to do, they soon wrote a bit of a manifesto about their arrangement. They observed that even if their wedding guests were woke in any number of ways — not batting an eyelid if a colleague was gay or bi, eschewing heteronormative assumptions, and the like — there’s still the shared assumption that a nonmonogamous relationship is less sexually safe and less committed than a regular ol’ monogamous one. “Even our very liberal pocket of our relatively liberal society is massively — and, to us, surprisingly— mononormative,” they write. “Acquaintances, friends, and colleagues are constantly assuming that our relationship, and indeed every relationship that they think of as ‘serious’, is a sexually monogamous one.”

To Jenkins, the biggest struggle with polyamory isn’t from managing multiple relationships — though Google Calendar is a crucial tool — but rather the strong, sometimes violently negative reactions that she gets, especially online. When I spoke with her by phone, she was struck by a comment to a YouTube interview of hers, where a pseudonymous user invited “everyone” to read her column in the Chronicle of Higher Education about having multiple loves.

“THIS WOMAN IS A DISGUSTING ANIMAL,” the troll wrote. “Every bit as twisted and queer as the Mormons with their multiple lives [sic]. This femme-pig is the spectral opposite of Trump; a far far left-wing freak that desires to completely overthrow Western Christian Civilization.” Jenkins walked me through a deep reading of the bile: Bundling in politics — the “left-wing freak” bit — with the monogamy norms signals to her that there’s a judgment of what it means to be a good person in here, since politics is about living correctly, collectively. Plus “if you’re an animal, you’re out of the range of humanity,” she says. She’s also gets a lot of “get herpes and die, slut” suggestions, she says, which speaks to the hypersexualization of CNM. Nonmonogamy leads to lots of sex, the presumption goes, and with that STIs, and it proceeds from there. The way news articles covering CNM tend to be illustrated with images of three or four people in a bath or bed doesn’t help, either.

“The way we normally think about romantic love, we don’t imagine that it’s entirely about sex,” she says. “For a lot of people sex is a part of it; if we’re just having a hookup or a friend with benefits, we don’t call that romantic love. When it comes to polyamorous relationships, if you’re in love with more than one person, the same applies — to fall in love with someone is not the same as to sleep with them. We’re clear with that distinction in monogamous relationships, but in CNM that distinction between love and sex gets collapsed.”

Researchers who have studied stigma around CNM have found lots. In a 2012 paper, Conley and her colleagues found that monogamous relationships were better rated on every metric by different sets of the population, including nonmonogamous people. When 132 participants recruited online read relationship vignettes that were identical except for one being monogamous and the other not, the CNM was seen as riskier sexually, more lonely, less acceptable, and having a lower relationship quality. People in CNM were also seen as worse with non-relational things, like making sure to walk their dog or paying their taxes on time. Amy Moors, a co-author on the paper, says it had some of the biggest effect sizes she’s seen in her research. Elisabeth Sheff, a leading polyamory researcher who left academia for lack of grant funding, now frequently serves as an expert witness in custody battles; she says that often a grandmother or a former spouse will find out that a co-parent has multiple relationships, be scandalized, and demand to take the kids — even though her longitudinal research, reported in The Polyamorists Next Door: Inside Multiple-Partner Relationships and Families, indicates that kids who grow up in polyamorous families aren’t any more screwed up than average American children.

That same paper finds that there were no differences in relationship functioning between monogamous and nonmonogamous couples. People in CNM had lower jealousy and higher trust — yet also lower sexual satisfaction with their partner. Polyamorists were more satisfied than people in open relationships, perhaps because it’s hard to block of feelings for people you sleep with frequently. Polyamorous people were a special case, with higher satisfaction, commitment, trust, and passionate love than monogamous individuals, though they had lower sexual satisfaction. CNM people also had higher sexual satisfaction with their secondary partners than their primary partners, though that difference fell away when controlling for relationship time, with primary relationships averaging three times the length of secondary relationships.

“Overall, the standard for human responses for relationships is habituation,” Conley says. “That involves a loss of sexual attraction, and we can tell that from stats from therapy. And to the extent that a couple is frustrated sexually, it spills over to other parts of life.”

There are other explanations for high satisfaction scores for polyamorous people, she adds. It could be that they’re just acting out a social desirability bias, given that they’re participating in a study about CNM and want the lifestyle to look good; it could also be that people who enter into polyamory have self-selected themselves into a hypercommunicative population — all the poly self-help books emphasize the importance the need to explicitly talk things out. “People interested in polyamory are more relationship-y than the average person,” she says. “They like thinking about relationships, talking about relationships. That’s great in monogamy, but needed in polyamory.”

All this suggests the kind of people that are the right fit for CNM. Beyond being relationship-y, a Portuguese study out this year found that people with a high sociosexuality, or disposal to casual sex, had less relationship satisfaction when in a monogamous relationship, but those effects disappeared if they were in CNM. Still, they were just as committed to their relationships — signaling that exclusivity and commitment may not be one and the same. Harvard sexologist Justin Lehmiller has found that people who are more erotophilic — i.e., that love sex — will be a better fit for CNM; same with if they’re sensation-seeking.

Amy Moors, the Purdue psychologist, has found that people with higher avoidant attachment — where you’re just not that into intimacy — have positive feelings about and a willingness to engage in polyamory, but they were less likely to actually partake of it. While a correlational study, Moors explained that from a subjective perspective, it makes sense: “When you have avoidant attachment, you like a lot of emotional distance, physical distance, time by yourself,” Moors says, which is not a fit for the relationship-y remands of a poly lifestyle. Also, there’s reason to believe that folks who have relational anxiety, and are thus sensitive to separation, might be prone to the jealousy that’s known to flare up in CNM, though it’s not like that doesn’t happen in monogamy, too.

What motivated Jenkins to write What Love Is, she says, was a gap — or silence — in the philosophical literature, that polyamory was rarely discussed or even acknowledged as a possibility. “Noticing these philosophical silences and denials, while simultaneously being made aware of how society at large viewed me for being a polyamorous woman, made me realize there was something important here that I needed to do,” she says. “To do it meant bringing my personal life and my philosophical work into a conversation with one another. The familiar slogan says that the personal is political, but the personal is philosophical, too.”

Two key themes emerge from reading the book: that love is dual-layered, with social scripts overlaying evolutionary, physiological impulses. And that the “romantic mystique,” like the feminine one before it, assumes that love is mysterious and elusive and corrupted from examination — a sentiment that protects the status quo. But with investigation, and conversation, the mechanics of love reveal themselves, and norms can change socially, and be tailored locally. Like Jenkins, you can custom-fit your relationships to your life — if you dare to talk about them.

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