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Women Got ‘Married’ Long Before Gay Marriage

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Two women in the 1890s

In 1880, on the first anniversary of her marriage, author Sarah Orne Jewett penned a romantic poem to her partner. “Do you remember, darling, a year ago today, when we gave ourselves to each other?” she wrote. “We will not take back the promises we made a year ago.”

Jewett wasn’t addressing her husband—she was writing to her future wife, Annie Adams Fields. Over a century before same-sex marriage became the law of the land, Jewett and Adams lived together in a “Boston marriage,” a committed partnership between women.

They weren’t the only ones: For several years near the turn of the 20th century, same-sex marriage was relatively common and even socially acceptable. These women shared kisses, hugs and their lives—but today, few remember these pioneers of same-sex relationships.

Though homosexuality was taboo during the 19th century, intense and romantic friendships among women were common. At the time, women were encouraged to exist in a sphere separate from that of men. Public life, work and earning money were seen as the purview of men.

Two young women, 1896.

This ideology isolated women from the outside world, but it also brought them into close contact with one another. As women were viewed as devoted, asexual and gentle, it was acceptable for them to do things like kiss, hold hands or link arms, and openly express their affection for one another. At newly founded women’s colleges, for example, students gave one another bouquets of flowers, love poems and trinkets and openly declared their love. Having a crush on another woman wasn’t blinked at—it was expected and considered part of women’s college culture.

A group of New England women took this concept one step further by “getting married.” Though they didn’t commit to one another legally, they combined households, lived together and supported one another for the long term. These independent women pushed the boundaries of what society deemed acceptable for women by attending college, finding careers and living outside their parents’ home. But since they did so with other women, their activities were deemed socially acceptable.

In 1885, novelist Henry James explored the phenomenon in his book The Bostonians. The novel, which pokes fun at independent women, features a relationship between Verena Tarrant, an outspoken feminist, and Olive Chancellor, who becomes fascinated with the fiery speaker. They form a partnership and move in with one another, but when Verena decides to marry Olive’s cousin the relationship falls apart. The popular novel is thought to have contributed to the use of the term “Boston marriage,” though James never used the phrase in his book.

Michèle André and Alice Sapritch in “The Bostonians”, the drama adapted by Jean-Louis Curtis from Henry James’s novel.

Boston marriages offered equality, support and independence to wealthy women who were determined to push outside of the domestic sphere. They also offered romantic love: Though each relationship was different, women often referred to one another as husband or wife, kissed and hugged, wrote passionate letters when they were apart and shared beds. However, this was not necessarily seen as sexual in the 19th century since women were assumed not to have the physical desires of men.

Were these women lesbians in the contemporary sense of the word? Though we can’t glimpse into the bedroom behaviors of people of the past, it’s certain that many of the women in romantic friendships and Boston marriages did share sexual contact.

For some women, Boston marriages were used as a front for relationships we’d see as lesbian in the 21st century. As historian Stephanie Coontz tells NPR, “a pair of women who actually had a sexual relationship could easily manage to be together without arousing suspicion that it was anything more than feminine affection.” But for others, sex didn’t appear to be part of the equation. Rather, Boston marriages offered something even more appealing—independence.

Ironically, the practice faded as people became aware of lesbianism. At the turn of the century, the concept of “sexual inversion” made it possible to categorize relationships that had once been considered socially acceptable as sexually deviant.

Though Jewett and Fields lived together for over two decades, Jewett’s publishers seem to have edited out telling details from her letters to Fields, a society chronicler, to prevent readers from assuming they were lesbians.

It would take 100 more years for same-sex marriage to be legally accepted in the United States. But even in death, the commitment and love of same-sex partners from the 19th century lives on, like that of American novelist Willa Cather and her longtime companion, Edith Lewis. The pair lived together as committed partners for almost 40 years—and now they’re buried together in a New Hampshire cemetery. If that isn’t love, what is?

Complete Article HERE!

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Gay people are better at sex, according to science

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By Ryan Butcher

Gay people might have faced generations of persecution, harassment and social torment, but finally, science has dealt them a decent hand: they’re apparently better at sex.

We’re being facetious, of course. But research published this year suggests that the above is true.

A study looking at the differences in orgasm frequency among gay, bisexual and heterosexual men and women suggests that same-sex partners are better at bringing their lovers to ecstasy than their heterosexual counterparts.

This is reliant on the premise that good sex is defined by the frequency of orgasms.

The study, published by a group of researchers, including human sexuality expert David Frederick, assistant professor of psychology at Chapman University, says that although heterosexual men were most likely to say they always orgasmed during sex (95 percent), gay men and bisexual men weren’t too far behind (89 percent and 88 percent) respectively.

On top of that, 86 percent of gay women said they always orgasmed, compared with just 66 percent of bisexual women and 65 percent of heterosexual women.

By looking at the higher likelihood of orgasm for gay men and women – and again, on the premise that good sex is defined by the frequency of orgasms – sex between two men or two women could be better than sex between a man and a woman.

Of course, the other glaringly obvious conclusion from this study is that men in general, regardless of sexuality, orgasm more than women, as pointed out by Professor Frederick, who told CNN: “What makes women orgasm is the focus of pretty intense speculation. Every month, dozens of magazines and online articles highlight different ways to help women achieve orgasm more easily. It is the focus of entire books. For many people, orgasm is an important part of sexual relationships.”

The study also found that women were more likely to orgasm if they received more oral sex, had longer duration of sex, were more satisfied in their relationship, asked for what they wanted in bed, praised their partner for something they did in bed, tried new positions, had anal stimulation, acted out fantasies and even expressed love during sex.

Women were also more likely to orgasm if their last sexual encounter included deep kissing and foreplay, as well as vaginal intercourse.

Professor Frederick also suggested that the reason between the orgasm gap could be sociocultural or even evolutionary.

Women have higher body dissatisfaction than men and it interferes with their sex life more. This can impact sexual satisfaction and ability to orgasm if people are focusing more on these concerns than on the sexual experience.

There is more stigma against women initiating sex and expressing what they want sexually. One thing we know is that in many couples, there is a desire discrepancy: One partner wants sex more often than the other. In heterosexual couples, that person is usually the man.

Either way, although this study is good news for gay and bisexual people – regardless of gender – if there’s one thing it proves it’s that even when it comes to orgasms, the patriarchy has struck again.

Complete Article HERE!

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One third of young people consider themselves gay or bisexual: study

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By Andrea Downey

A third of young people describe themselves as gay or bisexual, a new survey has revealed.

Whereas just seven percent of baby boomers are equally attracted to both sexes or “mostly” attracted to the opposite sex — marking a stark generational shift.

About 14 percent of those aged 16 to 22 say they are mostly attracted to the opposite sex, while nine percent say they are equally attracted to both sexes.

And just one percent of baby boomers said they were attracted to both sexes.

The generational shift in sexuality was shown in research carried out for the BBC by polling company Ipsos Mori.

They asked 1,000 young people aged 16 to 22 and 672 baby boomers — people in their 50s and 60s — about their sexual preferences.

About 66 percent of young people said they were only heterosexual, compared to 88 percent of baby boomers.

The pollsters also asked samples of Gen Z (1990s to mid-2000s,) millennials and Gen X (1961-1981) about their sexual orientation.

Among Gen Z 24 percent said they were equally attracted to both sexes or mostly attracted to the opposite sex.

Some 18 percent of Gen Y said they were equally attracted to both sexes or mostly attracted to the opposite sex with 71 percent saying they were only attracted to the opposite sex.

And in Gen X eight percent said they were mostly attracted to the opposite sex or equally attracted to both, with 85 percent saying they were only heterosexual.

Some 85 percent of Gen X, the generation that came after the baby boomers, said they were only heterosexual.

The number of people saying they are only heterosexual has gradually reduced through the generations.

But the “boxes” of heterosexual or homosexual simply “don’t fit human sexuality,” according to sex therapist Louise Mazanti.

She said: “Yes, we’re seeing a trend of questioning the norms of sexual orientation. Young people are increasingly resisting the confinement of being defined as either hetero or homosexual.”

“These boxes simply don’t fit human sexuality and never did.”

“In my opinion, they are entirely man-made.”

“It’s time to admit that we might have sexual gender preferences, but if we gave ourselves permission it’s never the genitals that define who we are attracted to.”

Complete Article HERE!

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GQ Suggests ‘Having Sex with Men Doesn’t Make You Gay’

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In 2017, it’s weird to think that straight men are still asking the question, “Does having sex with a man make me gay?” Our friends at GQ recently investigated a bit deeper into the subject.

GQ interviewed a few guys who identify as straight who’ve all had same-sex sex with other men (gay or straight). Even after having sex with men, they still lean towards the straight side of the spectrum and identify as heterosexual.

So, what makes someone gay? According to GQ, it depends on how you define the “label.” In this day and age, everything has a label — too many if you ask me. Regardless of social labeling, it’s important to recognize how people associate that label within their self-identities — “if we remove the label of ‘gay’ from sex acts we traditionally assume are only the domain of gay men, does this mean you can take part in them and still be straight?”

James, a 28-year-old man who participated in the study, said he used to get regular blowjobs from a gay pal when he was a teenager. As a 17-year old, blowjobs weren’t exactly hidden around every corner, but for a coming of age teen with raging hormones, it seemed like the perfect deal for both him and his straight counterpart.

Another participant named Mark, also 28, said that his colleague’s boyfriend once went down on him in a club bathroom. Another time, he got a blowjob from a stranger in front of his girlfriend at a sex party. Even now, he says he knows he’s straight.

GQ asserts that at the end of the day, having sex with a man isn’t a sign of queerness — just as imagining pushing your evil boss under a truck means you’re a homicidal maniac. When people find themselves in sexually charged situations, primal instinct takes over, and shit happens.

Is sex just sex? If you ask me, the answer is yes.

There’s a difference between sexuality and orientation. Sexuality exists within us all; sometimes, we have sex with people we don’t necessarily find physically attractive; at times we do it to pass the time, and other times we have it because we crave sex. This is normal human sexuality — gay, straight, male, female; we can get off on all of it any given time.

Having sex with a man doesn’t mean you’re gay, but don’t forget the sacrifices your gay brothers make so you can have that freedom to choose.

However, orientation is the sexual compass we use to navigate the sensual universe; it’s who we are in our hearts. It’s how our spirits identify itself in life, and that affects whom we love, how we love and how we live. It’s larger than just sex.

“Gay sex acts aren’t something to be ashamed of,” GQ suggests. “If you’re man enough to do it and still call yourself straight, be man enough to talk about it. Don’t let it be a dirty little secret; own your sexuality — whatever that may by — with pride.”

Men are sexual people. Why have we created this stupid notion that getting off diminishes our manhood? Trust me; it’s an ideology crafted by religion, cultural norms and, most importantly, habit.

Let’s break the habit.

Complete Article HERE!

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What straight couples can learn from gay couples

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When I embarked on the seven-year journey that would result in a trilogy of comedy shows and my first book, I had no idea what a huge part sexual orientation would play.

Yes, I’m a lesbian and that has influenced much of how I’ve socialised and dated for the 20 years or so since I came out. Yet, as I talked to more and more LGBT people – particularly those a little older than me who had experienced way more discrimination – I realised that being forced to think ‘outside the box’ around the concepts of love and family had resulted in some very self-aware, savvy and compassionate strategies for coping with the complexities of human relationships.

While I welcome the progressive legal changes that have seen a huge rise in acceptance for LGBT people, I worry that a blanket assumption that we all aspire to marry, have children and be ‘normal’ means that we might lose sight of some of the very best of these pioneering ideas.

Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin used the term ‘consciously uncoupling’

Open relationships can be incredibly successful. Gay men fairly typically negotiate sexually open partnerships and have done for many decades. However, what is less widely-reported is just how good they are at remaining emotionally faithful to a primary partner. Their separation rates are the lowest of any section of society. Figures from 2013, from the Office of National Statistics, showed that civil partnership dissolution rates were twice as high for female couples as they were for male. While early divorce statistics in the UK evidence that ratio increasing further still.

So what are the relationships lessons straight couples can learn from the gay community?

1. An ex can be a best friend

Long before American author and family therapist Katherine Woodward Thomas devised the phrase ‘conscious uncoupling’ and Gwyneth Paltrow made it famous, lesbians were the godmothers of the concept of compassionate endings.

Recently, Dr Jane Traies conducted the first comprehensive study of older lesbians in the UK. She told me, “It’s not uncommon for a lesbian’s ex-partner to be her best friend.” She described one couple, now in their seventies, one of who had previously been in a straight marriage. The other had always been openly gay and had many more significant exes, who they would regularly spend time with. The central relationship seemed to be richly rewarded by having this framework of other ongoing connections supporting it.

2. ‘Living Apart Together’ can be great

Although the idea of ‘LAT’ couples is now more widely discussed, it was the LGBT community who originally piloted this idea. As my friend, the gay poet Dominic Berry, points out, “Perhaps if people are doing something widely viewed as deviant, making another deviance from the norm isn’t too big a jump.”

A lot of the automatic assumptions that are made about relationships – that you must get married, be monogamous, have children, move in together – have been cheerfully dispensed with. In many cases, an alternative romantic framework suited the individuals in the relationship much better.

Some straight couples can be reluctant to talk openly about sexuality

3. Talking about love, desire and sex is good

When I conducted a survey for my comedy show, I asked respondents if they actually  discussed sex and fidelity with a partner. One straight woman wrote, ‘Good lord no! It’s one thing to do the deed but we’re too uptight to actually talk about it. Thank goodness.’

My gay friends, by contrast, tend to have spent so many years agonising about their sexual identity that discussion of it with friends and families has been essential as part of the ‘coming out’ process. In many cases, this had lead to a readiness to air other really important questions around desires, boundaries and consent once they were in an adult relationship.

4. ‘Family’ doesn’t have to mean blood

When I arrived in London as a young student in the Nineties, the LGBT community provided me with the strongest sense of belonging I have ever experienced.

In the face of prejudice and discrimination, gay people historically partied hard together and took more care of one another within the bubble of separatism. They cultivated a concept of ‘friends as family’, something the writer Armistead Maupin refers to as ‘logical family’.

5. Love isn’t like it is in the movies

Because films depicting same-sex relationships have generally been far-removed from the sugary rom-com ideal, gay people are more pragmatic and realistic about the extreme challenges of falling in and out of love and staying together.

In 2017, we may not be facing quite as much adversity as the characters depicted in Carol or Brokeback Mountain, but we know that the ‘fairy tale’ romance is a load of old hokum.

6. Rules are made to be broken

When the activism group Gay Liberation Front formed in the early Seventies, they gleefully celebrated their difference from the oppressive, beige ‘norms’ that most of society were having to follow. This resulted in an inclusive, embracing atmosphere and a sense of fun and freedom for anyone who wanted to reinvent and rethink traditional relationships and try out different models of being together.

Complete Article HERE!

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