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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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These Volunteers Give Handjobs to the Severely Disabled

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By Nelson Moura and Yun jie Zou

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Hand Angels helping Andy from his wheelchair into bed.

Andy is a muscular dystrophy patient who lives with his parents in southern Taiwan. Due to his severe physical disability, he was home-schooled and couldn’t leave his house alone, so never really had the opportunity to develop either an active social life or a romantic relationship.

When the Taiwanese NGO Hand Angel—an organization promoting the sexual rights of disabled people—first spoke to Andy, they realized this situation meant he’d also never been able to have a frank conversation with anyone about his sexuality. And as a young gay man who didn’t want to speak to his parents about his feelings, this wasn’t exactly the healthiest situation to be in.

So, over the course of a few months, representatives from the NGO counseled Andy online, helping him to understand his own sexuality and place in the world. Next, they “smuggled” him out of his house and took him to a motel for a handjob.

Taiwan—officially known as the Republic of China—has one of the best health systems in the world; its million or so disabled citizens receive some of the most thorough medical attention you’ll find, including everything from long-term care to traditional herbal medicine. What they don’t receive from this system, however, is any kind of aid when it comes to slightly more intimate issues, namely: orgasms.

It was for this reason that a group of social campaigners and volunteers took it upon themselves to create Hand Angel, an NGO whose main service is giving handjobs to the severely disabled. Members say that their work raises awareness of the fact that disabled people are often depicted as desexualized—as well as having their sexuality constantly neglected—despite the fact they share exactly the same desires as anybody else.

In the Netherlands, the national health system provides a grant scheme for people with disabilities to receive public money to pay for sexual services up to 12 times a year. In Taiwan, sex remains a taboo, and some Buddhists—the sovereign state’s primary religion—believe that someone suffering from a disability means they’re paying for bad deeds in a past life. So not the best mix for those like Andy, really.

“I can’t tell my parents that I also have sexual desires, and I can’t come out of the closet in front them,” he told me. “My family’s care puts lots of pressure [on me] and sabotages me from normal romantic relations.”

Vincent, the 50-year-old founder of Hand Angel, lost his legs to polio and says his disability allows him to better empathize with applicants’ needs, without any of the patronization disabled people can sometimes face. He emphasized that “disabled people share the same physical and emotional needs as any others, and therefore should have the right to pursue them.”

In order to decide who’s entitled to use their services, Hand Angel first assess an applicant’s level of disability. The person has to be recognized by the government as having a serious physical impairment, but can’t be mentally disabled. Once they’re cleared, the service is totally free, but each applicant can only receive three bouts of sexual stimulation.

Volunteers—the group of 10 people actually giving the handjobs—come from varied backgrounds; some are gay, some are straight, some are disabled, some are PhD students, some are social campaigners and some work in the media. It’s made very clear to me that these volunteers only use their hands for second-base kind of stuff—that hugging, caressing, and kissing on the face are all fine, but anything penetrative (fingering, oral sex, vaginal sex, and anal sex) is not.

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The hands of Hand Angel volunteers

When Hand Angel took Andy to the motel, the volunteer caressed him thoroughly and gave him a handjob. He described the intimacy being so intense that, for a minute, he believed he was in love. He knew it was only temporary, of course, but the experience provided him with an emotional connection he’d never felt before.

This is part of Hand Angel’s mission: not just providing a sexual service, but also bringing forth an emotional and social transformation in applicants.

“[Andy] was very introverted before, and didn’t really know how to interact with people,” said Vincent. “However, through months of talking online, I discovered something changed inside him. When our group was reported by the media and got lots of criticism, I saw Andy joined the public debate and argued with those [critical] internet users, trying to illustrate his opinions.”

In Taiwan, where a discussion of sexuality is restrained by strict moral codes, there was also plenty of mockery leveled at Hand Angel. Internet users starting posting comments like: “Do they also offer ‘Mouth Angels?'”; “I’m retarded; can I apply for Hand Angel service, too?”; and “Only three times in a lifetime?”

There even appeared to be negativity on an official level. The executive secretary of the Taipei United Social Wealth Alliance, Yi-Ting Hu, commented on the NGO, saying: “Speaking from personal opinion, I don’t think we need to bring up disabled people’s sexuality as an independent issue. There are more important and urgent problems we need to deal with. Don’t you think if you advocate their sexual rights, it is like another form of discrimination?”

Of course, he seemed to only be proving Hand Angels’ point; to suggest that advocating a disabled person’s sexual rights is a form of discrimination is, first, patronizing in itself, and secondly, just completely bizarre—how is consensually receiving a handjob in any way discriminatory?

Andy summed it up: “I didn’t feel I was the target of pity. The whole process was full of respect and equality. This might be deemed as controversial by society, but as long as you’re willing to look into it, what we desire is no different from others. Just ask yourself: do you need to consult your parents before having sex?”

Complete Article HERE!

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Balls and Scrotums: Low Hangers and Tight Purses

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Hey sex fans,

I found a sweet article that compliments one of my most popular posts evah:  Great Balls of Fire!

by the balls

Balls, testes, testicles, plums, bollocks, gonads, knackers – all held in the scrotum, cum-sac, nut sack, ball bag or whatever your favourite description might be. It’s been my observation that balls run a distant second to the all-conquering shaft and cock-head when it comes to guys checking each other out. When was the last time you heard or read the line similar to “great balls mate – I’d love to suck on those juicy plums while I wank off” and if you did, would you think it a bit bizarre, a bit off colour? While cock size talk is paramount talk about balls just doesn’t do it for most guys. Pity, as you can be missing a treat.

  • Our family jewels, our package is something many of us take for granted, so let’s take a few moments to reflect on the similarities as well as the differences.
  • They produce sperm and testosterone – and that equates to an explosion of taste as well as giving us our horniness. That’s the best tag team I can imagine.
  • They can hang evenly, but more commonly they hang with one higher than the other, normally the higher one being the right one. What about your own? Checked lately?
  • Temperature variations can make a difference – the warmer the environment the lower the hang. Our jocks can affect our balls and the sac by being too tight and/or too hot. Hence the enormous variation in underwear and the inevitable journalist question – “Briefs or boxers?” Tension can be another factor in tightening the ball sac.
  • And for the scientifically inclined: Sperm is most prolifically produced where the temperature is 3.6 degrees lower than body temperature, that is at 35 degrees Celsius or 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Hairy balls and shaving. Scrotums generally have some degree of hair on them. Have you noticed how hot and sticky shaved balls can be on a hot day? Hair can assist in the cooling effect on the balls. So weigh up shaving for sexual intrigue and sexual tension against comfort and cool balls. Read more about shaving in my earlier blog: “Wax, Shave or Trim?” (February 2014).trucknuts
  • The majority of us have two balls, but we could adequately function on one. An artificial one can be inserted into the scrotum for cosmetic reasons.
  • Men can get testicular cancer. Remember to check your balls every few weeks for any signs of abnormality. If there’s any indication of a lump, a swelling or any form of pain, go immediately to your doctor. Testicular cancer needs to be detected early but with any of these indicators you must appreciate that it needs investigating for whatever reason there is the oddity. Whatever your age, don’t be embarrassed about discussing it with your medical authority. A good time to check them is when you’re under a shower.
  • Cockrings and other penile and scrotal devices can have a painful and devastating effect on the balls if blood supply is interrupted or restricted. They should only be worn for limited amounts of time, with 30-45 minutes being a maximum. Read more in my blog of September 2013 “Cock Ring / Penis Ring – A Beginner’s Guide To A Stronger Erection!”
  • Bruised balls – if your partner has squeezed your balls too hard, you’ve slapped your balls too hard against a friendly buttock while you’ve fucked or otherwise over-exerted or bruised your balls then you may need to seek medical advice. Depending on the severity, bruising tends to dissipate of its own accord over a day or two.
  • Big balls – research is beginning to suggest that possibly men with big balls are in fact producing a higher rate of testosterone which can lead to heart disease in some circumstances.

With such a huge variety of balls and scrotum on our male partners, just be prepared that as you sexually explore more and more men, you’ll be amazed at the variety on offer. Lick and gently nip the scrotum. Individually or together gently roll the balls in your mouth. Let cock-rings and other toys stretch and otherwise highlight the plums – then polish them with the palm of your hand. Suck on an ice-cube before putting your cold mouth on to his balls and see the reaction. Notice the reaction in some men when their nipples are teased or squeezed that there is a direct connection to the balls and his shaft.

Whilst I acknowledge the overwhelming interest in body muscles, cock sizes and inviting arse cheeks, perhaps we should be checking out his balls with equal enthusiasm. I know I do!

Complete Article HERE!

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A Story With A Happy Ending

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Name: Nathan
Gender: Male
Age: 37
Location: Dallas
I’m a married guy with a great wife and 3 beautiful kids. A couple of weeks ago, I went to a masseuse I found on Craigslist. I don’t have a lot of experience with massage and thought I would be safe going to a guy instead of a woman. The guy was really nice and did a good massage, but somehow I popped wood near the end of the massage. I was really embarrassed, but he was like totally ok with that. Then he asked if I wanted a happy ending. I didn’t even know what that was till he started to massage my ass and blow me. I have to admit it was totally amazing. I never felt anything like it before in my life. My wife sometimes will give me oral sex, but nothing like this. I blew a load like nothing I ever did before. I though my insides were coming out of my cock. I was amazed and scared and confused and I could hardly sit up. Then the guy said I had a real healthy prostate. I said, WHAT? And he said he was massaging my prostate while he was sucking me off. I can’t stop thinking about this. I want more but I feel really guilty and I’m afraid this is going to make me gay.

What a great story, Nathan. But we need to clear up a few things. A masseuse is a female practitioner of massage. A masseur is a male practitioner. This is a common enough mistake, but I thought you should know the proper usage for further reference. Because you can see how a little unintended slip like this will make all the difference in the world. If you say a masseuse gave you a blowjob that’s totally different from getting a blowjob from a masseur, don’t ‘cha know.massage_butt.jpg

I’m gonna also guess you never had a prostate massage before this encounter with the masseur. A prostate massage coupled with your first blowjob from a guy…hell, you are lucky your insides didn’t shoot out your dick along with your spooge. I’m joking of course, but it does stand to reason that you had such an intense and explosive orgasm and ejaculation. That’s precisely what a prostate massage does, honey.

Now, let’s see if we can figure out why you can’t stop thinking about this. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to analyze that either. This was a peak sexual experience for you. I mean, beside the mind-blowing release, the means by which you had this orgasm — the guy’s finger in your ass and the guy’s mouth on your dick were both unexpected and apparently unprecedented. So I figure you had very little time to cognitively respond to the stimuli before things came to their explosive climax, so to speak, as it were. And you did say you were already relaxed and aroused by the massage, right?

I’d be willing to bet that if you had some emotional distance from the experience you would realize your body was simply responding to the stimulus it was receiving. Your dick and your prostate weren’t able to distinguish the gender of the person diddlin’ your ass and suckin’ your dick. And since your brain was occupied with all these new sensations you had little time, if any to process and possibly protest. And maybe you wouldn’t have protested even if you could. Maybe you wanted to take this little walk on the wild side. Trust me, lots of guys do.

come as you areNow that the event has passed, you have plenty of time to process. And process you are…to within an inch of its life…if ya ask me. This experience looms so large for you because it is forbidden fruit, so to speak. It upsets the apple cart of your cozy and predictable heterosexuality. I mean it’s one thing to pop wood on a massage table. It’s something totally different to blow a wad while a guy is givin’ you head.

And now that you have all this time on your hands to keep pouring over and over this in you head, the event has taken on a proportion it probably wouldn’t have otherwise.

Let me put your mind to rest, one blowjob from a guy…even an earth-shatterin, prostate-massagin’ blowjob, like the kind you got from this fabulous masseur…won’t make you gay. Nor does wanting to repeat the experience make you gay. All this experience really tells us is that you like a good blowjob and you now know where to get a really fantastic one when next you want one.

Think about it this way. Say you went to a Chinese restaurant and, to your great surprise, had the best dim sum ever. You were so impressed with the food that you’ve been eager to return to this particular eatery for another go at those tasty vittles. Does this desire for yummy dim sum make you Chinese? I don’t think so…that is unless you were Chinese before you went to the restaurant.

Finally, the guilt you’re experiencing, where might that be coming from? There are so many sources one would be hard-pressed to come up with an exhaustive list. But let’s look at the top contenders.hands & butt

  • You’re married with a family. You had a sexual experience…unplanned as it might have been…with someone other than your wife. BINGO!
  • Our culture’s buttoned-down sex and gender stereotypes — who can do what to whom. BINGO!
  • The dictates of our sex-negative society about what is proper and what is not in terms of sexual exploration and experimentation. BINGO!
  • The shame of possibly being labeled a fag. BINGO!
  • The fear of your own desires and where they might lead you. BINGO!
  • The allure of the forbidden and the explosive charge the illicit. BINGO.

The experience you had with that masseur, Nathan, is so highly charged, both culturally and sexually, that it will take some while for you to find your balance once again. In the interim, my I suggest that you postpone any judgments about yourself or what the incident might imply about you until you’ve have some emotional distance and the time to calmly process all of this. In the final analysis, I think you’ll come to the conclusion that this is a relatively harmless sexual outlet. The masseur is providing you a service…I mean beyond the obvious. He is providing you a safe, secure non-judgmental environment to exercise and expand your sexual repertoire. Think of it like a place you go to learn about the wonders of sexual dim sum.

Good luck

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No, Scientists Have Not Found the ‘Gay Gene’

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By Ed Yong

The media is hyping a study that doesn’t do what it says it does.

A woman works with human genetic material at a laboratory in Munich May 23, 2011. On May 25, 2011 the ethic commission of the German lower house of parliament (Bundestag) will discuss about alternative proposals for a new law on the use of preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (Praeimplantationsdiagnostik) is a technique used to identify genetic defects in embryos created through in vitro fertilization (IVF) before pregnancy, which is banned by German legislation.

This week, a team from the University of California, Los Angeles claimed to have found several epigenetic marks—chemical modifications of DNA that don’t change the underlying sequence—that are associated with homosexuality in men. Postdoc Tuck Ngun presented the results yesterday at the American Society of Human Genetics 2015 conference. Nature News were among the first to break the story based on a press release issued by the conference organisersOthers quickly followed suit. “Have They Found The Gay Gene?” said the front page of Metro, a London paper, on Friday morning.

Meanwhile, the mood at the conference has been decidedly less complimentary, with several geneticists criticizing the methods presented in the talk, the validity of the results, and the coverage in the press.

Ngun’s study was based on 37 pairs of identical male twins who were discordant—that is, one twin in each pair was gay, while the other was straight—and 10 pairs who were both gay. He analysed 140,000 regions in the genomes of the twins and looked for methylation marks—chemical Post-It notes that dictate when and where genes are activated. He whittled these down to around 6,000 regions of interest, and then built a computer model that would use data from these regions to classify people based on their sexual orientation.

The best model used just five of the methylation marks, and correctly classified the twins 67 percent of the time. “To our knowledge, this is the first example of a biomarker-based predictive model for sexual orientation,” Ngun wrote in his abstract.

The problems begin with the size of the study, which is tiny. The field of epigenetics is littered with the corpses of statistically underpowered studies like these, which simply lack the numbers to produce reliable, reproducible results.

Unfortunately, the problems don’t end there. The team split their group into two: a “training set” whose data they used to build their algorithm, and a “testing set”, whose data they used to verify it. That’s standard and good practice—exactly what they should have done. But splitting the sample means that the study goes from underpowered to really underpowered.

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There’s also another, larger issue. As far as could be judged from the unpublished results presented in the talk, the team used their training set to build several models for classifying their twins, and eventually chose the one with the greatest accuracy when applied to the testing set. That’s a problem because in research like this, there has to be a strict firewall between the training and testing sets; the team broke that firewall by essentially using the testing set to optimise their algorithms.

If you use this strategy, chances are you will find a positive result through random chance alone. Chances are some combination of methylation marks out of the original 6,000 will be significantly linked to sexual orientation, whether they genuinely affect sexual orientation or not. This is a well-known statistical problem that can be at least partly countered by running what’s called a correction for multiple testing. The team didn’t do that. (In an email to The Atlantic, Ngun denies that such a correction was necessary.)And, “like everyone else in the history of epigenetics studies they could not resist trying to interpret the findings mechanistically,” wrote John Greally from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in a blog post. By which he means: they gave the results an imprimatur of plausibility by noting the roles of the genes affected by the five epi-marks. One is involved in controlling immune genes that have been linked to sexual attraction. Another is involved in moving molecules along neurons. Could epi-marks on these genes influence someone’s sexual attraction? Maybe. It’s also plausible that someone’s sexual orientation influences epi-marks on these genes. Correlation, after all, does not imply causation.

So, ultimately, what we have is an underpowered fishing expedition that used inappropriate statistics and that snagged results which may be false positives. Epigenetics marks may well be involved in sexual orientation. But this study, despite its claims, does not prove that and, as designed, could not have.

In a response to Greally’s post, Ngun admitted that the study was underpowered. “The reality is that we had basically no funding,” he said. “The sample size was not what we wanted. But do I hold out for some impossible ideal or do I work with what I have? I chose the latter.” He also told Nature News that he plans to “replicate the study in a different group of twins and also determine whether the same marks are more common in gay men than in straight men in a large and diverse population.”Great. Replication and verification are the cornerstones of science. But to replicate and verify, you need a sturdy preliminary finding upon which to build and expand—and that’s not the case here. It may seem like the noble choice to work with what you’ve got. But when what you’ve got are the makings of a fatally weak study, of the kind well known to cause problems in a field, it really is an option—perhaps the best option—to not do it at all. (The same could be said for journalists outside the conference choosing to cover the study based on a press release.)As Greally wrote in his post: “It’s not personal about [Ngun] or his colleagues, but we can no longer allow poor epigenetics studies to be given credibility if this field is to survive. By ‘poor,’ I mean uninterpretable.”

“This is only representative of the broader literature,” he told me. “The problems in the field are systematic. We need to change how epigenomics research is performed throughout the community.”

Complete Article HERE!

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