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We Need Bodice-Ripper Sex Ed

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Where did you learn about sex?

In my personal pie chart, 10 percent of the credit goes to Mom and Dad, who taught me that sex was for marriage, or at the very least, for a committed, loving, monogamous relationship that would, God willing, occur once I was out of the house.

I’ll credit another 10 percent to sex ed, the junior-high health classes that taught me the names of the body parts and explained what went where in the straight-people intercourse it was assumed we’d all be having. Sex, I learned, was bad news, every act risking pregnancy or disease. Think Coach Carr’s speech in the 2004 movie “Mean Girls” — “Don’t have sex, because you will get pregnant, and die.”

Which left 80 percent to be filled in by my friends and pop culture: what I heard on the school bus and at sleepover parties, what I saw in movies and heard on the radio, the glimpses I got of dirty magazines, kept behind brown paper wrappers on the high shelves.

But I was a reader, and most of what I knew came from books, starting with the copy of Judy Blume’s “Forever …” that made the rounds of the cafeteria in seventh grade to the dozens of Harlequin romances I devoured to the best sellers by Judith Krantz, Shirley Conran, Jean Auel, Susan Isaacs and Erica Jong that I snagged from my mom’s shelves.

I’ve been thinking about sex education in light of what must, by now, be the most-discussed bad date in history.

By now, you’ve most likely heard about the encounter between an anonymous 23-year-old photographer and the comedian and actor Aziz Ansari. They met at a party, which led to a dinner date, which led to a sexual encounter that she came to deeply regret, she told a reporter, believing Mr. Ansari ignored verbal and nonverbal cues that she wasn’t into what was happening. Now that she has gone public with her account, everyone seems to have an opinion about what she did, what he did and whether talking about gray-zone sex, where the man believes that everything that happened was consensual and the woman feels otherwise, spells the end of the #MeToo movement.

Reading about it all, I realize how lucky I am that so much of my sex ed came from Harlequins.

The literary establishment doesn’t have much love for women’s fiction, whether it’s romance or erotica or popular novels about love and marriage. Romance novels come in for an extra helping of scorn. Critics sneer that they’re all heaving bosoms and throbbing manhoods, unrealistic, poorly written and politically incorrect.

But those books, for all their soft-core covers and happily-ever-afters, were quietly and not-so-quietly subversive. They taught readers that sexual pleasure was something women could not just hope for but insist upon. They shaped my interactions with boys and men. They helped make me a feminist.

Because these books were written for and consumed by women, female pleasure was an essential part of every story. Villains were easy to spot: They were the ones who left a woman “burning and unsatisfied.” Shirley Conran’s “Lace” features a heroine telling her feckless husband that she’d used an egg timer to determine how long it took her to achieve orgasm on her own and that she’d be happy to teach him what to do.

At 14, I never looked at hard-boiled eggs the same way again.

The books not only covered blissful sex but also described a whole range of intimate moments, from the awkward to the funny to the very bad, including rape of both the stranger and intimate-partner variety. Beyond the dirty bits, the books I read described the moments before and after the main event, the stuff you don’t see in mainstream movies, where zippers don’t get stuck and teeth don’t bump when you’re kissing; the stuff you don’t see in porn, where almost no time elapses between the repair guy’s arrival and the start of activities that do not involve the clogged kitchen sink.

Objectification doesn’t exist just in porn, of course. “So many men cannot get their heads around the idea that women are not first and foremost sexual objects,” the novelist Jenny Crusie told me. “You don’t get that from porn; you get that from a persistent worldview modeled by the men around you that you’ve been taught to admire.”

I have no idea how much, if any, X-rated material Mr. Ansari or his date consumes. Statistically, we know that modern men and women have access to every kind of explicit material, literally in their pockets. And they’re watching: One recent study found that 79 percent of men and 76 percent of women between 18 and 30 look at pornographic websites at least once each month, while another showed that three out of 10 men in that age group were daily viewers.

Sex might be easy, but relationships are hard. And a 400-page novel can teach you more about them than any X-rated clip. Fiction has time to draw a deeper picture, covering the getting-to-know-you stuff, the starts and stops and circling back that take boy and girl from first date to first kiss to the moment where they’re both naked and hopefully into what’s going to happen next.

“Romance novels teach readers that all partners are equal participants in a sexual relationship,” said Bea Koch, the 28-year-old co-owner (with her 25-year-old sister, Leah) of the Ripped Bodice, a bookstore in Culver City, Calif., that exclusively sells romance titles. “They highlight conversations about consent, birth control and myriad other topics that people generally find difficult to talk about. In some instances, it can be a literal script for how to bring up difficult topics with a partner. They give a road map to people wanting to experiment with their sexuality, or even just get in touch with what they want and need in a sexual relationship.”

Porn, necessarily, cuts to the chase: a little less conversation, a little more action.

Talking’s not sexy, people complain.

But when you don’t know how to ask, when you can’t bring yourself to tell, when you don’t possess the language with which to talk about desire, that’s when you can end up with crossed wires, missed signals, mixed messages, a guy who goes to sleep thinking, “That was fun!” and a girl who goes home crying in an Uber.

If we want men and women equally empowered to form real connections, to talk, honestly and openly about who they are and what they want, there are worse places to start than curling up with a good book.

Complete Article HERE!

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‘Discovering my true sexual self’: why I embraced polyamory

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My husband and I were together for 12 years and had two children – but while he was happy with one person, I needed more

By Anita Cassidy

It was the hardest thing I’d ever had to say to my husband, Marc. Three years ago, I sat down and told him: “The idea of having sex just with you for the next 40 years – I can’t do it any more.” But I had come to realise that my life was built around something I didn’t believe in: monogamy.

We had been together for 12 years and had two children, now nine and seven. I love being a mother and I set the bar high from the start – cloth nappies and cooking from scratch. But I needed something more in my emotional and sexual life.

Marc’s reaction was remarkable; he agreed to support me and open our marriage to other partners, although it wasn’t really what he wanted. We started counselling to try to identify the best of what we had, to save it and protect it. Sex is a big part of a relationship, but it is only a part. We didn’t want it to scupper us.

If that sounds difficult, it was. I don’t think we could have done it if we hadn’t spent most of our marriage reading, talking and exploring together.

I quickly embraced the dating scene and discovered another side of my sexual self. I enrolled on lots of sites, where you are asked specific questions about yourself and your preferences. It was illuminating: do I like this? Yes. Do I like that? Well, let’s see. They were the kind of questions I’d never been asked before – and had never asked myself.

I became convinced that traditional relationships are like an air lock. You meet someone. It’s amazing and it’s rare, and then you lock it; you shut the windows and doors, and you try desperately to keep it all to yourselves. Then the air turns sour because there’s no oxygen. You might make a sexual mistake on the spur of the moment because you are craving some – any – contact. Why not live in a world where you can have room for that connection, that spark?

I think most people’s reaction was that Marc should have kicked me out. My immediate family have been supportive, although my mother is still ambivalent. We discuss everything openly, and she understands where I’m coming from, but worries that I’m going to end up on my own. If I do, though, it will be because I have chosen that.

People who choose to be polyamorous often do so after delving deep into themselves and their desires, so it runs close to the kink scene, which was also something I wanted to explore. There’s a temptation to think that, had Marc and I explored these things together, our marriage might have worked without opening it up. I’m not sure that it would have, though, given that he wasn’t into it. It can seem quite intimidating, but I was so ready for it. The first time I went to a fetish club, I felt like I was at home – that I’d found my people.

I now have a partner of two years, Andrea. We work as a couple, but we also have sex with friends. He’s the only partner I have introduced to my children. I love Andrea and I’m very lucky to have him, but I don’t want to live with him – we both value our solitude too much. He and I can flirt with other people and ask for their number, but I still feel jealous sometimes. He went away with another woman and, yes, it was difficult.

Anita, Marc and Andrea, too: ‘I’m not sure our marriage would have worked without opening it up.’

Meanwhile, Marc and I realised we were no longer compatible. I had changed too much. We still share the family home and parent our children together. We still get on. We have counselling together, we spend Christmas together – we are still reading and learning as we used to. We wanted to keep all the bits that worked.

We have had to learn so much about communicating better, and I think the children have benefited from that. We have explained that Dad needs one person to be with and Mum needs more people to make her happy. The talk is ongoing; we won’t wait to sit them down when they are teenagers, expecting them suddenly to get it. Understanding polyamory is complicated, but monogamy is fraught with ambiguity, too.

You can craft your own polyamory, but I’m not sure I would want more than two or three other partners. I’m hoping two people I met recently will become lovers, but there’s no rush. People assume that I’m constantly having sex, but it’s not as simple as that. I want an emotional and mental connection with someone, so it takes time to build up to that.

Monogamy, meanwhile, feels more like a competition where you need to bag someone before anyone else does. None of that applies in a poly setup, which is incredibly liberating. Think how strange it would be to have only one friend. You can’t get everything from one platonic relationship. Why would you try with one lover?

But it’s a challenge: you’re swimming against the cultural norm and it’s difficult emotionally, with or without the support of an existing partner. On top of that, the amount of work involved in maintaining multiple relationships, sexual and platonic, is huge.

Andrea and I look to the future, but there are no expectations. We are part of a broader community and we think developing that is more important. Put it this way: I don’t see myself sitting on a park bench at 80 with one other person. I’d like to be part of a group of people, a community. We seem to want a silver bullet for everything. One God. One partner. But life is plural.

Marc’s view

I’d realised for a few years that Anita wasn’t completely happy, so it wasn’t a total shock when she told me she wanted to explore non-monogamy. It was upsetting to hear that what we had wasn’t meeting her needs, but it was very important to me that she was happy. If that meant her exploring a different relationship style, then I would be there to support her.

I did a lot of reading around the subject of ethical non-monogamy. It makes a lot of sense intellectually, but it doesn’t resonate with me emotionally. It didn’t feel right. I was prepared for our marriage to continue, with me being monogamous and Anita having other partners, but that proved more difficult than we envisaged.

I completely support Anita. I’m glad she has been able to share with me what she’s discovering about the honesty and communication needed to make polyamory work. It’s also true of monogamous relationships, and I hope to take what I have learned from this experience into my future relationships.

What I have always wanted – and still do – is to be with one partner, long-term, with whom I can share all of life’s rich experiences, to enjoy the journey and the inevitable changes together.

Complete Article HERE!

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How to Talk Dirty Without Being a Bad Man

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A useful guide for filthy allies.

By Sophie Saint Thomas

The word “slut” can either be hot as hell—as when used consensually in bed—or problematic as hell. Name-calling is a really enjoyable part of kinky dirty talk, but in the era of #MeToo it can feel very weird and even anti-feminist. But calling her a slut when she asks you to is actually extremely feminist: She’s vocalizing her desires, and you’re following her rules. And you may feel like a creep, but if it’s what gets her off, you’re being a good partner by satisfying her desires (and you might enjoy it yourself). There’s a big difference between consensual name-calling and malicious name-calling in, say, the workplace. Just because someone is into erotic massage roleplay doesn’t mean they want to be taken advantage of by a professional masseuse when they go to the spa after a long week of work. In fact, I can assure you that they do not. Context is everything. Sometimes people just want some love and kinky sexual healing from their partner. Using the word “slut” in bed is no different. Scared? Turned on? Both? Good. Read on and I’ll explain everything.

Know That This Kind of Thing Doesn’t Make Her a Bad Feminist

The #MeToo movement has some men tripped up about sex and dating. That confusion is good—if we’re confused, at least we’re thinking. Women have tried to make it clear that sexual assault is not sex, and sexual harassment is not flirting. We’re not trying to malign sex. We still want to enjoy healthy partnerships and get laid. Healthy romantic and sexual relationships are consensual and they put all partners on an equal playing field, even if one of you is very rich and famous. Speaking specifically to kink, and even more specifically to name-calling in bed, what happens within a consensual relationship is incomparable to the heinous non-consensual treatment women experience in the workplace. (And at the pet store, the bank, on airplanes, etc.) In a healthy and consensual relationship, the bedroom is a safe space. It’s there for making love and getting off and exploring desires. If your girlfriend’s boss called her a slut at work, she’d feel the distinct stabbing pain of sexual harassment. She’d go through the brutal mental process of wondering if reporting him will cost her her job. But if she asks you, her lover and partner, to call her a slut in bed because it turns her on, she’s bravely sharing her kinks because she wants to get off.

And It’s Okay If You Like It Too!

When you call someone a filthy name in bed, you’re not just doing them a favor—it doesn’t make you a bad man to get off from it, too. Sexual pleasure is a two-way street. If I asked someone to call me a slut during sex and they were like, “Fine, I guess, but for the record I do not approve, though I’ll still bone you,” I’d be like, “Gross, stop kink-shaming me, and no, thank you.” If verbal humiliation is a hard limit (something that you don’t want to try) just say so: “Hey, I respect that you’re into that, but I just don’t think I’m up for it.” Any type of sex should involve enthusiastic consent from both of you. Just don’t make her feel bad about herself for expressing her healthy (yes, healthy!) desires. And if name-calling and dirty talk turns you on, lean in. Enjoy it. You obtained consent. You’re grown-ups. Give the woman what she wants.

Cuddles, Please

Verbal humiliation can get a little intense. Even I, a well-adjusted sexual creature with few hang-ups and a church-less childhood, will occasionally try something filthy AF and afterwards say, “But you love me and think I’m a goddess, RIGHT?” So after you call your partner a slut (or whatever word she wants to hear) and you both come your faces off, make sure to practice aftercare. Aftercare is what the kink community calls checking in with one another after sex. Everyone should do it, whether you spit on one another on the bathroom floor or have missionary sex in the dark. After you call your girlfriend a slut during sex, make sure to hold and cuddle her. She knows, intellectually, that you think highly of her, and she knows that the dirty talk was part of hot consensual sex. But sex, especially sex that’s emotionally or physically intense, is best followed with snuggling and reassurance of feelings. So after you call her names whilst inside of her, hold her tight and tell her how you worship the ground she walks on. And NEVER call her a slut outside of dirty talk. Duh.

Complete Article HERE!

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Recharge your sexual energy

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If lack of energy has drained your sex life, there are ways to reignite the passion.

close-up of a mature couple relaxing in bed at home

Your sexual drive can stay high late in life, but often your energy for sex can diminish. Low energy not only affects your sex life, but can carry over to other parts of your life, too. You can become apathetic, no longer find pleasure in favorite activities, and become more sedentary.

However, many of these issues related to lost sexual energy can be addressed. “Never think lack of energy means an end to your sex life, and there is nothing you can do about it,” says Dr. Sharon Bober, director of the Harvard-affiliated Dana-Farber Sexual Health Program. “There are many strategies you can adopt to get back in the game.”

Find your energy drainers

Your lost sexual vim and vigor is often related to some kind of physical, emotional, or relationship issue. Here’s a look at the most common causes.

Low hormones. Lack of sexual energy could be due to male hypogonadism, which occurs when the testicles do not produce enough testosterone, the male sex hormone. In fact, fatigue is one of the most common side effects.

Testosterone levels drop about 1% each year beginning in a man’s late 30s, and could fall by as much as 50% by age 70. (A blood test from your doctor can determine if you have low testosterone.) Testosterone replacement therapy, which is given via absorbable pellet implants, topical gels, patches, and injections, can often help spark sexual energy in men with low levels.

Findings from a study published online Aug. 1, 2016, by The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism showed that a year of testosterone therapy improved libido in 275 men (average age 72) with confirmed low testosterone. Compared with men in a placebo group, frequency of sexual arousal increased by about 50%, and they were able to have almost twice as many erections.

Speak with your doctor about whether testosterone therapy is an option for you. Long- term risks are not well known, but there is concern for an increased risk of heart disease and prostate problems.

Erectile dysfunction. Men with erectile dysfunction can experience low energy because the condition can be a blow to their self-esteem. “Men may feel embarrassed about it or worry they will be judged in some way if they cannot perform as well as they once did, so motivation and energy for sex gets depleted,” says Dr. Bober.

In this case, speak with your doctor about taking an ED drug or exploring other options for getting or keeping an erection, like using a penile pump.

Even though talking about ED may be difficult, it’s important to open up lines of communication with your partner. “For many men, it can help relieve stress to know they are not alone and someone is there for support.”

Poor sleep. Lack of sleep can be one of the main energy zappers. Poor sleep can increase stress levels and interfere with how your body and brain store and use energy, which is why you feel so sluggish after not sleeping well. And if you are tired, you have less energy for sex. Talk with your doctor if you have trouble sleeping. Steps like changing medication or dose, cognitive behavioral therapy, and adjusting your diet and sleeping environment can often improve sleep quality.

Lack of movement. When you have no sexual energy, you need to get moving. Regular exercise is one of the best natural energy boosters. Numerous studies have linked exercise with improving fatigue, especially among sedentary people. You don’t need much to get a jolt — 2.5 hours per week of moderate-intensity exercise can do the trick. Focus on a combination of cardio and weight-bearing exercises like brisk walking and strength training.

Get checked out

Many medical conditions can affect sexual drive, such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. So be diligent about regular medical check-ups. Also, many drugs, including blood pressure drugs, antidepressants, and tranquilizers can produce erectile difficulties. Consult with your doctor if you take any of these.

Back in sync

Lack of energy also could be relationship-oriented, if you and your partner are not in sexual sync. For instance, you may have energy for sex, but your partner doesn’t, or at least not at the same level.

“Sex may not always be comfortable for women because of menopausal symptoms like vaginal dryness. If sexual activity is physically uncomfortable, not surprisingly, a woman’s sex drive also diminishes,” says Dr. Bober. “This can affect both partners, and if a man is worried that he might hurt his partner, that will certainly affect his interest in sex, too.”

In this situation, you need to communicate with your partner about how important sex is to you. It’s not about making demands, but about finding ways to explore mutual goals, such as pleasure and closeness.

“Perhaps it means negotiating a compromise just like you do in other aspects of a relationship,” says Dr. Bober. “Partners find ways to share everything from household chores to bill planning, and sex shouldn’t be any different.”

There’s a lot of room to find common ground, she adds. “There are many ways to be sexually active with your partner besides traditional intercourse. For example, you can ask your partner to be with you when you pleasure yourself, which feels intimate and can allow both partners to feel connected.”

Talk about it

Sometimes the sexual barrier is not about sex at all. An open dialogue also can reveal issues beneath the surface that may interfere with your partner’s sexual energy.

“Your partner may desire sex as much as you, but there may be underlying problems in the relationship that could affect sexual desire and need to be addressed,” says Dr. Bober.

Finally, another way to ignite lost sexual energy is to do new things together. “Couples can get into routines that can make for boring sex lives,” says Dr. Bober. “It can be fun to speak with your partner about ways to keep the relationship interesting and erotic.”

Many times, this can be done outside the bedroom, like having more date nights, going for long weekend romantic getaways, or even doing simple activities together like joining a club or taking a class.

“Investing in change can energize both you and your partner, and most important, pave the way for a renewed sense of closeness and novelty that is great for all couples,” says Dr. Bober.

Complete Article HERE!

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Here’s The Real Truth About Polyamory In The Black Community

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“I don’t believe in rules. Rules are about trying to wall off an insecurity.”

by Damona Hoffman

First, let’s get a few ground rules straight. The polyamorists I spoke with do not want to be seen as sex hungry monsters who swing from partner to partner. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of polyamory is the state or practice of having more than one open romantic relationship at a time. So for clarity, we are talking about emotional and physical intimacy here, not just sex.

“Polyamory, Swinging, Open Marriages, Open Relationships, Monogamish and more all fall under the umbrella of non-monogamy but people who are polyamorous are more interested in the relationship and don’t just want to have sex with people,” says editor of the online magazine BlackandPoly.org, Crystal Farmer. “However, a lot poly people have sexual relationships while there are also people who don’t have sexual relationships, who are asexual or don’t have a need for a sexual connection, but consider themselves polyamorous because they are in emotional relationships with other people.”

Are you following? This means you can be polyamorous through sexual relationships or non-sexual emotional relationships or, for most polyamorous people, something in between. The bottom line is that you don’t belong to just one person.

Crystal defines herself as “solo-poly.” “I consider myself my primary partner,” she proclaims. Other than her 7-year-old daughter Crystal explains that she doesn’t want to live with someone again although she says she’s open to having relationships with men, women and gender non-binary individuals.

She was first introduced to the lifestyle by her ex-husband, who wanted an open marriage but asked her to maintain a “one penis policy.” This means that he could bring other women into the partnership and she could have relationships with other females but men were off limits.

Author and speaker Kevin Patterson, founder of the blog PolyRoleModels.tumblr.com, has a very different point of view. He and his wife, who have been together for 16 years, have both maintained relationships with girlfriends and boyfriends with complete trust and transparency.

“I don’t believe in rules. Rules are about trying to wall off an insecurity,” Kevin told me. “When I’m triggered, it inspires me to ask where the insecurity is coming from.” He feels that his partners should all have autonomy.

In his forthcoming book, Love Is Not Color Blind, Kevin discusses what it is like being a Black polyamorous man just as he has done in speaking engagements around the country for years. Borrowing Mahershala Ali’s quote on the Black American experience, “We move through the world playing defense, we don’t have the capacity to play offense,” Kevin says he feels like he’s always defending the legitimacy of his marriage and his decision to be polyamorous to family, the church, and the Black community.

Denika, a 41-year-old polyamorous woman, also felt ostracized from her family and community for choosing to live her life in this way until she discovered the Black polyamorous community online.

A quick search of Meetup.com in my own city of Los Angeles yielded 19 options of polyamory groups to join. But just how diverse are these groups? Crystal, who is based just outside of Charlotte, North Carolina, says that the groups she attends are predominantly white.

She is open to dating someone of a different culture but she admits that she feels more comfortable when there are other people of color in her poly groups.

In addition to meetup groups, OKCupid seems to be a popular date source for the non-monogamous.

“I am a happily married man in a polyamorous relationship” is the first line in Kevin’s dating profile. He finds it easier to date in circles where they already know about your lifestyle so you don’t have to “edu-date” a partner about how non-monogamy works.

Writer/director Alicia Bunyan-Sampson, 29, began using dating sites when she was new to the polyamory community but quickly found that her Blackness was exoticized among the couples on her polyamory dating site. She thought the first message she received, with the subject line “Ebony Seeking Ivory,” was an anomaly but when her inbox filled up with 200 similar messages, she retreated from the world of polyamory.

Although she still feels she is polyamorous, Alicia says in her essay “Diary of a Polyamorous Black Girl” that “white is the face of polyamory and has been for quite some time. It more than likely will remain that way. The face of the world is white – why wouldn’t the poly community be the same?”

Crystal sees there is more shame around polyamory in the African-American community because of our roots in Christianity and conservative values.

Denika recalls a time when her sister asked how her relationship with God played into her decision to be polyamorous. Denika sees intimacy and religion as two separate things yet that doesn’t stop her from noticing a look of disapproval when she tells people in the black community that she is polyamorous.

I turned to intimalogist Dr. Kat Smith to understand the psychology behind the polyamory movement. She sees it as a return to our evolutionary roots. “It goes to show how animalistic humans really are.” If you look at many animal packs, the leader is able to have sex with multiple females. “We are sexual beings first,” says Dr. Kat.

Her concern, however, is that women are ‘going rogue with sexuality.’ She warns, “It’s one thing to claim your freedom and sexual liberation. Another thing to put yourself in harms way by not respecting your body.”

Crystal was met with this sentiment so often that she wrote a blog about it for BlackandPoly.org. She wanted to make it safe for other people who feel like her. “I like having sex but that doesn’t mean that I’m compromising my values or putting my life in danger just for sex,” Crystal declares. “I’m a polyamorous person and I’m proud of it.”

Trust seems to be the highest priority among all the poly individuals I spoke to. Denika notes, “I need to be able to trust people. Sometimes it can be hurtful but I will be upfront with you so you’re not mislead in the end.” She clarifies that she doesn’t do hookups. “If all you want is sex then you need to be upfront with your intentions but don’t waste my time,” Denika explains.

Is polyamory “right” for African-Americans? You will have to draw your own conclusion. What I can say is that the polyamorous people I spoke with all seemed happy with their decision to live life in this way. It’s evident from the growing popularity of sites like BlackandPoly.org and PolyRoleModels.tumblr.com that there is at least a curiosity and an openness to exploring non-traditional relationship options.

Denika’s advice is to “know yourself, explore your sexuality, intimacy, sense of self and be open to something different.”

Complete Article HERE!

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