Tag Archives: safer sex

A selection of Venetian carnival masks

Abuse in (poly) relationships: A link roundup

[Photo above is of Venetian masks — what sort of masks might we be wearing in relationship? Is it possible to safely unmask abusers in our communities?]

Sometimes in polyamory (and other forms of “ethical non-monogamy”), there are things we need to talk about that aren’t much fun. Over the past few months, there’s been a conversation going on about one such topic, that of abuse and predators within the poly community. It’s a challenging conversation in part because people have a desire to separate themselves from it (e.g., “oh that’s not [polyamory/ethical non-monogamy/whatever]; that’s just [cheating/abuse/creepy behavior]”.) All sorts of relationships can be done healthily, or unhealthily. There are abusive monogamous relationships, as well as healthy ones, and there are abusive polyamorous relationships, as well as healthy ones. No relationship style has a lock on either “healthy” or “unhealthy.”

However, in trying to distinguish that not all polyamorous relationships are abusive — which is a normal and natural desire! — we can sometimes, unwittingly, create a situation in which people who are doing these “bad behaviors” can hide out, flourish, and have a perfect place in which to prey on their victims.  There are things about polyamory that make it sometimes more likely that abuse can happen, and there are other ways in which polyamory can complicate an already existing situation.  So how do we talk about this sort of thing, and what sort of response should the community have, when such situations arise?

This is the topic of an upcoming discussion in our local East Bay Poly Potluck community, As background for this discussion, I’m providing some links to discussions that have been ongoing all around the US on this topic in the past few months. There’s a lot I could say about a lot of them, but I’m mostly just presenting them as a list of links.  In a couple of cases there’s a tiny bit of commentary, drawn from the Poly Leadership Network list, where several lively discussions have been ongoing.  Mostly, though, I’m just presenting the links for you to read, digest, and make up your own mind about.

Please be gentle with yourself as you read these. Some accounts can be triggery. Please be mindful of the trigger warnings on some pages, if that applies to you. Take time, take breaks, go for walks; whatever you need to do to keep yourself grounded and safe.  It’s important reading, but equally important that you remain internally safe, as well as externally.

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Poly People and Marriage: Results of the Loving More 2012 Survey

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image by Angi Becker Stevens

With all the excitement over the recent rulings on DOMA (declared unconstitutional in part) and California’s Prop 8 (thrown out), Loving More Nonprofit’s release of a summary of some of the results of their 2012 Survey is timely indeed.

So what DO polyamorous people want?  Are we happy? What do we think about marriage?  These are some of the questions addressed in the Loving More 2012 survey (endorsed by the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, aka NCSF) of over 4,000 self-identified polyamorous people. A summary report from these findings was recently released, and you can read it by clicking this link:

http://www.lovemore.com/polyamory-articles/2012-lovingmore-polyamory-survey/

I found the survey interesting, if somewhat flawed (the limitations of the survey are openly discussed in this summary article.) Some of the findings are no surprise whatsoever (e.g., there are MANY more bisexual people in the Loving More population than in the general population, as represented by the General Social Survey.)

Also of interest is the fact that

consensually non-monogamous individuals were significantly more likely to have practiced safer sex with all partners, to have undergone STI testing, and to have had conversations about safer sex practices than were sexually unfaithful individuals in ostensibly monogamous relationships.”

The authors suggest — and I agree — that this is

“in keeping with general polyamorous ideologies of rigorous honesty in sexual relationships.”

I think it also matches up with the “poly mantra” of Communicate, Communicate, Communicate. 🙂

One of my favorite personal statistics from this survey is that

“the LM population was slightly, but significantly, happier than the general population.”

Cool. 🙂

On the whole, it’s an interesting survey, and worth a look, especially for those of us who are academically minded… or just plain curious. 😉

Here’s hoping that you, too are happy in your relationships, no matter who, or how many you love!

~♥ Dawn

PS: Did you know I’m already licensed to perform marriages in CA (and most other states)? I love co-creating custom rituals for weddings, handfastings, and other Life Milestone ceremonies for people of any and all genders, involved in any and all healthy and supportive relationship structures. Check out my LoveOTB Ministerial Services Page for more information! No matter who or how many you love, Love is ALWAYS OK!

∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥

[© 2013 Dawn M. Davidson]

Positive STI Test? Don’t Panic! (Yet)

gamblingsign.phpShould you freak out if you get a positive [STI] test?  Probably not, depending on the number of “false positives.”  Here’s the mathematical reasoning, based on a disease with a 1% rate in the population, where the test finds the diseases 100% of the time, but has a 5% “false positive” rate.

http://www.businessinsider.com/controversial-math-problems-markov-chain-cantor-coin-flip-2013-5#-27

The “moral” of the story? Don’t freak out (yet); instead, get a second opinion.

Of course, the exact numbers will depend on how accurate the test is, and exactly what the false positive rates are. But mathematically speaking, a positive test is not something to freak out about, at least not until there are TWO positive tests in a row.  Preferably by different testing methods.

Picture of condoms in a rainbow of colors

This, by the way, is why you really shouldn’t “out” someone publicly who’s just told you privately that they got a positive test, and are awaiting re-testing (while taking appropriate precautions not to unnecessarily expose others in the meantime, just in case).  Because the HIGH probability is that the re-test will be negative. Making a big deal about whether they’ve told absolutely everyone yet is just going to cause drama that is likely completely unnecessary.  Giving them a little empathy about how challenging it must be to get this result and how hard it is to wait, on the other hand, would probably be really welcome. 🙂

May you always love boldly, safely, and well!

~♥ Dawn

Want some help negotiating safer sex (or any other kind of) Agreements? I’m always happy to schedule a free 30 minute session (or 60 minutes for half price). Read what other people are saying about my work here. Or read more about making Agreements in my KISSable Agreements workbook entries. 🙂  Still got questions?  Feel free to contact me on my Love Outside the Box webpage.

∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥

[© 2013 Dawn M. Davidson]

 

Polyamory and Pregnancy: Author Interview

JessicaBurdePhoto

Author Jessica Burde

Hi folks!  I have something new for you today.  My friend and colleague Jessica Burde of Polyamory On Purpose has written a book called Polyamory and Pregnancy:

She’s doing a Blog Tour, and today is her stop at my blog. You can read more about the book and the blog tour over at Alan M.’s Polyamory in the News. She and I did a fun, quick interview a couple of weeks back, and I’ve placed it here for your listening pleasure.  You should be able to listen to it by double-clicking on the mp3 link, or opening it with iTunes or something similar:

Interview.jessica.burde.03.11.13

[3.3 MB; 13 min 42 sec]

I’ve transcribed the interview and included it below the cut, in case there are issues with the recording for anyone.

One note for any who might not have run into the term before, “metamour” means another partner of your own partner.  So in this case Jessica refers to the [female] partner of Jessica’s husband Michael as her metamour.

Hope you enjoy listening to the recording.

~♥ Dawn

PS:  A request on behalf of the author:  If you’re ever planning to buy this book from Amazon, could you please do so this week (March 17-23)?  This will help her get a good one-time Amazon ranking in the book’s specialty category.

PPS: Check out the other books on poly, relationships, and communication I have listed in the Amazon widget below and to the right
=====>>
There’s some awesome information to support your poly relationships in there… and if you buy through that link, you’ll also be supporting me (in a very tiny amount).  Win-win-win!

 

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Qpid.me drawing of two stick figures sharing a heart outline

Sharing the Love (More) Safely

Qpid.me drawing of two stick figures sharing a heart outline

I was recently introduced to a new resource for managing safer sex and testing results.  It’s called Qpid.me, and it claims to be “A free, simple way to share your verified STD results” by registering with them, and having your results sent directly from your doctor to their private database.

Here’s what they say on their website:

To make informed sexual health decisions, you must not only be informed about your own health, but also about your partner’s health as well. We enable you to privately share your STD [Sexually Transmitted Disease, aka Sexually Transmitted Infection or STI] status however you choose. We believe that sharing is a good thing and that it can lead to better sexual health decisions, more (safe) sex and fewer STDs.

The service is limited, and doesn’t include a couple of important STIs (e.g., HSV, aka Herpes), and so far doesn’t seem to include a way to make any statement (or have your doctor make a statement) about those STIs, either.  Here’s the list of what they DO cover (from their FAQ):

  • » HIV: PCR/RNA, antibody and viral load (for HIV positive users)
  • » Gonorrhea: genital/urine, rectal and oral
  • » Chlamydia: genital/urine, rectal and oral
  • » Syphilis
  • » Hepatitis C antibody
  • » HPV vaccine
  • » Hepatitis A vaccine

I myself have some concerns over this whole idea, around the idea of the results being useable to potentially stigmatize someone/s in the community who turns up “positive” for something.  On the other hand, stigmatizing is certainly being done NOW, without benefit of this service to speed up the process, so I’m not sure how much actual increased risk there is.

BerkeleyFreeClinic.logo

I’m also concerned about things like financial accessibility, and that requiring a certain kind of testing might become a way to effectively marginalize some less-privileged parts of the community. Of course, there are some free or low-cost resources available, at least in most urban areas in the US (e.g., Berkeley Free Clinic), but in the current economic and social climate, this certainly is not a guarantee for everyone in all areas… and even if you live somewhere that’s covered by such services, accessing them can be more than a little bit of a hassle. (Not to mention the issues inherent with contributing to the unsustainable medical-industrial-complex in the US. (Thanks to Charlie Glickman in Twitter for that link))

One of the other things I’m concerned about is the common misconception that clear test results mean there is no risk of getting an STI. It doesn’t.  It’s incredibly important to remember that testing gives you a snapshot at a particular point in time, and that any sexual contact with others means that the snapshot may no longer be 100% accurate (see more about the “window period”).  Depending on how active you and/or your partner/s are, the accuracy could range anywhere from “still good” to “completely false.” Clear tests are never a substitute for good safer sex practices (e.g., consistent and correct condom use, and being mindful about cross-contamination), honest conversations with your prospective partner/s, and possibly having a Safer Sex Agreement (whether that’s something that’s “only” an Agreement with yourself, or whether that includes 1 or more partners as well.)  Remember also that any Agreements you make are best made in advance of clothes coming off, and when everyone’s awake and sober!

Picture of condoms in a rainbow of colors

In any case, I thought this might be of interest to some folks here, as one part of a comprehensive Safer Sex Agreement or plan.

(And now my brain is suddenly full of  images of eggs and juice and the phrase “[brand name cereal] is part of a complete breakfast”! *chuckle*)

May you always love boldly, safely, and well!

~♥ Dawn

Want some help negotiating safer sex (or any other kind of) Agreements? I’m always happy to schedule a free 30 minute session (or 60 minutes for half price). And if you act before the end of February, you can still get my Valentine’s Day coaching discounts.

∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥

[© 2013 Dawn M. Davidson]

Keep Emotional and Physical Safety Agreements Distinct [Tip #6]

Two stylized hands clasping, forming a heart. Copyright-free symbol designed by Ravi Poovaiah, Professor, IDC, IIT Bombay.After a delay due to illness (the nasty cold had turned to an ear infection), here at last is the next installment in my in-progress Agreements Workbook.  This is Tip #6: Keep Emotional and Physical Safety Agreements Distinct.

Questions or comments about any of these Agreements Workbook entries?  Feel free to contact me here, or on my FB Page, Love Outside The Box!

Wishing you and yours lots of love and gratitude on this (US-celebrated-) day of Thanks.

~♥ Dawn

PS: I’m working on a new program that I’ll be unveiling soon, called Jealousy Judo.  Are you interested in test-driving the first part in a 1/2 hour free session? Just drop me a line and we’ll find a time!

PPS: I got my test ornaments from Zazzle today!  I particularly like this one, with my logo on one side, and “Polyamory: Love Outside The Box” on the other. 🙂

∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥

illustration of bleeding heart pierced and surrounded by thorns

“No falling in love” — Not a good safer sex Agreement!

6) Keep emotional and physical safety agreements distinct

Have you ever heard of someone putting this into their “Safer Sex” Agreements: “No falling in love”? In my experience, it’s pretty common, especially for those whose relationship structures tend more toward swinging or open than polyamory. However, although it’s tempting to attempt to mandate emotional safety via safer sex Agreements, it turns out to be extremely difficult if not impossible to do. Safer sex is primarily about logic and science, cold hard facts, and things that can be measured. You either used condoms, or you didn’t.  The test is positive, or it’s negative (usually). The heart, on the other hand, is notoriously capricious. Heart-decisions are most often emotionally based, and don’t respond well to logic. You can’t be a little bit pregnant, but you can be a little bit in love. And it’s really difficult to “back up” in a relationship, once two (or more) people have fallen in love. At the very least, it’s a recipe for drama and lengthy nights of processing.

Conversely, bacteria and viruses aren’t much impressed with how much in love you are, or whether you think you’re “fluid-bonded” or not when you kiss another lover right after going down on someone new. While there’s some evidence to support the idea that positive intentions do positively affect the immune system [refs], the evidence isn’t really strong enough to substitute “wishing really hard” for using condoms and knowing the testing status and risk tolerance of yourself and your partners.

Picture of condoms in a rainbow of colors

Because of how ineffective emotional Agreements are in Safer Sex, and vice versa, and because of the difficulty of actually enforcing Agreements that mix emotions and epidemiology, my suggestion is usually to avoid making such Agreements in the first place. Instead, create separate line items for emotional issues and epidemiological ones, and if necessary, create separate documents for safer sex vs. emotional safety.

Now might be a good time to review Tips #2a, b & c on having Clear Standards and Consequences [p. ___]. In particular, make a note of whether something uses objective or subjective standards for success.  If the standards are all subjective ones, chances are this Agreement belongs in your Relationship Agreements, rather than your Safer Sex ones. If you’d discuss it with your physician or a clinic worker, that’s probably a Safer Sex Agreement. If it’s an Agreement you’d make with your kids, or a platonic housemate, then it probably belongs in your Relationship Agreements instead. If it involves latex or plastic on human or toy appendages, it’s probably a Safer Sex Agreement.

Note that there are some areas that overlap, particularly in the matter of pacing new relationships. Human bodies are chemically and hormonally based, and having sex often triggers chemical cascades that nature intends to cement relationships [refs, e.g. Alchemy of Love and Lust] … at least long enough to get kids conceived, born, and to about their 2nd birthday. [refs, e.g., Sex At Dawn.] However, biology is not destiny, and while the heart is difficult to regulate, behavior can be tracked and modified. So especially in these “grey areas,” try to make your agreements about behaviors, not about feelings, and you’ll find them easier to track and measure.

You can see some examples of various sorts of Agreements in Appendix B, including some that (mostly) separate out Emotional Safety from Safer Sex, and some that don’t. Be sure to check out a bunch of different Agreements, to see which ones resonate for you, and which don’t.

 

∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥

[© 2012 Dawn M. Davidson]

Note that these entries are all rough drafts, and thus are probably missing things like references. If you know the perfect reference to add, feel free to suggest it! I always like to add to my resource collection.

[Next Entry: KISSable Agreements (Tip #7) ]

[Previous Entry: Create Clear Ownership of Agreements (Tip #5)]

[Return to the Table of Contents for the Agreements Workbook Series]

[Return to the first text entry in the Agreements Workbook series]

Resources: More Relationship & “Safer” Agreements Info

[UPDATE: purchase the whole workbook here for only $10!]

As promised, here’s some more information on relationship and safer sex Agreements. This entry is an updated version of a handout I’ve used in the past when teaching workshops on Creating Empowering Agreements. Some of it will end up in the Agreements Workbook in the Appendix, and some in Recommended Reading, I think.  If you’re interested in a 1-page pdf version of this, feel free to write me, and ask for the “Additional Relationship and Safer Sex Agreements Information” pdf. I’ll be happy to send it to you in email.

Do you have any questions or comments about these Agreements Workbook entries? As always, I’m happy to answer questions or engage in discussion either here, or on my FB Page, Love Outside The Box. I’m also happy to create coaching packages to help you create your own set of Agreements tailored to your situation. We can discuss your particular needs in a mini-consultation, if that floats your boat.

May you always love boldly, safely, and well!

~♥ Dawn

∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥

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Example of “Safer” Agreements [Workbook Appendix B, pt 2]

Two stylized hands clasping, forming a heart. Copyright-free symbol designed by Ravi Poovaiah, Professor, IDC, IIT Bombay.

[UPDATE: purchase the whole workbook here for only $10!] Safer Sex Agreements are one of those topics that arise frequently in polyamorous relationships, and they’ve come back around for another visit recently. We in the East Bay Poly Potluck and Discussion Group have been watching the Showtime “Polyamory” series recently, and Agreements of all sorts are regularly discussed on the show. And separately, when local “sexpert” and educator Venus (aka Dr. Melanie Rose) mentioned some of her own Agreements in a local Facebook group discussion, I was reminded that while I’d formatted these Agreements, I hadn’t yet shared them here. (Whoops!)

As I mentioned in that discussion, these particular Agreements were developed at a time when I was in a different relationship structure than I am now.  At the time (and these were first drafted in the late ’90’s, and last revised in about 2007…) I was in a marriage consisting of two co-equal primary partners, in a hierarchical “primary-secondary” type model. The Agreements are also fairly hetero-centric and vanilla (neither of which fit me well anymore, either!). While I still reference these Agreements, they’re not particularly suitable for my current relationship model, which is more of an open network wherein I’m “primary partnered to myself,” and where I no longer assume a preponderance of heterosexual relationships.

In other words, if you’re thinking of using these as a jumping off point for your own Agreements, please take them with appropriate salt, and some careful consideration of your own situation. In Agreements, like condoms, one size definitely does NOT fit all! They don’t have to be lengthy, complicated, or onerous, though. The most important thing in making and using these sorts of Agreements, in my opinion, is that you and your partner/s all sit down and discuss the topic, and hopefully come to some accord about what might be important to each of you, and what various words and concepts mean for each person as well.

I’ve got a few more examples in my files, and I’ll be gathering those up to post soon.  In the meantime, just know that there are more examples of Safer Sex Agreements to be had out there–a few longer; many shorter–and that these are by no means meant to be anything like the last word in such things. In fact, these days I think they provide as much insight into what we were missing at the time as they do into what we were covering!

Do you have any questions or comments about these Agreements? As always, I’m happy to answer questions or engage in discussion either here, or on my FB Page, Love Outside The Box. I’m also happy to create coaching packages to help you create your own set of Agreements tailored to your situation. We can discuss your particular needs in a mini-consultation, if that floats your boat.

May you always love boldly, safely, and well!

~♥ Dawn

∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥

Safer Sex Agreements for “Example House”

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