Tag Archives: sex

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Our Cheatin’ Hearts

According to the National Opinion Research Center, women in the US are catching up to their male counterparts.  Not in making money, leading companies or accumulating wealth, alas.  No, we’re catching up in the percentage of women who have “extramarital affairs.” In the last two decades, the per­centage of wives having affairs rose almost 40 percent to 14.7 percent in 2010, while the number of men admitting to extramarital affairs held constant at 21 percent.

But is this a good thing, or a bad thing?  Fellow PLN member Franklin Veaux thinks that there’s a good side to all of this (as quoted from email):

“In all seriousness, without being flip, I think it [statistical increase in women vs. men engaging in infidelity] IS progress. It shows that we’re moving away from a woman-as-possession model of marriage toward a woman-as-self-motivated-agent model. The cheating thing isn’t good, per se, but the reasons behind it are.” — Franklin Veaux

I’d have to agree with that. It seems that the double standard around who gets to sleep around may be starting to abate. Women are, more and more, making their own choices around with whom to have sex. But is there more to this than meets the eye?  I think so.

Tale a look at some more “infidelity” statistics, as quoted in http://www.statisticbrain.com/infidelity-statistics/ :

Marriage Infidelity Statistics Data
Percent of marriages where one or both spouses admit to infidelity, either physical or emotional 41 %
Percent of men who admit to committing infidelity in any relationship they’ve had 57 %
Percentage of women who admit to committing infidelity in any relationship they’ve had 54 %
Percent of married men who have strayed at least once during their married lives 22 %
Percent of married women who have strayed at least once during their married lives 14 %
Percentage of men and women who admit to having an affair with a co-worker 36 %
Percentage of men and women who admit to infidelity on business trips 35%
Percentage of men and women who admit to infidelity with a brother-in-law or sister-in-law 17 %
Average length of an affair 2 years
Percentage of marriages that last after an affair has been admitted to or discovered 31 %
Percentage of men who say they would have an affair if they knew they would never get caught 74 %
Percentage of women who say they would have an affair if they knew they would never get caught 68 %
Percent of children who are the product of infidelity 3 %

800px-Divorce_for_men_onlyI notice several things.  For one thing, that 41% figure contains both people who have actually had sex with someone other than their spouse, AND those who had emotional affairs. Compared with the usual US standard of counting “infidelity” as “sex outside of marriage,” though, this significantly inflates the numbers. Also, from this table, we can’t tell the percentage of men vs. women who engage in either form of infidelity. I bet those numbers would be interesting, too.

For another, there is no room in this chart for polyamory, open relationships, or ethical non-monogamy. If presented with this poll myself, I might answer “yes” to questions about historical infidelity going back to the time before my marriage.  I might also answer “yes” to either emotional or sexual “infidelity” depending on how that term is defined.  It’s certainly true that I’ve had sex AND emotional intimacy with more than just my husband.  *I* don’t call it cheating… but those writing this survey might.

It’s also interesting to me that the average affair lasts about 2 years… just long enough for the “Disney chemicals” to wear off, and the infatuation to fade. Hmmm….

However, on the whole, I’m forced to conclude that the data isn’t particularly firm here, and doesn’t actually say much.  It is, as the saying goes (attributed to Mark Twain), “Lies, damn lies, and statistics,” raising as many questions in my mind about the research, as about the results.

On the good news side, given that it does seem to indicate an increase in people (of any gender) willing to talk about their “infidelity,” this probably bodes well for transparency and honesty in relationships, which in turn probably bodes well for fulfillment within the ones that last — or even the ones that don’t. If people are happier by pursuing outside relationships, and that happiness leads to them choosing new partners, then that would be reflected in the oft-quoted 50% divorce rate — but that might also indicate that people feel more free to pursue what actually makes them happy and fulfilled in relationship, even if that means having sex with someone other than their spouse, or even divorce.

What do you think about all this?  How would you answer a poll of this sort?  Do you think women’s “gains” in equality here are a good thing, a bad thing, or something else altogether?

As always, feel free to comment below, in my LoveOTB Facebook Page, or by contacting me via my web page.  And if you’e looking to talk to someone about creating your own creative and flexible relationship design, I’d love to hear from you.  For a limited time only, I’m running a summer coaching special, so drop me a note to take advantage of the free introductory session, and the extra hour if you buy a package. I’d love to help you avoid common pitfalls, navigate jealousy, and create your own best relationship!

May you always remember that no matter who, or how many you love, Love is ALWAYS OK!

~♥ Dawn

 

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

© 2013, Dawn 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]

 

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]

YES written in a notebook in pen

21 Reasons to Be Yourself (and Other Thoughts on Identities)

“I’m speaking up for those who feel lost and alone, and who’ve been rejected by others for core pieces of their being, whether that’s paganism, poly, their bodies, kink, or whatever. I’m here to say “you are not alone,” and “you are fine, just the way you are,” and hand them some tools and roadmaps.”
— Dawn Davidson, Nov. 30, 2012

Over the past week and some I’ve been thinking a lot about the topic of Identity. Some of this thinking was, of course, spurred by Dan Savage and his post about how he doesn’t think that polyamory can be an identity. In his world, it’s just something you do, not something you are.  As discussed elsewhere, I disagree with him (though of course Your Mileage May Vary.)

But that’s not the only thing that has me thinking about Identity. See, there’s been a kerfluffle in my world that affects my recent ordination. It’s mostly not even about me, but instead, about my sponsoring priestess.  Apparently, They (the powers that be in the organization through which we were both ordained) became quite concerned with the fact that my sponsoring priestess both practices and teaches Sacred BDSM (aka Sacred Kink — see here for the excellent book on the topic, Sacred Kink: The Eightfold Paths Of BDSM And Beyond, by Lee Harrington.) The reasons for this are several, but the biggest reason appears to be that They have conflated what my sponsoring priestess does, with what happened at the Sedona Temple earlier this year. Please understand that I have nothing against Tantra either (I practice Western Tantra myself and recommend it as a path of connection for individuals, couples and even groups in some situations). What my sponsoring priestess does is a) legal, b) ethical, and c) not what brought the Sedona Temple down (which was accusations of prostitution.) Ultimately, the point of the whole thing isn’t the details of what she’s practicing or teaching, but the fact that They took action based on misinformation, incomplete information, and fear. They feared being “tarred with the same brush,” and chose to denounce the whole of BDSM as a whole, rather than having detailed conversations first and taking actions later.

Now, to be fair, some of the situation was exacerbated by a lack of communication and missed communications between the org and my sponsoring priestess. However, I feel that greater efforts at understanding could have been taken before they chose to denounce several personal sexual practices and choices, revoke the ordination of my sponsoring priestess, and invalidate the ordinations of all of her sponsorees (myself included.)

(By the way, I’m continuing at this time to not speak directly about this organization in this public blog, because I’m still hopeful that some sort of rapprochement might be possible. I do not wish to make the situation worse. Additionally, one of Their issues with me in particular was that I had linked to their site using their logo on my own webpage about my ministerial services without first asking permission. Oops, my bad. For now, I’ve removed the offending references pending resolution. However, none of this changes my basic feelings about the situation, and I’m certainly not against anyone with a stake in the matter speaking out about their own experiences and feelings, or writing on behalf of my sponsoring priestess. I’m just trying to not make things unnecessarily worse for myself, or for her. Write me privately if you would like further information, including templates for a letter writing campaign to educate this organization about sacred kink, or to speak out on behalf of my sponsoring priestess in particular.)

It’s also important (in my view anyway) to note that their action (in revoking my ordination and that of all of the sponsorees) does not actually affect either my mission as a counselor, as a priestess/minister, nor does it affect my ability to perform weddings (and other such ceremonies) here in California (and in some other states.) I was ordained on October 10th, 1989, through the Universal Life Church, and I have confirmed with the ULC that they still have a record of that ordination. My ordination through this other organization was intended mostly to create community ties, and a mutual network of support (hence my cross-linking). I’m sad to lose that, of course, but it has no bearing on my legal ability to serve as a priestess/minister.

Even more to the point, as I told them in my response:

I was also VERY clear during the ordination on Oct 7th that I received that transmission from the Goddess herself, and whatever choices are made here on the physical plane in the [national and international organizations], you (collectively) cannot remove from me that Divine blessing and calling to service. I was called into Her service, and in her service I remain, with or without your blessing, acknowledgment, or papers.

Of course, all of this recalls for me my experiences earlier this summer, in which I was asked to hide who I was in order to stay in a particular online course. As I wrote in another letter to the organization:

Honestly, when I wrote my piece “Coming Out About Love,” which described some of my soul searching while preparing for the ordination, I was afraid to post it publicly on my website… but what I feared at the time was getting pushback from the *poly* community about my *spirituality*.  It never in my wildest dreams occurred to me that the trouble might be the other way around! And yet, here we are.

… Imagine my dismay to find myself facing what appears to me to be the same core issue in the very pagan organization with which I thought to align myself: prejudice and blatant lack of understanding and compassion regarding personal choice, and the teaching of these personal choices as loving, valid forms of relating.

Here I sit, my friends, with egg on my face about my (mostly private) judgments earlier. I am reminded, forcefully, of the bumper sticker one of my partners used to have on his car, that read:

Fundies are fundies, whether they pray to the Lord or the Goddess.

So I offer my apologies to my Christian — and pagan, atheist, agnostic, etc — friends who are NOT judgmental and/or fearful of things they don’t understand. Thank you to all of you good-hearted folks out there striving to understand and accept things outside of your experience.  I appreciate you so much! Thank you for being yourselves, and allowing the space for others to be themselves as well, even when you don’t fully understand the whys and wherefores.

And to all of you — whatever sort of experiences you may have, and whatever ways you might identify, let me reiterate that you are not alone, and you are OK, just the way you are. Whoever you are and whatever choices you make — so long as those are done in Love and respect, and between consenting adults — that’s totally ok! We don’t all have to like the same things, do the same things, or go the same places.  If we did, the world would be boring, and we’d all be trying to squeeze into the same restaurant.  Ugh!

So in that spirit, let me offer you something I started brainstorming the other night (inspired by the awesome Samantha Bennett again). At the bottom of this post I’ve added 21 Reasons To Be Yourself. I think I’m just getting started on this list, so if you have other reasons to offer, please let me know! Feel free to comment below, contact me here, or on my FB Page, Love Outside The Box. I’d be happy to add your reasons, too.

Always remember how awesome you are!

~♥ Dawn

PS: If you’re interested in discussing issues around identity (or any other related topic, such as polyamory, kink, jealousy, Agreements, managing new relationship energy, etc), feel free to schedule a 1/2 hour free consultation with me.  BONUS: For a limited time, each FREE consultation comes with a Jealousy Judo pdf of tools to use to manage jealousy in yourself. Let me know how I can support YOU in being yourself, and speaking your own truth!

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

A 21 self-salute:
21 Reasons to be yourself

1) because no one else can do it — you are the only you there is

2) because you have something to say to the world

3) because your children (or your nieces, nephews, little siblings, etc) need you to — how else could you make it safe for them to be *themselves*?

4) because the world needs you to — it’s time for all of us to stop trying to be someone else, and to give up ransacking the world to “keep up with the Joneses”

5) because Deity (God, Goddess, the Universe, your higher self, the FSM…) put you here to do something.  You wouldn’t want to let God — or yourself — down, would you?

6) so all the other people like you don’t feel so much alone

7) because it isn’t anyone else’s business WHO you are, anyway

8) because otherwise, you’ll go to your grave thinking “what if?”

9) because THEY said you can’t do/be/say that

10) because it feeds your soul

11) because it makes you happy. And that’s enough, all by itself. Really.

12) because what if reincarnation is true, and you aren’t yourself this time, and have to come back and do it all over again?

13) because you’re ok — great, even — just the way you are

14) because you look silly in Julia Roberts’ clothes (I mean, unless you’re Julia Roberts, in which case, you look just fine!) Stop trying to be someone you’re not.

15) because otherwise, who’s going to [bake the cookies/fix the car/type the memo] if you’re off wasting energy elsewhere?

16) because somewhere, sometime, someone will be inspired by you

17) because otherwise, the terrorists (internal or external) will have won

18) because it’s a great way to silence that nasty voice in your head that says you’re “less than.”  By definition, nobody can be a better you than you!

19) because otherwise, how will the postal carrier know whom to deliver your mail to?

20) because *you matter*. Your thoughts, feelings, and actions in this world leave a mark in this world.  The lack of them would, too. Choose to make your mark.

21) otherwise, how could your college buddies find you on Facebook?

(Got more reasons to be yourself?  Share them with me!)

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

[© 2012 Dawn M. Davidson]

Savaging Dan: Some Thoughts on Poly as Identity

The inimitable Dan Savage has stirred things up again, this time by saying it’s not possible for polyamory to be an identity:

Poly is not a sexual identity, PP, it’s not a sexual orientation. It’s not something you are, it’s something you do. — Dan Savage, 11/21/12

For the record (although Dan’s actual advice to Polyamorous Polymath isn’t so bad — basically “if you really can’t compromise on this, then do both of you a favor and end the relationship as gracefully and as quickly as possible”), I definitely disagree with his statement around polyamory and identity. I think that you should be able to identify however you damn well please, as well as loving (and/or being sexually attracted to) whomever and however many people works for you (and for them.) I don’t think these are mutually exclusive concepts. (For some more good poly critique of Dan’s original post, check out Anita Wagner Ilig’s post in her Practical Polyamory blog.)

In a thread on the Poly Researchers list, author Meg Barker (Rewriting the Rules) said,

It is different things for different people, and sometimes at different times for the same person.
To which I added:
“…and for the same person with *different people.*”

As an example, I have some partners where the “fundamental harmonic” is kinky, and some for whom it is not. I literally cannot have vanilla sex with one partner, and I never or rarely have kinky sex with another. It’s about the dynamic BETWEEN individuals, not about some static quality of each person. The fact that there’s a “fundamental harmonic” doesn’t mean that other harmonics are less “real” or less “true” for any particular interaction.

By extension, I think it’s possible for people to be somewhere on the mono to poly/open scale, and to be in a fundamentally poly dynamic with one (or more) partner/s, and in a fundamentally mono dynamic with another.  I think they can APPEAR to change over time, much as bisexual people appear to change over time, when really, it’s more that they’re expressing different parts of themselves at different times with different people.  People are complex, after all!

I even referred to this (in a different context) a couple of months back in my blog:

“…I think it’s by far the most common case that polyamory includes sex. In my definition, polyamory most often includes sex, in the exact same way that monogamy most often includes sex, but can be experienced without it; they’re both relationship styles after all. But just as it’s possible to have a celibate or sex-free monogamous relationship,  it’s quite possible that someone might identify as polyamorous but not be having sex or in a sexual relationship.  The presence or absence of  sex is not like a light switch after all. Otherwise, we’d all walk around changing our status whenever we had a sexual encounter (or didn’t): Now polyamorous, now celibate, momentarily monogamous, polyamorous again ….” (http://blog.unchartedlove.com/?p=1594)

Ultimately, I am concluding, I do view polyamory as an orientation — whether a sexual one or “only a relationship one” pretty much doesn’t matter in this case — which might for some of us be/become an identity. As Jessica Burde said on the PLN list, I think it’s possible for poly to be BOTH “something you are” AND “something you do.”  Which, I’ll note, can be true of being “Queer” as well (much as Dan might prefer to skip over that part):  You can certainly engage in same-sex sexual behaviors, without identifying as “queer”; and you can certainly identify as gay, for instance, while not being in any currently sexual relationship whatsoever.

Sarah Taub mentioned in the version of this thread on the PLN list that she views the genesis of this tension (at least in the US, and I’ll add, possibly the driving force behind Dan’s need to exclude polyamory as an orientation or an identity) as being the struggle for rights and freedoms. The GLBT movement leaders largely chose to frame the discussion as a matter of “innate orientation,” saying that people should not be penalized for expressing their true nature (“we can’t help it.”) So therefore same-sex couples and families should not be penalized in terms of marriage rights and tax benefits, for instance, because “they can’t help being who they are.”

(This framework is, not incidentally, problematic for bisexuals (among others), since people who can choose to be in either a heterosexual or a homosexual relationship don’t fit well within an “I can’t help it” framework. This is undoubtedly at least part of why so many bi folk have felt dismissed, denigrated, or just erased by the GLBT rights activists over the years… and why poly folks and bisexuals seem to have found common cause in at least some cases.)

Polyamory banner in the 2005 SF Pride Parade

The polyamory contingent of the SF Pride Parade, on June 26 2005, marching under the registration of the Bay Area Bisexual Network (BABN.)

On the other hand, there’s another common framework for the “fairness” discussion that dates back at least to the founding of our country, which is the idea of “free choice.” This is what our doctrine of “freedom of religion” is based upon:  “everyone gets to choose whether and how to worship deity/spirit, without interference from the government” (at least in theory).

As Sarah said, GLBT activists have mostly used the first frame, and poly activists have mostly used the second.  There are some GLBT activists that choose the second frame (e.g., “everyone gets to choose whom they love, and whom they call family”), but by and large the differences in these frames can explain why the conversation comes up over and over again as a point of tension, and why (inexplicably to me, previously), so many GLBT folks seem to view polys as “the enemy” rather than natural allies.

I think ultimately, I’m with Bonefish, commenting on Dan’s blog, who says that whether or not polyamory is a sexual orientation (which arguably it’s not under most current definitions of “sexual orientation”), it most definitely CAN be an “identity.”  The point, ultimately, isn’t “orientation vs. choice.”  The point is actually that regardless of whether polyamory is something innate, or something chosen, it can still be a primary part of one’s identity. And no one — not Dan, not some church, not the government — has a right to tell me (or you!) what and who is important to me. I get to love who I love, and to say that, and I shouldn’t have to be ashamed of it, nor fear consequences for speaking out about it (though this latter is still unfortunately true for many people regarding employment and child custody issues in particular. See Woodhull’s Family Matters Project for more on “rights, recognition and respect for all families.”)

To sum up, I think that with regard to the issue of polyamory as identity, Dan has his loud mouth up his proverbial backside, and people have come out in force to tell him so.  What a shame he can’t recognize polyamorous people as potential allies if you doused us in glowpaint and shone a blacklight on us! I’ll surely be looking forward to seeing the responses he posts in next week’s promised follow up on the original post!  Should be very interesting indeed….

I’d be curious to know, by the way, how you identify. Feel free to fill out this quick checkbox form if you’d like. (You don’t even have to leave your email address for this one [ETA: and I’ve even made the name field optional, too]. 🙂

May you have as much love as you want, need, and deserve (no matter what your orientation is!)

~♥ Dawn

PS: It’s kinda funny, actually, because I said some stuff recently that might be read as agreeing with Dan, that poly is something you do rather than are (here in my most recent Agreements Tip, #6.)  To clarify, though, I see it more as a case of AND rather than OR.  Yes, when making Agreements, it’s a good idea to keep sexual behaviors separate from relationship needs.  That’s more about how Agreements (especially ones around Safer Sex) work, though, and not about the validity of viewing polyamory (or GLBT, or…) as either behavior or orientation.

PPS: And as weird as it feels to say this, I find myself agreeing with Tim Graham (Note: a “right wing nutjob” according to Anita) when he says to Dan:

This seems a little bit arbitrary in the world of Anything Goes, doesn’t it? You may behave however you want sexually in Savage World, but the political dictionary is strictly maintained.
That does seem a bit odd, doesn’t it, for someone like Dan who usually argues that no one else should be allowed to comment on his chosen relationship? So who made him god … er … the editor of the “political dictionary” when it comes to polyamory??

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

[© 2012 Dawn M. Davidson]

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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Showtime Reactions: Letter to the Producer

Season 1 of “Polyamory: Married and Dating” has concluded, and the ratings were apparently high enough to warrant trying for another season.  Consequently, Natalia Garcia, the producer, has put out a casting call to pretty much every poly list she can find, asking for more people to volunteer to be on the show.  In the good news department, she’s actively seeking “more diversity” in a number of ways for the next season. In the bad news department, she’s still looking for “charismatic, healthy, and active,” which at least one other person has suggested probably still means, more or less, “thin and conventionally pretty.” The folks over at Modern Poly offered some detailed reviews of the show, and they, like me, and like others I’ve spoken with directly, were concerned over several main points, specifically a) diversity (racial, body-type, age, etc), b) what seems to me to be a heavy emphasis on sex, c) the lack of love and respect demonstrated on the screen, d) some seriously poor communication and relating shown at several points in the show, and e) that the emphasis on real sex on screen means that only a small and fairly privileged slice of the poly community — which tends to mean more white folks again — could possibly afford the potential downsides of appearing on the show.

Natalia, in response to one re-post of her casting call in a local poly list here in the SF Bay Area, wrote a short, enthusiastic letter thanking the re-poster of the casting call and encouraging people to contact her if they wanted to be considered.  I wrote back in response to some of what she wrote there, and you can see what I wrote below the jump. (BTW, I’ve copied as little as possible from that to contextualize my responses, since, although she’s posted a lot of words publicly, these weren’t in as obviously a “public” place. I think most of the rest of what she said in that email is covered in the other links here.)

I’m frustrated and disappointed, to some degree.  On the one hand, I DO sympathize with Natalia in working within the constraints of this medium. And yes, she accomplished something no one else had been able to do so far, in getting a show about polyamory onto a “mainstream” TV channel. And on the other hand, I feel she’s dismissive of some real concerns, and undercuts her own ability to make a positive difference with the show by failing to give serious consideration to these concerns. Some good was done, some bad effects also happened, and a lot more good could be done with a few tweaks to the show. All in all, I find it a mixed bag.

What do you think? Especially if you’ve seen the show, do you find the sex good, or too much?  Do YOU think this show has been a huge “win” for the poly community, or do you think it’s potentially caused some damage?  Or both, neither, or something else altogether?  I’d love to know what others think. As always, feel free to comment here, or over in my Facebook Page, LoveOTB.

May you always love boldly, safely, and well,

~♥ Dawn

PS: I’ve also just now seen that Alan of Poly in the News has done a little Q&A with Natalia, in which he’s asked some more interesting questions. FWIW, it’s not that I think there aren’t attractive people in the poly community; there surely are!  It’s that I think that showing ONLY people who are thin, beautiful, and (almost all) white, means that there are a whole lot of people in the poly community that do not see themselves represented on this show. And Natalia’s response there saying that “all other criticisms … are personal projections” is precisely what I criticize in my commentary below.  Natalia of course is correct that she has to work with whatever the media will buy (that’s the nature of commercial media after all), but she seems oblivious to the fact that she’s reinforcing these very stereotypes in her choices around what and who to show. In particular, she’s not adequately addressing the fact that by showing that much skin, and placing that much emphasis on sex, she narrows her potential participants to only those who have enough privilege to withstand this much public scrutiny, and who can manage the potential risk of losing jobs, custody of children, or other social standing by being out to this degree.  Many people of color, or people of lower socio-economic status, simply cannot afford to take this enormous risk, and therefore haven’t answered her calls.  So saying airily that “these are who came forward” just minimizes her own contribution to the narrow field of applicants, IMO.  Oh well, hopefully she’ll have better luck next time, now that the ground has been broken.

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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

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Safer Sex Agreements for “Example House”

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Woodhull’s “Family Matters Project” launched

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 22, 2012
Contact:
Jeffrey Montgomery
(313) 680-4061
Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance
WOODHULL LAUNCHES FAMILY MATTERS PROJECT AT SEXUAL FREEDOM SUMMIT

The much-anticipated launch of the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance’s Family Matters Project took place at the opening plenary of this weekend’s Sexual Freedom Summit in Washington, DC. Ricci Levy, Woodhull’s Executive Director, announced the launch of the project during her opening remarks.

“Woodhull launched Family Matters to project the fundamental human right to family by eliminating discrimination based on family structure and relationship choices. In 2010, while more than half of all households counted by the US Census were family households, only 20% were what we consider traditional nuclear family households made up of a husband, a wife, and their own children. The Family Matters project will work to expand rights, respect and recognition for all families.” 

The Family Matters project will work along three strategic lines. 1) It will raise public awareness of family diversity through the sharing of stories and research and through a range of social media campaigns. 2) It will provide education about human rights at conferences and other public events. And 3) it will facilitate collaboration with human rights and social justice organizations to draft and promote model policies and legislation preventing discrimination based on family structure.

“The slogan for this project says it all,” Levy continued: “Rights, respect and recognition for every family. We focus on rights because all families deserve the same political social and economic rights regardless of their structure. We focus on respect because no family should face bullying, violence or stigmatization because of their relationship choices. We focus on recognition, because all families deserve to be recognized and taken into account, whether by the US Census Bureau, the IRS, or their neighbors and community members.”

Woodhull invites the participation of all families in kicking off this ambitious project by sharing family stories at  Family Matters Project.org

Woodhull is dedicated to sexual freedom and can be found at:  http://www.woodhullalliance.org/     This project will bring into focus all those various family structures in addition to Mom and Dad, Bob and Sis, Spot and Fluff, and the traditional white picket fence.

[thanks to Ken Haslam and others in e-mail]

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How does this project affect YOUR family? What does your family look like?  How might it feel different to see your family represented?  How about just seeing another family that looks like yours? I for one am very excited about this human rights approach to family diversity. I think it allows us to side-step a lot of unnecessary discussion about religion.  Family DOES matter, and it’s a HUMAN right.

May you — and your family! — love boldly, safely, and well.

~♥ Dawn

PS: want to talk about your family, and why it matters? Feel free to drop me a line to ask for your own free 30-minute (or half-price 60 minute) session. I’m always happy to help other relationship explorers.

 

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©2012, Dawn M. Davidson

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Open-ness, honesty, and safety: Some actual data!

I‘ve long held the opinion (based on personal experience as well as some educated guesses) that people who were poly/open/ethically non-monogamous have stronger and more consistent safer sex boundaries and practices than folks who were cheating (or as this article frames it, “unfaithful.”) After all, when “no one’s looking,” it’s very hard to uphold any sort of boundaries that require long-term thought over short term pleasure (even for one’s own sexual safety.) However, up till recently, that’s largely been conjecture.  This article below reports results of one of the first ever studies on the topic. I’ve only got the abstract (and thanks for that go to N.T. from the Poly Researchers list), but the results reported are unambiguous.

“Unfaithful Individuals are Less Likely to Practice Safer Sex Than Openly Nonmonogamous Individuals”

The Journal of Sexual Medicine

Volume 9, Issue 6, pages 1559–1565, June 2012

ABSTRACT

Introduction. Given the prevalence and harm of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), there is a need to examine safer sex strategies in the context of romantic relationships and extradyadic sexual encounters. Sexual infidelity is associated with a variety of detrimental psychosocial outcomes; however, little research has addressed the sexual health ramifications of sexually unfaithful partners and members of other high-risk nonmonogamous lifestyles.

Aims. To determine whether sexually unfaithful individuals or “negotiated nonmonogamous” individuals are more likely to engage in sexual health risk reduction behaviors during extradyadic encounters and with their primary partner.

Method. Data were collected via an anonymous Internet-based study. Several hundred sexually unfaithful individuals and individuals with a negotiated nonmonogamy agreement completed a sexual health questionnaire.

Main Outcomes Measures. Self-reported measures of risk reduction behaviors within the primary relationship and risk reduction behaviors during the extradyadic encounter were assessed.

Results. Sexually unfaithful participants demonstrated significantly lower rates of protective sexual health behaviors both within their primary partnerships and during their extradyadic sexual encounters. Sexually unfaithful participants were also less likely to engage in frequent STI testing, and less likely to discuss safer sex concerns with new partners.

Conclusions. These data add to the literature on the negative effects of sexual unfaithfulness. Understanding rates of nonengagement in safer sex strategies will be helpful to those who lead efforts to increase condom use and other preventive STI measures. Conley TD, Moors AC, Ziegler A, and Karathanasis C. Unfaithful individuals are less likely to practice safer sex than openly nonmonogamous individuals. J Sex Med 2012;9:1559–1565.

This, of course, is one of the many reasons why I feel that openness and honesty are cornerstones of polyamory and other forms of ethical non-monogamy.  Honesty is not only the best policy from an emotional standpoint… it’s also a great “harm reduction” tool for everyone concerned.

If you’re looking for some help with your own safer sex testing, there’s a widget down along the right side of my blog here that will help you find a testing facility.  You can also find a few more resources for testing and other safer sex matters in my Resources list. And here’s a bonus link I posted recently in my Facebook, called Health Care Without Shame, by Dr. Charles Moser, which may also help you locate caregivers that can be appropriately responsive to your needs.

If you’re looking for help creating Agreements to support safer sex (or safer emotional relating), then you might want to check out my in-progress Agreements Workbook entries. And last but not least, of course, you’re always welcome to contact me for a personal session (by phone, Skype, or in person), if you’d like to bounce ideas off of me, or get more personalized feedback and assistance.

May you always love safely, boldly, and well!

~♥ Dawn

 

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©2012, Dawn M. Davidson