Category Archives: Personal

Math, Normaling and Sadness: Being Vanilla in a Kinky World

Note: this post originally appeared on In Our Words.

For the past two years or so, I’ve been officially identifying as vanilla. Before that, I guess I was “experimenting,” or “curious.” When I did that thing that everyone does for six months or so where you just hook up indiscriminately to get your numbers up to whatever you think is acceptable, there were some kinky folks in there. As good, consent-wanting kinksters, they went “this is what I like, what about you?” and I went “that could be fun, I don’t really know, let’s try it!”

Well, maybe that’s not where this starts. Maybe this starts with when I was 6 or 7 and my best friend and I would play this secret game. One of us would lie on the floor (usually her) and the other one would sit on her back and make up rules (which she may or may not have disclosed) and spank the girl who broke the rules. I thought this game was awesome, and was amazed that my friend would play it with me.

Or the way all my childhood masturbatory fantasies involved pretty girls finding themselves in degrading, dangerous situations, controlled by some mysterious and often mechanical force. Even now, porn where someone’s being forced to follow very specific rules, or subject to really unjust corporal punishment, gets me all kinds of aroused. So of course when I found myself in a stranger’s bedroom surrounded by floggers and rope and candles and things I couldn’t even identify, I went “Yes! I think I would like these things! Let’s try stuff!”

So I had no explanation for how I had some pretty great sex with some very nice people who were super-good at helping me find my boundaries and listening not only to my verbal cues but paying attention to my body, and still woke up the next morning feeling kind of uncomfortable. There was definitely the problem where I didn’t like-like these people and yet stayed in contact with them after the first hookup, but something else was amiss, too.

I extracted myself from the kinky community almost as quickly as I dove in. I was falling in love with Thing One anyway, and didn’t want anything to distract me from those hormones. Thing One’s got vanilla interests that line up almost perfectly with mine, and our sex is sweet and familiar and explosive and centering and has never left me feeling a little off the next day. I dated and hooked up with a string of other vanilla guys for a while, and by the time (super-kinky) Thing Two wandered into my life and went “so kink?” during the first-date checklist, I (more or less confidently) answered “vanilla!”

It turns out vanilla is as bizarre an identity to hold in the queer slutty world as Christian. I’m pretty much guaranteed to weird people out at parties by dropping one or the other of those bombs. Being an iconoclast and/or hipster, this makes me want to be vanilla even more. It makes me mysterious and interesting, see?

Of course, then there are the kinky people I actually want to hook up with. Since deciding that vanilla is a thing I am, people are a lot more afraid to suggest kinky stuff during sex, as if I haven’t been reading Dan Savage since I was 15. GGG, people! Vanilla folks can like getting you off and decide to be accommodating!

Of course, I get that it’s hard to lay out all the weird shit you’re into when I keep insisting that all I like is kissing and bit-rubbing. I’m serious, though; my ideal sexual encounter is basically “we make out, we take each other’s clothes off, we touch each other’s bits with our bits until we are both satisfied.” Crotch-bits, mouth-bits, butt-bits, it’s all fun, but if I’m orchestrating all the things I like best, no one’s getting hurt or embarrassed or pushing boundaries or wearing costumes or whatever. Kinky folks are always amazed I can just get off and feel awesome, but that’s how vanilla works, friends. I’m not bored, not even a little.

I wanna be a better person, though, and own that there is some totally weird shit I’m into. I’m not gonna stop claiming to be vanilla, ’cause I sure as hell don’t want to start getting invitations to “play parties” and “munches” and other things whose names sound like we’re all trying to be Alice in Wonderland. Besides, I haven’t heard any evidence that anyone’s doing the stuff I think is great at any of those things, so forget y’all boring people.

Kink One: Math.

Oh my God, math, guys. It must have been like 2005 when I discovered math porn, and at first it was just like all of Joey Comeau’s other porn, real and raw and fantastic but not anything that really blew my mind. But this stuff has stuck with me, so much more than anything else. That story where a girl has this accountant over and she wants him to solve equations that are written all over her body? One of the hottest things I can imagine. I want someone to do math on my body, like, all the time. I get kind of excited when people are even doing math near me. And my favorite kinky porn? The kind where people are counting their spankings or something. It’s the math, guys. Numbers are insanely sexy and I don’t know why we all aren’t fucking with numbers all the damn time.

Kink Two: Normaling

So I was watching 30 Rock the other day (it’s the final season, after all), and Jenna and Paul discovered this new dirty sex thing: normaling. It’s where you do normal-ass couple stuff, like shopping for placemats and falling asleep while watching a movie and playing board games with another couple at their apartment. And the next day I was standing outside a dressing room waiting for Thing Three, and I realized that three-quarters of our “dates” have been running errands, and then I realized that I secretly love that. Because I’m a huge normo. On my second-ever date with Thing One, we went out to pick up milk and didn’t even make out in the car. We hardly ever miss a milk run, still. Hell, Thing Two and I are throwing a fake wedding next weekend, and intend to keep throwing them every few months until all our friends stop hanging out with us. Normaling is great because you can be an exhibitionist and entirely under the radar all at the same time, and also because you actually get some important things done in the process. Multitasking!

Kink Three: Sadness

My favorite love story ever goes “two people meet and fall in amazing love and are so happy and then terrible tragedy strikes and kills one of them far too young and the other one has to just keep living.” I’m making Thing Two watch through the gay Israeli canon with me. Thing One and I have been doing Breaking Bad. You know that thing where people use horror movies to force their date to cuddle with them because of terror? Sad movies are so much better, guys. What makes you appreciate your shmoopy more than watching young love get snuffed out by violent and unexpected death? Note: just like people with rape fetishes don’t actually wanna get raped, I don’t actually want any of my partners to die early and violent. Kink is all about make-believe!

I feel better now that I’ve lain my kink cards on the table. I hope this inspires you all to dig deep and find your own weird shit, too. And to write more math porn: there is a severe shortage.


On Celebrating Gay Advent, Hallowe’en, and Sincerity

Note: this post originally appeared on In Our Words.

David Chastity: David Chastity here with Thing Two this morning to talk about the best holiday ever, Gay Christmas. Not just ‘cause it’s our anniversary-

Eugene Cain: Eww.

DC: I know right? Relationships are gross. But Gay Christmas, known by lesser mortals as Hallowe’en, is objectively the best holiday. When did you first realize this fact, Eugene? Was it about the same time you figured out you were queer?

EC: Hallowe’en for me has always been the best holiday. Something about being able to put on another identity and try it out for a while has always been a soul-searching experience for me. I think some people find themselves more honest while wearing a mask. Upon discovering my queerness years ago, October became ever greater. Which tradition is your favorite in the month of October?

DC: Why would you make me pick? First off, we should explain how Hallowe’en bleeds out past the edges of the month- it’s way too big to be contained. Just like how boring Christmas really starts right after Thanksgiving, Gay Christmas starts with my birthday in late September, and doesn’t end until you wake up sometime in early November with face paint in bizarre places.

EC: Penn Station in Manhattan is my favorite place post-party. Seeing the various stages of costume removal. Witnessing all the tired, sobering up and “wanting to get home on LIRR or NJ Transit” people always makes me feel better about most parts of my life. No one is going to blink if I walk into work still face painted, but lawyers and CEOs will need to put away this part of their life. I hear you celebrate “Gay Advent”. What’s up with that, David?

DC:Yes! Because I’m in seminary, I make extra holidays and rituals out of everything. But this one dates back farther than that. When I showed up at Queer Hippie College in 2006, I promptly made best friends some other queer nerds. We started celebrating Oscar Wilde’s birthday on October 16, which means wearing velvet and ruffles and eating cucumber sandwiches. This led right into Hallowe’en, the party of the year at QHC for obvious reasons. We were all Gay Icons for Hallowe’en, Shakespeare and Elton John and I think our other friend was a drag queen because he’s lazy. The next year we discovered LGBT History Month, which is very properly placed in October. We started dressing up as Queer Historical Figures and taking pictures and making up elaborate stories on Facebook, sometimes related to the Icons and sometimes, well, we got creative. It took until seminary for me to realize it was an advent calendar, but the tradition is well entrenched now.

EC: Costumes and stories and pictures is so Hallowe’en. Ritual is the natural way to express holiday cheer.

DC: Exactly! Ritual and performance. One year me and my Comrade spent most of the Hallowe’en festivities in our room making YouTube videos because we were dressed up as YouTube stars. Hallowe’en is a really performative holiday for me, which is a huge element of my queerness- so much of my gender and sexuality is a conscious choice I make to act out something, for myself or for someone else.

EC: For me, while I was making more strident attempts at being an upright citizen, working hard jobs or well-paying jobs, Hallowe’en kept being more and more of a cancerous growth on my calendar spiraling out of control. These days, I’ve embraced the part of my identity that’s a hooligan. You’d more likely find me stealing candy and pumpkins than working for them. I usually start celebrating when the first pumpkins show up at the grocery store.

DC: Except now you know me, so you start celebrating with my birthday.

EC: I like to think that we’re writing history. I like to imagine that in a few decades, everyone will be starting mid-September like Christmas seems to. I think we can start edging up on November times as well. People are already consuming the entrails of dead pumpkins for Thanksgiving, why not usurp that?

DC: Thanksgiving is a pretty useless holiday, although I love pies. But let’s focus on what we came here for.

EC: Did you have any particularly outlandish costumes or reactions from coworkers while you represented your calendar?

DC: I work with Quakers, they’re a little confused when you wear a tie, but mostly non-plussed. I’ve been kind of disappointed with the costuming potential of the Gay Advent lineup this year, although RuPaul’s yet to come, so it’s gonna get better.

EC: RuPaul does slake your need for theatrics, for sure. RuPaul and the gender non-conforming community reminded me to look up which figure got the honor of representing us. This year’s calendar celebrates trans activist and “first nationally known transgender American” Christine Jorgensen.

DC: The calendar definitely focuses more on picking really important people, and less on theatrics. Fortunately, it’s easy for me to invent theatrics when I have enough free time and pliant friends. I think my favorite Gay Advent story is the time me and my Comrade’s now-fiancee pretended to be action stars and ran all over Western Massachusetts leaping over rocks and barrel rolling and crap, in honor of actress Cherry Jones. Spirit of Hallowe’en, right there. Speaking of: Hallowe’en movies.

EC: Linus is all I really need. “Each year, the Great Pumpkin rises out of the pumpkin patch that he thinks is the most sincere. He’s gotta pick this one. He’s got to. I don’t see how a pumpkin patch can be more sincere than this one. You can look around and there’s not a sign of hypocrisy. Nothing but sincerity as far as the eye can see.”

DC: You’re not even going to try to traumatize anyone with the Grinch?

EC: Lovely of you to bring up my favorite little bit of childhood. I bet the jury’s out on Seuss, like Shakespeare. I think “Hallowe’en is Grinch Night” speaks to the same things as Linus. The main character is repeatedly told to face his fears and to own his perspective and actions. Even by the villain. Do you have a favorite bit of October fiction?

DC: Other than the ones I’ve made up? I have to go back to the wider focus on Gay Advent, which encompasses the celebration of Saint and Martyr Oscar Wilde. I usually squeeze in a reading of the Importance of Being Earnest, which also deals with these themes of honesty in artifice that we keep coming back to.The movie with Colin Firth and Rupert Everett is pretty great, too.

EC: Harvey Milk’s not on the calendar this year-

DC: He was in the past- icons don’t repeat, for greater education!

EC: Sure. Anyway, Milk urged all of his friends and supporters to use their most powerful weapon, their own true identity, to usher in an era of human rights that we are in the wake of still. But my final quote will be from today’s figure. Federico Garcia Lorca said “To burn with desire and keep quiet about it is the greatest punishment we can bring on ourselves.”
DC: And if I’ve learned anything from half-memorizing the greater works of Oscar Wilde, it’s that “man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask and he’ll tell you the truth.” There’s safety in pretending to be someone else, and what we choose to pretend reveals more about us than it does about them.

EC: All of the Hallowe’en dogma and myth can be summed up in this: sincerity is the reason for the season.

Things That Make My Lady Parts Feel Good: Masturbation Through the Ages

Note: This post originally appeared on In Our Words.

My first memory is of masturbating. The first one that’s really mine, I mean. The one I know isn’t just a home movie or family photograph, but is really and truly made up of just an experience in my head. I’m maybe 3 or 4, old enough to be potty trained, too young for kindergarten or even preschool. My parents have this couch, one of those late 80s brown plaid monstrosities with the different textured threads in the weaves so it’s a little bumpy. I think I only remember what the couch looks like from photos. But this couch is in our living room, and sometime before this memory, I learned that, when I hoist myself up on its arm and grind my crotch into the place where you can feel the wood frame through the cushion, it feels amazing. So in this memory, that’s what I’m doing. I’m alone in the room, confident that no one will discover me–even at this age, I know this is a private activity. And maybe that’s why this memory has stuck so well, because of how much I had to protect it from anyone else knowing.

I remember plenty more masturbation as I got older. My parents had this rocking chair. I can’t remember the names of most of my elementary school teachers. I’ve been known to stare blankly when my mom tells a story about a family vacation we took when I was in high school. I remember this chair, though. I remember exactly how its wood felt under my fingers, how my hand wrapped around the end of the arm, and especially how it was exactly right to prop a toy catalog in and hoist myself up into the curve of the arm and grind away. Forget your Penthouses and Playboys. When I was pre-pubescent, nothing could provide better fodder than a Toys R Us catalog opened to the Barbie section. It wasn’t even their bodies, so much, it was the characters, docile creatures I could control in my mind, send into torture chambers that would surely do the Marquis de Sade proud. How I became such a vanilla adult, with such kinky childhood fantasies, I’ll never know.

When puberty approached, I found that the hard edge of the rocking chair’s arm suddenly became too much. I started draping a pillow over it, finding soft edges much more effective at bringing that same burst of pleasure I was so used to. And then my parents got rid of that rocking chair, and I spent a few weeks lost, unsure how to ever again achieve what I’d done for years. Our couches were all the wrong height, and besides, it would be nice to have an option in a room with a door, for that whole privacy thing. And so I discovered that the corner of my loft bed could hold a pillow pretty well, and, dangling four and a half feet in the air, with a bit more maneuvering to support myself at the difficult angle, I could still get where I wanted, out of breath and a bit red in the face and feeling something like an urge to pee, no matter how empty my bladder.

It wasn’t just toy catalogs that provided me something to look at while humping my furniture. Indeed, I didn’t connect the activity with sex at all; I was too innocent to know that BDSM was sexual, and I was just as happy to rub my crotch while reading anything at all–historical novels, my science textbook, the TV Guide. Specific material didn’t turn me on, I just liked the way it felt when I pressed my body up against that pillow, and I might as well also be reading, right?

In high school, I learned the word masturbation. And I learned that it was a thing women could do, too, and I started to wonder. I’d never even touched myself down there, at least not intentionally. What was I missing? I was reading all kinds of sex advice, for some reason or another, and I definitely knew that women who wanted to have good sex needed to masturbate and find out what they liked. Nothing I read told me what to do, though. I’d seen enough movies to know how it worked for boys, more or less, and what a male orgasm looked like, but whatever light little things I was reading focused more on the “draw a bath, light some candles, do what feels right” kind of advice. Not helpful when you’re 16 and afraid to use tampons ’cause you aren’t entirely sure where the hole even is (it’s not like you can see down there!).

And that is why I am telling this story today. Because even when we talk about women masturbating, we don’t really talk about it. We sort of mention vibrators, and bubble baths, and romance novels. But think about depictions you’ve seen on tv, in movies. There’s a storyline in Scrubs where Carla tells Elliot to sit on top of her washing machine in order to orgasm. I tried that once, in college or something, when I was still trying to figure out what an orgasm actually was. I couldn’t even get my clit to touch the washer while sitting on it, much less experience anything more interesting than a bumpy car ride. Maybe some women get off simply being near something that jiggles, but I’m not one of them.

The other classic is the showerhead method. We had a great massaging showerhead at my house, and I got around to trying that some time after I had managed to locate my own clitoris. Turns out, no stream of water is ever going to be strong enough to make me feel anything more than warm and wet, and not in the way where those words are synonyms for “turned on.” Just in the shower, covered in water, feeling mildly disappointed.

I kept trying to learn how to masturbate with my hand around this time, too. I was pretty sure that was the right way to do it, and if I just stroked my clit enough, it would feel awesome. It felt kind of good. I understood some of the appeal. But usually I got bored, or frustrated, and resorted to the tried-and-true pillow-on-the-bedframe. By now, I was convinced that I’d ruined my clit forever with too-hard stimulus and, since humping a pillow has no human analog, would probably always have terrible sex.

Fortunately, I shortly thereafter started having actual sex. With inexperienced college boys at first, which helped nothing, but once I got me some real partners, I finally started to sort out this orgasm and masturbation business. It took a little while for me to get comfortable with how sex works for two people to quite figure it out, and it turns out that I’m a kind of subtle orgasm-er anyway. But over time, I came to recognize and feel those peaks when I’m pretty sure I can’t take anymore and then suddenly something breaks and I kind of shudder and release and then want to curl up in a ball for a second and then go back for more (although not necessarily more orgasms).

What I had to learn, though, is that my orgasms with other people are nothing like the ones I give myself. I spent a little while convinced that I couldn’t come on my own, that a lifetime of masturbation had given me pleasure, sure, but not whatever key the sex advice columnists seem to think exists when you’re all alone. When I’m with someone else, my orgasms are expansive, with long build-ups and I can’t help but make all kinds of noise, and then breathe deeply and settle back into my skin for a while. Alone, it’s more like what I imagine men experience. I can get there fairly quick, and it’s less a release than a peak, a sense that I’ve reached the most I can have, and I hold my breath to make it last as many seconds as I can, and then collapse, spent with the effort. One orgasm isn’t better than the other, they’re just different.

Since I’ve gone and figured this out, I’ve found other ways to masturbate, too. I still like the classic pillow-on-furniture (also convenient when sleeping in the same room as someone else- get your pillow under your body and you can hump it very subtly in the dark!), but I do have some vibrators I like now, and sometimes I even use my hands. I’ve learned that kegels are great, and make me feel like a stallion slapping his boner on his belly. I found out that my forearms are highly erogenous, which is great for when you get horny at the office but can’t really do anything about it, ’cause they don’t put any hump-friendly furniture in bathroom stalls.

Consider this my call to action. Masturbation isn’t all about penises. The things that make lady parts feel good are varied, and don’t always involve household appliances. Everyone start telling your real masturbation stories, so that more people can have more orgasms.

Let’s Get Some Shoes: On Being a Queer Feminist Femme Who Loves High Heels

Note: this post originally appeared on In Our Words.

Sometimes Pandora makes terrible choices about what to advertise to me. Engagement rings, diapers, and luxury cars have all been known to show up on the breaks between Jesus Christ Superstar and Garth Brooks, forcing me to wonder when I can start hitting thumbs-down on items completely irrelevant to my life. Sometimes Pandora is right on the mark, though, like when they tell me about Taco Bell and Doritos teaming up to create the Ultimate Stoner Food, or remind me how much I love Google+ Hangouts. But by far my favorite, most relevant Pandora ads are for SHOES. Just today I glanced over to find a gorgeous bright pink peep-toe stiletto with sequins, and spent a good 30 or 90 seconds just admiring its beauty. You see, I am one of those girls who loves high heels.

I sometimes feel like I should apologize for it. After all, I’m a feminist, and a queer, and I know that heels do terrible things to your body and are just designed to make you look sexy for men! And yet. I see an exciting pair of shoes, and I feel like one of those ladies in a commercial. It doesn’t help that I also love weddings, like, so much, and would eat yogurt all the time if I could, because yogurt is delicious. And the next thing I know I’m aerating my boyfriend’s back yard at his first wife’s wedding because I just had to wear these shoes that are so cute, and also all my eye makeup is sweating off so it looks like I’m crying, and Oxygen is pulling up in a van to offer me a new reality show just for women. Okay, I made that last part up, but you get the point. I’m an accidental stereotype.

I wasn’t always this way. Both my grandmothers were cookie cutter tomboys, athletic women who had no interest in fashion and such silliness. When my mom was little, her mom kept her hair cut short for maximum ease, which once led a child to ask my mother if she was a boy or a girl, a traumatizing experience we hear about at every major holiday and family gathering. (Whether this early androgyny has given my mom better sympathy for gender outlaws is a topic for another day.) So by the time I came along, I inherited a family tradition of practicality over aesthetics, encouraged to express myself through my clothes, sure, but thankfully avoiding the entire beauty industry until my adolescence was near over. While my high school friends were going to the salon with their moms for tanning, waxing, manicures, and whatever else femmes are apparently required to do, I was watching Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and wondering if I should ask my mom about moisturizer. Surrounded as I was by pop culture gay men, I spent my late teens trying to express my masculine side, mostly by reading gender theory and cutting pictures of male teen heartthrobs out to put on my wall. Being a teenager is confusing.

Fortunately, the gender theory I stumbled into was good stuff, and I even managed to stumble into a college so queer it invited Kate Bornstein to speak at orientation. Living on an all-queer hall in the dorms, I made friends with trans kids and started to feel less like I had to be a boy to like boys. I learned how to bind my chest and started collecting neckties and began doing drag in multiple genders. Other people may talk about going to costume parties in college, but I don’t think that I went to a single party without a costume. Somewhere in that four years of trying on dozens of genders, I came out with a pretty femme one.

I’ve only gotten more femme in the years since I left college. I no longer start my trip to the thrift store in the menswear section, but instead make a beeline to the shoes. Nothing can change my attitude and outlook quite as drastically as putting on a pair of heels, the higher the better. Recently, Thing Two’s metamour had a Drag Karaoke party for their birthday. I leaped at the chance to play dress up again, and got even more excited when I realized I could bring Thing One with me and coordinate our outfits. In my classic overachieving style, I decided to do Velvet Goldmine, me Brian Slade and he Curt Wild, and that meant I got to go buy New Shoes.

I found them at one of those places that buys and resells clothes, just a step up from Goodwill. I’m a size 6, and I’ve never had an issue fitting shoes, which helps explain my love. And there on the sale shelf sat a pair of 5 inch black velour platform heels. For something like $5, I got the highest heels I’ve ever owned (a distinction that was previously held by the dominatrix boots I bought for $10 before my first porn shoot). I got a lot of other great clothes to make two fantastic glam rock outfits, but nothing excited me like these shoes. I spent days practicing wearing them. I watched a video about how to walk in heels, just to make sure my technique was right. Still, faced with the prospect of walking some 8 blocks on uneven sidewalks to the karaoke bar, I wore flats on the way over and switched at the bar. Thing Two called me a wimp, claiming he’s walked farther in worse. I don’t believe him. My shoes (and everything else) were a party hit, and I’m sort of sad I don’t have places to go in ridiculous heels every week.

And I’m still a really good feminist. I play high femme because I love it, and I’m just as comfortable rolling out of bed unshowered, putting on the same shorts I’ve been wearing for a week, and going out to breakfast because my interest in scrambled eggs is a lot higher than my interest in looking cute. This is the real point of feminism: not rejecting one form of being a woman in favor of a more acceptable one, but instead opening the roles up for all of us to pick how we want to be. Moreover, I’d argue that my embrace of femme style is a pro-woman stance: rather than claiming that the only way to be equal is to reject that which is feminine, and thus masculinize ourselves, I celebrate the fun of that which is entirely associate with the female. People who are authentically butch should stay butch, but those of us femmes are equally right to buy ridiculous heels and wear glitter eye makeup and laugh over our bowls of fruit.

Avoiding the Big Talk: Coming Out to People As Poly

Note: This post originally appeared on In Our Words.

Like everyone else, I was so pleased to read Anderson Cooper’s coming out letter when Nico posted it on Facebook about an hour after it went live. I felt such empathy for the way Anderson has guarded his privacy; I’ve written before about the reasons I remain closeted. I’ve been trying something new recently, though. Something that feels kind of like what Anderson was talking about.

I started a new job a few months ago. I have only two co-workers, one of whom is one of my dearest friends and knows most of my secrets. The other, our boss, is a Canadian Quaker who looks like Tom Cruise, a likeness we are not allowed to mention, because “Tom Cruise is just such a bad person.” So, basically, I work for the most polite person you have ever met. It’s a friendly office, and sometimes we talk about our feelings in staff meetings, because that’s just how we are.

So, I’ve been trying something new. It used to be that I was either super-closeted about being polyamorous, or I had one of those big Coming Out moments, when I’d sit someone down and say “so I’m poly” and draw a chart of all my partners and theirs and answer all those questions that people inevitably have. But I’ve gotten tired of feeling like I have to have a Big Talk with people just to provide context for whose adorable dog is living in my house. Instead, I’m trying that thing that straight monogamous people do when they talk about their partners. I just talk about them. I mention someone either by name or drop in the title “boyfriend,” and then tell whatever story I was going to tell. (At a recent happy hour, for unrelated reasons, my boss raised a toast to “polyamory and stuff.” He’s clearly gonna be fine with whatever he learns.)

So far, it’s been subtle. I haven’t felt a burning need to tell people who don’t already know about going to karaoke with my boyfriend and his wife. Thing Two went and moved in with me the other week, and I kind of mentioned that to my boss when talking about my weekend. He didn’t really notice or ask further questions. Folks who have tread the line about coming out know that feeling, when you get away with a mention without making a Big Deal of it, and then you kind of want to make a Big Deal about how chill that whole situation is.

Work is one of the last frontiers for me to come out at. I came out at seminary in a slightly bigger way. On our very first day of orientation, we all sat in a big circle and went around to talk about where we were from and who was waiting at home for us. I hadn’t decided yet what I would do, but when it came around to me, I just said it. Said “I’m polyamorous” and then described Thing One and his family and how they’re my family, too. When I met Thing Two a few months later, my seminary friends were some of the people I got to gush to. When Thing One married his second wife, I put a picture on my seminary Facebook group, right along with the pictures of my classmates’ weddings. I talked openly about my relationship structure in Sexuality class, and people thanked me for my honesty and the diversity it’s brought.

I’ve never gotten any flack for coming out as poly. I’m careful, of course, and only disclose to people I assume will react well. A few people express concern, probably because they’re imagining something more like traditional polygamy and less like an open, ethical, equal relationship structure. So I get to educate those people and promise that I’m being treated well and my needs are met, and that everyone is really wonderful and we’re going to be fine.

I haven’t come out to my parents, or any of my extended bio-family. Thing One and I have been dating for almost two years at this point, and I mentioned that I was dating him to my parents a few months into the relationship. They’ve asked no questions about him, not even an age or an occupation or any sort of innocuous detail. When I went on vacation with him and his wives and children, I simply told my parents I was going with his family. They asked nothing even then. I have brought Thing One to none of the family gatherings that happen just 45 minutes from where we live, even though my cousins regularly bring partners. No one has yet asked me to make an excuse for his absence.

I’m having a little fun with my parents’ WASP-y refusal to pry now that Thing Two has moved in with me. I’ve mentioned Thing Two by name, but with no other description, a few times. Once when I visited him in the town he used to live in, my mom remarked that it was strange that I was going to see him when he’d been in my town so recently. I gave her no further information. And so now she knows that he lives with me, and that he likes her taste in mugs and is also taking my allergy pills, and I’m waiting to see if my parents ever work up the nerve to ask a question about him. I should be waiting a while.

Back before I was so poly that I needed to consult nine people to plan a date night, I identified pretty openly as polyamorous to anyone who asked. I felt no qualms about publicly disparaging monogamy (ah, the know-it-all tendencies of youth), nor did I feel that anyone would ever stop me from doing anything for my poly identity. These days, I walk a line between wanting to protect myself and to protect my poly family. I worry about being kicked out of church work for failing to live up to someone else’s family values. But I still have some of that snotty teenager in me. I think about telling the Bishop I’m not interested in ordination because the life of a pastor isn’t compatible with my family.

Ultimately, I want to be out the way I am at work. I’m tired of the Big Talk, and I’m tired of feeling like I can’t mention the people who matter to me. I want to put a couple photos up and say what I’ve been doing honestly and easily, in passing. Here’s to hoping that’s how it goes. If not, I’ll just steal Anderson’s letter and change the words to be about me.

Love’s Not Real Until One Of You Dies: How the Little Mermaid Made Me an Emotional Masochist

Note: This post originally appeared on In Our Words.

A few weeks ago, a friend shared this with me on Google+. (Yes, I use Google+. You’re missing out.) It turns out, according to some historical research posted on tumblr, that The Little Mermaid was written as a love letter by Hans Christian Andersen to another man. Apparently ol’ HCA was a half-’mo, totally capable of falling for dudes as for ladies, although sadly restricted in his ability to act on his queerest desires. His loss is our gain, though, because The Little Mermaid is a really great love story.

I was especially attracted to this bit of news because The Little Mermaid is a special story for me. The Disney movie came out when I was two, see, and it was the first movie I saw in theaters. My dad took me, starting a long tradition of us going to movies together, usually around Christmastime. And starting a less intentional tradition of my dad accidentally exposing me to all kinds of Gay Gayness, which I certainly would have found on my own, but which is more hilarious because he brought it on.

The Little Mermaid is almost certainly the ur-love story in my mind. I don’t even remember that first time I saw it, but I definitely saw it plenty more times as a child, and it primed me to love Gay Love Stories best. We all know the basic outline: funky misfit child dreams of some bizarre life her parents don’t understand, eventually runs away to find those people she’s idolized, falls in love with someone, and depending on if we’re still in a Disney movie, the story ends with either a wedding or a funeral. In HCA’s original, Ariel has to live in excruciating pain every time she moves her magic-created legs, and Prince Jerkface marries some other lady anyway; Ariel turns into some kind of air-sprite-thing that has to do good deeds before it can go to heaven. This ending appeals to me way more than Disney’s cutesy wedding, because I’m a fucked-up emotional masochist.

That core story is at the heart of every story I’ve loved ever since, though. An American Tale, while technically about Jewish immigrants and the love of a brother for his sister, is also a cartoon movie about a misfit who ends up with a totally different crowd and has to try to bridge those two communities to find true (familial) love. And is a movie I was obsessed with in late elementary school. Come middle school, I found fantasy novels with openly queer characters (while everyone else was reading Harry Potter, because I am a hipster), and, sure enough, a gay character whose True Love died like 6 months after they met was my absolute favorite.

Then in high school my parents got a Netflix account, and, true to my dad’s accidental enabling, I started using his queue to work my way through the helpfully collated Gay & Lesbian section. The best was when my dad rented Angels in America all on his own, because it won all those Golden Globes, and he had no idea that it was about AIDS. I watched it more than once before letting him put that red envelope back in the mailbox. Louis and Prior were so much the love story that moved my heart, like the real ending of The Little Mermaid. A fatal illness drives them apart, and Prince Jerkface finds someone else, and then the Pure of Heart Hero doesn’t really die, but must live on doing good deeds.

These days, I barely even want to watch a movie romance unless one of the couple’s going to die at the end. I got mad at I Love You Phillip Morris for faking Jim Carrey’s death. It’s not a real love story for me if there aren’t Impossible Pressures keeping the lovers apart, and queer stories have way better pressures than some weak-ass Romeo and Juliet bullshit. (Mercutio in that play, though… such a beautiful forbidden love.)

I worry about my love stories now, though. Not for myself: I am quite happily living out multiple relationships with very little external drama in my way. No, I’m worried because us Queers are becoming pretty accepted and well-integrated into society, and what if we can all just start planning weddings and living Happily Ever After like boring straight people? Fine for real life, shitty for stories. So thank you, every state that’s passing laws to try to force the queers back underground. I need your oppressive policies to fuel another generation of angsty queer artists who can churn out good love stories for me.

The Fall and Release of My Sexual Inhibitions: How Group Sex Has Changed My Life

Note: This post originally appeared on In Our Words.

It’s no secret, I’m pretty slutty. But I used to be a lot sluttier. I want to tell you a story about the Fall my number of sex partners rose from “can count on one hand (and definitely know all their names)” to double-digits in the space of a few months.

There have been two major revolutions in my sexual life. The first was when I was 20 or so and realized that I can orgasm during intense meditation, which helped prove that sexuality is so very spiritual, and helped me dispel any last bits of shame I had about being religious and wanting to be slutty. The second was in the fall of 2010, when I got to experience sex with two or more partners at once.

As a kid who knew I was poly by puberty, long before I had the language to describe it, I’d been dreaming of threesomes and group encounters for quite some time. Sure, it’s kind of a default fantasy, but I don’t pretend to be anything but vanilla. I remember one time, I was in the Italian Alps, on the most miserable vacation of my life, plagued by a bossy German 12 year old and unable to breathe in the altitude, and so I just spent a whole day in bed. Didn’t even bother to go eat. I was 18 and petulant, okay? But in between naps, I wandered through some of the most vivid fantasies I can remember, and I was amazed at the bisexual group nature of all of it. I was just coming into my attracted-to-ladies-too identity, and was still a virgin, but that set of fantasies just felt so comforting and natural and was much nicer than trying to deal with my real life at that moment.

Fast forward a few years, and I’m on OKCupid, and I get a message from a girl asking if I want to have a threesome with her and her boyfriend. I’ve had at least 7 or 8 male sex partners at this point, but no women. I leap at the opportunity. They were the kind of punk-artist couple that’s a dime a dozen on OKC, and it wasn’t their first threesome. They were having some kind of anniversary dinner that I showed up on the tail end of, and we walked back to their apartment, and sat around awkwardly for a while. Finally, after I had offered to just leave at least once, we made our way over to the bedroom. She got up and left at one point, and he started making out with me. I was a little worried about her, but she came back soon enough, and she decided she wanted to go through with it. I don’t know how it was for the two of them, but that first threesome opened up so much for me. Getting my mouth on a woman’s clit was exactly as sublime as I had dreamed about. Having two people kissing you at once is better than just one. Somehow all the talking-during-sex that I can’t stand with just one partner makes a lot more sense when three of us have to figure out where we’re going and what we’re doing. Riding the bus home in the middle of the night, I was walking on air. I never saw that couple again, but they remain in my mind like a country song about losing your virginity.

A little while later, I met this girl who lived just two blocks away from me. She was one of those people I think of as sexual extroverts, the kind of people who really care about all their sex partners, and yet seems to have an endless stream of them. The first time she and I hung out, another girl was coming over later that evening, and we decided to just keep hanging out. All three of us had sex, and two more people showed up later, although they just slept over. A few weeks later, I went back to her house, straight from a Quaker worship. Feeling all centered and spiritual, I borrowed a fishnet body stocking from her (this was long before my porn career provided me with a drawer of my own silly-sexy underwear) and soon found myself the center of attention in a fantastic orgy. I still don’t know how many people were there, or who most of them were, and I had to leave fairly early in the evening (I had work in the morning). It was one of the most empowering nights of my sexual life. Most of the way I feel about sex with strangers come out best in group sex. One-on-one, there’s still this story in your heads, this thing where you’re trying to see if it’s secretly True Wuv. In a room with 12 other people, there’s too much going on for that. Some guy may have given me his number that night after I let his cock out of my mouth, but I certainly never texted him. In that room, in that pre-centered spiritual mindset, I was pure sex. Literally interchangeable bodies helped me search for the Archetype above. I didn’t even come that night, but I still left on a sexual high.

I had another threesome or two that Fall. Nothing more transformative than really good sex and a little kink exploration (which I decided was too much pomp and circumstance to get to the stuff I really want). And then, I don’t know, I was falling in love and work got stressful and I haven’t quite managed group encounters since. I went and edited my OKC profile to ask for more threesomes recently, which shot up the number of offers I got, although I haven’t been able to actually schedule any of them. But who knows what this summer will bring?

Spilling the Beans: Coming Out About My Career In Porn

Note: This post originally appeared on In Our Words.

I keep ending up in conversations about porn. (I mean, no surprise.) However, there’s always this point where the porn conversation gets weird for me, and I kind of slide out of it. Because I make porn, and I haven’t told anyone about it. Until now.

It’s not like I’m ashamed or even care much who knows. I mean, I don’t want people I babysit for to friend me on Facebook and see it or anything, but I haven’t been keeping it a secret from my friends and lovers out of shame. I just didn’t know how to start the conversation, and I liked having a secret. I’m willing to give that up, though, because you should know that porn is no big deal.

I started last fall. My AmeriCorps gig ran out and didn’t immediately lead to a new job, and I was in school and I needed money.  If you’ve spent any amount of time on Craigslist, you know that there are always posts for sketchy nudie jobs. I’m a sex-positive gal, and I get naked in front of strangers all the time anyway.  So, why shouldn’t someone pay me to do so?

So, I found a post for ladies with curves doing kink porn, and I pulled out an email address that belongs to a pseudonym (not this one) and I shot a message off to this dude. I was glad it was S&M stuff; I’m really pretty vanilla in my actual sex life, but it’s a lot easier to pretend to get beat up or fist fight or something on camera than to pretend sex.

The guy got back to me and sent me a long list of stuff that might occur in a shoot for me to indicate my comfort levels. I consented to the things I’m cool with and set my boundaries where I wanted them and felt kind of giddy-weird about the whole thing. Could I really go through with this? Could I get naked at some stranger’s apartment and let them put the pictures on the internet?

Of course I could. By the time I actually made it to a shoot, I had a real job that paid a whole $20/hour, but with porn I could make more like $60. My director was a great, funny guy, and the whole process just felt like when my friends and I would dress up in silly costumes and take pictures in college. (Except with a lot more boobs. Boobs everywhere.)

So, I took home my first $200 or so from porn and didn’t tell anyone. Just shoved that wad of cash in my wallet and was that awesome person who didn’t need to use a card when splitting the check at restaurants for a few weeks. Shoved the lingerie in my underwear drawer and wondered if I should look for excuses to wear it again. (The worst part about owning a blue sequin thong is not being able to tell everyone you know about your blue sequin thong. The second worst part is forgetting it in the dryer and picking blue sequins out of your clothes for weeks. Yes, you keep the lingerie after you shoot. No one else wants that thong once it’s been in your buttcrack.)

I’m not the kind of person who has many secrets, and I found out that I really liked having one. I felt special, putting on my black stiletto boots and remembering that I bought them to stand on top of a naked woman with, and no one I knew had any idea. I would walk down the street thinking about how I had a secret, and smile.

Then it just got to this point where it seemed silly to spill the beans now. How do you tell your best friend you’ve kept a secret from them for 6 months when you tell them everything else? Beyond that, I hadn’t worked it into the story of myself. I’m poly and queer and a seminarian and a fundraiser and…I do porn? I couldn’t figure out how to fit it in with the other pieces.

But now, I kind of like that I can tell people. I take my clothes off and pretend to do kinky things I don’t even get off on in real life, and someone hands me a wad of cash and I go home and put the fishnets in my drawer.  Sometimes I go straight from church to a porn shoot. This is my life. Now, when conversations about porn come up, I can be a kind of expert. I can rant against the kind that’s exploitative and makes people shave because I make stuff that’s better.

I need a new excuse for why I’m not making the super-kinky Old Testament porn that doesn’t exist, though.

Why the Thought of a Fuck Buddy Scares Me

Note: This post originally appeared on In Our Words.

I can’t do friends with benefits. I can’t manage fuck buddies. I am so freaked out by the idea of consistent, no romantical-strings attached sex. Y’all know I love me some one-night stands. But change that fantastic one night into a second, or a third, and I get trapped in a terrible well of fear and confusion.

It’s weird. I can date just fine. Anyone who makes me feel gooey inside, I happily mush all my bits up in theirs and snuggle all night and kiss goodbye in the morning and start counting the hours until we do it again. Hell, I do things like making mushy playlists and cleaning my house before they come over ’cause I’m so excited that I can’t sit still. So it’s not like I’m afraid of commitment or letting anyone close to me. I’m plenty good at telling my secrets to friends and lovers.

It’s that part where you mix friends and lovers. I like love, and I like caring about people, and I mostly can only divide the people I know into “people I have sex with” and “people I don’t have sex with.” The latter group is friends and acquaintances, the former is partners or one-night stands. In both categories, there are people I care more and less about, and people I spend more and less time with. Someone I like spending time with and having sex with is someone I am dating, someone I like spending time with and don’t have sex with is a good friend. Easy, right?

And then this “fuck buddies” thing comes along and screws it all up. There was this guy, we’ll call him Mike. He lived just across the state line, but he came over to the city sometimes and so we got together one night and had dinner or drinks or something, and came back to my place and fucked. He seemed perfectly nice and the sex was fine, not great but not awful, and I didn’t feel any of the fluttery little happy gooey things I feel when I’m romantically falling for someone. Mike and I kept GChatting and being friendly.  We had sex another time or two, and it seemed like I had found myself one of those non-dating friends with benefits.

I couldn’t do it. I was so weirded out by talking to this guy and having sex with him and really not caring about him any more than a casual acquaintance. Not at all wanting to make extra time for him, but just having him as a backup lay. I figured my problem was that he was too friendly on the GChat, wanting to talk to me every day or every other day or on a Saturday morning or something. (I’m kind of a terrible anti-social person, I won’t pretend otherwise.) So I started just letting myself get too busy for him and one day I blocked him on GChat. (This is not the way to break up with someone, even a fuck buddy, but I was a confused coward. Fuck buddies freak me out, okay?)

So I resolved to only date and not just have sex with people who are friendly but not on the romantical side of the divide. And promptly wandered into a pretty ill-advised relationship, but that’s a different story. I broke up with that guy in all the right ways.

Months passed and I started telling people that I can only do one night stands or falling in love, and not much in between. It worked for me. Then, as the summer drew to a close, I met this guy, let’s call him Mickey. Mickey seemed perfectly nice, and he put up with my bitchy online banter really well, and he pressured me into video chatting with him but I didn’t feel obligated to take my shirt off for him. Plus he was definitely involved with other girls, which makes me like dudes a lot better, and he even got me in a group skype with one girl to see if maybe we wanted to do a threesome. So he seemed like a guy worth a first date, even though I wasn’t positive how I felt about him. It’s hard to tell before you meet in person.

In person I knew. Mickey (who is a comedian or some kind of legitimately interesting profession) totally bored me, and I was not the least bit interested in having any kind of conversation with him. For no reason other than my misanthropic whims. But that didn’t stop me from hooking up with him- the point of one-night stand sex is that it doesn’t matter if you like the other person or not. It’s sex.

And Mickey ended up being one of the best lays I’ve had. Not as good as the sex therapist, no, but really fantastic in bed. How could someone I didn’t want to spend any social time with be so good once we shut up and started pushing our bodies together? He didn’t even need much pushing to leave my house when we were done. I was impressed.

So of course I wanted to do that again. Why get back on the treadmill of surprise who-knows-how-they’ll-do sex with strangers when you have a skilled partner ready and waiting? And best of all, Mickey wasn’t falling for me. He wanted nothing but sex, just like me. Match made in heaven, right?

Not in my crazy head. It’s been some 7 months since Mickey and I first hooked up. We’ve managed it again once or twice, neither one of us making it a high priority, and I travel a lot, and I guess he’s busy too or something. I don’t hear from him for two months at a time, assume we’ve fizzled out, and then he’s back. Every time, I have a little crisis. Can I do this? What if all the conversation about my boundaries didn’t matter and he’s trying to trap me in a relationship that’s more than just sex? What if he tries to talk to me on a Saturday morning? What will I do? Usually what I do is text Thing Two and whine and get reassurance that I’m a crazy person and need to get over it. Often I get a free pass because Mickey wants to hang out when I’m out of town anyway.

Not last week, though. It was even Spring Break, no chance to claim I was too busy with homework. I sucked it up and scheduled an evening with him. Freaked out a little, sure, but put on my sexy underwear and went about my day and removed the dirty dishes from my bed and told myself it would be fine, or at least I’d learn a good lesson about myself about it.

Motherfucker flaked out on me at the last minute. Maybe he’s as confused by this whole fuck buddies thing as I am.

How Casual Sex Can Be Empowering

Note: This post originally appeared on In Our Words.

I love one-night stands. I mean, there are plenty of things to be worried about when you bring a stranger into your house and get naked with them, but I love it. I love fucking someone and then kicking them out of my bed and never talking to them again.

I love relationships, too, don’t get me wrong. All the sex I’ve had in the past six weeks has been with the man I’ve been dating for over a year and a half. (I’ve been busy, okay?) However, almost all the societal messages we get tell us that sex is about love and knowing someone deeply, and when you do it any other way, you’re just fulfilling an urge, a bare step up from masturbation, and that you should be hoping you’ll fall in love with the person by the end of it anyway.  I’m here to explode that notion. Sex with someone you love is awesome, but you already know that. I’m here to tell you why sex with strangers is also really awesome.

Sex is a deeply spiritual experience. I was going to add “for me,” but it’s spiritual for everyone in some form or another. Sex brings us into the present, grounds us in our bodies, invites us to let go of our demons and our insecurities and embrace the most radical pleasure and love the universe has to offer. That’s what religion tries to do, too; it can just take longer. But wait, you ask, aren’t we talking about sex with strangers? Surely sex with a stranger can’t be a religious experience! You don’t even know each other’s last names, much less love each other, and it’s so tawdry. How could that possibly lead to moments of enlightenment?

First, you have to release the shame about casual sex. “Just sex” is an awesome thing. You already think so or you wouldn’t be doing it; however, you’ve got centuries of societal pressure built up telling you sex is only for loving, married people — so you still, deep inside, think you’re doing something wrong. You’re not. You’re doing something different. When you love someone, having sex is about mushing your bodies together because you want to mush your souls together. It’s about making the other person feel awesome because of how awesome they make you feel. It’s about getting to know someone’s deepest secrets and telling them yours because you trust them so much and you want to be that close. Casual sex is none of that.

Casual sex is about worshiping the human body apart from the personality that inhabits it. It’s about being whoever you want to be, for the few hours you spend with someone who is also wearing a mask. This is Platonism, reaching up to the Forms above and bringing them down to project on to a human. When I’m with a stranger, I can ignore the parts of myself I haven’t yet figured out, and live in to my most confident, centered self. I appreciate the people who know me deeply because they help me face my brokenness with love. To a stranger, though, I can be whole, even if it’s just on the surface.

Clint Seiter, a gay Buddhist, calls this Archetypical Sex (as opposed to Intimate Sex). He says:

Archetypical Sex seeks to transcend, to connect and identify with a concept greater than our personal selves. The partner loses his own personality and identity and becomes an ideal of the Male. In successful Archetypical Sex, the egos of both partners can dissolve into the act of sex itself. Archetypical Sex is a form of worship to a principle of beauty momentarily incorporated within the body of a partner.

And it’s goddamn empowering. Getting some brand new person to think you’re hot enough to fuck is a great feeling. Discovering something that makes this person writhe or moan is always exciting. Sure, sometimes you end up with an awkward partner or things go wrong, but that’s part of the gamble with casual sex. Sometimes you get a near-virgin, sometimes you get a licensed sex therapist. No matter what, when you’re done, they can leave your bed (or you theirs) and you can delete their number from your phone and never have to deal with the challenge of becoming real people to each other.

On first dates, I tell people that I’m capable of two ends of the sexual spectrum: one-night stands and long-term relationships. Either I fall hard for someone on that first date and we enter a months-long period of having regular sex (and spending time together with all our clothes on, of course), or I take the person home with me, fuck them and never speak again. These are the two most loving options. The first love is obvious, but the second is equally sacred. Rather than letting my ego get in the way and find a million reasons to dislike someone, I dissolve myself in the moment and experience the archetype in a stranger.

Try it next time you’re heading for casual sex. Tell me it’s not awesome.