Category Archives: Sex

Benefits of Delaying Intimacy?

Benefits of Delaying Intimacy?

The Art of Manliness posted yesterday to argue that sex is best when it comes later in a relationship, however you choose to define “later.” Blogger Brett Mckay is certainly careful to note right up-front that he’s talking only about long-term relationships, so I’m not going to take him to task for that focus. Nevertheless, I find the conflation of sex and intimacy dangerous and destructive, and I think we can do better.

For too long, we’ve bought into the monogamous myth that, without True Love, sex can only be for quick, selfish pleasure. You all know I disagree with this entirely, but I’m disturbed to see Art of Manliness uncritically cite scientific studies to prop up this unrealistic dichotomy. There are many kinds of sex, and many contexts for sex, and many complicated feelings that we can have about any given sexual relationship. Instead of considering this, Brett focuses on only two variables: how soon did you have sex, and how happy are you with your relationship now?

First, he cites two surveys of folks currently in long-term (presumably monogamous) relationships. Apparently folks who waited for sex report feeling better about their relationships than those who boned before they said “I love you” or decided to be exclusive (or got married!).

I have to wonder- is it that sex itself causes “regret, uncertainty, discomfort, and … apologies” when it shows up early in a relationship, or are folks experiencing the challenge of having defied a culture that tells them to wait? Years of conditioning that sex without love is somehow lesser, dirtier, and, in fact, endangers your prospects for long-term happiness would certainly make it harder to celebrate having an early sexual connection with someone.

Brett, leaning on Benedict Carey, posits that it’s more beneficial to create a strong positive narrative about sex in the relationship:

Psychologists have found that just like all good stories, the coherence of our personal narratives matters and the more coherence our life story has, the greater our sense of well-being. Coherence grows out of a number of things, including the way one event seems to lead naturally to another, and how clearly cause and effect can be seen. When sex happens prior to love and commitment and somewhat randomly – “After a few dates we were watching a movie and then we started making out and ended up having sex.” – it becomes a fragment that’s harder to fit into the narrative of your relationship and doesn’t add much to the story of how you became a couple. On the other hand, if the sex in a relationship follows after expressions of love and commitment – “We first said I love when we watched the sun come up after a hike. We booked a weekend at a bed and breakfast a few weeks later and had sex for the first time.” – the episode easily becomes integrated – in a positive way — into the story of your relationship.

Individual stories depend on deeper sets of cultural narratives. As long as Love-Sex and Lust-Sex are mutually exclusive, how can we possibly set up a story about our relationships that includes having sex early on? As long as movies, television, novels, and more tell us that sex before love is meaningless, how can we feel good about changing the order around in our own relationships?

Thing One and I had sex on our second date. The first time, we’d just gotten dinner, and I probably would have gone home with him that night, but I was going out of town the next morning and needed to pack. That second time, I went over to have dinner with his family, we played Rock Band for a while, and then awkwardly negotiated our way into bed together. It wasn’t particularly special or earth-shattering, and we didn’t fall in love that night, and it’s not even a story I really think about a lot in the history of our relationship. Our love story includes plenty of sex, but sex isn’t a major hinge point- it’s just a thing we like to do together, like playing board games or getting Indian food.

Thing Two took until the fourth “date” to end up in my bed (although only one of those dates was one-on-one, because Thing Two’s a weirdo and hard to pin down), over the course of two whole months, and that felt like a really long time (still does). We went to a concert with a bunch of Thing Two’s out-of-town friends, who were all going to be crashing in my living room. I wasn’t sure Thing Two was even staying with me until we were in bed together, and wasn’t sure we’d be having sex until we were putting our hands down each other’s pants. Because Thing Two’s pretty bad at labels and definitions, that first time we had sex helped cement for me that we were, in fact, doing this dating thing- quite dispelling the uncertainty and discomfort I’d had before we did the deed! Just like with Thing One, I don’t define our relationship in terms of sex, and the major milestones in our story aren’t about sex.

I count myself lucky that I’ve always been somewhat immune to other people’s notions of what sex should or shouldn’t be. I get insecure sometimes, sure, but mostly I know what I like and I feel no qualms about seeking it out. I like sex, and I like having sex with folks I love, and I don’t equate sex and love.

Doug Stanhope has a brilliant joke about our tendency to describe sex as the most intimate thing two people can experience. He compares two strangers reaching orgasm as quickly as they can, and compares it to caring for his friend after she had a mastectomy. Which is more intimate- that release of various pleasure hormones, or meeting another person in true, messy, disgusting vulnerability? For much of human history, we’ve insisted that you should only have sex with someone you would also be willing to care for through all the other ups and downs of life, and so we’ve gotten the intimacy wires crossed.

Brett knows this in his article- he looks at research about the ways oxytocin serves to help us bond with another person. Research shows that the brain releases oxytocin during sex, but that orgasm causes a big drop in the hormone (along with a dopamine crash). Oxytocin (often called the “cuddle hormone”) is associated with lots of other activities, too, though- holding hands, staring into each other’s eyes, kissing, etc. Probably even buying milk and syncing your Google calendars. Brett argues that this is proof we should be careful about sex- we need lots of those oxytocin-positive activities to get over the drop that comes after sex (and apparently makes us find our partner less attractive).

There’s another solution, though: we could admit that these activities that don’t lead to a hormone drop are actually MORE intimate than the ones that directly involve our genitals, and build our relationship narratives appropriately. There are plenty of non-sexual relationship milestones we can focus on- letting our sweetheart see us sick, sharing a deep secret, making a major purchase together. I’ll have sex with just about anyone, but I only spend the night with people I’m certain I’m committed to- cuddling all night is a far more intimate and loving act for me than sex. If I’m not sure about a relationship, I put off co-sleeping to let things develop to that point of trust and care.

Only one of my relationships, in my entire life, has followed the narrative of flirting and kissing and cuddling and slowly building up to sex over the course of a few months. That relationship happened to also be the most conflict-filled and least healthy, by far. I’m guessing that’s coincidence, and that early, frequent sex wouldn’t have solved our fundamental issues. If I wanted to use this story just to prove my point, I’d say the sexual delay caused me to invest more deeply and stay around longer than I should have. In fact, complete other circumstances led to those particular outcomes- sex, even when delayed for months contrary to all my usual behaviors- was still not the emotional core of the relationship and didn’t alter its trajectory.

Sex only has as much power as we give it. As long as we keep acting like it can be earth-shattering, we shouldn’t be surprised if it makes the ground beneath our feet unstable. Decoupling sex and love means we can pursue each in whatever form we’d like, hurting each other less in the process.

Advertisements

The Martyrs of Sex

The Martyrs of Sex

Wade through the heteronormativity of this Esquire piece, because the conclusion John H. Richardson comes to is breathtaking:

The only way out of this horrifying violent loop of repression and explosion is to learn to wallow in the sperm and blood and shit of life, to smear it on the walls and call it art and laugh at the fools who say it demeans us, to encourage our husbands and wives to cheat if they need to, to embrace our gay brothers and sisters and all the other “deviants” whose suffering has protected and insulated us, to open the prison doors of civilization and finally learn how to live free.

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.

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.

Get in the Right Mindset: 5 Ways to Avoid Bad Sex

Note: This post originally appeared on In Our Words.

Yes, Gentle Readers, it even happens to David Chastity. Bad sex. Sometimes you go to boink and everything goes wrong, and not in that cute “haha whoops that was my elbow, sorry!” way, but in that way where you just want to get up mid-thrust and walk into the other room and watch a movie instead. Alone. But don’t despair! There are lots of reasons Bad Sex happens, and just as many things you can do to avoid it. Let’s look at some of them:

1. Communicate.

Yes, yes, I harp on this all the time. But for a reason! We all have variations on what we like to do when we smoosh our bits together, and if you don’t develop some kind of understanding with your partner, how are you ever gonna get what you want? I have a list of things I really don’t like, and the sooner I mention that my body don’t work that way, the better for both of us. When someone tells me they really like something, I can start doing that all the time, which is fun for everyone. Beyond that, sex apparently has something to do with trust and intimacy, or at least works best when you have similar expectations of trust and intimacy levels. So if you can manage to not be in the middle of an argument with your sex partner, you’re probably gonna have nicer sex than if you both are seething inside.

2. Take Care of Yourself.

Recently, Thing One’s small children were away at grandma’s house, vastly increasing the amount of sleep and self-care Thing One was capable of. We enjoyed a quiet evening at home together, not chasing a single toddler, and by the time we made it to bed, discovered that we had all kinds of leftover energy for particularly good sex. Alas, parents of small children don’t usually get to choose to prioritize their lives for Maximum Sexual Pleasure, but all of us who don’t have to make sure a tiny person doesn’t die Every Damn Day can try harder to do things like get enough sleep and eat some decent food and maybe even exercise with our clothes on sometimes. Sex is a body thing, and the better your body feels, the better the sex will be.

3. Get in the Right Mindset.

Sex is a holy thing for me, and I’ve had some of the best sex ever immediately after meditating, worship, or prayer. I’m not saying this has to become part of your routine (it’s not actually in my normal set of behaviors, because apparently I’m too lazy to spend a minute or two preparing to have even better sex?). What I am saying is that being present and focused can do wonders. That old stereotype about a lady just laying there thinking about the grocery list while her husband pumps away? Don’t be that lady.

4. Have Some Standards.

I’m not saying you can’t take that random person from the bar home with you before you’re even quite sure what their name is. Random hookups can be great! If it’s 3 am and you’re just kind of horny and really drunk, though, it’s okay to take a dishonorable discharge. After all, you know what you’re capable of, and that desperation number in the corner could go either way. Moreover, if you HAVE hooked up with someone and it was so-so, you’d better have a good reason to go back for seconds, like strong mutual interests and shared values that set the stage for a solid long-term relationship in which you can both learn new sexual skills. One of my worst sexual experiences recently was with someone I had hooked up with before quite successfully, and then kept finding reasons to avoid based on some confusing subconscious feeling. Once I finally talked that inner voice into silence and invited Hook-Up back to my bed, it turns out that he was really bad at listening and boundaries, and I couldn’t wait to kick him out and never see him again. If only I had known that my misgivings were legitimate!

5. Do Your Research.

None of us, not even David Chastity, are born with sex therapist level skills. Did you know that sex therapists go to school for YEARS to learn to do what they do? So don’t worry if you’re sometimes the reason Bad Sex happens. We all have more things we can learn, and learning is fun! Get yourself some queer-friendly, feminist, realistic porn- the kind with real couples is the best for this purpose- and watch for ideas. Google lists of sex positions, and spend the afternoon laughing about the least practical, then go and try something that seems simple but interesting. Wander down to the local sex shop and pick out a new toy (or just talk to the clerks for a while! A fun game: find something that totally baffles you, then go ask what it does.)

Find times to casually talk about sex with your partner, if you’ve got one of those consistent partners. Sometimes it’s easier to mention what we like and don’t like away from the pressure of “and we’re about to do this!” If you’re struggling with a specific skill, look for instructional books or videos- there are tons of great resources, but Dr Ruthie’s Exploring Intimacy is one of my favorites. There’s no shame in wanting to up your game, and a patient, loving partner will probably be happy to help you work on something that will lead to both of you getting off better!

We can’t always avoid Bad Sex, but it doesn’t have to be a constant danger. And remember, you’re not obligated to finish what you start! If it’s not working for you, you can stop at literally any time- consent only lasts as long as you want it, after all. Having the self-confidence to say “I don’t want any more of this” is just as important to Good Sex as saying “I want a whole lot more of THAT!”

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?

Let’s Talk About Sex

Note: This post originally appeared on In Our Words.

My boyfriend’s first wife got married this weekend. It was the first time our little poly clan was together and consciously trying not to be too obvious. I mean, the big ol’ marriage shuffle is obvious: the four of them who live in a house together and raise kids together and just signed a lot of paperwork to change who gets to file taxes with whom. But I showed up (at the last minute thanks to a delayed train), promptly inspired the cat who loves me to leave wherever he was hiding and wind his way through the assembled guests in the backyard, and got mauled by the kids the moment the ceremony was over. So all those poor friends and relatives were surely left to wonder who I was through the rest of the reception.  We simply left them in the dark.

I open with this story because it’s unusual for me, these days. Sure, I still keep the fig leaf of a pen name while writing about the gory details of my sexual life, but, like I said way back when, that’s mostly so potential employers don’t google me and get “slut.” (According to Google alerts, I share my real name with some lady who’s doing some good writing for Time these days. I’m okay with being confused for her.) Otherwise, my sex life is an open book. I talk about in bars, on the train, in quiet suburban restaurants while my boyfriend and I have lunch. I talk about it in seminary classes, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I one day peppered a Bible study with my own sexual anecdotes.

So why the overshare? I’m glad you asked! It comes down to a few basic reasons:

I’m an iconoclastic libertine who likes to think I can shock people. I’m not proud of this reason. But somewhere in me, under the critical reflection and feminist values and other stuff I learned in college, is a snotty teen who wants to be So Alternative It Hurts. So if I can sit at Taco Happy Hour talking about orgies, maybe someone in another part of the bar will overhear me and envy my sexy, confident life. And that will reflect well on my hipster karma. This reason is also why I don’t worry too much about closing the blinds before walking around my apartment naked.

Being honest is so much easier. I’m not a bad liar. I’m a really good liar, actually, and sometimes I just lie for fun. But ever since I started coming out to people I care about, I wanted to come out completely. Not just say “I love a man who loves other people and we’re all okay with it, and don’t worry, I’ve got other irons in the fire,” but go ahead and also say “and sometimes I just fuck random people because it’s fun.” I don’t have to come up with other excuses about what I did on my Tuesday night. I don’t have to keep track of who knows what pieces.

My honesty lets other people be honest. I can’t even remember how many friends have brought their sexual confessions to me. I can say that I love gossip and I want to hear what all they’re getting up to, and if spilling my own beans make them feel comfortable, I’ll happily knock bean-cans all over the place. I’m bad at jealousy but great at compersion and the more people I can make tell me about their sexual joys, the more second-degree joy I get.

It’s a great way to learn. If we never talk about sex, how are we ever going to find anything out? I’ve done most of my sex ed by reading things on the internet, like a good introvert, but sometimes word of mouth works! At the very least, I can hear about the books and blogs other people like, and go privately read up on new ideas. My Ministry & Humans Sexuality class was a great place for learning from other people’s sexual experiences- the more open we were, the more we got to see all the glittering beauty of human sexual diversity.

It’s fun! Sex is one of the most fun things I do, and I talk about the other fun stuff I do, right? If it would kill your party for people to get into a long conversation about fisting, you’re at a really lame party. I’m not going to keep a whole interesting and enjoyable topic of conversation only for closed-door back-room smoky gatherings, although you know it’s gonna get talked about there, too.

So quit bein’ such a prude and get out there and talk about how you’re doin’ the nasty! Even if it’s mostly just “in the shower by myself thinking about Paul McCartney.” Own that, too! Unless it’s Mustache Phase McCartney, no one wants that image in their head.

The Three Cs of Healthy Sexuality

Note: This post originally appeared on In Our Words.

I’m in this class called “Ministry and Human Sexuality” this quarter, and it’s so weird to be talking about sexual ethics with a bunch of nice, monogamous, mostly-liberal, (straight and queer) religious people instead of the sluts I’m used to. I’m openly poly in class, and no one’s given me any shit for it (because I’m damn articulate), but I’m finding a lot of the ethical material we’re reading doesn’t quite address my experience. So I sat down to name my own requirements for ethical, loving sexual practice and I’m proud to present David Chastity’s Three Cs of Healthy Sexuality:

1. Consent
2. Communication
3. Caring

These three cover everything you need to live out a healthy, loving, ethical sexual life with yourself and others, and they avoid the accusatory and prescriptive nature of many sexual ethics that imply only certain behaviors are acceptable (and only when performed by certain people).

Under “consent” comes not just “if someone says no, stop what you’re doing,” but also the ideas about power dynamics. In order to freely give consent, all parties must be on relatively equal footing. This means that certain sexual relationships are inherently more difficult to actualize ethically–relationships across races where one race historically (or currently) has more power than the other, relationships across age divides, relationships where the parties involved have a professional relationship that is not on equal footing, etc. These sorts of relationships are more vulnerable to consent being exploited, and those who seek to start such relationships should try to be aware of these issues and address them.

Even in fairly balanced relationships, we have different sexual wants and needs, and it’s essential that all sexual activity be grounded in consent. Consent is always action-specific (“Just because I said you could put your finger in my vagina doesn’t mean I consent to you putting your strap-on there.”) and time-bound (“Just because I consented to marrying you and having sex on numerous occasions over the past 30 years doesn’t mean I consent to sex right now.”). There’s a lot of debate over how verbal consent has to be, and while certainly, when in doubt, say something, I still tend to fall on the side of people who don’t talk a lot during sex. I don’t like talking, it distracts me, and I hate all the words for sex actions, and I’m super-good at nonverbal communication. So me and my partners don’t normally talk about a ton of stuff, we just go with the vibe and make noises and I’m chill with saying “no wait stop” if something’s no good. This takes a lot of trust. When in doubt, use words.

Consent isn’t just about sexual boundaries, either–a lot of the boundaries I need to establish with partners have more to do with things like “at what point in the relationship can we eat breakfast together” and “it’s not really okay to call me on Saturday mornings” than “you can put your finger here but not there.” Proper consent requires that all parties have a decent level of self-knowledge and self-love in order to identify what we really want and be able to communicate it.

Communication is a little more straight-forward and obvious. If you don’t tell someone what’s going on inside your head, the relationship isn’t going to get very far, is it? You gotta communicate both the stuff you want and the stuff you don’t want. I’m always amazed when I see those survey results where when you ask a bunch of people if they’re in an exclusive relationship, some big percentage of couples don’t agree. ‘Cause they never sat down and talked about it. So many of the problems in relationships come from mismatched expectations- if people would just say “I would like you to call me twice a week,” they’d avoid the fight three months later when Shmoopy fails to call. Don’t assume that just because you ask for something, your partner will automatically grant it (or vice versa): there’s an element of negotiation here, too. Healthy relationships give and take, and part of the excitement is working out how to best meet the needs of everyone involved.

I’m also using this to touch on all forms of communication, not just the verbal. Especially in sexual relationships, touch is such an important part of communication, and we should celebrate the state of being so in tune with a partner that we can convey whole conversations with just our eyebrows. I can name like 7 country songs about a marriage that’s falling apart because the husband and wife don’t take the time to pay attention to each other any more, which I assume is country-song euphemism for sexytimes. If you like someone, don’t just say it, do the other stuff that shows them.

Finally, I bring in caring, which is both a way to say love that keeps it in my C-based scheme and a way to get around some of the baggage we’ve stacked the word “love” with in a sexual context. I’m not talking just about whatever romantic notions abound (some of which actively violate the requirements for consent and communication!), but about the broader kind of love religious folks tend to espouse for all of humanity and/or creation. It doesn’t matter if you’re religious or not, every person you interact with is of equal worth to you, and contains an equal divine spark. You need to honor that, and meet that equal person in loving care.

I’ve previously laid out my life-giving, ethical approach to anonymous sex, which I do think is a different kind of caring for/about a person than what we do in long-term relationships. No matter what, though, we need to care for and about ourselves and our partners, so that our sexuality can be a place of salvation for us. Caring for and loving other people heals them and us, and makes our world a better place. If you’re sexing someone without caring, you may not be doing anything wrong, but you’re certainly not increasing the good in the world.

I struggle with all of these Cs at some point or another in my sex life. I’ve been known to learn my own boundaries only after someone breaks them. I’ve been routinely awful about opening my damn mouth and saying something. I’m a frequent misanthrope who’s had to work hard to figure out how to let people down gently. The best was to try to get better at them is to apply them to yourself, in reverse order. Start from self-love (jerking off and otherwise), then learn to communicate with yourself, to name the things you love and crave. Finally, you can set your own boundaries, and ask for the things you want best, in a consensual relationship with someone else. You can’t have healthy sex without meeting some basic minimum of these 3 Cs. with yourself and your partner(s), but they also call you to a higher, better ideal.

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.