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The V-Spot: I’m a Queer Woman in a Hetero Marriage

Dear Yana,

I’ve been thinking about writing to you for a long time. My husband and I are about to celebrate 11 years as a couple and we’ve been married for six. It’s been amazing and so much fun to spend all of this time on planet Earth with such a soul-mate dreamboat of a life partner.

And also: I just keep wanting to hook up with other people.

Five years ago, I hooked up with someone. And then I hooked up with someone else a couple years later. I told him and we went through a harrowing process of separating for a while, talking/crying for a million hours, bringing all of our shadows out of the closet, and reaffirming our commitments. The last several months have been really healthy and strong. And now I have a crush on a woman. This time I told him first and things have been really hard ever since.

We seem to have arrived at a fundamental schism: I feel like the truth of the person I want to be in the world is polyamorous, and his truth is monogamous. How do we reconcile that?

I don’t want to hurt him. But I also don’t want to not live my truth. But then, I’m like, should I just be going to therapy or something so that they can implant in me whatever mechanism he has inside of him to make him fine with monogamy? Ugh.

— Too Late to aPOLYgize

It takes a lot of emotional muscle to do the heavy lifting it sounds like you’ve both done to move through your transgressions and into your new relationship. And that’s exactly what this is: a new relationship.

As Esther Perel talks about in her amazing TEDTalk “Rethinking Infidelity,” after an affair, no matter how long-lasting or fleeting, the old relationship as you know it needs to be deconstructed and rebuilt anew with the raw material you now have in front of you: your self-assuredness in your queer and polyamorous identities; his new understanding of how/if/when to trust you; what he’s willing to forgive, forget, or hold onto; and what you’re willing to put aside or prioritize for yourself.

Relationships don’t thrive because we squash our differences, they thrive because we learn to integrate, tolerate, and celebrate what makes us different from each other. They thrive because we can support one another in our personal growth process while still remaining connected to each other.

This almost flies in the face of what we’ve been told — that relationships are about being more similar than different, and are more about compromise than self-definition. This is especially true for the monogamous ones.

The first step to getting anywhere near a place of seemingly contradictory-yet-connected co-existence is to define yourselves, for yourselves. As Perel waxes so damn poetically — Can you turn the crisis of infidelity into an opportunity?…continue reading…

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Are We Ready for a Threesome?

Me and my boyfriend of two years are looking to have a threesome. We are wanting to try it with a female, and a male. We are wanting to do this to enhance our sex life, and are not looking to add anyone into our relationship. We are both very open and honest with each other and think this would be a lot of fun for both of us.

But we both have a little tinge of fear of it complicating our relationship. I’ve heard it a million times: “Want a divorce? Have a threesome!” How do we know we are ready to get into something like this? Is there a good way to go about doing this that will ease the doubt that your partner could be more into the new person than you?

— Unsure About a Third

Want a divorce? Violate your partner’s trust and boundaries! Hold back your honest feelings in the name of “protecting” your partner! Have a threesome in lieu of telling your partner that you want to see other people solo!

What I mean to say is: Your relationship can absolutely survive a threesome. It’s not the threesome that kills it, but the relationship structure itself.

Is the basic infrastructure of your relationship sturdy enough not to collapse under the added weight of bringing someone else into your sex life? Can you and your boyfriend have honest discussions about your hopes and fears for this sexual experience? More importantly, is your relationship elastic enough to accommodate unpredictable physical, sexual, and maybe even romantic attraction to a guest-star?

I totally get the fear that your partner will be “more into” your special threesome friend. Our desire brain is like: “Threesome! Yes! Hot!” and then our anxious relational brain is all: “What if? What if? What if?” My advice to you is to control what you can control and then process the inner security it takes to handle the uncontrollable — namely, sexual, romantic, and relational risk.

Things you can control: boundaries and agreements made between the two of you and then between the two of you and your third. These include safer sex agreements, off-limits practices (for example, certain types of penetration, positions, sex toys, etc.), and logistical details (is this a one-night stand? Sleep over? Booty call or dinner date? Are you seeking someone from your friend network or an internet random?). Remember, though it’s key that you and your boyfriend are on the same page about these, your third person is also a human with boundaries and consent rights. Make sure he or she is informed about what is being agreed to and has ample opportunity to state personal boundaries.

Things you can’t control: nebulous things like feelings, desire, and physical displays of sexual functioning….continue reading…

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How Do I Get Better At Poly?

Hi Yana,

I heard you on Dawn Serra’s podcast Sex Gets Real and really appreciated what you had to say about personal boundaries in new polyamorous relationships. I’m a straight guy and my wife just started sleeping with another woman a couple of months ago. I thought I would be fine with it, but then when they started having real feelings for each other I got super jealous and asked my wife to stop seeing her.

Now my wife is really hurt. I’m trying to be more positive about the whole poly thing and am trying to get better about it and go to poly meetings and stuff like that, but it’s really hard.

I thought poly was just sex, but I guess it’s also about having feelings for other people so I should’ve known better. I’m sure I’ll come around to it eventually. Any suggestions on making it easier?

— Fighting My Feelings

Dear FMF,

Non-monogamous relationships (much like all relationships) are hard work. While monogamy typically has unspoken rules that people adhere to (don’t have sex with other people, the goal is marriage, let’s spend most of our time together), non-monogamous relationships such as polyamory don’t. Folks in non-monogamous relationships have the freedom (and challenge!) of creating relationship agreements that work for all people involved.

In non-monogamous relationships if the “don’t have sex with other people” rule is absent does that mean that all expectations are out the window? No way. My first question for you, FMF, is what were/are your agreements with your wife for your non-monogamous relationship and what was the process like in making them?

From your question, it sounds like 1.) You were a little blindsided by your wife catching feelings and 2.) Aren’t super into it. Like all consent practices, an important aspect of the process is that everyone involved is adequately informed as to what they are agreeing to.

This is what’s so problematic about proposals like “Netflix and chill?” If I say yes to this, what am I agreeing to? Five minutes of Netflix and an hour of sex? One episode of Broad City and 30 minutes of making out? Binge-watching Stranger Things and stuffing our faces with popcorn?

If your agreement-making process with your wife was the equivalent to “Polyamory and chill?”, not nearly enough time was devoted to creating your relationship agreements. This lack of informed, enthusiastic consent has led you both to a place of hurt feelings and at least the temporary halting of her relationship with her female partner — a painful place for all of you!…continue reading…

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Staying Sexy in Our 60s

Hi Yana,

I am a 66-year-old man who is in love, and in a new relationship, with a very sexually active 60-year-old woman. I have come to the conclusion that I could use some help in fulfilling her sexual needs. Can you recommend any particular vibrators and/or other toys? Also, where can I purchase them?

— Fell in love after all these years

Hurray for thriving sex drives after 60! Our youth- and sex-obsessed culture does a great job of convincing us that sex ends after 50 — Shoot, maybe even 40.

These stereotypes about who is “allowed” to be sexual and enjoy sexual pleasure are harmful. Sex and sexuality is a part of our entire lives even if it changes shape as we go along, and the more we talk about sex beyond the socially sanctioned bracket of 18-30 years old, the better.

So let’s talk! My very first recommendation is that, if you can, you seek out an in-person, boutique sex toy purchasing experience such as a visit to Oh My Sensuality Shop in Northampton. Their knowledgeable, trained, friendly staff can help you pick out products particularly suited to your needs much better than Amazon.com can, plus you’ll be supporting local business while you do.

Nothing says “This is the dildo for me” like getting to hold the actual floor model in your hands, feel the texture of the material, gauge the size, and see the color in real life. In person you can also test dozens of lubes on your fingertips, put the particular zing of a vibrator to your palm, and feel the unique snap of a slapper.

In my utopia, one of these shops would exist in every town. But they’re simply not accessible to all. When shopping online, stick to boutiques that are part of the Progressive Pleasure Club (progressivepleasureclub.com), a membership-based group of sex toy shops around the country that all prioritize ethical sex toy selling values such as inclusion, consent, and a rigorous sex toy selection process. This is a great first step in weeding out all the crappy materials and poorly made toys a simple Google search of “vibrator for my girlfriend” will provide.

Sex toys have become both higher-end and more beautiful in the last couple of decades as stigma declines and pleasure-positivity skyrockets. Your girlfriend’s body has likely shifted in its 60 years to require a little more patience and gentleness when it comes to penetration and vibration. Check out softer silicone vibrators and dildos such as those made by FunFactory (especially their G5 line), JimmyJane, JeJoue, and Lelo. These companies create toys that are rechargeable, body-safe, and easy to clean. Their models also boast a variety of vibration settings — so she can experiment with what works for her — and are graceful and sophisticated in their design and aesthetic. Many of these toys don’t project vibration into their handles either, which is nice for wrist/hand joints that get sore easily either from arthritis or just livin’…continue reading…

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My Man’s Got Herpes; Now What?

Hi Yana,

I’ve recently begun a relationship with a man who has herpes. It’s unclear if it’s HSV-1 or -2 or both. He has scheduled an appointment with his doctor. I’ve been tested and am negative for that, hepatitis, and all other STDs.

It’s important for me to know all the types of physical and sexual contact that do and don’t have a high herpes transmission possibility. His hands, feet, chest? Interested in ideas and where they fall on a scale from very safe, to very risky.

— Risky Business

Dear Risky –

Ella Dawson has herpes so good that she’s been dubbed the “Queen of Herpes” by the internet. Eight out of 10 people have oral herpes and 1 out of 6 have genital herpes, according to Planned Parenthood. So, to be the queen of all of those people is pretty damn impressive.

Dawson was crowned herpes royalty in May 2016 when she gave an incredible TEDxTalk about living as a millennial with this highly stigmatized sexual health status. One article she’s written since is, “Why Should I Date Someone with Herpes.”

In it she writes, “To me [this question] feels like you’re asking me to justify my value. The facts on herpes are actually quite clear when you do research online: herpes transmission is not that easy, particularly when both parties make an effort to use condoms, antivirals, dental dams, and so forth.“ I know couples who have gone years without transmitting by being honest with each other about when they are having outbreaks. The person most likely to give you herpes is the person who doesn’t know they have it in the first place. On the other hand, herpes itself honestly isn’t that big of a deal for most of us.”

In your question, Risky, I hear a lot of fear, which may be more harmful than helpful — to you and to your partner. If I had to worry, for example, about when and how my body grazes against my lover’s chest when we have sex, the Delightful Dirty would become a long, perilous experience of paranoia and micromanagement.

Meaning, your first step to becoming sexually active with this man is to reduce the fear and stigma you may be holding about herpes. Digging into Dawson’s work is a great place to start…continue reading…