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How Do I Introduce My Girlfriend To Polyamory?

Hi Yana,

I recently began a polyamorous relationship with my girlfriend. We dated previously, but things didn’t work out due to extenuating circumstances, but we remained friends. We’ve recently gotten back together with a different foundation to the relationship. She had not previously had any interest in non-monogamy, but is now much more open to it. What advice can I pass on to her that may help her better establish her thoughts about the topic and follow through on meeting other people?

— Boyfriend with Benefits

Dear Boyfriend,

You’re wise to give her the space to decipher her own thoughts about an open relationship at her own pace. You’d be even wiser to not hold the expectation of her going out and meeting other people as an end goal.

Why? Because putting the pressure on our partners to force relationships with other people is generally tied up in other baggage. For example, will it reduce your guilt around seeing other people if she’s doing it, too? Does a tit-for-tat polyamorous agreement really suit everyone involved, or does that create a structure more focused on a scorecard than on the humans in the relationships?

Perhaps your girlfriend’s hesitation to see others is based on her fear of how you’ll take it. To reinforce what you’re saying in theory — that it is truly okay to enjoy other partners and come back to the security your relationship — be sure to maintain your usual level of affection and attention to her if/when she does go out with others.

But first, give your girlfriend some resources to help her sift through her own suitcases. Morethantwo.com is a website packed with poly gold as is their accompanying book More Than Two by Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert. I also recommend Opening Up by Tristan Taormino, which is well-suited to new-to-poly readers.

But don’t let yourself off the hook just yet, Boyfriend…continue reading…

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Our Sex Is All About Him

Dear Yana,

My boyfriend and I have been together for two years and we’re best friends. Mutual respect exists in almost every way between us. Sometimes, however, the sex feels, well, sexist. First, he enjoys watching porn together, but I really don’t. However, he always tries to initiate porn watching even though I’ve told him I don’t enjoy it. Secondly, I perform far more oral sex than he does. He rarely performs oral or hand sex on me, and when he does, he doesn’t bother to ask me for feedback. I’ve tried to tell him that X feels good and Y doesn’t, but he gets kind of insulted and self conscious, so I don’t do that anymore.

He does what turns him on in bed, and thinks that, because it turns him on, it must turn me on. Though he’s listened to me when I tell him in a nonsexual context what might personally get me going he doesn’t carry this information over into the bedroom. I’ve asked for more oral sex, less porn, less verbal fantasizing about my friends, etc., but still he does the things that get HIM going when we have sex. I don’t feel cared for in this area, in a stereotypically “girl wants more from hetero guy in bed and he says ‘Gotcha babe, now blow me’” kind of way.

Our communication is generally great, but there seems to be a missing link in this one area between what we express to each other and what we do. Help!

— Unpampered Pet

Hi Unpampered!

Popular, traditional sex education is quite sexist — it prioritizes boners and their reproductive pleasure principles and treats the vagina like little more than a baby-making receptacle not worth bothering to learn to please. Call it the heteropatriarchy or pleasure-phobia but either way — women are screwed when it comes to learning how to screw.

This isn’t an excuse for your boyfriend to keep riding the sexist sex ed wave straight to blow-job beach, but it does mean that when in a cishetero relationship, couples need to try a little harder to overcome the many social, gendered blocks to good sexual communication…continue reading…

 

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I Told My Boyfriend I’d Try Monogamy, But …

Hi Yana,

I’m in a relationship with someone who I really love and we’ve been together for three-ish months. Before we started dating he knew I wasn’t a huge fan of monogamy, but I agreed I would try and now I’m feeling trapped. He’s so important to me and I don’t want to lose him. I guess I don’t know how to talk to him about it because I want to be in an open relationship, but I’m worried he will get super mad. Help!

Oh No, I’m Monogo

Hi Oh No!,

When a monogamous person hears the telltale phrase “We should see other people,” they’re more likely to hear “I’m breaking up with you” and not “… AND keep seeing each other in an open and mutually satisfying relationship!”

Because monogamy has long been the preferred Western relationship style — what with the institution of marriage and fairytales — the monogamous mindset is a strong one that many of us take for granted. This means that when you tell your boyfriend that you want to be non-monogamous, rather than coming across as a valid, natural, or viable option, this might instead sound like a direct threat to your relationship.

A common response to emotional pain or threat is anger, especially when interpreted through male socialization. So yes, it’s possible that he may express anger when what he really feels is pain and fear. Unless this expression of anger is dangerous or abusive to you or him, it doesn’t need to be a reason to avoid stating your non-monogamous desires.

You say you don’t want to lose him, but if you decide not to tell him what is true for you, you will. Maybe not now, but certainly later.

My advice is to be both firm in what you do and do not want out of your relationship with him and also prepared with some options for him to look into for himself such as resources about polyamory from monogamous people (morethantwo.com has a whole section devoted to the complexity of navigating polyamorous/monogamous couplings). Give him the space to feel the big feelings and move through them rather than stuff them down (again, unless they are dangerous or abusive to you or himself).

Before you talk with him, sit down with yourself and determine what it is you envision for your relationship with him moving forward…continue reading…

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My 2-Minute Orgasm

So, I was masturbating last night and set a timer. It took me under two minutes to orgasm. However, when someone else in involved, it takes forever or doesn’t happen at all. I can count the times it’s happened on two hands.

Every time I masturbate it’s like clockwork, and I wish I could experience that with a partner! I’ve heard from various ladies and witnessed firsthand that orgasming seems easier for them with partners than it is for me. Is this why some women fake orgasms? Is this something I need to see a psychiatrist about or just live with? Or is it some Kinsey situation where my vaginal measurements aren’t conducive to orgasming? Help!

— Clit Out of Luck

 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, probably for the rest of my sex educator career: your vagina is not broken! It’s the metaphorical vaginal “user manual” we’re handed via school sex ed, social stigma, and our peers!

That manual is seriously flawed – it’s stained, ripped, even missing whole chapters. Our current sex education system pretends that our clitoral and/or vaginal orgasm is unimportant or non-existent. Our social system convinces our sexual partners that asking us outright how best to pleasure our clits and vaginas is not the sexy or slick or cool thing to do. Simultaneously, this same system shames us into not speaking up about our own desires or how exactly to do our bodies right.

Yes, these flawed systems are why some women fake orgasms. Yes, these systems have convinced you that you have to see a psychiatrist to “fix” yourself and/or smoosh yourself into an outdated concept of “ideal vaginal measurements,” a la Kinsey.

But you, COOL, are perfect! Your experience of sexual pleasure is perfect. Your two-minute self-curated climax is perfect.

So, if our formal and social sex educational systems are screwing it up so hard, who’s supposed to do the real educating about your orgasms to your partners, COOL?…continue reading…

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The V-Spot: Help! My Boyfriend Hates My Vagina

Hi Yana,

I’m a straight 20-something lady and have been with my boyfriend for two years. We have a great sex life and we’re totally in love! He doesn’t seem to have much of an interest in my vagina — and my vagina, in my mind, is kinda the main thing that makes me a female sexual being. He likes my breasts and loves my butt, but he (literally) never goes down on me and I get the feeling that he only fingers me because he knows I like it, not because he does. He also prefers anal sex to vaginal sex.

Personally, I’m super into my guy’s penis and I love going down on him; it’s one of our main bedroom activities. The fact that he has zero interest in going down on me makes me feel like he thinks my vagina is gross. I’ve mentioned it to him a few times, sometimes teasing but often serious. Just the other night I said to him, “I wish you liked going down on me. I love going down on you, and it makes me feel hurt and left out that you don’t.”

He actually didn’t say anything … no response, as if I hadn’t said it at all. It hung in the air and now it’s just making me feel terrible. I guess I thought he’d at least deny it. Sometimes I feel like he thinks I’m sexy because of the sexy things we do together, not because I (myself, my body) are sexy to him. It’s not the best feeling. What’s a girl to do?

— Trying to Get Ahead

Dear Trying,

I’ve been teaching strangers about sex for 10 years now and just celebrated my sixth year as a sex columnist. I’d like to consider myself quick-witted, resourceful — a dame that can get any dick out of a sticky pickle and any vagina more blissed-out than a babe at Burning Man. But damn, this is tough!

You’ve done great work already — telling him how hot you find him, clearly stating your desire (“Cunnilingus, please!”), and then sharing your feelings (“Hurt and left out”).

You’ve also got valuable tools to use: you’ve got high self-cuntfidence (so if he confirms “Yes! I hate your vagina!” it seems like you can process this hurtful reveal and bounce back), you’re not afraid to talk about sex, and you’ve got great insight.

Use these tools to get some answers. While he’s entitled to his own body and desires, you do deserve information that impacts your shared sexual and loving relationship. Invite your boyfriend to tell you the truth: tell him why it’s so important for you to know how he feels about your vagina and reassure him that whatever he has to say will likely hurt you less than continuing to receive radio silence.

Don’t set him up to fail by asking “You do like my vagina, right?!” in a way that communicates in tone and delivery that if he doesn’t say “OMG, babe, of course, I love it” that he’s in deep trouble. Instead, ask him blunt, unavoidable yes/no questions in baby-steps: “Do you dislike vaginal sex?” “Do you dislike vaginal sex with me in particular?”…continue reading…

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How Can I Be Poly, With a Heart?

Hi Yana,

I’m in my early 30s and have been polyamorous for a couple of years. Not long ago my wife of 13 years and I split. Now I’m kind of going through a dating/poly crisis. I strongly identify as poly despite not really having a primary relationship.

Here’s the rub: I don’t really have trouble meeting/sleeping with women. And I’m always very upfront and honest about being essentially unable to see myself in a monogamous or serious relationship again — maybe ever. Yet I’m really not into hookups or one night stands. But when I think about moving in with a girl or joint bank accounts it fills me with terror.

That being said, I really crave emotional connection and intimacy beyond 20 minutes of humping and an awkward hug. And although I’m always really honest, I still feel like I run the potential likelihood of hurting people if they grow emotionally invested.

How do I date in a way that is both ethical and casual? Am I doomed to too casual if I don’t want to hurt people?

— Heartfelt Humper

Dear HH,

A common misconception of polyamory — aka, having relationships with more than one person simultaneously — is that it can only be done once you’ve hit the emotional killswitch. Though many believe that being non-monogamous is all about rolling around in a sea of naked hotties, being both an ethical and polyamorous person actually requires lots of emotional empathy and processing.

Clearly, some ladyloves have been hurt in the wake of your polyamorous preferences or you wouldn’t be writing in. The solution to preventing this kind of pain isn’t to hit that mythical emotional killswitch or to go monogo; it is to take responsibility for what you can control and accept what you cannot.

To be an ethical polyamorous dater you should take responsibility for your own emotions and actions. Continue to state your relationship preferences upfront: “I’m not monogamous,” “I like to be emotionally connected to those I sleep with, but I’m not looking for an emotionally intense relationship.” You own yourself, HH, meaning that you can and should draw boundaries around your own body, heart, and mind, including how much emotional energy and time you want to put into another person. This is allowed! So stop beating yourself up.

Here’s what you can’t control: You can’t make someone want to be polyamorous or be good at polyamory. You can’t control how emotionally invested someone becomes. This is especially true when sex is involved. When our brain’s pleasure centers are activated, all kinds of attachment chemicals fly around, such as good ol’ oxytocin which is released during orgasm, creating an innate bond with those we bang...continue reading…


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UPCOMING WORKSHOPS ABOUT POLYAMORY!

Polyamory 101: Exploring Non-Monogamy || July 11th || Easthampton, Ma

Polyamory 201: Designing & Sustaining Your Non-Monogamous Relationship || July 25th || Easthampton, Ma

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Honestly, I Could Do Without the Squirt

Hello Yana,

I’ve been dating my boyfriend for almost a year. We’re in our 20s, and he’s a few years older than me. There have been times when we’re intimate when he doesn’t provide me with oral sex. He’s never close to ejaculating while inside me. He only does so after I give him a blow job, and it’s not a lot of semen.

Also, he puts his fingers inside me and does this thing to make me “orgasm,” which causes me to expel liquid. I’m not crazy about it and I don’t consider it an orgasm, since I know what one feels like.

I don’t know how to tell him that I can do without it. I don’t want to make him feel bad about himself nor make it seem that I haven’t enjoyed the sex — because I have, just not the ending part. I don’t know how to ask him about providing oral sex. We don’t live too close to each other and the opportunity to do it is usually two-three times a month.

— Not Gushing  About Gushing

Dear Not Gushing,

We take preferences personally. Especially when it comes to sex. Someone says “Not right now,” and we hear “You’re unattractive.” Someone says “I’m not into that kink,” and we hear “You’re a freak.” Someone says “A little to the left,” and we hear “You’re bad at sex.”

When you say “You know, babe, I could do without this liquid finale” will your boyfriend hear, “I hate having sex with you”? When you say “You know what would be super hot? Having you go down on me before we bang,” will your boyfriend hear “I’ve never liked sex with you?”

Society tells us to keep quiet about sexual pleasure. This leaves us with a lot of blanks to fill in for ourselves. Blanks produce anxiety. So we fill them in; often with self-doubt, paranoia, and assumptions.

What will happen if you vocalize to your partner: “I love having sex with you. But this ending part? Not so much. Can we try something else? Like maybe you could go down on me?” Your boyfriend could take it personally. Or maybe he’ll be relieved to know what you do want. Maybe he feels insecure about his oral sex abilities. Maybe he’s just doing this because he’s reading your physical reaction as confirmation of your enjoyment.

How is he supposed to know unless you verbalize otherwise? How are you to know unless you ask?…continue reading…

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How Do I Tell My Partners I’ve Got Herpes?

Hi Yana,

I’m 21 years young, genderqueer, very sexual, and polyamorous! I have a penis; I also have genital herpes. Is there a best time to tell a partner?

If I have symptoms or have had them recently it’s not much of a conundrum because there’s no choice to be made [besides abstaining]. If I’m totally symptom-free for a period of time, I’ve been told having P-in-V [penis in vagina] while wearing a condom puts the risk of transmission at less than 1 percent. I tell partners this and let them decide what to do. There have been times when I’ve felt I dropped this too early and it was a mood-killer, but I’ve also dropped it when we’re already naked and it felt like maybe the partner could be too deeply aroused to make a well-thought-out decision. Your thoughts?

— On a  No-Transmission Mission

Dear ONTM,

Kill “The Mood” dead! This idea that there’s a sexual mood that must be protected at all costs gets in the way of sexual realness. Fear of killing The Mood is cited as the reason why people don’t want to practice consent; why people don’t want to speak up when they’re feeling uncomfortable; and why many avoid safer-sex talks. We’ve been spoon-fed The Mood myth by movies, music, and media — and we’ve swallowed it down along with our humanness, authenticity, and safer-sex practices!

Once The Mood is kissed goodbye, we’ve got a lot more freedom to negotiate your sexual interactions with genital herpes. Herpes is an incurable STI/STD that is spread via contact between the contagious area — mouth or genitals — or broken skin of someone with the virus and someone’s mucous membrane tissue — mouth/genitals. Herpes is always present and transferrable even if the person with the virus isn’t showing any signs of an outbreak. Most people with herpes don’t show symptoms and/or don’t know they have the virus.

It sounds like you already know that herpes is most contagious during an active outbreak. But let’s go over the three main ways to prevent spreading genital herpes anyway:

1.) During an outbreak, don’t have vaginal, anal, or oral sex — even with a condom/barrier. Wait until seven days after sores heals.

2.) Risk of transmission can be greatly reduced by taking prescription anti-herpes medication.

3.) Use condoms/dental dams/gloves between outbreaks to reduce the risk of transmission.

I couldn’t find a source citing the 1 percent factoid you mention, but condoms can cut the risk of transmitting herpes in half. Eight out of 10 people have oral herpes and 4 out of 10 have genital herpes. Herpes is common, incurable, manageable, and, most importantly, part of many people’s sex lives…continue reading…

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We Never Talk! But I’d Like To…

I know you do sex advice, but I need some relationship advice. My boyfriend and I have been dating for about half a year and he shows zero emotion. I want to bring it up to him, but not in a way that will make him clam up more, ya know? Any advice would be awesome. Thanks!

— Emote My Boat

The longer I contemplate this question, the curiouser and curiouser I get about what the exact situation is here. Are you in love with this guy and you want to know if he’s in love with you? Have things been kind of lighthearted so far and now it’s time to have the DTR (Define the Relationship) talk, but he’s just not picking up the breadcrumbs you’re dropping?

Did you go on one of those YouTube binges of videos about courageous puppies who were found abandoned and injured so they lost their back legs, but now they’ve been lovingly outfitted with amazing doggie-mobility devices and they can now play fetch like their puppy peers and your boyfriend somehow DIDN’T SHED A TEAR and now you suspect he’s a heartless robot?

First, here’s what we’re up against: an ingrained socialization that tells young men that they can’t emote and still be men unless that emotion is anger. This same socialization tells young women that they should shoulder the weight of everyone else’s emotions, but shouldn’t burden others — especially their boyfriends — with theirs.

What you can do, EMB, is be brave and unapologetically, emotionally expressive.

If “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind,” emotionless for emotionless makes the whole world disconnected. You say you don’t want to ask him to express his emotions because you fear it’ll push him further into his emotional clamshell. Are you also worried this would turn you into one of those girls who “nags” her boyfriend about emotions?

But more importantly: How does his lack of emotional expression make you feel? Hurt, abandoned, unclear, insecure, disconnected, invalidated, underappreciated, and lonely are some words that pop into my mind when I imagine my own partner shutting off his emotions in our relationship. Maybe some of those ring a bell for you…continue reading…

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Oh! Oh! Oh? Where’s My Orgasm?

Hi Yana!

I started having sex with males this past summer. It’s fun and exciting, but I’ve yet to reach an earth-shattering orgasm. That may be too high of an expectation for myself, but it feels like I’ve never had an orgasm at all.

I feel the build up, but there’s no release. I think this may be contributing to my extremely low sex drive, because sex isn’t really beneficial for me. I really do want to be having more sex, and more fulfilling healthy sex with my long-term partner.

How do I have an orgasm? How do I go about figuring out what I like, what gets me off? Am I getting in my own way somehow?

Usually when I have sex it’s vaginal penetration with short bursts of clitoral stimulation. I guess my main problem is starting the dialogue, “Hey, can you try this?” because I don’t know what to ask for. Should I watch more porn, go on kinky websites for ideas? Or, considering how sex in mainstream media is depicted in a way that is largely unbeneficial to women, is that more hurt than help?

— Still Searching

Dear SS,

Your questions echo the many, many questions I get from people trying to overcome this sexual hurdle — or just come at all. An orgasm is typically characterized by a pleasurable build-up which ends in a climactic release.

It sounds like you’re on your way, but haven’t quite reached Orgasm Town — a common experience.

You’re on the right track in your thinking about this — your search for an orgasm is going to take a lot more than basic P-in-V penetration. Logistically speaking, direct and consistent clitoral stimulation is a requirement for most. More importantly, orgasms take personal work both in between our legs and in between our ears. What I mean to say, is the brain is our largest sex organ; so let’s start there…continue reading…