Polysaturated- Part 1

Polysaturated*. I’m so there. 
Full time job, child, husband, boyfriend, metamour, and what feels like a hundred million hobbies and personal contacts to maintain. 

It’s been a struggle recently to find a balance between all of these things. Especially finding enough quality time for everything and everyone. Today, I’ll talk about my husband and I. Because we co-habitate and co-parent, our relationship presents us with some unique challenges. We’ve also been together for over a decade, which means we’ve fallen into a specific level of comfort with one another that only comes with long term romantic relationships.

Each relationship of mine has aspects that make it simultaneously easy and difficult. About 2 months into relationships with new partners (we strangely both began seriously dating another partner right around the same time), my husband and I realized that we weren’t feeling very close. After some conversations about uncomfortable feelings, we were able to figure out why. Sure, we spent a lot of time together because we lived together, but much of that time wasn’t *quality* time. When we were home, our time together followed the same routine: get home, make dinner, eat family dinner, get our child ready for bed, do household chores or work after the kid was in bed, and then maybe if we weren’t too exhausted, try to squeeze in some intimate time before crashing into bed. We had fallen into the age old trap of busy parents with young children: We weren’t taking hardly any quality time to ourselves. Unfortunately, because we don’t have similar responsibilities with our other partners, the amount of quality time we got with our partners in contrast with one another became glaringly obvious. When you feel like someone else is getting what you’re wanting, it’s hard not to feel like the situation is unfair. If it goes on for too long, resentment and jealousy can sit to brew. Don’t get me wrong, neither of us wanted to take time away from the wonderful people we were dating, we just wanted some together as well.
So what did we do about it? 

1. We agreed that we had to be more intentional about our time together. Our solutions included having more regular date nights. Not always super fancy ones, although those are important too, but even weeknight dates that got us out of the house for an hour or two. Long enough to have dinner and an adult conversation without racking up a huge babysitting bill. 

2. Spending an occasional weekend away together. We found that leaving the kiddo with friends or family so we could take a small weekend vacation together made a huge difference in feeling connected with one another. We come back feeling refreshed and a stronger couple.

3. Doing more household work together so we can chat, instead of the divide and conquer method. We’ve had some of our most productive conversations while folding laundry together.

4. And lastly, we try to schedule more time all together. I am really fortunate that my husband gets along with my boyfriend, I get along with my metamour, and my boyfriend and my meta get along with each other! The four of us click pretty damn well and spending time together, while can sometimes be tricky to navigate, is an important way for us all to bond together. I know this situation isn’t feasible for every polycule, especially when long distance partners are in the mix. But if it is at all possible to work towards time all together, I would highly recommend it. 

I will say my husband and I are still working on this. I think it’s easy to take long-term partners for granted sometimes, especially if you share a living space and domestic responsibilities. Because of this, we have to always be active and intentional about our time together as opposed to passive. We are having to shift our focus and reprogram our thinking a bit. It is, however, well worth the effort. 
*Polysaturated: “used to describe a polyamorous person who is not currently seeking new partners due to having their time and energy already occupied by other partners.” from The Smart Girl’s Guide to Polyamory by Dedecker Winston

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Confusion in Polyland!

The difference between identity and lifestyle choice can become pretty blurry when discussing polyamory. Is it something you are or is it something you do? Or perhaps a mixture of both? I’ve heard valid arguments on either side, but I’m still struggling to discover exactly how it fits into my life.

Let me be clear, I’m not trying to be picky about how people label themselves and I’m definitely not trying to invalidate someone else’s firmly held belief about how they work.

My internal dialogue when trying to hash this out became tricky. In the beginning, before I had put too much thought towards it, I really believed that for me polyamory was an identity. Like my pansexuality, it was apart of me and how I am wired. But then I began to ask myself some questions:

Could I possibly change my mind about how I want to configure my relationships?
Is this an intrinsic personality trait or is it situational?
Is this a choice for me or do I feel “wired” for non-monogamy?

These questions and other related thoughts swirled around in my head for days. I felt so bewildered and conflicted that I reached out to some other poly folks and asked for their opinions.
PHONE A FRIEND!

Itzel of McLean County Polyamory: “It’s either one, depending on who you are. For me it’s an identity, but others consciously choose to participate in relationships like this. I’ve met people from both camps. For me, I feel like I don’t think I could have relationships any way but polyamorous. I know that I wouldn’t be happy or healthy in a monogamous situation. It’s not something I can turn off or put on the back burner. That makes it an identity, to me.”

Erin Kennedy of Sex for the Rest of Us: “For the most part I think our tendencies toward monogamy or polyamory are based on social constructs, where our gender and sexual identities are more inherent. That being said, there seems to be an common denominator among successful polyamorists that differs from people who prefer sexual and emotional fidelity to one person. The difference is the capacity and desire for compersion.”
Kevin of Poly Role Models: “Something I say a lot is, ‘If you do something long enough, it stops being what you do and starts being who you are.’ When I entered ethical nonmonogamy, it was an accident. Maybe not an accident. But definitely an unplanned foray into uncharted territory. My wife (then-girlfriend) and I found our way into a FMF threesome early in our relationship. When I expected things to get awkward, they didn’t. We had opened our relationship and just decided to leave it open…at least for a while. It was assumed that we could close it up any time we wanted. It wasn’t an orientation. It was a behavior.

So, when my wife first started dating and sleeping with other men, I wasn’t scared. I’d ask for all of the details, after the first time, and if I got angry or jealous, we could close it up. I didn’t get angry or jealous…we left it open. Once we got married though, it would be time to get serious. Time to settle down. We’d close it up then. Then we got married…and we left it open. But definitely this polyamory thing would end when we moved into our first house and started our family. Those happened. Closing our relationship didn’t. But we could. That was the whole point. It wasn’t an orientation. It was a behavior.

We could close the relationship if we wanted to…I just didn’t want to. Neither did my wife. And we didn’t have anymore natural off-ramps to be wary of. We had a house and children and a settled, serious life…and polyamory. We both had people that polyamory brought to us who added value to our lives and to those of our children. Neither of us can imagine going back to monogamy. It doesn’t even make sense to us anymore… …and then I remember that thing I say a lot. This isn’t what I’m doing. This is who I am.”

Thanks friends!

I think the answer to this question is as unique as the person it is being asked of. For now, I’m going to say that non-monogamy and polyamory are apart of my identity, only because I feel that expressing myself as a polyamorous person is integral to my happiness and satisfaction. I feel that having an open relationship allows me to be my most genuine self. Only time will tell if those feelings are subject to change. Stay tuned!

 

*Read more from Kevin at http://polyrolemodels.tumblr.com and more from Erin at http://www.sexfortherest.com

First is the Worst

This spring and summer has been one giant transition for me. I broke it off with a boyfriend after about nine months, left an old job, began a new one, sold a house, bought a house, and moved to a new city with a toddler in tow. DAMN, I’m tired.
Now that I’m starting to settle down in my new home, I felt it would be a good idea to get myself “out there” again. And by that, I mean dating. While updating my online profiles, the excitement rushed through me. New partners! Potentially great sex! Meeting great new people and building friendships and relationships! Alas, I had forgotten….

Reasons why 1st dates are the worst:

Staring strange people in the face over drinks. I hate this. It’s so much pressure. I’ve started suggesting walking/bowling/art gallery dates instead. It’s so much easier to have a conversation when you aren’t forced to stare at each other’s faces and when there are some built in moments for silence.

Facing disappointment after great text-message interactions but lackluster face-to-face conversation. This doesn’t happen often to me, but when it does it can feel like a huge set back. Expectations can be built up so high that it sure does hurt when they come crashing down on you.

The terribly uncomfortable and inconvenient nervous tummy rumbles minutes before you meet someone new. Does this happen to anyone else? I’d rather not have to say “It’s so nice to finally meet you! Now where the fuck is the bathroom…?” right off the bat.

That awkward good-bye when the date is finished. Physical contact or wave? Kiss? Hug? GAH! I suppose I shall be an adult and just ask if it’s okay to kiss/hug/go back to their place and get the first-time-sex out of the way.

Trying to figure out afterwards if you are still interested. Or if you’re unsure, trying to decide if you’re being too picky. First impressions aren’t always entirely accurate, right? Maybe I just need to get to know them a little bit better.

I am an extrovert. Like, an always the first to speak in large icebreaker situations, love public speaking, am not afraid to introduce myself to anyone kind of extrovert. Despite all of that, this shit is HARD for me.  “Why do I keep doing this to myself?” I ask each time I sit nervously in my car before summoning up the courage to pull the keys from the ignition and open the door. I often have to remind myself that the benefits far outweigh the discomfort:

1. Variety in partners is what keeps me interested in sex (which is actually quite common for women. Don’t believe me? Go read What Women Want by Daniel Bergner).

2. I identify as polyamorous and having multiple intimate partners is what makes my heart the happiest.

3. I am a pansexual woman who is badly missing the company of partners who do not identify as straight, cis-gendered men.

Despite all of the nerves and awkwardness, meeting new people is really quite exciting for me. I have to remember not to take myself or anyone else too seriously. So, please wish me luck and help remind me to take a deep breath. This is good for me.

What’s Your Flavor- Installment 1

“We shouldn’t invalidate other people’s choices simply because they look different from our own.” -Tristan Taormino

In the past few years, a noticeable increase in the visibility of “alternative” relationship styles (such as polyamory, kink, and LGBT+) has been featured in all types of media. From 50 Shades of Grey, to Sister Wives, to the articles scattered across my Facebook titled something like “Open is the New Monogamy”, those of us who have chosen differently are definitely getting some attention. You may be thinking “Great! We are making progress!” and for the most part, I would agree. Mainstream media is just beginning to reflect the growing trend that allows people to more easily step into a life that may look different from traditional, 1950’s monogamy. As a culture, we are beginning to explore and even challenge the idea that true love only happens within specific parameters. This is a good sign and I hope we continue to progress.

On the flip side, we have a lot of work to do. Although I’m fairly young still (just shy of 30), I have seen enough relationships to understand that each one is unique. Even in a configuration that is as seemingly straightforward as monogamy, no two are the same. I don’t believe labels are entirely unnecessary, but I do think we tend to put far too many restrictions on them. Labels can be broad and encompassing and those differences should be celebrated. Frustratingly, the media still tends to look at open relationships through the monogamy lens and often use labels in a highly restrictive manner. It’s similar to when someone asks a lesbian couple, ” which one of you is the man?” Understandably, if heteronormative, monogamous relationships are all you have ever known, it is difficult for your brain to wrap itself around something that doesn’t fit inside the box. However, this narrow view can be very damaging to actual people in real relationships.

We need to stop telling people that they cannot possibly fit into a relationship style because it doesn’t look like what we ourselves are doing. I once saw someone on a polyamory Facebook page claiming that you can only call yourself polyamorous if everyone is dating each other. If you and your “main partner” are dating separately, this is not polyamory. I have also read comments from monogamous folks who believe that any type of individual independence in a monogamous relationship is unhealthy or inherently strips the couple of their monogamous title. Seriously, just stop.

When you talk with your children, family, your partner or even in your inner dialogue, keep in mind that you have options. Relationship structure should be an ongoing conversation between everyone involved. My husband and I decided to open up early in our relationship, but our needs and desires have changed over the course of our relationship. Every once and awhile we talk about where we are and if one or both of us feels the need for a change. Boundaries are not a default “set it and forget it” type of deal. They need to be discussed at the beginning and then periodically as the relationship progresses. This is important because people change, as do their expectations and needs along with them.

“Your thing isn’t my thing, but that’s okay”. With this idea in mind, I have decided to create a section of this blog titled What’s Your Flavor?. Its purpose will be to highlight the lives and relationship styles/configurations/preferences of real people. It will be an opportunity to shed some light onto individuals and give them space to speak about what has worked for them. Why? Because exposure to and education about people who live differently then ourselves is easily the most effective method for creating change and cultivating tolerance. Enjoy!

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The first installment of What’s Your Flavor features a friend of mine, Itzel. Itzel, her fiancé, and I have worked to establish a local polyamory community in our Midwestern town. I am excited to bring you some insight into her world.

How do you, personally, define polyamory?

I define polyamory as loving/dating multiple people at once. I think that polyamory often gets confused with swinging, and as a grey-asexual I try to emphasize that polyamory is often just as much about emotional attachments as it is about sex.

Do you feel you’ve always been predisposed for polyamory or have you had to grow into the idea?
I’m not absolutely certain. I was definitely raised, like most people, surrounded only by monogamous relationships. When my mom started talking about polyamory to me when I was around 16 I thought it was a cool idea, and I accepted it for her and others, but I really didn’t want that for myself. As a bisexual woman who often ended up in relationships with men, I often thought I was hiding or denying a part of myself and maybe polyamory would help me be a whole person. It was this that eventually allowed me to grow into the idea that poly would be good for me.

Was their a specific moment in time or event that helped you to realize that polyamory was right for you; your “ah-ha” moment?

When my fiancé brought a girl over to hang out, and we hit it off as friends. Later they were upstairs in his bedroom and I knew they were fooling around. I was just…happy and giddy about it. I dated quite a few people before he started dating others, but it was when I saw him having fun and getting his needs met that it really clicked for me.
What does your current relationship/family structure look like?
Currently I am engaged to my long term partner, and I have a long-distance boyfriend (who I met because he was dating one of my very good friends.) My fiancé isn’t dating anyone else at the moment, but my boyfriend sees all sorts of other folks.

What would your ideal relationship/family structure look like?
If everything was up to me I would live on a little polyamorous commune with all of my partners and their partners and their partners. I want more metamours! I tend to favor emotional attachment in my relationships (and I really need it if I want to get sexual at all) so I’d like to be dating people that I’m serious enough with that they are really part of the family. I’m not at all a fan of enforced relationship hierarchies, so I’d like all of my relationships to always fall where they will naturally.

What have been your biggest struggles or challenges within your polyamorous relationships?
Communication. Every polyamorous struggle I have had has boiled down to communication. The times I have been jealous or upset were due to me being in the dark about certain issues or people. It was never malicious on the part of my partners, but I had problems because I didn’t know the whole story or because we weren’t clear on our expectations for each other.

What makes polyamory rewarding for you? What about it makes you consciously choose this relationship configuration over monogamy?
I think it makes my relationship with my fiancé (and therefore every other relationship) more stable. I know that I don’t have to depend on him for all my relationship needs, and vice versa. Additionally, as a queer woman, I don’t feel like I have to forget about or suppress my queerness in order to be with someone that I love. There is no internal struggle.

Are you “open and out” about being polyamorous? Why or why not? What have been your experiences? If have come out publicly, has it been a positive experience? 

I am! I have a hard time keeping secrets about myself, and I’ve never wanted to be quiet about something that brings me so much joy. My experiences, overall, have been positive. My mother is poly, so I didn’t have a hard time coming out to or explaining my lifestyle to my family. I’ve found that being out as allowed me to help educate others about polyamory, creating more acceptance and even showing others that it is an option for them. I’ve never had any negative reactions (to my face, anyway), but I’ve had a lot of questions. I plan on being out anywhere and everywhere. I don’t ever want my partners to feel like they aren’t a big enough part of my life for me to be honest about being with them, and I don’t ever want to have to hide myself or the people I love and care about.

What do you feel is important for non-polyamorous folk to know about your relationships? What do you wish they could better understand?

A couple things.

1. It’s not just about sex! Everyone’s first reaction is always along the lines of “so you can fuck anyone you want?” Kinda? But that’s not why we do this.

2. We all get jealous! But jealousy is not a good reason to be possessive of people you love. Anyone can work through jealousy with the right resources and support.

MY VULVA HURTS!

I struggle with a condition called Vulvar Vestibulitis. For years I couldn’t use tampons or have sex without substantial pain. I went to doctor after doctor and not one could tell me what was wrong. They prescribed creams, pills, gels, or told me that it was in my head and I just needed to relax. FINALLY after years of pain one doctor had the brilliant idea to send me to a specialist 3 hours away. I went through physical therapy and had to make some life style changes. 
My vulva and vagina are in much better shape than when I started my treatment. But I still have my bad days (like today) when hormones take over and make my skin red, irritated, and painful. No sex for me. 😭

What really bothers me is that this condition is surprisingly common, but we know next to nothing about it. I’ve even had to educate some of my health care professionals about this condition. Why? Because apparently not enough people care about women being in pain enough to spend the money on research. If this happened to people with penises, I have a feeling we would have figured out how to fix it already. 

If you or someone you know struggles with unexplained vaginal or vulvar pain, please encourage them to seek treatment with someone who will listen to their concerns without judgement, treat it like a very serious medical condition that needs immediate attention, and be able to point to resources or specialist if needed.

While I’m doing much better now, I still experience pain for at least a few days a month during hormonal surges. Occasionally I get really discouraged, depressed and/or angry at my body. It can make me feel very isolated. I feel like life played a sick joke on me, giving a huge interest in sexuality but unable to engage in it the way I really want to, and sometimes not at all. This pain is real, it’s not in my head. Please help me reach other vulva-havers who could benefit from the support of knowledgeable medical professionals or other people with vaginas who struggle with this condition.

To learn more about this condition, please consider a visit to The Centers for Vulvovaginal Disorders or The National Vulvodynia Association.

Cautionary Poly

This piece is a submission I wrote for the Poly Role Models‘ Cautionary Poly project. It gives a little more back story about the ex in my previous post and should be published sometime at the end of the summer/beginning of Fall. Go check out their page!

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My husband and I were still practically newlyweds when my life crashed through the door of my future ex’s tiny apartment that night we met. For a few months this strange soul and I tiptoed around one other until he asked for my phone number. The text message I received following that conversation changed everything and was the catalyst for the explosion that was our entire relationship. It lasted four years and I experienced NRE (new relationship energy) with him the entire duration of our time together. That love drunk blindness stuck with me despite spending hours together almost daily. He was the drug that I could not quit. The sex was too good, the conversation too profound, the emotional connection too deep. He was intelligent, validating, curious, and physically affectionate. He was also self-loathing, suffering from a mental illness he could not afford to be treated for, and defensive. He hated his very existence, but through those four years I was convinced that with all the love I held in for him in my heart, I could fix him. And holy hell did I try, harder than I should have. I exhausted emotional, physical, and financial resources, but it was never enough. The void was too deep. It was like throwing love, time, and money into a black hole and when he left, that blackness consumed me. I was so wholly unprepared for this loss that it shredded me to the core and then left me simultaneously conscious but comatose. Never in my life have I felt such a deep reaching emotional pain.

When I began to heal, I was able to look behind me and face the wreckage that entire relationship had left in its wake. My marriage was on life support, only just scraping by. My social life had withered from neglect. My hobbies and interests were nowhere to be found. For four years I had given everything to him and in turn, lost myself. This relationship was the cause of the greatest heartache I have survived thus far. However, the pain and rebuilding has taught me lessons about life, love, and myself that I won’t soon forget — for the price I paid for them was too high to merely toss aside. These scars were expensive and I intend to get my money’s worth.

Among the most important are as follows:
Love may be unconditional, but if you want to reap its rewards you can’t neglect the garden. My husband stuck with me when he probably shouldn’t have because he truly loved me. I neglected him and our relationship for the entire duration of this other encounter as well as the time it took to grieve its ending. By that point my husband did still love me, but no longer trusted me. Resentment and doubt had grown in the place of love and trust. Thankfully, it was not beyond repair. I cherish his love now more than ever, because I am the one that had to bandage the wounds and nurse it back to health.
No one egg is worth your whole basket. I neglected nearly everything for this one entity. It wasn’t healthy and now I know that I have much more to offer. My husband and child are central to my life, without a doubt. But giving them literally everything would ruin me, and in turn would ruin my bond with them. Have a life that is your own, have loves, be multifaceted.
Polyamory can be rewarding for all involved, but selfishness and blind infatuation are not a part of that equation. Since the end of that relationship, I have dated people other than my husband with greater success and respect. Keeping open communication with all of my partners and working with someone when they are feeling uncomfortable has been vital. I have a bad habit of saying “It will be okay, we will find a way to work it out.” Instead of saying that to my partners (or myself), I do my best to communicate possible solutions in that moment.

I was a bad partner. I was selfish and chose to turn a blind eye to the obvious fatal flaws. During that time, I wished with all my might that one day it would turn out okay. My honest hope was that they were growing pains and that eventually things would smooth themselves out. In a way, that is exactly what happened, but not in the way that I had expected. The anger for my ex-love has since cooled and the lessons to be learned have made themselves quite clear. Often I feel like it’s a bit twisted to feel thankful for endured pain and suffering. Sometimes though, it turns out to be the most effective teacher.

An Open Letter to my Ex

I hesitate to put these next two posts up so early in the life of this blog. I don’t necessarily want to start with negative experiences, but on the other hand, they have taught me so much. Breakups often end up being an important part of open relationships. This letter was drafted about six months after I stopped speaking to my ex. It was never intended to be sent. Despite my hang ups about posting the rough stuff first, I’m just going to leave this here…

 

To my dearest, my-ex,

I don’t believe you ever intended to hurt me. And although I often find it difficult not to believe you stopped caring about me altogether, deep down, I don’t believe that is the case.

I’m not vindictive and I don’t wish you ill-will. Your happiness is still important to me even after all that’s happened. I want you to be happy, with or without me. However, I feel like you need to know how much I was hurt by your actions at the end. You promised me that we would always be close and that you’d always be there for me. You calmed my fears time and time again by saying that our friendship, my place and importance in your life, was non-negotiable. I think you truly felt that way when you spoke those words. I don’t think you were lying then. But, darling, you sure as hell didn’t keep your promise.

It would have been different if you had communicated at the end instead of shutting yourself down to me. I spent months reaching out to you, time and time again, only to be met with heavy disappointment and a crushing sadness as it dawned upon me that this was ending. It left me feeling, among a wash of other emotions, horribly foolish. Over the course of our four year relationship, I spent unfathomable amounts of time, emotional energy, and monetary resources on you. My marriage almost fell apart because our connection was (seemingly) so strong. Within months, pulling any type of meaningful response from you was more difficult than pulling teeth, and I was made to feel that all that had been spent on you had been wasted. I gifted to you a blind trust that I felt would never be broken, only to have it violated in a horribly painful way. Your non-response quite literally drove me to the brink of my sanity and perhaps pushed me over the edge. I really thought you loved and cared about me too much to forget about me, to move on with so little recognition. I lost myself in you, and from this perspective it seemed as though you just turned away quietly with little remorse or empathy. Never in a million years did I think you would be the source of the worst emotional pain I’ve yet experienced as an adult.

For the four years we were together, I fully expected that you were going to be apart of my life, forever. The young, naïve me couldn’t possibly conjure up a scenario where we would drift apart and lose contact. I didn’t believe it was possible. When you began pulling away, when you stopped responding, I panicked. I realized that I was indeed a negotiable item, but only on your own terms. You weren’t going to let anyone else tell you I couldn’t be in your life, but no one else had to.

In the end, I had to be the one to kill it, to allow my wounds to heal- to stop trying so hard with you and to start focusing on locating all the shards of my broken sanity and begin to piece them back together.

Six months after I made that decision and asked you not to contact me, I’m pretty sure there are still a few pieces missing. I have moved on, but not entirely. Once and awhile a memory catches me off guard, like a tree branch snagging the sleeve of my sweater. It jerks me back for a moment, and I have to then pause and untangle you from my mind.

You will never read this, but know that there will always be a small piece of my heart that will burn for you until the day I perish. I did love you so.

No Longer Yours,
Siren Song

My Name is Siren Song

My name is Siren Song. I am a pansexual, polyamorous, mother just shy of 30. Female, pronoun preferences she/her please. Nice to meet you and thanks for venturing into my blog space. If you read my first entry about consent, thank you a second time! I realize it was lengthy, so good for you for sticking with me to the end of it. Your future partners will appreciate it.

I wanted to take a moment now to explain my motives behind this blog. While I was not born in the Midwest, I was raised here by liberal Californian, atheist, sex-positive parents. Four years of college produced an education degree that I’m still trying to figure out what to do with. My husband and I have been together since 2006 and agreed on an open relationship a few months into dating each other. Let me tell you, it’s been a wild ride. We have both suffered our fair share of breaks ups and rejection, him more so than I but that is a story for a future post. Together we have loved, lost, argued, repaired, and grown with each other and as well as with others.

My weekly therapy sessions often leave me wondering why I put up with all of the complications of polyamory. Let me clarify, all long term relationships (LTRs) are hard fucking work. Period, the end. There is no escaping that and we will talk about that in this space. However, open relationships create entirely different dynamics that are rarely modeled or discussed in a realistic form. Those who are brave enough (or crazy enough?) to try them often learn what works and doesn’t work through ‘trial by fire’. But when I really dig deep and think about what my life would look like if my husband and I were monogamous, I am confident I’ve made the right choice for myself. Simply put, identifying as polyamorous allows me to feel that I can be my most genuine self in this world and with every human I encounter. The few times monogamy was attempted, it felt constraining and I always failed. I am not good at it, so I stopped trying to be. In future blog entries, I will attempt to explain how I and other polyamorous adults are able to remain committed and in love with multiple partners simultaneously.

For now, allow me to add my voice to those seeking information and validation about their non-monogamy, sexual/relationship non-conformity, or general sex positive nature. While I do plan on telling my own stories, my goal is to post numerous interviews with interesting folks (such as yourselves) as well as other additional resources and links. This blog will be a place for sharing and learning! Being a sex positive educator and activist is an integral piece of the very core of my being and I identify strongly with this calling. I see sex negativity every day in my work with small children and their parents, in my social life, in the media, and everywhere else I could possibly think of. Our culture is steeped in it, but I’m hopeful that together we can help influence great change.

If you have questions, concerns, suggestions for topics you’d like to see written about, etc. please do not hesitate to contact me via email at sirensong@adultsalad.com or @siren8song via Twitter. I am very pleased and excited to begin this journey with you!

With infinite love,
Siren Song

Peeling the First Leaf

Consent marks the beginning

As this piece marks the beginning of my work with Adult Salad, I felt it would be appropriate to start with the most basic and most important aspect of any relationship, enthusiastically giving someone else the green light to enter your space and your life. Consent lays the foundation for each and every thriving sexual, romantic or platonic relationship. Someone who regards consent as an important aspect of your relationship is more likely to respect you and the bond between you. Consent is quite literally essential for the beginnings of all healthy relationships. They require a “yes” from both parties for it to even materialize.

Where and how do we begin with teaching our children, partners, and friends about the most important part of sexual interactions? In my opinion, outlining the main points to yourself is the often most helpful. Let’s make a list!

*Of course, please feel free to add more questions/points to your list. If you feel I’ve missed something big, I encourage to tweet your ideas at me (@siren8song) or send me an email (sirensong@adultsalad.com).

How do we define enthusiastic consent?
My boyfriend says for him, the old Herbal Essences commercials come to mind. You know? The girls moaning and screaming “YES!” repeatedly while having their hair washed. While I don’t believe it necessarily needs to be that over the top, that mindset is a good one. Enthusiastic consent is a “Yes, please” or an “Please do that to me.” It is never an “Okay, fine” or a “Maybe later” or an “I’m not sure…”. Enthusiastic consent is a clear and resounding YES. Still not sure that you’ve gained the proper consent? Just ask! Here’s how.

How do we ask for consent and at what point do we ask for it?
Early and often! We must ask for consent anytime we touch someone else’s body, enter their personal space, or when the activity changes. As a rule of thumb, there are two good ways to ask. You can be straightforward and ask the question. For example, “May I kiss you?” or “Can we have sex tonight?”. You can also obtain consent by telling the other person what you want to do and then wait for them to extend a verbal or physical invitation. For example, “I really want to kiss you” or “I would love to have sex with you tonight.” Asking the direct question often leads to a very immediate and clear answer. However, phrasing it as something you would like to do can help the person you are asking feel less pressured. Remember, just because someone has given consent for one thing, doesn’t mean they have given you the green light to plow right through the bases without verifying first. For example, if someone has consented to oral sex, don’t assume they’re up for penetrative sex.

In this case it’s better to ask permission than forgiveness, because that would be rape.

What method is true to your personality? Does it make you uncomfortable to ask the question outright? Keep these things in mind when approaching a partner.

How do we know when someone has given their consent?
Once you have asked the question or opened up the conversation, the ball is in their court. You will know you’ve gained enthusiastic consent when the other person has said some version of “yes, please” (remember, nothing less than this counts). However, a person can also give their consent with a physical reaction. If you say to your date “Hey, I really want to kiss you” and they then proceed to pull your face close to theirs, chances are you’ve obtained their consent.

What do we do when someone says “thanks, but no thanks”?
This can be kind of awkward, but it doesn’t need to be for long. Sulking or pushing the issue is not allowed. This kind of behavior is manipulative and disrespectful. It can make the other person feel guilty and even obligated to change their mind. It doesn’t matter if they’re a spouse, friend with benefits, significant other, or one-night stand. If they decline, stop. Don’t try asking another way or augmenting your request. Instead, ask if anything you were doing is still okay and continue to do that or ask them what they would rather do instead. Reassure them and ease the tension of the awkward situation by letting them know that you respect their choice and that you’re still happy to do other things with them.

How do we tell someone asking for our consent “thanks, but no thanks”?
Having to reject someone’s advances is just as uncomfortable as being the rejected one. Honesty is the best policy here, but be gentle. If you don’t want to get physical, keep it honest with an “I really enjoy our time together as platonic friends. I would prefer we kept it that way.” If you are already physically involved with someone, but aren’t ready for something they have suggested, you could respond with a “I like that you are comfortable enough with me to try something new. I’m just not ready for that yet.” Both examples here lead with a positive before politely declining.

What do we do if someone revokes their consent?
If the person you are with revokes their consent or has ceased active consent, stop right away. It sometimes helps to physically move to another location. When things aren’t going well with a partner of mine for any reason, I like to take a break and make some nachos with them. This may seem silly, but let me tell you why this works for me. First, we get out of the bedroom; out of the physical space where we were struggling. Second, engaging in a “lighter”, slightly distracting activity immediately helps to further remove me from whatever strange headspace I was previously stuck in. Both of these steps help me to take a step back and allow me the capability to see a bigger picture that I could have been missing before. Furthermore, moving back to an enjoyable activity with your partner can help alleviate tension and distress all while staying engaged and connected with one another. Personally, I like making nachos because the kitchen is my haven and eating is my favorite thing. Find what works for you. Other examples include taking a walk, playing a short game together, or going out for a snack/drink. Find something that will take some pressure off, but will keep you engaged with one another. Mindless activities like movies, Netflix or TV shows are a bad idea because they tend to close you off instead of opening you up. There is a good chance you’ll spend the entire episode of Doctor Who brewing about what went wrong. Once you’re both a little more relaxed, you can approach the subject – what went wrong and what needs to happen differently next time? Try your hardest to avoid finger pointing and placing blame. Talk about what would work better for you in place of what actually happened.

When is someone unable to give their consent?
Some examples of people who cannot legally give consent are those who are unconscious, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or those under the legal age of consent. Of course, this list in not all-inclusive and may vary by location. Someone who is unconscious may be sleeping, have blacked out from too much alcohol, or may have some other injury. Drugs and alcohol change the way we think and make decisions. Someone who is drunk or high cannot legally give consent to sexual activity because they are unable to think and make decisions as they normally would. A minor is someone who is under the legal age of consent. This age will vary from place to place, although it’s usually a good idea to wait until someone is over the age of 18 before engaging in sexual activities with them.

What do we do when someone acts upon us without our consent?

First and foremost, the victim always gets to decide the best course of action for themselves. The lines of consent crossed will vary in severity from an inexperienced partner accidentally rolling over a boundary to every woman’s worst nightmare. Rape culture is alive and well in our society and if you feel safe doing so, it is perfectly acceptable to combat it by letting someone know that they have violated your space by not asking for consent. It’s alright to tell them firmly and directly that you are not okay with what they have done. If you want to have a reasonable conversation with this person, then go ahead and do it. That being said, victims of nonconsensual sexual acts are under no obligation to face their attackers. While there are many options, the victim must decide which course of action is right for them.

If you have been sexually assaulted or raped your options include speaking with law enforcement and seeking medical attention as well as the support of family and friends. Speaking with a therapist after this type of trauma could be helpful if you find yourself struggling. You can also contact RAINN (The rape, abuse and incest national network) at RAINN.org or call 800.656.HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.

When talking with young people (or anyone) about consent, please stress that enthusiastic consent is the foundation upon which all healthy relationships are built. A partner who respects your body and space is a partner who is likely to respect and care for the whole you. Your consent is a gift that you give to someone, not a trophy to be won or item to be manipulated out of your control. No one is entitled to your body and, no matter the circumstance, you are not entitled to anyone else’s. Rape culture permeates our society and culture. Women and men fall victim to sexual assault and rape every day. The good news? You can help change that. You can have a frank discussion with your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, classmates and friends about how essential consent really is. People are not objects and their bodies do not belong to you, regardless of how well you feel you have treated them or what kind of resources you have spent on them. Talk about the points that have been discussed in this posting or encourage them to watch this great video with you that parallels sexual consent and making someone a cup of tea (http://www.themarysue.com/consent-as-simple-as-tea/).

If we start with beginnings, then this is it, my dear followers. This sets the stage for everything we will discuss on this portion of Adult Salad’s brand-spankin’-new website. Enthusiastic consent is also a great place for you to start in talking to your kids or a new partner about sex. Let’s change the conversation. Let’s change the world.

 

Siren Song is (among many other things) a young(er) educator, mother, and life partner to more than one. She utilizes Artichoke Love and her degree in education to explore the topics of polyamory and sex in the context of family. Siren currently resides in the Midwest with family, cats, and houseplants.