AskMiriam

Relationship Advice and Columns

Archive for the month “September, 2013”

Let’s Talk about Sex

For people who know me who read this blog, you know that I like talking about sex. I think that sex needs to be discussed more often in daily life. When I was very little, my mom taught child birth education. In our garage, we had large diagrams of penises and vaginas. My mom recently told me that I used to show these diagrams to the neighbourhood kids. These days, I just talk about sex at parties. I realize that this scares people off sometimes but I have to admit that I enjoy pushing people’s buttons. The only problem is that there are times when I do talk about it and the person I’m talking to thinks that I’m into them. I had an experience in July of last year when I visited Chicago. I met a friend of a friend and I shared some poetry of a sexual nature with him. He thought that I liked him when in fact I wasn’t attracted to him in the slightest. I just enjoy sharing my poetry and I’m used to performing so I’m not shy about it.

One of the things I like about the poly community is that we talk about sex. In fact, we have to. When I attended the Loving More polyamory conference in Philadelphia in February, one of the speakers reported that poly people get tested for STIs more often than monogamous people do. We have to be careful about our own health as well as the health of our partners and metamours. Unfortunately, STI testing is not always accurate and there are many things we don’t test for. Currently, about 80% of the population carries around HPV (human papilloma virus) and there is a vaccine for it, but it is not tested for in most STI tests. I had a discussion once with an ex about STI testing and after a lot of reading, we weren’t sure if any of the information out there is sex positive. I’ve also heard that if you are worried about STIs, you are less likely to take precautions when you have sex. Rates of transmission for oral sex also seem to be low. What is a person to do about all of this? If I am at a club or with a new partner, for example, I always ask them if they have been tested. I only play with people I feel I can trust. Some people want to see a full STI workup before they have sex with someone. You have to do what’s right for you. The most important thing is to have the conversation. It can be a difficult thing to do but we did not become poly to make our lives easier. My new partner and I have recently had conversations about sex and STIs and the rewards are well worth it. The ability to talk about these subjects in a relationship is paramount and can bring couples closer.

One thing I find interesting about poly is its relation to sex drive. It often seems that being able to love openly suddenly makes one want to have more sex. I think this can be a great development for women because we are often taught to repress our sexual desire. I sometimes find it a bit disturbing for men, though. I think it’s fantastic when the men want to please their partners and they put their partners’ needs ahead of their own, which I find most poly men do. However, for men with very high sex drives, they may become very demanding. Men are programmed to spread their seed and I think poly can make that urge even higher. I don’t pretend that I can speak for men because I am not one, but I will say that consent is extremely important. Sex should be fun, after all…

Don’t forget to send me your questions to miriam@askmiriam.ca  Thanks for continuing to read this blog!    

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More than 1

Many people say that polyamory is difficult because 1 relationship is enough work. I’ve been thinking a lot about this word, relationship. How do we relate to one another? I like thinking about relationships as social experiments. You put 2 or more people together and see if they get along. We all come with different experiences, other relationships, baggage, emotions, favourite things, etc and we try to see if we can fit all of those things in with another person, or other people. Sometimes we succeed and sometimes we fail. Then there’s that all important element known as chemistry. Some people have it and some people don’t. Not to mention, there are different types of chemistry. There’s sexual chemistry and there’s more platonic chemistry. I remember meeting my ex-partner for the first time. We sat down at the table to eat lunch together and I felt an instant connection. I realize that this is extremely rare even though I get along well with most people. 

So, once we find that relationship, how do we make it work? Over time, we reveal ourselves to the other person or people. We tell stories, we share likes and dislikes, and we see how the other person reacts. At the beginning of the relationship, we mostly react positively and we don’t really see the other person’s foibles. This is partly a consequence of NRE, new relationship energy. Over time, we may see those foibles as bad things. It’s a question of what we’re willing to accept. I have a new partner and we spent a good portion of yesterday together. I told him that I love this part of the relationship because everything seems awesome. We haven’t yet seen anything we don’t really like or can’t put up with. Plus, it’s different when you’re not living with that person. Regardless, I look forward to spending more time with my new partner and finding out even more about him. 

Something else I’ve been thinking about recently is whether we always feel the need in poly to have more than 1 relationship at a time. I’ve been involved with someone since January. Our relationship has gone in waves. At the beginning, it was very casual. After I got back from my trip in March, it started becoming more serious. We found out more about each other and got closer. This week we discussed just being friends. We knew at some point this would probably happen. I feel a bit strange only having 1 romantic relationship right now, great though it is. When I first got involved with the person in January, I was involved in another serious relationship. There was a part of me that wanted or thought I should have another relationship. The 2 of them were very complementary and I really liked that. I’m happy that we will still remain in each other’s lives because we support each other a lot. He has been there for me through a lot of difficult things and I have for him as well. We have quite a bit in common so I know that we will continue to see and talk to each other but I appreciate that we have used each other as a safety net and that’s not necessarily fair. New beginnings…

Polytical Theory 101

Lately I’ve found myself in many conversations about why we weren’t meant to be monogamous, theories behind polyamory, and the concept of “monogamish.” For those of you who haven’t read Sex at Dawn, I highly recommend it. The authors discuss how monogamy became the norm as humans became less nomadic and more sedentary. Hundreds of years ago, before the advent the agriculture, we were wandering around as hunter-gatherers. I’m of the opinion that these groups were not necessarily polyamorous in terms of having multiple serious relationships; they were probably closer to Dan Savage’s concept of monogamish. There were long term pair bonds with sex occurring outside that pair bond. There was no concern over which children belonged to which couple as everyone aided with parenting. In terms of today, monogamish means that a couple has an agreement that they can have sex or fool around with other people, perhaps under certain circumstances or at will; these do not normally lead to serious relationships. I had a date awhile ago and we were discussing this concept. We agreed that we prefer polyamory because you can meet someone and say, let’s see where this goes. It might be casual, it might be serious, it might be someone you see once a week or once a year. As I have mentioned a couple of times on this blog courtesy of a poly friend, polyamory allows relationships to be what they were supposed to be and I appreciate that.

I was asked recently what my vision of polyamory is. I don’t necessarily have one at this point. Even though some people consider me a poly expert, I’m still figuring out certain things. I’m attracted to women and the idea of living with a man and a woman is appealing, but it of course depends on the people. I’m currently involved with a married person and he and his wife have talked about a plural marriage arrangement. There’s a part of me that would love something like that, though it does raise a lot of issues. If the existing couple has problems, what happens to the 3rd person? Do 3 people share a bed? They have a child and I’m not sure I want to help parent. I realize that I have only been involved with this person for a month and it is quite early to think about these issues, but I love the fact that poly allows for these conversations. So what is my vision of polyamory? It’s still evolving. I think that it is something that works for me and right now, that is enough. I’m still searching for a primary partner, but I’m happy to take my time doing so.

I had dinner last night with the married couple mentioned above. I’m quite impressed with the woman as the man and I had sex in the bedroom while she was hanging out in the kitchen. She said that she doesn’t experience jealousy but I think many people would still opt to go out while sex is occurring. Afterward, the man and I discussed what we were going to call each other. I told him that I liked the term partner. According to the online etymology dictionary, partner originated c.1300, altered from parcener (late 13c.), from the Old French parçonier “partner, associate; joint owner, joint heir.” He mentioned the term paramour, which also originated c.1300. It means “passionately, with strong love or desire.” I don’t think that most people would understand paramour but it is a nifty word nonetheless. I’m not a fan of the words boyfriend or girlfriend because they seem adolescent to me. When I was a teenager, my mom was with someone for a few years and I referred to him as her boyfriend but she said she felt old to have a boyfriend so she preferred the term partner. To me, partner connotes a more equal sharing of responsibilities, so I prefer it that way. As a writer, I like to be cognizant about the power of language, but sometimes, labels can hinder more than help. What is more important is what the relationship means to the people in it.

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