Where I fit in.

June 8, 2011 at 9:32 pm (Polyamory, Sex) (, , , )


There are a lot of reasons why I’ve never sought out a local sexual community, either poly, kinky or otherwise. One of the biggest issues I have with the whole concept of community is the necessity to “join” and “become a part of” the community – thus being categorized as “one of them”. I’m not a joiner; it’s been a very long time since I felt that need to be part of something larger than myself. All my life I’ve never “fit in”, and I gave up trying. I know that many people find comfort, if not happiness and peace, in being part of a community of like-minded individuals, and if it works for them, that’s great. For me, the thought of “community” is stifling – it’s other people invading my space, dictating my beliefs, and restricting who I am.

I still have a strong sense of not fitting in anywhere, and of how my choices in life separate me from others. In the realm of basic life choices:

  • I made the conscious decision not to have children, for a number of reasons, personal, environmental and social. As a woman, this immediately makes me a little odd, and from some perspectives, it calls my very femininity into question.
  • I have worked my way up the corporate ladder by being extremely organized, productive and proactive, without the benefit or cushion of a college degree. In my particular corporate world, at least, this is a rarity.
  • I bought a small, old, urban house in a city where only the less fortunate live in small, old, urban homes. The suburbs reign supreme around here, along with all that is shiny and new. I like things that are grimy and old.

Then there’s the sexual front. At the most fundamental level, expressing my sexuality when I don’t meet Western society’s definition of what is sexy in a female is difficult enough. I have to specifically seek out sexualized images of women who look like me; they’re not part of mainstream sexual media. In fact, it took me a few years of looking for these types of images before I came to appreciate them – after seeing only slender women with large, round (enhanced) breasts in sexual media, I found images of sagging breasts and fat bellies and thighs distasteful. Over time, and through conscious effort, I’ve learned to see that they’re sexy, too, and through this to become more confident that my body is sexy just the way it is, as well.

In the polyamorous world I also feel set apart. I’m not pagan; I’m not into role-playing, costumes, fantasy, sci-fi or other facets of geekdom that seem to go hand-in-hand with the belief in our innate ability to love many others.  Invite me to a drum circle and I’ll laugh all the way home. I don’t understand why (judgmental language approaching) flakiness and belief in goofy, made-up religions are so strongly associated with the poly concept.

The kink world certainly has broad degrees, and I definitely fall at the milder, tamer end of the spectrum. But there seem to be very rigid compartments along that spectrum – a female who expresses the desire to be dominant should probably have her thigh-high boots and leather corset ready; and if she’s submissive, she’d better be quick to drop to her knees for any man who wants to be called Sir.

I know these are exaggerations to a degree, but they’re also what I’ve truly observed. I’ve not found people in the poly community who work 50-60 hour workweeks in the corporate world and enjoy gardening and lawn maintenance in their free time. In the kink community, I don’t see a place for plus-sized women who seek a balance between dominant and submissive play and who are attracted to intelligent, self-aware men, not those who simply want to be humiliated by a female bully. I don’t feel like I belong in any of these communities unless I buy into what they’re selling, and I don’t want it.

Nevertheless… the older I get, the more I long to just simply relate to other human beings. I have to try harder to find the common ground instead of focusing on the differences. I’m tired of feeling separated. I don’t want to be in the center of the spotlight, but I want to feel some of the warmth from it. I want to find my place — over there, on that chair, with a nice beer — from where I can observe the world, and watch a few creatures drift close to me in their orbit and share a smile with them, because I know the part of the path they’re on, and welcome them.

 

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Jealousy vs. Envy

May 6, 2011 at 9:04 pm (Polyamory, Relationship) (, , , , )


I was asked recently if I experience jealousy in my open relationship with my husband. My honest answer is no, I haven’t really felt jealousy in several years. I have had moments of distress, however, especially as our relationship evolves and new elements are added. The question made me start thinking about the distinction between jealousy and… whatever that form of distress I keep feeling might be. Like most good citizens, I like labels – I like giving a name to something. So as I am wont to do, I started looking up words on dictionary.com to see what made sense to me:

Jealousy: resentment against a rival, a person enjoying success or advantage, etc., or against another’s success or advantage itself. Mental uneasiness from suspicion or fear of rivalry, unfaithfulness, etc., as in love or aims.

Lots of people have written lots of blogs about jealousy in open or polyamorous relationships, and many of them agree that the root of jealousy is fear. When my relationship with the DH became open, which was shortly before we got married, I wasn’t prepared for it, and it terrified me. It wasn’t completely a surprise – we’d talked about monogamy, and we’d talked about non-monogamy, and I was doing a fair amount of fucking around when we first met, so openness did seem to make sense. But we didn’t exactly agree to an open relationship. He opened it for us. I felt blindsided and spent about a month in a deep depression. But I also felt compelled to figure out why I was in such distress over something that had been in the back of my mind for a long time. I wanted to figure out what I was afraid of.

For me, it was a fear that I wouldn’t be “enough”, that he would find someone better – someone sexier, more adventurous, more open, someone stronger, bolder, happier, more confident – whatever it might be, better than me. It took me about a year to build up my faith in our relationship and to start believing in the fundamentals of any good open relationship:

  • One human being cannot fulfill all the needs – social, emotional, sexual, intellectual, or otherwise – of another human being. Period. It’s just completely unrealistic.
  • One human being does not have a finite amount of love to give. It’s not he-loves-me, he-loves-me-not. He can love me, and love someone else, without stopping loving me.
  • He loves me for who I am – unique, neurotic, sexy, bossy, moody, loopy me – and is committed to a lifelong partnership with me.

As I started living and breathing and accepting these principles as reality, the jealousy gradually dissolved and ultimately disappeared. I can’t say when I stopped having painful jealous reactions to his activities, but I did realize one day that those feelings were gone. And that made me feel a lot freer to do my own thing and start exploring what I wanted out of this arrangement, and to figure out what kinds of relationships I wanted to nurture.

But then the other discomfort started. DH would go out to play, and I would be at home, and I’d feel icky. I’d rewrite my profiles on various dating sites, I’d gird my loins and toss together another Craigslist ad, and I’d paw through the resulting mediocre responses and dick pics, and I’d feel icky. I couldn’t find what I was looking for, but meanwhile he’s living it up with what seemed like a new partner every week. And I felt icky green envy.

Envy: a feeling of discontent or covetousness with regard to another’s advantages, success, possessions, etc.

For me, envy doesn’t seem to be fear-based – at least I can’t find the fear after digging around beneath it. It’s simply: you’re having something I’m not and it’s something I want, damnit! You’re having hot sex. You’re feeling the rush of delight at discovering someone new. You’re having adventures. Where’s mine? When’s my turn?

I don’t resent his pleasures, and I don’t fear that his relationships will detract from or harm the one we have.  But I’m definitely discontented, watching him have fun. I know it’s not peaches and cream for him – he seems to meet mainly single women who eventually find themselves a monogamous relationship and morph into “just friends”, and he feels a degree of frustration over the inability to find someone who is open to the intimacy he wants as well as the long-term potential. But it seems like it is a lot easier for him to meet women than it is for me to meet men, which stirs the green envy in me.

I even struggle with envy towards my few playmates who have other playmates, as well. As an avowed introvert and a bit of a misanthrope, nevertheless I’m craving more human interaction these days, and I want that interaction to include both intellectual and sexual stimulation. I can’t seem to get enough – and my “enough” threshold is pretty low compared to other people, so it’s frustrating that I’m struggling to fill my minimal needs in this area. And that frustration leads to envy over having to share people with other people. They should all be mine, damnit, mine mine mine! Except when I want to be by myself, of course, when I wish they would all leave me the hell alone.

A cure for jealousy came to me eventually, so I suppose at some point I will learn how to transmogrify envy into compersion. For now, it’s a flaw I’m very much conscious of, and trying to manage the best I can without placing unreasonable demands on anyone I care for.

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More thoughts about orgasms.

April 23, 2011 at 9:56 am (Relationship, Sex) (, , , )


It’s not a flaw that my stomach isn’t flat like a supermodel’s.

It’s not a flaw that my breasts are no longer high and perky like an 18-year-old’s.

It’s not a flaw that I can’t put my ankles next to my ears like a gymnast.

Why should I think it is a flaw that I don’t orgasm as easily or often as other women?

I’m tired of feeling like something is wrong with me. I’m tired of sexual encounters that become excessively focused on whether or not I have an orgasm. I just want to enjoy sex – and for me, that enjoyment might not include an orgasm. I want to be okay with that. I want my partners to be okay with that.

I’ve decided that my orgasm is my responsibility. Not my partner’s. I don’t mean that the only way I’ll have an orgasm is if I give myself one, though I have no problem being – ahem – hands-on in addressing the need. I do mean that I want to walk away from the notion that a man has to “give” me an orgasm. It’s not some trinket in his pocket he can hand out at will. It’s not a commentary on his skills, or my level of enjoyment, if I don’t orgasm. It’s just the way I’m wired. My body responds to stimulation differently than other women might.  Yes, there are “issues” involved that may be preventing me from responding as fully or easily as I could – but that’s also my problem and mine alone. And this is a problem I have had for over 20 years of sexual activity… so I’ve reached the point where I no longer want to view it as a problem. This is the way I am.

In a way, it strikes me as a sexist and patriarchial approach to pleasure — the thought that a man is responsible for giving a woman an orgasm. Think about the stereotypical pattern of a male-female sexual encounter: the man stimulates the woman through foreplay, maybe licks her or fingers her to orgasm, then fucks her to reach his own orgasm. Men are encouraged to put the woman’s pleasure first. In most conventional – if we must use the lousy term, “vanilla” – sexual interactions, the man is in charge, the woman comes first, then her body is used for the man to achieve his pleasure. He is responsible for both her orgasm, and his own. What?

I’ve fallen into that pattern many times. I’ve accepted that stereotype – the man will try to “give” me an orgasm, he may or may not succeed, then he moves on to tending to his own orgasm. I may try to give him pleasure directly and make him come — BUT: I have never felt bad, or insufficient, or un-feminine, if I was unable to “give” him an orgasm. So my hand or jaw got tired or whatever – okay, we move on and do something else. It’s not a failure on my part or commentary on my lack of sexual skills if I didn’t make him come.

I’m going to say this again, because I think it’s important: As a woman, I have never felt like a failure as a sexual partner for not making my partner achieve orgasm. Yet I have encountered many men who have expressed a sense of inadequacy because they didn’t make me come. This is nonsense. I don’t want my partners to feel that way.

I can — and often do — have an exciting, satisfying sexual encounter without an orgasm. That’s the way I am. All aspects of sex are a pleasure;  and there are many pleasurable things we do that don’t have an explosive finale.  There is great pleasure in the experience. For me, the objective is reveling in that experience: the emotional thrill of fulfilling a desire; the happiness of physically expressing affection; the amazement at the varying textures of skin and hair; the discovery and re-discovery of places that are rarely touched but which delight in contact. Focusing intently on achieving an orgasm seems to dismiss or minimize the joy of the overall experience.

I like orgasms; I have very hard, long, deep orgasms when I do have them, and if I want one I’ll do what it takes to get one – whether I need to touch myself to do it, or just tell my partner precisely what to do. But my partner’s pleasure shouldn’t be decreased if I don’t come; and it shouldn’t be viewed as an inferior sexual encounter if it doesn’t involve an orgasm.

The only sin I believe in is the sin of comparison. I don’t want my body and my responsiveness and my orgasmic ability compared to other women anymore – by my partner, or by me. Take me as I am.

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No longer a mistress.

April 20, 2011 at 7:39 pm (Relationship, Sex) (, , )


I’ve been cut off again. Cut out. Severed.

This is, I think, the fourth time in over twenty years. For it to happen again should probably upset me, or at least annoy me, but after the initial surprise wore off, it doesn’t.

He’ll find me again when he needs me. I don’t know if I’ll need him to find me, though.

Most likely, he was careless with an email account and certain messages were seen. Promises were made to his wife. No, never again, I mean it this time. See? I’ve deleted her.

I am, it seems, easily deleted. Easily un-friended. Easily un-collared. Easily un-mistressed.

The first time, it was a mutual decision – we both were getting married to other people, and we knew it was wrong to sleep together. But it seemed like the last chance to do something we agreed we always wanted to do. The second time, he panicked and felt guilty, and couldn’t follow through. The third time, I was just one of several mistresses he swore would never enter his life again.

This time, I don’t know. I was probably the only one. The one, he had told me many times, he thought of every day. The one constant in his life for 20 years. His melancholy nature was suited to pining away after one particular woman too far away to touch. I think he enjoyed the pining, perhaps more than he enjoyed the rare times he was with me.

The funny thing is, the most recent messages we’d exchanged were hardly erotic material worthy of any jealousy. Rather, they contained me delaying plans and making excuses: I can’t get time off work for another cross-country trip, I’ve been sick and stressed and my libido is shot; give me a few months and we’ll see how I feel then. The few months went by and he never asked again, and I never offered. Then is was well over a year. Then it was going on two.  I wasn’t missing him.

I’ll tell a few of his stories, to honor his memory. But I suspect this is truly the end this time, and there will be no more stories about him.

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Why I don’t like Vanilla.

April 10, 2011 at 2:25 pm (Relationship) (, )


The DH (darling husband; and he is) recently made a confession: he’s vanilla. He doesn’t have any kinks. Other than the fact that it was his desire for sexual openness that started us on this journey, and aside from being a bit of an exhibitionist, his primary enjoyment comes from traditional sexual intercourse done really well (his words).

He brought this up while fretting over a girlfriend who frequently asks him over for sex when she’s drunk; he no longer wants to see her when she’s been drinking, because, he says, she asks for rough, degrading acts that he doesn’t enjoy, and he doesn’t feel comfortable treating her that way. He thinks it’s another way of self-medicating, along with her drinking, and is an expression of her low self-esteem, and he doesn’t want to participate or enable that behavior anymore. He was struggling with how to tell her this, and ultimately came out with the comment that he’s basically just a vanilla guy – said with a tone of resignation and a little bit of embarrassment.

This whole conversation made me sad – I felt bad for his girlfriend and her apparent unhappiness, and I felt bad for him for his sense that being vanilla made him in some way inferior.

I really dislike the use of the word “vanilla” to describe those who prefer conventional sexual approaches, conditions, activities or roles. It’s become derogatory – plain, boring, conservative, ordinary, bland.

I happen to love vanilla – done well it is a rich flavor, smooth, a little earthy, an elemental flavor. Given a choice I frequently relish vanilla ice cream and I wouldn’t apologize for that.

I also happen to love vanilla sex with my husband. We know each other well; we know where to touch, what is needed, what is special. Intimacy makes intercourse an emotional connection, a bonding on multiple levels, and that can be a phenomenal experience.  I experience something with him that I’m reluctant, if not actually unable, to do with anyone else – eye contact during sex. For me, it is a mind-blowing feeling to look in his eyes while he moves inside of me.

Kink can be powerful, too, of course. Being bound, blindfolded and on my knees creates an amazing, chaotic swirl of emotions and intense arousal in me. But is a bowl of ice cream with nuts, chocolate, syrups, creams, and other assorted goodness really better than a simple bowl of intense vanilla ice cream? Sometimes that’s exactly what I want. Sometimes I want the bowl full of everything. One isn’t better than the other.

Someone on Twitter (and sadly, I’ve forgotten who) made a comment recently that “sex positive” has to mean acceptance of the full sexual spectrum, not just acceptance of your own personal kink. I see so-called “sex positive” people who are very critical of “vanilla” lifestyles and activities. You only want to fantasize about a threesome, not actually have one? That’s so lame. You prefer the missionary position? Booooring. You refuse to hit me? See ya. Why isn’t “vanilla” a valid and acceptable option on the sexual spectrum? It should be. My husband shouldn’t have to apologize for being vanilla, and I sincerely hope I’ve never said or done something that made him feel like he should. I won’t apologize for wanting a flavor other than vanilla from time to time, but that’s what our open relationship allows me – the freedom to taste other flavors. They’re all good. They’re all valid. There shouldn’t be a hierarchy of acceptability. Sex, period, is a wonderful thing.

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The trouble with orgasms.

April 4, 2011 at 6:06 pm (Sex) (, )


My name is Alice, and I don’t have orgasms.

That’s a slight exaggeration. I can pretty reliably give myself an orgasm. The problem comes when someone else tries to give me an orgasm. More likely than not, it ain’t gonna happen. A partner can start off with the best of intentions and the greatest of enthusiasm, and I can be loving whatever he’s doing, but there’s a point when the anxiety kicks in, or the friction starts to hurt, and one or the other or both of us gives up in frustration.

This is one of my strangest dichotomies – how could a frisky swinger/poly/kinky/label-of-the-month girl not be coming all over the place? How can you love sex and not have orgasms with your partners?

I have tried in many ways to figure it out, short of investing in a comprehensive Freudian psychoanalysis. I’ve spent hours mulling over the circumstances and scenarios around the few occasions when someone else did actually succeed in making me come. There are some consistent elements, but none have ever proven consistently successful:

  • Detachment: I dated a forestry geek for a few months who could make me come through sheer willpower – the man would simply not give up, no matter what I said or did. He brought along a vibrator on our second date; what else could I do? We had amazing chemistry but truthfully, I didn’t care a fig about him – he was incapable of communication so I never learned much of anything about him. However, I’ve been with plenty of other men where even the word “friends” would be a stretch to describe us, and most of them were unsuccessful in the orgasm inducement area. It seems to help if I really don’t care, but not always.
  • Relaxation: I just don’t relax. Ever. My insomnia is the kind where I wake up at 3:00 AM with racing thoughts about all the shit I haven’t done. But on a few rare occasions I can remember being what I would consider really, truly relaxed, you could pull orgasms out of me like feathers from a chicken. But, that happens, like, once every six years or so. Nothing much helpful there.
  • Really stupid ridiculous level of arousal: The orgasms that came fast and hard and deserving of the “little death” term were when I was in a really crazy state of arousal. Example: a few weeks ago, my husband refused to touch me. He would kiss me, but he wouldn’t touch me. And through no direct instruction, I didn’t touch him, either. And it turned me on like fuck all. I can count on one hand the number of strictly vaginal orgasms I’ve had – that was one of them. It knocked the wind out of me. But jesus h. christ, how much of that kind of arousal can a human being take? Blood vessels could burst, dude. It wouldn’t be pretty.
  • Bondage. But we’re not even going to go there. Yet.

So what’s holding me back? The only medical reason for this, that I’ve discovered, is the distance between clit and vagina, but that only explains my lack of orgasms from intercourse alone, and I know I’m far from the only woman in the world who can’t come just from thrusting. My clit on its own works fine; I get myself off regularly. If not physiology, then we look to psychology… but I’m not self-conscious in bed; I’m not one of those women trying to hold the sheet over her cellulite. I’ve never received any form of criticism during sex that might have damaged me to this extent. There’s just a little corner of my brain that whispers “no“.

It’s so obvious, and so pitiful. Control. Oh, honey… giving someone, giving a man control of my body to the extent of controlling the most elemental, primal, vital force that your body can produce? How much trust, how much complete and total confidence do I have to have in someone to permit him make me come?

How hard did I have to fight to take control of my life after giving control to a man who abused me? How hard did I have to work to believe again that I had value as a human being? That’s about how hard it is to give someone control of my pleasure. When my husband first started making me come on a regular basis, I always, without fail, cried. Tears of utter relief. There is no orgasm in the world that can equal one given to me by someone I care for, because it is that damn hard for me to let it happen.

I write this because I want to. I write this because it hurts. And I write it because maybe someday, someone will read it who knows what I mean.

And someday I’ll learn how to give up control.

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Scent memory.

March 27, 2011 at 10:04 am (Sex) ()


I remember, many years ago, coming home from work one afternoon and discovering the distinctive scent of my current lover in my bed. I hadn’t seen him for more than a week, so it was very unlikely that his scent had lingered that long and remained that strong. He did have a key to my apartment, so the logical assumption was that he’d been there at some point during the day and had been in my bed. I didn’t care why – it was a turn-on to smell him without his actual physical presence.

Scent has always carried strong memories and emotional associations for me. I keep certain fragrances around specifically to evoke particular sensual memories. Crabtree & Evelyn had a (now discontinued) fragrance called Spring Rain, and my very first lover burned the incense version in her bedroom the night she seduced me. It brings me back to a small attic bedroom with a mattress on the floor, and a lusciously curvy girl removing her clothes while firmly yet kindly informing a very naive me of what was about to happen. I have two remaining incense cones of the same fragrance that I will never burn.

I also have a small bottle of bubble bath in a unique clove & rose scent that I’ve never found anywhere else. It was a hotel product, saved from the room I shared for three days in Portland with the man who collared me. (I’ve never been able to call him my master. More on that some other time.) I uncork that tiny bottle and I’m back in a two-seat jacuzzi bathtub, slipping underwater while he fucked me, again, after swearing he was done with me for that day.

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