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Were you always so open about sex and sexual experiences, or was it something you became more open about over time? If it was over time, why?
Neither our ability nor our desire to communicate about sex are things that come pre-installed at the factory. As kids we may be touching ourselves all over the house, or playing doctor back behind the shed, but actually talking about it?... Nah. We tend to absorb whatever our family does, for better or for worse.
With that in mind, I would have to say that I probably was more open and exploratory about sex stuff at an earlier age than anyone had a right to expect, given my background. Despite having been raised in the Mormon church, I still managed to find plenty of books with dirty bits by the time I was 10 or 11, and went looking for ways to experience dirty bits by the age of 14 or so. (Or maybe there was every right to expect that, because of that fighting spirit of opposition, but how come none of my siblings or cousins broke free?)
For a while in junior high school, I had one friend who was willing to share with me a lot of the details about her sex life. We would stare up at the Duran Duran posters on the walls and ceiling of her room, and she would tell me what she did with her boyfriend on those nights where she told her mother she was with me. (Yeah, I was the Alibi Friend.) At the age of 13, that definitely felt like a sort of open-sharing sex-ed outlet, but then I got bigger, both in tits and body, and crossed the line into plus-sized and focused more on school and our other friends turned on me, so I lost that. I was on my own.
From that point forward, my approach seems to have been:
- fumble toward “bliss”
- fuck up, sometimes hardcore
- learn and integrate that learning OR take a huge reactionary swing in another direction
Eventually, over time, I got better with the various steps of this process. I started sitting down and thinking a little more in advance about what constitutes “bliss” for me. Additionally and where possible/necessary, I learned to think about other ways to get that bliss, some of which may be better for me and other people than just being led on a wild goose chase by my cunt.
I got better at dipping my toe in. Paradoxically, I also got better at plunging into the deep end, keeping my eyes open and committing to the dive. Sometimes that’s the thing that fucks you up.
And so, as I got better and more confident at following my (sexual) bliss, the learning curve became less harsh, less steep, considerably less fraught with explosive arguments and confused tears and occasionally lab tests and actual danger. (I should say that the curve has only really gotten shallower in the last seven years. I'm a late bloomer in so many things!) My mistakes aren’t so big now that I’ll feel the urge to run screaming in the opposite direction. And I am managing to find people who can walk and talk with me through the learning.
Now, as back when I was 13, my path seems to unfold right out in public view; I have never been very good at hiding my explorations for long. I don’t know if it’s because I’m stubborn or an exhibitionist or what, but no matter how difficult or weird it gets, wanting to be up front about sex stuff seems to be part of my personality.
Eventually, that led me to creating various shows around sex and sexuality because that’s what interests me. In performing around the world, I started to see that whatever attitude I have seems to be good for other people to witness. Authenticity in sex, especially in areas that don’t have societal support like kink or queerness or alternative relationship approaches or even as basic to me as asking for what I want… most people want more of it, but they don’t know how to get it.
I don’t know that I do either, but I’ve been trying to for a while, so it seems worthwhile to share my experiences with others. It feels like a way that I can make a difference.
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I’ve talked about silence in dirty talk before, where we leave spaces in the narrative stream to let the heavy breathing and grunts and sexual tension do some of the work. But before we even get to the juicy bits, there are often other conversations that must be had, with silences that aren’t nearly so sexy and are, in truth, a bit scary for most people.
These are the conversations that make the juicy bits even possible, the ones in which we bring up opening the relationship for the first time, or asking to close the relationship temporarily because we need to catch our breath. We are asking our lover to prioritize our relationship in the middle of crisis, or telling them that we are a little or that we like their boots way more than we let on, or that actually we are asexual. We are telling them that things felt weird at the dungeon last weekend, and we don’t want to go again until we figure out why.
I have had so many of these conversations in my life. Sometimes I think I would be happy if I never again had to have another one, because they are tiring and time-consuming and yes, terrifying. And yet, that is the cost of being a person in deep connection with other people: tough things sometimes need to be said. This means that we need to leave room for those things to be said.
I am not ashamed to say that I got some of the best training in how to do this from taking long calls with one of my most challenging clients, Rollercoaster Man. He was very uneasy in his own fantasies, and incredibly cautious in picking his way through them. He was sometimes depressed to the point of death ideation, and brought that to our calls. And when he was in either of these headspaces, he left silences that you could drive a truck through.
At the beginning of my time with him, I remember talking a lot. The long silences made me nervous. But the more calls I took from him, the more I saw that filling in those gaps only made him talk less. If I wanted him to participate in some way, I had to just shut up and wait.
I got reasonably proficient at sitting with silence, and then I learned to take that to my own tough conversations with partners because dealing with polyamory and touring and distance, and individual and mutual life dreams is tough. Oh, how I wanted to push all kinds of words and counterarguments and banal encouragement and my own sadness and guilt and fear into those spaces. But those conversations were not only mine; they were for my loved ones as well.
So I held my tongue, or tried to, and just focused on slow, deep breathing, if it felt like the person I was talking with had more to say. I checked in occasionally with “how does that feel?” and “do you want me to stay here?” or “that sounds awful, I’m sorry.” The slow pace kept me more present, kept me from flying off the handle or running away from the discomfort or making assumptions. The conversations stayed good, or at least friendly and workable.
"Slow talk" can work in both face-to-face and written exchanges. During our first year or two of long-distance relationshipping, my partner and I had limited real-time face-to-face communication, but lots of texting; we also had a lot of challenging relationship stuff to work with. Thankfully, we developed a convention to “ask for asterisks,” which means we put an asterisk at the end of our comments when we are done with that thought, and then, and only then, can the other person start talking. The asterisk allows the person expressing to get their whole idea out, but it also is a gift to the person listening: even if parts of what our partner says are challenging, we get time to take it all in as a whole. (We have occasionally found ourselves saying “asterisk” during face-to-face conversations as well, it’s that useful.)
I should mention that slow talk doesn’t really help with the fear in the short run; those long silences can stretch out to seeming infinity. But in the medium- and long term, I find it builds trust and space for all the explorations and feelings that otherwise have no place to go. So give it a shot, the next time your partner turns to you and says, “There’s something I want to tell you.” Breathe deep, exhale, and give them room.
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FROM THE FUCKBUCKET: how to convince myself and partners that safe oral sex is totally fun and not paranoid and uptight?
Seriously, how to convince myself and any partners that safe oral sex, i.e. using a condom or dental dam, is totally fun and not paranoid and uptight and just no fun?!
FULL DISCLAIMER/DISCLOSURE: you are talking with someone who has rarely used protection when either giving or receiving oral sex. Back when I was younger and wilder, I just didn’t think about it because you can’t really think about that when you’re drunk and deep-throating; there are other, more urgent things going on. More recently, when I was being actively polyamorous, I still didn’t use protection for oral, but at least I thought about it. I weighed up the relevant risk factors and decided that it wasn’t for me.
But I'm not going to discuss whether safer sex practices for oral are paranoid or uptight. In the scope of sexual behavior, it’s a choice that everyone needs to get informed about and then make for themselves. What you are asking about is how to make that fun.
Before I pull some ideas out of the play box, I think you may need to spend a little time with yourself on the question. If you don’t believe that this is just a normal thing to do before fun oral times, then I would imagine any tips and tricks you try to pull are going to look and sound and feel a little forced. So maybe you could be asking yourself things like:
- Where have you gotten these words that you use in this mental soundtrack? “Paranoid.” “Uptight.” Where did those come from?
- Do you remember anyone ever saying those actual things to you? If yes, what was that sexual encounter like? Or did it close down? What happened there?
- What are you really worried about, if your partners think that you’re paranoid and uptight? What’s the worst that could happen, if they think that?
You can and should also have this conversation with partners, or at least question them, if they do use that judging language. This is very much a part of negotiating around sexy times, and if this is one of your hard boundaries, then you are better off without people who want to break it. I know that sucks, because yeah, that fucker was hella hot, but you know it’s true.
An important step toward keeping the stress out of using protection during any kind of sex seems to be NOT MAKING IT A BIG DEAL TO HAVE IT AVAILABLE. Keep your condom/dental dam supply well stocked and close at hand, for example, and not something you have to rummage for, or god forbid, run down to the corner store for.
And then, bring out the item(s) that you would like to be needing, BEFORE you need them, and just keeping it chill, you know, “I just want to be ready.” Then you can keep on with your making out, get back into the zone in case one of you fell out of it, and then, when you do need the protection because things are about to Go Down (see what I did there?), there’s not a big fuss.
NOW, on for some thoughts around the Safe-Sex Sexification Program! Lucky for you, people have been wrestling with this for decades, I would say, since HIV popped up its head. You can google this shit and find decent tips all over the place, things like
- take turns getting the protection in place
- try out different varieties of condoms and dams
- incorporate role play scenarios into it (wearing gloves while putting the protection in place, a la Doctor)
- learn that whole putting-it-on-with-your-mouth thing
- go to TOWN on food play, like drizzling caramel sauce on their cunt. If you’ve got enough coverage with the dental dam, you can build a whole fucking sundae down there, with all the toppings. (Don’t forget the tarp.)
- SAY HELLO BONDAGE AND BODY ENCASING, like gimp suits and plastic wrap and cock sheaths.
Yes, staying healthy is the main point, but our brains seem to resist being told to do things for our health. I think my own personal inclination would be to experiment with the safer-sex supplies as props, as toys that you can play with, rather than health supplies.
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Short answer: yes.
Long answer: strap in, we’re going for a ride.
For the sake of accuracy, I should point out that this question posits sexual orientation as being intrinsic ("nature"), by contrasting it with “lifestyle choice” (a conscious decision or choice, something that can be changed, "nurture" in the classic debate). This stance is still occasionally under discussion, both in queer culture and in society at large, though it's less fiercely debated than it used to be. I’ll tell you in a little bit why I don’t think it matters.
This question pops up a fair bit at parties or at polyamory munches or online discussion forums. I personally think that any sexual behavior has both an orientation component (“nature”) and a social/cultural component (“nurture”). You’re born with a capacity for the thing, but your upbringing and other personal/social/cultural circumstances will determine how you decide to act on it or manifest it, and even whether or not you even notice it as a possibility for yourself.
I hold my answer to be true not only for this question, but also for any other question about whether any given non-mainstream sexual behavior or activity or identity is an orientation or a lifestyle choice.
These things are complicated, and also vary from person to person. One person may believe strongly that they have always been polyamorous and never had a moment’s doubt about it, while another person may have never really thought about it until they met a potential partner who was, and then they read up about it and went to munches and talked to people about it and tried on polyamoury and found that it was a fine way to conduct relationships, if they wanted to, but it was just one thing in their relationship toolkit, not essential, just handy if they happened to fall in love with a polyamorous person.
I confess I do sometimes wonder about why this question gets asked, because I have seen what happens in socio-political movements sometimes. It’s a short little process that goes something like this:
- People in the group try to find proof or arguments that the thing they are talking about is intrinsic and “born with.” They are helped by the fact that scientific research into these identities often picks up when the identities in question are starting to make waves in the larger culture. We saw this a lot with gay and lesbian movements in the last thirty years; the trans movement has also been subjected to this. Being "born that way” is a crucial component to the next step…
- Armed with the proof that they were “born that way,” people’s pleas for tolerance can then be justified. Who would be so cruel as to deny folks their rights to just be? (Turns out lots of people.)
In other words, this question so often seems to be a prelude to “don’t deny me my rights, I was born like this.”
Do you see what a bullshit construct this is. We know that things that absolutely, incontrovertibly are intrinsic parts of a person—skin color, where someone was born, etc—are easily used against individuals. And we also know that in some places, there are lifestyle choices—religion, having children, even (in the US) owning guns—that are fiercely protected as inviolable. What aspects of a person’s identity are important enough to be defended in court are simply subject to the winds of politics and public opinion.
So I hold to the radical option of IT DOESN’T MATTER how you got to be you, as long as you’re not hurting anyone nor trying to use your views to change anyone else’s behavior. Doesn’t matter if you were sneaking kisses with multiple other kids in kindergarten, or you took the workshop last week and are giving it a go because you like the conferences.
Whether it’s intrinsic or a lifestyle choice, IT’S ALL FINE, and should not be the basis for stigma, prejudice, or discrimination.
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