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FROM THE FUCKBUCKET: “What’s the best thing you can do to expand your erotic imagination?”

The erotic imagination lives in the brain, and you know what they say about the brain…

It’s a muscle. Stretch it. Exercise it. Keep it flexible.

It’s a channel for electricity. Throw out lots of synaptic points and see what connects.

It’s hungry. Give it lots of food for thought.

There are any number of excellent metaphors for what you need to do, but it all boils down to this: to expand your erotic imagination, you need to feed it, use it regularly, and push outside your known zone every now and then.

Feed it. Where you get the fuel for your particular machine isn’t that important, as long as it’s legal, ethical, and interesting for you. Porn can be a good source, if you’re visually inclined, but you can also read erotica, or have a partner read erotica to you. The good thing about written or audio erotica, versus visual, is your mind gets to fill in the blanks. Try reading a piece to yourself, and then having it read to you, just to see changes for your between the two different takes!

What you feed your erotic imagination doesn’t have to be straight-up depictions of sex or kink, either. You can get out there and experience activities that are aimed at the senses. Get a massage; play in water; carefully cook a dinner that requires more than one napkin. Hit a museum or sculpture garden, or visit a fabric store, where you can run your hands all over the silks and satins. (Don’t make groaning noises, that’ll just freak the sales people out.) Go dancing to different kinds of music to see how they feel in your body.

(PSST: go to a Smut Slam near you and hear about other people's sex adventures. You will definitely get some ideas, and possibly some good cautionary advice, too.)

Plain ol’ conversation helps keep your well full, too. Talk with your partner(s) about the things you already do together, as well as the things you might do. Take them with you on these fieldtrips, and talk about what happens there. But don’t just make these forays a one-time thing. You need to…

Use it regularly. That phrase “use it or lose it” is not just a nicely rhyming platitude. This is true of all skills or abilities: if you do not regularly do a thing, your ability to do it will eventually atrophy.

With the erotic imagination, this means both going out and getting your “source material,” as it were, AND THEN making space in your life for playing. Don’t worry about any direct correlation between what you are doing on your sensual dates and what you are doing in your sexy times. You don’t need to force the connection; your brain will do the alchemy on its own.

Push your boundaries. I don’t mean break through them like a randy rhinoceros, or ignore your own internal misgivings or pain warnings or actual hard limits. I just mean, if you discover something that makes you shiver a little, or if your partner suggests something that you know nothing about… maybe try it.

Normally, in the course of your regular sex-having schedule, you’d probably push unknown items back in favor of activities you know and love, right? Go for the sure thing. But in the interest of stretching your boundaries, go ahead and lean on that question-mark spot, when one arises. Obviously, do all the safety prep and checks first: discuss it beforehand, including safe words/signals, investigate accurate technique, and even maybe plot out baby steps to this new and possibly scary thing, if it’s something you really aren’t sure of.

But look: if you’re already making the time for sensual dates, and making regular space in your life to incorporate all that new material, you’ve got enough time to slow down and gently push. Leaning into a stretch is how you make it bigger.

*****

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FROM THE FUCKBUCKET: “my partner and I have a Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell agreement, and it’s starting to feel a little weird”

we're on "don't ask don't tell" for our sorta open relationship. I want to be more open about my feelings toward others, but he doesn't, even after suggesting it. I don't mind necessarily, but it's starting to feel a bit secretive.

This is not a question, it’s just a scribbled-down statement about how things are (or were) for someone in the Smut Slam audience, but I felt like I wanted to address it anyway, because there is a question in there: "what should I do?"

If I’m recalling correctly, there were a lot of polyamorous people in the audience that night and when I read this part, a murmur rippled through the crowd. The whole room expressed a sort of “yup, been there” and then sighed one collective sigh.

Many of us have been there. Oh my lord. DADT as a policy statement for open relationships is super common, especially for folks new to open relationships who think it’s some sort of training-wheel approach, just to get started. I know I did, with both the first and second partners I tried an actual opening-up with. I had asked about it, and my partners reluctantly agreed to it, but on terms: “I don’t want to know anything about it.”

And the thing is, that works, on a purely theoretical level, in a world where all you wanna do is scratch that itch and get laid, in and out and back to your “real life” and your “real partner.” Don’t Ask Don’t Tell works there, in that world where all you want are discrete bits of time with people who aren’t asking anything from you except some time with your particular and very discreet bits. DADT works fine, in an ongoing way, when you have a perfectly compartmentalized life and psyche.

In reality, very very few people have that kind of life and/or psyche. You may say you can do it, because good lord, that person is hot and you really wanna scratch that itch! But the reality is, life bleeds out all over everything. You develop feelings for that person who was supposed to just be a no-strings-attached fuck. Or at least you like them—hopefully—so you wind up watching a movie with them that you really love and then you go back to your primary partner and say, hey, I want to show you this movie, and they love it too and they say, “Wow, that was amazing! Where did you find out about this movie?” and you’re suddenly like, eep. Can I say?

What do you do if that happens with a sex move?

No couple magically match up their free time without discussion, sometimes a lot of discussion, depending on the couple and their already existing schedules. Carving out time for other people, without mentioning those other people, is really difficult.

And yeah, those feelings. They do happen, and if you’ve already set down a DADT policy about such basic things as “no mentioning dates with other people” and “I don’t want to know their names,” you’re suddenly going to be in an even more untenable position when the feelings come up.

This is not to say that your boyfriend doesn't have the right to say, "I don't want to hear about what you and your date did in bed last night" or "I'd rather not be the sounding board for any relationship problems you're having with your other partners." Those are pretty common boundaries; hopefully the two of you can hash those out together. But it sounds like the embargo is laid down pretty hard and pretty low, so... yeah. How much of your life/time/attention/heart is wrapped up in these other relationships, and how important is it that you can be open about that?

This person isn’t asking for advice, but for any readers who may be in the same situation, I encourage you to use the Sheelzebub principle, named after a Captain Awkward reader who had some sage advice for anyone wondering what to do in a challenging relationship situation:

Can I live with this for another month? Another year? Another five years? Ten years? The rest of my life? How long?

Maybe you’d be okay with it. What about your partners in DADT-ness? That might feel a bit shitty for them too. You’re feeling a little bit constrained now. How will that feel after five years of it? I can’t answer that question for you, but as someone who tried “don’t ask don’t tell” once, I can tell you I would never go back.

*****

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ADVICE FROM A PHONE WHORE: making room in hard conversations with “slow talk”

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?!

Do not google "dental dams" in your quest to sexify them. Unless you have a distinct medical kink, the search results will not be sexy.

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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