relationship

book of blue's picture

How to talk about sex. Or how not to.

By Eric Francis

One problem with talking about sex is how much we have not said. Another problem is guilt. They are related. More than Jews and Italians are involved, but hey, that's why we make such great therapists. We originated the product and therefore we provide the best technical support to its many consumers.

Planet Waves
Photo by Eric Francis / Blue Studio.

Then there's embarrassment, which is sometimes like a sheet thrown over the hungry ghost of shame and self-reproach. Embarrassment is dangerous. It keeps us out of therapy, it makes lying seem justified, it keeps us in unhealthy situations and follows us around like a pall over our existence. It's also one of the hottest sex toys not made of silicone; that, a little later in this article.

The hungry ghost of shame is projected into society as something called 'scandal'. Scandal is one of the most effective forms of sexual repression. Scandals are popular, and they are, because they create a drama that preoccupies us temporarily, and prevents us from dealing with how we actually feel about sex or getting our emotional needs met. For a minute, somebody else gets to take the brunt of the guilt. Someone else acts out the shame of the affair that you had or are having; this way you think you don't have to. Gossip is insidious because it's such a diversion from our own personal reality.

How do we actually feel about sex? Does anybody even have a clue? Or are we so afraid of scandal that we dare not reveal anything, even to ourselves? And in such a world, how do you tell the absolute truth?

You just talk. And you listen. Then keep doing that until, eventually, you reach an understanding or you realize you’ve reached an impasse.

arvan's picture

(Call for Submissions) And Then It Shifted: Women Open Up About Leaving Men for Women (Seal Press, 2010)

I received this call for writing, today.  I can't wait to read the finished volume.  So, dear readers, bloggers and community - if you have a story to tell, then you can get paid for it.  In the process, you will have the chance to point the way for the women who follow you.  All the better.

-arvan

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Call for Submissions
 
Working Title:  And Then It Shifted: Women Open Up About Leaving Men for Women (Seal Press, 2010)

2,000-4,000 words

Payment: Upon publication. Amount will vary, depending on experience and other variables ($50 and up). Please include a list of any previous publication credits with your query or submission. Contributors will also receive two copies of the published book.

Deadline: December 1, 2009. That said, we strongly encourage you to send us a query well beforehand, so that we can review it, give you helpful feedback, and have a good sense of what will be coming our way that month. If you are able to submit the piece earlier, we prefer that you do.

Editors: Candace Walsh and Laura André. Candace Walsh is the editor of the recently released anthology Ask Me About My Divorce: Women Open Up About Moving On (www.askmeaboutmydivorce.com).

As Dr. Lisa Diamond’s recent groundbreaking book Sexual Fluidity makes clear, women’s sexual desire and identity are capable of shifting. Cynthia Nixon, Carol Leifer, Wanda Sykes, Portia de Rossi, and countless others have left the fold of heterosexual identity to enter into or pursue same-sex relationships.

Serena Anderlini's picture

We Are Everywhere: A Fiveway Review of A History of Bisexuality, Bisexual Spaces, Look Both Ways, Open, and Becoming Visible (Pt. 2)

By Jonathan Alexander and Serena Anderlini-D’Onofrio

Will appear in Bisexuality and Queer Theory, a special-topics issue of The Journal of Bisexuality. Pre-published with permission of Routledge, New York.

Book Two: Bisexual Spaces: A Geography of Sexuality and Gender. (Routledge, 2002)

By Clare Hemmings

Given such a sweep, Angelides’ text is well balanced by Clare Hemmings’ Bisexual Spaces: A Geography of Sexuality and Gender, a text which is as every bit as theoretically savvy as Angelides’, but one which also provides nicely drawn portraits of actual communities in order to ground the theoretical consideration of bisexuality. Published just a year after A History of Bisexuality, Hemmings’ text examines bisexuality not just from the perspectives of the history of sexuality and queer theory but also from the analytics of cultural geography, which attends more to the lived experiences of bisexuals in specific locales. Such an approach offers her, ultimately, a somewhat more nuanced and sophisticated analysis of bisexuality.

Much like Angelides, Hemmings sees bisexuality as offering a theoretically rich way to interrogate and potentially destabilize the dominant hetero/homo binary:

…if we consider bisexual meaning in spatial terms, it becomes clear that bisexuality is not only a location between heterosexuality and homosexuality, binary genders or sexes, but also resides at the heart of lesbian community, between lesbian and gay communities, and in parallel with transsexuality within queer feminist terrain. As a result, a bisexual subject is capable of producing knowledge that is at odds with dominant and community formations of sexuality and gender, and for that reason alone is worth attending to. (196)

book of blue's picture

Holding the mirror

Photo by Eric Francis.

Sister P,

OK I get the picture.

Yes, polyamorous situations call for us to have a high level of integrity, mutual awareness, generosity and this elusive thing called compersion. I am familiar with the hemisphere effect: being of “two minds,” and the love/approach vs. guilt/avoid. The self-hate is guilt, if you ask me, we just don’t usually call it that because guilt implies something is actually wrong when it usually is not. We come up against all this shadow stuff fast and can feel really weird when it happens because we are so accustomed to self-reproach when we feel it.

A selflove-in is a group masturbation experience. Now, the one I’m planning for the Loving More conference in a few weeks will likely have about 25 present (since it’s a conference and you have a large captive audience, of curious people). I prefer five to seven people present so we can all track one another. This might be a good time to sculpt the whole thing with some craftsmanship. Maybe take it as far as admission by interview. Truly see if there is some common ground.

arvan's picture

Tantric Sex (or, "Can Sting really fuck for 8 hours?")

Recent revelations about Sting's sexual prowess aside, Tantric sex practice does exist.  OK, so maybe it can't turn you or me into a rock-star that fucks for an entire workday.  So, what the hell is it then?

The short answer: Tantric sex practice is a way for two people to pay greater attention to each other and enrich their intimacy.

The long answer: Tantra is over 1500 years old, and like yoga it originated in India. It is a set of teachings and practices that are specifically designed to help us feel more, to increase our awareness of our own energy and the energy around us. The path that Tantra uses to these ends is the exploration of sexual energy.

The goal of Tantric sex is to allow us to experience more depth and breadth in our sexuality. The goal is not necessarily orgasm, but rather enriching the whole sexual experience.

Serena Anderlini's picture

We Are Everywhere: A Fiveway Review of A History of Bisexuality, Bisexual Spaces, Look Both Ways, Open, and Becoming Visible (Pt. 1)

By Jonathan Alexander and Serena Anderlini-D’Onofrio

This post will appear in Bisexuality and Queer Theory, a special-topics issue of The Journal of Bisexuality, co-edited by Serena Anderlini and Jonathan Alexander. Pre-published with permission of Routledge, New York.

Steven Angelides, A History of Bisexuality. University of Chicago Press, 2001. 281 pages (with index)

Clare Hemmings, Bisexual Spaces: A Geography of Sexuality and Gender. Routledge, 2002. 244 pages (with index)

Jennifer Baumgardner, Look Both Ways: Bisexual Politics. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007. 244 pages (with index)

Jenny Block, Open: Love, Sex and Life in an Open Marriage. Seattle: Seal Press, 2009. 276 pages (with works consulted list)i

Beth Firestein, ed, Becoming Visible: Counseling Bisexuals Across the Lifespan. Columbia University Press, 2007. 441 pages (with index)

For this special issue of the Journal of Bisexuality on the intersections among queer theory and bisexuality, we thought it would be useful to review books that have substantively engaged this intersection in critical, insightful, and provocative ways.

Two such books, Steven Angelides’ A History of Bisexuality (2001) and Clare Hemmings’ Bisexual Spaces: A Geography of Sexuality and Gender (2002), are somewhat “older” texts that have not yet been reviewed in the pages of this journal. To correct that omission, and in recognition of the importance that these two studies play in so many of the articles in this special issue, we offer our review and thoughts here. To set the critical theory of these books in a more contemporary and applied context, we link them to three more recent text.

Two, Jennifer Baumgardner’s trade book, Look Both Ways: Bisexual Politics (2007), and Jenny Block’s Open: Love, Sex and Life in an Open Marriage (2009) memorialize various levels of personal experience as avenues to theorizing bisexuality for the lay public, and observing the ways in which this trope deploys itself in one’s personal life and in the life and culture of our era. Finally, Beth Firestein’s edited volume Becoming Visible (2007) offers a store of applied research as well as theoretical knowledge directed to professional counselors and therapists who intend to provide bisexual patients with the mental and psychological health care they need. The volume’s subtitle, Counseling Bisexuals Across the Lifespan, is emblematic of the volume’s intent to dispel the myth that “bisexuality is a phase” one can overcome with “proper” medical attention. The idea here is that there are no reasons to “overcome” bisexuality, while there are many reasons why counselors and therapists, as well as society as a whole, should think of bisexuals as very healthy, wholesome, and valuable members of the human community.

Annabelle River's picture

Bridezilla and Back from the Dead

 

I would like to apologize to all of my readers for my long and sudden absence. I had thought that I might need to take some time off for the whole business of getting married, but the intensity of the bridal-to-do list and an injury sneaked up on me quite suddenly, and left me without any backlog to post during this stressful summer.

But now that I am so close to being legally married and starting to get my life back (i.e. writing again), I would like to address the great archetype of Bridezilla. Because for the over-a-year that I've been engaged, people have loved to tell me Bridezilla stories, or ask me whether I've "yet" become Bridezilla. Bridezillas are on reality TV all day and all night, seven days a week. And yes, obviously, the ubiquitous TV brides sobbing and shrieking at their closest loved are easy to despise, which makes them great for reality-TV. But what the producers of those shows don't often admit is that most of these women have spent the last year of their lives listening to sexist, heterosexist stories about Bridezilla, repeating again and again that all women really want to be is a princess-bride, and all princess-brides are crazy. Self-fulfilled prophecy, anyone?

arvan's picture

The Lifestyle

A short documentary on a Chicago couple who enjoy sharing partners with other couples.  This couple writes on this site under the name: The Ultimates.

The Lifestyle from Victoria Fine on Vimeo.

book of blue's picture

Holding Space for Love as Freedom

Photo by Eric Francis.

Guilt is something we discovered we have in common: a long legacy of guilt. I learned that in the few days before our Thursday night adventure, she had been wracked with guilt about the potential for having to choose one of us; for having to hurt one of us. And some guilt for being able to have both of us – the strange guilt you feel when you love someone and then feel something for another person. That emotion needs a name, so we can identify it when we feel it.

This is the same guilt that makes it difficult to make a simple decision; the guilt we feel for enjoying life; for doing something for ourselves; though here, when we reach the branch of the road where we may choose to love, to actually love who we will, I think we’re pretty close to the core source of this emotion. Here, we are looking at one of the deepest divisions against ourselves.

Like any philosophy, guilt has a history: we can find its origins in the innovation of Judeo-Christian religion. I don’t believe that guilt as we experience it today existed prior to strict religious patriarchy. We see evidence today that this is one source of the problem, but we don’t generally identify it as the root of the problem.

book of blue's picture

Trust and Compersion

Macro image of moss on the west side of the waterfall, on the Grandmother Land in New York. Photo by Eric Francis.

The land tells stories, and at the moment with my lover, I did not like the story that I was hearing. This, in spite of my love of her sexual freedom. I felt like someone had spilled dye into the pool of my emotions. My body and senses felt flush and like I was losing control. The feeling was sorrow. I was not sure where it was coming from but I was not in a position to question it.

Gradually as the day progressed I got a sense of my inner landscape. We talked about it there, at the waterfall, and then later at home. I am not sure I can reconstruct the conversation here. Nearly a week has gone by and I know more today than I did then.

The prior day, on the way out the door to visit me for the first time, she called up her other lover, invited him over and made love to him. Then, leaving two hours later than she planned, she got in the car and came to see me.

As I have explained, this kind of choice for her is in our relationship agreement. By mutual understanding we are free to express our sexuality and our affections as we choose. I specifically ask not to be ‘asked permission’, as I consider this parochial. Yet there is something else working for me, which is that I am attracted to people who consider themselves free individuals, and who live that way. I know many people. They are rare to find. Freedom is the freedom to love; I consider this the first and most important of them.

Compersion is the emotional and erotic process of embracing this freedom in the people we love. It’s about extending space within ourselves to love in a way that is noncompetitive. It’s often thought of as the opposite of jealousy, but I am growing into thinking of it more as a remedy for guilt. Jealousy and guilt are more closely related than psychology and spiritual theory have noted; both involve attempts to control the feelings and conduct of others; equally often we use them against ourselves, though the forms are sometimes disguised.

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