It was the perfect intimacy void.
We could push each other away,
Use it to hurt ourselves.
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It was the perfect intimacy void.
We could push each other away,
Use it to hurt ourselves.
Adventure Girl learns a lesson on being ‘in like’
“If I was meant to come in a box with a label slapped across me, I would have been produced by Mattel.”
Recently I met someone I actually connect with, who I like to spend time with, to talk to, who makes me laugh until my belly aches and my makeup is smudged. Someone who didn’t just throw me onto the Porn Pile, but courted me, who wanted to know my person before knowing my body.
Quickly we slipped into chatting every day, into meeting each other’s friends, and actually hanging out, not just dating and not just f*cking.
People knew straight away that something was different. The way I talked about him, the way I lost interest in searching for someone else. I knew something was different because I didn’t want to escape the minute the sex was done. This wasn’t the heady lust I experienced with my F-Buddy; this was someone I wanted to get to know and who I wanted to know me.
Then one night as we lay in bed, enjoying simply being together, he asked, ‘So, can I call you my girlfriend?’ And then it was my friends: ‘Are you guys a couple now?’
It should be a straightforward question. Does he feel like a boyfriend? Do I want him to meet my friends and actually spend time together? Yes and yes and yes.
But when it came to answering, I stumbled.
It’s not that I don’t want to be in a relationship with him, it’s that I don’t know what that relationship will look like. Because what they mean is, ‘Are you a traditional man-and-woman forsaking all others type of couple?’ An X-and-a-Y on an invitation, what Amanda Palmer describes as ‘living on one side of an ampersand’ — a couple as they understand and define it.
He is a serial monogamist, going from one medium-long term relationship to the next, the longest of those being four years. He has told me he is not a jealous person, but he is not open to opening up a relationship, and casual sex has no appeal for him.
I can’t help but wonder if that is because he has never experienced the dead-inside guilt of your long-term partner — the person you love and share your life with — actually repulsing you after six, seven, or ten years. When the idea of sleeping with your husband feels like shagging a brother.
Sex therapists like Bettina Arndt argue it’s a matter of ‘just doing it’, even when you’re not in the mood, and ‘faking it till you make it’, but it is a whole other story when your loved one reaches for you in the night and you actually feel sick inside. When you have to live with knowing that’s how he makes you feel, and that you can never tell him.
I am a jealous person, but I am willing to share to avoid the crippling weight of that silence.
And that’s just the beginning of how my new lover and I fundamentally differ. He is straight, while I am only starting to explore my bisexuality. Will wearing his (and their) label mean I need to shut that part of myself off again and live an unexplored lie?
I have just spent the last twelve months discovering alternative relationship models, spending time with couples and singles who are poly-amorous, in open relationships, who swing and have BDSM playmates, who are casually poly or selectively mono. Gay, straight, and everything in between. I have discovered that love and sex are two very different things. When they come together it is wonderful, but so is sex divorced from love. I have also learned that having sex with one person does not diminish how I feel about someone else, that being in lust can be as thrilling and as heartbreaking as being in love, and that I can love and lust more than one person simultaneously in very different ways, because each connection is special and unique. Most importantly I learned that my self worth is not tied to exclusivity.
This is not a case of waiting to reach some mythical end point where I come out the other side, ‘get it out of my system’ and ‘settle back down’, as though the experiences I have been having as a single girl are an aberration instead of a journey.
My travels overseas taught me that I can never go back to who I was before the journey began. Everyone else might have stayed the same, but I am not that round peg any more. I have grooves worn in different places, my shape fundamentally altered.
I am no longer who I was at 19, 25 or even 30. This isn’t a phase — these life experiences have changed the way I see the world. I have stepped outside the box. I can’t step back in and accept edges that grate where they no longer fit.
I want to continue to evolve, acquiring new grooves and ridges, while he does the same. Hopefully some of those will be shapes that fit together just so, while we continue to wear in others that are unique to us as individuals.
The important thing for me is that none of this lessens what I feel for him. Many people believe that when you meet someone you love, monogamy comes easily, and that unless you are monogamous you aren’t truly in love (1). Once upon a time I would have agreed, but no longer. If a partner feels that in being with someone else it somehow lessens what I feel for them, then they don’t understand me at all.
I don’t want to lose what we have started, but I don’t think it is fair to start something on terms I am not sure I can finish, to make a commitment of a prescribed nature under duress. That way lies a fuck-load of resentment.
Instead I want to explore what we have, which I believe is very special, free from expectations and boxes with labels, and see what happens. I might find I don’t want to play outside our relationship, but I want the freedom to choose and want him to enjoy the same. The commitment I want to make is one of openness and honesty, trust and respect.
And so even if I answer, ‘Yes. Yes, you can call me your “girlfriend” that label might mean something very different to me.’
(1) Anyone reading Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá’s Sex at Dawn, Dossie Easton and Catherine A. Liszt’s The Ethical Slut or listening to Dan Savage’s podcasts will come to realise how few people out there are living by those expectations, and just how much of a social construct traditional nuclear-family monogamy really is. It works for some, but not all people.
Weeks 3 & 4 – Tiger Tale goes cold turkey
I have been a little lax with my updates of late, but life seems awfully busy and it has taken me until now to get enough free time to post. Ironically the busyness has been a great help as it has kept me occupied and given me less time to just laze around getting into mischief.
First a light recap: a month ago now, after much reading of online forums, I decided to give up porn and masturbation for a period of two months to see what effect this would have on me.
Week One was tough, but I was already starting to see some benefits. By the end of Week Two, I had experienced one relapse, rediscovered morning wood and was quietly hopeful that things were progressing well.
Week Two’s relapse was bad, not so much because I had looked at porn, but because it was like taking ten steps backwards. It stirred up all of the cravings I had thought I was well on the way to conquering. As a result Week Three was a constant battle. Every time I felt bored, I instinctively reached for the familiar crutch. It took a concerted effort to maintain focus and avoid slipping back into old behaviours. I even trialled using a rubber band around my wrist and every time I thought of accessing porn I would snap myself in an attempt to snap out of the desire (although to be honest I also enjoyed the sensation).
The end of Week Three and the start of Week Four were easier. My work load increased dramatically, not so much physically, but in the planning area. I was also thrown into a problem-solving role, assisting on a major incident, so not only was I kept physically busy but I was mentally challenged and fully occupied.
I actually think the more occupied I am the less interest I have in porn. In some ways it’s really just another form of stimulation. I guess the main difference is that porn is easy. But while work challenges are harder, they are also infinitely more satisfying.
Have I noticed a difference?
To quote Juno MacGuff: “Hellz Yeah”.
The sex is amazing, my energy levels are higher and my stamina has increased. In fact, I can’t see a downside.
At first I thought it might just be me, so I went once again to the Interwizzles to seek out others’ experiences on various forums. Every account I read made mention of dramatic improvement in the person’s sexual self, from those who could finally maintain an erection, to those who just felt satisfied after sex for the first time in a long time. I didn’t find a single negative experience relating to masturbatory abstinence.
Even if you don’t consider that you have a problem with porn or masturbation, I would definitely recommend laying off the self-satisfaction for a week or two, just to see what you find. Maybe try it out quietly for a couple of weeks, then see if your partner notices an improvement. Who knows, they might even thank you.
Adventure Girl learns a lesson on being in lust
‘Knowing my luck, I’ll meet someone I actually want to be with who is rubbish in bed.’
People often talk about having a ‘type’, a particular physique or other combination of attributes that they are repeatedly attracted to. For me that type is like a physical imprint in my brain that equates the way a body feels against mine, around mine, inside mine, not just with eroticism, but with shelter and security. It’s an imprint that my psyche responds to, that tells me I am loved and I am safe, even when logic tells me I am not.
Add to that a person’s scent, taste, the sound of their voice, the way they touch, all of which send messages into the brain along the same lines, and that ‘type’ becomes a powerful psychological and biochemical aphrodisiac.
Part way through my casual-dating career I met such a match: my physical and sensory ideal. My brain nearly exploded. Our chemistry was the kind that made my experiences with other lovers (with whom I had been relatively content) seem dampened, as though we now made love through a filter.
Better still, our sexual styles matched. He wanted me as his plaything, to pick up and put down, to use, briefly cherish, and then discard.
The ‘cherish’ phase of our encounters was where I was particularly vulnerable. Having controlled and defiled me, he would speak to the inner child in me while I soaked up the feel of his body around mine, as he covered my face with kisses and I inhaled his skin.
In those moments, I was utterly lost.
I longed to say the words, the only ones that had meaning, which my vocabulary equated with the chemicals muddling my reason.
‘I love you.’
I wanted him to say it, even when he didn’t, and nor did I. I didn’t care. There was no room for reason in the haze of biochemistry.
And then I would walk away, choking on what hadn’t been said. I needed to rein my emotions back in, without stifling this rare sensory afterglow. To do this I would actively try to identify what was happening in my body and isolate it from what was happening in my mind. I provided the narrative framework, the reasoning and the boundaries for what I was feeling – responses I once would have equated with love.
This was not love, this was lust. How can you love someone you don’t even know?
Worse – he was not someone I wanted to get to know. He was patriarchal in a way my feminist couldn’t abide. He was concrete where I am abstract. As Dom and Sub, tall and small, we complemented one another physically, sexually, but in other ways we were far too alike, each of us seeking the other half of ourselves, which we did not find in each other. I didn’t even particularly like spending time with him. We never messaged except to arrange meetings and we had no connections beyond the numbers in each other’s phones. He barely knew me, or I him, and I preferred it that way.
While physically, he invoked the attachment chemicals, the ones that yearn to bond, that hate to be apart, that blind, I knew that was where it ended.
He was not a good match for me.
Once I would have mistakenly tried to turn these feelings, this shadow of a relationship, into love. Forced the square peg into a round hole, and wondered why it didn’t fit, why I loved and yet didn’t even like.
Now I understand that what happens inside the body, inside the mind, is a response to a combination of biochemistry and psychological imprint. I can recognise lust and know it isn’t love.
Still my easily-fooled brain told me I was safe, and I found myself opening up, being vulnerable in a way I normally wouldn’t. I left the door open to that part of myself I keep reserved, bricked up, away from my other lovers.
But I wasn’t safe with him, not at all. I was in more danger because he was my type, because I took stupid risks and let myself be treated in ways I would normally find appalling, the biochemical and psychological response overruling my self-regard and preservation, my self-respect.
And even though I didn’t love him and I knew he wasn’t right for me, when he told me he also didn’t love me, I felt rejected, and it was almost too much to take.
We were in lust, not love, but it hurt just the same.
Week 2 – Tiger Tale goes cold turkey
For those who missed the intro, I am trying to go without porn and masturbation for two months in an attempt to rewire my neural pathways, cleanse my dopamine addiction and rediscover the joys of real-life sex.
Two weeks in, and it’s been a mix of good and bad. I relapsed in a minor way, without thinking really. I was looking at something on TV, then thought, ‘Where do I know that actress from?’ Link followed link and before I knew it I was looking at porn.
Now, I differentiate just seeing nudity from what I consider ‘porn’ by the way I feel when looking at it. I could view the same image at different times and have a completely different response, depending on my frame of mind. In this case, I slipped back into viewing the images as porn, which in turn seemed to trigger cravings. I had thought they were all dissipated but that one weakness kick-started them.
At least I now know there is no such thing as a minor relapse, no amount of justification where you can say, ‘Oh only this one time.’ I guess it’s a bit like being a smoker or an alcoholic who’s only going to have one. You can’t just have one, and once it starts it’s a battle to stop.
I may have taken ten steps forward over the last fortnight, but after this I feel I have taken four back. Not as much progress as I had hoped.
Still, I made progress. I’m no longer seeking porn out when I’m bored; it has stopped being a subconscious coping mechanism, and hopefully I’m finding better ways to deal with things, using both meditation and exercise. The exercise productively burns off energy if I have spent my day desk-bound, and the meditation helps me relax before I sleep.
I also use the meditation to make me stop and consider. Every time I feel like accessing porn I try to take five minutes to pause and relax. Often after the initial urge has passed, that’s it. There’s nothing behind it. Once I beat a craving, I don’t need it, and so the urge dissipates.
The really good news is I’ve started getting morning wood again. Don’t laugh, but you don’t realise you’ve been missing it until it suddenly pops up (pardon the pun). It was only when it happened recently that I realised it had been a while. I’m taking heart from that and feel it’s a return to normality.
So to wrap it all up, two weeks in: one relapse, some serious self-discovery, early morning erections and $90 in the jar.
Tiger Tale goes cold turkey
‘Two months with no porn, no masturbation, and hopefully my neural pathways will rewire and I’ll start enjoying my sex life again… I plan to diarise my thoughts, feelings, stresses and freak-outs at least once a week for this period, just to see if I notice any difference, and if I can do it at all.’ — Tiger Tale, When too much porn is never enough
Wow this is hard. To be honest I didn’t realise how much of a crutch pornography was until I took it away.
Avoiding it during the day is easy. In fact, I can be exposed to sexual material and it’s not the same. I’m starting to think it’s not the porn itself but the act of looking it up that triggers me — a bit like rolling and lighting a cigarette. Knowing it’s there, just thinking about viewing it, is what drives my fantasies and release, rather than the porn itself.
Night time on the other hand is hard (no pun intended). When I’m bored in bed my instinct is to look something up. It’s not so much a conscious thought as it is a habit. I don’t have any porn in the house and I refuse to install some sort of ‘net nanny‘ as I think that’s just avoidance. How can I prove my will power if there’s no test?
On the upside my various hobbies are benefiting from my:
a. sudden wealth of spare time,
b. need to occupy myself, and
c. large amount of nervous energy.
I’m finally getting an illustrator organised for a children’s story I wrote and finishing some projects for friends I have been putting off.
On the downside I’m finding it hard to get to sleep. I feel restless, fidgety and plain old horny. Plus my poor housemate is sick of the smell of dye (I’ve been up late dyeing a suit of Larp armour someone commissioned — don’t ask).
To keep me motivated, I’ve devised a reward system. Every day I go without, I put $10 into a jar, while any relapse costs me $50. At the end of my two months I get to spend whatever’s in the jar with no restrictions.
So that’s my first week done, with little sleep, feeling vaguely twitchy, but $70 in the jar. Here’s hoping I stick to my guns and get to keep my cash.
‘Personally, apart from when we’re trying to make babies, I think WAY too much emphasis is put on achieving orgasm for both men and women.’
Like many women, I have never had an orgasm from penetrative sex alone. I have left previous lovers — some of the best lovers I’ve ever had — feeling inadequate because as much pleasure as they have given me they haven’t regularly and consistently pushed that particular button. To them, my inability to get off equates to their failure to fulfil me. I can assure you (and them) this is not the case. Some of the most satisfying sex I have ever had involved almost no direct stimulation to me at all.
Worse, if a guy sets out with the sole objective of getting me off, in most cases it’s not going to happen, or not without a very big lead up, by which time he’s tired, I’m tired, and everything just gets compounded:
‘Shit. He’s waiting for me to come. He must be getting sore/bored/frustrated. Now I’m off the boil again. Fuck. It’s never going to happen. Just relax. Try again…’
As long as I know the focus is on me and my pleasure, not his, the chances of me getting off are fairly slim. Take the focus off me, let me do my thing, and it might just work. But even then, is the effort worth it? For me to get there, I find myself ‘leaving’ my partner and our shared space, and drifting into the world of my fantasies, something which doesn’t feel particularly intimate, and in many ways, unnecessary – for me, at least.
Ultimately, I don’t have sex to achieve orgasm. It’s an entirely different drive and pleasure — one that I can’t give myself, whereas I can give myself orgasms all the time.
Let’s reverse the situation. If it’s the guy who can’t get there, in a complete double standard, I assume I must be doing something wrong. I have failed as a lover.
A male friend of mine complained about this recently. ‘Why do women always think I need to come? I’m often perfectly happy to just enjoy the sex without all that expectation.’
It seems natural to me – and makes evolutionary sense – that male orgasm not only concludes a heterosexual encounter but signifies its success (see every hetero porno ever made, ever). The female orgasm on the other hand, has been described as the evolutionary equivalent of the male nipple.
Yet the emphasis on orgasm, male or female, seems to create a layer of pressure and expectation. It’s fairly common for a woman to not achieve orgasm, and it’s becoming more apparent that men are increasingly (or more publicly) facing similar issues/pressures. Men and women are now faking it.
What if, when we take away the evolutionary impetus of the sexual encounter, lovers set out with the mutual goal of simply enjoying one another’s bodies, without any fixed end point in mind, without any pressure to orgasm, and instead focus on the mutual intimacy and pleasure of giving one another sensations and experiences we can’t give ourselves?
Tiger Tale regales on what it means to need to start over
‘A growing number of young, healthy Internet pornography users are complaining of delayed ejaculation, inability to be turned on by real partners, and sluggish erections’ – Marnia Robinson, Psychology Today.
It’s a little embarrassing really, I’m a horny guy. I know the assumption that all guys are horny, but I’m really horny. Apparently I have excess testosterone. For me that means I have and enjoy a lot of sex. I don’t go for the nameless variety and I’m open with my partners, but I have noticed over time that things have changed.
I still feel the same, in that I desire the same amount of sex, but I’m finding it harder to reach orgasm. My tastes have broadened, I’ve explored different areas of sexuality and yet it seems the more I discover the worse the problem gets. In fact sometimes it’s hard to maintain an erection during ordinary sex without some form of direct stimulation (and by that I don’t mean my partner).
As you can imagine I find this a mite distressing. I pride myself on my talents as a lover; what am I then if they desert me? Possibly a little shallow, but I’m trying to be honest.
After doing a bit of investigation, it turns out I’m not the first guy to experience these kinds of problems. According to Marnia Robinson, author of Cupid’s Poisoned Arrow:
‘Threads relating to this issue are springing up all over the Web on bodybuilding, medical help, and pick-up artist forums, in at least twenty countries’ – Psychology Today.
From what I’ve read, I have been lucky. I haven’t suffered complete dysfunction, just less reliability. Think of it like this: normally an erection just happens. You get excited, you get it up, and you get busy. For me, I get excited, I get it up, but to maintain my erection during sex I have to concentrate, focus, and fantasise – just about anything except what I want to do, which is relax and enjoy myself and my partner.
Possibly the worst part is the lack of orgasm. It’s not that I can’t achieve it, but I have to focus so hard on staying erect that I psyche myself out. Sex stops being a pleasurable activity and becomes a task, and ultimately I end up faking it.
Ironically more stimulation and porn exacerbates the problem. I believe from what I have read and observed within my own body’s behaviour that I am addicted to porn and porn-style sex. To clarify, this differs from ordinary sex in that the behaviours involved aren’t normal, instead reflecting those found in hardcore pornography. I need more and more extreme stimulation just to stay in the game.
‘With a buffet including live sex chat, new naked chicks with every click, multiple windows, and escalating levels of hardcore, what actually happens inside the brain is a form of overdosing.’ – Ask Men
Porn addiction is like any other addiction. The stimulation makes you feel good, causing your brain to release a hit of dopamine, the same chemical released when using drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine. As with these highly addictive drugs, exposure over time can cause your brain to rewire so that its pleasure centres trigger for the stimulant, and cause tolerance or desensitisation.
From what I have read on various forums and from other people’s experiences, the way to cure it is to go cold turkey. Two months with no porn, no masturbation, and hopefully my neural pathways will rewire and I’ll start enjoying my sex life again.
I plan to diarise my thoughts, feelings, stresses and freak-outs at least once a week for this period, just to see if I notice any difference, and if I can do it at all. So wish me luck and I’ll write you soon.
‘We’re the 4chan generation – can’t get off unless it’s at least borderline disturbing.’ – Anon (via Twitter)
Recently I participated in a research project examining female desire and pornography. As part of the project I was asked to watch a short female-directed adult film and answer a series of questions about my expectations versus my actual responses (this is what happens when I answer adverts on the back of toilet doors).
Once I got past the awkwardness of watching an adult movie in an empty university tutorial room, I actually found the film surprisingly sexy. It wasn’t like other porn that I have seen. There were no plumped up lips, plastic boobs or monster cocks. The actors were attractive and natural-looking. The costumes and sets were likewise visually appealing. Attention was paid to both the male and female characters’ needs. None of the activities the actors engaged in appeared painful or gravity-defying. There was no spitting, no hair pulling, no anal savaging, and no one looked as if they were in pain. The actors displayed passion and desire for one another, not just each other’s orifices. They kissed and caressed like lovers, rather than, well, porn stars. This might be what two good-looking people who are actually into each other get up to in an ideal session of loving hot sex.
But when it came to answering the questionnaire about my expectations and what I valued as important in such a film, I hesitated. I wanted to say, ‘Yes, this film is exactly what I want as a woman. It’s not crude, it doesn’t objectify the characters, it contains emotion and eroticism: THIS is what porn should be!’ The problem was, if I am honest, it didn’t turn me on as much as other porn that I have seen (and I don’t think I can entirely blame the situation I was in while watching).
I could easily answer, ‘Yes, I found this movie enjoyable.’ But by that, I mean I could see myself happily sitting down to watch it for an evening. In lingerie. With popcorn. Possibly even with my lover beside me. But it’s not likely to do the trick if I’m looking for a quick get-me-off-before-the-housemate-comes-home fix.
The hesitation came because in saying this, I feel like I am somehow letting women down – not that I am any kind of ‘spokesperson for all women’, but you know what I mean. I feel as though this is an opportunity to have input into the kind of porn produced by women, for women, and that I should be fighting for quality material that doesn’t objectify or degrade, which addresses a lot of the things I hear women complain about in more male-oriented porn.
In Even Better Than I responded to an article that dealt with men’s complaints that porn is ruining them for sex in real life by setting up unrealistic ideas of how they (and their partners) should behave in the bedroom. Women, I argued, are equally ruined by the sorts of images and ideas they are conditioned to like, which can set up equally unrealistic expectations of sex and relationships and leave us reliant on our imaginations to fill in the sexually-satisfying gaps. Because I have been exposed to both romance-fuelled Fabio-ideals during adolescence, feminist ideals during my late-teens and early twenties, and hard-core pornography during my Dirty Thirties, when asked to put pen to paper, I struggled to distinguish between what I thought I should want, and what I actually responded to. The ‘conditioned woman’ in me felt I should want ‘nice’ porn, the ‘feminist’ wanted porn that was all about the woman’s needs, while the ‘hard-core watching woman’ had to admit to not responding as strongly in the absence of power-play and objectification.
The truth is, when it comes to how the brain is wired, objectifying images may be less comfortable and more confronting to watch, but they evoke a more direct physical response. At least, they do in me.
One of the questions I was asked was whether or not I felt disgusted at any point during the film. I was also asked about feelings of guilt or shame, to which I answered that I experienced none. Had I been asked these questions about some of the male-oriented hard-core porn that I have watched, I may not have been able to answer the same, and yet watching that porn was more physically arousing. I found myself asking, is that because I have already been exposed to more hard-core porn and this has somehow desensitised me, or is this an innate physical response hard-wired to get me off on more graphic images?
I have seen porn that I haven’t enjoyed, that I have found so uncomfortable watching, I switched it off. This was porn that to empathise with made me squirm in imagined pain, humiliation, or disgust. But on some level, there was still a physical response going on – an involuntary one, and one that left me feeling disturbed.
Mental stimulation is very important for me during sex. I respond keenly to role-play and dirty-talk. This is the stuff that hits deep inside my psyche and will get me off even when the scenarios being evoked are of things I would dread happening in real life. On one level my brain is firing, ‘Yes!’ but on another, ‘No, really – no.’ And I don’t think I can blame these responses on exposure to hard-core pornography. For me, at least, something more innate is going on.
By contrast, the porn I was shown during the study was both arousing and enjoyable to watch. I suffered no inner conflict, was left with no residual guilt or disgust. I thought to myself, this might be a good introduction to pornography for individuals with waning libidos, who don’t want to watch anything too confronting, or perhaps a good antidote for those who have lost their lust for sex in the real world, in that it might help them re-connect emotion and eroticism.
But just at the moment, I don’t fit into either category. I’m somewhere in the middle. My ideal pornography would be something with enough power-play and objectification to be stimulating, but enough emotional connection and respect between the characters that it doesn’t leave me feeling conflicted and dirty.
Because what if there is an emotional cost of continually engaging in a kind of ‘disturbing arousal’? Whether the impact is on the level of intimacy in my relationships or an inability to ‘get-off’ with my partner, or manifests as scars upon my psyche from residual feelings of shame and disgust. I’d rather not take the risk if I can help it, and instead make use of material that is arousing minus the emotional disturbance. I just wish there had been space on the questionnaire to write that.
Rhonda Perky dons her collar and surrenders her will to her lover
When I talk about being a Submissive, I am referring to my desire to be dominated by another, sexually. This means being objectified and giving up my will to my lover. To me this feels ‘right’, familiar, a partner who will pick me up, show their desire by using and abusing me; devaluing and admiring me; cherishing my body while defiling it.
The relationship with my Dom is so intimate, so intense, so frightening and so thrilling that in that moment I can lose myself completely; give my will over to them utterly. I live those moments through them, exist through their eyes, for their purpose. I am visible and invisible at the same
time. I exist yet do not exist. I am what they need, what they use, what they desire, what they discard.
I have tried to understand where this need comes from. Why, having found this dynamic in a lover, though I enjoy interactions with others, I do not lose myself completely; do not give up my will in the same way. Somehow being dominated sends signals to my brain that I am present, valued, and ironically – safe.
And yet, is my ‘owner’, my Dom, the person who objectifies and humiliates me, someone I would ever want to come home to? How would that dynamic, that control, translate into the real world? Do I want the person who objectifies and abuses me in the bedroom to share the intimacies of the rest of my life? What are the chances, even, of finding a partner who meets that need while also being a companion, a friend and confidante?
I have had two relationships with men I would consider ‘Doms’. In both cases, the bedroom dynamic was thrilling, meeting that special need in me, but we were not good matches for each other in our day-to-day lives.
In the case of the first relationship, I was recently separated from my husband, and in no hurry to let anyone gain an inch within my newly discovered space, and so I kept my partner at arms’ length, but this meant I never really tested the Dom/Sub boundaries outside the bedroom.
By the time I became entangled with my second Dom, I was ready to let someone in to the rest of my life – which I did, opening myself up completely. Our relationship was thrilling – inside the bedroom and out. I loved that he mirrored me, owned me, manipulated me, but that dynamic soon bled into our every day. I was happy to be at his beck and call sexually, but somehow I ended up at his beck and call in everything. This Dom pressed my buttons in a way that destabilised me and made me completely dependent on him for my self-worth. It got so that outside of the bedroom we weren’t able to function.
The kind of power I had given him had morphed into abuse.
This experience has left me understandably wary of entering into another relationship, but most especially a relationship with a Dom. Yet the Submissive in me continues to seek out a Dominant partner – I just make sure it is only for sex. Not trusting myself, I keep my Dom as a lover, a f-buddy –nothing more. Even then, it doesn’t always work.
The thrill of being ‘owned’ and giving up my will when there is no underlying foundation of a relationship, can result in allowing my Dom to cross the normal boundaries of dignity and respect, especially when I relish things from my partners that non-Submissives might find degrading.
Fear and humiliation, the pushing of boundaries, can be part of the thrill, the dynamic, and so I can find myself accepting more in the moment than I feel entirely comfortable with, not always knowing how I will feel afterwards. For instance, my Dom might be doing something that is potentially painful, but being able to speak up, to say, ‘No I’m not okay with this,’ in a way that doesn’t break the dynamic in that moment, isn’t easy. And so sometimes I am left with shame, guilt and even physical consequences that I have to own, because I allowed them to happen.
And it’s not just in the bedroom. Part of the dynamic involves being at my Dom’s beck and call and needing to be objectified: ‘I am his/hers therefore they can pick me up and use me as they see fit.’ But by fetishising being picked up, used, and discarded, the transaction can soon lead to the crossing of emotional boundaries, putting up with (and justifying) being treated poorly. The end result is a lack of respect, not necessarily from my Dom, but from me, because there are no ‘safe words’ when it comes to emotions.
And I am not saying that all Dom/Sub relationships end up like this, just as all relationships, not just those of a Dom and Sub, can have unequal power dynamics in and out of the bedroom. I have since discovered that in my previous relationship, my lover wasn’t abusive because he was a Dom, he was a Dom because he was abusive – it was an extension of that side of himself, his need to manipulate, control and instil fear, but also an extension of my need to be mistreated, because I facilitated that dynamic.
I have also learned that having that need met sexually helps me to not look for it in other aspects of my relationships. It fills a need in my psyche and frees me to create equal partnerships where I am not objectified, not abused. What I haven’t worked out is how to keep that dynamic confined to the bedroom, to a fantasy realm, how to set my own boundaries so that the Dom/Sub dynamic doesn’t bleed into our everyday transactions, leaving me feeling objectified and emotionally used.
I am beginning to understand why a person might pay for sex out of a desire to keep those particular needs separate from their loved one. Not just because the chances of finding someone who can fill that need and also be a good, compatible partner are slim, but because it requires being able to switch that need on and off, allowing a person to control and defile you, and then asking them to value you as an equal – and that’s before considering the possible feelings of guilt and shame over what can happen in the bedroom.
A friend said to me recently that he finds the idea of being a Dom counter to his nature, because it feels like it would require him to abandon his respect for women. In some ways he is right, but I have hope that it is possible for that dynamic to exist alongside, or embedded within, an underlying dynamic of personal and mutual respect between Dom and Sub.
This means finding a way to keep the Dominant/Submissive needs contained, boundaries secure, because as in any relationship, Dom and Sub need to be able to function as free individuals, and leave the collar behind when they leave the bedroom.
Adventure Girl ponders the perils of wanting it all
‘So, you’re poly?’
‘Um. I am?’
I consider myself a free agent. I like to see more than one person, ongoing but casually, and not always just for sex. Having one F-Buddy, or FB (someone I see primarily for sex) I am okay with and I enjoy, but what about my other needs? I like to go out and do things with people, go on dates. I want lovers I can also hang out with, without being exclusive necessarily, but each having a secure place with one another.
It is more than F-buddies, but not quite an Open Relationship. It is non-exclusive friendship, companionship, romance, affection, sex, honesty and respect, in as large or as small a measure as is required.
In some ways this feels like having my cake and eating it, or at least, looking for something that doesn’t exist. I’m yet to meet someone who I want all those things from in a bundle. Moreover, expecting one person to meet all of those needs seems like a very big ask.
To counter this, I have been trying to get my needs met from multiple partners, where the rules of each engagement are the rules we define ourselves.
The problem is, sometimes the rules I want to define do my partners’ heads in.
Take ‘Steve’, a guy who I had met first for sex, but who I began to hang out with, to date. He wasn’t like anyone I have ever seen, and I enjoyed that. But one night, early on, I went over to his house for dinner, and for one reason or another, we didn’t end up having sex. I was actually okay with this; he wasn’t.
‘This is supposed to be about sex,’ he said.
Through my drunken muddled filter, what I heard was, ‘You’re for sex, and nothing more. Hanging out is a means to get you into bed. Those are the rules of our engagement.’ Back onto the Porn Pile for me.
Never mind that we enjoyed each other’s company. Never mind that we provided each other with companionship and affection, even a little bit of romance. In Steve’s mind if we were hanging out, but not having sex, we must be in a Relationship, and he wasn’t up for that.
Through my tears all I could think was, that’s not what I’m asking for, not even what I want. Why can’t we hang out and if there’s sex, that’s great, and if there’s not, so be it? That’s not a Relationship, is it? Nothing has to change.
But it did. We never recovered from that night. A couple of confused text messages, and we were virtual strangers once again.
It hurt more, I think, because it wasn’t the first time something like this had happened.
Earlier that year, I had been spending a lot of time with a particular FB, ‘John’. John and I were spending so much time together in fact, that it felt like we were having an affair rather than just meeting for sex. It wasn’t like a Relationship, because all of our time was spent in the realm of the bedroom, but despite spending three, sometimes four nights a week together, I felt invisible.
In the dark we talked. I counselled John through an unrequited passion, learned about his past, his work, his dreams. He listened to me – to a point. Always, there was a barrier, a place he pushed back: what to him was the Relationship Line.
Tired of butting up against the wall, seeing something on the other side I thought would benefit us both, I suggested we go out sometimes, do things socially. Because in becoming John’s sex partner I had lost his friendship. The sex was good, but I had originally been attracted to him for his mind, not his cock. John told me he was getting all his needs met – similar to me, he was mixing and matching among the people in his life – only someone else had the piece I wanted. I wasn’t asking for him to be a boyfriend or to even like me in that way. I just wanted a chance to get to know him as a person, outside of the bedroom, and see if that glimpse that had been there in the beginning had more substance behind the wall.
At this suggestion, John freaked out. We took a little break, to think about what each of us wanted. Only while I tried to breathe, to think, he began to call. He wanted to meet for coffee, he wanted to chat, to hear about my day; he wanted to make me dinner, lunch. This isn’t what I had signed up for. It felt like he was trying not to date me, but to act like a boyfriend. It was horrible, not because I didn’t enjoy our interactions but because I knew his heart wasn’t in it. He didn’t want to see himself as the guy who puts the girl on the Porn Pile, but that’s exactly where he wanted me: the only place left in his life after the other spots were taken.
I felt more invisible than ever.
We quickly agreed it wasn’t working, and tried to get back to the way things had been. We never really did. The pieces that he had been giving me, the adoration, the affection, were withheld for fear that I would ‘get the wrong idea.’ I struggled to express my needs in a way that made sense to him until all I could feel was the unspoken between us: not his, but mine. The gap in the bed as his back faced me – I was expected to be the Big Spoon – was filled with my stifled silence.
Add to this John told me he thought he might be ready to start dating again – but that he didn’t want to date me. His last relationship had begun under similar circumstances, and he didn’t want to go there again. I was very much on the Porn Pile, and that’s where I would stay.
Eventually we ended things. It was very painful. Not because I had wanted more from him, but because he hadn’t wanted more from me. Because he had had to try to want more.
I could see the double-standard inherent in this, but it didn’t make it any easier.
Meanwhile I met another FB, ‘Adam’. Better than the first in some respects, because it was very clear to me that the rules of our engagement started and finished with sex. We would meet for ‘sessions’ and were open about seeing other people. I was openly on the Porn Pile, but so was he.
I remember one night Adam told me he had a penchant for falling for the wrong people. ‘Don’t worry, I won’t fall for you,’ he quickly added.
‘Should I be insulted?’ I asked with a teasing smile.
I laughed off his gaff, and never asked him what he meant. Instead I clung to those words, so that every time he showed signs of caring or affection for me, I could tell myself, ‘Just the cock, thanks!’ and continue to search elsewhere for my other needs.
But the more people I encounter, the more apparent it becomes that unless I am signing up for a Relationship, my partners want sex from me and nothing more. Like Steve, dates are a means to get my knickers off, not to spend time together.
Will I ever get off the Porn Pile?
I also realise this is total hypocrisy, because I am yet to meet someone I haven’t put on that pile myself, someone I want more from, someone I don’t portion off behind my own Relationship Line wall.
Part of the difficulty is that I’m not even sure how to describe the rules of the type of engagement I am looking for without setting off alarm bells. Because if I tell my partner I want more than ‘just sex’, they assume I must also want a primary Relationship.
In the rules of my engagement there is openness and honesty. Of course it hurts to know that you are shared, but on some level jealousy is a part of most relationships. It is much easier to cast your jealousies aside when you know in advance that you are shared, and they are shared, and you can keep your expectations in check. At least, it is for me.
Is this in-between grey space the realm of Polyamoury?
Perhaps if I give it this label my partners will be able to understand, to not freak out, and maybe I will have a chance at the kind of engagements I am seeking without being discarded onto the Porn Pile, because someone who is prepared to date and sleep with multiple partners must be good for sex and nothing more. Or perhaps I will end up staring at one half eaten plate after another.
Rhonda Perky goes under the covers to discover if three can ever be less than a crowd
Ever had one of those drunken hook-ups that somehow end up with three of you in a bed? Or maybe you’ve arranged to meet with two singles or a couple to have a bit of fun? Only when the heat dies down (and you begin to sober up) you’re left in a crowded bed feeling completely cold?
Take the following examples:
Scenario A: Susie and Lara have been dating for a while. While drinking a little too much at a party, they end up in bed with John. The three of them enjoy a very steamy night and then fall asleep in the same bed. When Susie wakes up she realises John has ended up between her and Lara. She’s not sure, but thinks the two of them might have been getting it on while she was asleep. In any case, they are now spooning. All she can see is this man, an intruder, being intimate with her lover. She starts to feel sick. What if Lara decides she prefers being with John?
Scenario B: Grace and Mick, a long-term couple seeking a new experience, decide to advertise online for a man to join them. They recruit Robert, a single guy keen to explore. During the encounter it becomes apparent that Mick is attracted to the new recruit. In the heat of the moment, the guys get it on, until Robert tells them both he’s fairly sure he’s straight. The problem is Mick thinks he might actually prefer men.
Scenario C: Jodie has been seeing Steve for a few months, but they aren’t exclusive. Jodie has expressed an interest in having someone join them. Steve finds Cindy, a girl who is similarly keen. Steve arranges the meet up. Part way through the encounter it becomes apparent that Steve and Cindy already know each other. In fact, Cindy knows Steve a lot better than Jodie does. Jodie feels a little jealous, and a lot insecure. After all, Cindy is, well, kind of smoking. Things could be about to get a whole heap of ugly.
The point is, fantasy and reality can be very different things. Does anyone really know what they are going to feel going into something like this? Each person comes to the party with certain expectations, some known and some not, until it’s happening there in front of them. Suddenly you find yourself watching and participating in something you don’t normally see: your lover making love to someone else. It is likely you will see them doing something new with someone else and will respond to that person in a way they don’t respond to you. What if he/she has something you don’t? What if he/she does something better than you, or differently? What if he/she does something to him/her that they’ve NEVER done to you? What if you can’t cum and she can cum like crazy, and who gets his cum in the end?
Being prepared, being aware, and stepping into the realm of fantasy – accepting that it IS fantasy, becomes a necessity if you are going to come out the other end unscathed.
Some things worth considering before you get busy with getting busy:
Perhaps the catch-all question to ask is whose threesome is it? Where are the boundaries, and who sets them? In some ways having a Dom/Sub situation can help, because the Dom(s) will set the rules and boundaries for the Sub(s). A lot of the time this won’t be the case. So how can you make sure your encounter remains as hot in your memory as it was in the moment? You want to be sure you know what the deal is in advance and also feel secure in yourself and in your relationship(s) before setting foot anywhere near this type of activity.
As in all things the most important part is communication. No matter how drunk or stoned or lost in the moment you are, try to check in with all parties. Keep an eye out for changes in body language. Has someone gone quiet, or stopped participating? Be mindful and respectful of each other’s existing relationships. If a couple has been generous enough to invite you into their private domain, keep to their boundaries. Take your cues from them (and perhaps more importantly in a hetero/bi-situation, from the person of the same gender; you don’t want to be a perceived threat). In a sense, you are their guest. Similarly, if you are in an existing couple and have invited someone to join you, be a gracious host and make them feel welcome.
If the encounter involves a sleepover, for instance, ask where you should sleep. If the others are having a private moment, give them that and wait to be invited back in. If you’ve initiated the encounter, make sure the third party feels welcome, and keep your jealousies in check.
To my mind, if you can each walk away thinking, ‘We all owned that,’ your threesome has been a spectacular success.
Tiger Tale shares his views on sharing himself
Let me start by saying I am ‘polyamorous’ (‘poly’ for short). According to Wikipedia:
Polyamory (from Greek πολύ [poly, meaning many or several] and Latin amor[love]) is the practice, desire, or acceptance of having more than one intimate relationship at a time with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved.
A lot of people assume, particularly when a guy says he’s poly, that it’s really just an excuse to fuck around. At best I would call that an Open Relationship (1) and at worst not much more than glorified Fuck Buddies (2).
Personally I define polyamoury as having meaningful connections with more than one partner, however not all of these connections have to be sexual. The important thing is that each connection is had with the ‘knowledge and consent of all partners concerned’.
I realised some time ago that I’m not good at monogamy. For starters, I love women so I tend to surround myself with people I find enchanting. My social circle is composed of several close male friends and a constantly varying number of women. Some stay, while others are fleeting — just to clarify, I’m talking friends here, confidants, rather than bed partners. The problem is, not everyone is comfortable with having their partner spend large amounts of quality time with people of the opposite sex.
I have often heard women say the thought of their husband confiding in someone else is more of a betrayal than if he had just been having sex with them. Over time I’ve found that I struggle to have one person meet all my needs, be they sexual, intellectual or emotional. It’s a pretty big ask to expect one person to be so shaped that they are everything that I (or anyone else) requires in a life-partner. Polyamoury is about trust and honesty; it’s about surrounding yourself with a support network of people you love and cherish, effectively like choosing your own family.
I believe that humans are traditionally tribal creatures and that today’s society has stripped a great deal of that away. Living a poly lifestyle takes us closer to our tribal roots. Yes, there are problems, including jealousy, accommodation, and prejudice. In fact a fully-embraced poly lifestyle is no easier than any other relationship, but for me it has its own unique benefits. You develop a strong support network, sharing the burdens of cooking, cleaning, and child-rearing if several of you live together, and you always have someone there when you need, knowing your partner/s also have someone there for them when you can’t be. For your children, it’s like having a big extended family of uncles, aunts and cousins who are always around to help and console and simply enjoy life with.
People worry that if their partner also loves someone else, they in turn, will be loved less. Love is not a finite resource. We all need it, but it doesn’t ‘run out’. Instead I have found that the more I spread my love, the more love I create. Yes there are issues with time management, and sometimes I do feel a tug of jealousy, but ultimately I feel I am creating something beautiful, bringing love and companionship to others, while taking love and companionship in return.
I’m poly because I choose it, because I choose love and support and I refuse to burden one person with all of my needs when they can so easily be shared. I’ve chosen this lifestyle because it works for me. After failed relationships and dishonesty I’m happier and more settled now than I have ever been.
(1)According to Wikipedia ‘An open relationship is an interpersonal relationship in which the parties want to be together, but in which they agree that a romantic or sexual relationship with another person is accepted, permitted or tolerated.’
(2)’A casual relationship, colloquially known as a fling, is a physical and emotional relationship between two people who may have a sexual relationship (a situation colloquially called friends with benefits or fuck buddies) or a near-sexual relationship without necessarily demanding or expecting the extra commitments of a more formal romantic relationship.’
It’s my back as I leave that you love best
Everything about me
that you’ll never know
You love my absence
and the lack of anything more
an Object, romanticised, sexualised