Thursday, June 24, 2010

Respect and responsibility: A consensual non-monogamist's perspective on sexual health

Ah, yes, swingers and consensual non-monogamy in the news again. This time the headline is that swingers over age 45 are at higher risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) than other groups, according to a Dutch study.

The study does bring to light the issue that swingers are an invisible group. Healthcare providers assume that if you are married/partnered you are presumed monogamous, in which case the onus is on each individual to take control of her/his health and request regular STI testing.

Unfortunately, depending on how judgmental your health care provider is, this can be a smooth process or a harrowing, embarrassing one. It should always be the former. All health care providers should create an environment in which any and all steps to ensure our health are met with acceptance and zero judgment. If you are met with judgment, move on to a healthcare professional who is mature and open-minded.

Just like the groups about which healthcare professionals make assumptions, the study compares demographic groups. Like any other demographic group as used in the study, such as "young," "gay," or "bisexual," "swingers" vary on the continuum of sexually responsible to sexually irresponsible.

This demographic grouping could include "married." Most adults engage in sexual activity and I wager that there are married partners engaged in NON-consensual non-monogamy, i.e. cheating, that don't use safer sex practices. By definition, they are irresponsible to their partners through their deceit and betrayal.

Creating a judgment of sexual behaviors based on with whom and with how many without taking into account the nature of the relationship is simply sex-negative and closed-minded.

A sex-positive perspective allows for sexual behavior that is enjoyed with safer sex practices regardless of with whom or how many partners. Just as we each have the right to decide for ourselves who our partners are and how many are appropriate, we each have the responsibility to respect ourselves and our partners by have informed conversations about our partners' sexual health and practicing safer sex.

Clearly, dealing in a mature, tolerant way regarding sexually open relationships is still beyond the capacity of our culture, as noted in the first line of this media coverage via The first lines we read:

"As well as skeeving us all out, swingers — couples who regularly swap partners at organized parties or clubs — may have rates of sexually transmitted infection (STI) that are higher than those in high-risk groups, like female prostitutes, a Dutch study found. Middle-aged swingers, over the age of 45, were particularly vulnerable to disease. Moreover, the authors of the study said in a statement, swingers, who by definition get around a lot, 'may act as an STI transmission bridge to the entire population.'"

We are then treated to the...ummm...thoughtful wrap up of the issue: "Overall, according to the survey, the average 45-year-old makes love once a week for about 22 minutes, in a bedroom, with the lights off. It may not be the most exciting model around, but it probably beats the hell out of getting the clap." mainstream media coverage is this sex-negative and makes erroneous assumptions and generalizations of swingers' behavior. That's the portrayal in mainstream media of consensual non-monogamy in 2010. Clearly, there is much consciousness-raising and progress to be made ahead of us.

We all have the right to our sexual happiness and health. A positive sexual life, with whomever and however we choose, is an integral part of the healthy whole person. The reality is people who respect themselves and their lovers take preventative measures to preserve their health whether they are married, partnered, single, gay, bisexual, heterosexual, swinger, polyamorous or any combination of the above.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Slow ride. . .

Prof and I enjoy watching The L Word together. Granted it has enjoyed it's season finale, we still mourn its ending and watch, watch and rewatch.

As I have come to expect, any time we are watching and a sex scene is afoot, Prof grumbles, "There's no way. Women take four times as long to even get one article of clothing off." Not that he is panting to see hot, naked, sexy women or even see the lovely, gorgeous sex scenes, actually he's just concerned that they are inauthentically portraying sex between and among women.

Prof is an all-female sex enthusiast and not in the leering, testosterone-soaked way. He has shared with me that watching women, or specifically me with female lovers, has opened his mind to the possibilities of inventive, slow, relaxed, yet wildly passionate sex.

I think we can all take a page from the all-female hot sex playbook and just enjoy the ride. Guess what? There are more erogenous zones than just the mouth, nipples and naughty bits. Explore, enjoy the journey, savor the sights, sounds, smells, tastes. . .really soak it all in.

Prof has blogged about this phenomenon in the form of us totally enjoying the soft swap experiences we have had because it takes male-female penetrative sex off the table. Not that there's anything wrong with that. . .but it can tend to preoccupy the guys and short-circuit the circuitous route to pleasure, if you know what I mean. Pleasure is pleasure and it comes in many forms, not just that of the penetrative orgasm.

With all that said, I humbly submit as a passionately omnisexual woman that all lovers (of anyone, not just me) should s.l.o.w. d.o.w.n. Really. Explore your partner. Savor your own enjoyment. Try out some 'new moves.' Breathe. Unless you are paying by the half-hour (not that there's anything wrong with that), take your time. The lovers I have enjoyed the most are the lovers that have taken their time. And, even the lovers who haven't I would enjoy that much more if they, you guessed it, took their time.

So, let's all do our part to prolong the pleasure, encourage your lovers to slow down, really do it right. Those of us who are sex connoisseurs recognize that the slower, the better, the more confident. So go indulge in some slow, sexy, hot playing. . .female, male, intersex, many, few, alone. . .it's all good. . .just do it s.l.o.w.l.y.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Swingers, swingers everywhere, so what must people think?

Prof and I had an experience of attending a large swingers party that required the group to gather in a public space before adjourning to a private party space. Although we were all aware that we were in public and it was still late afternoon, the familiarity and flirting among the group were clearly apparent. Out on a weekend night, everyone was excited to see one another and impatient to get the party started.

I couldn't help but glance around at the presumed monogamers strolling by observing the tame, yet escalating affections among the group. People dining outdoors at the restaurants across the street seemed to be attempting to cipher who was with whom to little avail.

It still to this day leaves me wondering what observers thought seeing people, like butterflies in a wildflower patch, moving seamlessly from one hottie to the next kissing hello and flirting mercilessly. Did they make us out to be a group of singles? And upon closer inspection were they shocked? Confused? Entertained? Turned on?

Although I can be the enthusiastic exhibitionist, I was less titillated and more intellectually curious about their impressions. I do believe that dispelling stereotypes about non-monogamers can stem from open illustrations that, guess what, we are pretty much just like everybody else. Now that's not to say I believe that swinger parties should be on display to the world to prove a point, certainly not after 10:00 p.m.! However, the consensual non-monogamy movement, if such a united front exists, could take a page from the GLBTQQIA movement and show the world through openness that we are everywhere.

With all that said, Prof and I are not there yet. And honestly, neither is our culture. Although we feel liberated and grateful for having examined the cultural and religious construct of mandated monogamy and come to the conclusion that it had no place in our relationship, we are keenly aware of the risks of being out in the current culture.

As Prof and I evolve in our relationship and as consensual non-monogamy continues to gain positive exposure and trend into the mainstream, we see light on the other side of the closet. Until then, we will continue our subtle progress toward being out and our obvious support of everything sex-positive.