When Fantasies Hurt

I have seen a few different search terms in my stats that indicate people are searching for resources around what to do when a particular fantasy is hurting their relationships. I think the idea behind this scenario is that a partner has shared a fantasy with you and perhaps now you feel insecure about yourself or your relationship and maybe you wish you didn’t know about the fantasy. Maybe your partner is so insistent on sharing the fantasy, or even making it materialize, that you are closing yourself off from your partner and are starting to feel like you are sexually incompatible.

That is a tricky, and probably painful, situation. What do you do?

First, I think it’s important to recognize that everyone has fantasies. We probably have different fantasies, but we are entitled to our own. They are ours, just like our feelings and thoughts are our own. Try cultivating your sense of independence around your fantasies and work on respecting your partner(s)’s imaginative boundaries as well.

Second, it can be helpful to view the sharing of fantasies as an intimacy-building component of a relationship. Viewed from this light, when a partner shares a fantasy, they aren’t doing it to make you feel less-than or insecure about yourself or your relationship, but because they feel close enough and safe enough with you to share a vulnerable part of themselves. It could even be viewed as a form of coming out, depending on how deeply someone has held onto a fantasy, and how much it makes up their sexual identity.

Third, it could also be helpful to work on assessing your own sexual intelligence and your ability to be GGG (Dan Savage’s acronym for good, giving, and game), in addition to your sexual soft and hard boundaries. Is the fantasy initially squicky to you? Can you imagine indulging it in some way, in some circumstances? Are you willing to talk about it or try it? Is it something that is absolutely non-negotiable to you?

Fourth, I think that Dan Savage has it right regarding the idea that people deserve to evaluate relationships not just based on traditional compatibility measures (personality, finances, living, kids, religion, etc) but on sexual compatibility as well. Try thinking of sex as a distinct category that you can use in evaluating your relationship with someone. It doesn’t make you shallow or ungrateful to evaluate a relationship based on your sexual compatibility: it makes you honest and it shows you are invested in assessing the long term sustainability of a relationship. (Obviously, determining how important a sexual incompatibility issue is to you is important in this as well. Maybe the sexual incompatibility isn’t that important to you, and maybe it’s a huge deal. Only you can answer that.)

Fifth, approach your partner with your honest feelings and thoughts around the fantasy sharing and start brainstorming possibilities for moving forward. Is the fantasy triggering some insecurities for you? What do you need from your partner? Do you need your partner to stop sharing the fantasy with you? Do you simply need some emotional reassurance? Would it be helpful to have some boundaries around sharing- for instance, we can talk about the fantasy a few times a week, and other times need to be reserved for other erotic play/talk?

Lastly, if the fantasy is taking up a large amount of space in your relationship (maybe it’s turned into a “third partner”) and it’s not a presence you want at all in any way, maybe it’s time to come to terms with the fact that you are not sexually compatible and move on to more compatible relationships. (And: if your partner is pushing you to do things that you are not comfortable with, that is another flag that your relationship is not sustainable. If you are uncomfortable, that is a sign that the fantasies may not be for you and maybe that your partner is not respecting your feelings and boundaries, which is not a healthy or satisfying way to be in relationship with someone.)

I’ll say for myself that J and I have gone through a little bit of this. Not in terms of really sharing fantasies that hurt one of us (at least to my knowledge) but in carving out specific times for specific kinds of erotic play (“we’ve talked about that a lot this week, I want to talk about this other fantasy tonight”). I have also had flashes of jealousy before in hearing some of J’s fantasies, but those feelings have largely been founded in fears that the fantasy would turn into reality and feeling like I wouldn’t be able to handle it right then. When I can ground myself in the moment and see the hotness of his fantasy myself, I have calmed myself down quite a bit, and been able to enjoy our erotic sharing (and, am also able to emotionally calm down over the long run with the confidence that I could handle it if the fantasy turned into a reality).

Have you ever shared a fantasy that has hurt your partner in some way? Have you ever been hurt by a partner’s fantasy? How have you negotiated that?


Sexual Violence, LGBTQ Community, & Trafficking

This week I was able to participate in a couple of webinars for work- one on domestic violence within the LGBTQ community, and the other on minor sex trafficking.  Because I see such an obvious intersection between sexual violence prevention and intervention and reclaiming healthy and equitable relationships, I wanted to share some of my notes with you all.

-Domestic violence and sexual assault hotlines often include the suggestion to call 911 if someone is experiencing an emergency. This does not really take into account the historical experience of many people of color and LGBTQ folks with the police. What would be a more just way of serving survivors when they call after hours?

-Have any of you seen the Power & Control Wheel? While it is used in many settings and is well liked by many therapists and advocates, it also simplifies the experience of many marginalized groups. The standard wheel definitely captures many common patterns and behaviors within violent and abusive relationships, but when creators have tried to tailor the wheel to different populations, they have not necessarily done a very good job. For instance, the P&C wheel for LGBTQ folks simply layers “homophobia” around the outside of the wheel without actually providing specific examples of how homophobia intersects with experiences of domestic violence.

-Tactics that abusers often use within LGBTQ relationships include: isolating and threatening to out the survivor, using the survivor’s vulnerabilities to keep them from leaving the relationship or reporting abuse, using a survivor’s internal oppression to their advantage, using children as pawns, using the smallness of the LGBTQ community to keep a survivor quiet, leveraging institutional violence to keep a survivor quiet, and playing off of any substance use/abuse that is going on.

-Intersectionality is a big component for any person, and particularly relevant for understanding abusive and violent dynamics within LGBTQ relationships where other marginalized identities exist (ethnic, poly, BDSM). So a queer person of color who is in a D/s relationship and is experiencing nonconsensual abuse will face a much more challenging situation in leaving or reporting the situation than a white straight person in a vanilla relationship.

Sex trafficking is different than consensual sex work. (This of course can get us into a discussion about what consensual means. To me, consensual means a “yes” given by all post-pubescent parties involved. The legal definition of consent, however, is very strict: if you are a minor-18 years- then you cannot legally give consent to sex.)

-Workers often refer to their pimps as “boyfriends” for a variety of reasons: many pimp-worker relationships start off as dating relationships which makes the relationship complex; the word pimp is often stigmatizing so workers often opt to refer pimps as dating partners instead

-The dynamics present within domestic violence and intimate partner violence relationships and trafficking relationships look very, very similar

-The Trafficking Victims Protection Act broadly affords victims rights to trafficking victims, because the Act recognizes trafficking as a crime (no kidding)


Expanding Energy

At the latest women’s group, we got into a conversation about whether we loved the forested and gray environment in the PNW/Portland, and whether we ever crave sunshine. One friend talked about her need not just for sunshine but for the desert sun and environment, in which her energy can expand outward infinitely further. Two others mentioned how their partners are similar. I talked about how I also experience a deep craving for the sun and for feeling warm sun on my skin. I can remember what it felt like to be in Hawaii, or growing up in California and laying in the backyard on the hot concrete. It warms the inside of me to even think about it. It is a deep longing to be in the sun, and I know how bouncy and awake and loving and excited and motivated I feel, even from a thirty minute walk in the sun.

How do you feel your energy expand? What gets you revved up and excited about your life? How do you engage with your core to stay rooted and secure so that your energy has a base from which to spread out? Is it the sun? Exercise? Yoga? Eating a good meal? Connecting with friends? Playing or listening to music? Meditating?


In the Closet Again

I am so excited that I have been able to stay involved in the local Sex Worker Outreach Coalition as part of my work. It gives me something to stay motivated about when I am sitting at a desk for eight hours a day, perusing Facebook and Pinterest (aka doing Nothing).

Last night, though, I re-experienced a familiar and uncomfortable feeling: being back in the closet.

A woman from the place I volunteered all of last year, who helps with the coalition, and another person on the coalition both know about my dancing experience. But I am not out to my new employer, supervisor, or coworkers. And I don’t have any plans for coming out, although I would prefer to be out. I am not concerned that my colleagues would out me (they are sensitive and informed about the stigmatization of sex workers). In fact, if I could be out at the coalition and not out at my home work base, I would be. What got me last night was the fact that there are a couple of dancers who are working with the coalition, and one was at the meeting last night. I felt so weird sitting there, knowing that she and I share an experience (and she knows I dance as well) and yet feeling totally stifled. And I felt envious as she is an out sex worker doing community organizing and activism.

This also rubbed up against a bunch of class stuff: is it because I am middle class and educated that people would have a hard time with my simultaneous “professional” employment and stripping work? If I came from a lower class background and didn’t have higher education would people “understand” my experience differently and perhaps accept my experience stripping more readily? I think it’s that victim-blaming/sex negative/sex work negative/patriarchal/madonna-whore sentiment of “Well you have other options! Why on earth would you strip?!” that I assume would come up. (And yet I know many other college educated strippers who have various other jobs… Maybe this question causes me so much anxiety because I don’t have a pretty, wrapped-up answer for people that would actually satisfy the question.)

I left the meeting feeling like I was going to cry. I couldn’t place the sadness I felt until I realized that by taking this 9-5 job that I was putting pieces of myself away for 40 hours a week. It’s not something I have had to do (except for around family- which has been it’s own big struggle as you all know). And it’s especially difficult given I have a lot of insider knowledge to offer and yet cannot back it up with how I have it (I had a conversation with my coworker and supervisor today talking all about strippers and clubs and other kinds of sex workers and continued to offer details about those experiences, and they kept looking at me like “Wow, how do you know all that?”)

There are definite pros to keeping myself in the closet. I don’t need to worry about the organization I work for retaliating against me based on any “professionalism” clause in their handbook. I don’t need to worry about stigma from my coworkers or supervisor, and won’t need to scrutinize interactions for discrimination or exclusion. I won’t need to think about my stripping experience interfering with future employers or recommendations.

But the cons weighed on me last night, and while they are not paining me as much right now, I think I’ll be dealing with them all more than I initially thought.


Christopher Ryan TED Talk

I love Sex at Dawn– many of you know if we are friends or if you’ve followed this blog since the beginning that the book is what kick started J and I into exploring nonmonogamy. There are those out there who find the book and arguments within it preposterous or outlandish or unsubstantiated. And the truth is- you can argue just about anything, especially when it gets into prehistorical human behaviors. But the overarching argument Ryan and Jetha make (that humans are evolutionarily and naturally promiscuous and that monogamy is a social construct) still holds for us, and the evidence that they bring together provides a really strong foundation for their argument. I still recommend that book highly to anyone who asks about it.

Here is Ryan on TED; it’s a solid video worth watching, and would be a great introduction for people who haven’t yet read the book and a nice recount for those of us who have read it.

A Room of Queer Women

Last night I attended a “speed dating” event for queer women with a good friend. I had no idea what to expect; I have rarely (maybe never?) attended an event only for women who are into other women. My queer community is pretty lacking. Once we got there, I was super nervous. I had barely any time to think about it during the week, and then all of a sudden- bam!- I was there, and I was sweating through my favorite white sweater.

It was totally Portland- held in a “chemical sanctuary,” we weren’t allowed to wear perfume, someone had brought raw truffles with an ingredient they explained was a “heart opener,” and I felt totally out of place in my gray cords and white sweater. Most people were wearing mismatched flowing pieces of clothing, scarves, no socks, jingly waist chains. I felt out of my element.

The evening flow was a bit off. There was a little too much structured talking and not event mingling and free-flowing movement. My friend and I left about the time they were going to start the “dance and speed dating” part (we’d been there for two and a half hours pretty much just talking). It was also intimidating for me since more than half of the people already knew each other. My social anxiety kept me sitting on the floor for most of it, breathing and trying to relax.

There was one person who I was instantly attracted to- someone who fits a particular “type” I tend to be attracted to. Short hair, more butch in appearance. But he was absolutely glowing from the inside out, totally radiant. Beautiful smile. My heart wants!! (my pussy too) But I got the impression he is perhaps maxed out with romantic connections… we’ll see if anything happens.

All in all, another good experience for me. I pushed my comfort level, got to connect with my good friend in another way, and also met a number of intelligent, conscious, and beautiful women. Happy Friday Night to Me! 🙂

Sexual Violence Prevention

I attended a training this week for work and while, overall, it was fairly boring, there was some food for thought about how kids learn about violence and its acceptability within relationships.

It makes sense that to prevent violence we would want to focus on the early part of life, right? (Similar to other prevention efforts: start when people are young, and you can instill values and behaviors that will help keep them healthy throughout life). Intervention is helpful, too, but prevention is more cost-effective and humane.

The presenter mentioned how she witnessed her granddaughters learning violence on the soccer field. Her granddaughter was awarded with applause and cheers when she took out a player from another team: violence = winning. How can we ensure that kids are able to separate out healthy competition from violence from interacting with teammates and competitors from interacting with friends, family, and intimate partners?

I think this also gets into all of the research behind how violent video games impact people’s perception of violence and understanding of gender roles.

Here are a couple of resources that do both prevention and intervention:

Futures Without Violence: this organization does a host of programs targeted toward different groups of people. Coaching Boys Into Men is specifically for young male athletes.

One Love Foundation: they have a phone app for supporting people in abusive relationships stay safe

If you’re a parent, how are you talking to your kids about sexuality and violence? If you’re not, how might you model to younger people what healthy and nonviolent relationships look like?

I Am Yours

Last night I saw “I Am Yours,” one of the films at this year’s Portland International Film Festival. For some reason, my friend and I thought it was a comedy (which is partly why we chose it)- but it wasn’t. So instead of having a piece of light-hearted and fluffy entertainment, I received something deeper to reflect on.

Here is the synopsis from the PIFF website:




Mina is a young single mother living in Oslo with her six-year-old son Felix. A Norwegian-Pakistani, she has a troublesome relationship with her family, who blame her for her divorce. Understandably: she’s a natural flirt, and while she has plenty of male companions, they tend not to hang around for long. One day, Mina meets Jesper, a Swedish film director, and they fall head over heels in love, but boy and man don’t exactly see eye to eye…. “I wanted to make a very naked and true story…. Often we see female characters being as good a person as possible. Mina is a normal human being, always running after being loved but not knowing what love is.”—Iram Haq. This year’s Norwegian submission for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.


The movie opens with Mina masturbating to porn- I already knew I was going to like her. And from there on out, we see that she accepts and welcomes her sexuality. Although her family is a traditionally hierarchical and patriarchal Indian family, she has somehow managed to divorce a husband (seemingly because she flirted too much with other men) and keep up with various lovers. I appreciated witnessing a character that has unbridled lust, a complex sense of what it means to be a parent, and a complicated way of interacting with her son, parents, and lovers.

The film illustrates the control her family seeks to have over her and her sexuality perfectly- it is unflinching and suffocating.

As I watched Mina run from lover to lover, I was struck by the title of the movie- “I Am Yours.” That seems to capture Mina’s approach to relationships and love- handing all of herself over to whatever romantic partner is in front of her. But that leaves her with none of herself to tend to. Even the modeling from her family around parental-child relationships and love show that parents do not love and accept their children unconditionally, a pattern that she does not exactly emulate although she does end up physically abandoning her own child. I kept rooting for her silently: You are all yours! Through her parents trying to control her life and her relationships, her ex husband pressuring her to behave in different ways as a parent, and her various lovers manipulating and using her in ways that suit only them, I watched her hand over herself to the people in her intimate life and then silently move through her days. The movie ends quietly, with her alone. I was left wishing that she finds herself, collects all of the pieces of herself she has given away unknowingly, and reclaims her sense of identity.

I think the movie shows the rub between different value systems: interdependence and familial obligation, individualism, sexuality as freedom, sexuality as sin. If you have a chance or ability to see the film for yourself, I recommend it.

Life Partner Things

My life has been very full, and very blessed, recently. J and I are now looking at buying a house, with the help and support from our families. It has been an exciting, at times stressful, process. But I feel so grateful that we are able to do this together.

The process has brought up the ideas of people who are Aspirers, Partners, and Lovers (from The Sex Diaries Project, which I loved). J and I tend to settle out as Partners- we love doing things day-to-day together. However, I love being Lovers with him, and making my sexual experiences centered around what we explore together as a couple (with exceptions of course). All of this working and house business has brought the Aspirers piece up to the forefront, and  I think it is the first time in our seven years together that we have really had this relationship function come up. We have saved money together to get a dog and go on vacations and to make sure we are both comfortable living month-to-month, but it’s never been a huge conversation because neither of us had full time paid work until now. And now that we do, we can actually make longer-term goals together. It’s an adjustment, and reminds me of the idea that we wear different hats at different times.

All of this also speaks to this idea of a Life Partner. When J and I decided that that’s how we wanted to refer to one another, we decided that we could see staying with one another for as long as we could see, and therefore wanted to combine our Stuff in real ways: getting married, joint finances, buying a house, supporting one another if and when one of us works and the other doesn’t. Getting to now experience more goal-planning and actualizing reminds me of how grateful I am to have such an intelligent and motivated life partner.

We can be different things with our partners at different times, depending on the context and circumstances. But what if we can’t or won’t or don’t want to? It is awesome to me to have a life partner who I can not only Partner with day-to-day and be a Lover with at various times, but who I can also Aspire with. Sometimes, though, there are parts of our lives that we want to share with others, whether that’s having a ski buddy or a tea buddy or a massage friend or someone to have casual sex with. I am thankful to have a life partner than I can share so much with, and it’s also important for me to remember the dynamic nature of our relationship and the flexibility we both have to fulfill all of ourselves in ways outside of our relationship.