Women in Crossfit

Last week I was at the gym and was completely captivated watching the women crossfit games on the TV. It was like something shifted deeply inside my gut watching buff, strong, muscle-y women lift weights, run, and be all-around bad asses. I am so used to the small and petite women gymnasts, ice skaters, cheerleaders. While I know buff women athletes abound during the Olympics, it’s something different to watch women do typical “manly” exercises like lift massive amounts of weight versus running around a track or swimming. I just loved watching these super fit, but not tiny, women compete with one another. That whole mantra, Fit is the new skinny, could be the tagline for crossfit. It’s not just “fit,” though- it’s “built.” It was inspiring.

Another experience from the week that I felt was worth sharing: I didn’t wear a bra to work one day. I don’t have large breasts, and so I know it’s far less noticeable, but I felt self-conscious the whole day. Upon telling J this via text, he responded with the best thing: “Just treat it like a feminist thing and be proud! You shouldn’t have to wear a bra to make other people comfortable.” When I read that, I sat up a bunch straighter, and felt immediately better. Yeah! Thanks J!

And, for the second very noticeable time in the past couple of weeks, I had an experience that is hammering home one of my most salient personal lessons right now: I’m not the center of attention all the time. I know that sounds juvenile and dumb, but that’s often where personal insecurities lie at their root I suppose. They are complaints from being two years old that have never quite grown up. Realizing that a new love has other new loves and isn’t as interested in creating something deep, and realizing that a new flame has other connections right now- examples of experiences that are hard for me to digest. But the simplicity of being honest about these feelings has helped immensely. I have just felt for moments here and there like this: What? What about me? Pay attention to ME! Hey, come on! I’m not the center of your world?! And then moments later, I snap out of it. It’s embarrassing, but it’s the truth. It is helpful to meditate on the scarcity versus plenty model of life, but only after I’ve snapped out of it.

Besides all that, my fabulous weekend consisted of yummy, hot casual sex, seeing friends, painting, dancing for buku bucks, and beaching. Thank goodness for ten hours of sleep last night!

More On Sexual Agreements

Okie dokie, more discussion on Amara Charles’ Sexual Agreements.

Like I do, I have pulled out my favorite passages to share with you all, and bolded sections that I found particularly powerful. I enjoy sharing directly from the author, so you can get a true sense of their words and intentions.

Adding on to my general impressions from last week, I will emphasize again that while Charles has a specific viewpoint of what open relationships look like (you always put your partner first, having multiple partners has no name and is necessarily casual, etc), this book is a fresh and fast read for thinking about how, when, and why one would have honest conversations with partners about sex, freedom, and security. I recommend the book as another approach to kick-starting sexual honesty within relationships.

Favorite passages and notes:

“…there is no simple answer to the question of sexual freedom within a relationship. It is a very private and personal agreement between partners. One thing I do know is that when one begins exploring outside the accepted rules that most people live by, serious questions arise. As soon as some of the long-held inhibitions about sex start to shift, a new curiosity sets in. Many partners want to try different things and explore new sexual possibilities. An idea of greater sexual freedom arises. There is the idea of greater communication and more sensitivity, but there is little experience. A lot of miscommunication, fear, and deep emotions can rise to the surface.” (pxv)

“For whatever reason, honest communication about sex can trigger emotional upheavals within our relationships. When we begin to express intimate sexual feelings our fear, jealousy, possessiveness, or anger can easily arise. Sexual energy is very powerful, making it important that we be patient and tolerant with our self and our partner. It takes time and great care to make changes in our sexual ways. There are going to be doubts and mistakes. I haven’t met anyone who started creating sexual agreements without making some mistakes along the way.” (pxvi)

“Consciousness within our relations is the great awakening. It is only because of fear that consciousness remains cluttered. At some point, however, one notices how much of our precious life is wasted by living in the confusion and doubt we carry about sex.” (pxvii)

“Broken agreements can foster tension and mistrust. There is a way, however, to bypass all the drama and emotional battles that ensue. Rather than argue over who did what or who said what, determine why the agreement is not working in the first place. In other words, it is useless to blame each other. Take another look at the agreement itself.” (p4)

“You will know when you have created an understanding between you that is mutually beneficial because living these agreements will generate greater trust and intimacy, and more love between you.” (p5)

Common mistakes made when making agreements: misunderstanding the agreement, boundaries versus agreements (analogous here to to what Veaux and Rickert in More Than Two would call rules versus agreements), making agreements at the wrong time, keeping true feelings hidden, assuming the agreement is finished, ignoring small transgressions, forgetting agreements between self and spirit,

“Treat the fulfilling of agreements as sensitive journeys into new territory, even if you have had the agreement for years.
Talk to each other every time something within an agreement is put to the test. Do this all the time, not just the first time. Even though this may seem obvious or trivial, many forget to connect intimately and thank their partners for their trust and care.” (p15)

“A powerful way to alter patterns of broken agreements in your relationship is to completely honor all your personal agreements. The more care you give regarding your own honesty, truth, and integrity in all matters, the more grace you will have within your intimate sexual agreements. Honor the spirit and the letter of every single agreement you make, and the level of integrity with your intimate partner will increase.” (p16-7)

Sexual agreements within monogamous relationships:

“Agreements that are mutually beneficial nourish each part- ner and allow the deepest gifts of both to flourish. They are not about trapping one another into staying faithful or roping each other into a tangle of heavy obligations. A good agreement is continually clarifying why you want to be together.
To stay with anyone, it is important to keep asking yourself why you want to be together. Most people assume they know. It seems obvious because there are children, a house, and career(s). All these things may be the fruits of your relationship. But if outer things are the reasons you are together, then monogamy will get stale and old—and the sex gets boring.” (p29)

“Being faithful and loyal, making a daily decision that “this is the one person I want to be with intimately” is a profound choice, but only when it’s chosen consciously.” (p30)

Sexual agreements within open relationships: “Freedom in relationships is a consequence of under- standing, care, and sharing good experiences with each other. Freedom does not come from demanding it. Neither does love.” (p41)

“Statistics show that most car accidents happen within 25 miles of home. Something similar happens with the people we are closest to. We relax our communication and we get lazy. We will often say or do things to an intimate partner we wouldn’t dream of saying or doing to a stranger. While we often reserve our “best” for our loved ones, unfortunately we dole out our worst qualities as well.” (p61)

“It’s important to have patience with this, because we were taught that agreements are about telling each other what we can and cannot do. We were not included in making the rules we live by, and we were not taught to create the kind of lives that include enjoying our lovers’ happiness and freedom. Most of us have inherited agreements that were attempts to limit, regulate, and guard what we think belongs to us. We have very little experience with being generous, tolerant, or wise with regard to each other’s feelings and needs—especially when it comes to sex.
Most agreements are efforts to make something turn out the way you want it to. They are attempts to possess someone, maintain the status quo, avoid discomfort, and lessen the shock of the unknown. The desire for some kind of guarantee that “we will be together forever” is actually the ego’s way of expressing its infantile, self-centered feelings of entitlement. Especially in the sexual arena, deep down one feels entitled to affection, love, and sex. The ego tries to protect itself by seeking to obtain a guarantee in hopes of getting what it wants. Making agreements from this position is nothing more than an attempt to get from people what you think they owe you.” (p61-2)

“As a thunderstorm leaves clear fresh air in its wake, the upheavals in our intimate relationships generate waves of opportunity that carry the promise of improving our lives considerably.” (p64)

“The secret to keeping casual sexual experiences as harmonious and empowering aspects within our sexual life is to be clear about what each encounter is, what it is for, and to be clear about what it is not.” (p74)

“…the sweet intimate companionship that an enduring love relationship provides, a casual encounter cannot. Whereas waves of sexual passion will ebb and flow like seasons during the span of an enduring partnership, the whole beauty of a casual encounter is its brevity.” (p75)

“Transformational sex can range from enjoying a cozy evening with our lover, to self-pleasuring with images of the moon and stars, to an unusual encounter with a stranger. It all depends on the intention you carry in your mind.” (p80)

“It is important to understand the difference between our body’s need for sex, and the need we have for intimacy in a relationship. When we are healthy our body has surges of sexual feeling. Totally ignoring the body’s needs is as harmful as carelessly indulging in every sexual urge. Women and men need both emotional intimacy and physical sex. There is no need to feel guilty about either one. At times our needs for intimacy and sex may converge, but at times we can satisfy them separately. It is beautiful when they are met at the same time with the same person, but this may not always be the case. Be clear about the differences and do not mistake one thing for another. What matters is understanding that both our sexual needs and intimate needs are equally important yet different. Sexual passion is as important as sensuous intimacy. They may not always be equally expressed or satisfied and may be met together or separately in different ways.” (p83)

“It is as if we are simultaneously wired to seek the safety of an intimate relationship while at the same time we also want the freedom to enjoy whatever we find attractive. Unless we learn to consciously create both the security we need as well as the room to explore the variety of what arouses us, our agreements are destined to confine us rather than become platforms for lift off into deeper experiences of life. Good sexual agreements ensure that we will have the comforts of intimacy and the freedom to explore our natural sexual attractions as well.” (p85)

FlowerDrops

Sexual Agreements

A good friend sent me a book about a month ago, and I’m almost done with it: Sexual Agreements by Amara Charles. (I haven’t found it online, which is why there isn’t a link to it). However, Amara’s website is here.

I’ll post a full review once I’m done reading it (probably next Friday), but here are my initial impressions and responses to the book:

-I appreciate her unwavering focus on honesty, emotional boundaries, communication skills, and self awareness. All of these are essential in having positive conversations about sexual needs, desires, and preferences.

-I also appreciate that her book seems to be built on the idea that two people in a relationship deserve to be sexually compatible, and thus deserve to have honest conversations with each other about their sexual identities.

-She has really particular ideas about what open relationships are, and even mentions at what point that “there isn’t a word to describe being involved with more than one person” (something along those lines)…. I’m pretty sure that there are dozens of words to describe those different kinds of relationships. So far, I have only seen her reference or discuss open relationships that are built on a primary dyad in which each person only has casual sex with other people.

-She offers excellent questions for self reflection and reflection with a partner surrounding comfort levels, jealousy, and what kinds of agreements make sense for you.

Next week I would like to offer my favorite passages with further thoughts. 🙂 Let me know if you have read it, or her other book The Sexual Practices of Quodoushka, and what your thoughts are!

Happy Friday!

Queer Models, Weddings, Pussy

My fave links this past week:

I love me some queer hot mamis: 20 Out Models We Love

Guess which kind of wedding J and I had: Every Wedding You Will Ever Attend: A Field Guide

The next video in asking strangers to do stuff with each other; I can’t help but love it: The Director Behind the “First Kiss” Video Is Back with “Undress Me”

I personally want one of her pussy phone covers. And I hope the attention brought to her arrest helps bring the irony to light: Japanese Artist Megumi Igarashi Arrested for 3D Printed Artwork Based on Her Vagina (nsfw)

On explicit, proactive communication, invisible fences, and fuzzy landmines: How to (not) trip/blow up poly relationships | SoloPoly

And, for those of you into reading academic-y, philosophical things related to sex, relationships, identity, and sex work: Philosophy of Sex

Labor

The new club I am working at is proving to be well worth my time. While the shifts are an hour longer, my ability to work nights has been lucrative. There are a lot of bar regulars, but there have also been many customers willing to dole out the money. For some reason, it’s like I realize again and again once I get to the club that it’s work, and being able to take advantage of that flow of cash has been extremely helpful the past six months.

My focus on stripping as labor also has become clear when I am talking to customers who want to date outside of the club- which I have had happen much more often at this new place. Trying to gently decline while still maintaining their interest in spending money is really tricky. Customers who come in and try to pick up strippers is not unusual- strip clubs are places of fantasy and hope. But I’m still dumbfounded when it happens. Why do you think I’m here? So I can meet dates? Ha, no. The unwillingness of customers, or maybe just the naivete (although I doubt it), to see strippers as workers just boggles my mind. But again, that is part of building and maintaining fantasy: customers know that they must pay money in order to enjoy strippers’ performances, company, and more intimate/private interactions, but many also seem in denial that there is a flow of money and exchange facilitated by money and want to believe that if the money exchange stops the sexual exchange would continue.

In other sex work-y news, my first support group went well! We had a nice mix of workers (three people, who have danced, escorted, and done web-based and phone-based work) and our brainstorming for topics was fun. Safety planning, financial planning, legal rights, self care, activism, and networking/building community all came up. I’m excited to see how this group forms up.

Recent news that I wanted to share, too:

Nicolas Kristof’s Sweatshop Boner

I love love love Tits and Sass. Their Week in Links post are great and totally packed with other sex worker related news. Check it out!

Community v Individual Solutions to Jealousy

This post is inspired by a recent read, Jealous of what? Solving polyamory’s jealousy problem.

Basically, the author argues that all modern polyamory resources offer solutions to jealousy based on an individual’s responsibility for taking care of themselves. In my public health program, we often talked about “portrait” versus “landscape” stories: in a portrait, you see one person. In a landscape, though, you see not only the person but their environment. This framing of stories and the problems within them pushes the reader to understand a specific set of solutions. This is my long-winded way of saying: if you see jealousy as an individual problem, you are likely to see the solution as individually specific.

The author offers an alternative: viewing jealousy as a structural and community challenge means we have the opportunity to see structural solutions to managing jealousy.

This article was a complete breath of fresh air to me. And not because I dislike the typical advice offered by poly advice folks, but because it offers a broader lens from which to view jealousy. It reminds me, too, of my brief counseling program experience and learning about the importance of how both people in the dyad shape relationship function. One person can never be 100% responsible for what happens in a relationship; the division of responsibility is inherently divvied up as there are multiple people shaping expectations, communication, “rewards,” and “punishments.” To say that jealousy management is 100% my responsibility has definitely left me feeling overwhelmed, disheartened, and lonely at times. I agree that I am responsible for how I respond to my thoughts and emotions and how I behave, but I appreciate the space this view allows for looking at how and why jealousy manifests in poly relationships.

The author’s thesis that intimate social networks build trust which alleviates jealousy makes a lot of sense to me. The more distance and unknown there is with regards to my partner’s partners breeds doubt, uncertainty, fear (for me, anyway). The more closeness, the more I am able to understand.

Quote of note:

“My hypothesis is that the more shifts that occur within a polyamory network, the more jealousy that occurs, which then requires higher degrees of individualistic emotion management.  In other words, individual freedom in relationships has an evil twin of individual constraint of emotion.

For those for whom individual freedom in relationships is the highest value, it may be worth the individual jealousy management that results from putting love on the free market.   But for those who don’t want to be faced head-on with the green-eyed monster, the advice literature is in denial about which approaches to polyamory lead to a higher or lower probability of jealousy.  There are no tools provided beyond individual emotion work for how to manage jealousy for those who want a communal, less individualistic approach to polyamory. ”

What do you think?

Attachment & Sex

How do you limit attachment to other people that you form intimate sexual relationships with?

I think this question comes with an assumption: that one wants to limit attachment to other sexual partners. I don’t necessarily operate that way in my relationship with other people. If I want to explore other connections with a sexual partner, whether that be emotional or social or spiritual, I would consider it, depending on how such a connection fits in with my current relationship(s) and other life stuff.

But, if you are operating from a foundation that says you should or want to limit those attachments and connections, these are my (philosophical, perhaps not super helpful) thoughts:

-Investigate your feelings toward what sex, love, and lust all mean to you. If you know that you are highly unlikely to enjoy casual sex, or that having sex at all with someone leads to deep feelings for someone else, and you’re trying to stay away from such feelings, perhaps casual sex isn’t your best route for connection with others. Perhaps, though, making  boundaries for yourself around what those different things mean will make a difference in your ability to stay clear about how your experiences impact you.

-Similarly, being able to parse out your emotions clearly will help in compartmentalizing your sexual experiences from your romantic-sexual ones. If you can identify your feelings of lust and know that those are different than the feelings of love for a long term romantic partner, that may help in giving yourself a reality check on what your emotions are telling you.

-If you are already in new relationship energy (NRE) bliss, then it might also be a good time for a reality check: think the relationship and connection through. It’s hard to do when you are over the moon about someone and their energy, but as best you can, try to keep a level head and put the connection in perspective to the rest of your life.

-Define what “intimate” sex versus “casual” sex is for you. Perhaps try reframing some of your sexual experiences one way or another to see how it makes a difference in the attachments you feel.

-Define your boundaries. Boundaries are the things YOU get to set for yourself. Who gets access to your space, mind, heart, and body? When? Why? How? If you don’t want to let someone into your emotional world, you don’t have to. You can still be kind, but you don’t have to grant anyone and everyone access to your heart, including sexual partners.

-Think about why forming attachments to sexual partners is an undesirable consequence of the relationship. Forming an attachment doesn’t necessarily mean you owe that partner a commitment of some kind (except for those you have discussed and negotiated). Sure, it can hurt to have someone we are attached to leave or hurt us, but that is a risk we take through forming relationships, being vulnerable, and becoming attached to others.

-Conversely (or perhaps not), consider the Buddhist teaching that attachment leads to suffering. How can you love deeply, connect authentically, and yet also free yourself from expectations that a relationship look, act, or be a certain way? (I find the work of Byron Katie to be extremely helpful here)

Does anyone else have any other suggestions, insights, etc.?