Portland Poly Utopia

Portland has so many amazing resources for those of us interested in, dabbling in, and practicing various kinds of open relationships. This last weekend, I attended a couple of workshops in the second annual Polytopia, hosted by Sex Positive Portland. It was a pretty gorgeous reminder of the diversity in our community. (And I was reminded of similar thoughts I wrote several years ago here.)

Did you know that Portland boasts THREE lifestyle/swinger clubs now? Club Privata (formerly Club Sesso), The Velvet Rope, and Sanctuary which promotes itself as more of a queer lifestyle club (which is a huge breath of fresh air- I haven’t yet visited the club, but am really excited to. We know the owners and have huge confidence about the space and atmosphere). We also have Catalyst, which is a kinky sexy space (I also have not yet been there, but have plans!). SPEEC (Sex Positive Education & Event Center) hosts a community calendar, and I am continually shocked and grateful for how many sexy, kinky, and loving events (attended by so many sexy, kinky, and loving individuals) are happening in this city.

Just a thankful note for living in a place that welcomes and nurtures queer, poly, kinky, sexy people.

 

The Poly Bachelor(ette)

(FYI. I’m bored at work. And this is entertaining to me)

I recently started watching The Bachelor for the first time in my life, and it’s hysterically awful. A fantastic reverberation of mainstream ideas about love and romance. I love it for it’s terribleness.

And then I started thinking: where would this show go if the assumed foundation was polyamory instead of monogamy? There would be far less distress over choosing the “right” person and a focus on how many different relationships feed a person, and the highly intricate and mature communication that must take place. Different kinds of connections would be valued.

Instead of where we are right now (Nick and his final four potential The Ones, Vanessa, Rachel, Corinne, and Raven), in total heartache and deep competition, we might be somewhere a little happier, if maybe a little more boring…

Corinne enters Nick’s room, offering her sexual favors. Because Nick has been communicating transparently with the other women in his life about his attractions to Corinne, he feels comfortable proceeding with having sex with her. He know the other women will feel insecure but is ready to offer reassurances to all of them. He doesn’t see Corinne as his long term life partner, but values her as a strong and independent person in his life and is excited to continue to cultivate a creative and passionate relationship with her.

The next day, he enjoys an adventurous outing with Raven and can feel the sweetness building between the two of them. At dinner that night with Rachel, he is intellectually stimulated in a deep way and remembers the fiery spark that draws him to her. At breakfast the next day, he feels intensely vulnerable and emotional with Vanessa and it’s so therapeutic to be with her.

Maybe there isn’t The One here… maybe he has instead met several amazing partners. And he begins to negotiate needs and boundaries.

Vanessa refuses to be in a polyamorous relationship, which is her right. Nick is deeply disappointed that they are unable to meet one another’s needs, but feels hopeful for her that she will meet a deserving man interested in monogamy. Rachel is interested in something flexible and with a high degree of partnered commitment. Raven is more interested in running her business and likes the idea of having two adventurous vacations together a year. Corinne similarly wants to continue to grow and deepen their sexual relationship. All three woman talk together about fears and needs and desires. Nick hears them and they hear each other. And they move forward in a daring and bold life. 

I solved it! 🙌

My Framily

For the second time in my life, I am in a class requiring me to create a genogram- essentially a family tree that uses symbols to denote characteristics like gender identity, family ties, marriages, divorces, family secrets, miscarriages and abortions, pets, sexual orientation, mental health diagnoses, substance abuse, and any other applicable dynamics. In mine, I also include domestic violence, poly relationships, education, and geography.

A few years ago, I discussed creating a critical sexual genogram, which is a variation on the traditional method that I totally love.

The last time I made one for class, I created it based on family ties and marriages. This time, I decided to include my framily- those friends of mine who have, over time, become family to me. 

Especially right now, when the world seems like total shit, it is extremely strengthening and heartening to me to see, on paper, the people who rely on me and who I rely upon, who I trust and love and care about. Who I know are genuinely kind and compassionate people, who are all doing their best in their own ways, of making the world a better place.

I talked to my sister on the phone tonight, and she was asking me, How do I not let the stress I’m experiencing from all of The Shit get to me? There’s only so much I can do! I have to work and I can’t know everything about everything, and there’s so little in my control.

I feel you, sis. Making my genogram tonight was so helpful though- people matter. People doing their best to be kind MATTER. Small actions matter. It can be hard to remember that, especially when we have been watching such big, destructive things happening so quickly. Creating community, building authentic relationships, continually striving to be more compassionate and loving people- that all matters, and it does make a difference.

Cheers to small actions, kind deeds, and the people who make the world brighter. I love you all, FramBam. You help me keep the hope that things, eventually, will be better for everyone. 

Kitchen Table Poly

I have often thought that I was comfortable with both kitchen table poly and parallel poly, as defined by Kimchi Cuddles. I have told many potential and actual partners that they needn’t feel pressure to interact with J and that I don’t expect everyone to be best friends. I still foundationally believe those things, but it is becoming increasingly clear that I prefer the kitchen table model. I love it when my best friend/J’s partner is around all the time: she and I spend time together and the two of them spend time together, and the three of us hang out all together often. We share stories, make nachos, hot tub, walk the dogs, and more. I love the intimacy that we have developed, and the safety and security I feel with both of them.

My boyfriend is learning about poly and has become increasingly comfortable with various aspects of it. It’s been almost six months of dating and he and J don’t really know each other, except what they each know of each other through what I’ve shared. I want it to feel comfortable for both of them if they run into each other in the morning or J and I have a party and boyfriend comes. I want them to genuinely appreciate each other, even if most of that appreciation comes from a respect of who they each are in my life. 

But I don’t want, and I can’t, force that kind of intimacy-building connection that J and best friend and I have been creating. Both J and boyfriend are open to hanging out one on one, after I expressed my need for increased integration. It’s tough for me to know that they are pretty different from each other, and tough to accept the fact that they just may not like each other on a very deep level (although I hold out hope that they may in time like each other). I appreciate each of them for being willing to think about hanging out more.

What kind of poly structure do you have, do you like, would you want? What factors are important to consider? What kinds of situations would you make exceptions for?

Nonoppressive Poly

I recently read this piece titled “9 Strategies For Non-Oppressive Polyamory” on the Black Girl Dangerous blog. It is from a few years ago, and completely thought-provoking. I shared it with my innermost open family and had some lively discussion about it. I write this piece from my position as a middle class, white, cis, queer, femme woman.

First of all, I agree wholeheartedly with the author when they write:

“Polyamory doesn’t get a free pass at being radical without an analysis of power in our interactions.  It doesn’t stop with being open and communicative with multiple friends, partners, lovers, etc. We’ve got to situate those relationships in broader systems of domination, and recognize ways that dating and engaging people (multiple or not) can do harm within those systems.  Our intimate politics are often the mostly deeply seated; it’s hard work to do.”

It is deeply important to me that my partners and I, my poly family, and my larger poly community continue to find value in self-growth, self-awareness, and becoming healthier in communication and relating to one another. Dating as poly does not automatically mean that someone is “healthy” or “open-minded” or more self-aware than someone else, and it is not some destination that one reaches in personal growth and evolution. We must continue to deconstruct and reconstruct our relationships so that they are as healthy and compassionate as possible.

Go take a look at the piece and then come back.

To start, here are the two points that I take some issue with:

“4. Remember that polyamory doesn’t make you radical all on its own, regardless of which directions your desire is oriented.   We all have these preferences based on race, class, ability, gender, etc that need deep work and questioning.  Dating 5 White cisgender people at once isn’t necessarily a radical act.”

I basically disagree. I think daring to show love, commitment, and care to more than one romantic or sexual partner IS a radical act in a capitalist and patriarchal society, especially for women, as we have historically been tied to monogamy (whereas men have had much more freedom to experience nonmonogamy). I also do not think that one must date people who hold marginalized identities in order to “prove” to anyone else that they are radical lovers. Please, do your work on uncovering your biases and prejudices and intentionally educate yourself and use your privilege to support people from marginalized communities. Again, though, daring to be honest and authentic and sharing that authentic self with the world IS, in my opinion, a radical act that I wish I saw more of in the world.

“7. Keep in mind that ‘poly’ is not a category of oppression in and of itself.  This is not a monogamist-supremacist world.  There are material privileges that support your access to the possibility of non-monogamy–ie the fact that you are able to make this choice.”

This one is pretty dicey to me. I have had experiences coming out to people as open/poly that support me in thinking that I was being intentionally hurt because I was not monogamous. Our culture and society, too, privileges those in monogamous relationships and marriages. I do think that the system of monogamy is intertwined with the systems of patriarchy and sexism (and all of the other systems of oppression in various ways), and that perhaps it cannot stand on its own like patriarchy can. I think that for people who are rejected from their families of origin or denied child visitation rights because they are in nonmonogamous relationships, it is too black-and-white to say that “This is not a monogamist-supremacist world.”  In addition, while there are material privileges that may make nonmonogamous pursuits easier (more money and time off for dating), there is also the argument that having nonmonogamous relationships supports families in lower income positions.

To close, I do want to highlight a couple of points that resonated with me:

“1. Don’t treat your partners like they’re less or more than one another based on super hierarchical divisions.  Numbering and ranking don’t make for resistive queer relationships; openness and compassion do.  Your secondary partners are not secondary people–they’re just not the folks you might devote the most time or energy to in a particular way.”

Yes, yes, yes. A partner may be more primary because I share a home, finances, and long-term goals with them, as well as a longer history and the intimacy that comes from having navigated many ups and downs with them. That does not mean that another partner does not have value or priority in my life, and it is important to find the specific ways of communicating that to people in my life. I like this recent Kimchi Cuddles comic addressing the issue of “primary” relationships.

“9. Finally, remember that polyamory is not a new or edgy concept invented in the Western world.  It’s a millenia-old idea to have and value multiple relations.  Let’s avoid perpetuating that cultural erasure.”

Again, yes. Nonmonogamous relationships and cultures are much older than 1960s swinging in the U.S. Just as we can find evidence of patriarchal and monogamous relationship structures and cultures dating back as old as humans, so can we find evidence of matriarchal and nonmonogamous relationship structures and cultures just as old.

Superstitious

I’m sitting/sweating in my 83* kitchen, with a bowl of orange chicken courtesy of Costco, listening to Stevie Wonder’s “Superstitious.”

Something deep has shifted for me this summer. Something deep inside has shifted in a way that will never shift back to a “before.” There is only “now” (and the “future,” which I could never predict anyway).

This week I’ve eaten: Chicken burrito. BshelovesmeshelovesmenotBQ kettle chips. A truly insane amount of 85% dark chocolate. Green chile chicken sausages. A disgusting amount of mac ‘n cheese. Malted ice cream. And now the orange chicken. I’m PMSing, to be sure, but also going through the most unique “break up” that I’ve experienced.

Pretty much everyone who cares about me could have (and did) predicted that I’d be here now, three months later, a bit heartbroken and (yes, still) confused as fuck. It was still worth it, and maybe it’s not entirely over. (If she’d text me back, I could get on with that conversation).

Besides feeling heartbreak over someone who didn’t even think of us as “dating,” (despite sleepovers, falling asleep in each other’s arms, kissing, having emotionally and mentally intimate conversations, and being treated like each other’s “daters”- introductions to friends and families and touching lower backs in front of people) this summer has also been a witness to:

-My desire to have my own bedroom. I’m moving up into the attic! J, you can do whatever you want with that front bedroom.

-Conversations with our best friends about them moving into our basement. Communal living has never been more appealing to me.

-My concrete realization that touch and time are too important to me to go without in relationships.

-My sister and her girlfriend becoming engaged, and several other friends getting married or engaged.

-My decision to leave my full time job in lieu of teaching (continuing on with Human Sexuality and adding Women’s Reproductive Health) and dancing and continuing on with school.

-Intense community (dis)engagement in my local sex worker community.

-The closing of Club Sesso in Portland. So so so so much sadness over that.

-Further questioning of what it means to be queer, poly, communicative, assertive, and respectful. Why have I now met so many, and felt the attitude from others, that you can’t really be a woman who loves other women if you also love men? I don’t like it.

-Questioning unhealthy and abusive dynamics in relationships that are close to me.

-Some continued self-acceptance, appreciation, and love for myself and my physical body.

-Questioning of the importance of sex (shocking perhaps- especially if you are a longtime reader of mine). Specifically- witnessing the development of the feeling of romantic love without sex happening in a relationship. I’m still letting that sift through my brain.

-Reading a few books, all of which I would recommend- Janet Mock’s memoir on growing up trans, Redefining Realness; Sarah Katherine Lewis’ memoir on her work in the sex industry, Indecent; and local Sarah Mirk’s Sex From Scratch. I’m also in the middle of both of Brene Brown’s Gifts of Imperfection and Daring Greatly.

-My overhaul of my OKC account. I even bought the stupid A-list membership so I could change my username.

When I opened my computer, I felt excited- I haven’t let myself have this kind of down-time in so long. And enough down-time to where I have the energy and interest in blogging. I want to do it like I used to do it. And maybe I will, but like I said at the beginning, there can never be a “before.” There is only “now,” and for today, right now I am doing this thing that I love.

I hope all of your summers have been rich and full heart-achey and full of learning and longing and love. Hopefully I will see you all soon.

Love & Complications

“There must be something in the water
And there must be something about your daughter
She said our love ain’t nothing but a monster
Our love ain’t nothing but a monster
With 2 HEADS!

I turn to you, you’re all I see
Our love’s a monster with 2 heads and one heartbeat
I turn to you, you’re all I see
Our love’s a monster with 2 heads and one heartbeat
We just got caught up in the moment
Why don’t you call me in the morning instead
Before we turn into a monster
Before we turn into a monster with 2 heads
I hope to god I’ll love you harder
I hope to god I’ll love you longer
If only I could live forever
If only I could hold you longer”

~Coleman Hell, “2 Heads”

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

This: https://www.morethantwo.com/gamechanger.html

Specifically: “Game changers change things. That’s kind of the definition. They upset existing arrangements. People confronted with a game-changing relationship will not be likely to abide by old rules and agreements; the whole point of a game-changing relationship is that it reshuffles priorities and rearranges lives.”

inspirational-quotes_15501-0

“I now affirm that I can let go of loved ones.”

Those of you who know me well, either through this blog or in person or both, know that I feel my feelings quickly and deeply, and that I am often overwhelmed by them. That is just part of who I am, and luckily, my ability to manage them and talk about them has improved as I have gotten older and acquired more and better skills.

What happens, though, when you kiss someone that has, until that point, felt unreachable, and it feels both magnetic and explosive, and the electricity courses through your core out to your fingers and toes? What does that mean?

These are truths: I have not truly and deeply wanted to spend the night with anyone else since J and I opened up, until now. Spending the night with someone has always felt very intimate to me, and not an activity I take lightly, and I am now noticing that I want this. I have been very busy lately. And yet time opens up when something like this happens. I prioritize my limited time with J; it is sacred. And yet I have chosen to spend some of that time with someone else.

Doesn’t that all point to feeling very connected to this person?

Is it possible that their reality is so very different than mine? Can one person be experiencing this rush while the other is lounging back, enjoying a medium-level attraction and sense of fun? The whole situation is making me feel crazy.

My very first date with J, I remember these very thoughts: I am done dating. I am in love. This is it.

And in part, I was wrong: I wasn’t done dating (I didn’t know it then). But those intense and deep feelings of connection, intimacy, trust, and love were very real and very immediate.

I generally trust my gut. I know when I like people and when I can trust them and when I love.

I’m not sure what it is that is causing all of the upset, all of the back-and-forth inside. I think it is partly due to the spontaneity of this connection, the total unexpectedness of it. I don’t know how to express myself anymore, or act like myself. I’m a quivering, nervous mess.

A pattern of mine, that opening up certainly has challenged and helped me to reshape, is to identify people with whom I want to be close, whether it is a friend or potential partner, and to grab on so fucking tight. There is still a part of me that is just deeply afraid that if I don’t grab on, I will be left. If I don’t grab on, this thing will disappear. The connection will be lost. Logically, I know that nothing could be further from the truth and I have been working all week to breathe and relax and enjoy whatever the heck this is.

She told me last night that she had an expectation that I’ve “done” this before, that there was some prescribed model she would just sort of slip into, that it was just a very safe thing for her to explore because it was so clear-cut, that she would just learn a whole bunch from casually dating a married chick.

It is just so interesting to me. How can any one experience or relationship be prescribed in that way? We don’t expect friendships to all be the same. They are shaped by the people in them; every connection is unique. I can understand for someone pretty unfamiliar with polyamory, and unfamiliar with J and I’s stamp on poly, it would be confusing to understand. I also don’t know where she got the idea from that I’ve “done” this a whole bunch before, especially when I consider that chemistry isn’t a dime a dozen- that shit is unique, at least in my life. Having sex and staying the night with someone that I have that intense of chemistry with- that is special.

Help me.

J has been amazingly wonderful and supportive, giving me ample space to enjoy this, to see her even during times we would otherwise spend together, to process my feelings in the ways that I have needed to. It has been incredibly weird to explore all of this new relationship energy. While I have had a handful of intense crushes on women the past few years, this is the first it has manifested into something right in front of me. I have had a lot of practice fantasizing and dreaming and thinking of hypotheticals… Now I am getting to practice how I hold all of these things: my commitment to J and the stability and longevity of our partnership, with this whole ball of crazy emotions for someone new. It feels strange. Not undoable, just new and strange.

This whole thing could blow over- especially because I am afraid my feelings and their depth may have weirded her out (but why would I want to see someone who is weirded out by my feelings, anyway?). Or maybe it won’t. Either way, how grateful I am for the experience runs deep.

I love the love.