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.

 

Happiness and Sex

Hi there lovely readers!

Back again, in my new crazy, off-the-wall way. This time, with a Q&A with some friends who recently finished writing a book on sex and happiness!

Authors are Ariel and Rodrigo: Rodrigo is a Brazilian Happiness Coach and Ariel is a Relationship Coach. They are co-founders of The Portland Happiness Center here in Portland! Read more about their work here:

Now for the Q&A:

What was the catalyst for this book? What made you decide to write on the topic?

We have always been interested in people and our relationships with people, as a subject matter. We both travel a lot and have lived in different countries, experienced different cultures. I had recently gotten divorced and Rodrigo had recently married and so the subject of finding happiness through our relationships was a big topic between us when we would talk. My divorce had a lot to do with the sexual part of my relationship. The idea for the book came out of these discussions. Not just our connections with others, but sex itself as a factor in our happiness levels. At one point I said I wanted to ask people on the street “are you happy? Are you having great sex?” And take a poll to see how many people were having satisfying sex and were all those people really happy? But instead of talking to people on the street we decided to have some longer interviews. 🙂
What was your main research question when interviewing people? What were you hoping to learn about?
We thought that we were going to prove that if you are having great sex with someone you’d be happier. We set out to prove that. But our hypothesis kind of flew out the window with our first interview!
We asked a handful of questions:
-what was your most influential or most important relationship?
-how important is sex for you in a relationship?
-are you able to separate your own happiness from what is happening in your relationship?
-how long can the sexual life carry the rest of the relationship?
-how does orgasm play a role in your happiness level?
And a few others… We just ended up having conversations with people. We talked about things like cultural differences, expressing what you want from your partners, happiness base levels people see themselves at… We also talked about open relationships, asexuality…
How many people did you interview? What were some of the demographics represented? (Age, gender, sexual orientation, relationship style, race/ethnicity, country of origin, etc)
We interviewed about 18 people, some of which we didn’t include for certain reasons. Ages ranged from 21 to 70… men and women, straight, gay /lesbian, bisexual,  We had people in monogamous and open relationships, people who were single too… We had Black, Brazilian, Japanese, French… We had several white Portlanders as well. A range, but we wished we could have kept going and interviewed all kinds of people. The book is just a starting point. We would like to take the same questions to say, rural China. Or to places where people are really ingrained in a culture different than our standard culture here. with lack of time and resources, we got a slice of the people around us and were pretty much dependent on who responded to our requests for participants.
What were some commonalities and differences that you heard among your interviewees and their experiences?
For this you’ll have to read the book! Everyone seemed to have a different take on the questions. Which was incredible! In general we found that people are trying to find happiness, through themselves, through others whether their relationships with others are romantic or not. That we all need a support system via human connection. How physical and how monogamous or not those connections are seem to be very individual.
Are there any stories or experiences that stood out to you or impacted you? What were they and why did they stand out?
Oh boy. Well everyone’s story was unique and after each interview Rodrigo and I admitted we gained so much hearing that person’s story. For me, because of my own outlook on life, I found that discussing the idea of monogamy vs open relationships was most interesting. I have come to the conclusion in my own life that a single person can never fully satisfy the needs of another. So does that mean we engage in an open relationship? Or do we simply have continuous casual relationships? What about companionship? I don’t have an answer but this theme was of particular interest. I also loved the story one man told of finally being able to let go of the anger he had for someone who could never apologize to him for breaking his heart. That he was carrying around this anger for years, and it wasn’t serving him. He finally learned that this person would never be able to say what he wanted to hear. It was very moving, and I’ve found most of our dysfunction in relationships stems from us having expectations of others that are not fulfillable on their ends, and attachments to others that create codependency. We can be interdependent- in fact we need to be – but codependency is a precarious place to stand. If that person leaves we fall.
How have the interviews shaped your own self perception of your experiences? What have you learned about yourself from listening to others?
Rodrigo and I learned so much about ourselves through this project. It brought up so many thoughts and questions in our own lives as well as for future projects. I almost feel like there was a piece of my own experience in each person we interviewed. Even if demographically we were extremes, there was a commonality in the search for happiness, love, physical desire… Some interviewees I found I could really relate well to and others I felt quite the opposite … The ones with whom I had opposite experiences and outlooks, they influenced me more because it made me question “why DON’T I think that’s important? Why DON’T I see life like that? Why do I feel I could never live my life that way?” Those questions really made me think and evaluate my own relationships.
What questions do you still have? Did any new questions come up as a result of writing this book that you would want to investigate?
We have so many more questions! We are ready to start the next book to help answer them. 🙂
In the end not only did we fail to prove our hypothesis, we also failed to come to some big conclusion. In the end, everyone sees things differently and everyone’s wants and needs are unique. We can agree that we need people around us to be happy, to lead fulfilling lives. Without human connection we do not thrive. And it is also true that the more  people and connections we have, the healthier, and happier we are as individuals.

Sex Club Etiquette

What do you do when you go to a sex club or swingers club for the first time? What behaviors are expected? How do you interact with someone that invited you, or with others that you meet there? We don’t grow up learning scripts for sex clubs (generally speaking!) so it’s up to our adult selves to learn how to navigate these new social/sexual situations. Hopefully this piece sheds some light on some generally accepted modes of behaving.

Many sex clubs have sets of rules that will help guide members’ behaviors. Club Sesso in Portland offers the following list:

  • No Cell Phone Use (including texting or swapping phone nunbers)
  • Ask Before You Touch- Ask Once and Only Once
  • No Means No
  • Do Not Stalk People
  • Treat Everyone with Dignity and Respect
  • Do Not Open Closed Doors or Curtains
  • Do Not Interrupt Others
  • Do Not Be Creepy
  • Do Not Masturbate Outside Play Areas
  • Clean Up Your Own Mess
  • Use Common Sense!

The list seems pretty intuitive, right? It’s surprising how many people I’ve seen break the rules, intentionally and unintentionally. On the whole, though, I’ve witnessed respectful behavior and good communication at Sesso.

But what about the more subtle and complex interactions for which rules aren’t made explicit or posted?

Or what about when you meet your long-time sexy friends at the sex club and you or they end up hooking up with new people before you have a chance to check in?

What happens when you meet a new friends with benefits at the club and they end up hooking up with someone else?

We once brought a woman as a guest, who I had met on a dating site and had a date with. I didn’t expect us to have sex and I knew she was interested in socializing and checking out the space. And yet, when she ended up going into a room with a couple she met there, leaving us to wait for her for an hour until she was done so we could drive her home, I ended up feeling a little resentful. Not because I felt like I had a right to have sex with her, but because the communication between the two of us was sorely lacking.

Communication is key. Proactive communication is the best. Have conversations with your partners, new friends, potential new hook-ups, etc before anything happens: flush out who, what, where, how, when, why. Make agreements before entering a social/sexual space so that you have a foundation from which to explore. This does get tricky when you are going with a new date or meeting them there, as perhaps those more explicit conversations wouldn’t naturally take place yet, so it’s even more important to buck up and talk about your expectations, desires, and comfort levels. Part of navigating a social/sexual space like a swingers club is social intelligence, too: what would it tell you if someone you brought left your side to go hook-up with someone else without an explanation? That kind of exclusive behavior can signal a lack of interest unless there has been some explicit verbal communication to provide more robust information.

Options:

“Hey, you’re really cute! I’d love to play tonight if we get the opportunity, so let me know if you’re up for it!”

“Hi friends! We’d love to play tonight, but we’re also open to playing with the new people we met here tonight. So if we don’t play tonight is that okay with you?”

“I know we’ve only had one date, and there is definitely no pressure for us to do anything, but I would love to hang out more and have some time to talk with you more while we’re here together.”

How do you navigate sex/swingers clubs? How does it feel different operating as a couple versus a single person? Have you encountered especially tricky situations, or can you imagine what some might be? How did you resolve them, or how would you want to?

 

Workers’ Rights & Evangelism

Portland hosts an extension of the Las Vegas Cupcake Girls, and The Oregonian published an article this past week on their outreach and service efforts. In response, a dancer from the area created a petition online to show the Cupcake Girls that they don’t speak for Portland sex workers. Sign it, if you are so inclined. I did.

A woman at my meeting for the sex worker outreach coalition this past week made an excellent point: if they want to offer services, great. That’s awesome, and I’m sure they’re helping someone. But if you and your organization cannot take a stand supporting the rights of the people you purport to be serving, than you are not helping the movement.

The organization seems to take a stance similar to “hate the sin, love the sinner,” simply by not supporting workers’ rights. And that’s troubling. The organization’s funding is from evangelical, anti-trafficking organizations that don’t recognize that many workers have chosen their work and find it empowering and don’t need spiritual guidance or help leaving the industry.

This article was published in the Willamette Week in response to the article in the Oregonian, and I think it is an articulate response.

And, unrelated to the Cupcake Girls and local worker response, this article written by a john is very interesting. I am more for decriminalization than legalization, but it’s a great piece nonetheless.

Stripping is Way Better than Walmart

This is another great recapitulation from another sex worker about why sex work was preferable to her than working at Walmart.

Which reminds me: I am participating in a local dancer’s photography and interviewing project. She is interviewing dancers about their experiences with stripping and then having her friend take photos of each person in the many spaces of their lives (home, play, work, etc). We met up this past week and she asked me all about it: where have I worked, how long, my stage name, my pre-work routine, how the work as impacted me, the best and worst things that have happened to me while dancing, if I have experienced discrimination as a result of stripping, if I think of stripping as anti-feminist or uber-feminist, and more. It was fun and refreshing to talk with another Portland dancer, and great to hear about her experiences as well. I’m not yet exactly sure what kind of photos I will be comfortable taking, but excited to be a part of the project.

Other Portland-y things in the stripper scene going on: there are folks interested (again) in making a documentary on Portland strippers. It’d be cool if it happens! Also, an acquaintance of mine is suing her club for back wages. I am so excited for her, although she is going to need so much support through this.

And: Today is the one year anniversary of the Sex Worker Film Series in Portland! If you have time and interest, the event and film starts at 7pm at the Clinton Street Theater!

And… tonight is my first Saturday night at my new club! Wish me luck- I plan on having lots and lots of fun 😉

Events

For those of you in Portland:

The next Mystery Box show is August 9th.

Upcoming SheBop workshops include a workshop with Sex Nerd Sandra (sadly, full already, but still cool to know that she’ll be here!) and a reading in September with Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert on their new book  More Than Two.

I still want to make it to Gallery Sesso one of these months. The next one is Thursday August 7th at 6pm.

Any sexy fun events you want to share?

From Oh Joy Sex Toy, in promoting SheBop and all its awesomeness:

2014-07-15-shebop