Approaching the Swingularity by Cooper S. Beckett

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[This is the text of the book review from episode 54, which includes a reading of one of the steamy scenes.]

This episode’s book review is Approaching the Swingularity: Tales of Swinging and Polyamory in Paradise by Cooper S. Beckett.

I received this book for free and Coop runs swingset.fm, but I auditioned to read the part of Paige in the audio version of this and didn’t get the part. So, fuck this guy. This book is a piece of shit.

I’m kidding. Cooper is the sort of author who would want an honest review anyway and he can take criticism. With that as a preface, I don’t have a great deal of negative to say except, like in A Life Less Monogamous, the first book in the series, everyone appears to be drinking, all the time.

But I’ll get to that in a minute.

I was going to review this on the show long before there was any plan to join the network, because I loved the characters of Paige and Bruce from A Life Less Monogamous, which I reviewed in episode 5.

To recap that book—Ryan and Jennifer are a youngish couple in a lacklustre, monogamous marriage. They meet vibrant, older couple Bruce and Paige and zoom into swinging. And they all drink a whole bunch and almost never seem to get drunk unless they need to be for the plot.

That was one of my quibbles with the last book. I said you shouldn’t read that one if you struggle with alcohol because I don’t usually have a problem saying no and I wanted a drink.

This book takes place some time after that one—not years, but it doesn’t pick up the next day, either—and all four of them have gone off to a swingers’ resort in Mexico, Xanadu X, along with one hundred and eleven other couples.

That’s a lot of genitals to possibly interact with.

That’s also many characters to juggle. Which the author does admirably.

The book is broken down by day—the holiday lasts a week—then, within each day there are chapters, each are told from the point of view of various characters.

Some chapters are by Ryan, Jennifer (who now goes by Jenn), Bruce and Paige, then we have new people, including the person who has run the get away for ten years, Raymond and whose partner has recently left him. He’s not exactly in an orgy-mood, as you can imagine, but has to put on his party face for the benefit of the other attendees. There are chapters by Alejandra and Crista, Xanadu’s first lesbian couple and all I have to say is Coop seriously knows some lesbians, because he’s nailed what lady relationships are like.

Crista also has a reactive libido, rather than proactive, meaning that it’s a special flower that needs careful nurturing. He uses the book to educate on many subjects including things like reactive vs proactive sex drives, but also things pertaining to poly and swinging and has his characters demonstrate safer sex and kink negotiations as well as STI and STD conversations. And the conversations come across as quite natural. It’s obvious this was written by a person who actually does these things.

In terms of ‘doing these things’—people did a lot of things. There were many sexual activities experienced including a gang bang and an orgy and pegging and a lesbian foursome and a standing sixty-nine and… just… so many things.

But the book isn’t just one scene of debauchery after another—each of the characters are going through their own woes because obviously your week-long orgy isn’t going to happen when life is going perfectly, is it? At first I was thinking, ‘Jeez, is anyone’s life going well?’ but then I realised that of course life is going to happen to you when you just want to get your junk out on a Mexican beach.

There are some profound moments and some heart-wrenching ones, as well.

There were a few laugh-out-loud moments, too. Someone gets stung by a jellyfish at one point and a Mr Helpful type comes running up the beach to pee on the poor bastard in a scene that had me cackling… That’s an urban legend, by the way. Don’t pee on someone who’s been stung by a jellyfish. It doesn’t help. No one’s in the mood for watersports just then.

The people narrating the story aren’t the only ones around, either. The author isn’t enough of a masochist to attempt to introduce us to all one hundred seven other couples, but some other people are regular players.

There’s Strom and Kitten—the podcasters—who start out obnoxious and … well. They’re fun.

Then there’s Will and Madison. We’ve all met a Will. He’s that guy you want to shoot into the sun. We’ve also all met a Madison. Where you think, ‘Why, girl? Why him?’

There’s James and Debra—the much older couple who’ve been to every Xanadu since its inception. I loved James and Debra. They appeared to be the only couple who weren’t having some sort of relationship or personal crisis. That reminds me—fuck you, Coop. I know you’re reading this.

Xanadu had its first triad—in the form of a gay guy, bi guy and straight woman—Rory, Terrence and Marley.

And finally, perhaps my favourite character, Lydia. The person Ryan has his first thuper kinky experience with. (It’s the steamy scene I chose to read at the end of the episode.)

There were a few others who appeared by name, but those were the big ones—the ones with plotlines.

As a writer—respect to juggling all of that. I was mentally keeping up with how all of the 500 plotlines were going at any one point and whether they would or would not be resolved and how believable those resolutions would be.
Well-fucking-done, man. I’ve been going over various subplots in the days after finishing it and just wind up being impressed all over again.

Ryan is curious about exploring his bisexuality and his thoughts on this were really well expressed, as were Crista’s experiences as someone with a less-than-naturally-enthusiastic sex drive.

We learn more about Bruce and Paige—who, in the first book—seem to have this whole Swinging Open Poly thing down. We learn no one is perfect and people are just trying to make it work as best they can. And that even people who know swinging or poly is right for them can still have fears and doubts.

We also get to see how the foursome’s relationships have grown and changed in the time between books. It made me happy. That’s all I’m going to say. Dear god, a lot happened in this book. Not until writing this did I realise just how much. It didn’t feel like a Russian novel.

I highlighted lots of bits and pieces, but I really liked this one:

‘when does time ever truly allow for our desires in full? Instead, it keeps us humble, parceling out moments, making them precious.’

Yeah well, time’s a jerk. I desire more time to read and write. So, you know. Who wants to be humble.

Quibbles:

I read the final, pre-editorial draft, so there were more than the usual typos, but because I didn’t read the final draft I’m going to give Coop and his editor the benefit of the doubt—they both probably caught a lot. I’m just covering my bee-hind with this note.

As mentioned before, everyone drinks, all the time. Which may simply reflect the swingers’ resort culture, but, again, if you struggle with that sort of thing—wave off, wave off. I really want an espresso martini, though, and I can’t have either of those things without regretting my entire life.

That’s it. Which is a fairly short list of quibbles.

Overall: The author’s writing improves with each book—this is his best yet. Character, pacing and plot are all on point. This one is sexy, hilarious and full of heart and you might learn a few things, too. You don’t have to start with A Life Less Monogamous, but you might as well, as it’s a good one, as well.

5/5

Opening Up by Tristan Taormino

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[This is the text of the book review from episode thirty eight.]

This week’s book is Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships by Tristan Taormino.

Though the title is about open relationships, the book covers anything that isn’t monogamy.

Opening Up is geared both towards people new to non-monogamy and people with experience; those who want to open up an existing relationship, those involved with someone who wants to open up an existing relationship, and single people who identify as poly.

Included are personal stories about every kind of relationship—there are quotes throughout chapters, then a longer interview with a couple or group of people in a relationship at the end of each. It’s always nice to get a real life take on how non-traditional lifestyles affect the people involved. Seeing how people navigate their relationships makes them seem more manageable and less nerve-wracking for those of us who are nervous about exploring the unknown.

The Introduction includes the methodology for the people Taormino interviewed. Woof—methodology. The respondents were largely US-based and it wasn’t a scientific study, but still provided a nice array of personal stories.

Early on, the author says that in writing the book she realised there is no formula for creating a successful open relationship. There were often similarities, but each was unique, so Opening Up is more of a general guidebook than a strict recipe.

The first chapter covers beginnings—the history of swinging and other non-traditional relationships, as well as gay and lesbian contributions and communes.

Chapter two is concerned with myths about the non-monogamous folks. That’s a good one to wake you up in the morning if you’d like to get your blood pressure up.

Chapter three aims to help the reader decide if open relationships are right for them. This includes reasons people do the poly thing, as well as reasons people should not give it a shot. One of those reasons is in order to ‘fix’ a current relationship. Which seems sort of obvious, but okay. I mean, it’s not going so great with the two of you so let’s add an entire other person (or more) with their own emotions and needs into the mix.

Why not buy a house, move across country and have kids, too? That will fix everything forever.

I kind of get it—you’re not happy and think if you can see other people that will help because the problem is you’re bored or stuck or whathaveyou, but… no. You’re just inflicting your awful relationship on other people, which isn’t polite.

This chapter includes questions to ask yourself to ascertain your current beliefs about relationships (we all know how much I love homework—and there were several assignments throughout the book).

One of the reasons people have multiple intimate relationships was stated this way:

People in open relationships enjoy exploring different dynamics with different people—sexual, emotional, psychological, and spiritual. Non-monogamy gives them the opportunity to create unique relationships that nourish and support each other.

This is what I am here for. I know people who think married men shouldn’t even hug women who aren’t their wives. The idea that the person you are legally attached to having to not only meet every need, but also not being allowed to explore a variety of connections with anyone else is nuts. How possessive can you be?

Within the concept of different types of connections—the author talks about people in bi/straight, vanilla/kinky or even Dom/Dom pairings. I hadn’t considered that last one, but that must be something else.

Taormino is very kink-friendly and, if a topic can have a kink-related issue, she addresses it.

This isn’t surprising, as she edited The Ultimate Guide to Kink, but still, it’s nice to see, since that’s most relevant to my life.

In this chapter she says:

My mission in sex and relationship education has always been to empower people to explore all their options, discover what works best for them, and go out and get it.

She’s my kind of individual.

Chapter Four is What Makes an Open Relationship Work?

The same things that make kink work—consent, communication and self-awareness for starters. This chapter is full of excellent advice because just because you’re aware of what you’re feeling and why you’re feeling it it doesn’t make the jealousy (or whatever) disappear.

The ever popular Non-Violent Communication makes an appearance—you know, the one where you use ‘I’ statements and own your feelings—that one.

Other things that make open relationships work: trust, honesty, boundaries and fidelity and commitment. Taormino delves into all of these in depth and explains why they’re important and how to implement them into your new, awesome life.

Then we get into different styles of non-monogamy in chapters five through nine, which include partnered nonmonogamy, swinging, polyamory, solo polyamory and polyfidelity.

Each chapter provides a definition and other information specific to that style, as well as pros and cons and why you may choose that particular style.

I wasn’t familiar with all of those, so, in case you aren’t either, here is how the author defines each:

Partnered nonmonogamy is for committed couples who want a relationship that is erotically nonmonogamous, where each partner can be involved with other people for sex, BDSM or other erotic activities. The BDSM play may or may not include genital sex.

In other words—you can do sexytimes, but can’t date or get romantically attached. This is what I personally think of when someone says they’re in an ‘open relationship’.

Swinging gets its own chapter, even though it’s a type of partnered nonmonogamy, because there’s a lot going on there. Even within the swinging community you have options galore. I interviewed Cooper S. Beckett in episode eight, where we discussed swinging (amongst many other things) if you’re looking for more information specifically on that.

Polyamory is next and Taormino defines it as:

…the desire for or the practice of maintaining multiple significant, intimate relationships simultaneously.

The relationships don’t have to include sex, but they can.

Solo Polyamory was one I hadn’t considered but made sense once the idea was introduced. This is when someone doesn’t want a primary partner. Legally they’d be considered single, but they’d have multiple intimate, varied relationships that overlapped or coexisted.

The final one mentioned is Polyfidelity, which is when multiple people are fidelitous to one another. Like a sexy, loving sports team.

In the polyamory section the author includes non-sexual poly relationships. I was surprised (happily) that they were not uncommon—according to Taormino. Perhaps poly people are more accepting of non-traditional sexualities and different types of relationships.

That section also covers hierarchical poly and non-hierarchical polyamory. The first is when one relationship is considered primary and takes precedence in one way or another over any others and the second is when all relationships are equal.

After that is a chapter on mono/poly hybrid relationships, which was of particular interest to me, as this is the style I’ll be entering and it has its own challenges and stigmas even within the poly community.

The chapter also addresses how to deal with lop-sided feelings of jealousy—in most open relationships people can look at it like, ‘My partner is going out tonight, but I have a date tomorrow so it’s fine,’ but that doesn’t apply in hybrid configurations, as well as guilt on behalf of the partner who is ‘getting everything they want’.

It’s going to be a good time. I’m looking forward to it.

As a sidebar—something I realised about myself in reading this is that I would like to eventually live with both my husband and D-type. Somehow, my brain hadn’t presented that as a possibility before, but learning that there are people who are co-husbands (or two men involved with the same woman and quite happy about it) made me think, ‘Baroo?’ I could very happily—I think—live with a female D-type and Walter and do the housework during the day while they went off to their respective jobs. We’d all have our separate rooms and it’d be swell. She could date or whatever, but I’m the sub, hmph.

Chapter eleven contains guidelines on how to design your open relationship, starting with things like whether or not you need to share an emotional connection with anyone you’re involved with, whether you can see yourself married/committed/partnered to more than one person or disliking hierarchy. Amongst other things. These are only general guides—every situation is going to be unique, of course.

This section goes into a great deal of detail so you can try to work out what you want—the author says she’s tried to think of everything for you, though you can’t plan for everything—you can be as prepared as possible.

Some of the particulars to consider are Who, meaning gender, coupled status, age, D/s status, etc. There are checklists. You know how that gave me heart eyes.

Then there’s what—as in, what you’re looking for. Safer sex, romance, BDSM activities. Be specific about all of these.

When: Frequency, Specific Days or Times.

Where: Geography, Events, Home—are you allowed to only see other people when travelling? Are you allowed to have sex with someone else in your shared bed?

There’s a chapter that specifically addresses jealousy and other intense feelings like envy and fear of abandonment and other things people write songs about. Then a chapter about compersion, which is the opposite of jealousy—when you get the warm fuzzies because someone you love is happy.

Chapter fourteen is on common challenges and problems and how to deal with them like New Relationship Energy (or when your partner is being really annoying because their brain chemistry looks like a meth lab), Time Management (because they haven’t invented Time-Turners) and Agreement Violations (or visits to the Not-Cool Zone).

Fifteen addresses something that’s important to keep in mind for kink relationships as well—continual communication. It’s called Opening Up Again: When Something Changes.

A relationship isn’t a static thing designed like a house and works perfectly just the way it is. Things change—people change—needs and desires change.

Sometimes people move from one type of nonmonogamy to another. The chapter includes this quote:

People’s self-judgment can be exacerbated by criticism from other nonmonogamous people. Some polyamorous people believe so strongly in polyamory as a lifestyle that they see other styles—even other styles of nonmonogamy—as inferior.

Sigh. The Judgersons. They are legion. It’s important to feel superior to someone, isn’t it?

There’s also this:

If you’ve explored your options and chosen monogamy, remember that your choice is valid. You seek a relationship style that fits your needs, and for some people that style is monogamy. Take all the relationship skills you learned from nonmonogamy and apply them to your monogamous relationship.

I’m not sure how I feel about the word ‘chosen’ there, but I agree with the sentiment as a whole. The more I think about it the more I think people are naturally monogamous or nonmonogamous. They can choose to behave monogamously or choose to try to be nonmonogamous, but won’t be entirely true to themselves. I’m 100% on the side of being true to yourself if you’re not hurting anyone else so…

I guess what I’m saying is, I’d phrase it: If you’ve explored your options and realised you’re monogamous, remember that’s valid.

Of course it is. There are also completely straight people in the world. I’m sorry this is how you had to find out.

The following chapter is on coming out—the hazards and benefits. Why are people so threatened? Nevermind. I know why. They think nonmonogamous people are having orgies in the street and if they were allowed to then they would suddenly partake, too. For some reason. Because sex is evil and irresistible. Or something.

People are insane.

There are chapters on the unsexy but vital topics of STIs and safer sex, raising children in non-traditional familial arrangements and legal issues.

The chapter on STIs was the most out-of-date (the book was published in 2008) and we know more now, but the how to have safer sex information was still accurate.

That last chapter was the most infuriating one of the book, as non-married partners have no legal standing in the eyes of the law without investing time and money into legal services.

Even then, in some ways, non-traditional relationships are still discriminated against.
For example, though many groups are protected under fair housing provisions—people can’t discriminate based on religion, race, disability, sexual orientation, and so on—poly relationships aren’t protected.

Another was that, in some places, it’s illegal for more than a certain number of unrelated adults to live on one property (I suppose to keep it from being a hotel? Who knows.)

So if you’re in a group who all wants to live in a massive Victorian together—check the zoning regulations.

That’s insane! It’s just grown up human beings choosing where to live!

I suppose because the idea of loving more than one person—or being involved with more than one person—has always made sense to me I don’t get what the big deal is. I also don’t get why it took me so long to work out I’m poly, but that’s a different thing.

I was looking at reviews on Goodreads and one person went on a bit of a tear about something this book espouses, which is that no one person can’t be everything to anyone else so it makes sense you’d want to be involved with other people to get different needs met. This makes perfect sense to me, as that’s what I’m all about. The person who was unhappy with this assertion says that makes other people into need-providers rather than separate, complete humans.

Oh. Right. That’s a fair point. What if they stop providing the thing you originally bring them into your life for? Do you cut them out again? Do they become disposable? Yeah. How much of a dick do you have to be to see people that way? It’s one thing if you only have one thing in common and you drift apart if one of you loses interest in that one thing, but if I had a Domme and our relationship moved from power exchange to friendship I hope I wouldn’t be, ‘Oh, well if you’re not my Dominant then I don’t want to know you.’

If I like you enough to serve you then I should hope we can still play board games or talk about books or watch films or, freakin’ something.

Anyway, the book has notes and resources galore, for people who’d like further information, and the book also has its own website OpeningUp.net.

This is a must-read for people considering or those interested in improving their non-monogamous relationships. I would even recommend it over Ethical Slut, though I think both are highly useful this one covers some areas that one doesn’t. 5/5

Episode 038: Opening Up

Episode the thirty-eighth; wherein the Pageist (briefly) returns to her roots, explains why your neurotransmitters LIE and shares some exciting news about the site. The book reviewed is Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships by Tristan Taormino.

.48 Intro & Announcements:

  • A new Facebook follow: Welcome to Richard! And a new like from Darkling. Hellooooo!
  • The listener in Djibouti makes me laugh because he reminds me of me.
  • The show & site has a new Patron: BIG thanks to Barrett! Check out the perks of supporting the show over here.
  • The mobile version of the site is getting a swanky upgrade next month! I am very excited!
  • If you haven’t already, check out The Cage. I reviewed the site here.
  • Episode thirty-five–where I talk about dealing with depression and how the site and podcast have helped me enormously.

4.58 My Submissive Life:

  • A sample of my original accent and how changing the accents we’re born with is similar to challenging unhelpful beliefs.

9.45 Book Review:

28.33 Closing Remarks:

The Evolution of Friendships and Polyamory

There was an excellent post on Medium recently about polyamory entitled The Bigger Picture of Polyamory by Jasna.

There were several things that spoke to me, one is that I agree that being poly is a personality trait and not necessarily a relationship choice.

She also put into words something I hadn’t been able to, but this is what I’m looking for–the reason polyamory appeals to me:

I love exploring the way friendships develop. When I meet someone new, I never quite know what form that friendship will take — in the beginning, the possibilities are limitless, and that’s simultaneously an exhilarating and remarkably comforting feeling. I love watching the shape of the friendship evolve and change and discover itself.

Sometimes, there are other layers to it. Sometimes it settles into a space that doesn’t quite have a good name. I have friends whom I cuddle quietly with. Friends whose hand I like holding. Friends whom I hold in my arms when they are sad, and whose forehead I kiss to comfort them. It is still a friendship, but if I were in a monogamous relationship with someone, this type of friendship would begin to blur the lines of what’s okay and isn’t okay.

And then there was this, which was the highlighted by many people, apparently:

Authenticity in life is one of the most important things to me. I want to relate to people in natural, genuine ways. I want to form friendships which feel comfortable for everyone involved. I have found that when I remove expectations for what a friendship should and shouldn’t be, it slowly begins to take its natural form, and becomes something even more beautiful.

I love the idea of allowing friendships to be whatever they are going to be. Rather than trying to prune them or force them into certain shapes due to current cultural mores. As long as everyone is supportive of one another, allowing relationships to take their own path teaches everyone new things about themselves.

The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy

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(source)

[This is the text of the book review from episode 22 of the podcast.]

The book reviewed in this episode is The Ethical Slut: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships and Other Adventures by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy.

Other books I’ve reviewed by the authors are Spanking for Lovers by Janet W. Hardy in episode four, and the book was amazing. Before I had the podcast I reviewed here The New Topping Book and The New Bottoming Book, which are excellent guides for people new to the scene. The Multiamory hosts took over this show for one episode and reviewed both of those books for episode seven, which turned out great.

So, I knew these ladies were kinky and was vaguely aware they had also written a well-known book about ethical nonmonogamy. I figured I’d get around to it eventually, just as I plan to get around to all areas of interesting kinkdom at some point.

But then I realized I was poly, which was blazingly obvious once I thought about it, and The Ethical Slut moved up Mount TBR. (Does everyone use TBR to mean To Be Read?) Mount TBR means the ridiculously huge stack of books I fully intend to read once I become immortal and have an endless supply of money (or free books, whatever).

The version I’m reviewing is the second edition, which the cover informs me has been expanded and updated. The original version was published in 1997—the second edition came out in 2009.

The book is broken down into four parts, with chapters in each part. Part One is entitled Welcome.

In Chapter one, which is called Who is an Ethical Slut, there’s this:

If you ask about a man’s morals, you will probably hear about his honesty, loyalty, integrity, and high principles. When you ask about a woman’s morals, you are more likely to hear about whom she shares sex with, and under what conditions. We have a problem with that.

And rightfully so! It’s not something I’d ever considered before, but it’s true. Double-standard-having bastards.

Something I really like about the book is that it has homework! I mean written exercises. Some are set off on their own, but there are also many, many questions within the text. If you answer all of those you’ll know yourself approximately 2,000 times better by the end of the book.

The authors define slut this way:

To us, a slut is a person of any gender who celebrates sexuality according to the radical proposition that sex is nice and pleasure is good for you.

Chapter Two is Myths and Realities and covers judgments, myths and realities surrounding sluts and includes this quote:

Kinsey once defined a ‘nymphomanic’ as ‘someone who has more sex than you’.

Chapter Three is Our Beliefs, where the authors say:

Most of our criteria for ethics are quite pragmatic. Is anyone being harmed? Is there any way to avoid causing that harm? Are there any risks? Is everybody involved aware of those risks and doing what can be done to minimize them?

On the positive side: How much fun is this? What is everybody learning from it? Is it helping someone to grow? Is it helping make the world a better place?

If everyone on Earth lived by this philosophy we’d all be much better off, let me tell you.

Then there was this: In a section called Rethinking Sex, :

Are you having sex right now? Yes, you are, and so are we.

This was news to me. Then they go on to compare sexual energy to food—something else I don’t care about. The metaphor was that people enjoy the look and smell of food, and the memories of nice meals in the past or what we may eat tomorrow become part of that enjoyment. So sexual energy pervades everything. You know what? I eat whatever is to hand when I’m hungry and I don’t think about it otherwise most of the time. I’m asexual and aculinarial. Or whatever. Maybe books would work. I like the look and smell and feel of them… Anyway. They say that since they’re writing about it and we’re reading about it we’re all having sex. Well okay. Then they say this:

More pragmatically, we have had long, intense intimate conversations that felt deeply sexual to us. And we have had intercourse that didn’t feel terribly sexual. Our best definition is that sex is whatever the people engaging in it think it is. For some people, spanking is sex. For others, wearing a garter belt and stockings is sex. If you and anybody else involved feel sexual when you eat ice cream sundaes together, that sex—for you.

And then it all made sense, for I am a kinky person and I certainly understand being fulfilled by things that other people wouldn’t understand as sexy. Also an intellectual or emotional connection can feel incredibly intense and is much more profound and important to me in terms of a power exchange than anything physical.

Chapter Four was called Slut Styles—the first subheading was Sluthood Today, which sounds like a magazine. Modern Slut.

The chapter covers how different groups of people interact—lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and heterosexuals. No pansexuals or other folks. Asexuals are later in the book.

This description of how gay males approach sex blew my mind.

Gay male sex, as a rule, starts from a presumption of equal power, without the dynamic of overpowerment and withholding that often pervades male/female interactions. Thus, men do not generally try to get consent from each other by manipulation and pressuring: connection is more commonly made by a gentle approach, meeting a gentle response and no need to ask three times. Gay men give each other a lot of credit for being able to say no, and for meaning it when they say it—this makes coming on very simple, since you are never trying to sneak up on anybody and you are not required to be subtle. It is always okay to ask as long as it is okay for the other person to say no. This straight-forward and admirably simple approach to consensuality cannot be recommended too highly.

That could not be more different from anything I’ve experienced or ever expected to experience with men or women. It’s like reading about social practices on a different planet.

Chapter Five is Battling Sex Negativity.

The authors mention a resource guide in the back of the book to help people protect their legal rights in case they’re not in a legally recognized relationship and want to make sure they retain access to funds, property or visitation rights in the case of an accident.

Chapter Six: Infinite Possibilities
This is where the asexuals are. Over with the celibates.
And this is what they have to say about us.

We do not see ‘celibate slut’ or ‘asexual slut’ as in any way a contradiction in terms. There are infinite ways of relating to other people—romantically, intimately, domestically, and more—and if you’ve opened your life and heart to as many of those ways as possible, you’re one of us.

I’m fine with other people declaring themselves ‘sluts’ but I think I’ll stick with ‘ethically nonmonogamous’. ‘Asexual lesbian married to a man’ confuses enough people, without throwing the word slut in there. I’ll spend all day explaining what that means. Forget ‘kinky’ or ‘service-oriented’. Just wait until I start topping dudes. It’s like that Joe Ancis saying that the only normal people are the ones you don’t know very well. That’s so true.

This chapter covers the permutations available to ethically nonmonogamous folks. One of which they call ‘Circles and Tribes’

‘Circle’ is a word we use for a set of connections between a group of people that actually might look more like a constellation, with some people near the hub and connected to several others, and others near the outside and connected to only one or two and, perhaps, part of another constellation as well. (We like the word ‘constellation’ for this, because in a constellation, everybody gets to be a star!)

This reminds me of an early series of the L Word—the first or second—where Alice Pieszecki (the Leisha Hailey character) made something called The Chart and connected all the lesbians she knew together by who’d they’d slept with. It looked like the biggest, gayest constellation you’d ever seen. Then I found out a friend of mine had done something similar with the lesbians she knew and it covered the back of the laundry room door. Lesbians.

Another quote from this chapter:

Couples new to nonmonogamy tend to spend a lot of energy defining their boundaries. They usually focus more at first on what they don’t want their partner to do—the activities that make them feel, for some reason, unsafe or downright terrified—than on their actual desires. Setting these limits is, for many couples, a necessary first step out into the disorienting world of sluthood. However, as a couple becomes more sophisticated at operating the boundaries of their relationship, they tend to focus more on what they would enjoy, and then strategize about how they can make it safe.

Then we’re on to Part Two: The Practice of Sluthood

Chapter Seven is Abundance—basically the idea that there’s an infinite amount of love and sex out there. We tend to believe that if we’re giving something to one person we’re not giving that thing to another person, but you can love all of your pets or kids equally—or in different ways, but you still love them. It’s not, ‘Well, I have a third dog now, I like the first one less and the second one I can’t even look at anymore. Not one single redeeming quality.’

The chapter addresses real world limits like time (Google Docs are your friend—everyone involved can see them) and something they call the tyranny of hydraulics. I’ll let the authors explain.

The ‘tyranny of hydraulics’ is Dossie’s phrase for the biological realities that govern many aspects of sexuality.

So, I’m in love with this phrase and will be using it for the rest of my life. The tyranny of hydraulics. Stuff just doesn’t work sometimes. No matter how much you want it to.

Then we’re on to Chapter Eight, which is Slut Skills. This includes the excellent quote:

Great sluts are made, not born.

I have different quotes on the back of my business cards and that’s going on the back of some in my next set.

Knowing yourself is important in, well, life, but it’s particularly important when embarking on a journey that isn’t traditional. The authors urge self-examination and ask the reader: What do you expect from this way of living your life?

Then there’s a section called ‘Earning Your Slut Merit Badge’ which consists of all the things the best sluts work at: Communication, Emotional Honesty, Affection (which includes most of the love languages), Faithfulness, Limit-setting, Planning, Knowing Yourself, Owning Your Feelings, Going Easy on Yourself & Telling the Truth. These are explained in detail.

Under ‘Limit-Setting’ the authors have this to say:

When you respect your own limits, others will learn to respect them too. People tend to live up to your standards when you are not afraid to set them. Only when everyone’s limits are out in the open do you become free to ask for your dearest fantasies, secure in the knowledge that if your friend doesn’t want to, he won’t.

This brings us to Chapter Nine: Boundaries.
The belief is often that sluts aren’t familiar with the concept of boundaries, but the authors say this:

‘…sluts get a great deal of opportunity to develop exquisitely sophisticated discriminations: ‘We actually have more boundaries than most folks because we have more points of contact,’ more experience relating in very different ways to very diverse people.’

This chapter is about setting boundaries—figuring out what yours are—and communicating effectively. The entire book has stories from other people, as well as Dossie and Janet. It’s always useful to see how various techniques have been applied in real life.

Then we have an Interlude entitled An Unethical Slut: A Rant.

Some people treat sex as a big-game hunt—trying to conquer the unwilling and unwitting victim, as though the object of their attention would never decide to share sex with them unless tricked into it. Someone who tries to use sex to shore up sagging self-esteem by stealing someone else’s is a pitiable object: this strategy does not work to build a solid sense of self-worth, and this poor starving individual will have to go on stealing more and more and never getting fulfilled.

I’ve never thought of it this way, but it isn’t the greatest sign of self-esteem if someone is going around using magic formulae in an effort to get someone into bed rather than just being themselves.

Then there was this revelation:

A friend of ours once discovered that a would-be lover of hers had already had sex with her mother and her sister and was hoping to complete the set.

I have only one thing to say about that: Ewwwwww.

Then we’re back to our regularly scheduled programming in the form of Chapter Ten—Flirting and Cruising.

The authors think that flirting should be it’s own thing rather than having to lead anywhere. I wholeheartedly agree but I’ve have so many people misinterpret my for-fun flirting—either men getting offended I didn’t want more or women thinking I did want more—that that’s not going to happen. I’d constantly be saying: ‘I’m not actually interested in anything happening, okay? Okay.’ And that wouldn’t be conducive to flirting. That’s the opposite of flirting. Whatever that is. Farting, maybe.

The authors offer this advice to heterosexual men when cruising:

Many a man has made the mistake of approaching a woman in the way he thinks he would like to be approached if he were a woman. If you’re not sure if women find your approach too heavy-handed, imagine being approached by a large, strong man using your exact technique and ask yourself how that feels. Successful male cruisers remain sensitive to verbal and nonverbal cues, conveying friendly interest and appreciation for the fascinating human being in front of them.

Also maybe imagine having some of the things you want to say shouted at you by several large, strong men when you’re just trying to get home at night.

Chapter Eleven is Keeping Sex Safe—fairly self explanatory title there.

Chapter Twelve concerns Childrearing and includes this quote:

Janet remembers a conversation with her older son when he was about ten: she’d just done a ‘birds and bees’ rap and had perhaps got a little carried away. At the end of her long speech, she asked him, ‘So, as long as we’re on this topic, is there anything else you want to know?’ He replied fervently, ‘Mom, you’ve already told me much more that I wanted to know.’

Yeah… Janet and I are similar. That’s totally what I’d be like.

Part Three is Navigating Challenges and begins with Chapter Thirteen: Roadmaps Through Jealousy.

One of their suggestions for dealing with jealousy is something they call Go for the Ick, which is just going right ahead and thinking about whatever your partner and their other person might be doing together rather than expending all that energy pushing the thoughts away. It reminds me of that scene in High Fidelity when the main character’s girlfriend has hooked up with the hippie-type guy who lives upstairs. He can’t stand the guy so, in his head, they’re having the most out of this world, kumbaya sex ever.

Chapter Fourteen is Embracing Conflict and contains suggestions for ways to deal with conflict rather than ignoring it or pushing it away.

One of the suggestions is to write whatever you’re feeling down in an email (without filling in the To: line) and saving it to drafts. Then leave it for a bit. Come back later and make sure you’re using I-statements rather than you-ing the person to death, after all, it’s about your feelings, not what the other person is doing. You may decide not to send it at all, but the authors said:

We usually delete sentences that begin with the words, ‘You shithead.’

Sound advice, I think.

Chapter Fifteen: Making Agreements.

‘Agreement’ is a better word than ‘rule’ because rules sound incredibly inflexible. They define it as:

mutually agreed-upon, conscious decisions, designed to be flexible enough to accommodate individuality, growth and change.

The chapter includes a list of sample agreements various people they’ve known have used to give you an idea of what to think about—many are mutually exclusive.

Chapter Sixteen is about Opening an Existing Relationship.

There is advice for each person involved—the person who wants to open the relationship, the ‘other’ person and the person who chose none of this.

There’s also an exercise called the Hierarchy of Hard which can be used to get from here to there on any goal, really. You break down what you need to do into progressively smaller steps and put those on index cards then take one card at a time and do what’s on the card. Proving what I’ve long known–office supplies can always improve your life.

We’re onto the final part—Part Four. Sluts in Love.

Chapter Seventeen is Making a Connection—or how to find people to date.
Under the subheading: Where? Is this:

We find a lot of ethical sluts exploring alternative realities: try your local Society for Creative Anachronism and other historical re-enactment groups, and know that many Renaissance Faires are practically sluts’ trade conferences.

It makes sense that people exploring an alternative way to conduct their romantic lives would also be into alternative realities in general.

They then mention PolyMatchMaker.com, which weirdly doesn’t have an app—doesn’t everything have an app? I’m surprised my cat doesn’t have an app. And there’s an ethical slut test on OKCupid [note: this is no longer available]. I took it but my results would come out wonky, because it was mostly sex-based and I’m asexual. Anything that had to do with history or future interest in sex made me look like a particularly prudish nun, as there were no options for—I’d partake in sex as an act of submission with the right D-type. My official result was:

Happy Almost-Slut Whoa! You scored 11 Sluttiness Points and 23 Ethics Points! The 23 Ethics points was higher than 81 percent of other participants,

which is a little unsettling, as I thought I was just being a decent person.

Chapter Eighteen: Couples covers NRE—new relationship energy—also known as limerence. A word that sounds as light and shimmery as NRE feels.

Chapter Nineteen is called The Single Slut and includes lists of The Rights of the Single Slut and the Responsibilities of the Single Slut—both very useful lists to keep in mind.

Then there was this quote, which fell under the sub-heading ‘Role-Constrained Relationship’

Sometimes your relationship may be defined by the roles you play together, roles that a person’s life partner may not want or enjoy. Your connection could be as simple as a love of watching football on TV or, perhaps more complicated, being the same-sex partner to someone in an opposite sex marriage. Your shared roles might be about S/M power exchange, erotic roleplaying, exploration of gender, spiritual journeying, or any other sexual sharing that the partnership doesn’t provide. Your shared role makes you part of a family’s ecology, part of what makes it run smoothly, and is both a joy and a responsibility not to be taken lightly.

This is what I’m looking for so to have it addressed so tidily lets me know it’s not uncommon for people to have someone in their life who fulfills a specific role, as opposed to having multiple traditional relationships, so to speak.

Chapter Twenty: The Ebb and Flow of Relationships covers breakups and how to handle them with grace, dignity and respect for everyone involved.

Chapter Twenty-One is entitled Sex and Pleasure. It addresses the sex-negativity pervasive in our culture and ways to educate yourself in order to have better sex. Under the sub-heading ‘Good Sex Starts with You’ is this quote:

What have you done recently that helps you feel good about the body you are inhabiting today? It’s hard to have a good relationship with our body when all you do is yell at it.

This is such an accurate description of many people’s relationship with their bodies…wow.

Chapter Twenty-Two is Public Sex, Group Sex and Orgies. Which is, bizarrely, a collection of brownie recipes and sewing patterns. Kidding. It’s exactly what it sounds like and how to navigate them with your partner.

The Conclusion is called a Slut Utopia and includes this quote:

When right and wrong are your only options, you may believe that you can’t love more than one person, or that you can’t love in different ways, or that you have a finite capacity for love—that ‘many’ must somehow be opposed to ‘one’, or that your only options are in love and out of love, with no allowance for different degrees or kinds of love.

We would like to propose something different. Instead of these simpleminded either/or arguments, consider the possibility of seeing, and valuing everything that there is, without viewing them as in opposition to one another. We think that if you can do this, you will discover that there are as many ways to be sexual as there are to be human, and all of them are valid. There are lots of ways to relate, to love, to express gender, to share sex, to form families, to be in the world, to be human…and none of them in any way reduces or invalidates any of the others.

Hear, hear.

One thing that I was looking for that wasn’t covered is when one person is poly and the other is monogamous. Often, advice people give is that when your partner is out on a date is to remember that you’ll be going out on a hot date soon, too, but if one of you is happy just being with your partner and the other is poly, that isn’t going to stop the monogamous one from being jealous or insecure occasionally and they won’t have the ‘well, I’ll be getting my own wing doodler done good soon’ to comfort them. By the way, ‘wing doodler’ is non-gender specific. Whatever makes you feel good is your wing doodler. For me, it would often be my brain. ‘Wow, that conversation was so intense and we were so on the same page my wing doodler is buzzing right now.’

Aside from that, it is easy to see why this book is considered to be a classic. It’s well written, by two people with decades of experience and a finely-tuned sense of humor. I would definitely recommend it to both people new to the land of nonmonogamy and anyone interested in learning new relationship skills. 5/5

[After the podcast went live, Janet Hardy let me know the next edition is in the works and will include more information on the varieties of asexuals out there, as well as information on poly/mono relationships. I look forward to that, which is set for 2017, I believe.]

Episode 022 The Ethical Slut

Episode the Twenty-Second; Wherein the Pageist tries a new app designed for kinksters, discovers a podcast for sexy thinkers and learns to be ethically slutty.

The book reviewed this episode is The Ethical Slut: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships and Other Adventures by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy.

.50 Intro & Announcements:

  • Welcome to the new listener in Latvia!
  • Thank you to the new survey-taker. Mwah! Mwah!

1.35 My Submissive Life:

  • I tested the KNKI app. Their website is: here.
  • Also, Intellectual Foreplay is a new favorite podcast. Check them out here.
  • Review of Cooper S. Beckett’s A Life Less Monogamous: Episode 5.
  • Interview with Cooper S. Beckett: Episode 8.

5.22 Book Review:

  • Books by the authors I’ve previously reviewed: Spanking for Lovers by Janet W. Hardy: Episode 4.
  • Written reviews of The New Topping Book and The New Bottoming Book by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy.
  • The Multiamory hosts took over my show and did their own (quite excellent) reviews of The New Topping and The New Bottoming Books: Episode 7.
  • PolyMatchMaker.com–a dating website for poly people.
  • The OK Cupid Ethical Slut Test mentioned in this episode is no longer available.

31.41 Closing Remarks:

  • Thank you for tuning in!
  • In the next episode I’ll be reviewing the first three volumes of Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky.
  • Like The Pageist on Facebook, follow on Twitter, Tumblr, Goodreads and join the Fetlife group.
  • You can also subscribe to this website through the email form in the sidebar.
  • Subscribe to the iTunes feed here. You can also rate the show in iTunes, which would be much appreciated!
  • All episodes are listed and playable from this page.

Gaspar Noe’s Love

I didn't use any of the posters because they make me feel like this. You can see them here and here.

I didn’t use any of the posters because they make me feel like this. You can see them here and here.

I wasn’t looking at the screen when Gaspar Noe’s Love started—I was looking at my laptop—and the first thing I hear is Bean saying, ‘Well, dang.’ I look up and, on my Netflix-showing screen is a woman stroking a very erect dick with her face right next to it while a dude is enthusiastically fingering her. It wasn’t lit in a typical porny way—where you could do surgery—but, I mean. To quote Bean again, ‘No credits, no nothing.’

‘Well, dang.’ Indeed.

That went on for awhile.

I generally start my reviews with the plot, but this film did not start with plot. It started with a very erect dick and enthusiastic fingering first thing.

Then it got into the plot.

So here’s the plot.

American bro Murphy (Karl Glusman) is in Paris studying film. He starts off in a tumultuous relationship with Frenchwoman Electra (Ayomi Muyock). A sixteen year old, Omi (Klara Kristin), moves in next door to them and the three of them fall into bed. That scene was very hot. Kristin is rather limber. [The sex scenes were not choreographed. Props to the actors.]

The film jumps around in time and it’s not always easy to tell how much time has passed between events in their lives. But Murphy and Electra had experimented with group sex (sorta) at a club meant for that sort of thing, which had been recommended to them by a cop after Murphy tried to punch out a guy because he’s so American. It makes sense in the film, I promise.

So by the time Omi shows up (the actress was 22 when they shot the film for your peace of mine) the couple is already more open to the idea of being with others.

But then bad things happen because monogamy is best—Love is not really pro-open relationships. I’m not sure what this film is trying to say. On one hand, everyone is supposed to be open to doing everyone else and not jealous. On the other, when they do everyone else and get in touch with their sexuality, they end up screaming and fighting. It’s all high-drama and miserable.

Is it a French thing I don’t get? My sensibilities are very Anglo-American. Civil, quiet, let’s discuss this rationally if we have to discuss it. It’s a fundamentally different way of approaching … life. The universe. Everything.

Watching this film I was not seeing ‘love’. I saw ‘poor communication’ and ‘needless angst’. Both of which would make great punk band names.

The film tended to be either sex scenes or dramatic scenes of some general unhappiness or voice-overs of what was going through Murphy’s head (nothing good) as a result of his terrible life choices. And he made those choices because of love? Was that the message? Damn, that’s depressing. I would love to know what other people thought.

'Why didn't I stay in the States? French people are fucking crazy.' (source)

‘Why didn’t I stay in the States? French people are fucking crazy.’ (source)

Love is one of those long movies (2 hrs and 15 minutes) that feels long. The more of these I see the more I appreciate Lars von Triers’ ability to make a long film feel like a film of normal length.

Noe used different color filters to signify time, as the film jumps around between past and present, but it was still difficult to keep up with the timeline.

If you’ve ever tried to watch porn past the point of libidinous interest—that’s what the sex in this film is like. Bean summed it up nicely when she said, ‘They could have cut a third of the sex scenes.’ Maybe if the sex had been kinky or, I don’t know, just… something different it would have been less tedious.

My favorite part was during the threesome. Omi is between Murphy and Electra—she’s facing Electra and they’re having this sweet, intense connection and Murphy is behind her, humping away like a troll. It’s hilarious the difference in the expressions. Looking at the women it’s like he’s not even there and he’s all grrr hurf grrf ruuuff mrrrff.

Okay, he doesn’t make any sounds, but that’s probably what’s going through his mind.

Overall, I have to damn this one with faint phrase and say it was all right. It wasn’t the depressingness of it—I like a depressing film and I certainly don’t mind some American-bashing. I’m glad I didn’t see it in 3D, and it had a lot of same-y sex (which is different from same sex sex). And its depiction of non-monogamy left something to be desired. Meh. If you want to be able to see a lot of real (and very realistic) sex on Netflix wrapped up in a depressing story about people in messed up relationships —go for it.

Oh yes, there is an actual money shot. Right at the camera. Super up close. Guys, if you’ve ever wondered what a facial is like—this is going to be pretty close while still being hygienic.

3/5