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Talking about sex? Use these 3 tips to enhance your sexual communication with your partner(s)

Do you sometimes wonder if you and your partner(s) are effectively communicating about your sexual desires and interests? How about that craving for more intimacy in your relationship(s) but talking about desires and interests are challenging? Wonder if you and your partner are good at sexual communication? Take the below quiz and find out.

Rank the following questions on a scale of 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). Keep track of your points.
  • My partner(s) rarely talks to me when I want to talk about our sex lives (scale 1-5).
  • Some sexual matters are too upsetting to discuss with my sexual partner(s).
  • I think it is difficult for my partner(s) to tell me what she/he/they like to do sexually.
  • My partner(s) and I never seem to resolve our disagreements about sexual matters.
  • Whenever my partner(s) and I talk about sex, I feel like she/he/they are lecturing me.
  • My partner(s) often complains that I am not very clear about what I want sexually.

Scoring: If your final score was between 6-12, you are probably communicating with limited concerns or challenges. If you scored between 13-24, you may be experiencing some challenges in communication. If you scored higher than 25, you are probably experiencing some communication challenges in your relationship(s). No matter your score, it is important to know that sexual communication is not comfortable for most people, especially in the U.S. Americans are fairly conservative regarding sexual communication and experience a great deal of discomfort.

Tips to enhance sexual communication
Tip #1: Use “I” statements

The top barrier in communication between partners is the use of “you” statements. You never listen to me when I tell you what I like. You avoid talking to people when we go to the club? “You” statements become a barrier because they can be heard as accusations or threats. When we feel under attack, we activate our innate life-saving fight, flight, or freeze responses. Use of “you” statements typically provokes these responses. Our fight response means we respond argumentatively and we may seem defensive. Our flight response means that we might leave the discussion and may seem that we are avoiding the issue. Our freeze response means that we become immobile, unresponsive. This makes us appear as if we are present, but we our minds are trying to find a way out.

Instead, try using “I” statements. I sometimes feel that you are not listening to me. I actually like it when I see you turned on by another person. Focusing your communication from the “I” perspective allows more space for your partner(s) to hear you without experiencing a fight, flight, or freeze response. Instead, this approach pulls your partner(s) into the conversation. Limit your “I-You” statements as well. I think you should listen to me does not count as an “I” statement. I want to tell you about how I’m feeling about that couple we met last night is a better use of the “I-You” statement. Still, try to limit these when possible.

Tip #2 Tell your partner(s) about your desires, interests, and fantasies

Some people are uncomfortable with the term “intimacy.” However, intimacy is all about the emotional connection with your partner(s), which is exactly what communication brings about in a relationship. Sharing your sexual desires, interests, and fantasies creates an connection between you and the person(s) with which you become vulnerable. I know, I know. People also don’t like the term “vulnerable.” But this too is exactly what open communication is all about. We must be vulnerable with our partner in order to enhance intimacy. All of this encourages growth in your relationship(s) and strengthens communication between partners. And, as it turns out, exploring our desires and fantasies helps us feel “normal,” that we are not so different. If you’re interested in learning more about desires and fantasies, I strongly encourage you to read Tell Me What You Want by Justin Lehmiller. We highly recommend this book…and, no, we are not making money off of that recommendation.

Want to explore your fantasies with your partner? Make a game of it…even a drinking game, if you are so inclined. Tell your partner what sex act or sex position you like. If they agree, they drink…or kiss your neck. If your partner(s) is not interested in that specific act or position, you drink or kiss their neck. Take turns and explore your desires. Here’s the thing, as the game continues, you have to up the ante by sharing more about fantasies that you are sure you have not shared with your partner(s). Then, you begin sharing the fantasies and desires you’ve never shared with anyone. By the way, this does not have to happen in one night. Have fun and explore deeper as you feel closer and safer…you know, less vulnerable and more intimate.

Tip #3: Create space and time to talk

Work. Kids. Chores. Family commitments. And so it goes. Finding the space and time to genuinely sit and talk without interruption, and before you are ready to collapse into bed after a long day, is not easy. But your relationship(s) is a priority. So put communication on the calendar. Schedule a time to talk. Sometimes this is a night away from home and dinner, or a picnic. Sometimes it is 30 minutes before going to bed, but schedule a time to talk. If you use your “I” statements, you will more easily fall into a rhythm that is comfortable for you and your partner(s).

Now here is an extra tip during your intimate communication: stare into each other’s eyes without saying anything for at least 60 seconds. I know! I know! No effing way, right?! But here’s the thing: sexual communication is mostly non-verbal. Think about it. It’s a glance here or a smile there. It’s slap on the ass or a kiss on the neck. We communicate without words all the time So practice non-verbal communication. Sure it will feel awkward at first, but the rewards to your communication system will be greatly enhanced.

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Own Your Orgasms: Three Tips for Female Self-Pleasure

One of the most common myths about sexual interactions is that someone “made me cum.” While we obviously connect our orgasms with the person(s) that was engaged with us during sex, the reality is that we actually own our orgasms. Another person does not give you an orgasm. An orgasm is a complex response to sexual stimulation. You see, our bodies respond to sexual stimulation by shutting down the lateral orbitofrontal cortex, which decreases fear, anxiety, and pain while turning on remote brain regions that are involved with orgasms. In those remote brain regions we have the thalamus, which is related to sexual memory, fantasy, and touch and the hypothalamus which produces oxytocin. When our body reacts to sexual stimulation, the brain releases neurochemicals, like dopamine, which is responsible for the experience of pleasure, and oxytocin, which provides a sense of affection toward the person(s) with which we are sexually engaged. Oxytocin is also released during breastfeeding to promote bonding between mother and child. This is not to imply that the experience of breastfeeding and orgasm are the same or that breastfeeding is sexual, but just to indicate a sense of bonding. Prolactin is the hormone responsible for that feeling of satisfaction that we feel with the orgasm.

We tend to connect the neurochemical response of orgasm with the sexual stimulus occurring with our genitals. Our brains, in essence, map the experience as pleasurable with the genital stimulation taking place. But it is essential to understand that this is not always the case. For example, there are abundant data that describe the “orgasm” physical response to unwanted sexual stimulation as a unpleasurable experience. This can be very confusing and disturbing for people who have this biological response to unwanted sexual stimulation. Such an experience may warrant therapeutic support to understand that the body reacted naturally and that the unwanted experience was not the survivor’s fault. Simply put, the body responds to stimulation and the orgasm itself is an interpretation of pleasure in response to the chemicals released in the brain.

It is also important to know that individuals who may have reduced or unavailable sexual functioning in the genitals may “remap” the orgasm experience with other parts of the body. For example, a person with lower body paralysis may experience orgasm through stimulation of the nipples or another responsive part of the body. The body and brain, therefore, work in tandem to create a biological response to sexual stimulation that we interpret as an orgasm.

Okay, so that’s a lot of scientific information. It’s good to know this, however, in order to take ownership of our orgasms, we need to first understand that: 1) our bodies naturally respond to sexual stimulation whether we want it to or not; and 2) the other person(s) who may be engaging with us sexually are not responsible for our orgasms. The other person(s) are only supporting our orgasms by creating stimulation. So the idea that “someone made me cum” is probably better stated as “someone helped me cum.” Your body did the rest. So, dear reader, you now can take back ownership of your orgasms. This is particularly an issue for women who have been disadvantaged in the orgasm ownership category throughout time because men have been given power over the sexuality of women. By taking back ownership of your orgasm, you are empowered to experience orgasms on your own terms. Here are three tips for you to take ownership of your orgasm and enhance the pleasure experience with your partner(s).

Tip #1: Use your toys!

We have heard so often that women are not comfortable using toys during sex, particularly with men, because they do not want to offend their male partner. Why? The answer is that when men own the sexuality of women under the myth that they “give women orgasms” and that using a toys is emasculating. This is patently false. If you’re responsible for your own orgasm, then you have the right and responsibility to use toys or other sexually stimulating devices, food, or objects that bring you pleasure. The male penis does a terrible job of directly stimulating the external part of the clitoris. The clitoris is essential in stimulating the majority of female orgasms. To meet the need to stimulate the clitoris, we encourage use of toys, such as a vibrator, or your fingers (or whatever else might be safely used) to stimulate the clitoris during sexual intercourse. Becoming comfortable with using toys during sexual intercourse will enhance your ownership and opportunity for orgasms. Men that are intimidated or feel emasculated by the use of toys need to recognize that sexual activity is a two-way (or threeway…or moreway) experience. The male penis is typically fully engaged in sexual intercourse, which includes the sensitive tissue just under the tip of the penis (this is the equivalent to the female clitoris). So, if it’s good for the male, then it is good female in terms of fully engaging the clitoris. Remember, the release of oxytocin enhances the “bonding” experience with our sexual partner(s). So if you are a male who is unsure about your female partner’s use of toys, you are definitely rewarded when your partner experiences orgasm because of the chemical response to the orgasm in which you played a part.

Tip #2: Go solo

Masturbation is a tremendous way to learn what you like and dislike when being sexually stimulated. You can explore your fantasies and “map” the sensations with the parts of your body that enjoy sexual stimulation. You can also use your toys so that you know exactly which ones you want to use during sexual intercourse. The more you know yourself, the more you can own your orgasms. Explore. Enjoy.

Tip #3: Let your partner(s) watch/join

Sadly, we have been taught that masturbation is a “private matter” not to be observed by others. We cannot disagree enough with this notion when it comes to your intimate partner(s). If you have dedicated the time needed to explore with your toys and know what helps you achieve orgasm, then it is time to teach your partner(s). Why? Because you own your orgasms. Let them watch. Show them what you like. You may also want them to use toys with you so they can learn how the toys work for you. Just do not be surprised if, at some point during this process, your partner(s) become so aroused that they may need to enjoy their own orgasms with you.

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What’s the Difference Between Polyamory and Monogamous Relationships in the U.S.?

Polyamorist couple, Cinna and Beau Lewis, from Cedar Rapids, Iowa were highlighted in a littlevillagemag.com article written by Emma McClatchey earlier this month (read article here). In the article, Cinna and Beau share their poly relationship experiences covering everything from dating logistics to transparent communication to sexual identity. Cinna describes polyamory as “really beautiful” and that their strong monogamous relationship helped them build their poly relationships from a solid foundation. Cinna and Beau represent an understudied population who are rewriting the standard narrative about how relationships are to be structured. They are not alone. A California-based triad recently symbolically married (see article here) and others are exploring a lack of evidence in negative effects on parenting-while-poly (see article here). Now all this positivity should not infer ease or perfection in poly relationships. Just like any other relationship, there is work involved. Everyone involved in the relationship must effectively communicate, negotiate, and, of course, share intimacy in ways that works best for them. But who, exactly, are these polyamorists and are they different than those who practice monogamous relationships?

A recent study published in the Journal of Sex Research compared the demographics of Americans who are in polyamorous relationships with those in monogamous relationships. The study, led by Rhonda Balzarini at the University of Western Ontario, compared data of over 2,400 polyamorous individuals with over 500 monogamous individuals. The study findings concluded that polyamorous individuals were significantly more likely to identify as bisexual, pansexual or an other, non-listed orientation than those who were monogamous. They did not differ, however, in those who identified as gay or lesbian. Monogamous individuals were more likely to have a bachelor’s degree or higher education. Religious affiliation for monogamous individuals was primarily Christian, which was significantly different than polyamorous individual who reported other religious affiliations equally with Christianity. Polyamorists tended to affiliate politically with the Democratic party than the Republican party, but polyamory was represented in both parties. This study may not tell us much about political affiliation beyond a simple statement that polyamorists may align with either political party. Polyamorists reported a lower annual income compared to monogamous individuals and polyamorists tended to be in civil union relationships compared to their married monogamous counterparts.

These findings show that there are some differences between individuals who are polyamorous compared those who are monogamous in the areas of sexual identity, religious affiliation, and income differences. These differences may not really be too surprising considering the predominate religion of Christianity of those surveyed has not historically supported sexual identities beyond heterosexuality. While this study is a demographic picture of the individual differences between polyamorous and monogamous individuals, there is so much more to learn and understand. As more research is published we will learn more, from a scientific perspective, how these relationships differ (if at all), how parenting differs (if it does), and maybe even more about how this particular relationship configuration may create a healthier state of well-being for those in a sexually autonomous relationship. Indeed the poly relationship tends to look more like that of our ancestors, as we shared in a previous blog post, Inconvenient Truth About Monogamy.

References:

Balzarini, RN., Dharma, C., Kohut, T., Holmes, B.M., Campbell, L., Lehmiller, J.J., & Harman, J.J. (2019). Demographic comparison of American individuals in polyamorous and monogamous relationships. The Journal of Sex Research, 56(6), 681-694.

McClatchey, E., (Feb. 5, 2020). Polyamory works wonders for one Cedar Rapids couple. Little Village Magazine. Accessed at https://littlevillagemag.com/polyamory-works-wonders-for-one-cedar-rapids-couple/

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Openogamy.com Announces Club G Collaboration

We are thrilled to be a part of Club G’s continued growth as Iowa’s premiere lifestyle club. We will facilitate club orientations and offer workshops to its members. Its’ a very exciting collaboration.” Openogamy.com

Iowa’s top choice for people curious about or living a sexually open lifestyle is Club G, located in Des Moines, Iowa. With over 1,000 members on its private Facebook page and hundreds of club members, Club G has clearly established itself as the go-to place for lifestyle-friendly people. The club’s owners and advisory board have big plans for 2020 in continuing the club’s growth as Iowa’s premiere lifestyle club.

The pleasure ambassadors of openogamy.com will facilitate orientations with Club G on a monthly basis. Orientations are designed to introduce new members and those eager to learn more about the lifestyle an opportunity to connect and grow together as a member of the community. Workshops, which are currently under development, will be provided to club members at a discounted rate. However, non-members will be offered the opportunity to attend workshops at the club location so that they can explore lifestyle experiences of interest to them and be introduced to the club itself.

“There are a number of workshops that are under development. However, we already know that there is interest in Lifestyle 101 workshops that explore aspects of swinging and polyamory for those new or curious about the lifestyle. We also know that there is a great interest and need for relationship workshops, like managing jealousy and effective lifestyle communication. We plan to provide workshops that are backed by the science of sex to ensure superior quality in the educational experience. ” Openogamy.com

Additional workshops will also be developed based on an a forthcoming survey of club members. Establishing workshops and educational opportunities will further support Club G’s goals of being the place to experience and learn about the lifestyle. The added benefit of the Club G and openogamy.com relationship is the additional access to future virtual education programs and coaching by local pleasure ambassadors.

Want to start swinging? Top 3 reasons couples have sex with other people

This post was originally published at lifestylecouch.wordpress.com on July 14, 2018 and is revised and edited in this new post for openogamy.com. The owner/author is the same for openogamy.com and lifestylecouch.

Curious about swinging? Interested in having sex with people outside your marriage/relationship? While you are not alone, it is estimated that only 4% of committed couples engage in “swinging.” Not all of those participating in the swinger lifestyle participate for the same reasons. In fact, the reasons couples swing are so varied that it’s hard to pinpoint exactly why. Divorce rates in the U.S. are nearly 50% with many of those due to extramarital affairs. As I’ve previously blogged, monogamy is a mythexemplified by the 40% of married women and 50% of men reported having sex outside of their marriage. But what about why committed couples become swingers?

Strengthen The Current Relationship

There is not a tremendous amount of scientific literature on this subject, but there is more research being conducted on this topic as it has entered the public consciousness. Marisa Cohen’s exploratory study on non-traditional relationships showed that couples mutually agreed to engage in the swing lifestyle. Her findings indicate that mutual agreement to participate means that they are in the lifestyle together, as a couple. Cohen found that the couples who agreed to join the lifestyle together were less concerned about their partner “cheating.” Fascinating, right?! By mutually engaging in sexual relations with other couples or singles, couples have fewer concerns about “cheating.” But cheating can still occur if your partner(s) is not aware of the sexual exploits. Become comfortable with the notion of ethical, consensual non-monogamy to strengthen the relationship.

Sexual Identity Factors

Cohen’s study found that over 46% of study participants identified as heterosexual. However, it was also found that 38% identified as bisexual and 2% as homosexual. This is an extremely important finding. Society has not been historically safe to explore one’s sexual identity. Those who are married and monogamous have limited opportunities to explore their sexual identity. However, those couples participating in consensual non-monogamy have a different pathway to explore their sexuality with same-sex or non-gendered or non-binary individuals to whom they are sexually attracted. It is important to note that people who identify as heterosexual but find that they are attracted to the same sex does not mean that a person is bisexual, although this can still be true. There is a growing amount of science that shows sexuality is fluid in that situational sexual expression with a person of the same sex is not equal to being bisexual. Terms used for sexual fluidity have included: bi-friendly and bi-curious. As couples explore their sexual identity, it is essential that they explore comfort levels, biases, and how they will respond if or when a sexual scenario is more fluid.

Sexual Variety

As indicated above, nearly half of married men and women reportedly engaged in some sort of extramarital sexual activity. Fantasies of both men and women often include threesomes and orgies, according to the findings of one sex researcher. Why is this? There is a great deal of literature that would indicate that this aspect is all about sexual variety. I highly recommend reading Justin Lehmiller’s Tell Me What You Want to learn all about our sexual desires and fantasies. As non-monogamous, sexual beings, we crave, desire, and maybe even need to be sexual with more than one person during our lifetime. Consider whether you have you been sexually intimate with more than one person during your life? You may be married and monogamous right now, but have you always been with that one person? If not, then you are not monogamous. You’ve simply made a decision to be with one person, to live monogamously. In fact, if you tend to move from one monogamous relationship to another, you are considered a serial monogamist, but this is still non-monogamy.

Sexual variety includes more than just having intercourse with another person. Variety may include exploration as well. We know of those who act out fantasies through role-play in a multitude of ways. This is probably not news as it’s been in mainstream conversation, such as television sitcoms, for quite some time. One of the funniest episodes of Modern Family, we think, is when Phil acts like a different person and attempts (poorly) to pick up his wife, Claire, in the bar. While comedic, this example is all about variety. We crave the heightened excitement of being sexual with someone else.

The need to explore the constellation of sexual partners, desires, and fantasies is very individualized. In fact, not all couples share their fantasies with their primary sexual partner. We have heard the fantasies of one sexual partner and learned that the other partner was not even aware of those fantasies. It is important to learn about your partner’s/partners’ fantasies and desires and to share yours with them in order to really know how exploring consensual non-monogamy can be the most fulfilling experience for all involved. While there are those who seek variety outside of their partner’s awareness, we recommend avoiding these situations, if possible. Such scenarios are bound to have negative consequences regardless of how exciting it might be. We will explore cheating within the lifestyle in another blog.

Conclusion: Couples engage in consensual non-monogamy (e.g., swinging, polyamory) to strengthen their relationship, to explore their sexuality, and to enjoy variety. Couples strengthening their relationship tend to be very “couples” focused. They typically require inclusion versus exclusion of their primary partner and those with which they are having sexual encounters. They typically want to enjoy swinging as a couple, but this is not in every case. Communication among all involved is an absolute necessity. If you are not a strong communicator, there are ways to strengthen that skill, which we will publish in future posts. No matter the fantasies, desires, and needs of the couples or individuals involved with consensual non-monogamy, communication with all involved is always the safest bet to limiting frustration, anger, jealousy, and tears when exploring the lifestyle. But, if we are being honest, isn’t communication and respect sort of central to maintaining a healthy relationship whether its in the lifestyle or not?