Polyamory and BDSM FAQ

FullSizeRender (1)Last night, I was a human “book” on polyamory and BDSM for Bastyr‘s Human Library event. It’s always fun to see what questions naturopath health care providers have about alternative lifestyles, and last night was no exception.

Here are a few of the most frequently asked questions from the four groups of students I had the pleasure of chatting with last night.

What is polyamory?

The practice of having more than one long-term, loving, committed relationship with the full knowledge and consent of all parties involved.

I don’t know anything about polyamory. What do I need to know?

  • Nomenclature You may hear terms like non-monogamy, polyamory, swinging, progressive swinging or open. In general, “non-monogamy” is the more encompassing term;  “polyamory” is general used to describe long-term, loving relationships; “swingers” are generally couples that enjoy recreational sex. However, many people find that those definitions and categories don’t exactly fit their self-identifications. Since these words mean different things to different people, you should ask for more information. “Tell me more about what that means” or “Give me the quick tour of your relationships” work great.
  • Relationship formations Relationships take many forms, so don’t assume anything. Ask, “what does that look like?” or “give me a quick tour of your relationships.” You might hear the terms triad (three people in intimate relationships with each other), vee (a relationship formation in which A and B are together and B and C are together, but A and C are just friends), W (an extension of a vee), quad (four people in an intimate relationship with varying configurations), polycule, network or tribe. Feel free to ask for more information, since no two people use these words the same way.
  • Sexual orientation Polys might be heterosexual, heteroflexible, homosexual, bisexual, bicurious or anything else in between. Don’t assume that all non-monogamists are bisexual. Rather than asking “are you bisexual” (assumes a stereotype), ask “what is your sexual orientation?” I once had a gyny who casually asked, “Do you sleep with men, women or both?” I said, “both,” to which she replied, “good for you!” It was refreshing to have a health care professional that wasn’t making the assumption that everyone was straight, monogamous and vanilla.
  • Sleeping arrangements People pair off or have three-or-moresomes according to preferences and lifestyle arrangements. Each relationship falls to its own level, so don’t assume that everyone in a network is sleeping with everyone else (although that may be the case), and don’t assume that all sex is group sex.
  • STIs The rate of STI occurrence is actually lower in non-monogamous communities than in the general public, primarily because the issue is addressed openly and honestly. So please don’t assume that the people involved are at a higher risk for STIs (although some are).

How can I get patients to give me this information?

Design a question on your intake form that asks about the relationship structure and offers the options of monogamous, non-monogamous and polyamorous.

Orally, keep in mind that most polys won’t bring this up with a doctor because (a) unless you’re a gynecologist, it’s not really relevant or (b) there is a stigma that can lead to uncomfortable questions. So try asking, “What is your relationship configuration?” or “What is your relationship structure?” Monogamists might everyone is monogamous and are more likely to see the question as a chance to open up about their non-monogamy.

What is BDSM?

Four initials represent three word pairings: bondage and discipline; dominance and submission; sadism and masochism. Participants in BDSM enjoy activities ranging from impact play such as spanking, slapping or flogging to bondage to fetishes such as medical play or age play. Power exchange dynamics in which one person consensually asserts power over another (dominance and submission) is quite common. I prefer the encompassing term “kink” to refer to everything that mainstream society sees as weird or fringe.

How do I get patients to confide their BDSM proclivities to me?

In most cases, they won’t. And I’ve never discovered a good way to ask about kink affiliations without it sounding like a come-on.

What if they have bruises? How do I distinguish between consensual play and abuse?

Most of us are taught to either make sure bruises don’t show or to make jokes about them. I usually just tell people the truth–that getting them was a lot of fun on date night!

But you can use the opener, “Were those bruises consensual?” which signifies to a patient that you’re aware of the idea of consent in BDSM activities. As you’re aware, most survivors of abuse will make excuses, whereas a kinkster will most likely smile nostalgically at the memory of the kinky play.

PW 432: Navigating a poly vacation

kangaroovacationHow do you navigate a great poly vacation with three or more?

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Under 18? Stop listening now and visit http://www.scarleteen.com

1:00 Announcements

4:45 Poly in the news

6:10 Topic: Tips for navigating a poly vacation

  • Share your priorities What do you need to have a great vacation? Share your priorities in terms of restfulness, time with partners vs alone and sightseeing.
    • Do you have any emotional baggage about past bad vacations? Share it now.
  • Lay out finances Be brave and have full financial transparency. Lay out the expectations for who will pay for what, and make sure that everyone is comfortable with the level of financial commitment. Ask questions such as:
    • If three people share a room and two share a bed, does the third pay ½ or 1/3 of the bill?
    • If someone requires a four-star versus a two-star or three-star hotel, is everyone comfortable with the additional financial commitment? Do they want any financial considerations in return?
  • Consider biology We are our biology! What does each person need biologically to have a good trip? Consider
    • Eating schedule
    • Sleeping schedule
    • Sex schedule
    • Privacy schedule
    • Medications and backup medications
  • Sleeping arrangements Let each person voice their needs and concerns of privacy versus access (both physical and sexual).
  • Negotiate activities Then we get down to the meat of the vacation: what do you do every day? Have a discussion about whether each person prefers sightseeing or adventure; snorkeling or sunbathing; birdwatching or cliff diving; hiking or boat touring.
    • What are the expectations in terms of group/paired/ solo activities? Is the expectation that everyone will always do everything together?
    • Is there a need for people to pair off for activities?
    • Does anyone need solo time to do activities?
    • How will you decide on any given day what each person or the group will do?

39:00 Thank you!

Thanks to Yang for becoming our newest Poly Weekly Playmate!

40:00 Wrap Up

Questions? Comments? Feedback? Email polyweekly@gmail.com or call the listener comment line at 802-505-POLY. And hey, why not attach an audio comment to that email? :-) Check out PolyWeekly at Blubrry.com. Share this with a friend or write an iTunes review!

Open Letter to BudLight and BBDO: How to Apologzie

Bud Light’s “removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary” tagline merits a better apology

Dear Bud Light and BBDO:

Look, I get that alcohol marketing is primarily about marketing the promise of uninhibited fun. After all, alcohol’s key value proposition is lowered inhibitions, which allow many people the freedom do participate in activities they typically wouldn’t. And a lot of those activities can be quite fun. Much like the lottery, your job is to sell the best promise of your product, not to provide a balanced view of the full effects of your product.

The kerfuffle

That being said, referencing “removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night,” one of the tag lines of the Up For Whatever campaign, did more than “miss the mark.” It might as well have read “removing ‘no’ from her vocabulary for the night.” In a world where colleges and universities are struggling every day to prevent sexual assault by teaching the next generation to ask for and respect consent, there you are, back in the 1960s, teaching everyone that the only fun to be had is without consent. That tagline reeks of “boys will be boys” and throwing not only caution but also consent to the wind.

Basically, the reason you’re getting accused of being a little rapey is because your ad is a little rapey.

And your half-assed apology isn’t doing it for anyone. So let’s talk about how to apologize properly.

How to apologize

So what’s a corporation to do in this situation? Here’s the thing to do. It’s the same thing that every corporation (or politician or boyfriend or wife) should always do for building trust: cowboy/girl up and apologize.

Here is my three-step PR apology kit:

  1. First, apologize. For real. Heartfelt. Sincere. Acknowledge that you fucked up. Do not use the passive voice. Do not let your lawyers write the apology. Use the active voice, and write like you’re speaking to your grandmother. Do not “regret any inconvenience” and for heaven’s sake, don’t “regret that some took it badly.” Just admit in so many words that you made a mistake. Your audience will forgive you, but only if you actually apologize.
  2. Acknowledge your audience (including the women). Reaffirm what your brand stands for and that your audience is what makes your brand strong and successful.
  3. Show you’ve learned A wise brand learns from its mistakes. After the Superbowl debacle, GoDaddy fired its CEO and used more inclusive ad campaigns. We all grow and learn. Promise to be more conscientious in the future, and we’ll begin to trust your brand again.

Here’s an example:

Recently, we included a tagline on some of our bottles as part of the Up For Whatever campaign. This campaign is designed to encourage a spirit of adventure and light-hearted fun, but this particular tagline did just the opposite.

The “removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night” tagline was a mistake. We want everyone who drinks Bud Light to both have fun and be responsible. And this time, we failed to convey that.

We’re sorry, and we will work in the future to earn back your trust in Bud Light’s ability to provide a fun and safe night for all our fans.

PW 428: Naughty songstress Rachel Lark

A chat with bawdy poly songstress Rachel Larklarkafterdark

Download the mp3 directly

1:00 Announcements

3:00 Poly in the news

6:35 Interview: Bawdy Poly Songstress Rachel Lark

Rachel Lark, Bawdy Storytelling’s naughty songstress, shares tales of her poly life and how she got into writing and performing naughty songs. Her song for us is called Born This Way (26:30).

26:30 Born This Way

33:30 Feedback on episode 425

Pete writes in to give feedback on 425 Dating at 37, recounting that he got all this same self-help advice before being diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum

36:15 Wrap Up

Questions? Comments? Feedback? Email polyweekly@gmail.com or call the listener comment line at 802-505-POLY. And hey, why not attach an audio comment to that email? :-) Check out PolyWeekly at Blubrry.com. Share this with a friend or write an iTunes review!

PW 423: How to feel special

How to feel special when there is more than one partner involved?awesomedog

Download the mp3 directly

1:00 Host chat and announcements

9:50 Poly in the News

16:00 Topic: How to feel special

A listener writes in to ask how one goes about feeling special when one is not the one and only love. Cohosts Koe Creation and Minx offer their insights.

  • How does a second child feel special?
  • Know who you are as an independent and whole person
  • Know what you need and ask for it; ask your new partners what they need to feel special
  • Small kindnesses show care

30:45 Feedback

Marcie writes in in response to episode 420 on disabilities to say that not everyone prefers person-first language.

32:30 Happy Poly Moment

D calls in to share a slow road to polyamory.

38:00 Thank you!

Cagey and Doug both donated $69 each, which we invested in Portland strippers. J

Wrap up

Questions? Comments? Feedback? Email polyweekly@gmail.com or call the listener comment line at 802-505-POLY. And hey, why not attach an audio comment to that email? :-) Check out PolyWeekly at Blubrry.com. Share this with a friend or write an iTunes review!

PW 418: Emotional abuse

How to recognize emotional abuse and support both survivors and perpetrators within the community survivelolcat

Download the mp3 directly

Update 2-20-15: Full transcript now available!  PW 418 Emotional abuse transcript

1:00 Host chat and announcements

I’ll be teaching Kicking Poly Drama in the Ass at Kinkfest 

1:45 Poly in the News

Suit filed to decriminalize unofficial gay marriages in Michigan

3:30 Interview: Emotional abuse

Shannon Perez-Darby, Youth Services Program Manager for The Northwest Network of Bisexual, Trans, Lesbian & Gay Survivors of Abuse, shares her advice on how to recognize abuse of all kinds and how to respond when you or someone you love might be surviving emotional abuse.

Emfett blog

34:30 Happy Poly Moment

Michael shares a lustful happy poly moment of seeing his spouse and his crush walking together

35:15 Thank you

Welcome GJ to the Poly Weekly Playmates!

36:00 Wrap Up

Questions? Comments? Feedback? Email polyweekly@gmail.com or call the listener comment line at 802-505-POLY. And hey, why not attach an audio comment to that email? :-) Check out PolyWeekly at Blubrry.com. Share this with a friend or write an iTunes review!

PW 416: Growing up poly, the bad


Parentes_ama_familiam_cura
Three adults who grew up in polyamorous households speak out on their negative experiences of growing up poly

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This is part two of a two-part series on the real experiences of growing up in a poly household. To hear the panel speak on their positive experiences of growing up in a polyamorous household, visit Episode 415: Growing up poly, the good

1:15 Announcements

infinitycon logo

I’ll be teaching 8 Things I Wish I’d Known About Polyamory and MORE at InfinityCon in Atlanta over Valentine’s Day weekend! And LustyGuy will be with me, moderating the poly/swinging panel and teaching rough body play techniques. Fun!

For ticket, hotel and scheduling info, visit www.infinitycon.net

2:30 Poly in the News

Alan has listed the top 22 national poly events in 2015. PLUS instructions on how to search for and find your local meetup group. No excuses for not finding your community!

3:35 Topic: Growing up poly, the bad

After last week’s panel on the positive effects of growing up in a poly household, Join Koe, Susie and Tiana as they share some of the negative effects it had on their upbringing, including being too trusting and open in the world.

24:40 Feedback

Haddyr insists that yes, teens and 20-somethings do in fact use “heteronormative” all the time!

25:55 Wrap Up

Questions? Comments? Feedback? Email polyweekly@gmail.com or call the listener comment line at 802-505-POLY. And hey, why not attach an audio comment to that email? :-) Check out PolyWeekly at Blubrry.com. Share this with a friend or write an iTunes review!

PW 414: Meeting L!

lolcatpodcastA rare chance to hear L, LustyGuy’s wife and my metamour, speak on her brand of non-monogamy, jealousy and relationship longevity

Download the mp3 directly

1:00 Announcements and Host Chat

2:35 Poly in the News

5:10 Topic: Meeting L

LustyGuy’s wife and my metamour L is persuaded to take the microphone to talk about her brand of non-monogamy, jealousy and her secrets for non-monogamous relationship longevity.

24:50 Feedback

  • Lillian calls in a caveat to the Discuss, Distract, Do model of dealing with jealousy in episode 398
  • Steve calls in an asterisk to handling freaking out

29:30 Happy Poly Moment

  • Sarah calls in to give advice on how to name two Sarahs that you are dating
  • KR gives an update on a crowded house living situation that is chaotic but still happy

32:45 Wrap Up

Questions? Comments? Feedback? Email polyweekly@gmail.com or call the listener comment line at 802-505-POLY. And hey, why not attach an audio comment to that email? :-) Check out PolyWeekly at Blubrry.com. Share this with a friend or write an iTunes review!

Ask a polyamourous person

Buzzfeed just posted this fun, funny and factual video of the top questions asked of polyamorous people. And it’s already got over a million views. Less work for the rest of us educators to do! Well done!

If you’re interested, the Poly in the Media blog has posted the transcript.

Poly Weekly seeks its first poly families volunteer correspondent

unemployed-lol-cat4Have you always wanted to be a part of the magic? Due to popular demand, we are looking for a Poly Families Correspondent for the podcast. Requirements:

  • Must have experience in a poly family situation with children
  • Must be active in the local poly family community or message boards
  • Must be able to aggregate and evaluate content from multiple sources and compile a concise, engaging 2-8-minute report twice a month
  • Must have the means and experience to record and edit podcast-quality audio
  • Must be disciplined enough to plan, organize and execute a concise and engaging bimonthly report with minimal supervision
  • Must be willing to work for nothing but the reward of contributing to the poly community
Know someone who fits the bill and wants to be part of the longest-running podcast devoted to polyamory? Email polyweekly at gmail dot com!

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