QOTD: Sexual Attitudes

“Coitus can scarcely be said to take place in a vacuum; although of itself it appears a biological and physical activity, it is set so deeply within the larger context of human affairs that it serves as a charged microcosm of the variety of attitudes and values to which culture subscribes.”

- Kate Millet, 1969

 

Date Nights: Ikea

As I wore my pink, and he wore his blue, I said in that sarcastic voice: isn’t this some return to heteronormativity?

Receipt:

2 laundry baskets (in matching wicker)

1 Popsicle maker (in pink lemonade colors)

1 glass jar for oats (for post-run meals)

6 organizers for underwear (based on style and occasion)

4 lint roller refills (for wearing nice clothes)

1 suction cup soap ledge (so he smells like man-soap, and I don’t)

1 clock

(because its time.)

Do you have any fun date night rituals?

I love going to ikea. I love wandering the meticulously put together fake rooms. The shiny brand-new never-used kitchens. I like fantasizing about couches and futons, beds and pillows, giant wall-sized prints and mirrors of epic size. I like sitting in swivel chairs and spinning around. I like sitting in lounge chairs and staring up at the silver twisty-turny pipes of that warehouse turned make-believe. And, I like that post-ikea cinnamon roll. That unnecessary reward for saving 50% on home goods.

 

 

Question: Bringing Up Escorting

A reader recently wrote in about a girl they are dating who they found was a sex worker at a previous point in her life. The question was: is it suitable to bring this up with her? I reached out to another blogger friend of mine who has more experience with sex worker activism as I felt she could shed more light on this difficult subject. You can visit her blog and seek out further advice directly from her on her page sexualityreclaimed. I agree with her advice and would really emphasize comfort when and if you decide to bring this up with her. It is difficult to say what her current involvement might be, how she feels/felt about it, and whether or not she was going to talk to you about this on her own time. 

Question: 

I recently found out that a girl that I’ve been dating for the past year was an escort at a prior time in her life. This wasn’t something that she revealed to me personally, but rather a fact that I was able to piece together based on gaps in her history and testimonies from mutual friends of ours. The final clincher was a strange email exchange that she had left open on my browser after using my laptop. Against my better judgment, I skimmed the thread and found what seemed to be an exchange between her and a sugar daddy penpal of sorts—with the content containing regular exchanges about updates in their lives, financial discussions, and his reference to her as “honey” (or other terms of endearment). She had always been pretty secretive about her recent past and sources of income, but has otherwise had me be privy to sensitive parts of her history—moreso than any of her other friends that she hangs out with. There’s this strange dichotomy between the level of trust between us concerning certain issues, for instance—we spent several months getting to know each other on a personal level before becoming intimate and she’s not the kind of gal who takes home guys for a one night stand. While I’ve read about sites like Seeking Arrangement, the whole situation is just really bizarre to be honest and I’m not quite sure what to think at the moment. She has otherwise been pretty good to me and despite our differences; she has shown a commitment to improving other aspects of her life that I’ve been receptive toward helping her with as she meets these goals. While I have some reservations about the whole ordeal, I’m open to hearing her take on it and am wondering whether it would be suitable to bring it up the next time I see her?

Answer:

(Guest Response by sexualityreclaimed)

It sounds like you are a sensitive and caring partner and as a worker myself, I appreciated reading your thoughtful question. It sounds like your question and concerns are not so much around the sex work itself, but around the level of intimacy you share with and knowledge you have of this person you have been seeing.

I think discerning for yourself why exactly you want to know about this girl’s past work experience is really important because it will help frame up your conversation if you do decide to bring it up explicitly with her. I am assuming that the situation feels bizarre because while you have developed some trust and intimacy with her around certain things, she has closed off other parts of herself to you. That makes a lot of sense to me. And it makes a lot of sense that you are curious and interested to know about her past as a way to further the relationship you have been building.

That being said, it also sounds like she has been, for the most part, pretty intentional about not sharing her past with you, for whatever reason. It could be that it just takes her a while to develop the trust she needs in order to disclose those experiences. Remember that sex work is a pretty stigmatized experience, and she may have had traumatizing experiences in the past with other partners or friends who belittled, judged, or looked down on her once they found out about her sex work experiences.

Perhaps a good way to approach the topic is to bring up something in the media about sex work (the Belle Knox pieces come to my mind right now) Offer your supportive perspective on the issue to show your interest. This may help to demonstrate to her that you are a safe person with whom she could share her experiences. Remember that different workers have different experiences in the sex industry; it’s definitely not a cookie-cutter experience. She may have had a wonderful time as an escort, or a horrible time. The important thing is to demonstrate that you don’t think of sex work as an immoral or wrong choice and that you don’t think of workers as victims or devils.

If you decide to let her know that you read through the email conversation, I would start off with the framing piece that I offered above. Let her know that you care about her and reaffirm why and how you enjoy being in relationship with her. Explain that you are asking her about her past explicitly because you want to know her even better and deepen the intimacy you already share. Also offer that you understand if she is angry or upset that you read through the email exchange, and that you understand if she needs time to process the fact that she didn’t intentionally disclose her experiences to you first.

If the situation feels bizarre because you are unsure of what kinds of relationships she is maintaining with past customers, I think it makes sense to bring up sooner rather than later. I am a proponent of having clear agreements in relationships about boundaries so that all parties involved can give an informed “yes” to the relationship. If she wants to have pen-pal relationships with past customers, and you are not comfortable with that, I think you both deserve to have an explicit conversation so you can both go on to have the relationships that will make you happiest (whether that is with one another or with other people). It will give you both a chance to actually negotiate the boundaries of your relationship, and that seems pretty important. I can offer from my experience as a worker (albeit as a stripper and not an escort), that the worker-customer relationship can be fairly complex. Relationships with “regulars” often evolve into caring friendships, although they are rarely wholly romantic. With past regular customers, the relationship can often parallel caring relationships with ex-partners- a close friendship with someone you used to share sexual and erotic energy. If you can be comfortable with something like that in her life, it would be worth offering that kind of understanding. That relationship may offer quite a lot of support to her, and it would suck for her to have to choose between her current romantic partnership and a friendship. Again, though, that is a boundary that is up to you two to negotiate and discuss.

It seems to me that the worst that can happen is she will be so upset that you read through the conversation and asked her about it that she will never want to talk to you again (and is that really likely?). It seems that a far likelier option will be that she is uncomfortable or deflects the conversation, and the best outcome is that you two are able to have some honest conversations leading to a more robust relationship between the two of you however that manifests.

I love you, but.

The idea of “I love you, but” was one of the first concepts I learned in my Marital and Relationship courses. I remember being blown away by how a simple change in the language I used could make such a big difference in how I communicated. The idea of “I love you, but” is that you are qualifying your love with the “but” statement, but love should come free, endless, and open. You should not tell your partner that your love for them comes with an appendix.

The difference can be seen here:

1. I love you but I can’t tolerate it when you don’t look at me when I’m talking to you.

2. I find it really difficult when we don’t make eye contact, I love you and I would feel like we were really connecting if we made that change.

You can even have a conversation about making change within your relationship without including “I love you” in the statement at all.

3. I’ve been having a really hard time talking with you lately because I feel like we’re having problems giving one another our full attention. Have you noticed this too?

One could argue that adding the but adds extra oomph, a little extra something that encourages their partner to make a change. I would argue that saying but introduces blame into the conversation. It’s as though Partner A knows that Partner B is aggravated by that behavior but does it anyways out of spite or lack of caring. If you’re really interested in seeing a positive change in your relationship, try to remove blame from the vocabulary, and work on finding a solution together as a partnership.

I think it’s important to recognize that sometimes people do things without understanding how their partner is going to perceive that action. If you love your partner, don’t qualify that love with a but statement. Instead, try to separate the love you feel for them and the behaviors that you want to change in order to continue having a peaceful relationship.

If you have something you want to talk to your partner about, try writing down various ways of phrasing that statement to them.

Good things to remember are:

1. Does this statement sound blaming?

2. Is my partner going to be reactive to this statement? When should I bring it up?

3. Is this a behavior that I do as well? How can I make change? How can we make change together?

4. Does this statement interpret their behaviors as meaning? Might their behaviors not have the meaning I have interpreted into it?

5. What would I like to see change? What are reasonable steps to make that change happen?

This post was inspired by One Word That Should Never Follow I Love You in the New York Times this month.

Do you think about the words you use and the phrasing you use with your partner? Has this helped prevent arguments or conflict in your relationship?

Motivational Psychology: Blogging

When I first started writing about sex and sexuality I didn’t follow any other sex bloggers. I didn’t even know that there was a huge community of people who wrote about sex. Not only are there tons of writers, but there are all kinds of subgroups of sex blogging. Erotica, educational, fetish, journaling, reviewing, fantasy, and more. It’s good to remember that reading encourages writing, and the same thing goes for blogging. The more blogs I read, the more I am inspired to blog.

In my motivational psychology class we are working through a “motivational plan” for local non-profits or other small businesses. We have to create a plan for them to motivate either within or outside their business. It got me thinking about my own blog and how I could motivate people to visit my page more often. What kinds of incentives get people to click through?

No one better to ask than you, the readers, who are reading this, somewhere, for some reason. If you are a regular reader and could help me in answering these few questions, I would be exceptionally grateful.

1. How do you usually view my site? (Phone? Tablet? Computer?)

2. Do you typically read my site because you get email notifications? Twitter posts? Do you randomly check in?

3. What kinds of things spark your attention to come to my site? Interesting headlines? Particular themes in the post? (Sex? Gender? Relationships?)

4. What might encourage you to view my site more often? More visuals? Shorter posts? Longer posts? Less frequent posting? More frequent posting? Give me your ideas! 

Thank you! 

Sexual Assault Awareness Month

My university has sent out an email regarding sexual assault awareness month:

“Portland State University is combating the issue of sexual violence on college campuses. In order to raise awareness about this issue, PSU has launched a mandatory training module designed to educate students and staff on PSU’s policies regarding gender discrimination, sexual harassment and assault, sexual misconduct, and dating and domestic violence. The module is also designed to educate students about their rights and responsibilities as members of the campus community, as well as inform them on the multitude of resources available to students who have been impacted by sexual violence or gender discrimination.”

In the module there is a list of vocabulary words gone over. I thought the list was very interesting and so I typed it up to share. I feel like there are a lot of words people wouldn’t necessarily know. In University we learn the power of words and how we must consider the definition of the word given the time and place we’re in. An example of that would be how assault laws change over time and how certain things that used to not be considered assault are now considered assault. (Coercing your wife/husband into intercourse, for instance.) Understanding the language, in this case, can help understand the crime committed.

abusive sexual advantage, accused, accuser, advocate, anonymous report, at fault, both parties, broke up, clergy, coerced, consent, contact, copulation, disciplinary hearing, engaging in voyeurism, episodic, evaluate, excess, excluding from participation, explicitly, favors, hostile, impairment, implicitly, implies, incident, inducing incapacitation, intentional sexual touching, intervene, intoxicated, institution of termination procedures, mental incapacitation, misconceptions, no contact order, non-consentual sexual contact, non-coerced, penetration, preponderance of evidence, private parts, protected class, protected complaint, repeatedly, resident halls, retaliate against, sanctions, severe persistent or pervasive, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, slight, stalking, submission, survivors, takes advantage, targeted person, third party, unwelcome, urges, without a legitimate purpose.

My Myth: Religion Studies

I’ve read the first page of the bible a good dozen times, but that’s as far as I could ever get. This term I signed up for a Feminist Biblical Interpretation course. I’ve been able to dive in heard first, consider my views on religion, and learn how to read the bible from people who understand it’s many interpretations.

Yesterday in class we were asked what our myth or story was. Some people believe in the story of the bible, and they base their life around that story.

My Story

I thought about it for a while and decided that my story was based on the goodness of people. I believe that everyone is born good - and the goal in life is to figure out why people become not-good, and to give sympathy and treatment to those people. The girl next to me said it was a very “psychologist” based story … guilty. Someone else mentioned that my story was the opposite of the idea that we are born with sin and must be cleansed. I find it helpful to think about people being born as good because my mind is unable to comprehend that some people may intentionally and purposefully, in some real way, be cruel by nature. It is easier for me to believe that something has happened to those people that has made them unwell.

I also got to read a lot of stories on theories this week.

When something happens in the world that I don’t understand I begin to theorize why that is the way that it is, and it helps me feel calm. In many cases that revolves around determining that someone is unwell, and wanting to know why. Theories can help us find peace in the chaos around us and can offer faith that there are answers out there.

What is your story? Do you follow any particular religion? If you don’t, what do you think your story is?