With the innocent days of key parties and free love behind us, Not Your Mother’s Playground: A realistic guide to honest, happy, and healthy open relationships is a how-to guide for navigating today’s very different world of modern-day non-monogamy. From swinging to polyamory, it walks readers through the many ups and downs they may encounter along their journey. Samantha injects the honest story of her own open marriage throughout to provide readers with insight, humour, and refreshing personal experience. Whether you are new to non-monogamy or an experienced veteran, Not Your Mother’s Playground is sure to challenge your mind and validate your heart.
CLICK HERE to learn more about getting a Kindle, PDF, or print copy of the book.
Fun fact: I am turning 35 in a month and I have a 27 year old Daddy.
It’s taken me a long time to get to this point. My kink path has taken me down some interesting exploratory routes as I’ve tried to find the right role for me. I’ve tried being a slave (that lasted all of 5 minutes – was he kidding me with those weird instructions?), a dominant (that I can do, but only with the right person, and it certainly doesn’t fill my heart with the same butterflies), a pet (lovely, but ultimately not satisfying enough), and a few other variations. They’ve all had their own levels of satisfaction, but none really felt like a “complete” fit.
Then I learned about being a babygirl and it really felt good. I could combine elements of most of the other roles I had enjoyed falling into, but it finally feel like one complete package. The only problem? As much as it seemed to be right for me, I still wasn’t ready for it. This was a few years back; I was still dating Andrew and I wanted to call him Daddy but couldn’t bring myself to do it. The pressure never came from him – he was fine if I said it or if I didn’t – instead it came from me. A longing to have a Daddy dominant / babygirl relationship with someone who equally wanted me to be in that role. I suppose in hindsight that I wasn’t comfortable saying it with someone who was blasé about taking it on as a moniker. Read more »
Over the past couple of weeks we have all been inundated with a zillion op-eds on 50 Shades, from reasons why you should boycott the film to reasons why it’s oh-so-harmless. I’ve read some brilliant pieces from every angle, and it’s been fascinating to watch the conversation surrounding Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele become a part of current culture. There are pieces I’ve agreed with, and pieces that have felt alien and sometimes offensive to me.
I make no promises that my words won’t be anger-inducing. The book, and now the movie, are definitely very divisive issues and my opinion might be a stark contrast to yours. There are rape, trauma, and stalking triggers in the 50 Shades books and it would be ignorant and wrong of me to gloss over those and attempt to deny you your agency to feel your own feels. But, even before I watch the film, I wanted to share with you the evolution of my opinions and how I’ve gone from a strictly “Boo, that’s dumb and promotes abuse” to a much more nuanced middle ground opinion that I hold today.
The other day I was asked to go on local news to discuss my thoughts on 50 Shades. I was edited slightly to say that I think the story promotes abuse but that wasn’t the full gist of my argument. I was also trying to stress that I think it’s very important that there are conversations being held right now that involve kink, consent, and sexual desire, and that we need to be careful about being so quick to shame people for wanting to enjoy these fantasies, especially if they’re new. I’ve been kinky now for almost 8 years and think that however you choose to define your own personal sexuality it’s wonderful that more people are beginning to find ways to do this for themselves.
That being said, of course it’s problematic that 50 Shades is being used as the big example right now of what dominance and submission looks like. I, along with many kinksters, have found myself up in arms about this in recent weeks and months, angry that the 50 Shades franchise doesn’t depict a healthy, consensual, BDSM relationship. As much as I felt steadfast in my opposition of the story, this argument didn’t sit well with me for long.
50 Shades is a work of fiction that started as unbelievably crappy fan-fiction, written by an unbelievably crappy writer. It’s undeniable that the unbelievably crappy relationship between Christian Gray and Anastasia Steele is imperfect, manipulative, and at times dangerous but why does it have to be anything but? A work of fiction and fantasy does not owe us perfection. Just because the masses have made a story popular does not mean that said story must set a healthy example, or else it’s to be considered irresponsible. Why does a work of fiction about kink, or anything for that matter, owe us this?
As Stacey May Fowles writes in her recent wonderful piece for The Walrus, that you should all make a point of reading:
The movie is certainly not about depicting a healthy relationship, but relying on entertainment to be appropriate, accurate, instructional, or ideologically sound is a sorely misplaced impulse. That’s not art’s purpose, nor should it be. Yet for whatever reason Fifty Shades has become an arena where we feel it’s fair game to police narrative, something that’s generally an agreed upon no-no for artistic expression.
We seem to place this huge burden of responsibility on fiction to guide us and to give us all the insight we need to make healthy choices for our own lives, but we’re also being ridiculously selective about it. Movies and stories are created all the time that show unhealthy relationships, abuse cycles, murder, racism, sexism, etc. etc. ad nauseam. We don’t find ourselves talking about boycotting those stories, nor do we place them on such a high pedestal of responsibility like we do with 50 Shades, especially when there are some interesting things to consider about the film adaptation.
If the primary objections around the book were the promotion of abuse and the downplaying of consent, the film seems to have made a considerable (though imperfect) attempt to tackle that concern. I would even go as far as to say Fifty Shades has some of the most comprehensive, active depictions of consent I’ve seen in a mainstream movie—certainly better than your average rom-com or erotic drama.
In the same way the Candy Crush creators aren’t responsible for the massive amounts of time people have wasted playing the game, 50 Shades, book or movie are not responsible for helping people fulfill their fantasies safely. Just because a story has been consumed by millions of people and happens to be the first kink story to be accepted by a widespread, mainstream audience, does not mean that story has to be educational, well written, well acted, or a perfect model for consensual kink. What we should be talking about instead is why society tends to gravitate towards terrible things so much and so often and why the media isn’t mentioning the bad along with the good. Are content creators to blame for our lackluster reactions to some things and rabid reactions to others? Are we destined to constantly get sucked up by the next Flappy Bird or throw all of our hard-earned money towards the next online-fundraiser for potato salad? And if yes, why, and who’s to blame, if anyone at all?
To suggest that people don’t see the 50 Shades movie or read the books because it’s a terrible relationship example is also not a helpful narrative. It is not my place or your place to shame others for things that turn them on, however problematic we might personally find the content. It is not my place or your place to end conversations before they begin, simply because we’re disappointed as kinksters that our hopefully healthy relationships aren’t being portrayed accurately on screen or in books. And it is not my place or your place to suggest that whatever bad behaviours we see in the story will automatically be embraced by the newbs who are taking it all in for the first time, because obviously they can’t think for themselves about what is fantasy and what should be their own personal realities.
Can there be danger in kink fantasies coming to life? Absolutely. When I first started discovering submission, the longing that I felt in my chest, heart, and cunt meant that I wasn’t always standing up for myself or making the best decisions for my personal happiness and safety. Submissive desire, especially if it’s a new feeling you are realizing, can be an unbelievably overwhelming one, and of course there will always be people out there who might take advantage of that. I was often simply going along for the ride which didn’t always work out in my favour. I hadn’t learned yet what I didn’t like so I was easy to manipulate into doing things that they liked. It’s possible that I could have encountered dominants who would have abused my naivety as Mr. Grey does with Miss Steele; thankfully I am lucky that this didn’t happen. I’ve come to realize though that suggesting that would have been the fault of my fantasies is a bit too much like victim-blaming for my liking.
Fantasies and desire can be overwhelming for sure, but if people are realizing things about their sexuality through their enjoyment of 50 Shades, then this isn’t a bad thing, even if the delivery system is unfortunately offensive and/or triggering to some. As Shanna Katz, sex educator and author, said in a recent Facebook post:
It is our responsibility as social workers, counselors, educators, kinksters, community members, etc., to direct them towards books like Playing Well With Others, Kinky As You Want To Be, SM 101, etc., and classes from educators and kink experts, as a way to flesh out that interest and have good talks about boundaries and consent.
Through realizing my true feelings on the 50 Shades franchise, I have decided that I still have anger but this anger is directed at how the story is being promoted. The marketing team behind the movie is selling it as a romantic and sexy tale, driving their point deep into your eyeballs by releasing the movie on Valentine’s Day. Mainstream media isn’t doing any better by constantly avoiding the negative aspects that really do deserve attention, instead choosing to focus on creating a narrative of idealized sexual fantasy. It would probably be strange to have a disclaimer at the beginning of the film, but there could easily be mentions made of where people can learn about this stuff from a healthy perspective, either at the end, or via the media. While I don’t agree with assigning responsibility to the story itself as being the ultimate guide for safe and consensual kink, I am thoroughly disappointed that the marketing and media are selling it as is without suggesting that there are dangers within its fictional script.
As frustrating as this is however, it just means that there are more conversations to have which, in a mainstream world so focused on sex yet so determined to not talk about sexual pleasure, can only be a (baby) step in the right direction. Baby steps aren’t always perfect. Babies fall down, they need to be guided, they need support. The same is true of cultural shifts.
Now if you don’t mind, I’m going to go and ogle me some Jamie Dornan – who by the way plays a dominant serial killer in The Fall and people, rightfully so, praise the absolute ever-loving shit out of that.
Valentine’s Day is coming up, but there’s really no excuse needed to get a wand vibrator. A staple in my sex toy drawers, these wands all have their own pros and cons. Which one will work best for you?
For two years life in my household was pretty difficult, you guys. My Magic Wand was left behind in Mexico by my husband when we switched to our second hotel of one lovely sunny holiday. Gone were the earth-shattering orgasms that I could have literally at the switch of a button. For a while I made do without any sort of magic device, until eventually I tried a Lelo Smart Wand.
I like the Lelo wand. It feels smooth and slick, which is a very obvious contrast to the intense and large white drill that the Magic Wand is. It’s much more comfortable to hold and, in typical Lelo fashion, has multiple settings so that you can experience different levels of sensation. One of the coolest tricks that it has is the SenseTouch™ vibration setting which increases the strength upon contact with the skin. Personally, I think this mode is no good for masturbation but that’s because I generally
like need to have constant strong pressure on my bits to get off. The SenseTouch makes that ridiculously annoying for me, but it’s really great for actual massage. If you have a knot in your back and want to hold something that feels sleek and will make for interesting conversation with your Aunt Maeva, grab a Smart Wand.
Overall, the Smart Wand is a pretty good wand for people who want to move away from the more standard and phallic vibes, and want something a bit more sophisticated with more bells and whistles, but it’s rarely enough power to make my clit scream. I don’t really recommend it when the other options are just so much better and more affordable!
The (Formerly Hitachi) Magic Wand, or simply “Magic Wand” as it’s known now, doesn’t really need an introduction. It’s the beast that you’ll hear about if you know anyone who likes to know they’re definitely going to get off with a jackhammer in between their legs. It’s not a sexy beast though in fact, with its ridiculously loud settings and strange off-white colour; the only thing that tells you it’s a sex toy is how it feels pressed up against your cunt. It’s reliable, it’s powerful, but it’s certainly not for everyone.
I was thrilled to have a new one after a couple of years without one, but it’s definitely not the be all and end all that it used to be for me. It’s the old faithful that I return to if I want to get off in a quick second, but I definitely can’t feel seduced when it’s between my legs. If you don’t want to use the force on your vulva, maybe you should back away from this wand, and check out what’s up next.
Ding ding ding, folks, we have a winner! After years of longing for my Magic Wand to come back to me, I was introduced to the Body Wand at exactly the same time as my Magic Wand reunion happened. Suddenly I was filled with conflicting emotions. I felt happy, I felt guilty … I felt like I was going to cum over and over and … well, you get the idea.
The Body Wand is everything I have ever wanted in a wand. It’s rechargeable, which means no wires in the way (though there is a plug-in version I have yet to try), the speed is adjustable, it’s small yet still ridiculously powerful, and it comes with just one alternate setting – the, what I call “reverse beep” – (just think of a truck backing up!). It’s the only toy that’s ever made me cum from that type of setting, it fits in a travel bag much easier than the Magic Wand (though, only the Lelo comes with its own sexy pouch), and the adjustable settings mean that when the orgasms happen – and oh boy, do they happen – I can instantly turn the thing down while my body is quickly adjusting into post orgasm mode, without having to turn it off like I do the Hitachi.
The downside? It has ridges on its flexible easy-move head which are terrible to clean. Even if you clean your sex toys immediately after use (and you should), the dust that can get in there, even in a drawer, is pretty annoying. But trust me, gang, it’s worth it.
So which wand suits you best? Well, that’s up to you and your bits to determine. I recommend the Body Wand, hands down, though I guess you’ll still need your hands to use it – unless you have a partner helping you out, or you’re tied to a chair holding one. Ooh, maybe a rotation of all THREE chairs!
The Lelo Smart Wand™ sells for $150 from Come As You Are and gets a solid 3/5 from me. Available from Ohhh Canada, the Hitachi sells for a very low $53.99 and gets an easy 4.25/5, and the Body Wand sells for $79.99 and definitely gets a 4.75/5.
It all started with a dick pic. Well, that’s not completely true, but my love affair with Tumblr did definitely start because of the D. It was late last summer when I, being in between freelance gigs and sitting at home with not a thing to do, suddenly remembered how much I love watching men masturbating. I’m not sure what brought on this big revelation; was I eating something phallic for lunch and suddenly my imagination got away with me? Who can say, but once I realized that I could Google “men masturbating videos” — yes, it took me a while to actually think about that — blammo, I was done for.
As my normally sort-of safe for work Tumblr started to follow more and more curated masturbation blogs, I slowly began to investigate other links that would make their way into my feed. I realized that if this one fetish had so much content just for it that of course all the other fetishes I’m into must as well; this is the internet, after all.
Eventually I realized that I had a problem. My SFWish Tumblr was getting taken over with smut and I needed to separate. So, following my own lead with my Twitter accounts, I decided to create a brand new naughty Tumblr as part of the same identity. I refollowed accounts and began to think about curating my own content, instead of simply viewing from afar.
It was here that everything changed. Tumblr, the social media account that for years I had never really understood, helped me develop and blossom a new side of myself that was waiting in the wings. It had been a few months since I’d opened my TMI Twitter account and appeared naked on the internet somewhere that wasn’t Fetlife, and Tumblr was just sitting there, waiting for me to feed it things while it gave me confidence and community in return.
So I fed it. I started with barely any followers and would put up a few semi NSFW photos of myself for no one really to see. I started searching for more content and quickly realized just how much there is. Finding kinky blogs was a way for me to connect further with my submissive side that was, at the time, dying for some proper care and attention. If all the people I was setting dates up with were going to stand me up, I would throw myself into animated gifs and pretend the throat was mine and the hand around it belonged to “insert name here.” It was a way to feed the need while waiting for the right person / people to come along in real life.
Unfortunately, I learned quickly that kink on Tumblr can be very problematic. I could scroll for a while and see a white-wash of hetero cis kink with bald men and long-haired girls, or five anal sex gifs in a row; there was plenty of time when it was really, really boring. But eventually I started to find more queer friendly content, thankful I had discovered some diversity in the seemingly never ending sea of “Look at how masculine I am and how my submissive kneels before me while we’re surrounded by red roses, but are they red? You can’t tell because this is black and white! Of course! We want you to keep guessing, haha!”
One thing I didn’t expect to find among the tattooed girls, hetero waxed asses, queer porn, and dick pics, was a sense of body pride. I started to follow the occasional queer blog that would celebrate bodies of all sorts and this would lead me down the Tumblr rabbit hole to more and more variety in bodies. I started to follow some blogs devoted specifically to chubby women to challenge myself, even though I found some of the blogs themselves to be problematic. By exposing myself to more and more photos of big women, I began to see more beauty in places where I struggled to see it before. Instead of immediately seeing myself reflected and feeling gross, I began to internally celebrate body diversity in a way that I’d been doing externally for so long. I learned some hard truths about the type of chubby that’s more “accepted” (ie: girls without big bellies, like mine), but I also started to find validation from people who are into bodies like mine.
That whole crap about not worrying what others think is really meant for people who have no insecurities about anything in their lives and, since those people don’t exist, we can safely actually go with “It’s a-ok to get validation from a bunch of people on the internet, especially about something like your body.”
In addition to the reblogs that I share of other people’s sexy things – and I try to add a personalized comment so that my Tumblr has a specific “feel” – I’ve completely embraced sharing naughty (read: naked) photos of myself on my Tumblr. It’s interesting knowing that they’re there for public consumption but also won’t really be viewed by anyone unless by chance, or if I share the link directly. As I share more, I learn that I’m strangely more comfortable with people seeing my naked bits than I am my belly, and so I work on that. I share another photo that shows my belly and I see what happens. So far, everyone has been generous and I’ve gotten nothing but amazing support.
And that’t the thing about Tumblr, for me it’s actually been wonderful. When my MTL boy, Guy Smiley, likes my recent posts, I get a little smile on my face because it’s how we stay connected. When friends reblog or reply to my posts, I feel like we’re part of this secret-but-not, sex-positive supportive community. And most importantly, when the world becomes too much to bear, I can hide in my Tumblr. If the rest of my social media is so full of depressing and horrible news, as so much of 2014 was, I can jump on over to the reliable scroll machine that is my Tumblr feed. I can say hi to the occasional problematic black and white anal sex gifs, I can feel solidarity with the girl who posted up her first naked selfie and is being blown away by the support she’s receiving from a community she never even knew existed, and I can celebrate a diverse and sexy planet in a way that works just for me.
Who knew a few gifs could be so powerful?
It doesn’t feel like that long ago that Steph and I were considered the strange misfits among everyone we knew for being non-monogamous, but on the other hand, yeah ok, it sort of does. If 2014 still has us living in a society where we have so many backwards thinkers wandering around wreaking havoc, then 2006, when we first opened up, feels like the cave-people times. (I would’ve just said caveman times, but it’s 2014 as I write this, so I’m feeling more progressive, you see.)
The other day a fact about my life nowadays smacked me over the head, hard. As I look around at the four gals and one dude I’d consider my besties, I see all of them either in non-monogamous relationships now, or being in them in recent times. Sure, there’s the old adage “birds of a feather flock together”, but it still seems pretty wacky that that many people in my life now identify as poly / poly-leaning.
You’re wondering my point, I know, and to be honest, I’m trying to figure out how to word it without sending incredibly obnoxious. I might fail. Lord knows I try to not be obnoxious most of the time, but that doesn’t mean I succeed, so here goes nothing.
As I realized that not only in my closest group of friends, but in the next layer of friends, and next layer after that, all the way to some more casual acquaintances I have on Facebook, suddenly I’ve got tons of people around me that are poly / non-monogamous / insert their own label here … it hit me …
I AM NO LONGER A SPECIAL SOCIAL-MISFIT. I AM NOW JUST A FACE IN THE CROWD.
There were definitely parts about being one of the first couples we know that openly discussed our open marriage with the world that were hard. We had to defend ourselves a lot to friends. I lost friends. I lost jobs! We were always the weird ones, but not for more normal reasons like how I won’t eat raw tomatoes unless they’re cut into a specific small size, or how Steph makes the jokes that nobody else even sees existing. No, we were weird before because of our relationship status. And now? Well now we’re just normal, or at the very least more normal-ish.
I’d daresay … we’re boring, even.
Steph hasn’t “dated” anyone else in almost two years. My recent relationship history, when compared to the first 6 years of non-monogamy are a strange combo of hot sex meets heartache meets what-the-fuck-you-slept-with-a-rockstar?? We’re not nearly as actively “poly” as SO MANY OTHER PEOPLE ON OUR FACEBOOK OR TWITTER FEEDS. We’re not busy with the need for Google Calendar like we used to be. We’re not living in a poly family, feeling the love from all sides, or meeting mysterious new lovers in town for business – ok, no wait, I did that one a couple of weeks ago … maybe I’m doing more than I actually realize!
Anyway. I guess my whole realization is that maybe we’re simply not paving the way anymore. I’ve said countless times that I haven’t wanted to be the poster child for polyamory in the city, but I still enjoyed my time in the spotlight because I felt like I could offer something and help control the message in the media which, to be honest, has rarely painted us good ol’ sexual deviants in a light that doesn’t just make us look like good ol’ sexual deviants. I felt like if me being in the newspaper, or on television, or even in a full multi-page article in Toronto Life, could make other people feel more comfortable with their lives, their relationship choices, and their decisions to be out and proud about it, then hey, I would do it.
So now it’s been done, and the way has been paved – obviously not just by me, but by lots of other wonderful people sharing their stories – but it still feels a little strange to be in the world we are now. I know that I’ve been writing this blog since 2008 and I know that I wrote a pretty good book (if I do say so myself, and I do), but I’m struggling to comprehend if my poly voice is even necessary anymore.
I have a lot of writing to do soon, but it’s more to get things out of my head, and not really for any other purpose. It’s been a very busy couple of months and I’m even sure if I have an audience anymore. I’m also not really sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing to me. Maybe my audience has grown and I haven’t even realized it. Maybe there still is a place for me amongst all of the amazingly brave souls that share their stories on the daily. Maybe, once I get used to the fact that I am just a face in the crowd now, maybe I can find a new way to be a louder voice and to support people in new and different ways.
Don’t get me wrong though about my feelings of uncertainty and perhaps discomfort in not being so “special” anymore, and I promise, I’m definitely not “fishing” for compliments here. These thoughts are genuine, even if it does sound like I’m knocking myself. I’m well aware of the importance of the work I have been a part of. I have years and years of emails from people who have thanked me for being out when they couldn’t. I see the value in all of it, 100%. I have worked long and hard at being a social misfit when it comes to relationships because I want us to get to this place where people can say “I’m non-monogamous” as easily as they say “I have blonde hair and I like cheeseburgers.” I am THRILLED that this change is happening and feel blessed to be / have been a part of it, in whatever way I have been / am, even if it does push me a little more toward being obsolete.
I know this to be true though. There is absolutely nothing wrong with handing the torch over to the next amazing group of misfits who want to have their turn. I’m proud to be a part of this team and look forward to years of learning from them all.
From my closing speech at Playground with Dr. Ruthie, here are some tips that I tweeted earlier today for dealing with media burnout, especially when things are as heavy as they have been lately (this entire YEAR has been so hard, especially for women.) I hope this helps.
- You are under absolutely no obligation to stay up to date on every piece of news out there. It’s ok to take breaks. It’s ok to close tabs. It’s ok to walk away and do something else for 5 minutes, an hour, a week, forEVER if you want;
- Ask yourself who in your community you can turn to for support when you find yourself getting wrapped up in it too much. If news affects you more or less than other people, either way of being is fine;
- If people cry about an issue that you’re not crying about, you’re not better OR worse than them for not doing so. Our lenses and experiences are different. You might be sensitive to another issue that I’m not, and vice-versa. It’s not a competition;
- I can’t stress this enough. The guilt that you might feel when you don’t want to click the latest story but feel that you must? Let it go. Don’t clickbait yourself;
- Take time for the things that make you smile. Whether it’s food, exercise, film, friends, etc. You need to balance the heavy with some light;
- Try to find the good stories in the media; trust me, they’re out there! If a cat video makes you smile, watch the shit out of that kitty vine compilation;
- The news this year has been awful, but know that there will be more good to come. Allow it to come into your heart when it happens;
- I don’t care if you call yourself a feminist. I care about what you DO as one. A moniker alone does not a good person make;
- You’re not a bad feminist for smiling. You’re not a bad feminist for disengaging, laughing at jokes, or simply not being up to date on the latest humanity horror of the week;
- There’s something to be said for trying to fight every fire but there can be peace in the realization / acceptance that you can’t fight them all and that it’s ok;
- Try to find or carve out what your role is. Maybe it’s in educating others. Maybe it’s offering support. Maybe it’s yelling as loud as you possibly can. Maybe it’s keeping quiet and helping to make or support spaces for others to speak and be heard;
- Support those that do take on more leadership roles, either online or off, by offering them soft places to fall, or whatever makes it easier for them to step back. Sometimes people fall into these positions and need to know that should they want to step back, things will be ok. Help them be ok;
- You can choose to engage with every idiot out there. You might change some minds but it’s more likely to just cause you harm.
- Those morons/assholes/MRAS/misogynists/etc. etc. etc. out there that we call trolls? They think WE’RE the trolls harassing them! (I know, right?) You can say the smartest stuff ever and they’ll still turn you into the teacher from Charlie Brown;
- Does that mean give up? Stop fighting? Don’t be angry or loud? Not at all. It just means that some people are dumb or hopeless and we can’t win ‘em all;
- Sometimes? Nothing can feel as good as a head shake at the internet & a look around to be reminded how great your community is;
- Don’t feel like you have community? You don’t have to be loud to be a member. Quiet observers are always welcome. We are in this together;
- And finally, if you sometimes need to feel defeated, ok, do so … but know that you’re not actually. Help each other up as we dust ourselves off and get back to making the world a better place.
A few years ago a friend of mine put me in touch with (my now friend) Eric Haywood, who was, at the time, working on a movie called Four of Hearts about four people, one open marriage, and a foursome that changed everything. (Sorry, that totally sounded like a pitch!)
Eric really wanted to approach the topic with as much of a realistic and honest approach as possible, and it was my role to help consult with him on what exactly that meant.
As anyone who’s involved in non-monogamy knows, there’s a million different ways that relationships can go. Sometimes there’s more of a focus on relationships, sometimes more on physicality. In Four of Hearts we might not see the poly relationships that *we’re* used to, especially as the open couple seem afraid of emotions outside of their fun sex life, but I think it’s fair to say that there’s some characters / character traits that we’ve probably all seen. From the ridiculous melodrama that jealousy can bring, to the judgment, to the insecurity … it’s all there.
It might not be the absolute best guide for reasonable and completely healthy non-monogamy (not that any movie is required to be that), but I think it’s a very fair, non-sensational look at ONE set of people navigating these waters. It’s very fair to say that there’s definitely some character flaws that go unresolved by the end of the movie … but saying that, how many people live without flaws? Who says that these characters don’t continue learning and growing after the credits roll? (In theory, of course.) There’s a lot of overreacting by the characters and they for sure make a lot of mistakes that wouldn’t necessarily be considered “role model worthy”, but it also seems pretty real to me. Humans fuck up. I know I do, and I especially did when new to this way of being. I wanted to scold ALL of the characters at multiple times throughout the film, but just because I could see the silly mistakes they were making because they were being guided by ego.
It was an honour to help with the process (and so cool to be able to tell the parts where my talking with Eric really made a script difference!), and I’d love to hear your thoughts.
I’ve had the DVD for a while, but it’s now out on Netflix, hopefully Canadian as well (I watched it on U.S.).
September 24, 2004, Steph and I tied the knot. We decided to get married not for the normal reasons you’ve probably come to expect, but mostly because my dad was sick and I wanted him to walk me down the aisle before he died. We loved each other, so it seemed like a good idea at the time. Ten years, and much hard work later, it’s obviously one of the best decisions we ever made. I decided to write this open letter to my husband on our anniversary because I wanted the world to see how much I love this man. Here goes.
September 24, 2004. “Love makes fools of us all.”
Hey Steph, Remember that scene in Superbad where Jonah Hill and Michael Cera are so drunk and they want to shout off rooftops how much they love each other? Followed by a little “boop” on the nose? That’s what I’m feeling right now. I thought long and hard about what to give you to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary today, and kept coming up blank. I didn’t want to just buy a “thing” for the sake of buying a thing, and not like I really could because you took some surprise extra cash we fell into and bought yourself a PS4, so there goes that. Haha. Tenth anniversary gifts are pretty dumb, traditionally anyway. Ooh ooh, here’s some tin and aluminum! Or how about the more “modern” version of here’s some crappy diamonds that I spent far too much money on! DUMB. Hypocritical sidenote though: even though I love plastic jewelry and just wrote that last sentence, I would still enjoy diamonds one day should you ever feel like giving them to me. I’ll wear them to the fanciest dive bar I can find and look like a real piece of work you’d be proud to have on your arm.
ANYway, I’m getting off course. The point is, even though we don’t normally make a big deal out of our wedding anniversary (which makes sense considering that the moment we got together was much more significant, and the moment we opened up our marriage was way more significant), this year, it being ten and all, it seems like the time to write you this open letter and channel a little Hill and Cera for a few minutes. This is a pretty big year for us. We’ve owned a house for ten years, we’ve been without my Dad for ten years, and we brought 50 people together to watch me wear a pink dress and marry you wearing white shoes, and then sit around and eat cold chicken and take lewd pictures of our gnome centrepieces, exactly ten years ago today.
Ten years married isn’t something I ever aspired to or thought I’d reach when I was younger. And, let’s face it, during our first few years before marriage was even a thing, I wasn’t sure it would ever happen with us. The people we were then are very far away from the people we are now. There were many times when I wondered if we would last, but somehow decided to stick it out, and yes, fine, I’m glad I did, ok? So you’re probably starting to wonder why I’m writing this in the first place. Honestly, the reason is simply to tell you, and the world, how great I think you are, and how wonderful a man you’ve become. Because life with us is often so simple and easy, I tend to talk about other people more on my social media feeds or my blog; it’s others that are causing me the turmoil, while you’re providing me a soft place to fall.
Ok, ok, before you go getting a super gigantic ego, let’s be honest for a second. We haven’t always been the best. Sure, every moment we’ve been together has been better than the moment before – and I’ll take a lot of credit for that as someone who always pushes for improvement day in and day out, and it’s clear that when we check back in on the Sam & Steph of yesteryear, we’re miles ahead now of where we used to be. To start with, can you even believe we’ve been together for almost 14 years and are actually stronger than we were? This is probably the part of the letter where others reading it might want to go and barf, and that’s fine, but it needs to be said. We’ve had to go through our fair share of absolute shit. I’ve been bitchier to you than you’ve acknowledged, and you’ve taken years to grasp some concepts that have taken me mere days. You know this is all true, which is why I feel fine saying it. But through all the shit, we’re still here. And I’ll dare to say it … we’re happier.
Relationships on their own are always throwing curve balls at you, and we decided to throw non-monogamy into the mix 8 years ago because life just obviously wasn’t tough enough. And you know as well as I do that it’s been one helluva hard ride, at times, along with one helluvan amazing one too. Being open has forced us to examine our true selves at our very core, it’s put us onto so many life paths that we would’ve never gone down before, and it’s taught us what true honesty really means. I cringe when I hear people saying that the secret to staying married is just putting up with the other person’s crap for years on end, and saying shitty heteronormative bullshit lines like “Yes, Dear.”
Yes, there is a certain degree of crap acceptance (you’d probably say “crapcceptance”) and compromise that goes along with any relationship – you accept that I leave my clothes everywhere, I accept that you can’t get the grocery stores in our neighborhood right, even though we’ve lived here for ten years – there are many, many times that we meet in the middle, because you have to sometimes for your own sanity and just to get through the day. But the real reason that we have not only survived a relationship this long, but thrive in it more and more every day, is because we’ve dared to be brutally honest with each other a lot, while also finding ways to accept those truths and grow from them.
This hasn’t always been easy. It’s incredibly challenging to have a conversation about the things that aren’t so great in your love life or your sex life. Whether you’re saying the things or hearing the things, there can be wounds that are so deep they can take years to heal, but when they do? The scars left behind are worth it. We’ve been able to discover who we really are while walking side by side; we know our strengths and we know our weaknesses. I don’t want to ever say that we’re perfect, because we’re not. There’s things that I long for, that I need; some things that you can give me and some that just go against you’re wiring. And there’s things that I’m sure you wish I could do or would be for you, but I’m not. Accepting that we cannot be everything we hope for isn’t a death sentence like so many people fear; I’d say it’s the thing that keeps us together and helps us truly cherish the things that are so great about us.
And wasn’t I supposed to be talking about what’s great about you? Yes, yes, I’ll get to that now. To start with, you’re a handsome devil who’s really grown into his looks. You look better as you age (and it’s almost impossible to believe that you’re 37), More importantly though, your character is one of great strength and conviction. A lot of people likely don’t know much about you and your real opinions on things that matter because you are the obvious introvert complement to my extrovert self. Sure they know when you complain about things you hate – you’re certainly never not vocal about that – but when it comes to really important issues like equality, gender politics, racism … all of that stuff, you’re one amazing ally who supports by simply allowing others space to be who they are and need to be. You stand up for things vocally that require it, but don’t always feel the need to as you respect that other voices may be more appropriate in certain moments. You don’t take up the space of others who deserve it more, and rarely try to take up even your own allotted space. In short, you’re pretty great.
You also support me like I don’t even think I deserve. I know that when you say that my happiness is really important to you, that you mean it more than anything. Sure, there are many days when I would much rather that you push me, that you don’t accept certain things about me and would, for once, hold me accountable. But this accountability that I long for so much, I can find elsewhere. Whether it’s in a job, a personal trainer, or with a Daddy dom that you’re fine with me having, I can have both that accountability and your support. And your support, let’s be honest, is huge. You’ve supported me as I’ve quit jobs for either no reason or to complete passion projects. You’ve supported me as I’ve told you that I liked to be fucked in a different way, even if it’s not what’s on offer at the moment. You’ve supported me when I do that thing you hate, but secretly love, when you’re going upstairs to pee and I magically have a list of like THREE things that I need you to bring downstairs for me. You support me in ways that I can’t even describe. Though I know I’ve complained at times about the way that I’M wired and the way that YOU’RE wired not always lining up, I would be lying if I said that you don’t treat me like an absolute queen, in your own way, each and every day.
Can we talk for a second about your (dad) jokes? I’ll admit it, they’ve gotten so much funnier over the years. You know as well as I do that I really do love them even though I groan and complain about pretty much all of them. When you’re so proud of yourself for hitting a good one, I can’t help but love you the most in those moments. You know you’re being a pain in the ass, and you thrive in that moment in possibly the most adorable way imaginable. Finally, before I just go on and on for far too long about everything that you do, I want to make a list of some random things that come to my mind about why I love you, so here goes:
- We do this thing now where we always put toothpaste on the other’s brush. You definitely started it. It’s pretty freaking romantic, if you ask me;
- When I turn onto my left side in bed, even if you’re asleep, you always roll over and spoon me. Whether it’s because you love me or are just a filthy perv who wants dat ass, Ill take both options, because it’s sweet;
- You love me even when I look like death. And no, I don’t think that as a woman I have a duty to put on pretty makeup and fix my hair every single day, but I still like to. But on those days when I haven’t, you don’t care. You kiss me and you treat me with the same amount of love and respect that you would if I’d gotten all snazzy. You might laugh at my weird outfit choices though, but I totally support that;
- You go to Walmart. Seriously. I hate going to Walmart, or any store, really. But you’ll go when we need things. You’ll deal with the flourescent lights and the horrible people, and you’ll take care of this house and the people in it;
- You’ve loved me as a blonde, you’ve loved me a strong girl, you’ve loved me skinnier, and you’ve loved me as a fat kid;
- You’ve told me before “If you love him and want to be with him more than me, than you should do it.” I believed it then, and I believe it now. I’m glad I stayed. I’m glad it’s us against the world, even though I often want many others to join us (me), I don’t want you to not be there, either way;
- On that note, when I fall in love or even just blind lust with others – whether during the happy moments or the sad ones like breakups – you are there for me. You carry on with our life together, sometimes a bit unaware of what’s going on with me, but if I tell you, you get it. You listen when I tell you how I feel about others, you don’t judge, and you let me be who and what I need to be at the time, even if it’s hard for you. You are unbelievable;
- You’ve been far more accepting of my extra-curricular activities than I have been of yours, but you’ve also done everything you can to learn about why we’re different and what works for me and doesn’t;
- You blow me kisses when I watch you bike or drive away to work. It’s because this thing that reminds me of when I used to watch my dad leave for work, and you’ve embraced it. My day doesn’t feel right unless I’ve waved goodbye to you as you leave for yours, and you know it;
- You make dinner when I’m still working, or even when I’m not. You take care of things and you take care of me;
- You support me and don’t *really* complain about it when I need your help for all of the many passion projects I do. Whether it’s conference load-in or tear-down, or simply driving me so that I can enjoy a drink and relax, you do it, without question, every time;
- You rub my back or my shoulders, or wherever else, even when it hurts you. You don’t even know how important to my actual well-being this has become. I just have to make a silly little squeak and look at you with a pout in my eyes and you know, you always know;
- I don’t feel ugly or stupid or unloved or unwanted when I’m around you. Sure, you get lost in your own world at times, who doesn’t? I feel truly accepted, loved, and admired for who I am, always.
Stéphane Goulet, I love you. And while I’ve loved many men and women since knowing you, and will likely love more in years to come, I know that, as much as I often want others to also be by my side, my life wouldn’t be complete without you there first and foremost.
You are my rock. You are my world. You are my bestest friend. I love you. Happy tenth anniversary. Let’s get drunk and be inappropriate.
(Or realistically, let’s get drunk and watch Supernatural or Star Trek and probably pass out, because, hey, marriage. Am I right??)
Cheesy puns aside, I was pretty excited to try the Nuru gel recently. Obviously the circumstances had a lot to do with it: Ridiculously planned out threesome with a close friend and a musician friend of mine who requested the stuff in the first place.
My good friends at Ohhh Canada provided me with everything I needed to get this body-on-body massage completed: one small bottle of massage gel: $19.99 and one matching massage sheet: $27.99.
Before we got to our host’s hotel room, we thought we’d watch some Nuru videos online so that we’d know exactly how to use this stuff. That was definitely an experience, a cheesy, cheesy experience. Also, a little bit scary. When the video showed the big jug of Nuru concentrate that you pour into water and mix with your hands, it all started to feel a little bit like The Abyss, and I wondered if the small bottle was going to provide the same plasma-esque goop ride that its larger counterpart seemed to offer.
Our host was convinced that the small bottle of Nuru was going to be crap; I remained optimistic that the folks at Wet had manufactured a small product that would emulate its larger cousin, and told him to be patient; this would be totally sexy and perfectly fiiiine.
Turns out I was wrong. After we spread out the official Nuru reusable massage sheet – which is basically a $28 painter’s tarp that you feel compelled to get to go along with the gel because it’s made by the same company and what IF a cheapo painter’s tarp wouldn’t actually do the trick, but honestly honey, just get a tarp if mess concerns you that much – we then tried the gel. (Seriously though, if you want to cut up a body, Dexter style, maybe this tarp is for you, because it’s pretty great at not absorbing smells and also maybe blood, probably, I don’t actually know for real, but this seems like a good selling feature if that’s a thing you like? If it is, please tell me in the comments and I promise I won’t call the police at all.)
The videos showed us that it works best if you warm it in a bowl of hot water first. We didn’t do this. Maybe we should have because then this review would have been completely different. Perhaps if we had, it would have been the wet, slippery, beautiful body-on-body gliding experience we were hoping for. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. The “oops this is” very cold gel did go on smooth. It did feel absolutely glorious when rubbing one naked body against another body, but it required a lot. I was constantly pouring the stuff on myself to stay “slippery”, which seemed excessive. I know I’m a big girl and have a lot of ground to cover, but it felt like I was going to run out of gel way faster than I should have just to keep up the slippery feel.
Instead of slippery, it turned sticky unfortunately quickly, which is not a very comfortable feeling when you’re trying to be sexy and sensual for an extended period of time. If you’re looking for a short little naked rub down, and don’t plan on the massage being the majority of the experience, then maybe Nuru gel is for you. But when you’re trying to have an entire experience based around it, I will suggest that not so much. Luckily we brought some other unscented massage oil and made the switch, or else the massage may have been ruined. Night over!
Thankfully, Ohhh Canada has an amazing return policy so you can try something from them and get a refund if it really doesn’t work for you, like the Nuru didn’t really work for us. And also thankfully, if you’re looking for something sexy and massage related, Ohhh carries a bunch of other products including the intoxicating Jimmyjane massage candles, and my personal favourite the lickable massage bars that come in NINE sexy flavours (super big-ups to the chocolate-orange and coconut), which are actually also really great for deep tissue massage!
Check them out, and other sexy, slippery products, online or in-store at Ohhh.
My friend Wil wrote a wonderful piece on Facebook about this Thought Catalog article on the Fat Acceptance Movement. (You should probably read it before reading his response.) I didn’t want his amazing thoughts to stay locked up behind the wall of social media, so I asked him if I could share them with you here. As someone who’s struggled with weight my whole life, his support means a lot to me.
I’m currently struggling with the fact that working from home means a lot less movement in my life. I’ve gained a bit of weight in the past year. I’ve lost muscle strength. I feel ashamed and embarrassed by my choices and completely feel that I’ve let myself, and my husband, down. I literally hate this stomach of mine and dream of slicing it off somehow. But am I still worthy of love and affection without mockery? Absolutely. A few bad choices when I was younger, and some odd circumstances now, doesn’t make that any less true. Am I doomed to be this way forever? That’s up to me, but I’m totally aware – and VERY informed – of all the things I can do to make being
smaller stronger, a reality for me. I’m very careful with my diet and I’m figuring out how exercising fits back into my new work life. I need unsolicited advice from people telling me how I can be “skinnier” about as much as I need them to tell me that I’m “not fat” when I’m trying on clothes that don’t fit me. It’s not a surprise to me to find out that I’m fat and that’s suddenly why that dress won’t fit. I’m pretty sure this body is attached to me every single day.
My recent brush with death, thanks to a blood clot caused by trauma in my leg, had nothing to do with my weight, and it turns out that my blood pressure, cholesterol, and all those other health indicators that people use to shame fatties, don’t apply to me. My scores are consistently perfect and very pleasing to the many medical professionals I’ve been dealing with this entire year.
So fine, I won’t be able to run very far in a zombie apocalypse because my cardio is currently shit? I don’t really have much interest in living in zombie hell anyway.
Onto Wil’s points. I’ve bolded things that I really love / agree with.
So I’ve been waiting to weigh in on this issue because I wanted to make sure I had my ducks lined up first. As a personal trainer and health professional there are a lot of nuances in this article that are covered in very loose and generally poorly represented arguments. I’m not a fan of it feel like it could have been discussed not only more tactfully but also more intelligently. As a former self admitted “fat nazi” back when I had less experience in the industry and less compassion for others I might have been guilty of saying many of the same things in the same way. But I have more insight now, both into the lives of my clients past and present and friends who I think this article speaks to and ungraciously about. She did write a follow-up piece but it was really more of a supplement argument that sort of back pedals as a “sorry you’re offended” piece than following up with more information.
There are a few things that the author notes first which was nice because often you don’t get a sense of who the writer is especially when writing about personal health and here she includes a bit of her background and even her dress sizes. It should also be noted that she doesn’t ever really give an outline of what she considers fat. She states her size as a 6-10 fluctuating while the average size in the US is a 12-14. The average BMI (body mass index or the general percentage of fat in your body composition) in the states for a woman is about 26.5 and the healthy ideal is somewhere between 18-25%. Over 30% is considered obese in North America as a rule. To give you an idea in comparison of what is considered aesthetically healthy, the average model is 14-16.3 and the average female fitness competitor/model is about 15-17%. For men across the board a BMI of about 6-7% lower is about average.
Now on to the article. Probably the best way to tackle this is to go through each point she’s made (although there will be some crossover.) Keep in mind this is just my opinion as well, informed by my own research and experience and knowledge of the industries that relate back to health. That said, here we go:
1. “America is extremely accepting of fat.”
America is extremely misinformed about nutrition and as a result there is a systemic problem in the culture of food. Awareness of nutrition, consumerism and misrepresentation showcase food in a way that requires so much unlearning that there is no surprise that there is an epidemic of food/health related problems. But it is NOT accepting of fat. As the author notes, at every turn in America fat is a source of mockery, bullying and general intolerance. As she says an environment that is tolerant of unhealthy lifestyles but those that engage in those lifestyles but stay under the obese radar are not treated as others that don’t. I definitely agree though that the first step is cracking down across the board and providing real transparent nutritional information about the food and put a leash on the fast food lobbies.
Also let’s undo the decision to make pizza a vegetable legally (that’s a real thing that happened).
2. “Body positivity” should include health.”
Absolutely it should. But let’s also include mental health in those parameters. Let’s stop using models and fitness pros as realistic and sustainable averages. For the most part, they are part of an enormous industry that drives that image and huge amount of discipline and monitoring to make sure that it is maintained safely. For those people, their physique is their livelihood and the BMI levels of many include some very unhealthy habits that they monitor to give themselves a break off season. Mental health needs to be included in body positivity because depression, bullying, unsafe dieting and food related illnesses can swing both ways. Teaching someone to be ashamed of themselves is much different than educating someone about their choices.
3.”Health at every size” seems physically impossible.”
It might seem that way and there is a definitive extreme in which it is not but there is a marked difference between what is healthy and what is considered conventionally aesthetically pleasing. The point in itself is a valid jump off. Someone who is morbidly obese has a greater likelihood of many health problems than someone who is not, but that smaller someone also has to have good cholesterol, blood pressure, insulin levels and healthy organs. Not all bigger people are rotting away on the inside as many people would have you think, just like not all average sized people are glistening pulsing pink unicorns under their skin either.
This is where the article really tends to slip for me, because here is the first instance where the author really feels the need to say something but feels that she cannot for fear of reprisal “saying otherwise would be shaming them”. Well it really depends on what you’re saying and if anyone asked for your expert opinion, doesn’t it? Is this you ordering a salad and making a face because the size 22 beside you is eating a cheeseburger? Or are you a health professional that has been asked by said size 22 for a consultation? Reading a lot of blogs does not make an expert opinion nor does it entitle you to voice your opinion without reprisal. Otherwise every asshole with a fashion Tumblr would be justified walking up to you and telling that your shirt and hat combo are terrible.
4. “People are not allowed to not be attracted to certain body types”.
I have a problem with this one; The author isn’t talking about body pride, she’s looking for permission to say “ew, oh my god how could you?” to the people that would date those who she wouldn’t herself date. You’re absolutely allowed to say that you aren’t attracted to certain body types. But some people are. Saying “no fatties” in your dating profile doesn’t mean you’re honest, it means you’re an inconsiderate dick. Like anything you’re “allowed” to say what you want, but if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. Some people like other body types. The author admits that some people may not find her body type appealing, but how would she feel if someone stopped to tell her? Or sent her a message to tell her? Or wrote a breakdown detailing why they don’t get how she could feel good about herself looking like someone they wouldn’t date?
Feel free not to date a person larger than yourself but don’t preach to others that they can’t. That’s their business, mind your own.
5. “Food addiction is a real medical problem”.
Yes please, let’s address the underlying issues: Consumerism, misinformation and class warfare. Not the guy buying a larger than yours burrito with a soda. He’s not your problem. Just like with drug use, alcohol consumption and smoking there are obvious health detriments. But you’d be right pissed if someone tsk tsk’d every time you took a sip of alcohol and started into a lecture on the billions it costs taxpayers every year in medical expenses. We’ve put up no smoking signs everywhere, people know it’s bad for them but they choose to do it anyways. It’s on the decline in some areas and still growing in other areas, again mostly in areas with less access to health care, education and financial resources.
The author and many others who write about obesity and the cost to taxpayers & employers don’t seem to make mention of the other legal and promoted consumerables that North Americans enjoy and then suffer from daily. Fat people know they’re fat. I don’t think they wake up one morning surprised about it. They certainly don’t need to be told that eating junk food isn’t helping to lose weight. There are enormous factors that go along with a person’s eating habits: cultural influences from preferred body types, financial status of being able to afford luxury food items, emotional attachments to food rewards and comfort and legitimate addictions to foods chemically engineered to trigger cravings.
6. “Childhood obesity is something we can’t be accepting of”.
Well when you say “can’t be accepting of” do you mean working to change the underlying issues that create nutritional/exercise misinformation or do you mean “don’t tell my kids not to call your kid fat because your kid shouldn’t be fat cause you’re a bad parent.”? I’m all for one, guess which one? Let’s start by pushing back health education into the system. Let’s teach positive mental health to the forefront of that as the much needed guideline and support people that want to make an effort. But if you have a kid who is overweight, first inform yourself, is this kid truly overweight or just doesn’t look like the model kid? Next let’s assess is this kid happy? Cause first and foremost making a happy kid sad about the way they look is the worst kind of parenting. Are you leading by example? Do you crash diet, binge eat, go on self prescribed unsustainable exercise practices and food exclusions?
At the end of this it comes down to take care of your own business. Educate yourself and create your own environment. FAM or HAES, it doesn’t matter, if these people are happy in their bodies, let them be happy in their bodies. And being accepting of your body shape doesn’t mean that it’s the last word in your body shape. There are people who are in great fitness form that hate themselves and no amount of exercise or vascularity or ripped abs will ever be enough. They punish themselves constantly and bemoan the water in their skin for blurring their definition. If the news of late in regards to mental health has shown us anything it’s that demons come in all shapes and sizes. Exorcising your demons doesn’t always mean exercising yourself. I’d much rather someone be happy with themselves, who they are, their values and their lot in life and happen to be bigger than someone who is ripped but tortured.
Things change, outlooks change and habits change. When someone wants to change their body, the information is out there.
When someone wants your opinion, they’ll ask for it. If they haven’t, it’s probably because you don’t give very good advice.