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.
A Reluctant First-Time Pole Dancer Gives Brass Vixens a Try
I’ll admit I felt uncomfortable about trying pole dancing. I understand the empowerment angle and re-appropriation of misogynist constructs, but pole dancing doesn’t fit my sense of sexual empowerment – no judgment for those whom it does. It’s a bit too hetero-normative. And if I’m really honest, it brings up insecurities about my body – I don’t have a “stripper” or “burlesque” body. Next to these women, I feel like the eternal girl. Suffice to say, I felt out of my comfort zone. But, now in my 40s, I’m more comfortable with insecurities and discomfort zones, and more able to let my curiosity guide me– so, why the hell not?
Suzanne (L) and Lady Kori (R)
After scurrying nervously to our poles, Lady Kori of Brass Vixens warmed us up and eased us in with floor exercises –hip sways, core work, stretching. Then it was right for the pole. With encouragement and skillful instruction, Lady Kori guided us through a series of moves. At first, I was unbelievably stiff and awkward – I hated seeing my wooden figure in the mirror. My “dip” was flailing and out of control. I really felt like that eternal girl now, but one in gym class – awkward and unsure, not a sexy woman flaunting her sensuality. My low-to-begin-with enthusiasm dampened even further.
I’m not actually sure when, but at some point, the series of moves honestly started turning into a flow, and I became totally engrossed. I fell out of my self-consciousness and into long moments of concentration as I kept repeating the steps over and over – excited and motivated to master something completely new. Then, all of a sudden, out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of myself as I swung by, and realized I was doing it.
Like magic, I could windmill, I could slide my back down the pole, and spin around in the “pin-up” pose. And it was totally fun. I did feel like that eternal girl again, but this time, like one losing herself while spinning on the merry-go-round, feeling free, like she is flying. I closed my eyes every time I spun and just let my body follow the centripetal force that my arms and hips created in relation to the pole. It was awesome.
With the jubilant recognition of my new found skills, my self-awareness returned and I panned out from my own experience and looked around the room. I saw we all could do it – sure, we struggled and it was far from perfect, but it was there. The building block steps had taken shape and with it, sexiness emerged in quick moments. I couldn’t deny, pole dancing is sexy. I resumed my practice eager to get back to it. I watched myself as much as I could. I wanted to catch those glimpses of beauty and see the sensual lines of my body that we all have. And as I watched, I could feel the playful eternal girl with me, and remembered who I am: the sexy and experienced woman, who tries new things, makes her own choices, and lives the life she wants. And I felt the exhilarating bliss of freedom and flying.
About the Writer
Suzanne Paddock is a freelance writer in Toronto, Canada. Her interests draw from cultural and gender studies; from health and well-being to sex and sexuality. Suzanne believes in the value of a life examined and rooted in kindness. To contact Suzanne, please email her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Brass Vixen
With three spacious studios in downtown Toronto, Brass Vixens offers fitness classes including pole dancing, burlesque, hula hoop, aerial fitness and more. For more information on Brass Vixens, visit their website, follow them on Twitter and Instagram, and like their Facebook page.
I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’m waiting for him to decide that he doesn’t want to be the boyfriend of a married woman, even if I strive to give him so much of me and of life. I’m wondering when he’ll realize personal demands that I simply cannot meet. I’m wondering when the novelty of Samantha’s pretty face will wear off.
I don’t know how to not feel these fears. It’s been almost five months and it’s been a (mostly) wonderful ride. We’ve had some dark moments, but he’s freshly out of a decade spent with a woman who didn’t see him like I do, so they’re to be expected. In nine years of non-monogamy, (and obviously not including Steph) no external partner has loved me like he does. Perhaps because no other “serious relationships” have occurred with single people for me. I’ve always been compared to my lover’s primaries, part of some female competition I never wanted to sign up for. The love for me has always come at a cost vs. his which is so pure and uninfluenced by at least “current” comparisons.
I’m doing what I can to ignore my cynicism. I’m doing my best job at trusting his words and not worrying about the future, one way or the other. I’m choosing to not get caught up in both waiting for things to go belly up OR thinking those fantasy thoughts about the three of us living together and frolicking around like a perfect little poly family. Those thoughts get me into SO MUCH trouble and I’ve learned my lesson from past disasters, at least I’m trying to act as though I have.
Have my lessons been burned into me a little too deeply though? I am often quick to say that lovers will eventually see me as disposable, easy to say farewell to because I have a husband I can fall on and could never fulfill them really. I say these things as though they’re facts, as though I’m daring my boyfriend to prove me right, while hoping harder than anything that I’m wrong. Of course it’s all so circumstantial. There are plenty of poly people who live beautifully wonderful and fulfilled lives only seeing some partners occasionally. It annoys me that I seem to need it to be such a vision of high contrast, with no shades of exception in the frame. It’s either good or it’s bad, a classic Samantha defense mechanism.
I do know why I feel this though, and it’s a reason I loathe: years of being open has taught me so many things about myself and even more about the world. I’ve been disposed of before and I’ve come to expect it now from anyone and everyone I date. Breakups and heartaches are good for at least one thing, showing you what’s up. I am the woman that you date that shows you things about yourself you’ve never seen before. I am the woman you go out with a few times while you’re waiting for your ex to come back to you. I am the woman that makes you feel powerful when you’re in control and safe when everything is falling apart. I’m a reminder that your last (or current) relationship isn’t what defines you as a man (or woman). I’m the woman who doesn’t just accept your sexual advances out of marital obligation, I encourage them. But even with all that, I’m often just a stepping stone, an in-between ego-boost vacation and never a home.
I don’t know how to deal with things like actually meeting his family because he just wanted me to. I’ve never been accepted this way and sometimes it’s funny how normal it seems to him when he’s doing things that literally blow my mind and make my heart melt. I don’t know how to sit quietly underneath the umbrella of his love and not let worry creep in, but I’m trying my hardest because it’s a love I don’t want to lose.
I get it. You might think that it’s nothing to disappear. I can see why you might think it was a mistake getting back in touch; it doesn’t matter if it was intentionally with conversation or through that classically complicated mutual right swipe. Either way, you stayed around for a while and didn’t say much, until one day I wasn’t able to say anything back to you at all.
Sure, there’s no rule that says you have to keep me in your life. We don’t work, I don’t fit, “he’s just not that into you.” Whatever it is, fine, your choices are your own and it’s not my place to tell you they’re wrong. Disappearing is easy. Whether it’s hitting the Unmatch button or simply choosing not to reply anymore, it’s so common to become a ghost nowadays that it’s easy to treat it casually.
But here’s the thing you’re not considering. When you leave without saying goodbye, even if that goodbye is more of an “Oops, I didn’t mean to come back into your world soooo, I’m gonna’ go now ….”, you’re fucking with an empath who decided to put the past aside and choose to be happy to see you. You’re telling me that you think I’m a fool for wanting to leave the past behind and continue knowing each other because I think you’ve got good in you and I do too. You’re telling me that it wasn’t enough when you disappeared the first time around; now you’re back with a little more salt to pour into my wounds. More sodium isn’t what I need, please and thank you.
I don’t need you to love me. Shit, I don’t even need you to like me. What I do need, and I’ll give you a second to grab a pen and paper for this one … what I need is for you to treat me like a human. Because, even if our moment’s passed, your casual dismissal was an unnecessary dark cloud in my day, and I’m on a sunshine kick lately, thank you very much.
Trigger warning: body shaming
Last night I hung out with a friend who, for a while last year, was someone I was dating / sleeping with / whatever you want to call it. We met early in January 2014 and I instantly liked him. Handsome, charming, perfectly antagonistic in the way that I seem to love when I know the person is actually kind underneath … things were going well. Our second date was at Oasis (a local sex club) and I remember internally freaking out at how calm he was to go there for his first time … and then our fifth date was also at Oasis on my birthday. We had a lot of fun together.
Then after a while I started to get the feeling that he was pulling back. It happens, things change, but after the year that was with The Boy it was not a comfortable feeling. I ended up confronting him about it and he admitted that he wanted to just be friends. I never asked why, I never pushed. I’m surprisingly very good at giving up when presented with certain situations.
There are times when I will fight really hard for a relationship and there are other times like this one where I become very convinced by my own insecurities that obviously the other person has realized that I’m ugly or they just can’t deal with my fat body anymore. It literally makes me cry to type it now, but it’s strange how built into my psyche that feeling actually is. It’s as though there can only be two reasons that make sense to me why a person would stop seeing me: a) They like me too much, as per a post I actually wrote in 2014, or b) they’ve finally realized that I am just the ugliest and the worst.
Now I know without anyone having to tell me, that there are so many more reasons in life for everything and that I’m seeing things through insecure lenses. I can logically see this, but insecurities are like viruses. They infect your mind and make you think things that aren’t real, even if they are very real to you. So when I realized that he wanted to be just friends, I chose to ignore all of the nice things he’s said about me, as a person, and me, as a pretty girl, and me, as a lover. I felt awkward and embarrassed, desperate to know the reason why he’d changed his mind when it seemed like nothing was wrong and we had a pretty rad casual thing going, but not ever feeling strong enough to ask him. My feelings and actions felt so opposite to the fierce and secure woman I try to be.
Read more »
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.