Over the last two weeks, S and I have had two dates with a new person in our lives, E. There have been a dozen delightful aspects to the experience; glorious conversations that swoop from the silly to the sublime to the serious, learning each others’ stories and histories, the seemingly instant rapport S and E developed, the easy way the three of us collaborate and play in the kitchen while making pasta and salad, deep-and-real conversations basking in the hot tub, and (lest you forget who you’re talking to) there has been a considerable quantity and quality of amazing sex. Fucking awesome (and awesome fucking)!

There’s one aspect of the experience that I have found especially gratifying and would like to describe.

The first evening the three of us hung out together, we reached a threshold where it was clear we were going to be fooling around. We had been talking about sex all night, her experiences, our experiences, where our individual journeys have taken us. Eventually we ended up in the sex treehouse and she saw the Sybian and the bed up there and we all looked at each other, grinned, and effectively said, “You wanna?” (Oh hell yeah!)

So, clothes were doffed, we cuddled on the bed together, and there was that brief awkward pause of “Okay, how are we gonna do this? How does this work?”

It feels like there is never a good sexy time to have the STD talk, there’s only more and less awkward. But this felt like about the best window we were going to find. So I seized the conversational bull by the horns, “Hey, before we get started, let’s have the terribly unsexy and awkward STD talk.” We explicitly reviewed when we had been tested last, what issues there were to consider, possible risks to be mindful of. Once we felt like we had all potential issues on the table and a shared understanding, we took a moment to acknowledge how that can be a challenging topic, but we were all three so glad we had discussed it before anything juicy had happened.

Since we were in that space already, I then dove into explicit topic number two. “Let’s talk about boundaries for a minute. It’s super important to me that we’re only doing things that you’re really enthusiastic about. If you’ve got any hard boundaries that you already know about, I want to hear them. At the same time, if you find your boundaries shift as we’re fooling around and something that you thought would be awesome is making you uncomfortable, it’s important to me that you are able to speak up and let us know. Does that work for you? Can you do that, can you explicitly own your boundaries like that?” She could and did. We laid down a couple of hard lines and enthusiastically agreed that any one of us could pause the action at any time to add to that list with no drama, no hurt feelings.

I thought we were about ready to start and then E paused for a moment with a thoughtful expression and spoke again. “I need to say… I know you two enjoy some pretty enthusiastic BDSM play, and I feel like I need to say… that’s not really my thing. I like a little bit of light hair pulling in just the right moments, but that’s about it. I just don’t have the same relationship with pain that you do. I hope that’s not a huge downer.” We rushed to reassure her; I think my answer was something like, “Oh hon, I have zero agenda except making your brain turn to mush with pleasure! Especially while we’re getting started and learning about each other, I’m not trying to push your boundaries or do anything that you feel uncertain about. I want you to end this night feeling supremely blissed out and completely comfortable.”

With those conversations done, we turned to slathering each other with oil, getting a little familiar with each others’ bodies, and… epic amounts of fun ensued. I could write full-on porn about the experience, but here’s the thing that really stood out for me. Having had those conversations, we then proceeded to have one of the most uninhibited and least self-conscious threesomes I’ve ever had. There seemed to be the least amount of anxiety and fretting that I have ever had with a new partner. Everyone seemed to be fully comfortable in their own skin, overflowing with praise about how stunningly gorgeous the other two were, and deeply committed to spreading around as much pleasure as we possibly could. I don’t think I have ever felt as nakedly exposed and vulnerable in front of a new partner, nor have I ever been as well rewarded for being so open. Everyone took a prolonged turn as the center of attention, combinations and permutations were explored with glee and abandon, the differences in our bodies and preferences were explored with wonder and delight and a complete lack of judgement. And I was really pleased to find out that E did indeed feel safe and secure enough to say once or twice, “That’s not really working for me; can we have less of this and maybe more of that?” Knowing that your partner(s) have that ability to own their own boundaries does a considerable amount to quiet that inner voice that frets about, “She seems like she’s having fun, but is she really enjoying that? What’s the furrow on her brow mean? Hell, is that person feeling left out? Am I doing too much of this and not enough that?” Being able to let go of that and trust my partners was an enormous gift and tremendously liberating.

Last night was the second date with E, and I am so happy to report the first time was not a fluke. Again we discussed our boundaries, where our heads were, what we needed. We started in one place and twice when it seemed like things were about to escalate I checked in explicitly, “Can I do this, would you enjoy this?” and received clear and honest answers. It was a magical experience, ran rather later than any of us expected, and included several (welcome) firsts for E.

I feel profoundly fortunate to have had that experience with partners who are so extraordinarily generous with their affection, trust, and intention. I can’t tell you how eager and excited I am about the prospect of more forthcoming.

As has become my tradition for several years, I’m spending the Christmas break at a rental house on the coast with some very dear friends. We pass the time enjoying the stunning view of the ocean waves rolling in, listening to music, cooking ridiculously good food, hiking, soaking in the hot tub, experimenting at the massage table. Most of all, there is an abundance of love and a complete lack of drama or stress.

Of course, one of the people in attendance is a beloved girlfriend. Thus there has been a copious amount of sex. Slow, languid sex; eager, enthusiastic sex; sex in the bright sunlight, bending her over so she can watch the ocean waves break and crash while I plunge into her repeatedly; sex in the middle of the night, in the dark, still quiet, face-to-face, while clutching tightly and kissing deeply.

My only regret (and it is a tiny thing compared to the abundance of awesomeness) is that the friends are not “that kind” of friends. The girlfriend and I are very considerate about keeping our enthusiasm private and the most salacious thing we do in front of each other is walk around in nothing more than a shirt and pleasantly snug underwear.

In an ideal world, I’d have that ideal magical combination; friends that I love enough to be fully relaxed and open with, and friends who are uninhibited and lusty enough to be sexual in front of. I’m picturing the two women sitting on the couch with their legs spread, holding hands, whilst enthusiastic attendants sit on the floor and lazily suck and lap at their pussies. I want to be fucking my girl on a sheepskin rug in front of the fireplace, get up briefly to take some photos from across the room of another couple riding together in blissful pleasure, and then return to the open thighs awaiting me. I want a four-hand massage to seamlessly segue to four-hand petting, with one hand in her pussy, one on her clit, one pinching a nipple, and another gently pulling hair.

As I say, this is more of an ideal than a complaint. Off-hand, I can’t recall having a better Christmas (and I’ve had some really amazing Christmases in my time). But that doesn’t mean I can’t fantasize about something even better.

I was talking with someone recently about how friendships work for me, and I’m reaching a growing suspicion that my brain handles these things a little differently from most folk. I would love to hear what the rest of you feel about this. (Assuming anyone reads this blog.)

I’ve never made friends quickly or easily. People who don’t know me well assume I’m an extrovert, but inside I very much identify as an introvert, and a socially awkward one at that. I struggle with making small talk, I have trouble connecting with people in groups (at parties for instance), and it’s tough for me to open up to be real and vulnerable with someone until I’ve really gotten to know them.

As a consequence, I’m not one of those people with a large circle of friends. I have lots of acquaintances, sure. But people I can be “deep and real” with, and really let down my guard? That’s a pretty short list.

Having said that, for those friends I tend to be pretty over the top. I like spoiling them, making them feel pampered, adored, loved. For instance, I’m friends with a couple who are hammered with work and school right now. I’ve been looking for an opportunity to have them over for dinner (the least I can do is feed them, right?), but their schedules are so tight that we can’t seem to make that happen. So I made them a quiche and dropped it off for them. And I’ll probably do something like that once a week or so until they finally have some breathing room. I’m pretty shameless about picking up the bill or even loaning money when the circumstances call for it. (I’m so very fortunate to be in a position where I tend to have more financial resources than my peers.) Taking people to the airport, helping people move, holding them when they cry… that all feels very natural to me.

The bottom line is, if you’re my friend I really want you to be happy. I want to help you feel good, in all the ways, emotionally, mentally, even physically. One of the reasons I’ve returned to my massage practice so enthusiastically is that it’s something I can share with my friends to help them feel relaxed, comfortable, and at ease in their own bodies.

And in my head, that extends to sex also. If you’re my friend, if I’m that close to you, I’m pretty happy and enthusiastic about going “there”. When it comes to offering my friends pure physical pleasure, I don’t see a massive distinction between a scalp massage and oral sex. It’s all about making that person feel good, right?

But I’m aware the lines are much more black and white for most people. Some of my friends are not comfortable with blurring those lines, and that’s of course okay. The last thing I want is for anyone to feel uncomfortable or weird and so I honor and respect whatever boundaries they might have.

But for me, it’s very much a smooth, seamless spectrum. That makes some labels challenging for me. I’m not very good at drawing boundaries between friendship, love, lust, friends with benefits, romance.

And finding that space of comfort and boundaries with a friend can be interesting. Just last night I said to a loved one (with a great deal of awkwardness), “I’m just going to take it as a given that you would prefer I not make a pass at you?” She smiled and blushed and said, “I like when you flirt with me, but for sanity’s sake we should keep it as friends.” So we smiled and hugged and I gave her some space. And later told her how hot she looked gyrating on the dance floor (because flirting had been green lighted, right?) I really hope that hasn’t left things awkward between us; I’m looking forward to our next meeting to find out.

And as I think about it further, the people I am very closest to (the Three Graces, I’m thinking of you) probably blur those lines in somewhat the same way I do. It’s a fabulous and wonderful thing to have friends, but it’s even better when they share some of your kinks.

Back in December, my primary partner asked me what I would like for my birthday (in January). I’m pretty shameless about buying myself whatever toys catch my eye, so I always struggle with answering these kinds of questions. I laughing said something about how “a drug-fueled fuck fest is the gift that keeps on giving, and giving, and giving”. And promptly forgot all about it.

On the weekend of my birthday, the aforementioned girlfriend and I traveled to central Oregon to traipse about in the snow, and had a perfectly lovely time. As we prepared for the return trip on Sunday (the anniversary of my birth), I began to get some small hints that something was up. She said small things like, “I’d like to get home by the early afternoon” without offering any reason, and “Let’s not stop to eat there on the way home; you might not want a full belly.” Curious, but completely vague. I enjoy surprises, so I didn’t pry.

We got home, went for a run and showered. Knowing full well that something was in the works, I asked how I should dress post shower. “Comfortably sexy. I don’t think we’re going out.” Of course, one has brief thoughts of fantasies that are far too improbable for reality, but I quickly settled down to earth. “Hmm, maybe she’s asked B over to give me a massage. That would be lovely.” Then the girl tells me if I wanted to indulge in any recreational pharmaceuticals, now would be the right time. *gulp* I’m enough of a control freak that taking a mind-altering substance without knowing exactly what was in the works for the evening took a considerable leap of faith. But I leapt in an ecstatic fashion. And somewhat nervously waited for the other shoe to drop.

About thirty minutes later, the doorbell rang and I nearly jumped out of my skin. She smiled and said, “You should go answer that.” Heart thumping, I went to the door to find… a woman I’ve been seeing lately! And behind her… was the other woman I’ve recently become involved with! They came in bearing pizza boxes, homemade cupcakes, and absolutely mischievous grins. My mind quickly bounced back and forth, “This can’t be what I think it is! Oh my stars, I think it is! No, it can’t! Oh shit, I think it is!”

Some background, for context: “Splendor” has been my partner for a good long while, and knows both of the others socially, but has never err, umm, “gone there” with either. “Cheer” I have known for a long time, but the relationship has only recently escalated to a significantly new level. And “Mirth” is someone I’ve been involved with off and on a couple of times, currently “on” and hopefully done with the “off” problems. Cheer and Mirth had met briefly at a couple of parties, but that was about the extent of their experience with each other. I found out after the fact that about a week ago Mirth asked Splendor what plans were in store for my birthday, and my quote was relayed to her. Bless her heart, she took the idea and ran with it, contacting Cheer and coordinating the event. Such balls!

The Three Graces

Back to the narrative. The girls got a bite to eat while I fidgeted in an anxious fashion, trying to figure out if I was already deeply hallucinating. After a short time, someone suggested that perhaps it was time to find a more comfortable space to lounge. A brief bit of scurrying for armfuls of pillows and blankets and we were soon ensconced in a very cozy nest. Soon enough, clothes were shed, copious amounts of oil were applied to all available flesh and things got decidedly warmer!

I can only pretend to relay the roughest of outlines of what followed; my head was swimming in an ocean of awe, appreciation and astonishment. For a brief time I lay passively and accepted the oily petting and stroking of six hands and many kisses, sometimes from multiple people at once. But I’m really not built for passivity and soon started orchestrating matters. Splendor was placed in the middle and received ample attentions from all of us, with one person leading the main event and the other two assisting in whatever clever ways they could find. And then another person took the lead. And then I took the lead. After we had thoroughly given Splendor all she could possibly handle, we rotated Mirth into the middle and repeated the process. We took a brief break to soak in the hot tub, but swiftly returned for a second act. We repeated the same routine with Cheer, and then I got the finale session in the middle.

Each girl is so completely different in her wants, needs, preferences; I began each session by telling some story about that girl’s kinks (Your kink is okay!), amusing little stories about our early experiences, anything to break the ice and set the stage for what that girl might especially enjoy. And for fuck’s sake, did they rise to the occasion! Every one of them dove into the action with all due vigor and enthusiasm, as though they were long-term lovers. I tried to quietly check in with each of them at various times, just to make sure it was all good and everyone was in their happy place. Each time I was met with a big damn grin and firm instructions to quit worrying so much. I did my best to comply.

The night was such a long series of amazing things, and everything flowed so easily, so naturally, so comfortably, that it’s hard for me to lock down a precise sequence. However, some specific moments remain etched in my brain: The way Mirth lay directly under Cheer and held her down spread eagled to be used and abused. The way Cheer curled up against Splendor in a fawning, adoring, submissive fashion after receiving a series of exquisite bites on her torso that left bruises visible for days. The way Mirth presented herself face down, ass up so that I could make her squirt profoundly, multiple times, to the delight of our audience.

But more than anything, I will long remember and cherish the feeling of love and adoration that filled the space. Everyone was so incredibly loving, open, giving, accepting, supportive… I was just awestruck. And when I remind myself that this was the first time any of them had ever interacted with the others in anything resembling a sexual context, I hardly know how to respond. I am blessed beyond measure.

The following day was a flurry of glowing messages and photos of spectacular love bites. One of the girls said, “I went into it thinking I was doing it for you. I came out of it knowing I did it for me.” I find both ends of that so beautiful, it makes me tear up. That any or all of them would consider doing such a thing for me is an honor I can barely comprehend. That it became such a beautiful, shared, mutual experience for all three of them just fills my heart with joy and love.

The bravery and openness of these women completely awes me. I fail to see how I have earned it, but they assure me I have. I’m going to bust my ass trying to live up to the person they think I am.

For the past year or so, I’ve been exploring BDSM activities with a little more enthusiasm. On playa in 2014, I camped with the Theme Camp “Retrofrolic”, which is the largest BDSM playspace on the playa. I’ve taught classes on making your own flogger (from upcycled bicycle innertubes). And I am newly involved in a significantly more serious BDSM relationship than I’ve experienced before. In these experiences, I’ve been the “top”, the “dom”, the “sadist”.

Despite that, I’ve been really uneasy with the title “sadist”. It didn’t feel like it fit me, but I had a hard time articulating why. 

From a historical perspective, the writings of the Marquis de Sade describe some really extreme behavior, sexual abuse, rape, pedophilia, necrophilia… some reprehensible actions, to say the least. But okay, let’s agree that we’re only talking about the context of consenting sexual behavior involving pain and/or dominance. There are still aspects of that that sit uneasily with me. It was jarring to walk into camp in the wee hours of the morning and greet a fellow Burner who had a fresh array of bright purple welts from the small of her back to her lower thighs, purple drifting into blood red in places. And she was enormously proud of them! I very firmly believe and embrace “Your kink is okay!”, but at the same time that was a level of BDSM that I had a hard time personally relating to.

So I’ve been pondering this term, “sadist”, talking it over with partners, even talking about it with a local meeting of sex geeks (wow, I love Portland!). And I think I’ve finally figured out my own personal relationship with the term.

I have relationships where I really enjoy exerting control and dominance, where I provide verbal abuse and inflict considerable amounts of physical pain. And I’m not a sadist.

Let me explain by giving you an example from my massage practice. Nearly every massage I do includes some work with my fingertips on the client’s temples. Most clients really love this, but there are a few that hate it and I make a note to avoid it with them in future massages. And some clients like it but only with the very lightest of pressure, while others wants me to wear a groove in their skulls. And you know what? It’s all good. I don’t think less of the people who hate it, and I’m not upset at someone who doesn’t want me to bear down as hard as I might. The point isn’t to flex my finger muscles; the point is to make that person feel good! And if that particular move doesn’t work for someone, I move on and find something that does make their toes curl!

And that’s very much how I feel about my BDSM practices. I have had a few girlfriends who enjoy aspects of those behaviors. And I’m currently involved with someone who is taking me to the limits of where I thought I could go. But I also have a partner who has no appreciable interest in those activities at all. And it’s all good! I’m not grumpy and sad because I have a girlfriend who doesn’t want to be flogged ruthlessly. For me, the point isn’t the pain, the point is to use that pain as a vehicle for bringing someone pleasure. And I’m really talking about “for me” here. I hugely enjoy giving my partners pleasure. I like bringing them to a fevered spot in their head where conscious thought stops and their senses are electrified. If getting there involves some extra dirty talk and a little spanking, I can handle it. If it involves causing screaming pain and some bruising, I can hang. But I have no desire to go there if it doesn’t make my partner’s toes curl.

If I were really a sadist and had a partner who wouldn’t let me beat them savagely, I have to think I’d be really disappointed in that. “Aww, here’s this girl I’m really into, and I can’t indulge this thing that I really love to do. That sucks!” In fact, I have a kink I feel exactly that way about. I love giving a woman head. Even if it isn’t that pleasurable for a particular partner, I still enjoy licking her pussy. The smell, the texture, the taste. Mmm, the taste. That richer, muskier taste that comes when she is thoroughly aroused. It makes me growl with hunger. If I had a partner who refused to let me eat her pussy, I would be hugely sad. It would feel like a huge loss in the relationship, to me. ‘cause that’s my kink. (And your kink is okay!)

But I don’t feel that way about BDSM. If that doesn’t work for a partner, I’ll find something else that will. I’ll find something that will make them gasp, stop them in mid-sentence, make them see a mandala of light pulse in their vision. As long as she also lets me eat her pussy every so often. 🙂

My soundtrack for this discussion is courtesy of Momus: I Want You But I Don’t Need You

When a new acquaintance tells me they are “vegetarian“, I can’t help but wince. Not because I begrudge them their food choices, not even a little! I wince because there’s just not a lot of information I can glean from that label. Do they eat eggs? How about fish? Dairy? Really, all I know for sure is that this person has some dietary preferences, mostly (but not necessarily exclusively!) around meat.

The reason I bring this up on this blog is that I have much the same feeling around the labels “polyamory” and “open relationship”. The spectrum of options and possibilities under that label is so impossibly broad as to carry almost no data at all. About the most I can assume is you’re doing something that is not quite the same as (and maybe completely, totally different from) traditional monogamy.

While the subtle details and implications may be far more than your parents care to know, if I’m considering getting involved with you I want to know all the juicy details of what you mean by “open relationship“. For instance, does your partner(s) know? (Yikes! I hate that this question even needs to be asked! How do I know your partner(s) are really on-board?) Is this a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” arrangement, or do you discuss every little detail with your partner(s)? What rules of engagement do you practice? Are you in a closed polyfidelitous structure, or do your partner(s) have other partners? How long have you been doing this? Is this a decision you made at a rave last weekend, or is this something you’ve been doing for years?

Worse yet, there’s the risk that I might assume your definition and understanding of the label is identical to my own. (Red flag word, assume.) This is an area where I want to make sure there is a minimum of accidental misunderstandings before things progress too far.

Bottom line, a label as broad as those is not an answer; at most it is a starting point for a more involved and pointed discussion. Beware of big labels and when in doubt, ask lots of questions!