In honor of Orgasm Awareness Month, fabulous writer and all around excellent human being RC McLachlan is doing a sex-toy giveaway! All you have to do is reblog that post to enter (reblog only, and only reblog once!) for your chance to get a truly amazing package.
While you’re over there, take a minute to peek through and enjoy RC’s tumblr. There’s an awful lot of cleverness going on up in there.
A clever bit of informational history on Hysteria, the vibrator, and sexual desire.
The early 1900s were actually a fascinating period in sexual history, with an odd combination of openness and repression. Victorian and Edwardian pornography remains some of the filthiest I’ve ever had the delight of observing or reading (though the language, being frequently archaic, is sometimes unintentionally hilarious).
Because these options exist, and because your sexual and reproductive life is your business and yours alone, you can pay for your own birth control, with your own money.
- Sprintec is avaliable from Walmart pharmacies, without a prescription. This cost is $9 for 30 days, or a 90 day supply for $24. Tri-Sprintec is avaliable in a 30 day supply for $9, as well. Sprintec is the generic version of Ortho-Cyclen, and Tri-Sprintec is the generic verison of Ortho-Tricyclen.These prescriptions are the EXACT SAME THING as the name brand, but cost less because generic companies don’t have to worry about advertising costs.
These same offers are avaliable fromKroger, Target, and Sam’s Club. If you’re having trouble locating these prescriptions on their lists, you can click “Ctrl-F” and type in Sprintec and they’ll show up for you.
- If you are interested in getting an IUD, but can’t afford the cost up front, Mirena offers monthly payment plans.
- There’s a website dedicated specifically to helping women find coupon options available for birth control.
- Northwest Pharmacy offers cheap birth control options that can be purchased online. There’s also some more birth control options on the site here.
- 144 Durex condoms can be purchased from Walmart for only $25.88. This means that each condom costs approximately 18 cents each.
- There are websites that offer free condoms. Places like Planned Parenthood offer free condoms, too, if you really can’t afford them.
Many Planned Parenthood locations also offer their services on a sliding scale, so you may be able to get longer-lasting birth control at a lower cost. There are even stories of Planned Parenthood giving away birth control for free, so always ask.
A few abortion funds can also help with the cost.
a-war-you-cannot-win linked to one website with free condoms, and Googling “free condoms” comes up with many more!
Always look into generics!
Here’s a coupon for $10 off Plan B, good at any commercial pharmacy!
For those among my readers who use birth control, this list may prove useful!
(Sexual Humanism will resume a more normal posting schedule soon. Very sorry for the unexpected absence. It took me by surprise, too.)
There’s a lot of information already out there about sexually transmitted infections—also called STDs, STIs, sometimes VD for venereal disease (but that’s an older term that doesn’t see much use these days), and sometimes “social disease” which is another older term that is too general to be of any use. You probably already know the big ones: herpes, gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV. I’ll touch on those briefly, along with a few other common infections and infestations, as well as some preventative tips.
First off, it is important to understand that just because you aren’t showing symptoms of a particular STI doesn’t mean you don’t have it. If you are sexually active, get checked regularly by your doctor, regardless of whether or not you use protection. This goes for everyone, not just those of you who make visits to the gynecologist.
Moving on! Most STIs fall under one of two categories: bacterial or viral. Other STIs are largely parasitic.
Bacterial and parasitic infections are the easiest to treat. Most respond well to common antibiotics (if you’ve ever had a sinus infection, you’ve likely already taken what they’ll give you). Early stage syphilis is especially easy to treat, requiring only a single dose of amoxicillin or penicillin to knock it out.
Of course, whether taking a single dose or three weeks worth, it’s important to take all doses, no matter what you’re taking them for. Not completing your course of antibiotics means you might not completely kill the bacteria in your system, which allows it to mutate and develop resistances more quickly than it otherwise would. This is one of the current complicating factors of gonorrhea.
You may find that if you are diagnosed with gonorrhea or chlamydia, your doctor asks your partner to also be tested and treated. This is related to gonorrhea’s increasing antibiotic resistance and chlamydia’s high infection rates, as well as the fact that both infections can be transmitted to an infant through childbirth.
Parasitic infections are also easy to treat. Pubic lice are treated the same way any other louse infection is treated. A lice comb helps remove adults and eggs (nits), and in stubborn cases, a treated shampoo used while bathing may be helpful. In some extreme cases, a complete removal of hair may also be helpful. Scabies is caused by mites, and infections are treated with a topical cream. Scabies are transmitted through close contact (like sharing towels), so all members of a household should be treated at the same time. Yeast infections are cured with antifungals and can be prevented by controlling the amount of carbs and sugars you ingest or put in your body, as those feed the infection. (That means no popsicle or lollipop dildos, okay? Just don’t.)
And then the really fun ones: the viral infections. These are harder to treat, can become chronic (as in the case of hepatitis), and may be entirely symptomless or mimic less serious infections such as a bad cold or the flu until they are past the point of no return. Hepatitis C (which can be sexually transmitted, but is exceptionally rare as an STD) has a cure rate of a little over 50%, just to give you an idea of how difficult these can be to take care of. And because you might not even know you have it (see again: may be symptomless), you could pass it on to a partner and never know you’ve done it. So get tested.
HIV is a major infection that can only be managed. There are a lot of misconceptions and myths that get passed around about this disease (no, you cannot get it by shaking hands with or hugging a person with HIV) that I don’t have room to get into here. I may make that another post, but for now, the important thing is, despite a few rare cases, HIV and AIDS are effectively incurable.
Herpes and HPV often get lumped together, but they are not the same thing. On the non-STI side, herpes causes cold sores and HPV causes warts. It’s very likely you already have both viruses in your system. There is no cure for herpes, and while HPV tends to clear up, doctors aren’t yet sure if that clearing up is the body eliminating the virus or the virus simply being at levels too low to detect.
“But SH,” I hear you saying, “what do you mean ‘non-STI’ side? I thought these were sexually transmitted!”
And that’s where things get complicated. A lot of people will tell you the only way to avoid an STI is to never have sex. That simply isn’t true. Just like a pedestrian can be involved in a car accident, or you can be struck by lightning indoors, you can be infected with an STI without ever having sexual contact with another human being. Some people are born with an STI (gonorrhea, chlamydia, and HIV can all be transmitted during childbirth. HIV and CMV—which I haven’t talked about here—can also be transmitted through breast milk.). Some people contract STDs through drug use (HIV, hepatitis) and others through something as necessary as a blood transfusion or organ transplant (hepatitis, CMV). Some infections are transmitted through simple close contact like sharing a towel, a drink, or a kiss (herpes, scabies) and others develop through poor hygiene habits (scabies, yeast infections).
However, all these infections are more likely to be transmitted to another person during sexual contact. With that in mind, know how to protect yourself. Use protection; dental dams and condoms will protect you from a host of STIs. Get tested; the only way you can be treated for an infection is if you know you have one, so see your doctor regularly, and be honest about your sexual activity. I guarantee, you cannot shock or surprise your health workers. Get treated; if you are diagnosed with an STI, take the treatment offered you and, if given an antibiotic, be careful to take all doses given to you, to prevent reinfection. Abstain; if you know you have an STI, abstain from physical sexual activity during the course of your treatment (feel free to masturbate or engage in phone sex, though!). If you must engage in sex, use protection. To do otherwise is not only unfair to you, it’s unfair to your partner. And finally, communicate. Talk to your doctor about any worries you may have. Discuss your sexual habits with your partner. Go to a health provider and ask questions. Do a search on Google (and follow up those search results with a doctor or someone else who knows what they’re talking about. There are a lot of inaccuracies out there.) Don’t be afraid to ask questions and don’t be afraid to speak up.
With talk recently about being healthy at any size (which is absolutely possible), I’ve noticed there has been a lot of talking about body positivity (which is awesome), but very little talk about actual health (which is somewhat less awesome.) So today I’m taking a detour from talking about sex and sex related things to go flying off into medical territory.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. I have, however, grown up around doctors (shout-out to my uncle, who is doing his awesome at the Mayo Clinic) and nurses, and spent fairly significant chunks of time in or around hospitals for various reasons. In the course of that (and in the course developing certain chronic issues which have necessitated that I spend chunks of time educating myself about said issues), I’ve gleaned a fair amount of information over the years. Although I was raised believing a lot of this was common sense, I’ve learned that much of it isn’t. This stuff isn’t taught in most schools, after all (and really should be).
With that in mind, here goes.
There is an unfortunate tendency in society to automatically assume that anyone overweight is also incredibly unhealthy. This is perpetuated in part by certain reality TV shows, which like to show incredibly simplified before and afters along with sensational hyping up of certain health issues.
It is possible that if you have a health issue (high triglycerides, a heart murmur, arthritis, something else entirely), that losing weight may help that health issue improve. But let me put the emphasis on may. Being “overweight” does not automatically mean you have or will develop these health issues, and if you have health issues, losing weight is not a magic cure-all for them. Case in point: I have a family member who is built like a supermodel and has been all her life. That is her natural, normal state of being. ”Despite this,” as society would say, she has high cholesterol which she manages with medication. Being thin has not protected her from this particular issue. Similarly, I have a good friend who is considered morbidly obese by the BMI matrix, but not only does she not have high cholesterol, her doctor has told her more than once that he wishes half his patients on medication had levels as textbook perfect as hers.
What I’m getting at here is that it’s entirely possible to be overweight and still be perfectly healthy just as it’s possible to be “average” (a term I use loosely since what the media calls average, isn’t) and unhealthy. So how do you know if you’re healthy or not? Well, there are fitness tests, which usually involve running x-amount of distance in y-amount of time, but those are imperfect. I’m in good shape; I walk regularly, go hiking regularly, can lift and carry not-insignificant amounts of weight with relative ease, but I cannot complete the one-mile run test. Does this mean I’m not healthy?
Nope. Just means I haven’t trained to run a mile.
The best way to find out if you’re healthy or unhealthy is, frankly, to go to a doctor and ask. A number of you are probably leery of doing that for a number of reasons. I know there are some people out there who have heard the old “you need to lose weight” as the first thing out of a doctor’s mouth that they no longer want to bother. I know. It’s bullshit. I know that not everyone has the privilege of choosing a doctor (and that even for those who do, it can be a right pain in the ass). Do the best you can. If those are the first words out of your doctor’s mouth, and if you are able, get up and walk out. Seriously. Get up and walk out. You have my permission. That is a poor doctor. If you are like me and have no health insurance, but are fortunate enough to live in a large city, look into free clinics. They can be difficult to get into and difficult to deal with, but they could also save your life. Be aware that not all free clinics do certain blood tests, and, if you’re in the US, keep an eye on stores like CVS and Rite-Aid, which regularly hold cholesterol and other screenings.
That said, what should you be looking for in a doctor? Aside from the obvious (do you like this person? Do you like their staff? You can tell a lot about a doctor by the nurses and office staff they surround themselves with.), you want to look for a few clinical things in particular.
What you want is a doctor who takes your vitals (which may include height and weight, but should absolutely include blood pressure, pulse rate, respiration rate, and body temperature). Your doctor may include checking your eyes and ears with your vitals. Not all do and it’s not strictly necessary unless you have a history of sinus or ear infections. Before you go to your doctor, spend at least a week checking as many of these things as possible at home so you have a decent baseline for comparison. Blood pressure and pulse rate in particular tend to go up at doctor’s offices, because they are stressful environments. You won’t be hurting yourself if you go to your doctor and say “here is a list of my recorded blood pressure for the last week.” It may even be helpful. (For those of you in the United States, most pharmacies have blood pressure cuffs in the store. At a CVS, Rite Aid, or similar, go to the back and look in the pharmacy waiting area. They take about a minute and a half to complete and are free.) These things will give your doctor an idea of how much work your body is doing to keep you alive (very active people tend to have very low resting heart rates for example, so if you weigh 170, go for a 3-mile run every day, but your resting heart rate is in the range of 90 BPM, it’s possible something is wrong. If, on the other hand, you weight 250, go for a casual stroll every now and then, and your resting heart rate is in the range of 60 BPM, you’re probably doing pretty well, but keep in mind that this is only one factor among many.)
You should also get a blood test done. Your doctor will probably do a fingerstick, which collects a very small amount of blood used to check blood count. This tells your doctor your ratio of red to white blood cells (high white blood cell counts generally indicate an infection of some kind, low red blood cell counts generally indicate anemia), and low platelets may indicate some other problem entirely. If these levels are off, they provide a good jumping off point for your doctor to look for specific causes. Also good are basic lipid profile tests (more commonly known as a cholesterol check) and a basic metabolic panel (BMP) (which checks the level of certain chemicals in your blood). Everyone should get these tests done at least once in their lives, regardless of size or perceived health, and if you are on certain medications, a BMP may be a regular requirement to ensure that your medications are not negatively affecting certain organs. Also, if you find you have recently rapidly gained or lost weight, despite making no changes to your diet or activity levels, ask your doctor to check your thyroid levels, as sudden, dramatic weight changes can be indicative of a thyroid problem.
Do not let your doctor ask you to lose weight before these basic tests have been done. Seriously. Again, if the first words out of your doctor’s mouth are “you need to lose weight”, walk out. If all of your vitals are strong, and your blood tests come back good, your doctor should not care too much if you’re overweight. If your tests come back saying, for example, you have very high cholesterol, your doctor might ask you to try losing ten pounds (relatively small amounts of weight loss can often have dramatic results). If you’re uncomfortable with that, say so. If you’re uncomfortable with saying so, take a friend along for moral support (or, if you’re so inclined, to act as your voice—I’ve done this for many friends over the years, and some of them find simply having another friendly face in the room is all they need to speak up).
The key is whether or not you feel healthy. Your doctor will never know your body quite as well as you do (and on that note, if you have breast tissue of any kind, you will be well served by knowing it well. Check your breasts, tits, pectorals, I don’t care what you want to call it. Biological women are not the only ones who get breast cancer, okay. Know your body.). If you find you get sick frequently, yes, it could be related to your weight, but it’s just as likely to be related to a low white blood cell count. If you have chronic headaches, yes, it could be related to your weight, or you may discover you are genetically predisposed to migraines. If you discover you have gallstones, yes, it could be related to your weight…or it could be related to attempts to lose large amounts of weight too quickly (they’re a common side effect of weight-loss surgeries, in fact).
This is why it’s important to try and find a doctor who doesn’t immediately jump to conclusions based on your relative weight. Yes, it’s entirely possible that people who are heavier may be more likely to develop certain health conditions than people who are lighter, but a) what qualifies as “heavier” and “lighter” varies from person to person and b) weight is never the only factor. Never. There are so many factors that go into health, from age to sex to height to your occupation to whether or not you own cats (and if so, how many) to, yes, wealth. If you only consider your weight, you cheat yourself, but don’t ignore it either. Consider everything, and know thyself.
There have been a lot of posts running around Tumblr lately, most of them titled along the lines of “Things I wish sex ed had taught me.” Every last one of them has at least one point on body hair in connection to pornography, and every last one of them has, well, a couple factual errors and a lot of misconceptions. So today’s post is all about clearing some of those misconceptions up, specifically as they relate to people with female genitalia!
Myth: Shaving or otherwise removing pubic hair increases the risk of yeast infections.
Reality: While it’s true that removing hair does increase the risk of certain factors such as ingrown hairs, it does not increase the risk of yeast infections. Additionally, depending on your hair and skin type, you may get ingrown hairs anyway (they’re not uncommon in the slightest) and some people find that careful hair removal, usually through the use of chemical depilatories or laser hair removal, is beneficial and some people may find they require permanent hair removal, lest their frequent ingrown hairs cause serious health problems. Fortunately, the vast majority of ingrown hairs are a minor inconvenience, easily resolved with mild exfoliation, carefully loosening the dead skin around or over the hair, and the application of a gentle antiseptic and skin tightener such as witch hazel.
Myth: Pubic hair keeps the vulva and vagina clean
Reality: Not exactly. If it were the case that pubic hair is what’s responsible for trapping bacteria and therefore preventing infections, then every girl who has yet to hit puberty would be fighting infections pretty constantly. There is some evidence that pubic hair helps hold on to pheromones, which has some implications for sexual attraction (or it will, if anyone can definitively confirm it), but it’s not as important for keeping clean. What’s important for keeping clean is keeping clean, best done through wearing natural fiber undergarments (which should be changed every day or, if you find yourself sweating excessively, twice a day—please don’t put your sweaty underwear back on after your post-workout shower.) and mild cleansing in the shower or bath.
Myth: Removing pubic hair prevents lice and other parasites
Reality: Sort of. Removing the hair doesn’t kill them or prevent them from moving or attempting to movie in, but it does make them easier to see, which also makes them easier to eradicate. It also makes it more difficult to reproduce as they have no hair to which they can attach their eggs, thus shortening the length of the infection. This was a common method of parasite control for prostitutes in ancient times that has continued through today in some cultures.
Myth: The removal of pubic and other body hair is directly related to the porn industry.
Reality: Not even slightly. Many cultures have participated in complete hair removal, usually for religious reasons which require the removal of all body hair below the neck. In American culture in particular, the advent of the swimsuit helped lead to the removal of much body hair (armpits and legs in particular, as swimsuits covered progressively less skin), aided by advertising campaigns in the 19teens, so we actually have a changing culture of fashion to thank for most of it. Darn those flappers and their short skirts and sleeves! Pubic hair has also vanished at other points through history, notably in art first, where it was considered obscene, and then spreading to other parts of that art-viewing society. In fact, up until the mid-70s, it was the presence of pubic hair that made an image pornographic, and at least one painter in history (Francisco Goya) was questioned by the Spanish Inquisition thanks to his use of pubic hair in a painting. Yikes.
Myth: Porn stars remove their pubic hair so that they’ll look younger.
Reality: Nope. In today’s industry, porn stars remove their public hair so that their genitalia is more visible or, in the case of men, looks larger. It’s a practical consideration rather than a strictly aesthetic one. This isn’t to say that the porn industry’s consistent hair removal isn’t putting enormous pressure on women by way of the men who watch it, because it absolutely is. Just…not for the reasons many people believe.
Myth: Removing pubic hair reduces sexual sensation.
Reality: In fact, the opposite is true. When an area of skin is covered for a long time, the removal of the covering heightens sensation dramatically (this is the major reason swimmers shave their legs). After a time, the skin does become accustomed to this increase in sensation and the brain learns to tune it out, but something as simple as not shaving for a matter of days and then shaving again is enough to heighten the feeling again. Some people may find that extra lubrication is necessary during sex if there is no pubic hair present, but it doesn’t reduce sensation by any means.
There seems to be a backlash recently against women who decide to remove their pubic hair. I’ve heard everything from “it makes you look like a ten-year-old girl” to “you’re giving in to what the porn industry wants.” In reality, a person’s decision to remove body hair is their own and it is for their own reasons, whatever those reasons may be. As for me, sometimes I shave and sometimes I don’t, depending on my mood and the availability of a fresh razor (because sometimes I get lazy and don’t get new razors when I ought and if there’s one truth I know, it’s that you do NOT want to be shaving your bits with a dull razor. Nick city. Ouch.). I’ve had three ingrown hairs that I can think of, one of them on a body part I’ve never shaved, have never had an infection of any kind, and started shaving before I knew what porn was and before I even knew of the existence of Cosmo or similar magazines. Your mileage may vary.
So here’s the deal: remove your body hair or don’t. It’s up to you which you prefer. If your partner chooses total removal, relax. They’ve no doubt got their reasons, and your job is to let them have those reasons. If your partner chooses no removal, relax. They’ve no doubt got their reasons and your job is to let them have those reasons (besides, a little hair when going down on someone really isn’t the end of the world.). And if your partner chooses a mid-point between removal and no removal, relax. They’ve no doubt got their reasons and your job is—you got it—to let them have those reasons.
If you do decide you want to remove your pubes though, it’s important to keep a few things in mind:
If you’re prone to ingrown hairs, trimming (with scissors or clippers) is best. If you must shave or wax, be vigilant. Gently exfoliate the area before and after shaving, and gently exfoliate as often as possible (if you have a loofah or one of those mesh scrubbers, just wash with that as you normally would. It’s enough.). Removing dead skin and dirt are key to preventing ingrown hairs. Dabbing witch hazel on the area after shaving will also help, as will using a moisturizing lotion, particularly one with vitamin E.
If you wax and are biologically female, do it 5-to-7 days after menstruation ends, when your pain tolerance is at its highest. Avoid doing it the week immediately before menstruation, when your pain tolerance is, yep, at its lowest. If you’re biologically male, you can wax pretty much any time. For people with either set of genitals, certain advice applies no matter what: take two Advil or Ibuprofen about an hour before you get it done to prevent swelling and redness and get it done at least 24 hours before you want to show off your waxed bits. Remember to drink plenty of water after and, if you’re going to be showing off in the sun, use sunscreen on the waxed area. The same advice applies to sugaring, as well. Whether waxing or sugaring, neither method hurts half so much as movies would have you believe, I promise.
Do not use Nair or other chemical depilatories anywhere near your genitals. I repeat: do not use Nair or other chemical depilatories anywhere near your genitals. The risk of severe chemical burns is not worth smooth skin. They put those warnings on the bottle for a very good reason.
Laser hair removal is expensive, and unless you find you’re prone to ingrown hairs even before you attempt hair removal methods, probably not worth it.
Tweezing and threading are really only good for small areas. I’ve heard of people tweezing their legs bare, but it strikes me as both time consuming and more painful than waxing (which really isn’t bad, seeing as it’s done quickly).
(We’re back! And I’m feeling much better.)
Before tackling any of the other sexuality posts, I wanted to tackle the concept of sociosexuality, because I feel like the perception of it can be closely tied to the concept of slut shaming. Slut shaming, for the record, is never cool, and sociosexuality is only one of the many reasons why. Ready? HERE WE GO!
So what is sociosexuality anyway? For starters, it has nothing to do with your personal attractions (that is, whether you are homo-, bi-, hetero-, a-, or any other form of -sexual). A homosexual is as capable of being extremely sociosexual as they are capable of being not at all sociosexual, and that goes for all orientations. Secondly, you may notice a lot of the concepts of sociosexuality closely mirror demisexuality. There is a reason for this; namely, a person who is demisexual has a more restricted sociosexuality than someone who is not. Some people might argue that demisexual is simply another term for restricted sociosexuality. It may be and it may not be (I fall on the side of is), but the two are at the very least closely related (as many things on the sexuality spectrum are).
Sociosexuality is, in its simplest definition, a person’s willingness to engage in and desire for “casual” sex. That is, it is a person’s willingness to engage in intercourse of some kind outside of the bounds of a committed relationship of some kind. Someone with a very restricted sociosexuality might require a close emotional bond along with the social bond of marriage before developing any interest in having sex whatsoever, whereas someone with a relatively unrestricted sociosexuality may find themselves actively looking for or even preferring one-time partners (or one-night stands) who they may never see again.
While people with unrestricted sociosexuality do tend to be biologically male, usually extraverted, and often impulsive, they also tend to be somewhat more socially aware than people with a restricted sociosexuality. (In short, they tend to be good at working a room. Certainly a boon if you’re looking for a quickie!) On the flipside, people with a highly restricted sociosexuality tend to be biologically female, more introverted, and very cautious when it comes to risk taking.
Mind, being a biological female who is introverted and cautious doesn’t automatically equate a restricted sociosexuality! Lesbian and bisexual women tend to be less restricted than heterosexual women and non-religious people tend to be less restricted overall. Likewise, being a biological male who is extraverted and loves taking risks doesn’t automatically equate an unrestricted sociosexuality! Every person falls into their own place on the scale. Some people may find that they change over time, or even change in certain situations (during outbreaks of certain STIs, for example, it’s no surprise to see an entire population become more restricted overall as the risk of infection outweighs the benefits of entertaining a short-term partner). Like many other aspects of sexuality, sociosexuality can be fluid and that is perfectly normal (remaining the same is also normal. Each individual is different, after all.).
So what does that have to do with slut-shaming? Well, in one of life’s ridiculous double standards, women with an unrestricted sociosexuality are often seen as sluts (while their male counterparts are revered as “studs”). Women with a restricted sociosexuality are often reviled as prudes (while their male counterparts are praised for their restraint). Don’t do this. Every person falls somewhere on the scale of sociosexuality, whether they are never willing to have sex (inside or outside of a committed relationship) or whether they would like to do nothing but have sex. Whether restricted or unrestricted, their level of comfort is their own and should be respected.
Addendum: I want to point out that restricted sociosexuality is not the same thing as asexuality, which is a lack of desire for sex regardless of one’s relative attraction to or emotional closeness to another person. I’ll get into asexuality, which is its own bird, in another post.
Sorry everyone! I’ve been laid out by some kind of stomach bug the last few days, so the post has been delayed. :(
Full disclosure on this post: I’ve never been in a monogamous relationship. I like the idea of them the same way I like the idea of relationships in general, but I’ve never been in one. This makes me a touch biased in favor of non-monogamous relationships. Open relationships are relationships like any other, and deserve the same kind of respectful treatment in writing. Three of the books on this list are ones I find valuable for one reason or another, the fourth is one I find interesting from an academic point of view.
You’ll find this in all the books, but it’s also worth noting that a non-monogamous relationship does not automatically equal threesomes, since I find that to be an incredibly common train of thought. Some relationships include threesomes, some include moresomes, some don’t involve either and may in fact involve a somewhat complicated Venn diagram of people and relationships (been there! It was sometimes confusing figuring out who went where and when!).
And for those of you who aren’t interested in non-monogamous relationships (and those of you who aren’t interested in romantic relationships in general), I would still recommend these books, as they’re full of advice that can be applied to any relationship, romantic or not.
Off we go!
The Ethical Slut - Let’s get the big one out of the way first, shall we? The Ethical Slut has been considered the “bible” of books on consensual non-monogamous relationships. (And let’s get this out of the way, too: if your non-monogamous relationship isn’t consensual, it’s cheating. Don’t lie about your relationships, okay? Bad for everyone involved.) The important thing to note with this book is that it doesn’t assume its readers are in an open relationship or necessarily want to jump into a relationship, open or not. The authors dedicate a measure of the book to discussing singleness and some of the benefits thereof, including the importance of figuring out your own wants and needs before jumping into dealing with someone else’s. Sound simple? Yes, but it’s an easy point to forget, and a good one for the authors to point out. In fact, at its heart, The Ethical Slut is more of a general relationship self-help book than it is anything else, and it makes valuable reading for anyone, regardless of your relationships. (The chapters on jealousy can apply as easily to friendships as to lovers, for example.) It’s important to note (as with many things), is that there is the occasional smattering of problematic language and no, I don’t agree with every point the authors make, but like I said, this is often considered the bible of non-monogamous relationships, and it’s with good reason.
The Threesome Handbook - This one is admittedly a personal favorite. Though particularly aimed at couples who want to bring a third person into their relationship, the author covers a host of relationship foibles that can touch anyone, whether a couple looking for a third, a single person looking for a couple, or just someone frustrated with the world of relationships in general. You’ll find a particular theme running through books about non-monogamous relationships; every last one of them dedicates a certain amount of time to the topic of jealousy. I love that they do. Jealousy can knock a hole in any relationship, whether you’re dealing with family, friends, lovers, or anything in between. If there’s one thing books on this topic cover beautifully, it’s jealousy. This one has the added bonus of being written by an incredibly clever woman with some delightful turns of phrase. The openness about her own sex life is as refreshing as it is reassuring, especially when you come to the dedications at the end. This is more of a curl-up-and-read-on-the-couch book than The Ethical Slut is and I love it for that. Again, there are a few points where I disagree with the author, but I find that’s inevitable when it comes to books about relationships. Just as no two people are alike, no two relationships are alike, so it stands to reason that not all of the points that work for her will work for everyone else. I only wish she covered unicorns a little better, but I can see why she might not have, not being one herself.
Opening Up - Confession: I’m not finished reading this one yet. I know, I know, and I’m sorry! I’ll finish it soon! (Will I be forgiven if I say I’ve been distracted by reading Game of Thrones? No?) If The Ethical Slut is considered a bible, I consider Opening Up the bible. My major complaint with the former is that (for all its charms), it tends to land a little too far on the side of utopia for my liking. It’s a common failing I find in a lot of books on non-monogamy (they cover jealousy often, but too many authors like to imply that the occasional bout of jealousy is the only downside to an open relationship. Worse, some imply that the occasional bout of jealousy is proof that monogamy “doesn’t work.”). Here, on the other hand, we have an author utterly unafraid to cover the lumps of non-monogamy along with the smooth bits. The book also covers a wider breadth of non-monogamous relationships than some do, which makes it interesting as well as helpful.
The Myth of Monogamy - Though I have some issues with comparing the animal world to humanity, I can’t deny that the information in this book is downright fascinating. I always enjoy when people break down the assumption that all animals are alike (just look at the way some children talk about their dogs or cats “getting married”). It’s an often simplistic assumption many people never bother to change. While humans clearly aren’t chickadees any more than chickadees are human, and while it’s important not to talk as though they are, it’s equally important to note that monogamy is not the end all be all many people assume it to be. This doesn’t make it automatically bad (there are many people for whom a fully monogamous relationship is exactly what they want), but it doesn’t make it automatically good, either. It’s important to remember both sides of that equation.
Women’s sexuality has long been contested, ignored, or controlled. This article from Mother Jones provides a concise history of that process (as well as the concept of ”hysterical paroxyms”) through the use of “pelvic massages” and “manipulators.” A common thread through history is that sexual desire has a negative effect on women and must be regulated and monitored lest it become too low or (just as bad) too high.