Sunday, December 27, 2015

Consensual Non-Monogamy: A Relationship Choice

I'm recovering from ankle-replacement surgery* and watching far too much TV and far too many films. Why is it that mainstream TV shows and films never show ethical, consensual non-monogamy as a relationship choice that works for many? We only see sexual exclusivity as the gold star of relationships, and when someone strays from the monogamy agreement, love turns into hurt and hate -- almost never into a renegotiation of what the couple wants the relationship to be going forward. (Showtime's "Masters of Sex" is the only exception that I can think of, and it's not mainstream.)

Don't get me started on how rarely we see older-age relationships portrayed in any way other than traditional, if they're portrayed at all! Even the new Netflix series "Grace and Frankie"  made me cringe at the stereotypical portrayal of older people and relationships. Yes, the men came out as gay and in love with each other instead of their long-time wives, but even they lapsed into spats and pain when it came out that one of them had either a past one-night stand or a last-night tryst with his ex-wife. Why not just say, "Yeah, these things happen and will happen and because I love you, I'll work to understand and accept -- let's talk"?

And the sweet, vulnerable, free-spirited, hippie Frankie played by Lily Tomlin?  Why isn't one of those cute, ex-convict artists emerging from her bedroom from time to time? (I have to say that as much as I'm dumping on this series, Frank Waterston is wonderful and adorable and the sexiest person on the show. He'd be welcome in my house anytime.)

Back to reality: sex therapists, researchers, and educators know that the sexual exclusivity model works for some but not for all. For others, ethical and consensual non-monogamy (which isn't cheating, because both partners agree to it) keeps many relationships strong. Pioneers like Esther Perel, author of Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence and TED talk speaker on "Rethinking Infidelity," and Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha, authors of Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships, have done brilliant work demystifying the causes and effects of infidelity and whether human beings are monogamous creatures.

My favorite podcaster, Dan Savage, talks about this often. He coined the term "monogamish" to describe couples who are committed, intimately bonded, and who sometimes have sex with others. The partner might want to know all the details or might not want to know anything, depending on the couple's agreement. Savage also says that when a couple has a monogamy agreement -- no sex with anyone else -- and one of them strays once in a while, the strayer is doing "a pretty good job at monogamy."

Please don't misunderstand me -- I'm not "promoting" non-monogamy or any sexual lifestyle. I'm just saying that I know many couples who stay together happily and intimately because they acknowledge that sexual exclusivity is not right for them. Let's not judge them or say (as I've heard some people righteously insist) that they "don't know how to be committed to another person."  

Those of you who are in consensually non-exclusive relationships, especially after age 50, I invite your thoughts here. Was this always the kind of relationship you wanted? Or did you come to it because you tried to embrace monogamy and it didn't work? I hope you'll share your views and experiences. (If you have trouble posting a comment, please email me and I'll post it for you.)

* In case you're curious about my surgery:I was in a near-fatal auto accident in 1979, which, among many other injuries, shattered my right heel and crushed my ankle. For the past 36 years, I've walked and danced on an ankle that barely moved and often caused pain. I sometimes described my foot as "a block of wood with nerve endings." I am extremely fortunate that now a reliable procedure is available that replaces a damaged ankle with a new, mobile one! I had the surgery in November, and I expect to be back on the dance floor in February! 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Talking sex toys on Dan Savage's podcast

Dec. 12, 2015: I am moving this post from July 2015 to the top, because I have many new readers and some of you might need holiday tips for sure-to-please sex toy gifts for a lover or for yourself. Enjoy! 

And if you don't have my latest book yet, The Ultimate Guide to Sex after 50 is a gift that will give you information and resources after the holidays are just a memory.  -- Joan

I had the pleasure of recording a guest segment on Dan Savage's Savage Love podcast, answering two caller questions.  It's live here: Episode 456. I'm on the Micro (free) version for 10 minutes and on the Magnum (paid subscription) for more than 20 minutes.

At the end of our Magnum segment, Dan asked me for some quick vibrator recommendations for the over-50 crowd. Here are the ones I mentioned, with links to my reviews so that you can learn more about them:
Magic Wand

Magic Wand (rechargeable): It has everything we loved about the Original Magic Wand plus new attributes that make it the ideal sex tool for those of us who need really strong vibrations.

 Sybian: Can I call a 22-pound, vibrating, mountable, power tool a "vibrator"? That's like calling the Sydney Opera House a music device. Straddle the Sybian, turn the dial to control the sensations, and enjoy.

The Pulse

The Pulse: A pulsing, oscillating, amazing vibrator for penises that does not require an erection for his pleasure!

Here are some more favorites that I would have added if we had more time:

Eroscillator: Especially fabulous for clitoral stimulation during partner sex because it doesn't get in the way of two bodies.
Private Gym

Private Gym: A penis workout for stronger erections -- including weights. This is no gimmick!


Womanizer: A sex toy that sucks your clitoris -- and that's a rock-your-world sensation!
Palm Power

Palm Power:  A lightweight, travel-friendly, ergonomically designed vibrator that packs incredible power into a small, silicone topped sex toy.

If you're new to my blog, it isn't just sex toys all the time, but yes, I do review sex toys a lot, and always from a "senior perspective."

What's a "senior perspective" and why do we need it?
  • Our need for long, slow arousal requires a vibrator that doesn't overheat, run out of battery charge, or burst into flames if we need to use it for a long time. 
  • We want sex toys that don't strain arthritic wrists. 
  • They must be made of body safe materials, especially with our thinning genital tissues.
  • We want to be able to see the controls without having to put on our reading glasses. 
  • Above all, we need intensity: strong vibrations. We're battling our (lack of) hormones. And we're winning!

If you're new to Dan Savage, he's super smart and sex-savvy. Check out the free mini-version of his weekly Savage Lovecast. Even better, in my opinion, is the paid Magnum version that's twice as long and ad-free. If you don't yet subscribe to the Magnum version, it's well worth the small amount of money to hear the longer version each week. Plus when you subscribe, you get to listen to ALL the past episodes -- years of them! You can read Dan's sex advice columns here. Dan is over 50 now -- welcome to our world, Dan!

Joan and Dan, showing actual height difference