Opening Up

I am currently in an open relationship and both my partner and I find it immensely satisfying. We are best friends of the quintessential “call up at 4 am about anything” kind. We can turn to each other for anything we need, physically and emotionally. I thank the fates every day for bringing this wonderful, beautiful woman into my life. We connect so well that people often comment that we are exact duplicates of each other. We love each other, but not in the traditional sense–rather in a ‘best buds’ kind of way. We enjoy our intimacy and our mutual desire for one another, but we both have a very healthy sex drive and do not limit ourselves. We both sex outside our relationship. It’s all well and good, and we have a nice, cozy arrangement in place.

What could possibly be the problem? Recently her parents found out about this arrangement of ours, on account of family friends of hers who had no business poking their nose into our affairs. While her parents are fairly liberal in matters of love and sex, they have expressed strong misgivings about the kind of relationship their daughter and I have. Me? I don’t give a damn about what anyone thinks of my personal life. But my partner is very close to her parents and wants them to approve of our relationship. She has convinced her parents to have a sit-down with both of us and talk things over. I can see her parents’ point of view—I guess they want to make sure that I don’t hurt their “little girl” in any way. But I’m also terribly flustered at the thought of discussing our relationship with them. I’ve never met them before and, quite frankly, I don’t know what I could possibly say to them to make them feel better about this. Her parents live in Hyderabad and they are coming down to Chennai in a couple of weeks to meet with us. I’m usually a big fan of the “be yourself” model of living, but I’m not entirely sure that being myself is such a good idea in this particular case. Any suggestions as to how I should go about this?
–Being Myself Could Cause Trouble

I have to say, it’s rare for me to get letters where it truly seems like everyone involved has the best of intentions and is approaching the situation with maturity and grace. You and your partner seem to have a lot of mutual respect and her parents also appear to be willing to at least try to understand their daughter’s relationship decisions. When everyone is coming to the table as caring adults and not hysterical, judgmental harpies, then I think it’s safe to say that half the battle has already been won. Way to go, letter-writer.

That being said, you and your partner both have to acknowledge the limits of what reasonable discussion accomplish. It’s very clear from your letter that the two of you have a healthy and trusting relationship and that you figured out how to the non-exclusivity thing really well. However, it’s also natural for people who care about you both to be concerned—open relationships are not the most common romantic arrangement, and realizing that your child has a loving, romantic partnership that isn’t sexually exclusive can be a very disconcerting thing. My advice? I think your partner should have this pow-wow with her parents alone. As it is, they’re going to feel discombobulated and wrong-footed about the whole thing discussion, and it’s best not to add to their confusion by asking them to meet the man behind the myth before they’ve even had a chance to digest the particular ins-and-outs (so to speak) of your relationship. Also, these are her parents, not yours, and if she cares so much about their approval then she needs to take responsibility for seeing that she has it. I would also advise you two to be patient and not get your expectations too high; this kind of disclosure can take a long time to settle in, and her parents are not going to be accepting and happy-go-lucky about this after just one sit-down. Getting them to accept and approve of your relationship is going to require a whole series of conversations, and the more easygoing you both are about this, the more likely it is that the ‘rents feel reassured. I highly recommend checking out the message boards at the website Opening Up for more advice on handling families as part of an open relationship. (Opening Up is a support and resource website for people in non-monogamous relationships, run by sex columnist, writer, and sex education Tristan Taormino.)
On a final note, you mentioned that your partner’s parents found out about your relationship through nosy family friends? Do you mind my asking how exactly the family friends got in the loop? The only reason why I’m wondering is because it’s just possible your partner told them about it. If that’s the case, then I suggest have an honest conversation with her about how you’re both feeling about the non-monogamous nature of your relationship. If indeed your partner did tell them, it’s entirely possible that your she was seeking their approval or their advice, and that she might not be feeling as positive about your relationship as you do. I don’t at all doubt the sincerity of your regard for her, but it’s a good idea to make sure you’re both on the same page before moving forward. Good luck, you crazy cut-ups!

January 7, 2009 at 4:30 am 2 comments

The Virgin Spring

I am a 21-year-old man. How do I know if a girl is really a virgin? My girlfriend has told me she’s a virgin, but I can’t be sure. Thanks, and be cool.
–Inquiring Mind

You don’t know, my inquiring young friend. That’s kind of the point: virginity is irrelevant. The traditional evidence that a woman is a virgin is the presence of the hymen, a piece of membrane that covers the external opening of the vagina. The hymen tears during a woman’s first sexual intercourse; hence, the tradition in many conservative religious families of displaying the bloody sheets after a newly-married couple has consummated their relationship for the first time. However, there are innumerable ways for a woman’s hymen to tear before she’s ever had intercourse—during sports activities, using a tampon, random jostling—and some women aren’t even born with a hymen. There are also endless ways to fake the first bleeding (inserting a pouch of goat’s blood being among the more gross methods), and with the popularity of hymen-reconstruction surgery on the surge in Europe, there’s just no way of knowing what the hymen even means anymore. (I point you to the 2006 case in France where a Muslim man had his marriage to a Muslim woman annulled the next day because he discovered she was not really the virgin she claimed to be before the wedding. This court decision was initially supported by France’s justice minister—a Muslim woman– and sparked a wave of requests in hymen-reconstruction surgeries in Europe.)

All this just goes to show that virginity isn’t really important and it’s damn near impossible to prove anyway. Honestly, why do you care? So what if your girlfriend may have had premarital sex? If she’s lying, it’s probably because she correctly suspects that you’re the kind of dude who’d freak out about it, which is totally lame on your part. If she’s telling the truth, well, there it is. I haven’t noticed any great assertions of virginity on your part, so why does it matter if she’s one or not? All I can say is, be cool.

January 5, 2009 at 7:28 am 2 comments

Noodles!

I am 26 and a happily married housewife with a 6 year-old son. My husband and I share a very passionate relationship. He is very experimental and liberal about sex. During oral love making sessions he often asks me to swallow his semen. He says that semen is full of vitamins and nutrients and is very good for the health. But recently, one of my girlfriends told me that semen contains a lot of fat content. I am a little overweight so I’m concerned about this. My second doubt is regarding my attire at home. Although my husband wants me properly dressed in public, he wants me to be very sexy at home, especially at night when nobody else is at home other than our son. He wants me to go topless after nine, sometimes doing the cooking and serving of food in the semi-nude. As I said above, my son is very young so I’m a little reticent about this. My husband says that there is nothing wrong in letting my son look at my breasts and that it will help him develop a healthy attitude towards females and the human body. What is your opinion on these matters?
–Hot In The Kitchen

To address your first question, semen is perfectly harmless to ingest, provided it’s STD-free. Semen doesn’t have high fat content, but it’s definitely protein-rich and contains trace amounts of zinc, amino acids, vitamin C, and other good stuff. The amount of semen that the average male ejaculates is between 1.5 and 5 milliliters. (To put that number in perspective, the average chicken egg—another excellent source of protein—contains 43 milliliters of fluid.) So yes, semen contains a number of nutrients and has a lot of protein, but the amount you’d be ingesting is so small that it wouldn’t affect your diet or health anyway. As long as you don’t personally mind swallowing, I wouldn’t worry too much about it.

As for your other concern, girl, are you nuts? Let me just ask you this simple question: if your mother or father made a habit of walking around the house with their dangly bits waving around, wouldn’t you feel a little, I don’t know, weird about the whole thing? Especially after you’d hit adolescence? There’s a reason why parents and children are supposed to maintain sexual distance, and it’s because you start getting into very creepy territory when you close that gap. Parents should definitely talk to their children about sex in an honest and non-judgmental way by providing information, answering questions, and being supportive of their kids, but I guarantee you that no child ever wants to hear or know about the down-and-dirty details of their parents’ sex life. Instilling a healthy respect for sex and the body is very different from actually parading your noodles around. Your husband is asking you to make your child an unwilling and non-consenting observer of your sexual activities, and saying it’s for his own good is completely disingenuous. If your husband wants you to make the rotis in the buff when no one else is around, more power to the both of you. But when your kid is in the house? That’s a definite no go.

January 5, 2009 at 7:26 am Leave a comment

Noodles!

I am 26 and a happily married housewife with a 6 year-old son. My husband and I share a very passionate relationship. He is very experimental and liberal about sex. During oral love making sessions he often asks me to swallow his semen. He says that semen is full of vitamins and nutrients and is very good for the health. But recently, one of my girlfriends told me that semen contains a lot of fat content. I am a little overweight so I’m concerned about this. My second doubt is regarding my attire at home. Although my husband wants me properly dressed in public, he wants me to be very sexy at home, especially at night when nobody else is at home other than our son. He wants me to go topless after nine, sometimes doing the cooking and serving of food in the semi-nude. As I said above, my son is very young so I’m a little reticent about this. My husband says that there is nothing wrong in letting my son look at my breasts and that it will help him develop a healthy attitude towards females and the human body. What is your opinion on these matters?
–Hot In The Kitchen

To address your first question, semen is perfectly harmless to ingest, provided it’s STD-free. Semen doesn’t have high fat content, but it’s definitely protein-rich and contains trace amounts of zinc, amino acids, vitamin C, and other good stuff. The amount of semen that the average male ejaculates is between 1.5 and 5 milliliters. (To put that number in perspective, the average chicken egg—another excellent source of protein—contains 43 milliliters of fluid.) So yes, semen contains a number of nutrients and has a lot of protein, but the amount you’d be ingesting is so small that it wouldn’t affect your diet or health anyway. As long as you don’t personally mind swallowing, I wouldn’t worry too much about it.

As for your other concern, girl, are you nuts? Let me just ask you this simple question: if your mother or father made a habit of walking around the house with their dangly bits waving around, wouldn’t you feel a little, I don’t know, weird about the whole thing? Especially after you’d hit adolescence? There’s a reason why parents and children are supposed to maintain sexual distance, and it’s because you start getting into very creepy territory when you close that gap. Parents should definitely talk to their children about sex in an honest and non-judgmental way by providing information, answering questions, and being supportive of their kids, but I guarantee you that no child ever wants to hear or know about the down-and-dirty details of their parents’ sex life. Instilling a healthy respect for sex and the body is very different from actually parading your noodles around. Your husband is asking you to make your child an unwilling and non-consenting observer of your sexual activities, and saying it’s for his own good is completely disingenuous. If your husband wants you to make the rotis in the buff when no one else is around, more power to the both of you. But when your kid is in the house? That’s a definite no go.

January 5, 2009 at 7:24 am Leave a comment

Lesbians On The March

I have noticed that you rarely publish letters by lesbian or bisexual women in your column. What’s up with that?
–Represent

Excellent question, grasshopper. It’s absolutely true, I don’t print very many questions from lesbian and bisexual women, primarily because I don’t get very many questions from lesbian and bisexual women. A good ninety percent of the e-mails I get are from men. I’ve wondered about this for a while, and my feeling is that despite the fact that I promise anonymity for all letter-writers, most women are simply too uncomfortable to send even a confidential letter to my column. And with good reason—if a woman sends me a letter about her sex life, she’s taking much more of a risk than a man. The consequences for a woman admitting to not always having pure, heterosexual thoughts and desires are far graver than for men, and I think the fear of being judged and punished is so ingrained in women that very little can make us feel safe.

So let me put this out there for all you women readers, particularly the lesbian and bisexual ones: your letters are safe with me. I do not reveal names, I usually try to remove all identifying markers from letters, and I will never show your letter or share your contact information with anyone else. I invite your letters and I will do everything I can to represent your concerns in the column. Also, I invite all my women readers to weigh in: why do you think that women don’t send in questions as frequently as men? Send in your responses and I’ll print them in next week’s column.

January 5, 2009 at 7:19 am 1 comment

Will To Power

I am a 21-year-old boy. I know many girls who are ready to share a bed with me. Is it right to enjoy sex with so many girls, or is sex something I should only do with my wife? I am still virgin, so please help me.
–Want To Be A Ladies’ Man

Provided you treat the women in your life with respect, use protection, and are honest with everyone involved, I see no problem with having premarital sex. Go ahead, live a little. Sex is most definitely not something you need to save for marriage unless you really want to. (Honestly, I don’t know very many people with that kind of willpower.) Just make sure you’re not all hung up on the idea of your wife being a virgin—if you’re allowed to have tested the waters before marriage, then she is, too. And remember kids, use condoms!

January 5, 2009 at 7:17 am Leave a comment

Suckas Get Exposed

Do gays and lesbians really exist?
–Just Askin’

Yes, they do. Next, please.

January 5, 2009 at 7:16 am Leave a comment

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