Sex

So What Is A Sapiosexual Exactly?

By Sonam Ahluwalia

Sapiosexual.

It’s a word that’s in vogue right now.

From Tumblr pages to Tinder profiles, lots of people are claiming to be members of this shadow group.

Urban Dictionary (a fairly reputable source in these matters) defines a sapiosexual as “one who finds intelligence the most sexually attractive feature”.

Riiight….

So sapiosexuality is a term that has been coined in order to describe a group of people who value intelligence over other sexual features such as face structure, body build, performance, aura, and many other components involved in sexual attraction.

People love to identify with something on social media, so this new term adds to the vocabulary list available when describing yourself to others.

“You read so good. Have my babies.” Photo Credit: Marketa/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

However, this term has also sparked controversy.

Some folks don’t believe that you can actually be a sapiosexual and that calling yourself one is merely pretentious and offensive because people are categorized according to their intelligence.

This counter argument goes: how can something so demeaning be considered an acceptable option as a preference in matters of sexual attraction?

Plus, can you be with someone only because they are smart?

Don’t ask many college freshmen that question.

But we can take a different route when looking at this newly fashioned term.

The definition from Urban Dictionary refers to a sapiosexual as someone who values intelligence as the “most sexually attractive feature”.

This does not mean that it is the only aspect we look at somebody.

For many people intelligence is certainly important in a relationship. and having a sexual stimulation from intellect is not a stand alone sexual orientation for them but rather an element of deeper feelings.

“She never remembers to wear shoes but she has a really good handle on thermal dynamics. xo.” Photo Credit: Ulisse Albiati/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Sapiosexuality can vary among people because intelligence varies, and so does the expectations of the level of intelligence one has for their partner.

For example, a lawyer may consider him or herself a sapiosexual for readers while a car mechanic sees him or herself a sapiosexual for people that know a lot about cars.

The incredible variation of what one finds as intelligence stems from the commonalities people have when looking for a partner.

If two people both love to identify plants while hiking, then they value that type of knowledge.

The vast diversity in intellectual interests actually works with the ambiguous definition of sapiosexuality.

Thus, you can be a sapiosexual.

But most of us are already.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Pedro Ribeiro Simões/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Is Bumble Really More Empowering For Women Than Tinder?

Finding true love just got easier due to the latest trend of dating apps available on smart phones.

Users are literally finger tips away from connecting with the right person, but who will make the first move?

There is a broad range of dating app, such as OK Cupid and Tinder, but the app that caught my attention was Bumble, often referred to by many as the “feminist app.”

It works just like any other dating app, where users set up a profile of themselves and swipe right if they have an interest in someone.

But here’s the catch, women make the first move.

Men and women both make their own connections, but once a connection is made, women only have a span of 24 hours to initiate a conversation before the connection disappears.

Then men only have 24 hours to respond to that first move by the woman.

But is the ability to make the first move more empowering for women?

For many yes, women have the control in this scenario, making men wait by the phone for the first response.

It is a total inversion of the typical dating app experience in that way.

Women at a Bumble event in Melbourne, Australia. Photo Credit: Bumble/ Facebook

Women have men wrapped around their fingers waiting for that first text message.

Dating is not easy and having the courage to be the first one to reach out to a possible connection can boost the confidence of many women.

Bumble changes the stereotypical role of waiting three days for the guy to call, pushing for women to take action within a 24 hour time frame.

For others, being the first to say “Hello” is easier said than done.

For those too shy to make the first move then have a limited time frame before the connection is lost.

There is pressure to initiate the conversation, which for many can feel more disappointing than empowering.

Some simply have no idea what to say, which happens sometimes, and that should be okay.

Everyone has different experiences with dating apps, both good and bad, and there is nothing wrong with that.

Many women have reported good feedback from using Bumble and have had good conversations with their connections from going on dates to just establishing friendships.

That is the beauty of dating apps you have control to choose the person you want to have a connection with, and Bumble offers a different perspective on who makes the first move.

There is no instruction manual or rule book to follow when it comes to finding love, and everyone is entitled to go about that journey the way they choose.

So is Bumble more empowering for women than Tinder?

It certainly has the potential to be.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Bumble/ Facebook

Confessions Of A Tinder Ghosting Queen

Picture two lonely twenty- somethings, 2.4 miles away from each other, both struggling through the end of tumultuous relationships.

Two lonely people seeking very different things- one of us had good intentions, and one of us had none.

I was your typical tinder troll.

I was the QUEEN of ghosting boys on Tinder, and, unfortunately, Michael was the result of one of my most crafty “drink and ditch” plans.

My life as a Tinder ghost went through many phases but it ended in an incredibly unlikely way.

The Broken Hearted

I would venture to say that this is the most popular group of people responsible for Tinder ghosting.

These are the guys/ girls that will text/ snapchat you all the time.

They’ll make plans to meet up, but chicken out at the last second.

When I matched with Michael in the summer of 2015, I had just broken up with the guy that I had been dating off and on since high school.

My best friend convinced me to download Tinder “just for fun.”

I didn’t think I needed it, but I went along with it anyway.

The night I downloaded Tinder, I got a message from Michael.

He was going out and wanted to meet up.

I was freaked out about the whole idea of it, so I thought maybe I would just take a free drink for my best friend and I and ditch.

When we met up, he was a true gentlemen, he bought us drinks and we chugged them.

We left shortly after, and about an hour later, he saw me hanging out with another guy.

Although it may not sound like a valid excuse, I can assure you that the broken- hearted do not understand the damage that they may be causing.

These people are hurting and they probably cannot yet identify what a good guy/ girl looks like.

These people are looking for love, but still need to heal.

The Attention Seeker

This one is all of us to some extent.

Tinder is a great daily ego booster.

I don’t know of any other place where you can experience a variety of cheesy pickup lines crafted just for you (or used on 10 other people), get told how pretty you are, and rummage through hundreds of messages, choosing whom to reply.

Hangout two with Michael happened about six months later.

I had deleted and re- downloaded the app more than a handful of times since we had last seen one another.

This time, I had moved on from the heart break category, into the “home alone over Christmas break” attention seeking category.

I was out with a friend one night, and he was too.

So, I went over to where he was to meet him (and get free drink number two).

We talked for a bit, but then my friend needed me, so I left to be with her.

Later on in the night I saw him walking around with his friends, and I walked the other direction.

The attention seekers like things to be on their terms.

They only want you when they’re lonely or need the ego boost.

Attention seekers can get better over time, though, so don’t write them off right away.

Get to know these people, sometimes it might take a few tries to crack their seemingly egotistical shell.

The Gold Digger

Watch out for this one.

People like to blame this one on females, but I think this can be everyone.

This is the group of people that are unwilling to meet up UNLESS there is something good in it for them ie: dinner, drinks, entertainment.

They won’t just join you at the dog park or for a movie, they need some kind of incentive, and they get a high off of using other people.

When hangout number three with Michael happened, I was going into it with the intentions of more free drinks.

By this time, it had already been a year of enduring my ghosting, and he was pretty much sick of me.

However, one night, a freshly 21 Ariel partied a little too hard, and ran into some “medical” trouble.

I remembered that Michael worked in a hospital, so I texted him asking if I was going to die.

Turns out I was just fine, and the reassurance that he had my back was really moving to me.

So, ~finally~ date number one happened, and, (gold digger that I formerly was) ended up asking to pay for the drinks.

And, the rest is history.

You see, if Michael had not contacted me the second time we matched, even though I had already ditched him, I never would be with him today.

We have been dating for almost a year now and I cannot imagine a single second without him.

If he had not pursued me or had just begun ignoring me like I did him, we would not be as happy as we are today.

Sometimes the people who are unwilling to meet up are just gun- shy from their last relationship/ experience and need a little time.

They need a little forgiveness and understanding.

Trust your gut, though, and if it feels like you are being used, you probably are.

Of course, it could end up being love at first (or second) ghost too.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Jordi Carrasco/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Ladies, This D Ain’t Free

The world is filled with hypocrites, racism, Donald Trump tweets, and double standards.

There are a bunch of double standards in different areas of life but, guess what I’ll be focusing on?

*Ding, Ding, Ding*

The dating world!

More specifically, the first date.

Yup, a perfect follow up to my Valentine’s Day special.

“Oh my god, how can he talk about double standards in the dating world if he isn’t in a relationship? Oh no. He’s generalizing.”

First of all, hush.

Not the case, whatsoever.

I decided that I would interview a few people and see where they stand on the topic.

I made a conscious effort to search for and include singles, couples, gay, straight, brown, white, purple, Donald Trump supporters.

I think I’m going to stop dropping his name now, every time I type it I hear “Dun, Dun, DUN”.

It’s weird.

So, after the Valentine’s Day article was published, my good friend Lamar a.k.a. Big Money Mar planted the seed in my head to write an article addressing the “Double Standard”.

I ran with it.

Actually, it gives me a great excuse to talk to all the pretty girls around campus and other universities in the area.

So, why not?

The question was “In regards to the first date, should men be expected to pick up the bill?”

Society, custom, tradition, status quo, what ever you wish to call it has deemed it a requirement for the man to pay for the first date.

It is what it is.

No way to get around it.

The man has always been expected to be chivalrous due to some old fashioned courting technique established when Shakespeare was shaking it for a shilling.

When I asked Habon, a senior at the University of Baltimore, if the man should pay for the first date?

She succinctly replied, “The man should always pay.”

What ever the first date looks like to you, the man must pay according to the rules of society unless it is communicated otherwise; which a few young ladies agreed with.

You know he just paid for dinner, right? Photo Credit: Iselin/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Sydney, a Towson University sophomore agreed.

“Yes, I believe that clear and understanding conversations can eliminate the double standard. I don’t think there’s a big problem with going half on the first date.”

“All depends on who asked who out” says Siobhan, a graduate student at The University of Baltimore. “I personally would pay for the first date if I asked the man out. If he asked me out, then I would expect him to pay.”

While Taylor, a senior at The University of Baltimore, strongly believes the man has to pay to have her heart. “If the man is truly interested in pursuing, he should pay on the first date. If not, I categorize him as a friend. Paying for the first meal is an act of providing for a potential lover. If he doesn’t pay, that’s not a good sign in my opinion.”

If some women believe that paying for the first date equates to showing interest, how do men discern whether a woman is interested in a relationship or interested in getting a free meal?

Think about that one.

In a society where women compete with men in all aspects of life whether it be the workplace, weight room, court room, and even the battlefield it seems hypocritical for a woman to bow out when the bill hits the table, don’t you think?

Some will avoid the conversation and brush it off with the usual rebuttal “It’s just how it is.”

But, if I’m not mistaken, not too long ago women weren’t allowed to hold the same position as a man in society and that was brushed off with “It’s just how it is.”

So how is it O.K. to want to break down walls but be selective of which bricks remain?

If you’re reading this and think to yourself “He’s making this a big issue because he’s broke”, that’s definitely not the case either and congratulations, you played yourself.

Honestly, this is a conversation that needs to be had.

Some women are holding onto this outdated custom which essentially places them in an inferior position but are steady marching around the world hoisting “Respect my Existence or Expect my Resistance” signs above their head.

I say inferior position very loosely because I am not implying that women can’t pay for the bill but, in my eyes women are surrendering their power just for an expected meal.

It’s mind-boggling to me.

I asked Jennifer R. for her position on the matter, a woman with more experience than the college girls I had interviewed.

She said: “Our society has always put pressure on a man to pay, especially with the first date. It’s expected. When I go on dates I always make sure I have money to cover the bill. I have paid for dates in the past, I want to pay for dates but the first one is the ice breaker. Let a man be a man from time to time but also give him the respect he deserves and pay.”

“It isn’t necessarily the man’s fault for the existence of the double standard” said Lamar a.k.a. Big Money Mar.

Which is true.

It isn’t our fault (or at least the Millennials)!

So where do we go from here?

How do we progress as a society if women hold onto outdated customs?

Ladies, some of y’all earn more than the male counterpart but are still expecting dinner on the first date.

Don’t allow old traditions to erase the historical and monumental progress that has been made over the years.

It’s 2017!

Out with the old, in with the new.

Pick up the bill ladies, turn the tables, and keep making history.

And always remember that this D ain’t free.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Eve Ma/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

This Online Platform Is Revolutionizing Hong Kong Sex Education

By Jessie Pang

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The Millennial Intel In This Story: 
-Sex education in Hong Kong is woefully inadequate.
-Traditional Hong Kong culture looks down on casual sex, even in committed relationships.
-A 24 year old millennial named Julia Sun Wai-han is using tech to help young Hong Kongers learn about sex and it is working really well.


 

“Talking about sex should be as comfortable as talking about food but the experience can be quite scary to young people even though it’s good for them,” Julia Sun Wai-han the 24 year old founder of Sticky Rice Love said.

Sticky Rice Love is the food name of a Chinese rice ball dessert that literally means “sugar will not come off” from dumplings made of boiled sticky rice.

But in this context, it is also an online sex education platform for young people in Hong Kong.

“It is [our] hope to remind people that food and sex are both basic human needs and avoiding the awkwardness people usually face when they refer to a sex health educational website”, Sun said in an interview with RISE NEWS.

Sticky Rice Ball’s platform publishes articles about sex and hosts an online forum for young people to discuss sex anonymously.

It has filled a gap in sex education for young people across the island.

Everyone can post a question which they don’t feel comfortable to ask about on the forum and will receive a prompt reply or advice from volunteers who have received proper sex health training.

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A look at the website of Sticky Rice Love. (Screen grab)

Sun’s idea was inspired by her experience as a teaching assistant in a local high school to start the platform.

“Sex education in Hong Kong is really inadequate and lagging behind. Apart from a lack of school hours, resources and the right people to teach students about sex, most people usually hold a traditional and negative view towards sex,” Sun said. “For instance, the best way to avoid pregnancy is to avoid having sex, which is impossible for people in a relationship. Such education has tremendous consequences on the young people. Some still find it uncomfortable to have sex after marriage. Hence, I decided to do something to change it,” Sun said.

Read More: Hong Kong Slut Walk Draws Many In Effort To Rid City Of Sexual Assault

Seeing there’s no need for people to meet face to face and the set-up cost is low, Sun found that the Internet is a perfect place to realize her dream.

At first, she was frightened that she might faced viral opposition as people were not familiar with her mission: empowering the youth to make their own choice on sex and relationships.

“Our role is neutral. We are not telling them what’s right or wrong but simply offering them comprehensive information they need and want to know about. It can be quite vague and controversial to some people,” says Sun.

To her surprise, there was overwhelming support from the public and the mainstream media interviewed her about the venture.

A couple enjoying the movie “An Autumn's Tale” in the Clear Water Bay Film Studio. Photo: Goooood Secrets

A couple enjoying the movie “An Autumn’s Tale” in the Clear Water Bay Film Studio.
Photo: Goooood Secrets

The platform also holds some offline activities, such as visits to some local sex toys shops and co-organized screenings of an X-rated movie to several hundreds people at the Clear Water Bay Film Studio, which is rarely open to the public with Goooood Secrets.

“Both online and offline sex education have advantages,” Sun said. “It’s not about online or offline but more about how you do it.”

Despite the success of the platform, Sun still wants to do more but long-term financial resources remain as a problem.

Read More: Hong Kong Is Already More Independent Than Any EU Country

“I really hope to design interactive online courses on sex education for young people to dig into the topics they are interested in, but it’s hard to do fund-raising as people are not confident in a youth- led organization,” Sun said. “They prefer to back adults or experts more.”

Yet, Sun remains optimistic as the society becomes more and more receptive to the idea of promoting sex education.

For instance, sex secret groups are very popular among high schools and universities and everyone changed their Facebook profile picture to rainbow color watermark to show their support to the legalization of same sex marriage in USA.

“It’s hopeful that young people won’t need our platform and can talk about sex as freely as it should be in the coming future,” Sun said.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

You can also like our RISE NEWS Hong Kong Facebook page to stay engaged with our local coverage. 

Cover Photo Credit: Jessie Pang

Working On The Sidelines Of The Porn Industry Is Probably Different Than You Think It Is

By Nate Nkumbu

For many people when they think of the porn industry, they think of actors and actress getting paid to be naked and have sex on camera.

But there is a lot more to it then just that. And for the folks that make one of the largest content industries move, the sex isn’t even important.

Since the rise of the internet, the industry has seen a large amount of public knowledge and even a form of increased social acceptance.

Actors and Actress are well known on the internet and they are part of a massive $97 billion global industry that is expected to continue to grow. 

But what about the people working in the industry off camera?

Do they have different views about how the public sees and think of their work?  

We set out to find out.

JD Obenberger is Lawyer based in Chicago that works with clients within the porn industry. A veteran of four years in the U.S Army during the height of the Cold War, Obenberger said that he finds his current job to be a dream and interesting.

Photo Credit: stallio/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Photo Credit: stallio/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

“I’ve always been a person that fought for the underdogs and for people that were less fortunate, so this job has been very enjoyable to me,” Obenberger said in an interview with RISE NEWS

Obenberger said that despite the popularity, many people still are not comfortable with viewing porn as a legitimate career choice.

This is especially tough for family members of people who get involved in the industry.

“It’s very difficult for a person to come out to their parents and say, ‘Hey mom, I’m going to California to become a porn star’, than say, ‘I’m gay,'” Obenberger said. “You would never admit to your parents that you watch porn, there’s a sense of shame that comes with saying that.”

One such issue is the repression of brick and mortar strip clubs around the country, which Obenberger said is especially common in the city of Chicago.

Obenberger said that it’s often impossible for joints to get licences to sell booze if they have nude performers.

While the internet has fundamentally changed the way most people access and interact with porn, Obenberger said that the technology has not been all good.

“The golden age of online porn was actually from 2001 to 2008,” Obenberger said. “There were multiple website that catered and produce videos to the many fetishes that people had, unfortunately for them, internet piracy was a major thing and often those sites would see their revenue go down as many of their videos would be pirated and uploaded to Tube sites.”

The legal battles over tube sites are still ongoing and could lead to lasting damage in the industry. 

Another person that works in the porn industry off camera is Michael Stabile, the Media Representative for Kink, an adult production company that caters to folks interested in BDSM. (Think Fifty Shades of Grey type stuff.)

A former journalist who wrote about the porn industry for 10 years, Stabile said that he finds his job to very relaxing and creative.

“This is the type of work in which you meet a lot of people from various walks of life sexually, professionally, so you’re getting mixed bag of people that you’re working with,” Stabile said.

One of the benefits of working at Kink Stabile said was that outside of his job being really fun and adventurous is the learning experience that comes with it.

“At Kink, we shoot 15-20 times a week,often we’ll have people who’ll be sick, can’t come to work so other’s who’ll fill in,” Stabile said. “In my case, the company needed somebody to do webcasts, so I learned and they even pay for me to get training in video editing.”

Interestingly enough, Stabile said that he most recent experiences with the industry is more of like a film school.

“It’s the type of industry that if you like to help, they are more than happy to give you work and help gain skills that can be applied outside the work site,” Stabile said.

Stabile said that they aren’t that many issues when he talks about his work with friends or fellow journalists.

Often he says, they are just curious about his work.

“They are some conflict that can occur, like me working for Disney and Kink would not fly for example, but because i’ve been working for 10 years in the industry as a journalist then media rep, it was easy for me not to hide what I do.”

 

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: fnogues/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Miami TV: How Jenny Scordamaglia Used Her Body To Build A Media Empire

Miami is no stranger to pristine beaches, deep glowing suntans and beautiful, mostly half-naked people doing all kinds of things in public.

But one of the most interesting things to come out of this milieu is MiamiTV, an international online and television show based out of the city which was founded in 2007.

The show is described as an “entertainment channel covering the best events, festivals, parties around the world” on the show’s Facebook page.

With nearly 7,200 likes on their Facebook page, the show seems to be gaining popularity.

The popularity could largely be accredited to the show’s main host, Jenny Scordamaglia, who has had a history of hosting nearly 200 shows.

While being an engaging and interesting personality, the other thing the sets Scordamaglia apart from the bunch is that she is willing to broadcast in the buff, or at least close to it. 

She has helped build a sizable media brand by as the Miami New Times described it, perfecting the “nip-slip”.

As Terrence McCoy wrote for the New Times in 2014:

“The nip slip is the defining element of her on-camera presence. In appearance after appearance, she moves through gaggles of gawking bystanders, microphone in hand, nipples flashing like lighthouses in the night.”

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Jenny Scordamaglia in the middle of conducting an interview for Miami TV. Photo Credit: Miami TV/ Facebook

But while some may find that distasteful, Scordamaglia is unfazed by the type of content her company produces.

“Unlike most media, Miami TV focuses on real life people and events live as they happen, no script, no cuts, edits or blurs,” Scordamaglia told RISE NEWS in an interview. “The shows are done spontaneous at the moment with a refreshing reality of what would happen if the viewer is there as well. We focus in bringing viewers positive entertainment so that they can distress from their everyday stress and the negative news on TV.”

The show is close to her heart, being that it was a creation between her husband and herself.

“My husband and I built this 8 years ago and made it our dream work, which for us it’s really not work, it’s a hobby because we love what we do, we love communicating with people around the world and bringing a smile to their face,” Scordamaglia said. 

While being based out of Miami, the show reaches an international audience, with audience members in places like Spain, Mexico and Colombia. The show went international after experiencing local success in November 2009. 

WATCH: Miami TV In Action

The production team, along with producing MiamiTV, also hosts other shows, including Hoy Miami, Miami Caliente and Jenny Live, according to the main show website.

The experiences gained by Scordamaglia have stayed with her for the nearly eight years she’s been on the air.

“While I attending a business event in Miami a couple of years ago where without getting into names, a surrounding local Mayor was there and we weren’t filming, also my dress code was more business attire at that event,” Scordamaglia recalls. “When this person comes close to me and says ‘What happened to the real Jenny, where’s the cleavage?,’ smiling. So I then knew, we had made a signature image for Miami TV and had to keep it.”

Jenny Scordamaglia. Photo Credit: Miami TV/ Facebook

Jenny Scordamaglia in the midst of a “nip slip” moment during an interview. Photo Credit: Miami TV/ Facebook

As the show continued to gain traction and popularity, Scordamaglia kept giving what her audience wanted. 

“We had made 727 studio shows where people can interact live via a chat and give their opinions on the life subject we are speaking about,” Scordamaglia said. “This is our audience’s favorite show, they like to interact, they like to be heard and responded to, but we like to also balance it with over 600 outdoor events we have covered.”

Scordamaglia believes that the audience makes the show, and hopes to continue to grow her brand. Whatever that happens to be. 

“To me, it’s imminent to listen to our viewers because they made us grow and we keep attracting new viewers daily,” Scordamaglia said. “We don’t want to become just another corporation, we want to continue to keep it real and the comments that move me the most can be as simple as those that say thank you for brightening up my day, to some deeper life changing stories.”

So there you have it. The most Miami media company ever is actually doing pretty well and they don’t seem to care what the haters think.

——Here’s Something Completely Different: ——

The TV Weatherman Who Is Trying To Save Miami From Drowning

RISE NEWS is South Florida’s digital TV news network. Sign up for our awesome email newsletter to make sure you never miss a story!

Have a news tip about this topic or something completely different? Send it to editor@risenews.net.

 

Female Genital Mutilation Is More Widespread Than Previously Thought

Female genital mutilation (FGM), or “cutting,” is still occurring in 30 countries, and the situation is worse than previously estimated, despite worldwide efforts to abandon the practice. A new statistical report from UNICEF supported by current data from Indonesia claims at least 200 million women living throughout the world in 30 countries have experienced FGM. It’s… Read More

Here’s What Valentine’s Day Is Like For A Person In A Polyamorous Relationship

By Julia Fox

Still believe that exclusivity is necessary for deep, committed, long-term and loving relationships? The modern divorce rate of 50% says otherwise.

As traditional Valentine’s Day-themed pink and red greeting cards replace the tired Christmas & New Year colors on the stands of stores, most of us are anticipating (or dreading) the invasion of our social networks and television with the typical romantic scenarios of exchanging gifts, kisses and love messages between two lovers of the opposite or the same sex. Very few of us ever imagine the holiday routine in relationships where there are more than two lovers involved.

The images of cheating two-timers running between the deceived spouse and the scheming mistress aside, we are hardly bombarded nowadays by pictures of non-traditional family unions, such as polyamorous families, where the conventional Valentine’s day gift exchange is a little bit more complicated.

Polyamorous unions where ethical and responsible non-monogamy… are estimated to have around 1.2 to 2.4 million followers in the United States alone.

Polyamorous unions where ethical and responsible non-monogamy is practiced with knowledge and consent of everyone involved are estimated to have around 1.2 to 2.4 million followers in the United States alone.

How do polyamorous relationships come about? I am sure it is rarely a case of waking up one morning with your partner snoring by your side and deciding ‘why not add to the duo.’ The stories of people entering into the polyamorous unions are as many and varied as those embarking on conventional ones.

The beginning of my polyamorous relationship was a case of almost choking on toast one morning after my husband of 10 years admitted to having a homosexual relationship back in his college years with a Ukrainian man named Sasha.

Skipping through the finding Sasha story and straight into the reality of maintaining a household and a life with two partners and, yes, surviving a Valentine’s day together, the polyamorous relationship with a bi-sexual partner and a homosexual one who spent all of his life in the closet became an adventure for me worth sharing.

Almost all of us enter into a romantic union with the desire to be happy and to make our partners happy. Unfortunately, helping Sasha “come out of the closet” and leave the Ukraine was a huge struggle due to the severe psychological repercussions of concealing his sexuality since he was a young teen.

Photo Credit: Roy Blumenthal/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Photo Credit: Roy Blumenthal/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Dreading being ostracized by the community, fearing shame, physical torture and even imprisonment, creating a heterosexual family and dissociating himself from the gay community altogether made Sasha (and many thousands of his compatriots) the broken man that he was when he joined our family. Thus, welcoming Sasha into our union and expecting a ‘happy-ever-after’ was just as irrational as anticipating an unclouded happiness in any relationship once the wedding bells quiet down.

Each person comes into a relationship, whether it is a traditional one or less then so, with one’s own baggage of expectations based on childhood memories, literature, social media and a load of personal traumatic experiences and their consequences, and thus Sasha joined us with the full baggage of his own.

Being forced into a traditional marriage by his parents and living his life as a heterosexual man affected Sasha’s mental health and contributed to the development of a whole range of mental issues, such as dissociation, depression, internalized homophobia, self-disgust, self-hatred and denial of one’s sexual orientation to oneself and others. There conditions are commonplace in persons with repressed sexual orientation, according to many prominent psychiatrists.

Sasha exhibited all kinds of issues, such as low self-esteem, negative body image and contempt for the more open LGBT members who decided to come out years before. More importantly, Sasha had a tendency to deny that homophobia was a serious social problem altogether. Remaining in a heterosexual relationship for most of his life in an attempt to pass as ‘normal’ and to gain social approval, Sasha became chronically depressed and took to heavy drinking. His fear of intimacy and his suicidal thoughts presented a bigger challenge and a threat to our union.

My brief relationship with Sasha opened my eyes to the many aspects of homosexuality and the life paths that LGBT men and women choose in the parts of the world where homosexuality is still considered an abnormality.

My brief relationship with Sasha opened my eyes to the many aspects of homosexuality and the life paths that LGBT men and women choose in the parts of the world where homosexuality is still considered an abnormality.

The freedoms that sexual minorities are enjoying in the majority of democratic countries today are precious and unheard of in such places as Ukraine, Russia, Belorussia, Azerbaijan and other post-Soviet territories. Giving American LGBT members a glimpse into the lives of those who are less fortunate and still struggle for their rights might be an eye-opening experience this Valentine’s day. 

Sasha’s arrival in our life, the life of a typical monogamous heterosexual couple, meant re-imagining our relationship, challenging traditional marriage, sexuality and love itself. All three of us had to learn to navigate and explore the challenges and complexities of a polyamorous reality together against a backdrop of cultural and societal expectations and judgments.

Examining and questioning the dynamic and often challenging elements of marriage, relationships and acceptance, are just a few issues that polyamorous unions might bring out into the discussion.

Julia Fox immigrated from Russia in her late teens, settling in the United States in the early 90s. She published two books of poetry before leaving her home country, both in Russian, and published two more in English language after immigrating. And Then There Were Three: Sixty Seven Letters to Sasha is her first autobiographical memoir. 

For more information about And Then There Were Three: Sixty-Seven Letters to Sasha, please visit Julia Fox’s websiteFacebook and Twitter pages. 

Cover Photo Credit: Roy Blumenthal/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

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