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Polyamory

Does the thought of another looming Valentine's Day make you want to curl up in a little ball? Scarleteen can help.

Scarleteen Valentine for me  Scarleteen Valentine for your vibrator For a lot of people, Valentine's Day sucks. All those pictures of couples in love eating chocolate off each others' bodies while lying on a bed of  roses gets annoying really fast. When I was single, I used to host a Valentine's Day party that only single people could attend, so we could all have something fun to do that night. I'm married now, but I'm spending this Feb. 14th with my best Galentine, having dinner and watching our imaginary boyfriend Idlar Abdrazakov sing.

So what I'm saying is, don't fall for the hype...and let Scarleteen help. Readers of this blog know how much we adore this sex ed site (and so do others - they get a gagillion hits a day). Not only have they taught us a lot about sexuality, but founder Heather Corinna is one of the best things in How To Lose Your Virginity (and we're proud that her language was salty enough to be bleeped several times on our TV broadcast on Fusion!)

Now Scarleteen has launched a collection of Valentine's Day e-cards that span a huge range of relationships not usually covered by your standard hearts and flowers:

There's a big range of interactions and relationships that can all be healthy, happy and involve love -- or like, lust, or even I-don't-know-yet-what-this-is-yet-but-it-sure-is-fun-so-far -- not just one kind of relationship. Hookups or friends with benefits, open or poly relationships, friendships, sexual monogamy, love relationships without sex, exes turned friends, and even the love relationship one has with oneself can all potentially be sweet, caring, beneficial and meaningful for the people within them.

Scarleteen friends with benefits valentine  Scarleteen No Big Deal valentine

Send one or more of these to all the special people and sex toys in your life, and while you're at it, consider supporting Scarleteen in the incredibly important work they do. We here at Trixie Films support them every month, and it's so worth it. Scarleteen has been providing inclusive, informative and progressive sex education to millions of young people every year since 1998 and they've have never had any federal, state, institutional or foundational funding. They pay their bills solely with the help of independent donors.

To donate through Paypal, click here, or to do so through Network for Good, click here. Both means of donating accept credit/debit cards or Paypal funds. For a tax-deductible donation, Network for Good is the way to go.

Thanks so much for your supporting this amazing and vitally important site!

V-Card Diaries: Dreamer "I'm in a non-sexual relationship with a polyamorous man, and I wonder if sex will ever be attractive to me again"

Our latest V-Card Diaries comes from Dreamer in Wisconsin who blogs at Love is Not Equal to Love , who took years of emotional abuse before she decided to end her marriage. If you want to tell your story, go to our submission form. We'd love to run it in this blog. A little about myself:

After thirty-six years of learning to be myself, I'm finally breaking free of the restrictive ideological frameworks that once locked me into fifteen Wisconsin winters of emotional hypothermia with my ex-husband. I'm tired of being seen as a woman, with all the social implications. I'd rather be human ... but there you go.

How I define virginity:

I used to believe virginity was a one-time boundary, instantly compromised by any sexual contact in areas normally covered by "modest" clothing. Should a man break through, he must be married to me, or [insert some dreadful, vague consequence, involving social ostracism].

Now, I think virginity is a term all-too-frequently used to divert attention away from responsible relationship management and a healthy awareness of emotional and physical freedom and self-defined boundaries.

Here's my story:

I lost "my virginity" when I was eighteen, to the first man who ever offered, and I thought it was my fault because I gave in to his refusal to hear the word, "No." It took me 17 years to realize it was rape, even after we were married. Our relationship was emotionally thrilling, that's for sure. It was a choice between being myself and being "loved" as his wife, and it took years of emotional abuse for me to realize I could never be the wife he hoped to create from my raw material.

Now divorced, I'm in a non-sexual relationship with a polyamorous man, and I wonder if sex will ever be attractive to me again, even within the support structure of a monogamous, healthy marriage.

One thing I do know: When my children look at the friends they interact with and the people they love, I want them to examine the quality and durability of the acceptance they offer and receive from each other, above all, and to make educated choices based on mutual respect and authenticity, for the sake of their emotional and physical well-being.

If I can protect them from the blinding mentality of virginity, whether lost or preserved, then I hope they will be free to see the rest of the relational story and learn from their experiences along the way.

Re-Post from Scarleteen: "Like a Virgin: What Having Sex and First Time(s) Have Meant to Me"

Our latest V-Card Diaries was originally published at scarleteen.com and the writer has asked to remain anonymous. If you want to tell your story, go to our submission form. We'd love to run it in this blog. I’m 23 years old.

Depending on who you ask, I’m a single woman or a wife, "sex-crazy" or sex-positive, a slut or a virgin. Obviously, I can’t be all of these things... but just as obviously, the wide variety of people and institutions I interact with throughout my day-to-day life are defining these terms very differently than I do. So let me be more clear, and maybe help you clear up some of your own confusion about what labels you “have to” use, and what labels you want to proudly claim for your own.

About four and a half years ago, my girlfriend Katie and I had what we would have called our "first time." Since we’re both women, we don’t have the ease of understanding or assuming what "losing your virginity" is that someone paired with another person of a different gender might have. After a lot of conversations, we came to the decision that we didn’t want to be completely naked together until we had a room where we had a right to close and lock the door without anyone questioning us- in other words, until I could travel to her dorm room at her college rather than just seeing each other when we were both on break in our hometown. It was sweet, sometimes awkward, incredibly meaningful, and overall a wonderful "first time."

But that’s not the end of the story.

Over the next several years of our relationship, we grew and changed in ways that humans tend to do. We decided that, honestly, anything we did together that caused orgasms really counted as sex, and so while we’ll always love our "first time," we’d been having sex for quite a while before that.

Simultaneously, we faced a world that doesn’t really know what it thinks about lesbians and sex, other than that it’s probably bad. I heard in so many ways how my relationship wasn’t valid. I had a bulletin-board conversation with one of my floormates about how I couldn’t really ever have sex, only "sexual acts," since no penises were entering any vaginas. (This caused an awful lot of running jokes among my friends from that point on- "Are you and Katie going to go have not-sex now? Did you have tons of wild, wild not-sex over your Valentine’s Weekend trip?")

I even had a leader of a fairly nonconformative group on campus tell me to my face that, "Of course I was still a virgin." As headstrong and self-confident as I tried to be, I couldn’t shake a nagging feeling that maybe these people were onto something. Did this really not count?

Nearly three years after that first idea of a first time, I was still dating Katie and we’d exchanged engagement rings. We’d also been talking more and more about polyamory, and had finally taken the first nervous step of indicating our interest to another engaged couple in our social circle who were generally known to be open. That first poly relationship had more rules than I could shake a stick at- and a lot of them had to do with what we were calling sex, and how we felt about what we were doing. Yeah, we were all having sex, but only certain kinds with certain people at certain times- and it got even more complicated when I (confirmed, out-and-proud lesbian harboring confusing bisexual tendencies) was interacting in EXTREMELY AWKWARD ways with the male person in that couple. Emotional and intimate issues eventually led us to separate from them.

So now who was I? I’d slept with two people besides my fiancee... sort of? But everyone consented, so it wasn’t like I was a cheating hussy or anything. But I still liked girls better. Yeah. That’s right.

Then, of course, I had to go and fall in love with another man, and the tangle of that relationship could take a novel all of its own. I was head over heels for only the second time in my life, and I thought I’d found the solution to my fears about sex with men: someone kind and gentle and ostensibly pure; a very Christian, definitely virgin, partner.

Suffice to say, polyamory only works when everyone involved is honest not only with each other, but with themselves, and can clearly state their own needs and issues. He was dealing with a lot of shame and self-loathing about the concept of sex in general, and we spent several months in the surreal state where he insisted that we weren’t having sex if it was just dry humping, and I assured him (not just quietly, but firmly, more than once) that it sure felt like sex to me. In the end, our differences tore us apart in a very messy way - I said unfortunate things in public, Katie cried (an occasion of once a decade or so), and this guy turned up what had previously been an annoying tendency to wheedle into full-out emotional manipulation and abuse. When he left, I told Katie that I was done with men. They just hurt me.

But here we are now. I’m typing this letter to all of you sitting in bed next to Katie (who is now my wife, according to my church and everyone who matters), the smell of our boyfriend still clinging to the pillows, and I can see our girlfriend’s hairbrush where she forgot it on the bookshelf. Turns out that while Katie and I were learning about maturity, heartbreak, and what a really bad relationship looks like, John and Emily, that first couple we were with, were learning their own lessons. Emily doesn’t let her insecurity keep her from enjoying her bisexuality to the fullest. Katie is more willing to trust human beings in general. John is much more conscious about balancing his now-wife’s needs with caring for the other women he loves. And I have finally gotten over my own guilt trip about loving men enough to finally REALLY enjoy sex with him.

Today, I went to Planned Parenthood to get fitted for a diaphragm so I can feel as confident as possible about minimizing pregnancy risks before I do what a lot of people call losing my virginity.

When I filled out my new client paperwork, I cringed as I marked my marital status as single, because according to the government, Katie doesn’t count. When I added my emergency contact information, I proudly listed Katie’s phone number, and noted under relationship the word Wife.

Finally, I went into my appointment to get fitted for birth control. I was incredibly grateful that the clinic staff seemed entirely uninterested in questioning these discrepancies - I really didn’t want any delays.

I’m planning to have intercourse for the first time as soon as we can manage a good stretch of time, because otherwise we might just pounce each other like animals in the middle of cooking each other a nice dinner some night this week. It’s unbelievable how good and healing it feels to finally be having the kind of relationships I want, in the ways that I want, and for the most part on the terms that I want. I can’t change the world, but I think I’ve finally got a handle- at least for the moment- on how I see myself.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, whoever you are, whatever you are or aren’t doing with whatever people of whatever gender in whatever numbers or combinations: it’s okay.

Seriously, it’s okay. You can call yourself a virgin if that word has a lot of meaning for you, but don’t let people use it like a measuring rod or a judgement from on high. You can call yourself a lesbian, bisexual, straight, ace, whatever; but don’t let that stop you from admitting when you love someone, because you might just be missing out on some amazing experiences. You can build whatever relationship structures you like, as long as they’re working for everyone involved. More important than definitions or rules is your own comfort, your own consent, and your own desire.

So go out there and love freely (and safely!), and be who you want to be. And only you get to decide whether or not you’re a "virgin."

This story originally ran in Scarleteen in November, 2012. Reposted with permission.

What's Right for Me?: Talking with "Normal Adolescent Behavior" director Beth Schacter

We suspected Beth Schacter was a kindred spirit when she wrote about our work on her blog. But we were totally sure of it when we read about her film-in-progress 'A Virgin Mary' and saw her 2007 film 'Normal Adolescent Behavior' (NAB). This film, a teen drama like nothing you've seen, depicts the complex platonic and sexual relationships between a group of 6 high school friends. We recently spoke to Beth about how teenagers choose to have–or not have–sex.

Can you tell us about Virgin Mary, and how it's similar or different than NAB?

Virgin Mary is a romantic comedy so in that sense it's a world away from the drama of NAB. But they are both about sexual politics. Virgin Mary is about a girl, Mary, who at 12 makes a deal with her best friend Alexander that they'll lose their virginity to each other on her 18th birthday.

Then he moves way and he comes back senior year a be-dreadlocked, Burning Man worshipping freak who seems a little too eager to collect on the bet. Mary isn't ready to have sex and she spends most of the movie trying to get out of the deal instead of just being honest and saying, "I'm not ready."

Her best friend, Allison, has a lot of sex but has never fallen in love. So it's really the story of two cherries - the sex cherry and the love cherry - and how these best friends each lose them. I really love the idea of making a romantic comedy about teenagers for a teen audience; we used to have a lot more of them and they are my favorite movies.

In NAB, you've set some of the conflict between a polyamorous group of 6 friends, and the other high school kids who seem randomly promiscuous. You're making a very sophisticated distinction here. Can you talk about the differences between the two groups?

For me, the thing with the 6 friends all sleeping with each other is that it isn't that different from what most of us experience in high school. We have a clique of friends and everyone dates everyone else and eventually you're dating your best friend's ex-boyfriend and it has this very incestuous feeling to it. These six just codified it. Which is ultimately their undoing.

It was definitely a choice to put the six kids in a world where they were the most moral and the most normal. To me the six are the least corrupted of the kids in the movie - they get good grades, they don't drink, they love, they feel, they emote, they have a sense of history and are empathetic. [The eventual boyfriend of one of the six] Sean is trapped by this need to play traditional roles without understanding them and the rest of the school is trapped by this need to make sex a competition about who can be the most provocative and dangerous.

I wanted to push people to rethink their own judgments of what is "right" vs. "what is right for me." The real problem comes when we decide we need everyone else to do what we do in order to feel confident in our choices. Being an individual in the face of plurality is far more difficult than being an individual and surrounding yourself with like minded people. I think the kids did okay until Sean showed up. I know for a fact they will all go on to be healthy happy adults.

How do you think your characters differ from other onscreen representations of teenagers in mainstream films?

I'm after the same thing a bigger movie is after - people being entertained and moved. I like a lot of what is out there, and my taste is really way more mainstream than indie. Anyway, I was a huge fan of Jennifer's Body which is about as radically third-wave feminist as a movie can be. I loved the girls and their friendship which had that perfect level of obsession and real love at its core. The ideas in that movie feel familiar and yet the tone and the size of the movie couldn't be more different from what I do. And I was thoroughly entertained. It helps that the movie comes from two incredibly smart women (Diablo Cody and Karyn Kusama) and that they made it on their terms.

A lot of kids don't have any sex in high school, for a variety of reasons aside from virginity pledges, so I'm wondering how NAB might speak to them.

It may not, honestly. But then Virgin Mary started percolating because of a girl at a screening who told me she felt like nobody talked about why people don't have sex, only about why they do. I loved that. The idea that we're so focused on the why and not talking about the why-nots. At the core NAB is about self-determination which for me is the only thing that matters when you talk about sexual choices. But it definitely has a narrower spectrum of choices depicted in the story.

Was it difficult to make a film about such unconventional teenage sexual relationships? Was there pressure to make it more mainstream?

I was at a meeting when we were first out with the script, before I even finished grad school. And an executive from a studio that rhymes with MGM brought me in and told me that she would be "more comfortable" if the girls in the movie were witches. Those were her words. "More comfortable." Like the idea that these girls were having consensual sex and had made informed decisions about their sex lives was so uncomfortable that they needed to have supernatural powers so she felt better about it. I stopped trying to make a studio version of it after that.

I was struck by the line "You want me to become a virgin again?" that Wendy says to Sean when they start dating. He wanted to somehow wipe the slate clean in a way that made me think of how brides are transformed into temporary virgins on their wedding day. Why is that something people want?

I love that she calls him on his shit. He's saying "I love that you are who you are now but can we pretend you got there without having sex?" And she says absolutely not. For Sean it's so obviously coming from insecurity - he can't stand the idea that he has to compete with something so dangerous. Ultimately he can't take it–he has to destroy any evidence of her past even after they break up.

Is the idea of one boy and one girl in a committed relationship a fairy tale?

I hope not! I think the most committed relationship girls have in high school is with their best friend and when you take sex out of the equation and look at the best friend relationship you can see a lot more committed relationships that work. Really work. But you add in sex and love and lust and hormones and it gets harder. Not impossible. Just not as easy. Not that it is easy after high school it just is harder in different ways.

V-Card Diaries: Molly "Nudity ensued with two people I had met that day. And thus I lost my gay virginity."

Today we're highlighting 26-year-old Molly, who originally wrote to this blog back in Sept of 2009. At the time she said:

"Since I've figured out that I'm bi, I would love to have sex with someone I actually like, no matter the gender. But I'm still a virgin because I'm really shy, really scared, and I have a hard time getting close to people physically, not even on a sexual level.

It's weird, but you get to the point to where you lie about sex for your friends or smile and nod at their stories, like you know where they're coming from (no pun intended) when you have no idea what's its like. It's expected that you've had sex, and if you haven't, you must be really religious...or have vagina dentata."

She just sent us this follow-up to her story, almost a year later. This may not be a road everyone goes down, but it goes to show again that there is no one right way to 'lose your virginity.'

If you want to tell your story, go to our submission form. You can find all our V-Card Diaries here.

Tell us about yourself: I am a bisexual 26-year-old female librarian in one of those really big rectangular states in the middle to western part of the United States. I grew up in a less rectangular state, and was pretty standard Christian conservative until I was about 15, with a brief moment of religiosity when I was 22. I'm currently an agnostic, leaning towards atheism, pending further research.

My parents do not discuss sex. I was home-schooled when most kids were taking sex ed in my district, so I read a book about how sex worked, shortly followed by a book on how I should "court" guys with the approval of my father. Luckily for my sister and me, our dad never really enforced courtship.

Being bi, sexual attraction was super complicated, especially in a religious household. I sort of kept all of my attractions under wraps until I hit college which means I didn't mention it or try to think about it. I hit the end of my freshman year by going to England as part of a class and making out with multiple nameless guys. And then there was the years long dry spell of no make outs, no boyfriends, no girlfriends, while I worked on school, and then grad school. That sort of brings us to today.

What is your definition of virginity? Because of my orientation, I think defining sex is the first step. I know a lot of folk are more strict about the definition of sex. For me the definition of sex is two or more people who are making an effort to get each other to orgasm in a consensual situation, and generally nudity is involved. It's maddeningly vague.

Why did you decide to stay a virgin? I signed a virginity pledge (hilariously misspelled) when I was about 13 as a precaution should I start feeling immoral thoughts about boys, because liking girls was just "weird" and not possible. All my friends sort of kept up with the whole, "I will remain a virgin" until marriage at least in theory. When I went to college, I met a group of awesome sex-positive women of all orientations, who, incidentally, all lived on my floor. While I am not in contact with many of them anymore, they were integral in my acknowledgment that I was more than a little bit gay when I was 21.

As to why I decided to stay a virgin: In short, I'm really goal oriented. In my head I had a list of priorities in my life. The priority list was as follows: 1. School. (High school, getting into college, College, Getting into grad school, Grad school) 2. Work 3. Friends 4. ??? 5. Sex So, I went through life checking off my priorities, and sex was just something that kept being put off because I was busy doing other things.

How did you 'lose your virginity?' "Lost" really isn't the right word. I chucked it with great force at the first actual opportunity I had at the ripe old age of 26. Granted, I don't recommend my methods to everyone, because the part of me that likes to be safe will point out that this was a bit of a risk. Flying to a completely different state to meet up with someone you'd never actually met is risky, no matter what. That being said, I had fun, it turned out well, and no one was an axe murderer (always a bonus).

I'm very shy and have a bit of social anxiety, so I tend to communicate with my friends on the internet and have made a few friends that way. One of these internet friends (Let's call him A) who I'd been talking to for quite awhile invited me to visit him and a polyamorous partner of his (female, and I'll call her B) in another state. After much hemming and hawing, I agreed, although to this day I'm not entirely sure why or how I decided to go.

Prior to even making the official trip plans, I had divulged my virginal status to A. I'm not really sure why, considering how much shame I felt about it at the time, but it saved me a very awkward in person conversation, which I'd have probably stuttered through or not had.

I ended up on a plane to this other state for a long weekend where I met A and B at the airport. We hung out that evening, went to museum, had dinner, and went to bed together, where nudity ensued, with yes, two people I had met that day. And thus I lost my gay virginity. It took a couple of days before I had actual penis-in-vagina sex, between false starts and me having a minor panic attack (thanks social anxiety and related to meeting lots of new people all at once) my first full day. I'll be honest, there was awkwardness on my part and occasional pain, but both were pretty temporary.

Overall, the weekend was very fun and I can't think of a better way to do it. My partners in deflowerment really couldn't have been nicer.

Any thoughts about cultural attitudes towards virginity? I feel a certain degree of envy for those who actively choose to remain virgins because in some ways, it's more empowering. There's a choice in the matter. After a while, I felt like I didn't have a choice. It was either be a cat lady or give up swearing, become a Catholic, and join a nunnery. For me, the issue became more and more about how I felt I was unattractive and that while I was willing to have sex, for whatever reason, I was not good enough, which isn't conducive to getting anyone close to your pants.

It's rough. We're all supposed to wait for that one special person to lose it to. Even if we don't stay with that individual, you're supposed to hold out for someone "special." But if you wait too long, you feel shameful about how long it's taken, because there must be something wrong with you. There's no way to win.