Leave it to the world’s leading sex experts to turn your head around about what a relationship is? Is it defined by duration of the relationship? Numbers? Two, three, five?
“One!” shouted Dr. Hernando Chaves from the audience. “Masturbation can be a relationship, too.”
Yes, even one. Panel presenter Janet Hardy, co-author of the famed book “Ethical Slut” and 10 other books about sex, led a fascinating panel about modern relationship dynamics, the women’s civil rights movement and the sexual revolution. This panel discussed the definitions of relationships, changes in relationship dynamics, and the evolution of monogamy and nonmonogamy in today’s society.
Hardy, who is 60 years old, talked about how she is married to a man for the past decade, but has had a 20-year relationship with a woman, and her sometimes co-author. She also said relationships aren’t defined by duration, nor what people do sexually. “When my husband and I got our marriage license, they didn’t ask how long we had been together, whether we’re poly, queer, kinky, infertile,” Hardy said. “Yet, it would have been more difficult, if able at all, to get a license with a female.”
Hardy, who could be mistaken for a sweet grandmother in any other setting, talked about how she is celebrating her six-year “fist-aversary” with a person she’s had a fisting relationship with for the past six years. “I am also celebrating a 10th anniversary with a man that most people may think of someone I’ve not had sex with,” Hardy said. “I have also had relationships of the moment that have touched my heart and have been just as intense.”
The panel discussed all kinds of relationships: domesticity, such as couples with kids; bromances, which has been discussed a lot in the media, and more. Legitimate relationships, she said, include:
In this third panel of the Sex Positive seminar at UCLA over the weekend, the experts discussed how even those in polyamorous relationships could have rigid rules.
“Polyamory can have a lot of rules, but I think the future is becoming more understanding about these kinds of relationships,” said therapist Kate Loree, who has helped people even with sexual reassignment transitioning recently. “If I discussed trans issues only two years ago there would be crickets and tumbleweeds. No one would listen, but now, look at how far the trans community has come in the media.”
However, polyamorous relationships are still hidden. Loree said, “I think that people in same-sex relationships can feel more comfortable walking with their partner holding hands, but a person holding both their partners hands isn’t that easy to do. We want to be proud of our relationships, but it’s still not easy for those in poly relationships.”
Hardy pointed out that there’s a dichotomy in the trans community. There are those who transition and want to be the other gender and fit in, and there are those who want to want to identify as trans. “There are people in the trans community who want to be normative,” Hardy said. “But there are ones who want to be in the middle, and there will always be a problem for acceptance for them, at least for now.”
Dr. Chris Donaghue said the answer to that is simple. “I’m not a fan of gender,” he said. “We need to get rid of gender.”
Gender issues resulted in a confession for the award-winning Southern California Leather master Orpheus Black, who is also starting a Sex Positive People of Color chapter.
“I have in my leather family a person who is transitioning,” Black said. “I was worried about thinking of me as hetero male. It was a real learning thing. It was the first time I ever loved a man in my life.” A self-professed “love curmudgeon,” Orpheus Black said, “I have noticed that a lot of people fear deep emotional connections that come with sex. … People are facilitating sexual desires and not making meaningful connections.”
Although the dungeon master sees that the acceptance of poly relationships to be about 20 years down the road, another panelist, blogger and sex information specialist Quiddity Foster, said it’s coming a lot faster. She is 54 and said she sees changes in her 26-year-old daughter. “Climate change is causing young people to live in urban areas where they don’t need cars to travel, and live in group housing where sexual fluidity and poly relationships are common,” Foster said. “The advent of accessible birth control has also contributed in more acceptance of polyamory.”
Dr. Donaghue declared, “Marriage is not in crisis, marriage is the crisis.” And, Janet Hardy sees the future of acceptance in the audiences that come to her lectures. “I’ve seen a third generation of poly people coming to my audiences. I’m very excited about how playful they are. They are like at a buffet, taking a little bit of everything.” She sighed and added, “That gives me hope.”