Congenital Stoic

Marcus Aurelius... looking all stoic.

Marcus Aurelius… looking all stoic.

I finally finished “A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy” and absolutely loved it. Reading it made me realize I have a lot of stoic tendencies, or I am what the author called a “congenital stoic”. Sometimes books seem to come into your life at the perfect time, and that is the situation here for me. I’ve always had an interest in philosophy but never pursued it much, partly because of my own ignorance and partly because modern philosophy seems overly stuffy and pedantic. I am finding that early philosophy was different.

Stoicism falls into the category of “life philosophy”. Stoics, like many Greek and Roman schools of thought, look to find the best way to have a good life. They don’t get stuck on definitions like what “good” or “life” means, instead it is an observation of the human condition, and then applying the lessons learned from observation to your life. While much of human existence has changed in the last two thousand years a lot of it remains the same. Stoic pursuit of tranquility may be even more important in the modern world where society tells us that joy comes from owning certain things, making a certain amount of money, becoming famous, etc. Stoics believe (and I gladly count myself as one of them) that tranquility comes from the inside only, and that consumerist pursuits are fleeting and bring no real lifelong happiness.

The author, William B. Irvine, wrote the book in a format that would be perfect for teaching a college course on Stoicism. In fact, as a professor that was precisely his goal. It starts with some history, then moves on to techniques Stoics advise to reach tranquility, then comes the application of these techniques to specific circumstances the ancient Stoics faced, and finally using Stoicism in the modern world. Personally, I found the history part to be interesting but unnecessary, it was really the five techniques that serve as the “meat and potatoes”.

The first technique is called Negative Visualization and is something I have found myself naturally doing ever since my time in the military. Practicing Negative Visualization is simply taking a few moments throughout the day, maybe when you are driving to work or in the shower, and think about how fleeting the things in your life could be. It is thinking about the “worst case” scenario so that you can appreciate the blessing in your life. If occasionally I think about how my life would differ if my wife died tomorrow or if I was hit by a car and became paralyzed from the neck down then I can really enjoy the blessing in my life. This isn’t dwelling on things to a point of paralysis, it is just meditating on things for a bit to get perspective.

The author uses two hypothetical fathers as an example. The first father never things about the possible death of his daughter, and because of that he thinks there will always be tomorrow to teach her to ride a bike, enjoy some time bonding, or to express his love. The days will go by quickly and with little appreciation for this father. The second father weekly meditates on what life would be like if his daughter became ill and died. He takes advantage of the limited time he has to play with her, learn about her interests, and express his love. The second father has a much more joyful existence due to negative visualization.

The second technique is the Dichotomy of Control. It is recognizing what is in your control and what is not, with the former category breaking down into things completely in your control and things partly in your control. Things that are out of your control completely (the weather, other people, traffic, a brain aneurysm coming out of nowhere and killing you) you shouldn’t even think about. It is a waste of mental energy and will only bring about disappointment to focus on those things.

Instead, we should focus on the things that we have at least some control of. Our own emotions, our response to the weather, preparing our property for our death, etc are all things that we control in some way. In fact, we should work on shifting our perception of events that are partially in our control so that we are only effected by things we can change. For example, if you are in a tennis match with someone you are in control of your own performance but can’t do anything about your opponent or the weather. So, the stoics believe that instead of focusing on winning the match you should focus on doing your best. Your best performance is completely in your control, winning the match is not.

The third Stoic technique is to practice is a type of Fatalism, which is the idea that things happen because of fate. The modern practice is more of a Buddhist belief that you can’t change the past or the immediate present so it does no good to focus or worry about it. The past is already done, all you can do is impact life moving forward so you should focus on that. It reminds me a lot of the economic principle of “sunk costs”.

The fourth technique is Self-Denial. Basically, we benefit when we deny ourselves things we could have. For the ancient Stoics this meant going around without shoes, living in poverty occasionally, and wearing clothes that don’t block the cold instead of being comfortable. I struggle with determining where I am with this practice. My current bike ride and minimalist lifestyle could be considered Self-Denial because I could surely find a better paying job and make my life more comfortable, and my current life puts things in perspective because I know I can survive periods of time without a stable food and water supply, no shelter, bad weather, being stranded, and unexpected changes to my life. But, I don’t find the ride difficult or really a challenge, I am not attempting to deny myself anything. So I guess I need to work on this a little more in my practice, though Irvine does explain this is kind of an advanced technique and shouldn’t be practiced early on in a Stoic’s journey

The final technique is Meditation, though it isn’t the type of meditation we normally think about. This would be more properly called Reflection. It is looking back on our past and observing how we handled situations. We shouldn’t look at them with regret or desire to change the situation, but instead we should coldly observe what we did and what we would do if the same situation came up again.

The application of these techniques to specific scenarios, both modern and ancient, is discussed for many chapters. They are a great read but really only one stuck out at me at this time, and when I made the realization it caught me by surprise… the application of Stoicism to luxurious living. While I don’t have a luxurious life I have found myself in the trap of being a “connoisseur” in two areas, sex and beer.

The problem with being a connoisseur is the pursuit of richer things prevents you from living a life of tranquility. If you are a foodie you may have once enjoyed a bowl of macaroni and cheese, but as you experience more things and desire greater experiences you are no longer satisfied. Soon, a $2 box of pasta tastes disgusting and you are dedicating more and more time and resources for a “refined” palate. Instead of being satisfied and content to have all the nutrition you need to survive (which is the purpose of food) instead you want more and more and more. That is kind of how I stand with beer and sex, I’ve had probably a wider variety of both than most people but I find myself wanting more. I need to stop focusing on the “new” and enjoy what I have easily available to me.

All in all, I really loved the book and plan on reading it again soon. I am also going to jump into the reading recommendations the author provides. Admittedly though, reading this and/or practicing Stoicism isn’t for everybody. I have a particular disposition to this way of life at this point and many people don’t, which is fine. There is no monopoly on the “right” life philosophy, though I think everyone would benefit from having one. Finding a philosophical standpoint allows us to navigate this world using our ability to reason instead of just our evolutionary urges to increase pleasure and avoid pain. So, at this point I call myself a Stoic with some sprinkling of Hedonism, though I haven’t read anything about ancient Hedonism which means that might be the next step.

Who’s Been Sleeping in Your Head? The Secret World of Sexual Fantasies

As is often the case on road trips and long flights I was able to get some good reading and writing done… maybe I need to find a way to do this more. Anyway, I finished reading “Who’s Been Sleeping in Your Head?” by Brett Kahr. This 400-page book is the culmination of a multi-year study conducted primarily in the UK (though there are some US participants) about people’s sexual fantasies. These fantasies are what goes through a person’s head during masturbation and sex with a partner. The research was conducted through online surveys completed by over 23,000 people and 122 intensive face-to-face interviews with volunteers. It appears to be the most comprehensive attempt to catalog and interpret human sexual fantasies that anyone has ever done.

While I found the intentions of the study and premise of the book fascinating my feelings towards the book are bitter-sweet. As a Freudian psychotherapist Kahr spent much of his time focusing, analyzing, and, in my opinion, unjustifiably fishing or hoping for childhood trauma to explain sexual fantasies that people had. He mentions alternative approaches like evolutionary psychology only twice and only in passing. I understand that he is a Freudian but if his attempt was to objectively or comprehensively attempt to look into sexual fantasies and their foundation (if one exists) he should have brought in some alternative view points. To him humans seem to be born as a blank slate with no genetic predispositions or tendencies in place from evolution.

Kahr often at times come off as a bit judgemental and sex-negative, and even a bit LGBTphobic. He focuses several times on homosexuality possibly being linked to childhood trauma and child rearing but little acknowledgement of a biological aspect. He also seems to see all cross-dressers as “transvestites”. It also seemed like a negative judgement when he penned the term “intra-marital affair” to describe thinking about someone other than your spouse, as if thinking of another is a form of cheating. Some may agree that fantasies are cheating (but if they really are based in trauma or evolution it is cheating we have little to no control over) not everyone does and I think it weakens the betrayal of true affairs if we attach that phrase to a passing thought during masturbation.

Clearly, I have some problems with Kahr’s approach, but I want to give him some benefit of the doubt, it is possible that there is a generational gap and cultural one between he and I. He is British and a bit older than I, while Americans and our friends across the pond are similar in many ways I can’t help but wonder if the stereotypes about prudish non-sexual Brits might have some truth to it. It has also been almost a decade since this project started and a lot has changed in sexual research and views on fantasies in the last 10 years, particularly with the exponential growth of internet access and the pornography that comes with it.

There were also some wonderful things within the book though, and I actually very highly recommend it. Kahr’s analysis later in the book provides a lot of great information and provides some support to his hypothesis in some of the cases. There clearly can be a trauma at the foundation of sexual fantasies, and many of these trauma fantasies are causing great distress and harm to the individuals. In cases where people can’t live the lives they want or have the relationships they desire it is a problem, such as the case of “Julius” who has only been able to masturbate to mental images of a girl who tormented him in his adolescence and he has not had a long-term relationship in nearly 50 years.

I would have loved to see more research and questions about the ramifications of opening up about your fantasies to your significant others. Kahr mentions a few in one chapter but for the most part glosses over any potential benefits and instead focuses on trauma and harm. In my experience being open and honest with your partner about desires and what goes on in your head can have a bonding effect and open the door for new real life experiences. If we decide to enter into a partnership something as intimate and important as sex should not be a taboo subject. Much of the negative aspects seem to come from our social stigmas against sexuality as much as childhood events. As a culture if we can admit that sex is a healthy and enjoyable part of the human experience we can reduce the pain, suffering, and shame that seems to accompany so many fantasies.

Kahr does admit that this is just a beginning, and like a good scientist he hopes others will dive into the data, conduct their own studies, and come up with alternative hypothesis. I would love to see a larger sample size of humans from more diverse backgrounds. What is true for Brits (and in this case a few Americans) may not be true for Australians, Italians, Russians, Kenyans, Colombians, Thai, Egyptians, etc. The more information the better and it looks like this is a field ripe for research and exploration.

I definitely recommend this book for many different people. If you just have an interest in sexuality there is a lot to love about this book, as well if you are interested in seeing how a Freudian interprets things, though I would recommend skipping or skimming Section II if you get bored with it. You can only read poorly written erotica for pages and pages for so long before it becomes a blur. It is also a good resource for people who have anxiety about what goes on in their own heads. It will become quickly clear that “normal” fantasies don’t exist, and because of that there is really nothing that is “weird” or “abnormal”. Some people don’t fantasize at all, some think only about their spouse, some focus more on feelings while others have elaborate situations they play in their head, some people think of college professors, siblings, strangers, movie stars, and inanimate objects. Some people like to be raped, piss on people while they are shitting, or change genders. Some like to be whipped while others like to be bought a nice romantic dinner followed by a massage and some cunnilingus. The limits to human sexual fantasies are only restricted by the combined imagination of billions of people.

Expectations of Others

I’ve gone back and forth for a while about writing this blog but after a conversation I had today I think it is worth writing. Too many people have vented to me or asked how I deal with this topic that it makes me believe there might be others out there with this struggle. I certainly don’t have all the answers (or really any answers) but maybe sharing my experiences and thoughts can be of some help to others. So, these are my thoughts about dealing people who have expectations for how you should live your life and pressure you to abandon what makes you happy to do what they wish. In my life this was my mother so it will be from that point of view but it could really be any family member, friend, or mentor. (Spoiler: Things between my  mother and I are awesome right now).

Obviously I don’t know what it is like to be a parent but here is a quick run of my background so we are all on the same page. I am the oldest of six children and grew up mostly in a suburb of Portland, Oregon. I never planned on leaving Gresham until I joined the army and saw some of the world. After the military I started college in South Carolina where my ex-fiance lived. She lived within a few miles of her parents, grandparents, and all her aunts… basically generation after generation stayed in the same area. Because I started college when I was 22 I had a little bit different perspective on it. After college I moved to Washington DC where I worked in a couple non-profits for a few years and then headed out west to Los Angeles where I live now. Currently, I am living with my partner and her best friend, and the three of us are leaving in April for a 18 month bicycle ride around the continent.

So… that’s me. During my life (particularly when I was in DC and now in LA) many people have come to me expressing frustration about the way they interact with their parents. I guess they come to me because I live my life so vocally and openly, and clearly did not stay in the traditional, Christian, conservative life that I thought I was going to.

The tension between my mother and I really started when it became clear that I wasn’t going to be moving back to Oregon. My mother had a vision of all of her children growing up in the same area, getting married, and all of our kids being best friends. She had expectations, unfair ones that involved other people that were not consulted. Even if you don’t have kids it is important to realize that you do not have control over other people, only yourself. Your emotions are yours and if you base your happiness on the lifestyle of someone else (particularly someone who you haven’t discussed things with) you will end up hurt almost every time.

Tension continued to mount between my mother and I. It seemed she took every decision I made as a personal attack on her. Sex before marriage, not moving back to Oregon, not being religious, deciding not to have kids… these were taken as an assault on her motherhood. She viewed herself as a bad mother (and thought I viewed her as a bad mother) because my life choices didn’t match up to her expectations. In truth, she was a wonderful and loving mother. I cannot imagine having anyone else raise me.

Sadly, the tension, anger, and resentment led to us rarely talking and I dreaded returning back to Oregon to visit. We both felt attacked by the other, we both couldn’t find a way to resolve the differences in our life. Even the act of visiting seemed to make things worse, no matter how long I visited (2 days, 5 days, a week, etc) it was never enough, she always wanted me around more and thought my desire to leave was because I didn’t want to be around them. In truth, the real reason was much simpler. I didn’t want to be back in Oregon because I didn’t really have friends there, the only activity going on at my home was watching tv, and missing work was incredibly costly for someone just starting out.

As time progressed it got to the point where any real communication that was happening would be through my sister or one of my brothers. The conversations my mother and I had were superficial at best and rarely broached any subjects of importance. It didn’t help matters that I was openly blogging about my “sinful” life at this time. (Lesson: Parents have a right not to know things about their adult children, but they also have a duty not to look for things… so if you have a blog don’t tell your parents or if you do give them fair warning of the content and encourage them not to follow it. My mother no longer follows my Facebook or blog). Neither one of us wanted the distance between us that we had but we didn’t know how to fix it.

I don’t know exactly when but things eventually started to get better. I think part of it was I stood my ground and got to the point where I had to be very forceful, even issuing an ultimatum that basically said “this is my life, if you want to be a part of it you can’t be trying to guilt me into things or use emotional blackmail to control my actions. You have one year to be angry, upset, and to question me about why I view things the way I do but after that year is up if you can’t accept who I am then our relationship is over.” Through the year we had fights and great discussions and we came out stronger in the end. Now we both respect that the paths our lives took are very different but we are both happy and there is not just one way to happiness. Our relationship isn’t perfect but it is healthier, happier, and for the first time in a while I look forward to visiting my family in Oregon.

I’m not sure why this tension seems to exist between parents and kids. Maybe it is compounded by the changes society is going through. Our generation is very comfortable communicating primarily through email, skype, and cell phones. We have seen pictures and videos of people all over the world and we want to visit. We have had study abroad opportunities and can connect with people from around the globe with the click of a button. We also seem less interested in committing to a life time of kids in a single relationship until we have explored the world more. We see an opportunity to have it all and see no reason to settle down until our 30′s or later (or ever). Life is to be lived, and for me that means new experiences instead of the path so many have already been… and I don’t think I’m alone in that.

PS: I will probably add more to this. I had a lot more ideas running through my head when I was biking today but some seem to have slipped away.

Next Step

Today was my first real “work day” off since I quit my job. It is time to really buckle down and focus on things for the next couple of months as I prepare for my bike ride. It is an interesting feeling being unemployed, but it feels good and this is why I live very minimalistically and save money. I have known for about a year that the office life is not for me, there is something soul-sucking for me to commute and sit in a cube each day in front of a screen, particularly when I feel most jobs can be done from home, a beach, or some place less creatively stifling. The people I worked with for the last year and a half were absolutely fantastic and I plan on staying in touch with them for a long time, but the office life isn’t for me and I felt myself in danger of being numbed down and sucked into it long term. So, I quit and now I have 157 days until the next adventure starts.

I’m going to be spending a lot of time focusing on my writing, fitness, and other interests over the next few months. This blog will likely reflect that journey, as well as dig deeper into my views on politics, religion, relationships, and current events. I am really hoping to increase the quality and the quantity of the posts on my blog, as well as become more interactive with the blogs I follow regularly. A major focus will be finishing the book of my cross-country ride last year. I don’t necessarily think I will make a lot of money off it but if I can create something that draws a few dollars in over time it could really be beneficial to Anna and I. Part of good writing to me is reading, so bookshelf (Kindle and real world) will likely get much larger and greater use, and expect more book reviews.

I will also be implementing serious daily exercise which will primarily be bike rides and yoga, but if I can find a inexpensive way to add weights or other exercises to the routine I will do that as well. Some extra skills that I’m going to be working on is cooking (the ladies love a good cook… right?), an undetermined musical instrument, and a foreign language. I just can’t imagine living my life without learning how to communicate in another tongue or with language of music. Of course, this time will also be used to further my formal education as much as I can and chart out what steps I need to take to get into providing psychological support for those that need it.

All in all, I’m excited. My first day was not as productive as I would have liked but I have a nice dinner started for the lovely ladies I live with (sweet potato gnocchi with seared brussels sprouts and tarragon cream) and am starting a schedule for tomorrow. Hopefully with some experimentation I will get into a routine of happiness.

The Lifestyle: A Review

Yesterday I finally finished “The Lifestyle: A Look at the Erotic Rights of Swingers” and I really enjoyed the analysis of what was going on with Swingers in the mid-late 90’s. The book is a bit dated but many of the lessons stand true today and books like this help destroy the unfair discrimination and naive views some people have towards those who don’t fit neatly into the “traditional marriage” paradigm. In fact, I found it surprising how many people were actually involved in The Lifestyle, the odds are someone in every neighborhood across western civilization there are play-couples who don’t see a problem with introducing third party eroticism into their relationships.

There are several different types of swingers discussed throughout the book but each type shared some common themes. It is very woman-centric, the ladies tend to control the action and explicit consent is absolutely mandatory. It mentioned many times throughout the book that come down to men tend to initiate the idea of entering the lifestyle but it is the women that really dominate. Due to the potential for coercion the official lifestyle clubs work very hard to self-regulate. Some clubs require interviews, psychological evaluations, and an application process to make sure both members of the couple are healthy and interested. Swinging cannot save a couple with a bad or weak relationship, but it can strengthen a strong and healthy one. Swingers don’t consider their actions cheating because everyone consents, especially their partner. The relationship comes first at all times, which is more than I can say for the people who cheat on their partners. The lifestyle at this time (and possibly now) does have a male homophobia though, men showing intimacy for other men is more than just frowned upon. That may have changed over the last 15 years as pansexuality and bisexuality become more normalized though.

The majority of swingers I would call “soft swingers” and they make up roughly 3/4 of people in the lifestyle. Soft swingers don’t necessarily have sex with other people, instead the enjoy the carefree and sensual atmosphere of being around adults where everything is out in the open. Because people are so open there are much fewer cases of unwanted touching, grinding, sexual assault, or harassment… everyone knows the boundaries, there are no games, it is all in the open. This is much like the Orgy Dome that my partner and I went to at Burning Man, it is a sexual place where trusting couples can be surrounded by sensuality without a worry of anyone being hurt. When some sort of sex outside of the primary relationship happens it is usually with another couple they know, trust, and it is a beautifully intimate affair.

Within the lifestyle there are also “hard swingers” who are more orgiastic. These are the vast minority though. Not that there is anything wrong with indulging in group sex with strangers, but it is relatively uncommon. Of course this is the type of swingers that comes to mind thanks to the media, you say swinger and people imagine “key parties” or groups of writhing oiled up bodies, when the reality is most swingers don’t engage in group sex behavior at all.

One chapter of the book was also dedicated to polyamorous people, though whether they are part of the lifestyle is up for debate. Where “swingers” brings up the idea first of sex (and many swingers would agree with that), the polys discussed in the book view things very differently. In their view they are very explicitly trying to remake society along the boundaries of love. Their relationships tend to be sexually closed and intimacy is shared within multi-person families and marriages. They wanted to bring Robert Heinlein’s views from “Stranger in a Strange Land” to life and even adopted the terminology of “grok” and “sharing water” in common conversations. To be honest, this chapter of the book kind of surprised me because that has not been my experience with polyamorous people. My experience, which I admit is minimal, seems to be closer to a middle ground between these polys and swingers. This may be due to the 15+ years separating now and this book or it may be that my experience is not the norm.

One of the most common criticisms of any lifestyle that is not monogamous is that it isn’t “natural”. The standard model of human sexuality pushed for monogamy, but that is being challenged pretty heavily by sperm competition. Under sperm competition a male will have more powerful and pleasurable orgasms if they think (or know) that their partner has had sex with another person. It is a pretty common fantasy for a man to want to see his partner be with another and sperm competition leads some credibility to that. This theory also shows why women can have multiple orgasms, take longer to orgasm, and become very vocal during sex… because they were built for many partners to help guarantee they get the strongest genes. More info on this can be found in “What Do Women Want?” and “Sex At Dawn

The media in the past has seen people in the lifestyle as perverse and open to all sorts of unfair criticism. They reinforced a form of classism where when rich and beautiful people embrace their sexuality it is to be celebrated but the common folk must do no such thing. Articles were written focused on how unattractive swingers were compared to their hollywood counterparts and how disgusting it was that they would wear scantily clothes, show intimacy in public, or openly flirt. I can’t help but be disgusted with the idea that sexual fulfillment and relationship experimentation is only a good thing if people fit into a certain physical mold. If all humans are equal we should all be free to pursue happiness with other consenting adults.

As disgusting as the media’s actions were for a time their tune eventually changed when the government decided to enforce morality. The major turning point was when the California ABC (which is responsible for giving out liquor licenses) started targetting venues who allowed swinging conventions and using nude art as their justification. Once there was a clear attack on free speech the media got in line and started at least supporting the swingers rights to practice what they wish. The ABC, as a bureaucracy, has virtually no check on their power. They are charged with defending public morality in any place where alcohol is served and used this power with virtually no oversight. They couldn’t be sued and any complaints went internally to ABC. They even claimed the authority to revoke the liquor license of any hotel that allowed nudity or sexual activity behind the closed doors of a hotel room. They used their power to primarily go after those who couldn’t fight back but the swingers had resources, they are primarily middle and upper-middle class suburbanites who weren’t going to go down without a fight. After the attempted censorship of nude art a judge finally reigned in ABC by putting a restraining order on them. To this day the ABC is charged with protecting the safety, welfare, health, peace, and morals (emphasis mine) of the people of California. As the author says, “When a government – any government – feels itself standing as a righteous bulwark against sexual immorality, the public becomes the enemy”

All in all this was a fascinating book that I really enjoyed. It did a great job of showing how “normal” most swingers are. They are mostly married, have good jobs, raise kids, and are many times religious. They just reject the current view of sexual morality, as the author said “Morals are without exception dictated by the dominant figures in a group, who ruthlessly attempt to constrain the sexual expression of others.” Swingers are telling the establishment to fuck off, they are living life their way. I would love to attend the national convention in 2014 but it is unlikely I will be able to due to my bike ride. Hopefully my partner and I can at least check out one of the local clubs or something though. There is a wide world of sexual and relationship acceptance out there for those that will open their minds and think for themselves.

A Wedding Recap

This last weekend I had the huge honor of being the Best Man at my best friend’s wedding. I know in the past I’ve been fairly vocal about my own disinterest in traditional marriage, but I am an economist and recognize subjective value… meaning that I may not want a wedding for myself but am thrilled to participate in something important  to another. And man, this wedding was the fucking tits. There are a lot of stories and a lot of fun was had but here are some of the things that will stick with me the most.

  • Weddings can be really, really damn beautiful. The site (Convict Lake near Mammoth, California), weather, atmosphere, everything was perfect. A true fairytale location for a perfect fairytale wedding.
  • I will get naked and streak a household of mostly strangers for at least $20
  • My partner can’t handle Fireball whiskey
  • I am pretty decent at giving impromptu speeches… and that apparently surprises people
  • Real friendships stand the test of time… for the first time in 12 years my closest friends since fifth grade were together and we still had a grand time. Some of us have lost hair (not me), some of us have gained weight (me), and all of us have gorgeous partners but all-in-all the banter and friendship was the same.
  • Online presences are strange things. Several of the people I met at the wedding primarily knew me through Facebook and blog posts where I may come off one-dimensionally focuses on polyamory, sex, drugs, anarchy, and Burning Man. Hopefully I have the opportunity to spend more time with these people and we can get to know each other.
  • Some people get uncomfortable when you invite them to a foursome
  • It can be difficult to tell if people seriously want you in a foursome or not… I still have hope that the joking was only “haha, that’s funny… but seriously” and not really “haha, this is all just joke drunk flirting”
  • Some people will offer to have sex with you if you give them your jacket in the cold
  • Flirting is still a lot of fun, especially when your partner doesn’t care/encourages it.
  • Other people agree that my partner has a fantastic ass
  • When the dj plays Ke$ha most people leave the dance floor (not me)
  • A wedding that includes several Star Trek: The Next Generation references is awesome
  • Drunk parents rock
  • Love is an amazing thing… I don’t think Love is all you need for a successful romantic relationship but it is certainly an important part of the human experience.

I’m sure there are many more lessons to be learned from this amazing, unforgettable weekend but it is time to leave my office for the day so here is a picture of what I woke up to each morning I was up at the wedding.

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You Should Give As Good As You Get

This is going to be one of those “if you believe TMI exists and/or are related to me and uncomfortable with sexual information it may be time to close the tab” blog posts.

I follow a fair number of sex and relationship advice-givers on my Facebook feed and have noticed something interesting. About once or twice a week a “How to give a great blowjob!” post appears on my feed, but I have yet to see a “How to give good cunnilingus” ever appear. I’m not exactly sure why that is. I admit that with the exception of Dan Savage (who is gay and has a high book knowledge of vagina’s but has not had much personal experience with them) most sex and relationship columnists tend to be targeting women. I had a friend point out one Vice column about cunnilingus but personally I found it fairly unhelpful and seemed to be more for shock value than actual advice. So, after a pretty decent Facebook discussion and encouragement from a number of female friends (and my partner) I decided to write this post.

Big Huge Fucking Disclaimer: I won’t even begin to claim I have the answers for creating pleasure. I am one guy who has had a fair number of partners and I am comfortable with my oral skills. These tips and thoughts are based on my personal experiences and the contributions of my partners (past and present) and some friends that shared their thoughts with me privately. Every person is different and desires vary widely, what I talk about here may not actually be effective for others, these are just my personal experiences. I don’t know if any of my followers will find value in this, but I hope they do… if nothing else I hope it sparks conversation because talking and discussing things with your partner is the only way to guarantee everyone is satisfied, inside and outside the bedroom.

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In retrospect, I owe most of my base knowledge to a guy I met in Basic Training that we called “Romeo”. When word got around that I was a 19-year old virgin Romeo took me aside and felt the need to tutor me. He could have done all of this in front of the group to humiliate me but I think he genuinely wanted me to have some working knowledge of the vagina before my first real sexual experience. So, he told me things that I would have ideally learned from either sex ed or my father, how to bring sexual pleasure to my partner.

Some Basic Information: If your partner has a vagina and desires oral sex you really should give it. Approximately 75% of women cannot reach orgasm through penetration alone… that means there needs to be some clitoral stimulation at least. In my experience I have only had one partner that could orgasm off of penetration alone and she could also orgasm off of only nipple stimulation, so she was a rarity. So, if you look at your previous partners and most of them orgasmed just off of penetration either that is a statistical anomaly or you have been lied to. (Side note: Ladies, please don’t lie about having an orgasm. This does not do anyone any favors. If your partner cares about you they will want to make you happy and that requires honesty. It is better to temporarily bruise an ego than fill your time with less than satisfactory encounters.)

In my experience some partners can be nervous, uncomfortable, or apprehensive about receiving oral sex. From the discussions I’ve had this stems from false stereotypes about the vagina (men don’t like giving oral, it smells bad, etc) or past partners have been really bad and it has not been enjoyable. It is important to remember that for most guys bad sex is better than no sex, while the opposite is true for women where bad sex can be painful, uncomfortable, and embarrassing. As with all new sexual things with your partner (or experiences with a new partner) it is good to move slowly in the beginning and communicate. All sexual acts should be consensual, and ideally that consent is enthusiastic. Communication really is key and the more comfortable everyone is beforehand the better. It should, and will, come naturally in the end. Oral sex is fucking awesome but remember, good relationships are GGG, and that second G means “giving equal time and equal pleasure”. There is no need to keep a scorecard of sexual acts but we all know when our partner has woken us up to oral sex or been the major pleasure recipient in a quickie, the last thing you want is for your partner to feel like they are being taken sexually for granted.

Alright, now for some basic anatomy… to be honest I wasn’t sure how basic I was going to get but I figured better be safe than sorry. One of my life motto’s is “The only thing I want more than my own orgasms is for other people to have orgasms” and it would be sad if a basic anatomy lesson prevented that. So, oral sex is mostly focused on the clitoris either directly or indirectly. As you can see in the picture below the actual clitoris is way, way, way more than the small glans above the vaginal, it is a web of nerves that extends all over the pelvic region. The “glans clitoris” is important and a major pleasure producing spot for most women but it is the tip of the pleasure iceberg for your partner, the nerves underneath the skin can (and should) be stimulated as well. Remember though, everyone is build differently and some woman are tip sensitive, some g-spot sensitive, some prefer light thrusting, some fast, some hard, some need to concentrate hard to orgasm, and for some it comes with little focus. All sex takes practice to get great and hopefully the following info will help you along the way.

Clitoris_anatomy_labeled-en

Warm Up: It is pretty unlikely that sex is going to begin with oral. In general, women need more warming up to be ready to receive oral. There is rarely a rush, so take your time. Start with kissing, touching, fondling. I find some over the clothes genital rubbing can really get things going, and trust me, it pays off in the end. To be blunt, oral sex can often take a lot of time and energy, the more you put into foreplay the easier giving your partner pleasure will be in the future. So, instead of rushing to the mouth banging take some time and treat each article of clothing as a new experience, every inch of new flesh can be a new place to explore with all your sense while you keep rubbing and playing with her body below the clothes. As a guy I know it feels good when I am still wearing boxers or shorts and I am being rubbed, in my experience that pleasure is similar for women.

Oral Sex: When it is time to begin your partner will likely be pretty moist. The actual level of fluid can vary significantly depending on your partner but hopefully if it is on either extreme (generally really dry or generally really wet) your partner will communicate this ahead of time. Often the vaginal folds will keep moisture in so it may take some play with your fingers to get to the vaginal opening. Use the natural fluid to make rubbing and touch less abrasive… just as it feels better to get a handjob with lube it feels better for the woman to have some moisture when playing with the clit. Once you begin playing you should use your hands/fingers and your mouth to provide a multiple stimulation.

Mouth/Tongue: For me the mouth is used primarily for clitoral stimulation but it starts as the primary tool. Kissing and licking along the inner thigh before you actually start with the vagina and clit can help build up pleasure through a bit of teasing. Again, there is no rush. Long, slow kisses from the bottom of the vaginal opening to the clit can be great stimulation. Once things are going the tongue focuses more on the clit itself by hardening and rubbing against it horizontally and vertically. A decent trick is to use your mouth to “draw” each letter of the alphabet, this provides seemingly random stimulation but keeps things going. If you find your tongue gets tired fairly quickly you can exercise that muscle by daily moving your tongue horizontally 100 times and vertically 100 times. Some partners may also enjoy it if you press your lips down around the clit and hum, causing vibrations to ripple throughout the area.

Primary Hand: To add stimulation your primary hand can put fingers inside the vagina. The amount of fingers varies depending on the woman but having it palm up and making a “come here” motion with your fingers can often stimulate the g-spot. Playing around with the locations, speed, and pressure can help you figure out what your partner likes. This stimulates the internal nerves of the clit and it would be a shame to ignore all those pleasure spots.

Secondary Hand: Don’t let your non-primary hand go to waste. You can use your secondary hand to massage your partners legs, caress along her skin, grab her butt, or relieve your primary hand when your fingers get tired (be sure to make sure they are wet though through quickly sucking on them yourself or using your partner’s fluid). A great use I’ve found for your secondary  hand is to massage or place pressure on the pubic mound or near the hip/leg joint. This can sandwich the clitoral nerves between your fingers inside the vagina and the skin on the outside. Play with her body, feel things out, and see what she likes.

Communication: In the end, communication is what it comes down to. Pay attention to her body and make adjustments as needed. Also, recognize that communication can sometimes be difficult and body signals can vary significantly. I’ve had partners that get incredibly quiet and still when they are close to having an orgasm and I’ve had partners that start to get loud and buck their hips or grind into my face. Once you know the signs it gets much easier. Not everyone (including me) is comfortable with a lot of verbal instructions, particularly during intercourse. It can be helpful to develop non-verbal signs with your partner (for example: one hand lightly pulling of my hair means speed up the tongue, two hands lightly pulling my hair means slow down, etc). Non-verbal instructions can start to become very natural and oftentimes become unnecessary, but they do offer a way to enjoy the pleasure that comes with knowing and being in control of the act (like with masturbation) and the spontaneity and freedom that comes from a partner doing the “work”.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for now. I hope this helped somebody, if nothing else it was fun for me to write. Happy orgasms everybody!