Archive for the 'Ethics' Category
May 22nd, 2013 by JasonStotts
by Jason Stotts
If you’ve been reading Erosophia for a while now, you know I’m working on my first nonfiction book currently titled: Eros and Ethos: The Ethics of Modern Sex. It has been going painstakingly slow for quite some time, but I’m happy to announce that the speed of writing has improved and great strides are being made now! Not only that, but Part 1, the first part that contains the primary theory of Eros and Ethos, is now complete in early draft! It’s 110 single spaced pages and 58,000 words. Seeing it all together was such a thrill for me. Now that the book is really taking shape and writing is going much faster, I’m really thrilled with things and can’t wait to get a complete draft so I can go and start editing and bringing things together really tightly. At the rate I’m going now, I hope to be completely done in a year. Perhaps even sooner if I can really push myself.
I hope you guys are as excited about this as I am!
Incidentally, if you are part of the admissions committee in a PhD program in philosophy…feel free to drop me a line. Or the Kinsey Institute, which would be awesome. Or a joint PhD in philosophy at IU with work at Kinsey. Dream spot.
Part 1: Theory
Ch. 1 – Ethics (Done)
- The Necessity of Sexual Ethics
- Death as the Motivation of Ethics
- Virtue as a Means to Happiness
Ch. 2 – Emotions (Done)
- The Problem of Emotions
- The Nature and Development of Emotions
- Philosophy and Emotions
Ch. 3 – Love (Done)
- Challenging the Paradigms of Love
- What Kind of Person is Capable of Love?
- The Nature of Romantic Love
Ch. 4 – Romantic (Erotic/Sexual) Relationships (Done)
- Relationships are not Love
- The bases of intimate Relationships
- Characteristics of proper Intimate Relationships
- Friendship v. Romantic Love
Ch. 5 – Sexual Attraction and Fantasy (Done)
- Cultural Paradigms of Attraction
- The Shallowness of Physical Attraction
- Character Attraction
- Philosophy and its role in sexual attraction
Ch. 6 – Identity, Orientation, and Self-Understanding (Done)
- Understanding Identity and Orientation
- Masculinity and Femininity
Ch. 7 – Sex, Union, and Intimacy (Done)
- The Basic Nature of Sex and Early Considerations
- Sexual Pleasure and Sex as Emotional Response
- Intimacy and Union
Conclusion and Summary of Part 1 (Done)
Part 2: Applications
Ch. 8 – Erotic Decadence (Nearly Done)
- Principles of Ascension and Decadence
- Perversion: Making Sex Decadent
- Sexual Violence
- Inauthentic Love
Ch. 9 – Faith, Mysticism, and Sex
- Virginity, Abstinence, and the Ethics of Denial
- Dualism and Its Implications
- Human Genital Mutilation
Ch. 10 – Reproduction, Progeny, and Family
- Parental Responsibility
- Birth Control
Ch. 11 – Sex for Sale
- Strip Clubs
Ch. 12 – Children and Sexuality
- The Sexual Child
- Pedophilia v. Ephebophilia
Ch. 13 – Relationship, Love, and Sex (Partially Done)
- Same-Sex Marriage
- Relationships: A Continuum of Permissiveness
- Open Relationships and Polyamory
- Polygamy: Polyandry and Polygyny
- Friends and Sex
Ch. 14 – Kink
- The Nature of Kink
Ch. 15 – Public and Private
- Public Nudity and Nude Beaches
Ch. 16 – Obscenity and Legal Issues in Sexuality
- The “Right not to be Offended”
- The Age of Consent
- The Right to Privacy and Sexual Self-Determination
- Elderly Adults and Sex
Ch. 17 – Paradigms of Attraction
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May 10th, 2013 by JasonStotts
by Jason Stotts
Diana Hsieh recently did a really great job discussing the issues surrounding abortion and parental consent. These are complicated issues and Diana does a great job cutting to their core. I recommend you take a listen:
Should minor girls be required by law to obtain parental consent for an abortion? Normally, parents are legally empowered to make medical decisions for their minor children, and minors cannot obtain medical procedures without parental consent. How should that apply in the case of pregnancy? Should pregnancy and abortion be treated differently from other medical conditions? Should parents be allowed by law to force a daughter under 18 to carry a pregnancy to term or to abort against her will? [LINK]
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April 30th, 2013 by JasonStotts
by Jason Stotts
The deadline for CatalystCon West speaker submissions is coming up soon and I’m planning on attending after hearing so many good things about the prior Catalystcons. However, I need some feedback on my proposal. I feel like it’s just a little off and needs some fine-tuning. Take a look at it and if you have any suggestions, let me know!
Speakers should prepare for sessions that run an hour and ten minutes, including at least 20 minutes of open discussion. Panel submissions should consist of no more than four speakers (including a moderator, if applicable) and all speakers for panel sessions must be confirmed prior to submission.
Speaker submissions should be sent in plain text in the body of your email. Email all submissions to: CatalystConSubmissions@gmail.com.
Session description: (250 word max)
Name: Jason Stotts
Bio: (200 word max)
Photo (300-500px wide)
- Conference of the Atlanta Objectivist Society (ATLOSCon): 2012, 2011
- Chicago Objectivist Society Conference (COSCon): 2011
- University of Northern Florida Philosophy Conference: 2006
AV requirements: None.
Title of Session: Reclaiming the Sexual Moral Narrative
The war against sex rages on with fundamentalist christians on the offensive and us on the defensive, against the ropes. But, it doesn’t have to be this way. The weapon they are using against us, against which we have no defense is morality: they have claimed the moral high-ground and we are defenseless without it. Consequently, in the field of sexual ethics, we see nothing but a bleak landscape: prohibitions against this and condemnations about that. But, isn’t there more? Couldn’t sexual ethics actually tell us how to incorporate sex into our lives in a healthy way that serves to improve our lives? It can and it should. Moreover, it was our ceding of the moral high ground to the anti-sex side that weakened our position and forced us to always argue on the defensive. By reclaiming the moral narrative, we can not only have better sex lives, but we can help to reclaim sexual ethics from those who hate the body and our enjoyment of it. We can, in one fell swoop, improve our lives and put the arguments about sex back on fundamental principles.
In this talk I’m going to lay out what a philanthropic (pro-human) sexual ethic looks like and show how this foundation can restructure the field. I will also show how restructuring the arguments in different fields of sexual ethics can take us from being on the defensive to making real headway in the culture. We may not be able to “win” against pundits who would never change their minds anyway, but if we can change the culture, it doesn’t matter. We will have won what we really wanted: a world where sex is a real value in human life.
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April 24th, 2013 by JasonStotts
by Jason Stotts
When I first started studying philosophy, I was surprised at how committed I was to beliefs that I had never really considered. In fact, I seemed to be trapped in a web of ideas that I had obtained through the culture through a kind of mental osmosis. I was committed to this and that, but had never considered the issues and whether I was right to be so committed. Now, some of the beliefs I stayed committed to after reflection, like my beliefs in the sovereignty of the individual, the value of capitalism, and the ethics of egoism. With these views, I came to understand them at a much better level and in a clearer way. I no longer believed them merely because I had believed them at one time, I had reasons for my beliefs and arguments to support them.
Other beliefs, I shed completely. I was never a religious person: I had always questioned the existence of any sort of god, but I still thought that there was a possibility that there might be one. Moreover, I thought of religion as a benevolent force and as something that, while I didn’t participate in it, was a force for good in the world. This, obviously, I have seen past to the true nature of misanthropic nature of religion (especially the Abrahamic religions).
Another belief that I used to hold, and which may surprise some of my readers, is that there was something wrong with “the homosexuals.” I didn’t know many gay people growing up and had this vague idea that they were somehow “broken” in some way. Of course, how could I not think this, since they were living in a violation of nature and flatly flaunting the biological functions of their bodies? Yet, once I learned even just a little about human anatomy and psychology, I quickly realized how silly and ignorant homophobia really is.
Unfortunately, few people ever question their beliefs and I think one reason is that they are afraid to see how little justification they really had for them to begin with and how ignorantly they had actually been living their lives. However, ignorance (lacking knowledge) is not necessarily a moral failure. While there are some things that a person can reasonably be expected to know, and evasion of things that one should know is a moral failure, one cannot be expected to know everything. The moral obligation a person does have is to be constantly learning and growing as a person and to not evade looking into issues that will impact their lives.
I preamble like this to set the context for this: one of my major realizations as I started to study sex in a serious way was how little I actually knew about it. The more I learn about sex, the more I realize I didn’t know and how much of what I did “know” was actually just wrong. Not only that, but my thinking about sex was locked into our cultural assumptions and a very definite conception about what sex is and should be.
I think the ignorance that surrounds sex is absolutely astounding. People tend to think that the way we think about and view sex here in our culture and time is the way it’s always been and the way it has to be. That’s just silly. For example, did you know that:
- In ancient Greece, males were the symbols of beauty and females were not?
- There are cultures where the family name passes through the female line, because any child of the woman is definitely in the genetic family whereas a child of a man may or may not be (this solves the problem of lineage).
- Biologically our bodies evolved to be polysexual (non-monogamous) and the evidence for this is overwhelming (cf: the coronal ridge of the human penis, the size of the human testicles, the different functions of sperm, the cervical crypts in the vagina, the signaling function of breasts, etc).
- Men who do not orgasm frequently enough are much more likely to die of prostate cancer?
- Men have not always been the more sexually aggressive sex? In some cultures (including our own), women were the more sexually active sex and the sexual aggressors.
- That in ancient Greece, a man who only had sex with women or only had attractions to women would have been a cultural outcast?
I think that people who don’t consider sex from a broader perspective are simply being ridiculous. How can you claim any sort of legitimacy about a sexual position when all you understand is your own culture in your own time and place?
Consider this article by Alyssa Goldstein “When Women Wanted Sex Much More Than Men: And how the stereotype flipped.“
In the 1600s, a man named James Mattock was expelled from the First Church of Boston. His crime? It wasn’t using lewd language or smiling on the sabbath or anything else that we might think the Puritans had disapproved of. Rather, James Mattock had refused to have sex with his wife for two years. Though Mattock’s community clearly saw his self-deprivation as improper, it is quite possible that they had his wife’s suffering in mind when they decided to shun him. The Puritans believed that sexual desire was a normal and natural part of human life for both men and women (as long as it was heterosexual and confined to marriage), but that women wanted and needed sex more than men. A man could choose to give up sex with relatively little trouble, but for a woman to be so deprived would be much more difficult for her.
It’s a short overview of some of the ways in which our Western views about the nature of sexuality have changed in the last couple of hundred years. There are lots of books about this kind of thing like Sex at Dawn. There are also lots of books about changes in human physiology and cultures like Sperm Wars, Dover’s Greek Homosexuality, etc.
The problem, though, is that people who are woefully ignorant of sex, nonetheless feel entitled to talk at great length about it as though they were experts. These people often can’t name the parts of the body involved in sex and don’t even understand basic bodily functions like reproduction (like those idiot christians who think that a woman who is raped can’t get pregnant, because their god would never go down into that tainted uterus to deliver a soul). Nevertheless, these ignorant people feel entitled to opine about the morality of sex.
Morality does not come from an imaginary sky-friend. Morality is about helping people live the best kinds of life open to them and this involves understanding human nature and the facts surrounding it. Unless someone understands the physiology of sex, the psychology of sex, the history of sex, and even the philosophical implications of sex, then they shouldn’t be trying to construct a system of sexual ethics. Yet, this is precisely what is going on. These…”experts” can’t even understand their own urges and bodies and yet, try to tell us how to live our lives. They can’t understand that sex has changed throughout the ages and think it has always been the same. Their ignorance leads them to have a particularly pernicious kind of myopia where they can’t see that their simple-minded views are not necessarily true.
The point I’m trying to get at is that ignorance, not knowing things, leads you to not see the broader picture as you often cannot see what you don’t understand. In sex, this is particularly problematic as people try to reason from the way things are right now to human nature and try to posit immutable laws on little to no evidence. This is just completely intolerable.
So, ward yourself against the myopia from ignorance by trying to learn as much as you can and challenging your beliefs and making sure you understand the reasons why you believe things. Especially with regards to sex. Just because things are a certain way in our culture right now does not mean they have always been this way or that this is the best way to live. You need to look at sex throughout time and different places and then decide what works best in your life.
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April 4th, 2013 by JasonStotts
by Jason Stotts
Summary: Our language related to sex must be expanded to capture all of the variations that we see in real life. And we need to understand this because sex is good and a valuable part of a human life. The way we structure our relationships and sex lives has a lot of optionality that depends on the people in the relationship and can include multiple loving relationships or multiple sexual relationships, the right way for any particular couple may not be monosexual monoamory, and this would be fine because polysexuality and polyamory are natural and can be perfectly moral choices. As long as we observe some simple guidelines, leaving societally structured relationships and constructing our own can help us to live the best kind of lives possible.
Continue reading ‘On Polysexuality (Revised)’
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March 12th, 2013 by JasonStotts
by Jason Stotts
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard the story of the “cannibal cop” (Gilberto Valle) who fantasized about killing and eating women in New York. Today he was convicted of plotting to kidnap a woman and improper use of a police database and sentenced for it.
Now, usually I wouldn’t bring this kind of story up on Erosophia, but this case is special. All too many people are focussing on the fact that this man had a fantasy about killing and eating women and discussing how this kind of fantasy is immoral. Moreover, some people are questioning the morality of any kind of fantasy and arguing the christian position that to think a thing is morally the same as doing it, which is obviously false. You can check out the essay I just put up about Fantasy, but there are a couple of points I want to make about this case in particular.
No matter how morally heinous an action may be if committed in real life, there is nothing morally wrong with fantasizing about it. Now, someone may object that even if the fantasizing is not morally wrong, fantasizing about actions that would be morally wrong signals that the fantasizer is an immoral person. This is possible, but the act of fantasizing is still not immoral. Moreover, this position misunderstands the way that a lot of people use fantasy. Many people feel sexually repressed in real life and use fantasy to break out of their sexual blocks. The process of this often is taken to extremes in order to overcome the sexual guilt and shame that is holding them back. Other people fantasize about things that would otherwise be immoral because they are aroused by the sense of violation and transgression that comes from it: the immoral act fantasized is merely a means to their real end. Now, there is one important exception where fantasy may become immoral. If fantasizing about a thing would lead a person to develop a disposition for action in the real world and that action would be immoral, then fantasizing about that thing to the point of creating the disposition would be immoral. But, importantly, it is only because it leads to an immoral action in the real world that it is immoral, it is nothing about the fantasy itself.
So, there is nothing wrong with fantasizing, even about immoral things. However, when the line between fantasy and reality is breached, as is the case with the cannibal cop who started to take concrete steps in the world to achieve the immoral actions of kidnapping and murder, then we must worry about immorality.
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March 12th, 2013 by JasonStotts
by Jason Stotts
Note: This essay is adapted from the lecture I gave at ATLOSCon 2012 on “Sexual Attraction and Fantasy.”
What is fantasy? I’m sure you know what fantasy is, but can you clearly articulate it? Fantasy is one of those things that we all know, but whose exact nature it can be hard to pick out.
Fantasy is more than just that thing you do when you’re masturbating, although it definitely is that. Fantasy, at its root, is creating mental pictures or ideas. Fantasy and imagination are one in the same thing. Etymologically they both mean having to do with images in one’s mind. Today, we draw some distinction between the two and reserve the term “fantasy” primarily for the sexual realm.
Sexual fantasy involves: taking a situation, person, object, etc., and making it sexier; or imagining different ways to enjoy it; or creative and new things to try; or imagining your first time with a new person; or a new sexual position or activity, etc. Fantasy is fundamentally sexual exploration in your head. This is important not only for masturbation, but also for trying to understand your own sexuality and your sexual compatibility with another person
So, what things count as fantasy? What does fantasy subsume in a more concrete form? I think there are four distinct functions of fantasy:
1. Testing whether you want to do something new sexually:
- Whether you want to have sex with a new person
- Whether some particular activity would be exciting
2. Imagining new possibilities:
- Sexual positions
- Pervertables (things that aren’t sex toys that can be used that way)
- Unique scenarios
3. Reliving a sexy past experience:
- remembering and re-experiencing the past.
4. Creating Erotic Excitement or Augmenting a situation:
- For masturbation
- To make what you’re doing more exciting.
There are also two different kinds of fantasy: internal fantasy and external fantasy. Internal fantasy originates in our own mind and we are the source of it. External fantasy we get from a source outside ourselves, like an erotic story, book, or movie. As an aside, this is how pornography functions, as a form of external fantasy. It’s like we can imagine ourselves in the role of the actors in the porn and use it as we would an internal fantasy. The great advantage of internal fantasy is that we can control it and make it exactly what we want. The downside is that our imaginations are limited to our experience and what we can create from it, if we have no knowledge of a thing, then it won’t be part of our fantasy life. The great advantage of external fantasy is that we can be exposed to lots of things we might not have tried, may never have the opportunity to try, or may not even want to do in real life, but still find arousing. The downside is that we can’t control this in any way and often the situations we find aren’t exactly what we want.
Fantasy is more necessary for our sexual lives than you might at first expect. In some ways fantasy is necessary for our everyday sexual experience as well as it provides some of “the spark” that makes our sex lives so much fun. Fantasy is one of the things that takes us out of our regular lives and into “sexy time” as we begin to fantasize about what we might do, or will do, and get our bodies worked up for it. Fantasy plays a large role in sexual arousal and without it we would not get as aroused or become as aroused as quickly. Fantasy is often layered over our experience as it’s happening: we’re thinking about the things we might do or will do before we do them and getting excited about the potential of what is about to happen. Fantasy is also that thing that makes our masturbation so much fun and makes self-stimulation the enjoyable past-time it is. Few people enjoy, or would enjoy, masturbation without fantasy.
When is it okay to fantasize? Most people think that fantasy is a necessarily solo activity, but you can fantasize with your partner and this can make your sex life even more exciting. For example, a couple can fantasize about non-monogamy together while only having sex with each other. You can also act out a fantasy through role-playing: Many couples use role-playing to augment their sexual lives, by acting out fantasies such as “the naughty schoolgirl,” “sex with a stranger,” or “sex with a celebrity.” Many couples also experiment with kink by role-playing BDSM to see if they like aspects of it, like the dominance and submission. On the other hand, there are times when it’s not okay to fantasize. For example, when you’re having sex with your partner, it is wrong to fantasize about them being a different person, unless that’s explicitly part of what you’re doing, as otherwise its deceptive as your partner will think that they are the object of your arousal, when in fact, it will be the object of your fantasy.
One question that I get a lot is: “what is within the appropriate bounds of fantasy?” Many people are worried that they might be fantasizing in an immoral way or about an inappropriate object. They worry that they are somehow being unethical with their fantasy and this stifles their fantasies. I personally don’t think there’s anything that you can fantasize about that’s immoral, with one caveat: If one constantly fantasizes about something that would actually be immoral to do in real life, one has to be careful to not cultivate a disposition to action for that thing in real life. With fantasy, nothing is out of bounds from a moral perspective, since you’re not actually doing anything. You do want to be careful though not to cultivate a strong fantasy that you wouldn’t want in real life lest you start to think you should actually do it. As long as you maintain a separation between fantasy and reality, nothing is out of bounds
Indeed, fantasy can properly include things that you might never want to do in real life for practical reasons. In real life we have to worry about practical considerations like disease, immorality, organization, time, consent, etc. In fantasy, however, we’re free of these considerations and there are no limits to what we can do:
- Do you want a harem of busty young woman who are all virgins and also, inexplicably, sexually skilled?
- Do you want to have sex with that handsome firefighter you met that one time?
- Do you wish your partner would be more aggressive?
- Do you wish you could have sex for hours on end with a string of orgasms?
- Do you wish you could be more adventurous? Have sex underwater or in space?
Fantasy opens your sexual options to the limits of your imagination.
In conclusion, fantasy is an important part of our sexual experience and without it our sex lives would be much impoverished.
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February 17th, 2013 by JasonStotts
by Jason Stotts
I’ve written about having sex with more than one partner before, which I call polysexuality (or non-monogamy), and I think I’ve covered it pretty thoroughly. However, recently a friend of mine was asking me about threesomes and I realized that this discussion was very abstract and while it dealt with the same issues, it did it in a way that may not be accessible to everyone. So, I’ve decided to address threesomes directly here. Note that I will presuppose the series “On Polysexuality,” so please read that first.
The first question we need to ask is: can a threesome be moral? I think the answer is yes and I’ve laid out the reasons in depth in “On Polysexuality.” The short version is that while sex is very important in life and to our happiness, it is not the case that having sex with a person besides your partner necessarily diminishes your capacity to care for your partner or your intimacy together. Moreover, as long as you are choosing the third person for good reasons (you think they are attractive, you think they have a good character, you share values, etc), then there is no concern on that front either. Finally, as long as you and your partner discuss your plans to have a threesome in advance, are both on the same page, and start at a comfortable pace for both of you, then there will be no damage to your relationship. This doesn’t mean that your first threesome will go well, but just that you won’t lose your relationship over it.
Next, we should look at the reasons why a couple might want to invite a third person into the bedroom. There are some reasons that are legitimate and others that aren’t. If for example, you no longer find your partner attractive, but you don’t want to tell them this and you still want sex (so you need another person), this is a bad reason to have a threesome as it is fundamentally dishonest to both the person you profess to love and care for and also to the outside person. On the other hand, if you have a really good marriage but are not sexually compatible, then having a threesome might be a good solution (a better solution would be an open relationship or converting your relationship into a companionate marriage). Generally, and I cover this in “On Polysexuality,” as long as you’re not deceiving your partner or being indiscriminate in your choice of the third person, you’re probably going to be fine. Good reasons include, but are not limited to: wanting to try new things with your partner, wanting to expand your sexual boundaries, wanting to explore bisexuality, wanting to experience compersion with your partner and enjoy them having sex with someone else.
One perk that many couples don’t realize is that the increased arousal from having new partners actually transfers onto your partner as well so you tend to be more attracted to your partner and have more sex with them as well. In fact, many couples who are new to polysexuality are surprised to find that their arousal for their partners is also increased and they experience more passion in their own relationship. Thus, polysexuality actually improves the sex in your relationship as well as providing a new source of excitement.
So, let’s say that you’ve cleared all the moral hurdles (again, refer to “On Polysexuality”) and you and your partner are ready to have a threesome. Now what? You need to think about several practical issues:
1) Questions about the third person:
- Who is the third person?
- What sex should they be?
- Should it be someone you know well like a friend or a stranger you will never see again?
- Should you meet several times before the time of the threesome or just meet right before?
The choice of the third person is important. Not only because it can make the entire encounter either moral or immoral, but also because a good choice of a third can make the entire threesome go smoothly, while a bad choice of a third can make it impossible for it to go well. The person should be sexually open, they should be respectful of your existing relationship, they should be easy to communicate with and should be open in their communication, the person should be attractive to at least one of the partners (or both if the threesome is a bisexual or homosexual threesome), and the person should be discreet if the couple values privacy. Although it’s not something you’d know about a person you just meet, but the person should be able to be sexually dynamic and take cues (verbal and nonverbal) from the couple and if you know a person well, you can probably judge if they’d be able to do this. Having a good third person can make all the difference in the world. You need to talk to your partner about what you want and don’t want and try to be explicit and think of as many things as you can. Don’t get too caught up in the concretes of physical appearance, as personality and character are more important here (like most places) than physical looks. For example, if you’re going to wait until you find a 5’9” woman with blonde hair, blue eyes, D breasts, who is bisexual, and an Olympic deepthroater, you might be waiting for a long time.
2) Questions about yourselves:
- Are you going to jump into a no-holes-barred encounter or are you going to start more slowly with the third person merely watching?
- Are you going to use barriers (condoms, dental dams, gloves, etc) for all sex acts or only for certain sex acts?
- What happens after you cum and you’re done? Does the third have to rush out? Can they stay the night?
- Are you going to drink or use recreational drugs before you start?
Once you have a third person in mind, you need to consider how you want the threesome to go. Are all three people going to be active at once? Are they going to take turns while someone watches? Is everyone going to be sexual with everyone else? Does anyone have boundaries that you need to be aware of? Is it going to be a one-off experience or will there be several encounters? If it’s going to be a one-off experience, you’re going to have to consider that this means you’ll have to do everything you want that one time and so going slowly might be harder. If you have several encounters planned, then you have the option of ramping up the level of action each time to make sure everyone is still okay. But, you should never feel pressured (from your partner or even the situation) to go farther than you’re ready. It’s much better to not get to some things you wanted to do and do them down the road instead of going too far and having a bad experience. If all you are comfortable doing is a threesome that includes only oral sex, that’s still a “real threesome” and can be a lot of fun. It’s better to ramp up slowly to the actions that you might be hesitant about to make sure you won’t be bothered by them instead of just jumping in (although in some ways this does depend on your personality).
One distinction that has grown up in the swinging community is between couples who are “soft-swap,” who only engage in manual and oral sex with other couple, and “full-swap,” who also engage in vaginal (or anal). I point this out because having vaginal or anal sex is not a necessary condition of having a successful threesome and a threesome can still be fun and exciting without them.
3) What kinds of boundaries are you going to have:
- Is kissing allowed?
- Is cuddling allowed?
- Are certain positions or sexual acts restricted?
- Is it okay if one person stops or does everyone have to stop?
- If one person leaves the room can things continue?
- Are pictures allowed?
This brings us to our third consideration: what are the boundaries? Are both partners comfortable with kissing, touching, oral, anal, vaginal, cuddling, etc.? Many people are surprised to find that affectionate acts bother them more than sexual acts and they never discussed this before heading into the threesome. As a couple you need to discuss everything that you want to happen and everything that you think might happen. Is the third person meeting you at your house and you’re going to have sex in your bed? Are you meeting at a hotel? Is the third person just coming over for drinks and a threesome? Will they need to leave immediately afterwards? Or is it going to be a drawn out affair with dinner, drinks, a threesome, and post coital chat.
If you can’t talk about it, you damn well shouldn’t be doing it.
You need to discuss what kinds of boundaries will make you comfortable. I think you should discuss two different kinds of boundaries: soft-boundaries and hard-boundaries. Soft-boundaries are preferences that you think you would rather not do, but that you might be open to in the future or the right situation. On the other hand, hard-boundaries are things you absolutely don’t want to do. While soft boundaries are flexible over time, they should not be renegotiated while actively engaged in a threesome. Also, many couples find that their boundaries disappear over time and that things that were at one point hard boundaries, become soft boundaries or even fade all together with more experience.
4) Communication and “being on the same page”:
- What happens if only one of you is having a good time?
- What happens if someone feels left out?
The fourth thing to consider is this: you’ve gotten to the point where you know who you want to the threesome with, you know what your boundaries are and how you want it to go and you’re both on board. The threesome starts and one of you is uncomfortable and not having a good time or even upset, what now? Do you “take one for the team” and just grin and bear it? Do you throw on the emergency break and bring things to a screeching halt? Do you say that you are uncomfortable and ask to do something else or try again later? You should consider that even though you both want to have a threesome, the fantasy of it and the reality of it can be very different. Personally, I think that taking one for the team is a terrible idea that has the potential to hurt your relationship with your partner and I don’t advocate doing things with which you’re uncomfortable. It’s much easier to fix things at the “I’m not so sure I’m ok with this” stage than the “Holy shit, I can’t believe you did that, you bastard” stage. Your partner may not have any idea that anything is wrong unless you communicate this to them, if you don’t and are upset afterwords or later, they will feel blindsided and defensive.
Another option besides using the emergency stop is to use a graduated scale of telling your partner you’re uncomfortable, like: green=good, yellow=slightly uncomfortable, red=stop. You could also just openly express how you’re feeling and what you want to change with words, like: “Honey, I feel like our third is getting all the attention and I would like a turn too.” However you choose to express yourself, make sure that you are clear to your partner about what you want and need and that your comfort is also being maintained.
As an aside, I once heard a story about a couple who was fine having sex with other people (this couple was “full swap, same room”, which meant that they’d engage in vaginal penetration with another couple as long as they all stayed in the same room), but as soon as the man orgasmed, they both had to be done (even if the other man and his partner hadn’t finished yet). This brings up a good point for you to consider if you’ve never had a threesome before: how are you going to feel about it after you cum and the excitement subsides? Research shows that arousal overrides disgust and things that might be exciting and fun while you’re aroused, might become disgusting after you orgasm. Now a full explanation of this issue deserves its own essay, but its closely bound up in how we morally view sexual acts and shame around sexuality. Nevertheless, it can be an unexpected problem, so keep it in mind.
So, now that you’ve really given it some thought and you feel like you’re as ready as you’ll ever be, what now? Well, now one or both of you have to approach the third person and see if they’re interested. Hopefully, they’ve shown some kind of interest before this or you know them to be open to sexual experimentation and trying new things. I think it’s best to approach the third person together, so that they don’t get the wrong idea that one of you is looking for an affair. But, since you probably know this person already, you can figure that out for yourselves, given what you know of the person. If you’re trying to find someone to have a threesome with and you don’t want it to be someone you already know, I would recommend a “lifestyle” website, like Kasidie where you can find someone who will be interested in the same things and who will hopefully abide by the swinger rules, since swingers have created their own subculture with rules to help this kind of sex go well. You could also use OKCupid, but if you’re going to do that, you need to be really upfront with your intentions and not deceive someone that you might also be interested in a relationship (unless you are). I would probably not use Craigslist, but that’s up to you.
Before you actually attempt to have a threesome in real life, make sure that fantasizing about it, talking aloud about it with your lover, and even fantasizing together about it during sex is arousing for both of you. If it’s not hot in your fantasies, it’s going to be even worse in reality.
Lastly, please do remember that your third is still a person and you should take their needs and feelings into account. Your third is not a sex toy and you need to treat them with respect , especially if you want the opportunity for a repeat performance.
Now, to take a different tack, the foregoing is primarily considerations for people who are already in relationships. However, what if you’re the third? The third can be a single person or someone who is already part of another relationship. I think that being the third is more complicated than being in a couple in some ways, but easier in others. Whether you’re single or in a relationship, as the third you need to get to know the couple. You need to make sure you’re comfortable interacting with them and that you all get along. You need to make sure that you clearly understand what is being asked of you (are they expecting you to sexually interact with both of them or just one of them?) and if they have any boundaries of which you need to be aware. Now, if you’re single, you need to make sure that you don’t develop the habit of taking sex lightly and divorcing it from values and intimacy (I discuss this at length in “On Polysexuality”). There can be great value in fun and novel sexual experiences, but this should not come at the price of sacrificing your ability to have true intimacy with a partner, which is an important part of happiness. If you’re the third and you’re already in a good relationship, this is much less of a risk for you. But, even someone who is in a relationship can end up divorcing sex from values and intimacy, even if you never have sex with anyone but your partner. Maintaining the close connection between sex, values, and intimacy is more about your approach and your own values than how many sexual partners you have.
Now, you might ask whether this doesn’t take the fun and excitement out of a threesome. I don’t think it does. There is no doubt that a spontaneous threesome can be a lot of fun. However, it also has the highest risk of something going wrong. This isn’t to say that I’m against spontaneous threesomes, but I think that if you’re already in a couple and you have never talked to your partner about it, they are ill-advised.
I hope that this essay has helped with some of the moral and practical considerations that you should be thinking about before you have a threesome. If you have more questions, feel free to leave a comment below or email me at Jason(at)JasonStotts.com.
As a closing thought, just remember that your relationship is your own and you should structure it in a way that works for the people in it and if threesomes are something you want to do, embrace it and live your life with integrity, no matter what other people might think if they found out. Besides, it’d be a far better world if we could all be who we really are.
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