Questions about Raising Children in Polyamorous Households

Like I posted about the other day, I did a “taking Questions” session on Quora about raising children in polyamorous households.

I got 5 questions, which is the most I’ve received in any Taking Questions session so far. For those interested, here are the questions:

Are some adults in the family more involved in the parenting process than others? How is this split to most benefit the children?

What are some approaches to balancing overnight visits between non-nesting partners alongside co-parenting commitments?

In certain cases, it’s the parents’ word against that of the whole world. What should be the parental approach to correct a child’s misinformation on topics such as homosexuality or polyamory?

Do children raised in polyamorous households get bullied because of it and if so what do they do?

How did you talk to your children about healthy relationships?

I try to do a Taking Questions session on Quora every few weeks. So if there is a topic you’d like me to talk about, feel free to suggest it in the comments!

(For more on raising kids in polyamorous households, see my older blog posts here.)

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Protecting Against STD/STIs: Abstinence/Closed Relationships

Edited for typos, grammar oopsies and stigmatizing language. April 12, 2018.

As should be obvious by now, I am not in any way advocating for any specific relationship style — neither abstinence nor closed relationships would be a comfortable fit for me. There is certainly nothing wrong with open relationships or lots and lots of good sex. But for some people they are valid life choices, so we’re gonna talk about them.

Abstinence-only programs like to say that if you don’t have sex, you can’t get STIs. They are wrong. You can get infected with both forms of herpes, HIV and Hep B without ever touching any genitals in any fashion. These infections are considered STIs because they are often transmitted sexually, they are not only transmitted sexually.

That said, it is true that the best protection available against STIs really is to not have sex outside of sexually exclusive relationships. Really doesn’t matter how many people are in the relationship — whether you have 2 people or 10 people or even 200 people, if all of them join the relationship as virgins (by which I mean, never having touched another person’s genitals, ever), and none of them ever have sex (by which I mean touching another person’s genitals or having their genitals touched any conceivable configuration, including hand jobs, using toys, and other stuff that yes really is sex) with anyone outside the relationship, then the chance of any of them getting and STI are extremely low. The more people in the relationship, the higher the risk of something crazy happening, because statistics is like that. But it is fairly safe to say that is you have a sexually exclusive group of 5 or fewer people (none of whom are drug users), your chances of getting any STI other than (possibly) herpes is damn near incalculable.

Herpes is the real joker in the deck. The blood born stuff (HIV and Hep) you are going to be safe from unless you play with needles (either S&M play or drug use) or just get insanely unlucky. Herpes, compared to most STIs is insanely easy to spread. Partly, this is because herpes (both HSV1 and HSV2) can infect the mouth (and other areas) as well as the genitals. You can get either version of herpes by any form of skin contact with an infected area. Sometimes herpes (especially HSV1) can be spread by sharing sex toys, lipstick or drinks. This means that if your best friend goes down on someone with HSV2, they can get an oral infection of herpes, and the next time you and your friend share a soda, you can get infected. Now your closed polyam quad is exposed to herpes, even though all of you were negative and none of you had sex outside the quad.

Aside from herpes, total abstinence outside of sexually exclusive relationships has a near perfect success rate. If STIs are a real concern, and you can manage it, then establishing a closed relationship with people who have tested negative of STIs you want to be sure you won’t get can be the best way to protect yourselves.

STIs and Cheating

The down side of abstinence or closed relationships as protection against STIs is that staying abstinent or closed just doesn’t work for everyone. Most polyamorists are familiar with the high rate of cheating among monogamous couples. What you may not know is that cheating (defined by the individual) is actually pretty common in polyam relationships.

Now, here’s the kicker when it comes to STIs. A study found that people who cheat are more likely to have sex without condoms, than people who are openly non-monogamous. Now, this study was comparing monogamous cheaters to non-monogamous people, but the results may apply to polyam cheaters. If you can’t deal with a closed relationship, that’s okay. It’s better to have an open relationship and negotiate a safer sex agreement then risk your health and the health of your partners by going behind their backs.

 

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This post is part of the Safer Sex Blog Series.

Preventing STIs: Be a Smart Slut – Open Relationships, Promiscuity and STIs

I’m always happy when I only need to make minimal updates to a post. It means I did it right the first time around. Only real change is that the at-home HIV tests are now “available” instead of “coming soon”. Let’s get a big cheer for that! Updated and reposted April 12, 2018

The past few weeks, talking about ways to prevent STIs, one thing that came up repeatedly was the fewer people you have sex with, and the more closed your sexual circle, the less likely you are to be infected with an STI. Which does not mean you should restrict yourself to just a few sex partners or that closed relationships are in some mystical way ‘better’ than open ones. This is about risk assessment.

The more often you cross a street, the more likely you are to get hit by a car. The more often you have sex, the more chances your birth control will fail. The more you eat, the greater your risk of getting food poisoning. If anyone suggests you restrict yourself to a starvation diet to reduce your risk of getting food poisoning I hope you tell them to take a long walk off a short pier. Seriously.

But the same way you know not to eat food that smells off, if you are going to have a large number of sex partners, and frequently enough that STI testing is becoming increasingly fallible as a method of self protection, then be a smart slut. Learn the signs and symptoms of those STIs that have obvious signs and symptoms. Check with your local health department about what STIs are common in your area, and which barrier method provides the best protection. Invest in a few of the over-the-counter HIV test kits.

If you want to have an open relationship, be a slut, pick up one night stands, whatever makes you happy, there is nothing wrong with that. But do it knowing your risks. Only you can choose the level of risk you are comfortable with. So educate yourself, make your choice for you, and don’t let any of the sex-negative slut shaming idiots tell you otherwise.

Did you learn something? Please support my work.

This post is part of the Safer Sex Blog Series.

Preventing STIs: Testing Agreements

This is one of the few posts so far to need significant updates. I removed a lot of stuff that reinforced stigma against STIs. Facts are the same, presentation is different. Updated March 29, 2018.

Just going to skim this one, cause I’ll be delving into STI testing in some depth later. But since regular testing is one of the main ways polyam folk tend to protect themselves, it deserves a mention here.

The idea behind using STI testing to preventing getting infected, is that if you never have sex with anyone who has STIs you don’t want to risk getting, you are safe. So if you show a STI test to everyone you have sex with, and everyone you have sex with shows STI tests to you, and you don’t have (unprotected) sex with someone who has an STI test you don’t want to get, you’re both safe right? Maybe.

STI tests are good ways to stop the spread of STIs. And they do provide some protection again getting infected. Over all, if you are going to have multiple sex partners in a non-exclusive relationship, getting regular STI tests is a damn good idea. But, it isn’t perfect. (I should make that the theme of this section – “Preventing STIs: Nothing’s Perfect”) There are no hard and fast numbers on what kind of protection getting tested gives you. This is partly because everyone has different testing practices, and partly because every clinic tests for different STIs. That last is another way of saying that STI tests almost never test for every STI. In fact, I have never heard of any clinic or lab testing for every possible STI outside of the rare research study trying to learn about how prevalent STIs are.

Which is one of the big reasons that STI testing doesn’t provide perfect protection against getting ANY STI. If the tests don’t cover every STI, then you can’t know for sure if you or your partners are STI free. Which means you may well be passing around STIs and not know it.

This is one reason why it’s important to learn about STIs yourself and decide which ones you really want to protect yourself against.

The good news is STIs most people want to protect against, like HIV and Hep B do get tested for pretty much everywhere The other hole in the protection STI protection gives you is dormancy. It takes time for an infection to show up on a test. You have probably heard that HIV can take anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 months to show up in a test. (Semi-good news: sexual transmission almost always shows up within a month, 3 months max. It’s actually the method of transmission that shows up the fastest.) However, the dormancy can still leave you unprotected.

Say you get together with partner X for the first time. Partner X has an STI test they got two weeks ago showing they are STI negative. Partner X hasn’t had sex with anyone since the test. But partner X did have sex with someone a week before getting tested. Partner X may have gotten an infection and it would not have shown up in their STI test. But they can pass it on to you.

In general, STI tests provide more protection when you have fewer partners, and your partners have fewer partners, and etc. If you get involved with someone new every month, and they get involved with someone new every month, the protection testing provides drops significantly. If you get involved with one or two new people a year, and they get involved with one or two new people a year, STI testing gives a fair of protection. However there is a flip side, and a very important one. STI testing isn’t just about protecting yourself. STI testing is also about protecting others. Regular STI testing is the best way to find out about an infection before it gets passed on to someone else. So testing actually provides two layers of protection. It gives you some protection against infections and if you get infected, it gives you a chance to prevent the infection from being passed to anyone else.

What to learn more? See exclusive excerpts from my upcoming book Safer Sex for the Non-Monogamous by joining Jess’ Pack.

This post is part of the Safer Sex Blog Series.

Polyamory on Purpose Guides Sale

Almost exactly 5 years ago I released my first book, Polyamory and Pregnancy.

The last five years haven’t gone anything like I expected, but I did get another polyamory book out and got a lot of good shit done. Today I want to celebrate those 5 years. So for the next few weeks, Polyamory and Pregnancy and The Polyamorous Home are on sale for 40-50% off in both ebook and paperback.

If You’ve Been Waiting to Get Your Copy, Now Is the Time

As one of my Amazon reviews says, both books are “What is says on the tin.” Polyamory and pregnancy is all about, well, polyamory and pregnancy. The Polyamorous Home, ditto, all types of polyamorous homes including (yes) a section on solo-poly. They’ve been described as polyamory 101 books, but they are written FOR polyamorous people, so if you aren’t familiar with polyamory or are looking for an intro to polyamory book, look elsewhere first, then come back to learn more.

Polyamory and Pregnancy on Amazon

And from other retailers

The Polyamorous Home on Amazon

And from other retailers

Please remember to leave a review!

Discounting the books by this much means for some of these sales I’ll be getting paid pennies. Please help me out by leaving a review so other folks can find my books.

Many people don’t realize how critical reviews are to authors. For one example, Amazon will begin promoting a book in the “If you like this, you might like that” section of the website only after the book gets a certain number of reviews. Please leave reviews for authors whenever your spoons/time allows!

Don’t miss my fiction

I’ve got a fantasy novel and a few short stories out as well.

Protecting Against STIs: Barrier Method

Updates today include: updated information based on new research/resources, adding information about dental dams, and changing terms for condoms to the inclusive “external” and “internal” condoms. updated March 7, 2018.

 

Person stuff: I want to say thanks again to everyone who donated to help me fund my visit with my kids and to those who sent prayers/good wishes/thoughts our way. A very great time was had by all, including visiting family, hiking trips, museum trips, and catching a carnival.
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Okay, back to our regular programming.

As I mentioned in my last post, the well-known refrain in STI prevention is ‘barrier method’. Barrier method usually means a condom (external or internal), which prevents direct contact between the genitals. For all their problems, condoms are the only effective method for actually stopping several STIs jumping from one person to another. What many people do not realize is that a cervical cap can also be an effective barrier method against certain STIs. Every other method for preventing STIs is basically about making sure no one you are having sex with has currently-infectious STIs. (Exception: PrEP, which is specific to HIV/AIDS and will be covered in another post.)

CONDOMS

Condoms do not protect against all STIs. They do not protect 100% against the STIs they are effective against. However, they are probably the best thing going. External condoms and internal condoms offer different levels of protection against different STIs. The protection offered by external condoms has been more thoroughly studied, so consider the information on internal condoms incomplete pending further research.

External Condoms

External condoms (commonly called ‘male condoms’ or just ‘condoms’) are usually made of latex, though there are non-latex varieties for people with latex allergies. They go on over the penis and trap semen. They also prevent direct contact between the penis or sex toy and the vagina, anus or mouth during intercourse. (Yes, condoms can be used during oral sex as well if there is any chance one of you has an STI. They can also be used on shared sex toys to prevent STI transfer.) Here is a decent step-by-step guide to putting on an external condom.

External condoms provide protection against STIs transmitted through genital fluids, including:

  • HIV
  • chlamydia
  • gonorrhea
  • trichomoniasis
  • HPV

Depending on where the infection is, external condoms may provide protection against:

  • genital herpes
  • syphilis
  • chancroid

The CDC has the following advice for using external condoms:

  • Use a new condom with each sex act (i.e., oral, vaginal, and anal).
  • Carefully handle the condom to avoid damaging it with fingernails, teeth, or other sharp objects.
  • Put the condom on after the penis is erect and before any genital, oral, or anal contact with the partner.
  • Use only water-based lubricants (e.g., K-Y Jelly, Astroglide, AquaLube, and glycerin) with latex condoms. Oil-based lubricants (e.g., petroleum jelly, shortening, mineral oil, massage oils, body lotions, and cooking oil) can weaken latex and should not be used.
  • Ensure adequate lubrication during vaginal and anal sex, which might require the use of exogenous water-based lubricants.
  • To prevent the condom from slipping off, hold the condom firmly against the base of the penis (or sex toy) during withdrawal, and withdraw while the penis is still erect.

Note – natural condoms (those made from natural membranes) are not effective in preventing STIs).

Internal Condoms

Internal condoms (commonly knows as “female condoms”) are made of nitrile and are inserted into the vagina or anus. A ring at the base of the condom is intended to it in place by the cervix. When using internal condoms for anal sex, care needs to taken to keep the condom in place. internal condoms flare at the top, covering part or all of the labia/butt. The best guide I’ve been able to find to using internal condoms is here. If you know of a better one, please let me know. Internal condoms should be used in the same circumstances as external condoms, but internal and external condoms should never be used together – the friction will cause one or both to break.

All the research I have found on internal condoms has been on vaginal use. They are probably just as effective for anal use, but we don’t know for sure.

Current research suggests that internal condoms offer protection against the same STIs that external condoms do. Research into how effective they are is ongoing.

Internal condoms cover a wider area than external condoms, and so may provide better protection against:

  • genital herpes
  • syphilis
  • chancroid

Except for the bit about removing the condom, the guidelines from the CDC above apply equally to internal condoms.

CERVICAL DIAPHRAGMS

Cervical diaphragms are caps that are placed over the cervix, so that semen cannot enter the uterus. Unlike condoms, cervical diaphragms are reusable and can last up to two years. Most information sources will say the diaphragms do not protect against STIs. This is debatable. Diaphragms definitely do not protect against the STIs that most often discussed. Diaphragms MAY protect against some STIs. (Sources: 1, 2, 3) A cervical diaphragm, as the name suggests, can ONLY be used for vaginal intercourse.

Cervical diaphragms may provide some protection against:

  • cervical gonorrhea
  • chlamydia
  • trichomoniasis

Diaphragms may be confused with cervical caps. Cervical caps are smaller than diaphragms, and do not provide protection against STIs.

It is worth noting that diaphragms definitely do NOT provide protection against HIV.

Dental Dams

Dental dams are squares of polyurethane or latex that are placed over the vulva or anus prior to oral sex. Use of a dental dam protects against STIs that can be transmitted through oral sex, including

  • herpes
  • genital warts
  • HIV

Dental dams should only be used once. If you don’t have or don’t have access to dental dams, you can make one out a latex external condom. DO NOT make a dental dam out of a non-latex condom, including all internal condoms, which are made of nitrile. (Saliva is a digestive fluid, it requires different types of barriers than genital fluids.) The CDC has a guide for making a dental dam out of an external condom.

Do you use a barrier method for STI protection? Please leave a comment on how your polycule uses barrier methods and your thoughts/feelings.

More on Polyamory, Safe Sex, and STIs

Please remember to support my work.

Polyamory on Purpose: Getting Over Burnout

It took a while, and for a while, I wasn’t sure it would happen, but I’m starting to want to work on my Polyamory on Purpose stuff again.

I’m NOT going back to the old set up, where PoP was my main focus and I spent two hours a day on it between blog and books. My fiction and other writing were afterthoughts. That’s HOW I got burnt out in the first place.

So What Am I Doing?

I’m not sure what exactly I am going to do, whether I’m going to figure out a schedule for what projects I work on when, including Polyamory on Purpose, just work on what I feel like when I feel like it except when I have a deadline, whether I’m going to start blogging PoP regularly again or just blog occasionally or not blog PoP at all and just stick with writing the books.

Right now I’m leaning towards only updating the old blogs and working on Polyamory on Purpose books*, not writing any new blogs. It rubs me the wrong way to leave several blog series unfinished, but it was the blog, more than anything, that burnt me out. But beyond that, I don’t know what I’ll be doing.

One thing I WON’T be doing is pushing myself. That’ll send me right back into burn out territory and create even more delay.

So the good news is: More Polyamory on Purpose!

The bad news is: It’s Coming (Unknown)!

Thanks to everyone who has stuck with me through all the change and upheavals the last few months. The changes aren’t going away, but it turns out, neither is Polyamory on Purpose.

I’ll keep you updated as I figure out what’s going on. Until next time!

*If you’re curious what I’ve got coming in PoP books, I have Safer Sex for the Non-Monogamous drafted but needing major revision. I have Polyamory and Kink outlined.

Get exclusive access to draft sections of Safer Sex by joining Jess’ Pack on Mighty Networks.

STIs Protection (Introduction)

Minimal changes here. Mostly just changed STD/STI to STI. The biggest change is the last sentence of the post, which wasn’t there in any form in the original. I intend to spend a bit more time directly addressing STI stigma this time around, starting with a new post inserted into the series next week.

The bit at the end about a trip is from when this post was first written. I’m leaving it there bc it’s part of the history of the blog and why the hell not? updated 11/16/17

Protection against STIs

If you grew up in the 80s and 90s you likely heard the refrain of ‘barrier method’ (a euphemism for ‘condom’) as the only way to have sex without risk of STI. Like many simplistic answers to complex problems it is partly accurate, but leaves out a whole lot.
In theory, the best way to avoid STI is to not have sex with anyone who has an STI. If you and all your sexual partners are regularly tested for STIs, you shouldn’t need to worry, right? Unfortunately, this only works in theory.
The truth is that while STI testing is available at reasonable cost or free in most areas of the US, Canada and Europe (can’t comment on the rest of the world) that it is rare for STI testing to cover all possible infections. For instance, most don’t bother testing for herpes unless you have visible lesions. (Why? Because the test is notoriously unreliable otherwise. More on that another week.)
In addition, as mentioned last week, there are STIs that can infect you without any sexual contact. So even not having sex at all doesn’t provide 100% protection. The most important thing you can do, for yourself and your sexual partners is get it through your heads that there is no such thing as fully protecting yourself from STIs. All you can do is manage your risks.
The second most important thing you can do is understand that most of the time, getting an STI is not the end of the world. Or even your sex life. (More on this next week.)
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Sorry for the late (and short) post. Getting ready for this trip has cut unto my time and sanity, I’m afraid. So rather than write a shitty post, I’m stopping here and I’ll continue the topic next time.
Be well all, I’ll be back in two weeks.

Polyamory and Finance: Risk or Safety?

Building on previous posts, today we’re talk about the first of your financial priorities: risk or safety.

Risk or Safety

At first glance, you might ask why anyone would prioritize risk. The short version is that in money stuff, risk is usually tied to opportunity.

As a general rule, the more you have, the more you can afford to risk. When you realize that risk is tied to opportunity, you begin to understand who it is easier for the rich to get richer than for the poor to get rich.

Starting a new company is a risk–but if that company is successful you can have more money AND set your own hours.

Switching jobs is a risk–but if that risk is successful you can have a better paying job, or a healthier work environment, or be at a company that offers better advancement opportunities.

Investing is risk, taking a loan is a risk, paying for a certificate course so you can try for a different career is a risk.

There’s no one right answer

Whether you choose to risk of play it safe is ultimately a personal choice. There are very valid arguments to focus on safety if you are poor–but there are also arguments for risking if you pick your risks carefully.

And the same applies no matter how much money you have.

It’s not binary

Like most things, this isn’t a binary choice. It’s a spectrum with risk and safety on the two extreme ends. And your situation will change what is a risk and what is safety. For most people, going back to school will be a big risk, especially with what tuition is these days. But some companies have programs where they will pay for you to go back to school. In that case the going back to school may be safer than keeping your current job because you aren’t paying the tuition, your company will be less likely to lay you off (because they’ve invested in your tuition) and you’ll have a near-guaranteed higher paying job once you graduate.

So…. Polyamory?

How polyamory affects this decision is largely a matter of the decisions you’ve made about your polyamory. If you have kept your money completely unentwined and have made no financial commitments to or with your polyam partners, then risk or safety is entirely up to your personal preference.

Commitments

The more commitments you have made, the more you will usually need to lean toward safety to be sure you can keep those commitments. With no commitments, you can risk everything. With commitments, you can risk only what you haven’t committed or else you are risking breaking those commitments.

Again, this is easier for rich folks because their “everything is bigger. Someone with money can risk what would be “everything” for someone poor and have a cushion left over so they aren’t risking the commitments they may have made.

Entwinement

If your finances are entwined with other peoples–joint bank accounts, joint budgets, etc, then this decision isn’t yours to make alone. you need to talk with the partners you share finances with and come to an agreement on what level of risk and/or safety everyone is comfortable with.

 

This really isn’t a polyamory issue

If you’ve been paying attention, you may have noticed that nothing I’ve discussed here (or in the last three posts) is REALLY specific to polyamory. It could apply to any situation where you are (or aren’t) dealing with the questions of sharing finances and how to handle finances

Joreth is fond of saying that there are no polyamory problems, only relationship problems. I don’t entirely agree, but in this case it definitely applies. But it’s kind of like learning to do a math problem by rote without understanding it. In monogamy, everything works a certain way and people rarely talk about it and never really break down the individual decisions that are made. We know that 5*3=15, without understanding what that really means.

So when we’re presented with 6*4=?, or “how do we handle finances in a polyamorous relationship” we don’t know how to start figuring it out. Not until we break the situation down into individual pieces, the way I’ve been doing here.

Read excerpts from my upcoming book Safer Sex for the Non-Monogamous