I’m super excited! In a few days, I’m going on a big trip to a country I’ve never visited before. By myself. I never travel alone. And I’m a little cagey about discussing it with friends and family, but it’s hard to travel to another continent without actually telling anyone. Who needs to know anything about it? And how do I explain it – to others, to myself?

So I try words on for size: some true, some potentially true, and some definitely not true.

“I’m going on a trip.”

“I’m going on a vacation overseas. No, Wolf isn’t coming.”

“Wolf is too busy with his thesis to do any travelling until it’s done.”

“It’s difficult for Wolf to travel these days, what with needing a blood test every two weeks.”

“He’s not interested in this destination. This trip is for me.”

“He can focus on the thesis and I get a break from it for a while.”

“I’m visiting a friend.”

“I have a girlfriend who’s living there.”

“I’m visiting a good friend.”

“I’ll be staying with my friend.”

“…my friend and his family.”

“I’m visiting my boyfriend.”

“…my lover.”

“…a dom.”

“…my dom.”

“…my Dom.”

“We met when I was studying overseas.”


“…through friends.”

“We met… around.”

“Oh yes, I’m taking advantage of a layover to visit some other friends on the way.”

“I planned this trip with a layover so en route I’m briefly visiting a friend, who recently declared that he loved me, and I’ve invited myself to crash at his house. Did I mention I once had a crush on him? And then I’m going to hang out with an ex-boyfriend.”

“Sightseeing? Well, I’m going to a couple of major places but otherwise just hanging out. I don’t really know where I’ll be — my friend is organizing everything. Yes, it’s very kind of him.”

“We’ve discussed the itinerary and my interests. There are a couple of things that we’re going to do because I want to, but otherwise I’m putting myself in his hands and just going along for the ride.”

“I’ve asked permission to do a couple of things, which he has told me that he’ll allow, but otherwise I expect to do as I’m told.”

“There will be local outings. There will be a flight. There will be leather cuffs. Not necessarily in that order.”

“I’m not sure where exactly we’re going, but it doesn’t really matter because the only scenery that’s guaranteed is interior. You know, hotel rooms.”

“I’m travelling thousands of miles for sex. Maybe. Definitely travelling, for maybe-sex. For Schrodinger’s sex.”

“I’m going on a sex vacation. The shows (every hour on the hour) include spankings, floggings, and fuckings, the climax is a climax and everyone screams. Kind of like a roller coaster, or a log ride. No, you don’t get a plastic cape if you sit in the splash zone.”

“Don’t expect me to post many photos to Facebook; the number of photos seems to be inversely proportional to the fun I’m having, or I take loads, get overwhelmed, and post none.”

“I don’t expect to post photos because I’ll mostly be hanging out with my friend.”

“…because we’ll probably be doing things where you wouldn’t post the photos to Facebook.”

“I might post photos, not on Facebook, but on my anonymous sex blog that you don’t know about, and they won’t be of scenery but of my reddened ass, inter alia. A connoisseur will be able to discern whether the marks are from a bare-hand spanking, a paddle, a flogger, a cane, a crop or a single-tail whip.”

“My husband is dropping me off at the airport. During my layover, I’m visiting a man who loves me and an ex-boyfriend. I’m going to get picked up on far side by my boyfriend… lover… Dom. Should be interesting.”

review: A Life Less Monogamous

So this is a new thing for me – a book review! I hope you enjoy it.

Cooper S. Beckett
A Life Less Monogamous
Chicago: Hump & Circumstance Press, 2016
318 pages, paperback, also e-book and audiobook formats
ISBN (Paperback): 978-1518685712
Available from CooperSBeckett.com

Ryan and Jennifer Lambert married young and are now anxiously confronting relationship bed death at the ripe old ages of 32 and 31, respectively. Their sex life may have tanked, but they love each other and want to make it work, which is why they’ve been going to couples therapy — not that it seems to be helping. They just can’t find the spark. And truth be told, their lives are rather bland. The Lamberts are the youngest among their circle of friends, three other couples all in their 30s, who are also bland, bored, and seemingly just clocking time until retirement.

And then at a Christmas party, the Lamberts meet Bruce and Paige Shepard: in their mid-40s, they’re vivacious and have an unfamiliar — and attractive — zest for life. Who are these people? Intrigued, the Lamberts decide to try to make some new friends, so Ryan contacts the party’s host to get the Shepards’ phone number, at which point the host takes it upon himself to warn Ryan that the Shepards are swingers. And Ryan makes the call anyway…

In the hands of a typical writer, swinging would likely be demonized and used as a source of conflict to drive the plot, and so it was refreshing though not surprising that the author (a swinger himself) took a compassionate, insider’s approach instead. This book looks realistically at the sorts of challenges that people may face when finding their way in the lifestyle – mostly revolving around issues of insecurity and jealousy. Such a non-hand-wringing approach to this variety of ethical non-monogamy is welcome and valuable.

That said, it wasn’t as effective as it could have been. It has a very high level of verisimilitude, which (like HDTV) can be both a blessing and a curse. Although the book is billed and presented as fiction, the copyright page contains a statement that the events and stories are true, and I felt a slight tension throughout due to the fusion of novel and autobiography.

The book doesn’t quite stand up to the label of “novel” — the author has to an extent let the truth get in the way of a good story. At times I found the actions of the characters obviously unwise and I shook my head when they subsequently ran headlong into utterly predictable problems. For instance, the Lamberts have arranged to attend a sex party but even before they arrive, it’s apparent that Ryan is not feeling entirely at ease. It comes as no surprise when his mood sours during the evening, and the addition of alcohol to the mix sends things to a cringe-inducing conclusion.

The autobiographer is confined to telling the truth as it happened from his own perspective, while the novelist is tasked with constructing believable characters and crafting a satisfying storyline. In the translation from personal history to novel, the plot didn’t get the makeover it needed.

The issue facing the Lamberts is that their sex lives are boring and so (even though this book is neither romance nor erotica) a focus on bedroom issues is necessary, but it felt slightly disproportionate and at times even unsettling. Did the characters really have no other interests in life? I got the sense that the Lamberts’ lackluster sex was likely a symptom of ennui because their lives were generally uninteresting. But that larger issue was, unsatisfyingly, never addressed. Swinging came into their lives serendipitously and they jumped in the deep end following minimal reflection. While it could be a fun adventure, it’s not a magic bullet.

I’m confronted by the observation that these were the thoughts and decisions and actions of real people, which I have no right or intention to criticize. But the novel comprises a collection of the novelist’s decisions about how to write an engaging story, and for me it missed the mark a bit. All that being said, aside from a few relatively minor editing issues, the quality of the writing is generally rather good. But you might be happier if you think of it as an autobiography rather than a novel.

Before reading A Life Less Monogamous, I was concerned that it would be a book-length sales pitch for swinging. Its honesty made it less of a sales pitch and more of a gently cautionary tale with a peek behind closed doors.

Note: I was given a free copy of the e-book in exchange for an honest review.

EDIT (29 Jun): This review alerted the author to an error. It turns out that the copyright page statement mentioned above belongs to his memoir and its inclusion in the novel was unintentional. The statement should read: “This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, parties, orgies, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination, or are used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.”

My belief that the book was essentially a novelized account of actual events significantly affected my experience of it. Now, knowing that it is entirely fictional, I find the hyperfocus on sex and the characters’ lack of insight to be more problematic.

Gawan: hands and mouth

We were lying on the bed, clothed, kissing. Gawan’s hand reached down, only one possible destination. I stopped him: “I’m not ready for that yet.” And he abandoned the quest.

Later in the day, from much the same starting point, he shifted down the bed and put his hands on my hips, the tips of his fingers curling inside the waistband of my snug, yoga-pant style shorts. The gesture was a question in the form of a statement. This time, my answer was wordless too: I lifted my hips, allowing him to tug down my shorts and underwear. As far as I was aware, the only thing that had changed was the passage of time. Perhaps that was all I needed.

He settled himself between my thighs and leisurely began to explore me with his tongue. Licking and sucking contentedly, he occasionally gave a deep hum of appreciation, savoring me.

Occasionally, he would punctuate his attentions by slowly and very deliberately biting that fleshy spot at the top of my inner thigh — first on the right, then on the left — just to the point where I’d suck air through my teeth or gasp a little as it started to register as painful. In those moments, leading me to the edge of pain seemed to be his goal.

He left me in no doubt that he was happy to be where he was. And a good thing, too.

I don’t come easily. For a long time, oral sex was the only way a partner could get me off, and even then it was never all that reliable. Buying a vibrator (first a We-Vibe Touch, then a Hitachi Magic Wand) has changed my sex life rather significantly for the better. A vibe offers consistency, so once I figure out what works, I can replicate it. Also, it’s a lot easier to find what works when I’m both experiencing and controlling the sensation, rather than trying to give directions when I can’t explain, or don’t know, what I want.

Gawan subscribes to a sort of chivalry that includes the premise that, on the matter of orgasms, it’s ladies first. I had brought the Hitachi*, but his sexual pride eschews electric methods: he much prefers “acoustic”. And to a certain extent, I can see his point: especially when you’re establishing a new connection, mediating the experience with a tool creates a bit of distance and might feel impersonal. Anyway, I wasn’t surprised when we didn’t get there on the first try — he’s a new lover, and we weren’t using the technique that works most reliably for me.

In addition to his oral skills, he also paid attention to my nipples in a broadly experimental way. He rolled them slowly between his fingers, pulled, and twisted them until I groaned. He pinched, trying different levels of intensity until I gasped. He sucked on them lavishly. He grazed them with his teeth and bit gently, but discovered that the sharpness was too much for me.

Fortunately, he is a fan of cunnilingus. He had set himself a task, and he returned to it with enthusiasm. He managed to get me right up to the edge many times, so he got to hear a sampling of my range of appreciative warbles.

The man’s tongue has incredible stamina, and while he took a couple of well-deserved breaks, I never actually sensed him tire during all that time. After a tremendous amount of work on his part (and a tremendous amount of wishing myself over the edge), Gawan finally got me off. As we were later to discover, he had in fact licked me a bit raw.

At another time, despite the fact that I don’t get off on being watched, I decided to be brave and demonstrated how I use the Hitachi to give myself an orgasm in about 5 or 10 minutes. He didn’t have a role in the process and we weren’t really connecting, so the result was more awkwardness than shared intimacy in that moment.

*Note to self: The Touch, which I guess would be considered a bullet vibe, would have been the better choice to bring on the trip. It’s purple and curvy, with a wider handle end and a narrower business end. It has been described as looking like a potato, but I think it’s more like a meaty thumb. Odd as it looks, it’s still reasonably subtle. The Hitachi is good at getting the job done, but it’s huge in comparison — about as long as my arm from elbow to fist — and looks like a cartoonish karaoke microphone. Subtle it is not. Mostly I think I succumbed to the temptation posed by having lots of room in my bag.

Gawan: nudity

When we arrived at our destination it was past bedtime and we were both drained. Immediately upon entering the stuffy space, I crossed the room to the air conditioner and turned it on, willing it to work. It did, thank goodness. We discussed sleeping arrangements and then crashed.

The next day, after a leisurely late breakfast, we headed out to explore the neighborhood and get the lay of the land. Upon our return to the room in the mid-afternoon, Gawan stripped nude without preamble.

I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of that. I hadn’t spent any time imagining the scene, but it seemed that I had a kernel of an expectation — that this particular first would likely apply to both of us at the same time, and would have been preceded by kisses, caresses, meaningful looks, etc. Yet this nudity was unilateral and businesslike.

We had been out in sunny, hot and humid weather, the room air conditioner barely up to the task, and we were tired and sweaty. Eventually I twigged: he wanted to cool down faster, he’s very much at ease with his body, and whatever his criteria for feeling comfortable being nude around me, they had already been met. (Newsflash: nudity doesn’t necessarily mean sex.)

Despite the impression that this blog may give, I’m not actually in the habit of wandering about the house naked. But following Gawan’s example, I quickly got into a routine of stripping down to bra and panties to cool off after being out in the heat. After having a shower, I didn’t bother dressing or even trying to conceal the important bits with my towel, and not just because the towel was small enough to make such an effort essentially futile (unless held to my chest vertically, in the Japanese style).

I was also aware that there was really very little of me that Gawan hadn’t already seen either on the blog, or in a handful of images that I’d emailed. That was a little odd, and another first for me — that such thorough exposure had happened before I decided that he might be more than a friend and well before we ever were in the same space together. But it also helped me feel like it wasn’t that big a deal because, in one way, I’d already made the decision to be nude in front of him quite a while ago. (I suppose the oddest thing for Gawan may have been seeing my naked body with my head attached — the nude photos were headless, and the full body photos were clothed.)

It turns out that I’m much more comfortable with my body now than ever before, and that’s mostly because of this blog. The nude self-portraits have gotten me into the habit of looking for positives instead of flaws, and kind feedback, especially from the Sinful Sunday community, is tremendously encouraging.

I got used to my own casual nudity in Gawan’s presence quite quickly, and I developed an easy familiarity of the sort that I would ordinarily associate with a long-term relationship. My level of comfort with being naked shows that my change of attitude in that respect may be fundamental. And that’s a good thing.

my mind is in a tangle

My mind is in a tangle. As expected.

I just got home last night after being in Gawan’s company for about two weeks, almost all of which we spent on vacation together.

We live very far apart and if we wanted to meet, significant travel would be required. Taking a trip together really did make the most sense, but it was also trial by fire. The destination we chose was challenging, advanced-level travel: different language, different culture, difficult weather, no credit cards, and cut off from the outside world. In retrospect, it wasn’t the best choice if we wanted an experience that was guaranteed to go smoothly. But dealing with challenges also reveals character, so perhaps we learned more about each other than we would have at an easier destination.

During a travel adventure, time behaves oddly and seems to pass at a different rate because it’s filled with more than the usual number of new experiences per day. The sensation of the passage of time doesn’t relate to hours but experiences, and you learn to associate a certain number of experiences with a certain length of time. When you have more experiences, it feels like more time has passed. I’d say that those 12 days felt more like 3 or 4 weeks — ages to be spending with someone I’d never even been in a room with before.

My sensitivity means that I absorb a lot more information from my surroundings and experiences than the average person does. In effect, I’ve gathered a tremendous amount of data from the trip and I’m now in the processing stage. It seems that I’m able to sort information and make connections mostly without really thinking about it — it’s like a program that runs in the background and when a pattern is detected it pops up into my conscious awareness. (To people who don’t work this way, it looks rather like ruminating, but I assure you it’s not. I keep getting new information and I’m not just going around in circles.)

From time to time, specific issues bubble up to the surface without an accompanying conclusion. I might find a raw nerve or some other puzzle, which I will think on to see if I can discover what’s happening below the surface and gain insight.

In those 12 days I learned a tremendous amount about Gawan (which I expected), and about myself (which was a bit of a surprise). I had had a persistent and unsettling feeling of having major gaps in my understanding of him, and a lot of those gaps have been filled in, which is all to the good.

There were ups and downs, but on the whole I had a good time and am glad I went. Details to follow once I’ve done some more processing.

my gut says yes

Huh. I don’t often surprise myself, but lately… wow.

This has been in the works for some time – a sort of parallel thread – and though I’ve given it a tremendous amount of consideration, I haven’t posted about it before. I’ve had a hell of a time keeping quiet about it this long.

The other day I booked a vacation with a man who is not my partner. In fact, we’ve haven’t met face-to-face yet because we live so far apart and meeting requires air travel. But that meeting is finally coming, and soon.

This all started some time ago as a very tentative connection with, perhaps, the potential to be acquaintances, maybe even friends. As it turned out, friendship developed quickly. Since then we’ve exchanged countless emails and spent hours upon hours talking (and occasionally messaging) on Skype. I’d say that we know each other very well and we get along fantastically. For quite some time there’s been something beyond friendship in the background – and quite often in the foreground too.

All of our respective cards have been on the table, more or less since the very beginning: he and Wolf know about each other; his partner and I know about each other; he knows about this blog and he reads it. (Well, he definitely looks at the pictures, and he seems to read the words too.)

He’s going to visit my city for a couple of days, I’ll show him around and, most importantly, he’ll meet Wolf. Then he and I will head off together for an adventure. The precise nature of that adventure is a bit of an unknown for now, and really can’t be known until he gets here.

Chemistry can be difficult to predict. I’ve done all the emotional groundwork that I can (mostly around the idea of sexual non-exclusivity) in order to permit a physical relationship to develop, provided things continue to go in that direction once we finally meet.

At the same time, I’m reminding myself that I’m under no obligation to get nekkid if it turns out that physical attraction isn’t there after all. While I was writing the Dark Ages series [link in the menu] a pattern became clear: I believed that I “should” have sex, without ever asking myself whether I actually wanted to. At one point while we were planning this trip, I started feeling a vague sense of anxiety and unease; I think I had started subconsciously to run on the “should” program again. So my homework is to keep reminding myself that I always, always have that choice. (He’s been good about reminding me of that too.)

If chemistry is absent, then our adventure will revolve around exploring a new and interesting place together. And if chemistry is present, well, I suppose we won’t have quite so much time for sightseeing.

Is it risk-free? Nope. My number one priority is not to fuck up my relationship with Wolf, and if it turns out that this goes the non-exclusivity route (which seems quite likely), it will test us. But I think we’re up to it, and I’ve done all I can to identify and reduce risks. Wolf may not be precisely delighted by the whole idea, but I’m confident that he’s legitimately comfortable with it and that he’s not just agreeing because he feels obliged or because he’s being self-sacrificing. And it’s possible that there may be some benefits to our relationship too.

Is it reckless? Definitely not. I’m incapable of being reckless – I’m much too cautious for that, and my gut lets me know when I’m moving too fast. If anything, I err on the side of slow. (I am an HSP after all.) I’m confident that Wolf and I are solid. We’ve discussed this a lot, I’ve been working on the emotional issues that have come up for me so far, and I’ve pretty much figured out as much as I can for now. I’m in a good place. I’m nervous, sure, but I’m looking forward with anticipation. I’ve been checking in with my gut every step of the way and I haven’t come across a single red flag. Not one. If there was one to find, I would have found it.

Wolf and I have not decided to open our relationship generally. He has no interest in getting involved with anyone else. And I have no interest in getting involved with anyone else except my new friend.

I didn’t start out with a plan (which is probably obvious), just a strong sense of connection and curiosity. Although I have some vague preferences of where I’d like this to go, I have no specific destination in mind. And besides, our situation is so unusual that there’s no script to follow. I’m simply following my heart. So far, it has led to a more rewarding emotional connection than I would have thought possible – which is utterly delightful.

Few things in life are certain, and insisting on certainty before even starting to explore a path might be a “no” in disguise. Sometimes you have to step out into the unknown in order to see what’s there.

So no, I don’t know where this is going, but my gut still says yes. Wholeheartedly.