Of the Marriage Part of Open Marriage

In advocating for a sexually open model of marriage, sometimes it is possible to lose site of the fact that an open marriage is still a marriage.  To some in the polyamory community this will sound passé and even conservative, but I truly believe for most people the path to lifelong happiness is via the bonds of marriage and family.   Now, I’ll qualify that to say that marriage is not defined by the gender of the participants, nor on limit of two people; however, marriage is about commitment, lifelong commitment.

Why lifelong commitment? Isn’t that sort of old fashioned?

The traditional marriage vows said “for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health to death do us part”. They were written as a commitment that way because in the history of mankind, the good times are the exception; pain and heart ache are the rule.  A relationship built on “what I get out of it at the moment” will not survive when the hard times come that eclipse the excitement and passion that brought lovers together. Yet, we all need someone(s) that will be there when we are in trouble. We all, by fate or by our own poor judgments, will come to a point where we are not as lovely and desirable as we once were. I know it will come to a shock to readers under 35 years old and healthy, but in your life you will spend a significant number of years over 60 years old where health issues impinge greatly on the recreational based lifestyle young people think will go on forever. 

Two years ago I watched as my father-in-law began to slip away after 62 years of marriage. He had someone there for him, several someones. His wife and his two daughters were right beside him to the end.  This is the kind of security marriage and family bring.

A few months ago in a polyamory blog I read one blogger who was right up front that polyamory is about getting his needs met and if a partner does not want to meet his needs, he has no intention to stick with that person.  That may be well and good when you are 29 years old, but that kind of selfishness will, in the end, bring many lonely years.   The whole loose tribal type of polyamory with people coming and going, will not bring the kind of security most people desire.   I am amused at the term “tribal” in these cases because in a real tribe, the bond is for life and the individual will sacrifice all, even life, for the tribe.  I the modern poly usage, tribalism does not convey this sort of deep comment at all.  This is why the commune movement of the late 60’s early 70’s didn’t last for a decade. Tribalism and marriage both require a level of commitment that requires everything you are to make it work and to gain the benefits of group solidarity.  There is no solidarity without commitment.

I am a follower of Emanuel Kant and an older philosopher by the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Both of these men taught that there is a moral imperative, a duty that supersedes our own personal wants; to treat others as having the same value as we hold for ourselves.  This value is sadly missing in much of what is called polyamory.  I find this vexing because the very definition of love is the commitment to treat someone else’s needs on par with your own. Hence, polyamory is just the idea of more than one person with this high level of commitment.

Back to open marriage.  Marriage is about total commitment to the welfare of my spouse. The same kind of total commitment I have for my children. It is within that framework of total commitment that we have the freedom to form other relationships, both sexual and not.  Just as I would never let an outside relationship come between me and my ability to be a good parent, I would never let a relationship come between me and my ability to be a good husband.   It would be morally wrong of me to maintain a relationship that hurt my wife because that would betray my first commitment to her welfare. The same would be true for her.

In an open-marriage, it is always necessary to keep an open line of communication as to your spouse’s current needs.  There are times when we each have different needs and it is imperative that we adjust our external relationships to meet those needs.  In our case, Paula has only recently become comfortable with me dating without her.  On the other hand, I have long been comfortable with her dating without me; however, there have been a few times when I have asked her to back off her dating, or let me join a relationship, or stop seeing a particular person all together.   It is the implicit agreement that we each will respond to the other’s needs that allows our security in marriage to flourish while she (and occasionally I) has a social/sexual life with other men and women.

When she is dating, or even falls in love with others, it is always with the explicit understanding that her family is and always will be, the center of her life. Though she can have a rich and rewarding relationship outside our marriage, she does not mislead her lovers by implying her commitment his (or her) needs will ever of the same magnitude of her commitment to her husband and children.  By this means, we maintain the ethical principles of love while still privileging the family unit.

As I said, there could indeed be room for more than two people in such a committed relationship, but the difficulty of doing so raises exponentially with each additional person.   I could see us at some point having a domestic arrangement with a man or woman someday in the future. But I can’t see a three way marriage-like arrangement happening, at least for us.

So, as I continue to blog about our life in an open marriage, it is predicated on the fact we do have a real and strong marriage. 



San Francisco, CA, May, 2013 –The “I masturbate…” photo project, originally a hugely popular online exhibit, bringing in over 250,000 views during May 2011, is now coming to The Center for Sex and Culture in San Francisco in May of 2013. Never before has such a radically inclusive exhibition of photos of people masturbating been put together.

Reducing the stigma around masturbation is important because we are a culture of mixed messages – there is no unilateral message about masturbation, for some people there is a stigma about it, for others it is culturally accepted as a norm and even expected (as with heteronormative males, for example). Socially, we have multiple messages that change over time, and for the most part none of them really address the individual’s right to create a sexual practice and life that is right and true for them.

What infamous sex blogger, Violet Blue, has to say about the “I Masturbate” project: “It’s quite beautiful. It’s also a provocative combination of stillness, intensity, healing and total nastiness. And, there are a few local porn stars sprinkled throughout the days. Bravo.” tinynibbles.com/blogarchives/2011/05/the-sex-positive-photo-project-masturbation-month-daily-photos.html

McCabe has created an Indie Go-Go campaign to raise funds to support the month long solo exhibition. The campaign includes a video of the photographer describing the project as well as examples of the photos that will be on display: indiegogo.com/p/313097

The Morality Police are Loosing thier Power

Is it a sign that the morality police are losing their grip when Mark Sanford, former governor of South Carolina, wins his Republican congressional primary and brings his hot Argentinian mistress to the victory press conference?

Sure Silvio Berlusconi is a conservative and a hopeless lecher, but that’s in Italy not South Carolina.

I really do think it’s a sign the sexual monogamy litmus test for Republicans is fading.

Does anyone remember Barach Obama came to run virtually unopposed for US Senate because someone in Obama’s campaign uncovered a document that said that his Republican opponent had once asked his wife to go to a swing club while on a trip to Holland?   That was enough to force the Republican out of the race and give Obama a walk to the US Senate.   

Now Sanford who ran off with is mistress while Governor of South Carolina, has won a Republican primary in the heart of the Bible belt.

 Yes things are changing.

Swing Date Ideas

Swing Date Ideas

This a nice little article and very timely for us.  Just this morning as I was off to work I spoke to my lovely spouse about her plan to set up a second date with the gentleman she and I went out with last week and liked at lot.

The dynamic is always different when we go out with a self-professed bisexual guy rather than a straight guy in that it is not “her” date with me coming along, but it becomes “our” date with the sexual tension going in all directions.  

Perhaps this article will guide us on our date for Friday night.

Of Nude Photography, Body Size and Beauty

A good friend of mine complained several times that the photos on the Tumlbr blog I ran for over two years showed very few fine art or glamour nudes of “full figured” women.

To that charge I had to plead guilty, but, of implied charge that larger women are inherently unsexy I vehemently rejected.

As far as the reason photos on my blog were disproportionally of fit, thin, younger women the reason is simple.  Most photographers shoot that type of women exclusively.    This is not too complicated.  Our innate attraction is to young healthy sexual partners.  Young fit women speak subconsciously a language of fertility, the ability to bear many healthy babies. This is no different than the message that fit and physically powerful men will make better sires and protectors for children. Most photographers use models that are as near to the physical ideal as possible.  Pornographers do this to allow the viewer to imagine this idea girl (guy) wants to have sex with the less than ideal viewer.  Glamour and fashion photographers use this ideal to make their image or the clothing to look better than it really is. Even most fine art photographers use fit young models as an uncluttered canvas for their art.  As a photographer, I will admit, the young fit professional models I have shot make me look good as a photographer.

Larger and/or older models can be used very successfully for glamour, fashion and fine art photography; however, it takes more photographic skill to do so.  Most of my clients are over 40 and over size 10.  Most commercial photographers are in the business of making money, it makes good sense to shoot models that take the least effort to make an acceptable image. Unlike moving life, still photos magnify the slightest imperfections and make that imperfection the center of the image. Why do you think that the larger women were very popular models during the age realistic painting, but are no longer so?  Simple, the painter painted what he saw desirable in the woman.  Even very big women in paintings had no cellulite or stretch marks.  Within one generation of the advent of photography as the primary medium of pin-up, the size of models shrank considerably.  One need only compare the erotic photos of the 1890’s to those of the 1920’s.

Because of this, photos of less than fit male or female models are usually relegated to two categories, portraiture and fetish.  For the fetish photographer, the point is to accentuate the size of the model as this is what arouses the fetish viewer.  That leaves the photographing of the “normal” sized woman almost exclusively to the portraitist.  For me, there is more artistic satisfaction in shooting a 45 year old housewife in a way that brings her inner beauty and sexuality than in shooting a 20 year old professional model to evoke beauty and sexuality.  And, for the house wife, I know the images I make will be treasured for decades and that brings its own satisfaction.

The average size woman in the US has been noted to be anywhere from size 12 to size 16. That means for every woman who is an 8, 6, 4, 2, or 0 there is an equal number of women who are sized 17, 18, 20 or larger.  Do only the smallest 20% of women want to look attractive? Do only size 4 women want a sexy photo of themselves for their lover?  Of course not.  I can tell you that I have yet to have one of these “normal” sized women not love the photos I shoot of them. However, if you just stand the same woman against a wall naked and shoot a photo they will likely hate it.  What I am paid for is my skill at using poses, angles and lighting to emphasize what I want to emphasize and de-emphasize what I wish to de-emphasize.  Then, like the painters of old, I use post production methods (read Photoshop) to further conform the image of the sexual and desirable woman I know my client to be.

I once had a couple from France want glamorous and erotic photos of both her solo and of the two of them making love (I’ve done this a good deal). The challenge was while the husband was very pale and perhaps 5’ 6” and 110 lbs., the wife, who was of Haitian heritage, was very dark complicated and 5’10” and over 300 lbs.  The couple was clearly in love and it was my task to give them finished images that reflected their love and passion for one another.  I used my skills of designing poses and camera angles and my studio lighting to narrow the differences in their sizes and to bring the focus to their faces, both in the nude portraits and of their love making.   In post-production, I unapologetically smoothed over stretch marks and other skin issues; while I also adjusted his skin tone darker and hers to a rich coco brown.  The photos were still very much “them”, but I moved the focus from their visual differences to their united love and passion.  They loved the photos.

 But… does that mean they would sign off so I can use their photos in advertising? No. Even if they  were not a professional couple that simply could not share their images.  My clients may love their photos, and be in a position that they could let sell their photos, but most women are afraid of the cruel things other women might say, so it is the rare size 14 woman, no matter how attractive, that lets her image be published. 

So that is why you don’t see many large women in glamour photography or fine art blogs and websites.    

Short Update on Life in an Open Marriage

My wife Paula just called me. I’m working today and so is she. 

It seems one of the guy’s she’s dating came up to her store (she works for Victoria’s Secret) and brought coffee and muffins for the whole staff.   I asked her if she had to explain who he was since they all know me. She said no.  All who know her well are aware that she has an open marriage. One of the new girls asked if that was her secret admirer and Paula just said “not so secret anymore.”

Of Voyeurism, Athletics and Sex

It’s Saturday morning.  I’m in my office. On the way in to school I listened to NPR as I do every morning during the 45 minute drive to my university. During the week I hear the news on Morning Edition, but on Saturday, a show called “Only a Game” airs on my local NPR station. It’s about sports. It seems incongruous to me that the NPR listeners, who ostensibly care about real things like foreign policy or social issues, care anything about Tiger Woods or the NCAA basketball tournament.  Yet, even on the venerable “All Things Considered” news show this week there has been serious discussion about the college basketball.  No it was not about, not the fact that only 67% NCAA basketball players who are provided full ride scholarships leave school with a degree or  how black players are far less likely to graduate than white players.; but on who wins a silly game.  

That got me thinking about sports fans. Sports fans simply voyeurs.  They get personal enjoyment out of watching others, with more gifts than their own, do things they would like to be able to do.  They vicariously feel the joy of victory and the misery of defeat.  

Then I began to think about how our entire society is wrapped up in voyeurism of one sort or another; and, the performers are our greatest heroes.  The piece on Tiger Wood pointed out that when Tiger wins tournaments, more people watch golf on TV and buy golf equipment.   But is not the entire entertainment industry about voyeurism. I don’t just mean reality TV and People Magazine.  But even serious drama is about imaging ourselves in the shoes of the people on the screen or stage.   When I watched Les Misérables, I identified with Valjean; but I also identified with him when I read the book in 1987 while in the Army. And did I not act as a voyeur when as a junior high student I first read Lord of the Rings?

  So, it’s not just sports and trashy reality TV, but all of literate that feeds our need to experiences life though the experiences of others.   From the days when a group of young men gathered around the fire to hear the old Viking tell tales of his exploits to the latest crazy story of Lindsey Lohan; from Hamlet to NASCAR, humans routinely gain part of their identity and their joy of life from voyeurism, vicariously getting joy from others actions.  

So, I ask, why is watching people get brain injury inducing hits playing football, or beating the snot out of a person in boxing or MMA more reputable than watching attractive people make love.    We heard basketball commentators expound over the beauty of watching Michel Jordan bounce a ball and stuff it in a hoop. No one even pretends that part of that beauty was that Jordan was the embodiment of the attractive virile male.  Yet, what would happen if I brought up in “polite” company the fact that the people at xart.com consistently produce the most beautiful images of beautiful people making love?  Well here at my university, I’d be labeled a misogynist and oppressor of women at the least. In my circle of ”Christian” friends I’d be labeled a sinful pervert.

The argument from both groups of critics would be that the models were paid to have sex which is exploitive. Yet, compare that to the fact that we pay kids with tuition to public colleges to engage in sporting activities that leave many of them with lifelong scars and permanent debilitating injuries. Just the other day I was in an eatery next to campus and three of the universities’ start football players were chatting after their meal (One was the 2011 NCAA football freshman player of the year).  The discussion was on their off season surgeries to repair damage to their joints. So, the fact these kids have paid with serious bodily injury to entertain others is OK, but for a couple to have sex to entertain is not?  What makes football more wholesome than sex? And what makes the connoisseur of golf more sophisticated than the connoisseur of erotica?

In my case, not only am I the connoisseur or erotica, I am also the artist. I am (among other things) a professional glamour/erotica photographer.  My portfolio includes stylish nudes of both professional models and everyday women, as well as beautiful artistic photos of couples making love. Showing off my portfolio at my  public university I would surely be brought up on some sort of harassment charge; however, I brought in photos  of  our college football team in the mists of violent competition, I would only get praise.

In the end we humans are all voyeurs, the only question is what to we imagine doing.  And make no mistake the things we vicariously enjoy many people try to enjoy in real life.  Remember, Tiger Woods winning drives grown men to go out and golf.

We in the US are asking why young men are going on violent rampages, perhaps it’s because we encourage them to engage in voyeuristic violence in sports, movies and other entertainments. We teach these young men vicarious joy of physically controlling and hurting other people.  While it is very infrequent that a young man guns down a group of people; it is all routine that young men to put try out modeling controlling and violent behavior on those around them.  Why do so many young men want to use physical aggression on their girlfriends? Perhaps, we have taught them to idolize the guy who is the most physically aggressive on the basketball court? 

A recent study of teenage girls found that those who watch the most reality TV come to believe that the hurtful bullying behaviors are the normal way girls interact.  What we live though our voyeurism we come to believe is normal and desirable. How did the old Viking’s tales of adventure and plunder affect the young Norse boys? Why, they sought to replicate the predations of their forefathers of course. 

The sex-negative crusaders, from the right and the left, claim that sexual imagery leads to sexual abuse.   Well, let me ask how often do you see positive loving sex between two people portrayed in movies and TV?  Compared that with how often sex shown to as a form of exploitation (i.e. using sex as a tool or weapon), or being paired with self-destructive behavior (being drunk or stoned), or illicit like (covert affairs).  See my point?

Voyeuristic enjoyment of sex is so looked down upon that portrayal of sex ends up being “justified” in almost all entertainments by being coupled to negative behaviors most of the time. Then the fact that young people link sex with negative behaviors is blamed on ….you got it the fact that sex is being shown in entertainment.

Recently two movies were sent to the MPAA for ratings. One had a woman’s breasts being violently cut off and the other had two women kissing and suckling one other’s breasts.  Guess which one got the “R” rating (which allowed for wide distribution) and which one got the “NC-17 rating” that effectively killed theatrical release.  You got it, the MPAA banned loving use of breasts and allowed the violent one.


I propose that we as a society would be better if we at least allowed (or even encouraged) the portrayal of positive, life affirming sexual behavior in our culture.  People will live voyeuristically through the actions of others. That is just a fact. People will emulate what they enjoy seeing others doing.  

Therefore positive physical portrayals of lovemaking should be readily available and to both adults and teens AND be treated as a positive experience.     I would rather teens play a virtual sex game like this www.redlightcenter.com than the violent games that dominate the market. Yet, this game is not available to teens while games like Grand Theft Auto where rape is rewarded is.

I would content that it is the very illicit nature of sexual entertainment that gives rise to the trashy nature of commercial porn and the serious exploitation that still goes on in the sex entertainment industry.

I will go one final step.  I propose there is nothing bad for children to grow up in a world where people express love and affection with their genitals.  Simple nudity and positive portrayal of sexuality should not generate a rating more than PG; however, when sexuality is linked with negative behavior, especially violence, more restrictive ratings should be imposed.  

Of all the Silliness and Hype of the Gun Control Debate

The vitriol has now reached a pitch so high as to likely preclude any sort of reasonable discussion and both sides are 100% at fault.

We have long known that counter to  what seems reasonable, that the more people are forced to defend their own position on an issue the more (rather than less) they become committed to their position.

So every time a story headline on CNN reads “NRA’s paranoid fantasy flouts democracy” everyone who is at all in sympathy with the NRA and even many “neutral” gun owners feel attacked and will resist any sort of dialogue. 

I looked for a similarly problematic headline on Foxnews.com, but couldn’t find one. Over the last week it has been the left who have been on the offensive to brand gun owners as morally deficient….which of course only has the effect of making 47% of Americans who have a gun at home more unwilling to consider any sort of new gun control legislation.

Then both sides dredge up the fringe crazies who threaten civil war or create a video game where the player murders the leaders of the NRA.

Symptomatic of the lack of thought being put forth in the debate is the NRA’s proposal to have all schools have “armed guards” in all schools. MSNBC lead the charge in calling for “more guns in schools” a terrible idea and anyone who says it isn’t’ is deranged. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg called it “a shameful evasion of the gun crisis, devoid of soul-searching” and that the suggestion “offered a paranoid, dystopian vision of a more dangerous and violent America where everyone is armed and no place is safe.”

HOLD ON!   New York City schools have an entire school police division of over 5,000 “armed guards for its 1,700 schools. That’s way more than one each. So why the shocked rhetoric?  I’ve been in many schools as a school social worker. I worked for a public school district for 12 years and all middle and high schools I’ve been in have resource officers, i.e. armed guards, as do some elementary schools. So is that deranged? 

But, the NRA doesn’t get a pass; they didn’t propose who was to pay for resource officers in all elementary schools.  If they had proposed paying with them with a gun & ammo tax they would have been credible, but I guess they think we should shift funds from paying teachers to paying police officers. Then the NRA puts out a stupid ad using the president’s kids as a foil asking why do his kids get armed protection and others don’t? Now it’s always inappropriate to use the children like that but that’s not the real hypocrisy. The real hypocrisy is that the same conservatives who fight gun control, typically also fight against the transfer of tax money from their rich schools to the poor…i.e. yes rich schools can afford a resource officer. The president’s answer was actually quite good, he said he refused to believe that armed guards are the ONLY answer. It was a hopeful answer, but one that left open the door to that as a possibility.

The politicians are no better. The entire debate about assault weapons is just silly. Both sides are quite right. The advocates of a ban say that military weapons have no place in civil society and a ban of assault weapons is not an infringement on the 2nd Amendment. The opponents say that the cosmetic things that make a gun an assault weapon (like a pistol grip or bayonet mount) do not make those weapons any more dangerous than those without them and the ban is just a symbolic gesture. They are also quite right.  So why is either side fighting this silly fight? . Here is the link to the definition of an assault weapon, take a look and see if I’m right. http://www.jud.ct.gov/JI/criminal/glossary/assaultweapon.htm    Why not let the other side have a hollow victory?  The reason is that for activist and their political allies, this isn’t’ really about what will make a real difference; it is about winning. A hollow victory is still a victory and a hallow loss is still a loss.


If we are going to have an ugly national debate, I say we debate banning all self-loading weapons (in rifles they are called semi-auto and in pistols they are called autos).  That is a meaningful debate worth having.  Prior to the early 1980’s self-loading weapons were very rare in the civilian world.  Self-loading weapons are what make mass shootings possible.  One can change a 15 round magazine in 9mm Glock or an AR-15 in seconds, none of the prosed gun law changes will make these weapons less leather in a mass shooting setting. On the other hand, unless a person’s home is being assaulted by paratroopers, a .45 revolver or a pump shotgun is a more than adequate home defense.  This country has long required federal licensure for sub-machine guns, machineguns, cannons & tanks. This law is unquestionably constitutional.  The only difference between a self-loading rifle or pistol and an sub-machinegun is an inhibitor that reduces time it takes to empty a magazine from 6 seconds to 16 seconds and there is no barrier from simply changing that law to include all self-loading weapons.  Such a law would have a huge impact on the ability for deranged people to shoot up a school or movie theater.   

There are two reasons why law abiding people resist such logic. One is self-loading weapons are cool and fun.   I’ll be candid. I own a WW2 vintage M1 Carbine that I bought when I was in the US Army Reserve so as to keep my shooting skills up to par using military type peep sites. Shooting it is cool even though it jams ever 4th round and is so inaccurate I would hate to ever think my life depended on it. I also inherited an 1800’s vintage Belgian made black-powder double barrel shotgun that I wouldn’t have the slightest idea how to load, let alone fire.  I would not be quick to give up these two pieces of history.

The other reason gun owners are so obstinate is the rhetoric of some of the anti-gun lobby as mentioned before. Every time the anti-gun forces portray gun owners as morally deficient it convinces gun owners that their real intent is to confiscate all guns.  There are some on the far left who truly do believe in an all-powerful government that controls every facet of life; however, that Marxian fringe does not represent the mainstream of gun control advocate, but they do disproportionally impact the rhetoric.  President Obama has made it much worse with his claim that his administration has the right to kill American citizens that he deems a potential threat via drones without resorting to the niceties of trials or even warrants.  In this way the advocates of gun control ensure there will be no gun control.  If enacting real consensus gun control were the goal, the gun control advocates would need to condemn the radicals in their own ranks as well as the radicals on the right and build a centrist coalition. This is not happening.

If I were to put on my cynical hat, I’d say the gun-control “industry” and their political allies are not so stupid as to not know they are, by their actions, stymieing gun control. I would say the whole thing is a charade to benefit themselves with no intent in actually passing meaningful laws that would put them out of business. The NRA is shameless in the way it does this very thing, but by doing so they both get to be rich and powerful, but they also get what they want, no regulation.   In that way the NRA and the gun-control groups are a symbiotic system, enriching and empowering themselves at public expense.

But of course, I’m not that cynical so I won’t say that.

I will say that it is time for a “REAL” gun control debate. I say a debate on the requiring federal licensure of all self-loading weapons has legitimate arguments on both sides and needs to be debated on a national scale.  

In such a debate, no one is a villain for making arguments for or against. Civil society can only exist when we have civil debate.

Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.