NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Monday, September 26, 2022

Heterosexual Women Are Often Labeled as Having Low Sexual Desire When The Real Problem is Their Sexual Needs Aren't Being Met During Partnered Sex

There can be many reasons why a heterosexual woman might not be enjoying sex.  All too often these women are misdiagnosed as having low sexual desire when, in fact, the real problem is that their sex partner isn't meeting their sexual needs (see my articles: Closing the Orgasm Gap Between Women and Men - Part 1 and Part 2: How to Close the Orgasm Gap).

A Woman's Sexual Needs Aren't Being Met By Her Partner

The problem in these situations is often that the man either doesn't know what turns her on, she doesn't know how to talk to him about it or he's only focused on his own sexual satisfaction (see my article: Getting to Know Your Own and Your Partner's Sexual Turn-ons).

These problems often occur during casual sexual hookups where either the man's sexual pleasure is given priority or the two people just don't know each other well enough for the woman to have satisfying sex (see my articles: What is Good Sex? Part 1Part 2: Solace SexPart 3: Sealed Off Sex and Part 4: Synchrony Sex).

Generally speaking, the man won't have problems having an orgasm--even during a casual hookup because it's easier for a man to have an orgasm.

Every woman is going to be different, but most women don't orgasm from just PIV (penis in vagina) alone.  Most women need clitoral stimulation to reach an orgasm and this might not occur if the man isn't concerned about the woman's sexual satisfaction.

In many of these cases, when a woman doesn't enjoy PIV, both she and the man often believe there's something wrong with her.  But there's nothing wrong with a woman who doesn't enjoy sex that isn't satisfying for her.

What Are the Signs a Heterosexual Woman's Sexual Needs Aren't Being Met During Partnered Sex?
The following situations usually indicate a heterosexual woman's sexual needs aren't being met during partnered sex with a heterosexual man:
  • He expects her to perform oral sex (fellatio) on him, but he's either unwilling or doesn't know how to give her pleasure with oral sex (cunninlingus).  Since most women need clitoral stimulation to have an orgasm, this is a big problem.
  • He doesn't know where her clitoris is and he's not interested in finding out because it's not important to him.
  • He gets his "sex education" from watching porn and he doesn't realize that women in pornography are actors acting a role and not really being sexually satisfied.  He also believes that all women orgasm from PIV and he doesn't need to make much of an effort because he sees heterosexual women in porn having an orgasm quickly and without much effort from the man.
  • He thinks she should always be in the mood for sex without any effort on his part because that's what he's seen portrayed by the actors in porn (the female actors in porn are always ready to have sex because they're actors playing a part).

A Woman's Sexual Needs Aren't Being Met By Her Partner

  • He only cares about his own orgasm during sex.
  • He believes sex is over after he has an orgasm (even if she hasn't had an orgasm or hasn't even enjoyed sex).
  • He insists on having sex without a condom.  This is totally unacceptable because of the potential to get an STI (sexually transmitted infection).
  • He doesn't engage in cuddling or any type of affectionate behavior after he has an orgasm.
  • He becomes emotionally and/or physically distant after he has an orgasm.
  • He doesn't take care of his personal hygiene by showering before sex or "manscaping," but he expects her to take care of her personal hygiene for him.
  • He insists on certain sexual acts, kinks or fetishes he enjoys and he gets angry and resentful if she's not turned on by the same things.
  • He persists in asking for sexual acts she's made clear she doesn't like.
  • He makes negative and condescending remarks about her appearance (e.g., her weight, age, hair, makeup or lack of makeup, etc) and then he doesn't understand why she's not turned on or interested in having sex with him.
  • He gets impatient and angry if she has pain during PIV sex (e.g., dyspareunia, vaginismus, vulvodynia, post-menopausal pain) which can be due to many reasons, including but not limited to:
    • insufficient lubrication 
    • insufficient or no sexual arousal
    • medication
    • breastfeeding
    • urinary tract infection
    • other medical causes
  • He becomes offended and insecure when she wants to include sex toys during their sexual activities.
  • He blames her for his medical and/or psychological problems with erectile dysfunction or unreliable erection, and he refuses to get appropriate medical and/or psychological help to rectify his problem.
  • He becomes emotionally abusive by comparing her to other women he's known or threatening to see other women to belittle or pressure her to do what he wants sexually.

Heterosexual women are often labeled as having low sexual desire when the real problem is their sexual needs aren't being met during partnered sex.

Sometimes this occurs because the woman's male partner isn't sexually well informed or he doesn't know what turns on his partner.  

This problem is complicated by the fact that some women either don't know what they like or they feel too ashamed to talk about it (see my articles: Tips For Women on Sexual Self Discovery and How to Talk to Your Partner About Sex - Part 1 and Part 2).

Other times this occurs because the man is selfish and he's only focused on his pleasure.  This frequently occurs during hookups, which are often unsatisfying for heterosexual women.

If the man and the woman are in a relationship and they have been unable to work these issues out on their own, they could benefit from seeking help in sex therapy.

A Couple Attending Sex Therapy

If this problem is occurring during casual sex, the woman could benefit from being assertive about her sexual needs and not continuing to have sex with men who are only focused on their sexual satisfaction.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

I am a sex-positive therapist who helps individual adults and couples.  One of my specialties is sex therapy.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.


Are Negative Thoughts Getting in the Way of Your Sexual Pleasure?

On a recent episode of the Sex and Psychology podcast called "Change Your Mind, Change Your Sex Life" the host, Dr. Justin Lehmiller and his guest, Dr. Kelly Casperson, a urologist, talked about how to get into the right mindset to have pleasurable sex (see my articles: Are You Distracted By Negative Thoughts About Yourself During Sex?Keeping the Sexual Spark Alive and Women's Sexual Self Discovery).

Negative Thoughts Can Keep You From Enjoying Sex

Distractions Keep You From Enjoying Sex
According to Dr. Lehmiller, people are accustomed to multitasking more than ever--like listening to a podcast while you're driving or cleaning the house.  

Similarly, some people multitask in their mind.  But multitasking in your head while you're engaging in sex gets in the way of your being fully present in the moment sexually.  It keeps you distracted and affects your ability to be present with a partner or during solo sex (see my articles: Reconnecting With Your Inner World Without Distractions).

Negative Thoughts That Can Rob You of Sexual Pleasure
Similarly, your negative thoughts could be robbing you of sexual pleasure.

Here are some common examples of negative thoughts that get in the way of sexual pleasure:
  • Having Frequent Thoughts About a Negative Body Image: If, instead of being focused on your pleasure, you're focused on negative thoughts about your body, you're not in the moment.  You're feeling bad about yourself and you might also be imagining your partner doesn't like how you look. Not only does this take you out of the present moment, it takes you into a negative mindset where you're feeling bad about yourself (see my article: Is a Negative Body Image Ruining Your Sex Life? and Are You Sabotaging Yourself With Negative Self Talk?)

Negative Thoughts About Body Image

  • Dismissing Your Own Pleasure Because You Believe Sexual Pleasure is Only For Your Partner and Not For You: Thinking of sexual pleasure as being for someone else and not for you keeps you stuck in a negative mindset before you even begin to have sex.  These thoughts can be hard to detect because they often operate just outside of your awareness.  While it's good to want to please a partner, your sexual enjoyment is also important. 
  • Distracting Thoughts About Other Things You Need to Do: If you're focused on things you need to do, your mind is somewhere else instead of being focused on sexual  pleasure.  These thoughts create stress which is the opposite of being relaxed enough to enjoy sex.  The reality is that whatever time you spend enjoying sexual pleasure probably won't make that much of a difference with whatever is on your to-do list.

Negative Thoughts About Your To-Do List

  • Worrying You Don't Have Time For Sex: This is related to distracting thoughts about other things you have to do.  It's a common negative thought that gets in the way for many people.  To put this in perspective, think about how much time you spend watching TV or on social media.  According to Dr. Lehmiller, sex research reveals that heterosexual couples spend 15 minutes (on average) and lesbian couples spend about 30 minutes each time they have sex, so in the scheme of things, sexual activity doesn't usually take that long (see my article: Accessing Sexual Energy).
  • Worrying About Not Getting Spontaneously Turned On: Everyone is different when it comes to sexual arousal. Some people can get turned on by just thinking about sex.  Other people, including most women, experience responsive desire, which means they need more time to get turned on--it doesn't happen for them spontaneously the way sex is portrayed in the movies. Whether you respond spontaneously or you're more responsive, it's all normal (see my article: Spontaneous Sexual Arousal and Responsive Sexual Arousal Are Both Normal).
  • Focusing on Sexual Performance:  This type of negative thinking is similar to worrying about not experiencing spontaneous desire.  The more you can let go of thoughts about performance and goal-oriented sex, the more you can relax and enjoy yourself.  Rather than worrying about having an orgasm, reframe the way you think about sex to focus on pleasure.  Enjoy the moment rather than focusing on a goal (see my article: What is Performative Sex?).

Focusing on Sexual Performance Instead of Pleasure

  • Worrying About Sexual Frequency:  A common negative thought involves sexual frequency--having enough sex or too much sex. Comparisons to other imaginary people who are "doing it right" becomes the focus. When you compare yourself to other people, you're taking yourself out of your own sexual experience. 

Feeling Guilty and Worrying About Sex
  • Feeling Guilty That Sex is "Bad" or Wrong: Whether these thoughts are coming from your family history, religion, culture or some other source, if you believe sex is wrong, you're probably going to have a hard time enjoying it.  Maybe you don't really believe this deep down anymore, but you could have old negative "tapes" going through your mind that don't allow you to enjoy sex.  These thoughts can intrude on your experience.  If they intrude to the point where they take you out of the experience, you could benefit from seeking help from a licensed mental health professional who has an expertise in this area.
The examples listed above are some of the most common negative thoughts that keep people from enjoying sex.  There are many more.

How to Overcome Negative Thoughts About Sex
The first step in making any change is usually to become aware of the problem because when the problem is outside your awareness, you can't change it. 

So, here are some suggestions about how to change a negative mindset to a more sex-positive mindset:
  • Take Time Before You Engage in Sex to Focus on Sexual Pleasure: Instead of relying completely on a partner to get you turned on, focus your thoughts on sexual pleasure.  This could mean taking a few minutes to watch a sexy movie, read an erotic story or listen to music to get you in the mood.  It doesn't have to be more than a few minutes--just enough time to help you to transition from whatever you were doing before to what you're about to experience sexually (see my articles: Sexual Pleasure and the Erotic Self - Part 1 and Part 2).
  • Write Down Your Thoughts About Sex: Thoughts can be fleeting.  Writing helps you to become aware of and capture your thoughts (see my article: What Are Your Core Erotic Themes?).  How do you really feel about sexual pleasure? Do you feel entitled to pleasure?  
Write Down Your Thoughts About Sex

  • Write About Your Sexual Fantasies: Most people have sexual fantasies and they aren't even aware of it.  They know they have erotic thoughts, but they don't think of them as fantasies.  Writing about sexual fantasies helps you to get into a positive mindset for sexual pleasure (see my articles: Exploring Sexual Fantasies Without Guilt or Shame and The 7 Core Sexual Fantasies).
  • Become More Sensually Aware: You can experience sensual pleasure in many ways when you engage your five senses, including what you see, hear, taste, feel (tactile), and smell:
    • Taking a bubble bath to relax and get back in touch with your body
    • Smoothing on your favorite lotion after you shower 
    • Enjoying certain scents that increase your sensual pleasure, like perfume or incense 
    • Savoring a delicious meal to increase your sensual awareness
    • Listening to music that relaxes you and puts you into a sensuous or sexual mood
    • Listening to an erotic audiobook
    • Watching a sexy movie
Becoming Sensually Aware

  • Use Affirmations to Help You to Change:  It's important to think of making this type of change as a process.  It's a journey.  It's not a one-and-done event. Taking small steps often helps more than trying to change everything at once. Affirmations can help you in the change process in terms of becoming aware of the change you want to make and actually making the change.  Dr. Casperson mentioned that it's important not to get caught up in toxic positivity where you're telling yourself you have already made the change.  Not only is this unhelpful--it's also disingenuous.  For instance, it's better to say something like, "I'm working on accepting my body" instead of "I love my body" when you're really struggling to accept your body image.
  • Become Aware of Your Sexual Motivation:  Dr. Lehmiller mentioned two different types of motivation when it comes to sexual pleasure: approach motivation and avoidance motivation.  An example of approach motivation is seeking love or pleasure, and an example of avoidance motivation is having sex solely to avoid your partner becoming resentful.  Approach motivation helps you to enjoy sex.  It can also give you a dopamine hit that is pleasurable.  Avoidance motivation takes you away from pleasure (see my article: Understanding Your Sexual Motivation).
  • Identify Your Sexual Accelerators and Brakes: For many people it's easier to identify the sexual brakes (e.g., worrying about unpaid bills, incomplete tasks, etc) instead of the turn-ons, which are the sexual accelerators.  If you know what turns you off, you can often just reverse it to come up with what turns you on.  For instance, if you know that being tense is a sexual turn-off, then you can think about a relaxing activity that might help you to get turned on (see my articles: Understanding Your Sexual Accelerators and Brakes - Part 1 and Part 2).
  • Breathe as a Way to Tune into the Sexual Mind-Body Connection: Focus on your pelvis area and image you can breathe in and out through your pelvis.  Not only can this help you to relax, but it can also make you more sexually aware mentally, physically and emotionally (see my article: Learning to Relax With Square Breathing).

Negative thoughts can come at any time--before, during and after sex.  It's a common experience for many people.  

You can overcome habitual negative thinking related to sex by taking steps to become aware of your thoughts and making an effort to change these patterns.

If you have been unable to change these patterns on your own, you could benefit from working with a licensed psychotherapist who has an expertise in sex therapy.

About Me
I am a New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

I am a sex-positive therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.

Saturday, September 24, 2022

What Are the Benefits of Sexual Role Play?

Sexual role play can be a great way to spice up your sex life and introduce new sexual elements you and your partner(s) have never experienced before (see my articles: The Power of Novelty to Enhance Your Sex Life and The 7 Core Sexual Fantasies).

Sexual Role Play

What is Sexual Role Play?
First, before I discuss the other benefits, let's define the term "sexual role play."

Sexual role play is when two or more consenting adults act out roles while engaging in sexual activities.  

You can take on whatever persona you want and create whatever sexual scenario--as long as it's consensual among everyone involved.

You and your partner(s) can create a role play that is simple or elaborate depending on the sexual fantasy.

Some people use masks, costumes and other props to enhance the experience.  You can also use music and include backstories for each character.  

A common role play theme is to pretend to be strangers who meet at a bar, flirt and go home together to have passionate sex.

Examples of Sexual Role Play in Films and TV Programs
There are many examples of sexual role play in TV programs and movies.  

For example, a husband and wife role play BDSM (Bondage, Discipline, Dominance, Sadism, Submission, Masochism) scenes in the TV program, Billions, where the wife plays the role of a dominatrix. The husband, who is a high powered attorney general in his everyday life, is the submissive who gets off on being whipped, stepped on and humiliated by his wife (see my article: What is Sexual Power Play?).

There's a wonderful scene in the movie, Wings of the Dove, which draws the viewer in immediately and is a typical sexual role play.  

Sexual Role Play

The film opens with a scene with two strangers on a train who making eye contact.  Then, without saying a word, they both mysteriously get off at the same train station--the implication being they're going home together to have hot sex--which they do.  

In the movie, 9 1/2 Weeks, an attractive, mysterious man and a woman meet at a street fair.  He initiates a sexual affair, which includes BDSM role play, where he is the dominant partner and she is the submissive.  The affair, which is sexy and exciting, lasts 9 1/2 weeks (see my article: A Cornerstone of Eroticism: Searching For Power).

What Are the Benefits of Sexual Role Play?
There are many benefits to sexual role play, including:
  • Role play can be fun, exciting and sexy.
  • Role play allows you to step outside your everyday reality so it frees you to be characters you might have fantasied about but who you don't see yourself as in your everyday life.
  • You and your partner(s) get to be adventurous when you explore sexual fantasies.
  • Role play offers an opportunity to introduce novelty into your sex life.

The Benefits of Sexual Role Play
  • When you take on the role of a character, it can remove some of the guilt and shame you might feel if you enacted these fantasies as yourself.
  • Role playing, which is agreed upon beforehand, can enhance trust.
  • Role playing allows you to be more assertive or submissive than you normally would be in your everyday life--if you're normally submissive, you can act out a role where you are assertive and if you're normally assertive, you can be submissive (see my article: Destigmatizing Sexual Fantasies of Power and Submission).
  • Sexual encounters can be more fulfilling and intimate with role play, so it often brings people closer together.

Tips For Starting a Conversation About Sexual Role Play
Start by communicating with your partner(s) with these helpful tips.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

I am a sex positive therapist who works with individual adults and couples (see my article:  What Does Sex Positive Mean?).

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.

Ending a Long Term Relationship

I've written about breakups in prior articles (see my articles: Should You Stay or Should You Leave Your Relationship? and When Love Doesn't Conquer All).

Ending a Long Term Relationship

Ending a relationship isn't easy, but ending a long term relationship can be especially painful for everyone involved.   You and your partner have invested in the relationship on many levels so untangling your lives is challenging.

Tips For Ending a Long Term Relationship
  • Know That It's Normal to Go Through Different Emotional Stages: Initially, you might go back and forth about whether it would be better for you to stay or go.  Your ambivalent feelings can create an emotional roller coaster for you and your partner if they're aware of your changing feelings.  Even after you've made the decision that it would be best to end the relationship, you might feel guilty and ashamed about hurting your partner and, if you have children, about the emotional impact it will have on them.  You might also feel relieved at some point and then your feelings might change to grief, anger, disbelief and so on. Know that all of this is normal (see my article: Coping With the Stages of a Breakup).
  • Be Clear With Your Partner: One of the most confusing things is when the partner who wants to end the relationship gives the other partner mixed messages.  Usually these mixed messages aren't intentional.  They often involve ambivalence, guilt, shame and a mixture of other confusing emotions.  But once you have made up your mind, consider carefully what you want to say in advance, especially if you think your partner will be surprised.  It might help to write about it so you can get clear on how you feel and what you want to say.  Once you have thought about it, talk to your partner privately in a calm manner without blaming them.  Be prepared for a negative reaction or for your partner to want to bargain with you so you don't end the relationship.  If so, be firm but compassionate.

Ending a Long Term Relationship

  • Be Clear About Boundaries: This is the area where many people make mistakes.  Think carefully about how much contact, if any, you want to have with your partner after the relationship ends.  If you have children together, in most circumstances, you'll need to be in contact about them.  But, if you've made up your mind that you no longer want to be in the relationship, the conversations about the children shouldn't be used as a way to get emotionally involved again.  If there are no children and no other reasons for being in contact, you'll need to decide how to proceed.  If you think you want to try to be friends or, at least, remain amicable, be honest with yourself about why you want to do this.  Are you trying to maintain contact to give yourself the option of going back with your soon-to-be-ex?  This would definitely be a mixed message.  Also, avoid trying to get your partner back when you feel lonely. Breaking up again will be even more hurtful for both of you.

Ending a Long Term Relationship

  • Talk to Your Children Together: If you have children together, both of you need to agree on what you want to tell them.  Speak to them together in a calm and clear way giving them an age appropriate explanation about the big change they're about to go through.  They will need reassurance that you both still love them and will be there for them.  Prepare to answer their questions and to deal with sadness and anger about how this will affect them.  Under no circumstances should either of you blame the other or try to get your children to side with you. You want to avoid the hurt and pain of creating parental alienation or split loyalty (see my articles: Talking to Your Children About the Divorce and Co-parenting After the Divorce).
  • Be Prepared to Talk to Others About the Breakup: Initially, you probably want to tell only those who are closest to you and who will be emotionally supportive.  Loved ones will be concerned about your well-being, but not everyone needs to get a long, personal explanation about the breakup.  So, for the people who need to know but who aren't close to you, have a simple statement you give where you don't delve into personal details.  If people try to pry, be polite but set a boundary with them.
  • Avoid Looking at Your Ex's Social Media After the Breakup: It might be tempting to secretly follow your ex on social media to see what they're doing and whether they're seeing someone else, but if you do this, you'll make yourself miserable.  So, avoid the temptation to look.
  • Expect to Feel Many Confusing and Contradictory Emotions: It's normal to feel grief, anger, loneliness, confusion and second thoughts about your decision.  It's normal to feel fine about your decision one moment and then get caught up in self doubt the next moment.  Grief comes in waves and can come unexpectedly at any time. Try to stay calm and not be swayed by waves of emotion.  

Ending a Long Term Relationship

  • Practice Self Compassion: During this time, you'll need to be gentle with yourself.  It can be tempting to be hard on yourself when you're going through a breakup, so practice self compassion. Take extra self care in terms of making sure you eat well, get plenty of rest and take care of yourself in other ways (see my article: Developing Self Compassion).
  • Don't Allow Your Loved Ones to Pressure You to "Just Get Over It":  We live in a culture that often has little tolerance for emotional pain.  This is especially true for people who haven't dealt with their own unresolved emotions.  Your feelings will take as long as they take for you.  Everyone's process is different.  There's no right or wrong amount of time to grieve the loss of your relationship.
  • Get Help in Therapy: Close friends and loved ones can be emotionally supportive and you might also need the help of a licensed mental health professional to deal with the emotional stages you're experiencing.  There's no shame in asking for help.  A skilled psychotherapist can help you to cope and work through unresolved emotions (see my articles: Overcoming Your Discomfort With Asking For Help and Overcoming the Heartbreak of a Breakup).

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

What is Solo Polyamory?

In recent articles, I've been discussing ethical nonmonogamy, which can also be called consensual nonmonogamy (see my articles: What is an Ethical Nonmonogamous Relationship? and What is a Unicorn in a Nonmonogamous Relationship?).

These relationships are different from monogamous relationships, relationships which are supposed to be monogamous but where there's cheating, as well as other forms of relationships. 

What is Polyamory?
Before defining solo polyamory, let's define polyamory.

What is Polyamory?

Polyamory is a form of ethical nonmonogamy/consensual nonmonogamy.

Breaking down the word polyamory: Poly is from Greek and it means many.  Amory is Latin and it means love.

It's estimated that 4-5% of relationships in the United States are polyamorous relationships.  

This estimate might be low since many people don't reveal they are in a polyamorous relationship because there's often a stigma about being in non-traditional relationships.  So, there might actually be many more people who are polyamorists.  

Polyamorists are a diverse group:  Many polyamorists identify as either bisexual or pansexual (pansexual means there is no limit in sexual choice with regard to biological sex, gender or gender identity).  However, there are also many heterosexual, gay, lesbiantransexual, nonbinary (nonbinary people don't identify as being a gender that is exclusively male or female) and asexual polyamorists. 

There are also polyamorists who don't believe in any of these labels.

Polyamorists usually have multiple romantic relationships at the same time.  Many people who consider themselves to be "poly," consider it to be their sexual orientation.  

Usually the individuals all know about everyone involved and have given informed consent to be polyamorous where everything is honest and above board.  So, there are usually no casual relationships with individuals who are poly.

The values which are upheld in healthy polyamorous relationships include:
  • love
  • honesty
  • integrity
  • equality
  • communication
  • commitment
Polyamorists usually have rules, including rules about practicing safe sex, time spent together, and so on.

In a healthy polyamorous relationship there is usually ongoing discussions so that everyone involved continues to give informed consent.

There might be jealousy, as there might be in any relationship, so polyamorists try to find a way to work it out through the rules they have established or they might need to renegotiate the rules.  

Many polyamorists say they experience compersion, which is feeling happy that their partners are experiencing pleasure with others.  

What is the Difference Between Polyamory and Swinging?
Individuals who are in polyamorous relationships tend to focus on developing romantic relationships.  Their relationships are usually intentional among all parties involved.

Generally, swingers aren't focused on building romantic relationships.  They don't usually develop emotional or romantic ties with their partners (although there are exceptions--just like anything else).  They often engage in sexual activities at swingers parties, resorts and other events where they swap partners (if they're in a relationship) or they might go as a single person.

To complicate matters a bit: Some polyamorists engage in swingers events and some swingers might also be in polyamorous relationships.  But swinging and polyamory are usually different, as described above.

What is Solo Polyamory?
Solo polyamory is a form of polyamory.

What is Solo Polyamory?

Generally speaking, solo polyamory means:
  • Individuals are in multiple relationships, but they lead a single lifestyle.
  • They may or may not live with one or more of their partners.
  • They may or may not share finances.
  • They may or may not have children together.
What is Solo Polyamory?

  • Solo polyamorists might describe themselves as being "single-ish," but they're not single in the traditional sense of the word because they are in relationships.
  • Individuals might choose to engage in solo polyamory after getting out of a long term serious relationship.
  • They might not follow the traditions that people in monogamous relationships follow, which would include celebrating various milestones, like getting engaged, getting married or celebrating anniversaries.  However, this is an individual choice.

What is Solo Polyamory?

  • Some individuals have non-romantic/non-sexual polyamorous relationships.
  • Some partners might have friendships or relationships with each other.
What is Solo Polyamory?

  • Some individuals engage in solo polyamorous relationships for a period of time, and then they might opt to be in a traditional monogamous relationship or some other form of relationship (it depends on the individual and their circumstances).
Common Misconceptions About Solo Polyamorists:
  • Fear of Commitment: Solo polyamorists (and polyamorists practicing other forms of polyamory) usually aren't fearful of making a commitment.  Although this might be true in some cases, this isn't the main reason for being polyamorists.  Most people in polyamorous relationships believe it's the best relationship choice for them.
  • Cheating: Solo polyamory isn't cheating.  Partners usually know about each other and solo polyamory is a consensual choice between all partners involved.
  • Lack of Emotional Intimacy: Most people who are in solo polyamorous relationships would disagree with this.  Most believe they are capable of having a loving, intimate relationship with more than one person.  Also, since good communication is required to maintain healthy polyamorous relationships, polyamorists believe this honest communication actually adds to the emotional intimacy.
Many people believe polyamory is a sexual orientation, it's who they are and it's what works best for them.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

I am a sex positive therapist who works with individual adults and couples (see my article:  What Does Sex Positive Mean?).

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.

Sunday, September 18, 2022

What is a Unicorn in a Non-Monogamous Relationship?

Most of us grew up hearing stories about rare mythical creatures called unicorns.  Unicorns originated in Asia around 4,700 years ago and they became popular in Greece about 2,000 years ago.  They symbolize power, peace and magic.  

What is a Unicorn in a Non-Monogamous Relationship?

In Europe, unicorns had the body of a white horse, a beard, the cloven hooves of a goat, the tail of a lion and a long horn protruding from its forehead.  

In olden times, Europeans believed that unicorns actually existed in real life--even though they believed they were very hard to find. They also believed unicorns' horns had magical healing properties that could cure illness, serve as an antidote for poison and prolong youth.  

What is a Unicorn in Non-Monogamous Relationship?
The unicorn is typically a bisexual or sexually fluid woman who joins a heterosexual couple for anything from casual sex to a long term commitment.

Although a unicorn is usually a woman, it's also possible that a unicorn could be a bisexual man, but this isn't as common (see my article: What is an Ethically Non-Monogamous Relationship?).

The unicorn is usually invited into a couple's non-monogamous relationship for sex.  In the most traditional form of this threesome, a unicorn usually isn't considered to be equal to the two people in the relationship, but this also depends on the dynamic agreed to by the three people involved. 

Typically, the couple has already set their own rules about what is permissible before they meet the woman who is willing to be a third party in their relationship. These rules often include an agreement that the unicorn can't have sex with either one of the individuals without the other partner because this could cause jealousy and conflict.

However, each couple comes up with their own rules and it's up to the person in the role of the unicorn to either follow their rules or make her demands known.

Sometimes, the couple is willing to have a unicorn as an equal member, as previously mentioned.  In general, these arrangements are as individual as the individuals involved.

Although it's not certain who coined the term "unicorn," many people believe the term goes back to the counterculture of the 1970s as part of swinger lifestyle where a unicorn was a term used to describe a bisexual woman who was willing to have sex with both people in the relationship.

Similar to the rare mythical creatures in fairy tales, women who are unicorns, who are willing to join a heterosexual couple for sex, are rare and hard to find (hence, the name "unicorn").  Although it's a little easier today on some dating apps using the unicorn emoji as shorthand for those in the know, unicorns are still considered difficult to find.

Aside from a willingness to have sex with the couple, a bisexual woman these days might not be so willing to take a subordinate role and follow the couple's rules.  

Also, it can be hard to find a bisexual woman who is attracted to both the man and the woman in the relationship. Likewise, the man and the woman in the relationship might not both be attracted to the same woman.

Since they are difficult to find, as previously mentioned, it's possible that some couples these days are willing to give unicorns equal power if she is willing and interested in having sex with both people.  

What Does the Term "Unicorn Hunting" Mean?
The term "unicorn hunting" refers to a couple (or usually just the man) who is "hunting" for a bisexual or sexually fluid woman to have sex with the couple.  

In the most traditional sense, as it was practiced in the 1970s (and possibly still among some people today), the term unicorn hunting reeks of misogyny.  

Unicorn hunting has a negative connotation because it implies that the bisexual woman is prey to be hunted down like an animal.

Also, individuals and couples often use unscrupulous methods to find the third party.  They have been known to mislead bisexual women into thinking one of them wants to have sex with her and it only becomes apparent afterwards that she is sought after by both people in the relationship.

Aside from the lack of transparency, the unfairness of this arrangement can also include an imbalance of power by privileged couples who take advantage of their power dynamic with the bisexual woman.

The imbalance of power can include a rule that the unicorn can't have sex with anyone else aside from this couple.  

Couples who are seeking a unicorn often go to lesbian or gay bars, events or clubs seeking a bisexual woman to come home with them.  They often stand out in the crowd, and most people there are aware of what they are seeking.

This is one of the reasons why "unicorn hunters" are often resented by the LGBTQ community when they come to events seeking a bisexual woman for sex.  Aside from the tradition of hunters mischaracterizing what they're looking for, they're often considered exploitive of bisexual women.

However, in recent times there have been more stories of unicorns being treated with the respect and dignity that they deserve.  

I recently listened to a podcast in which a woman, who was in the role of the unicorn, described meeting a couple at a resort and being treated very well by both of them.  

As she described it, she had a lot of autonomy and she had equal power in the relationship. In fact, she was the initiator of sex with them.  

She indicated they were considerate of her and at no time did she feel uncomfortable or like she was in a subordinate role.  Even after they got back home from the resort, they continued to treat her very well.

Also, women who enter into these relationships are now more aware that they don't have to consent to any rules or sexual acts they don't like and they don't have to remain with the couple.

The Potential Psychological Impact of Being a Unicorn
Depending upon the people involved and the circumstances, the impact of taking on the role of a unicorn can be pleasurable, especially if the couple sees the third party as being on an equal footing with them.

It can also be demeaning if the couple belittles the woman and treats her like a subordinate, as previously mentioned.

In addition, if a woman has a personal history of being emotionally neglected, abused or feeling invisible in her family of origin, entering into this type of relationship can be retraumatizing for her.

How is Being a Unicorn Different From Solo Polyamory?
With solo polyamory, individuals usually lead a single, independent lifestyle at the same time they are part of multiple intimate relationships.

More about this in my next article.

Before Entering into the Role of a Unicorn, a Woman Would Be Wise to:
  • Know exactly what she's entering into before she takes on the role.
  • Meet the couple in a public place (similar to going out on a first date) and get a sense of them.
  • Get to know the couple first in a non-sexual way and make sure she feels comfortable with them.
  • Believe in her own self worth.
  • Be clear and assertive that she expects to be treated as an equal and with respect.
  • Consent to only what she wants to do regardless of what the couple wants.
  • Understand that the situation can become complicated and degenerate if one or both people in the relationship become suspicious, jealous or angry about her role or if they're having problems in their relationship.  This is especially true because the negative dynamics of triangulation can enter into the situation.  Also, be aware that many couples seek out a third party to try to fix an unstable relationship, which almost never works, and she could be walking into a mess.
  • Know that she can walk away from the situation at any time.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

I am a sex positive therapist who works with individual adults and couples (see my article: What Does Sex Positive Mean?).

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.