Monday, June 19, 2017

Off the Relationship Escalator with Amy Gahran - Giveaway!

You may have noticed I've been giving away some of my favorite books on the blog lately. Stepping Off the Relationship Escalator by Amy Gahran is one that blew me away. It's "meaty," with great stories, research, and resources, but tremendously easy to read. So I'm delighted to have her on the blog for a mini-interview, and to be giving away a copy of this book to one lucky commenter.

But what does the "Relationship Escalator" even mean? From the site:

When most people say “a relationship,” they usually mean something like this:
Relationship Escalator. The default set of societal expectations for intimate relationships. Partners follow a progressive set of steps, each with visible markers, toward a clear goal.
The goal at the top of the Escalator is to achieve a permanently monogamous (sexually and romantically exclusive between two people), cohabitating marriage — legally sanctioned if possible. In many cases, buying a house and having kids is also part of the goal. Partners are expected to remain together at the top of the Escalator until death.
The Escalator is the standard by which most people gauge whether a developing intimate relationship is significant, “serious,” good, healthy, committed or worth pursuing or continuing.

Here are the questions I asked Amy, and her responses:

1) A connection with a sibling, or a best friend might be emotionally closer and longer-lasting than our latest romantic relationship. Yet we're taught that by pop culture that the most important relationship is supposed to be an "Escalator" one; romantic and/or sexual.

Did it surprise you, as you were gathering the research, that so many people voiced how important these kinds of relationships were? If that didn't surprise you, what did? I'm sure there was more than one surprise or unexpected insight as people were sharing their experiences.

The fact that people attach strong significance and commitment to some of their nonromantic and/or nonsexual relationships did not surprise me; I see that every day. What is notable, I thought, was how many people mentioned that stepping off the Escalator gave them motivation and a sense of permission to own how strongly they value their non-Escalator, nonsexual/romantic ties. Several specifically mentioned regretting undervaluing or neglecting those relationships previously, before they began to question the Escalator.

The biggest and best surprise I had from doing this research was hearing from over 100 people who identify as somewhere on the asexual/aromantic spectrum. You wanna think really, really hard about relationships and intimacy? Try taking sex and/or romance out of the picture.

2) Another section I found fascinating is about how romantic relationships don't necessarily end cleanly, or end at all. There can be pauses and resumptions, we can break up as a romantic relationship but stay friends. Many people are doing this and co-parenting quite amicably, for example. Why shouldn't people break up the traditional way, hating each other and trash-talking their former partners to anyone who will listen? What's the benefit to actually staying friends (as opposed to paying it lip service), or even as occasional sexual partners?

I think -- and this is just my guess, based on hearing so many stories and witnessing so many relationships on and off the Escalator -- that the "normal" mode of breakup + completely exiting each others lives, often with bad feelings, stems from a few things:

1. The common belief that positive, ongoing ties with former partners indicates a failure to "let go" and "move on." There's a *lot* of mainstream social pressure to do these things; to "get over" a relationship. People view cutting ties with former partners as a sign of maturity or personal growth. And depending on why the relationship ended, that might be the case -- but not always.

2. A perceived need to clear the way to jump back on the Escalator again ASAP. When people stay unpartnered "too long," their suitability as an Escalator partner often starts to be questioned. They're not dating anyone seriously yet? What's wrong with them?

Also, the loss of social prestige associated with not being part of a couple is really challenging for many people. Plus, often, their ability to function socially and logistically as an individual may have suffered if they'd ridden the Escalator for a long time. Finding a new Escalator relationship can feel like the safer option, in so many ways. And people often run to perceived safety.

3. The competitiveness fostered by how the Escalator works. Any other potential partner is easily cast as a rival or threat. This is especially true with former intimate partners -- people often worry whether good ties with former partners = the potential to "rekindle the flame."

4. The Escalator is designed to be hard to leave. When you've fused your life -- and more importantly, your identity -- with an Escalator partner, then ending that relationship poses the risk of severe logistical and existential disruption. Facing that risk, and the fear associated with it, requires working up a lot of energy to leave. Often the most expedient way to muster the needed "escape velocity" is via negative emotions.


....All that said, whether or not former lovers/partners maintain a genuine, healthy friendship (or other positive "aftership") once their original intimate relationship has ended, depends on the people and circumstances. Sometimes people break up and exit each other's lives for good reasons.

Also, shifting a relationship from, say, a marriage to a platonic friendship, often requires effort and energy. No one is required to expend that energy.

Personally, I think "let's be friends" can be rather oppressive if it's treated as a blanket best outcome. In its own way, that can be as oppressive as saying everyone should ride the Escalator. If it works out, great. But if not, then not.

The good thing is that the awareness and negotiation skills that are needed to step off the Escalator in any way (or even simply to consider that possibility) tends to make people more skilled, compassionate and humane about how they conclude, de-escalate or otherwise change their relationships.

3) Stepping Off the Relationship Escalator is planned as a series of three books, with the next, 10 Common Questions about Unconventional Relationships planned to release later this year. There's already a lot of "meat" in this book - can you give a quick preview of three of those ten questions?

Here's all 10 -- take your pick!

1. Parenting: What About the Children?
2. Commitment: Who can you count on?
3. Difficult Emotions: Don't You Get Jealous?
4. Oh, the Drama! How Can You Stand It?
5. Sex: So You Get Laid All the Time, Right?
6. Slut! (OK, not a question, but people hear that a lot...)
7. Sexual Health: Aren't You Scared You'll Catch a Disease?
8. Working things out: Isn't this just too hard?
9. How do you find people to date?
10. Communication and negotiation: Talk, talk talk....


Amy Gahran is an independent journalist, editor, blogger, author and publisher based in Boulder, Colorado. In 2013 she began a research project into unconventional intimate relationships, culminating in the book "Stepping Off the Relationship Escalator: Uncommon Love and Life," published in 2017. It's the first of at least three books on this subject.

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Aggie Sez/Amy Gahran
Publisher, Off the Escalator LLC


Find Amy:
OffEscalator.com
Like the Facebook page

Leave a comment below to win a copy of this fabulous book. Entries will close on Friday, June 23. And if you feel like being a sport, sign up for my mailing list (link at top right of page), and I'll let you know when my book is ready to be born.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Inviting Desire with Walker Thornton - Giveaway!

I am so pleased to be hosting sexpert Walker Thornton on my blog this month, and to be giving away a copy of one of my favorite books, Inviting Desire. While aimed at older women, it's really applicable to women of any age who've lost their spark, perhaps after childbirth, perhaps after getting into a rut with a longtime partner, perhaps after a toxic relationship. *raises hand*

And she was kind enough to agree to a mini-interview, because Walker is awesome that way.

1) For some women, our desire has not simply died, it's a memory that's long buried, with the grass grown over it and a nice headstone. Why shouldn't it simply remain there, and we can bring it fresh flowers from time to time? Especially for women who are not currently partnered, what good does it do, to reawaken our desire? 

I think feeling desire is great fun…Don’t you? And, from a sexual health perspective, sexual desire—leading to some form of sexual activity is important in keeping vaginas and pelvic floor muscles toned and healthy. Vaginal stimulation leads to arousal, which brings blood flow to vaginal tissue, which in turn helps cells stay healthy, which can prevent, or lessen, thinning and tearing of vaginal tissue. But, really—why would we want to give up the pleasure that comes from sexual stimulation? Sexual activity stimulates oxytocin, the ‘feel good’ hormone and it’s associated with pain reduction as well.  So I think it’s a good thing. Besides, who says we need a partner to get sexual?


2) Chapter 13 is titled, "What Is An Orgasm?" Doesn't everyone already know this? [Side Note: 13 has always been my lucky number.]

Yes, I think everyone knows what an orgasm is…Not all women have orgasms and therefore don’t really understand more than the basics. So I went a bit farther, talking about pleasure and the pressure women are under to become orgasmic. I want women to suspend judgment and focus on pleasure.


3) Chapter 25 is titled, "It's Not About the Orgasm." Wait, what? Do we want orgasms, or not want orgasms?

 I think too often women feel as if the orgasm is the ONLY product of sex—so they fake it or feel bad when it doesn’t happen. There is so much pleasure in connecting sexually with a partner that can get overlooked if we’re obsessing about our orgasms. I want to offer an alternative to the constant barrage of advice on orgasms—how many, which kind, did you squirt, etc…. Pleasure is much more than just having an orgasm. The goal of this chapter is to encourage women to explore pleasure for its own sake.


4) In the months since this book has been released, what response or question has surprised you the most?

Well, aside from my mother questioning my sexual activity; she assumes I’m not having sex so therefore I’m not qualified to talk about it!

More than a few women have indicated that their husbands would be excited about the book—I didn’t write the book as a guide for how to have better sex and I didn’t write it for partners. We already have enough pressure to be the good partner. I want women to learn to embrace their own sexuality for themselves. I do think that everyone around us benefits when we tap into our own sexuality and learn to ask for what we want.

Walker Thornton is an educator, public speaker and the author of  Inviting Desire, A Guide for Women Who Want to Enhance Their Sex Life.  She is a strong advocate for women’s sexuality, encouraging women to ‘step into their desire.’ Walker is the Sexual Health columnist for Midlife Boulevard and writes about sex and the older adult for Kinkly.com and other sites.

Connect with Walker:
Website:  www.walkerthornton.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WalkerJThornton/ )
Twitter: http://twitter.com/WalkerThornton
Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+WalkerThornton/posts


Leave a comment, and you'll be entered in a random drawing to win a copy of Inviting Desire!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Curvy Girl Sex Giveaway!

Photo of April Flores by Nick Holmes
Lots more sexy and juicy photos in the book

So because I am a generous soul, I am GIVING AWAY an autographed copy of my new favorite sex book by sexologist Elle Chase.

This book is AMAZING, and despite the title, you don't have to be a "girl" or curvy to use this book. It works for men, women, and genderfluid people, of ALL shapes and sizes.

It also includes tips for accommodating bad backs, shoulders, gimpy knees... The drawings are wonderful, and the names of the sexytimes positions had me laughing out loud.

Also, I got out a pencil to check off the ones I've tried. Quite a few in the rear view, but with 101 positions, (yes, you sexy beast, that's one-hundred-and-one!) I found many I hadn't. #sexgoals




Curvy Girl Sex delves into anatomy, toys, and many aspects of getting into a sexy mindset. Sometimes we give up on sex, or love, because we think that our [insert bodily imperfection here] means we don't DESERVE sex, or love. No. Lies, damned lies!


We all deserve those things (if we want them). We don't have to give up sex because some parts are extra-large or don't work the way they used to, we just need to know how to accommodate them, and this book shows us how.

^^^ All the this. Being sexy is about being in the moment. Savoring the moment. Instead of worrying that your body doesn't match your porn star fantasy (trust me, I've seen 'em, even THEY don't match that porn fantasy without makeup and lighting and very careful editing), enjoy being with your partners - including yourself.


I know you want this delicious and helpful book. So leave me a comment, and I will pick one commenter at random to receive a copy. (I know, I know, I could use one of those raffle thingies that make you Follow my Twitterfeed and newsletter, but those always annoy the crap outta me, so I'm not doing it to you.)

If you want to sign up for my mailing list, just because I'm nice and you're nice, that would be cool. Link is toward the top right of this page. Because very soon, my Kicking Cancer's Ass memoir is launching, and I know you want to score a copy of that, right?

Note: Will be picking a winner after Friday, April 28, so you still have time. 


Happy sexytimes!