Tag Archives: sex

Queer, Poly, Kinky, Single? Alternative Valentine’s Day Ideas

Rainbow hearts
Photo by Matias Rengel on Unsplash

by Cindy Trawinski, PsyD

This post was first published for Valentine’s Day, but contains suggestions for every holiday and celebration.

Navigating Valentine’s Day can be tricky, especially if you’re single, or if your relationship falls outside the margins of heteronormative monogamy. As the 14th approaches, you might feel like you can’t escape ads selling jewelry by reinforcing the gender binary or promotions trying to push pricey dinner dates for two.

But, even as you feel frustrated by Valentine’s Day traditions, you might still want to enjoy some of the connection and romance the holiday promises. After all, life is hectic, and when else do you have such a solid excuse to turn off your cell phone and make time for love?

No matter what your relationship looks like—or whether you’re in a relationship at all—you don’t have to compromise your identity and values to celebrate. Here are some ways you can create a fun, inclusive, alternative Valentine’s Day of your own.

Make It a Valentine’s Weekend or Week

Don’t limit yourself to February 14th. Extend your celebration to allow ample time with all your loved ones.

If you’re polyamorous—and especially if your metamours aren’t close—forget scheduling one over-packed day and dedicate an evening to each of your partners.

You can also claim extra time to celebrate Pal-entine’s Day with your friends. After all, despite how much our culture prioritizes romances, platonic relationships can be some of the most important in our lives.

And, don’t hesitate to take time off for yourself.

No matter who you make plans with, shut down the computer, hide the smartphone and create space for connection.

Swap the Traditional Valentine’s Gifts for a Getaway

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with flowers, chocolates, jewelry and teddy bears. But unfortunately, what they usually lack in personal touch, they too often make up for in gendered baggage.

Forget the standard gifts and save your money for an experience you’ll remember. Use the time you’ve set aside to take a romantic weekend somewhere that you and your partner(s) or friends have always wanted to go.

You can also opt for a secluded winter retreat where you’re unlikely to be disturbed. Or, try a stay-cation and explore a part of your city you might not always see. Take a hike along the lakefront or try exploring one of the many parks and forest preserves that Chicago has to offer. Take a morning off for a trip to a museum or ice rink. Try a comedy club or music venue you have never been to. Explore. Have an adventure!

Or stay in and share a meal you love. Have a Pal-entine dinner or brunch. Indulge a bit in creating a true sensory experience by using special spices or recipes that you may not have made time for yet. Cooking with others can be a wonderful way to collaborate and create together.

Whatever you choose, let go of the pressure to follow the Valentine’s script and do something that nurtures your soul.

Take a Sex-Positive Workshop

For all of the sexual innuendos and promises of romance, it can feel like Valentine’s Day doesn’t leave much room for genuine sexual expression, especially for those who identify as queer, kinky and non-monogamous.

For a Valentine’s Day that combats external and internal oppression and celebrates sex in all its forms, head to a sex-positive workshop. Whether you’re single or in a relationship, look for a class that speaks to your questions or desires.

For example, you and a partner might spend an evening learning new bondage techniques. Or, maybe there’s a class that can help you with communicating your sexual needs.

Here in Chicago, there are many places you can find LGBTQ-inclusive sex and relationship workshops and discussions. For example, check out the events at The Pleasure Chest and The Center on Halstead.

Find a Local Dance Night, Show or Event That Celebrates Your Community

Instead of spending the night alone or holed away with your partner(s), why not celebrate with others who want an alternative Valentine’s Day? Whether you identify as part of the LGBTQ+, kink and/or poly communities, or if you are just exploring those identities, heading to an inclusive event can be as rewarding as it is fun.

For example, look for an alt-queer dance night or a sex-positive burlesque show. From art shows to open mics, there’s plenty you can attend solo, with a partner or with a group.

If you’re in Chicago, check out Windy City Time’s calendar of upcoming LGBTQ+ events.

Combat Loneliness Through Volunteering

For many people, the idea of Valentine’s Day conjures more loneliness than love or joy. But, whether you’re lonely this year or want to remind others that someone cares, volunteering is a great way to build community and create connection.

Dedicate some time to reaching out to marginalized groups that too often go forgotten. Check out Pink and Black, an organization that connects LGBTQ+ prisoners to pen pals.

Or, learn more about SAGE, a national organization dedicated to advocacy and services for LGBT elders. You can sign up to volunteer for SAGE’s LGBT Elder Hotline and provide support to callers who feel isolated and vulnerable. (This volunteer position requires training.)

The Chicago chapter of the Sex Worker Outreach Project (SWOP) also offers numerous opportunities for volunteering and organizing. Together, LifeWorks and SWOP provide a monthly Sex Worker Support Group, which will meet on February 10th.

Focus on Love, Including Love for Yourself

At this time of year, it can be too easy to get so caught up in your relationships with others that you neglect your relationship with yourself.

For an alternative take on Valentine’s day, direct some of that love inward. Let go of feelings of guilt or worries about appearing selfish. Set aside solitary time in an environment that brings you calm and energy. Sit quietly with your thoughts, embracing the fullness of your experience without judgment.

Or, indulge in a hobby or luxury that renews your energy and brings you joy. Take a bath or indulge in a spa experience, try a flotation tank or yoga class, go for a hike, work on that art project—whatever it is that helps you feel alive and connected to all that you are.

The love we have for others is a powerful thing. But the love we hold for ourselves is the work and reward of a lifetime. Cherish you and take time to appreciate who you are!

How Much Sex is Enough?

sex alt 1by Rami Henrich, LCSW

So often in my practice I hear complaints about differing levels of libido in partners.  One partner has more interest and desire than the other.

What to do? I have to say that frequently I don’t have the answer. That is, I think to myself, “Ok, you want to have a lot of sex and you don’t. I guess you’re at an impasse.”

However, as we know, there is more to sex than just the biological urge. Attitudes and beliefs that are formed through experiences with family, peer groups, society, religion, culture etc. have an enormous impact on our sexuality as do our lifestyle, health and the pressures and stresses that we experience day in and out.

A few months ago a couple came to see me. The wife said, “I am hypersexual. I just want to have sex all the time. What’s wrong with me?” Her husband, a gentle, warm man said, “I really never think about sex at all. I just don’t seem to have the urge to have sex. Ever. What’s wrong with me?”

How much sex is enough? Is there something “wrong” with either of them? Our culture would probably agree with this couple that something is wrong with each of them.

She is too sexual! It is still a taboo for women to want too much sex or to want sex too much! Recently, at a party, a woman confessed to loving sex, and lots of it! The mixed group (of men and women) whose conversation had meandered into this important territory, giggled and some blushed.  I thought, “Hmmm, we are still somewhat puritanical in some part of our being when we think of a woman who both wants and needs a lot of sex.”

And what about a man who isn’t interested in sex? Is there something wrong with him? Society seems to frown on men who aren’t robust, so to speak.  The alpha male type is still a widely accepted ideal of masculinity.  Men have been taught to “go for it”, that they are or should be hunters and warriors both on the battle field and in the bed. I know that these are generalizations, but I do sometimes wonder if there is a place in our society for a soft spoken man who is not so interested in sex?

From my point of view, this woman and man fall somewhere on a continuum in terms of sexual drive, interest and activity. Could it be that there isn’t anything “wrong” with either of them and that it is our expectations that they be some other way that defines them as outside the norm?

For some, identifying as living outside the norm and the process of adjusting to what that means is already a part of living a polyamorous life. There seems to be a perception both inside and out of the poly community that polyamorists have strong libidos and are constantly on the looking for the next catch. While this may be true for some, it is certainly not so for all! The poly umbrella includes a lot of diversity. It encompasses a broad array of relationship constellations and sexual identities as well as appetites that can’t be easily reduced to single dimensions.

Can we find a way to accept people for who and where they are sexually? Can we find a way to accept ourselves where we are sexually?  Expectations are like ghosts hanging around in the closet.  Can we clean out the closet and feel freer to be who we are sexually and in other ways as well?

Let me know what you think.  Your comments are welcome.