Stoya On Group Sex & Friends With Benefits

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slide1Illustrated By Tania Lili.
We love chatting with Stoya — writer, thinker, on-screen-sex haver — about all manner of sexual, sensual, and feminist topics. In fact, we had so much fun talking with her, we asked her to write a monthly sex and relationship advice column. Have a burning question? Send any and all queries to stoya@refinery29.com.

Are real people having group sex these days? I am married with children, and my husband and I have toyed around with the idea. I have no idea where to start or if this could even be a real scenario….what is your experience? Is group sex only for teenagers, porn stars, and “clubs”?
— M


Before you get anywhere near a dating website, swingers’ club, or flirting with people at a bar, you might want to deal with this "real people" concept. Not only is discussing teenagers, porn stars, and patrons of sex clubs as different from “real people” inaccurate and dehumanizing, it can lead to a kind of thinking that might put your own boundaries and emotional health at risk.

We’re all real people, and we all have basic human rights, personal agency, and responsibilities. When we stop thinking of another group of people as real, we tend to treat them poorly by ignoring their rights and agency. Sometimes, when people start exploring non-heteronormative sexual activities, they turn their negative preconceptions about the kind of people who engage in those activities inwards — and forget about their own rights, agency, and responsibilities. Group sex can absolutely be possible, and it can be enjoyable and fulfilling. Maintaining self-respect, mutual respect within your marriage, and respect for the people you may be having sex with are all important for healthy sexual exploration, as is communication.

I suggest you pick up a couple of books on open relationships (The Ethical Slut, Opening Up, and Polyamory: The New Love Without Limits seem to be the most popular) or explore online resources like openingup.net or lovemore.com. Read these resources critically and treat them as examples of styles of non-monogamy and presentations of individual experiences; it is impossible to stress the "critically" part enough. This is meant to give you a range of options to consider and react to. Take note of philosophies you each agree and disagree with, and discuss them together. Figure out what you and your husband are each interested in and where your personal boundaries lie, and then work out your desires and guidelines as a couple.

Even if you and your husband are looking for sex and nothing but sex, putting in this work on the front-end is likely to spare you a larger amount of work fixing communication errors or hurt feelings later on.

Once you’ve done all this reading and figured out exactly what you want, you’ll be in a great position to start looking for other people to have sex with. Where to start depends a lot on where you want to end up. Chances are, after all that research and discussion, the two of you will have a solid idea of how you’re most comfortable going about finding additional sexual partners.

Whatever route you take, check in with each other regularly — and remember that STIs can absolutely happen to married people.
slide2Illustrated By Tania Lili.
I have a habit of hooking up with my friends (who are all girls and not all lesbians, but they still hook up with me, so not that straight either), but lately there's this one girl I've sort of realized I'm getting feelings for. Should I stop this friends-with-benefits things? How can I do it?
—L


There’s definitely something to be said for taking a break from friends-with-benefits to clear your head. Occasionally, people use sexual relationships (both casual and heavily committed) as a place to hide from introspection, and other times relationships can have an unintended side effect of distraction.

Do you want to start developing a romantic relationship with this girl? If so, go talk to her and find out if she’s receptive to developing a romantic relationship with you. Assuming that both of you are interested in dating each other, you then need to talk about what a relationship means to both of you. There’s a whole range of relationship models in the world, ranging from the idealized, '50s-housewife style of complete monogamy — with heavy insinuations of ownership — to either or both of you having orgies with strangers in public bathrooms and not even feeling the need to tell each other the next day. You have to decide which arrangements feel right and healthy for you.

Once you’ve figured out what a relationship means to you and what kind of relationship the two of you want to have together, you’ll know what you need to do regarding hooking up with your friends. It might turn out that this girl has no interest in your feelings, in which case you’ll still have the benefit of clearer ideas about what you want from sexual and romantic relationships.

As far as how to stop, you just stop. If some of the people you’ve been hooking up with make sexual advances, politely say "no thank you." If you want to give them an explanation, tell them what’s going on with you: You’re taking a break from casual sex, you’re giving yourself time to figure out some internal stuff, or you’re curious about where things might go with a certain person and want to give that potential relationship space to grow — whatever it is that you’re willing to share and that you feel accurately describes why you’re not in a hooking-up place at this time.

Part of friends-with-benefits is friends, and friends are respectful of each other's boundaries.