As one of the most prominent sex educators on the scene today, Tristan Taormino wears many hats: Any bookstore with an even halfway decent sexuality section is sure to include several of the books that she’s written or edited, such as The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women or 50 Shades of Kink: An Introduction to BDSM. She’s been even more prolific as the producer and director of educational adult videos like The Expert Guide to Pegging.
Taormino’s work has addressed people of all genders and orientations, from vanilla to kinky. But she’s been especially important in expanding the possibilities for non-monogamous relationships. Before polyamory was something commonly discussed on mainstream sites like Slate or Newsweek, her 2008 book Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships served as a guide for people looking for alternatives to monogamy. Seven years later, it’s still one of the most-cited books by veterans and newcomers to polyamory.
This Saturday (November 15), Tristan Taormino will come to Stockroom Hall for an intensive four-hour workshop on how to create and sustain open relationships. We had a conversation with her about the workshop, the ethics of poly relationships, and how polyamory has changed since she wrote Opening Up.
Can you tell us what you’ll be covering in this weekend’s workshop, and what the format is like?
One of the things I’ve found in my standard 90 minute or 2 hour classes on open relationships, is that there just isn’t enough time to go very deeply. People ask questions about issues and problems they face, but I can only get a quick sketch of the relationship dynamics. I created this four-hour intensive class to allow me to foster more discussion and try to get to the heart of what may be holding folks back from solutions, strategies, and resolution. In my workshop, I will review some of the most common styles of open relationships, from partnered non-monogamy to solo polyamory, and discuss how folks can customize them to meet their individual needs and wants.
I share stories from the over 100 people I interviewed and profiled in my book Opening Up as well as my own life and the hundreds of other people I know practicing nonmonogamy. The workshop will address common issues and problems. I want people to learn how to unpack all the different elements of jealousy and identify what triggers their jealousy and how it manifests for them. We will talk about coping strategies and find access points to the practice of compersion. I will also explore challenges including: communicating about highly-charged topics, roadblocks to fulfillment, and confronting fear. It’s geared for both newcomers and veterans to the world beyond monogamy. The format will be a combination of lecture, interactive exercises, and discussion.
You were talking and lecturing about polyamory before most people were familiar with the term. But now it’s becoming a “thing” that’s discussed in mainstream media. Do you think that’s made it easier for people to consider poly relationships, or do they just come with more misconceptions?
Well, it’s both, really. The mainstream media coverage of open relationships has broadened the dialogue, increased visibility for nonmonogamous people, and tackled some of the most common issues. But there is still work to do in helping people realize that they can create the relationships that work for them, rather than trying to fit into the narrow confines of the dominant model, monogamy.
Your 2008 book, Opening Up, is one of the ones most cited on polyamory today. In the seven years since its publication, how do you think polyamory has changed?
The level of public dialogue around nonmonogamy has increased dramatically. And we’ve begun to turn the discussion beyond just the two most well-known models of open relationships: swinging and polyamory. There are so many more options out there for people.
What are the first things that people should consider when they’re thinking about trying out polyamory? What do you think are the most common mistakes?
I think, like with many things, start out slowly. No need to dive into the deep end of the pool right away. The more thoughtful, mindful, and compassionate you are as you begin, the more everyone feels heard and cared for, the better. As I researched my book and have been surrounded by lots of nonmonogamous people, there were common issues and problems that emerged that lots of people face: new relationship energy, time management, sexual and emotional safety, boundary setting, creating agreements and agreement violations, and coping with change. And there are strategies for figuring them out. But, that said, a relationship is about those people involved, so how these things come up, what buttons they push, and how people deal with them can be very unique – which is why I think an intensive is such an important tool.
One of the first objections to poly is usually the risk of catching diseases or transmitting them to your partner(s). How well do you think that poly communities promote sexual health?
When I talked to people for my book, some of them had lots of agreements or rules for their relationships, others had fewer, and some said they only had one: safer sex. That stood out to me. I absolutely think it’s a critical issue that people need to discuss, negotiate, and agree on. And it’s important to be specific, since different people have different definitions and ideas about what constitutes safer sex. Like plenty of elements of relationships — both monogamous and nonmonogamous, it’s all about the details. Learning how to be specific about what you need is an invaluable skill.
As I said before, polyamory has become more noticed by mainstream media, and seems to be growing more. What do you think that you’d like to see happen as it grows and maybe becomes more accepted?
I really just want people to know that there are lots of options out there — that if monogamy doesn’t work for them, they’re not broken, they just need to find a relationship style that does work. I want it to be safer for folks to come out about their open relationships without facing stigma, discrimination, and being shunned by family and community. I want us to grow as a society beyond monogamous assumptions, the centering of couples when it comes to love and sex, and our seemingly undying investment in monogamy as the “best” choice. We need to confront jealousy and disentangle it from “true love,” devotion, and commitment. There is a lot of un-learning we all need to do when it comes to relationships. Once we begin to do that work, a world of possibilities opens up.
Sunday, November 15, 2015
1:00 PM to 5:00 PM
2811 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA
How do people create nontraditional partnerships that are loving and fulfilling? There are few established scripts or visible role models for open relationships, so people in them can often struggle without support and guidance. In this four hour intensive program, sex and relationship educator Tristan Taormino shares some of the key principles that can help your open relationships succeed. She will review some of the most common styles of open relationships, from partnered nonmonogamy to solo polyamory, and discuss how to customize them to meet your individual needs and wants. She will share wisdom from the over 100 people she interviewed and profiled in her bestselling book Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships.
The workshop will address common issues and problems including:
- New relationship energy
- Time management
- Sexual and emotional safety
- Boundary setting
- Agreement violations
- Coping with change
Through creative exercises, you’ll discover how to unpack all the different elements of jealousy and identify what triggers your jealousy and how it manifests for you; learn to develop coping strategies and find access points to the practice of compersion.
Learn how to tackle challenges including:
- Communicating about highly-charged topics
- Conflict resolution skills
- The art of re-negotiation
- Roadblocks to fulfillment
- Confronting fear
Whether you’re a newcomer or veteran to the world beyond monogamy, come discover strategies to help you nurture and grow your open relationships.
Presented by The LA Academy of Sex Education.
Admission & Ticket Types
Open to people in all kinds of relationship configurations as well as solos and singles of all genders and sexual orientations. Seating is limited and pre-registration is strongly encouraged.
Regular: pricing from October 16-November 14
VIP: priority seating, a personalized signed copy of Opening Up & a fabulous gift bag full of goodies
VIP+Dinner: priority seating, a personalized signed copy of Opening Up, an autographed DVD, a luxury gift bag, and a private dinner with Tristan after the workshop (meal included in the price).