My journey from stay-at-home mom to sexual adventuress
Twenty-four years ago, I met the love of my life. We have been married for 19 years, and live in Portland, Oregon. We have two children, a dog, and a minivan. Since my husband is the primary breadwinner in our family, I get to be the real deal as a stay-at-home mom and homemaker: I slap on some yoga pants, organize carpools, plan meals, clean house, arrange play dates, do laundry, pick up kids, drop off kids, volunteer in the community — the whole thing. Imagine a favorite neighbor: That's me.
Oh, also: I am a self-actualized "Fledgling Madame" in the burgeoning world of sex-positivity.
What exactly does that mean? Well, I practice, promote, and facilitate safe and fun sex of all descriptions between consenting adults of all descriptions. I have an LLC, a logo, a mission, legal counsel, and dreams of building a business to serve a sexy, open community. I've started to produce events. I make introductions between potential sexual partners (both married and single), promote awareness, answer questions, offer advice, and kindly boss around a select-but-growing group of sexually adventurous men and women.
Homemaker and madame. Loving wife, swinger, and polyamorous lover. Devoted mother and dedicated promoter of safe, consensual, fun adult sex.
Having trouble reconciling all these things?
You're not alone. In a country and culture that systematically represses normal sexual urges, putting a face of shame and disgrace on even the simplest desires (Don't touch yourself there! Save yourself for marriage! Don't look at other men/women!), a person like me — well adjusted, well educated, happy, and successful — is expected to adhere to some restrictive societal norms. Women — and men — who deviate from those norms are, in fact, considered "deviants." Perverts. Sluts.
Monogamy and heterosexuality are supposed to "look" a certain way in our culture. But sexual proclivities are as diverse among married, straight people as they are in the LGBTQ world. Every human has distinct eating habits and sleeping habits; sexuality and sexual predilections are as singular as the individual. While I might look like the rest of the married people on your block, I am, in fact, a sexual powerhouse: a discerning, happy slut.
My upbringing was fairly conventional, if somewhat privileged. My parents loved, supported, and encouraged me, as they do to this day. I attended excellent private schools — including an elite boarding prep school — and got my bachelor's degree in history and literature at a small liberal arts college in Europe. I met my future husband in college. After school we were happy to settle in an energetic, progressive city like Portland. Before our children were born, I had a successful career in event planning, managing large charitable auctions and business events. A month before our first baby was born, I left my event-planning career to stay at home with my daughter. I nursed, cooked, cleaned, nursed again (and again), and attended to the needs of my family. This was my new career. It was difficult, and often lonely.
After four years of full-time baby monitoring, I needed to work outside of the home. So I started a business as a fashion stylist, professionally advising men and women on wardrobe selection and management. I love to work, and thrived with each client interaction. I built my business while organizing carpools, attending doctors' appointments, room-parenting, play-dating, serving on a board or two, cleaning, dicing, pressing, and community-building. I was — and still am — an engaged, driven, and organized new-millennia mom, balancing a small business, a big social life, nurturing my marriage, and raising two small girls to be powerful, informed, curious, and free-thinking individuals.
I have also always been a very sexual being. I enjoyed sex with a handful of partners before my marriage, and, in the context of our marriage, my husband and I had always been open and adventurous, though monogamous.
On a summer evening five years ago, my husband and I were sharing a bottle of wine and relaxing on our front porch. He asked me, "Have you ever thought about sleeping with another man?"
That's a big question. It's scary to ask, and scary to answer. I had heard about polyamory — specifically "swinging," with its built-in 1970s connotations — but the idea had never been presented to me in a way that appealed. TV, magazines, and movies described a culture and a constituency that simply didn't resonate with who I am. As a straight woman, the images of girl-on-girl held no appeal for me. The people I saw interviewed on the topic of swinging and poly weren't sexy to me. The media didn't present a very inviting picture of sexual adventurism for a married, monogamous, heterosexual woman like me.
Had I thought about having sex with other men? Of course I had. The fact is, even people in the most committed monogamous relationships feel attraction outside of those relationships. We're hard-wired that way, and no amount of anxious moral proselytizing can change that.
So, being honest — a critical component of my life partnership — I told my husband, "I fantasize about other men … all the time." From there we opened up a three-month conversation that relieved a pressure we hadn't even realized existed in our relationship. It united us; I learned things about my husband that were surprising, profound, and sexy! In turn, he learned quite a bit about me.
We both wanted to act on our fantasies. Because we are middle-aged — more of the "cocktail party generation" than the "Tinder" generation — meeting potential partners online didn't feel right for us. (We tested those waters without success.) How can you tell if you will have the kind of real, physical chemistry needed to have great sex if the primary interaction is on a screen? How do you sort out the flakes from the serious? How do you exercise discretion with a shared computer?
After much discussion, my husband and I decided to go to one of our local sex clubs — of which there are surprisingly many. Portland is a sex-positive place, and the libertarian "live-and-let-live" mindset in our hometown means there are more strip clubs per capita here than in any other large city in the country. We have kink festivals, erotic galas, a Slut Walk — even a sexy Bed & Breakfast.
The sex club my husband and I decided to patronize was well known, and drew people from all over the country based on its reputation, full bar (most sex clubs are BYOB), and comfortable, upscale amenities.
Our first visit to the club was nerve-wracking. Would we see anyone we knew? Would there be sex everywhere? We signed the waivers, which indemnified the club from certain legal actions and bound us to the rules: no phones nor cameras; don't be creepy; "no" means "no" at all times, and use common sense … to name just a few. We paid our door fee, stepped through the doors, and changed our lives forever.
Like many high-end nightclubs, this one had a big bar, packed dance floor, lights, loud music, well-dressed patrons, and the din of a good time. Walk past the dance floor, and it was a whole different world: There was the couples' lounge with beds, sheer curtains, fresh sheets, condoms, and sanitary supplies. There were also banks of private rooms with the same sex-friendly amenities. Upstairs was a large bar and a huge "orgy" bed, a pole for sexy dancing, and more private rooms. My first impression was that it was clean, friendly, and sexy. People were smiling and welcoming; women wore sexy dresses or lingerie. It was a diverse, fun crowd, and — the best thing — I could dance as tantalizingly and erotically as I desired with my husband.
That first night at the club I had a number of revelations. First, "swingers" (for lack of a better term for the club's patrons) are nice. I mean really friendly, authentic, and (most notably) respectful people. Second, I'm an exhibitionist. Seeing the look in my husband's eyes when I took the top of my dress down in the couples' lounge was incredibly erotic. And finally, I'm sexy to other people. What's more? We, my husband and I, are sexy to other people.
This is something about the world of open sex and sexy, sex-positive people that I love above all else: Men and women alike are supportive, positive, and complimentary. Imagine my delight to be a forty-something housewife who hears, "Wow, your ass is a work of art!"
Who wouldn't get a little bump hearing that? In my monogamous life, I rarely received this kind of adulation. The monogamous, married man doesn't often throw around compliments like "You look incredibly sexy tonight" to his married female friend at the family barbeque. At the sex club, I was complimented often, and the confidence I gained profoundly affected other areas of my life.
After that first visit, I was unapologetically drawn to the club; I became braver, and more deliciously in-my-skin every time. In my experience, people need to feel safe to feel sexy, and within the club's walls, I could express myself as a sexual being in a way that I had never dreamed possible. I danced on poles, stripped to nothing, and openly, brazenly approached men and started conversation. My husband, more reserved by nature, enjoyed watching me — and the other women in the club.
Much to my surprise, I loved to see his gaze linger on other women. Seeing women interested in my husband was exhilarating — it affirmed and inflamed my desire for him to know that beautiful women thought he was sexy too. Another revelation: I am a compersionist, which means I get off on seeing the people I love give and receive pleasure. In that regard, for us, the club was a paradise.
My husband and I made the sex club a regular thing — date night, just like other couples all over the country, but with a twist. It's hard to describe the giddy anticipation I felt when I was driving around town in my sweatshirt, doing the daily errands, knowing that in mere hours I would change — superhero like! — in to some slutty little dress and do incredibly sexy things with my husband — and other men.
In the years since, my husband and I have had relationships with many people, both singles and couples. Some of these have been brief and impassioned; others have been deeper sexual relationships that evolved into friendships that have endured even after some of the mutual ardor cooled. The compersion aspect brings both my husband and I joy, and we appreciate each other more when we can see each other as sexual beings through fresh eyes.
As practitioners of open, positive sex, my husband and I are more attentive to each other, more patient with each other's feelings, and more grateful for our marriage than we have ever been before. By exploring consensual non-monogamy — and actively communicating with each other — my husband and I have learned meaningful lessons about each other. We've exposed facets of ourselves that had never presented in our monogamous relationship.
Of course, we struggled when the big feelings came in: jealousy, insecurity, and countless others. We have certainly felt those feelings. It could be argued that we court those feelings by living a sexually open life. When jealousy and insecurity arise, we talk them through (sometimes reasonably, sometimes passionately). We seek help from professionals, books, the internet, and our community. Sometimes it feels like going through a car wash without a car, but with each conflict or conundrum my husband and I emerge better — more present with, and understanding of, each other.
Much to our surprise, my husband and I found that our exploration of consensual non-monogamy led us to a community of like-minded people who have become an integral part of our lives. People in this world are authentic and caring. We share great intimacy even if we never have sex with someone. We talk about things that are often quite sensitive and deep a little bit earlier in the conversation. We are patient with each other as sex partners and as human beings, and it shows. I have friends from all walks of life brought together by the ideals of sex positivity, which include being nonjudgmental. We may all be into different things, but we respect each other and acknowledge there is a place for everyone.
A few years after we joined this community, my husband and I made the decision to be open with our "vanilla" friends and family about our choice. To our pleasant surprise, the response has been universally warm and accepting. People often ask if we've told our children. We discuss sex and sexuality in an age-appropriate manner with our daughters. As they grow to be more sexually aware, we will share information about our own choices as appropriate. We will always encourage them to understand their sexuality and be in charge of it. My personal experience in the swinging/poly world has allowed me to be more comfortable talking about sex, health, and feelings with my daughters with more knowledge and sensitivity.
I am a mother, a daughter, a wife, a lover … and now a Fledgling Madame — aka: Community Organizer and Educator for sexy people. How did I come to appropriate this fabulous — self-actualized — title and career?
I am a connector by nature. I enjoy bringing people together; this is what helped me be a successful event planner in my younger life. A few years into this adventure, my husband and I noticed people were looking to us as a resource — to make introductions, to offer advice, to throw a party or two. We were always happy to share our experience with people who were new to the community, and guide them to people who would resonate with them.
A little over a year ago, I started a group, and it has since become a tribe. It's invitation-only. We have an online forum where we discuss feelings, health issues, politics around sex and sexuality, and post sexy pictures. We also organize events and support and celebrate each other.
In addition to being available to members for advice and encouragement, I produce elegant, sexy parties. Slowly, I am fashioning a business. Born from embracing my own, distinctive, sexuality, and marveling in that of so many others, I am building membership with great care and intention, planning parties, and crafting that business to be based in community.
"Safe, fun, consensual." These guiding principles, when applied to sex (and many things in life, really), make for incredible connection, vulnerability, and vitality. My group honors these principles, and when new members join, they are asked to do so as well. We are growing, this group of happy people. As we grow, we also educate, encourage, and have a heck of a good time. There are many sex-oriented businesses in Portland, and there's room for many more. I am excited to bring my vision, and the ethos of my tribe, to a business someday.
My tale isn't unique. I've listened to stories about sexual awareness, ownership, and awakening from countless women. What I've chosen to do — to be open in a public forum — is unique. This exposes me to judgment, some of it unkind. Sex and sexuality is often warped by false morality that eclipses real ethics. I strongly believe that when people are free to engage in their sexual desires safely and consensually, they are healthier.
If you've made it this far, you may be asking, why "come out" in this way?
Well, I know that not everyone is like me — or the people I serve through my capacity as a Madame. But it's equally obvious to me that there are many more out there who are like us, but don't feel supported or safe living their sexual truth openly and honestly. Unfortunately, American society demonizes sex-for-fun. (And believe me; it's fun!)
Our culture employs shame and false morality as a method of sexual control. By telling my story publicly — as I am doing with my own family, friends, and others in my local community — I hope to contribute to a conversation about open sexuality, ethics, and respect that is long overdue in this country. And I'm going to throw some really good parties while we talk this stuff out.