An update to the Map of Non-Monogamy

Way, waaaaaay back in 2010, I created a Venn diagram (well, if you can still call something a Venn diagram when it has dozens of bits that intersect in some pretty mind-bending ways) of the variations of non-monogamy I’ve observed.

The Map of Non-Monogamy ended up all over the Internet. I’ve seen it in Fetlife, presented at academic lectures, and I know of at least one Masters thesis that includes it.

Now, after seven long years, I’ve finally done an update, significantly redesigning it and adding relationship anarchy and solo polyamory. Here, in all its glory, is the newly redesigned Map of Non-Monogamy. The preview here is teensy, so you can click on it to embiggen.

I’ve redesigned the new map as a (big!) 24×36-inch poster. So what say you, O Internet? If I spend a lot of money to have them printed (printing posters that big ain’t cheap!), would you buy one?

[edited to add] You can now pre-order the poster! It will ship in late January or early February. Preorders are $15 for one poster or $100 for ten. Pre-order a poster here!

Sex for Science! Epilogue

Sex for Science! Chapter 0
Sex for Science! Chapter 1
Sex for Science! Interlude
Sex for Science! Chapter 2
Sex for Science! Chapter 3
Sex for Science! Chapter 4

Last weekend was edwardmartiniii‘s birthday. Entirely on his own, with no input from me, he chose a theme for the party: a Mad Science Fair. Kind of like the science fairs that grade schools and high schools have, you see, only with significantly more insanity.

Regular readers of this blog are no doubt familiar with the ongoing saga of my quest to make a cheap, homebrew, thought-controlled sex toy.

I’m actually working on two projects in tandem: the Tormentor, a sex toy designed not to allow the wearer to reach orgasm, and a sex toy that is controlled by the wearer’s thoughts. I’ve been making significant progress on both fronts in the past few weeks, with prototypes for both a thought-controlled vibrator and the third-generation Tormenter now complete.

And, thought I, what better Mad Science Fair project than the thought-controlled toy?

I put together a display detailing the experiments to date, most of which took place in an especially seedy motel room in Seattle; you are, I’m sure, all no doubt familiar with that tale by now. I also loaded up new beta-test software into the modified EEG, this time intended not just to record a person’s brainwaves, but also to switch a vibrator on and off in response to them. This suitably equipped, we (zaiah and I) set out to the party, with the lovely shadow-5tails in tow.

The party proved fertile ground for test subjects, with a number of party-goers volunteering to have their brainwaves analyzed as they tried to switch a small egg vibrator on and off. (I have, it must be said, totally awesome friends; they give the best data!)

And, interestingly, more than half the people who volunteered to give the gizmo a whirl were able to make the vibrator switch on and off, even in noisy, crowded surroundings that made concentration difficult. Several people were able, with less than ten minutes’ practice, to switch the vibrator on and off at will, simply by thinking about it.

Which is hella cool, if you ask me.

I’ve put up a PDF of the display for the Mad Science Fair, “Analysis of the Practicality of Detecting Physiological Signals of Arousal in Adult Human Brains with Practical Applications of Brainwave-Controlled Stimulation Via Neurofeedback Control and Regulation of Vibratory Devices: A Hands-On Investigatory Approach,” which those of you who might find this particular flavor of mad science interesting can read at your leisure. Eventually, I plan to provide a detailed report of the equipment, software, and test results of the thought-controlled vibrator itself. Stay tuned!

Analysis of User-Generated Replies to Porn Stories of Non-Consensual Sex

So, I occasionally write porn. Sometimes, when I write porn, I post the stories on Literotica.

I didn’t actually intend to start writing porn, or fiction at all for that matter. A bunch of years ago, someone in IM asked me why on earth a person, especially a woman, might choose to be sexually submissive. The normal, prosaic answers that I post on my Web site didn’t seem to help her, so I wrote a fiction story from the point of view of a submissive in a D/s relationship to see if that might do the trick. She liked the story quite a lot, told me I should keep writing, so I have.

Well, kind of. Sometimes years go by between writings.

Anyhow, one of the stories I’ve written is a sprawling (about 110,000 words and still counting) series called “Training,” an unfinished first draft of which I’ve put on literotica and a finished, edited version which is available as an ebook. The story has proven to be extremely popular; Amazon sales of the story help pay my rent, in fact.

The series is not actually about BDSM per se. It’s about non-consensual sex; it concerns a woman whose husband has decided, without permission, to turn her into a sex slave. And, interestingly, it’s the most popular thing I’ve ever written.

I maintain an email address just for emails about Literotica stories, since Literotica has a system whereby people can send anonymous emails to story authors.

I get a lot of email about this story. A couple days back, I spent an afternoon going through the emails doing a statistical analysis of people’s reaction to it. There’s a lot of things about the emails that people semd me which I didn’t really expect. This post is a breakdown of that analysis.

Part 1: Sex

From what I’ve read about Literotica, registered female users outnumber registered male users by about 4:1. (Take that, folks who think porn is just for men!)

When people send an email to a story author from Literotica, the email is anonymous, and does not reveal anything about the sender unless the sender specifically chooses to do so.

I have as of the time of this writing received a total of 222 emails about the “Training” series. A lot of the folks who send me anonymous emails tell me something about themselves. The first thing that I did was break down the emails into three categories: emails from people who specifically told me they were male, emails from people who specifically told me they were female, and emails from people where the sex of the sender wasn’t revealed.

Unsurprisingly, email from women outnumbered email from men, at least among email where the senders revealed their sex:

Among people who chose to reveal their sex, women outnumbered men by almost exactly 4:1, which is consistent with the overall demographics on Literotica. This strongly suggests that women and men are almost perfectly equally likely to respond to a story on Literotica by emailing the author…at least if we disregard email from folks who choose not to reveal their sex.

There are a few potential caveats, of course. One might hypothesize that men are more likely to email than women but not to reveal their sex, if the number of emailers who don’t reveal their sex is slanted toward men. It’s possible the reverse is true, if the number of emailers who don’t reveal their sex is slanted toward women. If women are more likely than men to email the author of a story, but also less likely than men to reveal their sex, for example, it could be that women outnumber men in the “unspecified” category by 8:1, and I wouldn’t know.

Given how closely the demographics of folks who do reveal their sex matches the demographics of Literotica in general, I’m inclined to say that women who don’t reveal their sex also outnumber men who don’t reveal their sex by 4:1 as well…but of course, that’s an inference, not something I can demonstrate.

What’s really interesting to me, though, are the reactions to the story. I generally get a lot of positive response to the story and a handful of negative response, but the breakdown of positive to negative response is really interesting, and not at all what I expected.

Clicky the link to learn what I learned!

Still more on the Map of Non-Monogamy

[Edit]: Can’t get enough non-monogamy? Check out the book!

The Map of Non-Monogamy I’ve posted on my journal already keeps generating a ton of email, and I’ve realized that there is still another category of non-monogamous sexual behavior missing from it.

So, here it is yet again, in what is hopefully the final revision (ha!). The Map has gotten quite a lot more complicated, and I’ve added a number of new examples and clarified some of the old ones. I’ve also added borders around the various overlapping sections to make them easier to see. Oh, and polyamory intersects with swinging now–it was supposed to from the beginning, and I’m not quite sure why it didn’t.

I’m still getting quite a bit of email about the Map, so for the record: Yes, you can re-post or re-blog it provided you give credit and a return link. A couple of folks have emailed asking for permission to translate it into different languages. Same thing; feel free to do so provided you give credit and a return link.

If you translate it or blog about it and you’d like me to link to your translation or article, let me know! I’m also planning, eventually, to add a Sexual Informatics section to the Web site, which will have this and all the other sexual informatics charts and maps I’ve done, probably in a more interactive format.

As before, click on the picture to see a much, much larger version.

Map of Non-Monogamy Re-Revisited

[Edit] There is yet another update to the map here. You can also find my book on non-monogamy here.

Because my brain is totally broken…

I woke up very, very early this morning and couldn’t get back to sleep, because it suddenly occurred to me that entire classes of non-monogamy were missing from the last version I did. Plus, I thought of a lot more edge cases. And since the only way I can get this stuff out of my head is to put it on the Interwebs, here it is!

As before, click for a bigger version. A much, much bigger version, that will pulverize your bandwidth the way Chuck Norris pulverizes your pelvis. Or something. I don’t know.

Sexual Informatics: Non-Monogamy

I’ve been told, many times, that the word “polyamory” is not really necessary, as it’s simply a synonym for “open relationship” or “swinging” (or, depending on the person talking to me, “cheating”). This idea seems to assume that there’s really only one kind of non-monogamy, which is kind of silly.

I started thinking lately about the various ways in which a relationship can be non-monogamous, and the intersections between different sorts of non-monogamy, and after tinkering around with the notion for a while I’ve come up with this diagram.

A relationship can be non-monogamous without being open; cheating relationships, polyfidelitous relationships, and religious polygyny are all examples. I’ve made polyamory and swinging separate and nonoverlapping here, though of course a person can be polyamorous and also be a swinger (they’re two different behaviors engaged in by the same person, just as a person can be a swinger and also be a cheater, and so on).

BDSM throws a monkeywrench into the issue because there are so many ways that people involved in BDSM can be non-monogamous. I’ve seen people who play at play parties with other folks but don’t do so outside play parties and don’t form relationships; that sort of arrangement overlaps with swinging. I’ve seen various flavors of polyamorous and polyfi BDSM relationships. I’ve seen closed-group non-monogamy that isn’t quite polyamory and looks more like closed-group swinging, though God knows there’s some overlap between closed-group swinging and polyfi; I’ve known closed group swingers whose groups stay stable for longer than most marriages do. And there’s a sliver of non-monogamous BDSM relationships that don’t intersect with anything else; “I’ll arrange a gang bang for you and you’ll LIKE IT,” ferinstance.

And then there’s con sex, which overlaps with a whole lot of other stuff. But someone could probably write an entire book about con sex. And now that I think about it, I’d probably read it.

Because sex is a lot like astrophysics…

In the study of stellar evolution, there is this concept called the main sequence, a well-defined band that you see whenever you survey all the stars in the sky and plot their color on one axis and their brightness on the other. Not all stars fall into the main sequence, but the vast majority do; there’s even a lovely image of the graph here.

It seems the same is true of relationships. Stellar evolution and stellar nucleosynthesis map with remarkable fidelity onto relationships, I’ve observed, with a plot of “intensity of relationship” (as a function of emotional investment and expectation of continuity) vs. “sexual boundaries” showing patterns startlingly similar to the main sequence. At least to me.

So for example if you plot sexual boundaries horizontally and relationship intensity vertically, you might see something like this:

The sexual boundaries increase from left to right, with the classifications as:

A: Anything goes. Unbarriered, unprotected, full-on squishy fluid-bonded sex.
B: Barriers for anal and PIV sex
O: Unbarriered oral; no penetrative sex.
F: Fisting and/or fingering without barriers; barriers for anything else.
G: Gloves for fingering; no wet and squishy contact, even manual, without them.
P: Pants stay on; above-the-pants contact allows.
M: Makeout partners–no removing of clothing.

Now, not all the partners one can have fall in the main sequence. Along the top of the graph, we see partners distributed in Type Ia and Type Ib classifications: these are people you will schedule regular orgies with or a regular BDSM play relationship with, which may or may not involve sex (directly) but do involve a high level of emotional investment and commitment. Some of these folks might even be considered “family.”

If you’re part of the sex-positive community, you might go to orgies or play parties on a regular basis, and see the same folks over and over. These are folks you don’t necessarily have squishy sex with, but you might have some sort of irregular or semi-regular play/makeout relationship with. There’s not necessarily a high level of emotional investment, but you notice when you show up to a party and they aren’t there.

Type IV partners are most commonly found in poly relationships. These are the “Too Complicated To Explain” partners–they’re not necessarily partner partners, and they’re not necessarily part of the family, but they’re not not partners either…

A branch from the main sequence sometimes occurs for metamours, who a person might have some sort of sexual relationship with, but might not continue if that person’s partner breaks up with that person, but then again, sometimes these relationships do continue on their own, and…yeah, it’s complicated. Past a certain point, it’s not always clear from a single partner whether that person is main sequence or metamour.

A scattering of partners exist with a high level of sexual contact but a low level of relationship investment. These partners tend to scatter along the Friends with Benefits and One-Night Stand axes.

Group Sex Meets Information Theory

A while ago, I got to wondering, as I sometimes do, exactly what makes an orgy. For example, if fifteen people are all in a room having sex, but only within existing partnerships, and there’s no “extra-partner” sex happening, is it an orgy? If four people are all fucking each other, is that an orgy, or is it just a foursome?

As it turns out, the dictionary is of precious little assistance with answering questions like this. I consulted a number of different dictionaries, and got a number of different answers–one said an orgy is five or more people having sex, one said more than two, one said an event dominated by “excessive” sexual activity (whatever the hell that means), and so on.

Now, to me, three people having sex is a threesome; four people having sex is a foursome; it doesn’t get to be an orgy until you’ve got five or more people.

But is a play party an orgy? Clearly not all orgies are play parties, but is a play party an orgy? What about a play party where people aren’t having penetrative sex? How about a mutual masturbation event…is that an orgy? My impulse is to say “no;” it isn’t an orgy unless there are five or more people and there’s fucking going on, so mutual masturbation doesn’t count. (Edit: There are many kinds of sexual activities that aren’t penetrative sex that I would consider to be an orgy, so I’m still not quite sure exactly where the borderline for the definition of “orgy” is.)

From there it was a short intellectual hop to wondering how many different kinds of group sex there are1, and what the relationship between them is.

So I started working on a Venn diagram of group sex. Then I started enlisting the help of all the people around me.

Then I started realizing that some of the potential overlaps are complicated beyond what you might at first think. For example, not all swing parties include group sex, yet most folks would probably think of a swing party as a group sex event.

And it soon became clear that certain rules of geometry2 precluded doing this as a traditional Venn diagram, because it’s not possible to show all the overlaps and exclusions with circles.

So the project got a little more complex.

Anyway, here’s what I came up with: Where group sex intersects with information theory!

Some assumptions I’ve made for this chart:

1. An orgy must involve penetrative sex of some kind (including manual sex) but can not involve all the participants being sexual with one and only one person; a gang bang and an orgy are exclusive, non-overlapping sex.

2. An orgy can never bee a threesome or a foursome.

3. If penetrative sex happens, it is no longer a puppy pile; ergo, orgies and gang bangs exclude puppy piles.

I have the feeling I missed some categories of group sex, though, and I don’t know how universal these assumptions are.

1 As opposed to how many different kinds of sexual activity you can have in a group sex situation, which is a completely different question altogether.

2 Specifically, group theory, about which I know less than what would fit in the white space of a postage stamp.