Carol A. Boyer, MA, LPC, NCC
If you live an alternative lifestyle, it can be hard to find a counselor who really understands where you’re coming from, and who won’t find a “problem” where there isn’t one.
When you come to me for counseling, you can be yourself. All "safe, sane, and consensual" relationships are welcome, and I will not discriminate against any relationship style or practice among consenting adults.
What follows is, by no means, a comprehensive list. It is merely a brief general description of some of the alternative lifestyles with which I am familiar. In actual practice, there is considerable variation in how these lifestyles are expressed.
While our society continues to hold up monogamous marriage as the ideal for which all of us should strive, the facts are sobering. Nearly half of all American marriages end in divorce, infidelity is estimated to affect nearly 40% of monogamous couples, and second and third marriages (and the extended/blended families they create) are common. While these facts should not necessarily discourage us from entering into a traditional monogamous marriage -- if that is our true desire -- lifelong monogamy is not the only choice for sustainable relationships.
People who practice polyamory believe that it is possible to love more than one person at a time, and to conduct multiple sexual relationships in an open, honest, ethical manner. Successful poly relationships require a willingness to engage in open, honest communication about intimate feelings and sexuality that many people find challenging. But those who are committed to the poly lifestyle are willing to take on these difficult challenges to create the kinds of relationships they find most meaningful.
Swinging is similar to poly, in that there are multiple sexual relationships, but swingers generally reserve “romantic” feelings for their primary partner or spouse, whereas sexual relationships with others are primarily viewed as “recreational.” Married/committed couples often “play” together as a couple, and many identify as monogamous.
For some people, wearing thigh-high hose might be a little kinky. For others, the game is much more elaborate, and might include costumes, props, and a full-fledged “scene” performed in front of others (usually at a private club or “play party” in someone’s home).
A fetish is any object that is used for purposes of sexual arousal and/or sexual play. In mainstream culture, this might include items such as women’s bras and lacy underwear, high-heeled shoes, stockings, etc. For those who are part of the kink/fetish community, the list is considerably broader, and might include clothing made out of leather, rubber, or latex. A fetish might also focus on particular body parts, objects, or costumes not usually associated with sexuality, such as feet, balloons, or a nurse’s uniform.
BDSM is something of an umbrella term, and describes the style of play agreed upon by the participants. Bondage and discipline (B/D), dominance and submission (D/s), and sadism and masochism (S/M) all involve some form of power dynamics where one partner assumes control (with the other partner’s consent) for the duration of the scene. Scenes are designed to give each partner a particular experience, and may include unusual forms of physical or emotional manipulation or stimuli to enhance the experience. In some relationships (again, by consent), this power dynamic is carried over into daily life.
The kinds and intensity of play found in the BDSM community vary widely. Scenes can be played between partners, friends, or even strangers, and often do not include sex. Many of those who incorporate kink into their sexual practices are “in the closet” while others live a completely BDSM lifestyle.
Body modification includes (but is not limited to) piercing, tattooing, branding, scarring, or surgically changing parts of one’s body as a form of expression. There is considerable overlap between those who practice body modification and those who practice other alternative lifestyles, although one does not necessarily imply the other.
There are many other ways in which someone may live an alternative lifestyle, including alternative spirituality, non-traditional gender expression, and others. If you live a non-traditional lifestyle, and are looking for a counselor who can accept you for who you are, give me a call.
50 Church Street, Suite L3, Montclair, NJ 07042