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Pan labyrinth 

I’m pan-curious and moving to a new city, how do I integrate? Plus: I’m jealous of my wife’s actions in our open marriage.

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Q I'm a 28-year-old pan-curious married guy from the Midwest about to move to San Francisco. I've been with my wife for 10 years, and we've started to explore being monogamish. I am also re-exploring my bi attractions. I've been thinking a lot about the opportunities for reinvention that our cross-country move might provide. My wife is GGG and fully supportive, but I still feel apprehensive about getting back out there. I'd like to believe that I am not a complete fool at being charming when it comes to dating, but after 10 years of monogamy, I am worried that my sex knowledge is the sex that works for my wife and me. And there's the fact that I am very new to guys, with just one short-term M/M relationship and one terrible hookup under my belt. Any tips for bolstering one's confidence and making new sexual encounters as fun and unawkward as possible? Is there a resource for dating, hookups, culture? I want to slut it up in SF, but I don't know where to start.—Newbie (New Bi?) Slut

A "My first piece of advice for anyone opening up their relationship is to take things slow," says Polly Superstar, co-founder and host of Kinky Salon, a pansexual, pan-kink, pan-everything party/space/institution in San Francisco. "Why jump off a cliff when you can take the stairs? However supportive his wife is of his new adventures, it's likely to bring up some unexpected emotions, so just take it one step at a time, communicate clearly and be patient with each other."

And while your feelings and your wife's feelings are paramount—you are each other's primary partners—the other people you hook up with have limbic systems of their own. Too many people stroll into their first sex club or kink party expecting to find a room full of human Fleshlights at their disposal, and are shocked to find a room full of other human beings with desires, preferences and limits. So taking it one step at a time, communicating clearly and being patient isn't just for you and your wife—it's for anyone you play with, NNBS, even if you may never see them again.

As for men: "After 10 years of monogamy with a woman, it's not surprising he's apprehensive about having sex with men," says Superstar. "That's totally normal! But I don't believe that sexual confidence with new partners is the key to great hookups. There are a gazillion books out there teaching people techniques for self-confidence, but most of them just teach you how to be an asshole. He should just be himself and be real. Accepting that new sexual encounters can be awkward is the first step in making them less so."

Superstar took the words right out of my mouth: Acknowledging and embracing the awkwardness is the only way to get past it. Pretending you aren't feeling awkward when you are makes you seem more awkward. So practice saying, "I'm new at this, I'm a little nervous and I'm feeling a little awkward." Good people will make an effort to put you at ease. Shitty people will do you the favour of wandering off.

But whether you want to explore with men or women, NNBS, Superstar—who has something of a bias—recommends sex parties. "They're a great place to explore because there's no commitment," said Superstar. "You can meet someone, make out, fool around for a bit, and if you're not feeling it, you can go do something else. Obviously I would recommend my event, Kinky Salon, for a newbie bi guy. We are queer-friendly and a great place to meet people. He could even bring his wife along. It's a lot safer and more community-driven than the anonymity of a bathhouse, and there are more opportunities to flirt, make out and socialize."

Q My wife and I are in an open relationship. It started because my wife found flirtatious text messages I sent to a co-worker. She confronted me calmly and said she knew our sexual relationship hadn't been great. She was not that interested in sex, as she'd gained about 50 pounds. I was still attracted to her, but I was rejected half the time. The other half, we had good sex, but nothing new. She said she was willing to try an open relationship.We talked it to death before deciding we should move into (open) uncharted waters.

I had a year-long relationship with my co-worker. During that time, my wife never had a sexual experience with anyone else, but she started losing weight and we started having better, more frequent sex. Now I'm not looking for anything on the side. But she has embarked on sexual relationships with several people, including threesomes with her best friend and best friend's husband, a neighbour and a co-worker. I know I sound like an asshole, but I am insanely jealous. I feel like she's getting to know our new city by sleeping with everyone in the neighbourhood. Do I deal with this by ending our agreement to share information about outside partners? Or do I tell her I don't want an open relationship anymore, which seems like a dick move? —Other People Excluded Now

A It sounds like you and the wife had different ideas about what your open relationship would look like. What you were doing with your co-worker sounds like poly-style openness—an ongoing emotional, sexual relationship—while what your wife is doing with her best friend, her best friend's husband, the neighbour and her co-worker sounds more like fuck-whoever-you-want openness.

It seems that what really bothers you about your wife's explorations—"sleeping with everyone in the neighbourhood"—is the potential for gossip. Not everyone in an open relationship is comfortable being out about it; some people who aren't sexually monogamous nevertheless wish to be socially monogamous, because they fear being judged. Or perhaps the issue is this: If people know your wife is sleeping around but don't know about the open relationship, you may look like a foolish, fooled husband. Those are legitimate concerns, and your wife needs to take your feelings into consideration, and you two need to reopen negotiations. The best compromise may be for your wife to dial it back while simultaneously shifting to a DADT arrangement or, as you put it, ending your agreement to share info about your outside partners. a

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