Sexy Scrabble Party!!-Wed. March 30-Philly Random Happenings

Tonight the Erotic Literary Salon along with Passional Boutique are sponsoring the Sexy Scrabble debut party in (Olde City) Philadelphia. So far almost 40 people signed up through various meetups. You need not RSVP, but it will get you a discounted ticket.

Scrabble tiles on a game board spelling the words Love, Lust and Sex

The following blurb taken from Philly Random Happenings site:

Sexy Scrabble Party!!! (Olde City)

Wednesday, Mar 30, 2016, 6:00 PM

Barra Italian Restaurant
239 Chestnut Street Philadelphia, PA

8 Randomatons Attending

An ALL NEW Event by your friendly neighborhood admin! SEXY SCRABBLE PARTY! Let’s play a word game with a new tantalizing twist!UPDATE! We have two AMAZING Sponsors for Sexy Scrabble Party: The Erotic Literary Salon Passional Boutique Flirt with your vocabulary and lust with your lexicon! A fun casual event! Players win bonus points by playing ‘se…

Check out this Meetup →

  • , March 30, 2016


  • WednesdayBarra Italian Restaurant

    239 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA (map)

  • An ALL NEW Event by your friendly neighborhood admin!
    Let’s play a word game with a new tantalizing twist!

    We have two AMAZING Sponsors for Sexy Scrabble Party:
    The Erotic Literary Salon
    Passional Boutique

    Flirt with your vocabulary and lust with your lexicon!
    A fun casual event!
    Players win bonus points by playing ‘sexy words’. It’s a great way to mingle, meet others, in a stress-free environment!


    To defray costs we are asking for $12 at the door, OR only $10 if you sign-up in advance (highly recommended as space is limited). Here is the site for info and signups:

    Any questions? Ask me (Alex) anytime!
    PS – you DON’T need to be great at Scrabble to participate!

    More info:

Adult Sex-Ed: The Controversial G-Spot-Squirting-Female Ejaculation

IMPORTANT: The Adult Sex-Ed portion of the Erotic Literary Salon-Live has been extended. Walter will be asking his mind-bending, oftentimes controversial, always thought provoking questions Plus the attendees will get to pose sex/love/relationship related questions to Dr. Mayer – anonymously.


New times for the Salon:

6:30 Doors Open

7 Adult Sex-Ed

8 Intermission

8:30 Readings start

2 articles on the history of the G-Spot and how to find it.

AT FIRST GUSH: The juicy history of squirting

Ginger first created “a small but noticeable puddle” with her orgasm when she was 19, while masturbating alone using her hand. A few years before, in the late 1990s, she’d used her family’s computer to search AOL about squirting after she heard a rumor that one of her high school classmates “soaked a boyfriend’s arm while he was fingering her.” The literature Ginger found online back then convinced her the fluid wasn’t pee, so when she experienced the phenomenon herself, she was comfortable with it.

“I had a pretty reasonable understanding that it was natural for some women,” she told me. Her comfort may have been helped along by the fact that “it was the best orgasm [she’d] ever had.” She’s been orgasmically releasing liquid without anxiety or shame in the 15 years since.

For a generation weaned on internet porn, inundated by sex advice, and adept at online search engines, “squirting” entered the mainstream years ago. But part of what makes it so visible are the petty controversies surrounding it. The public conversation is preoccupied with determining whether or not it’s “real,”meaning whether or not the resulting fluid is pee, and if the G spot (often used as an outdated term for the female prostate, the organ that yields ejaculate) even exists. Some disagreements are legitimate, stemming from lack of adequate research and disputes about methodology, but much is driven by sexist ideology instead of sincere curiosity. Consequently, plenty of ejaculating cis women remain confused and ashamed about their bodies’ responses, even holding back on orgasm altogether because they’re embarrassed by the outcome.

It wasn’t always this way. A variety of texts ranging from ancient to merely old indicate that societies in both the East and West were much more comfortable and familiar with the myriad ways women get wet. According to the earliest Taoist and Greek writings, “copious emissions,” “liquid discharge,” and “seminal fluid” were an expected and solicited aspect of women’s sexual functioning. These documents sometimes even bullet point the order in which different types of wetness occur.

But bodily secretions aren’t always easily distinguished, or marked in perfect time with corresponding phases of intimacy. Women’s physical responses have been ignored, denied, and mandated by a tremendous amount of (mostly male) scientists’ energy over the years, even as women’s bodies regularly flout attempts at control. And no case study illustrates the dubious authority of modern sexual mores more vividly than female ejaculation.

Defining female ejaculation is the first step in understanding it, but unfortunately, that’s no easy task. Researcher and educator Beverly Whipple, co-author of The G Spot, has made validating women’s sexual responses her life’s work, and is one of the world’s foremost experts on the female prostate and its excretions. She maintains that female ejaculation is different from “squirting” (also known as “gushing”), though pop culture and most lay people regard the terms as interchangeable. Both substances come out of the urethra, as does plain old urine, but female ejaculation produces a modest amount of milky fluid with a chemical makeup “significantly different” from pee, while squirting—according to several much-hyped studies—yields more profuse amounts of clear or nearly clear diluted urine with less PSA (prostate-specific antigens) than pure ejaculate. In other words, the three fluids are chemically distinct.

Squirting is what’s usually showcased in porn because it’s so eruptive and dramatic, and therefore it’s what most people visualize when they hear “female ejaculation.” I asked Whipple if she knew of any porn featuring actual female ejaculation as opposed to gushing, and she said no. I did a little bit of digging—for science!—and found that even porn claiming to specifically showcase “Skene’s gland,” i.e. female prostate, orgasms, captures especially opaque/white discharge pushed out at the vagina’s lower rim, not fluid coming from the urethra. (Who would have suspected porn would ever fail to deliver what it promises?)

No case study illustrates the dubious authority of modern sexual mores more vividly than female ejaculation.

Whipple first learned of female ejaculation when she was teaching women to do Kegel exercises to control what the subjects thought was urinary incontinence. The biofeedback she and her colleagues received showed that some participants had very strong pelvic muscles, which suggests the ability to control one’s pee. Those women subsequently explained that the only time they had trouble holding back (what they assumed to be) urine was during sex.

Though female ejaculation and squirting are usually assumed to be evidence of orgasm, and an especially powerful orgasm at that, women reported to Whipple and her colleagues that it also occurs before or without orgasm. One study suggested it happens more commonly without orgasm than with, and noted some women ejaculate with prostate stimulation alone and no attendant arousal.

That squirting need not be related to sexual pleasure is old news to me; I taught myself to do it when I was 21, to make more money. It was 2004 and I was working as a so-called “adult model” on webcam at the height of squirt-mania. Porn star Cytherea was drenching sets and co-stars with her legendary output, and dozens of potential customers were typing to me each night: “can u squirt?” I knew I’d miss out on their money if I wasn’t able to accommodate their appetite for novelty and tangible sexual response, so I bought Deborah Sundahl’s Female Ejaculation & The G-spot and spent an afternoon seeing what I could do.

It took several hours and a lot of concentrated effort—namely rubbing the roof of my vagina well past the point of comfort—but by the time I was done, I’d soaked my sheets with a liquid that resembled clean sea water in odor and appearance. From that point forward, almost every night of work ended in a pile of sodden towels and two loads of laundry.

Naturally, to write comprehensively about female ejaculation I had to reach out to the woman whose work had bolstered my cam earnings so considerably. Though not a scientist, Sundahl is an expert on women’s genital fluids; she’s lectured and taught on the matter for 25 years and no book rivals her contemporary classic. Her curiosity was piqued decades ago when she found herself releasing fluid during sex, and her resultant research positioned her as leader of the gushing vanguard. She takes issue with the word “squirting” on the grounds that it’s “a porn term.”

“It’s a rather adolescent description of the full fountainous beauty of female ejaculation,” she told me. Though I understand why she finds it pejorative, I don’t share her objection. For the purpose of this piece, I use “gushing/squirting” and “female ejaculation” in keeping with Whipple’s definitions, but individuals are quoted using the terms they prefer. (And it’s worth noting now that since almost all historical documents and scientific studies adopt a cisnormative viewpoint, most of what follows speaks to the bodies of cis women only.)

Both Sundahl’s Female Ejaculation and Whipple’s The G Spot includea slew of evidence of historical awareness of female ejaculation/squirting, and later enthusiasts began took to referencing even more. These documents came (heh) to constitute something of a female ejaculation canon. Today, academics and sexperts alike confidently point to suggestive documents that span centuries and continents, ranging from Aristotle to contemporary reports on practices of some African tribes. But not everyone is persuaded. As Catherine Blackledge, author of The Story of V: A Natural History of Female Sexuality explains, “one of the main arguments against the accuracy of historical descriptions of female ejaculation is that descriptions…could refer to any of the many aspects of female genital secretions.”

Secret Instructions Concerning the Jade Chamber, a 4th century Taoist work, is one of the more convincing exhibits because it distinguishes between “slippery vagina,” which happens first, and then “the genitals transmit fluid.” It also warns women against “exhaust[ing]” their “female fluid” before a man is as equally aroused, an attitude that contradicts the way general female wetness (“Yin”) was spoken of at the time. (Unlike a man’s finite Yang—you can imagine what that is—Yin was regarded as inexhaustible, which means there’d be no reason to advise against going nuts with it.) The 6th century’s Secrets Methods of a Plain Girl is equally evocative, separating “moist and slippery” genitalia as the predecessor to “copious emissions from her Inner Heart begin[ning] to exude outward.” Is it hot in here or is it just me?

Squirt fans now regard the whole of the Eastern world as particularly forward-thinking re:female fluids thanks to texts like the 12 century’s Sanskrit “Ratirahasya.” It explains that while women are subject to a continuous “moist flow,” that’s only a “small portion” of their pleasure and “at the end they have like men, the…swooning of emission.” Western tantra practitioners claim that the Sanskrit word “amrita,” which literally translates as “nectar,” really meant “female ejaculation,” but I was unable to find any credible source for this. There are also claims that some Indian temples are decorated with reliefs of women gushing but the only image I could find was a lo-res but badass picture Deborah Sundahl shared with me:

Even as someone who’s squirted, I’m skeptical that much of what’s put forth as historical documentation of female ejaculation actually identifies the act. Vaginal lubrication can be copious, impressively so; it can create wetness outside as well as in, smearing thighs and vulva lips, and its transparency and viscosity vary based on Ph balance and whatever other fluids have been introduced into the mix. So when Aristotle wrote that female “discharge” sometimes “far exceeds” a man’s “emissions of semen,” he could have meant ejaculation—or he could’ve been referring to sheer vaginal wetness. It’s impossible to divorce Galen’s, Hippocrates’, Aristotle’s, and other ancient figures’ references to female “seed” or “semen” from their androcentric milieus, such that their writing can be taken as conclusive recognition of a female prostate.

After acknowledging such objections, The Story of V’s Blackledge adds that sometimes “there is little room for dispute.” But the passages presented as obviously about female ejaculation still strike me as obviously not. Blackledge introduces 17th century anatomist Reiner de Graaf as having the “clearest insights” on the matter before quoting his description of “thick and copious” amounts of liquid that “pour” from women’s genitals during fits. I’ve never experienced or witnessed any fluid literally “pouring” out, and I can’t imagine “thick” discharge, of all the possible types of discharge, would be the type to do it.

It’s hard to take descriptions of female sexuality in both erotica and male-penned scientific works at face value given how breathlessly exaggerated they often are.

So is this a bad translation? Or is it accurately conveying the hyperbolic thinking of a man writing from within a culture that saw women’s sexuality, by definition, as extreme? de Graaf is credited with extensive investigation into the female prostate; he probably watched at least one woman ejaculate. (Later, he more soberly reported “one gush” of fluid sourced from the prostate and distinguished it from other types of genital lubrication.) But his overblown descriptions are characteristic of much historical writing, and it leaves room for uncertainty about what was actually observed.

Victorian-era “The Pearl,” an erotic magazine mentioned in The G Spot as being full of female ejaculation, offers a less outrageous take. “I was so excited that a sudden emission wetted his fingers all over in a creamy spend,” one of its fictional characters reports, quite possibly referring to ejaculation. But it’s just as plausibly speaking to how mounting vaginal secretions break open when the inner labia are parted. It’s hard to take descriptions of female sexuality in both erotica and male-penned scientific works at face value given how breathlessly exaggerated they often are. Considered as a whole, these documents reveal repeated attempts to parse women’s tangible sexual response. But it’s almost always without direct input from women themselves.

And it still is. The argument about whether or not squirting was “real” never made much sense to me. I knew my body could produce something distinct from urine in almost every sensory aspect: taste, smell, color. (“Like a cup of warm, salty water,” as one my interviewees said.) If it was indeed urine, it was so diluted as to be unrecognizable, and when I’d use the toilet afterwards, typical urination followed. “The fluid is really thin and clear, like peeing when you’re extremely well-hydrated,” one woman told me of her own output, while another said, “I’ve tried to actually urinate during orgasm several times and it doesn’t work. [Squirt] smells a little like pee, but when I go to the bathroom after intercourse or oral, I relieve a full bladder full of a much different liquid.”

Squirt queen herself, Cytherea, had this to say about accusations that she’s really only peeing:

I know a lot of women currently in the industry who are squirting and they are just straight-up pissing. It’s yellow and smelly […] I know I pee a whole different way [than I squirt,] in how it feels and the consistency and everything. I’ve given up on trying to convince people. Fine, whatever. If it’s pissing, it’s pissing, and I piss in two ways, and that’s all there is to it.”

As my friend Lux Alptraum once asked, “Who cares if it’s pee? It feels good!” Lux’s take on the debate about squirting’s authenticity is that it belies “skepticism about women’s ability to understand their own sexual responses”; even if squirt “comes from the bladder, it looks, smells and feels different from urine.” Her impression is confirmed by the way most media coverage inflates shoddystudies purporting that the G spot doesn’t exist, or that squirting is pee, with declarative, provocative headlines. Finally, these articles imply, ejaculating women have been revealed as shiesters or morons, or both. 

It’s easier to just cede that ground than shout yourself hoarse, which explains why so many others have adopted Cytherea’s and Lux’s “who cares?” approach. Even Ginger, whose precocious internet search helped her become comfortable with gushing years ago, now believes the fluid is urine. But not everyone is prepared to go down without a fight.

“It’s not urine!” Deborah Sundahl insisted to me when I brought up Whipple’s distinction between squirting (diluted urine) and ejaculation (primarily prostate emission). “This is a backlash! Two little tear ducts can cry a river, right? There are up to 48 ducts and glands in the female prostate. And answer me this: if it’s urine for women, then why—when a man has a prostate orgasm—is his ejaculate watery and there’s a lot of it, just as is true for us?”

“Who cares if it’s pee? It feels good!”

When I squirted on webcam, I stopped only because I’d ran out of full-sized bath towels to soak and I was tired. The amount of liquid I could create in a few hours felt like it well exceeded the amount of urine I produced on most days. And when I spoke to men who were in the habit of inducing orgasms through prostate stimulation, they mostly confirmed what Sundahl said. Stace told me his prostate orgasms can create as much as 10 times the fluid his penile orgasms once did. Georgia Lee, a dominatrix experienced in prostate massage, said her clients usually produce twice if not three or four times as much. Drew described the smell of his resulting ejaculate as not fishy but “aquatic,” like “a salty sea breeze.” Sound familiar?

It’s probably not surprising, given the circumstances under which I mastered the act, that squirting has never been very pleasurable to me, or something I even think of as being part of my sexuality. I regarded it as an uncomfortable but impressive stunt, something I usually felt pride for accomplishing but that had nothing to do with my arousal or erotic satisfaction. And for most women, context is everything. Ginger, the aforementioned precocious squirter, specified that some of her gushing orgasms have been “shitty, because I felt pressured to perform,” when they’re otherwise “the best and hottest” of her life. Another woman told me that “sometimes [squirting] comes with a really deep orgasm and sometimes it literally doesn’t feel satisfying at all.”

Betty Dodson, a famous sex educator and vehement critic of the promotion of female ejaculation, opposes obsessive attention around the act in part because it’s not indicative of orgasm. Many entries on her site are devoted to addressing women who squirt before they’ve come and whose partners subsequently fail to help them climax, as well as women who are being pressured to produce proof of their excitement, be it “white stuff” or squirting. Ultimately, men who pressure their lovers to squirt during sex and men who excoriate their partners for “peeing” during sex are not so different; they, like many scientists, are desperate to make women’s bodies give up observable, physical proof of our sexual experience, since our verbal reports can’t be trusted. As Sundahl says, the impulse to devise studies that can disprove women’s own reports of their sexual experiences is “invasive, diminishing, and patronizing.”

And what’s saddest about the distracting and irrelevant “Is squirting pee?” debate is that it dodges the issue of what feels good. Commitment to enhancing and validating pleasure came first for Whipple and Sundahl, who each reject the notion that every (or any) woman’s body needs to behave a certain way. Neither expert intended for her work to create more shame or additional sexual imperatives. But our cultural insistence on gate-keeping bodies—which extends to maintenance of a strict gender divide, and the policing of all aspects of sexuality—wants pure information-sharing to devolve into prescription of certain sanctioned acts. We haven’t stopped freighting genital responses with political meaning, which means a truly progressive, holistic, and accurate take on anyone’s sexuality will continue to elude us.

With squirting now frequently fetishized and consequently popularized, the last frontier of the taboo that is female wetness may be regular, everyday discharge. I was thrilled and slightly scandalized when 2014’s Obvious Child included a running joke about underwear that “looks like it crawled out of a tub of cream cheese.” (“I used to hide what my vagina did to my underpants,” the main character says. Her, and literally everyone else.) I was equally delighted by Amy Schumer’s line about wanting to get through a day without her underwear looking “like I blew my nose on it.” Occasional or regular undie-crusting daily discharge has nothing to do with arousal, sexual performance, or gratifying partners, so it’s unlikely to be hyped in mainstream news articles anytime soon.

Ignorant of this bodily truth, when I hit puberty I thought I’d become sick. I went to my mom with my dirty bikini bottoms as proof and asked her what was wrong with me. The short answer? I had a vagina.

Gina, now 72, can’t remember when she first squirted though she suspects it was in her early twenties. The lack of a specific memory might be attributable to how comfortable she was with the experience in spite of her unfamiliarity with the phenomenon. “I took it to be part of the pleasure nature intended for us,” she told me. And she wasn’t the only one who handled it maturely: “A few of my partners said, ‘It’s nice that you can do that.’ Perhaps many didn’t notice.”

That there’s uncertainty and ambiguity present in historical representations of female sexual secretions, and that there’s still scientific and medical uncertainty about the same, need not be discouraging. Our problems often lie with the insistence on black and white answers about widely variable human responses, not in the functioning of our sometimes surprising erotic bodies. Whipple’s research showed that women need not be ashamed of the liquids they release during arousal because it’s a natural and healthy part of their sexual functioning. But our absolutist cultural mentality perverted this message into a referendum on what physical response is most indicative of a fully realized feminine sexuality.

I asked Whipple if it’s possible many women are already ejaculating and simply not aware of it since the amount of fluid may amount to less than a teaspoon. I was thinking of how many women have been pressured to ejaculate to please their partners, or suspect that they need to do it to enjoy better orgasms, or who think that inability to ejaculate speaks to personal failure. Could these women be berating themselves over not doing something they’ve done before, without realizing they had?

“Absolutely,” she said.

How to Find Your G-Spot

The G-spot, or urethral sponge, is a largely mysterious yet magical place in the female body. Every woman has one (yes it’s true, we do!) and this area is generally easy to locate. So why is it that so many women, and men, are still searching for this portal of pleasure?

There is a long, complicated cultural history to consider that includes sexual repression, sexual shame, misogyny and religion. The G-spot does not have anything to do directly with human reproduction—even though it plays several important roles—and at one point all of the areas of the female genitals that did not involve reproduction were removed from anatomical models. To this day medical textbooks are still missing parts of the female anatomy. Because the G-spot is located on the inside of the vagina and is not easily visible, perhaps it has been easy to dismiss or in some way, forget about.

Stimulation of the urethral sponge, also known as the G-spot and female prostate, leads to female ejaculation; a subject that is still taboo in our culture. What many people don’t know is that women, like men, also have the ability to ejaculate. With a G-spot orgasm women can release a clear liquid from their urethra that is stored in the urethral sponge. This can be a phenomenal release of tension, emotion and bliss and any woman can learn how to do it.

Today the media continues to perpetuate the idea that the G-spot is mysterious by giving false and inadequate information on how to find it and how it works. Recently a study was released that supposedly questioned the existence of the G-spot altogether.

Many women and sex educators know from their own personal experience that this is definitely not true! Your G-spot and all of the pleasure it contains is there, waiting to be discovered by you. Here’s how to find it and what to do when you get there . . .

The G-spot is more than just a spot but an area that has a head, a body and a tail. It is literally a sponge–the urethral sponge.

The urethral sponge is located on the roof of your vagina. It can begin in different places for different women but for the majority of women it is located just inside the entrance of the vagina and often tucked slightly under the pubic bone. With your fingertip facing upward you will feel a rough area just inside the opening of your vagina. To get an idea of what this feels like run your tongue along the ridges of the roof of your mouth just behind your front teeth. As you do this, the ridges get more pronounced and the same is for your G-spot as you build arousal and its erectile tissue expands and it fills with fluid. Once you locate your G-spot anchor, or gently press, your finger in like you are massaging (as opposed to rubbing with friction) and move forward and back or side-to- side. Explore a little further back and see how that feels. With pleasurable touch the ridges will engorge and become more pronounced and you will be able to feel small valleys on the sides.

Some women have no feeling in their G-spots at first, others experience discomfort or pain in the beginning, ultimately it should lead to extreme pleasure but this may take time. The G-spot is literally a sponge that soaks up emotion and sometimes it is held tightly and protected. If it does not feel great at first alternate this with something that does feel great like clitoral stimulation. It is usually best to explore your G-spot on your own first and then guide your partner to it. Vaginal penetration and G-spot stimulation, whether with a penis or a finger, is always better after a little foreplay and external touch.

What are you waiting for?!?!? I’m looking forward to hearing how your journey from mystery to magic unfolds.

For the bible on women’s anatomy and sexuality get Sheri Winston’s revolutionary book, Women’s Anatomy of Arousal.



Press Release – April 19 – Featured Presenter Belly Dancer Shoshanna Des Chenes

Philadelphia’s Erotic Literary Salon, Featuring World Renowned Belly Dancer Shoshana Des Chenes, Along With Attendee Readers, Tuesday, April 19.


Monday, March 21, 2016

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – contact: Susana Mayer, Ph.D., Salonnière,

PCSalons@gmail.comreserve a time slot to read at Salon (5 min max) – guidelines for reading. – blog: events, Salon notices, erotica, and guidelines.


Please note new times and longer Adult Sex-Ed Q&A – see below.


The Erotic Literary Salon will be held Tuesday, April 19. Shoshana Des Chenes, will perform one of the most ancient forms of dance known to humans – belly dancing. A martial art revolving around women’s circles developed from child birthing techniques amongst tribes, and then later into a performance art form. Shoshana has lead people of all ages worldwide to loving their bodies through this healing art as a professional movement therapist. Belly dance lessons:


Prior to Readings – Adult Sex-Ed Q&A with Sexologist Dr. Susana Mayer and attendee discussions.


Approximately twenty attendees will also entertain with their 5-minute erotica, sex memoirs, rants, short stories and poetry.


PHILADELPHIA: The Erotic Literary Salon, unique in the English-speaking world has launched a growing movement mainstreaming erotica. Salons attract a supportive audience of 65 or more individuals. Approximately 15 participate as writers, readers, storytellers, spoken word performers of original works/words of others, the rest just come to listen, enjoy and applaud. Frances, our resident nonagenarian (98 years young) occasionally recites her original erotica.


Salons gather the 3rd Tuesday of every month at TIME (The Bohemian Absinthe Lounge), 1315 Sansom Street, Center City, Philadelphia. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., for cocktails, food and conversation. Adult Sex-Ed between 7:00-8:00, readings begin at 8:30. Admission is $12, discounted for students and seniors to $10. Salon attendees must be 21.


Creator of this event, Dr. Susana, is Philadelphia’s best-known sexologist. She lends her voice to the Salon by offering relevant information to support the discussions that arise in the Salon and blog.

…surprisingly comfortable….Salon devotees praise her for the space she has created….”

“I think Susana is doing a very brave thing.”

Philadelphia Inquirer, February 10, 2010


“There are laughter and tears along with the hot rush of blood – to the face.

Daily News, March 15, 2010


“I never knew such a life of honesty could exist. I finally found a home I can be comfortable in…this event changed my life.

First-time attendee and reader 2013



Tonight-The Erotic Literary Salon-Live, Helen Fisher-Anthropologist Studies Love, Sex & Match.Com, The Psychology Of Loves That Last A Lifetime

Tonight join a full house of Salon attendees as we enjoy romance from a male’s perspective.


“We are born to love,” writes anthropologist Helen Fisher. She claims, “That feeling of elation that we call romantic love is deeply embedded in our brains. But can it last?” The article below offers conclusions based on several studies.

The Psychology Of Loves That Last A Lifetime

Article by: Carolyn Gregoire Senior Writer, The Huffington Post

The trifecta of a romantic relationship — intense love, sexual desire and long-term attachment — can seem elusive, but it may not be as uncommon or unattainable in marriages as we’ve been conditioned to think.

“We are born to love,” writes anthropologist and author of Why We Love, Helen Fisher. “That feeling of elation that we call romantic love is deeply embedded in our brains. But can it last?”

The science tells us that romantic love can last — and more than we often give it credit for. As a culture, we tend to be pretty cynical about the prospect of romantic love (as opposed to the ‘other’ loves — lust and long-term attachment) enduring over time and through obstacles, and for good reason. Roughly 50 percent of marriages end in divorce, with 2.4 million U.S. couples splitting in 2012. And among those that stay together, marital dissatisfaction is common.

In long-term partnerships that do succeed, romantic love tends to fade into companionship and a love more akin to friendship than to that of a couple in love.

But no matter how cynical we are about the prospect of life-long love, it still seems to be what most Americans are after. Romantic love is increasingly viewed as an essential component of a marriage, with 91 percent of women and 86 percent of American men reporting that they would not marry someone who had every quality they wanted in a partner but with whom they were not in love.

This type of love is good for both our marriages and our health. Romantic love — free from the craving and obsession of the early stages of falling in love –can and does frequently exist in long-term marriages, research has found, and it’s correlated with marital satisfaction, and individual well-being and self-esteem.

Although science has given us some insight on the nature of love and romantic relationships, this fundamental domain of human existence remains something of a mystery. Love, particularly the long-lasting kind, has been called one of the “most studied and least understood areas in psychology.”

There may be more questions than answers at this point, but we do know that both being in love and being married are good for your physical and mental health. And psychologists who study love, marriage and relationships have pinpointed a number of factors that contribute to long-lasting romantic love.

Here are six science-backed secrets of couples that keep intense romantic love alive for decades and entire lifetimes. 

Life-long romance IS possible. 

Despite high rates of divorce, infidelity and marital dissatisfaction, it’s not all hopeless — far from it, in fact. A 2012 study of couples who had been married for a decade, published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, found that 40 percent of them said they were “very intensely in love.” The same study found that among couples who were married 30 years or more, 40 percent of women and 35 percent of men said they were very intensely in love.

But don’t be convinced solely by what these couples reported — research in neuroscience has also proven that intense romantic love can last a lifetime.

2011 study published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neurosciencelooked the brain regions activated in individuals in long-term romantic partnerships (who had been married an average of 21 years), and compared them with individuals who had recently fallen in love. The results revealed similar brain activity in both groups, with high activity in the reward and motivation centers of the brain, predominantly in the high-dopamine ventral tegmental area (VTA). The findings suggest that couples can not only love each for long periods of time — they can stay in love with each other.

Sustaining romantic love over the course of many years, then, has a positive function in the brain, which understands and continues to pursue romantic love as a behavior that reaps cognitive rewards, according to positive psychology researcher Adoree Durayappah.

“The key to understanding how to sustain long-term romantic love is to understand it a bit scientifically,” Durayappah wrote in Psychology Today. “Our brains view long-term passionate love as a goal-directed behavior to attain rewards. Rewards can include the reduction of anxiety and stress, feelings of security, a state of calmness, and a union with another.”

They maintain a sense of “love blindness.”

When we first fall in love with someone, we tend to worship the ground they walk on and see them as the most attractive, smartest and accomplished person in the room. And while we might eventually take our partner off of this pedestal after months and years of being together, maintaining a sense of “love blindness” is actually critical to long-lasting passionate love.

A University of Geneva review of nearly 500 studies on compatibility couldn’t pinpoint any combination of two personality traits in a relationship that predicted long-term romantic love — except for one. One’s ability to idealize and maintain positive illusions about their partner — seeing them as good-looking, intelligent, funny and caring, or generally as a “catch” — remained happy with each other on nearly all measures over time.

They’re always trying new things together. 

Boredom can be a major obstacle to lasting romantic or companionate love, and successful couples find ways to keep things interesting.

Psychological research has suggested that couples who experience the most intense love are the ones who not only experience a strong physical and emotional attraction to one another, but also who enjoy participating in new or challenging “self-expanding” activities together, Psychology Today reported.

“Novel and arousing activities are, well, arousing, which people can misattribute as attraction to their partner, reigniting that initial spark,” writes Amie Gordan in the Berkeley Science Review.

They avoid neediness by preserving their independence. 

Neediness is the enemy of long-lasting desire (an important component of romantic love), according to psychologist and Mating in Captivity author Esther Perel. In a popular TED Talk, Perel asks, “Why does sexual desire tend to fade over time, even in loving relationships?”

Neediness and caretaking in long-term partnerships — which can easily result from looking to the partnership for safety, security and stability — damper the erotic spark, Perel explains. But if couples can maintain independence and witness each other participating in individual activities at which they’re skilled, they can continue to see their partner in an ever-new light.

“When I see my partner on their own doing thing in which they are enveloped, I look at this person and I momentarily get a shift of perception,” Perel says. “[We] stay open to the mysteries that are standing right next to each other… What is most interesting is that there is no neediness in desire. There is no caretaking in desire.”

So if you’re looking to keep that spark going, give your partner the space to do what they’re good at — and make sure to take the opportunity to observe them in their element, when they are “radiant and confident,” says Perel.

Their passion for life carries over into their relationship. 

Psychologists have found that a strong passion for life can help to sustain passion in a life-long romantic relationship. The 2012 Stony Brook University studyexamining personality qualities that predicted long-term passionate love found that individuals who exhibit excitement for all that life has to offer are more likely to find success in their romantic partnerships.

“People who approach their daily lives with zest and strong emotion seem to carry these intense feelings over to their love life as well,” Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., wrote in Psychology Today. “If you want your relationship to have passion, put that emotional energy to work in your hobbies, interests, and even your political activities.”

They see their relationship as a journey together towards self-fulfillment. 

Whereas individuals used to be more likely to look to marriage for safety and security, the societal standard has shifted such that more men and women enter into marriage looking for self-actualization and personal fulfillment. Such a marriage can be more satisfying for both partners, but requires each partner to invest more time and energy into the partnership for it to be successful.

“The average marriage today is weaker than the average marriage of yore, in terms of both satisfaction and divorce rate, but the best marriages today are much stronger, in terms of both satisfaction and personal well-being, than the best marriages of yore,” Eli J. Finkel, a professor of social psychology at Northwestern University wrote in a New York Times op-ed, describing this shift from companionate to self-expressive marriages.

Rather than looking to marriage to serve our basic needs for survival and companionship, we’re now seeing marriage as a vehicle for self-fulfillment. This new directive can help to facilitate long-term romantic love, so long as each partner is willing and able to put more of their resources into the relationship.

“As the expectations of marriage have ascended Maslow’s hierarchy, the potential psychological payoffs have increased,” Finkel noted, “but achieving those results has become more demanding.”

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