April 1, 2023

Proceed with intention.
Minds. Letters. Your favorite restaurants. These are only some of the things that are best when open. Apparently, relationships now belong to that list. While Millennials and Gen Zs are engaging more in this type of relationship, it is not just a trend today. Open relationships date back since time immemorial and have been a part of different cultures around the globe. But what, exactly, are open relationships? And most importantly, is it for you (and your partner/s)?
“Open relationship” is an umbrella term encapsulating other forms of nonmonogamous relationships like:
If you’re one of the 26% of Americans interested in having an open relationship, there are general guidelines, boundaries, and agreements to consider before you swing (heh) your shot.
There’s no non-negotiable, all-encompassing “rule” to follow as each individual and relationship differs. Still, establish ways to ensure you practice ethical nonmonogamy and provide emotional safety for all parties involved.

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Start by identifying what an open relationship means for you. First, look internally—why are you interested in opening your relationship? People enter this type of arrangement for various reasons, like exploring their sexuality, a kink or fantasy, or mismatched libidos, among others.
Whatever your reason is, you shouldn’t start an open relationship to solve the problems of your current relationship or fill your dissatisfaction with it. Kicking off a nonmonogamous relationship for the wrong reasons builds a shaky base. And what does that do to an unstable foundation? It will easily topple over.
Honesty is the baseline of trust for any form of relationship—open or not. It means never lying, never hiding the truth, and never omitting or misdirecting from the fact INTENTIONALLY. And it’s even more imperative in a relationship involving more than two people. Being honest facilitates healthy and open communication for a functional relationship.
You need to be able to talk openly and have confidence in the person’s authenticity, transparency, and straightforwardness.
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Open relationships are neither novel nor rare—with 4% of Americans in open relationships and 20% of them having entered open relationships at some point in their lives, according to the same report above. Hence, it should be a topic you can discuss freely, especially with your partner/s. Communication isn’t a one-time, done deal. Set a schedule and space for these communications, like a date night or staycation to nurture the relationship.
Also, determine which and how much detail to convey. Some people want to know Every. Single. Detail, while others prefer to be left in the dark on some information.
Emotional boundaries are hard to define and set. Still, they should be discussed. The concept of feelings is complex. And while couples often turn to a “No Emotions Allowed” rule, you might be setting yourselves up for failure as—as cheesy as it sounds—you can’t know for sure who you’re going to fall in love with.
But you can take baby steps. Start by discussing these two questions:
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And be explicit and specific while you’re at it. Set sexual boundaries in your open relationship by defining the following:
I know. It gets weirdly specific and personal. But you should clarify all these stipulations and logistics before going forth and unleashing your sexual vigor out there.
Aside from the emotional baggage involved (or not) during sexual activities, sexual boundaries also center around sexual risk management. You and your partner will engage in sexual acts with multiple people, which translates to higher chances of contracting STIs. But you can protect yourself by establishing safe sex guidelines. And always ensuring everything is with CONSENT for all parties involved.
For example, make sure you use condoms. Simple, readily available, and effective—when used correctly. In fact, nonmonogamous individuals are more likely to use condoms and get tested for HIV and other STIs. Great!
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Regular check-ins with your primary partner are ideal to ensure they’re nurtured, respected, and excited in the aspect of open relationships, especially when it’s new. Over time, you can make these check-ins less frequent when you and your partner get into the swing of things.
And (!) don’t forget your secondary partner(s) as well. All parties in the relationship should feel comfortable, respected, and cared for.
Ahh, jealousy. The elephant in the room.
Jealousy is often the crux of open relationships. And that’s normal because humans have feelings, needs, and wants. Some also assume people in open relationships don’t have the right to be jealous. That’s a no-no. These feelings are entirely valid, and you can work through them.
This is where everything comes in full circle—you’d need that trust, honesty, and open communication to cope with jealousy. Reevaluate your needs and boundaries as an individual and as a couple. Then, you can build a healthy and happy relationship if you work through it with your partner.
There are many nuances to people, relationships, and emotions. Continue educating yourself more on practicing ethical nonmonogamy if it’s something you want to practice.
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Two years ago, I hired a dom for my birthday. It was during the height of the pandemic and since I couldn’t go outside, I decided to bring the “outside” to me. This dom specialized in choking and considering I’d never experimented with it before, I thought this would be a fun way to celebrate my birthday. Choking had been something I wanted to try for years but was apprehensive about because I didn’t want to die. The sex expert in me knows that when done properly choking can be both enjoyable and safe but the human in me computes choking with harm. Plus, if I'm being completely honest, I didn't trust any of my past partners enough to even want to try it. What if they get overzealous and kill me by mistake? No ma’am, no sir, death by choking by way of sex was not going to be the reason I checked out of here!
Choking also known as erotic asphyxiation is a part of the kink known as breath play. Breath play is a BDSM-style activity that involves intentionally cutting off the air supply as a result, the person becomes dizzy and lightheaded. However, when not performed properly choking is dangerous AF and can lead to death. So, if choking is dangerous, why would anyone want to try it and how does that translate to pleasure? This is why I hired a dom, I wanted to find out why people liked being choked. According to a few of my friends, choking can intensify orgasms. During breath play, dopamine and serotonin flood your body, and the release of these hormones contributes to heightened sexual stimulation which is why your brain associates pain with pleasure.
I’m not usually someone who enjoys pain as pleasure. For me pain is pain and pleasure is pleasure. I don’t like mixing the two, but since I wanted to explore a new kink safely, I was up for the challenge. If you’re curious about being choked, here are several tips I learned from my session with the dom that can help you explore choking safely.
Consent is an agreement between participants and should be clearly and freely communicated before engaging in any sexual activity. Prior to my session, the dom and I discussed expectations, choking safety, my safe word, and hard no’s. Consent and discussing expectations are extremely important with breath play to ensure both partners fully understand the health risks involved. Choking is a kind of play that requires trust and is never something that should be done without a thorough discussion first.
Because I’m not creative at all every time I hear the word “safe word,” I automatically think about Kevin Hart and pineapples. So the safe word I chose for our session was “pineapples.” The dom explained to me that anytime I say the word “pineapple” he would immediately stop and check in with me.
In addition to using a safe word, establish a safe hand signal—mine was a raised fist. Hand signals are good ways to communicate if your airway is restricted and talking isn’t possible. Having these safety precautions help both parties feel relaxed and safe. They also ensure that everyone is enjoying what’s happening during the sexual encounter.
When it comes to choking, the trick is to aim for the sides of the neck, not the windpipe. My dom placed his hands gently around the sides of my neck just below the jawline. The front of the neck is not built to handle the full weight of another person. Applying pressure here can end up damaging your partner’s windpipe, leading to breathing problems and an emergency medical situation. Placing pressure on the side of the neck is where the carotid arteries control oxygen-rich blood flow to your head and brain which will trigger those endorphins.
Speaking of applying pressure, you don’t want to start off too rough. My dom started with a gentle grip and asked my permission to apply more pressure. I can’t overemphasize how vital it is to start gently — especially if it’s your first time experimenting with choking.
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If you want to try choking but don’t want to go the route I took and hire a dom, then it’s vital that you learn as much as possible before experimenting. The internet can be a good place to turn to if you are serious about getting into breath play. One online resource that can be particularly helpful is FetLife.com, which is the Facebook of the BDSM community, and although it’s a social networking site, there are several discussion groups that users can join, and engage in open conversations about interests, techniques, and safety.
After our session, the dom gave me a big embrace and we verbally checked in with each other about the experience. Aftercare is key to every healthy sexual experience. It’s the simple step of gently supporting the physical come-down after sex, and checking in verbally. We discussed the session itself, all of my sexy highlights, as well as anything that could be adjusted next time during our next session.
I highly recommend exploring any new kink with a trained professional, like a dom or sex educator. Knowing that I was in the hands of a highly recommended professional helped to ease my anxiety and built trust. I’m also an avid supporter of sex workers. I believe in paying the professionals. Instead of taking the risk with someone who thinks they know what they’re doing, I hired someone who could provide receipts. And I’m so glad I did!
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Landing her first role as the lead character in a film has been “surreal” for English actress Nathalie Emmanuel mostly because she remembers all the times she considered giving up on her dream career.
The Emmy-nominated actress, best known for portraying Missandei in HBO’s Game of Thrones, appearing alongside Kevin Hart and John Travolta in the former Quibi series Die Hart, and acting in the most recent films from the Fast & Furious franchise, is set to star in the horror film The Invitation. The film is out in theaters as of Aug. 26.
Emmanuel, 33, said the starring role is made all the more special by the fact that she’s working in a genre that doesn’t typically have diverse leading characters. “The idea of playing a female lead as a woman of color and in the horror genres space, it's just sort of, not really something that you see,” she tells xoNecole.
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The actress wouldn’t give too much of the Dracula-inspired film away, but she described the premise as “the worst-case scenario of doing a DNA test and finding out your ancestry.” Emmanuel portrays Evie, an only child who has lost both of her parents when a newly discovered relative invites her to a seemingly glamorous destination wedding.
“It's on the backdrop of this very wealthy aristocracy in Britain, and the sort of power structures involved intersecting with a woman who is a Black, mixed-race and working class,” she says. According to Emmanuel, it was the female-centered lens through which director Jessica M. Thompson tells the story that originally drew her to the project. During her childhood in England, the actress says her parents were very protective of the media she consumed, but she says she got into vampire mythology later in life.
The Invitation is a long-time coming for an actress who first landed her first role in a West End theater production of The Lion King at just 10 years old. In 2013, she landed the role of Missandei on Game of Thrones while working in retail. “I was working in retail, and I was folding clothes and cleaning and doing things to get by,” she reveals. “After a long time of not getting seen for things or being cast in anything, you start to doubt yourself, and then you have to decide whether you're going to keep going or give up. That’s happened many times.”
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Emmanuel is on the cusp of a new time in her career, but she’s also switching things up in her personal life, too. Earlier this year, she documented the emotional moment when she cut her signature curls and posted the video on social media. “There was something really empowering about shedding this thing that had so many complex emotions attached to it and just kind of starting again,” she says. Today, she wears her hair in a cropped cut, with her curls framing the top of her face. Cutting her hair is a decision Emmanuel says she’s been considering since she was a teenager, although the motivation has changed.
Despite being complimented as an adult for showcasing her natural hair on television, Emmanuel says struggled with feeling like her hair was a “problem that needed to be managed” as a teenager. “The first time I asked my mom, I was maybe 14 or 15. And she was right to say no, because I think it came from a place of frustration or seeing what was considered beautiful and not being that,” she notes.
As an adult, work demands and the comments she got from fans kept her from cutting her hair initially. “I was so proud of that and so happy that I could be that for somebody because I had such a long journey to that place myself. So I then I kept it because I wanted as many people as possible to feel good about their natural texture.”
Emmanuel is hoping to continue to inspire Black and biracial women, although this time on her own terms. With this new film, a forthcoming season of Die Hart (now on Roku), and a starring role in the forthcoming film Megalopolis alongside Adam Driver, Laurence Fishburne, and Forest Whitaker, she’s hoping to continue to showcase her range as an actress, too. “I've done the comedy stuff a bit. And now I'm doing a bit of horror. I've done the dramatic stuff, the fantasy thing. The more I can diversify my body of work, the better."
The Invitation is out in theaters now.
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Let's face it: Debt is a common part of the personal finance reality for millions of people in the U.S., and it's something, as Black women, we often struggle with. It can keep you up at night, lead to that final step to start a side hustle, or simply serve as a reminder of an option that facilitated your journey to live your best life.
Whatever your reason is for being in debt (or owing a balance to any entity or person), you can be empowered and find solutions for how to cope with debt. Try these steps in order to get a handle on things and gain balance:
Oftentimes, there's an element of fear and shame when it comes to facing debt. You might feel overwhelmed just by the mere thought of owing anybody money. It might even contribute to depression and anxiety. This is why an important first step is to deal with the feelings of shame, talk with a professional (find free resources here) and find ways to overcome those feelings in order to focus more on a plan of action.
Also, remember that you're not defined by debt and that you're a beautiful human being who simply happens to have debt. It's not the end of the world and it doesn't diminish the amazing person you are. Your life and mental wellness are priceless and should be celebrated and protected.
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If you don't have a budget, now's a good time to create one, even while in debt. When you have a budget, you get to know exactly how much money you're earning, how much you're spending, and what your bills truly are. This is the perfect opportunity to get honest about your money flow (even if you're unemployed or underemployed) and a great time to find out what your options are in terms of a plan to pay down debt. And make technology your friend. There are several budgeting tools and apps that will do all the hard work for you when it comes to tracking your expenses and money flow.
Be sure to take a realistic approach to budgeting, including recognizing what you're willing to give up, cut back on, or not. Getting help with this is also a good idea if budgeting is something that overwhelms you or is something you struggle with, and there are nonprofits and orgs such as Greenpath to look to for options in debt management.
Bills like those with medical institutions or hospitals can oftentimes be negotiated, down to the final sum due. You can also discuss your options with credit card companies and explore your payment options based on "hardship" programs. It can be a huge relief when you know you have options and everything isn't all doom and gloom. Oftentimes, you can get a handle on debt simply by talking with the party you owe, asking lots of questions about what your options are, and even making an offer that's more beneficial for you (i.e. settling the debt for a lower lump sum, forgiving late fees, or forgiving the loan altogether.) You can find empowerment by negotiating, even for conditions or amendments, that you didn't believe to be possible simply because you were so focused on worrying about the debt.
Whether you paid off a $200 debt or are much closer to finally paying off that $20,000 student loan, celebrate it. Don't let it just pass by as if it's a blip on the personal finance radar. It's good to treat yourself and focus on the good in the journey. Experts recommend doing this so that you can have something positive to focus on while you're going through a debt-management journey that challenges you. You can find small and affordable ways to do this. Include your support system and enjoy the company of family, friends, or bae.
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While you may not want to add on the stress of a second job or side hustle, it might be a good idea to look for other options to bring more money in. Explore the return on time investment and really tap into why getting a second gig, applying for a higher-paying job, or asking your company for a raise might be the best option, especially if you're trying to avoid continued interest expenses and just knock the debt out as soon as you can. You'll have to become super-deliberate about how you're spending your time and ways you can bring in more income in order to pay down the debt.
If you can move in with a family member, take on a roommate or tenant, or try a weekend gig in which the salary or income goes totally toward cutting down debt, it might be a worthwhile sacrifice in the long run.
Whatever reducing debt can mean for you, peace of mind is priceless. Finding strategies or realistic ways to reduce debt is both reasonable and doable. With a bit of planning and determination, you can do it, sis. Remain encouraged and try the tips above to take your life back.
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Fall is just around the corner and with the temperatures cooling down there’s nothing more that most of us want to do than just stay inside our warm, cozy homes. One of the many ways to spend the season that gives us pumpkin spiced everything, red and orange scenery, and an excuse to wear chunky sweaters is to cuddle up with a good book. Fortunately, there are several books written by Black women authors coming out in the next few months that will satiate these desires of ours.
In her debut poetry collection for Haymarket Books, writer and poet Diamond Sharp whose work has been featured in publications like Harper’s Bazaar, Poetry Magazine, and Vulture, is expanding her talents in Super Sad Black Girl. Compared to such literary giants such as Lorraine Hansberry, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Langston Hughes, Sharp’s forthcoming book of poetry promises to follow in the legacy of famous Black writers of yesteryears by exploring the thorny topics of race, class, and gender through lyricism.

Expected publishing date: December 13, 2022
Founder of The Shani Project and licensed therapist Shani Tran is putting all the knowledge she’s shared on her Tik Tok account, which has nearly 500K followers, into her debut book Dope Therapy. Described as a humorous and compassionate approach to those seeking mental health treatment, Tran offers a guide to anyone who is ready to take the first steps into their healing journey.

Published: August 23, 2022
Described as an exploration of Black votership through the lens of pop culture figures such as rapper Kanye West, Brandi Collins-Dexter brings her experience as a former organizer with the non-profit Color of Change to write about the relationship between electoral politics and Black culture.
Expected publishing date on: September 20, 2022
Romance novelist Denise Williams is back once again with another book that is guaranteed to make you laugh and swoon at the same time. In Do You Take This Man, divorce attorney RJ is led down an unexpected career path of becoming a highly sought after wedding officiant after a video of her officiating a wedding goes viral. Through this new career shift, she butts heads with a wedding planner. In this classic enemies-to-lovers plot, love and hilarity ensue.
Expected publishing date on: September 6, 2022
Recieving early praise from people like actress Gabrielle Union, journalist Tamron Hall, and writer Joan Morgan, Ride or Die: A Feminist Manifesto for the Well-Being of Black Women unpacks the hip hop trope of the unquestionably faithful Black woman that author and professor Shanita Hubbard argues only becomes problematic when done “indiscrimnately.” Bringing together her years of expertise and writing on hip hop and feminism, Hubbard’s forthcoming book unpacks the emotional toll and burden that comes with the expectation of Black women’s undying loyalty.
Expected publishing date on: November 8, 2022
Kendrick Lamar is one of hip-hop’s biggest enigmas. Since his debut album, good kid, m.A.A.d city, he has become one of the top figures in hip-hop and one of the most respected rhymers. However, outside of his music, he keeps his life private. In an interview with Citizen Magazine, the Compton-born MC gave readers insight into his way of thinking and why he prefers to move in silence.
“I’ve always been a person that really didn’t dive too headfirst into wanting and needing attention. I mean, we all love attention, but for me, I don’t necessarily adore it. I use it when I want to communicate something,” he said. “The person that people see now is the person that I’ve always been. For me, the privacy thing has never been an issue that I had to carry out with full intention. It’s just who I am. If I feel I have to remove myself, I just remove myself. I won’t complain about it. I won’t cause a big blow-up or a big stir and let the world know that the walls are closing in.”
The Grammy award winner explained that he has worked on himself and invested in himself so much to the point where he barely acknowledges his celebrity. And so, when he sees other celebrities act out due to the pressure of fame, he gives them grace.
“Being able to be aware [of myself emotionally] and be able to eventually grow— emotionally mature to that level, it may take more time than the next man,” he said. “That’s why I never point fingers when artists are not capable of upholding themselves in that type of stressful position because some people grow different and it takes time especially…when who they are and who they want to be sometimes gets distorted.
“For me, it’s all about being aware of how I’m feeling. If it is too much, let me remove myself for a couple of years.”
His ability to stay the same person before fame and manage his private life is rooted in his self-awareness and wanting to grow in his manhood. But it’s not always perfect. There are times when he has to be in people’s faces outside of performances such as interviews and while he may not speak on internal conflicts within his relationship with his high school sweetheart and mother of his two kids, with his label, or with other rappers, negative stories still find their way into the forefront.
“You just got to be real and be true to yourself about what you want. Do you want that attention? Do you want that type of notoriety? Do you want that type of headache? Can you deal with it?” He asked.
“For me, I knew as an artist when I signed up for it, this is what comes with it. And me being a realist and holding myself accountable to that, it never really frustrated me when things got a little bit out of control because ultimately, I knew that I would be able to balance it because of who I am.”
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In this exclusive, Melanie Fiona shares what she did to manifest love and how a six-month breakup led to her forever.


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