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The Wild Oats Project
One Woman's Mid-life Quest For Passion
A woman who negotiated a year-long "open marriage" with the husband she'd been with for 17 years and took the chance to sleep with 12 strangers has opened up about her wild year.
Robin Rinaldi, 50, had always considered herself a "good girl", but ended up being so transformed by what she referred to as her 'wild oats project' that she left her husband after the 12 months ended.
Rinaldi, who lives in San Francisco, had previous slept with only four men including husband Scott Mansfield.
But during her year of abandon, she bedded ten men and two women, whom she picked up online, in bars and at sex classes.
She made the life-changing decision to pursue sex with other people in 2008 - and has written a book about her exploits called The Wild Oats Project.
Rinaldi described her relationship with Mansfield, a brewer and wine-maker, as "stuck in a rut", adding that "our once-a-week sex life was loving, but lacked spontaneity and passion".
But she decided to make the change after begging him for years to have a child with her, and finally realising that he wouldn't after he got a vasectomy.
Reliving the fraught decision in her book, she wrote: "I refuse to go to my grave with no children and only four lovers... If I can't have one, I must have the other".
Under the terms of her new deal, Rinaldi took out an apartment, where she lived from Monday to Friday and would bed her conquests.
But over the weekend she would go back to Mansfield, and the two would live as a married couple, without asking what the other had been doing while they were apart.
Initially, the two agreed not to sleep with mutual friends, get into any "serious" relationships or have unprotected sex - but ultimately failed to stick to them.
Rinaldi wrote how she started out by posting an online ad, entitled Good Girl Seeks Experience. In the post, she wrote: "I'm a 44-year-old professional, educated, attractive woman in an open marriage, seeking single men age 35-50 to help me explore my sexuality."
The next day, she had 23 offers, she recounted to the New York Post.
Her first encounter was a 40-year-old lawyer, whom she bedded in her apartment on the second date.
Describing the night, she wrote: "We stumbled to the bed, where he turned me onto my hands and knees and took me from behind.
"'We had intercourse twice and, after he left, I felt satiated."
She later moved on to much younger men, and described texting her husband goodnight from a Las Vegas hotel room moments after a 23-year-old paramour left the room.
Two of her 12 encounters were with women, one of which was a threesome.
Describing another encounter, she writes explicitly about taking a new-found pleasure in fellatio.
In the extract, quoted by the Daily Beast, she wrote: "[penises are] beautiful... I took pleasure in mastering them from up close, watching them expand and harden, tracing the ridges of their warm architecture against the roof of my mouth."
However, after the raucous year, Rinaldi admitted, she could not turn back.
Attempts to rekindle their marriage after the year failed - and Rinaldi began sleeping with one of the men from the past year, whom she refers to by a pseudonym.
She wrote: "The turning point was hearing from Alden. He sent me an e-mail, out of the blue, several months after the project had come to an end.
"Before long, we were having sex again. Being with him was exquisite. After reconnecting with Alden and falling deeply in love with him, there was no going back."
Rinaldi has now lived with "Alden" for five years in a monogamous relationship, while Mansfield has also moved on.
The former couple now consider themselves at peace - and Mansfield was even happy with her writing the book, detailing every aspect of their sex lives and her previously secret exploits with other men.
Speaking to the Daily Beast about how he responded to the book, she said: "His response was, 'You have to write it. If you write it well, it won't really be about us, it will be about lots of marriages'."
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This extraordinarily frank memoir by a San Francisco magazine journalist charts a deal Robin Rinaldi made with her husband of 18 years to take 12 months off from their marriage to sleep with other men.
'Good girl seeks experience' ran her ad on Nerve.com. 'I'm a 44-year-old professional, educated, attractive woman in an open marriage, seeking single men age 35-50 to help me explore my sexuality.'
Unsurprisingly, the reaction to the book has been explosive - it was not due out over here until the autumn, but the fuss in America was so intense it has been brought forward.
So why did Rinaldi do it? Essentially, because her husband, Scott, insisted on a vasectomy when she was 43 and longing for a baby. After much soul-searching, she decided she could live with not being a mother if he allowed her the freedom to sleep around (she had been with only a handful of men before marriage).
Of course, all this is inevitably far more complicated - and sadder - than it seems. The reason Rinaldi found herself in a stable but sexually unstimulating marriage is because she had had a hugely traumatic childhood. Her father was a crazed alcoholic who would often lose the plot so badly, the family had to decamp to their grandparents'. When they got home, there would be smashed plates, and once an axe in the door. The legacy of this was panic attacks and depression, from which steady Scott rescued her.
Not wanting to leave the safety he represented, Rinaldi made an arrangement whereby she lived at home at the weekends, and had an apartment in town for trysts during the week. In the year of The Wild Oats Project, she took 12 lovers, and the reader is spared no detail. There's lots of dirty talk, plus descriptions of men's members and the sexual technique of everyone from a vegan poet and two women (this the West Coast) to her orgasmic-meditation instructor.
Orgasmic meditation is a prominent feature of this book. For those of you who don't live in San Francisco, it is a technique whereby a woman sits propped up by yoga bolsters while a man with a lubricated plastic glove rubs her private parts (very gently) for exactly 15 minutes. The theory is that such stimulation opens the energy fields and unites body and mind.
What of the husband? Well, during the year, he also has affairs - but breaks the rules by seeing just one woman for six months and not using condoms. Rinaldi, too, has unsafe sex but feels dreadfully guilty about it - and also (pretty well) sticks by her pledge to see each of her lovers only three times; until, that is, she (inevitably) falls in love with one of them.
Unsurprisingly, Robin and Scott split up in a messy denouement where she, like her father, becomes violent and trashes her favourite trinkets when she finds out about Scott's liaison. This is a car-crash the reader sees coming - indeed, if Rinaldi hadn't been so fragile, she'd have split with Scott after the vasectomy.
I don't think Rinaldi's is a particularly replicable, or advisable, experiment. But I do think her book is important because of the way it unashamedly puts the quest for female sexual fulfilment centre stage. At one point she reflects that if she'd been born in Afghanistan or another repressive part of the world, even setting out on this journey would have been a death sentence. Quite so. It is a testament to how far feminism has taken us all that a woman can not only undertake such an adventure but write about it so brazenly. And in a porn-saturated world where, too often, the lens through which we see sex is masculine, her unapologetic account of her search for sexual nirvana is hugely refreshing.
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