Archives

Lesbians and Emotional Cheating: A “Dear Lesbian” Question

I recently received a “Dear Lesbian” request via my Contact Form to write on the topic of emotional cheating and Lesbian couples. This link to an article entitled “Emotional Cheating And Lesbian Couples: Why It’s An Issue” was included as an overview of the topic.

This is an excellent question, and I appreciate that the reader took the time to ask me to write about it.

First, let’s define “emotional cheating”. Although there are many ways to define it and the definition is certainly open to interpretation (as it is certainly subjective to the people involved), I would define “emotional cheating” as when a friendship between one member of a couple and an outside person crosses an invisible but tangible boundary and veers sharply into the area of inappropriateness.

Some examples of one member of a couple veering into inappropriateness with an outside person include, but are not limited to:

  • Flirting (Note: I don’t mean simply being friendly/fun and having a good time…I mean actually flirting in a way that is romantic/sexual, as if you are single and available);
  • Fantasizing about kissing/contact/sex or fantasizing a relationship with the outside person;
  • Being secretive by not telling your partner about your contact with the outside person (for instance: meeting for lunch secretly; sending private text messages without your partner’s knowledge; etc.);
  • Telling the outside person intimate details of your relationship with your partner that you know damn well your partner would be embarrassed/upset about (for instance: complaining about your sex life, or lack thereof, with the subtext of “I’m  on a bit of fishing expedition here to see if you will bite”);
  • Telling the outside person significant things that you should be telling your partner (for instance: telling the outside person that you are unhappy in your relationship; or telling the outside person something significant that you haven’t told your partner like you lost your job 3 weeks ago; etc.).

Please note that I am not saying that you shouldn’t have an outside friend who you can confide in.

What I am saying is: When your behavior/thoughts veer into untrustworthiness, nefariousness, secrecy, affair-fantasies, flirtatiousness, and/or evasiveness, you have crossed the line into unsafe territory. (Get it?) 

I think we all know the difference between being close to and confiding in a trusted platonic friend versus the slippery slope of emotional infidelity.

The article which was sent to me as an overview of the topic states that emotional cheating “happens all too often in lesbian relationships“.

I have no doubt that it does happen all too often in Lesbian relationships. However, I believe that it happens all too often in ALL kinds of relationships, not just Lesbian relationships. I truly don’t believe Lesbians are uniquely at-risk for emotional cheating, although I admit that the nuances can sometimes be trickier for Lesbians than it is for heterosexuals.  (Probably the same is true of gay men too, but I cannot speak for them).

First of all, the situation is trickier for Lesbians because…well…we’re all Lesbians.

With heterosexual couples, it would not typically be kosher for a husband of one couple to call the wife of another couple and invite her out to lunch without the other spouses present. It’s a clear boundary that is typically not crossed.

But when everybody in both couples are Lesbians, how would anyone know when things are awry?

So let’s say Lesbian Couple A (let’s call them Xena and Gabrielle) meets Lesbian Couple B (let’s call them Idgie and Ruth) and they all hit it off. Next thing you know, these 2 couples are drinking beer and eating chicken wings every Saturday night at The Watering Hole on Main Street, USA. All is a-okay, so far.

But then let’s say one day Xena calls Ruth and invites her for lunch without their partners.

Hmmmm. As a Lesbian, I must say this would strike me as amiss.

But would it strike me amiss if Xena had called Idgie and asked her to go to the gym or to go play tennis?

No, it wouldn’t.

Why?

It is difficult to explain, because it is at least partly Lesbian intuition, rather than concrete evidence, that is guiding that gut-level feeling that something is “off”.

Additionally, this topic is difficult to explain to heterosexuals because heterosexuals basically seem to think that any 2 random women could suddenly start making out and POOF!, they are suddenly in a “Lesbian relationship“. (Nope, it’s not a “Lesbian relationship” unless actual Lesbians are in the relationship).

My point is, heterosexuals don’t seem to understand that Lesbians aren’t attracted to just any female….instead, we, like everybody else, have our own tastes/preferences for partners. Lesbians aren’t simply interchangeable with each other like one-size-fits-all Legos; we’re not all going to be attracted to the same people. Like straight people, Lesbians tend to have a general “type” of person we are attracted to.

So, when 2 Lesbian couples meet, if they have a significant amount of things in common with each other, it’s often (not always, of course, but often) likely that the other couple will be similar to the original couple in their basic “types” (examples: Butch/Femme, softball dykes, golf dykes, Lipstick Lesbians…etc.).

This is most certainly NOT to say that this means that there will automatically be attraction with someone who falls within our general “type” though. Just like how all straight females are NOT attracted to all straight males, Lesbians are NOT attracted to all other Lesbians…not even all of those who are our general “type”.

My point being that if, in our hypothetical example, Gabrielle is Xena’s “type”, then it’s likely that Ruth would be Xena’s general “type” too. And if Xena is Gabrielle’s “type”, then it’s likely that Idgie would be Gabrielle’s general “type” too.

So crossover friendships between two Lesbians who find the other person in the friendship to be their “type” are potentially fraught with difficulty.

Does this mean, to use another example, that a Butch cannot be platonic friends with a Femme (or vice versa)?

No, it doesn’t mean that at all. I truly believe that mature adults can indeed be platonic friends and leave it at that. But it does mean that the Butch and the Femme involved in the friendship and their partners need to be fully informed and fully aware at all times. No sneaking, no secret messages, no flirtation, no coyness, no lying…basically, no bullshit at all.

Let’s give another hypothetical example. Let’s say Dirt and I met another Butch/Femme couple and started hanging out with them every weekend. (This scenario is highly unlikely, due to the rarity of Butch/Femme making it very unlikely that we would meet a local couple, plus the fact that Dirt and I are both extreme introverts, so we aren’t ever going to see ANYBODY all the time…but hey, it’s just a pretend example anyway, so let’s just go with it).

In our hypothetical example, it would be considered highly irregular for the Femme of the couple to start emailing/texting Dirt privately and/or for them to meet for lunch or coffee without me and the Butch in the other couple present. It would be a major warning sign…not just because of the secrecy involved, although that would be a big tip-off, but also because they would be each other’s “type” so it would be atypical to cross over like that.

Similarly, if the Butch suddenly started calling me privately to talk about personal things behind the backs of Dirt and her Femme partner, it would be a big warning sign.

Does that mean that they could never call/text or see us separately? No, of course not! There are plenty of reasons such contact might happen (for example, contact might be made with one partner instead of the other due to simple convenience, like if one person is more reachable than the other; getting advice about a birthday present or surprise party;  needing specific advice on a topic that one partner knows more about; etc.).

It does mean, however, that if the situation continued to occur all the time (beyond casual contact), escalated, and/or showed any of the warning signs above, it would be certainly be a problem.

Bottom line: If you feel yourself starting to keep things from your partner and start turning toward someone else instead of your partner, it’s time to stop and seriously consider what exactly is going on before proceeding any further.  Deep down, under layers of rationalizations and denial, you know if you are romantically/sexually attracted to someone. And if you are attracted to someone, you need to admit it to yourself. You owe it to yourself and to your partner to be the kind of person who does the right thing. Be that person.

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: This blog is NOT intended to be professional advice, nor to substitute for the advice of a licensed professional. The reader should consult with an appropriate professional regarding all mental health needs.

What’s The Deal With Lesbians and Packing: A Post By Dirt

Note: This post was written by my sweetie Dirt and originally posted here.

Packing

Dirt’s answer: 

A reader wrote to me asking about my thoughts on Lesbians who pack (and no she wasnt talking about for vacation!). Since this is something that occasionally is searched for on this blog, I figured it a good opportunity for me to address it.

There are basically two types of Dykes that pack and one of them isn’t Homosexual!

Type A Packer-Lesbians who pack almost always fall into the mid-range Dyke category. These Dykes have HUGE insecurity issues.

  • Sometimes resulting from child sexual abuse-As a Dyke, sexual abuse from a male/s would make her feel (besides the expected trauma) incongruous and strangely homophobic. Her natural Female Homosexuality would feel compromised, feeling similar to young males who are molested by adult males. The molestation for a Dyke would feel, for lack of a better word- queer. These Dykes feel the need to cover/hide their privates and by doing so with a packer (usually late teens/young adults) feel (in a warped way that by packing they are re-solidifying the Dykeness they feel that was lost from the sexual abuse). This may seem like a way back to a healthier them, except its merely a wash/rinse and repeat—growth beyond packing never occurs.
  • Sometimes resulting from acute Heterosexual Dysphoria-They pathologize their fears of not measuring up to Het men coupled simultaneously with their fears of measuring too close to Het Women. Mid-range Dyke is a delicate balancing act, they aren’t Dykey enough to routinely pass (as male) and they aren’t Dykey enough not to pass as Het Women. Most mid-range Dykes traverse these unspoken Lesbian growing pains just fine. But for those with greater insecurity issues, packing may provide them with a false sense of security. And depending on the level of insecurity may even lead them down the road to transition.
  • Sometimes resulting from coupling with STRAIGHTBIANS-The all too sexually abused/Hyper-sexual STRAIGHTBIAN is as notorious for their Lesbian ignorance as they are for the Het privilege they feel exempts them from learning/caring about Lesbian experience/culture beyond their own notions of it. STRAIGHTBIANS cant see past their own Heterosexuality (warped though it may be) and as such view Dykes/put Dykes in the male role of their favorite fantasy/fairy tale. Where insecure Dykes will unfortunately try to please their STRAIGHTBIAN by living up to her male (sexual) fantasy. Most Dykes rarely pack before dating a STRAIGHTBIAN, few however leave a relationship with a STRAIGHTBIAN without packing.

Bear in mind, a Dyke may suffer from one or all of these.

Type B Packer-Type B’s are Heterosexual Women who claim they are Dykes.

  • Type B’s are exclusively sexually abused as children. But unlike Dykes (sexually abused or otherwise), packing for Type B’s is at once protection, sexual and power over other Women.
  • Type B’s usually partner with other STRAIGHTBIANS (both buying the Lesbian lie they tell each other).
  • Type B’s however are the more rare of the STRAIGHTBIAN sect. Their personality is formed from a more right brained temperament thats has been severely sexually abused. As such they take the butch or masculine role they Heterosexually perceive Lesbians to be.
  • Type B’s are exclusively/pathologically interested/invested in BDSM where they are the master and the other STRAIGHTBIAN the submissive.
  • Type B’s are turned on by harming/hurting other Women. They see Women as weak and malleable and as persons who should be punished for such helplessness. They are dominant, therefore they cannot be Straight. Sadistic and Narcissistic.
  • Type B’s will sometimes engage in sexual encounters with Gay men in effort to satisfy their natural Heterosexuality. Usually in secret, but not always.
  • Type B’s were some of the earliest “lesbians” to transition. And remain high on the list for transition still.
  • If transgender, the testosterone increases both their hyper sexuality and their hatred and anger against Women.
  • Most often Borderlines. (BPD) But their symptoms resemble more Hetero Male Borderlines than they do Het Female Borderlines, which can confuse diagnosis if they seek professional help.

Obviously this is not an in-depth post, but it should give readers a very good starting point on why some Females pack.

dirt

The Ex-Girlfriend Conundrum

A reader recently emailed me a “Dear Lesbian” question.

This particular reader is in a new relationship, which she is very happy with, except for when her new lover:

“talks about her history of a gazillion former girlfriends, which is really beginning to annoy the hell out of me. Maybe you can write a post about that and what to do or how to deal with that?”

Of course, with limited information, I will have to speak in generalities, but since ex-girlfriend concerns are a very common issue, there is a lot to say about the topic.

Here are my thoughts on the ex-girlfriend conundrum, in no particular order:

1).  It is actually quite common for many Lesbians to remain friends (or at least friendly) with our exes. I have known entire teams of Lesbians who have been connected for so long that there have been enough relationship interconnections to require a flow chart to decipher. (“Beth dated Susie, then Susie dated Jill, then Jill dated Cathy, then Cathy dated Beth, then Jill dated Beth, then Beth and Susie got back together, then…”). And somehow, in the midst of all of this, they all manage to play softball and eat chicken wings together. This fact is a peculiarity of dyke culture that many do not know or understand. Of course, this phenomenon isn’t true of ALL Lesbians, but it happens enough to be worth mentioning.

2).  Whether to be concerned about ex-girlfriend(s) depends entirely on the situation. Based on #1, above, it is not uncommon for many Lesbians to remain on good terms with exes, or to stay in regular contact with exes. The main factor to consider in this scenario is the character/commitment of your partner. If the ex-girlfriend is being inappropriate/flirtacious, then it is the partner’s responsibility to set clear and firm boundaries with the ex. If the partner does not do so, or, much worse, flirts back, then there is an issue to be dealt with; and that issue is with the partner, not the ex-girlfriend.

3).  If the issue isn’t that an ex-girlfriend is still in contact, but rather that the partner is simply talking about her exes, then the question becomes why. First, is the talking about exes above and beyond the “normal” amount expected during the getting-to-know-you phase of a relationship?  Some talk of romantic history is necessary, even desirable, in the beginning stages of a new relationship. For better or for worse, we all have been influenced by our life experiences, and our former partners are a significant part of those experiences. Talking about what happened in former relationships not only provides context and history, but it also helps to learn what our new partner hopes for, needs, and expects in a relationship. If, however, the talking about former lovers is more along the lines of bragging or obsessing than “normal” sharing, then that would lead to many questions needing to be answered, such as: Is she insecure and needs to brag to feel better about herself? If so, why? Is she still obsessed with an ex and therefore not really ready to move on? Is she trying to make you jealous, and if so, why? Etc.

4).  Perhaps most importantly, why does the situation bother you?  How does it make you feel ~ jealous, insecure, angry, etc.?  Do you feel threatened by the presence of (or the talk of) ex-girlfriends? If so, is this due to being unsure of the status of the new relationship, or is it primarily because of your own issues/insecurities?  Have you had jealousy issues in past relationships and/or have previous partners cheated on you?  In other words, how much of this issue is current-relationship-related, versus you-related?

5). Sometimes, jealousy can be mistaken for passion. When things become too calm/”normal” in a relationship, sometimes one or both partners mistake this for a lack of passion, and therefore may find something to argue about, or someone to be jealous of, in order to stir up some drama in an effort to recreate the “passion” in a relationship. Hot “make-up sex” temporarily satisfies this need, but usually, normality returns to the relationship rather quickly, leading to a repeated pattern of drama-stirring. If this is the case, it is time to examine the factors underlying this pattern.

So: considering all of the above, as well as any other factors that are relevant to your own specific situation, the best first step, as with ANY issue, is to figure out what is actually going on. Some of this assessment needs to take place before talking to your partner; to gain as much clarity as possible about your own perspective.

Then, when talking to your partner about this (or any other!) issue, it’s important to remember to try to approach the situation calmly, kindly, and NOT defensively. Always remember, it’s very likely your partner isn’t trying to hurt you. Make sure to treat her with kindness and respect, and make sure you are being treated with kindness and respect also.

Image: PicsArt #FreeToEdit

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: This blog is NOT intended to be professional advice, nor to substitute for the advice of a licensed professional. The reader should consult with an appropriate professional regarding all mental health needs.

How Much Sex Is “Normal”?: A “Dear Lesbian” Question

I just received an anonymous comment on my Lesbian Bed Death post, and since I think others may have the same questions/concerns, this comment will be the subject of today’s “Dear Lesbian” post.

Here is the comment:

The comments about happy couples still having sex after years worry me. I am a 45 year old lesbian. My girlfriend of 3 years never wants to have sex. Well, maybe not never, but hardly ever. Maybe like once every 3 months if I am lucky. I have been assuming it was lesbian bed death, but now I am worried. Does this mean my girlfriend is a Straightbian?

Without any further details, I am going to have to speak very generally, but first of all, I want to stress that there is no “normal” amount of sex to have.

What is “too much” for one person may be “too little” for another. Some people might want to have sex once a day, others once a week, others once a month, others once a year, others the 12th of never. (And any variation thereof).

While there is no “right” and “wrong” amount of desire for an individual, things can get tricky when we partner with another person, because one partner’s preference for frequency of sex may differ significantly from the other’s.

Ideally, couples will be (at least mostly) compatible regarding desire for frequency of intimacy, but sometimes, one partner will want to have sex much more frequently than the other, and when there is a big discrepancy, that is a really tough position to be in, for both partners.

This situation can happen with heterosexual or gay male couples too; so this issue is definitely not limited to Lesbian couples.

Bottom line: It’s impossible to say whether or not this person’s partner is a Straightbian, and it’s really not my place to do so anyway.

It is unclear whether the sex is still good when it does occur, or whether there has been a sudden and/or significant change at some point. Those are questions that the commenter will need to consider herself.

There are many non-Straightbian-related factors that can potentially decrease a woman’s sexual desire, including, but not limited to: thyroid dysfunction, parathyroid issues, chronic fatigue, chronic illness, chronic pain, stress, overwhelming responsibilities, perimenopause/menopause, post-hysterectomy issues, body image issues, grief, surgical recovery, hormonal issues, relationship issues, mental health concerns, etc.

And since so many issues can potentially inhibit sexual desire, it’s not always easy figuring out the cause(s).

As difficult as it will be, if the discrepancy in sexual desire is an issue (and it sounds like it is indeed a concern for this reader), the only way to start is by having a kind and supportive, but frank, conversation about the situation, approaching the issue directly but sensitively.

But don’t just assume that if your partner doesn’t want to have frequent sex that it must mean she’s a Straightbian. The discrepancy in desire may be caused a variety of other issues, and those answers can only be determined by the individuals involved, using good communication/problem-solving skills, and seeking professional help if needed (while also using our Lesbian intuition at the same time).

Hope this helps explain further, and as always, please let me know if you have any questions or comments.

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: This blog is NOT intended to be professional advice, nor to substitute for the advice of a licensed professional. The reader should consult with an appropriate professional regarding all mental health needs.

Does Real Lesbian Porn Exist???

Since beginning the infamous Straightbian series, I have often been called (among many other insults!) a “know-it-all.”

Well, here’s the thing: I do know a plethora about being a Lesbian, but I certainly don’t know it ALL, and I am very willing to admit it when I don’t know something.

And now I don’t know the answer to a question, and so I would like reader input, please.

I recently received a “Dear Lesbian” email regarding the topic of Lesbian porn:

Do Lesbians like porn, and are there any genuine porn websites run by and for actual Lesbians? 

(Note: This question was referring specifically to video porn, as opposed to written erotica stories).

f14db258-f68f-44f5-a872-f553f5de2809-1909-00000207afc0edc8_tmp

While I am not interested in watching porn myself (it’s just not my thing), I am curious about other Lesbians’ thoughts, feelings, ideas, and experiences regarding the topic.

(Very) brief Google research revealed that most alleged “Lesbian Porn” seems to be what men want to see (which bears NO resemblance to actual Lesbian sex).

The person who emailed me sent me a link to a website that is supposedly run by actual Lesbians, but their own self-description begs to differ:

“We are real dykes, who identify as lesbian, queer, bisexual, transgender, butch, femme, in-between, shy, exhibitionist, dominatrix, submissive, and other.”

And:

“This website is inclusive to all variations of the gender known as woman (past, present and future women) as well as appearances by men both cisgender and transgender.”

Um…no!!!!!!!!!

Most of their self-description is filled with so much nonsense that it would take a dissertation to address it all, and I hope for my readers, the reasons I say that will be clear.

Most terms they use are not related  whatsoever to LESBIANS!

Most importantly: The word “men” does NOT belong in Lesbian sex, or even in depictions of Lesbian sex, ever, in any context.

Furthermore, their long list of “identities” practically screams SPECIAL SNOWFLAKE SYNDROME!

In addition, Lesbian is not an “identity” that can be adopted or discarded on a whim, and Lesbian is most certainly NOT “queer” (etc.) either.

Ugh! Not sure whether to sigh loudly, grind my teeth, or bang my head on a wall repeatedly. Or all of the above. 😬🙄☹️

So, Lesbian readers, we need your input, please:

1). Are you interested in viewing real Lesbian-ONLY porn (video)?  Are the other Lesbians you know interested in viewing it?

2). If so, have you ever seen what you would consider to be a realistic depiction of Lesbian sex, between actual Lesbians, made by and for actual Lesbians?

3). Whether you answer “yes” or “no” to the above, why did you answer that way? Please explain.

4). Are you interested in reading Lesbian-ONLY erotica stories written by and for actual Lesbians? If so, do you regularly read such stories, and are there any reliable websites offering stories that are written by and for actual Lesbians?

5). Do you have any other thoughts/ideas on the topic of Lesbian porn (or anything related to this topic)?

Thanks in advance for your comments! (If you are too shy to reply in a comment below, you can email me at sayebennett@gmail.com, and I will post for you and not reveal your identity). 🙂

Lesbian Sex

How’s THAT for an intriguing title, huh?

1866gustavecourbetpainting

Gustave Courbet, 1866: Public Domain

Seriously, though, I recently received a “Dear Lesbian” email asking me some very specific questions about sex, and it got me thinking about how much confusion and misinformation is out there, so I thought, what the heck, I may as well address it publicly.

While I will never talk about my own sex life  (sorry, LOL!), I don’t mind answering some general and reasonable questions on the topic.

So today’s post will answer the main questions asked by the person who emailed me:

“Why do some lesbians use sex toys (like strap-ons or dildos, etc.)? Does that mean they really want to be with a man? Is it ‘kinky’ to do that? I thought all lesbians liked oral sex!”

Although all lesbians do have one striking thing in common (we’re lesbians!!), we are a very diverse group in our interests, professions, hobbies, personalities, tastes, etc., and the topic of sex is no different.

Therefore, some lesbians like playing with sex toys, some don’t. Some lesbians like oral sex, some don’t. Some like penetration, some don’t. Some are very adventurous, some are more so-called “vanilla”. Etc. Etc. Etc.

In other words, there is no uniform procedure, nor any “right” way, to have lesbian sex.

Whatever consenting adult lesbians do sexually together is, by definition, lesbian sex.

As far as whether or not using toys in bed is “kinky”: I do not think so, but, as with most concepts, the definition of “kinky” will vary from individual to individual. That’s a question that the person who emailed me will have to figure out for herself, by first examining what led her to ask that question.

In my opinion, sex toys are not inherently good nor bad…instead, they are neutral. Sex toys are a tool used for a specific job, just like a ruler is a tool used for measuring.

Some people enjoy sex toys; others don’t. For those who do enjoy them, some toys are preferred over others.

For the same reason that everyone has different tastes for food (for example: some like Indian food, others hate it), sex toys are simply a matter of individual preference.

The most important factors are finding a partner whose desires are compatible with yours, then communicating about your sexual desires and dislikes.

Finally, I’d like to focus specifically on one striking point of the question: “Does (using sex toys) mean lesbians really want to be with a man?

No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no!!!! 

Lesbians do not ever want sex with males. If lesbians do enjoy using any sort of toy in bed, it does NOT mean lesbians are fantasizing about a male.  It also most certainly does NOT mean lesbians are wishing there were an actual male involved.

Here’s a hint to lesbians: If your lover wants you to pretend to be a male in bed, or fantasizes about having a male join you in bed, or in any way brings the concept of “male” into your bedroom, you are dealing with a Straightbian.

Lesbians are females who are sexually/romantically oriented solely to females. Regardless of what lesbians are doing in bed, there will never be a male involved, even in fantasy.

“Dear Lesbian”

Today, after witnessing the vague “advice” given to a lesbian in this column, I have decided to start a “Dear Lesbian” feature.

2016-19-8--14-38-29

Image: #PicsArt #FreeToEdit

Feel free to email me at sayebennett@gmail.com to ask any lesbian-related questions and/or submit requests for topics. Dirt and I will be happy to answer, and we hope our lesbian readers will feel free to chime in with your thoughts also.

(Note: As a blanket cover-my-ass statement, note that everything I say on my blog is my opinion as a lesbian, and should never be considered as any sort of therapy or professional advice).

Today, I will start with addressing the lesbian’s question from the link above.

I will paraphrase the lesbian’s question to the advice columnist (you can read the entire question at the link above if you’d like, but it can be quickly summed up as follows):

Lesbian Question: “My girlfriend of 2 years recently had sex with a man. Should I take her back?”

The advice columnist at the link above gave some generic advice along these lines: “Blah blah blah, get some counseling, it’s not up to me to say, relationships are tough, blah blah blah“.

I can sum up the correct answer to this lesbian’s dilemma very quickly:

Correct Answer: No, you should not take her back. Run like the wind, sister. She is a Straightbian.  Thank her for showing her true colors before you wasted any more precious years of your life, and hold your lesbian head up high as you’re escorting her sorry ass out the door. You deserve someone who will love you for you. You deserve a lesbian.

Sometimes, the answers in life are pretty darn obvious.  This is one of those times.