Welcome all visitors and newcomers to the Journal of the InnKeeper. I thought I'd preface this with a little explanation of what this journal is, what the purpose is, and who I am.
I am Joreth, The InnKeeper, of The InnBetween
. As you can see on the left sidebar, I am an Atheist, I am Polyamorous, I work in the entertainment industry as a Camera Operator, a Stagehand, a Video and Lighting Technician, a Forklift Operator, a Boom Lift Operator, and a Spotlight Operator, and I am sex-positive. I am opinionated and aggressive and passionate and I care deeply about humanity and my fellow companions on this planet.
This journal started out because I started dating tacit
, who began referring to me in his journal. So I created a profile here so that he could reference me with a link, instead of just S
(the first initial of my real name). I didn't figure I'd use this for anything since I have my own website where I can post whatever I want. Mostly, what I wanted to post were pictures, and my website is much better for that purpose.
But then I discovered that my journal was a great way to post those stupid email forwards that everyone wants to send, filled with cute pictures and kitchy sayings or jokes, because I was pretty sure that, here, only people who cared what I had to say would see them. I wouldn't be sending on unwanted junk email, because if people didn't want to read what I had to say, people wouldn't friend me. Plus, I could put stuff behind cuts and then visitors would have to do double duty and actually CLICK on the stuff they wanted to see. So nothing I posted was unsolicited.
But then I discovered the internet's second true purpose (porn being the first one) ... RANTING!
Keeping with my concern of bothering friends and family with unwanted email, I found I could blow off steam and rant here in my journal too, and just like with the email glurge, only people who wanted to read it, would.
Well, over time, it turned out that the things that most frustrated me, the things I ranted about most of all, were things that I (and my followers) felt would be a benefit to society to be heard. I have always been an educator and a mentor. I'm not particularly smart, but I do grasp concepts quickly and I can often (not always) find ways to phrase things so that people understand when they might have had trouble before. At work, bosses routinely tell new guys to just follow me around in order to quickly learn the basics of the business. I was a mentor, a math tutor, a lighting lab instructor, and a guidance "counselor" at various times.
I have also always been an activist at heart. A passionate personality and an interest in education tends to pair up to become activist leanings, for whatever causes strike's the activist's heart. The topics I was most passionate about tended to be the topics that frustrated me the most and ended up as a rant here in my journal. So my journal took on an educational bent, for some definition of "educational".
I tackle topics that interest me the most, or that I have the most stake in the outcome of changing society. I cover the most current news in STDs and sexual health, I cover gender issues, I cover netiquette, I cover polyamory, I cover atheism and science and skepticism. These are topics I feel that people need to be educated about, and I do my best to provide one source of education, to those for whom my style of teaching works.
But, as I've repeatedly said, the topics that tend to get written about HERE, in my LiveJournal, are those that I feel most passionate about, which tends to lead me to feel most frustrated when they're not going the direction I think they should, which leads to most of my entries being rants.
And, to that end, Dear Reader, please understand that, although many of my posts are, in my opinion, educational in nature, they are also written from the perspective of a passionate, frustrated, human, who takes the term "journal" to heart, and treats this like a journal, not a "blog", or a news column, or a classroom. I hope that people get something of value from my journal, that I can report interesting or relevant news items, and that I can teach people something, and I do offer more classic or traditional styles of education, such as lectures & workshops, but I also come here, specifically, to rant.
Journals are typically places where people can write their private or personal thoughts. They were traditionally considered safe places to reveal one's innermost thoughts, perhaps even those ideas that could not be spoken aloud. Well, we have discovered just how valuable revealing certain journals can be to society, usually after that person's death. And the advent of the internet has created a whole new society whose private thoughts are more public than truly private. We use the internet to share those personal, innermost thoughts, to reach out to people, to connect with others, when once we might have suffered in silence, in isolation, with our private, paper journals as the sole, compassionate listener to our most intimate selves.
So, here, on the internet, utilizing LiveJournal as a personal journal where I can write my innermost thoughts, perhaps the kinds of things I cannot verbally say in polite society or as a way to organize my thoughts for a more appropriate-for-public version later, you, my Dear Reader, can get a glimpse into the mind of the InnKeeper.
But note that this journal, like any other journal, is only a small slice of who I am. I use this journal to vent, to rant, to let off steam, and these rantings have shown to have some value to those who follow it. But this is not the whole of who I am. This is Ranty Joreth; this is the Joreth who needs to vent; this is the Joreth who needs to blow off steam; this is the Joreth who says anything and everything that may not be allowed to be spoken aloud, in public, or to the intended recipient.
Joreth is ranty and frustrated and passionate. But Joreth is also compassionate and caring and occasionally a little silly. Joreth melts at the mere sight of her fluffy kitty and is often late to work because she can't bear the thought of disturbing her cat to remove her hand out from under the cat's head. Joreth needs hugs and cuddles. Joreth cries at sappy movies and whenever anyone around her tears up. Joreth sometimes lets her emotions carry her away. Joreth gets deeply hurt. Joreth isn't happy with her physical appearance but is mostly content and accustomed to it. Joreth secretly craves attention and adoration. Joreth likes to sing, especially bluesy-country songs and showtunes, but is terrified to have people hear her sing, in spite of being a mezzo-soprano in a choir for 5 years. Joreth is touched by tears glistening in her father's eyes when he's proud of her. Joreth has a sweet tooth and can almost always be tempted by sugary desserts. Joreth is a lot of things, just as everyone else is. This journal, and the other online aspects of Joreth are not the totality of who Joreth is.
You get to see a portion of me, and it is truly me, here in this journal, but it is, by far, not the only portion of who I am. Do not mistake reading a journal, whose very purpose is to be an outlet for a very specific part of my personality, for knowing who I am or anticipating how I will behave or react. Just as I show only a certain portion of myself at work, and I show only a certain portion of myself with biological family, I show only a certain portion of who I am here. All versions of me are still me, and there is some cross-over, but they are not complete models of me by themselves. Just like anyone else, I am a three-dimensional, multi-faceted, complex and dynamic person. I care, I love, I laugh, I hate, I hurt, I crave, I desire. Just like everyone else.
On this most recent episode of Poly Weekly
, on Rules About Beds, cunningminx
shared a story that actually triggered a particular pet peeve of mine, but in a good way. It's this thing about "but it works for us!" That's usually a huge red flag for me, and almost always follows something toxic or harmful that people are justifying. But cunningminx
's story was an example of when it's legitimate.
She told of a compromise that came about between her, Lusty Guy, and Elle regarding morning sex. Elle apparently heard Lusty Guy and cunningminx
having sex one morning in their spare room and she felt, well, I don't want to put words in her mouth, but it sounded like a description of possibly envy - she wanted to do something that other people were doing. So she asked that, from now on, could she have "right of first refusal", where if Lusty Guy wanted sex on Sunday mornings (the day of the week that cunningminx
slept over), could he ask Elle for sex before he asked cunningminx
. This was an acceptable arrangement to everyone involved, so that's what they instituted.
Now, the problem I have is that people are going to hear that story and think it justifies them making rules or giving certain partners "priority" (or, rather, power), over others. Because this arrangement "works for them". But, here's the real distinguishing factor - Lusty Guy then went on to explain *why
* it "works for them". You see, just prior to this story, cunningminx
and Lusty Guy talked about how cunningminx
can't share sleeping space with Lusty Guy because of his snoring, so she always sleeps in another room. That's why they were separated - not because she's the "secondary" and she's not "allowed" to sleep in the primary couple's bed or because he is "required" to always sleep next to his wife. This arrangement "works for them" because it's something that cunningminx
genuinely needs for her health and happiness. She was an equal contributor in building this arrangement, and it was her own preference, not a concession she made to Elle in order to date Lusty Guy.
So, now that it's established that they are in separate rooms, and *why* they are in separate rooms, let's look at why "right of first refusal" is a legitimate use of "it works for us". Lusty Guy and Elle have been together a really long time, and their personal preferences and connection with each other has resulted in a, I guess you could call it efficient form of sex that they are both pleased with. According to the podcast, they can have a very good, enjoyable time in about 15-20 minutes. I totally understand that - I am not a fan of marathon sex myself. I love being teased for a long time (and I mean, *long* time - like start flirting with me days ahead of time if you can, and I won't be able to control myself by the time we finally get together), but then when it gets down to the slippery bits, I'm an in-and-out sorta gal. I want to get to the penetration and hopefully but not necessarily the orgasm, and then either eat something or roll over and go to sleep. Or *maybe*, if I have things to do, I want to get back to those things if I can fight off the post-sex fog.
So, Lusty Guy and Elle aren't likely to take a very long time in the mornings. But cunningminx
says that she's more likely to go an hour and a half or longer. So, if Lusty Guy and cunningminx
had sex first in the mornings, Elle would be waiting all day before she got a turn. But if Elle goes first, they'll be done before cunningminx
is even really awake enough for sex. Add up all these details about their sex life and sleeping habits, and you get an arrangement that "works for them".
But what too many people are actually saying when they say "it works for us", is "I have this insecurity and this is how I want to manage it, how dare you tell me that I'm not being considerate towards other people while in the grips of my insecurity and how dare you tell me that my insecurity is causing me to act in ways that might harm other people!" As I and many others have said before, if everyone naturally just wants to do this thing, then you don't need a rule making people to this thing. If people really don't want to do the thing, a rule isn't likely to stop them, at least not forever. Also, as tacit
say in More Than Two
, it's really really hard to be compassionate when all you feel is fear. When people are managing an insecurity, then they are extremely likely to be inconsiderate towards other people in their efforts to manage that insecurity. They're just not very likely to see *how*
they're being inconsiderate because that fear is whispering nasty little lies in their ear and rationalizing and justifying everything done in service to the insecurity. But just because they manage to find someone willing to agree to their method of managing, it doesn't mean that it's OK. It just means that they got lucky and found someone with boundaries that just happen to not cross the line that the person managing the insecurity is crossing. For now.
So, if a V similar to Elle, Lusty Guy and cunningminx
were to make a "rule" saying that no one in the house is allowed to have sex before the wife has sex with the husband, and the wife, say, was actually more of a night person but the husband and girlfriend were both morning people, then even everyone agreeing to the rule is not "this works for us". Technically, people could say "this works for us", I guess, because of that agreement, but in my opinion, and what those of us who dislike that justification mean when we complain about it is, this isn't "working" for everyone, this is "managing". This is way too likely to lead to coercion, if it isn't already coercive just by its nature.
What would be "working" for that kind of V would be for the wife to work on her insecurity so that it didn't bother her if the husband and girlfriend had morning sex in the first place. That would be the three of them working together, accommodating and accepting the nature of who they are as people, and giving everyone the power to design the relationships that they are in according to their own needs and preferences and natural interests. If the husband and girlfriend didn't *want* to have morning sex, then they didn't have to have morning sex. But deciding that they *can't* have morning sex because the wife wants it first even though she actually doesn't want it (because she'll sleep until noon, whereas the husband and girlfriend will have been up for hours by then, and likely sexually frustrated, as well as lacking in agency because the person with the power to decide what Hubby and GF do is Wife) is not "working for them". Again, even if everyone technically agrees.
This is the difference between "priority" and "power"
that I'm always talking about. No one, and I mean no one, who is complaining about hierarchy or couple privilege or primary/secondary is saying that there is anything wrong with relationships that look different from each other, as long as that difference happens organically. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a married man having a "secondary" if that partner wants to, say, remain living in her own apartment, or only see him one day a week, or has no interest in meeting the wife, or whatever. No one, and I mean no one, is demanding that all relationships must be life-partnerships even when the people in those relationships are not interested in a life-partner arrangement with each other.
If the two people (i.e. Hubby and GF, in this example) are *happy* with GF living in her own place and only seeing him every other Tuesday because she has too many things on her plate anyway and that's all the time and emotional energy she has for him and Hubby has kids and his weekly D&D night and karaoke on Thursdays so that's all he wants to see GF too, then they don't need any rules telling them that they can only see each other on every other Tuesday and GF can't move in. That "works for them". All relationships look different, that's kind of the whole point. The entire reason why it's possible to love more than one person is because everyone is different, and no relationship is going to look exactly the same as any other relationship because the people in those relationships are different people. So yes, by all means, go out and have relationships that have different priorities from each other. No one, and I mean no one, is complaining about that.
When couples (and it's usually couples, but occasionally I hear it from male-headed poly-fi groups too) say "it works for us", they're very rarely describing *priority
*, even though that's almost always the examples they trot out to justify "it works for us". Usually, what they're saying is that the *rules
* "work for them" BECAUSE the people involved have different priorities or needs or whatever. So, to keep using the morning sex example, I almost never hear "it works for us" the way that cunningminx
and Lusty Guy told it - their individual sexual preferences naturally led them to a pattern of first sex for Elle whereas trying it differently is inconvenient for everyone involved. Instead, I hear people saying "we made a rule that the wife should get sex first because she's the primary, and it works for us because our secondary doesn't object".
Can you see the difference? If not, then you're probably part of the problem that so many of us have with the poly community.
Let's try it this way. I don't eat breakfast in the mornings. I have a sleep disorder and waking up before noon fucks with my biology, but of course I have to wake up before noon sometimes because life. So I wake up, but I can't eat food that early or that soon after waking or I'll get nauseated. So I don't eat breakfast. Other people can't function without a good breakfast first thing in the morning. A lot of people try to talk me into trying different kinds of foods for breakfast because they think that not eating must be worse for my health than eating. It's not. Skipping breakfast and having something sugary (like orange juice) about 3 hours after I wake up works for me. I'm not imposing on anyone else, I'm following my own dietary and biological needs within a set of social constraints that I'm forced to accept. There is no need for me to pass a rule on myself *making* me skip breakfast, that's just what I want to do naturally. And every once in a while, when a certain set of circumstances happens (that I'm aware of, but I'm skipping over those details for brevity), I'll feel the desire for food first thing in the morning. So on those days, I eat something. No rule is broken because I don't have a no-eating rule. This gives me the flexibility to have control over my own eating habits as circumstances change and "what works for me" doesn't happen to work under these particular conditions.
If one person is a morning person, one person is a late-riser, and the person in the middle has no strong preference, then the morning person asking to be given the option of morning sex first because it's the option that would inconvenience the fewest people, that's "working for them". That's not eating breakfast in the morning, except on days when I want to eat breakfast in the morning. That's "priority". That's when two different relationships just naturally look different from each other. What that is NOT, is hierarchy, couple privilege, or rules.
But if one person is a morning person, one person is a late-riser, and the person in the middle has no strong preference, and the *late-riser* is the one who *decides* that they get the option of morning sex first, especially if the decision is based on relationship status (I was here first / I'm the legal spouse), which is usually a sign of some deeper, unaddressed insecurity, then even if the other two people agree to it, that's not "working for them" in the sense that those of us who complain about these sorts of things mean by "working". This is me not eating breakfast in the morning because I, or someone else, decided that I shouldn't eat breakfast in the morning even though I'm actually really hungry in the morning and I can't really function until I get something solid in my tummy. Sure, I might have "agreed" to it, but it's not really in my best interest and it inconveniences, not just me, but everyone who has to deal with me not at my best because of this rule.
The big problem that I see in the community is that people look at the end result - not having breakfast in the morning, or getting first crack at morning sex, or living alone, or whatever - and see no difference. Either way, I'm not having breakfast and you're getting the option of morning sex so what's the big deal? Well, intentions and motivation and agency are the big deal. The outcome is *not the issue*, that's why no one is complaining about different priorities or relationships that look different from each other or any of those other things. The outcome is not where the problem is. The problem is in the way we arrive at the outcome, is the intentions and motivation and agency. And if you've never had your agency taken away, particularly when the removal of your agency was justified by shady or hidden intentions and selfish motivations, then it may be difficult to understand why this is such a big deal if the outcome is the same either way.
Consider yourself extremely fortunate and just believe us when we say that it's a big fucking deal. If you can't understand what the big deal is because you've never experienced it, then I hope you remain ignorant for the rest of your life. I hope you *never* have to learn first-hand what the big deal is with having your agency taken from you. But what we need you to do is to just accept that coercive structures, even if you don't *mean* to be coercive or don't understand why it's coercive, accept that coercive structures are not "working" for anyone, even when people "agree" to them, the way you might just accept something Stephen Hawking says about Hawking radiation because he is more familiar with the subject than you are. If your partner doesn't want to eat breakfast in the mornings, they don't need you to make a rule telling them not to eat breakfast in the mornings. Because, maybe one day, they might. Rules only work, until they don't. And you will be a better, more compassionate partner if you design your relationships to accommodate when your partner might someday want to have breakfast in the morning and if you really examine why them not eating breakfast is a big enough problem for you to think you have the right to tell them that they shouldn't, so that when the day comes that they want to eat breakfast in the mornings, it doesn't bother you and they can make the decision for themselves whether to eat that breakfast or not.
* I am committed to accepting assistance from my partners when needed, and sometimes just when it would be nice.
As a tomboy, I have spent my life justifying my tomboy and independent ways by going over and above the call of duty, so to speak. In order to prove to those around me that I am capable, I have had to reject assistance because any acceptance of assistance was "proof" that I couldn't handle the independence or the subject, with the implied "like a man could" tacked on. In my history, men didn't need help, men didn't need comforting, men didn't need directions, men didn't need anything but themselves. Never mind the fact that it was blatantly untrue. Every man I knew couldn't have survived without their female partners performing the various acts that they performed that allowed the men the free time and emotional resources to focus on whatever it was that they did do. Everything that men did had to be "on his own", so anything that the women did to help was either rejected or erased. Her cooking dinner every night so that he didn't starve when he worked 12 hours a day wasn't considered "helping", it was just what she did.
In order to compete with boys and men, I had to be more than their equal. I had to be superior. Otherwise, any potential non-male trait was proof that I wasn't their equal, and, in fact, was representative of my entire gender for why none of us were their equals. So I did not like help. tacit
once said that I was the most competitive person he knew. I didn't see it at the time. But I pitted myself against my male peers as a child and teen in athletics and grades because I had to prove that I was their equal by being better. To this day, I refrain from doing certain things that I don't think I will excel at because my competitive drive makes "losing" too uncomfortable.
But then I became poor. And I started to age. These two things combined are strikingly humbling. Because of how the economy hit my industry, I dropped below the poverty line further than I had ever been. But I had male partners who had more secure incomes. And I started having more trouble lifting and moving than I used to, as well as watching my coworkers age and, consequently, go through surgery after therapy after time-out because they were "men". By that, I mean that, as young men they did stupid macho things like trying to unload trucks singlehandedly. This didn't always result in immediate injury, but as they aged, their bodies broke down rapidly once they hit a physical peak. They got injured more easily, and injuries and near-injuries from their youth made them slower, stiffer, weaker. I saw men my own age and slightly older, looking and acting like "old men" before their time. I learned to ask for help because, as I became fond of saying, I've been in this business for 25 years and I intend to stay in it for another 25 years when my coworkers had to drop out after 5, 10, 15 years in the business because they just couldn't handle the physical demands anymore.
So I learned to ask for help at work. And now I'm learning to ask for help from my partners. Somehow, it hurts my pride more to ask for help from partners. Somewhere along the line, I developed a sense of obligation - that assistance from romantic partners carried with it a form of obligation that I didn't want to incur. Sometimes that obligation was sexual ("since I bought dinner, you should put out"), sometimes it was tit-for-tat ("after all I've done for you, this is how you repay me?"), sometimes it reinforced a gender role situation within the relationship ("I'm the man, it's my job to pay for you"). When a relationship ends, if the sense of obligation is real and not me imposing cultural baggage onto my partners, that's where I'll feel the obligation the strongest. So I have developed patterns designed to reduce relationship obligation. A breakup is also where I'll feel the loss of assistance that I've come to count on, so I tend to avoid relying on anyone because I'm afraid that the assistance will be pulled away from me in a year or two when we break up and then it'll hurt more to have to re-learn my independence than if I had just done without their assistance the whole time.
But I keep maintaining that my relationships are with equal partners. So in order for that to be true, I have to let my guard down, I have to let them in, and I have to be able to accept their assistance. Sometimes I need help and that's what partners are there for - to help and support in times of need. Sometimes it's my partners who need to help me because that's how they express their love and how they feel loved, and it has nothing to do with my abilities. My relationships are not all about me, they're about building something together. I need to remind myself that part of building something together often includes mutual support and that, if there is no obligation attached, being helped feels nice. So that's what this commitment is about.
I was at Gasparilla one year (an official excuse for the city of Tampa to get roaring drunk in pirate garb), watching the parade. I was up against the barricades, as close to the parade as you could get without actually being in it. Some dude was, well, apparently he was attempting to slam dance next to me. I have no idea why - there wasn't any music appropriate for that and no one else was interested in joining in.
So he was throwing himself around the crowd in that mosh pit way, getting a larger and larger circle as people tried to avoid him. But not me. I had a fucking awesome place to see the parade and it was my first Gasparilla goddammit, I was gonna hold my ground.
So he slammed into me one more time and I pushed him back. He stopped, puffed up his tiny chest, and started cussing at me. So I turned to face him and started cussing back. So he said something to the effect of "you better stop saying 'fuck off', bitch, or I'm gonna hit your boyfriend". The "boyfriend" in question was a tall, gangly, computer nerd I had been dating who was standing behind me and desperately trying to hide behind my much shorter frame.
So I looked the dude in the eye and said, slowly, clearly, and loudly, "Fuck. Off."
I could hear my boyfriend whispering to just let it go, we'll move somewhere else and tugging on my sleeve, but I didn't break eye contact. The dude repeated himself "go on, say it one more time, and I'm gonna fucking hit your boyfriend."
"Bitch keep saying it, I dare you.
And on it continued. Notice how he never did actually take a swing at my boyfriend, nor did he address the guy in any way. He focused his entire attention on me, trying to intimidate me. But I don't intimidate, mainly because adrenaline makes me stupid sometimes.
Eventually, he got tired of repeating himself and not seeing the reaction he wanted, so he turned away and melted into the crowd, throwing gendered slurs over his shoulder the whole time. I watched the crowd close up around him, all eager for a front row spot to see the rest of the parade that he had been hogging, and I went back to the parade.
My boyfriend was all kinds of freaked out and worried aloud at what might have happened had the dude made good on his threat because he'd never been in a fight in his life and had no interest to see what it was like.
I said, "don't worry, sweetie, he'd have to go through me first."
I'd like to say this is the only time something like this has happened, but it's not. I have several such encounters of guys completely losing their shit at me, either to back down when a guy came to my defense or to exclusively direct their shit at me instead of the men around me, any of whom could have been the culprit for whatever Angry Dude was mad about.
I've also been fortunate enough to have several guys with me when these sorts of things happen who, when Angry Dude said something about "control your woman" or "you gonna stand up for her or what?", respond "nah, dude, she's scarier than me, you're much worse off dealing with her," who then sit back and, by their confidence in me, show the dude he's in the wrong. That often diffuses situations better than my guys jumping in the fray.
Now, if any of them ever *actually
* took a swing at me and I had guy friends (or any friends, for that matter) nearby, I'd very much appreciate some physical assistance. But usually just their presence scares off Angry Dude as it does in this article, or if he's too amped up to back down, their amusement and willingness to let me fly off the handle confuses Angry Dude and makes him wonder what kind of mess he's gotten himself into and he'll wander off shouting slurs rather than escalate to violence.
"But why do atheists even need a name? If they just don't believe, why do they need communities and conventions? What is there even to talk about if you don't believe?"
My lack of a belief in god is just that, a missing belief. That, by itself, is not really anything worth talking about. I don't have a belief in leprechauns either, and I have nothing really to say about them or things I lack belief in.
But when I look at our world, and I assume there is no deity behind it, I have to question the motivations behind everything - from little daily decisions to big, society-moving decisions. If I don't have a god telling me to give alms to the poor, what should I do about poverty? Why should I do it? What motivates me if I don't have a god telling me what to do?
That's what we talk about when we get together. What is the meaning of life, what is our purpose here on this planet, what should we do if we assume that we will have no reward or punishment awaiting us at death? There are many answers people without god can arrive at, because there are a lot of other philosophies and ideologies that inform positive action, where simply lack of belief is absent any positive action.
So *this* is my atheism. This is where my lack of belief ultimately leads to. Dawkins is primarily responsible for me getting into movement atheism. His outspokenness, his unapologetic attitude for his lack of belief, his horror at travesties caused in the name of religion - these things all spoke to me and all motivated me to look at my lack of belief and decide that, *if* there really was no god, what did that mean for the things I do and don't do in my life and what does that mean for the actions of those around me. What does not having a god mean for the kind of person that I want to be? And all those questions lead me, ultimately, away from Dawkins, the man who brought me into movement atheism in the first place.
This is my atheism. This is the movement that I want to be a part of.
This is something I feel very keenly. I don't quite fit in anywhere. I'm Latina, so I don't belong with white people ("even a drop"), yet I was raised by my white dad in a white neighborhood and a white school so I don't really have any strong connection to my Mexican heritage, and I don't have the accent, and I don't "look" Mexican so I don't really belong in Hispanic cultures either.
I identify currently as "tomboy". As a kid, that was the label applied to me and I felt that it fit. I didn't want to be a boy, necessarily. As a child, I had none of the biological issues I have today being female, and I have no body dysphoria. I don't feel that I'm in the wrong body or the wrong skin. The housing fits fine. It's the definitions that don't fit. But, as a "tomboy", everything I did was excused or explained or accepted. She doesn't like dresses? Oh, she's a tomboy. She likes climbing trees? Oh, she's a tomboy. She doesn't like dolls? Oh, she's a tomboy.
As an adult discovering my sexuality, that's where I got confused. Girls are supposed to "outgrow" being a tomboy, so when they don't, it must mean that they're really "boys". Which means lesbian, of course. Once I hit puberty, if I still don't like dresses or dolls and I still like climbing trees, then I must also like girls, y'know, "in that way".
Except I don't. So, OK, queerness is getting a little more sophisticated since I was a kid, with more labels and more orientations and more gender expressions, so ... she doesn't like dresses or dolls or makeup, but she also doesn't like girls, she must be a guy trapped in a girl's body, i.e. trans.
And that kinda fits. It fits just well enough that I do occasionally identify as a "gay man in a woman's body". But it's also not quite right. Because I also don't fit any stereotype of gay man, other than loves to give head, and I don't really fit into gay male culture. Sometimes I'm flamboyant drag queen, but I'm not really that either because, although I do wear dresses as costumes and learned all my makeup techniques from drag tutorials, I'm really not "big" enough, showy enough. Sometimes I'm effeminate boi because of the dresses but low flamboyancy, but I'm not that either because I cuss like a sailor and wear combat boots and climb truss and I'm way too harsh to be "effeminate". So, sometimes I'm Normal Dude, except I also like dresses now and I definitely move in a soft, effeminate way and I'm quiet and unassuming when I'm not being loud and boisterous and obnoxious.
I made the observation a few years ago that, if we didn't have strict gender roles, would I even identify anywhere on the queer spectrum? Would I actually have any problems just identifying as "woman" if we had no assumptions for what "woman" means? My entire identity is based on cultural constructs. I'm not saying that everyone's identity is, but I really only consider my own gender when I'm faced with questions of gender identity. Otherwise, I have no idea what my gender is - I just know that it's not what other people assume it is.
So, I'm back to tomboy as my gender identity because that one doesn't have any associations with "wrong" genitals. It excuses all my "guy" traits, because I'm a tomboy, but when I break out of the butch stereotype, it still allows for girlie things because tomboys are still "girls".
But I've also grown really attached to the masculine of center identity that I discovered a few years ago. That also seems to fit really well because, like "tomboy", it still assumes "female biology", it doesn't require me to stick with a rigid "guy" code like "butch" can (basically viewed as a girl who has to live up to guy rules), but it accommodates all those "guy" things that make me who I am - fondness for power tools and getting dirty and being physical and cussing and being aggressive and confident etc.
Yes, I know that everything I'm talking about is other people's perceptions of me, and that my own gender identity should be whatever I want to make of it. But that's kinda the point - if other people didn't have perceptions of me based on either my biology or my appearance, then I won't be arsed to have a gender identity at all. *I
* get that someone can be "butch" and still like the color pink, for example. It's other people's expectations of me as a person based on their perception of my gender identity that's causing all the problems for me and forcing me to analyze and introspect and consider and cogitate on what my gender identity is and what the labels mean.
And before anyone says "fuck labels, it doesn't matter what anyone thinks of you, just be you", I've already had that argument. Labels are important for a variety of reasons and I'm convinced that the people who say "we don't need no stinkin' labels" are people with an enormous amount of privilege in that area to not need them. The culture caters to ignoring, excusing, or overlooking whatever it is you're doing so that it doesn't challenge you on the labels you use and it doesn't force you to fit into whatever labels it applies to you from the outside.
Not all of us have that luxury. So I continue to look at labels, at what they mean to me and at what other people hear when I say the label, at how society treats people with that label, and at who else is attracted to that label for finding my communities of like-minded people.
Right now, "woman" is the label I use when I'm using my feminist lens because "woman" is the experience that the world imposes on me, and "tomboy" and "masculine of center" is what I use to describe my behaviour, my preferences, and my attire. I consider myself cis-gender because I don't have any dysphoria over biological sex that I was assigned, but I do not consider myself a "woman" outside of feminist ranting because I think that the external social definitions for "woman" do not fit me. I consider myself "straight" because of being cis-gender and being sexually attracted to exclusively a narrow selection of biologically male humans.
I have a lot of "I am X, except when I do Y" labels, which makes me feel like this article, that many spaces don't include me. Most of the time, I'm fine being the privileged ally - I don't need queer spaces to make room for me as the straight cis-woman, for example. But it does mean that there aren't really any places for the straight cis-woman who doesn't really think of herself as a "woman" and has to stare blankly at her more mainstream woman friends when they talk about "girl" stuff and I get confused about why on earth they would like that or do that or think like that and they wrinkle their noses at my dirty cargo pants when I sit backwards on a chair and talk about fucking some dude just because he's pretty as long as he doesn't open his mouth to say something that would ruin it for me.
I am X, except when I'm not. And there isn't a space for me.
Him: this thing that dehumanizes and objectifies people is wrong.
Her1: nothing is wrong! You can't tell anyone that what they're doing is wrong! As long as it works for them, it's not wrong!!!
Them1: uh, yeah we can, rape is wrong.
Her1: that doesn't count, that's illegal!
Her2: I don't like this thing, it doesn't work for me.
Her1: you can't say it's wrong!!!
Them2: don't worry Her2, she's not allowed to tell you that your preference is wrong :-)
"There is no one Right Way" does not necessarily follow that there are no wrong ways.
Sometimes I just want to smack people upside the head and then shrug my shoulders and say "what? This works for me".
[Image of text: "Being a woman is kind of like being a cyclist in a city where all the cars represent men. You're supposed to be able to share the road equally with cars, but that's not how it works. The roads are built for cars and you spend a great deal of physical and mental energy being defensive and trying not to get hurt. Some of the cars WANT you to get hurt. They think you don't have a place on the road at all. And if you do get hurt by a car, everyone makes excuses that it's your fault."] - photo via Feminists United
I've never been hit by a car or run off the road while cycling. That doesn't mean it's not a real or constant threat or that it doesn't happen often enough to be a problem even if I've never personally experienced it.
Unlike being a cyclist, though, I can't just choose to switch to cars if I want to / have enough money to. And I have been assaulted by men *because
* they were male and I am female. I have been assaulted, not because someone was poor and wanted my money, or because they thought I was rude to them and wanted to teach me a lesson, but because they believed that having a penis granted them rights to my body solely on the basis that they believed my body houses the receptacle for their penises, and some assaults were because my rejection of their entitlement angered them and they believed they had a right to be angry about my rejection and a right to respond to my rejection.
I'm one of the lucky ones. I did not have permanent scarring either physically or emotionally. I'm indignant, sure, and angry at the injustice, but otherwise I got off pretty lucky, considering how often assault of some sort has happened to me.
Other people are not so lucky. They are the broken cycles with the wheel torn off and rolling down the street. Because they are cyclists in a city made for cars, and the odds are that many, but not all, will end up that way because the city caters to the cars.
"My response is that if you think something like this is a minor difference of opinion – that we can differ on this point, and yet our beliefs can still be 99% similar – then you haven’t understood me at all."
This is the basic disconnect between liberals willing to ban, block, or otherwise cut out someone for a "difference of opinion" and conservatives who get offended at the idea that having a "difference if opinion" is a blockable offense.
It's not that we agree on 99% of everything except this one thing. It's that the *weight
* of this one thing is way more than 1%, and that the foundations of thought and philosophy that lead us down our respective roads to our "difference of opinion" are actually radically different, to enable us to have reached this "difference of opinion" in the first place.
If you think we agree on a lot except this one little thing like human rights and equality, then you really don't understand me at all.
From the comments of my FB feed, where I originally posted this link, someone suggested that it was sort of like a meme of Michael Shermer saying "In the past 10,000 years, humans have devised roughly 100,000 religions based on roughly 2,500 gods. So the only difference between myself and the believers is that I am sceptical of 2,500 gods whereas they are sceptical of 2,499 gods. We are only one god away from total agreement.
So I responded, "Kinda, yeah. Atheists feel that one-god-difference is a big difference, big enough to create a movement out of it. I feel that human rights is a big difference, big enough to make a fuss over it." We have "singular" differences of opinion big enough to cause huge rifts all the time. Because it's not a simple arithmetic problem where the difference is 1. It's a variable algebra problem, where the difference is 1x, and the value of x can be small or it can be so huge as to approach infinitesimal, and where x is influenced by the value of other variables in the equation. X doesn't live alone, isolated from the other integers. As someone else said somewhere, it's not like a difference of opinion on whether or not pistachio ice cream is a tasty dessert. Sometimes it's a difference of "opinion" on whether or not other people are even human beings. Skeptics and atheists disagree with believers over "1%" all the time, and we often feel it's important enough to argue about, block, try to change their minds, or write scathing screeds on the internet about constantly.
It's just when straight white cis-male atheists & skeptics are on the receiving end of the weight of one of their value judgements being questioned that suddenly they're all "why can't we just get along? It's just a single difference of opinion when we agree on everything else!"
As it happens, I think this dismissive, minimizing attitude is exactly the problem. When it comes to sexism in the atheist community, the biggest problem isn’t the relatively small (but noisy and persistent) mob of screeching trolls and harassers. The biggest problem is the much larger bloc of people who don’t engage in such behavior themselves, but are willing to tolerate it, and who think that whether a person is sexist should form at most a very small part of your opinion of them. It’s the people who believe that if a celebrity author or scientist is effective at promoting atheism, that’s all we ought to care about, not anything else they say or do. (You may notice the analogy with the way that moderate religion can protect and enable dangerous fundamentalism.)
[Image: tweet screencap that says "If you think sex work is 'selling your body', but athletes, manual laborers aren't, etc. it's a moral hang-up you've got, and that's on you."]
I had this exact argument with an ex, who didn't want his wife to have naked pictures of herself available on the internet (whether she wanted to or not was irrelevant). After pressing him, he pulled the "selling her body" line, to which I responded that I (was at the time) a professional dancer and I worked manual labor which required me to do physical things like climbing and heavy lifting, so how was I *not
* selling "my body"?
He had no good answer for it, but he certainly tried very hard to rationalize it, and we ended up arguing in circles for quite a long time that day. He tried to distinguish using one's body *for sex
*, to which I pointed out a gradation from "respectable" dancers to "sex" dancers, and at what point is the dancer responsible for the sexual thoughts of the audience for her body, and followed up with "what's wrong with making money from sex anyway?" It was fun to hear someone try to explain what was wrong with making money from sex when STDs weren't on the table (i.e. pictures, lap dances, etc. = no possible STD vector) and when the person arguing against them is non-monogamous so he clearly couldn't use the "sex is special and reserved only for your spouse" line either.
He also tried the "it's degrading" bit, so I reminded him that he once worked in fast food, and various other well-worn responses, including my own "respectable" form of dancing still involved drunk men slobbering over me and needing to wear a fake wedding ring or have a male "manager" attend gigs with us, which still didn't prevent assholes from propositioning me after a performance. One such memorable and yet entirely common proposition was at 4 in the morning after a performance when the venue was closed for the night and empty except for employees, contractors (like myself), and people associated with the event. Some drunk dude cornered me to "compliment" me on my dancing, so I plastered my "I am working and can't afford to alienate paying clients or their friends who might hire us again later" smile on my face while he invited me back to his hotel room for what was left of that night. I held up my "wedding ring", and he came up with the oh-so-brilliant line that my "spouse" need never know about it. Because, OMG, that never occurred to me!!! The only thing holding me back from hooking up with drunk strangers after a performance was the thought that I would be obligated to tell my "spouse" about it! This totes changes things!
I almost never feel degraded when I have casual sex. I haven't tried any kind of sex work, but most of the sex workers I know seem to enjoy their jobs well enough. But I very much feel degraded working minimum wage jobs like retail or waitress jobs, because I take home so little pay for so much physical and emotional labor and the clientele automatically assumes that I'm beneath them, that I'm not worthy of being treated with any dignity or respect because I'm there to "serve" them. I can only imagine how poorly service workers like cleaning services, trash collectors, and landscaping workers are treated. You can't tell me that sex work is "degrading" and "selling your body" in one breath and excuse all those other jobs the next. I don't buy it. I've been there.
Just be honest already. You don't actually want "small government", you want no legal repercussions for your business dealings but you're totally fine with a government big enough to invade every bedroom and every vagina and every poor person's pantry, as well as every country that doesn't provide us with cheap labor and expensive imports that you can profit from.
I didn't used to understand pictures of food until I started doing 2 things - 1) got back into baking; and 2) started Eating 'Round The World where my friends and I try a restaurant from a different country every month. Then I understood what other people had tried to explain about food pictures - that food is transient, so we take a picture to remember the event where the food was featured and to celebrate the work that went into such a beautiful and / or tasty meal.
That food represents someone's hard work and time to produce something pleasurable for us, and it's going to be gone in a few moments. That food represents a moment of joy that will be gone almost immediately. That food represents time spent with loved ones that will soon be only a memory. So we record that moment in time the only way we know how - with a picture.
So now, when someone makes a post threatening to unfriend people over food pictures, I'm sorely tempted to start posting food pictures just to spite them.
These are often the same people who give people like me shit for unfriending over such silly things as not wanting to share air space with people who want me dead or who think I'm less human than they are or less deserving of being treated as an equal human being, or even just not wanting to see posts anymore from people who dislike me or my friends and can't help reminding me how much they dislike me. But no, posting food pics is totes worth unfriending people over, whereas I just censor people and live in an echo chamber. Gotcha.
Also, Nickelback - totally worth unfriending over pictures of food and different tastes in music. But I'm just mean, apparently.
You people do understand that when black people ask, or even demand, that cops stop shooting unarmed black people and insist that black criminals & suspects be treated at least with the same level of caution and consideration as rich white criminals, when black people criticize police brutality in general or specifically against black people - you do understand that accusing that message of being "anti-cop" is tacitly acknowledging that police brutality and racism is *inherently* a part of being a cop, right?
Those of us demanding the demilitarization of the police force and better treatment of criminals, suspects, and minorities such as people of color or trans folk are actually saying something very positive about law enforcement. We're saying that racism and police brutality are not necessary elements of being law enforcement. We're saying that it is possible for police to do better, because we say that they ought to be held to a higher standard. If we didn't believe it was possible to live up to a higher standard, we wouldn't insist that we try to force them to live up to that higher standard.
But when you claim that a message of "you can and should do better" is "anti-cop" (just like a message of "you can and should do better" is "anti-men"), you are implicitly stating that "doing better" is opposed to the state of being a cop (or a man). YOU are the ones who believe cops are inherently racist, inherently brutal, because you are telling us that our demands for a more just police force are "anti-cop".
I believe cops can do better. I believe men can do better. I believe we all can do better. That's why I criticize. Resistance to criticism for failing to do better sends a very loud, sad message. You do not believe we can do better because you believe this is the best we can do.
And I hope to all that is good in the universe that you are wrong.
In light of the recent arrests of the militant whackadoodles, I would like to take this opportunity to point out, once again, that the majority of posts that I've seen comparing the Oregon standoff to the #BlackLivesMatter incidents were NOT to encourage law enforcement to start treating white people as poorly as they treat black people, but to point out the discrepancy between how armed, aggressive, and outwardly hostile white men are treated vs. unarmed, non-aggressive, and frightened black people are treated.
While it is true that many liberals wanted law enforcement to do *something* to both hold the militants accountable and to prevent as much damage as they did actually accomplish, most of us were not actually suggesting that we firebomb them like they're innocent civilians in the middle east. We wanted *something* done, but most of us are very well aware that storming the castle would make matters worse.
So far, I'm pleased with how the government has handled the situation, I just wish it could have been done on a sped-up timetable so that the Native artifacts and land didn't have to be ransacked or destroyed first and the cost of repair to the local taxpayers wouldn't be as high as it will given the amount of time they've had to screw things up, and I wish there would be harsher penalties than what seems to be the charges that they're settling for.
I, and all the liberals I've seen who had anything negative to say about how the situation was handled, are interested in *accountability*, not blazing gun "justice". That's what their side wants. That means swift action and accurate sentencing, as well as following through on sentencing (like actually collecting the fines owed), not letting them off the hook with light sentences or not charging them at all for things we know they've done illegally.
It does not, and never has to my knowledge, mean a shootout at the OK Corral . As a matter of fact, most of the people opposed to these militant assholes are generally opposed to violence and firearms - that's kinda why they're opposed to these assholes in the first place. So it doesn't make any sense to accuse them of calling for a Rambo First Strike response. We want peaceful but accurate justice, not The Demolition Man.
#UnicornHunters talk about adding a new girlfriend to their relationship like they're adding on a new room to their house. The house is already built, already has the foundation, the electrical, the plumbing, the layout already designed. All they get is this new room, but the house essentially stays the same up to the doorway where the new room has been added.
The reality is that building a triad is more like building a new house from scratch, or perhaps even simply buying a new one. A married couple decides that their current house isn't meeting their relationship needs anymore - they want something a little bigger, a little different, a little less conventional.
Their old house has a kitchen, a bathroom, a living room, and two bedrooms. It's nice, but they'd like something more. The new house also has a kitchen and a living room, but it has 2 bathrooms and 3 bedrooms and a smaller room billed as an "office". There are lots of similarities between the old house and the new house - lots of the rooms serve the same function, both are made of a wood frame with drywall and plaster and siding and roof tiles and double-pane windows and both have electrical wiring and plumbing. But it's still a totally different house in addition to just having more rooms to accommodate the growing family.
The house is in a different neighborhood, so you have to drive around a bit to learn where the grocery store is and the nearby restaurants and the best path now to get to work and the movie theater. The neighbors, while still human beings, are different people and you have to get to know them and develop new connections that might look different than the ones you had with the old neighbors. You might be a little more inconvenienced in this new house because you have to drive past a school during school hours and traffic backs up making you late for work if you don't start leaving earlier.
It's an adjustment, moving into a new house. Ultimately, it might be the best decision you ever made, and your life will get better for it in the long run. But in the beginning, you might have to make some adjustments, like finding new paths and doing some internal remodeling or redecorating when your old house was already furnished exactly the way you liked it. Or, it might be a mistake and you might find yourself moving again in just a short time.
But if you really wanted the exact same house, only with one more room, I'd recommend you don't make that new room out of a human being. Take up a hobby or a pet. But a person is going to be disruptive. A person is going to change things far more than adding a door at the end of the hall where there used to be a wall - something that makes your house look mostly exactly the same and that you can only tell the difference if you go into that space, but that you can ignore if you just close the door.
Don't think of it as "adding a new girlfriend to our relationship" like she's a rumpus room tacked onto the back end of the house. Think of it more like getting a whole new house that, while it has many similar elements, is still a totally different building that will contain your family.
And wait to build that house until everyone who is going to live in it is present to offer their preferences for what they want in a house that they're going to live in too. Maybe you and the new person all agree that they should live in a separate mother-in-law suite in the backyard, rather than being attached to the main house, but they should still be there to help design that mother-in-law suite themselves, since they're the ones who have to live in it. But if they really are going to be part of the main house, then they really ought to have an equal say in what color the walls are and what kind of layout they want, not just to move into a house that already exists and doesn't reflect their own personality or preferences.
Remember, people are not accessories to your existing marriage, nor are they extra rooms you tack on to your existing house. They are the architects of their own lives, and if you want them to share your life with you, then they need to be collaborators.
#UnicornHunting #polyamory #poly #polyamorous #OpenRelationships
I'm seeing this article making the rounds on FB. It's a story about a married couple at the end of their years choosing how to finish their life. Consider this your content warning both for the article and the rest of my comments.
For most of my life, I have never understood the desire for suicide. Death, or as tacit and my metamour call it, The Void, has always terrified me. I want any and all methods possible to prolong my life. I suppose I could be called a transhumanist, because I'm in favor of radical life extension. I want to live for hundreds, thousands of years. I want death to be *optional*.
And that's what makes me support this couple. I couldn't understand this decision until recently, but I also have always known that it was not my place to decide what was right for other people. Just because I couldn't imagine the sort of circumstances that would make someone embrace death doesn't mean that I would *never* understand that decision, and the thought of longing for death but being denied it was just as terrifying to me as the thought of dying itself.
I have been suicidal twice in my life. The first time, I was a very young teen. That teenager doesn't seem like me. I see her from the outside now. So I was unable to empathize with people who wanted to die, although I supported their right to choose on principle. The second time was much, much more recently, and it was after I discovered words like "transhumanism" and "radical life extension". This time, I was able to experience being in the mind of someone who longed for death and who wasn't able to understand people who wanted to go on living. Now I live with the memories of being both people in my head.
You might think that, having come (mostly) out of a suicidal depression, I would feel grateful that I stuck it out long enough to no longer wish for death, and to find life even more precious for those (and other) close brushes with death. But this makes me even more strongly in favor of the rights of assisted suicide. It's true, I'm glad that I did not have the opportunity to go through with it. Now. But I am even more convinced now that our approach to suicide is wrong. There are far too few resources to help people like me who are having an emotional imbalance, for whatever reason, get past it and learn how to embrace life, and there are far too many laws that are unable to distinguish between people like me and people like those in this article. These are not the same kinds of suicidal tendencies, but in both circumstances, the tendencies are treated the same - as a problem we have to legislate against. Instead of placing benches in the courtyard, we put up signs telling people not to sit on the planter.
These people made a rational decision that they considered from all angles for many, many years. They do not believe in an afterlife, which could (and often does) influence someone's desire to die by convincing them that there's something better waiting for them "on the other side". They had nothing to gain from their suicide, and plenty to lose - including their daughters, their freedom if it failed, their daughters' freedom if they were found guilty of assisting the suicides, but most importantly, they stood to lose that which frightened them more than death - a slow decline into pain and confusion.
I am no longer certain that I can face that kind of future with a stalwart, steadfast commitment to life borne of fear of The Void. I'd like to think that I still love life as ardently as before. But I can't fault them for their choice, and I can understand their fear better than I ever have before. I have always stood for making death optional because my goal is to live forever. But in making life optional, that requires making death itself a valid choice. As the unrelated saying goes, consent is meaningless if you can't say no. Making death optional doesn't mean very much if you can't choose that option when you want it.
Surprisingly, this article actually made me feel hopeful and optimistic. Yes, they died. But they died on their own terms, just as they lived on their own terms. We should all be so lucky.
Unlike, apparently, many men, I do not believe that men are children. I believe that men are rational, adult human beings capable of complex thought and logic. I believe that men have it within them the capacity to evaluate basic spatial dynamics by estimating the size of a door, the volume of space their body takes up, and to extrapolate from these calculations the likely outcomes of potential scenarios offered by a door and another human being approaching it, as well as factoring in more subtle nuances such as gender dynamics and positions of privilege to affect the outcome more positively. I also believe that men have the fore-brain skill of grasping abstract thought to understand that the door is just an illustration and a representation of the more important, underlying foundational value that is consideration for those around them and the effects that their actions and presence has on people in their sphere of influence.
I believe that men are able to follow a simple train of logic that leads one down a path of "If [me] = nice, then [X] action is required; but if [X] action is inconvenient then [me] performing [X] = not nice".
I do not believe that men require coddling to protect them from emotions (ours or their own) or to shield them from the consequences of their actions. I criticize men because I believe they are better than they are told they are and are therefore able to improve themselves when they do not live up to their potential. I believe they are *at least* as capable a human being as I am, and therefore they deserve to be treated better than spoiled, fragile children. They deserve to be treated with the dignity and respect that I demand for myself, which means that I expect them to behave to a minimum standard of decency and to be held accountable for their fuckups.
I believe that men have, at the very least, the amount of self control that my pet dog had, who was able to sit still with a piece of meat lying in front of him and not go after it just because I told him he couldn't. I believe that men are not less human than a pet, not less able to control themselves, not less able to conform to a set of social guidelines for decorous behaviour in public or in private. I further believe that, if I can see the humanity in men, then they have the ability to see the humanity in women and to understand why women are not the same thing as a piece of meat or a tempting car or a wallet full of cash.
Men do not get special cookies for being the bare minimum of a decent human being, and they do not get a pass for failing to be the bare minimum of a decent human being. If women have the mental facilities to constantly consider the comfort of those around them and to work to ensure everyone else's safety and happiness (as we are expected to be able to do, whether we succeed or not), then I think men are, at the *very least*, able to live up to the standards of women.
I also believe that men should be the ones to be irate at the implications that they are less well-behaved than an animal, less cognitively functional than a child, and less capable of logic, reason, mathematics, physics, emotional control, and housework than women.
And I can't believe that so many men don't see the irony that most men who are not irate at these implications also tend to think that women-associated traits are inferior while men-associated traits and interests are superior and yet they fail at both when compared to women.
"But it's not FAIR that I have to give up X / not do X / he gets to do X!"
It's amazing how much more fair the world becomes when you stop feeling entitled to things that were never yours to begin with and when you see your partners are real human beings with their own agency instead of need fulfillment machines.
"But we're *married! It's not fair that she can just come along and start taking up his time! He should be cutting time for her out of everything BUT his time with me!"
"But I was here first, so it's not fair for him to expect to get an equal amount of love that I get!"
"But we made an *agreement* that they would never go to that restaurant together! That's OUR place! It's not fair to go without me!"
My partner's time is not my time. It belongs to them and they choose to share it with me or not as they wish.
My partner's emotions are not my emotions. They belong to them and they choose to share their emotions with me or not as they wish. They choose to allow their emotions to be influenced by me or not as they wish.
That restaurant belongs to neither myself nor my partner and is open equally to our business. While it may be associated with certain memories and emotions for me, it is not, actually, the source of my specialness. My specialness belongs to me. My partner's specialness belongs to them. Our relationship's specialness exists only because we exist in the relationship together. No one can take my specialness away from me because it IS me. My partner's specialness does not belong to me because it is a representation of my partner. My partner can choose to share whatever of themselves makes them special with whomever they wish, and I am fortunate, not entitled, to be one of the people they choose to share themselves with.
My relationships are a gift that I get to open every single day. They are more than fair because they are not anything that is owed to me.
Releasing the sense of entitlement to my partners' bodies, time, emotions, and mind makes my relationships much more fair and tends to give everyone a larger slice of the pie. Because agency is not a finite, tangible resource, so loosening the grip can actually make more of it to go around.
Sometimes, we have to let go of our hold on things in order to better secure our connection to them. There's that saying about letting something go and if it comes back, it's meant to be, but if it doesn't, it wasn't meant to be. I appreciate the sentiment, but it's not *entirely* accurate, because it depends on how you define "let it go". You can't replace codependency or attachment with apathy. If you don't nourish your relationships, they won't flourish. The idea isn't to reign in your feelings for someone and stop caring for them. In fact, letting go of entitlement is an act of caring *more*. It's an act of courage. You have to care so much for them, that you're willing to let them be a fully developed human being without your control to make them act as you desire them to act.
What you're letting go is your fear, your desire for power, your belief in control, your disbelief in their humanity. Those are what you let go of, and those are things you don't want to come back. When you let *those* things go, people are more likely to want to stick around. When you let those things go, everything suddenly gets more "fair".
* I am committed to including my loved ones on the higher ring of priorities in my life (partners / work / pets / family emergencies / etc.) and to not passing them over in favor of other events or people too often.
This commitment has three parts to it: defining "loved ones"; prioritizing partners; and defining "too often". Originally, I had the word "partners" in place of the phrase "loved ones". But I had issues with that. I have several sexual partners who are casual, low emotional intimacy, low effort, low entanglement, not many deliberate intentions, etc. It didn't feel right to me using a word that included some guy that I have sex with maybe once every 3 or 4 months but who I never see outside of booty calls, don't know that much about, and exert no effort to get to know very well (and who reciprocates the feelings). He's a person, so he deserves to be treated with dignity and ethical consideration, but made a priority? Part of the benefit of having a so-called "casual relationship" or fuckbuddy is precisely that we don't have to make each other a priority. Of course, some people have sexual relationships with people outside of big-R Relationships but who are nevertheless people they feel very deeply about (including me), which is why I didn't use the term Friends With Benefits here, because then I'd have to further differentiate between "friends" and "Friends".
The point is that there are classifications of sexual partners that exist in the world, and in which I engage on occasion, that include a mutually reciprocated lack of interest in deep emotional or logistical entanglements and priority (that don't need to be prescripted as such and that don't need to include an imbalance in power dynamic
). I don't wish to erase those partners from my history or web of partners, but I also can't include them in this same commitment because part of the point of our arrangement together is that we don't prioritize each other, at least not on "the highest ring". Then there are friends and family who I do prioritize on the highest ring but who are not "partners" in a romantic, emotional, logistical, or sexual sense who would be left out. When I crowd-sourced the question of what kind of terminology could be used to describe someone to whom one is deeply emotionally attached and who is highly prioritized in life entanglement considerations, other than all the usual labels and semantics comments that were besides the point, "loved ones" was the only term that was suggested that really fit the point I was trying to make here. When I am in a loving relationship, where "love" is a verb
whether I've said the loaded phrase "I love you" or not, part of "loving" them in this sense is in making them one of my top priorities. And that does not require specifying whether or not we have sex or what category label is used to define our relationship, which solved my dilemma of having certain partners who do not, actually, receive this commitment from me.
Second, this is a personal commitment in my life that I made a deliberate effort to change. I have always prioritized my work above anything else. I've always been poor. Some years I've been poorer than others. If I don't prioritize my work, I literally won't survive sometimes. But besides that, I'm also doing my dream job. Choosing this line of work has put me directly in the line of fire of sexism and entitlement. I have spent my entire life justifying my life choices, including my job, to people who think that women shouldn't do what I want to do or that their personal desires and fears should trump my own freedom to make choices in my life. I've spent my whole life arguing with people who insist that my job is too dangerous, or not a suitable environment for women, or that I should choose something financially safe like a nice secretarial job. I've spent my entire dating life arguing with men who think that their desire for my time or their concern for my safety should outweigh the fact that I love my job with a passion and my job is one of the things that makes me feel that life is worth living.
So I've reacted to this lifetime of experiences by prioritizing my job above the people in my life. About a decade ago, I decided that this decision prevented me from other sorts of experiences that also make life worth living. I made a decision to not let my valued relationships take a backseat to my job. These two things didn't trade places; my job isn't now taking a backseat to my relationships. Just like the previous commitment, I have to prioritize on a situational basis. But I did come to realize that consistently prioritizing my job over my partners, much like prioritizing one partner over another, would make me lose those relationships that I also valued. This is one of the other changes in my perspective that I asked tacit
for help with as part of the goals of our budding relationship. So now I take into account my financial situation (to determine how detrimental turning down work would be), the state of my relationship, my own interest in the event, how important the event is to my partner(s), and my partners' general attitude towards my job when I decide how to prioritize any individual situation.
And it's not just about work either. I had a cat that was terminally ill for a couple of years, which caused me no end of stress and re-prioritizing my life. My cat was a dependent being who literally could not survive without my assistance. On top of that, she was a feeling being who had tied her emotional well-being (such as a cat has) to me. I took on that responsibility when I chose to adopt her. Plus, I had emotionally bonded to her just as strongly as she had bonded to me. My thoughts were constantly on her comfort and safety, and my concern for her distracted me to the point where I did not have enough mental resources to handle other responsibilities.
So I have a multitude of loved ones (and I include my job as a "loved one") that I have to allocate my time, attention, and other resources for, and this commitment is a reminder that the people who have trusted me with their vulnerability and intimacy are valuable enough to me that I should make space for them on the top tier of loved ones who get the most of my prioritization.
Finally, the review discussion about my list of commitments generated a lot of reaction to the phrase "too often". I deliberately left this phrase vague and I maintain that position after the discussion. I need to be able to remind myself that my relationships are a top priority without locking myself into some kind of prescripted schedule or definition for what "priority" means. All of my relationships are different types of relationships and each of my partners has different relationship needs. So I can't commit to a specific amount of time or specific actions that designate someone as "priority" because that amount of time or those actions could be too much or too little or not the right kind for any given person or any given moment within our relationship. After much discussion on this point, I am maintaining my phrasing of "too often" because I believe that this phrase can and should be defined individually between myself and each of my loved ones (partners, metamours, family, friends) in conversation with each of them, and it can also be somewhat fluidly defined in the moment based on what we each feel about our relationships with each other in the context of a lot of criteria, such as current needs, current life situations, current patterns, past trends, etc. I feel that leaving in a vague phrase like "too often" necessitates further conversation between me and my specific loved ones to define what that means in the context of our specific relationship, which reduces the likelihood of using this list of commitments prescriptively or contractually.www.theinnbetween.net/polycommitments.html
This video actually made me feel sad, not good. Even after being briefly homeless myself several times in the last couple of years, I still have people who know me personally who keep posting shit on their FB feeds about homeless people and people on welfare being "lazy" or worthless or not pulling their weight in society. And gods forbid one of them turn down a dubious job offer! Then it's *proof* that they're lazy and worthless, even though no one asked *why* they might turn it down. I can come up with a dozen legitimate reasons not to accept some street rando's "offer" of construction work right off the top of my head. But no, they must be lazy and worthless and not contributing to society.
Homeless and poor people are artists, accountants, students, technicians, people in the medical field, parents, mechanics, people with degrees and experiences. Everyone thinks it's "so amazing!" that someone who looks like this man could possibly know how to play an instrument, especially one that isn't a guitar. Why shouldn't he? I do. I played for 10 years. I also played flute and percussion and I can sing. And yet, I spent nights in my car because I had nowhere else to sleep, and even more nights in friends' spare rooms and couches because I still had nowhere else to sleep.
It's not like someone who lost his home because his company downsized or because his medical bills got larger than his income could cart around a piano on the street to play for spare change. What else do people who look like him know how to do that you have no idea because you don't see them as people with pasts, but as worthless, lazy bags of bones that you try to avoid eye contact with so that you don't have to feel guilty about not dropping them a buck or two?
How much you wanna bet that most of the people giving him money for playing wouldn't have done so if he had just been sitting there on the curb? Because he might just go and buy liquor with it? Because he's not "earning" it? I used to only give money to street performers too, because I thought people had to earn the money I was giving them and that, for some inexplicable reason, a performer who "earned" his money would buy food with it whereas someone who didn't "earn" my money would just go buy drugs. This is the same man who, earlier this day, was sleeping on a park bench somewhere that no one would have given a quarter to, but now that he's performing a skill, suddenly it's "amazing" and we should "support" him.
Look, this guy is pretty good at the piano, but this video is just making me angrier and angrier because of the implications behind why this video went viral. If he had been a guy with a hipster beard and carefully gelled Bed Head hairstyle wearing skinny jeans and a hundred dollar flannel shirt playing in some cafe in Portland, no one would have watched this video except his buddies. He's good, but he's not, like, "OMG why hasn't he been signed?!?" good. I work in entertainment, I've seen some legends, I know what "OMG why hasn't he been signed?!?" sounds like.
This video went viral because people are so fucking surprised that this decent talent could possibly come from a man who looks like this, who doesn't have a home, and is starving to death. Like a fucking freak show. And that pisses me off. "If he has that kind of talent, why is he living on the streets?" Because even people with marketable skills can't make a living off them, let alone just playing the piano. Because even talented people have drug or medical problems. Because our economy sucks and our culture sucks and people suck.
So here's this guy, with no home and not enough to eat, who just happens to gain access to an instrument that he happens to play, and suddenly we're all "wow, this is amazing!" like it's a fucking miracle that he can do anything but drool on the sidewalk. He's a human goddamn being and it's a fucking shame that no one pays attention to him until he does something "normal" like it's revolutionary when the truth of the matter is that this IS normal. Homeless people are people, with talents, skills, knowledge, and experiences just like everyone else. It's more luck of the draw than anything you did to separate you from people like him.
I'm not intending to disparage his skill. As I said, he's pretty good. I'm pointing out what's wrong with our culture that is only really impressed with his skill because he's homeless. It's dehumanizing. He's not being praised for playing the piano, he's being praised for being a Homeless Man Who Plays The Piano Well. It's like saying "you're pretty good ... for a girl" or "you look great ... for your age", only it's actually worse because women and old people often rank higher in importance than the homeless (unless you're an old homeless woman, or worse, an old, disabled, homeless trans person of color which is, as far as I can tell, is the worst thing you could possibly be - even our feral animals are treated better than they are).My rant is also not about the people who took the video. Actually, the kid who took the video has started an Indegogo campaign to create a series of videos he calls Humanizing The Homeless, because he wants to do more to help as many people as he can. He seems to realize the seriousness of the situation, and the overwhelmingness of the problem. I think that's admirable and I hope he succeeds. No, I'm upset about our *society* that requires a video project like this in the first place before they can see homeless people as human beings. And still, people only help those individuals who manage to get humanized for them. Most of the people in my FB feed who are complaining about "lazy welfare cheats" are perfectly capable of humanizing certain individuals while denigrating the entire class of person at the same time. Take me for example - because they know me as a person, they're willing to help me out, but they see me as some sort of exception. "All homeless people are lazy drug addicts who just don't want to be helped, except for you, Joreth, you're a decent, hardworking person who just fell on some hard times, but everyone else, they're The Homeless." They all have to prove their humanity first, before people will treat them with dignity and compassion. I've proven my dignity and my humanity to my FB friends, and this guy proved his with his viral video, but everyone else - nah, they're not human, they're Homeless.
There have been some followup videos
of this guy. All because his video went viral, a local news team has been basically sponsoring him. They paid for some new clothes, a new haircut, and have facilitated reconnecting him with his son and getting him into rehab. People have been paying him to come play at their events and he even played the national anthem at an NFL game. He's even being called a "prodigy". As I said, he's pretty good, I'm not suggesting otherwise. But he's actually not any better than me. I've played music at least as complex as the songs he's wowing everyone over, and I also hear a lot of mistakes. He's not *bad
*, not even mediocre. He's pretty good, and he knows way more instruments than I do (he studied music in college, I learned). But the hype is all because everyone is astonished that a *homeless man
* can play well at all.
So, that's wonderful that he's getting help and having experiences that he never dreamed possible. Every video and news story on him barely mentions his drug problem, and when they do, it's only in the context of getting better. "I want to help him clean up his act." "See how his progress goes with rehab." That's fucking phenomenal. I don't think people really understand how important it is that his drug problem is being dismissed over his viral video. I *want
* people to accept him and encourage him in getting help, don't get me wrong. The problem I'm having is that this is *not how we treat homeless people
*, unless they perform for us. What about all the other drug addicts on the street? How often do they get spat on? How often do they get kicked while they sit on the sidewalk with their legs splayed out? How often do people refuse to give them money because "they're just gonna spend it on drugs or alcohol"? This guy hadn't been through rehab yet, hadn't gotten the help he needs for his problem, but everyone's paying him to play anyway. What if he spends all that money on drugs? What if, once his son had found him again, he spent his next gig's paycheck on some bender and dies?
I don't think that's justification for not paying him for performing, but I think it's hypocritical to give this guy special treatment because of a fluke YouTube video while not helping any of the other millions of drug addicts, people with mental illnesses, people with medical issues, and people with just shitty economic luck. Yes, congrats to this dude, and I genuinely, sincerely, hope this is a turning point for him and he gets a decent quality of life that everyone deserves just for being human. But what about everyone else? When you see the next bearded, dirty old white man on the street, are you going to stop and ask yourself, "I wonder what special skill or knowledge this guy has that makes him unique, and can I help him use that skill or knowledge to improve his quality of life?" When you see the fat, old black woman talking to herself and pushing her shopping cart full of trash, are you going to stop and say to yourself, "she is a special, individual human being. I wonder what makes her unique? I wonder who she is and what her story is? I wonder if she has any loved ones wondering where she is or what happened to her? Can I do anything to help her get the medication she needs to stop talking to herself and to hold down a job?" And when you sanctimonously offer someone a job that they're not qualified for or that they don't believe is real or that they have some legitimate hurdle that makes it impossible for them to accept that job, are you going to sit and talk to them about their situation, and *ask them
* what would make their life better, rather than swooping in on your White Knight complex and getting pissed off that they don't fall at your feet and praise you for it? Are you going to spend your time and look them in the eye and listen to their story and really *see
Or are you going to step over them, avert your eyes when they slowly walk past your car window at a traffic light, clutch your purse or wallet, and only think they deserve money if they're "working for it", earing it in a way that impresses you, in a socially approved way, so that you can feel good about yourself by thinking that this situation could never happen to you because you're a productive member of society, unlike these lazy, crazy, sick people? And then feel shocked and amazed at how wonderful humanity is when some other viral video comes across your Reddit feed that forces you to see the humanity in that individual while you ignore the humanity in all the other individuals not lucky enough to be recorded like a sideshow performer when they do show you their humanity?
Hey, guys, can we please stop this "bad things happen in 3" and "death comes in 3"? Just in my Facebook headlines alone, I count 7 famous celebrity deaths recently, and that's without looking any up and relying on Facebook's non-random algorithms that deliberately show me things that are linked together and/or from the same smallish circle of people in my friends list who I interact with most often and therefore my feed has a TON of headlines in common and a bunch of headlines that I'm sure I missed because they're not in the same class as the rock musicians that my friends list apparently all listens to.
Confirmation bias is a logical fallacy that means basically we will find whatever we're looking for. If you think bad things happen in threes, you can take any arbitrary date range and retrofit 3 bad things to make that "true".
There's also the Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy, which is to look at a collection of data points like they are bullet holes on the side of a barn, and then metaphorically draw a circle around them after the fact to say "look, bullseye!"
Other fallacies, cognitive biases, etc. that this falls under or is related to include:
- Selection Bias
- Gambler's Fallacy
- Hot Hand Fallacy
- Clustering Illusion
I recommend looking each one of these up, and then falling down the rabbit hole in whatever way catches your attention from there.
Social Media Site: List your relationship status! Even though we've had "open relationship" as an option for years, now you can link to one partner only!
Poly Person: Oh good, now people can tell that I'm poly because they couldn't tell before when I had "in an open relationship" selected, I named everyone I'm dating in the "about me" section, and said the word "poly" in the description. Linking to only one partner in the sidebar will totally clear up all the confusion!
OKCupid's new "poly" feature is, IMO, a step backwards because we could *always
* link to our partners' profiles (or anyone's, for that matter) in the open text boxes of our own profiles (which begin, BTW, right under the picture & stats header). This actually reduces the poly visibility and accessibility that OKC had previously given us. One person argued that people don't read the profiles and therefore missed the part where she identified as poly in her profile. To that, I submit that anyone not willing to read her profile won't see "open relationship" and her partner's name in the profile either because *they're not reading the profile
*. They also likely won't know specifically what *kind
* of "open relationship" they're in (as there are many types, some of which are not compatible), again, because they're not reading the profile. There's nothing to be done about people who don't read the profile short of either changing the culture to make that practice an aberration or back-end coding on OKC's part to prevent people from contacting anyone without some kind of "proof" that they read it, like passing a quiz or checking an "I have read this profile" box like a Terms of Service agreement with the ability to report people who turn out to have lied on that checkbox which penalizes the account holder, perhaps by removing their ability to contact people at all after a certain number of reports. Come to think of it, that's not a bad idea.
But I digress. Point is, OKC already recognized poly folks exist. It already had "open relationship" as an option. Yes, I know that "poly" and "open relationship" are not interchangeable, but it was always friendly to the subset of "open relationship" that is "polyamory". It already allowed us to link to multiple partners. It even had forums (don't know if it still does because I haven't been there in a while, but I was quite active on them for a time) and some of those forums were poly-specific where you could go chat about polyamory to poly people. It already had hundreds of questions to answer that would weed out non-poly folk. When you answer questions, you rate how important those questions and their answers are to you. Those answers and those ratings contribute to your match score. There are tons of poly and open relationship questions to answer, so how you answer those questions affects how well you match with other people on those specific topics. If you answer enough questions and rate them important enough, eventually you will reach a point where any match above a certain percentage is almost guaranteed to be poly too. On top of that, you can set a filter to hide any match *below
* a certain percentage, so you could use OKC to see and be visible to only people open to non-monogamy. This has been How This Works for many, many years.
I'm actually quite disappointed in the poly community in general for heralding this new feature as some kind of pro-poly feature. It's not. It reinforces couple privilege, it reinforces the trope that poly or open relationships are something that couples do when we ought to be promoting the fact that it's something that *people
* do, and it erases every version of open relationships that don't prioritize one partner above all others or that even don't prioritize romantic relationships above all other types.
This is not a boon to the poly community. This is not actually helpful at all. It does not add *anything
* to our profiles that we didn't already have, but it does take away from our profiles. I've linked to tacit
since we started dating 11 years ago. The earliest other partner that I am confident I simultaneously linked to in the body (and isn't an unreliable memory that could just be wishful thinking) was 8 years ago. I have since edited my profile with each new partner and each new breakup, sometimes even including metamours who had OKC profiles.
Years. Now, suddenly, OKC is all "hey, look, you can link to your partner!" Whatever dude, you're not helping me out any. Not giving me anything I hadn't had before. And, while it's not *removing
* the ability to link to multiple partners in the body text, going from "link to other profiles (multiple) in your body text" to "link to one partner in the sidebar" is still less poly-friendly than its other, preexisting features.
#OKCFail #UnicornHunting #OpenRelationshipsMeanMoreThanOneByDef
Theist: Here's something I don't understand. Why do atheists need a word? I mean, I don't believe in the Easter Bunny, but I don't have a word for not believing in it. Why do they even need to call themselves anything?
Atheist: Because we need language to talk about the subject.
Theist: But if you don't believe in God, why do you need to talk about it? Why can't you just say "I don't believe" and leave it at that?
Atheist: Because theists won't let us. When we say "I don't believe", they want to ask why and what about and how come. We're not allowed to just say "I don't believe in a god" and walk away because y'all won't let us just walk away.
Theist: If you don't want to talk about it, then just don't talk about it.
Atheist: Then stop talking to me about it.
Theist: No, but why...
#ActualConversationsIHave #atheism #HeadDesk #IfYouDoNotLikeTheTopicThenStopPushingTheTopic
Also in that conversation:
Theist: But why label yourselves anything?
Atheist: Because "atheist" isn't a bad word, it's descriptive. It literally means "without belief in deities". It's EXACTLY THE SAME as saying "I don't believe in a god" because it literally translates to "I don't believe in a god".
Theist: But why...
Now, for #ThingsIWishIHadSaid:
Theist: But why do you need a word for something that's not?
Atheist: For the same reason we have words for other things that are not - asymmetry = not symmetrical. Asymptomatic = has no symptoms. Asexual = without sexual desire. Achronological = not chronological. Abiogenesis = the creation of something that doesn't come from something living. We talk about things that are "not" all the time. When one thing is the dominant paradigm, usually its contrary is named by what it's not.
There's this thing that some guys do. I say "guys" because I'm straight and I exclusively date guys, so I have no idea if any other genders do it, but I do know that some guys do it. There's this thing where I'll tell a guy that I don't think we're romantically or sexually compatible because I have certain values that I don't think match his, but those things might not interfere with a possible friendship and he's otherwise cool, so let's be friends. Then the guy proceeds to temporarily turn himself into whatever it is that I think he isn't in order to gain my attraction.
- "No I'm totally all about polyamory!"
- "No, really, I've matured since the last time I flaked out on you."
- "I know it SAID 'libertarian' on my profile, but it's really little-l libertarian and, honestly, I have more socialist leanings than anything else, I just haven't updated the profile to reflect that."
- "I'm sorry, I've gotten over my whole blaming all women for my failings thing. I completely realize that I was wrong."
The point is to sleep with me, so he can then walk away saying "ha! Toldja we weren't incompatible! You said you wouldn't like me, but I proved you wrong and you DID like me!"
Except, no, I didn't. You weren't that person so I didn't like you. And by pulling the Disappearing Act (because it's almost always the Disappearing Act, where the last indication is that things are going great and they just suddenly disappear, unfriend you, block your calls, etc. with no explanation, unless you manage to track them down like a stereotypical psycho ex-gf with a vengeance - and trust me, that never ends well), you actually proved me right because you did not, in fact, have the values that I said would be necessary for a successful relationship with me.
The values I require in an intimate partner are: honesty, transparency, respect for agency, integrity, shared worldviews on religious and social justice topics, a handful of common interests, a personal commitment to polyamory whether they get to date me or not, a similar style of polyamory to the one I do, and likes me for who I am as a person, flaws and all. The values I require in a casual fuckbuddy are: I'm sexually attracted to you and you avoid talking to me about topics that will force me to face the fact that we don't have any of the other values in common. Even with one criteria, you'd be surprised how many people can't meet this one.
The act of not being that person means that I was right about them. The act of trying to have a sexual relationship with me under false pretenses means, by definition, that I was right about them. The act of leaving without the dignity of a considerate breakup means that I was right about them.
They did not successfully "fool" me into having the kind of relationship that I said was unlikely because the relationship ended (usually abruptly and soon after it started) and because it was a farce, which means that we did not, in fact, have the kind of relationship that I said was unlikely. They did not successfully prove me wrong because their attempt to "prove me wrong" is, itself, the proof that I was right.
BTW, this is a huge dick move full of entitlement, and I will find a way to work it into my Breaking Up lesson, one way or another - either in the workshop or in the book or somehow. I've never shied away from outing assholes before, and now I even have a platform specifically for using assholes as illustrations of What Not To Do. This is the very essence of entitlement. These guys can't even have a girl *they don't even like
* not want them, so they *make
* her want them against her consent (because if she knew the truth, she wouldn't like them) just because they don't want her to dislike them. And, as I have learned from those that I did what I say not to do in my Breaking Up workshop when I tracked them down to get "closure", they think of themselves as Nice Guys, who are "misunderstood" and girls only like jerks anyway.
This is going to be long, convoluted, and twisty. This is me trying to work out a concept that I have been unsuccessful at elucidating before, using terminology that is new to me that encompasses what I'm trying to get at.
This is the concept of emotional labor. I've been trying to explain for most of my life that women are expected to do all this bullshit work like remember family birthdays and send thank you cards and maintain the family's religious habits and do the dishes and even know the appropriate attire to wear to social functions to tell the husband and kids when they have to wear a suit and tie and when they can wear a polo shirt. I've been trying to explain for my entire life that it's not "no big deal" or just a few extra details or even that it's "what women are good at". Now, I have a term and research to back it up - emotional labor.
I'm told that "men" just don't "see" a dirty house and I know that's bullshit because my own father was the neat freak of our family. He once threw my homework away *on trash night* because I had left it out on the kitchen table so I wouldn't forget it, but paper doesn't belong on the table so he threw it out and it was picked up in the morning before I was awake, and my homework was just gone (and my teacher didn't buy my story). It's just that men don't *have* to see a dirty house because the women in their lives will get fed up sooner than they will and the mess will take care of itself, feeding the cycle that the longer they wait, the more likely they won't have to do anything about it. The men don't have to see the dirty house because they're told that, as men, they *won't* see the dirty house, and women are socialized *to* see the dirty house and to have it bother them. So the men wait and the women pick up after them, and the gender roles assert themselves invisibly.
I once refused to do the work anymore. I watched my housemates literally step over a pile of trash *in the living room* rather than throw it away. I had long ago put a trash bin in the living room so that no one even had to get up and walk into the ADJOINING kitchen (it was one big room, no wall or counter or bar or island to separate them) to throw anything away and they still couldn't manage it. They'd toss stuff from the couch, and if it missed the can, they'd leave it there. So I stopped picking it up.
I actually broke up with them and moved out of the house before anything got picked up. And I left the trash there on the floor when I left.
In this same household, the bills stopped getting paid. I got tired of nagging everyone to pay their share. The house went into foreclosure and I moved out before anyone started paying (they actually continued to live there until the house got new owners and they had no choice). They were seriously willing to let the bank foreclose on us before either paying their fucking share or working with me to find a way out of the financial mess we were in (including selling). They just. Stopped. Paying.
Fashion is similar, although with less dire consequences. I'm fully aware of the class issues and history regarding social dress codes, particularly anything "business class" or "higher", but *I'm* the one who pays the consequences if my *partners* don't dress appropriately regardless of the class struggle symbolized by those clothes, so I was schooled at an early age to know what the various dress codes were. Men are *expected* to not know fashion, so women are the ones who get the disapproval if "their men" show up dressed inappropriately. In fact, men are *shamed* if they know too much about fashion (see homophobia and misogyny here). Women whose partners do not dress appropriately are either shamed for not getting them to dress correctly (because it's obviously their fault for failing to dress them like children /sarcasm) or pitied for having chosen men who can't or won't dress themselves properly whereas men are rarely shamed or pitied for a woman who dresses "correctly" when they don't, although they might sometimes get a little shame for not dressing up to a woman's standards. The worst that men get is shame or pity for a woman dressing *above* the appropriate dress code, which means she's "high maintenance", but that's yet another rant. *It doesn't matter* that the dress code system is bullshit to begin with and it doesn't matter if the woman herself is a conscientious objector as I am (overlooking the fact that because of those very class issues, many women don't have the luxury of objecting to fashion standards) or if she actively enjoys fashion for its own sake outside of the class issues also as I do, there are still consequences for women whose male partners don't comply with fashion standards, above and beyond any consequences for each given individual not complying with fashion standards (and you really don't want to get me started on women's fashion standards).
Dates, attire, eating meals, shopping, bill paying, caring for guests, housecleaning - all shit that if I don't take care of it, it doesn't get done. So I just stopped living with people so that I don't have to be responsible for it. I have my own difficulty with all this stuff - my OCD makes doing dishes very difficult, for instance, and if I'm not doing dishes and they're not doing dishes, shit gets pretty nasty. Unless I'm baking, I use disposable, or better yet, cook-in-its-own-container stuff so that I'm not making extra waste and I still don't have to do dishes.
But, even now, when I complain about this, it doesn't sound like it's as big of a deal as it is. Like, it's annoying to always do the dishes, but not worth a panic attack or a breakup. But it only seems like it's not a big deal when it's isolated away from the concept of emotional labor.
It's kind of a strange revelation to learn that I would be much less averse to things like cohabitation and even marriage had I not been subject to so much emotional labor over my life. I wonder, even though I'd likely still be just as independent-minded about things like autonomy, would I even consider myself #solopoly if gender-based emotional labor wasn't a thing?
I used to want to date only partnered men because I got burned by so many cowboys. I wanted them to already have a partner so I knew they wouldn't want to dump me as soon as they got another partner. Not only do I now see the flaw in that logic, I'm also very suspicious of guys who cohabit with women, particularly if they married young. They tend to be the worst I've seen for not just expecting women to shoulder the emotional burden but of being totally unaware that they're doing it.
Like, asshole patriarchal men who are still single (probably because they're assholes about it) make it easy to spot and therefore avoid. They're pretty obvious that they want women to shoulder that burden. But liberal men who champion women's rights but who have never noticed how the rent gets paid on time because they went from mommy's house to a dorm paid by mommy and daddy to wifey's house who paid the rent, did the cooking, picked up the trash they step over, and didn't have to remember anyone's birthday because wifey will remind them when it's important - they're something I've learned the hard way to look out for.
They're the ones I get burned by these days, especially before I had this language of "emotional labor" to express this concept. Before, I might talk about each individual chore or responsibility and get "Of course I can cook my own meals [but won't notice that you gradually start taking over more of the cooking duties because I'll just sit here at the computer until you get hungry enough to cook for us and your empathy and hostess training forces you to cook for both of us instead of just getting food for you]" and "I just don't remember dates, that's just how I am, take it or leave it [and I don't recognize the extra burden put on you to "take it" because I think the matter is just a simple "accept your partner for who he is" equation, so by forcing this binary choice on you, I'll also add pressure on you to choose the "take it" option instead of the "leave it" option by resting unintentionally on patriarchal standards that require women to "stand by your man" and making you look like the shrew trying to "change me" or not be accepting enough if you don't - a particularly guilt-laden punishment in liberal circles who espouse acceptance and tolerance of people's differences]."
See, in liberal circles especially, we tend to embrace this idea of accepting people for who they are and not trying to "change" them. Taken to its extreme, this leads to people who actually have very toxic or damaging habits that no one is allowed to confront or address because we might not be "tolerant" or "accepting" enough. I once dated a guy who was extremely emotionally insecure (although I didn't realize how badly at the time). He felt personally rejected every time I turned my back on him while sleeping. He felt that I was metaphorically and deliberately "turning my back" on him. That the act of facing away from him was *about him*. Of course, it wasn't. I have a bad shoulder and lumbar problems. I can only sleep on one side, especially on his hard mattress on the floor. Sleeping on the bad shoulder seizes it up and sleeping on my back or stomach makes my lower back hurt. So I sleep exclusively curled up on my left side. I also don't like sleeping face-to-face with people. That breathing in my face just bothers me. I don't like it when my cat does it and I don't like it when my partners do it. On top of that, I have some trust issues. Turning my back to someone is a sign of either trust or lack of fear. I have to feel very confident about someone (or about myself) to allow them access to me in a vulnerable position. Added to *that* is the fact that, sexually, my backside is very sensitive and is a secondary erogenous zone. So, in my mind, facing away from my partner not only isn't a negative thing, it's a very, *very* positive thing.
So, this guy got his feelings hurt every time I went to sleep. But, instead of talking to me about it, he kept it to himself until a dozen little, correctable things added all up to one big conflict and he broke up with me over it. During the breakup conversation, he admitted that this was one of the reasons he wanted to breakup. When I expressed my surprise that he never mentioned it before, he said it was because he didn't believe in forcing anyone to change for someone else. My turning my back was "just who I am", apparently, and asking for any sort of accommodation, or even asking me to come up with compromises that I would be comfortable with, was intolerant and not accepting of me. O.o
The BDSM community has a similar problem with "Your Kink Is Not My Kink And That's OK". In principle, it sounds like a good idea. It promotes tolerance and empathy and understanding. We don't have to be all alike and we can still get along. But in practice, it ends to work out as a defense for abuse. No one is allowed to say anything negative about another person's sexual proclivities, even if they're harmful and especially if the person in question is a community leader, because that wouldn't be "tolerant". So guys (in general) get away with never having to learn how to use a calendar or run the washing machine because "that's just who I am", and asking them to take on some of their own emotional labor in a hetero relationship would be "intolerant" and "unaccepting" of who they are as a person. When, the reality is that asking for this kind of change is actually *more* respectful of their agency than just mutely taking on the extra burden and not supporting them in taking control of their own life.
I was talking to one friend who found herself recovering from a relationship with an emotionally controlling partner. She's a strong, intelligent, capable, generally secure woman (like me) who nevertheless ended up being controlled and manipulated by someone in extremely subtle and clever ways. No one saw it coming, and no one even saw it happening, until it was too late. So, she asked me one day how she could ever have been talked into giving up so much of herself to this man. How could no one have seen the signs? Neither of us knew or used the phrase "emotional labor" at the time - this was years ago - but she wanted to know how she could have been talked into being responsible for his own emotional landscape. How did it ever get that far? How did none of us see that he made other people shoulder the burden for his emotional care?
This was not something I had thought about before, but sometimes revelations pop out of my mouth without me having consciously considered it, because I see patterns and I connect dots, as I talked about in a FB post that sparked this one. I responded that the reason it had gone so far before anyone recognized the warning signs is because she had been conditioned already to be the one to care for a man. We had both dated men before who had primed us, unintentionally, for exactly the sort of releasing of boundaries that this other man took advantage of. The guys in our past could not care for themselves. One in particular had done the parents-dorm-wife path himself and had never even questioned that life would be managed by the women in his life, mainly because he kept getting involved with women who took their own sense of identity from exactly that role. They *demanded* that role from him, and it suited him, so that's how it was. If someone didn't remind him to eat, he didn't eat. If he finally noticed that he was hungry and there was no food in the kitchen, he didn't correct it by grocery shopping, he bought McDonald's, setting himself up for the same thing to happen the next day because there still wasn't any food in the fridge. He didn't remember anniversaries or dates because he never had to - his female partners controlled his calendar for him and he just showed up when he was told. Although I notice that men in general are terrible at remembering dates like birthdays and anniversaries ... yet they have no problem managing a freelancing schedule that has them going to different cities on different days and different times or part-time jobs with schedules that change at the whim of a boss and not working a set M-F 9-5 job. Some men have secretaries to keep track of client meetings and conference calls and other office type scheduling, but a lot of men, especially freelancers, don't and those also seem to be adequate at managing a calendar. But as soon as they get a girlfriend, it's all "I'm sorry honey, I'm just not good at remembering anniversaries" and "here are some flowers to make up for me forgetting Valentine's Day" and "it's my mother's birthday already? Did you send her a card from us?" Anyway, this partner in question didn't pay attention to fashion requirements because he worked in the tech industry and Steve Jobs brought blue jeans into the office. He didn't even have to cut his own nails or hair because his wife insisted on doing it for him.
My friend had been primed to accept abuse because she, like me, had a long history with man-child partners and a society that says this is acceptable and expected. This past partner who sloughed off the emotional labor onto his female partners, he wasn't abusive. He was loving and considerate and compassionate. He valued the agency of his partners. He is not a bad guy, and he's not even a Nice Guy. He's genuinely a good person who would not *want* to be participating in this system if inequity if he were aware of it. But he *is* participating in this system because no one knew how to make him aware of it - that's how privilege works. The system benefited him so he didn't see that he was benefiting from anything. He dated or married women who embraced the system and considerately let women go who could or would not (rather than abusively making them embrace the system against their wishes). When I dated guys like that, because I didn't have the language to explain any of this, I simply restructured the relationship so that I didn't have to deal with it by not living with him and only seeing him in the capacity where I didn't mind temporarily being "in charge". But even I had simply learned to accept that "men" were just like this, and it was a patronizingly "cute" personality quirk that smart, capable women had to keep the men in their lives fed and clothed. So, with this training in hand, my friend was set up to be taken advantage of by someone who manipulated exactly that training.
You don't want to hurt me, do you? You don't want to leave me when I could hurt myself, do you? Remember your training that says you are responsible for my well-being. If you shirk your responsibility, you are an irresponsible, inconsiderate monster. It's your fault if I get hurt. It's your fault if my life falls apart. You are a compassionate, kind person. You must stay and do what I say, or else your compassion will drive you insane because of how much I am hurting. If you leave, you will not be a kind, compassionate person, and you don't want that, do you?
I'm fortunate in that I'm not particularly bothered by people thinking I'm a cold-hearted bitch. That's not true, I *can
* be bothered by it, but if it's applied when I'm doing something I feel strongly that is for my own good and in support of my own agency, that overrules any concern about being considered a bitch. So the "you don't want to hurt me, do you?" form of abuse doesn't work on me. I just raise an eyebrow and point out that what I'm doing is not about hurting them, it's about supporting me and that any harm they do to themselves for failing to care for themselves is on them. Other people, women in particular, don't have this specific defense mechanism. It seems to be internal to me, not something I learned. It can be learned, but usually at great cost and many just don't have the teachers to show them how to learn it.
But I *am
* particularly susceptible to ignoring or overlooking abusive tendencies under the "I must be tolerant and accepting" banner, as well as overlooking this whole thing of displacing emotional labor that isn't abusive, per se. I have controlling tendencies myself, and I have overcompensated for them by backing WAY off when someone doesn't change in the way that I think they ought to. So, when I fall in love with a man-child who hands off the burden of emotional labor to his female partners, I don't insist that he take up the slack in his relationships. I just let him pawn it off on his other partners while I back away far enough that he can't hand that burden off to me. I can't make sure they eat their vegetables or pay their rent if I don't live with them or see them often enough to judge their diet or get their bills in the mail, and they can't reasonably expect me to.
They also can't reasonably expect me to assuage their insecurities by controlling my behaviour with regards to other partners if they don't see themselves as "entwined" enough to justify doing so. A cohabiting fluid-bonded partner might feel justified in telling me what kind of sex I can have with someone else, but a long-distance partner might be more willing to deal with it by just wearing a condom with me when we have sex and out-of-sight-out-of-mind keeps him from facing that he'd otherwise be willing to infringe on my autonomy if given the chance. However, I have had some try to justify telling me that he deserved to have a vote in whether and when I took a new partner and which sex acts we were allowed to engage in and at what pace we began engaging in them, even though this partner did not live in the same city, hadn't had sex with me in months, and was currently embroiled in a lot of drama with one of his own partners who I warned would likely cause exactly this sort of trouble but didn't try to enforce a pre-dating veto power that he wanted to give me. He wanted to date her and I didn't see myself as having the right to control his decision about it, although I did give my opinion on it.
He was not content to just give his opinion on my new partner (that I could take or leave) and he wasn't even content to notify me of how my behaviour would affect his own boundaries with me to take into consideration when I made my dating decisions. He wanted voting rights because he had insecurities and was not willing to do the work to eradicate those insecurities. Instead, he fell back on some couple privilege as the pre-existing partner, and palmed off the emotional labor onto his partners, who were required to limit their behaviour until he "got comfortable", at which time *he
* would magnanimously declare the behaviour ban lifted. But since it didn't address the underlying issue, he would have to require the same ban the next time, and the next time. Because these bans eventually did get lifted, he offered this as evidence that he was "working" on his issues and making "progress". But the procedure itself never changed - his partners had to limit their behaviour until *he
* felt comfortable, and then *he
* decided they could remove the limitation. Always, his partners had to carry the burden, not him. He never had to sit with the discomfort himself. Oh, but he would insist that he was uncomfortable! But don't let that fool you like it did me - feeling uncomfortable when your partner does something that you don't like isn't the same thing as feeling uncomfortable by facing *why
* your partner's actions make you uncomfortable in the first place. That's a very different sort of discomfort, but easy to confuse.
So, back to the whole pattern recognition thing from the Facebook post
that inspired this post (I complained that I can see social patterns that others can't see, and gave emotional labor as an example of one such set of patterns, the entire text of that example is now the beginning of this blog post). The concept of emotional labor as tied up in the feminist movement and patriarchal society and internalized sexism is a dot that I can now use to connect a bunch of other dots - why it's such a big deal to me when men rely on their female partners for domestic labor and upholding social standards, why I tend to back away and structure my relationships more "casually" or less entwined to avoid shouldering that burden, and even more extreme dots like emotional relationship abuse.
If you saw me blow up on Facebook recently
about dress codes when I was trying to talk about how men don't know the categories and then some men jumped in to sidetrack the conversation about fashion being tied to classism, this is why. I was bruised and sore about carrying my male partners' emotional labor and feeling the social burden and the consequences for it, while men (those who can most afford to ignore the social burden or consequences for dress codes) were dismissing my complaints and instead choosing to talk about economic class struggles, which, frustratingly, are *part
* of the reason why that particular emotional labor is such a heavy load for women, who - all else being equal - are almost always in the lower class than men.
Basically, I was drawing a connection, and I was failing at making myself understood, so I lost my temper as I am wont to do when I get frustrated, and as I am particularly likely to do when someone is "intellectually debating" a topic that affects me very intimately and personally. This idea of emotional labor makes seemingly isolated events like women doing domestic duties or being the sole emotional outlet for men (because men aren't allowed to have emotionally intimate male friends) apparent that they are related to each other. It also shows that these events have more weight than simply doing an extra chore or taking extra time. If all other things in life are exactly equal, having a woman spend an extra 30 minutes doing dishes after dinner doesn't sound like a huge deal, especially if you throw in that the man mows the lawn or something. But add the weight of cultural history and institutionalized misogyny and patriarchy, and those 30 minutes doing the dishes take up more than just the literal minutes of the day in the emotional landscape of the woman's life. Once you factor in that extra weight and see how all these separate activities are connected under the same umbrella, then we see the path light up leading to emotional abuse. It's not the only path, nor is it necessarily the guaranteed destination. But they're connected.
And now I have some language to describe and explain what I'm feeling and those patterns that I can see that no one else seems to see. It will take a few more novel-length blog posts, I'm sure, before I work out some quippy soundbites or before I streamline my ideas based on those take-aways that seem to work for readers most often.
More resources on what Emotional Labor is, how to recognize it, and what to do about it:
* I am committed to prioritizing situations, not partners, because all my partners are a priority.
I don't do hierarchy. I don't know how many times I have to say that to people before it starts to sink in. My partners are human beings with feelings and I have knowingly entered into a relationship where my actions affect them on a deep, intimate level. I cannot possibly prioritize one over another, it would be like prioritizing one parent over another or one child over another. I have to prioritize situations, and I have to consider those situations within the context of our entire relationship and our entire network. There are so many different types of situations and so many variables, that I couldn't possibly even begin to list out anything specific. Everything has to be decided on a case-by-case basis, taking into account everything else in my life.
For example, I might prioritize a live-in partner because we share a daily life so calling to let him know that I won't be home for dinner might be important so that he doesn't waste any effort making dinner for me. But if a long-distance partner comes for a visit, I might spend more time with the long-distance partner than with my local partner because I'll have plenty of time to catch up with the local partner later and the long-distance partner won't have that privilege. But then there are pre-established commitments, like holiday plans or tickets to an event that are already purchased. But then there are one-time-only events or emergencies. And then there are regularly-scheduled events that can afford to be skipped now and then precisely because they're regularly scheduled and something "special" or "important" or "meaningful" might need to take that time slot.
The important part is that every situation gets analyzed both individually and within context, and that every situation gets discussed with all relevant parties. Everyone gets an equal say. Not to each other, no. One of my partners does not get an equal say in what I do with one of my other partners. Everyone I'm in a relationship with is on equal footing to me, not to each other. No one outside of a relationship gets more say about what happens to that relationship than the people in it. That's why priority has to be assigned situationally. I have found that making everyone equal to their own partners in their own relationships yields much better results and more likelihood of everyone being willing to compromise, make sacrifice, and "take turns" with regards to priority because they tend to trust that their turn will come around sometime soon and that it all balances out in the long run. And that fosters far more security, I've found, in relationships than giving any individual top priority all the time, and certainly honors my first commitment far better too.http://theinnbetween.net/polycommitments.html
It boggles my mind how many people conflate "I forbid you" - which is a position of authority over another human being that denies their agency - with "I recognize you as an autonomous individual and I have some steep concerns about this thing in your life, what it represents, and how it affects me as a person and us as partners and I'd like to encourage and support you in moving in a direction where this thing is not a part of your life anymore, and I do so with your full cooperation because you recognize the validity of the claim that your life is better without this thing in it and you take full responsibility for the decision to accept my support and encouragement in your efforts to make this change."
"Forbidding", like "veto", ends the discussion and transfers the responsibility for the decision onto someone else as well as transfers the consequences for said decision outside - usually to a third party who is affected by the "forbidding" or "veto" or whatever.
The second option does not take away autonomy even if the outcome is the same. The second option requires the person who would otherwise be the one "forbidden" to do something to instead say "I have two choices - one where this thing is in my life and this person I care about is unhappy about it, and one where this thing is not in my life and this person I care about is happy that it is not in my life. I am making the choice myself to prioritize the happiness of this person and I agree with them that my life will be better without this thing in it."
There are two kinds of people, I've discovered. One kind of person sees the huge gulf between those two options. To them, these situations are like apples and jet planes. Another kind of person sees that, in both scenarios, the individual loses whatever the thing is and therefore sees no difference between the two scenarios.
These are people who don't understand autonomy or agency. These are people who frighten me. Without being able to understand the difference between agency and authority, they lack the basic, fundamental principles to understand why rape is wrong, why slavery is wrong, and why all the other things I fight against are related to these things, like why abortion is so important and why Planned Parenthood is important and why #BlackLivesMatter is so important and all the other causes big and small that get my ire up. They're all related by issues of agency.
If you can't understand agency, if you can look at the above scenarios and only see similar outcomes and not understand how things can look similar on the outside but have very different foundations underneath, then you can't understand how all these other things I argue about are related to each other and why they're important and I really don't know the right words to make you understand. Even if you happen to agree with me that some of these things are wrong, if you can't see the issue of agency in the two scenarios, you won't understand how all the things I think are wrong (whether you agree with me on them or not) are related and how they affect each other when any are prohibited.
And I noticed those people have a tendency to be the sorts of people for whom their agency is never questioned or never taken away in the first place.
There is a third kind of person, who says, "I forbid people, but it doesn't mean that they're not allowed to do something, it means that we start the conversation and discuss it rationally and they're allowed to make their own decisions, so you're just wrong because I'm making up definitions for words that go contrary to their generally accepted use and I'm going to argue semantics with you just because I feel entitled to make shit up and don't like the cognitive dissonance you're creating by your judgmental posts". If that kind of person feels the need to comment below, I'm just going to delete the comment because fuck you. Also anyone who caveats D/s or M/s relationships because a healthy power exchange is actually an example of the second option where the sub or slave retains the power to make the decision to transfer power in negotiated ways (just with fantasy-based language like "control" and "authority" and "forbid" to set an illusory scene) and also retains the power to amend, halt, or end said power exchange at any time in spite of the superficial trappings of authority - that's what makes it not abuse.
Back to the point. It reminds me of a scene from a movie I just watched again recently. Bedazzled is a remake of a movie where a guy sells his soul to the Devil for 7 wishes, mostly to get a girl he likes to notice him. In the negotiation scene with the Devil, she tries to convince him that his soul isn't worth hanging on to, so might as well sell it for something good.
She says things like "have you ever even seen your soul? What is it good for? What has your soul done for you lately? You won't even notice that it's gone."
Obviously, as an atheist, I don't believe in souls. But agency is a lot like that dialog in principle. When you live in a world that doesn't even question that you have agency, and never tries to take it from you, what is there about agency to notice? Have you ever even seen your agency? What has it done for you lately?
But spend your life fighting to have your agency recognized, let alone have control over it, and you'll sure as hell be aware of it then. To most of the people I've talked to who struggle to see the difference between acquiescing to "I forbid you" and making the autonomous choice to forgo on your own, they tend to be people who, if someone ever *tried* to say "I forbid" and they disagreed, there is literally nothing that could come of that. They recognize "I forbid" as essentially toothless and a command that requires compliance. So they can't see a difference in the two scenarios because, to them, their agency *can't* ever be compromised, therefore this is not a question of agency and but of goals and both scenarios have the same goal when you remove the question of agency - to get rid of the thing and make a loved one happy.
But those of us who are in a position for someone to "forbid" and there are either no options to refuse or the consequences for refusal are worse than compliance, we can see the apples for the jet planes. The goal is *not* the same. The goal is not to get rid of the thing, the goal is power and control - of the body, of the self, of the mind, of the decision-making process, of that which makes us a person. With our very souls on the line, we have to consider carefully if those 7 wishes are worth signing for. And some of us do end up signing away our
souls agency, either because we're manipulated into it by increasingly stepping past our boundaries just a little bit at a time so that we don't really notice until we're in too deep to get out, or because we're held at pitchfork-point and forced to sign using brute force and intimidation.
While some of us fight the Devil even as the rest of the world thinks we're delusional as we scream about things that they aren't even aware exist. Unlike my soul, I'm confident that my agency exists and that I am an autonomous individual and I will continue to point out every time the Devil shows up in a cop uniform that she isn't the good guy she appears to be and she is trying to steal people's agency and the 7 wishes you get aren't worth the price. And some people will continue to ignore me and think I'm crazy because the Devil never made a deal for *their* agency so they don't even know what it's good for but they just assume they have it.
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/2016/01/my-time-at-an-anti-government-summer-camp.html"Over time I came to understand that no citizen is truly independent of every other citizen, that we are all interconnected. I realized that even a private business owner living on their own land and homeschooling their children relies on government roads and government police forces, to scratch the surface. This sort of militia ideology ignores the social contract, the importance of our interdependency and the necessity of the government in providing for the public welfare. This is where the militia movement, and with its anti-government ideology, fails."
This very closely matches my conversations with people of these groups, including a man who, in his late 20s, befriended a bunch of high school boys and created a "role playing" group of sovereign citizens, where they all got dressed up as pseudo-medieval royalty (with himself as King, of course) and went through ritualistic motions designed to cement the group's loyalty (i.e. fealty).
The boys, having been recruited as teens, thought it was harmless fun, like Ren Faire. I, being introduced to it as an adult who had already dated several Libertarians who showed their lack of empathy in some pretty horrific ways, thought it was abhorrent. Because, when they were done kneeling and knuckling their foreheads at his feet while his wife stood mute behind his right shoulder and both gazing down at their subjects while they patronizingly bestowed meaningless honors on them, the revelry started (with lots of beer, of course, only not *American
* beer, but the "real" beer - don't get me started).
And it was during these revelries that he *really
* held court. His rapt audience of now-30 to 40-something men and their eye-rolling but tolerant wives all sitting around a plush living room cooled by central air conditioning provided by the city utility company, having driven there in hybrid cars on city roads, educated by the public school system, listened to him extol the virtues of seceding from the union, drone on about how to avoid paying taxes, lecture on the illegality of a court verdict based on the position of a flag in the room at the time of pronouncement, and snarl at the law enforcement who had never once done anything to them - no harassment, no attitude, no arrests, nothing.
In fact, the person who introduced me to this group would take out a baton from his car door pocket and shake it at police cars when he passed them on the road, shouting "PIGS!" from behind his rolled up tinted windows where the cops couldn't see or hear. One night, we were walking home from an event, having taken public transportation most of the way, and we passed a police officer in the subway. He tensed up, ready for a fight. The cop smiled and nodded at us, and we both smiled and nodded back. As we got out of earshot, he exclaimed how amazing it was the the cop didn't do anything to him and how he passed some sort of cultural milestone by reaching an age that cops no longer think he's a threat.
I looked at him and said something along the lines of "dude, you're a young-looking middle-aged, blond-haired, blue-eyed white man in a suit. It's not age that made the cop treat you with respect, it's that you look like him or his superiors." Except for being a young man obviously causing "trouble" (like the time they bought out a convenience store's entire supply of glow sticks while having a pool noodle fight in the store, causing the cop inside to give them the side-eye - note, not shoot them 14 times in the back), he's never actually had any encounters with cops that weren't pleasant.
Now, I get being pissed at cops on behalf of those who aren't treated well, but he wasn't that. He wasn't irate at the injustice of black lives or the for-profit prison system (although he did eventually come to adopt those causes). He was angry because cops are pigs who want to take your liberty away just for fun. Y'know, like when you break the law, the cops come and bust you for it. The nerve!
This is now a long story. The point is that I've met people like this, and likely still do know people like this although I try to avoid these kinds of conversations with people I will have to continue to come into contact with after I find out that they're horrible people. There is no sense of irony, no self-awareness, and no real understanding of how the world actually works. In order to be internally consistent with their underlying premise, they would have to find unoccupied land, build everything themselves just with materials found on the land (and not with any knowledge gleaned from public schools or library books), and be completely self-sustaining. Nothing could come in from the outside because those materials would have to use public roads and other public services to get there. And / or anything coming in from outside would have to be negotiated with the US government the way that any international trade is negotiated between independent nations, complete with paying import taxes and customs fees all the rest. They want all the fruits of living in a democratic society with public works without any of the responsibilities that come with coexisting with other people.
And where are all those employees supposed to come from to run your small businesses if everyone is their own business owner?* Trust me, as someone who lives below the poverty line and still has to pay 4-digits in taxes this year (keep in mind that I already pay some taxes through those jobs I hold that use W2s instead of 1099), I definitely understand being frustrated at the idea that the government can just come and take my money that I earned with literally my own sweat and blood. And I certainly don't agree with everything my taxes are spent on. But I did survivalist camping as a kid - and I don't mean my dad and I took our arsenal of guns out to the woods in our SUV and our camo tactical gear and lived off the land and a case of beer for a weekend. I mean that I walked myself into the woods with no other people and no gear other than the clothes I was wearing (which were basic jeans, t-shirt, and tennis shoes), knapped a flint knife with rocks I found on the ground, cut branches off a tree to build shelter, and ate what I could identify as non-toxic.
Fuck that shit. It was an important lesson in survival for me, in case of emergency. I often went hiking alone, so these kinds of skills were important to know. But that's what it means to eschew everything the government has to offer and to be self-sufficient (although, I have to note that I learned these skills through a camp offered to me through a program in my public elementary school). The quality of life is vastly higher with running water and a sanitation system and food inspections and safe transportation facilities and the shipping industry to bring in a variety of food for a well balanced diet and medical supplies and *other people
* performing a variety of jobs that aren't all providing materialist, capitalist goods who are all educated to a minimum standard of competency and who are all invested in helping each other out because its in everyone's interest to make sure their neighbors are still there to perform their functions and services every day.
*This is a rhetorical question. I've already read something just today that addresses exactly the implausibility and irresponsibility and unlikeliness to succeed of the rhetoric of venture capitalism that only values small business owners so I'm not interested in more debate on the subject.
http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/07/when-the-boss-says-dont-tell-your-coworkers-how-much-you-get-paid/374467/"Under the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 (NLRA), all workers have the right to engage “concerted activity for mutual aid or protection” and “organize a union to negotiate with [their] employer concerning [their] wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment.” ... the law "means that you and your co-workers get to talk together about things that matter to you at work." Even "a nudge from the boss saying 'we don't do that around here' ... is also unlawful under the National Labor Relations Act," Estlund added."
I see this all the time in my freelance industry. Contractors and employees are told not to discuss pay. The more honest-seeming of employers will explain that the reason is because *you
* are being paid at a higher rate than everyone else, and it would make everyone else feel bad and demand higher pay when they aren't qualified for the higher pay like *you
* are. Backhanded flattery is a good way to get people to comply with shady instructions.
So what happens is that we have a handful of people making a shit-ton of money because they figured out how to leverage their experience into a good negotiation session, the majority of people making decent money but probably below what they're worth compared to the high rollers, and a good portion of newbs who don't know any better taking shit pay and thinking they should be grateful for it but who are actually driving down wages for everyone else.
Why would an employer pay me my regular day rate when they can hire some Full Sail kid at half my rate? Doesn't matter that I'm better, this is a transient kind of industry. By the time someone figures out that the newb sucks, the gig is halfway over and they can't afford to replace him. Then, he has that gig to pad his resume with and he can get the next gig now with more experience but still lower pay, and, again, by the time anyone figures out that he's not as good as me, it's too late to hire me.
So, those of us in the majority middle range lower our rates because we're not in the high demand category of the guys making 3 times what we are for the same work, so we can't afford to just work less and only take the high offers that come around. We have to work *more
*, which means working for *less
So I talk about rates. I tell the newbies what to expect, and if someone reveals that they're getting paid more than me or more than someone else with more experience or seniority, I say so. I know that I don't make as much as some of my coworkers. But thanks to the union losing its teeth here, I haven't had any luck correcting that yet.
So, I work more hours for less pay, and I make a shocking amount "per hour" and I have a minimum wage retail job on the side and yet still live below the poverty line in a little wooden house literally on the "wrong side of the tracks", with no car payment, no smart phone, the lowest bandwidth internet service possible, no cable, and no expenses other than the necessities - rent, utilities, insurance, gas, food. Cost of living has gone up, but I make the same day rate that I have for 10 years and I make the same income per year that I did when I was fresh out of high school and accepting my first full-time job as a secretary 20 years ago. There was a time when that would have been a decent income. Like, when my mom got her first secretarial job 40 years ago.
Because poverty is a trap and the system is designed to keep us here - the system that includes a million large and tiny things like not discussing wages with coworkers so that no one knows that they're not being paid fairly or what their rights are about that, so that no one can demand a higher wage and possibly pull themselves out of the trap.
It's still jarring for me, years later, to see people on my various social media friends lists who maintain friendly contact with my abusive ex. I see comments directed at him even though I can't see "him" anymore since I blocked him, and I think, "WTF, how can you still be on friendly terms with him after what he did? How can you still promote what he says? How can you not see him for what he is?"
And then I think, "Oh, right, you can't tell for the same reason I couldn't tell when we were just friends - his abuse doesn't show up to people he doesn't have under his control and abusers are often quite charming and friendly in general. Charming is exactly what I thought he was too, right up until the abuse was revealed, several years into the relationship, which was a good decade after meeting him. You also can't tell because I can't talk about it publicly because publicly discussing an abuser harms *his victims*, not him**, so you just don't know."
I have to remind myself that it's not reasonable to judge people on the company they keep if they are unaware of the nature of that company, and that it's a completely expected and normal thing to be unaware of someone's darker nature because people are not one-dimensional cartoon villains so there's no reason for the world to see that side that they save only for their targets.
But it's still jarring when I see people who like me and yet who still maintain friendly ties with him. While I think I've healed from a lot of my experiences with him - he doesn't haunt my memories anymore, I can finally look back and see the good times without pain, and I really only talk about him now when I use him as an example in the same detached sort of way I use most of my past experiences to illustrate points that I'm making and not because he's still at the front of my mind - I wonder when that particular scar will fade and when seeing him referenced will stop being jarring and just be part of the landscape again.
**Plus, I don't want to actually *harm* him, I just want to protect other people from him, which he may feel as harmful as a side effect. I want him to not be abusive anymore, but that's not going to happen whether I talk about him or not, so my priority lies with protecting the victims and hoping that my more general warnings of what abuse looks like without singling him out will suffice to protect future potential victims.
But the reality there is probably not as well. I have a feeling that any future partners of his won't be big fans of mine and therefore won't hear the warnings. This whole culture that protects abusers really pisses me off because I am not the only person I know who is stuck in this position - knowing someone is abusive but not being able to warn people or talk about it publicly because it would hurt others and having to choose between the safety of people who are already vulnerable vs. revealing people who are harmful, and choosing to protect safety.
Important to read, but with spoilers mainly about the main villain. Although, this article is really more about nerd culture and entitlement, and how those two are linked together than about details of the film. It merely uses character analysis to explore those concepts. I usually copy passages from the articles I'm sharing that especially highlight the point I want people to take away from the article, but I'm finding that hard to do without including passages with spoilers.
So I'll pad this part of my explanation and include them below the cut, and a little out of order because there is a quote further down that isn't really spoilery. At least, I hope by this time it isn't a spoiler, since the potential spoilery detail is in the trailers.( Quotes that highlight the point I want people to take away from this article.Collapse )
Just to be clear, with all my liberal friends posting from liberal sources, I have yet to see anyone advocate (beyond schadenfreude wishful thinking) treating the Oregon terrorists the way that black people are treated. I'm sure that someone, somewhere, is actually, seriously, advocating that "solution", but every single comparison I've seen from my so-called "inconsistent" liberal sources are making the comparisons for the purpose of driving home the point that the way black "criminals" and black suspects are treated is patently unfair and excessive, not to suggest that the correct approach is to turn that same police overreach onto the siege.
With one notable exception that I kinda agree with. I have seen it suggested that, *IF
* (and this is a hypothetical here, not an actual suggestion for action) the excessive police brutality was turned on to white Christian males, then and only then would the people defending the police actions against black people and other minorities understand and make a stand opposing police brutality.
The suggestion was that, because mainly white people don't see that kind of brutality enforced on people who they can empathize with (i.e. who look like them and talk like them and hold the same values as them), they will need to see it happening to their "own" people in order to understand the full atrocity of militarizing police and allowing excessive force as SOP.
The hypothesizing was suggesting that the only reason to want, or even contemplate, law enforcement to treat the Oregon situation the same as the way people of color are normally treated is not to encourage or support police brutality, but because that might ironically be the only way to stop it. The hypothetical posed wasn't to suggest that we *should
* do this, but to suggest that, *if
* it were done, it might have the affect of speeding up the process of getting people on board with demilitarizing police and enforcing corrective action on law enforcement, and ultimately, demilitarizing police and reducing police brutality and enforcing police accountability is the goal.
Fortunately, many of us on the liberal side of the spectrum are also sci-fi and comic book geeks. We've already explored this concept in safe, fictional outlets. I *do
* believe it's true that the people supporting shit like BlueLivesMatter won't see the horror of the entrenched police brutality culture unless it's turned on them instead of people they can rationalize as somehow "deserving" it.
But the reason why all the articles and posts that I've seen comparing the treatment of white terrorists to random black people on the street are pointing out the discrepancy and hypocrisy is NOT to suggest that we legitimize the use of excessive force by turning it on white terrorists because that's basically the origin story of a bunch of villains.
? Remember Captain America's story arc through the current crop of Marvel movies? The bad guys are all using ... questionable ... tactics to ensure the safety of the people. They all have justifiable motivations for removing people's liberties, for supporting or promoting violence, for the use of excessive force. They're trying to stop *supervillains
* and *aliens
* for fuck's sake - extreme measures are called for!
And, in following through with those motivations they turn into the villains.
"I believe in something greater than myself - a better world, a world without sin."
"So me and mine gotta lay down and die so you can live in your better world?"
"I'm not going to live there. There's no place for me there, any more than there is for you. Malcom, I'm a monster. What I do is evil, I have no illusions about it but it must be done." ~ the most self-aware villain in nearly all of fiction.
Which is why liberals continue to compare the treatment of Those Assholes (I refuse to name mass shooters and other terrorists to reduce their fame and their reach) to the treatment of people who might be class valedictorians or sports stars or cosplayers or they might be petty criminals but who have the audacity to be doing whatever they were doing when they caught the attention of law enforcement with dark skin or an unfamiliarly pronounceable name or clothing that represents different religious beliefs. To show that these actions are villainous, not to recommend turning around and doing them to those privileged enough not to have experienced them before.
Sure, the downtrodden fantasize and daydream about doing to their oppressors what was done to them. That's the reason an entire genre of revenge fiction exists. In Revenge of the Nerds
, the nerds violate the privacy and the agency of all the "cool girls", whether those specific individual girls harmed them specifically or not. Because they're the oppressed protagonists, the movie was loved and their actions were excused as justifiable ... at the time. Now, however, with a new generation of liberals willing to be more critical and hold higher standards, RotN is widely viewed as the jackoff wish fulfillment porn of sad, whiny white dudes who are the current crop of villains in geekdom (see my other post on the new SW movie
for more about that).
Progressive means that progress has to be made. We continue to evolve and develop even more nuanced and finer grained understandings of social justice and freedom, forged by compassion. Liberals are not content with our parents' liberalism, but criticism of liberalism continues to see it as a static, unchanging set of dogmatic beliefs.
So when people compare the treatment of high profile, violent, white male criminals to the treatment of, basically, any person of color, it is *generally
* not a hypocritical call to treat the high profile, violent, white male criminal exactly the same (although some argument could be made that a white male firing a gun AT A COP and tricking cops into proximity of a fucking bomb really is deserving of having the cop shoot back). It's to point out that even violent offenders who may or may not actually deserve that kind of response are still treated with more respect, dignity, compassion, and care than a kid with a toy gun, a guy who illegally sells cigarettes, a kid who shoplifted, and another kid who smoked a joint.
The point is to treat that child, that shop owner, those teenagers, with the bare minimum of caution and rational threat analysis and avoidance of force that a white dude with a bomb, a deluded Bonnie & Clyde wannabe white couple, and a bunch of white supremacist conspiracist dudes who want to *overthrow the federal government with automatic rifles
* (yet forgot to pack enough Doritos to last the winter) get.
This is a thing in my circles (or, it was in the circles I frequented with my abusive ex, so I'm trying to make it a thing in my current circles as well). I called it "being peopled out". Anyone can excuse themselves from a social interaction guilt-free by simply saying they were "peopled out" and either choose to leave entirely or just go somewhere nearby to be left alone for a while.
When I host social interactions at my home, the common areas are for socializing and the rest of the house is generally accepted to be off-limits as per normal party etiquette, but my bedroom (as I'm too poor to have all that many other rooms) was declared a Peopled Out Zone, where introverts can escape for a bit. If other introverts are already in there, it is known that this room is for introversion and there is no obligation to socialize with anyone there, since they're all there to recharge. I don't think I've ever had more than one introvert at a time in my room, but another party I was at had 3 of us ignoring each other in the Introvert Room. Cats can move about at will and are usually welcome to socialize, though.
When I have partners over, being "alone together" is a major part of them coming over. Either of us can announce a desire to be undisturbed or to get work done or whatever and the other will go about their own business for the duration. When my local partner comes over, he stays for a few days at a time and then goes home for a few days. That's too long at my house to constantly be "entertaining" him, which might otherwise be acceptable as a host for a guest of a couple of hours. He often asks for time to play on his phone and I often have shit I need to get done around the house that is just unrealistic to wait on for several days until he goes home again. He also spends about an hour or more at a time sitting alone on my porch vaping. I don't like vaping and, again, I have my own introvert needs or stuff to get done. We pop our heads into the other's space to share a thought now and then, but we essentially leave the other alone during that time. Without that ability, I couldn't have him stay over for several days and I'd have to see him less often than I currently do, which might actually hamper the relationship.
This is also a dialect of the Quality Time Love Language. Some people call it Co-Gaming, where people share physical proximity to each other but don't interact much with each other (in the case of the term, because they're playing video games on their respective consoles). For some of us, this is an important part of bonding with others. It allows us to let down our guards, stop being "on stage" and stop playing "hostess" and "guest", and to just *be
* in front of another person, doing something mundane or going about our daily lives. For some people like me, that's an incredibly vulnerable time, and it's one pathway to intimacy because we have let someone see us without the social mask on.
Here's a good video clip from the TV show Sex And The City
that covers introversion and "alone time". It's currently under a copyright dispute so I can't embed it directly, you'll have to click the link: www.youtube.com/watch?v=0FNBLi_6De0
I advocate for everyone to introduce being Peopled Out, or Introvert Time or whatever you want to call it to your social circles. I think this benefits both introverts and extroverts. If extroverts want to socialize more, they can get more introverts to come over and socialize if the environment is accommodating of introversion needs. So, throw a party and say 6 introverts show up. The odds that all 6 of them will get Peopled Out at exactly the same time for exactly the same duration are pretty slim, so between the other extroverts at the party and the introverts not currently Peopled Out, the extrovert host should have plenty to socialize with. And, since the introverts know there is a Peopled Out room available, more introverts will be willing to show up, thereby increasing the number of people at the party in total, thereby increasing the number of people available for an extrovert to socialize with. Or, for those who don't have a home large enough for a whole separate room, a Peopled Out Corner, perhaps next to the bookshelf, or a Time Out Bean Bag or something, where someone can go and no one will address them while they're in that spot.
And then there's the more private, non-party circumstances like in the comic. If an introvert feels safe saying "Peopled Out, can't talk now, talk later?" because they know that the other person will understand, give them some space, and not take it as a personal rejection or freak out at the lack of reply, then the introvert will be more likely to actually respond with that explanation rather than either playing the avoidance game or overcommitting and then having a meltdown that the other person won't understand why the introvert is melting down over "nothing".
Sometimes, the other person (either introvert or extrovert) won't understand what the radio silence is all about and can fill in the silence with their own projections or suppositions. This means that they'll try to contact the introvert, the introvert won't respond because they're Peopled Out, and the other person can freak out wondering why - was it something they did? Does the introvert not love them anymore? Did they get into a horrible accident? WHERE ARE THEY?!
Introversion / extroversion language, and the language of various personality type systems like MBTI or Love Languages, help to establish that whatever is going on with the person in question is something internal to them and not a reflection on the other person. This tends to make it easier to hear about someone's personal boundaries and limitations because it more clearly illustrates that it's not about us, it's about themselves. But, in order for the person in question (the introvert, in this case) to explain what's happening, they have to feel *safe
* explaining what's happening. We can start by including things like Peopled Out Time as a given in our social circles and also giving them language to use to help explain their internal workings. And, like in the SATC video, sometimes just knowing that it's safe to ask for time alone can reduce the need for or duration of time alone, giving the other person the socializing that they wanted in the first place.
So my suggestion is to find a phrase that people in your social circle can understand to mean "I need some time with no interaction from you that is not a statement in any way on you as a person but on my own internal brain chemistry regarding how I process social interaction" and start using it to create Introvert Time or Peopled Out Spaces or Sensory Overload Chill Out Time for people who just need to be alone for a while.
"“Say you’re sorry” is not about your own safety and well-being, it’s about comforting someone else because you’ve done something wrong. It’s probably our first fledgling direction toward empathy."
"Motivation to apologize is frequently about the wrongdoer wanting to feel better, rather than offering comfort to the aggrieved."
"But how sincere can an apology be, if it cannot be rejected or ignored? How sorry are you, if the only response you will accept is instant and unconditional absolution?"
Somewhere, we lost our empathy. It is "common knowledge" that psychology identifies the toddler years as our "selfish" years, where everything revolves around us and we only care about things in relation to how it affects us. But we're supposed to outgrow that. We're supposed to develop empathy and learn to see the world from the perspective of other people. We're supposed to feel concern and compassion for people who aren't us and to start making decisions and performing behaviours that reflect that consideration of other people without necessarily putting ourselves in the center of the motivation.
But instead we live in a world where we have to accept "compliments" even when they're not complimentary (geez, learn to take a compliment!
), where we have to take an act of kindness even when it inconveniences us more (I'm just going to open doors for women because that's how I was raised, so get used to it and stop complaining about people being nice
), where gratitude is an obligation that defeats the whole purpose of the emotion "gratitude" (I just complimented you and held open your door, now say thank you, you bitch!
), where apologies are all about making the apologizer feel better not making the wronged party feel better (I'm just trying to say I'm sorry, why won't you answer the phone?!
), and where forgiveness is a requirement no matter the offense (you just slaughtered my children and a whole school full of children, but I forgive you publicly on television otherwise I'll be branded the Angry Black Woman
In my workshop on Breaking Up that I teach with my ex-sweetie, silverdragon
, we briefly touch on apologies. We reference the apology script offered by the blog CuppaCocoa
I’m sorry for…
This is wrong because…
In the future, I will…
Will you forgive me?
What makes this a wonderful way to apologize is that the apology is completely centered on the wronged party. The point of this apology is for the apologizer to recognize what they did wrong from the wronged party's point of view. It's not about expressing their guilt, it's about making actual amends for the other person. It includes a part at the end about forgiveness, but the blog piece specifically allows for the possibility that forgiveness may not come and the apologizer has to accept that.
But sometimes, the wrong that has been done is so wrong that even offering an apology is a continuance of the wrong. That's when this apology thing becomes more about the apologizer than the wronged party. Perhaps if the apology, as offered sincerely in this form, had come earlier when the transgression was small or when there were few of them, and actual change was made, then it might be appropriate to apologize for it. But sometimes the damage is too great and the trauma is too severe, and what the wronged party or victim really needs is to never hear from you again.
I don't do well with open-ended conflict. I need to understand "why" and to gain "closure". But if there are concepts that I wish had never made it out of academic circles and into the social sphere of laypeople, "closure" is one of them. Of all the breakup techniques I hate, the Disappearing Act is the one I hate the most. I will fucking track a fucker down and confront him to find out why he just up and disappeared on me when the last communication we had was a positive one and indicated a future continuance of the relationship. I *do not
* react well to not having answers.
So I understand when someone is feeling guilt and remorse, or perhaps a desire to see themselves as noble and improved, and so wants to reach out to someone they harmed in the past to apologize. It's an open end. It's a desire for closure. And sometimes it's an even more selfish desire to rebuild a relationship that they want in spite of the other person not wanting that relationship back. Believe me, I understand that one too. But those feelings are all about the apologizer, and are not considerate of the wronged party. They have the right to not have a relationship with us if that's what they want. Unrequited feelings of any sort (even non-romantic ones) suck. Sometimes we may think that having that final word, offering that final apology, will allow us to move on and get over those unrequited feelings or that desire to have a relationship that we know we can't have. Again, that makes the apology all about us, and not about the person receiving the apology.
A while ago, someone in a poly forum asked how to make the hurt feelings of a rejection stop (or maybe it was the hurt feelings of a breakup, or perhaps unrequited love, I don't remember and it's not important for my point). My advice to them was to not try to make the feelings go away. I told them that we just need to feel the feelings until they're gone. Get comfortable with the discomfort. Lean into the feelings. We, as a culture, spend way too much time trying to make good feelings last as long as possible, enhancing them as much as possible, but muting bad feelings at all costs.
Obviously, there are limits to this advice. If you cut your leg off with a chainsaw while trimming trees in the yard, don't "lean in" to that feeling - go to the fucking hospital. But if you sprain your ankle, you probably don't need to be constantly medicated to dull the pain. I'm not going to tell you which of your injuries are a sprained ankle and which are an amputation - this is a metaphor and I'm not a doctor - that is for you to decide. Some of our relationship hurts need to be fixed. If you're in an abusive relationship, fix it by whatever means are necessary for you in your situation, don't just "get comfortable with the discomfort". But life is messy and relationships are messy and we are going to feel hurt a lot in our lives. We can't expect to numb every single pain every single time we have one. Breakups hurt; rejections hurt; unrequited love and lust hurt sometimes. The only way to get past that hurt is to get through them. We cannot go through life expecting "closure", expecting other people to shoulder the burdens of our emotional labor by providing us with the endings that we think we need to "move on".
What we need to do instead is to learn how to get comfortable with interpersonal relationships that are messy, that hurts that are unresolved, with experiences that change things forever. Sometimes we have to just accept that some things in life are not OK and to learn how to be OK with that.
Hey, people, we need to have a little chat. I'm glad that the poly community is talking more openly about abuse and all, but could we stop throwing around diagnoses like we have any right or ability to do so?
Stop accusing people of being narcissistic or sociopathic or whatever just because you read that article that one time and the person whom you've never met but got into an online argument with said something you didn't like. Or even that person who you dated who turned into an asshole. He's probably not a sociopath, and if he is, you're not qualified to determine if he is.
Unless you have an actual degree in clinical psychology AND you are this particular person's psychological diagnostician (in which case, you REALLY shouldn't be publicizing diagnoses because it violates patient confidentiality) OR they actually disclosed to you a diagnoses (in which case, unless they're public about it, you're still violating someone's privacy and even assholes have a right to medical privacy), you don't know if they have any particular disorder or what it might be.
Be pissed off at someone if you think they wronged you. Talk about your own experiences at their hands if you think it's relevant. Just stop flinging around these terms. You look like monkeys flinging shit.
They are important labels and we devalue them by using them carelessly and casually. We actually end up hurting our efforts to address abuse in our communities by liberally applying specific terms with specific meanings in medical or psychological contexts to people who just irritate us or say stuff that makes us mad because people become too inured to seeing those terms and it eventually turns into either a witch hunt or a dismissal of people with mental disorders who *could* be productive members of society with the right kinds of help.
I'm glad that we've started sharing things like "5 Warning Signs You're In An Abusive Relationship" and "8 Toxic Relationship Behaviours", and even those articles detailing the criteria for narcissism and borderline personality disorder and all the rest. I really do want people to be more aware and more educated and more sophisticated in their relationship evaluations. But y'know how easy it is for people to put in their symptoms into WebMD, get a list of possible diagnoses from likely to plausible to WTF no one has had this in generations in this country? And then people start freaking out that they have fucking brain tumors when they're just dehydrated and have a headache? Mental diagnoses are like that too. But it gets worse because we start applying these internet checklists to the people we know. And the information we absorb about "is your coworker a sociopath?" changes our behaviour with respect to how we treat these other people and how we interpret their actions.
This is not fair, not medically accurate, not intellectually honest or rigorous, and it's actually making things worse. Apparently, half of all my social communities have Narcissistic Personality Disorder and the other half have Borderline Personality Disorder, and about a third are completely sociopathic, and everyone is an abusive bully - depending on who you're talking to. People are already starting to tune out, and this is extremely dangerous for people who are *actually* trapped in relationships with people who are harming them. Psychological terms need to be used with care, in their proper time and place. The actual victims of abusive relationships need as much support as we can give them, which means that we shouldn't be devaluing the language they need to talk about and process their abuse by accusing everyone of everything just because we don't like someone or someone was mean to us.
Because, here's a newsflash - it's totally possible to be mean to someone without them being clinically psychotic. Just so you know.
I don't have any kind of TV signal at my house, other than what my rabbit ears can pick up (and trust me, with the weather in Florida, that's not much). I have a shit ton of DVDs, access to Netflix and Amazon, and other entertainment-viewing venues, but not much in the way of "live" programming. And I like that kind of programming. I really enjoy just leaving my TV turned on all day and set to one or two channels that play sitcoms or sci-fi or whatever, just to see what comes on. It's the same reason I still like listening to the radio, even though I hate commercials on both.
One of the TV stations that comes through (barely) is a classic TV station - showing nothing newer than the early '80s and some stuff quite a bit older. Late at night, they stick mainly with the '70s. So I've been watching a show I had seen before but wasn't a major portion of my viewing rotation because I was just a bit too young to be really interested in the plot back then - One Day at a Time.
I really like sitcoms, but I'm kind of particular in my sitcom viewing. I like watching shows that are groundbreaking in some way and that are, by their very existence, social commentary. Whatever other flaws that show might have, it had an important message that shaped the society I grew up in.
This show is about a divorced mom trying to raise her two teenage daughters in a "liberated" society that she was never a part of. She grew up conservative and traditional Italian Catholic and married young. But her husband had an affair, so she divorced him - a radical enough notion at the time. To make matters even more shocking, she didn't go home to her parents to help her with the kids, she chose to get an apartment in New York and live alone with the kids - no man or family to protect her or help her.
That alone makes the show worth praising, to me. But every time I see an episode, I'm bowled over by the complexity of the situations and the nuance of the responses. It really was a terrific show. I'd like to sit down with the DVDs sometime and really do some thorough reviews on specific episodes, because there are some gems in there.
For instance, the episode I saw a couple of nights ago had the husband trying to back out of child support because he over-extended himself with his business and his new wife and was now facing financial trouble. This is a really easy situation to get black-and-white about - too fucking bad, it was your bad choices, you owe those kids their money because a single woman in the '70s with no college education couldn't get the kind of job to support the three of them without help, and it's your fault they're on their own in the first place.
To make matters worse, the father wasn't just facing financial hardship due to the economy or not making enough money from his company. He sold the kids' childhood home to buy a mansion with a pool and to hire a full-time maid to live in the lap of luxury. So it seems like a no-brainer that the dad is the bad guy and the solution is to sell the damn house, fire the maid, and live more frugally if he can't support his lifestyle.
Although these points are all made in the show, it doesn't stop there. In the course of the arguments over the child support, the mom figures out that the new wife doesn't even know about the financial hardship, and that the dad wants to quit child support because he wants to maintain his lifestyle so that his new wife never has to find out. The *reason*, he says, is because the new wife isn't "like [the mother]" and "can't handle it". She's accustomed to a life of luxury and wouldn't be able to cope with living a more meager existence.
The mom, here, has a perfectly justified opportunity to say "tough shit, that's part of what being married is all about". Instead, she stops her arguing, stunned that the new wife doesn't even know. She points out that the husband is being patronizing, and orders him to go home immediately and talk to the wife - to give her a chance to be an equal partner in their marriage and how to address the situation. Her sympathy in this moment, goes to the new wife, when the rest of society would have seen the new wife as a homewrecker and not deserving of sympathy.
Repeatedly, as the mom argues with the dad over the course of the series, she sticks up for the wife and insists that he treat her better than he ever treated the mom. She does not let him get away with being the same chauvinistic, overbearing, dismissive prick that he was to her.
And then the show goes one further. The daughters, when they find out all the details, turn to their father and say "Daddy, I know you want to support us, but you forget that we're supposed to support you too. That's what family is for. We'll work something out. Let us help you." Without compromising the kids' well-being or letting the father off the hook from his responsibilities, they insist on pulling together as a family, even though they're not a traditional family anymore. The support and respect isn't a one-way street. In fact, it's an excellent example of support through accountability without becoming a doormat.
In the end, there are no Bad Guys, just people who make mistakes and have messy feelings, who learn from each other and help each other out. The family is changed to match the needs of the people in it, and even though there are growing pains about it, everyone is better off living in a non-traditional family structure which gives each of them opportunities to be their best selves. And they consistently live up to that, stumbling and tripping along the way, but always climbing upwards.
I wonder, since these are the kinds of influences I had growing up, what our society might look like if we still made such programming. And I wonder, since I wasn't the only person to watch and be influenced by shows like this, why I seem to be one of the only people to have absorbed these kinds of lessons.
I find it interesting that the vast majority of the lessons that influence how I do poly and that form the basis for my various activisms, come from mainstream, monogamous, heteronormative culture. I recommend re-visiting these old sitcoms, or visiting them for the first time if you missed them back in the day. Many of them are partially responsible for the adult I turned into, with lessons in empathy and consideration and intentional family and non-traditional choices. Sometimes wisdom comes from unexpected places.
I get angry, I mean *rageful
*, when I am told in an argument that I feel a particular way that I have not said that I feel, or that I don't feel a particular way that I do, in fact, feel. Telling me that I don't feel passion or that I'm cold and unfeeling, for example, in those stupid fucking anti-science arguments where people attempt to defend their hold on superstition and magical thinking, sends me right over the edge. Yes, clearly, in my passionate rage, I am cold and unfeeling.
I have never really understood why this behaviour triggers my rage, but it always has, for as long as I can remember. In person or online, attempting to say anything about my internal landscape will send me flying off the handle. But I think I now understand why.
I think I have always been inordinately sensitive to gaslighting without ever having the benefit of anyone explaining to me what gaslighting is or how to recognize it. I have come to this conclusion now because of 2 specific encounters. In both cases, I had dealings with men who have been accused of gaslighting their partners to an abusive degree.
I believe that many of us use gaslighting tactics in normal interactions with many different kinds of relationships because it is an argument tactic that we see so often that most of us are not aware that it is, in fact, gaslighting. I don't believe it is usually done maliciously or that the people who do this are consciously aware that they are trying to manipulate the other person in the argument. I think that it's just something we are socially conditioned to be accustomed to.
Gaslighting is where one person tries to convince another person that what they feel, think, or believe is not true. This is not something that a person can argue. I mean, you can argue that someone else believes something that is factually incorrect, but you cannot argue that someone else *doesn't* believe something that they do believe. Or that they don't feel what they feel. At best, you can point out examples that their actions do not match their professed feelings. But it is not possible to know what is going on inside someone else's head.
Much of the time, this is not done out of a misunderstanding or a confusion. Much of the time, gaslighting is done when someone does not like a situation and tries to control the situation more favorably by convincing the other person that their subjective experience of the situation is wrong, so that the other person will behave in a manner that the first person prefers. Imagine, if you will, a child complaining that she doesn't like brussel sprouts, and her mother says "oh, yes you do, now eat them." This is not because the mother is confused about the child's food preferences, this is because the mother wishes the child to eat the damn vegetables and so tries to convince the child that she does not know her own taste preferences well enough to behave in a way that leads to the veggies not getting eaten. The mother is trying to control the situation, and she does so by attacking the child's perception of her own internal landscape, her own subjective experience. And this is considered a "normal" argument tool. Very few people will overhear that mother and think "abusive". At worst, most people will think "frustrated" and probably agree with her method.
So there were these 2 men who were accused of abuse, and who used gaslighting as one of their tools of abuse. Because of the specific details of the situations that I won't get into here because it's not my story to tell, these were not clear-cut situations and I had not yet adopted my "start by believing them" policy. So I heard these accusations and I didn't know what to think. I wanted to disbelieve them, and I was very upset at the turmoil this caused in my own life. By bringing these accusations out, I was now in a very difficult position between two parties where I had my own reasons for wanting to maintain ties to both sides but accusations and counter-accusations of abuse flying around made being in the middle ... awkward, to say the least.
So I did what I could to remain "neutral". And then, I saw it.
In both of these situations, I ended up having my own altercation with each of the men. In one, it was a pretty massive blow-up, but in the other it wasn't - not in the grand scheme of things. We weren't all that close and the argument was not over anything really important. But with both men, they used a form of gaslighting in their argument with me.
In both cases, I was accused of feeling things that I did not feel and also of not feeling things that I did feel. On a normal day, that's enough to piss me right the fuck off. But coming on the heels of these gaslighting accusations, that made me pause. Suddenly, I had the key; I had the connection to *why* this behaviour angered me so much.
And suddenly, their victims' accusations became much more believable.
So I remain ultra-sensitive to when people make declarative statements about how I feel, how I think, how I see the world. I have not learned to control my rage at this. In fact, I now feel more than angry, I feel like someone has attempted to violate me. Because now I see the tactic as a form of control and manipulation.
But more than that, I see it as a symptom of what's wrong with our entire culture. Because I don't think that every single attempt at gaslighting - every single "geez, you're so angry all the time!" - is actual abuse. I think that we've managed to normalize that tactic as simply part of how people argue or disagree, so that even people with good intentions can argue poorly and use the same tactics *as* abusers without actually being an abuser in that moment themselves.
And that's the scary part. If *everyone* uses gaslighting, for all kinds of disagreements, then no wonder so many people can't recognize real abuse when it happens and no wonder so many people don't believe abuse or rape victims when they finally come forward. Every generation teaches the next that this is an acceptable tool in an argument, so that every generation has a reasonable chance of hiding the abusers among them in the throngs of people who simply have shitty communication skills and entitlement complexes.
I don't really have anywhere specific I'm going with this. I just came across some old writing from the time of these two experiences I had, and it reminded me that I hadn't ever gotten around to writing about this. So I'm sitting here, thinking about former relationships (I was reviewing my Breaking Up workshop), former metamours, things ending poorly, other people's relationships ending poorly, abuse, gaslighting, and I ended up here - thinking of all the times people use an abusive manipulation tactic in normal, everyday interactions with all sorts of people. That's kind of terrifying.
So when I fly off the handle because someone dared to make an "observation" that was really a statement that he thinks he knows my emotional landscape better than I do, before judging me too harshly for being "emotional" or "hysterical" or "irrational" or "temperamental", consider all this for a moment. Consider that telling someone what they feel or don't feel is *gaslighting* and what abusers do to control their victims. This person I'm arguing with probably isn't an abuser, and certainly isn't *abusing me* in this one online argument. But what if he is? What if, the reason why he's so comfortable using the gaslighting technique with me online is because he uses it all the time with people who are in a position to be abused by him?
Or, what if he's not and he genuinely doesn't want to abuse anyone? How easy do you think it's going to be to never abuse anyone if the most comfortable argument tools he has are the same ones that real abusers use? Most abusers do not believe they are abusers. Many even think of themselves as the victims (victimization by your control is not the same thing as victimization by my resistance to your control). Abusers are not comic book villains, petting their white cats in their evil lair while they plot ways to break the minds of their victims. Of course he doesn't think he's manipulating anyone. We all think that, mostly. We are all the heroes in our own narratives. So it's really easy to think that I'm the bad guy when I lose my temper. And sometimes I am.
But gaslighting is an evil, insidious tactic that burrows into our society and takes a hold of people often unwittingly. So be on the lookout for signs of gaslighting - in other people and in ourselves. Don't tell people what they are thinking, feeling, or believing. Don't assume that you know what's going on inside someone's head, especially if they contradict you. This is an abusive tactic, and we should all be strongly opposed when we see it happening.
We just need to learn how to see it happening.
* I am committed to addressing issues early in order to prevent them from becoming too big to handle.
This is one of my earliest commitments. I've known from a very young age that problems and issues need to be addressed early, and that unaddressed problems merely grow in size until they become insurmountable even if the problem itself is quite small. But one of my weaknesses is that I have a tendency to want to avoid being an imposition. So I am not always clear that something is a problem that needs to be addressed.
I had a partner once, though, who really hammered this lesson home for me. He did not understand that, because of the way I process things internally, by the time I'm willing to mention it at all, it's big enough to be considered an "issue" and something that needs to be addressed. So I had to learn to be clear about these things. I had to learn how to say things like "this is something that kind of bothers me but isn't really a big deal, so if you did something about it, that would be great, but not imperative" and "this is a problem that doesn't bother me all that much right now but you need to prioritize solving this with me before it becomes a serious issue." He needed to know the difference between "I'm just stating something" and "I need some kind of action from you on this".
If I didn't explicitly tell him that I needed a response, then he merely acknowledged that he heard me and moved on. I took "acknowledgment" to mean more than simply "I hear you"; I took it to mean "I accept your request to do something about this". Even if I said "I'd like you to do X that you're not currently doing", he heard that only as a suggestion that he was free to take or leave, not that I was having a problem over which his non-compliance would eventually strain our relationship. So when nothing would get done, I'd only gently remind him in an effort not to become the "nagging girlfriend", which he would continue to merely acknowledge that I said something and still not do anything about it, and it would continue until I finally got pissed off at him and he sat there wondering where all that anger came from, since he never understood that he was supposed to do anything about what I was saying. So I eventually developed the skill of explaining how important to me a response was, what kind of response I was hoping for, and where on the timeline this request fell between annoyance I can live with and relationship implosion.tacit
, by the way, is super amazing at guessing when something is a Big Deal even before I recognize it myself that it is a Big Deal. He doesn't have a 100% track record, but he long ago recognized that the very act of stating something is an invitation to explore one's vulnerability, so he tends to take what I say very seriously. Which means that he has, on several occasions, prioritized something just because I happened to mention I would like something done even before I, myself, realized that doing this thing was incredibly important to my happiness and the health of our relationship. But we are both active communicators, and we both have a hard time understanding passive communicators, so if there's going to be a problem understanding a call to action, that's probably where it will be found. This is also a reminder to me to continue to improve my active communication skills.
OK secular lefties, here's the thing...
You can disagree with an ideology. You can disagree vehemently with an ideology. You can even believe that the Slippery Slope applies here and is not a fallacy - that the fundamental concepts in the ideology sets up a culture in which the radical extension of that ideology is a natural consequence. You can even hope that some day, reason will win out and that ideology will be relegated to a chapter in a history textbook on "myths previous eras and civilizations once believed."
But what you cannot then do is ACT upon any individual person in the demographic that holds that ideology in a negative way, such as insulting them or physically assaulting them, unless it is a clear cut case of self-defense or it is a clear cut case of addressing their *ideology*, not their person. And I mean clear-fucking-cut, like they're charging you with a meat cleaver shouting "I'm doing this for my ideology!" at the top of their lungs (srsly, guys, entitled white dudes are writing manifestos - it's fucking clear cut race / gender / religion related, not a "loner" with "mental health issues").
When you take "This ideology is bad" and then follow it up with "this individual who uses this ideological label must therefore be bad so I will preemptively beat the shit out of them / call them names with historical or cultural oppressive contexts / refuse them the basic rights of survival and human dignity / bar them from entering a public place on principle just in case they might do something bad even though this individual hasn't actually done anything bad that I have proof of or said anything to me at all", that makes you a fucking bigot and part of the problem.
People are notoriously good at compartmentalizing their beliefs and at dealing with cognitive dissonance. Most people claim an identity label that is associated with a whole passel of shit they don't agree with. While that may actually be one of the problems you might have with that particular ideology or the people who hold it, this means, practically speaking, that you can't predict any given individual's likelihood of acting either harmfully or beneficially just by their identity label.
You need, like, actual proof of intentions for that.
Catholic doctrine, for instance, is very clear that it opposes all form of birth control, sex before marriage, homosexuality, and divorce. It takes a hard stance on those issues. There is no grey area, no wiggle room. Catholic doctrine is definitely, clearly, adamantly opposed. But how many Catholics do you know who have done one or more of those things? And how many Catholic churches do you know have allowed those members to remain part of the congregation?
Fuck that, how many people are fawning all over themselves to gush at the Pope whenever he gets quoted out of context as saying something that can vaguely be interpreted as not being a total douchenozzle on those topics? Even though, in context, he says nothing of the sort and even though his PR team always cleans up after him and makes an official statement that the Pope didn't mean to sound so liberal but that he really is still a douchenozzle and even though the official policy is very clear and has been so for generations and even though he goes on to say exactly that sort of douchenozzlery in other places with other audiences who don't want to hear the wishy-washy version of the Pope but that the liberal media doesn't cover?
People claim all sorts of labels for themselves. Many of those people do not practice the literal definition of the labels, or they don't practice all the things associated with those labels. In fact, that's something that I complain about often - people who use labels in ways contrary to the label's intent and muddying up the waters for the communicative purposes of labels (and please don't derail the comments with "that's why I don't use labels" - I take issue with that too but that's a subject for another rant).
You cannot tell what actual beliefs a person holds by their labels. You ought to be able to, since that's what makes labels meaningful. But you can't. You can use the labels to give a broad, general idea, but they are not predictive. You cannot predict, by a person's label, which specific beliefs they hold or how those beliefs will express themselves on that individual.
That's why the whole men vs. women thing is bullshit. Even for the legitimate times when we can statistically make two categories of people called "men" and "women", those labels are not predictive and you cannot use a category term to make specific assumptions or predictions about individual people. Even statistically different categories like "man" and "woman" have such a high degree of overlap that they become completely useless terms when trying to guess things about a specific individual. At best, they can be used *descriptively* (as opposed to prescriptively) after that individual has self-identified as such and the people you are communicating with all have the same understanding of the label.
For instance, I often use MBTI as shorthand. I identify as an INTJ, so I might try to communicate to someone that I'm having trouble with their spontaneity because I'm a J. That saves me a lot of time trying to explain that being schedule oriented is an innate trait that causes me distress when upset, blah blah blah, and then the other person can know that I'm not having a *personal* issue with *them*, that this is just a thing about me that makes me "me". So, once we have established this baseline set of definitions for communication, then I and that other person can use the labels as shorthand in the future to reference a broader definition that we don't have to spell out every single goddamn time we need to reference that concept. "I am doing this thing because I am an INTJ, not because of some other assumed motivation or intention you might want to ascribe to me." "Oh, got it, I understand your motivations now."
However, I once dated a guy who broke a Valentine's Day date with me to go out with his other gf. He used the excuse "but you're an INTJ, and INTJ's don't care about holidays, but she's an INFP, and they do care about holidays, so it's a bigger deal to her than to you."
WRONG! 1) He changed my schedule, which is a huge no-no for a schedule-oriented person. 2) He didn't ask me first, he just assumed I wouldn't mind, which is taking away my ability to control my own life. I might not have minded, but I wanted to be able to make that decision for myself. 3) I have personal insecurities that have nothing to do with MBTI about my poly relationships not being viewed as "real" by my partners and metamours, so couplehood markers like holiday dates are actually important to me even if the holiday itself is not. 4) She wasn't poly and I was having massive conflicts with her over her inability to deal with being part of a poly network that included me, including doing things that put him in awkward positions of having to "choose" between us and of him too often choosing her "over" me and this was just one more glaring example of how I was "losing" in a relationship that wasn't supposed to have "winners" and "losers".
Back to the main point: you can't predict based on a person's identity label how they will express the beliefs associated with that identity label. At best, labels can be used after-the-fact by the individuals who hold them to describe themselves and then to use as shorthand to refer to that description at a later time.
Of course, we're all going to try to make assumptions and predictions based on those labels. That's what our brain uses labels for. If someone tells me that they're a Catholic, I'm going to assume they hold a whole collection of beliefs that are associated with Catholicism. But I'm going to be *aware* that I'm making those assumptions and I'm not going to preemptively attack them or try to bar them from living in my area on the assumption that they might be anti-abortion, which might then prompt them to bomb an abortion provider's office. There has to be evidence that they are actively planning a violent crime before I can take any action, including verbal, intended to prevent the presumed crime.
So when secularists start supporting policies banning Syrian refugees, for instance, based on the argument that Islam is problematic therefore all Muslims should be presumed to be dangerous based on their holy texts justifying violence, you're being a bigoted racist shithead. I am totally opposed to all forms of religion, including Islam. I could go on at length about the problems with Islam and how privileging religion in general sets up exactly the sorts of cultures where radical extremism can flourish.
But refugees from a war-torn nation fleeing for their lives from radical religious wackaloons is NOT the time for philosophical debate on the pros and cons of ideologies. Now is the time for compassion for human fucking beings who are being tortured and killed and who are asking for our help. Our first priority is to help them as fellow human beings, to protect their lives and their dignity as people. Only then, when their survival is not at stake and their dignity as sentient beings is not being attacked, do we have the ethical high ground for addressing their ideologies in an intellectual debate.
Hey media! I know you're never gonna see this, but I have something to say to you anyway. You know how you're having so much trouble finding "triads" and "poly couples" to interview? THAT'S BECAUSE POLYAMORY DOESN'T WORK THAT WAY.
I mean, yes, there are triads in polyamory, and yes there are people who are partnered and could be called a "couple". But you're looking for people who fit a very specific relationship structure who are also attractive enough for your audience and willing to be public about their very personal romantic lives and who have everyone they're connected to be willing to be public about being connected to them. That's a tall order.
Mainly, polyamory isn't something that "couples" do, or even something that "triads" do, it's something that people do. Most of the people in poly relationships look like a lot of different sorts of configurations. Regardless of what people think they want out of poly relationships, the reality is that you either find yourself in amorphous, fluid, or unexpected configurations because that's just who you ended up falling in love with, your you find yourself still searching for that Third 20 or 30 years later and always blaming your failed relationship attempts on the selfishness of the unicorns you're hunting instead of recognizing that the forced structure you're imposing isn't meeting the real-world needs of the participants.
So if you, as a member of the media, want to have any luck at all in finding respondents, don't be the even-more-clueless version (I didn't even know that was possible) of the Unicorn Hunters. Open up your search to include a variety of possibilities. This means that you may not get that sensationalized photo of three people in bed together because the relationship is actually an asterisk or a "polycule" network with several long distance partners and a couple of partners who don't like each other so they won't pose for group photos and maybe one or two who refuse to participate because they're not out. We're not all playing house together and trying to build a commune or pretending to be "just like monos only with 3".
Most of us, those who have successful relationships anyway, have relationships that look different from Escalator Relationships (first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a mortgage and 3 babies and a poodle because the hubby has allergies) and don't make for convenient, easily wrapped up story packages. Yes, even those of us who started out as a monogamous couple who "opened up" don't often look like the threesome version of Escalator Relationships (also known as polygamy). You may have to interview us separately. You may have to only interview one of us because everyone else is too busy or not out. You may have to include 5 or 6 people because portraying only 3 of us as a "triad" is to leave out people who are integral to our lives and we don't want to exclude them for the sake of your convenient number 3.
And I didn't even begin to touch on the issues of gender expressions or orientations or even socioeconomic class. We are not all pretty, skinny, white, urban professional, 30-something, straight cis men and bi cis women either.
For an excellent, even more media-appropriate open letter on this same subject, check out So You Want To Interview Polyamorous People?
and linked to on the Polyamory Media Association
Guys! A woman rejecting you is not "starting it" and not the same as "punching you in the face" so your retaliation is not fucking self defense!
YOU started it by asking her out in the first place. If you're not an asshole, the asking someone out isn't problematic enough to be considered "starting something", but if it escalates to violence in response to her rejection, then you better fucking believe you fucking started it.
( Original Photo CommentaryCollapse )
Her rejection of you is HER self-defense against YOU. I was stalked for years by someone who threatened me with suicide if I didn't date him. I still refused (and he didn't commit suicide, because he wasn't suicidal, he was abusive). But, years later, he "wore me down" and I did end up dating him.One of the worst dating mistakes I ever made.When I finally got out, he continued to stalk me for another decade. At one point, he actually admitted that if he ever found out that I had aborted "his child", he would, even then years later, still hunt me down and kill me. I hadn't ever gotten pregnant by him, but I have always been pro-abortion and anti-me-getting-pregnant, which he knew. In that same conversation, I found out that he had been sabotaging the condoms during our relationship in the hopes that getting me pregnant would tie me to him. That's when I reminded him that I would have just gotten an abortion, and that's when he told me that, not only would he have killed me at the time for having an abortion, but that he would *still* kill me if he found out after the fact that I had gotten one back then and didn't tell him.I was also told in school that it wouldn't kill me to just go out with him. Apparently it might have.Even without some of the more disturbing details about his obsession with me that I kept from my parents, they recognized the danger he posed and, as a teenager, steered me away from him. They did not want me dating him and did not approve of me including him in my social circle. They told me at the time that they worried for my safety. I scoffed at them. I thought he was a lovesick pup but ultimately harmless. I was wrong.His brother is currently doing life in prison for shooting and killing his wife and infant child. Some days I'm amazed that I survived to adulthood.This commentary is in response to a note attached to a picture uploaded on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/the.artidote/photos/a.748110521972432.1073741827.742359879214163/838788566237960/?type=3&theater). Usually I just paste the link to articles that I'm commenting on at the beginning of my rant and let y'all follow it to read it directly. But this is a photo on someone's FB timeline, and the commentary I am responding to is in the description of the photo, so this is not a "public" article that anyone can access. If you don't have FB and aren't logged in, you might not be able to see it, so I'm reposting the text below the cut.
Listening to people justify giving romantic partners full access* to each other's phones & emails in the aftermath of a broken trust in order to rebuild that trust. Saying that because someone did something related to texting that was "against their rules", it sucks, but it might be a necessary way to regain the trust of the person who was betrayed.
No, no, no, no, no, no, no.
If someone has broken an agreement or betrayed the trust of the other person, giving someone full access to things that DON'T BELONG TO ONLY THE PERSON IN THE COUPLE IN QUESTION is not acceptable. Texts and other communication owned by the "betrayer" are not their sole property. Those communiques (and, more importantly, the thoughts and intimacy they contain) also belong to the person who sent them. You are not sharing something that is private to the person who broke the rule, you are sharing something that is private of someone who is not in the relationship where the broken trust occurred.
By insisting on full access to the communications of a third party, you are pawning off the burden of repairing your broken trust onto that third party. The *third person* is the one who has to shoulder the responsibility for the "betrayer's" actions and for the "betrayed's" fear. And not just that person who participated in whatever action constitutes a "betrayal", but ALL third parties who might communicate with the "betrayer" in that manner - every single person has to give up their own privacy (and potentially hamper their own intimacy, even platonic and familial ones) to assuage the "betrayed" and fix this now "broken" relationship. All friends, all family, even all future partners (for those in open relationships) have to pay for what the "betrayer" and some other person did.
If your relationship is now "broken" and you are trying to rebuild trust between the two of you, it is your ethical responsibility to find a way to work through that pain and fear in a way that makes the two of YOU shoulder the entire burden for the work involved. It is not ethically right to violate the privacy and intimacy of people who are not in your relationship, who did not break any agreements (because they didn't make those agreements with you since they are not your partner), and who are not trying to rebuild any broken trust with you. New metamours may be trying to *build* trust with you, but they should not have added onto their load the responsibility of *REbuilding* the trust that someone else broke.
If you are choosing to put the work into this relationship so that you can eventually trust your partner again, that is your choice and you need to shoulder the burdens of your own fears regarding your partner's lack of trustworthiness. I'm not saying it doesn't suck. I'm saying it's YOUR burden to carry. All too often, poly people carry into polyamory with them bad habits from monogamy that go unchallenged in monogamous culture.
Until the industrial revolution, and really until WWI, marriage was not considered the One Relationship To Rule Them All. In fact, just the opposite. Philosophical treatises were written and sermons were preached condoning the act of making one's spouse the sole source of all types of support. People were expected to find emotional, financial, labor, and sometimes even sexual support from all manner of relationships other than their spouse. Placing one's spouse in a position of one's Everything was considered to be an affront to God himself because it was seen as replacing God with a human being. Men and women were expected to have strong emotional ties to people of the same gender, and in some eras, those ties were expected to be stronger than the ties to one's spouse. Parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, extended family in general were expected to live under the same roof, or at least nearby, to help with the labor of running a household and raising children. One's pastor or preacher was expected to carry the burden of one's religious commitments and spiritual support. And, in certain eras and locations, sex with one's spouse was considered a necessity for procreation but sex for pleasure was expected to be saved for one's lovers. It was considered "unseemly" to be "too in love" or too infatuated or too attracted to one's own spouse. That wasn't their role.
But then, somewhere along the line, mainly about the time that the industrial cities took over as holding the bulk of the population, all that changed. With famine and war, people left the countryside in droves and flooded the urban centers, leaving behind extended family, generational churches, and best friends. The nuclear family took over because single adults left their entire network behind to make a living in the big cities and started raising families alone, while existing families could often only pack up themselves (the spouses and kids) to search for a "better life" in the city, again leaving behind their support networks. Suddenly, spouses HAD to become one's Everything because all they had was each other.
Although the U.S. has made attempts to build other sorts of networks from the wreckage the Urban Influx left on the old-style networks, the nuclear family and the myth of the One reigns supreme. We have elevated the role of the spouse (and by extension, any singular romantic partner) to such a degree that people, even those of us conscientious objectors who ought to know better, can't even see the ethical dilemma with privileging one role above all others. When faced with questions like "should your spouse have unrestricted access to your text messages", we don't even blink an eye when we shout "of course!" That's not even a question for most people - it's taken for granted that spouses would share everything. Even those things that don't belong to the other spouse to share. It's written into marriage vows. It's part of the cultural fabric. And if some third party would dare to suggest that this thing here doesn't belong solely to the spouse in question to be giving permission to access, it's just flat out assumed that the romantic primary couple has "priority" so of course anything belonging even in part to the spouse belongs entirely to the spouse and simultaneously belongs to the other spouse. Requests for privacy are seen as direct challenges to the primacy of the couple.
Personally, if my romantic relationship isn't strong enough to accommodate for individual privacy, I would say that the relationship isn't as "primary" as one would think. The specialness and strength of my relationships and of my role within those relationships comes from the connection itself which is comprised of the individuals that make up the relationship, and nothing can take that away short of the individuals themselves. Including the rights of the individual within the relationships. Once the rights and integrity and very personhood of the individuals within the relationship are seen as less important than the relationship itself, the relationship is inherently doomed because the foundation of the relationship is the individuals in it.
So no one has "unrestricted access" or "full access" to those paths of intimacy, including communication, that involve anyone other than the two of us on that path together. Some of my partners and metamours may have emergency access, but that is not "full access" or "unrestricted access". Attempting to access the communications and therefore possible paths of intimacy of my other partners and loved ones is seen as a boundary violation, both my own boundaries and those of the other people, by the one doing the accessing. It is understood that the wrongdoing here is in the accessing of data, not in the keeping of privacy.
When I was a teenager, my sister used to sneak into my room and steal my clothing and my cassette tapes. No amount of shouting or sneaking into her room to steal them back would stop her. I begged my parents for a lock on my door to keep her out. They responded that a locked door would enable me to hide things from THEM, and as my parents, they had a right to access every space in the house, including my space. I had no right to privacy as their daughter living on their property. These are the kinds of assumptions that we bring with us into poly relationships - property and ownership of other people - their bodies and their minds.
As a child, I knew this was wrong. As an adult, I know now why. This is a violation of my very autonomy, the thing that makes me a person. So, in my romantic relationships I can leave the metaphorical door unlocked because everyone knows that opening that door without an emergency-based reason would harm the relationship between myself and the person who opened that door. My partners are not children or pets who can't be trusted to stay out of my room, nor are they overprotective parents who think that I am not entitled to my own autonomy. Should I ever feel the need or the desire to lock my door, my partners understand that it's my room to lock and they didn't have a right to access that space anyway. But, because they understand this, I can leave the door unlocked for safety purposes and everything that anyone gives me that I keep in that room is safe from anyone else getting to it.
I understand the desire to infringe on someone else's rights in order to make the bad feelings go away. I understand how scary it is to shoulder my own burdens in a relationship where there is fear, insecurity, and broken trust. I've been there, I've done that. To this day, I may feel a strong enough fear to prompt me to ask to violate someone's boundaries for my own comfort. But the key is that I do not assume it is my right to do so, and I must shoulder the burden myself to do the work on repairing the broken trust and calming that fear. The allure of making someone else carry one's own burden is strong. It will take everyone's effort to stand up to that allure and to create a culture that does not support the violation of other people's boundaries, privacy, and intimacy in service to our own fears and pain.
* By "full access", I do not mean that one *must* keep a lock on their phone and *never* show any texts to one's partner. My phone doesn't even have a lock because it's a dumb flip phone, and I have a shared document online with passwords and other instructions for access to my files in the event of emergencies where someone else needs to run my life on my behalf. But my partners have no interest in accessing my data short of an emergency, and everyone who communicates with me has a reasonable expectation that what they say to me will be held in confidence if they ask for it. When they communicate with me, they know that they are communicating *with me*. They do not have to communicate with me under the assumption that they are also communicating or sharing with someone else. Assuming that all communications will be shared with someone else creates a built-in filter that hampers and infringes on the intimacy we can build together because they can only build as much intimacy with me as they are willing to build with this other person who will have access to that intimacy.
Partners who ask for "full access", in this context, are not asking for pragmatic, emergency-based access, nor do they technically have access but a lack of interest in accessing data. Those are different situations and one that I am not addressing, so please don't derail the comments with "I can read my husband's texts because we trust each other but I don't because I don't care / we trust each other." That's not what I'm talking about. "Full access", in this context, is when one partner is suspected (or known) of possible relationship agreement violations and the other partner deliberately goes into their data (or wants the ability to do so) in order to check up on them. They either want to police their activity like a child who can't be trusted to do their homework without the teacher sending home a homework sheet that the parents check off every night, or they want the threat of checking their activity to act as a deterrent to prevent their partner from misbehaving.
And these people will justify their actions or their request to violate privacy on the grounds that their partner has already proven that they can't be trusted, therefore punitive and corrective action is necessary. That or if an infidelity of some kind hasn't actually happened, they will hand-wave away their violations with things like "if he's not hiding anything, then it shouldn't matter if I have access" and other hand-wavy justifications like the ones my parents used to deny me a lock on my door, which all have the underlying root of couple privilege and ownership. It's not about "hiding" things, it's about treating partners as adults who have the right to make their own decisions (even bad ones), and about respecting the autonomy of both partners and third parties, AND about carrying one's own relationship burdens and responsibilities without pawning the work off onto someone else.
Hey Marvel films and other movie makers - the reason why your female-led action movies don't do well at the box office and the reason why women (who make up the majority of the gaming audience) don't much care for your movies and the reason why your attempts at giving your male protagonists emotional depth turn into SNL skits is because you're not Netflix original series writers.
Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed your fluffy romps with comic movies in the last bunch of years. But that's all they are - fluffy romps with little to no substance. They're trite and common. I'm not saying there's no room in the diversity of entertainment for trite. But if you want to increase your sales, then instead of "pandering" to your target audiences with naked hot chicks but no role of their own except to be rescued or fucked by the male protagonists, with the token female lab scientist or the token female ass-kicker, with dark and brooding action heroes torn up over the loss of their wife or child that shows their "sensitivity", start talking to the writers over at Netflix about how to show the humanity and complexity in a character that doesn't require lots of sex, lots of rape, lots of on-screen violence, or lots of dark, scowling white male faces contemplating the loss of loved ones.
And I'm not just talking about the action series either. Netflix is totally kicking ass at entertainment in general these days. Their series' present us with diversity in emotion, in response, in reaction. They don't rely on "something Bad happened, now the protagonist will sit, staring out at the moon or off in the distance while they prepare to make themselves into a bad-ass fighting machine for vengeance". They show anger. They show pain. They show walls. They show confusion. They show shame. They show remorse. They show internalized blame. They show characters bumbling around and making mistakes. They show lack of acceptance. They show redemption. But not all in the same character. Not even all in the same gender or race or orientation of character.
Sure, there are lots of things I could criticize about any given Netflix show - no media is perfect. But, just like the Bechtel test is best used in aggregate to show trends, looking at the trends of big box office movies in the last decade and the slew of Netflix originals coming out in the last couple of years, and it stands out in sharp contrast that Netflix has a handle on how to write interesting, complex, nuanced characters and plots whereas Hollywood is still leaning on tropes that should have been retired 30 or more years ago.
* I am committed to protecting the safety of myself and my partners through informed consent and risk-benefit analysis of behaviour, prioritizing evidence-based reason above emotional justification.
This is deliberately vague. Most people like to put down in writing (i.e. stone) their safe-sex rules. I've written several times about my safer sex guidelines, from the classifications of sex categories
based on STI risk to my preferences
in when I decide to take those risks. But I have learned over the years that even prefacing all that with "guidelines" and "agreements" doesn't stop anyone from attempting to prescript behaviour, impose rules, or resist change. Sometimes shit happens. Sometimes Game Changers
come along and change the game. Sometimes the risks are lower because of special circumstances. And, as I said at the beginning, this is not a contract between me and my partners. This is what I commit to myself. Which means that my agreements and arrangements may be different between myself and different partners.
I'm tired of trying to nail down every little detail for every possible hypothetical scenario. That's not realistic. This commitment is intended to cover all my partners current and future, which means it has to accommodate for different arrangements and different people. I've cut away all the extraneous details and just gotten to the point - the underlying goal for what all those rules and agreements and boundaries are supposed to be doing: I will protect my safety and my partners' safety by giving the information they need to give informed consent (thereby respecting their agency, autonomy, and personal sovereignty) based on their respective boundaries, we will use that information in an analysis designed to assess risk on a per-case basis, and I will not use sexual safety boundaries to mask emotional concerns or issues. If I am feeling concerned about a partner taking on a new partner, and my concern does not match the actual, evidence-based risk, then I intend to get to the root of the issue without using safer sex boundaries as an excuse or justification or a Motte-And-Bailey Doctrine
I get it, really I do. I've been there myself. No one wants to look like they're cavalier about safer sex, so pulling out the "I'm worried about STIs so we need to have safe sex boundaries / rules / agreements" card is a great way to make someone toe the line. It's really easy to avoid looking deeper at an insecurity when that insecurity just gave us a perfectly reasonable distraction to focus on - sexual safety. I was once so bothered by a metamour's resistance to polyamory that I said I felt "unsafe" and instituted physical barriers and restrictions between myself and my partner. I now know that was the wrong way to handle it. I should have said that my emotional concerns are affecting my willingness to be physically intimate with him, and I shouldn't have hidden behind "safety". That would have been owning my shit. But I didn't, and I do not wish to make that mistake again. At the same time, though, I want both the freedom to pursue relationships as I see fit and to be the sort of person who feels a responsibility for how her actions affect her partners so that I will be considerate of the risks that I take with regards to how they impact others.
This commitment to myself seeks to find that balance between consideration for others and freedom for myself and honoring their freedom; between maintaining a rational, reason-based, evidence-based skeptical worldview and embracing opportunity, love, sex, relationships, being vulnerable, and other emotion-based actions that bring color and depth to life.
Hey guys, stop fucking using women as threats to motivate other guys. There is nothing shameful about a woman being better than you at something, and there is especially nothing shameful about a woman being better than you in her field of expertise that she has worked in for her entire adult life while you just started.
Him 1: "You gonna let her beat you at that?"
Him 2: "Hell yeah, she's better at me than this, and if I can't get it right here in a minute, I'm gonna ask her for help too!"
Look, I've been doing my job for twenty-fucking five years. I'm damn good at my job. I'm not "OMG why aren't you working for Spielburg?!" amazing, I'm just damn good (and I suspect that a good part of the reason why I'm not that amazing is simply because of untapped potential and lack of opportunity - I know I have more to me, if I could just find a way to express it). I know a thing or two about my business and I have a few systems down pat. Most of this shit I can do in my sleep. In fact, during my rock-n-roll days when I was double-booking and averaging about 4 hours of sleep a night, I *did* do a lot of this shit in my sleep. This is my job. This is my field. This is my expertise. Of course I'm better at it than someone who just started, and of course I'm better at it than someone who's only been in the business for 3 years.
THERE IS NOTHING FUCKING WRONG WITH THAT.
There is absou-fucking-lutely no goddamn reason why some dude should be naturally better at something than I am when I've been doing it for more than two decades. And there is abso-fucking-lutely no goddamn reason why he should feel embarrassed or ashamed at hearing so. Y'all just need to get over that shit and accept that you're not the fucking king of the planet and some people are just simply better at stuff than you are because they've been doing it longer, or even because they are naturally more skilled at that task than you are. That's just the way things are. Having a penis does not confer magical abilities to be the best at everything you do, nor even to be "better than a girl" at everything you do, including some of those things that you typically associate as masculine skills.
Stop using me as a threat. I'm just going to be better than some of you at those things I do well, just as there are some people better than me (and some of them are also women). And I do a lot of things well. If your ego is so fragile that the thought of a woman who specializes in a particular industry and has done so for nearly as long as you've been alive spurs you into a competition with her because on noes, you have to be the best!!1! then honey, you don't belong in this business. In fact, you don't belong at work at all, you belong back in daycare.
Accept the fact that some people are better than you at things, even at things you're not bad at. Accept the fact that some of those people are women. Instead of feeling threatened by that, or encouraging other men to feel threatened by that, you can use the talented and skilled women around you as resources to get the job done. So stop poking other guys with us or having them stand on our shoulders to get up higher on the company ladder than we are.
It's about time other people are making blog posts on this subject. I've been saying this for years (it's even the catch phrase for Miss Poly Manners
), and a handful of people have been saying it in online arguments for years, but there aren't very many articles, blog pieces - reference-able statements that take this position. Some try to be too conciliatory, as if they're afraid to alienate or piss off the people who are using this phrase as a silencing tactic.
We need more literature on this subject, particularly by names with larger audiences, and we, as a community, need to show a growing awareness and a harder stance against abusive tactics. These tactics masquerade as "reasonable", which is how they get entrenched; they co-opt well-meaning but misguided or simplistic philosophies because people who are trying to be well-meaning don't generally consider how they can be taken advantage of by those who aren't so well-meaning. We need to be uncovering them, revealing them for the manipulation that they are, and eradicating them from our lexicon, our philosophy, our communities.
"And for many people who do polyamory in a way that harms others “there’s no right way to do poly!” has become a useful tool to shut down conversation and deflect attention. As soon as someone says “There’s no right way to do poly,” the person confronting them has to defend their right to express their concerns. The conversation becomes about polyamory theory rather than whatever is concerning the person who spoke up.
This tactic can be used to shut down a secondary upset with the way their voice is being silenced, a mono partner who has agreed to try polyamory and is uncomfortable with the direct the relationship is going, other people in the local community calling out abuse or unethical behavior, and much more."
Abuse in polyamory is also a theoretical discussion, and this phrase is a useful tool to shut down conversation about that. When we talk about abuse in poly abstractly or generally, not speaking about a specific relationship, inevitably, someone comes along with "there's no right way to do poly" to justify gaslighting, manipulation, disrespecting of agency in the form of rules & hierarchy
, control, and unequal distributions of power, even racism and sexism and other -isms that find their way into interpersonal relationships.
We are too afraid to say "there are wrong ways to do this", and we need to get over that.
In this article
that was referenced in the previous link, Jessica Burde illustrates Shea Emma Fett
that being victimized by one's control is not the same thing as being victimized by one's resistance to your control.
"In dealing with abusive relationships, it is important to recognize that playing the victim can be an extremely useful tool for the abuser. A classic example of this in polyamory is when one person tries to control their partner’s relationships. When their partner objects to this attempted control, the abuser responds with, “There is no one true way to do polyamory—you are just trying to control me and force me to do polyamory your way because you don’t like rules.”"
I ran into this a bunch of times in my past, but my most recent brush was also my most obvious example. He was so good at manipulation that I couldn't tell that he was doing it to others. I was convinced that he was ... well, not a "victim" because he had built up such a comfortable little power dynamic that everyone within it enabled each other so it didn't look like anyone was a "victim" of anything, but I was convinced that he was not in the driver's seat when it came to who controlled the group. Ask me about poly-by-hostage rules sometime.
So when he employed those same tactics on a new partner and there was more turbulence than their little insulated, co-dependent group usually gave back to him, I, along with everyone else, assumed it was the new person's fault. The new person was the disruptive one, obvs, because things were running smoothly until they came along.
But the new person made large enough waves that the red flags finally started popping up in my field of vision. Not quite enough for me to have recognized it, but enough to have *primed
* me for when he finally had the opportunity to turn his tactics on me. It was only when he accused *me
* of victimizing him for resisting his control that I could finally connect the dots and see what he was doing to everyone else.
The kicker for me was when my life was falling apart by events totally out of my control - my landlord selling the house after my lease was up and not giving me enough notice to move out, the person who "rescued" me by offering me a room until I could find a new place to live torturing my cats while I was at work, a new partner who I was deeply in love with and deeply insecure about deciding to move away before the relationship had even gotten established, shit like that - when things were out of my control and I was flailing around trying to hold onto anything that wasn't sinking, he said to me "how could you do this to me?" It was in that moment that I finally realized that this was not a case of two people with different but valid styles of polyamory. This was a case of one person trying to control another, and the other resisting that control, and the one person then crying "victim!" when he didn't get his way.
Every argument we had where I tried to explain how his rules were hurting other people, he responded with "you're just trying to make me do polyamory YOUR way - this way works for us!" Yeah, in the way that any abusive situation "works" for the people in it - the one in control gets to stay in control and the one being victimized gets gaslighted into thinking that they're being abused for their own good.
"You don't get to arbitrarily decide how to take new partners without my approval" - uh, yes I do. You have choices you can make based on how I decide to take on new partners, but those decisions aren't about you, they're about me. I do have full control over those decisions that affect me.
"You don't get to decide the terms of when I speak to you" (said to me when I told him he was not to contact me again unless it was to apologize for something) - uh, yes I do. Again, I have full control over decisions that affect me. I absolutely get to decide the terms of how you interact with me and you are not "victimized" when I resist your attempts to control me or your access to me. You are not a "victim" when I fall in love with someone new and our relationship moves at a speed and in a direction we didn't anticipate. You are not a "victim" when you violate my space and I refuse you access to me without an apology for it. You don't have to like my decisions, you can feel hurt by my decisions, but you are not *victimized
* by my decision to not interact with you or when I resist your attempts to direct what I do with my body, my mind, or my emotions.
Things that I do with my body, mind, or emotions are not things that I do TO YOU
. They can affect you (which is why I'm so adamant about building friendly, or at least civil, metamour relations), but they are not done TO YOU
. They are not about you. They are things that are happening to me. And you have no right to control those things or cry victimization when you don't like what happens to me. Manipulation, intimidation, and control are, in fact, the wrong ways to do polyamory.
In response to some comments I have seen on several other people's threads where they shared that graphic trying to explain that no one *owes
* you their time, attention, love, sex, relationship, thoughts, etc. these blog posts are relevant.
Discussions about agency and abuse in relationships tend to get sidetracked by the minutia and strawman arguments of people pursuing *selfish
* (i.e. not self-centric, but selfISH where it requires a lack of concern for how one's actions affect others) hedonism. In other words, there is some defense of "but if the other person is doing things for their own pleasure and it hurts you, that's not OK!" Of course it's not, but that's a different discussion.
"This is my experience. You can not know my experience.
That is your experience. I can not know your experience.
These are my choices. You are not entitled to control over them, you are not victimized by them.
Those are your choices. I am not entitled to control over them, I am not victimized by them."
"When we really understand the difference between these statements, we will understand how to support both survivors and abusers.
'I was victimized by acts of control' is not the same as 'I was victimized by the other person’s resistance to my control.'"
And then in the article they reference:
"“An abuser’s behavior is primarily conscious — he acts deliberately rather than by accident or by losing control of himself — but the underlying thinking that drives his behavior is largely not conscious.”
What is this underlying thinking? Well, it’s all around you. It is the foundation of rape culture. It is the fundamental belief that women do not have a right to their own personal power. It is the fundamental belief that they can retain power over their bodies, minds and choices, only so long as we agree with those choices. It is the way in which we punish women if we feel they’ve stepped out of line. It is the way we always suspiciously ask “what is she getting out of this?” when a woman reports abuse, harassment or assault. It is the reflexive dismissal of female anger as irrational, and female pain as imaginary. It is the way we, all of us, men and women buy into the belief that we are entitled to women’s bodies, thoughts and choices. In polyamory, this belief makes it easy for us to treat our partners as things and not people."
This part is relevant because most of the objection to that graphic is in the idea that someone just has the *right
* to go off and do whatever they want to do. OMG what is the world coming to that anyone can just LEAVE whenever they want?!? What if I don't want them to go?!?
"It is the fundamental belief that they can retain power over their bodies, minds and choices, only so long as we agree with those choices". It doesn't matter if we think they are making a poor choice for themselves. It doesn't matter if we are hurt by their choice to leave us, stop loving us, not liking us, revoking consent to sex with us.
They do, in fact, have that right. They might be behaving like dicks about it, but they still have that right. If someone gets involved in an explicitly monogamous relationship and then decides to have an unsanctioned sexual relationship with someone outside of that relationship, their monogamous partner does not own their body and they have the right to do with their own body what they will.
They're being a dick and I will harshly criticize and name-call and publicly shame people for making choices that infringe on other people's right to consent. *That
* is not what they have the right to do. The choice to *remain
* in an explicitly monogamous relationship without giving their partner the information necessary to give informed consent is what they don't have the right for. But they, and they alone, hold the rights to what happens to their own body and mind.
That graphic does not address the content of the person's character when it says a person has the right to leave, to not love, to stop loving, etc. It only addresses the one seeking to exert control over that person trying to leave.
"Understand, that when your reasons for disrespecting the boundary become more important than the boundary itself, you are displaying a belief of superiority, entitlement and control, and these beliefs are the foundation of a culture that tolerates rape and abuse."
"But what if…
It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter whether it was unjust. It doesn’t matter if it hurt you. It doesn’t matter in reference to whether or not you respect the boundary. It’s their right to set the boundary because they are a whole and complete and autonomous human being. When you don’t respect the boundary, you are telling them in no uncertain terms, that you think that they are less than this.
Yep, it absolutely sucks to have someone want to leave a relationship that you want to keep. It absolutely sucks to have feelings for someone who doesn't reciprocate. It absolutely sucks to have a partner make partner selection choices that involve other partners who do not respect your own relationship with the mutual partner. They are still allowed to make their own decisions about their own body, mind, and emotions, just as you are allowed to make your own decisions about your own body, mind, and emotions, including whether or not to remain connected to someone whose choices result in your pain.
I've noticed a trend. Every couple of years, I seem to get this restless sort of feeling where I end up with a casual partner or two. Usually it coincides with a breakup, so I've been thinking that it's a rebound pattern of mine, but now I'm not so sure. I've always enjoyed casual flings, I just don't usually have the emotional resources for very many partners at once and long-term, deeply intwined relationships take up a lot of those resources all on their own. I'm actually quite fine with one, maybe even two long-term, intertwined, local partners tops (I've had up to 3 of those kinds of partners only when I mix long-distance in). As I keep saying, being poly isn't about how many partners you currently have, but how you handle your partner's agency (previously stated as how you handle your partner getting other partners). So I don't need a large number, just the freedom. Plus, I know that I get insecure if my partners are into casual sex so I kinda feel like I shouldn't pursue a type of relationship that I would feel uncomfortable with my partners pursuing. So I end up either putting off getting new casual partners when I start seeing someone "seriously" or I let my existing casual partners fall to the wayside when I get a new boyfriend-type partner.
But, I think, instead of a rebound thing, it might be more like I get involved with guys who get really attached who have some buried mononormative assumptions or fears. Then, in a couple of years, when I start getting restless and more emotionall "available" for a casual sort of relationship, those more attachment-type partners of mine sense a change in the stability of our relationship that they've come to depend on. Like, whatever my configuration was when they started dating me, they assume it'll always be the same thing, even if they think they don't - or maybe they don't "assume" but they do get comfortable with it and feel uncomfortable when it changes. Both of my last "serious", long-term partners completely freaked out when I wanted to start dating someone new, even though they had both pursued other relationships in the interim after we started dating. It was like, now that we have a comfortable rhythm going, I feel confident and secure about this relationship, so I have the emotional resources now to divert to starting something new and they're going "hey, wait a minute, this isn't what I signed up for! You billed yourself as a long-term poly, family-oriented partner, not as a swinger or someone who has side flings with people who aren't integrated into the collective network!" Because it's true, my preference *is
* for long-term, intimate partners who are committed to polyamory itself and who feel a part of my poly network and can develop close, independent relationships with their metamours, and I prefer those kinds of relationships to ones with partners who aren't interested in getting to know my other partners or my own metamours (who are family to me). But having a preference doesn't necessarily mean that the less preferred option is an active dislike either.
I once had a partner who lived with me but I did the grocery shopping. He told me that he "didn't care for" rootbeer. I can't have caffeine, and since we were on a tight budget, I would rather spend our money on soda that we both liked because otherwise it was zero-sum. So I stopped buying rootbeer, which I love. Then I saw him drinking rootbeer at a party. Feeling a bit betrayed, I cornered him and demanded to know why he was drinking rootbeer when he told me that he didn't like it. He said that he never said "didn't like", he said "didn't care for". To him, that meant that he had no active positive preference for it, but that he didn't have an active negative preference for it either and he would drink it if that's what was available and the other options were less desirable. In his mind "to care for" implied an active liking, which he didn't have, but "don't care for" didn't imply an active disliking, which he also didn't have.
I think this exact communication error is what happens between me and many of my previous partners when I talk about my own relationship preferences. I say that I prefer "boyfriends" and "family-oriented networks", and they hear "I ONLY like 'boyfriends' and 'family-oriented networks' and nothing else" and then when I get interested in something outside of my stated preference, they feel a sense of betrayal because their model of me was incorrect or incomplete and they feel that I misled them somehow when I feel that I was totally clear on the subject. And for those who have unresolved insecurities or hidden biases rooted in monogamous assumptions of ownership or entitlement to one's partners, even if I haven't strayed outside of my stated preference but I have developed an interest in someone that doesn't mesh well with the group or that this partner doesn't like, it still feels like a betrayal because they have that incorrect model in their heads of who I am and what I want.
Even if I haven't started pursuing anyone in particular, I think my diverted attention catches their notice (probably on a level they aren't even aware of), and that's when, out of the blue, "insurmountable" problems arise that lead to a breakup (and a breakup can be initiated by either of us). So, suddenly I'm "single" right about the time I was starting to be interested in a fling anyway, and I just go out and find a rebound to play with until my next "boyfriend" comes along and I don't have the resources to maintain a casual, ongoing fling in addition to that more intensive relationship. And I think that I thought this was a rebound pattern, not perhaps contributing to my breakup pattern in the first place. Because things are going just fine with my current long-term partners, and there is a new possible relationship on the horizon that will probably be a more casual sort of arrangement only because of the distance but I sense the potential for something really "serious" if the logistics would allow it. So my relationships aren't on the verge of collapse and they're all taking up plenty of my time and attention and are emotionally fulfilling, but I'm starting to feel restless again and I'm starting to reconsider options that I dismissed previously because they weren't the more desirable big-R Relationship options even though I'm not "single".
In the past, I had worried that my rather predictable trend of a casual relationship with someone who is generally unsuitable for a poly arrangement but who was fine with accepting an open FWB or fuckbuddy type arrangement while they were "in between girlfriends" was an unhealthy rebound pattern that I ought to try to understand and fix. These rebounds were a lot of fun in the beginning but not very emotionally satisfying for the long term, and I would start to fill unfulfilled and lonely after a while, which prompted me to become open again to more big-R type Relationships. Which then, of course, would take up my time and attention and I would let my casuals fade away. But now I'm wondering if the unhealthy part wasn't the rebounds, so much, as the breakups or even relationships that superceded them?
Because most of my casual relationships ended amicably. Even if one of us wanted to continue it when the other was ready to fade away, we still parted on good terms and maintained platonic friendships or acquaintanceships after the sex ended. Many times, those casual sexual relationships got restarted a couple of years later when the cycle repeated, with a couple of them getting restarted several times over the years. In my big-R Relationships, those only ended amicably when I was the one who initiated the breakup. In those, I seemed to be able to recognize when it was time to move on and was able to extricate myself with enough compassion for my soon-to-be-ex that he wasn't put off at the thought of transitioning to a friendship with me, even if there were hurt feelings during the breakup conversation.
But the breakups where my partners did the initiating? Those seemed to always be surrounded by hurt, trust-damaging accusations that I think indicate a fear of change or abandonment. In those cases where I was developing a new relationship, the partners who broke up with me somehow managed to find fault with my character when they didn't see those supposed faults before, even though I have never shied away from showing my difficult side as early on in a relationship as possible. So breakups happened with a lot of contention and deliberately caused pain because these weren't conversations about differing needs and expectations taking us on divergent paths but about suddenly, from out of nowhere, deciding that I am a horrible person in ways that they not only never had a problem with before, but in some cases actively celebrated in me before. I spend a lot of time in breakup conversations asking "what part of that was a surprise to you?" It may be true that I'm a horrible person, but these partners didn't seem to think so until a new potential partner came along to upset the routine. Even when that new potential relationship had very similar beginnings to how the preexisting relationship began so it shouldn't have been a surprise when a new relationship started in that way.
In the cases where I didn't yet have a potential new partner to consider, my existing partners seemed to intuitively feel, without understanding why or being able to identfy any specific actions to point to, that I was freeing up some of my attention for something or someone additional and they would react to this observation by trying to grasp me tighter to keep me from "leaving", even if I had no intention of doing so. This is when a partner would start asking for relationship limitations but I, because of my outward-directed attention, had little patience for entertaining. In the beginning of a relationship, I might (rightly or wrongly) accept some agency-denying boundaries because I would be in the throws of NRC
(or NRE) and also feeling a lot of compassion for someone who was new to poly or unsettled and insecure in a new relationship that hadn't yet found its stable ground. But a couple of years in, and I might start to get tired of protecting them from their insecurities or fears and I would start to unshoulder some of that burden and just expect them to start carrying the weight of their own emotions. So when they would try to tighten up the relationship boundaries, I was much less amenable to them because now I was directing my attention outward and on myself, instead of on them.
So I think this is where all the dysfunction is happening, not in the rebound or casual sex relationships but in the breakups themselves or perhaps in my partner selection or my method of dealing with partners' fears or biases which lead to breakups, which lead to me being "single and looking" for casual sex partners. The dysfunction or unhealthiness of the pattern is different for different situations and different people, which is a whole other series of posts that I could go into with each individual case. But the hypothesis that I'm currently entertaining is that my casual relationships that followed my breakups may not be, by itself, an unhealthy pattern. And I think if I can learn to embrace the part of me that enjoys casual sex enough to insist on partners who can embrace that part of me too, rather than tolerate it or write it off as something I did in the past, then I think all the associated dysfunction can be addressed more effectively. See, I *do
* accept that I am a person who likes casual sex, but I keep compartmentalizing it in my head as something I only do when I'm "in between" big-R, local partners, which may result in me ignoring when I'm ready to accept a casual partner until after I've broken up with someone, which may lead to either resentment on my part or denying any changes a preexisting partner is noticing which could lead to conflicts that could lead to breakups. I know that when I was only aware of monogamy as the sole option, my attraction to or interest in casual sex used to lead me to conclude that I must therefore already be "over" a partner and that the relationship needed to end if I was "moving on" to that other relationship. So a faulty awareness of where the actual problem lies can harm relationships. I need to restructure my own model of myself in my head as someone who likes casual sex irrespective of when I'm in a big-R Relationship.
Sure, I still don't have many resources for lots of partners, and I prefer to save those resources for the more fulfilling big-R Relationships, but a preference for one thing doesn't necessarily imply an active dislike for something else. When my Relationships are stable and I feel confident and secure in them, those Relationships take less daily maintenance. We have fewer Relationship Talks because we've worked out a lot of the wrinkles and now we just need the occasional check-in to make sure we're still both on the same path. We may even see each other less often because
NRC has ended
we are confident enough in the relationship's existence that we can survive time apart without fear of that distance signifying the possible end of the relationship. Or maybe we see each other more often because we've entwined our daily lives so we can afford to start spending more time apart because we're confident that the other will still be there when we return.
So, when the conditions are right, I may be open and emotionally available to divert some of my other resources to one of those less fulfilling but still fun casual relationships for a short time. That's not necessarily an unhealthy rebound pattern. It doesn't even have to be a "rebound" pattern at all, if I can just better arrange my Relationships to accommodate that this is a Thing for me, which will only happen if I rebuild my own internal model of myself to change it from "someone who occasionally choose unsuitable partners for casual sex after a breakup that might signify some kind of breakup damage to my self-esteem" to "someone who occasionally chooses casual sex partners who are suitable for casual sex but not more emotionally intimate or intertwined partnerships when she feels she isn't too encumbered by relationship maintanance from other relationships simply because they're fun and because all different kinds of relationships have value and someone being unsuitable for one type doesn't mean they're unsuitable for all types
"In order to raise a generation of kind and respectful men we have to stop telling our boys they're inherently bad (but it's not their fault because hormones.) In order to create a culture of strong and competent women who can save themselves, we must first stop teaching girls that they need to be saved."
"While the role of overprotective father is not a new one, it is a tired concept that needs to just die, already. Aside from the assumption that my daughter ... is incapable of good judgement and protecting herself and her standards, this ridiculous concept imagines my sons likewise incapable of the same good judgement and standards.
'But I've been/known a teenage boy,' You say. 'I know how they think.'
Which is total baloney. Because here's the thing -- thoughts are not equal to actions. And rationalizing that young men have overwhelming urges that cloud their judgement and force them to make poor decisions regarding young women is nothing more than excusing bad behavior. "Boys will be boys" needs to STOP. "
"It's not 'funny' to threaten my son. It's not 'cute' to treat your daughter as if she has zero common sense. "
"realize and come to terms with the fact that teenage sexuality is not a 'boy thing'. Teenage sexuality is a teenage thing. Young men and young women alike are going to be curious, interested, and looking to learn more about sex. Your daughter is just as curious as my son, I can virtually guarantee it."
I started exploring partnered sexual activity when I was 12. I started having penetrative sex when I was 15. I actively pursued each of my partners and they were not "boyfriends" - they were casual sex partners. My first "boyfriends" were guys who pursued me, but the ones I went for were not intended to be big-R Relationships. And, not only that, but the only reason I "lost my virginity" was to see what all the fuss was about and I deliberately picked a guy who would be leaving soon so that there was no chance of an ongoing relationship.
Teenage sexuality is a teenage thing. I was curious and interested in sex and I remain so to this day. But I was also well educated and practical and responsible. Well, I was well educated and responsible about biology. I knew all about safer sex practices and how babies were made and how to avoid making babies. I knew it so well that my church youth group asked me to give a safer sex lecture to the youth because the parish thought that an older teen would be listened to better than some cranky old adult.
But I was not educated about consent, other than the obvious and practically strawmanny stranger-rape scenarios. I knew, full well, that I could say "no" and I should expect it to be honored and I knew that I *should
* say "no" whenever I didn't want to do something. By 16 I even had some self-defense lessons (taught to all sophomores by our school priest, of all people, who was a black belt in some martial art or another, and was part of our P.E. curriculum).
What I didn't know was that men could be assaulted too, and that much of what was taught to us about male / female relations leads directly to male assault. I was taught that "boys will be boys" and that "all men think about sex every 6 seconds" and that teenage boys especially were out of control and only wanted sex. With those kinds of assumptions, it leads naturally to the conclusion that if I was offering sex, then any male should want it. With romantic comedies and other media examples of "if you want your love interest, just be persistent and they'll eventually see that you're The One", that leads naturally to the conclusion that if any guy *did
* put up any kind of resistance to my advances, it was his "higher brain" functioning in charge, but he really wanted it, deep down inside, so all I had to do was get past his objections, tap into his primal urges, and he'd "consent".
In other words, I was the sort of guy I now mock on the internet who thinks that "no" just means "try harder". Only I thought it was OK because I was a girl, and it doesn't count when girls do it because boys and girls were "different". I do have memories of being in high school and telling other boys that I thought it was OK to be virgins, so I did have somewhere in the back of my brain the inklings of "consent". I was aware that people had different rates of sexuality. But I also had the conflicting message that "boys were horndogs", and that's the message that won out every time I was interested in a guy who wasn't equally as interested in me. It was somehow *different
* when I did it, because I was a Good Person, or something.
* plenty of guys who would have been interested in sex with me, and even in sex under the circumstances that I was interested in (i.e. casual sex), and some of them were even in my age group. My problem was that I did not fully understand consent or sexism or patriarchy (and all the things that covers, such as the pressure for guys to have sex whether they want to or not and the overlooking of situations that violate male consent) or even entitlement. I wanted That Guy, so I was going to Have Him. And of course it was OK because I was the girl, and all guys want all girls anyway, they just have to be made aware of it.
The things that I now understand about consent and agency needed to be taught to 10-year old me so that when I turned 12 and found my first sexual partner, I could have started off on the correct foot with negotiating what type of relationship we were going to have. He thought sex had to take place inside of a Relationship, so he would ask me to be his "girlfriend" on Friday, we'd make out all weekend, then he'd break up with me on Sunday so that he wasn't saddled with me as a Girlfriend at school. Because I was attracted to him, I fell for this more times than I can remember. I got my heart broken over and over again when, the reality is that if casual sex had been an option, I probably would have taken it. I was interested in the sex part, not necessarily him so much.
We were friends before puberty hit. We used to run from one house to the other, playing each other's Nintendo games that we got for Christmas. We would race our scooters down the street. We played basketball together at the end of our cul de sac. We did our homework together. But we weren't interested in each other *romantically
*. If FWB had been an option, our childhood friendship might have remained intact during our early sexual explorations instead of getting destroyed by heartbreak as he kept offering me things he had no intention of producing and I built up expectations that were never met. I kept getting hurt, and he kept getting that annoying girl mooning over him. But if we had the option back then of *negotiating
* a relationship that matched our actual desires instead of the cultural script (and my reputation wouldn't have been stained because of it), it might have been much more fulfilling and beneficial to both of us.
Later, after I'd had a couple of penetrative partners, I had another boyfriend who was still "a virgin". He was fascinated by my sexuality, but he was also a little afraid of it. His hormones and his buddies were telling him to be interested in sex, but he wasn't really ready for it. Unfortunately, both of us thought "boys are walking hormones", so I pressured him into sex. I got him into a compromising position so that he wasn't really aware or able to not consent because it just "happened". Oops! My bad! We stopped, because he wasn't sure about it, but I should have had the lessons that told me that it was wrong to arrange that situation in the first place. After he went home, he freaked out about it and called me (several days later, which left me freaking out about his non-contact) to break up with me because he said he wasn't ready to start having penetrative sex yet. If we had both known that it was OK for guys to not want sex, and that penetrative sex wasn't some sort of finish line with all other sexual acts lined up in a hierarchy behind it, he wouldn't have suffered the pain of being pressured into something he wasn't emotionally ready for and I wouldn't have suffered the crushing weight of rejection that, to an introverted, shy, bullied teenage girl was *devastating
Telling boys that "boys will be boys", to pursue at all costs, that "no means try harder", that all men are walking hormones, that a Real Man has penetrative sex with Women (but only the right kind of women), that boys who have sex are Studs while boys who don't are Virgins (and that's a horrible thing for a boy to be, but the only thing a girl should be) - telling them all that leads to a culture of rape, a culture where boys AND girls violate people's consent and disrespect their agency and where boys and girls have their consent violated and their agency disrespected. And a culture where we shame boys and girls for having their consent violated, but we shame them in different ways - ways which do nothing to actually prevent the violations from happening in the first place.
It's been a very long time since I was that person. I can only speak about it now, with this kind of clarity, because I feel so far removed from that teenage girl, that I feel like I'm speaking about someone else. To me now, it's obvious how I was wrong and I can't even imagine doing something like that today, so I can speak candidly about my mistakes. But I shouldn't need to have the perspective of being a middle-aged sex-positive, alternative sexuality activist to see how I was wrong back then. I should have been given that perspective as a child, which means that it's the adults' responsibility to stop perpetuating exactly the sorts of beliefs that lead to exactly the sorts of scenarios these "keep your hands off my daughter" posts are trying to prevent. Telling boys to "keep your hands off my daughter" did nothing to actually keep my boys' hands off me and it also did nothing to protect boys *from
* me. And it certainly did not help me to be my best self as a teenage girl exploring her sexuality.
But it did make me incredibly resentful of anyone thinking they owned my body, and it did drive a wedge between me and my otherwise loving parents that created tension and distance between us as I struggled to take control over my body away from people who never really had any control of it to begin with but who had enough power and authority to assume control. My parents were mostly good parents and I love them. I remain close with them to this day and I cherish my relationships with them. But my entire adolescence was a power struggle between us. In spite of not understanding consent and agency as it applied to other people, I knew that my body belonged to me and that I was my own person from the very beginning. My parents' attempts to control me were seen as intrusions and violations (as they were). Their misplaced fear and belief that parents "own" their children, and in particular that they had any say in their children's sexuality, caused rifts between us, as well as between them and my sister (but in different ways). We all managed to survive our teenage years, but things could have been so much better, with fewer scars that inhibit our relationships to this day, had they not had the erroneous belief that parents were the owners of their children, as opposed to guides and mentors of individual, autonomous people. There are lots of people whose familial relationships did not survive the teenage years, and others who did mange to but only because the harmful programming was successfully passed down, perpetuating yet another generation of agency violations.We need to stop this cycle, and it starts with teaching children young that they are autonomous individuals with complex, often conflicting desires and emotions but that they are capable of making decisions that will benefit them after weighing all the options, and it requires us *giving* them all the options to consider, including biologically accurate safer sex and respect for agency and consent, and then trusting them to make those decisions and living with the consequences.
Dating Site Dude: Will you be my Mistress?
Me: What does that mean for you?
DSD: I dunno, like, be in control of stuff.
Me: What do you want me to be in control of?
Me: Do you want me to control what you eat? Tell you what to wear? Act like your mom and tell you to get off the Xbox and do your chores? Direct your career choices? Humiliate you? Do you want me to be in control of you in public? Just for a scene in a dungeon? All the time?
DSD: Tell me what to eat? WTF? No, I know how to feed myself! You're the Domme, you're supposed to come up with these things!
Me: Oh, I see. You've been reading 50 Shades. In the real world, it doesn't work like that. See, in *healthy* D/s relationships, the Dom might be the one crafting the scene, but the subbie is an equal agent in this collaboration and is required to provide the parameters. That's how the Dom knows what kind of scene to come up with and what things are off-limits.
DSD: Off limits? But you're supposed to dominate me! That doesn't make any sense if there are things I can tell you not to do!
Me: Oh, sweetie, if you think it's safe to give me complete and total freedom to do whatever I want with you without discussing limits and boundaries, you have a profoundly limited imagination. I guaran-fucking-tee you that I can come up with things that you will not want me to do. It's best that you decide what those things are *before* I do them to you.
DSD: But if I can tell you not to do something and you have to obey me, then you're not really in control of me!
Me: Give this boy a gold star! That's the difference between healthy D/s and 50 Shades. D/s is a mutually beneficial relationship between two (or more) individuals who all want to be there, choose to be there, and consent to every single activity that happens. The control is illusory. If you can't say no, then it's not consent, it's abuse, assault, and / or rape. That's what makes D/s a healthy expression of one's sexuality and not abuse - the ability to consent and to revoke consent.
DSD: But I'm consenting! That's the whole reason why I contacted you!
Me: You still haven't told me what you are consenting TO which, by inference, tells me what you're NOT consenting to.
DSD: I'm consenting to you controlling me!
Me: Do you mean that you plan to just stand there motionless while I position your body? What do you want me to control? And what happens when you try to resist my control or fail in your assignments? How am I supposed to punish you?
DSD: Now we're getting somewhere! Yes, punishment!
Me: But how? Impact punishment? Humiliation? Restraint? Silent treatment? Predicament scenarios? Erection torture? Forced delayed orgasm? Chastity devices?
DSD: I dunno, come up with something! I don't even know what all that is! You're the Domme!
Me: And here we go 'round again. If you can't understand the difference between abuse and consent, if you don't know how to maintain your own agency, then you are not safe to play with in a power exchange dynamic. You are unable to give consent.
Unlike Ana and Christian, a good Dom isn't in the relationship to work out anger and resentment at maternal figures of their past whether the victim likes it or not. A good Dom is an artist, crafting a scene like a playwright, designing the setting and costumes and dialog for their protege, their ingenue, their star. The "play" becomes the masterpiece intended to highlight and showcase the *star's* unique talents. The star isn't acting exclusively for the playwright, the playwright is writing *for the star* and the star gets to stretch their skills, abilities, or interests.
But the Dom / playwright can't do that if they don't know anything about their sub / star. Are they a singer so they should craft an opera? Are they a comic so they should craft a comedy? What kind of comedy - high brow? slapstick? If this isn't a collaboration with the star being allowed to give input, telling the playwright and director when they feel uncomfortable, when they feel the character might do something different from what's written in the script, when they feel that their creativity is worn thin and they need a break to rejuvenate before they can bring their A-game back to the stage, when they have an idea of their own to add to the character or the dialog or the setting or the costuming - when the star isn't allowed to give that kind of input, then we have the sort of abuse we see in Phantom of the Opera. And look how well that turned out for everyone!
Power exchange only sounds like it goes in one direction to those who don't understand that it's an EXCHANGE. While the subbie agrees to voluntarily give up control in certain ways, they ultimately retain their agency and complete autonomy - that's what makes it not abuse. They have the right to say no at any time to any action, they have the responsibility of setting the limits, and they have the freedom to renegotiate the boundaries and details of the arrangement at any time in order to get more out of the experience.
While it's true that Doms do, indeed, get something out of being "in control", the sub is who drives the arrangement. If the subbie ain't happy, it ain't healthy. D/s is as much for the sub (if not more) as for the Dom. It's an equal partnership. You may be taking on complimentary roles, but both roles are equally important and equally present. A good Dom might very well enjoy controlling another human being, but a good Dom also takes pride in crafting excellent scenes that leave the sub feeling satisfied and content with the arrangement - sometimes even more than whatever that feeling of "controlling" might give them. And for that, the sub has to contribute, and has to retain their agency.
Which is why this is not like 50 Shades, why that whole series needs to drown out of our culture and be seen for the abusive apologia that it is, and why you are not currently capable of consenting to a D/s relationship and I will not even consider you as a sub until you can at least give some parameters to start with.
The sub may be "dominated" by their Mistress, but they also hold all the power over their own body and mind, D/s illusion to the contrary. Once that agency is relinquished, it is no longer D/s and it becomes abuse.