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The Journal Of The InnKeeper
Ranty Lessons by Joreth
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4th-Feb-2009 06:53 pm - [sticky post] Welcome Visitors!
photography, Self-Portrait, personal
 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.
21st-May-2015 09:47 pm - Present Like A Boss
Super Tech, strong, feminism
#‎ProPresenterTip‬: Create a user profile on your computer that is just for conferences. Personalize the desktop to a professional-looking theme or with elements relevant to the event. Remove all unnecessary programs, especially background programs. Disable auto-connect stuff to the internet. Create a folder on your desktop with your presentations and any files that are embedded in the presentation. Disable your screen saver and your power saver functions.

This way, when you hook up your laptop to a projector, you won't show any embarrassing or unprofessional desktop images, warning pop-ups, email notifications, etc. or have your screen go dark if you leave it sitting too long (and especially showing your login screen on a big screen for the whole room to see), and you won't have to search for your relevant files. This also reduces the memory requirements on your laptop so that it runs more smoothly.

The only thing you should have enabled in your presenter profile is your slideshow software and possibly the appropriate media player (but seriously, embed that shit instead of popping out to an external media player, and keep those files in the same folder as your slideshow). If you're doing something technical that uses the internet in your presentation, then you can have a browser enabled too, but otherwise, your presenter profile doesn't need internet access, email access, facebook access, virus protection & operating system update notices, power-saving mode, or password-protect. Strip it down to the absolute bare minimum.

Oh, and if you *are* using the internet in your presentation, double-check and get in writing before you even leave for the event that your room will have internet access in it, or make sure you have a damn good hotspot to use. And then test that shit the moment you arrive, not as you're running into your room 6 minutes late.

And if you can get artwork from the event itself to make into a desktop wallpaper, that makes those moments when your desktop *does* get broadcast on the big screen look less accidental and more professional. And for Loki's sake, leave off all those hundreds of shortcut icons! You don't need them here!

When you need to use your computer as normal, you can just log onto your regular user profile and have all your stuff back. But when it's hooked up to a projector, we don't need to see your wife's picture behind the field of shortcut icons or that your McAfee is out of date or that your brother-in-law just sent you a funny email forward.

AND BACK UP YOUR SHIT. Put all your presentations (and the embedded files) on a thumb drive as a backup. If, for any reason, your computer doesn't want to play nice with the A/V equipment, or you spill your vodka on it at the bar the night before and fry the circuits, or you forget your power cable and it runs out of battery, you might be able to find another laptop to use if you have your presentations available on a flash drive of some sort.

Create a PowerPoint Slideshow version of your presentation (as opposed to a full PowerPoint Presentation), whether you have Windows or you use Keynote. This embeds all your media better than the standard .pps file, and not everyone has a Mac that can run Keynote - you're much more likely to find a Windows machine and a PowerPoint Slideshow is self-contained so it can usually play even on Windows machines without PP installed (but you can't edit it).

Hook up your laptop to the projector in the room you'll be presenting in during a meal break or at the end of the day BEFORE your presentation, to make sure that everything works and everything talks to each other. As a professional PowerPoint operator*, the single biggest problem with slideshows is not testing beforehand. Almost everything can be fixed if you test it out ahead of time. But 3 minutes before your room is supposed to go is too late to troubleshoot bad cables or weird laptop settings. If it doesn't work at that time, then you're doing your presentation without your slideshow.

For even more tips on how to present, visit

*For those who don't know, I am actually a professional PowerPoint Operator.  Yes, they have those, and yes, they pay me very good money to fix all the presenter fuckups.  I get called in only for the very big shows, we're talking like Microsoft big - the kinds of shows where presenters are not some no-name monotone guy standing behind a podium in a dinky meeting room; the kinds of shows where the presenters are professional and have teleprompters and a team of 11-20 video professionals behind the scenes making everything look good.

Here's a secret about those shows - the presenter doesn't drive their own slideshows.  They're holding a clicker, but the clicker just flashes a big green arrow at someone like me backstage and *I'm* the one who drives the deck.  And I'm usually back there with 3 or more computers working in a team with professionally produced video and audio on seperate machines.  I sit through hours of tech rehearsals going back and forth through the slideshows to make sure that every slide works as intended and that every cue is hit when it's supposed to be hit, and when it doesn't work, I'm there for hours after the presenter has gone to the bar to schmooze, working on their slideshow to get it to work.  If you're reading my blog for advice, then you're probably not speaking at a show big enough to afford someone like me.  So take tips from a professional in the business and make your presentations look like you're speaking at a show big enough to afford me.
Purple Mobius, polyamory
I saw a post that I just can't get out of my head. A married hetero couple has decided that they will be expanding their attempt to have a baby by allowing the wife's boyfriend to try to father the child too. Sounds wonderfully poly, right? Well, this couple has also already decided that they won't learn who the bio-father is, and no matter who that bio-father is, the married couple is who will raise the child. And they're going to announce this decision to the boyfriend soon.

I just can't properly express my horror at this situation. There is so much wrong here that I'm having trouble knowing where to start. This is exactly the kind of thing we're talking about when we complain about not being an equal partner. I want to be very clear about this: I am NOT suggesting that the boyfriend MUST be an equal co-parent to the child. What makes this a disempowering relationship, what makes the boyfriend not an equal is not what role he will play in the child's life, but that the decision on that role has been made without his input.

Here's the thing. I'm adopted. I strongly believe that my bio-parents made the right decision in giving me up for adoption and I have always believed that. This is not about who gets to be the parent. The decision to give me up was made by my bio-parents, not my adopted parents. My adoptive parents did not decide that I should be their child and then they found my bio-parents and announced to them from on high that they shall bear their child for them. I have a relationship with my bio-mom, so I actually do know the circumstances of my adoption. She decided, on her own, without any coercion from anyone, that giving up her parental rights was the best thing for me. Her parents would have supported her if she had decided to keep me. It was a hard decision for her, but she made that decision because she believed it was the best thing for me. She chose my adopted parents from a list of hopeful parents. My adoption was a case of everyone involved coming together and choosing each other voluntarily. My bio-mom had full agency in the decision to not be a parent. If anything, she had more power in the decision than anyone else in the equation.

I am a firm believer that not everyone should be parents, even if they contribute the gentic material to the child. I support parents who leave their children and spouses because I believe it frees the kids and spouse up for building working families and prevents children from being raised by parents who don't actually want to raise them. I don't approve of leaving children in financial straits, but that's a different rant. I wholeheartedly support people who do not want to be parents, for whatever reason, and I believe that children are better off not being parented by people who don't want to be parents.

I keep reiterating that my argument is not that the boyfriend ought to be the father because I know that some people are going to hear my objection and come back with "but what if he's OK with not being the dad?" That's not the point. That's SO not the point. The point is that the decision has been made for him by people, at least one of whom is not even in the relationship and who will not be biologically related to this man's child. Imagine if a divorced woman remarries, and her new husband has the ability to go back in time and tell his new wife's first husband "this kid that you're about to father? Just so you know, it'll be my kid. Legally, and in practice, and from before it's even born. You don't have a say in this, if you don't like it, you can just avoid impregnating your wife, or you can divorce her now before she gets pregnant and we'll find someone we like better to father my child for me."

"But he doesn't have to accept! He's free to say no, or to leave if he wants to." Again, missing the point. Once someone has given their heart to another, they are not as free to say no as it seems. Especially when that person is already entangled with people who, judging by this situation, have set him up in an inherently disempowering situation. If everyone involved believes they are happy with their current arrangement, and if he is in love, it's all too likely that he'll look at the situation and think "sure, I don't mind not being the 'father' because I'm still the boyfriend and I'll still be a major part of my child's life." Because when one is in love, imagining the day when the relationship goes sour and custody battles get wicked seems so ridiculous, so absurd, that one usually doesn't even consider it as a possibility.

"Of course my partner would never be one of those frightful, evil witches who would keep me from my own child! If I thought they were that kind of person, I wouldn't have fallen in love with them in the first place!" No one who ends up in divorce court, bitterly tearing their children in half and using their children's bloody pieces to whack each other over the heads with ever thought their spouse was the kind of person who would do that sort of thing. When we're in love, we can't even imagine our partners doing anything so horrible. This is why people are able to say stupid things like "unconditional love". I guarantee that there is something that your loved ones can do that will make you stop loving them. The problem is that you don't think they are the kind of person to do that sort of thing. And you are also terrible at predicting your future emotions - everyone is. What we think is acceptable when we're in love, we often don't think is acceptable after the love is gone. I've certainly agreed to things in my relationships because I was in love and I didn't think it was really that bad, but after the relationship ended, I was disgusted at myself for having agreed to it and for not seeing how that thing was really a prelude to exactly those things that led to our breakup and it was actually far, far worse than it looked from the beginning.

Things like veto, and this situation, are like that - they don't seem that bad when you haven't gone through it and you're in love so you can't see how the other person could possibly have bad motivations or would possibly take advantage of the situation and harm you. It's usually not until you've gone through it and are out the other side that most people even have the opportunity to see it for the bad thing that it is, and even then usually the only people who do so only do because it didn't end well. It's like when people don't wear their seatbelts.

I know a guy who refuses to wear a seatbelt. Apparently he was in a car accident once and got ejected from the car, and someone told him that it was a good thing that he did because if he had stayed in the car, he would have been injured worse or killed. So he never wears a seatbelt. He's been ticketed multiple times for it, but each time he goes before a judge and says that he absolutely will not change - that he's only alive today because he didn't wear a seatbelt. The only way he will ever learn what a bad idea it is to not wear a seatbelt is if he gets in some horrific wreck that makes it obvious that a seatbelt would have prevented his permanent paralysis or loss of limbs or the death of a loved one or something. And even then it's not guaranteed that he'll learn that lesson, but it will take something awful to get him to see that not wearing a seatbelt is inherently a bad idea if anything can convince him at all.

Some people go their entire lives never getting into car wrecks. Maybe they get into a fender-bender or narrowly miss another car or something. But, out of sheer luck and the mysteries of the statistically probable, some people manage to not do something like roll their car down a hill (not that I would know anything about that). And they will go through their life believing that something they're doing or not doing is responsible for not dying in a car crash. I knew another guy who tailgated something awful. Because of him, I learned how to sit in the front seat of a car and never once look out the front window. I was terrified of him rear-ending someone and having my legs crushed beneath the dashboard as the car crumpled underneath the rear bumper of the car ahead of us. He thought he was a good driver. He insisted he was a good driver and that he had certain skills that prevented him from rear-ending anyone. A couple of years after we broke up, he totaled his car by rear-ending someone. I dated a first-responder and we were always pulling somebody out of a broken wreck of a car because he was obligated to respond to any accident he came across and we came across a lot while out on dates because we dated in California - home of the original Road Rage and the CA freeway system. I have a dozen stories just like this - some idiot thinks they're bulletproof and that they are because of something they're doing or not doing. And many of the people we hauled out of mangled steel and burning hulks came out of there still believing that it wasn't some failure of theirs that got them into the accident.

What I'm trying to say is that if, and that's a big if, but if this boyfriend just happens to be OK with impregnating his girlfriend and not being allowed to be the kid's father, that's coincidence. It's not proof that the hierarchy is working. If he was really OK with it, then it wouldn't have needed to have been decided ahead of time. And if he is OK with it, then he probably isn't in a position to understand his own disempowerment. He probably believes that he has all the choice because he chose to be in a relationship with these limitations. So this couple will parade him about with "but our secondary says it's OK, therefore it's not disempowering!" Yeah, and I know some black people who don't mind if their good white friend calls them nigger either. It's still fucking racist. If the boyfriend agrees to this, it's likely because he can't imagine the married couple doing anything to make him regret the decision. So it will probably take them doing something to make him regret it before he'll understand what's wrong with this whole mess and how the deck was stacked against him from the beginning.

That's the problem with abusive structures, as I'm coming to learn, unfortunately from first-hand observations - they seem reasonable at the beginning, or from the outside, because if they seemed unreasonable at the beginning, no one would get into them. We often can't recognize them until it's too late and we're neck-deep in alligators. Some of us will even vehemently defend the swamp because we can't see the alligators from our vantage point. We'll insist that we have agency and that we are empowered, because we can't see the invisble threads being woven around us that will hold us down while the aligators eat us, and we won't see those threads until we try to move out of the little niche we think we carved for ourselves.

And, even worse, we often can't see when we're the ones weaving the sticky spider silk around our prey, because it's just what we do so we don't know anything different. Hey, he wandered into our web, didn't he? We couldn't have trapped him if he hadn't stood right where we could build our web. It's his freedom of choice. So why should we bother to change our ways when there are victims just lining up to stand where we can weave our webs around them? Oh, I dunno, maybe because it's not good enough to be a spider, trapping prey in a swamp filled with alligators? Maybe because we should be trying to become people who are willing to help lift up our partners out of swamps instead?

If your relationship structure includes the ability to make decisions for people without their input, your relationship is inherently, fundamentally, unethical. Period. It doesn't matter if those people are willing to accept those decisions. If they were not able to come to the table with you as an equal and say "here's what I am interested and willing to do with you", then you are, by definition, disempowering your partners. The final configuration is irrelevant. It isn't about who gets to be the primary and what if someone likes being a secondary. It's about who gets to decide who gets to be the primary or the secondary. If the answer includes people who are not in the relationship that the decision is affecting, and it doesn't include anyone who is in that relationship that is affected by the decision, then it is an unethical, unequal, disempowering structure. It's not the configuration or the end-result roles that make it so, it's the process.
Purple Mobius, polyamory
"But we need rules to keep people from lying to us!"

I got news for you honey, rules don't keep people from lying to you, they only tell people willing to lie what they need to lie about. An honest person and a liar look exactly the same ... until after you discover the lie, and by then it's too late. Rules won't stop someone from lying because, and I'm gonna let you in on a little secret here ... someone willing to lie to you won't care that there's a rule against lying. It's like someone who is intent on murder isn't going to say "oh, you mean it's illegal for me to own a gun? Oh, well, I guess I won't go murder then!" Being against the rules isn't what stops people from lying, cheating, or hurting us.

But I'll tell you what does stop them from doing those things, most of the time. Respecting people's autonomy, giving them the freedom to make their own decisions, and providing enough safe space for them to tell you things that you might find difficult to hear - that's what prevents most people from lying.

It's kind of amazing how much more willing people are to be honest to you if they believe that it's safe to be honest to you. Lying takes effort. It takes work. But our society rewards lying and punishes telling hard truths. This doesn't mean, of course, that you're not allowed to react or have bad feelings when you hear something upsetting. But it does mean that there has to be some incentive to tell a hard truth that is greater than the incentive to lie and the consequences for telling the truth have to be less than the consequences for lying. Why should I tell the truth if I can lie and nothing bad will happen to me?

Because telling the truth would make a better person, and if you don't make it so difficult for me that not being a good person is the lesser consequence, then I'll tell you the truth (giving myself Brownie points for being a Good Person) and avoid the hassle of lying.

This doesn't stop everyone from lying, of course. Some people have a mental disorder called pathological lying. Some people have programming that's just too ingrained. Some people get off on secrecy and subterfuge. But the kicker is that, for those people, the rules won't stop them. The rules just tell them how they can "win" the game by oh so considerately laying out exactly what they can or should lie about. The rules don't weed out liars, they create opportunities for liars.

I've often been baffled by guys who would get into relationships with me because I said I wanted an open one, and then they would proceed to lie to me about seeing anyone else. Like, WTF dude? You have my blessings! There's no reason to lie! Those people are out there, absolutely. What do you think would have happened if I had made a rule that these guys couldn't date other people? Do you think they would have said "oh, well, I WAS going to sneak around behind her back and fuck this chick on the side, but now that she SAID that I couldn't, I guess there goes that plan then!" Because that's totally realistic, right?

People who are going to lie are going to lie. Supporting people's freedom and autonomy and encouraging them to follow their own path while nurturing a haven for them to share the stories of their travels with you is far more successful at weeding out liars and developing honest relationships.

I know, it's surprising, that treating people with respect makes them want to be respectful back. Totally counter-intuitive, right? Well, yes, it is in a culture that confuses "respect" with "fear my authority". But it's really easy to make people fear you. It's much harder to make them willingly respect you. I guess if fear and control is what you're going for in a relationship, at least you can own up to that and stop kidding yourself that you're doing it for the "respect".
Purple Mobius, polyamory
Don't let your mind be so open that your brain falls out.

I see this is lefty politics, in right politics, and in poly groups. People want to keep "considering the options" even when the evidence against efficacy mounts.

There comes a point at which it is no longer reasonable to continue considering certain options. It is no longer reasonable to continue considering the possibility that the world is flat. We have such overwhelming evidence, that we can safely discard that hypothesis without being "close minded".

When the poly community erupts over a book or a blog post that carefully details a more effective, efficient, and ethical way of doing relationships, the *reason* why the community erupts over that literature is because someone has finally written a Theory Of Ethical Relating that explains and summarizes the overwhelming evidence that this method is more effective, efficient, and ethical.

That's what a Theory is - it's not a guess, it's a summation of the facts that exist and an explanation that ties those facts together. You may not like the conclusions, but the "open minded" person doesn't keep their mind continually open for bullshit and crap. Being "open minded" means being willing to consider the evidence. When the evidence is in, you can accept the conclusion and still be an "open minded person", because you did what open minded people do - you considered the evidence.

All this to say, if everyone in the community is saying "dude, that method is fucked up", then the community is not the bad guy for discarding your fucked up method. You are not Galileo. The "experts" agreed with Galileo, and the religious nutbags were the ones who condemned him. The "experts" are not agreeing with you. You, in this analogy, are the close-minded nutbag who refuses to accept the changing consensus which was developed as more and more evidence accrued.

Being open-minded is considering the evidence. Insisting that your lone wolf maverick idea is the right one when everyone around you is saying "dude, that's not new, we already tested that one and it failed testing multiple times over" is the very definition of "close minded". You are not willing to consider the evidence. You are the close-minded one.
Purple Mobius, polyamory

Here's the thing.  When lots of monogamous people think they hear "arrogance", what they're actually hearing is a confidence and appreciation for a relationship style that is working which triggers their own personal insecurity about participating in a broken system, so they project "arrogance" onto the speaker.  Or they may, instead, be hearing a poly acceptance awareness effort, which is where someone deliberately speaks of their relationships in a confident manner to dispel common myths about coercion and inherent failure in the system, and where they mention polyamory within the context of combating monogamy-as-default, non-monogamy-erasure.  But, either way, it's confidence that they're hearing.

What I mean is not to suggest that *polyamory* is inherently better or more enlightened, but that some poly people really *do* get the art of relationships more or less "figured out", at least for themselves.  Polyamory offers more opportunity (not the only opportunity of course, but more chances than in some other relationship styles) to develop advanced relationship skills that some polys manage to take advantage of (and others continue to fail at miserably).  These skills allow the poly person to enjoy safe, successful, multi-person romantic relationships.

Then there are *some* monogamists who really haven't got the whole relationship thing figured out yet.  They're participating in a version of the system that is fundamentally broken.  They're engaging in sexism or wallowing in self-loathing or perpetuating destructive cycles or one of a number of different things that our society condones as acceptable romantic relating, so not only are they "doing it wrong", but they have the weight of cultural acceptance behind them, pressuring them to continue making those same mistakes.  As a poly person without a cultural script, I *have* to figure out some of these skills because I don't have any handy, ready-made script telling me how to compensate for being without them.

So when one of these monos meets one of the above polys, there is *no way* to respond to their revelation that they lack relationship skills that can't be perceived as "arrogant" if the mono wants to deflect the cognitive dissonance they're feeling at being forced to confront their bad habits or choices.  It's much the same way that someone who lacks, say, professional business or technical skills might blame all his problems on how his boss hates him or is brown-nosing or something every time things work out for the boss who has the professional game "figured out" but the employee doesn't quite have the knack yet and it's easier to think poorly of the boss than to reflect and adjust his own attitude.  This doesn't mean that all employees lack professional skills, nor that all bosses have them.  But *some* of those employees learn to build those skills while some complain about those who do.

When people say things to me like "I couldn't do that!", it says much more about the speaker than it does about me.  When they say things like "it's so much work just with one partner, I don't know how you deal with two!", that reveals a lot about the speaker's choices and relationship skills. I'm not going to apologize for those times when I make my relationships work well.  I've made plenty of mistakes and I've had plenty of relationships blow up in my face, just like anyone else.  But, over time, I've gotten better at relating (as is likely to happen with anything you get to practice often).  I've gotten better at communication and identifying red flags and at partner selection and at introspection.  And I had a head start at those things too, with my early experiences with similarly introspective and compassionate partners.  That's not arrogance, that's acceptance and confidence.  I'm aware of my flaws and areas where I need improvement, but I'm also aware of when I do something well.

If someone thinks that my multiple relationships are "so much work", that tells me that their own experiences of relationships include a lot of work.  I've found that if I make good partner selection and if I do some of the ground work like learning how to communicate and how to listen and how to empathize, then multiple partners are actually *less* work than a dyadic relationship between people who can't do that.  Personally, I've found that monogamy takes much more work for me than polyamory does, when I make good partner choices in polyamory.  But in monogamy, there is so much more that I have to maintain, ironically.  Polyamory between "grownups", for me, doesn't really require a whole lot of work, but learning the basic relationship skills like communication, honesty & transparency, knowing myself, advocating for my needs, building and maintaining healthy boundaries, etc., did take some work.  Which I've done (and continue to work on).

If someone thinks that they wouldn't want to put up with the shit they already put up with times two (by adding another partner), that tells me that they don't think highly of their partner.  I've had a high turnover rate of partners in my past mainly because I *don't* put up with a lot of shit in my relationships.  I only stay with people who don't disgust me, who don't piss me off more than they make me happy, who don't make my life difficult.  Sure, I've dated people who *do* do that stuff, and we broke up.  I don't want to put up with the shit that these complainers already put up with either.  The difference is that ... I don't and they do.  That's not arrogance.  That's knowing my own self-worth and having enough compassion for both me and my partners to let go of a relationship that is bad for the participants involved.  One could argue that *not* doing so is often a sign of low self-worth, rather than doing so being a sign of too much self-worth.

tacit has written excellent posts* on Dating Black Belts and other important relationship skills.  These have nothing to do with polyamory, in the sense that they are inherent to poly and not applicable to other relationship styles.  But they are connected to polyamory in the sense that one will find it incredibly difficult to manage multiple romantic relationships with grace and dignity and compassion for the other participants if one does not learn these skills, whereas other styles of relationships have more tools for compensation, including social safety nets that encourage the avoidance of these skills:
Benchmarks For Good Relationships:
Principles For Good Relationships:
Some Thoughts On Dating Black Belts:
Some Thoughts On Assumptions In Relationships:
Some Thoughts On Choosing Relationships:
How To Have A Happy Relationship:

* There is a post out there somewhere about how someone once said that poly and / or relationships are a lot of work, and tacit responded that *relationships* aren't a lot of work, the underlying skills on being a decent person are a lot of work, but once you have those skills worked out, the relationships sort of take care of themselves.  I can't find that post, but the memory of it is what sparked that final paragraph, and the search for that post led to the list of links above.  If I find that post, I'll add it to the list.
Purple Mobius, polyamory
I've said this before and I'm sure I'll say it again in a dozen different ways. But it bears repeating.

I've learned that the most effective guidelines for sex in open relationships (and, frankly, guidelines for all areas of all styles of relationships) are to stick with personal boundaries, not rules or agreements that tell other people what they can or can't do.  I tell my partners how I want them to treat me (and only me) and let them make their own choices. Then I choose partners who have similar boundaries.

So, for instance, I might say that I want to use condoms with them every time and I want to know their STI risk profile and any time it changes. That says nothing about what they can or can't do with others. If their risk profile changes to include a higher degree of risk than I am comfortable exposing myself to even with the use of condoms, then I alter the parameters around my partner and me (NOT around them and their other partners). Maybe I have to refrain from PIV entirely or maybe we stick to only non-fluid and non-direct skin contact BDSM. Maybe we abstain until new test results are in. Whatever, the point is that I police only what happens to my body and my emotional well-being.

I've learned that trying to police my partners' behaviour only works for as long as they want it to, and then people do what they want to do. So I can be betrayed, or I can set things up that doesn't leave room for betrayal and leaves only me with the responsibility of protecting me while treating my partners with dignity that honors their autonomy and their right to make their own decisions like the grown ups they are.

And I try never to pull rank. Just because I happened to meet a partner at a particular time, it doesn't give me more "privileges" with regards to his time, attention, or resources, or even his love. If he wants to be with or do something with or feel something for another person that I don't get from him, that's his right as an autonomous being.

It might hurt and I might feel envious, but it's not my call to make. His time, emotions, body, and resources are his. My job is to communicate effectively so that he understands how his actions affect me and to choose partners who honor the respect I give them when I value their autonomy, as well as arranging my life to suit my own needs and idiosyncrasies instead for trying to arrange other people's lives to suit me.
Purple Mobius, polyamory

This is serendipitous. I *just* answered a question in a poly group about the responsibility we have to our metamours, and this was the next Commitment I had lined up to post about in my "but what do you commit to if not sexual fidelity?" series:

* I am committed to allowing my metamour relationships to find their own structure and direction without forcing them into a predetermined shape.

This is related to the previous commitment. I very strongly favor family-style, inclusive networks where all the metamours get along with each other and, preferably, develop independent friendships with each other. The main reason is because I believe in non-zero sum relationships where time spent with one partner does not have to automatically mean time taken away from another partner. It is my opinion that the only way this can be possible (and not a chore) is if the metamours actually like each other and like being around each other. At a bare minimum, we have to all agree to be civilly polite to each other at social functions and to actually be willing to attend social functions where other metamours might be present in order for non-zero-sum to be possible.

So I need a reminder that forcing my metamour relationships to conform to a prescripted relationship path is no different than forcing romantic relationships to conform to a prescripted relationship path. I have been on the other end, with a metamour trying to force a relationship structure on me that didn't fit, and I am committed to making an effort to avoid doing that to someone else. The things I value most about my various metamours is our differing relationships. Just like my romantic partners and just like my non-poly-connected friends, each metamour relationship is special precisely because it is unique and tailored to the metamour associated with the relationship. I have very important connections with each of my metamours and they only exist because each relationship was allowed to flourish in its own way.

Not all of my metamour relationships are going to be as amazing as the ones I have now, and not all of my past relationships have been this wonderful. Several times, I have had virtually no relationship with a metamour because we just didn't mesh well. If we hadn't had a mutual partner, we wouldn't have had any reason to be connected to each other at all. Only one time did I have a metamour with whom I didn't get along and I was not satisfied with merely coexisting. I believe that the reason is because she artificially imposed a distance between us due to her discomfort with poly relationships. I still use a willingness to meet and foster friendly metamour relations as a litmus test for poly readiness, so this commitment is to remind me that a willingness to meet and foster friendly metamour relations must be different in both intent and execution from prescripting those same metamour relationships to fit my preconceived notions of poly family.
Swing Dance, social events, dance

So, a while back I was researching DIY dance shoe resoling and I came across a new product called The DanceSocks​. I'm often at parties where I'm dressed in sneakers and someone will ask me to show them a dance step, and I'll have to take off my shoes and dance in my socks or bare feet in order to do it. Which is kind of dangerous if I'm outdoors or if I'm showing a partner who has never danced before and might step on my toes! So I thought these looked interesting.

The basic premise is that the smooth floor sock is just a little tube of fabric that goes around the ball of your foot over whatever shoes you're wearing. The sock fabric is chosen to give you the right amount of "slip" for spins and slides while allowing the rest of your shoe to act as a stopper since the rubber isn't covered. They primarily advertise this for zumba, where you might need to stop suddenly and where you might prefer sneakers to dance shoes. It sounds pretty good for Lindy Hop & swing as well.

They also have a version for carpet, which is a sock that covers the entire shoe and is of a different fabric pattern designed for providing slip and spin on rough carpeting. I used to perform as a Bollywood dancer, and most of the time, our troupe was booked in hotel rooms or classrooms where there was no stage only carpeted floor, or where the stage itself was carpeted. Most of the time, we danced in bare feet because of the style of costuming, but carpet can really eat up even callused feet so we would often wear Hermes sandals with leather soles to dance on carpet. When I'm at a party in someone's house and the floor is carpeted and I'm asked to dance, I'll usually dance in socks instead of bare feet just to protect myself from blisters, but even in socks, dancing on carpet can hurt.

So, I decided to test these Dance Socks out. At $10 a pair, why not? I got both the carpet and the smooth floor versions (the smooth floor version comes in a 2-pack for $10, as I pleasantly discovered). I gave one of the smooth floor pairs to one of my partners who is learning how to dance and happened to be at an event with me on the day mine arrived, and we tried dancing in the garage at an Easter party. They actually allowed him to lindy hop in hiking boots!

Then I went to a friend's house where I was teaching him and his fiance to rumba for their wedding. We had been doing the lessons on their living room rug, but they had new leather-soled shoes for the wedding so they were able to do it. I kept showing up in sandals or sneakers because, well, I wasn't doing all the dancing, I was only demonstrating the steps, so I could cheat. But, I figured, I have these new carpet socks so why not? I put them on over my sneakers, and it happened to be on a day when the bride was too sick to dance, so I gave the lesson to the groom while she watched from the couch. Which meant that I had to *actually* dance.

Let me tell you, I was dubious about these carpet socks. I've spent a LOT of time dancing on carpet in different kinds of shoes, bare feet, dance paws, socks, etc. Other than leather-soled shoes, I've never been happy with anything on carpet. I even went out and had a pair of dance shoes re-soled in leather (over the suede) just so I would have at least one pair of shoes I could dance on carpet on!

But these Dance Socks did the job. I was quite surprised at how slippy they were, without being dangerous. They maybe weren't *quite* as slippy as a brand new leather sole that hasn't been roughed up yet, but they were definitely slippy enough to do point turns in!

So far I love these socks as a backup. I'm planning on keeping these in my car (if I had a purse, I'd keep them there) so that when I'm out "in the wild", if dancing opportunities just happen to come up spontaneously, then no matter what I'm wearing, I'll have the proper shoes without having to actually carry around a pair of dance shoes with me everywhere! Because, really, who does that? And who then wants to go out to their car, come back in, change their shoes, all because your date's favorite song came on at the jukebox and they want to dance right now? With these Dance Socks, I just have to pull them out of a purse or pocket, slip them over whatever I'm wearing, and hit the impromptu dance floor!

So, since I've actually tried them out, I'm recommending them to anyone who might find a use for having a pair of "dance shoes" with them no matter where they are but who doesn't want to actually carry dance shoes with them everywhere they go. They're small, washable, fold-able, and incredibly convenient, not to mention affordable!  Go get yours today!  Seriously.
photography, Self-Portrait, personal
This always happens whenever civil rights or social justice issues like race, gender equality, homo/transphobia, poverty, etc. comes up - someone confuses two different definitions of "respect". There's "you're an exemplary person and I admire the shit out of you and/or trust you with more vulnerable boundaries than the general population" respect, which is personal, individual, and earned.

And then there's the respect civil rights people are talking about which is a *baseline* level of dignity and compassion for sentient beings.

Don't fall into that trap, which derails the conversation. If you feel that you have to comment on or explicitly exempt the former in a conversation about the latter, then you are part of the problem we're having with the conversation these days.

We all know and agree that certain individuals get a different, higher kind of "respect" than strangers on the street or even people we know but don't like. Given. Move on.

The disagreement is in where the line of behaviour is drawn for how we treat everyone else. THAT'S what we're talking about now. And we're never going to make progress if we keep bringing the subject back to what we're not complaining or talking about in the first place.
8th-Apr-2015 07:57 pm - Transparency Vs. Controlling
Purple Mobius, polyamory
So this is interesting. I've noticed a trend now, that I started seeing many years ago, but had less nuanced and accurate language to describe.

In the poly community, there are frequent debates on how much information we are supposed to share with our partners, usually regarding our other partners. To me, this completely sidesteps the issue. It's like Franklin's blog post on Radical Truthers where the question isn't between "truth vs. white lies" but about compassion and empathy. I've noticed that the following people tend to side with the following argument:

Pro - you should share EVERYTHING with your partner and keep no secrets ever! This includes no password locks on cell phones or emails or computers, or if you do, both parties should have the password.

I've noticed that this position is overwhelmingly held by people who are in primary-style relationships (or desire one) and only applies to the primary couple (or group if they're equilateral poly types) but not to anyone outside the couple, regardless of length of time of that "outside" relationship. These people nearly always disregard the suggestion that this level of entwineness is actually an invasion of privacy on the poor "secondaries" who do not receive an equal level of snoopiness into the couple's privacy. Sometimes this is not held by both members of the couple, and usually after some digging, it comes out that the one who does hold this position would rather that their relationship be more couple-centric hierarchical than it is, while the one who doesn't hold this position doesn't favor the couple-centric hierarchical model.

This position also finds favor more among straight cis-men whose female partners aren't exclusively interested in dating other women. Maybe they already do date other men, maybe they only date other women but they're bi, or maybe they even *say* that they don't want to date other men but their primary male partner picks up some "vibe" from them that makes them afraid that the woman might want to in spite of what she says she wants. That "vibe" could be completely in his head, too, as misogynistic men don't really believe that women can know what they want or make valid choices for themselves, and may suspect desires of their female partners that their female partners explicitly state they don't have.

I wanted to include the other side here, but it turns out that there are a whole bunch of different kinds of people who favor the con side, with several different motivations, and it's a mixture of both reasonable / respectful rationales and unreasonable / abusive rationales. So I'll explore that perhaps in another post, maybe on my blog where I can go into more depth.

Basically, as someone who fully embraces transparency and honesty in relationships, it's really disturbing to me to see so many people swing to the abusive and controlling side of the "honesty" spectrum, and use "honesty" as a blunt instrument with which to beat their partners & metamours over the head by disrespecting autonomy, privacy, agency of both their partners and their metamours. These sub-categories of people aren't really about "honesty" so much as they're about control and objectification, but it's couched in "honesty" language because that's more reasonable (and they perhaps don't even know that they're motivated by control because they may not have examined their insecurities deeply enough yet).

Demanding passwords and sharing accounts and the like is about controlling their partners and dehumanizing the metamours. This is *fundamentally different* from actual transparency in relationships, which still seeks to protect the privacy and agency of all involved. When it's motivated by compassion and respect for agency, then there is no conflict between transparency and privacy.

When desire for knowledge about one's partner is motivated by respect for agency, the desire for that knowledge is not about preventing people from "keeping secrets", but about sharing your life, your intimacy, and your vulnerability with someone. Because this person understands that it's about intimacy and vulnerability, this person also understands the need to protect the privacy of their partner and metamours BECAUSE they know that what is shared between the partner and metamour is ... get this ... intimate and vulnerable. If you respect intimacy and vulnerability, then you should also understand why it's so fragile and must be protected in others.

If you have empathy, then you understand that another couple's relationship (your partner and metamour) has the same right to have its privacy settings be set wherever that relationship needs them to be set just as your relationship with your partner does, regardless of your personal preference for *where* that boundary goes. if you have empathy, then you know to respect the other person's perspective, not to insist that whatever *you're* comfortable with is what everyone else should be comfortable too.

But when the motivation for information is about controlling other people, it's all too easy to rationalize why one person is privileged above another to invade their privacy and to force their way into another couple's intimacy and to demand a third party's vulnerability. Because, with this motivation, it's all about YOU, the person making the demands for information, not about the intimate experience that's shared between two fully-formed, vulnerable, sentient human beings. YOU need to "know" this. YOU need to feel "secure". YOUR feelings trump any space set aside for other people to be intimate or vulnerable and your feelings trump consent.

It doesn't matter if the other people involve acquiesce to the demand. It doesn't matter if the metamour says "sure, I have nothing to hide, so go ahead and share all our text communication with your wife." This only means that the person making the demands happened to find someone whose boundary is so far back, that it hasn't been stepped on yet. But the demand is still an attempt at boundary-pushing. The demand is still invasive, still intrusive, and still dehumanizing. And if the insecurity driving all this behaviour isn't dealt with, it'll only escalate until they DO find the boundary. And suddenly they'll wonder why everyone is yelling "abuse!" at them. When the truth is that they were abusive the whole time, it's just that no one ever pushed back at their boundary pushing before.
demure, sad, polite, boxed in, Misty in Box
This was created as a Facebook event worldwide by the rather well-known Lee Harrington (look them up).  Since not everyone has FB, I'm sharing it here.  I wanted to make sure all the details came through even for people who couldn't visit the event page, which of course meant that it's too long for Twitter, so I'm making a public blog post so that I can tweet *that* and anyone can see it (hopefully).

I HATE April Fool's Day.  Our culture has begun to reward and celebrate the sorts of pranks that punish belief and gullibility.  Now, as a skeptic, I would ordinarily say that's a good thing.  But we aren't just teaching people to be more skeptical, we're teaching people to be more cynical because we're presenting these false stories by TRUSTWORTHY SOURCES and then humiliating people when they have the gall to believe a person (or a business) who has previously earned their trust.  April Fool's Day isn't about teaching people to investigate or question, it's about setting someone up with a totally believable story or prank as presented by someone they have reason to believe, and then publicly displaying their belief in the most humiliating way possible.  April Fool's Day has become:
"Ha ha, I'm a good friend that you have every reason to believe, and I'm telling you a totally reasonably believable story, BUT IT'S FALSE and you believed it, you fool!  You're such an idiot for believing me, even though I deliberately set you up to believe me!"
And that's the nice version.  Other popular forms of pranks involve other sorts of humiliation that don't require belief but often require destruction of property or poking at people's vulnerable spots (like fake pregnancy announcements on social media when there are women who can't have children but who desperately want them, for instance, or fake-coming out as gay when real people face discrimination, ostracization, violence, homelessness, and even death).  So I am really opposed to April Fool's Day as a national holiday.  But THIS is a holiday that I can get behind:
In our culture, April Fools Day has become a day of pranks and emotional confusion, deceit cast in the guise of playfulness.

Let us make a new holiday to counter the experience, one week later...

April 8th
Honesty and Vulnerability Day!

Turn to a friend and share how you adore them. Tell the world about a joy of yours, or a tender shadow that has been weighing you down. As you do so, let them know that you are being vulnerable and honest, and ask that they receive your gift of honesty and vulnerability from a place of love as well. This is not just an online event, this is a push to make the world at large a better place for us all.

Day of Honesty and Vulnerability is a chance for us to build strength and connection in our world rather than perpetuate pain and confusion. Let us build a better world for us to all live in, one day at a time.

Purple Mobius, polyamory

To make an open marriage work, Franklin and Celeste knew they needed to make sure no one else ever came between them. That meant there had to be rules. No overnights, no falling in love, and either one of them could ask the other to end an outside relationship if it became too much to deal with. It worked for nearly two decades and their relentless focus on their own relationship let them turn a blind eye to the emotional wreckage they were leaving behind them.

The rules did not prepare them for Amber.
OTG OTG OTG OTG I can't fucking WAIT! I may possibly be even more excited about this one than about More Than Two​ (it's a close call, hard to tell).

This is the story of my partner in the years before I met him, and how he became the man that I met and fell in love with. I'm especially excited for this book because this is a rare opportunity for me to glimpse into who he was as a person before I knew him.

That's actually one of the things that "secondaries" and new partners have such anxiety over. When a new partner begins dating someone who has pre-existing relationships, one of the things that may trigger some anxiety or insecurity is all that history between the partner and their existing partners. That's something that the new partner will never be able to access, share, or compete with. That's a part of their relationship that is forever out of the new partner's grasp. That's incredibly intimidating.

This is true for everyone - all the history and time that makes up who your partner is before you met them is only available to you through conversations, reminiscing, maybe some pictures. So anyone who has access to those memories and those experiences can be the object of envy, intimidation, threat, or jealousy. This is why you see so many monogamous people acting weird about their partner's high school buddies or their mothers or whomever. They have access to a part of who the partner is that the new partner will never get to participate in.

Unfortunately, in poly relationships (and some monogamous ones, but it's particularly insidious in poly relationships because it's culturally enshrined), many pre-existing partners don't recognize the incredible wealth they have that the new partner doesn't. They don't realize just how much of an advantage they have over the new partner, and they can use their position of privilege and power in harmful ways as they try to protect that very thing that no new person can ever take away - the history and connection that has already been established.

By the time I met tacit​, this story was coming to a close. He's not a "finished project", of course, but all the work that needed to be done to create a man who wouldn't treat me like the above had been started. So I have never felt that kind of fear regarding the Amber of the book, and Celeste was no longer in the picture. But Game Changers like Amber are so disruptive, so volcanic, that I can't even imagine tacit as the character portrayed in this book. Of course, his outlook and his perspective has evolved even over the decade I've been with him, and he's gotten more nuanced and more sensitive and more granular about those very traits, about which Amber started the cascade. But the groundwork had been laid by the time I met him. I would never have dated the Franklin in this book. So I owe Amber a huge debt of gratitude for her experiences and her presence.

What all this means is that I do not know the Franklin in this book. I have some inkling of what this character is like because I've heard a handful of memories, as shared by tacit and Amber over the years, but I really have very little clue about just who this Franklin character is or what he will do in the book. However, this Franklin is ultimately responsible for creating the tacit that I know and love today. So I'm particularly excited to meet past-Franklin through this book. I believe that I will be surprised, upset, perhaps even a little mortified as I read it. But I also believe that this peek into a partner that most of us never have the opportunity to experience in such depth, will ultimately make me feel grateful for the experience.

More Than Two was greatly anticipated by me because I desperately feel the need for a instruction manual for polyamory. I feel a huge, crushing need for a resource to both explain what it is that I do and explain to others how to do it. More Than Two beautifully fulfilled that expectation.

But I anticipate Game Changer for much more personal reasons. For me, this isn't just a valuable resource for the poly community, exploring the history of the modern poly movement and a basic look at What Not To Do and how one person finally overcame What Not To Do. For me, this is also a relationship-builder. This is something that will bridge a connection between me and my partner. In this hugely public setting, this book is a deeply intimate experience for me. And I can't wait for it!

16th-Mar-2015 02:17 pm - Owning Your Dark Clouds
demure, sad, polite, boxed in, Misty in Box

This is essentially what I've been trying to say whenever someone asks in some support group "I feel bad, how do you make the bad feelings go away?" This is particularly common in poly groups with people asking how to stop feeling jealous.  I've tried to explain that sometimes, you just have to feel what you're feeling and it's not always possible, or even desirable, to just "make it go away".

Sometimes you *do* need a break from the bad feelings in order to pull yourself up high enough to be constructive and productive.  As tacit says, when you're ass-deep in aligators, it can be difficult to remember that your original goal was to drain the swamp.  But this idea that we can't ever feel bad for any reason at all is a toxic mindset and counterproductive to our goals. You don't want to wallow in the bad feelings, but you don't want to try to prevent yourself from feeling bad feelings completely either. You need to feel the feelings, identify them, describe them acutely, and then use them to set your goals.

"its anger that tells me that something or someone is getting in the way of goals that matter to me. It tells me I need to remove obstacles. I may need to talk to people. But I need to do something and not just sit here. Anger motivates us to go approach the world and get rid of barriers. "

"It turns out, the people who were more adept at describing how they felt in a fine-grained way, when they’re extremely distressed in the moment, are less likely to fall to pieces, and less likely to do something desperately to take away the pain, such as abusing drugs or being aggressive to others. The were more likely to be able to sit with those emotions, then continue doing what they care about."

"First, emotions are just tools. Don’t make emotions the goal. Research suggests if we take the goal of happiness out of the equation, ironically, that makes us happier in the journey of our lives. Second, train yourself to be better able to clarify, describe and understand what you’re feeling, because that will help you better figure out what to do next."
I have had 2 periods in my life where the feelings were so overwhelming that I couldn't function.  And I've had a handful of times when I felt so bad that, although I *could* function, I just wanted the feeling to stop, so I did what I needed to do in order to stop the feeling and then lost the motivation to fix the situation that produced the feeling in the first place, because I wasn't feeling the feeling anymore.  So I totally understand the desire to make the bad feeling go away.  The first time I lost the ability to function, I somehow figured out how to "turn off" my emotions in order to cope.  I can't remember how I did it, but I went emotionally numb.  The problem is that, as I learned, you can't selectively turn off emotions.  They come as a package deal.  So I lost the ability to feel the good feelings too.  The second time, I couldn't remember how I turned them off the first time, so I sought professional help.  This was a much better coping strategy.  I got some medication that evened out my mood and I could function again.  It didn't prevent me from feeling bad feelings, it just made the bad feelings a little less stark and a little more manageable.

There are some things that well-meaning friends do when a friend of theirs is going through a breakup or a loss of some sort.  I really appreciate the desire to help, but if y'all could stop doing this to each other, you'd be much more helpful.  When someone you know is going through a breakup, for a lot of people there's this desire to cheer them up.  We tell our grieving friend "you're much better off without them!" or anything we can think of to reassure them and make them feel better about the loss.

As a solo poly person, I've been through a LOT of breakups - most of them amicable but still painful in the moment.  The more people one dates, the more chances one has to experience a breakup.  This means that I'm actually pretty comfortable going through breakups.  Don't get me wrong, I don't *like* them.  They don't feel good at all.  I experience all the same stages of grief that everyone else does.  But it means that I've been through them from start to finish enough times that I know, even in the middle of my grief, what's waiting for me on the other side.  I know that I'll get through it, that I'll get over it, and that I'll be fine.  I also know that I just have to feel my grief until it's gone.

So what's most helpful to someone going through a grieving period is not trying to make them feel good again as quickly as possible, but to help them feel their grief.  Give them the space to feel what they're feeling.  Let them know that it's OK to feel bad.  Accept them in their dark moments so that they know that they're not alone in the darkness and that the darkness will pass.  Be there to help them, if they want, to identify what they're feeling so that they can make productive decisions about their life that the emotions are telling them about.  Facilitate and allow them to examine and feel their feelings so that they can better identify root causes, which will lead to the kinds of changes that will bring about those happy feelings you're anxious for them to feel as a consequence, not as the goal.

When emotions are the result and the tool, not the goal, it turns out that the good feelings are more consistent and the bad feelings are more manageable.  If you want to feel good, you can't make feeling good the goal - you have to make *doing things* the goal and the good feelings will follow.  Just like how to "get" a romantic partner - if you make "getting" a partner the goal, you'll have less success.  But if you make being an awesome person the goal, then romantic partners will follow.  Your emotions are giving you important information.  Listen to them, don't wipe them away.  If you listen to them, you'll actually learn the more effective way of reducing the bad ones and increasing the good ones.
13th-Mar-2015 04:21 pm - On Aging
photography, Self-Portrait, personal
Got my first pair of reading glasses, and they're strong. I officially feel middle-aged.

I don't actually need them for most things, including reading. My eyesight is still pretty good. But I discovered with my latest bout of jewelry-making that, combining manipulating very tiny pieces that I need to hold up close with working often in poor light situations, having a set of magnifying lenses is beneficial. So that's how I'm thinking of them - portable magnifying lenses and jewelry tools much like the lighted magnifying glass I used to use when I painted miniatures as a teenager.

I've always been extremely sensitive to changes in my eyesight. Back when I wore glasses, my optometrist wouldn't believe me when I came in after a few months complaining of needing a new prescription until he tested me and found a very slight change. He said that most people would not have noticed a change that slight & he resisted giving me new lenses. But I notice.

That's why I had LASIK done. My distance vision is perfect 20/20 with absolutely no aberrations in the spherical-ness of my lens that the computer could detect. But near-sighted degradations happen for different reasons than far-sighted ... at least the ones that happen as we age. That's an aging muscle issue, whereas regular distance issues that are correctable by LASIK are usually aberrations of the surface of the lens. So I knew I would still end up with reading glasses some day and I had the procedure done anyway.

Shortly after my surgery, I did start to notice that I could no longer see my necklace clasp in sharp relief (I also had it done in my 30s). But how often do I look at things *that* close to my face? Other than my necklace clasp, never, and I don't actually need to see my clasp because I've been putting on my own necklaces for something like 25 years.

Until I started doing chainmail again. It's not quite as fuzzy as the clasp, since I'm not holding it *that* close. But jewelry chainmail is much smaller than armor chainmail, and the details matter because it's not a solid sheet of chain where a few not-quite-smoothly-closed jump rings can hide in the sheer volume of other jump rings. And I still pulled it off well.

But I decided to get a pair of reading glasses anyway, just to make it a little easier. I could settle for "good enough", or I could use the tools available to me to do better. And I found them helpful during my test-run with them last night and the night before. It takes some practice and conscious consideration to remember when to look over the glasses for longer distances and when to look down through the glasses for up-close work, which makes the middle ground on the table where I keep my supplies a challenging field, but I'm getting used to them.

I was just starting to get accustomed to the amount of grey in my hair, and now these. I just don't see myself as an adult, at least, not a middle-aged adult. I hate reminders of my mortality.
13th-Mar-2015 03:50 pm - How To Get A Partner
statement, Kitty Eyes, being wise
The only advice that actually works to "get" a partner is to become the sort of person that the kind of person you want would want. If you want a partner who values high end clothing & cookware, then having those things would probably help. If you want a partner who wants you to look like Hugh Jackman, then looking like Hugh Jackman would probably help.

But if you want a partner who values honesty, kindness, integrity, partnership, acceptance, and a long life together that necessarily includes changing bodies, then having ripped abs or a shiny car probably isn't the most efficient way of attracting that sort of person.  And compiling a list of "what women want" or whatever is your preferred gender, then checking things off the list like a Scavanger Hunt with a partner at the end like a prize is probably the least efficient method of all.  Be the person that your potential mate would value, and then while you're busy being that awesome person, potential mates will come to you naturally because you're that awesome person that your potential mates value.

Now, if YOU happen to like how you look with ripped abs and YOU happen to like driving a shiny fast car, then more power to you. It's just not what lots of people tend to value most in a long-term romantic partner, so when they're evaluating you as partner material, those sorts of things probably aren't going to be very high in the "pro" column.

However, if you *do* choose to focus on things like looks & status symbols and manage to attract a partner who values those things highly, you really can't complain when, after a while, you start to feel like they don't value you for more than your looks or status symbols.  In other words, if you promise to provide someone a monied lifestyle, don't be surprised when they want you to keep providing them with that same lifestyle. That was an expectation you created by focusing on money / status & then looking for people who were attracted to status / money.
demure, sad, polite, boxed in, Misty in Box

I keep saying that the type categories are not binary. I refer to myself as a social introvert, although I'm also a thinking introvert according to this scale.

People think the type systems are crap because they're under the erroneous belief that the systems are the same thing as the tests. They're not. All the tests are crap. All of them. Some are slightly better than others, but the best thing I can say about the tests is that they might help narrow down the number of type categories you should be looking at to determine your type.  And that's another thing - YOU determine your own type, not the tests.  It's not like a horoscope where you're assigned a category based on totally arbitrary criteria.  It's self-referencing.  The tests can sometimes rule out certain categories so that you don't have to waste time reading all of them to determine your type.  But that's the best they can do.

However, as my resident type expert keeps saying, and as he said during his lecture at Dragoncon, the tests are not the same as the system.

There is variability in the systems too, and some systems are better than others. But, generally speaking, the better systems aren't binary. The tests may ask binary questions, but the SYSTEM offers a spectrum. You're 68% introverted & 32% extroverted, or whatever. The better systems also acknowledge that we all have some of every category, it's just that we tend to have preferences or we tend to do some things more often than others. Much like being right or left handed, those of us with two hands use both of them all the time, but we have a dominant hand, one that takes on more of the tasks or the more complex or strength-oriented tasks.  Even ambidextrous people usually have a tendency to choose a particular hand over another, perhaps for certain tasks.  That's what the systems are measuring - preferences, not absolutes.

They also usually only cover personality from a specific angle and won't cover other things. For instance, mental health issues are usually separate from personality type systems even though they affect your personality.  And they're not terribly predictive - they can't tell you which profession you should enter, for example.  They might be indicative of your happiness in a very specific work environment (a strong J surrounded by strong P types in a particular office that's really chaotic might feel frustrated at work often, for example), but really, all the industries require a mix of personalities to cover all the wide, varied tasks involved in making that industry run.  They can't tell you who to marry either, but they might help explain why your partner does certain things and offer ways to work with each other over conflicts so that you both get what you need.  And, to stretch the handedness analogy, the test for handedness won't tell you what your eye prescription is or what color your hair is.  The different type systems tend to focus on certain aspects of personality over others, so there is not one over-arching system that will cover all elements of who you are (although some systems are more useful and more accurate than others).

Type is actually a very complex discipline that can take years of study. It's not as simple as taking an online quiz and now you're locked into a box. I can tell you my MBTI letters, for example, but that barely scratches the surface, even if we stick just with MBTI. As a former partner learned the hard way, you can't treat people based on their type category alone because we're not a monolith even within the more complex type systems. Our individual expression and individual experience of our type categories will manifest in unique combinations, making us all individuals who just happen to have a few things in common enough to loosely group us together.  They can be useful for interpersonal communication and for conflict resolution, but that's about it.  And I say that as a strong supporter of using type systems. 
Swing Dance, social events, dance

I've been asked a lot recently about my dancing, so I thought I'd make a public post.  I get told that I'm a good dancer and people want to know how long I've been dancing and where I take lessons, so here's the story:

I've been dancing for 18 years, and yet I'm only considered a "beginning-intermediate" dancer.  See, I've only had 2 lessons and I only know a handful of steps and no "styling". When I was about 20, I took a class in college called "social dancing" - a 3-hour evening class once a week (I think it was 3 hours with a break, but it was a long time ago, so I'm not sure ... coulda been 2 hours).  The class introduced us to a new dance every week - we reviewed what we learned the previous week at the beginning of the time slot, then learned a new style (about 3 or 4 steps) for the rest of the time.  For each step that we learned, we practiced it a couple of times with a partner, and then we switched partners to try it again, and we did this multiple times throughout the class.

In this way, I learned, not only 8 or so different dances, but more importantly, I learned lead & follow techniques.  It's the lead & follow techniques that make it look like I know what I'm doing. Leading & following is all about communication.  The real trick to social dancing (as opposed to, say, competition or performance dancing), is A) keep your feet moving to the rhythm no matter what; and B) communication.  That's it.  This means that I can get out on a dance floor and, no matter what my dance partner throws at me, I keep my feet moving (and quickly go back to the correct rhythm if I happen to lose it) & I "listen" to what he's telling me to do through his body signals while I "tell" him through my own signals where I am and how I'm doing.

Then, about 2 or 3 years later, I changed schools and discovered that my new school also had a social dance class.  So I took that class, and I took a dedicated swing dance class, and a dedicated salsa class - all of which met 3 times per week for an hour each.  I ended up dropping the salsa class because dancing for 3 hours a day was too much, so I didn't really learn much salsa.  The social dance class covered more or less the same steps I had already learned in the class at the prior school.  The swing dance class covered more steps than I had previously learned when the social class taught swing, naturally, but it was still "beginner" level.

So, how did I get so "good" when I've only had two lessons?  I dance.  Really, that's it.  When I took the dedicated East Coast Swing class, my teacher convinced me to compete as a beginner, so in addition to dancing 3 times a week, I also had rehearsals for my competition every day.  I danced *every day* for half a semester. I also go to social dance events as often as I can.  It's nerve-wracking to attend a ballroom dance as a beginner - you don't know the steps, you don't know the people, you don't know the etiquette.  Plus, I'm an introvert, which means I have difficulty in social settings because they tire me out.  On top of that, I used to be painfully shy.  I still can't ask anyone to dance unless they're already a good friend of mine.  So, it's hard.  But I did it anyway.

Most of what I know, I learned at social ballroom dances.  I just kept going.  As I danced with more people, I got better at learning dance communication.  As I danced with more people, I learned more steps because new partners know steps that I don't, and vice versa, so we can teach each other out on the floor.  As I danced with more people and watched more dancers, I learned certain stylistic movements that seemed popular or flashy or neat and I tried to adopt them, eventually creating my own style.

Many social dances offer a free group lesson at the beginning of the event.  They will teach the same 3 or 4 beginning steps in a particular dance style appropriate for that event (so, a dedicated swing event will teach a swing dance, a social ballroom event will teach one of any number of dances that you can expect to be doing at that event like waltz, foxtrot, cha cha, or even swing).  Even though it's the same handful of steps that I learned 18 years ago in my first class, I attend as many of those pre-event group classes as I can.  I consider them "refresher" lessons.

And as a more seasoned dancer, I find myself "teaching" my newbie partners when they have difficulty getting the step.  The instructors are usually trying to teach 20 people at the same time, so there isn't a lot of time for personalized instruction.  I can explain something specific to my partner based on what he is doing or not doing, and I find that "teaching" in this way also helps me be a better dancer myself.  If the class is teaching something really basic or something that I'm already really familiar with, I'll switch sides and learn it as a lead (traditionally the guy's role) instead of as a follow.  Again, this helps me to be a better dancer and it also helps me to teach those same steps to my partners later.

There are things called "stylings", which are certain movements that make a dance look really sharp; really professional.  If you watch competition or performance dancers, or even just really good social dancers, you'll see things like the women raise their free hand in the air, or run their hands through their hair, or the men will break from the rhythm and kick or freeze and strike a pose.  I know nothing of these, and that's what keeps me from advancing past beginning-intermediate.  Most social dance classes - the kind I took that just try to introduce beginner dancers to a variety of dances in a short span of time - don't teach stylings because they have to focus on just getting the steps right.  They might occasionally throw in a styling here or there, but mostly we're just trying not to step on our partner's feet.  I'm hoping to take a styling class soon, it's just difficult with a freelancer's schedule because I can't dedicate the same day every week without potentially losing work.

So, if you've ever wanted to learn how to dance but felt intimidated, or you've seen my dance videos and were impressed but thought you couldn't do it or thought it would take too many years, hopefully I've inspired in you the possibility.  People are impressed with my dancing and it sounds impressive to hear that I've been dancing for 18 years, but I'm only a beginning-intermediate dancer who has only had 2 lessons, which means that anyone can learn to dance at least to my own level with a little dedication.  I attend the same beginning group classes over and over again, I dance socially as often as possible with as many different partners as possible, and I try to explain to anyone else interested in learning.  Repetition, practice, and exposure - and you too can dance well enough to impress your friends and family and have a good time doing it!

So inquire at your local colleges and community colleges to see if they offer dance as a P.E. class, do a google search for "social dance" in your area, check at your community halls like city parks and recreation departments or neighborhood community centers or even local churches, and just drop in at a dance studio if you happen to see one as you drive by it to ask if they offer lessons or know where you can take lessons.  It really doesn't take very long to learn how to dance socially, and to do it well enough to impress other folks.
Super Tech, strong, feminism

I've pointed this out in my Love Languages course, saying something like "if you've ever seen me completely lose my shit online when someone tried to offer 'helpful advice'..."  It's almost always men who do this and almost always men when I lose my shit over it (obligatory #NotAllMen & #ButSomeWomen here).

IT'S NOT HELPFUL. STOP DOING THAT. I'm a grown adult and I know how to comport my life and I've already researched all the relevant options before forming opinions or making decisions according to my personal priorities, preferences, and abilities.  I swear, if my Mac-head ex-bf tried to tell me that the solution to my computer problems was to buy a Mac that I already said I couldn't afford one more time, I was going to beat him with my crappy laptop.

"So when you discuss this, bring it back to the issue, the issue being his need to control everything when it comes to you and how irritating it is when he does that. Whether he’s a controlling ass by nature, or he’s having some kind of anxiety reaction to the idea of things being done “wrong” that manifests in him acting like a controlling ass, he’s really out of line here and he needs to be told a flat “You’re doing that thing again” when he does it."

Also, I understand - I offer unsolicited advice all the time. I'm learning to ask "do you want advice or do you want me to listen?" Stop trying to solve my life for me. If you *really* can't help it, ask me how you can help me, don't just tell me how I could be doing things "better".

For example, one of my partners' Love Language is Acts of Service. He asked me to give him specific tasks to do that I would find helpful. As one of my Relationship Commitments is to learn how to more gracefully accept assistance from my partners, this was an excellent opportunity for us both to learn the other's Language and to offer our own expressions of Love to each other. He wanted to Do Things for me but had to refrain from imposing on my independence and autonomy. I wanted to make room for him in my life and honor his bid for affection-sharing without setting myself up for future resentment.

So I thought of real, actual things that I would appreciate having done and I clearly communicated what those things were so that he could express his love for me in a way that felt natural to him. I feel respected as an independent individual, he feels appreciated and wanted, and shit gets done around the house. We both win.
23rd-Feb-2015 10:36 pm - At Long Last! An HPV Update!
statement, Kitty Eyes, being wise
There hasn't been an HPV update in a really long time, mainly because there hasn't been any HPV news in a really long time.  No real progress on the vaccine or the virus itself, either in curing or in understanding.  We already understood it pretty well and things seemed to reach a plateau.  But today, I have 2 fairly major updates!

1) There is now a vaccine that covers 9 strains of the virus!  The original, Gardasil, covered 4 strains - the two most common strains known to cause cancer (HPV 16 & 18) and the two most common strains known to cause genital warts (HPV 6, & 11), while the main competitor Ceravix covered the two cancer-causing strains.  There are dozens, perhaps hundreds of strains of HPV, but 16 & 19 were known to cause something like 70% of all the hpv-caused cancer cases and a smiliar number of genital warts, so the researchers understandably focused on those strains first.  There has been some evidence that Gardasil was 50% effective against several other strains as well, but it was approved for those 4, for which it's about 90~% effective.

Now, however, there will be a new vaccine, called Gardasil 9 that covers  HPV-31, 33, 45, 52 and 58 in addition to the original 4 strains.  That is estimated to protect against 90% of the cancer-caused-by-HPV cases in vaccine-protected women!  The test shows that there were slightly more side effects after taking the vaccine, but the side effects were completely within the range of expected side effects for any vaccine - namely that if you stick someone with a needle, they might faint or feel sore at the injection site.  Duh!

2) The CDC has compiled a report analyzing adverse reactions to the HPV vaccine.  And, guess what?  It's exactly as predicted - totally safe!  More than 23 million (MILLION!!) doses were administered in the US since it became licensed in 2006.  There were just over 12,000 adverse reactions reported in the 2 years that this study covers.  Out of those 12,000~ adverse reactions, 94% were not serious and the usual sorts of things you'd expect when you get jabbed with a needle - fainting, soreness, redness at the injection site, dizziness, etc.

Out of the 6% that were classified as "serious", 32 were deaths.  I know, 32 dead is an awful number.  But remember, that's 32 out of MILLIONS of doses.  AND, on top of that, not a single one of those deaths can be tied to the vaccine itself.  They had to do with illicit drug use, diabetes, a known heart condition that resulted in heart failure, etc.  Remember, VAERS - the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System - collects data about, literally ANYTHING that happens to someone after a vaccine.  I wrote about the Phase III trials in India a bunch of years ago, where 6 girls died after taking the vaccine, but that included several suicides by drowning and a fatal snake bite.  And yet, the system is designed to count anything bad that happens, so they got counted.  Even if all 32 of them could be linked to HPV due to some quirk of genetics or something, that's still only 32 out of millions, and that's still a risk worth taking.  And yes, I do take these risks myself.

After analyzing all the data, the summary concludes that there is no evidence to support the vaccine causing a single one of those serious adverse reactions.  There are, however, several cases that the study recommends further investigation, although I would like to reiterate that it recommends further investigation EVEN THOUGH there is currently no evidence to suggest those reactions were a result of the vaccine.  This is science working - if the evidence doesn't reach a certain level of confidence, they keep looking at it.  There rarely is any black & white, yes / no answers in science.  There is, however, margins of error and robust vs. weak spectrums.  And the evidence for the safety and efficacy of the HPV vaccine has pretty much slammed the needle on the "robust" side supporting the vaccine.

However, even with the safety evidence continuing to mount, the CDC and the FDA both have amended their warning recommendations to better reinforce safety protocols, such as keeping a better watch on patients for 15 minutes after receiving the vaccine to make sure that they don't fall and hit their head if they get dizzy from being stabbed with a sharp pointy object.

So, the bottom line is that the HPV vaccine is as safe as any vaccine out there - which is to say pretty damn safe; pretty much no one has been harmed by it any more than one would expect to be harmed by being poked with a big needle even with no vaccine at all; they continue to watch and evaluate and refine the process; and there will shortly be an even better vaccine available that I heartily recommend to everyone who can afford it.

For more on HPV vaccine safety, I refer you to a previous post that includes a graphic from the Information Is Beautiful site that elegantly explains, using easy-to-grasp graphics, the relative risk vs. safety and efficacy of the vaccine.  I also recommend clicking on the STI tag below to see all my older posts on the subject.
Super Tech, strong, feminism

I've made comments before about having been in relationships with abusive men before, but their abuse didn't "stick" to me, so I didn't recognize what they were doing as abusive tactics until much, much later. I might say that we weren't compatible or I might even say that someone was a jerk, but I don't always recognize patterns of abuse when I see them and I don't identify as an abuse victim because I don't feel as though I *have* been abused. Instead, I feel as though people have attempted to abuse me and they were unsuccessful (with the exception of my second fiance).

I actually have a whole series of blog pieces I'm writing now on abuse in the poly community, and one of the pieces is devoted entirely to that concept - being in relationships with abusive men but not being actually abused. I'm finding this series very difficult to write, precisely because I don't consider myself to have been abused so I don't feel like I'm qualified to really talk about it, at least not in depth like that. This article was pointed out to me, and I think that it is giving me a little clarity on the subject.

"My abusive behavior started because I thought I was entitled to control what people thought and how they reacted. A lot of people fuck up there – even people who never hit anybody, they still think it’s ok to mess with your mind and make you feel bad so you’ll do what they want. That counts as abuse. Abuse is about putting someone down, not just physically hurting them."

I find that a lot of people's control issues have sexist roots. We are told from the beginning by some sources that the Man is in Control at all times. He is in control of himself, he is the head of the household, he provides for his family ... control, control, control. If I acted in a way that someone felt was inappropriate, my male partners might be told to "get your woman under control." In fact, this is actually a direct quote.

Once, a person was having some personal emotional issues and, just by coincidence, I and two of my metamours just happened to touch on those subjects in conversation with that person in very close proximity to each other. So, like, I said something to that person's partner, then my metamour said something to that person, then another metamour made some kind of suggestion. Keep in mind that we weren't offering any sort of advice like "hey, your hair is dumb, you should change it." No, I mean that I talked to that person's partner once about, oh, I dunno, let's say being adopted. Then my metamour mentioned in passing something about babysitting. Then another metamour said something about wanting kids. And this person had, let's say, an emotional crisis about being sterile, or something. Obviously this wasn't the subject, but I think it's still a fairly accurate analogy.

So, just by coincidence, we all happened to have these totally unrelated conversations about kids, and we all did so without knowing that the others were having their respective kid conversations and without any of us knowing that this person was having a sterility issue. This person then had a massive freakout, accused us all of attacking them, and then emailed the partner that made us all metamours and told him "get your women under control". He, not having any idea what this was all about, responded "have you MET my partners?!"

So, to get back to the point, control. Our culture has a deeply rooted relationship with the word "control", in a variety of ways - sexism is just one of them. We fetishize control. And I say this as a self-admited control freak myself. The reason why I'm harping on this point is because wanting to be in control, by itself, doesn't make anyone a bad person. Wanting control, disliking feeling out of control - I'm not making a negative judgement on that alone. There are completely valid and legitimate and appropriate reasons for people to feel that being in control is a good thing and something to aspire to.

However, here's where we can start to have problems. If you start with the mindset that control is good, and you follow that up with the idea that you need to be in control, it is not a very big step to keep going with "in order to be in control, I have to control other people around me, or else my life will not be in my control". We have examples of this all around us - from the police maintaining civil order, to parents being expected to "control" their children in public, to wrangling our office minions in order to increase next quarter's sales, etc.

What I'm trying to say here is that, with all our cultural and familial influences, it may seem perfectly reasonable and a sane and rational adult might not see anything wrong with wanting control even if it means controlling other people. As tacit said in his keynote at PolyLiving this week, we are not all divided into Good Guys and Bad Guys - we are all both. And if we could just get comfortable with the idea that good people can sometimes do bad things, we might all find it easier to correct our own mistakes when confronted with them.

"Abuse grows from attitudes and values, not beliefs. The roots are ownership, the trunk is entitlement, and the branches are control"

~ Lundy Bancroft in "Why does he do that?"

This quote is saying that abuse isn't about beliefs. Beliefs can be changed. An abuser doesn't believe that abusing is good. Abuse is about attitudes, and that's much harder to change. If we have a controlling attitude, if we think that we need to be in control all the time including in control of other people, that leads to abuse. That's much harder to change because, to the abuser, they aren't doing anything wrong. A man who hits his wife does so because he has an attitude or a value that women need to be "put in their place". In his mind, he's not doing anything wrong because women need correcting and it is right for him to correct his wife. Now, I'm having a bit of trouble explaning the semantics of beliefs vs. attitudes, so please just bear with me on this one - I have a point and I'll get to it ... eventually.

But what does all this have to do with my original premise? What does this have to do with my self-identiy as not an abuse victim? Well, this next quote from the article is what caught my attention and prompted this piece:

You wanna know why we continue to abuse? Because getting your way with someone can’t be a one-time deal. If I abuse you once and give you time to really think about it, you’re probably gonna be better prepared the next time, more confident, with a plan. We gotta feel like we control you.

So the reason why I say that abuse doesn't "stick" to me is because I go into my relationships already "prepared" and "confident" and "with a plan". See, I have ridiculously high self-esteem, as I have said many places before. Self-esteem doesn't come from believing that you're the cat's pajamas. I mean, sure you can think you're awesome, but self-esteem actually comes from honesty. Self-esteem comes from truth. It comes from looking at yourself, seeing your flaws and vulnerabilities and warts and wrinkles and thinking "hey, I'm a pretty awesome person and it is totally OK that I have these flaws and vulnerabilities and warts and wrinkles because that's just who I am."

I'm a pretty thin person. But my weight fluctuates and I have been different sizes over the years. I am currently a larger size than I'd like to be and larger than I have been at other times in the past. I am also lacking some of the muscle tone and definition that I have had in the past. This bothers me and I'm working on it. That's not the important part. The problem is that, when I talk about this, I get a lot of responses along the lines of "but you're not fat!" and "please, you don't need to lose weight, you're so thin!" and even worse, "I think you look great!" and "you're so pretty!" Look, I'm not fishing or compliments and I'm not passing negative judgement on myself. I'm stating facts - I *am* a larger clothing size than I have been in the past and I am not as strong or well-defined as I have been in the past and I have reasons for wanting that fact to be changed. Those are simply facts, and facts exist whether we like them or not. That's what I mean about self-esteem. I accept these facts about myself. I'm not hurt or upset or depressed at these facts. I'm not bothered by the fact that some people find me unattractive. These facts just are. I am aware of how I look and I accept it. The same goes with other of my attributes.

Again, I'm running off on tangents to better explain my point. So I have this ridiculously high self-esteem. That means that abusers try their abuse on me and I don't react to their abuse in ways that benefit them, that don't give up control over me to them. When someone attempted to gaslight me, I'm far too confident in my memory of events, even while acknowledging the flaws in human memory to succumb easily to gaslighting. So I don't recognize gaslighting when I see it, sometimes. When someone attempts to control me, like setting rules that dictate how my other relationships should go, I resist that control.

Now, if I'm all in the middle of NRE, and we're talking about our preferences and goals for our relationship, I might miss someone's attempt to control me, and I might sound like I'm agreeing to give up control. I'm human, after all, and things that might present as a red flag when I'm sane may sound just peachy-keen when I'm all hopped up on happy brain chemicals at the beginning of a relationship and not necessarily thinking straight. But you can always tell, when the rubber meets the road, that I do. not. give. up. control. When it comes time for that new relationship to start, for example, that relationship goes in whatever fucking direction it's going to go, and suddenly the controlling partner is left bewildered and panicked and wondering how the fuck they lost control so quickly.

You never had it to begin with.

"Because getting your way with someone can't be a one-time deal." Abusers typically build up to abusing. They don't start out on the first date smacking someone around and they don't bring a 40 page contract to the restaurant and insist you sign it, except when we build communities that support abuse and consent violations (*cough*Christian Grey*cough* *cough*unicorn hunters*cough*). They start out small, by pushing boundaries just a little to see what they can get away with. And they push the boundary just a bit, so that your boundary has to move now. And now that it's moved, they push it just a little bit more so that it's over just a tiny bit more. Until eventually you're sitting at home one day trying to figure out how your life got to be such a mess and how will you ever get out of it?

Like most people, I have some soft boundaries and some hard boundaries. So abusers might push on some of my soft boundaries and, thinking that I'm someone they can manipulate they're compatible with, we get into a relationship. And they use all their charm and cute puppy dog eyes, so I think they're a great person and we have so much in common. So they keep pushing on the soft boundaries. But something that I do differently, is that every little soft boundary that gets pushed back is kind of like a small papercut. I might not notice it right away, but it'll start to irritate me the more it gets touched and the more I think about it. So that the next time he tries to push on a soft boundary, I'll be more resentful and more impatient about it. It won't take too many of these soft boundary pushes before I've lost my patience, so that when he hits a hard boundary, I push back.

And here's where that quote is relevant. It "can't be a one-time deal. ... We gotta feel like we control you." When I start to feel like someone is trying to control me, whether it's even true or not, I push back and I mean I push back hard. Their tactics don't work. So I find that one of two things happens: 1) They recognize me as someone that they can't control and they bugger right off. Not that they're necessarily thinking of it like this; they may be thinking of me as a stubborn, selfish bitch who won't compromise or consider their feelings. But as the blogger Emma Fett said, "I was victimized by acts of control" is not the same as "I was victimized by the other person’s resistance to my control." People get really defensive when I resist their control.

So, either that or 2) They double-down on their efforts which makes me dig in my own heels and we spiral very quickly into an impasse, usually ending with me getting fed up and leaving. Either way, my relationships with abusers seem to be fine, fine, fine, BIG FUCKING BLOWUP OUT OF NOWHERE. They will think things are going just fine because they're getting away with some soft boundary pushing, but I'll be building up resentment. I'll be thinking things are just fine because it's only some soft boundary pushing that I can rationalize away as "compromise" and learning to adjust to someone who is different from me. Then they'll push on a hard boundary and I'll be surprised at their audacity to want something so awful, and they'll be surprised at my sudden lack of passivity or acceptance.

See, most of my relationship partners remark, in the beginning, about how easy I am to get along with. I know it doesn't seem like that to people who only know me from my rants online, but I am actually fairly easy going and generally a happy person. I'm cool with a wide range of things and I don't particularly need to be in charge all the time or make a lot of decisions. So, like, what's for dinner? I don't know, what do you want? I legitimately don't know and don't have a preference most times. Want chinese? OK, I'm cool with that. Want Indian instead? Sure. Want vegan-gluten-sodium-free? Well, OK, but not as a daily diet please. Point is that I seem like I'm pretty easy to get along with and most of my partners agree. At first. Until they push on a hard boundary. And then they blink in shock at Joreth suddenly showing up. Hence all my "hello, have we met?" posts on Twitter and Facebook. That's why I keep showing guys who are interested in me my online social media - I'm sick of them acting surprised when they push me and I push back.

So they'll push a boundary and I'm like "I had no idea you actually think trying to control me in this way was a good idea, haven't you read anything I've written?" and they're all "whoa, where did the pliable, happy, nice girl go and who is this selfish bitch who won't even compromise with me? Can't she see how much she's HURTING me that she won't let me control her?!" and I'll be like "OUT, OUT YOU HELL DEMON, OFF YOU MUST FUCK!" and they'll be going all "dude, that Joreth is totally crazy, everyone block her!"

So ... this is my very long and rambly way to say that articles like this one are helping me to recognize, acknowledge, and understand my past experiences with abusive people, and why things became abusive or failed to become abusive with me. Articles like this one are making connections for me so that I can look back over my history and see the abusive patterns in people that I didn't see before. And this is helping me to recognize abusive patterns in people that I meet now. So I write about these connections because I see too many people who, like me, don't recognize a whole bunch of abuse as abuse. They defend it, they enshrine it, they hide it, they offer it shelter and dark places to grow and fester like fungus or bacteria. Why? Because being in control is good, right?

Well, perhaps being in control of oneself is a desireable state for most of the time. But losing control doesn't have to be the end of the world, and controlling others is both inherently unethical and ultimately impossible. So I am trying to highlight all the myriad ways in which we justify, rationalize, and accept controlling other people. Maybe, if it doesn't shine a light on the motivations of an abuser and get him to stop, maybe it'll shine a light on a victim or an abuse apologist and get them to stop accepting it.

And if it sounds like your partner has a long way to go to get there with you, well, now you know why people say it’s pretty much impossible. Abusive people don’t just “stop abusing.” They have to change completely. They have to go through a transformation in which they completely leave behind many of the core values they had before, values that make it ok in their mind to act abusive.

This author may not be willing to suggest that a victim leave, and I understand why it's hard to leave. So I'm also not going to suggest that any particular victim leave at any specific time - that's not my call to make. But I am going to hope that reading posts like mine and the ones that I've been linking to and referencing will encourage enough victims to leave and enough apologists to leave off that we will eventually change our culture to one in which abusers are held accountable and no longer have hiding places to get away with their abuse, and people who genuinely want to be Good People won't ever develop the attitudes and values that lead them to abuse in the first place. Because abusers do think they're Good People. It's just that their abuse comes from attitudes and values that lead them to abuse (and many abuse victims develop attitudes and values that lead them to accepting abuse, or at least not fighting or fleeing from it, which is a whole other rant on society priming victims). And that's what I'm hoping to see changed.
Bad Computer!, anger
I think I might be zeroing in on why it pisses me off so much that people are defending 50 Shades.  This is still rough, but I think I'm getting closer to what's wrong with these defenses.  I've been spending a lot of time learning how to support abuse victims over the last couple of years.  Over and over, the message to victim supporters is "just listen, and accept".  Believe victims, listen to them, accept their story.  You don't have to "take sides" by accusing the abuser or doing anything active against the abuser.  You can even reserve some empathy and support for the alleged abuser.  The important part is that you make a safe space for the victim to heal and to feel.

In all the various rants and criticisms of 50 Shades, what I'm hearing is pain.  Sometimes it's from abuse victims being triggered, and sometimes it's from people who feel such empathy that they feel fear and pain on behalf of all the women who have been abused or who will experience abuse because of the rape culture that 50 Shades contributes to (or, as in the 2 articles I read recently, the abuse and murder of women that were directly linked to 50 Shades).

So, here I am, being told that we need to hear victims and to listen to people's pain and to support them, on one hand.  But on the other hand, when it comes to 50 Shades, I hear "oh, lighten up, it's just a book!" and "geez, don't take things so seriously, it's FICTION for fuck's sake!" and "c'mon, nobody REALLY believes this, so just back off and stop making me feel bad for getting turned on by something that other people are afraid of" with a handful of Dear Muslima responses thrown in (in reference to Dawkins' famous reply basically suggesting that there are worse problems in the world so we shouldn't waste any time talking about the less-worse problems until the worse ones are solved).

In other words, all the defenses of 50 Shades sound exactly like rape apologism.  But, more than that, there are people who are trying to say "this hurts me and this hurts others", and yet people, even those who are normally right there on the support-the-victims side, people are hearing those cries of pain and dismissing them out of hand.

As with polyamory, not having a One Right Way does not necessarily mean that there are also no Wrong Ways.  Some things are morally wrong, some things are factually wrong, some things are less likely to succeed than other methods and therefore "wrong".

And a story that romanticizes abuse, as opposed to a story that simply tells of abuse, is wrong.  So is opposing all those voices crying out in pain.  It's OK to enjoy problematic media.  It's not OK to silence and dismiss criticism of that media, and it's especially not OK to dismiss the cries of abuse that the media is triggering.

This is a comment I made on the FB post for this blog piece.  I'm still trying to find the right words to express what's in my head about this, and the following comment got me another step closer, so I'm adding it to this post:

This revelation is coming from a different angle [from the usual criticisms that 50 Shades is how actual abusers break down their victims which is being touted as "romantic" instead of dangerous], and I'm still teasing it out. I'm seeing a lot of defenses of 50 Shades coming from people who are usually right there on my side in the domestic violence discussions. But when it comes to the book, they suddenly switch sides.

And I think what's niggling at my brain is that this is more than just the standard rape apologism rearing it's ugly head. This is the book itself doing harm, and the defenders aren't being rape apologists for real, but it's as if the *book* is the "abuser" itself and its victims are crying out through their book reviews and criticisms, and people who normally fight against rape culture are now defending *the book* as if the book was an abuser that they are desperately trying to ignore is an abuser simply because it's popular and they don't want to lose access to it.

Like, in the kink community when all those rape accusations started coming out a few years ago. A bunch of people defended the rapists because they were leaders in the community, and if you cut off ties to the rapist, then you couldn't go to the awesome bondage parties anymore because the rapist was the only one with a dungeon who threw parties. So people refused to "take sides" or support the victims, and defended the rapists because they stood to lose something socially if they did so.

The defenses of this book are feeling like the exact same thing. People who are totally in favor of SSC or RACK (Safe, Sane, & Consensual or Risk Aware Consensual Kink for those reading this & who don't know) nevertheless defended rapists in the community because the rapists provided stuff that the defenders didn't want to lose access to, so they did the usual sorts of rationalizations that people do when they're invested in a concept and need to hold onto it in order to protect their investment.  I'm sure many of those rape defenders absolutely believed their own arguments, but they were still doing well-known and well-understood logical fallacies, rationalizations, and other mental gymnastics to avoid facing the fact that someone they knew, trusted, perhaps liked and probably needed for something, did a Bad Thing.  It even has a name - the Sunk Cost Fallacy.

The defenders of this book, who are normally supporters of abuse victims, are defending the book in much the same way, where the book has "abused" people and the victims & supporters are crying out, but the defenders don't want to lose their precious jerk-off story or examine their own attachment to unhealthy relationship patterns, so they're dismissing the cries of pain from those who are feeling harmed by the book.

Hypothesis: Some defenses of 50 Shades may be an example of a Sunk Cost Fallacy, where people dig in their heels to defend something they are invested in, resulting in treating the book in the same way one might treat an accused abuser that one wants to deny is an abuser (usually when one receives something beneficial from association with the accused abuser, such as social status, access to social events, even love or a relationship) and dismissing claims of harm from its victims and victim-supporters.
Flogging, BDSM

I've seen a lot, and I mean A LOT, of strawman arguments that it's insulting and overly simplistic to claim that people are too stupid to realize that 50 Shades is fantasy and fiction and that we shouldn't be worried about its impact on society, especially considering the mountains of other material contributing to rape culture in our society.

First of all, it's a strawman because no one is saying that anyone is "too stupid" to know the difference. We're saying that it reinforces an already-existing set of cultural tropes that lead people into abusive situations because we are not told that these situations are abusive. One does not have to be "stupid" to find oneself in an abusive situation. One only has to be unaware of the warning signs, and that's most people. Even people who have been in abusive relationships don't know all the warning signs, and many think that their experience is the ONLY version that counts. I've seen a lot of abuse victims say "I've been in an abusive relationship, and this wasn't it!"

Hell, I've said that myself. Except I said that about a real situation. And that's exactly the problem. I was in an abusive relationship. So I thought I knew what abuse looked like. And when someone else's different abusive situation was presented to me, I, with all my sociology experience and alternative relationship experience and feminist views, I looked right at that relationship and said "I've been in an abusive relationship, and this one isn't the same, therefore it's not abuse." I am deeply ashamed of that now. I could have been a source of support. Instead, I was an enabler.

So, fuck you for saying this movie is no big deal. It is. Not because people are too stupid. Because abuse is that big, that complex, and that difficult to identify.

Second, the reason why we're singling this story out over that aforementioned mountain of material contributing to rape culture is because it's currently the one getting the most positive press, the most defense, and making the most money from deliberately obfuscating, dare I say "blurring the lines", between romance and domestic abuse. Unlike some other examples given, this one is being held up as something to aspire to, whereas most of the other examples (Game of Thrones, just to name one) are depicting graphic violence but not idealizing or romanticizing the graphic violence.

IT'S NOT THE GRAPHIC VIOLENCE that's the problem. It's the ACCEPTANCE of the violence as romance, as desirable, as masking it behind a subculture that already has trouble being understood and accepted in society that's the problem.  Remember, I participate in consensual non-consent, and I do so without a safeword.  I became a weekend sensation one year at Frolicon because of a take-down scene involving me and my two male partners trying to rape me in the dungeon, and I fought so hard that they actually couldn't succeed without my deliberate assistance.  I've been exploring rape fantasies since before puberty.  This is NOT ABOUT THE KINK, it's about actual domestic violence, manipulation, and emotional abuse.

"But I screwed up. I screwed up big time. I went into this film thinking it would be two hours of B-grade hilarity about bondage that I could make fun of. It was actually two hours of incredibly disturbing content about an emotionally abusive relationship that left me really, really shaken. And now I’m embarrassed that I ever joked about it."

"And my opinion was, well, if they’re two consenting adults, and being tied up and slapped is their thing, then what’s the big deal? But I had no idea that Fifty Shades of Grey isn’t just about the sex. It’s also about an incredibly disturbing and manipulative, emotionally abusive relationship."

"And let me be clear to the women who are incredibly defensive of the book that gave them a sexual awakening: When I talk about domestic abuse, I’m not talking about the sex. In fact, I considered the sex to be the least offensive part of the movie."

"Because as I was sitting in that cinema last night, I was completely floored by what I was watching. And by what millions of women had accepted as a relationship to aspire to."

"It’s emotional abuse disguised as a ‘naughty sex contract’. It’s domestic violence dressed up as sexy fantasy.

And it’s a genius, subtle move. Putting this kind of controlling, emotionally abusive relationship in the context of a sexy billionaire who just needs to be loved, makes it ridiculously easy to convince audiences the world over that this kind of behaviour is okay. He’s not some poor drunk with a mullet, hitting his wife for not doing the dishes. Christian is classy. Rich. Educated. He’s not what most women imagine an abuser to be, and his kind of abuse is not what most women would immediately recognise."

"The blurred lines in this film mean any kind discussion about abuse can be easily shut down by those determined to be obtuse because they like the sexy blindfolds.

But there is no doubt in my mind that the film I watched last night was a disturbing and clear depiction of a controlling and emotionally abusive relationship. This was domestic violence. I don’t care how many women learned to embrace sex because of Fifty Shades of Grey. THIS WAS DOMESTIC VIOLENCE."

"This was domestic abuse marketed as Valentine’s Day fun."
17th-Feb-2015 02:35 am - Game Changers Change The Rules
Purple Mobius, polyamory

"The game changer is the relationship that comes along and turns everything upside down. It’s the relationship that changes the familiar landscape of life, rearranging the furniture in new and unexpected ways."

"“Yes, you will always be #1″ is true until it isn’t, and there is no rule that can change that. If someone comes along who your partner genuinely does love more than he loves you, whatever that means…well, his priorities are unlikely to remain with abiding by the agreements he’s made with you. Game-changing relationships change things; that’s what they do. They change priorities, and that means they change rules. Expecting an agreement to protect you from a game changer is about like expecting a river to obey a law against flooding."

One of the drawbacks to choosing a life off the relationship escalator - of deliberately choosing to be poly, to be "single", to be a "bachelor" (none of which are interchangeable terms) - is that having more partners than most means that I probably have had more breakups than most too.

But that's also one of the benefits. Not really a set of benefits that I'd like to have, mind you, but I did benefit greatly from going through as many breakups as I have. I've learned, the hard way, about the Game Changer. I've seen from both perspectives how Game Changers change the game. I've seen people who had every intention of following through with their rules and agreements encounter a Game Changer of some sort and the rules turned out to have no power at all in the face of it. I've seen what happens when you let go of the control and just let it go where it wants to go - I've seen relationships thrive with that kind of freedom and I've seen relationships die, either due to lack of nourishment from "letting it go" or due to the relationship "going" in places that couldn't sustain it.

I've experienced just about every kind of breakup imaginable, from the fade-away to the better-as-friends to the all-out-war to the cut-them-off-and-never-speak-to-them-again to even the death of a former partner. And what all this experience has taught me is that the future is uncertain, the best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry, rules only work until they don't, and no matter how bad it gets - if it doesn't kill me, I will survive it.*

I fear loss and change just like most people do. But I've learned that fearing loss and change doesn't matter to loss and change. Loss and change happen whether you deal with them or not. The best way to handle them is to accept that it'll happen, take a deep breath, and jump off that ledge anyway. With each successive breakup, I have learned a little more about how to handle Game Changers and my own fears of loss and change, and with each breakup I have gotten better at constructing my relationships to be flexible and accommodating of Game Changers. This, ultimately, actually builds relationships that are better able to withstand those Game Changers than any other method that attempts to prevent Game Changers from happening.

*That bullshit about whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger is crap - sometimes if it doesn't kill you, it still maims you pretty damn good, leaving you worse off than you were before. But if I'm not dead, I'm still alive, and that's not nothin'.
16th-Feb-2015 07:19 pm - 50 Shades Is Still Fucked Up
Flogging, BDSM
I've said this before and I'll continue saying it until this fucking book fades into obscurity:

50 Shades of Grey romanticizes abuse and reinforces harmful cultural tropes of coercion and entitlement. It's not the only thing out there that does, but it's the one getting the most positive press right now so it's the one I will speak the loudest about.

I've also seen the Free Speech argument, and that's just bullshit. No one (that I've seen) is saying that we should ban this book. We're saying it's a terrible example of romance and that we shouldn't SUPPORT this book for its messages. That's exactly what the Free Market is all about - shitty products are supposed to go away because the public decides they're shitty products and only good products are supposed to stick around. I'm part of the public who thinks this is a shitty product and I'm exercising my Free Speech to explain why it's harmful and contributing to an already toxic rape culture.

I've made the comparison to Flowers In The Attic and I'll make it again here. That's a series that I LOVED growing up. It depicts one of the most horrific tales of parental abuse, psychological terror, and incest found in popular literature. It's an *awful* story. But it's well-written and we liked it because we collectively like horror stories. Flowers In The Attic was not being sold to us as a Family Values book. It was sold to us as psychological horror, and we loved it for that reason.

50 Shades is psychological horror - it shows us inside the mind of someone who is susceptible and who succumbs to rather heavy-handed mental and emotional abuse. If this story were being sold to us under this framework, I'd be fine with the story. But it's not. This story is being sold to us as the same sort of stalking, entitled "romance" that made Twilight famous, and the same sort of stalking, entitled "romance" that most of the rom-coms and teen dramas of the '80s contained - that exact sort of romanticized abuse that led me into several abusive relationships myself because that's what I was led to believe relationships were supposed to look like.  One commenter I've seen pointed out that the stories this fanfiction is based on is *vampire* fantasy fiction.  Vampires are *predatory*, that's what they are and what they do.  When you take out the supernatural, other-species element away and make him a human, that tips the story over into creepy, stalking, entitlement and abuse.  Of course, I found it creepy when it was Edward too, but whatever.

There are plenty of stories out there that use this same plot line but that don't violate the agency of the characters in it. Objectification, power exchange, consensual non-consent, etc. are all different from abuse in that the actors retain their agency. At any point, anyone can opt-out, whether it's with a safeword, a gesture, a signal, or any number of other things that give *all* the actors in the scene or dynamic the ability to stop.  Not that the BDSM community doesn't have its own share of consent violations, but that's a derailment.  There can be both BDSM and abuse in the same relationship.  But, by definition, BDSM requires consent and abuse is the violation of consent.

Consent has to have the ability to be revoked at any time. If you can't revoke consent, it's not consent. This has *nothing at all* to do with people who like the fantasy of domination or violent sexual activity and that's what a lot of people are getting confused. The criticisms of the stories are being interpreted as a criticism of non-consent fantasy play and/or people who enjoy it.

When the fact of the matter is that many of us who enjoy that very thing (and I'm pretty extreme in my fantasy tastes, including no safeword and heavy violence) are criticizing the lack of consent and agency in the story, the depiction of kinksters as fundamentally broken, and the reinforcement of the trope that "love can fix him". The specific acts of BDSM as depicted in the story are not the focus of the criticism.  Well, there are those of us who criticize the specific acts for being rather boring and unimaginative, but that's another rant.  That's in the same category as the poor quality of the writing and a totally seperate criticism from the consent violations.

If you are into the "hot, sexy, dominating, rich man takes naive girl and introduces her to the world of kink by knowing her internal desires better than she does", I recommend the Training of Eileen series. It has everything in it - he "forces" her to do sex acts, she protests, she finds herself in a D/s relationship that she didn't realize she was signing up for ... the whole works.

The primary difference is that her Dom recognized deeply buried fetishes in her subconscious that she didn't know she had and that were repressed due to social conditioning and parental repression, and everything he does is specially constructed to unlock her innate desires and tendencies - to un-bury those latent kinks. Everything is for *her* pleasure, not his and definitely not an expression of his anger. She may not realize it's for her own pleasure, and personal growth is often uncomfortable, but, as you get further into the story, we do see that this is true.

In 50 Shades, everything they do is for Grey's pleasure (or anger) and they are locked in a power struggle with him attempting to mold Ana into the kind of submissive, docile partner he wants her to be and Ana trying to "fix" him into the more sensitive partner she wants him to be.

I'm not personally into the "he knows me better than I know myself" stories, but the Training of Eileen, by William Vitelli (available on Amazon), is an excellent example of how you can have the *exact same plot* as 50 Shades, only without the abuse. It's also written by a veteran kinkster, so the kink is much more accurate and much more realistic.

**Nowhere in 50 Shades is there a scene like this (click the images for the source):

5th-Feb-2015 10:15 pm - Poly Movie Review - 3
Purple Mobius, polyamory - IMDB - Netflix - Amazon

I've updated my Netflix queue with poly movies so long ago, I can't remember anymore which movies were added because I saw them on a poly movie list somewhere and which were added because Netflix recommended it to me based on some movie from a poly list that I had just added. So I have no idea where this "3" came from. The Netflix summary reads:

Berliners Hanna and Simon, a couple in their 40s, have grown comfortable in their marriage. Independently, each meets and romances Adam, a handsome younger man. When Hanna becomes pregnant, all three must face what they've tried to ignore.

This has every element of a movie I will hate - infidelity, secrecy, Relationship Broken Add More People, and babies as plot devices. This movie isn't going to get a Get Out Of Jail Free card on these points. But I actually liked the movie anyway.

First of all, the description isn't exactly accurate. It's pretty close, certainly closer than Sleep With Me was. But Hanna and Simon aren't exactly "comfortable". They seem fairly happy, if settled with each other. I mean, sure, they do seem comfortable with each other, but the description would seem to imply the use of the word "comfortable" as a stand-in for bored or in a rut. This couple still has an active sex life and still expresses affection and love for each other. Their relationship isn't broken and neither of them go out looking for something to fix it, or their lives. They seem more or less content with their lives, although they experience some tragedy early on in the movie. They are "comfortable" if you use the definition of your favorite blanket that you curl up with to watch your favorite movies with.

So, they have a fairly happy, long-term relationship that experiences some stress that just comes from life. Then they each independently meet Adam. The description seems to suggest that each half of the couple were the ones to pursue Adam, but I got the impression that he's the one who put the moves on the couple. Adam is, apparently, bisexual and fine with casual flings. He has interludes with Hanna and Simon, and then goes about his business. But Hanna and Simon keep thinking about Adam and seek him out for more (which he is certainly amenable to). And yet, Hanna and Simon still seem happy with each other, and they're still both sexually active together.

So, as the summary gives away, Hanna discovers she's pregnant and doesn't know who the father is. So, like in Cafe Au Lait, the infidelity is revealed and they all have to deal with it. And this is where I have to give away the ending in order to explain why I think it's a poly-ish movie. I do wish I could start finding some poly-ish movies where the polyamory is the plot (or just another element in the story) and not the conclusion.

Anyway, here goes.Collapse )

This film was more artsy than I generally prefer, but then most foreign films are (this being a German film). It did have some gorgeous scenes, including a beautiful dance between a woman and two men that was fairly blatant foreshadowing. But for once, I didn't find the characters hard to relate to. I found Hanna to be the most disagreeable, but she was intelligent and knowledgeable and she liked to argue politics and she was involved in media. Her husband was quiet and passionate and artistic with a soft heart, filled with compassion. And Adam was a brilliant scientist trying to save the world in spite of the public's Luddite fears holding back his research. I think it was obvious why each of the characters liked the others, whether I liked them or not. They were nuanced and complex, and that always wins big points with me.

So, yes, the story starts out with an infidelity. Unfortunately, so do many poly attempts, which means that we will have that plot represented in our media. And yes, they added a baby. But it wasn't a cautionary tale, there wasn't any hypocrisy really, and no one was rewarded for truly evil behaviour. I found myself drawn into the story and I would recommend watching it.
Nude Drawing, sex
Even though I ballroom dance, I'm not a Dancer and I don't have what is typically thought of as a dancer's body. I'm relatively thin and small, but I have just enough of my Latina heritage to give me hips and an ass, while just enough of my Northern European heritage to make it not obvious and to make people who don't know that I'm Latina say stupid things like "oh, but you're so skinny!" whenever I complain about weight.

When I buy dance tights, I have to buy the larger sizes because of the stereotypes of what a dancer's body is supposed to look like, so I already feel annoyed buying tights right out of the gate. About a year ago, I bought my usual size, only to find that I couldn't pull the waistband up over my hips. I bought another pair, one size up (which, of course, was too big everywhere else, but I dealt with it), and felt bad about my weight gain ever since. So I've been trying to dance regularly and to control my portion sizes, and y'all know about my recent 2nd attempt at a 30 Day Challenge regimen.

Well, my larger size tights got ruined the last time I wore them thanks to a rough edge on my fingernail, so I only have the too-small pair left. I tried them on today, just to see, and I was able (just barely) to pull them all the way on! They fit everywhere except getting the waistband over the hips (as they probably did when I couldn't pull them all the way up at all last summer), so even though they're still uncomfortable to get past that point, it means that I've lost enough weight to wear them again.

This is in addition to having to add another hole to my belt and now being unable to wear my jeans (that I bought specifically because my old pair didn't fit anymore, so I think of them as my "fat jeans") without a belt. I'm feeling so much better about my shape and my progress lately. I know that I'm still thin and that I don't have the social stigma that others do, but it's still problematic for me.

The biggest concern I have is that I'm too poor to replace my wardrobe, so I need to maintain my weight just so that I don't have to buy any new clothes. I'm not quite down to my target weight yet, but it does mean that I'm starting to fit into some of my smaller clothes again, which really relieves a lot of my anxiety about spending money. I was pretty OK with how I looked with the extra weight, but every time I got dressed and something was tight, I fretted about needing to spend money on clothes.

This anxiety triggered my old anorexia that I thought I had gotten over decades ago, and I've been working to keep the anorexia in check by channeling the obsessive thoughts into a more healthy version, such as portion control as opposed to starvation, and the 30 Day Challenges as opposed to binge-exercising. The weight loss has been gradual with no adverse health effects, so I'm doing much better this time around.

I'm feeling encouraged by the tights, but I'm going to work on not letting it fuel a frantic workout routine and to remind myself to eat regularly.

Please don't comment with "but you're so thin / pretty / don't need to worry about weight" or offer compliments or tips. I know I'm thin, I know some people think I'm fine just the way I am, and I'm already doing what I feel is healthy and necessary for my body, given my peculiar dietary and psychological issues. This is way more complicated, involving psychology & social class issues, than anyone can help with in the comments section. If you're not my therapist, nutritionist, or medical doctor, I don't need advice and I'm not fishing for compliments. I don't care what other people think of me so validation that someone else finds me attractive doesn't help, and, in fact, will probably trigger one of my other issues about objectification.

I, and other people, need space to discuss our body issues without that space turning into someone else's expectations or desires for our bodies. It's not about how you see me, it's about how I see me and how I feel about me and how I can deal with all the sociopolitical-economic issues around being me.
Flogging, BDSM
So, everyone knows that I am utterly, emphatically, antagonistically opposed to 50 Shades Of Fucked Up. I've been posting links explaining how it's romanticized abuse pretty much since the books came out. But here's something ... when the books came out, I didn't yet realize that I was in a relationship with an abuser. I've been in a relationship with someone who tried to abuse me. And, for reasons that I plan to go into in another blog post, abuse doesn't seem to "stick" to me. I don't react to abuse attempts the way some other people do, so manipulation and abuse seems to act like a fiery catalyst, ending with an explosion of the relationship. When I was engaged to someone who attempted to abuse me, I got the hell out of there without, I believe, much damage to my own psyche.

But then I dated someone who abused his other partner. And, in spite of my experience, I didn't see it. Actually, I think it may have been because of my experience. Because they had slightly different tactics, and because the victim didn't react the way that I did or like the way victims are portrayed in movies, I couldn't see what was happening right in front of me. To be fair, a lot of it wasn't right in front of me. Most of the abuse was when they were alone. That's how it was able to fly under the radar. But I've since had the opportunity that only space and time can bring, to go over my own experiences and to hear the victim's story of what happened in privacy as well as to read and learn more about what emotionally abusive relationships actually look like.

So, let me tell you, when I found this link of 50 Abusive Moments In Fifty Shades, I could have used a trigger warning. Now, I don't TW or CW my posts. I figure that I am a trigger, so anyone who follows me should just know that. And I generally don't need warnings myself, even though I have plenty of my own triggers on a variety of subjects. I read what I read and that's just how it goes, for me. But I wasn't prepared for the connections this article made in my head. And I think it needs to be shared.

For the most part, negative reviews of 50 Shades are much like any other - they all go into great detail explaining how the book is about an abusive relationship, many of which cite domestic violence resources as evidence, and many of them save a little room to attack the poor literary quality of the writing on top of the content. Many of these reviews are written by people who are not familiar with BDSM but who take care to point out that they are not attacking the BDSM but the abuse, that they see a distinction, and that they are echoing criticisms from their kinky friends and resources. And many of them are abuse survivors. Such as this one.

Here's what got me. In the second book, when Ana seems like she really might leave him (again), Christian goes catatonic. It was this blogger's use of the word "catatonic" that triggered me. See, the ex who abused his other partner did this. When things got too stressful for him, he literally shut down. I'd never seen this before, or so I thought until this article. His other partners had seen it, and they just accepted that his brain was broken and this is what they had to deal with. So I accepted that explanation too. Everyone bent over backwards and treated him like a special needs child until he was coherent again. What I didn't see was the pattern, until much later.

I can remember times when I got legitimately upset with my ex for things. I'd tell him I was annoyed and I'd reject his advances and the next thing I knew, he'd clam up. He'd lie there, all sad-eyes and mouth opening and closing like a fish on land, breathing like like every intake was painful. Sometimes he'd start to shake, too. And I'd panic, thinking "shit, I've broken him!" and set about trying to make it all better again. Sometimes I'd try to touch him and he'd swat my hand away. Sometimes I'd start trying to explain my feelings and he'd shush me. But you can mark my words; the second I started saying I was sorry and that I loved him and was going to support him? Suddenly he'd regain the power of speech and he'd start talking about something painful from his past, until I'd forgotten what I was angry about in the first place, because I was too busy comforting him. That happened pretty much every time I questioned his behaviour, until I just stopped questioning it altogether. It's manipulation. It's calculated emotional and psychological abuse. And okay, maybe I didn't see it as such at the time, because I loved him.

This is from the blog, not me. But I swear I nearly looked up at the URL bar to confirm if it was written by me or by his victim because this was exactly what happened. And this is when I connected his catatonic state to the one my ex-fiancé used.

My ex-fiancé was a pathalogical liar. He started out with small, easily-believable lies so that it wasn't until we were engaged and living together that I finally started hearing lies big enough to detect as lies. Sure, looking back from the vantage point of post-breakup, the pattern is obvious and even the small lies are easy to spot. But when they're still in front of you and the pattern hasn't been revealed yet, it's not so easy. One of his lies, the one that finally smacked me upside the head with a clue-by-four, was that he would conveniently get "sick" after or during an argument or just before I was about to do something that he didn't want me to do.

He had been raised by a stay-at-home mom who was my grandmother's age, and consequently, of a different school of thought on gender and family roles. So he didn't have a single homemaking skill like cooking or laundry because his mother never taught him. When we moved in together, even though I had been clear that I was not going to assume the same role as his mother, all the cooking and cleaning and domestic chores fell to me on top of my part-time job and full-time college schedule, while he worked only one full-time job to "provide" for us. So, when he got sick, he didn't even know how to make himself chicken noodle soup. And I, of course, as the loving fiancé, felt compassion for him in his time of need.

But then I noticed that his upset stomachs always happened when I was winning an argument. And after arguments. And before my night classes when he would be left at home alone. And on days when I went to my mother's house to do laundry and wanted to go without him. And right before my friend's bachelorette party that was no-men-allowed. And... and... and... Yes, I stayed with him through an awful lot of these episodes, but I was already resentful and irritated by about the 2nd or 3rd "upset tummy" and I very quickly lost my compassion. I also didn't stay home to nurse him for each episode either, but he continued to get "sick" each and every time. It was these "illnesses" that made me realize that he was lying, and I began to question all the other "convenient" things that had happened in our relationship too. Those things aren't relevant to this blog post, but I do have another one all about this relationship coming.

So I got the fuck out. The thing is, he wasn't a terribly good liar and he used the same excuses too often. As I said, in the beginning the lies were small so it was easy to believe and rationalize them. But as soon as they had any real importance, his duplicity became fairly obvious. So when the other ex would go catatonic, I didn't connect them because he wasn't obviously, blatantly lying. To this day, I'm not entirely sure how much was faked and how much was a real reaction due to his mental illness (which was diagnosed after we broke up). For all I know, he really, legitimately, could have lost his ability to function each and every time as a reaction that he had little-to-no control over.

But, here's the thing. Mental illness is not an excuse for abuse. There are plenty of people who have mental disabilities who do not abuse and who learn coping mechanisms for functioning in relationships. His breakdowns happened during very specific times and the result of each breakdown was that people would "panic, thinking 'shit, I've broken him!' and set about trying to make it all better again." And as soon as the person he was in conflict with apologized and took all the responsibility for the scene, "Suddenly he'd regain the power of speech and he'd start talking about something painful from his past, until [they'd] forgotten what [they were] angry about in the first place". I spent years trying to talk down a friend from suicide every time he asked me out and I refused to be anything other than a platonic friend, because I didn't know that suicide threats were also a form of abuse. I spent years until I had finally reached my limit and I lashed out at him. That limit never reset itself, so I don't have very much patience for people who "get sick" when we are in conflict. I've been accused of being a cold-hearted bitch for it, but now I see that the people who accuse me of that most often are those who are trying to use tactics that are classified as "abusive" by domestic violence agencies. So I take those accusations with a grain of salt, and I actually feel very grateful about my instinctual reactions even though it hurts to be called "cold" by people who I thought cared for me.

As the blogger here says, "It's very much a thing and it's what made me utterly suicidal when I finally walked away from my abuser, because I thought he'd die because I'd abandoned him and I was a horrible bitch like all the others." This is exactly what abusers do and this is exactly what Christian Grey does to Ana in this story. "And then this chapter goes on to play on the ridiculously dangerous 'if I love this man right, I can cure him' trope", which is right out of the #WhyIStayed hashtag movement (and if you haven't followed that yet, you should). I have, on more than one occasion, found myself in a relationship where I thought to myself that I would "prove" that I'm "not like the others" who were so heartless and cruel as to abandon this poor, mistreated, misunderstood man. But it's not a mark of a good relationship to turn it into a competition between myself and his exes as to who can withstand his bullshit the longest. I am not a better person if I can cope with abuse longer than others. You know that saying that goes "if all your exes are crazy, the thing they have in common is you"? Well, if "all" his exes felt like they had to escape because they couldn't handle his damage, maybe there's a reason for that.

This subject is a difficult one because there are legitimately people out there who need help and they can't do it on their own. There are legitimately people out there who rely on their significant others to get them through rough patches. In fact, I'd argue that this is even one of the functions of a significant romantic relationship - to be someone your partner can rely on in hard times. I've had moments myself when I wasn't sure that I would make it, but a partner helped me through it. So I am not going to tell other people whether their relationships are abusive or not (although I will point out when I see people exhibiting abusive behaviour). I am going to tell you all, however, that this is a common tactic of abuse.

Shutting down mentally, emotionally, and communicatively until after the victim has switched sides and embraces their fault and wrongdoing is one of the steps in the cycle of emotional abuse. I get it, really I do. When I'm upset with my partner, and I really believe that they have wronged me, it might cause me to disconnect from them emotionally, at least for a while, because, hey! they wronged me. When they have seen and acknowledged the wrong that they've done to me, it can result in warming back up to them. Apologies that really display both remorse and understanding are worth considering and can repair a damaged relationship and damaged trust. So this can be extremely difficult to see as an abusive step when you're the victim and you're in the middle of it. This can also be difficult to see as an abusive step when you're the abuser, since abusers are not cartoon villains, twisting their mustachios and plotting on how to manipulate their victims trapped in their dark towers.

This confusion, this masquerade of a real phenomenon, is what an abuser is counting on to continue the abuse, even if they aren't consciously aware that they are abusive. And this social acceptance of abuse as "romance" is what abusers count on to provide them with a steady supply of victims who will have no support network to help rescue them because no one around them will believe that this is wrong. This is why I am so opposed to this series and movie. It is not being billed as an abusive relationship. As I posted the other day elsewhere, this isn't like when my generation and before read Flowers In The Attic - we all knew that book was a horror story. We knew that book series was about twisted minds and abusive relationships. We read it the way we read any horror story. It's completely OK that Flowers exists and that people read it, because it was not intended to get people off and it was not defended as some gateway for the mainstream to learn about "alternative family structures". It was drama and psychological horror.

And so is 50 Shades, but it's not being read that way. It's being billed as "erotica" and it's being defended as an open door for mainstreamers to learn about BDSM. I believe this is wrong, harmful, damaging, and frightening. I'm supporting the boycott solely because I do not wish to reward society for romanticizing abuse, not because I think this story should not exist. I've read the entire Flowers series more than once. If the author was making a fortune because society was holding up that series as the new How To Guide for family values, I'd boycott that series too.
31st-Jan-2015 08:02 pm - The Community Response To Abuse
Spank, Bad Joreth
This week's episode of Poly Weekly is on abuse in relationships. EVERYONE NEEDS TO LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE, not just poly people. It's not about abuse in poly relationships, it's about abuse in relationships, because poly relationships are really just relationships like any other.

In addition, everyone needs to read this blog post on the community response to abuse:

"When I first tried to articulate what I thought the community response to abuse should be, the only thing I could really think was that abusers need good friends. The kind of friends who are willing to tell them when they are not being the best that they can be."

I knew an abuser*, only I didn't know he was an abuser at the time. He had very good, close friends. But his friends were not willing to tell him when he was not being the best that he could be. After stumbling into a handful of roadblocks with him myself, some of his friends actually contacted me privately to tell me that they supported me, they thought he was being unreasonable, they wanted me to know that, but they wouldn't tell him about it because it "wasn't worth the argument".

Each argument I had with him resulted in him going to his group and telling them about the argument, then coming back to me to say "I talked to everyone else, and we all agree that you're wrong." Even knowing that wasn't always true, it's a horrible, isolating feeling that drove a wedge between me and our mutual friends. When I broke off contact with him, I lost my entire social circle because of the isolating effect that siding with an abuser has on his victims, and I wasn't even a "victim" because his abusive tactics never took a hold on me. But I wasn't immune to the effects anyway.

"Both survivors AND abusers need community support.

Specifically, survivors need protection and validation and abusers need support for accountability.

Abuse does not always look like what you think it should look like, and it usually occurs behind closed doors. As a community member, it is important to get rid of the idea that you will know abuse when you see it. It is ignorant to think that we will always be able to spot abuse in our communities."

I thought I knew what abuse looked like because I've been on the periphery of relationship sociology and psychology my entire life. And yet, when it happened RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME, I missed it. I couldn't see it, and as a consequence, I contributed to it - I enabled it. To my horror and shame, I didn't hear and I didn't see someone very dear to me being abused right in front of my own eyes.

"People who don’t want to change will often tell you that they don’t change because of the way that you are asking. This is horse puckey. Change is a personal matter, and it’s hard no matter what. If you want to change, no amount of assholery will be able to stop you. If you don’t, no amount of gentle crooning will make it happen. ... The methods that will get through to someone are varied. I don’t buy the idea that if we were just all nice that we could stop the bullying."

There are 2 basic camps in the atheist communities - those fire and brimstone atheists and those who walk around telling everyone not to be a dick. The thing is, the fire and brimstone atheists are not telling the DBAD guys to shut up. We know that it takes a wide variety of methods to change the minds of a wide variety of people. Go with your strengths. Mine is anger.

"Be willing to distance yourself from people who display abusive behaviors

Sometimes you can’t be a friend of someone who is abusive unless you support their beliefs. It’s hard to fracture your community that way, especially when it is already small. It’s hard when you realize that maybe you can’t just invite everyone to your party."

I'm glad there are people out there with a softer touch who are willing to be that bridge and try to help others back on the path of Greatest Courage and Integrity. I, however, am the one who will throw the party who doesn't just invite "everyone". When I created the local poly discussion group, I deliberately held our meetings in our local LBGTQ center because our previous community had a problem with homophobia. I created an environment that made homophobes uncomfortable. They were not invited to my party.

Sometimes, I *am* in a position to be connected to both sides of a toxic relationship, because the circumstances give me enough space to do so safely (I am not a target, I am not personally affected by the abuser so I can maintain my temper and be that "softer touch", the victims have enough distance with me to not be overly affected, etc.). But when there is a conflict, I am choosing the safety of the victims of abuse.

"'I was victimized by acts of control' is not the same as 'I was victimized by the other person’s resistance to my control.'"

This is SO SO SO SO important. I cannot stress enough how important this statement is. This is the difference between real abuse and entitlement. This is the difference between racism and "reverse racism". This is the difference between misogyny and "misandry". This is the difference between oppression and privilege.

As someone once told me, the victim in an abusive relationship is the one who is struggling to escape. The one holding on is not the victim. This is *obviously* an oversimplification, because there are plenty of reasons why victims remain with their abusers, as even a cursory glance at the #WhyIStayed and similar hashtags will tell you. But, underneath all the complexity and all the confabulations and all the confounding factors, if you are being hurt by acts of control, then you are being harmed. If you are being hurt because someone is resistant to your attempts to control them, then you are doing the harming - both to your victim and to yourself. Theists are not being oppressed because gays want to get married.  Those theists are feeling hurt because gay people are resisting their control.  When you attempt to impose rules on your partner, and your partner says those rules are hurting them and they behave in ways that are resistant to those rules, and you feel hurt because they are rejecting your attempts to restrict their behaviour, you are the one doing the hurting, even if you are doing it out of your own feelings of pain or insecurity.  You need different types of support. And I will hold you accountable.

*I've actually known quite a few abusers, and have been in relationships with several abusers. I have a whole post in the can elaborating on this very subject. I have a particular quirk that leaves me somewhat resistant to abuse - not totally immune to their effects, but abuse tactics tend to backfire when people try them on me. So, for much of my life, I was not aware of what emotional abuse looked like even when I saw it first-hand because I do not react to attempts to manipulate and control me the way that an abuse victim does when the abuse attempts are successful. So it is only much later that I learned to recognize what emotional abuse looked like in my previous relationships, and I am still learning. What I have learned so far is that I have actually had numerous encounters with abusers throughout my life, and that thought is rather chilling. Pulling the wool over my eyes, tricking me, and making me not see what's right in front of my nose tends to make me angry, and when I get angry, I get stubborn and impatient, so I have very little compassion or tolerance for abuse now that I know some things to look for. I'm sure many of my regular readers are familiar with my low-tolerance reaction by now.
19th-Jan-2015 12:29 am - On Not Expressing Discomfort
Super Tech, strong, feminism
I haven't done one of these Media Reflections in a while.  That's where I take some form of popular media like a TV show or song and use it as a springboard for some kind of commentary, usually social commentary.  I'm not necessarily talking about the medium itself, it's not like a review or a critique, but it's more of an illustration for some larger point.

I saw this video on Facebook.  A photographer used a high speed camera to take really, ultra slow-motion video and still photography of people's faces as they got stunned by a stun gun.  It's an entertaining video for a lot of reasons, but there was a comment that the photgrapher made in the behind-the-scenes video that I really wanted to comment on.

"what we found was the reactions from these people were completely different. Some of the guys looked like they were in pain, a lot of the girls looked like they were having a pleasurable experience..."

There's this thing that happens.  Guy hits on girl and makes her uncomfortable.  Girl tries to find polite way out of the situation.  Guy complains about mixed messages, then tries harder.  Girl rants on Facebook about douchebag guys at bars.  Guy accuses her of friendzoning him, playing games, threatens her with unhappy future dating Neanderthal while passing up on Nice Guys, and whines about how bitches only like jerks.

So something that I used to do (and it's still a position that I hold, I just have more to it now) is urge women to be more active communicators and to be clearer about rejection.  I always felt compassion for guys who were forced to navigate this maze of ambiguous signals.  I need clear signals myself.  I always say that we can't expect anyone to read our minds, and, to paraphse tacit  "you can't reasonably expect to get what you want if you don't ask for it."  I want to break down this passive communication thing that our culture seems to encourage, and I want women to embrace their sexuality and their power and be assertive about what they want and don't want.

But, here's the thing:  currently, when women *are* assertive about what they want and don't want, they are punished for it.  So, yeah, it really sucks to be given all these coded messages that you have to decipher, and yeah, it really sucks to find out that someone who seemed to be enjoying your company actually thinks you're a wanker and wishes the ground would just swallow her up so that she doesn't have to listen to you anymore.  But you know what sucks more?  Telling someone to leave you alone, even nicely, only to have him physically threaten you for not enjoying his company.

I come across as this badass bitch online because I can hold my own in an argument.  But the truth of the matter is that I'm actually pretty severely conflict averse.  I really hate conflict and I try to avoid it.  The thing is that I dislike wrong more than I dislike conflict, so if I see a wrong, the pull to correct it might be stronger than the pull to avoid the inevitable conflict.  But what people don't see from their screens is all the time and effort I spend not correcting wrongs on the internet.  That's much more obvious in person, such as at some convention or another when my friend Heidi and I were both in a group discussion about something that I can't even remember, and some idiot started spouting off "women are just thus and such, blah blah, evo-psych, biologically determined, natter natter, bullshit".  I sat quietly in my chair with my hand curled in a fist at my mouth, rolling my eyes and evaluating how much he had to spew before I was willing to interject.  She even took a picture of me because she was so amused to see me going ballistic in my own head but not speaking out.

How this is relevant is that I have found myself in several occasions recently to need to be "rescued".  At a nightclub just in one night, my male friends had to physically drag me away from guys twice who had penned me into a corner and were getting too aggressive with me.  I tried to find polite and non-confrontational ways out of the situation before I resorted to outright conflict, but my male friends jumped in before I had to resort to that.  And I really appreciated the rescue at the same time that I bitterly resented the social convention that allowed me to escape from a situation with a man that I didn't want to be in only by being claimed by another man because my own wishes to escape were not important enough to heed.  This was not the only incident in recent weeks.

Now, for the tie-in.  Women are socially punished for things like rejecting people, for being aggressive, for being too expressive (particularly if they are expressing negative emotions like pain or sadness), for not being expressive enough (especially if they are not expressing positive emotions like joy, and they are expected to do so at all times), or for being unpleasant in any way.  I don't really want to get into a debate about nature vs. nurture so I'm not speculating on the cause, but I think this video actually showed the effects of the consequences for this sort of thing.

"The guys looked like they were in pain, and a lot of the girls looked like they were having a pleasurable experience."

Everyone was feeling the exact same sensation, but, generally speaking, the men expressed discomfort while the women did not even though the sensation was decidedly uncomfortable.  Now, this isn't a perfect analogy.  The photographer also said:

"When you got hit with this taser, it was enough to make you scream, jump up out of your chair, give some great expression and emotion, but it wasn't painful enough to 1) give you any kind of permanent damage or scar, and 2) it wasn't painful enough that you didn't want to do it again. I was shocked by how many people wanted to get back in the chair and get tased a second or third time just cuz it was so fun and entertaining."

I'm quite familiar with BDSM, and, in fact, I'm specifically familiar with electrical play.  So I do understand how something can be both painful and pleasurable, or uncomfortable and still fun.  Plus, this was at a bar and the participants volunteered to get tased, so they knew it was coming.  There's a certain amount of self-selecting at play here, although the photographer did say that about 99% of people who came through the door signed the waver and got tased.  But even accounting for the fact that this wasn't a terribly strong shock and there was some social expectation of this being a fun party-sort of experience, both the men and the women still felt the same thing, and yet most of the men expressed the pain while the women mostly showed expressions of not-pain (surprise, enjoyment, etc.).  A lot of people did get back in the chair, but the photographer also says elsewhere in the video that a lot of people didn't.  The subjects moved so fast that he didn't always get the shot and he had to ask people if they would be willing to do it again, and he says that a lot of people flat-out refused to get shocked a second time.  So, it might not be bad, like on a scale of 1-10 where 10 is the worst pain you can imagine (terrible scale, by the way), but it's not exactly a feather-tickle either.

I suspect that the observation that the photographer made had something to do with the way that women are discouraged from being unpleasant and men aren't.  And, whether that's a real connection or not, I want to use this observation as an analogy to help reinforce a lesson that I've been trying to drive home lately:  Just because a woman isn't expressing her displeasure, it doesn't mean that she's not displeased.  We cannot rely on "no means no" alone.  We cannot expect that everything is a "yes" until you hear that "no".  You have to assume that everything is a "no" until you hear that yes.

Yes, it does mean that we're fighting another sort of social inertia - getting women to be more assertive and to be active communicators.  But I believe that the consequences for getting it wrong in this direction are far less dire than getting it wrong in the other direction.  It might mean that someone isn't getting laid because they were too cautions with their signals or reading signals.  I'm sorry, that sucks.  But that's far more livable than the alternative, which is someone getting pressured, coerced, or forced because she's too afraid to assert herself for whatever reason she may have for being afraid.  Perhaps if the men (assuming a hetero audience, since that's where this whole dynamic is most relevant) were willing to band together and refuse sex to women who won't own up to wanting it, the women will learn to be more assertive.

Of course, it might help the women learn to be more assertive if they weren't also punished for admitting they want it, but that's a whole other rant.  The bottom line here is that you can't always trust from a woman's social behaviour (and sometimes even private behaviour) that she is not bothered or upset about something.  I know lots of guys who have gotten "handsy" with me when I didn't want them to, and for a variety of reasons, I didn't have them arrested for assault.  Some of them have commented on the fact that I seem to be smiling and even laughing a bit while I'm physically slapping their hands away or evading them.  I have said, flat-out, that I'm uncomfortable and nervous and this is my reaction to feeling uncomfortable.  It's not like I was being threatened with harm, not like someone was trying to punch me.  It's an in-between state where I'm uncomfortable, not in imminent danger.  I have no good reaction for that situation, but the one that has developed is an awkward smile, lack of eye contact, and an edging away.  This is fairly common among women in my culture.  And even after explaining, explicitly, that I'm uncomfortable and the smile or laughter is a sign that I'm uncomfortable, usually these men kept doing what they were doing because the smile was, apparently, encouraging.

So, if you don't have some kind of pre-existing relationship with someone where you can feel confident in their non-verbal communication, you really can't rely on a woman's behaviour to indicate her level of discomfort with the situation.  You have to get confirmation and you have to keep checking in for clear consent.  I know, it's scary to think of all the women who seemed to enjoy your presence and wonder how many of them were actually uncomfortable.  It's daunting and intimidating and if you think of it too hard, it might even be enough to make one throw up his hands and give up on dating entirely.  But, really, the solution to this problem is 2-fold:  1) keep checking in and excuse yourself a bit early (take the old advice to "always leave them wanting more"); and 2) change the culture by publicly supporting and encouraging women to be more assertive while publicly discouraging things that punish them for exactly that, including talking to other men about how it's shooting themselves in the foot every time they gossip about who's being slutty or talk about their girlfriends or ex-girlfriends, or that goddamn revenge porn, or any number of other things that feminists everywhere have been complaining about forever.  #2 will take longer, but they're both equally important.  In fact, being seen doing #2 will help make the women in your life feel more safe about being honest with their feelings and reactions when you do #1.  If a woman feels safe expressing her discomfort around you, then you're less likely to get those confusing "mixed signals" from her, and you can be confident that her consent is an active consent.

15th-Jan-2015 01:36 pm - Why You Will Marry The Wrong Person
Purple Mobius, polyamory

This is an interesting perspective of partner selection. I'm not saying I agree with everything, and it's more cynical than I'd like (yes, I did say that), but it is interesting. I've found a lot of this to be true in mainstream society and I find most of these problems are solved within the poly community (at least, ideally) because we're doing something so different that we tend to talk about stuff that a lot of mainstream people don't. In fact, most of the complaints in this article are *reasons* why I began searching for something different in the first place, and how I came across the poly community.

"All of us are crazy in very particular ways. We’re distinctively neurotic, unbalanced and immature, but don’t know quite the details because no one ever encourages us too hard to find them out. An urgent, primary task of any lover is therefore to get a handle on the specific ways in which they are mad." - I spend a great deal of time doing introspection and discussion with people who know me well, so that I can identify exactly the ways in which I am mad. I've found this to be off-putting in mainstream society, but it's how I construct my dating profiles so that prospective partners can see it all upfront.

"We need to know the intimate functioning of the psyche of the person we’re planning to marry. We need to know their attitudes to, or stance on, authority, humiliation, introspection, sexual intimacy, projection, money, children, aging, fidelity and a hundred things besides. This knowledge won’t be available via a standard chat." - These are exactly the kinds of chats that I have with prospective and current partners, for exactly these reasons.

"We believe we seek happiness in love, but it’s not quite as simple. What at times it seems we actually seek is familiarity – which may well complicate any plans we might have for happiness." - I see this all the time in the poly community with the rules and prescription and "monogamy +1" stuff. They're not seeking happiness, they're seeking as much familiarity as possible in a relationship style that seems new and scary and different.

"One is never in a good frame of mind to choose a partner rationally when remaining single is unbearable. We have to be utterly at peace with the prospect of many years of solitude in order to have any chance of forming a good relationship. Or we’ll love no longer being single rather more than we love the partner who spared us being so." - as More Than Two says, if you can't leave the relationship, then you can't give consent. This is an abusive dynamic.

"We have for three hundred years been in collective reaction against thousands of years of very unhelpful interference based on prejudice, snobbery and lack of imagination." - our feelings must inform our reasons and our reason must take into account our feelings. They work together. It's possible to really and truly love someone and still not be good partners for each other.

"We imagine that marriage is a guarantor of the happiness we’re enjoying with someone. It will make permanent what might otherwise be fleeting. It will help us to bottle our joy," - I see this in all styles of relationship - poly, mono, etc. People are terrified of change and seek to legislate it away.

"Part of the reason we feel like getting married is to interrupt the all-consuming grip that love has over our psyches. We are exhausted by the melodramas and thrills that go nowhere. We are restless for other challenges. We hope that marriage can conclusively end love’s painful rule over our lives." - I'm at this point in my life myself. I don't even want to think about getting into another relationship. But I'm not holding onto my existing ones in order to avoid new ones; I'm content to be alone if that's what's better for me. Fortunately, I *do* happen to have good, healthy relationships at the moment. But as one partner is very LD and the other was LD for the last couple of years, I was *effectively* "alone" while in this mindset, and I would rather have stayed that way than tried to start another one. That's how I can feel confident that I am not keeping my current partners around just to avoid getting back into the dating scene.

So, interesting thoughts.

14th-Jan-2015 09:19 pm - Boundaries Vs. Rules
Purple Mobius, polyamory
I posted this on my FB page, and it was an off-the-cuff sort of thing in the heat of a moment of irritation at remembering past relationships.  I wasn't expecting it to be as popular as it got.  But I'm getting requests left and right to share it in other groups, so I guess I hit a nerve with some people.  Since it seems to mean a lot to some people, I figure I ought to post it somewhere just a little easier to re-find than FB.  It'll probably end up on my website sooner or later.  For bonus points,

Rules-based: "There's something that I want to do but it makes me feel icky to think of you doing it, so I'm going to institute a structure in which I get what I want but you don't get the same thing, and somehow rationalize it away as 'fair' using any number of pop psych / evo-psych terms or logical fallacies or other forms of mental gymnastics."

Rules-based: "There's something that I want to do but it makes me feel icky to think of you doing it, so I'm going to magnanimously sacrifice my desire so that you can't do it either, and that way I never have to face the underlying issue about why it's OK for me to want it but not OK for you to do it. If we both can't do it, then it's 'fair'."

Boundary-based: "There's something that I want to do but it bothers me to think of you doing it. I am completely aware that this is a double standard and there is no rational reason for it. This doesn't mean that you can't do it, but it does mean that I will probably have a freak-out if you do, and I'd like to ask for your help and support to get through it so that you have the freedom to make choices about your life and I still feel nurtured when I hit an insecurity."

Rules-based Masquerading As Boundary-based: "There's something that I want to do but it makes me feel icky to think of you doing it, so I'm going to grudgingly allow you to do it and use my reaction as a weapon every time you do, so that you will begin to make choices based on *my* insecurities and you'll think that it's 'fair' because your sacrifice will be by 'choice'. You don't want to *hurt* me, right?"

Option #1 - e.g. One Penis Policy (but she only WANTS women, so there's nothing wrong with making a RULE about it!)

Option #2 - Relationship By Hostage Situation

Option #4 - You Keep Using That Word "Boundary"; I Don't Think It Means What You Think It Means.
Purple Mobius, polyamory
Oh. Gourd. This movie. There's so much to hate about this movie. Where to even begin? First start at the beginning. And when you come to the end, stop. Scratch that. You'll probably be asking me to stop much sooner than the end. Anyway, here goes.

This movie stars an all-B-lister cast, with the likes of Jason Alexander and Jonathan Silverman and Patrick Dempsey and Angie Everhardt, so not terrible actors. We meet the 3 main couples in the first scene at a dinner party. There's the feminist man who's hopelessly devoted to respecting his pregnant fiance and she's characterized by her absolute trust and faith in him. They have this pleasantly, non-threatening sort of progressive relationship that's all liberal, but in a quiet, unassuming sort of way. He spends most of his time trying to distance himself from the asshole Neanderthal men around him.

Next is the ball-busting, opinionated photographer and her husband. Most of what we see of her is her neuroses. More on that later. He doesn't seem to have anything redeeming about himself to make him stand out in my mind, other than "her husband". I'm not even sure what he does for a living. Finally we have the Jewish attorney who cheated on his first wife with his current wife, and the current wife who, in spite of once being someone's mistress, is naively in love with the idea of monogamy and fidelity and Twue Wuv.

To stir up the pot, the lawyer invites a writer who is a client of his to his little dinner party. Jason Alexander shows up playing the role of cynical misanthropist to shatter the illusions off the happily monogamous couples, named Art. His character really pisses me off because he's the role that someone like me would be in at a real dinner party, except he's written by someone who hates him and so portrays that role as a misogynist Radical Truther asshole. He pulls out the usual tropes, such as "dogs don't have the artificial restraints put on their biology that people do," and he coins the phrase "The Monogamy Denial" which is the title of his book, stating that all people are inherently non-monogamous but men especially are because evo-psych biological urges, must hump everything, reasons. Blegh. My sweetie watching this with me curled his lip at the character and called him "smarmy". Art is everything I detest about the circles I run in - skeptical, atheist, non-monogamous, alt-sex lifestylers basically using pop evo-psych to justify being shitheads and walking all over people's dignity in the name of "honesty" and "nature".

Remember, this is the opening scene. Things go downhill from here. So Art starts spouting his "monogamy is unnatural" bullshit (and I say that as someone who doesn't believe that the human species is inherently monogamous even if some individuals are), and immediately, I mean, with no lead up, the photographer lady gets righteously pissed off, saying "are you insinuating that we are not monogamous, what the hell do you know? Fuck you!" So everyone tries to calm her down and change the subject, but Art keeps pushing the issue, and the party breaks up early. Each couple goes home ruminating about his "truths" in their own fashion, some wondering if men really are inherently non-monogamous (men, not people, men), some angry at the implications, some taking pity on him and trying to armchair psychoanalyze him as having some sort of pathetically bad experience to make him bitter.

Next we're introduced to a whole supporting cast of detestable characters designed to support Art's position. The lawyer's brother, for example, is a chubby-chaser - a guy who fetishizes fat women - with an anger management problem. He manages to make a totally reasonable position of someone who relishes the physical experience of sex with different body types and still come off sounding like a disgusting creep. He is also opposed to marriage and believes that monogamy is unnatural. Of course.

The feminist man, Sam, is a chef in a restaurant who has a coworker of some sort who fulfills the role of the misogynistic guy who believes women are just cum receptacles there for his pleasure. Sam is, to his credit, outwardly and outspokenly appalled at misogynist's behaviour. But when a feminist woman coworker pops her head in to complain, she has to be written as a bitchy feminazi who disapproves of both men and yells at both of them even though Sam was clearly and verbally opposed to Misogynist Man's behaviour. Then the writers reduce her to a sex object by having her stomp off in a huff, still mad at both men, while Misogynist Man leers at her butt and comments on it, and Sam can't help himself from gazing at it walking away either. Yes, I said "it" and not "her". Because the camera zooms in on her ass.

The rest of the movie is a series of scenes of the men being unable to remain fidelitous to their wives in various contexts, each one questioning whether or not this really "counts" as cheating. Does it count as cheating if he masturbates to porn and goes to blue movies? Does it count as cheating if it's a happy ending handjob at a massage parlor? Does it count as cheating if you pick up a hot chick at a hockey game and take her back to her house and loudly fuck her while your buddy sits in the living room with her friend in awkward silence?

The entire movie is nothing but a reinforcement of gender role bullshit. But, remember, the original premise was that monogamy is unnatural for everyone, so the women don't get away scott-free either. It's just that men, apparently, are more likely to cheat and to do so for purely physical reasons (as we're reminded continuously from the justification monologues throughout the film) and women have more complicated reasons for cheating or not cheating. So, enter the wives.

Claudia, the photographer, waits until nearly the end of the movie to seduce Art. Remember, the woman who blew up with no build-up at even the insinuation that she wasn't monogamous? Specifically at the same guy she is now fucking? So Art asks her about it, and she admits that she and her husband have a DADT arrangement. He comments on the hypocrisy of her defending monogamy at the dinner party and she just says that her sex life is no one else's business. Then we learn that Art doesn't actually believe any of the stuff he was spouting at the party, he just said them to see what the reactions would be for research for his next book.

The lawyer's wife (and former mistress), the one who seems like a freaking Disney character with her big innocent eyes and adamant attachment to fidelity and Twue Wuv, develops a crush on her professor in med school and they have an affair. Meanwhile, the lawyer is wracked with Jewish guilt over the happy ending at the massage parlor and the handjob from the friend while waiting awkwardly for his buddy to finish having sex in the next room. So he tells her about it, she freaks out, he reminds her that she wanted complete honesty, and she graciously forgives him while warning him how difficult it will be to gain her trust back. She never once admits to her infidelity, which was "worse" because she had sex but was somehow justifiable because it involved "feelings". Or something.

Sammy, the pregnant fiance of the feminist chef Sam who likes porn, meanwhile finds one of his videos and completely freaks out thanks to her man-hating sister who was cheated on once and now thinks all men are pigs and will cheat. The sister convinces her that porn automatically leads to real sex. So Sammy hires a detective to follow Sam around and discovers his penchant for blue movie theaters. Convinced that he must also be having sex with women all over the place, they set him up with an "operative" who is "prepared to go all the way" to get the evidence for his cheating. But, as Sammy watches from the surveillance van down the street (seriously), Sam proves himself to be worthy of her love and doesn't bow to the seduction, confessing his devotion and love to his beautiful pregnant fiance.

This movie reinforces gender roles, evo-psych justifications, a cynical view of love, and yet still manages to also reinforce monogamy and social expectations. All the couples remain in their couples, only with lies and secrets and guilt between them, and they all end smiling at Sam & Sammy's wedding in a veneer of happiness with the implication that all is as it should be - cheating husbands and all.

I think the best summary for this movie was given by my sweetie when I asked him what he thought. He said, "It was almost a good movie. It had a budget, it had decent actors, it had locations and nice sets, it had some funny moments. It was almost a good movie except for that bit in the middle. Where they talked."

~Reviews by Joreth - I watch the crap so you don't have to.
8th-Jan-2015 12:23 am - Single People And Breaking Up
Purple Mobius, polyamory

"The researchers specifically looked at "self-concept reorganization," the process of seeing and defining yourself separate from your ex and from the relationship. Asking the participants to reflect on their relationships helped the participants "build a stronger sense of who they were as single people," Larson says."

"in close relationships, people begin to feel as though they overlap with the person they are close to. "The process of becoming psychologically intertwined with the partner is painful to have to undo," she says. "Our study provides additional evidence that self-concept repair actually causes improvements in well-being.""

"The recovery of a clear and independent self-concept seems to be a big force driving the positive effects of this study, so I would encourage a person who recently experienced a breakup to consider who he or she is, apart from the relationship," Larson says. "If that person can reflect on the aspects of him- or herself that he or she may have neglected during the relationship but can now nurture once again, this might be particularly helpful."

Although this article was about breaking up, recovery from breaking up, and the study was most likely exclusively about monogamous relationships, my take-away from this article is that solo poly is one relationship style that can give people a leg-up in breakup recovery. Since solo poly is defined, more or less, by the individuality of the participants, regardless of the emotional connection, and the intentional relationship structure based on communication and self-reflection of needs and wants, it seems to me that people who practice solo poly well probably already have the tools necessary to recover from breakups quickly and in healthy ways, and also that people who practice solo poly well probably have the *potential* to have less painful breakups in general since there is less entwinement happening in the relationship to begin with.

With only a few exceptions, I have always felt that I "got over" my breakups faster than it seemed other people did. Some people have accused me of not really loving my exes if I could move past a breakup quickly, and in my blacker moments, I have wondered the same thing. In my most self-doubtingier moments, it has crossed my mind to wonder whether or not I don't feel as deeply as others.

But then I swim out of my morass and realize that the whole reason why I get so upset at the shit I rant about online is precisely because I feel so deeply about things that I get overwhelmed by bad stuff. And then this study comes out, and it just reinforces the high-self-esteem-voice in my head that, no, I'm just fine, I love just as "much" as anyone else. I just probably have more tools in my toolkit for handling breakups because I always maintain my sense of self as distinct from my relationships. My relationships are things that I do and connections that I treasure, but they are not the entirety of my identity. They aren't even a large portion of my identity, in spite of *how* I do relationship (i.e. being poly) being a large part of my identity.

And, it turns out, this thing that I've always done instinctually is probably what makes it possible for me to have had as many breakups as I've had (and also to have withstood as many attempts of people to trap me in abusive relationships as I have) and to still be able to trust in the next one, to open up and risk being vulnerable the next time, and to still believe that I'm worthy of love and that there is more love out there for me to find even after yet another breakup.
5th-Jan-2015 10:58 pm - Thank You Feminists
Super Tech, strong, feminism
I was the Chill Girl - you know that girl, the one who doesn't "get along with other women", who only has guy friends, whose said guy friends will bitch about "women" and then say "except for you, you're cool" or "but you don't count", and who took that as a compliment. I've always had one or two female "best friends", but the vast majority of my closest friends were guys. I always just "got" them better. But, in reality, what I "got" was that I had interests and hobbies that society deemed "guy things" and since most girls were strongly discouraged from enjoying them, most girls that I had met in my rather small subset of humans that I had contact with happened to not share my interests, or at least they didn't share my stubbornness to enjoy those interests in spite of being discouraged from them.  What I also "got" was the unfairness heaped on guys because of patriarchy, I just didn't realize it was the patriarchy that was responsible.  But I empathized with them for their shitty situations (and still do).

So I didn't really understand "women" and I didn't really have a lot of female friends for most of my life. Until I became poly, when I later met tacit, who has exceptional taste in women. It turns out that guys who like dating girls like me ... like girls like me. So, consequently, I ended up meeting lots of women who share at least some of my interests and personality quirks because the guys I was dating were attracted to those very things, so they kept finding women I had things in common with.

And then I joined the atheist and skeptics communities. I was still the Chill Girl, and I considered my new, larger circle of female friends (made up mostly of metamours) to be exceptions. I knew that I wasn't completely unique in the world, I just thought I was rare. So I just assumed that being poly increased my chances of meeting the other rare gems like myself because I deliberately redesigned how I met people and who I was likely to meet.

But then the atheist and skeptics communities exploded into a feminist / misogynist war zone. And that's when I discovered that I was actually a feminist. And that's also when I discovered other feminists. Women, like me, who rejected the gender binary, the enforced gender roles, who were stubborn and strong-willed, who were flawed and 3-dimensional, who had a variety of interests and personality quirks. That's when I finally realized that I had been playing against my own hand this whole time, and that I get along with "women" just as well as I get along with "men" - that is to say that I get along with anyone who is complimentary to me, basically like everyone else.

I just realized that my friends list is filled with women who all have something fabulous to contribute to the world. So I just want to say thank you, to all the feminists out there who read my feed and who let me read theirs. You are not all the exact same fire-and-brimstone internet flame warriors as me (some of you are even better warriors than I am), but you are all strong in your own ways, and complex, and nuanced, and colorful, and you make my life better. If you had told teenage-me that someday I would actually count more close female confidantes than males, and I would feel better about seeing more non-guy people in my social circles than if I were the sole woman among "guys" (as I used to prefer), and that I would rather seek out the advice and consolation of other women in times of stress than from the guys I know (with certain exceptions, and you few who have seen my cry know who you are), I would have asked what you were smoking.

I am frequently disheartened and overwhelmed by the kinds of things I see posted in my social networking spaces, but the fact that I have so many people talking about them actually makes me feel better about the world, knowing that I'm not the only one who sees and not the only one who is doing, and, in fact, more people out there are actually better than me at the doing. So thank you all for being you - angry, sad, happy, confused, conflicted, broken and repaired all of you.
30th-Dec-2014 08:06 pm - Me Manual - The Cliff Notes Version
photography, Self-Portrait, personal

I'm a fervent believer in the Me Manual - an "instruction manual" telling people how to deal with yourself.  It can include your quirks, your fears, your Love Languages, your kinks, your triggers, your medical history, whatever.  The point is that I am strongly opposed to treating partners and loved ones as if they have magic crystal balls and can divine what you want and don't want in relationships.  So I put together a Me Manual, detailing all of those kinds of things.  In fact, it's here, in my LJ, under the tag Me Manual.

But cunningminx, of the Poly Weekly podcast, has a background in marketing and has put together a User Manual template that is short and to the point (also available at the end of her book 8 Things I Wish I'd Known About Polyamory).  It's much easier reading than my jumbled novel-length posts sparked by random thoughts and situations.  So I've taken her template and created my own based on it.  This covers pretty much all the same things as my Me Manual does, but in a single, digestable format.  I'll probably end up posting it on my website in the About Me section too.  But here it is:

Part A
Family Background/History
(this might explain some of my quirks)

  • I'm an oldest child.  Excellent student, overachiever, bored easily, often in competition with my younger sister who excelled at everything I didn’t & who felt challenged at everything I was good at.

  • I am a Gifted child. This means that I am incredibly smart, but I was praised for *being* smart, not for trying hard.  Consequently, I get embarrassed or frustrated when something doesn’t come easily to me, so I will often not bother trying or I’ll give up quickly and move onto other things and that my potential in many areas has not been met because I gave up and moved on.  But it also means that I have a great deal of interests and knowledge, and I’m proud of that.  And it means that I will grasp things fairly quickly and will probably have a decent working understanding of certain topics that I have formed opinions or conclusions about and may not wish to hear an opposing viewpoint if I feel that I’ve heard it already and rejected it.  It may be the first time you’ve spoken about it to me, but it’s not the first time I’ve heard it.

  • My family is the classic American “normal” nuclear family. Catholic parents who married right after high school, still together, 2 kids, dog, suburbs, one scholarly kid & one jock kid.  They believed very strongly that family was forever, so fights don’t generally frighten me & I don’t assume there is anything wrong with the relationship just because there is the occasional fight.  People who do fear fights or see them as automatic symbols of relationship distress confuse and frustrate me.

  • I'm independent. I was raised to be independent, but really, this is an internal trait that far exceeds what my parents actually intended to instill.  I like lots of alone time, I like taking care of myself, I take pride in developing the types of skills that allow me to be self-sufficient.  However, I may occasionally feel a little bit left out when everyone in my life has someone to depend on and I end up taking care of myself when I’m sick and attending parties alone.  So very small gestures of assistance or partnership are incredibly meaningful to me, as long as they are not done after I insist that I don’t want the assistance and with the acknowledgement that I am still capable of doing it on my own.

  • I have abandonment issues because of a long history of men “trying out” polyamory for my sake, only to dump me for the first girl to come along who wants them but doesn’t want polyamory.  I also have a long history of men just up and leaving with no contact or explanation (i.e. the Disappearing Act form of breakup).  I need lots of assurances that whatever new partner comes along, that I won’t be “replaced”, that my partners intend to stick around for a while, that breakups will be civil and respectful and compassionate, and that my partners have a commitment to being “friendly exes” themselves.  After a recent series of very bad breakups, I have an even larger amount of anxiety about people’s breakup skills and dedications to polyamory or to me in particular.

  • I’m adopted so I have an, apparently, unusual ability to see poly analogs in monogamous society.  Most of what I learned about how to manage multiple adult families and how to love multiple people came from my loving, heteronormative, family-oriented, monogamous family.  It also means that I’m very sensitive about intentional families and intentional family-planning.  I feel very strongly about issues of family being one of choice, not blood, and in the right to choice in parenting, and extrapolating those concepts to polyamory and other family and relationship issues.

Part B: How to turn me on -

  • Make time for me but don’t demand all of my time. Not enough regular contact and I’ll assume you’re not that into me and I’ll just go about my life without putting too much thought into how it affects you.  This could even happen after a relationship has been established.  If I feel that you don’t have time for me but I’m not otherwise unhappy about the relationship enough to breakup, I’ll just start to withdraw myself and start going about my life with less consultation with you, transitioning to a more casually structured relationship even if I maintain a deep emotional connection.

    But too much *demand* for regular contact and I’ll start to feel confined.  I want regular contact with my partners, but I also want flexibility from my partners with regards to my chaotic and unconventional schedule.  In order, my preference for “contact” is: face-to-face / in-person time; phone conversations; online chat & public social networking interaction (tied); Skype; texting & email (tied).  One exception is that public social networking interaction that is positive/complimentary/flirty/ or otherwise publicly acknowledges & reinforces a relationship is also very meaningful for me.  But that’s Words of Affirmation Love Language, whereas the methods of contact fall under Quality Time Love Language.  Both are equally meaningful to me.  If you aren’t familiar with the Five Love Languages, ask me and we’ll talk more on the subject.  It’s pretty extensive.

  • Ask your partner to reach out to me. I prefer family-oriented inclusive networks, and having a metamour reach out to me reinforces the impression that my partners & metamours share my family values.  It also greatly reduces my initial anxiety at the beginning of a relationship regarding the question of whether or not I am wanted or if there are any hidden anti-poly feelings or traps waiting for me.

  • Share my values on personal sovereignty, freedom in relationships, trust, and personal security.  I am very attracted to people who are secure in themselves and their relationships to not feel the need for emotional crutches like veto power & behaviour-limiting relationship rules.  Even better if you’re not just personally secure enough to not need those things, but if you actively disapprove of those things and see the harm they cause everyone involved, not just the incoming partner who is typically the most disadvantaged in these situations.

  • Call me with stuff you think is funny/happy. I've developed an aversion to people with tremendous drama in their lives, and one of the things I've grown to appreciate is a partner who will share joy, not just pain. I’m also prone to the cynical (and I don’t particularly want anyone to try and change that about me), but I do appreciate having happy, joyful, optimistic people around to balance me out.  Making me smile or laugh is a great skill.

  • Be willing to cry in front of me. I'm touched when someone trusts me enough to cry in front of me. Show me your vulnerability, and I'll show you mine. Very few people get to see it.

  • Be willing to say "I was wrong".  Admitting you were wrong with humility and without defensiveness is a huge turn-on for me. Not being able to do this is a deal-breaker.  And be patient with me when I have a hard time doing the same, that’s also an emotional turn-on for me.

  • Be willing to stand your ground when you believe I’m wrong. As the episode from Sex And The City goes, I’m looking for someone who is strong enough to catch me.  I don’t want a yes-man, but I don’t want an argumentative jerk either.  I want people who are strong and confident and who treat me like a person, not a fragile angel or a goddess or a superstar.  Listen to me, even if I'm ranting. Chances are that once I think you understand my point of view, I'll figure out all on my own that you're right on quite a few of your main points.

  • Let me leave.  If I leave the room or ask to stop the conversation when things are getting tense, it’s because I’m becoming overwhelmed and I’m feeling attacked or cornered.  I need to escape to give myself a chance to calm down and think more rationally.  When I leave, I’m not waiting the obligatory 5 seconds to see if you come after me.  I’m really trying to escape, so please just let me go.  If you have the ability to switch gears and change the subject to something lighthearted, especially if you can make me laugh, then I don’t have to physically leave the room; I just need to emotionally “leave” the argument or situation, so you can ask me to stay and I’ll stay.

  • Tell/show me you like me for who I am, not just for my hot ass and not just because I'm “Joreth”. I'm really proud of my work and my accomplishments.  In addition to a long history of men who leave when they find a “real girlfriend”, I also have a long history of men who either date me or fuck me because they think I’m hot or they’re somewhat starstruck, but they don’t seem to really like me very much.  They build up this model in their head of who they think I am or who I should be, and they tend to get resentful when I behave exactly according to who I told them I was instead of the model they made me out to be. So if you show an interest in getting to know all of me, not just the fun bits, I'll be really grateful, and it will help build trust. I’m looking for people who don’t just “put up with” or tolerate these parts of me, like my temper or my “masculinity”, I’m looking for people who celebrate those difficult or messy parts of me, even if they are also trying or frustrating at times.

  • Rub my shoulders, neck, and back, and don't be stingy with the pressure. Show me you have nice, strong hands and aren't afraid of all the tension I keep in my neck and shoulders.  Don’t use massages as a prelude to sexual encounters, as flirting, as an excuse to get your hands on my body, or try to “sneak” in sex or erotic touching.  My back is damaged & I am in constant pain (some days are better than others).  Back rubs do not equal “sex” to me, and attempts to make them erotic really anger me.  If you really want to get in my good graces, give me a therapeutic massage and keep the sex out of it.  Do it because you care about the pain I’m in and want to help, not as a selfish excuse to get something out of it for yourself.

  • Read my writings and follow me on social networking sites.  I get not having a lot of time for the internet, but I spend a lot of my own time there, so I spend a lot of me there.  If you want to really know me and who I am, be a presence in my internet life and read the things that I take the time to write.  The less in-person time we spend together, the more important this is to me.

  • Get to know my other partners.  Taking the initiative to reach out and get to know my other partners is a HUGE emotional turn on for me.  Especially Franklin (tacit), as he is someone I admire outside of just being my partner.  He often expresses the things I want to say in a more lucid way than I can.  So it’s important to me that my other partners read his works and interact with him.  But it’s also important that my partners get to know each other even those who aren’t Franklin.  When my partners are local, I need to be able to have Quality Time when multiple partners and/or metamours are present, so it’s important that they get along with each other even if they don’t become best friends outside of me.  When my partners aren’t local, I need to have multiple eyes and checks on my behaviour and my emotional state, so coordinating and comparing notes with each other is a valuable tool for keeping abreast of my well-being.  Also, being interested and willing to contact each other independently of me shows that you want the kind of inclusive, interconnected network that I want and resistance to reaching out to my other partners often signals an underlying issue with polyamory or my other partners specifically.  Even if it doesn’t signal that in you, I will read it as such because of past patterns and it will distress me if you don’t initiate or respond to contact and attempts at finding your own friendly path with my other partners.

  • The Five Love Languages are a good start to the kinds of things that I need to feel loved and how I express love.  I am multi-lingual; I need for love to be shown to me in Quality Time and Words of Affirmation the most, but very closely following is Acts of Service and Physical Touch.  I could write a whole Me Manual just on how I need each of these Languages to be expressed and how each can be used to hurt me in especially damaging ways, so talk to me about this and check in every so often to see which Language is expressing itself the most at any given time.  Gift Giving is tricky with me and it doesn’t mean as much to me as the other languages, so if you like to express your love by buying gifts, it’s best to stick with my online Wishlist or to outright ask me how I feel about something.  I’m also terrible about knowing what to buy, so if you feel loved when you receive gifts, I’ll need a wishlist from you.

Sexually: Flirting

  • Quote my favorite movies, or movies in my favorite genres even that particular movie isn’t one of my favorites.

  • Fix my computer/server issues or car issues. I consider myself technically & mechanically competent, but I am extremely turned on by guys who are as competent as I am, or more, especially in those areas that are not my areas of expertise, like computers & cars. Only do so because you want to help me and not with the expectation that I will "reward" you for helping me by offering sexual or relationship favors. Kindness is hot, entitlement is not.

  • Prefer to wear practical clothing. I especially like geek clothing, stagehand clothing, and “country” wear for casual or practical.  There’s nothing like a hot ass in a pair of worn jeans or a shirt that shows off biceps and work-roughened forearms to get me going.  I also like it when guys are ready to “do stuff”.  When something needs to be fixed, or we go outside in the heat, or we’re working, or we’re just goofing off and playing around, I like a guy who isn’t worried about damaging his clothing or dressing in clothes that won’t let him do what needs to be done.

  • But also enjoy dressing up for special occasions.  It’s also incredibly attractive to me when guys take the effort to dress up for occasions, either in costume or in nicer outfits for dinner, dancing, or other formal events.  Knowing how (or expressing interest in learning) to dress for the occasion, whether it’s up for special events or down for practical daily stuff, is attractive to me.  Bonus points for coordinating outfits with me.  This is not exclusive – coordinating outfits with multiple people is also win.

  • Go dancing with me. I really love a guy who dances or who is willing to learn how to dance.  If dancing isn’t your thing, being interested in watching me dance is another option.  This goes back to liking me for who I am – appreciating one of my skills which is a particularly strong passion of mine.

  • Send me sexy texts. I enjoy little random reminders of our sexual relationship, but especially when they are stand-alone flirting and do not have any expectations attached to them.

  • Use puns & double entendres. I like humor with multiple meanings, and if something can be said that is completely innocent but also taken sexually, I’ll probably find it amusing.

  • Options for Joreth-friendly dates: ice cream; rock climbing; ballroom & swing dancing; something physical or unusual; interesting meals; movies & hot chocolate afterwards to talk about the movie; photography expeditions; exploring or urban spelunking; learning something new; attending science-themed and/or educational event; attending skeptical events; exploring shared kinks (but only after we have discussed and developed a kinky aspect to our relationship).

  • Share my interests with me and share your interests with me.  I have a lot of interests, not just sex, poly and kink. If you love to cook, I would love someone to cook an elaborate dinner with or to appreciate someone’s cooking skill if you want to cook for me. If you are into interior design/home renovation, I'd love someone to brainstorm and carry out home improvement projects with. If you dance, I'd love someone to hone my dance skills with. If you travel, I'd love someone to go on trips with--sightseeing in Europe, relaxing on the beach in Mexico, exploring Tibet, rambling through Ireland or New Zealand, cruising to Alaska, discovering local Florida.  Share your interests with me, involve me in your world, and engage my participation.

  • I do not drink caffeine, alcohol, or smoke any substance, so being sober around me is a good start to any attempt at flirting, as is taking me places where sobriety will not detract from my enjoyment of the environment.

  • Be aware of times of the day when I’ll be most receptive to flirting. I probably have Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome, which is when the circadian rhythm is off by several hours.  This means that I am not a morning person, and nothing you can do or say will change that.  Getting on a “schedule” will not fix it, going to bed early won’t fix it, waking me up with sex won’t fix it.  My best times for interactions start in late afternoon.  If you can stay up late with me, bonus.

    I also probably have OCD, which means that if my mind is on something like a project or a task, I will be unreceptive to being interrupted with sexy times, although flirting without attached expectations may be appropriate, depending on the task that is distracting me.

Sexually: Sex

  • Casual sex: I have a wildly fluctuating libido, so I will go for short bursts of wanting sex all the time to long months, sometimes years, of not wanting sex at all.  This means that when I have a deeply intimate local partner, I don’t generally have enough attention or libido left over for casual sex and I find casual sex partners to be fun but ultimately not fulfilling.  So I generally don’t expend much energy in pursuing or maintaining casual sex partners.  However, I am also somewhat opportunistic about sexual activities.  If a rare opportunity comes up for a particular sexual activity that I might find interesting, I tend to want to act on that opportunity even if it means taking on a casual partner or one-night-stand to do it and even if my libido is otherwise in a low point.

    I have to be in the right frame of mind for a casual sex relationship, and I am usually aware of when I am and am not capable of such a relationship.  If I am not in the right frame of mind, I will likely be very unreceptive to casual sex propositions.  If you are hoping to have a casual sex relationship with me, it is absolutely paramount that you accept rejection gracefully and do not continue to push.  If I change my mind, I will approach you.  If you push, I am not likely to change my mind.

    If you are hoping to have an emotionally intimate relationship with me, I need the freedom to pursue the occasional casual sex relationship as certain opportunities arise without you feeling like it is a commentary on our relationship (this is particularly important if I become interested in a casual partner while I am in an otherwise low libido phase).  I accept temporary safety boundaries imposed between us due to my casual partners, as I would probably request the same of you.  I also prefer to have partners that do not desire casual partners themselves, at least not often, because of those safety boundaries – I don’t want to have many boundaries between myself and my partners so I’d rather be with people who do not do the sorts of things that result in me needing higher safety boundaries between us.  But I am not imposing a “no casual partners” rule for my partners.  I am just more comfortable with partners who themselves have a low desire for casual partners.  It’s a double standard, I’m aware of that, and I understand if you don’t like it.

  • Libido:  As mentioned above, I have a wildly fluctuating libido.  I am beginning to suspect I have what’s called a “responsive libido”, which is where the default position is “off” but it can be turned to “on” in response to the correct stimuli.  But it also means that even when it’s “on”, it can quickly be turned to “off” with the incorrect stimuli.  The difference, it is explained, is that people with non-responsive libidos think “hmm, I’m aroused, let’s go find someone to have sex with,” while someone with a responsive libido thinks “hey, this activity is arousing me, I guess I can have sex.”

    It’s more nuanced than that, and we can talk more about it, but the gist is that my libido will take a sharp nosedive after the NRE has worn off and it’s not a statement on the relationship or my feelings for my partner.  I will lose interest in sex and I will stop initiating.  This can be very difficult on my partners, but repeated attempts to stimulate my libido when it drops usually result in lowering the libido further.  I need partners who have a strong sense of self-esteem who can withstand the drop in sex without feeling it as an assault on their attractiveness or the state of our relationship, and who can work with me on compromises so that I can continue to show and express my love and affection without instigating the resentment that comes from implications of entitlement and neediness (i.e. low self-worth) that many attempts to boost my libido often come with.

    That all being said, with the right context and contact, my libido can often be coaxed into being “on”.  Check in with me to see if the context and contact is right at any given moment.

  • What is sex to me? To me, in general, sex is anything that I am most likely to get an STI from such as vaginal or anal penetration or oral sex or genital contact as well as anything that contributes to and/or results in sexual arousal and/or orgasm such as fromage (dry humping), “making out”, heavy petting, “snogging”,  sexting and webcaming. I do not consider kissing to be sex, but it is a behaviour that can transmit an STI, as well as other infections.  I have a chronic respiratory condition, so when it comes to safety measures, I do include kissing in STI and safety discussions even though I don’t consider it “sex” in the same way that I consider other acts.  Also, I separate BDSM scening and sex; kink for me does not necessarily involve sex or sexual contact, so in discussions about sex and/or safety, BDSM is not included unless a specific activity also falls into the category of STI transmission, sexual contact, orgasm, and possibly arousal.

    I also separate out “things that are a safety issue” and “things that are an emotional issue” with regards to sex.  So even though I don’t consider kissing to be sex, I’m still going to want to be notified about intentions to kiss and as soon after kissing has happened as possible when my partner’s other partner is not an established partner, and only part of the reason I want to be notified will have to do with safety issues.  When a partner has an established partner, I am much more comfortable with not knowing about each specific instance of sexuality.  But I have difficulty with change and I have my own emotional issues (discussed elsewhere in this document), so knowing ahead of time that there is potential for sexuality with a new partner, knowing that there is *interest* even if the other person isn’t aware of the interest / hasn’t expressed reciprocal interest, and being notified as soon afterwards as possible of a new sexual development or encounter is very important to me and I may ask for emotional reassurances.

  • People often ask me what I'm into sexually. And in truth, the answer is, "It depends." There are a few activities I know I enjoy, to be sure. I've discovered, though, that it's often not the activity; it's the dynamic between the people and their respective levels of enthusiasm for and skill at the activity that matters. If you do something really well or have some special skill or kink, just let me know. Even if it's not my favorite thing now, it might be with you. And my favorite thing now might not be all that great with you. Let's just see what we're into together, shall we? That being said...

Turn ons:

  • Grabbing me by the hair but not pulling.  I do not like the pain of hair pulling at all, but I do like the intensity of emotion or passion that is often signaled by gripping the hair and I enjoy the use of hair grabbing to control me.

  • ForcefulnessOnce we are in an established relationship and once I feel comfortable and safe with you and once I feel accepted by your other partners, I am really turned on by a partner manhandling me and pinning me to a wall or a bed, or pretty much anything in that vein.  Slam me up against a wall (protecting my head with your hand), push me down, hold my wrists above my head or behind my back, and don’t let up when I resist unless I say “ow” or “stop”.  If I say “no” in this context, I might not mean “no”.  You have to be able to tell by the tone of my voice and if  I’m explaining something seriously whether “no” means no or is just part of the aggressive scene.

  • Watch porn with me. Not boring straight porn. Gay and/or gang-bang porn.  And parody porn, although that might illicit more laughter than arousal.

  • Flirt with me in public.  Use double entendres and over-the-top promises or threats.  Make it light-hearted, something that can be taken as a joke.  You can even flirt by saying things that are totally off-limits in real life or that you do not actually intend.  The point is to make me smile and think sexy thoughts, not to be a serious negotiation.

  • Tease me.  Make promises/threats, touch me in almost-erotic zones, flirt with me in public, steal me away from work or public events for quick make-out sessions and then send me back while I’m still hot and bothered, draw out the foreplay until I beg to be fucked.  Foreplay can last a few minutes, a few hours, or even a few days.  Just pay attention to see if I’m enjoying the foreplay or if I’m starting to get frustrated.  If it goes on for too long, I’ll lose my arousal.  But don’t just go straight for the nipples, the crotch, or the sex.  I need to get worked up first.  However, if you’ve been teasing me well, like getting me aroused while I’m at work, then when I finally do get you in a place where sex is appropriate, you can go straight for the sex with no warm-up because the warm-up will have been happening already.

  • Give me oodles of aftercare. Cover me with a blanket and hold me. Let me cry if that’s where I go afterwards.  Let me ramble if *that’s* where I go.  Let me sit in silence.  Have my favorite after comfort food ready for me – milk chocolate Symphony bar and Martinelli’s sparkling apple cider.  If that’s not available, one of the many sweets that I enjoy will work too, but that’s my favorite.

  • Make sure I get home safely, and call me the next day to connect.  Live chat online may work as a substitute, but texting is less preferable, especially if I have to work the next day.  I hate back-and-forth conversations by text, but I love small, immediate reminders of my loved ones and our time together.

Turn offs:

  • Insulting your former partners. I understand needing to complain about past relationships or being honest about the problems or flaws with past relationships, but guys who call their exes “crazy” or who can’t maintain any friendships post-breakup are a major turn off and red-flag for me. The same could be said for present partners. If you don't respect your current partners, then I'll have trouble respecting you for your choice to be with them.

  • Lack of communication. I fall in love with the brain first, so if you can’t talk to me (or your partners can’t), we probably won’t go anywhere.

  • Being too popular/high turnover. Guys with five or more partners or high partner turnover will probably find dating me challenging, since I like to take the time to get to know my metamours.

  • Dating too young. Guys who are dating in the 18-25 range tend to enjoy either the drama or glib dependence of youth, and I have a low tolerance for both in my dating life.

  • Not getting tested. Not being willing to wear protection and not getting tested regularly are hard limits for me.  Let me repeat that – this is a deal-breaker.  Getting tested and wearing protection just with me isn’t even enough.  I am only interested in sexual relationships with guys who are interested for their own sakes in getting tested regularly and using protection when appropriate no matter who their partners are or how many they have.

  • Not respecting feminism or agency or autonomy or personal sovereignty.  You might not understand that feminism is all about the latter three, and so don’t consider yourself a feminist.  That’s OK, education can clear that up.  But the issues of agency et. al are literally about my very humanity, so not respecting them means not respecting me as a human being, and not respecting me is a turn off.  Any current connection with MRA or PUA culture is a deal-breaker.  Libertarianism or admiration for Ayn Rand also don’t work too well for me.

  • Missing The Point Pedantry.  I get very irritated when I’m trying to make a point and all knowledge of who I am, my history, precedent, social convention, casual language, and poetic license get pushed aside in order to argue with me some issue of pedantry that misses the point of what I’m trying to say.

  • Co-dependency.  Just like I need my partners to respect my own agency and autonomy, I need for my partners to be autonomous, independent individuals who choose to share their lives with me and their other partners because they want to, not because they feel that they need to.

  • Unwillingness to explore sexuality.  We don’t have to have all the same kinks, and you can have tried and ruled out certain things before I came along, and you can even have thought about something and decided without trying it that you’re not interested in it.  But even with our overlapping Venn Diagram of sexual interests, we will each have interests that the other has not explored yet, and I need for my partners to exhibit a sense of curiosity and active exploration about sex and BDSM in order to remain sexually attracted to someone.  “Vanilla” sex is fine, even if that’s the majority of our sex.  It just can’t be the only kind of sex we have or I will get bored.  Since my sex partners are not interchangeable, “getting it from someone else” won’t solve my problem.

  • Chivalry.  I absolutely loathe any and all expressions of sexism, even benign sexism, and that includes gender-based “politeness”.  Treating me different from others because of my gender (as opposed to our unique relationship or connection or personal preferences), even if you treat me “better” is not acceptable in any form.  I like nice people.  Gestures of politeness on the basis of my gender or to live up to some standard of your own gender (i.e. being a “gentleman”) are not nice.  This is not up for debate and I am not interested in hearing justifications or why it’s “different” when you do it.  If you can’t understand why I have a problem with this, we will have much bigger differences later on.

  • Woo.  I am a skeptical atheist and I have lost all patience for being in romantic relationships with people who view the world in a fundamentally different way than I do when I consider that worldview empirically wrong.  I have no problem being friends with people of different worldviews, but if I’m going to build an intimate romantic connection with someone, I have to be compatible with them on the most fundamental levels, including what reality is and how to approach life.

demure, sad, polite, boxed in, Misty in Box
I got to explain to my mother part of what makes my relationship to tacit special: We argue over which rules of grammar to use.

We don't have *serious* arguments over grammar. And what I mean by that, we are both completely serious in our positions, but the arguments aren't really arguments - they're not a big deal and we're not emotionally invested in the outcome, we're just stating (and sticking to) our positions.

While explaining to my mom that I'm a staunch supporter of the Oxford comma, I realized something by her reaction. She was an English major in school, but she never actually made it to college. She got married right out of high school and embarked on that oh-so-desired-by-1950s-mentality career for women of "secretary", where her "English class" skills were most useful for a woman in her class and era. Which means that she actually had no idea what I meant when I said that I preferred the Oxford comma, in spite of being an intelligent woman who specialized in the exact subject where one would have learned about it.

I also realized that she and my dad would never have an argument, serious or otherwise, about grammar, or any kind of intellectual pursuit. They argue about money, how to punish a misbehaving child, whether or not my mom is a backseat driver, whether my dad is being inappropriate, stuff like that. There were never political discussions at our dinner table unless I brought it up from something I learned in school. They don't discuss research or science unless I bring it up. They're both completely in favor of science (they both boggled at me, for instance, when I revealed to them the existence of antivaxxers), but to them, science is a given and not worth debating or discussing. When scientists tell them something is so, they accept it and move on. The implications of said research isn't of any interest to them.

I just got a new therapist - the first time I've ever had any kind of therapy - so we're spending a lot of time working on the basics and establishing foundations. I'm finding this part a bit tedious because I already know a lot of it and I want to skip over the basics and get to the advanced techniques that I haven't learned yet. I had this problem in college too, where I was required to take Intro To Tech Theater 101 after having already worked in the business for, at the time, 15 years.

Talking with my therapist about loss and grief, for example, he said something about how most people don't think about death and their own mortality, so when they hit the age I'm not far away from, with friends now getting heart conditions or dying and caring for ailing parents and facing retirement with no money in the bank, well, that's basically what a midlife crisis is - facing existential questions with no prior exposure to them. I ended up disconnecting from my therapist in that moment because, well, I've spent so much time thinking about those things that the subject is now just a little boring.

Among my circle of friends, having partners who discuss existentialism with one is the norm. I first contemplated death when I went to my first funeral around age 6 or so. Then, in middle school, a kid in my school was killed in a gang-related incident (he was hit by a car that was involved in some kind of gang something or other at the time). I went to his funeral too. In 8th grade, my babysitter's son was killed in a car accident when his car skidded on some black ice and went over a cliff. His father, a doctor heading to work in the opposite direction at the same time, was first on the scene and had to pull his son's destroyed body from the wreck when the chain hoist arrived to lower him down to the crash site.

On my high school graduation day, I was asked out by a guy I had a crush on. I had to turn him down because 1) I had a boyfriend and 2) I had a graduation party that night. He promised to call me in a week or so after he got back from Disneyland, where he and some others were taking another friend for his 21st birthday. He and the birthday boy died on the drive down there. They had a joint funeral, which I attended. Only one of them had an open casket. I spent years afterwards dealing with the denial phase because I didn't see the one who asked me out, so I kept expecting him to call, forgetting that he had died. But the other friend was the first time I had seen a body. That took a while to process too.

A couple of years before that, I got pissed off at my mother for something I don't even remember and took off in my car. I thought I had calmed down by the time I headed back home, but then I decided to try to beat the speed record among my friends for this particular windy, downhill road. My car wasn't built for it and I rolled my car down the hill. I survived without a scratch, but I had plenty of time while rolling down that hill to think of everyone I ever loved and how I couldn't tell them that I was sorry for killing myself in such a stupid, senseless manner that would cause them so much grief.

During the worst of the bullying, I slipped into a depression so deep that I contemplated suicide. I learned how to disconnect myself from my emotions entirely and I felt nothing - no happiness, no sadness, I just moved through the motions. I had taken to scratching myself just to remind myself what feelings were. I didn't know it was depression, and I didn't know there was something that could be done about it. I just existed until the bullying stopped. I taught myself how to feel again. Strangely, I never stopped believing that I was worthy of love, and that self-esteem is probably the only thing that prevented me from actually killing myself. I tried to make plans to do it, but everything ended with my parents feeling pain, and the idea that I couldn't reward them for their love by causing them that kind of pain is usually what prevented me from putting any of those plans into action. I knew that I was loved, and I knew that I would continue to be loved. I've never questioned that.

I've looked into the void. I've contemplated the hard questions - who am I? Where did I come from? What is my purpose? What else is there? And so have many of my friends. That's partly the reason why we're friends. We *think* about things. And that's why I was first attracted to Franklin - he *thinks* about things. He makes me think about things. He makes me think about why I think what I think. He encourages my curiosity to understand why other people think the way they think. He posts things like that Interview dream that I reposted last night, and the twists and turns in his brain always, without fail, make me fall in love with him all over again. I'm fascinated by how his brain works and I love to watch it go through its processes.

I don't generally consider myself sapiosexual because intelligence is not always necessary for me to be physically attracted to someone, and in many cases, intelligence alone is not sufficient for me to develop either attraction or emotional connection to someone. But intelligence is definitely the cornerstone of my relationship with Franklin, at least on my end - his intelligence and his respect for my intelligence, even if I'm wrong about something.

So what makes my relationship with tacit so special and meaningful to me is that sometimes we argue over shit like the Oxford comma. Because who cares about a freaking comma? We do, because we care about precision, about thinking, about practical applications, and about a million other things that I've learned in my life that other people don't even bother to consider until they get smacked across the face with them and then they have to freak out because they don't know what to do with that knowledge now that they have it. My social set (including online) is self-selected, but really, we're anomalies.

This is actually a rare quality to find in another person - the dedication to knowledge and understanding, as well as the sense of self-worth that leads us both to holding our position in the face of opposition from someone we care greatly about is kind of the foundation of our entire relationship. All because we argue about grammar.
10th-Dec-2014 09:12 pm - My Price Of Admission
photography, Self-Portrait, personal
Someone asked me the following question, and this was my off-the-cuff answer (with a couple of minor additions & polishes after the fact):

What is your "price of admission" in a romantic relationship? Something that could be considered a flaw or a drawback, but that someone has to deal with to be in a relationship with you.

  • I'm independent, solo poly (even if I choose to someday cohabitate and/or marry, I will still be an independent person who happens to be partnered, never "half of a single unit"). I make my own decisions. I ask for input and I consider how my actions will affect my partners, and I will try to make them part of the decision-making process if I can, based on how these decisions affect them, but ultimately, I make my own decisions about my life, I need to be seen as an independent, unique, and individual human being by my partner and the world around me, and that's that.

  • I still need public acknowledgement of my relationships and to present as part of a "couple" at social functions, even though I'm solo poly (to me, presenting as a "couple" is not exclusive and does not preclude my partners from also presenting as part of other couples, even at the same events, nor does it preclude me from presenting as part of a couple with other partners, even at the same events).

  • I'm a mass of contradictions on the surface and it may take some digging to understand the motivations that actually make my contradictions totally not contradictory.

  • I'm poly and that's not changing, although the structure of my network will ebb and flow and change over time and I will occasionally have only one, two, or no partners.  The number of my partners and/or metamours is not what makes me poly, it's how I view & structure relationships that make me poly. I will never leave my other partners for someone, and I will never be comfortable dating someone who wants only me, unless he's even more solo & independent than I am and the reason he wants only me is because he spends so much time alone that he can't fit in another partner and still give me the time I need from him, and it's his choice that he's fine with.

  • I'm atheist. I fucking slam the needle on atheism. I'm anti-theist. I'm firebrand atheist. And I will mercilessly mock religion and supernatural beliefs. My friends know this about me and accept it of me because I don't pick fights with them over their beliefs, and they can choose to read my social media or not, knowing how I feel and that I will express my opinions here. Although I will challenge them if they say something to me directly that I know to be false, I am perfectly capable of holding my tongue and not *bringing up* my opinions against supernaturalism right at my friends because I can still like people as people even if I think they have silly ideas. However, I am *not* perfectly capable of holding my tongue with intimate partners and I need for them to be on board with my brand and style of atheism.

  • I'm feminist. That actually explains most of the above. And a good portion of below too.

  • I'm a ballroom and swing dancer. If my partner won't dance with me, I'll dance with others. Even if my partner *will* dance with me, it's proper ballroom etiquette to dance with others, and I happen to like that etiquette because it's primarily responsible for making me as good of a dancer as I am, since I've only had 2 real classes in dancing. And I will always feel like something is missing in my relationships where dancing is not an important shared activity.  I view dancing as a metaphor for life and relationships, and vice versa.  It's hard to overstate how important dance is to me.

  • I have a very dangerous job and I love it.

  • I have a job that keeps me poor, and I love it (the job, not being poor).

  • I cuss. A lot.

  • I do not want kids. Like, not even a little bit. And I'm pro-abortion.

  • I do, however, enjoy having pets. And those pets will always come first because they are dependent creatures that I have accepted responsibility for. Some days I have a reasonable handle on this, and some days I don't. So I might appear inconsistent in when I prioritize my pets above my people, but it's consistent in my own head and that's where it counts.  You do not get a say in how I prioritize them, and you do not get a say in when I'm being unreasonable about handling my responsibilities.

  • I'm a teetotaler. I don't drink *at all*, and I don't do any kind of drugs that aren't prescription and absolutely necessary for medical recovery or treatment. I'm not opposed to those around me drinking alcohol, but I don't date people who use drugs or smoke cigarettes (but I'm fine with people who used to or people who try things once or twice for the experience and that's enough), and I'm only going to barely tolerate social drinking and vaping. I will never stop hoping that someday my partners (who do them) will give up those things too, although I won't pressure anyone to change what they don't want to change.  I will, however, assist in their efforts to quit if they want.

  • I'm a cranky, cynical motherfucker who gets into fights on the internet, even though they cause me massive anxiety and make me disappear for several days. This isn't likely to change.

  • As tacit has once said, I'm a little bit scary sometimes. And I consider that a compliment.

  • I'm kinky. I don't have to have kink in all my relationships, but I am kinky and that's not likely to change.

  • My gender identity today is "tomboy". It may not be that tomorrow. But whatever it is, I probably still won't want to have sex with your girlfriend.

  • I am inconveniently straight. Yes, I find it an inconvenience. No, that doesn't mean that you can find some magical phrase that will "fix" this. On the rare occasion that I do engage in sexual activity with people of female biology, it's usually twigging some kind of gender play in my head, so I *still* consider myself straight even in that context. If you're wigged out by my fluid gender or by me experiencing mixed or different genders during my sex, we're really going to be a bad match.  And I still probably won't want to have sex with your girlfriend.  But I might be willing to have sex with certain of my metamours, under the right circumstances & with the right chemistry.  If you don't understand the difference between those last two sentences, we're going to be a bad match.

  • I likely have what's called a "responsive libido", meaning that it's mostly low-to-non-existent, but can be revved up on occasion. Sex will likely fade to nearly gone over the course of a relationship and the only thing that will prevent it from disappearing all together is the acceptance of this fact and appreciation for the times when I can get it going. No wheedling, pressure, or moping about its loss will help.

  • I am not a beginner relationship partner.

  • And I do not react well to being "dealt with" or "tolerated" by partners.  This "price of admission" needs to be paid gladly, gleefully, considered an honor to pay, or else I will begin to feel dismissed, condescended to, and unappreciated, and that will sour any relationship with me.  The price of admission for a relationship with me is someone seeing all these things about me, truly seeing them, and saying "I'm not paying a goddamn thing.  I'm so privileged to be in a relationship with you, that these are not deficits that I have to pay, they are things I am getting in return for providing you with the space to feel safe in being who you are around me.  It is you who is paying me with the honor of seeing you as you are."

Super Tech, strong, feminism
"So why do you drink diet soda, you don't need to be on a diet!"
"Why bother drinking a diet soda when you're eating all that other crap?"

With Eating Season upon us here in Florida, I thought I'd address this common misconception.  There are lots of reasons why someone might want to drink a diet soda and still not be on a "diet".  Even naturally thin people like me are still subjected to the laws of chemistry and biology - if you consume more calories than you use, you will gain weight.  Some people have the kind of super-active metabolisms that make it really hard to prove this is true, but that's just because their metabolisms are using the energy from their food at higher rates, for whatever reason, and they are not motivated to actually try to eat enough food to out-pace their metabolisms (and who could blame them?)

But the simple fact is that the body "stores" the calories that people don't use, even skinny people, and eventually there is a point at which every person will "store" more than they can use regularly and people gain weight.  So even thin people will have an upper cap to the amount of calories it is desirable for them to consume in a day / week / month / on average.  So some people save those caloric opportunities for their food and seek to find lower calorie options for the drinks.  Not everyone wants to drink water all the time either, so please don't condescend in the comments about how they should be drinking water for every meal.

With all the amazing opportunities to eat during Eating Season, some people want to be able to sample the delectable edibles, and drinking a diet soda means that they save all those hundreds of calories per day that other people spend on drinks, to spend instead on food.  If you're watching your weight, that means that you can still splurge a little bit, and research suggests that being able to splurge occasionally often takes the pressure off of the dieter just enough to avoid the binging that leads to the weight yo-yo.

Then there's the issue of calories and poverty.  People who are poor actually don't get enough to eat.  I know many people don't believe that, since they see fat poor people and think there's a direct correlation between food and weight.  But the truth is that weight is pretty complex, as is poverty.  In all too many situations, healthy food is more expensive than unhealthy food, so poor people end up trying to stretch their dollars to get as many calories as possible in order to avoid starvation, at the expense of more nutrients but less calorically-dense food.  If you're trying to maximize the amount of calories you get, one might choose to drink diet soda (or water, or whatever) in order to better spend their money on high calorie foods and enable themselves to get their calories *from* their food instead of wasting them on calories from drinks.  Plus, being poor sucks, so fuck you for trying to take away any small pleasures that poor people might be able to grasp, like drinking something with flavor in it.

To re-visit the admonishment to drink water within the concept of poverty:  not everyone has access to suitable drinking water all the time, so sometimes a diet soda *is* actually the more healthy option.  Bottled water can often cost more money than soda, depending on what water options are available, and anyone who has ever worked in some of the arenas and convention centers that I have knows that you're gambling with your life if you have to rely on tap water exclusively.  And that's assuming the person in question is somewhere that offers tap water.

There's more to say about food and poverty and the assumptions privileged people make about food and poverty, but this is already getting long and I don't really have the patience to delve that deep into the subject here.  Suffice to say that if you're making comments about how poor people eat when you're not that level of poor, not in that particular person's circumstances, or not an economist who specializes in poverty, you're probably wrong and you should just shut up now.  When you've had to sell your own blood just for enough money to buy a loaf of bread at the day-old-bread store like I have, maybe then I'll listen to you.

It's a long-standing myth that people need to be drinking 8 glasses of water every day.  1) Not everyone needs that much; and 2) the real advice was "the EQUIVALENT of 8 glasses of water per day".  Humans get water from food and other drinks.  It is not necessary to drink all that water on top of everything else that one consumes (and it can even make some people sick to overdose on water - yes, that's a real thing).  So a person who is not dehydrated or experiencing symptoms of dehydration is not necessarily harming themselves by drinking something else in place of water.

I'm a Super Taster - meaning that I have an overactive sense of taste and texture.  It's a real problem, bordering on eating disorder (for some, it really is an eating disorder, but I'm not as bad as some).  It's a delicate balancing act between finding food that's healthy and food that I can actually bring myself to eat.  I carefully choose my drinks to compliment my food, to make it easier to eat, and I'm very limited as it is because I can't drink caffeine and water tastes bad to me.

So, no, I'm not on a diet (although it borders on body-shaming to make assumptions or comments about how thin one must be in order to justify "dieting") in the weight-loss sense.  But I do have an upper cap to the amount of calories I can consume in a day before I start feeling sick (in addition to when I start putting on weight), as well as how much water I can drink before I throw it back up.  I choose to spend those calories on enjoyable food instead of my drinks, when I can.  I also am very poor and I have often not had enough money to eat more than once a day, so I will also choose to spend my money on high calorie food just to get enough calories in my body to keep moving one more day and I don't want to waste those calories on my drinks.
10th-Nov-2014 10:59 am - Happily Not-Ever After
Purple Mobius, polyamory

"Throughout the day, partners would make requests for connection, what Gottman calls “bids.” For example, say that the husband is a bird enthusiast and notices a goldfinch fly across the yard. He might say to his wife, “Look at that beautiful bird outside!” He’s not just commenting on the bird here: he’s requesting a response from his wife — a sign of interest or support — hoping they’ll connect, however momentarily, over the bird. ...

People who turned toward their partners in the study responded by engaging the bidder, showing interest and support in the bid. Those who didn’t — those who turned away — would not respond or respond minimally and continue doing whatever they were doing, like watching TV or reading the paper. Sometimes they would respond with overt hostility, saying something like, “Stop interrupting me, I’m reading.”

These bidding interactions had profound effects on marital well-being."

This is especially true for introverts and passive communicators. By the time they get to the point of mentioning something, it's already an important thing. The mere act of saying something out loud takes emotional effort, so they don't waste that effort on unimportant things. When someone brings their partner's attention to something, it's a signal that they're trying to connect with them, even if that something is fleeting or ultimately unimportant in the concrete; but it's important in the abstract. This is something my extrovert ex-boyfriend learned the hard way when he thought I was just passing along random information that he could take or leave but I was sharing something important with him, so when no action resulted, I felt rejected. I'm not a passive communicator, so I was clear that I was sharing something; it was the *importance* that he didn't get, because he shares things that pop into his head all the time with no emotional attachment to that thought. It might even be a thought he disagrees with, but it popped in, so he shared it, because he's an extrovert. We both had to learn to interpret the other's communication skills through these filters in order to respond correctly.

"Contempt, they have found, is the number one factor that tears couples apart. People who are focused on criticizing their partners miss a whopping 50 percent of positive things their partners are doing and they see negativity when it’s not there."

This is something that Sterling & I mention in our How To Break Up workshop. Anger and disagreement in a relationship aren't indicators of trouble by themselves; that's all part of the normal range of human interaction. But CONTEMPT is a relationship killer. This is why I have a list of traits that a person can have that means that I can't date them even if I otherwise like them. If they have certain traits, then I know I will lose respect for them, and after loss of respect comes contempt, and that means the relationship is doomed from the start.

"Masters tend to think about kindness as a muscle. They know that they have to exercise it to keep it in shape. They know, in other words, that a good relationship requires sustained hard work."

People are not "good" or "bad". Kindness, courage, and love are all things we DO, not things that we are or that we have. They take regular practice. tacit & Eve talk about this in their book More Than Two and I talk about it in my 5 Love Languages workshop. "One way to practice kindness is by being generous about your partner’s intentions." - this is also something they mention in the book.

“It’s scanning the partner for what the partner is doing right or scanning him for what he’s doing wrong and criticizing versus respecting him and expressing appreciation.”

There's a Sex and the City episode where the main character starts out having a relationship with someone she once characterizes as "we're PERFECT!" and ends up having a breakup conversation that says "when did you stop being on my side?" There's a reason that dialog led to a breakup:

3rd-Nov-2014 07:50 pm - But What About THEIR Feelings?
demure, sad, polite, boxed in, Misty in Box
In our collective fear of "looking like the bad guy", of being unwilling to say "you're wrong", in our social insistence that we "educate" people who are doing harmful things using a kind tone and hand-holding them to a "better" way, instead of flat-out condemning harmful behaviour, I wonder what kind of impact that has on abuse victims.

When a person has spent a lifetime, or even just a few months of being gaslighted and having their self-esteem eroded and disempowered and programmed to subsume their own needs and concerns to another, how much harder is it for them to learn how to advocate for their needs and/or gather the strength to leave a harmful situation when the message they receive from their community is that, on top of all their pain and suffering, in addition to their own self-doubt, they also have to consider the feelings of their abuser (or other abusive people who remind them of their abuser because they do similar things) and lead their abuser to a "more successful strategy"?

Because, remember, we're talking about people who are already not well; people who have already internalized massively destructive amounts of negative feelings like guilt and shame.  Someone who is in healthy relationships or someone who has a healthy sense of self can afford to hear the message "be nice to people who just don't have good relationship skills yet and teach them how to improve" and they can identify those situations for which that advice is useful and when it's not.

If you ever wanted to know why they stay, it’s probably because of a deep sense of responsibility and compassion, overwhelming feelings of guilt and shame, and a deep and pervasive confusion about how to make it right. If you ever wanted to know why it’s hard to talk about it, it’s because the thing you always seem to remember the most, the thing that really hurts the most, is the guilt over hurting them, abandoning them.

But someone who has been broken by another person, someone who is fucked over, someone who has lost themselves, someone who is trapped, someone who isn't as strong, someone who needs help themselves, all those people - how can they hear that message in their state and not similarly internalize the, perhaps unintended, subtext "the person you are in opposition to has delicate feels and it's YOUR JOB to treat those delicate feels like precious Fabrege Eggs, no matter what you're feeling.  It's rude to lose your temper, it's rude to call them names, it's rude to arm yourself with condescension or to defend yourself with sarcasm, and you don't want to be rude, do you?"

There's a heart-breakingly beautiful blog post about what it feels like to be emotionally abused.  After reading that, I find myself getting even more enraged than usual at the relentless admonitions to be "nice" when we come across posts in the community with all the same, tired old tropes that those who have been in abusive situations are all too familiar with as the first steps towards abusing someone - dehumanization, objectification, disempowerment.

He pulled his arm back again and I covered my face again. "Why are you doing this to me?" he pleaded, coming at me over and over. Finally, I stood up and pushed him back. "Stop abusing me!" he shouted. I stopped, stunned. Why did I do that? I looked at his arms, red from where I had blocked him. Why was I hurting him so much?

"Be nice."  "Try educating them instead of name-calling."  "They just don't know any better, you should make yourself vulnerable and tell your own story so that they understand."  "Don't say it's wrong, explain gently that there are lots of different ways to do things and some of them are a little better."  Fuck that. As activists in the feminist and anti-racism communities have been arguing about for decades, stop getting mad at people for yelling when the reason they're yelling is because someone else is stepping on their toes.  Or, as Tim Minchin said in a totally unrelated song:

And if you don't like the swearing
That this motherfucker forced from me
And reckon it shows moral
Or intellectual paucity
Then fuck you, motherfucker
This is language one employs
When one is fucking cross
About fuckers fucking boys

I'm wondering how many abuse victims, and how many people in perhaps toxic or unhealthy but not quite "abusive" relationships, are hearing the constant message to be "nice" to people doing bad things, and have not been able to adequately stand up for themselves because they don't want to be perceived as "not nice"?  I'm wondering how many people we, as a community, are enabling people to remain in bad situations because we're so fucking pathologically afraid of calling others "bad" or, not even calling them bad people but just telling them that they're wrong or that they're doing something wrong or bad?  And I'm wondering how many people dishing out this advice can do so because they've never been in the position where advocating for their needs in any tone has been equated with being "rude" and where their deep sense of compassion and guilt has been manipulated so that they can't tell the difference between standing up for themselves vs. actually hurting innocent people so they don't do the former out of fear of the latter?  I'm wondering how many people playing the Tone Card are living in the privileged position of never having been abused and are speaking from their position of privilege when they tell other abuse survivors how they ought to experience their survival and how they ought to react to their triggers?

How many people continue to go unsaved because we're more concerned with etiquette and delicate abuser-feels than with creating an atmosphere that encourages people to believe that their feelings are not less important than being polite to those stepping on their toes?  How many people remain lost because we don't give them the space to be angry, to be strong, to fight back, because it's "rude" and we mustn't ever be rude.  Anger and defensiveness have no place in polite society because the people who are doing things worth getting angry about might feel bad, and we can't ever let them feel bad about hurting you, can we?
28th-Oct-2014 12:30 am - I ❤ Playlists
Silent Bob Headbang, yay!, shiny, cool
A few years ago, I was op-ing some meeting rooms and the speaker wanted walk-in music, but it wasn't anticipated in the work order. So I pulled out my iPod and he picked out some songs and was thrilled that I could save him in this way.

So I built a "walk-in playlist". I'm a huge fan of building playlists. I have about a dozen or more that I use regularly. I have a Fucking Playlist, several playlists for different dance classes, a Happy Playlist, a Sleep Playlist, a Poly Party Playlist, and more. I can literally give a spontaneous dance lesson anywhere that we can hear the music on my iPod speakers because I carry it with me everywhere and many of my playlists are on it. My most commonly accessed playlist is my Work Playlist, which is similar to what most people might build for a workout playlist - all songs within a certain BPM range intended to keep my mood and energy up, to walk fast to (for pushing cases), etc. My playlist differs from most people's playlists, though, in that is has a ton of genres, they just have to be of the right beat.

So I took my Work Playlist, removed all the songs with cussing, all the pro-atheist songs, and most of the country except for a handful of really popular country songs (this guy was a rock fan but for some reason he really loved Save A Horse, Ride A Cowboy and played it probably 5 or 6 times throughout the day).

Recently, I was a graphics op for a luncheon where the client was so stingy with the cash that we didn't have any headset communication between the backstage techs and the Front of House techs, no video engineers, etc. They also didn't arrange for walk-in music, and as people were filing into the room, the client finally noticed how quiet and awkward it is to not have walk-in music. So, she started to freak out, so I offered up my old walk-in playlist. We already had the audio set for my graphics machines, so we didn't need to communicate with the FOH audio guys, I could just plug in and we'd have music

She had to call her boss to make sure it was OK, and he wanted to know what was on it. So I said "mostly classic rock and '80s music", because there was a panicked-rushed feel to this whole thing and that's all I could think of what was on it being put on the spot like that, and he OK'd the playlist. But the first 4 songs that came up were swing dance songs - a mix of rockabilly, actual '50s Rock N Roll, and Big Band Swing. Which was fine, but the point is that I realized how eclectic my mix really was, and that might not be to everyone's taste.

So I'm building more playlists! I now have a walk-in playlist with just rock music from the '50s through the '80s; a pop playlist with pop music from the 2000s only; a retro/vintage playlist with music from the '20s through the '40s, Sinatra-style jazz, and modern music that has the same feel; and I'm about to build a Glurge playlist. "Glurge" is a term I first heard on Snopes, which says "think of it as chicken soup with several cups of sugar mixed in". Basically, it's those sickeningly sweet inspirational messages that have no real substance or, on the far end of the spectrum, actually have a much darker meaning than the uplifting message they supposedly support but you can't really tell because of the generic inspirational tone.

This playlist is going to be filled with all the really fucking annoying vaguely rah-rah music that every damn convention plays - like Happy by Pharrel or Roar & Firework by Katy Perry or I've Got A Feeling by Black Eyed Peas. If playlists could make me money, I figure I'd be rich in no time for this playlist alone.

But the playlist that's making me happy at the moment is my retro/vintage playlist. It's filled with Cab Calloway and Postmodern Jukebox and Ella Fitzgerald. I'm delighted thinking that, maybe someday, perhaps in a couple of years, someone is going to desperately need walk-in music and I'll be all "I can save you! What kind of music do you want?" And they'll be all "I don't know, what do you have?" And I can say "I have these playlists" and I'll list them, and someone will say "you have old ragtime?! That's awesome! Play some of that!" And I'll hook up my iPod and we'll be rocking out backstage to Louis Armstrong and Sammy Davis Jr. and a Miley Cypres song that sounds like it's being played in a slat-wood saloon with an upright piano and a guy in a red and white striped shirt with red garters on his biceps and people walking into the room will be all "WTF is this?" at first, but they'll find their feet tapping along while they sit and wait for the show to start because it's hard not to get into ivory-tickling and a wailing horn and a smooth-as-honey voice pouring out the speakers, into the ears, and down the back of the throat.

I may have a slightly unhealthy obsession with playlists.

Super Tech, strong, feminism

Some of these ought to go in my Me Manual. In fact, I think I'll start by re-posting this article here in full. I've bolded the ones that speak to me the most and italicized my commentary:

1. Expect her to do her own thing often and without letting you know, at least at first. It’s not that you don’t matter; it’s just that she’s learned to love doing what she wants, when she wants, and without asking permission or informing anyone.

2. She’ll probably want to take things slowly because she’ll not be used to all the attention. Don’t think she doesn’t like you enough, she probably likes you a lot; it’s just all new to her.

3. Expect her friends to be overprotective of her and to be suspicious of you at first. They’re not used to her being with someone and they’ll want to make sure you’re the kind of guy who will treat her well.

4. She’ll have a hard time letting you do things for her. Try not to take this personally. She’s just used to taking care of herself and it’ll be hard for her to live in a world where she’s got someone else looking out for her in that way.

5. Expect her to be stubborn, to always want things her way, and to fight you when she doesn’t get it. Don’t always give in to her, but do let her win sometimes. I'm not a fan of the phrasing here "do let her win sometimes".  I never want someone to "let" me win, I want to "win" because I'm right.  Partners should acquiese to me doing things "my way" because they respect my agency and my right to control my own actions and my life.  Don't strawman me here, obviously there needs to be give-and-take in relationships and compromise and the ability to see each other's point of view.  It's the phrasing "let her win" that's irking me because it seems condescending, the way you might throw a board game for a child in order to make them feel better or something.  Never do that.  Stand up to me when you need to advocate for your own needs and I'm not seeing how I'm overstepping myself, and back off when I'm advocating for my own needs because it's the right thing to do, but never condescend to me by conceding.

6. She needs to be left alone often especially when you first start seeing each other and it should feel like she’s head over heels. Believe that she has more butterflies in her stomach than she knows what to do with, which is why she’ll need to compose herself. I need to be left alone often, period, not "especially when you first start seeing each other".  I will want more and more alone time as our relationship progresses, because the beginning of our relationship will flood me with NRC (New Relationship Chemistry) and I won't need as much alone time and I'll also be less-good at policing my boundaries in that rush of new feelings.

7. Expect her to pull away from you, especially when she realizes how much she likes you. She’ll come back to you but she’ll need time to think her feelings through. This should say "especially when she's having a hard time", not when I realize how much I like you.  I'm used to being on my own, but I also have a lot of dating experience and I'm not afraid of or often confused by my feelings.  I do withdraw when I'm hurting, and if the hurting doesn't continue or you do what needs to be done to draw me out, I'll come back eventually.  Most people don't stick around to find out, though.

8. She’ll question you, sometimes directly, sometimes implicitly, about your feelings for her. She’ll always want to know if they are real or if she’s making things up in her head. Direct Communiation FTW

9. Expect her to be headstrong. She’ll tell you, “I’ve got this,” more than you’ll want to hear. But she’ll get used to your offers to help. And in time she’ll know how to let go of the tight grip she seems to have on everything.

10. She’ll be guarded, and she won’t be keen on letting you in. She’s waiting to see if you’re patient, she’s waiting to see if you’re worth it. She’s hoping that you’re worth it.

11. Expect her to be stingy with trust, to only give a little bit at a time. But every time she gives you a little, it’ll feel like a big step for her. Cherish these big steps.

12. She’ll come across as strong, maybe too strong for you at first. But don’t be intimidated, this is her outer shell. And when you get to know her, you’ll know she’s strong but soft; tough but kind.

13. Expect her to be reserved, at least about the things that matter. Until you really get to know her. And then you’ll see the untamed, raw, and always beautiful open version of her that she’ll let you fully discover.

14. She’ll be slow with her vulnerabilities, and hide many of her weaknesses. And when she shows you them, she’ll feel naked. Clothe her with your words.

15. Expect her not to need you, and not to believe in needing much of anything at all. But she’ll want you. And when she does, it’ll be the most exhilarating feeling you’ve ever experienced.

16. She’ll be scared – scared to be hurt, scared to love, and be loved. Scared that you’ll eventually hurt her or leave her and if and when that happens, she won’t know who she was before.

17. Being alone is her default, it’s her comfort zone. But expect her to fall in love with you faster than she’ll admit and in a way that isn’t loud but still powerful; it’ll be like a little bit of heaven. And it won’t matter if you love her for a while or for a lifetime; her love will change both you and her forever.

And to stave off the inevitable "these apply to guys too!" ...

Sure, they might apply to guys, but the social script we're all sold (whether we buy it or not) says that guys are *supposed* to be like that so many women kind of expect it, whereas girls *aren't* supposed to be like that, so it'll be a shock to some guys who won't know how to handle it, hence the "warning" or advisory article.  If someone wrote an article telling women that they should expect some men not to need them, that being alone is their default, that they'll be stubborn, guarded, and reserved, that they'll be stingy with trust, or that they'll have a hard time letting women do things for them, the overwhelming reaction from many women will be "well, duh!" even if it's patently not true for some guys and even if lots of women know men who don't fit that bill.

Besides, sometimes some writers write from their own perspective and don't feel that they can speak for other demographics, even if they recognize similarities.

10th-Oct-2014 12:53 am - But, It's Not Like, REAL Assault!
Super Tech, strong, feminism
"No, I don't go to that club anymore alone."

"Why? Did something happen?"

"I stopped going there alone after I kept getting assaulted."

"You got beat up?"

"No, I got groped and pinned against a table, I got assaulted. One time I got assaulted by two different guys in the same night."

[relieved] "Oh, I thought you meant you got attacked! I mean, it's still bad."

I DID get attacked. I was put in a position where I was afraid for my safety. Each time I've been assaulted in this particular location, I had to be "rescued" by a friend who was observing from across the room. On one of these rescue occasions, the guy assaulting me turned verbally angry and made as if to follow after us when my friend pulled me away. The assaulter's friend stopped him.

I just posted a link to a story of two women who were violently assaulted after rejecting catcallers - one who died and one who is in critical condition. What happened to me at the club, what happens to me frequently in public spaces, could very easily turn into one of those news stories. There's no way to tell, until it happens.

I was touched, deliberately, in places I should never be touched without consent (and don't split hairs about *all* touching should receive consent, I mean even guys who want to excuse small violations agree about these locations - at least, they do when it's their girlfriends who get touched there by someone who isn't them or daughters get touched there by pretty much anyone). I was physically trapped with a man pressing his entire body against mine and into a table so that I could not leave without pushing back. I was forcibly grabbed, held in an embrace, and guys attempted to kiss me while I was CLEARLY resisting.

These are assaults. These are violations. They are not less serious just because I didn't get a black eye out of it. I got worse than a black eye. I got the fear that it would happen again and a restriction put on my ability to attend public functions. They are assaults and they are just as likely to escalate to a murder as a drunk idiot shoving another drunk idiot at a bar. And they are *common*.

It may seem like these incidents are happening all of a sudden to me, but they've always happened. I just didn't bother writing about them because they were so common. This is just the price of being a female in public. I no longer believe that I shouldn't bother writing about them just because they're common. That's the only reason you may be hearing about these assaults more often from me lately. Too many of you still don't understand why it's wrong, or maybe you get that it's wrong but not why some of us react so strongly to it (hey, it's annoying, but it's not a big DEAL ladies, just relax!), and too many of you still think it's "flattering", or that you'd "love it if more women treated [you] that way" or that it's a rare occurrence, or that it's motivated by sexual attraction and there are things women can do to prevent it from happening.

Or even that it's perpetrated by some mythical minority of evil bush-leaping rapists instead of just an average guy who bought the social script that tells us all that women are here to be looked at, that men are the sexual aggressors, that a "no" means "try harder", that women are the "gatekeepers" of sex, that a woman is a prize that a man can win if he just has the right clothes / car / job / amount of money / haircut / physique like winning the princess at the end of the level, or that women do *anything* in order to attract men.

I wish that all men-who-are-attracted-to-women could exist for a while without sight (and without the memory of the appearance of any women they knew prior to losing their sight). They'd have to experience the world without being able to look upon women and therefore treat women according to how they feel about looking at them. They'd have to interact with women as humans, instead of as creatures there for their entertainment. They couldn't laugh at her fat ass, they couldn't whistle at her tight ass, they couldn't rate her job performance based on whether they'd like to fuck her or not.

And then all women-who-have-relationships-with-men could experience something that I had the rare opportunity to experience - what it's like to be respected and admired, yes even in a romantic sense, by someone who knows you only for who you are inside; someone who can't be ignoring what he doesn't like in order to get sex from the body he does like; someone who can't be merely tolerating an unpleasant appearance because of the inner person or out of obligation for preexisting commitments or even inertia of an ongoing relationship. To have been cherished, even briefly, by someone who had no choice but to see me as I am without any sort of distraction from the shell that I reside in was one of the most amazing opportunities I've ever had.

Any body image issues magically disappeared for that experience. What has returned now that I'm living once again among the sighted is so much less than those issues I see my friends suffering. To be able to see myself through the eyes of someone without eyes was a life-changing experience and I wish the epiphany on everyone, if it could be done without fetishizing a disability.
frustration, ::headdesk:: by Amanda Marcotte

I'm literally sputtering over here, this makes me so angry.

"'But I can’t [compliment you] – because you’re always walking around with your damn earbuds in (“Don’t talk to me!”) and your sunglasses on, even when they’re not necessary (which incidentally doesn’t make you look cool or sexy, only unapproachable).'

This is the statement that makes it clear that the street faux-compliment harasser is not, in fact, acting out of ignorance. He knows that you don’t want him to talk to you. He quite clearly states that he is aware of this.

Congratulations dudebro, you accurately guessed the exact message I'm trying to convey. Contrary to popular opinion, I do not choose my attire with the goal of making YOU think that I look cool or sexy (I literally could not care less if you like or don't like how I look), nor do I choose to wear earbuds or sunglasses for the purpose of looking cool or sexy. I am, in fact, wearing those things precisely to appear unapproachable.  That's the motherfucking point.

SO FUCK OFF ASSHOLE. I do not want to hear your compliment and you are not entitled to give me your compliment. IT IS NOT A COMPLIMENT. Just leave women alone, for fuck's sake. When a woman is interested in catching the attention of the people around her, she will go to a place where that sort of interaction is expected, and she will look up and around her with interest.

As a side note, a smile does not indicate interest, by itself. Usually women smile because it's the safest way to escape a dudebro pestering her. Don't trust a smile, by itself, as proof that your attention is welcome. Odds are, she doesn't welcome your attention, she's desperately hoping you'll go away and she's frantically plotting escape routes in her head and using her smile as a smokescreen for her panic. YOU'LL NEVER KNOW the difference between a legitimate smile and a frightened reaction if that's the only sign you use to read women. My smile is most warm while I'm cussing at the top of my inner voice at some racist fucknugget who happens to be a customer that I have to pander to. You'll never know.

If she's reading a book, playing on her phone, wearing earbuds, wearing sunglasses, or even just not fucking looking at you, SHE'S NOT INTERESTED in you telling her what she should be doing, what she should be wearing, what expression she should have plastered on her face, what emotions she should be feeling, or that you popped a boner for her.

The really sad part is that guys like this make women go out of their way to appear unapproachable. It should just be a common courtesy that a woman can go out in public and not be approached unless she's actively seeking out interaction.

"P.S.: Oh, and by the way, it’d be nice if your default expression was a smile – or, at worst, a merely neutral expression – instead of a scowl that says, “I’ll cut you off at the knees if you try to talk to me.” C’mon, is life really that bad? Just sayin’."

P.S., Oh, and by the way, it'd be nice if your default behaviour was fucking respectful, or at worst, a merely neutral passing-by while not acknowledging others - instead of your entitled, pompous, arrogant, self-aggrandizing, 'splaining attitude that says "I'm an idiot who thinks women exist for my entertainment and I suck in bed because I don't care about women's authenticity or autonomy and I'm only concerned about what I'm getting out of the deal." Just sayin'.

My scowl that says “I’ll cut you off at the knees if you try to talk to me.” is not because life is "really that bad", it's because I'll fucking cut you off at the knees if you try to talk to me. Dipshit.
demure, sad, polite, boxed in, Misty in Box

"Darius Clark Monroe is transforming the ways media portrays incarcerated young black men, starting with his own story. At the age of 16, Darius committed armed robbery, which dramatically impacted his life as well as those around him. After serving five years in a maximum security prison, Darius has since earned a MFA from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and launched his career in documentary film."

The link above is an interview with filmmaker and criminal Darius Clark Monroe, as he talks about his new autobiographical documentary on crime, poverty, and race.

"Poverty and working class poverty are relevant. A lot of times when we think about poverty we are thinking about people that don’t have a home, family, friends. There are people that do have those things but they are just surviving. People need understand that we live in a society of great disparity."

I'm not black, and most people in Florida can't see my Latina heritage, so I have some privilege in this area. But I am working class poverty, and possibly *because* I'm not black and appear white, most people can't see that I'm working class poor either. I am not the exception. Working class poverty is a huge problem, and it's most certainly not the Welfare Queen or the lazy drug addict sucking off the government's teat that some politicians have managed to convince everyone that this is what poverty is.

Even people who know me and who see how I live, even people who live close to my own level of poverty, seem to think that I'm somehow an exception - that I'm not like all those other people on food stamps or welfare or unemployment checks, that when *I* point out that my latest-generation iPod was a gift that I couldn't afford on my own, it's the truth but someone in the checkout line with foodstamps and an iPhone MUST be cheating the taxpayers. All my fancy costumes and dance outfits? Thrift stores, gifts, purchased over years and years of collecting bits and pieces that eventually make it into an outfit. But if you didn't know that, you might think I was financially comfortable with my dresses and shoes and costumes. They're a chance for me to escape into a fantasy where I can pretend that I'm not poor and not worried about survival every moment of my waking day.

My biggest concern with my weight is that I won't fit into my existing wardrobe and I'll have to buy more clothes that I can't afford.  I pay attention to my size because of poverty, not vanity.  I can't *afford* to gain weight.  I suppose that poverty helps in that regard because I don't always eat enough to gain weight anyway.  But sometimes I do have enough money for food and access to the kinds of rich foods that cause weight gain, and then I freak out because I can't fit into my clothes again and I have to spend money to replace clothes that are still perfectly servicable, they're just too small.  I don't get rid of my clothes until they literally can't be worn anymore.  I can't afford to.

I am not the exception. And let me tell you, life has gotten a lot harder since I stopped stealing my food. There was a time that the only reason I ate was because I was a very good thief. That was a very long time ago. Morals and ethics are expensive, it turns out, but I do my best to maintain them. I still understand the motivations that drives someone to crime. And I understand that the vast majority of these sorts of crimes can be prevented if we take care of those motivations, if we help people move past "just surviving".
Super Tech, strong, feminism

“Don’t Follow Your Passion, But Always Bring it With You.”

I followed my passion and I'm glad I did.  I went into it with open eyes, knowing that I will probably be poor for the rest of my life, knowing that I'm very good at what I do, but not one of those rare superstars who amazes the world.

The difference is that I didn't *just* follow my passion.  I have a lot of passions.  I tried my hand at many of them until I found one that paid me something.  And when that job doesn't pay enough, I try other things.  I find either job types or individual companies to work for that offer me an outlet for my passions in some way.  A person who is passionate about creativity doesn't *have* to be a world famous painter.  There are lots of ways to bring creativity and art to your job, if that's what you want.  And there are lots of ways to experience your passions in your non-work hours, like I do with my dancing and my costuming.

The research on happiness and success in the workplace all shows that people who single-mindedly pursue only their passions are not the happiest or most successful people in the world.  The ones who feel the most satisfaction are the ones who found a way to be passionate or proud of the work that they do.  For some people, it's taking pride in doing an "honest day's work".  For some people it's working for a company whose vision they can take pride in and contributing to something greater than themselves.  For some people it's finding ways to apply their passions in unique or unconventional ways in their more conventional jobs.  For some people it's building a sense of security in a stable job with regular paychecks and health benefits that allows them their evenings free to pursue other endeavors.

I've always said that we spend too many of our waking hours at our jobs to work in jobs that we hate.  We should do whatever we can to spend our time doing something that we love, or at least can take pride in.  But I also agree with Mike Rowe here, that this something doesn't have to be your farfetched fantasy.  We may live in a country where "anyone can become President", but that doesn't mean that *anyone* can become President.  I will never be President of the US, even if I gave up everything to pursue that dream starting today.  I will never be an astronaut.  I will never be a world champion dancer.

But I wanted to work with my hands.  I wanted to work with technology.  I wanted the opportunity to be creative and artistic.  I wanted to work producing entertainment for other people, to help create environments and events where people could enjoy themselves.  And that's what I do.  That sort of job can be found in a wide range of places.  I did follow my passion, but with a practical, realistic sense of self and I bring my passion with me into whatever type of job I end up in.

Nude Drawing, sex
I've had this one bra for ages.  It wasn't perfect, because it's an American-cut bra and American manufacturers can't size bras to save their lives.  But it sufficed.  What I liked about it was that it was convertible.  It could be a standard bra, but I could also change the straps to halter or criss-cross or go strapless if I wanted (which I never do because strapless tops just don't stay up on me no matter how tight I made the band).
But what made it noteworthy is that it was ALSO low-back convertible.  That means that I could wear the band at a normal level, or I could pull down on the extra-long strap that goes across my ribcage and lower the back of the band to wear a low-back dress or shirt.  This one bra meant that I didn't have to buy a strapless bra, a backless bustier, and a convertible-strap bra all to do the same functions that this one bra did.

But I bought this bra years ago, before I discovered the style of bra I have completely switched to these days.  I posted a while ago about finding the perfect bra-for-me and buying like a dozen in white to dye different colors and to put some away in storage for when these wear out.  Because that bra fits me the way a bra is supposed to fit, I have actually noticed that some of the extra tissue that had started to appear under my arms (as happens to so many women as we age), had started to DISAPPEAR and I started to fill out my bra cups better.  Apparently, I learned, that tissue is breast tissue that migrates away from the breast when we wear bras that don't fit right - particularly when the underwire presses on the sides of the breast instead of the root of the breast.

I haven't exactly increased my cup size, but I am noticeably fuller now.  I went from a full A / flattish-B (depending on the manufacturer and how the bra was cut) to now a very full B and I can't fit into an A at all anymore.  And, when I wear European bras that are sized correctly, I'm actually a 32C or D! (Because cup sizes are relative to the band, not just Big / Medium / Small, which is how many American bras are cut).

My convertible bra is an A cup, which I was always a little snug in but could still fit.  I was fine with being snug in it because it made me pop out the top just a little, which, as a smaller chested person, I rarely ever got to experience and since I wear the bra for dressing up only, that's a silhouette that I would often want in a dress-up bra anyway.  But now I can't fit into it at all.  I overflow the cups both top and bottom, and the underwire doesn't sit at the root, it sits on the breast tissue.
So I've been searching for a replacement bra for about the last year or two.  I have been unable to find anything at all.  I can find convertibles but not with low backs.  I can find low backs, but not with the option to wear standard strap arrangements.  I can find the bustiers but that doesn't hep me when my shirt is both low back and midriff-bearing because bustiers cover the ribcage and sometimes even the stomach (basically all the costumes I wore for Bollywood dancing were both low / open back and midriff-bearing at the same time, so I really needed this specific bra).

I finally found one a few months ago, right in the middle of one of my moves.  Since I was leaving for a trip in a couple of weeks that I needed that bra for, I went ahead and ordered it and prayed for the best.  That bra sucked.  It was complicated, way over-engineered, and because it used so many straps to accomplish the different arrangements, it never actually fit me in ways to match the dress.  What I mean is that, when I put it into halter mode, the two different settings made the straps show either inside the halter straps of the shirt or outside the halter straps of the shirt.  The connecting points weren't where the shirt halter straps were.  When I converted it to low-back, the strange double-strap band was too high under the arms so it was seen.  If it had only used the single-strap band (the bottom strap), it would have been fine.  PLUS, the various hooks and straps didn't stay hooked during wear!  It kept popping open in various places randomly throughout the night!  I finally resorted to just safety-pinning the bra to my dress, so it was essentially a way-over-engineered version of just adding built-in cups to a dress and the band and all the straps did nothing.

I'd given up on finding my bra anywhere and I was starting to contemplate just making one.  I had literally just stopped in the notions aisle at the fabric store the other day to price out bra supplies and get an idea of what kind of bra supplies were available, to plan out the design of a bra.  Then, the next day, I just happened to be in a mall for totally non-shopping reasons.  On the spur of the moment, I decided to look one more time at department stores for a replacement bra, before I went through the trouble of making one.

I discovered that Dillards, in Fashion Square Mall, is converting itself to a clearance type store instead of a department store, so everything in the store was on a steep discount.  I actually got distracted by the $20 prom dresses and almost forgot to look for a bra (I found one, btw, and I'm so excited to have a dress appropriate for a ballroom formal now instead of my old prom dresses which are not suitable for ballroom dancing or my dresses which have skirts appropriate for ballroom dancing but aren't formal, and to have found one for only $20 because I have so far refused to spend the full price on a formal gown for a dance that isn't a landmark dance like a prom and that I probably wouldn't wear much, if at all!).

convertible bra-smAnyway, as I was walking out with my amazing find, I passed by the lingerie section that I had been unable to find until then.  I grazed through, not expecting anything, when suddenly I spotted MY bra!  In my size!  The only one left!  It was exactly the bra I've had forever and no longer fit into and have been trying to replace!  And it was $10 because of the sale.

Now nothing can ever happen to this bra and it has to last me forever because I'll never find it again!
21st-Sep-2014 06:13 pm - Responsive Desire
Nude Drawing, sex
I have always categorized my sex drive as "low". I don't have any particular internalized stigma about it. Sure, I sometimes get frustrated by it, but I've never met anyone whose sex drive worked exactly as they want it to. So I don't think things like I'm less than a woman, or that I'm broken, or that something is wrong with me because of having a low sex drive. I don't feel bad about myself for having a low sex drive, although I would like to increase my desire for my own pleasure. It's a bit ironic, because I think about and talk about sex all the time, but I'm rarely interested in actually participating.

I go through waxing and waning periods. I go through a few months of really high libido where I'm aroused and interested in sex several times a day, but then after a few weeks or a couple of months, the drive drops to only being interested once every week or two, then it can drop to having no interest at all for weeks or months at a time. I think my longest low period lasted a little over a year.

Then there are external things that can affect my libido, usually for the negative. If I start to feel that the sex in my relationship is becoming a defining trait, I will start to lose interest. Here's what I mean by that: See, for me, sex is an accessory to a relationship. It's fun, it's something I like to do, and it can even be important the way that my poly necklace is an important accessory that I wear all the time. I make sure that I have a poly symbol on pretty much at all times, because it's important to me. But it's an accessory. My outfits are not defined by my necklace, they're complimented by it. My relationships are not (necessarily) defined by whether or not we're having sex, or how often. The relationships are complimented by the presence of sex, but if the sex wanes or disappears all together, that doesn't mean that there's anything wrong with my relationships or with my interest in my partner.

But I've dated guys who use the sex as a barometer for the relationship. If we're not having sex, they take it as a symptom of something being wrong. I can understand that perspective a little bit, but what I can't understand is when that meteric is the only metric being used. Whether we're fighting a lot or not? Irrelevant. Whether we actively like to be in the presence of each other? Irrelevant. Whether we have fun together? Irrelevant. Whether we're communicating well? Irrelevant. As long as we're having sex, we're OK. We could be fighting all the time, we could be not seeing each other very often, we could even actively dislike each other's personalities and just wish that they would keep their mouth shut and only use it for oral sex, but as long as there is oral sex, the relationship is fine.

That is not acceptable to me. I need for my romantic relationships to be the whole deal. I need for my partners to actively enjoy being with me. I ned for us to communicate well. Those are far more important to me than whether we're having sex or not. I intensely dislike the feeling of being appreciated only for being a body to have sex with. I feel interchangeable, replaceable, servicable, not human. If the only thing that our relationship hinges on is sex then literally anyone with my same plumbing could fill that role and the only thing that makes me special is that I'm the one willing to do it. So I need my partners to like me for the whole package. Sure, I want my partners to appreciate my physical body and what it can do, but that's both the least important part about who I am and it's also the most likely to change into something else as time goes on. So I just cannot have romantic relationships whose definitial element is sex.

So when I date someone, and they start to exhibit pressure that implies that the sex in our relationship is becoming integral to the relationship, and to their feelings for me, that becomes a major turn off and I start to lose my interest in sex. The more important that the presence of sex is to our continuing relationship, the less I am likely to be interested in having it. It doesn't even matter if he really feels that way or not, as long as *I* feel that way due to his behavioural patterns regarding sex and our relationship that match up with every single other person in my past who prioritized sex above any other health metric.

In addition to that, if I'm stressed about other things in life, my interest in sex might drop. When my cat of 14 years, my companion, the first pet I ever had that was my own and not a family pet, the creature who suffered my cross-country trip in a dilapidated old school bus and my twenty-thousand moves around the state of Florida, who always knew when I was cramping and would curl herself up into my stomach and purr at me (when she didn't do it any other time), who let me hold her and stroke her soft fur when I needed to cry, who was there for me no matter what, when she got terminally ill and I had to watch her go through a slow decline over a period of 2 years, I lost my sex drive. Sex just didn't seem all that important when I had to care for a sick cat and when I had to spend every day for 2 years contemplating death and waiting for the loss of my dear friend that simultaneously never seemed to come and happened all too quickly.

I've been homeless for, well, a while. I've found places to live, but then I lose them with little notice and no time to find new homes. I've been fortunate in that I've had friends who could offer me spare rooms to stay in temporarily, but that means that I live out of suitcases and some of those "friends" turned into people that I had to escape from quickly too. The lack of a regular income, the lack of a living wage when I did get a job that could offer me "regular" hours, never knowing where I might be living at any given moment, the lack of having a "home base", where my stuff was and that I can treat as "mine", not having enough money even for the application fees for apartments that I don't even know will be suitable for me (because they won't let you see the apartment unless you pay an application fee, and at $25+ per application, that adds up to a lot of money quickly), all these things take a toll. I stop sleeping well, which means that my health suffers. I'm constantly evaluating everything I do in terms of how much money will it cost and how will it hamper my ability to find a place to live.

I'm also getting older, and experiencing all the stuff that comes along with aging but without a lot of the safety nets that other people have (or are supposed to have). I'm not married, so every illness and injury, including my monthly endometriosis that keeps me in bed for 2 days every 3-ish weeks, has to be taken care of by myself. There's no one here to get me soup while I lay sick in bed. There's no one to drive me to the doctor. There's no one to make sure that I wake up on time to take my medication or adjust the air conditioner. There's no one to automatically handle my bills if I become incapacitated for any length of time or, worst case scenario, to go through my stuff and deal with the aftermath if I were to die. I don't have a second income to fall back on in case I get so sick or injured that I can't work for a while. I don't have anyone to make sure there's food in the fridge. I'm not completely alone and I have friends who are willing to help with some things, but the point is that I have to explicitly arrange for these things as they happen because I don't have the sort of setup where it's reasonable to expect these things by default. So I worry a lot and things hurt more than they used to and things are harder than they used to be.

I went to Atlanta Poly Weekend this year and, as happens at sex positive events, I got to talking about my libido. I explained briefly that my sex drive is irregular and it's affected by external things and certain pressures, especially those from partners, can make it disappear completely causing a spiraling degredation of the relationship. I explained all this to someone who turned out to be a sexologist. I'll be honest, I'm on the fence about sexology. I'm probably biased against the term itself, which just sounds so fake and woo-ey. I keep expecting a legitimate science-based field of study to have a legitimate latin term, not just tacking "ology" (which means, roughly, "the study of") onto the end of a common term. I associate it with the 1970s and the pseudo-intellectual snobs who revived Freud and reinforced gender roles through the artificial elevation of the female gender to a position of superiority (or worse, the pretense of appreciation for females that still somehow reinforced the superiority of males), a la Heinlein and his ilk.

But I mentioned my libido to a sexologist who asked me to do her a favor. She asked me to reconsider using the phrase "low sex drive" and to substitute "responsive sex drive" instead. She was concerned about the shame that women feel about sex that, apparently, the word "low" can reinforce because it implies that there's something wrong with it since "low" has to be compared to "high" and "normal" in order to have any meaning. As I said at the beginning, I don't feel any shame or stigma or bad feelings about having a low sex drive, but since I had never heard the phrase "responsive sex drive" before, I was at least willing to learn more about it and to consider it as an alternative phrase.

So that phrase has been floating around in my head for the last several months and I'm finally getting around to researching it. So let's start with some definitions. Wikipedia says that "Sexual desire is a motivational state and an interest in “sexual objects or activities, or as a wish, need, or drive to seek out sexual objects or to engage in sexual activities”.[1] Synonyms for sexual desire are libido, sexual drive, sexual motivation, sexual attraction, and lust.[2] Sexual desire is an aspect of a person's sexuality, which varies significantly from one person to another, and also varies depending on circumstances at a particular time" and "Sexual desire is a subjective feeling state that can 'be triggered by both internal and external cues, and that may or may not result in overt sexual behavior'".

According to "Sex Nerd" Emily Nagoski on her blog: "'Responsive desire' is when the motivation to have sex begins AFTER sexual behavior has started. As in, you're doing something else when your partner comes over and starts kissin' on ya, and you go, "Oh yeah! That's a good idea!" Or you and your partner set aside Friday night as Sex Night, and then Sex Night gets here and you're like, "Oh, Sex Night. But I'm so tired..." But you made a deal, so you get started... and before long you've forgotten you were tired."

So, basically, sexual desire is the motivation to engage in sexual activities and there appear to be two basic categories for that motivation. People are motivated to have sex either spontaneously or responsively. Some people are motivated to have sex because they experience a spontaneous state of arousal so they think "hey, I'm aroused, why not have sex?" Other people are motivated to have sex because they are experiencing some kind of activity that encourages arousal, such as foreplay or maybe some kind of romantic wooing. Basically, something triggers the motivation, where they go "hey, this thing makes me think of sex and now that I'm thinking about sex / doing something sexy, I'm starting to get aroused!"

This was apparently started by Drs. Whipple and Brash-McGreer coming up with a circular model of sexual desire, followed by Dr. Rosemary Basson proposing a non-linear model. Our collective idea about human sexuality is more or less based on theories invented decades ago, generations ago. We're all aware of the name Kinsey, and most of us know that he was really the first one to talk about sexuality publicly and in academia. Fewer of us know the names Masters and Johnson, although they're probably the next most famous researchers in the area of human sexuality. They published the book Human Sexual Response back in 1966, where they proposed the liniear model of sexual response that we still use today. It describes the sexual response in four stages: excitement / arousal > plateau > orgasm > resolution. In 1979, a researcher named Kaplan threw in the concept of desire but took out plateau and resolution.

Then, in 1997, Whipple and Brash-McGreer proposed their Circular Model, which uses a model proposed by Reed as the base, suggesting that the four stages of sexual desire are seduction (which includes desire), sensation (which includes both excitement and plateau), surrender (which includes orgasm), and reflection (which includes resultion) but makes the four stages circular, implying that "pleasant and satisfying sexual experiences may have a reinforcing effect" leading to the seduction phase of the next experience. This seems to map with observations that many women are more likely to want repeat sexual activity rather than one-night stands, because the pattern of satisfying sexual encounters (either because they were physically pleasurable or because they reinforced or fulfilled some emotional need) is what's needed to make them interested in sex, so a one-night stand couldn't have offered a repeated pattern that the women can evaluate for potential future interest. Of course, that's where the trick is - how to establish a pattern of satisfying sexual encounters when one needs the pattern in order to establish it.

Then, a Dr. Rosemary Basson came up with a non-linear model that incorporates non-biological influences on sexual desire, such as emotional intimacy and satisfaction. This was the first, as far as I could tell in my superficial research (i.e. Google search), model that explicitly included external factors on sexual desire such as pyschosocial issues like self-image and relationship satisfaction.

According to Basson, [people] have many reasons for engaging in sexual activity other than sexual hunger or drive, as the traditional model suggests. Although many [people] may experience spontaneous desire and interest while in the throes of a new sexual relationship or after a long separation from a partner, most women in long-term relationships do not frequently think of sex or experience spontaneous hunger for sexual activity. In these latter cases, Basson suggests that a desire for increased emotional closeness and intimacy or overtures from a partner may predispose a woman to participate in sexual activity. From this point of sexual neutrality—where a woman is receptive to being sexual but does not initiate sexual activity—the desire for intimacy prompts her to seek ways to become sexually aroused via conversation, music, reading or viewing erotic materials, or direct stimulation. Once she is aroused, sexual desire emerges and motivates her to continue the activity. On the road to satisfaction, there are many points of vulnerability that may derail or distract a woman from feeling sexually fulfilled. The Basson model clarifies that the goal of sexual activity for women is not necessarily orgasm but rather personal satisfaction, which can manifest as physical satisfaction (orgasm) and/or emotional satisfaction (a feeling of intimacy and connection with a partner).

I'm having conflicting feelings about this theory. On the one hand, I really resonate with this description. I think that this description of a person who may not be feeling physically aroused nevertheless has some desire or motivation to engage in sexual activity and so does things to encourage physical arousal which may or may not lead to orgasm and in which there are several points during the time frame at which the arousal may be negatively impacted - I think that description very closely describes my own experience with sexuality and that of many people I've heard from over the years.

Where I'm having trouble is in the gender reinforcement. I believe that this is largely unintentional. The fact is that, in observational studies, people with female genitalia, on average, tend to describe their sexuality one way while people with male genitalia, on average, tend to describe their sexuality another. I believe that this new focus on female sexuality was borne out of a desire to break through the sexist glass ceilings in sexuality research. Up until the point of this research that I've been referencing, academic sexuality had a tendency to be described in terms that identified the "male" sexuality as the default and any deviation from that was patholigized. So, let's say that the generally accepted average description of male sexuality was the stereotypical "thinks of sex every 7 seconds, will stick his penis in anything, gets aroused by a light breeze, can't handle his desire and must be controlled by managing women's appearance because he's an uncontrollable raging boner beast."

If we then start looking at women's sexuality, and we chart everyone as points on a graph, and the graph shows something roughly Bell Curve-like, it might give us a mean range of traits that we can then lump together into a "description of average female sexuality" that shows most women as having a different sex drive. Let's say that the tallest point in the Bell Curve describes women as the stereotypical "thinks of sex only when reminded of it, can't open her legs until she's emotionally invested, takes hours of foreplay that must include roses and candlelight, and usually only uses sex as a means to an emotional end". What we see in the presentation of all this sexuality research is that the male stereotype above is considered the standard, so a woman who "requires hours of foreplay" or who "only thinks of sex when reminded" has a "low" sex drive, because it's "lower" than the man's, which is the standard. Anyone who wants sex more often than that has a "high" sex drive and anyone who wants sex less often has a "low" sex drive. Since women (in our hypothetical Bell Curve scenario) aren't generally aroused by a light breeze, they're considered to have a "low" sex drive. Terms like "low" and "high" require a level of some sort that one can be "lower" than in order to be "low". What is "low" if there is no normal or high to compare it to? Low has no meaning without some sense of "normal" or "high".

So the reason why all this new sex research is happening is because some people are challenging the idea that the stereotypical male default should be the default and everything else is a deviation, making all women's sexuality deviant sexuality automatically. Because then, if you happen to come across a woman whose sex drive functions more like a man's sex drive, then she's deviant because she doesn't fit into the standard for "women", so no matter what, the woman's sex drive is wrong, which then becomes pathologized, because that's what we do when people do things "wrong". This also pathologizes any man who falls outside of the standard as well, because a man with a "low" sex drive must be "a woman" (which, apparently, is an insult and must be an insult if "woman" is considered to be deviant from the norm) or broken in some way. Men are sometimes patholigized for having high sex drives too, but since the bar for "normal" is already set at a level that includes a lot of interest in sex, it's requires an extreme amount of sexual desire for a man to be considered deviant. And, although deviantly-high sex drives in males are shamed and pathologized, the stigma for such is still lower than for a woman with a deviantly high sex drive because men are still considered to be sexual beings while women are less encouraged for being sexual beings.

I am very much in support of the concept of challenging the default assumptions about sexuality and in particular holding up one male standard as "normal" and everything else being deviant in some way. But where I twig on these new models is that they still seem to reinforce gender binaries to me and I do not see enough importance placed on cultural pressures to explain apparent gender binary differences. Here's what I mean by this. Let's say that, regardless of how sexuality is defined, we really do see two different (even if overlapping) Bell Curves that map to people with male genitalia and people with female genitalia. I believe that cultural pressures to conform to current cultural sexual standards are more influential than the studies accommodate for. I believe that if a man is raised from birth with the stereotype message coming at him from all directions, both subtle and overt, and reinforced with social shaming and bullying, that he will be more likely to describe his own sexuality in terms that match the cultural standard because he will be more likely to recognize his sexuality in those terms that match the cultural standard.

And I believe that reinforcing that standard both externally and internally can build in patterns that, when "tested", will conform to the cultural standard because he has now repressed or exaggerated whatever was "natural" to more closely match the cultural standard so the standard might begin to feel "natural" by this point. Sort of like how athletes that specialize in one sport might end up sculpting their bodies to match what is most necessary to succeed in that sport, so when we see that all swimmers have a "swimmer's body", is it because they were born with that shape or because they spent their lives doing things that encourage that shape? Probably both. But by the time they have that shape, could we really tell how much of it is "natural" and how much was created by external pressure after the fact? And by that time, is it even relevant to them, as individuals? Their bodies, at this point, are "natural" to them because it's what they exist in.  Or what about someone who is "naturally" left-handed but was forced to become right-handed as a child?  As an adult, writing with his left hand may not feel "natural" to them because they have spent their life writing with their right hand even though left-handedness might have been the dominant "natural" preference at one time.  If we did a brain scan, we might even see pathways in the brain that conform with right-handedness because a lifetime of using the right hand dominently might wear those grooves in the brain so that it eventually becomes less "natural" to use the left hand over time. So one's sex drive may be shaped by external pressures and we may not be able to ever tease out exactly how much of that sex drive is "natural" and how much "isn't", nor does it necessarily matter to that individual person because, to him, having lived within his sexuality all this time, it's "natural" to him.

There was a study done not too long ago that showed groups of men and women erotic pictures and then asked the participants if they were aroused. They also measured physical symptoms of sexual arousal and matched those results with the participants' answers. The men pretty consistently said they were aroused when they had physical symptoms of arousal and said they weren't aroused when they lacked those symptoms. But the women quite often said that they were not aroused when they actually did have physical symptoms of arousal. One hypothetical explanation for this discrepancy is that physical symptoms of arousal in males include an engorged penis. I don't know about others, but even though I don't have a penis, I'm pretty sure that if I had one and it started to harden, I'd probably be able to say with reasonable consistency when I was aroused because I could actually see and feel a hardening penis. But the symptoms of female arousal are much more subtle. I'm lubricated often for a variety of reasons. When I ovulate, for example, like most ovulating females, I discharge a thick, sticky, white-ish fluid. I know that I'm not aroused, but if you were to measure the amount of fluid in my vagina during my ovulation, and that was your metric for determining arousal, you might think that I was aroused and didn't know it. Conversely, if I discharged all the time for random reasons, I might dismiss the presense of lubrication as a symptom of arousal alone because it wouldn't be a reliable metric without further education (maybe there's a way to tell the difference, scientifically, between ovluation discharge and sexual lubrication but how would I know that?).

So I might go my entire life not being able to recognize certain symptoms of arousal because of extraneous factors. Then if, in a clinical setting where I'm being asked to tell strangers my state of arousal, and I grew up in a culture that reinforced from birth a certain narrow standard of sexuality that includes requiring that I deny being a sexual being or enjoying certain sexual acts or having sexual fantasies, I might not be able to accurately describe my state of arousal as easily as someone who has a built-in turkey timer that pops out big and hard when arousal appears and who is told that it's normal, nay encouraged, to be a sexual being and to be aroused at the drop of a hat and who is not shamed to publicly admit it.

That's why, in the quote above, there are a couple of places where I substuted [people] for the original word "women". I feel, in reading about these more progressive scientific views of sexuality, that there is still a reinforcement of a binary gender system that is artificially inflated. I strongly believe that there are a lot of people, probably the majority of people, whose sexuality would be different if they had different cultural pressures.  For isntance, I believe that male bisexuality is far more likely in the population and is only such a small minority because of the extreme cultural pressures put on men to not express or explore bisexuality, so any bisexual inclinations would be ignored, dismissed, repressed, or even unrecognized and, over time, will sculpt a man's sexuality in such a way as to render him effectively heterosexual regardless of his biological potential. If there's anything that's consistent in the human species, it's flexibility and adaptability and the ability for people (generally speaking) change themselves or to choose from among multiple paths to survive. I also believe that female bisexuality may be slightly more prevalent than "natural" because I live in a culture that encourages female bisexuality, so non-bisexual (i.e. hetero- or homosexual) inclinations may be ignored, dismissed, repressed, or even unrecognized.

Take the recently-discovered experience that many people (usually women), have a tendency to put themselves into scenarios like movies and stories.  Look at the feminist movement where it focuses on female representation in the media, or at any race-based or alternative sexuality movements who want to see more people representing themselves in media.  People want to see themselves in movies and stories.  People want to feel like they are represented.  Not all indivudals, of course, but people in general seem to like seeing themselves in media.  Another study of "women's sexuality" found that a lot of women get aroused by same-sex imagery but not because they were attracted to the women in the images or movies.  No, they got aroused because they were mentally putting themselves in the other woman's position in the picture or movie, so they were imagining that they were experiencing what those women were experiencing, and if what the actor was experiencing seemed pleasurable to the viewer, then the viewer would get aroused at the thought of having that experience.  But before this option was considered, all we saw was women, even self-professed straight women, were getting aroused at imagery of other women in sexual scenarios.  Without understanding the underlying motivation, that may lead to a mistaken conclusion that women are more bisexual than they really are.

Since heterosexuality is still the "default" standard even in women, and since homosexuality has gained such acceptance as it has, I believe that the gap between actual bisexual women and women who have been artificially encouraged to be bisexual is much, much smaller than the gap between actual bisexual men and men who have been artificially discouraged from being bisexual, so they're not really equal states. But I feel that I was pressured into exploring bisexuality in a way that was not "natural" to my desires. I have an artist's eye and I enjoy looking at aesthetically pleasing things. I also have a hyper-awareness of sexuality in general so I think about sexuality a lot, even when the subject or environment is not personally sexually arousing. I'm also very much one of those people who puts herself into the metaphorical shoes of the actors in movies and stories, so I can get aroused at female-displayed erotica, not because I find her arousing but because I imagine what she must be feeling based on what I would feel in that scenario, and that's what is arousing me.  I can do that when the actor is physically male too, actually, because of my gender identity, but that's a tangent.  I feel that I was culturally pressured to label my aesthetic appreciation of female bodies (images of which I was bombarded with throughout my entire life specifically positioning female bodies as sexual objects) and my mental substitution as a sexual appreciation for women's bodies, which I now understand is not true. So I explored sexuality with female-bodied people and the feeling was consistently and categorically different from my feelings associated with sexual activity with male-bodied people.

I don't regret most of my experiences with my female partners. For the most part, I did enjoy my experiences, and I mostly really appreciated the connection it brought me to them. But, internally, I can just feel that my sexuality is attached to male bodies. And I don't think I would have explored the things that I explored had I not been told by so many sources that my appreciation of their aesthetics must indicate some kind of sexual response or that my arousal to imagery must be attached to the female body and not just associated with it. I have seen the reverse in several men too. I've known quite a few men who were adamant that they were straight, but I find the idea of male homosexuality to be physically arousing. So when I described my own interest in male homosexuality, if my viewpoint was held in high enough esteem, some men were willing to reconsider their heterosexuality, and some of them discovered an innate interest in the male body while retaining their interest in female bodies. Based on my experiences with these men, it seems as though they just needed to be in an environment that gave them permission and encouragement to explore the question "do I find male bodies arousing?" in order to learn to recognize the answer. In some cases, these were men well settled into their adulthood, when sexual exploration and experimentation is not generally common and where patterns tend to be more established.

So I believe that categorizing "responsive libido" and "spontaneous libido" as female vs. male sex drives, even with caveats that they're generalizations and that people of any gender can experience either form of libido, further entrenches an artificial gender binary even in light of the more progressive values that sparked the investigation of alternative sexual categorizations in the first place. I do not have any problem with the idea that biological sex may have sort of a reverse Bell Curve, with the majority of people falling into biological categories of male and female and a significant but minor portion of people falling in between with a variety of sex categories and expressions (which, of course, is not the same thing as gender categories because I'm talking strictly about biology here). I also don't have a problem with the idea that, if we cut out that middle and we map out biological female vs. male graphs, we'll get Bell Curves that do not match identically. But repeatedly we see that those respective Bell Curves have more overlap than non-overlap, and I think that if we were able to seperate "nature" from "nurture", we would find this would be consistent over sexuality.

Meaning that I believe more men have a Responsive Libido than we currently believe because cultural pressures have sculpted men's libidos and their recognition of their own libidos (not to mention cognitive biases well known but not referenced in this post regarding subjective observation) in such a way as to skew the results of self-reported research. And vice versa for women. The Bell Curves won't be identical, I'm sure. But they'll be more overlapping than not, if we could get past the limitations in our current research abilities.

So the conclusion that I think I've reached after reading a handful of articles and typing out my responses is that I do feel that the description of Responsive Libido or Responsive Sex Drive or Responsive Desire fairly accurately matches my own experience of my sexuality. But I feel a strong emotional aversion to changing my terminology because of the gender binary that I feel is still attached to the current research on the subject. I think I would be much more willing to embrace this as a new descriptive label for myself if it didn't come along with an implicit assumption that I have a Responsive Libido because I'm female, or that because I'm female I must have a Responsive Libido. If Responsive Libido was just something that some people had and some people didn't, I think I would be more willing to embrace the term personally.  And I don't feel that this is an intentional implication on the part of any individual researcher who advocates for these new categories.  I definitely appreciate having a term that accurately describes a more complex, fluid form of sexuality, especially when it comes to needing to describe my sexuality to potential partners for expectation mangement. When I say only that I have a low sex drive, and then the beginning NRC phase of a relationship increases my sex drive by a significant amount, my partners get confused and dismiss my claims. Then, when the drive drops as it does, my partners take it personally, and we enter a well-worn downward spiral that I would love to never have to experience again. If it could just be culturally accepted that my sex drive does what it does, and that was just how sex drives act (at least in some people), I think (and I hope) that people's expectations for the sex in our relationships would be more easily managed to match reality instead of fantasy.
Super Tech, strong, feminism

"“One of my least favorite things about butch/boi culture in NYC is how it sometimes devolves into paralleling misogyny I used to deal with from cis straight dudes” ...

I’m terrified and ashamed of the idea that the butch identity has any connotation with misogyny. ...

My agency was taken away from me, and it was just as terrifying when done by fellow queers as it was when it was men. ...

Parroting misogyny is not love. Objectifying her is not honoring her, treating her as a possession is not a demonstration of commitment, and using your identity as an excuse for shitty behavior is not acceptable – ever. ...

The thing is that we queers can perpetuate rape culture just as much as the next frat boy, and among too many butches, there seems to be an acceptance of this very kind of behavior. ...

Our masculinity doesn’t have to have a body count."

I'm straight and I'm fine with my female biology and presenting as female, so my perspective on this issue is as an outsider. My problems with gender are not that I think I have the wrong assignment, but that the definition for my gender is wrong. But I do see this sort of thing often, as someone on the fringes of this culture.

I'm more into androgyny, personally. I like the mixing and blending of genders. I delight in having a distinctly and recognizably feminine body that does things distinctly and recognizably un-feminine. When I wear men's clothes, I'm not trying to take on a masculine physique, I'm highlighting my female body by *using* men's clothes (when I think about it at all, that is - normally I wear men's clothing because it's more practical for my purposes).

I like challenging the dominant paradigms by looking feminine but then saying something usually associated with masculinity, such as cussing a lot or talking about math and science or being the sexually dominant one. Because of that, I end up hanging out "with the boys". Just 2 days ago, as a matter of fact, someone made a dirty joke and a guy who doesn't know me said "you said that right in front of her?!", to which the joke-teller said "But she's one of the guys!" I know why that's problematic, but I like that designation anyway.

I hang out with the guys, the masculine men, because my outer shell is feminine but the inside more closely matches descriptions of "masculine". I'm stubborn and argumentative and aggressive and I shout and hold my own. I hang out with the guys, but I also hang out with the butches because butches also hang out with the guys. Especially in my business. So I see the misogyny when both male and butch cultures think there aren't any "women" around to mind it. I'm included in their culture but I'm apart from it too, so I can only assume that what I see is the tip of the iceberg.

People who are part of groups who are historically and continually oppressed can not afford to take on the same trappings of the oppressing group. We have to be better than that. I know that *I* have to try harder. As "one of the guys", I've done my share and sometimes things still slip out of my mouth that make me cringe later. But we don't find equality by assimilating into the dominant oppressive class.

We find equality by dismantling the dominant oppressive class and replacing it with an inclusive class.
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