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.
*sigh* Sometimes I just want to smack people upside the heads. One of the arguments I've seen defending the Kentucky clerk for refusing to sign gay marriage licenses is that her job *changed*. She didn't sign up for a job knowing that she'd have to do something against her principles, that wasn't part of her job when she agreed to work. Now it is. The challenge was made that, should we now expect everyone to unthinkingly and uncritically follow blindly whatever our corporate overlords tell us to do because they're our bosses?
I just ...
Let's see if I can explain this in simple terms. Her job did not change. She was always expected to issue marriage licenses. That is still her job. What has changed is *who* is eligible for them. She has always, from the very beginning, been expected to issue those licenses to whoever qualifies for them, regardless of her personal feelings about the individuals applying. THAT IS STILL HER JOB. She has never been allowed to deny divorcees marriage licenses. She has never been allowed to deny people of color marriage licenses. She has never been allow to deny atheists marriage licenses. She has never been allowed to deny "mixed-race" couple licenses. She has never been allowed to deny Muslims marriage licenses. She has never been allowed to deny gay people marriage licenses as long as one of them is male and the other is female. She's never been allowed to deny 18-year olds marriage licenses. She's never been allowed to deny marriage licenses to one 18-year old and one 78-year old.
Any of these things she might object to. I have tons of opinions on who "should" get married. That doesn't mean that I can take a government job where it is my duty to issue licenses and to use my authority to impose my personal opinion onto those relationships. It is NOT HER JOB and never has been her job to allow her personal preferences to influence her ability to approve or deny marriage licenses. It is her job and has always been her job to approve licenses or deny licenses based on the official criteria given to her from her employer. Her employer, the government, can and does change who is eligible for whatever benefits and it is not within the scope of her job to refuse the mandate. Who is allowed to get married has changed many times over the years. Expecting the criteria for who is eligible to never change, or to retain the right to ignore the change, is not reasonable.
A pharmacist is legally obligated to fulfill prescriptions. What medication is legally allowable for a prescription changes all the time with new regulations and new medical information. A pharmacist is not allowed to take it upon themselves to decide, in contrast to the *law* and to the prescribing physician, what a patient should or should not have access to. That is not their job. Their job is to fulfill prescriptions and it's someone else's job to decide what prescriptions are allowable.
I am hired to run a camera. My job duties are to aim the camera and follow my director's direction. If, when I get there, the speaker has canceled and another speaker is replacing him, and I disagree with the speaker's speech, I am not allowed to refuse to aim my camera at him just because I don't support his message and I don't want to contribute to spreading it, and still expect to get paid for that gig. I was hired TO RUN A CAMERA, and it doesn't matter if the person scheduled to speak changes after I've been hired. If I don't like the new speaker, I can quit. I've had speakers change, I've had entire performance formats change, I've even had which camera I'm told to run change. I'm still expected to do my fucking job, which is to point the lens where I'm told to the best of my ability or I have to leave so that someone who can do the job can be brought in instead.
Or, as I have actually found myself in the following position, if I cannot afford to quit and I have to implicitly "support" a message that I don't believe in, I can show up for work, perform my job duties, and then spend my free time and disposable income fighting against that message elsewhere.
Now, what this *can* make a case for is getting the government out of the marriage business entirely. If you think "god's law" trumps the government laws, then that is a reasonable position for removing the government's ability to govern over marriages entirely. But until that day comes, it's still her fucking job.
I've been seeing the "polya" abbreviation being used for a while now, and at first I thought it was just someone who didn't speak English very well. Then I started hearing rumblings in the community that some people wanted us to all stop using the abbreviation "poly" to refer to polyamory because Polynesian people also use the abbreviation "poly" to refer to themselves. I didn't get into those debates or follow them very closely, but what I was hearing was that the people who were espousing this change were also being mean to other marginalized identity people, so it didn't strike me as really anything worth following. What I *wasn't* hearing, was from the Polynesian community itself that this was a problem.
But now, apparently, someone has made a Tumblr comment asking polyamorous people to stop using the "poly" shorthand because it somehow harms Polynesian safe spaces. So now it's time for me to take it seriously, but honestly, I'm still having trouble with this. For me, the difference is that when asked to stop using other words, it's because those words mean *bad things* and the casual use of bad words normalizes the bad thing. In this case, "poly" doesn't mean anything bad in either context. It's *only* an identifier, and one that is still not in common use outside each group. But polyamorous folk are winning the visibility first. Both are marginalized communities, although we could get into a game of More Persecuted Than Thou, but I'd rather not.
According to the Tumblr comment, tagging your tweets with "poly" instead of "polyamorous" is invading a Polynesian "safe space" and harming aromantic or asexual Polynesian people and making it hard on them because they have to wade through tweets that aren't relevant to them and I'm having difficulty accepting that. Twitter in particular is a character-limited format, and insisting that all posts get tagged with the longer form makes it difficult for *our* communities to find *our* posts. What about *our* "safe spaces"?
I don't see this as the same sort of situation that generally calls for more sensitivity of language. There's no cultural appropriation happening, no normalization of slurs or hate speech, no casual acceptance of marginalization. It's just two different groups who happen to have the same Latin prefix that both use as shorthand for their identity. And both were arrived at independently. Simply establishing which is being referred to when in a confusing context should be all that's necessary. I don't see it as reasonable to prevent the use of similar words *just because* the word is already in use, especially when that word isn't a whole word but a shorthand or abbreviation.
I'd add the reminder that others have pointed out, that not only is the word not commonly used outside each group, but it's also rarely used within the Polynesian community for itself (as I am told), whereas it *has* been embraced by the polyamorous community. If anything, the word "poly" might have more cultural significance and weight to the polyamorous community than to the Polynesian community. But even if we don't try to quantify who has more cultural significance to the word, the point is that both groups do, not just one.
Part of the reason, I suspect, why there's such resistance to dropping the abbreviation isn't just about white privilege but because it's a case of culture clash. White people have a tendency to think of themselves as "without culture" (unless they claim an attachment to, say, Ireland, or something, but being *white* itself doesn't have a "culture", per se). Being part of a non-ethnic subculture like LGBTQ, goth, atheism, etc. gives people without any real sense of culture their own "culture". The poly community has decades of existence, is multi-generational now, and has its own music, art, and even parts of language. It is a *culture* now, along with everything that implies (including the fact that not everyone fits into the cultural stereotypes or molds and that there may be regional differences). For a lot of white people, this is the first time really experiencing what it's like to have a culture of any sort of significance. Being asked to give up that word because some other group "had it first" and doesn't even use it all that often can feel like being asked to give up a part of their identity. In fact, that *is* what is being asked, because that word is an identity label. But, let's not forget that, although white people may make up the majority (or possibly it looks that way thanks to media highlighting pretty, thin, white, middle class people), not all of us polyamorous folk are white. And we are using the shorthand "poly" too.
As I said above, this is not the same thing as asking people to stop calling those A-line tank tops "wife beaters" (a label that I find difficult to give up, btw, because of long-standing habit, but I'm making the effort). That label refers to an inanimate object and normalizes domestic abuse. It's *really* not a hardship for people to stop using it, other than they have to think about it for a while until they change a habit. This perspective on the "poly" shorthand is asking people who feel marginalized themselves, who have built a community and a culture *around that word*, to stop using the very label that they used to refer to themselves as people and to the culture that they've adopted (or grown up in).
Let me ask, would this be an issue if, say, a people from the Pacific Islands and an indigenous group from Australia, both of which were colonized by English-speaking Europeans, if they both happened to be named something similar and the shorthand or abbreviation was the same, would we still see one group asking the other to give up their label? Or is this only an issue because so many polyamorous people are white so we assume that they can't also be experiencing marginalization or cultural identity? When we stopped calling Native Americans "Indians", it wasn't because Indians said "hey, we had that name first!" It was because Native Americans said "that's not our name for ourselves, stop calling us that!" Being white, sure, we should be cognitive of white privilege, but that's not the only power in play here. I'm *constantly* fighting for my own identity labels and frankly, I'm tired of other people telling me what I'm allowed to call myself.
I want to be clear that I'm not drawing a hard line here. I'm not taking the definitive stance "you don't own that word, so fuck you, I'm gonna use it!" I'm suggesting that this issue is more complicated than simply white privilege asserting dominance over a marginalized brown group, therefore a hard "you can't use that word, it's ours!" isn't applicable either. Some of us polyamorous folk are minorities in a lot of ways, and we're fighting for our own cultural identity and to be free of persecution on many fronts. I don't want to have to fight yet another battle on my identity. I'm a minority in gender, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, economic class, and even medically / health-oriented. I have to fight for my right to identify myself in every single area that makes up a person's identity. But, at the same time, I have privilege in many ways too because I can coast on my cis-gender, I pass as white, I can pass as hetero, I can pass as mono, my health issues are invisible a lot of the time so I can actually do quite a lot of physical activity, and my religious beliefs are not readily apparent unless I choose to make them so. This means that I do have to be conscious and careful when my resistance to acquiescing to another minority doesn't come from one of those internalized privileges.
I think that this is a complicated matter involving many crossed axis of privilege and oppression. As the arguments are presented to me right now, I do not believe it is reasonable to give up the prefix "poly" as shorthand for "polyamorous" in all contexts, and I think most people agree with that on both sides of the debate. The real question is in that word "all". If not all, then some. If some, then which ones? As someone who is vehement on clarity of language, and who has repeatedly taken the stance "you can define a word however you want, but if you use it contrary* to everyone else's understanding, then it's your fault for not being understood and you're in the wrong", if you were to find yourself at a Polynesian picnic, for instance, where your Polynesian friend invited you to a family gathering, then yeah, using "poly" to refer to your romantic life would be confusing and it would make you the more considerate person to alter your language for ease of communication.
But changing Twitter tags? Blog tags? These are *public* spaces. *Anyone* can click on a Twitter tag and see anyone else's tweets. It's not within the context of a poly *group*, where you have to deliberately join that group and it can therefore be assumed that you're aware of the context. I'm not going to argue against anyone who chooses to not tag their tweets with "poly" anymore. That would be telling someone else how they should identify, which is just as bad as telling them that they can't identify (both examples have exceptions, but generally not a good idea). But I don't see it as reasonable to *ask* us not to use those tags ourselves in public forums. An article defending the use of content warnings in class syllabi explained that the content warning wasn't to "coddle" students, but to place responsibility for their own self care on the student themselves. The content warning was to indicate to the student that they *would* face information that they might find difficult so that they could prepare themselves to address it in whatever way was best for them.
I see use of the internet as similar. I don't use reddit because I just can't handle the misogyny and racism found there. I keep getting told that I should just not read past the first 3 comments, but I have not found anything on reddit to be worth the effort my own self-care would require to wade into that cesspool. Anything worth seeing is often screencaptured and then posted as a meme on FB by people who I have deliberately culled to be people worth interacting with. True, I do not subscribe to the advice "if you don't like it, just don't use it" when applied to all of social media. FB and the like are often the only means of self-care and of contact for marginalized people. I approve of social media *controls* so that we can edit out the parts that are too difficult for us. I can block people on FB. I can choose to join only certain groups and not others. And if I have a traumatic trigger to the use of certain tags, I can choose to follow other tags.
So, for me, I do not see enough justification to give up the use of the poly prefix in polyamorous-specific spaces or in general public spaces and plenty of justification to defend its use. But I wouldn't insist that all Polynesian people adjust themselves to my use of the word "poly" while I'm in Polynesian-specific spaces and I'm just going to have to accept that I may have to wade through tweets that are not relevant to me or that actively engage in sexism and religious bigotry because those things are embeded in the background of colonized Polynesian culture just like they are in US culture (yes, it's true, reading the Polynesian-based poly tweets can be "unsafe" for some of us polyamorous people too). We'll just have to use context to figure out what people are talking about, just like we do for every other homynym in existence, just like we know that someone has rejected an offer even when they don't use the literal word "no" because of context, just like we understand the question "can I?" often means "may I?" instead of "am I able to?" in the right context. Context is important, and I believe that context is sufficient to allow both groups to use the shorthand so that neither is required to give up their own cultural identity.
I do not see this as a white privilege vs. marginalized people issue. I see it as two marginalized groups trying to find themselves and crossing paths. There are definitely some white polyamorous people who are being jerks about it, as there are always some white people being jerks about cultural sensitivity. I just think that cultural sensitivity has to go in both directions in this case, *even though* some people in one of the directions happen to be white because cultural issues are not always and only about ethnicity.
*By "contrary to everyone else's understanding", I am exempting those situations in which someone is attempting to *educate
* others on a misunderstanding of a word. So, for example, telling people that you're monogamous but you have 3 live-in romantic partners who all know about each other and agree to the arrangement and insisting that others accept your use of the word "monogamy" is "wrong" because it's contrary to every reasonable and common use definition of the word. But explaining to people that the vast majority of the culture thinks "feminism" means "man-hating" when it really means "equality", that's an exemption. They're not insisting on using a word differently because they want to define words however they want. They're insisting on using a word "differently" because it's actually more accurate and they're trying to educate the population about a miscondeption of identity and oppression.
Awesome article just got republished on Everyday Feminism by a terrific online blogger I discovered a year or two ago, Shea Emma Fett
"Gaslighting does not require deliberate plotting. Gaslighting only requires a belief that it is acceptable to overwrite another person’s reality."
"The distinguishing feature between someone who gaslights and someone who doesn’t is an internalized paradigm of ownership."
"Gaslighting Doesn’t Always Involve Anger or Intimidation"
"Losing spots in your memory makes it very plausible when someone tells you that they cannot trust your memory. It makes it very plausible when they tell you that you are abusive."
I once knew someone who was abusing his partner, and I knew the partner as well, but I didn't see the abuse. Because I couldn't see the abuse, I unwittingly enabled it, for which I feel deeply ashamed and guilty to this day. That guilt is a good deal why I write about abuse so much more now - to prevent anyone else from unknowingly enabling abuse.
One of the ways in which I enabled the abuse is because of this principle. As a skeptic, I am fully aware of how fallible our memories are. This often leads me to demanding proof before believing something. When it comes to real-but-invisible things like abuse or oppression, that's a dangerous mindset to have.
This abuser that I knew also considered himself a skeptic. So, naturally, we shared an understanding in the fallibility of memory. In fact, his memory was so fallible, that if it didn't exist in pictures or a chat log, his brain would erase the memory all together.
So, when he said that his partner was remembering things wrong, I saw no reason to contradict him. Of course she was remembering things wrong - we all remember things wrong! Except in this case, he wasn't being scientifically pedantic about memory, he was using her natural fallibility to *rewrite history* and therefore erode her own sense of self.
I remember one time in particular when she even came to me and told me that he was doing this. I had been in full protect-my-sister-empathize-with-her-ful
ly mode, but then she brought up the memory thing. I instantly backpedaled and tried to "explain" that he wasn't gaslighting her, he was just being a good skeptic by reminding her of the fallibility of memory.
If I could go back in time and smack myself upside the head when I said this, I would. This was the equivalent of "oh, he didn't mean anything by it! He's harmless! You shouldn't feel creeped out by him inappropriately touching you!" I'm still working on the balance between scientific accuracy of how memory works and supporting victims of abuse. I have not mastered this trick yet.
"Change should make you bigger. It should increase your tank of self-love. It should make you stronger, clearer, more directed, more differentiated, and more compassionate. The pain of growth is different than the pain of destruction. One will fill you with love and pride, even when it’s hard, and the other will fill you with shame and fear."
"It’s ridiculous when someone tries to tell you who you are, what you feel, what you think, what you intended, or what you experienced. When it happens, you should be angry, puzzled, or maybe even concerned for them."
"You can solve a lot of things with communication, so long as the objective of both people is understanding. But the minute someone tries to replace your experience, it’s time to stop communicating, at least on that subject."
To go along with another post I made recently about identifying as masculine but some people not seeing me that way, here's a video on masculine femininity:
The tl;dr is that, surprise! Just as there's no real gender binary between man and woman, there's also no binary single categories for what makes "masculine" and "feminine" in assigned-female-at-birth bodies. In other words, there's more than one way for a "woman" to be a "man". I don't have to be stocky with small boobs and short hair and "pass" as a guy to still be masculine-identified.
My preferred identity labels are those that include or imply ambiguity: tomboy; gender fluid, androgynous; "effeminate gay man in woman's body", gender neutral, etc. This video also just introduced me to the term MoC - Masculine of Center - and I kinda like that one too.
Because I like the mixture of male and female, I prefer male titles but female pronouns: "she is a good cameraman." I'm much more accepting of being misgendered with male pronouns than with female titles, though. However, I also can identify as cisgender woman on occasion, particularly when I'm talking about feminist issues or biological situations because my childhood identity was that of a tomboy with the attitude "this IS a girl thing because I'm a girl and it's my thing, therefore it's a girl thing!"
I find this article interesting. I only recently added "I feel like" to my speech. I have always identified as more masculine than feminine, but I know some people don't see me as such. There are 2 reasons why people don't see me as masculine: 1) my physical appearance; and 2) I talk about relationships and feminism a lot.
1) I can't help how I was born, but I deliberately choose to not go butch because I like the androgyny - I like the mixing of feminine and masculine elements and of fucking with people's gender assumptions. I like that, when I wear men's clothing, I don't do so in a way to hide the female body underneath. I like that, when I cuss like a sailor, I do so in a clearly female vocal tone. I look "like a girl" but I act "like a guy".
2) First, the feminism is a new thing. Until a few years ago, I was squarely in the category of what the MRAs *claim* to be - defending men's actual rights. I just didn't understand at the time that those legitimate criticisms were the patriarchy backfiring on itself and that fixing feminist issues would, as a consequence, also fix those legitimate men's rights issues. Second, in my circles, talking about relationships is not the exclusive domain of women. It's true that the poly movement is led primarily by women, but all genders talk about relationships and communication all the time because that's what is necessary in poly relationships. Hell, my very male-identified boyfriend is one of the authors who literally "wrote the book
" on how to have relationships! It's not the subject matter that makes someone a "guy" or a "girl", it's how they talk about those subjects that are delineated along gender lines.
For instance - I hear more men talking about shoes than women. Men talk about shoes all the goddamn time! But men are talking about the comfort and structure of boots and sneakers, so that often goes unnoticed as "talking about shoes" when people are mentally tallying up "girl subjects" and "guy subjects" (confirmation bias). I've been in FAR more conversations with men about the importance of shoes, the appropriate look of shoes, the comfort of shoes, where to get good shoes, than I ever have with women, and I usually end up in those conversations because I overhear a couple of guys talking about it and I butt in, as I am wont to do when I have an opinion on something (another "guy" trait).
So, it's not that I talk about relationships that makes me "girlie" - in my social circles, that's a topic that everyone is expected to talk about. A man who refuses to talk about relationships is generally considered a high risk partner and often red-flagged. And women are just as likely, if not more, to complain about all the talking and to express a fervent desire to stop talking about "issues" and can't we just have sex now please?
But my *speech patterns
* are "masculine". In the days before real name policies, I was constantly getting kicked out of chat rooms for being a guy who was posing as a girl. I was banned from more than half of my IRC groups on that accusation. And there was no way to prove the opposite because webcams weren't available. I speak in declarative sentences without qualifiers all the time, and I'm attempting to learn how to use those qualifiers more effectively only now.
However, just as this article points out, I *do* use those internal qualifiers like "perhaps" and "tends" and "often", etc. I believe that I picked that up from the science-based circles that I move in because it is more scientifically accurate to not use 100% declarations since very few things are ever 100%. But, since the scientific fields are so heavily dominated by men, those kinds of internal qualifiers are expected to be used by men and not counted as being a "passive" "feminine" speech pattern, so it's not surprising that they found their way into my speech as well.
When my gender is not known because I am presented only as text on a screen, I am almost always assumed to be masculine. It's partly why I am often received as being "aggressive" or "argumentative" or even "condescending". I mean, sometimes I am, but more often than not, the accusations of being upset or angry or aggressive or arguing are completely false, as those are subjective feelings that I am not feeling, but my pragmatic speech, in the absence of any other clues and/or with respect to the knowledge that a female is speaking, is often received as being such.
When I speak to people in person, I very rarely have these kinds of misassumptions and mistakes in conversation. With my words being tempered by a soft voice, passive posture, a very feminine appearance, and a much more expressive vocal tone and facial expressions, people are often less likely to hear my pragmatic words as "aggressive" or "angry" - words that are usually only criticisms when applied to females, of course.
So I feel like (see what I did there?) this article did 2 things for me - it reinforces the relatively new message that women's speech isn't "wrong" or a "broken version of being a man" and that, not only should they not be criticized for it but that everyone will be speaking like them eventually because they're leading the cultural linguistic shifts (which I had no idea about); and it reinforces my own identity as not-feminine because I identify more with the men in this article in terms of what my speech is currently like and how I gradually jump on the bandwagon in what seems like "after the fact" with respect to certain speech patterns.
"Storytelling helps us all impose order on chaos—including emotional chaos. When we're in pain, we create a narrative to help us make sense of it. This story doesn't have to be based on any real information. One dismissive glance from a coworker can instantly turn into I knew she didn't like me."
Some of us do this all the time, don't we? It's implicit in the Passive Communication technique that some of us are taught, some of us do naturally, and women in general are expected to use (either we are told we should communicate that way, or we are assumed to communicate that way and our statements aren't taken at face value by people who hear them and assume there's some other intent).
"They can recognize their own confabulations and challenge them. The good news is that we can rewrite these stories. We just have to be brave enough to reckon with our deepest emotions. "
It was pointed out in the commentary from the post where I got this that we have to beware of putting too much emphasis on the consequences of storytelling, without addressing why we develop storytelling in the first place because we might end up giving too much shelter to manipulative behavior. I'm a huge fan of understanding the "why" of things.
Pointing out the consequences of storytelling is important because that's often how to get someone's attention and impress upon them why they need to change a behaviour. But it's also important to understand why someone is doing it in the first place. If the storytelling is a survival technique (you have to read into someone's words in order to anticipate their own passive communication so that you can modify your behaviour before the punishment happens, for instance), then altering the storytelling won't actually solve the underlying problem and, in fact, may make things worse.
I discovered that with the whole "girls don't respond to guys' OKC emails" thing - it turns out that girls get punished for responding even with good intentions if the response is not the one the guy feels entitled to. So I push for women to respond more often, but as long as women get socially punished for it, they're not going to listen to my advice. Society has to start punishing men for being entitled before women will feel brave enough to respond, or even to make first contact.
So the storytelling thing needs to be tempered with understanding the root causes. Yes, it's absolutely important to build a society in which people are less prone to storytelling and passive communication. But, as was pointed out, that assumes a baseline of good faith and direct communication on all people doing the communicating. So we also need to be aware of that baseline, which changes the course of action for what we should do when we learn to identify that we are, in fact, storytelling in this context.
But, y'know, examine your root causes for your emotional reactions. Barring manipulation, it'll make you a better communicator, a better partner, and a better person.
* I am committed to supporting my partners in being the best version of themselves that they can be.
This one took a couple of revisions to get it the way I liked it. I tried something along the lines of "accepting my partners for who they are", but that led to either being resistant to desired change on their part or to accepting real, problematic flaws that need to be worked on and improved. An interesting bit of trivia about my and Franklin's relationship is that I originally first considered dating him for the purpose of improving myself. I had just read about the concept of New Paradigm Relationships, which advocated using our interpersonal relationships as vehicles for personal growth. I had also just become aware of BDSM and kink, and I was doing a lot of self-analysis and discovering some rather toxic and inhibiting behaviours of my own that I wanted to get rid of. I am deliberate in all things. When my phobia of spiders started negatively influencing my daily life, I decided to stop being afraid of spiders. When I recognized a terror of falling, I rode a free-fall ride in which I had to pull my own rip cord and cause myself to go into the fall. When I finally recognized that I had panic attacks, I chose to not have them anymore. Not everyone can do this, and I can't even do it for everything, but I am deliberate in who I am, so I do what I can to live with intention.
So when I decided that I was inherently kinky but had no idea how to explore it safely and that I had some relationship fears that were preventing me from experiencing a larger range of happiness in my relationships, and I met Franklin who was skilled in just those things, I told him that I was interested in dating him for the purpose of working on those issues with his help. What followed was a decade-long relationship (as of today) that is the healthiest relationship I've ever been in and the eradication or reduction of exactly those inhibitions that I felt were hampering my relationships. Dating Franklin has made me a better person and I'm very different in some key ways than I was 10 years ago, some ways I didn't even anticipate or set out to change. So I really don't want to cut off avenues, even implicitly, for personal growth in my partners. I want to encourage their growth.
But at the same time, related to the previous point, I can't stand the popular romantic ideal "I love you, now change". So when I rejected "accepting my partners for who they are", I considered something like "promoting growth and accepting change". But that led me too closely to "I love you, now change". I don't want to push my partners into being my ideal for them. I don't want a Pygmalion project. I don't view my partners as fixer-uppers and I most certainly don't want them to view me as such. So I ultimately came up with this phrasing that I hope will reinforce two conflicting relationship goals - to accept my partners for who they are without trying to change them into something that I want them to be; and to encourage and support growth and change without letting fear of the outcome of that change lead me to restricting them from things that are in their best interests (but not necessarily mine).
I know this will piss some people off, but I firmly believe that everyone has a right to not have sex with anyone they don't want to have sex with, for any reason they have, or no reason at all. Even if that reason is stupid. Even if that reason hurts someone's feelings. Even if I think that reason is so full of shit that I want to physically and literally knock some sense into them. They have a right to say no and they have a right to revoke consent at any time.
What they don't have a right to do is treat that person any differently in a non-sexual context than anyone else, or harm them in any way, or participate in a system that discriminates against them or any of that other bullshit. But that's not the issue. Those are good reasons not to disclose private information to people who are not sex partners and it's a good reason not to take on certain people as sex partners (with the added bonus that you don't have to disclose to them). It is *not
* a good reason to manipulate someone into becoming a sex partner who would not consent to that role had they known."But we can't read minds to know all the possible things that all the people in the world might possibly make them not want to have sex with me!"
Strawman argument. There are things that we know by virtue of living in our cultures what people are *likely
* to object to. Just like I know what Christianity is all about, and what the experience of being a white male out in society is all about, and what mono relationships are all about - even though #NotAllWhateverMajorityDemographic, I know enough about those demographics because I'm steeped in the expression of the experience of those demographics every fucking day of my life. I know that if some guy hits on me while I'm walking down the street, there is a greater-than-average chance that he won't like me *because
* of my atheism, my polyamory, my feminism, my job, my independence, and my gender identity even though I'm really not that far away from cis. Those things all go contrary to the cultural narrative, so I'm pretty sure that at least one of them will be deal-breakers for the average guy who thinks it's appropriate to hit on me while walking down the street.
But, on the very off chance that he might like me precisely because of those things, or that maybe he won't mind those things, telling him about it up front will be a bonus. It'll give him even more reason to be interested in me. But that's such a statistically unlikely event that it has never once happened to me in all my years of being hit on by randos on the street. Excuse me, not minding the atheism thing happened exactly once, but he was not American-born and he was from a country where religion isn't a big thing, so I don't think it's really an exception to my point.
Now, disclosing all that shit to street randos is not what I'm advocating either - that's a personal call regarding safety. But by the time I've decided to accept someone as a sexual partner, and he has accepted the idea of me as a sexual partner, I know there are certain things that he is, by pure numbers, likely to have a problem with and could affect his willingness to consent. Most of those things are actually related to the act of sex itself and are not unreasonable to want to know, even if their reaction to that information or their beliefs about that information are, in my opinion, unreasonable.
What I absolutely do not want, as a small female person, is to find out *afterwards
* that he would not have given consent by *him
* finding out afterwards and thinking that I betrayed him. I've actually already had that happen to me and I count myself damn lucky that all I got away with was a hurt pride and some temporary embarrassment at being shoved out the front door without all my clothes on. I know all the excuses - this was just for fun and not some long-term relationship, if that was a deal-breaker for him then it was his responsibility to ask about it, blah blah blah.
I know how mainstream guys (and a lot of poly guys) feel about the idea of putting their dick in somewhere that some other dick has already (recently) been. Telling them up front that their dick isn't the only one is the best way I've found so far of only fucking the guys who won't beat me for it later, and being open about that in general is the best way I've found to locate guys who actually think it's pretty fucking cool that they're not the only ones.
When someone finds out after they have already had sex with someone whom they wouldn't have had sex with had they known what they found out later, it doesn't matter how "wrong" they are for not wanting to have sex. It doesn't matter how unjustified they are for feeling betrayed. It doesn't matter to the people they kill, or beat, or humiliate. Being "right" doesn't save them that beating, that death, that humiliation, that heartache, or that disappointment. Knowing that the potential partner is that sort of person is the kind of information you want *before
* you fuck them and not to find it out the hard way.
It didn't feel great when I had to disclose to people who I liked that I had an STD. It really hurt my feelings to have people I cared about be so afraid of something based on stigma, and not facts, that they were afraid to even touch me non-sexually even though it wasn't something they could catch that way and it wasn't even something that was likely to harm them. But it would have hurt them more to have sex with me without the information necessary to give informed consent. It was more than just physically harming them, because I disclosed my STD long after I needed to, long after it wasn't possible to pass it on, just to make sure they understood sexual safety. Not giving them that information would have been robbing them of their agency. It would have been manipulative, and it would have been making decisions for them - deciding what they "needed to know" on their behalf based on what *I
* felt about that information. Sure, *I
* knew that the STD wasn't likely to harm them, but that wasn't my call to make. They have the right to refuse sex with me on any grounds and to make decisions for their own participation based on their own risk analysis, not mine.
If the information that you're hiding (even passively) isn't a big deal, then it shouldn't be a big deal to disclose. This goes along with the Little White Lies
defenses & tacit
's post on truth and virtue
- if someone is defending the secret that hard, then it's clearly not "no big deal". Remember, this isn't a situation where one partner is demanding to know something that isn't relevant and is attempting to violate another's privacy. This is something that could *change someone's consent
* for having sex with you.
If you can't trust the person you're about to get slippery with to handle the information that you're keeping secret, then this is probably not the safest person for you to be getting slippery with either. If you fear for your safety, then don't take them as a partner. You don't *have
* to disclose anything that will make you unsafe, but if you're unsafe with this partner, then choosing them as a partner was your first mistake (assuming you, yourself, weren't coerced or forced into the encounter in the first place - this whole rant is aimed at consensual sexual arrangements, not abuse victims keeping secrets from their abusers to prevent further abuse - again, go back to the truth and virtue
post) and keeping the secret is the second in a list of mistakes.
This is about two things - 1) respecting your partner's agency enough to give them the information necessary for them to give consent. You can't read their minds to know that they would revoke consent if they found out that you once masturbated to a poster of the New Kids On The Block when you were a kid and they have an irrational fear of cooties from Donny or whatever the fuck one of their names was, but you can know that there are certain kinds of information that is culturally important and likely to affect someone's willingness to fuck you if they knew about it (and if you don't know that person individually well enough to know their specific deal-breakers, you at least know those culturally likely deal-breakers). Your partners are human fucking beings and deserve to be treated with no less dignity and respect than allowing them to consent to sex with you and I can't fucking believe this still has to be said;
And 2) saving yourself either the repercussions of being found out later, or of being a person who is not your best self. Sure, it's possible that person may never find out, especially if it's a one-night stand in a strange town and you didn't exchange names or phone numbers and have no overlapping social circles or interests to ever run into them again, even on the internet. It's probably even likely. But *you
* know that you will have acted with the best of intentions and the highest degree of integrity. *You
* will have been a person who respects your partner's agency. *You
* will have been the sort of person that you ultimately hope your partners would be for you - someone who does not take it upon themselves to decide on your behalf what information is "necessary" when it's actually something that you think is not only important, but reasonable to be informed about.
This isn't about degree of severity. I have two analogies I often bring out in this debate - murder and jawalking aren't the same thing and don't deserve the same punishment, but both are against the law. A creek isn't the same as the ocean, but both will get you wet if you step in them. I'm not talking about whose the baddest, most evilest, most terrible person out there and I'm not talking about stringing people up by their toenails even for minor infractions. The guy who didn't dislose his HIV and had unprotected sex with a bunch of people, giving them HIV? Yeah, he was a monster, and I'm not putting him in the same category as someone who has a sort-of sexual partner with no arrangement of exclusivity not disclosing that person to a one-night-stand in another country on a business trip. But both are still examples of not disclosing information that not only could affect one's willingness to consent but is *likely
* to. Both are still examples of not respecting the other person's right to not have sex, one example just has much more dire consequences than the other.
I'm far less likely to make a personal value judgement about someone who says "I've done some things where I wasn't my best self. I know my justifications for them, and I may even slip and not be my best self in the future, but I know that this thing is not living up to my highest ideals of integrity," than someone who tries to justify their actions, digging in their heels and doubling down on preventing informed consent with excuses, selfish justifications of "privacy" and "not my responsibility" and "too much trouble / effort." Someone who says "yeah, I torrent big blockbuster movies. I know it's wrong, but I do it," isn't getting the same kind of judgement from me as someone who says "I don't care if you're a starving artist, you OWE the world, and consequently me, the right to use your art without being compensated for it." (That's a real example, btw, not a strawman and not hyperbole). This isn't about degree. It's about being your best self and by doing so, treating those around you with the dignity and respect that they deserve, especially those you engage intimately with.
If I want to live in a world where I, as a woman, have the right to say "no" for any reason whatsoever and no reason at all, if I want to live in a world where my body is completely mine and I have ultimate authority over what happens to it, then I have to make that world by defending other people's right to say "no", even if I disagree with their reasons, because it's *not my place
* to decide the validity of someone else's reasons for saying "no". If integrity were easy, everyone would do it all the time.
"Ben, there's a story eating at you ... one you know you gotta tell."
"Not that simple."
"Telling the truth is never simple... or easy. Why only the best of us ever really try."
"OMG, women like hardcore porn!"
Uh, yeah, no shit. This author makes the same mistake that I see all too often - they compare stats showing that women like hardcore porn to so-called "feminine porn" that's "soft focus" with slower sex scenes.
The mistake is that there is any kind of porn out there that is "for women". By that, I mean that people think there is a *type* of porn that having a vagina makes you more likely to like (conflating vagina-having with "women", of course - the rest of my rant will keep the gender binary because that's what the people I'm criticizing are doing). There isn't.
What "porn for women" tries to do (at least, those that aren't just as misogynistic as mainstream porn) is have representation of the *woman's experience* instead of catering to the "male gaze".
Here's what this means: Porn that is written and performed with the assumption that men like certain things and they want to highlight those certain things is what is called "the male gaze". Obligatory #NotAllMen here. Yes, I know not all men like those things, that's part of the problem with this shit. Moving on. They are made with the ASSUMPTION of straight male interest and the performers are performing for the pleasure of those men whom they are assuming are watching.
"Porn for women" isn't about there being two categories of sex acts for which men like one category (usually involving getting messy) and women like the other (usually involving perfect hair). Both and other genders like a variety of sex acts. This type of porn is about writing and performing stories that a woman-centric audience can *relate* to, vs. performing acts that men supposedly find attractive. There may be some overlap.
For example, I love giving blow jobs. According to the common misconception of "porn for women", none of my porn should have any blow jobs in them because only men get something out of blow jobs, so showing that act on screen is for men only. And, yeah, in mainstream porn, I hate watching blowjob scenes. Those women don't look like they're enjoying it. It doesn't look authentic. They do things that might look "attractive" to someone who has a penis and knows what a blow job feels like, but they don't do the things about blow jobs that make them so much fun for me to give. Things like, taking a flaccid penis and rolling it around in my mouth, gently squishing it between my tongue and the roof of my mouth, and gradually feeling the texture change from soft to hard.
"Porn for women" would show a blowjob like that. Porn that people who don't understand what "porn for women" is make for women (that is, when a person who doesn't understand that phrase attempts to make porn for a female audience) wouldn't show a blowjob at all, and if it did, there would be a soft focus on the camera, diffusion filters on all the lights, high key lighting, pastel colors, no actual images of oral penetration on screen, perfect hair on the girl, and the guy tenderly whispering how much he loved her. Blegh.
So, yeah, of course some women like hardcore porn and of course some women aren't interested in the fuzzy romance-novels-on-screen type porn. Women are interested in a huge range of sexual activity. What makes porn "for women" or "for men" is not the specific sex acts depicted in them, but in how those sex acts are portrayed and what assumptions that the performers and writers are making when they make their choices for portraying them. Is the sex act performed so that someone with a penis can have the view of those things it is assumed he will want to look at? Or is the sex act performed so that even someone without a penis can feel that their experiences or desires are represented on the screen?
A hardcore, explicit gangbang can be portrayed either way. And women who like gangbangs are probably going to spend plenty of time looking up videos with gangbangs in them, but they will probably *enjoy* watching the ones in the latter category more. Nowhere, on our Woman Membership Card, does it say that we can't like gangbangs or that we're betraying the sisterhood if we do. We just want to see gangbangs (those of us who like them) that take into account whatever it is we like about gangbangs, not see gangbangs that are nothing but posturing for the straight males watching. And only people who don't think of women as some Other species with a totally unique category Sex Acts We Like To Perform are going to know how to direct and write and film those gangbangs the way we like to watch them.
Or they might film it right purely by accident. Either way, of course women like hardcore porn. Why do you think fucking 50 Shades was so popular? It was crap, but it was told from the perspective of a woman experiencing "kink", rather than from the perspective of the Domly dom male. We just need better writers. When women's experiences and women's stories are represented, women attend those media in droves (Mad Max, anyone?). They're even willing to spend fortunes on absolute shit examples (not Mad Max). If we could just get some decent writing & production value, you'd see a new social wave of the Every-Woman (the female equivilent of the Every-Man) embracing hardcore and explicit sexual media like the Pope suddenly endorsed it.
I've started a massive social project - Eating 'Round The World. I will attempt to find a restaurant of as many different nationalities as the greater Orlando area offers, and have at least one meal there with friends.
I think this is a great way (for those who have enough disposable income to try it) for friends, families, and social groups to organize regular outings with each other. It exposes us to new cultures (even just a little bit), breaks us out of our comfort zones, and gives us an excuse to actually leave our houses (for those of us introverts who need strong motivation to do so). I seem to find more people willing to make it to social meals than to any of the more active physical activities that I do, like dancing. I heartily recommend people find an organizing-type person in your social or family set and try this.
This makes a good plan for friends, families, social groups and organizations that offer socializing as part of the group, and date night suggestions. If I was still running the local poly group, I'd add this to our social events (along with my poly movie nights, dancing nights, and pub nights).
I've also found that making the goals for an event to be "I want to try something new" and "I want to socialize with awesome people" rather than "I'm hungry and want something good to eat" makes me much more willing to be adventurous and try a restaurant that I've never eaten at before. I can always get a burger afterwards if I didn't find enough food that I liked to eat. If you are hesitant to try new foods, you may find this trick helpful.
I've created a template map / itinerary to help people get started, especially for people who don't know which countries to search for or what order to go in. You will need to create your own account at Traveller's Point if you'd like save a copy of this map and edit it to your local area. Or you can just look at the list and use it to create your own list in your preferred format.
Basically, you go down this list, do a Google search for a restaurant in your area from that country (the best search I've found is "authentic [country] restaurant [your or nearest large city name]"), and when you find one that you want to visit, you can add in the details of that restaurant into the Notes field and add a "date of arrival" for the date you plan to eat at that restaurant. If you can't find a restaurant that represents a particular country, then you delete that "stop" from the trip's itinerary. *Most* of these countries will not have a restaurant representing them in your area, so don't feel too daunted by the size of the list. I added every nation in the world*, just to cover my bases, but I'll be lucky to find 25% of them with restaurants here in town. At the end, you'll have an interactive map that shows where your group has "been", along with details of the restaurant, pictures if you'd like to add them, etc.
In order to make organizing easier, I have also started a Facebook Group, where I can create Event pages with the restaurant details, get RSVPs, share photos from the meal, chat with others who are interested in going, etc. I recommend doing the same, or using an email list or a Yahoo! Group or whatever platform you prefer that allows you to create an interactive group format with event information.
I did not include the US, as I am based there. Followers from other countries, if you add in the US, know that the various regions have their own food specialties that you may want to identify - some broadly regional, some very specific. Just off the top of my head, I'd recommend the following:
TexMex; Californian; Midwestern; Cajun; New England; Southern; African-Southern; New York-style pizza; Chicago-style pizza; Philly cheesesteaks, Coney Island Hot Dogs;
Any other regional US food styles?
"Cheikh Mohammed, do your friends give you gifts?" I started in Arabic, breaking off a piece of village bread.
"Of course, it's a friendly thing to do." He adjusted his posture on the scratchy woven carpet.
"Now if I'm coming from America to give you gifts, am I your friend?" ...
"You asked me if my friends give me gifts," he said. "Make sure that YOU are my friend. Make certain you understand me, first. Learn my strengths, my heart, my efforts. Once we are established in brotherhood, then yes, send me a present, one that won't hurt me to open."
The above conversation was an excerpt from an article I just posted about voluntourism - the pattern of relatively wealthy white Americans swooping into areas we considered "underdeveloped" and doing things that assuage our white, wealthy guilt, but that don't help those areas in the long term. But I found this conversation was a much bigger symbol.
This is the essence behind the Platinum Rule. This is the meaning behind feminism and feminist critiques of so-called "compliments". This is complaint behind racism. This is struggle behind poverty here in the US with the nation's refusal to provide healthcare and screening welfare recipients for drugs and concern trolling the grocery carts of food stamp recipients. This is what everyone who is oppressed and who speaks out against it is trying to say.
It is not a "gift" when it is not given out of understanding for the other person. It is not a "gift" when the reason for giving it is to make the giver feel good but doesn't account for the effect on the recipient. It is not a "gift" when it doesn't reflect the recipient themselves - their humanity, their feelings, their personhood.
When feminists complain about compliments or opening doors, the comments inevitably get bogged down with "but it's NICE to open doors and tell someone that she's pretty!" This is the very epitome of what's wrong and what this excerpt is trying to say. It's not about the opening of a door, it's about what the gift of opening the door says about the person opening it and the relationship to the person it is being held open for. Opening a door for someone is nice, unless it isn't. And it takes a deeper, nuanced understanding of the person, the culture, the circumstances to know if that gift of "courtesy" is one that won't hurt me to open.
"We are proud of this; we are empowered by this. Now, give a village man a handout? You've just weakened him. You've increased his dependency; diminished his sense of self-esteem. One of the most widely-accepted notions is that Westerners are the solution to African problems. This requires portraying us as helpless and endlessly recirculating images only of abandonment and violence, or innocence and primitivism." ...
[Give a woman a pedestal? You've just weakened her. You've increased her dependency; diminished her sense of self-esteem. One of the most widely accepted notions is that men are the saviours and guardians of women. This requires portraying us as helpless and endlessly recirculating images only of weakness and femininity, or innocence and infantilism.]
"You see, Heather," he set his meat down to look closely at me, "We are not weak. We are not underdeveloped. If you believe we must be helped, look more closely. We are content in our hearts, affectionate to each other, and attentive to our souls. Perhaps the greater need is for us to be helping you."
I really wanted to open this link and blast the author for their monoprivilege, their insecurity, or their discrimination. Then I read the tagline "Those you pursue are humans who have feelings and needs and desires and don't cease to exist when you go home to your primary partner." and I wanted to herald this as more ammunition in my fight against couple privilege.
But by the time I got to the end, I wanted to smack them both.
This whole situation is filled with wrong. Both sides are wrong, both sides are doing harm. First, the couple *is
* exactly what's wrong with couple privilege. The author is completely right that "I told her I didn't like a man telling me what I could and couldn't do in my bedroom." This is absolutely unethical. It is ethically wrong and un-compassionate for people to decide what someone else can and can't do with their own bodies. When the husband and wife decide, before ever meeting the author, that the wife will never spend the night and will never use dildos in her sex play with others, this is WRONG. I have the utmost sympathy for the author being treated like a second-class citizen, like a need fulfillment machine, and for having her agency dismissed.
But the author isn't exactly on a moral high horse herself. And no, it's not because "the fault is mostly [hers]" for failing to have seen the red flags. She is right that the media portrays this couple privilege enshrinement as Just How Things Are Done and the media fails to explore how this affects everyone who isn't part of the primary couple. So, much like people exploring kink and BDSM for the first time, she shouldn't be blamed for being thrust into a relationship style she had no knowledge of with shitty tour guides and then failing to know how to navigate it well.
No, her fault is that she didn't want to be poly in the first place. She went into the relationship under false pretenses herself and now she's blaming all of polyamory for failing to consider her monogamous needs under our poly banner. If this couple didn't have these kinds of rules, if they were truly egalitarian, truly open to others, not hiding behind their insecurity, the *author
* still would have seen her relationship as being "loved by half of one".
"Sharing the person I loved most in the world with someone else was the most painful experience I've had as an adult. This is the nature of Polyamory, however. " This is *not
* the nature of polyamory. This is a flawed premise. In order for polyamory to work well, the participants have to drop the idea that people are things that can be "shared" in the first place. Our partners are not toys that we share with others. Our partners are human beings who share *their
* time with us.
"The irony is that Poly people believe that they are somehow more evolved than their monogamous counterparts when in fact, they are quite often driven by selfish desires, a fear of true intimacy, and a need to feel validated by more than one lover at a time." This is her mindset. No matter how the couple handled their relationship, she was never going to feel valued or loved in a poly relationship because she is starting with the assumption that polyamory is selfish and for people who are afraid. She is starting with the assumption that monogamy is the only path to "true intimacy". With that assumption, everything else follows that her experience with polyamory is going to suck.
This article pisses me off because she's not wrong about how couples often treat their secondaries. This is why I'm opposed to hierarchical structures. But it pisses me off because I can't use it show couples how they're hurting others because she is exactly what those couples are trying to protect themselves from. She is merely validating and justifying their use of unethical, selfish tactics because she is the exact thing that they are afraid of - someone who is really monogamous, coming into an existing relationship, developing feelings, and then wanting to destroy the preexisting relationship so she can have one of the partners all to herself. And calling them "selfish" in the process.
There can be two "bad guys" in any relationship. Both sides here are wrong. Even if both sides are making valid points, both sides were still in the wrong. Couples: you can't make up rules that affect the new people without the new people's input. You can't decide what they can and can't do with their own bodies. You can't decide ahead of time the course a relationship will take. New people: you can't bring in your Monogamous Mindset into a poly relationship and expect it to work. You can't expect to have your monogamy catered to in a poly relationship - that defeats the purpose of having a poly relationship. You can't treat your partners like objects or possessions. You can't hold onto your monogamous values about intimacy, sexuality, jealousy, time, and agency. If you view everything through a monogamous filter, you will never find satisfaction or security in a poly relationship.
Both sides are actually doing the same thing. Both sides are viewing the Couple as the pinnacle of relationship intimacy. It's just that both sides think that their side is the one who ought to get the highest ranking. The couple and the author are both viewing the wife as a piece of pie that they have to cut into pieces and share with each other. The husband doesn't want the women to use dildos because there is something magical that happens when you put a penis in a vagina that erases all the specialness of any other relationships. The author gets jealous when she thinks about her girlfriend going home and having sex with her husband because there is something magical that happens when you put a penis in a vagina that erases all the specialness of any other relationships. The couple wants to protect their relationship from losing the ability to post camping photos or having to explain to others who is having sex with whom, so they keep the author hidden from public view. The author wants the right to post camping photos or to have others know who is having sex with whom so she resents the couple's public identity.
Couple privilege & hierarchy in polyamory and the "cowboy" mono coming to "steal our wimmen" are two faces of the exact same coin. This is why neither should be accepted in the poly community.
This is Jane. Jane is monogamous. She believes in the One True Love. She believes that there is someone out there who will compliment her, support her, bring out the best in her, and she will do the same for him. She believes in being sexually fidelitious to one person at a time, even if she's not yet sure if he's The One. She believes that, when you commit to someone, that includes prioritizing them above all others (except for children, of course). She believes that a good relationship is defined by more than just sexual activity, but also a strong emotional connection, common values, and shared goals. She believes that her partner is her sexual partner but also her best friend. Even though she also has best friends, the kind of best friend that a romantic partner is supposed to be is different, and it's not just because of the sex - there is a special connection between two people in a romantic relationship that doesn't match any other type of relationship. That's what sets it apart.
Jane is an adult in the modern age, so she doesn't necessarily believe in "saving yourself for marriage". She doesn't think there's anything wrong with being in romantic relationships and expressing yourself sexually even if that partner turns out to not be The One. She's not a virgin and she doesn't feel "damaged" about that. Sure, she's had some partners in the past who she regretted sleeping with, but she's also regretted some meals she's had and some hair styles she's worn. She doesn't take it as a personal flaw, she just accepts that sometimes she makes poor choices and she tries to learn from her mistakes.
Jane is a monogamist. She had her first boyfriend when she was 16. She was so deeply in love with him. She wrote her first name and his last name in her school notebooks. She tied up her parents' phone line for hours. When that relationship ended in senior year, she was devastated. Then Jane went away to college. She went on a bunch of dates with a bunch of different guys. Not all at the same time, of course. But she'd go on a date or two with a guy, decide that he wasn't right for her, meet another guy, go on a few dates with him, etc. Then she met another guy who turned into a boyfriend for a few years. When that one ended, she decided to focus on her graduate studies and just had friends with benefits for a while.
Jane had a variety of different kinds of relationships before she found someone to marry. And after they got divorced, she had a couple more different relationships before finding the man who would turn out to be The One. Each of her relationships looked different from the others. Some were longer term than others. Some were more emotionally connected than the others. Some were short-term but deeply, intensely connected and some went on for a while but didn't take up too much of her emotional energy or attention. Some relationships were slow and sweet, while some were fiery and passionate fireworks. And, of course, some of them took more conventional pathways - building at the socially acceptable pace, moving in the socially acceptable direction, hitting the various milestones in the socially acceptable timeframe and the socially acceptable order.
The reason why I'm telling the story of Jane is because most people can hear her story, her history with a high school sweetheart followed by a period of experimentation followed by a deep, committed relationship, followed by a more "selfish" phase, followed by another deep, committed relationship ... people can hear that story and they can hear me call her a "monogamist", and no one bats an eye. Within the boundaries of monogamy in a culture that doesn't enforce the literal translation of the term (one marriage, implicitly for life), there is nothing contradictory between someone who ultimately hopes to find a single partner to marry and be sexually and emotionally fidelitous to that partner, and someone who has relationships that don't look exactly like that description. A person can be a monogamous person based on the kind of relationships they desire or prefer, regardless of what their current or past relationships look like.
And yet, 25 years after the term "polyamory" was first put into print, we still debate whether or not someone is polyamorous based on the description of their relationships at the exact moment of the debate. Is someone still polyamorous if they only have one partner? Is someone polyamorous if they have casual sex? Is someone polyamorous if they take their opposite-sex primary partner to sex clubs to hook up with people they meet at those clubs? Is someone polyamorous if they're unpartnered? Is someone polyamorous if they haven't yet been in a poly relationship?
We're still debating whether polyamory is an orientation or a choice. The truth is that it's both and neither. The word "polyamorous" can describe either a person (orientation) or a relationship (choice). Just like the sexual orientation spectrum, people can be to one side of the line or the other, or they can be somewhere in the middle where they can choose to participate or not and still be happy in their relationships.
I'm sick of this debate. Unless someone specifically states that they're non-monogamous, we assume people are monogamous by default almost no matter what their current relationships look like. There's no cognitive dissonance in our collective minds between someone being monogamous and someone having relationship structures that vary. Monogamy encompasses a wide range of things. Even cheaters are still accepted (generally) as being "monogamous". They're probably considered to be fucked up, but still monogamous unless that person has a pattern of cheating or has more than their established partner and one "mistress" or other partner that they're cheating with (more than 2 partners total).
There are several discussions and debates in the poly community that I'd love to never see again. This isn't even one of the more aggravating ones. And I, in particular, like to categorize things and put things into boxes and draw lines around like-things. This is poly, this is not poly. But I'd love to see the end of discussions questioning whether someone can be poly who also happens to like swinging, or who also happens to have a fuckbuddy, or who only happens to have one partner right now. Of course they can. Their swinging relationships might not be poly relationships, but they can still be poly people. Their poly relationships are still poly if the people in those relationships also happen to swing. Poly relationships, because of the etymology of the word, assume some sort of loving connection between the participants. But, in my opinion, part of loving someone is in accepting them for who they are. And if who someone is happens to be a person who also likes casual sex, then I see no problem with someone applying the label "polyamorous" to either themselves or their loving relationships even though
that person also has sex-focused relationships, or even if they find themselves polysaturated at one partner.
Sure, I can get behind questioning the validity of using the poly label for a relationship that explicitly forbids the development of emotional connection with anyone other than the one partner in that relationship, or that explicitly forbids any kind of sexual activity outside of the core dyad. But a person
in one of those arrangements can still be polyamorous themselves even if they agree to a non-poly relationship. And there is also the question of where those limitations are coming from - a relationship in which one partner has the power or attempts to limit the other partner's behaviour or emotional state in those ways could have its poly label questioned, whereas a relationship where neither partner is limiting the other but they just happen to find themselves in those situations due to their own choices or their own limitations is less up for that kind of questioning. So, if my partner told me that he didn't want me to fall in love with anyone other than him, you could probably question whether or not my relationship was "really poly". But if my partner was totally fine with me loving other people, and I just haven't found anyone else to love right now or I'm too busy with other things to be emotionally available to develop a loving relationship with someone else right now, I don't think that questioning the poly label is appropriate.
So, my point here is that, in many ways polyamory is just like monogamy. We like to reinvent the wheel, for some reason. We keep thinking that we're special snowflakes who are doing these totally different, totally unique things that we need all new rules and structures to deal with, but we really don't for most things. Monogamy covers a very wide spectrum of relationship structures and styles. Healthy monogamy does, anyway. So does polyamory. It can cover closed quads, it can cover open networks, and it can cover a bunch of things in between and to the side. A person can be polyamorous no matter what structure their relationship happens to be, even if that relationship is monogamous in structure. I think it's very valuable to be able to say "this is definitely poly" and "this is definitely not poly". I think it's valuable to be able to define and explain what things are and what they're not. But for the stuff in the middle, I think we need to stop fretting about them and just let them be. If Jane can be a monogamist while she's focusing on her studies and just goes out occasionally with a couple of guys for now, then we can be polys even if sometimes we like to swing or if we have relationships that have a more developed sexuality than emotional connection.
I totally get why a lot of the long-time poly activists and more experienced polys stopped hanging out in poly-centric social circles. After almost two decades of hearing the same fucking debates just because each new generation of newbies thinks that they're the first ones to come up with these questions and they don't want to accept the answers the veterans have already figured out, I now completely understand poly veteran burnout. I just wish there was a primer of some sort that we could just give poly newbies that says "Hi! So you're new to polyamory! We've already had the discussions you're about to start in your new poly groups! Here are all the answers so you don't have to ask us anymore!"
Oh wait, there are primers
This came from a comment I made in the Facebook thread where I posted this same content. It's relevant, so I'm adding it here:
This is a tough one, because so many people are unable to distinguish between categorizing for language and communication vs. boxing people in. We have to be able to say "this is" and "this isn't" so that we can find each other, find ourselves, build solidarity, communicate, and yes, sometimes even "discriminate" (not in the sense of oppressing others, but in the sense of protecting oneself and/or one's community from those who would harm them). But at the same time, we can't get so rigid about those category definitions and labels that we end up being the ones to do the harm. Taxonomy is important, but it's important to remember that taxonomy is also messy.
So, take my previous rant on cheaters calling themselves poly. A poly person can cheat. The *relationship* that includes cheating isn't poly and I think we would be doing harm to the community and the cheating victim to allow cheating under the poly umbrella. But the person participating in cheating can still be poly, depending on how they felt about the cheating.
For example, I believe that the reason why I used to cheat is *because* I am poly. I just didn't know how to go about it. Those were not poly relationships, and the unethical harm I was causing made me seek another way so that I could stop cheating. That sense of ethics, that integrity, is what made me "poly" even while I was fucking up.
There needs to be both "this definitely is but that definitely isn't" as well as "this is somewhere in the middle and you're still welcome in the club".
Psychologists often talk about a quirk of human psychology called the fundamental attribution error. It's a bug in our firmware; we, as human beings, are prone to explaining our own actions in terms of our circumstance, but the actions of other people in terms of their character. The standard go-to example of the fundamental attribution error I use is the traffic example: "That guy just cut me off because he's a reckless, inconsiderate asshole who doesn't know how to drive. I just cut that car off because the sun was in my eyes and there was so much glare on the windshield I didn't see it."
We do this All. The. Time. We do it without being aware we're doing it. We do it countless times per day, in ways large and small.
For the last several years, since I first heard of this error, I've started catching myself when I, for instance, call people assholes on the road. I still do it, but in my head I remind myself that I'm just letting off steam and that they feel just as justified as I do when I do it to other people. I think it's helping me (and is entirely appropriate) to feel my feelings as they are and to be validated in my reaction to situations while still considering my opponents as "people". I think it's important to be able to be angry at someone for doing an assholeish thing, and even to judge people for their actions, while still keeping the situation in context that they are a complete person who believes they are the hero of their own narrative just as I do.
"I would like, therefore, to propose a radical idea:
The world is made of lots of people. Some of those people are different from you, and have different ideas about what they want, what turns them on, what is and is not acceptable for them, and what they would like to do.
Some of those ideas are alien, maybe even incomprehensible, to you.
Accept that it is true. Start from the assumption that even if something sounds weird, distasteful, or even disgusting to you, it may not be so to others--and that fact alone does not prove those other folks have something wrong with them. If someone tells you they like something, and you have no compelling evidence that they're lying, believe them--even if you don't understand why.
I've been trying forever to get people to understand this, and I started by getting myself to understand it. I know lots of people (myself included) who think they have The Answer to other people's problems. I know, for instance, people who get really upset when other people make career choices that are not choices that they would choose for themselves. These are usually people who pride themselves on their "work ethic" because they have bought into the erroneous tale that people who work hard enough will be rewarded with an increase in the quality of life based on capitalistic standards.
So anyone who is poor must not be "working hard enough". Anyone who is poor who turns down a job, or who gets sick and goes home instead of working through their illness, or basically does anything that they, themselves, think they wouldn't do in the other person's situation, those people (by this logic) deserve the poverty they get.
I know, I've had that same perspective myself for most of my life. It gets *really* tiring to keep explaining that other people are DIFFERENT PEOPLE. They have different limitations, different perspectives, different preferences, different goals, different priorities, different feelings, different abilities ... and all these differences add up to making different choices that people should not necessarily be punished for.
People who have lots of sex do not "deserve" to get STDs, or to be beaten up, or to be thought of as some kind of "lesser quality" of person. People who do not want to work 80 hours a week doing manual labor in two or three different jobs and still not get any medical benefits do not "deserve" to remain poor or thought of as "lazy".
We do not all need to have the same house, the same jobs, the same clothing, the same kind or amount of sex, or the same goals out of life. And yes, as long as we live in a scarcity-model capitalistic society, sometimes that means that some of us pay more in dollars than others for that right. But if that means that people get to live the lives that makes them happy (which, btw, ultimately *does* contribute back into society), then I'm all for that.
"Equality" does not necessarily mean or have to mean equal dollar amounts. It means equal opportunity for "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness".
I am committed to working through problems with my partners starting with the assumption that we love and cherish each other and are therefore really on the same side.
I've had people pay lip service to this one, so it is really important to me to be committed to this point and to include this reminder. There's a clip from Sex And The City that is applicable here.
I once knew someone who wrote a blog post all about starting with the assumption that partners are on the same side, and how much smoother conflict resolution goes with that premise. It impressed the hell out of me at the time. But then I got a closer look at how he actually handles conflict resolution in practice. Everything that his partners did that triggered a bad feeling in him was countered with "how could you do that to me?!" Notice I said "that triggered a bad feeling", not "that did something negative towards him". When his partners did something that had nothing at all to do with him, when they made choices that directly affected only themselves or themselves and other people, when they misunderstood something and then went out and did something based on their misunderstanding of the situation, when they didn't take him into account at all, or even when they did consider him and intentionally chose what they thought was the best possible option under the circumstances, if he felt wibbly about it for any reason at all, he interpreted the action as a conscious, deliberate attack on him. EVERYTHING was in opposition. As far as I could tell, he only believed that his partners were on his side if they happen to think, want, or do something that he thought, wanted, or did. It got to the point where the others in his family just stopped telling him when they disagreed because, as one said to me, "it's just not worth the fight". They didn't all agree to disagree; the others didn't let him know that they disagreed, so he thought they were all agreeing with him on things he felt strongly about when they weren't. Then, when someone new came along and didn't yet know how much trouble it was, he would talk to the others in the group, who wouldn't disagree out loud, and then go back to the one and say "we all think you're wrong," making the new person feel isolated and ganged up on during conflicts, increasing the feeling that they were not on the same side, but were in opposition.
Our insecurities have a way of getting control of our rational brains and steering us into the shallows with hidden reefs and rocks and the wreckage of past sunken ships now lying in wait to take us down with them. It's far easier to see someone with a different vision and believe that it's in opposition to ourselves than to take a look at all the underlying issues and motivations and biases and assumptions, where we might have to face that someone else sees things more clearly, or that we might have interpreted something incorrectly, or that we might not actually be on the same path with the person we love, or that sometimes shit just happens and we can't always have things match our idyllic utopian ideals, or even that we did the damage ourselves. It's very dificult to see someone with a different perspective whose very prespective might be different precisely because they have the same goals we do but different experiences telling them how to get there.
I've had a long history with partners who weren't on my side. I've dated a lot of people who really didn't like me very much. I was always some "hot chick" or some sexually adventurous chick that they were attracted to, or who made them feel awed that I might be interested in them, or who offered them an opportunity that they didn't want to pass up. And sometimes I was just a warm body with the appropriate genitalia. But I wasn't always someone who was compatible with them. And too many guys have tried to overlook that fact, leading to relationships where they didn't really like who I was and either hoped to change me or hoped they could ignore the stuff they didn't like in order to get the stuff they did like.
But taking the assumption that my partners don't really like me into my relationships from the beginning is kind of a good way to guarantee that we'll end up on opposite sides, one way or another. I've made it very difficult to get to know me and I put my worst foot forward, all to weed out those who don't really like me very much and to keep around only those who really are on the same side. So I want to remind myself that my partners love and cherish me, that they are with me because they want to be my partners, and that, even if we seem to be on opposing sides, maybe from their perspective, they are actually trying to accomplish the same goal, which is to find a way for both of us to be happy.
OK, we need to talk. Parents, your fear of female skin is way out of hand. I don't think that any of the adults in this article have ever even seen the movie (except for the 1 parent who said she did).
1) The "for children age 4+" means that it's physically SAFE
for children age 4 or above. It means that children under age 4 might choke to death on the parts. That label has nothing to do with the MORALITY
of children based on age, it's for the safety of the product and nothing more. It's YOUR
job as a parent to decide what's appropriate for your children to view and participate in.
2) When kids ask you why something happens or something exists, it's YOUR FUCKING JOB
as a parent to have those answers, or to find them. That's your sole purpose in that child's life besides providing the actual physical necessities for survival. You are responsible for raising them and arming them with information about the world around them. So when a kid asks why this doll has a chain around her neck, making the doll cease to exist so that you won't get that uncomfortable question is not an appropriate response.
3) The answer to that question is actually an incredibly important teaching moment in a child's life, especially a female child. So if you haven't seen the movie, I'll give you the answer:
Princess Leia is a Senator. That's right, she's a government official and a leader of her people. All by herself. She's a leader. Later, when her entire planet is blown up, she stops hiding her involvement in an activist organization that seeks to overthrow a tyrannical government and becomes a full-time leader in that activist organization.
While performing her various leadership duties running the universe and fighting for justice, she meets a man and falls in love. But she remains independent and she keeps her job. In fact, he gives up HIS
job to support hers.
Eventually, that man gets captured and she takes it upon herself to rescue him.
During her rescue attempt, she gets captured herself by the same evil mob boss that has her love interest. He attempts to demean her by stripping her of her more modest and functional attire and putting her in objectifying garments as well as chaining her to his side.
In the ultimate act of feminism and female empowerment, Leia waits for an opportunity, then with no concern for her appearance, takes the very chains of her enslavement and kills her captor. Using her own oppressor's tools of oppression against him, she wins her own freedom.
Leia's "slave outfit" and broken chain is more than just scantily-clad hot chick. It's a symbol of both her oppression and her triumph. It represents her empowerment and her independence. She reclaims what is hers - her agency and autonomy - and she uses the very objects used to steal them from her in the first place.
That slave harness and that broken chain are tangible reminders that it doesn't matter what we wear or how we are oppressed, we can overcome. We can break our chains and we can become free. Although the movement for more practical attire of our female action figures is important, in this case, the "immodest" clothing is important for the plot and shows us that revealing attire doesn't *prevent* women from still being heroes. If anything, being able to perform heroic feats in revealing or impractical attire makes the actions even more heroic (a la "Ginger Rogers can do everything Fred Astaire can do but backwards and in high heels").
Slave Leia is the ultimate symbol of feminism and female empowerment, and explaining that to your daughters is an opportunity you are wasting, for which your daughters pay the price. Of all the Disney Princesses, she is the one we should be encouraging our children to emulate. Not in spite of the slave outfit, but especially because of the slave outfit.And let's just say you forget or disagree with all the feminism stuff symbolized by this outfit - the answer to "what am I supposed to say when my kids ask me about this chain?" is to begin a conversation about the objectification and sexualization of women in our society. Either way, this is a very important toy and you're failing as a parent if you think the answer is to prevent your child from seeing it.
This action figure should be proudly displayed on every child's shelf, along with the lessons of tyranny, slavery, freedom, autonomy, empowerment, and female strength. You should be more concerned with the symbols of violence in the toy aisle than your child possibly seeing plastic lady skin or having to learn a lesson about female subjugation and freedom.
This whole article is amazing and a must-read, and there are so many points that could be picked out and reflected upon. But I'm picking out one particular point, and it's not even one of the main points. I'm picking it out because I have a personal association with this particular point.
"So, even though I had meant to tell him what happened between me and Peter, I didn’t. When Nathan gets upset at me, I tend to recoil. He’s intimidating, though he would never physically hurt me. ... That was another Huge Mistake.
Nathan was totally fine with Peter and I becoming partners as well, but he said that he thought it would be best if we didn’t do anything sexual yet. That created a lump in my throat and a questioning in my mind. After much stewing, the next night I told him what happened, and he Flipped the Fuck Out. He punched the wall, told me I cheated on him, and that I had totally broken his trust. " ~ Advice Asker
"You are a woman who wanted something, and you went after it in a way you thought was within the bounds of your relationship. You found out later that your partner didn’t agree. You didn’t do anything to deserve the amount of humiliation and worry and fear you are feeling right now." ~ Advice Giver
I wish I had known about this years ago. I have ridiculously high self-esteem. I am supremely confident in myself and my ability both to handle romantic relationships and to leave them if they go bad. This means that I've missed people's attempts to manipulate and emotionally abuse me in the past. I just thought they were jerks. It took seeing someone I love dearly get emotionally manipulated, and to eventually see how my own ignorance of the situation contributed to it, before I finally started to learn anything about emotional abuse.
I know what physical abuse is, and I've always done the "the second someone raises a hand to me, I'm outta here". And I've held to that my entire life. What I didn't know was that doing that kind of mental calculus, "the calculus called Would He Hit Me?", is a sign of emotional abuse. I never *felt* emotionally abused by my partners getting jealous and punching things in their rage. I knew, without a doubt, that they'd never hit me. But I thought their jealousy was unreasonable (not the punching the wall - that was a totally safe outlet for anger, I thought), so I'd leave them for that reason alone.
I once had a partner. Like the questioner above, who wrote into Captain Awkward with her story, I had a partner with a mismatch in poly relationship expectations. Unlike that questioner, it wasn't because I told him my boundaries but he refused to tell me his, so I would bump into them on accident. No, we talked about it. And we still didn't see eye to eye. But because we talked about it, I *thought
* that we understood each other and it was only until I smacked head-first into his massive armored tank of insecurity and abuse that I learned otherwise.
I found myself in an incredibly unstable situation. I was experiencing loss left and right. The situation that led to the discovering-my-boyfriend-was-an-abusive-m
onster thing was only the beginning of my series of losses, and the whole series combined threw me into a deep depression that I hadn't experienced since I had been bullied as a kid. I not only thought about suicide, but I started planning it. This was the time that I needed my partner the most to be supportive and compassionate. But this was the time that frightened him the most, so he lashed out.
I went after something that, at the time, I felt I needed to help cope with all my chaos and loss and pain. And it did help. It was honestly the right thing for me at the time and I don't regret it at all. It directly led to another series of events that eventually contributed to my healing, and to pulling myself out of the bleakness that was consuming me. It turned out to be absolutely necessary for me, although I couldn't have known that at the time - I thought it was something I should do, but I didn't realize how it would start a snowball effect that would ultimately lead to saving my life. The details are not mine alone to share, even anonymously, but I will also say that the thing I "went after" is not actually the thing that I was accused of doing that lead to my partner "Flipp[ing] the Fuck Out". But I did pursue another relationship, and its progress frightened my abusive ex.
Something that Captain Awkward doesn't mention in their response is a lesser known truism - if you make it unsafe for your partner to tell you the truth, they are likely to start hiding things from you. My ex made it very unsafe for people to share difficult things with him. Some things were difficult because they triggered his insecurity. Some things were difficult because he felt strongly about them and argued tenaciously (a trait I share with him) so that his loved ones stopped giving their contrary opinions on those subjects because it simply wasn't worth the argument. He made sharing difficult subjects with him a very scary thing.
In addition to that, he was largely unavailable at this time, both temporally and emotionally. This was part of the chaos that had entered my life - a small part, but a contributing part. He had begun working longer hours, long enough that he essentially was at work for all but one or two waking hours a day. This pissed off his live-in partner, because she never got to see him anymore, and their tradition was for her to wait for him to come home so they could eat dinner together and this meant that she was now waiting until 9 or 10 at night before she could eat. He was trying to manage a total of 4 romantic partners and two of them were emotionally turbulent, to give the understatement of the year. We used to chat online throughout the day, but his work situation had recently put an end to that. So I was allocated the 10-minute drive from his office to his house to talk to him on the phone in the evenings. Except on those nights where one of his other partners was in the car with him because there was also car trouble in the group and some car sharing had become necessary.
So, here I was, in a relationship with someone who was giving me about 30 minutes of his time per week, knowing that I would only have his attention for 10 minutes at a stretch, which would have a pretty hard cut-off time otherwise his live-in partner would get pissed (and I'd have to deal with the knowledge (that he insinuated to me) that it was all my fault she was pissed because he was giving me more attention than her, whether that was true or not), most of that time would be taken up with his anguish over the troubles his other relationships were giving him, AND that, because of how he reacted to difficult news, telling him about my own emotional tailspin and the subsequent Incident would be a very Unsafe Conversation and definitely take more than 10 minutes, further ruining the night for his live-in partner who was waiting for him so she could finally eat her one big meal of the day.
All of this added up to the fact that he was unreachable to talk to immediately after the Incident (again, too busy at work, putting out relationship fires at home, just not available), and he was very "intimidating" to talk to when I did finally have his attention. So I know that I handled my end of the conversation poorly several days after the fact when I could finally have that conversation with him. I was accused of "cheating" on him when I A) didn't do what he said I had done and B) acted completely within my own ethical framework that I thought I had conveyed to him but I found out because of this that we had different relationship frameworks. He immediately tried to impose restrictions on me. He was very slick about it, though. Unlike the abuser in this advice letter, he didn't do it punitively, exactly. He tried to *retroactively* impose restrictions on me. He wanted me to obey some restrictions that he claimed had *always been there* that I had now broken. Those restrictions violated the agency of my other partner because they imposed limitations on his own behaviour and he was not present to negotiate for them, nor would he have accepted them had he been present. I felt (and still do) that I would never have agreed to such restrictions had I understood that's what *he* thought our relationship was operating under.
As they were not restrictions that *I* wanted either even self-imposed, that should have settled the matter.
But, instead, my ex told me that I could not just arbitrarily "change" the nature of our relationship without his permission. Since the so-called "change" he was speaking of was regarding my own behaviour, yes, actually, I can. He can choose to remain or not, but I am the sole arbitrator of my own behaviour and, as such, am the *only* one who has the ability to "change" it or not.
I do not believe he had ever encountered any romantic partner who faced that kind of challenge from him head on with "yes, I can make, re-make, and re-arrange the boundaries around my own behaviour without input from you" before. Whenever I had seen him challenge one of his other partners in such a manner, without fail, they backtracked and apologized and, in many cases, grovelled for his forgiveness, and accepted all kinds of restrictions and limitations in order to "prove" their worthiness of remaining in a relationship with him. He called it "accepting responsibility for fucking up". I call it "falling victim to gaslighting", at least in these cases where I witnessed it and where I have details of the situations that I'm not sharing here. I believe my refusal to bend on the issue of who can command my behaviour is what ultimately saved me. As a blogger once 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,'" and
"These are my choices. You are not entitled to control over them, you are not victimized by them."
He felt "victimized" by my resistance to his attempt to control my behaviour. He felt "betrayed" because I behaved in a manner that didn't affect him directly at all, was something that I needed to do for myself in a time of need, but was something that he found frightening because it was not under his control. When I gave no quarter, the relationship ended swiftly, without build-up or warning. Everyone was surprised by how quickly things escalated to a breakup. And I can't be more thankful for that, because I saw what happens to his partners when the breakups are slow in coming, and when they try to negotiate and seek compromise in good faith with him.
There is no "in good faith" with an abuser. I did not recognize him at the time as an abuser. I do not feel abused by him because his attempts to control me were met by my stubborn refusal to give up my autonomy. I am quite unyielding about that. And when people feel "victimized by the other person's resistence to my control", that unyielding feels cold, hard, calculated, uncompassionate, uncaring, and other words that are supposed to be bad adjectives for a romantic partner. But those are the adjectives that have rescued me from several abusive relationships.
And, strangely, those partners of mine who have not attempted to abuse me or who do not have abusive tendencies don't feel that those adjectives describe me in the slightest. Funny, that.
"Gaslighting doesn’t have to be deliberate ... We learn how to control and manipulate each other very naturally. The distinguishing feature between someone who gaslights and someone who doesn’t, is an internalized paradigm of ownership."
"I believe that gaslighting is happening culturally and interpersonally on an unprecedented scale, and that this is the result of a societal framework where we pretend everyone is equal while trying simultaneously to preserve inequality."
"The book The Gaslight Effect refers to a type of gaslighting called glamour gaslighting. This is where the gaslighter showers you with special attention, but never actually gives you what you need. They put you on a pedestal, but then they are not there, in fact they may get angry at you, when you need a shoulder to cry on."
This is one of the many reasons why I have a problem with so-called "goddess worship" or the belief that women should be worshiped as "queens" or that they are "better" than men. Women are put on pedestals, but only until they do something that shows how human they are, and then the anger comes out - "slut", "whore", "bitch", "crazy". You're only a "queen" until you step out of line, and then you're lower than dirt.
"In another type of gaslighting, the gaslighter is always transformed into the victim. Whenever you bring up a problem, you find yourself apologizing by the end of the conversation."
"Losing spots in your memory makes it very plausible when someone tells you that they cannot trust your memory. It makes it very plausible when they tell you that you are abusive. But, it is normal to lose your memory when you are being gaslighted. In fact, it is one of the signs that you should look for."
This is one of the biggest problems with abuse in skeptical people or skeptical communities. Because we know that memories are fallible and malleable, an abuser can use that information to justify his gaslighting by pointing out that his victim's memory can't be trusted. But, somehow his memory can be? Sure, having holes in one's memory is normal, but when someone uses that fact to dismiss what you're saying about how you *feel*, which is an internal, subjective process that they have no control over and no direct observation of, you should be wary.
It's particularly subtle and effective when something bothers you, but you don't talk about it right away, or if the thing that bothers you is a *pattern
* that has developed over time. That makes it so much more plausible and easy for the abuser to quiz and harangue you about the details of *factual events* about which you might be fuzzy after some time has passed. This way, they can focus the argument on the details of your memory instead of the bigger issue, which is that you feel hurt or angry or whatever emotion you're feeling that needs to be addressed. Why bother addressing your pain if we can establish that whatever caused you pain didn't really happen the way you remember in the first place?
This is particularly effective because our emotions are *not
* always "valid", in the sense that they are not always a reflection of reality. They're always "valid" in the sense that you really do feel them. But we can, and do, feel hurt, for instance, when no one actually hurt us. This particular tactic is also useful for an abuser, and is quite a common justification for a lot of abusive and toxic relationship rules in poly relationships. They justify punitive behaviour. So it's very important that we learn to use our feelings as signposts that something is wrong, and then address what's wrong. That way, we can't get sidetracked by an abuser attempting to gaslight us by interrogation and the discovery of totally natural holes in memory, and we also won't use our emotions as blunt objects with which to beat our partners over the head when we are feeling insecure to make them change behaviour that isn't really harming us but which may be harmful to *them
* if we make them stop (i.e. impositions on autonomy issues).
"The problem was that I did not realize that sometimes empathy is not the right approach. Sometimes the right approach is to not engage and instead to make space. Make space for yourself and your gaslighter by setting boundaries. Make so much space for your abuser that they can no longer effect you."
This is exactly what I do when I block someone on social media, although I wouldn't call every altercation "abuse". Sometimes empathy is not the right approach. Usually, the reason why I've gotten into the argument in the first place is because I'm empathizing *with someone else
* which makes my opponent out to be (or feel like) a "bad guy". Although I *do
* empathize with my opponent, my empathy for the other side is both stronger and more important because they are the ones getting hurt more. When I block someone, empathizing with that person is no longer the right approach to take, and making so much space for them that they can no longer affect me is the necessary tool.
"It is ridiculous when someone tries to tell you who you are, what you feel, what you think, what you intended, or what you experienced. When it happens, you should be angry, puzzled, or maybe even concerned for them. You might stop, stunned, and ask “what would make you think that you could know what’s inside of me? Are you OK?"
I actually had a whole other post on this topic that I couldn't make because FB disabled my account, so I'll address it here instead. I've been pondering over my most recent blocking of a friend who insisted on telling me what Im thinking. Normally I just rage about it for a while and move on. But today, my brain drew a connection, so I'm considering the validity of that connection and I don't have it all worked out yet, hence the dwelling.
I've been talking about abuse a lot lately, and I recently got into a discussion about how pretty much everyone exhibits some behaviours that could be described as abusive, simply because our culture accepts those behaviours as normal. I've also been hinting at a series of blog posts I have in the making, explaining my own experience with abusive men and how the particular combination of traits that add up to my self-esteem seemed to have saved me from being abused by these abusive men.
And it occurred to me that there is a connection to these three things - blocking a friend, abusive behaviour being cultural, and being less susceptible to abuse than other people. Gaslighting is where someone breaks down another person's sense of reality by insisting that the things that a victim knows are true really aren't true. With factual claims, that's really hard to do, but with *perceptions
*, it's surprisingly easy. Very generally speaking, it's the dismissal of someone's experience until they no longer believe their own experience and instead look to the abuser to provide the framework for their reality.
So, for example, when a kid hurts themselves, telling them that they don't feel hurt or that "it isn't that bad" is a form of gaslighting. If successful, eventually the kid learns to dismiss their own experience of pain and could lead to not treating something serious because they don't identify pain anymore.
Telling me what I think or feel in contradiction to what I've said I think or feel is a form of gaslighting. Online, it most often takes the form of seeing someone's behaviour, and then projecting motivations onto that person to explain their behaviour. People who tak welfare assistance are lazy. People who are late think their time is more valuable than others. Women are just crazy.
So, back to the part where I believe that I have a particular combination of traits that interferes with people's ability to emotionally abuse me, I think that part of the reason why I flip my lid and get so pissed off at people online is because I intuitively recognize this behaviour as abusive without having the cognitive, conscious understanding or language for this behaviour. When I feel cornered, I lash out. Telling me what I think or feel causes me to lash out as if I were being cornered. This reaction seems to many to be a complete overreaction to what appears to be a simple exchange from a nobody on the internet. But, to me, I react as though I've just seen someone deliberately push a baby into traffic. So that's the connection my brain made - I think that people are participating in gaslighting all the fucking time and it's socially acceptable to do so. Which means that it's really difficult to identify gaslighting when it's being done to you "for real", i.e. in some kind of intimate relationship like a partner or family member, because, to most people, that's just how discussions and arguments go. We've probably even said those things ourselves. When it happens to me, I get angry. Maybe if we all got a little more "unreasonably angry" when this happened, our culture wouldn't treat it as "normal".
"Also, remember that adulthood isn’t about having a relationship and a mortgage. It can mean lots of different things to different people but I think it’s mostly about taking control and responsibility for your life — no matter what that life looks like."
This is a very important message. I see a lot of jokes about "adulting" that have to do with being responsible about things our parents were, like eating sensible dinners and doing the laundry. I'm not complaining about those jokes - I like them and I like making them. But something that I've found can be harmful is in *believing* those jokes. My parents believe that adulthood looks a particular way. Their entire generation does (generally speaking). We were sold a bill of Adulthood sometime in the '50s and everyone's disappointment in the "next generation" is that they're not living up to that bill.
Being an "adult" doesn't mean you have to have a mortgage or spend 35 years working at the same office for the healthcare benefits. I am not a failure for deliberately choosing to continue to rent, nor am I a perpetual adolescent for doing so. I have my reasons for preferring to rent instead of buy, and I have chosen a life for which renting is the more sensible option. *Sensible*, reasonable, rational - I've made choices that have led to a life that doesn't look like a grownup's life. What makes it a grownup's life is that I made those choices.
My choices come with consequences, but my parents' choices had consequences too. My parents bought a house and held down responsible jobs, but they had shitty bosses by whom they spent their entire lives being emotionally torn down. My dad started his own business, because it's the American Dream to be a small business owner, but that didn't succeed and they ended up in financial difficulty. When the economy boomed during the dot com bubble, the value of their home and property skyrocketed. Some people think that's a good thing, but those people don't realize that the taxes also skyrocketed while their income didn't. Was it really a responsible decision to own property that they couldn't afford? I'm not saying that it wasn't, I'm saying that even responsible decisions come with consequences, so these other options that have different consequences are not necessarily irresponsible just because of those consequences. There are other variables that make something responsible or not.
What makes it a grownup's life is that I made those choices. What makes a life that looks exactly the same but is not a grownup's life is that people just out of their teen years aren't generally making these choices - they're thrust upon them. If they're in school and dependent upon their parents for money, their living situation is structured by their parents. I don't know of any parents who would have bought their 18-year old college student a home to live in while they attended school, but they're totally fine with paying the equivalent of a mortgage payment in dorm fees. Someone who is not "adulting" is just going along with what they know or with what comes their way.
Someone who is adulting has looked at the options and decided that they understand the consequences and this is the life they want. That can happen at any age.
I'm finding this whole Uber controvery fascinating. It reminds me of the problem my own industry has with unions. Here's the thing - I support unionizing and the right to unionize. I've seen far too many employees and workers get shafted because of rich people at the top not caring about the people at the bottom. But, at the same time, I've seen that exact same thing happen because of entrenchment of unions.
There seems to be this trend, this path that workers' rights fights have - workers get stomped on by people who don't care and have no legal incentive to care. Workers organize and build up enough power to make them care. Things improve. Then unions get a *lot* of power and start behaving like the previous employers. So the people at the bottom start getting stepped on again and they start going around the unions. Which solves the immediate problem, but undermines the more abstract concept of unions and the protections they serve.
I'll give an example of my own business. Stagehands were treated like crap - low pay, long hours, hard working conditions. Unions came in and regulated the industry - gave us standard workdays, decent pay, compensation for things that the industry needs to keep going like longer-than-standard days or the inability to schedule lunch breaks at decent times. When the "show must go on", we can't just stop for a sandwhich because it's noon. Fine, that's a reasonable objection to regulating the industry like the rest of the country's businesses, but they have to compensate us for that with extra money. Stuff like that.
So, that's all well and good, but then the unions got entrenched. The rules started getting lengthy, and counterproductive. Like, in some locations, a Project Manager (i.e. the site's head boss) can't plug in his laptop because that's "electrical" and requires a union-assigned electrician to come down to the site to plug it in for him, costing him the time in waiting for an electrician to be found and sent in and also costing him the salary for said electrician. And, it's not just the electrician's pay, but also the union's fee on top of that. Like, the electrician might make $30 an hour, but the union is going to charge that Project Manager $70 an hour and take the extra $40 for union fees. Oh, and they're gonna charge the union worker his own fees for belonging to the union and finding him a job.
As one of those lower workers who might benefit from getting work as the electrician if I had laws that required clients to use me, I find this to be unreasonable business practices. But I'm not exaggerating, this exact story actually happens. There are places where you have to hire a dedicated truck-unloading crew, a dedicated dock crew that pushes the cases from the truck to the building's entrance, and another dedicated pushing crew who takes it from the entrance to the room where the gear will be stationed. Dedicated truck loaders, I get. A separate dock crew, I don't. That's a lot of money to pay pushers when there are already people who can push cases.
On top of that, unions are supposed to protect the worker, but I've found it to be very difficult to actually get union protection in many places. The unions that I've had contact with seem to want to keep people out, not bring them in. So where does someone find work if the unions won't hire them? They have no choice but to find an employer willing to hire non-unionized workers, which means that they're subject to abuse without regulation, which is exactly what's happening in my industry right now.
So, this Uber thing. Taxi unions protect cab drivers by negotiating fair wages, compensation, and working conditions. But here in Orlando, the Mears company has a monopoly on public transportation that isn't specifically city-provided like the buses. They're strong enough to pressure Disney, which is usually the heavy hitter in this town. Mears might be protecting their employees, but they're also strangling free trade in this city. So Uber comes in offering much more affordable pricing to people whose economy just tanked and can't afford taxis and offering jobs to people who desperately need work.
But at what cost? We've seen from the alt-med industry that lack of regulation is not in the consumer's best interest. There's no training program for the drivers. There's no accountability. There's no adherence to other protective laws like ADA compliance. It's up to the random people who get hired to make sure that they're good drivers and that their cars are in working conditions because there's no centralized method for keeping things up to a minimum standard.
The unions in my industry have behaved so poorly that they've convinced even freelancers who would benefit from union protection that unions aren't worth it. So what happens? Companies sweep in and fill the void, and once they've built a firm base for themselves, they start whittling away at those benefits that the unions once fought for us, because there's no union now to stop them. I've gone 10 years in this business without a raise. I've seen the lowest, entry-level stagehand wages get raised, but I'm making the same money as a camera operator now that I did a decade ago. As a freelancer, if I raise my rates, some companies just won't use me.
I'm seeing the eradication of Day Rates - a guaranteed salary for reserving my entire day for a company. Since we usually don't know how long our work is going to go, when we take a gig, we reserve the entire day for the gig. That means that we have to turn down other work. If the day ends up being short, it used to not matter because we were paid for an entire day. But lately, companies want to pay us by the hour. If we don't know what time we'll be done, or we can't guarantee that we'll be done by the estimated time given, then we can't schedule other work for later in the day to make up for the lost hours.
I'm seeing the loss of food being provided. That was a perk, but given the heavy manual labor, hard working conditions (usually in rooms without air conditioning in Florida and a violation of many OSHA rules), having food provided is good for morale. There is a surprising amount of shit that workers will put up with if they just get fed.
And there are other small erosions. Weird stuff that you might not think of as an eroson of "workers' rights", like dress code. It used to be assumed that backstage workers were "lowlifes", and we could wear whatever we wanted (as long as it didn't compromise safety, so, like, no sandals at work). But more and more companies are expecting us to do hard labor in humid temperatures wearing nice slacks and collared shirts. Or to sit still in freezing air conditioning but not wear appropriate clothing to keep warm. Because appearances are more important than comfort these days. It's ironic that tattoos, piercings, unnatural hair color, and other body modifications are becoming more and more socially acceptable but less and less acceptable in an industry known for its uncouthness.
Not every company is doing this. It's not consistent across the industry or across regions. And not every company is doing every one of the things. Sometimes one thing is taken away but another is given in compensation (they might not feed you, but they'll double the lunch break time to give us time to go off-site to find food). My point is that unionization was important to protect the worker, but when those protections prove to hamper job efforts for those very workers, then the workers themselves will sabotage their industry by allowing in unregulated employers in order to just get work, any work.
I don't have the answer to this problem. I don't have the training or the experience of working where these kinds of decisions are made and the data is collected. I only know what I see. What I see is that regulation is important to protect the people, but the people need to feel protected by those regulations, otherwise they'll cut off their noses to spite their faces and go around those very regulations to fill immediate needs without benefit of seeing the big picture of the regulations. And when they do that, they open the door for exactly those sorts of employers that the unions were protecting us from in the first place.
A union is great, but if I can't get hired by the union, I have to get a job somewhere. And if the union's version of "protecting the worker" costs the employer so much money that he can't make a profit, right or wrong, this is a capitalist society and profit is what the employer wants. If he can't profit, he'll find some disillusioned worker like me who is willing to take some cuts because half the benefits is better than no benefits which is what the employee was getting from the union.
With Uber, I'm strongly in favor of regulation. That's my life on the line in that unregulated driver's car. I want some assurances of safety and I want some accountability. But as a poor person, I'll be back to begging for rides from friends because I can't afford cabs in those situations where I've needed to use a service like Uber. And a lot of people will lose a lot of money if Uber has to change their policies. I'm not arguing in favor of Uber. I'm saying that I'm interested to see if a solution can be found to this problem, because I'm in the category of people that is most susceptible to being preyed on by exactly this sort of union / employer power struggle. I really hope there can be an answer that requires regulation and accountability while still providing the public with affordable services and jobs.
I wish developing actual film photographs hadn't been so economically prohibitive to my 14-year-old self 25 years ago. I'd love to bombard all those "back in my day, girls dressed like children as in the image on one side, not like sluts as in the image on the other side" posts with hundreds of selfies that I would have taken of myself in my crop tops and micro mini skirts and my bikini swim suit and the jeans with the ass half-ripped out of them (which I still have, btw) had I come of age in the kind of culture that has basically unlimited picture-taking and -storing capabilities.
"Selfies" were not a thing when I was a kid because film cameras didn't have digital screens you could look at while aiming the lens back at yourself. Cameras were big and heavy, even snapshot cameras. You needed a well-paying job to afford regular photo prints and negative development which, as a teenager, I did not have. I had a job, but photography was not a top priority for my spending habits.
Most of my photos from my early teen years were school portraits or big events that included family (because someone else had to take the picture, and most kids didn't have their own cameras so it was the grown-ups taking all our pictures), so I was dressed fairly conservatively. If I took photos of events that were free of my familial influences, my mom still would have demanded to see the photos when she drove me to pick them up from the developing station. Plus, there were all kinds of cautionary tales about film developers making illegal double prints for their own private spank banks, so we just *did not* put most of the shit that we did on film.
If you go back and look at those few photos of me that exist from that time period, you might not have guessed that, at age 14, I had thigh-high stockings and lacy underwear and a mini skirt that didn't cover my ass when I bent over (still have that one too) or that most of the time I walked around with the flannel shirt I left the house in tied low around my waist to show off my awesome abs highlighted by the barely-more-than-a-bra crop top I was wearing in some neon color.
Just because photographic evidence of the past is low, it doesn't mean we weren't still doing the exact same things that teens have always done - rebel against authority, swear, eat food we're not supposed to, and explore our sexuality.
This picture, btw, is of me at age 11. I still have that bikini and wrap too.
Someone explained to me that being the mother of someone with Asperger's is the reason why she has conservative values over dress codes.
You see (she explained to me), women walking around with sexually alluring clothing make it hard for her son with AS, because he is not capable of controlling himself in the same way that other people are.
So I explained to her that, my cultures (combining kink & poly & feminist geeky subcultures together, just so that I didn't have to start out with a lecture about the similarities and differences of each of those subcultures) are actually very popular with people who have AS. They seem drawn to them in high numbers and the cultures seem to be very welcoming and able to deal with the symptoms of AS. And yet, we don't have this big problem of everyone with AS being overwhelmed with uncontrollable emotions or urges as a result of seeing boobs or skimpy outfits or even outright nudity. And that's because the cultures emphasize contextual sexuality - sex depends on the context.
I could see her stumped, as no one had ever presented this possibility to her before. I think everyone she has ever said this to in the past probably nodded knowingly and gave her a pass for her sexism (she's also a bonafide Tea Partyist, so that should give you a clue to her regular social circles). But our food came and the moment passed, so we moved onto other topics of conversation.
Now, yes we need to talk *within* our communities about problems with fetishization and rape culture and sexism, etc. But I think that it needed to be pointed out that *AS* is not the problem here, and women covering up is not the solution. Other cultures have different social contexts for nudity, and people behave according to their culture's approval for nudity. While the kink community, for example, does have a problem with rape culture, it's not a "men will be men" thing, nor a "people with mental illness can't deal with society" thing, nor a "women must change themselves to make men behave" thing.
The rape culture in the kink community is a product of people bringing in the rape culture from the larger culture that we are all steeped in. It's not somehow *worse* in kink communities because women walk around dungeons in thongs, baring their breasts. If the amount of skin was the cause, then the amount of assault should be directly proportional to the amount of skin shown, and it's obviously not.
If we were going to draw correlations, I would bet money that the correlation would show an inverse relationship if any were to emerge at all. The LESS skin that is culturally appropriate to show, the HIGHER the assault rate is in that culture. And I would bet that the reason is because of the sense of entitlement that comes with a culture that considers telling women to cover up is the solution to men's "urges" is what is responsible for assault, not amount of skin showing.
Damn, I wish I had thought of those last 2 paragraphs when I was talking to that woman.
*EDIT* There are actually studies showing this correlation from a couple of different perspectives or angles. I was reminded of these studies (at least one of which I've read before and forgot), but haven't had time to look up the links. Bottom line is - I was right, it's not the amount of skin that's showing, it's what the culture consideres acceptable regarding entitlement to women's bodies.
I've been seeing a lot of "this thing happened between my partner and their other partner. How do you handle that / deal with that / take that / interpret that happening between your partner and their other partner?"
My answer is (and my advice that pretty much everyone should also do this) "there is nothing there for me to handle / deal with / take/ or interpret. If it wasn't about me, then it's not about me and there is nothing for me to react to."
It's things like, the metamour wants to try some sex thing that they haven't done before, or some new person has been flirting with or sexting the partner, or maybe the metamour dislikes something about the partner and they had a disagreement over it. It's relationship stuff between two people who are not me, and it's not something like abuse or anything damaging to my partner.
This kind of thing is symptomatic of our cultural values of ownership and possession in romantic relationships, and the lack of agency and autonomy. Those values seep into our subconsciousness and into our assumptions about relationships and they manifest in all kinds of strange and interesting ways, even when we think that we respect and value our partners as people. We probably do, but it's really hard to overcome all the cultural programming that we're subjected to.
And when someone asks how I feel about something that occurred between two people who aren't me and had nothing to do with me, that programming becomes obvious. At least, it does to those of us who have learned to read code.
The context was something like, someone posted in a *poly* forum "How would you guys handle someone flirting with your partner?"
My reaction was "there's nothing for me to 'handle'. It's not something that's hurting him, it's between two people that has nothing to do with me."
There wasn't any lying or deception going on, there wasn't any actual sex yet, the poster knew about the existence of the person flirting with their partner before it happened, and the partner & the flirty person had some romantic history together.
That's not the only post I've seen, just the latest one that prompted this thread. What would we do about some situation that is not happening to us? The underlying assumption is that we have some right or obligation to interfere in some way, that what happens to our partner happens to us or is some kind of statement to us or about us that we need to react to.
I find the whole thing very weird and off-putting. The very question, and the fact that it comes up so often under different contexts, belies some incredibly deep, unexamined assumptions about possession in relationships.
Haven't posted one of these in a while: Poly Commitments
* I am committed to considering my metamours as "family" regardless of the structure or emotional closeness of our individual metamour relationships and to treat them accordingly.
Speaking of poly families, this one is actually complicated enough to deserve its own post, but I will attempt to summarize here and post the link to the full post when I get around to making it. Basically, I was raised with a strong sense of "family" and a strong sense of commitment to family. But I was also raised to view "family" as being this large, nebulous thing with fuzzy borders that accommodated and allowed for everyone in the family to find their own specific relationship structure. The point of valuing "family", in my family, was to acknowledge that, for better or worse, we are all connected to each other through bonds that are supposed to be based on love, and that we all have an obligation to each other to be considerate of how our actions affect each other, although that doesn't trump doing what needs to be done for ourselves - our personal happiness and health is more important than familial obligations.
My family is a chosen family. As an adopted child, it was really hammered home that we are family because we chose to be family through the bonds of love, not blood. But my family was more than just my parents and myself. It was my parents, my sister, my grandparents, my dozen aunts and uncles, my two dozen cousins, great aunts and great uncles, second cousins twice removed, and family friends. Just because someone was a cousin, it didn't mean that we had the exact same relationship as the relationship that I had with my other cousin. I was allowed to develop different kinds of relationships with my different family members. We were friends, or not, as was natural. But at the same time, I was expected to welcome new members into the family because the happiness of the person they were connected to was important. I was expected to be considerate of my cousins and other relatives and to be aware of how my actions affected them. These were valuable lessons that I take with me into my poly family. My metamour relations are allowed to develop in whatever structure is most natural for the personalities involved. I welcome metamours into the family because the happiness of our mutual partner is important and it's his desire to date her that defines whether or not she's part of the family, not my like or dislike of her. I am considerate of my metamours and I try to be aware of how my actions affect them. To me, that's what makes an extended family.
I've had people trying to put me on a pedestal my entire life. Some women eagerly accept being raised up, because it gives us some leverage, an illusion of power, in an otherwise powerless existence. They embrace their pedestal and enforce the hierarchy of being "goddesses".
I, however, noticed how little room I had to move on that pedestal, and how far I had to fall if I ever made one misstep. I have always resisted the pedestal. I've never wanted to be raised up. I wanted to be on equal ground. "But I don't treat you this way because I think you're weak! I treat you this way because you deserve to be treated like a queen! I treat you this way out of respect!"
"Respect" is a slippery word. That's not respect. I am human, not a goddess, not a queen, not a work of art. That kind of respect only lasts until you decide that I'm not worthy of that respect anymore, if I step out of line and behave in a way un-goddess-like. I have never liked the pedestal.
But women everywhere think I'm nuts. Women, who subconsciously know that we have no real power so they grasp at the scraps thrown to us by our oppressors, couched in pretty language like "goddess" and "respect", those women have always resisted my message that we are not goddesses, we are not works of art to be protected like the Mona Lisa from a thief in black.
I have always known this intuitively. So I have not always had the language to explain why it's so wrong. Who wouldn't want to be cherished? Worshiped? Protected? Anyone who can see the cage surrounding the object needing to be protected, that's who. But if you are someone who knows this intuitively, and haven't had it explained to you, then you, like me, might not have had the words to explain the feeling of wrongness. And you, like me, might not have always been able to unpack how tightly race and gender are woven together, like delicate steel fibers in the mesh that makes up the cage we are being "protected" in.
You can keep your pedestal. I wish to run free on the ground.
"American racism is always gendered; racism and sexism are mutually dependent, and cannot be unstitched."
"There is an important distinction between white women, a people, and the concept of white womanhood—one that holds that a white woman is the best thing you can be in America after a white man, and that it is the responsibility of white men to protect your virtue at any and all costs. This white supremacist and benevolently sexist ideology depends both on the subjugation of white women by white men, and on the subjugation of all people who are not white—by white people (including white women)."
"This highly selective concern about preventing sexual violence is dependent on the peril of white women;"
"It was, and remains, necessary for white women to decry the violence that is done in our name. It is on us to dismantle racism with just as much commitment as we dismantle sexism, for one cannot happen without the other."
" those women were shot because the belief that white women must be protected at all costs depends on the belief that black women aren’t truly women, that they’re barely people. That they’re disposable. Racism is always gendered, and gender always raced."
"Because abusers see their partner merely as an extension of themselves rather than their own person with every right to their own opinions and limitations, boundaries are often blurred."
This. This so clearly and succinctly explains the problem I have with our culture's view on relationships. And this toxic attitude has seeped into the poly community. It starts as the One True Love fantasy. It morphed into the Soulmate dream and the "two halves of one whole" myth. When we subsume our identity into the relationship, and when our partners accept that submission, that enables abuse even if the abuser never *intended* to abuse or be malicious.
The act of viewing a partner as an extension of oneself rather than an independent person who has chosen to entangle their life with one is an abusive act. Merely seeing a partner as an extension is a dehumanizing event and robs them of agency, even if you are "benign" about what you do with that view.
When it moves into polyamory, we see this in closed groups and in typical unicorn hunting "add a third to our relationship". I shouldn't have to say this, but I will because I do have to: this is not a commentary on the *structure* of triads or of core couples with secondaries. This is about the *mentality* that often leads to a particular structure rather than other structures because those structures are so compatible with abusive mentalities. It is possible to be in a triad that is not abusive. I was in one myself. But the structure of a pre-existing couple wanting to add a very specific sort of person to "complete" their household has, at its very foundations, the script for abuse.
It's right there in the descriptions - "complete us", "add to our relationship". This could be a quad or a quint or anything else. It's the context, which is why motivations are so important.
Abusers see their partners as extensions of themselves. Couples who see their secondaries as an extension of themselves or an extension of their relationship are starting out with the exact same dehumanizing, agency-removing viewpoint as abusers. People in quads that put the "family" group above the needs of the people in it are dehumanizing their partners, which removes their agency, which *fundamentally* removes the ability to consent.
I was in an "open" 6-person tribe. Some members viewed the other members as extensions of themselves via the family group. This led directly to abuse.
It's not the structure, it's the mindset. It's just that there aren't a whole lot of dehumanizing abusers out there deliberately setting up *open* networks. That's too difficult to control.
But a triad filled with unexamined gender assumptions and gender and/or racial privilege, with a dash of cultural discrimination in the form of couple privilege is much more logistically easier to control, as well as including built-in support for isolation and other common abuse tactics.
Poly folk are so busy reinventing the wheel and thinking that mono-based scripts don't apply to us, that we're all too ready to ignore and rationalize away abuse under the well-intentioned but very damaging rose-colored lens of "there's no Right Way" and "truth is relative" and "we are trailblazers making up our own society as we go".
It's so very easy to hide abuse when the culture has its own persecution complex mixed with our fucking stupid American Rugged Individualism. Galileo Effect, Dunning-Kruger Effect, No True Scotsman, and our fantastically good innate ability for self-deception - it's past time to stop harboring abuse in our communities and in our relationships.
So, I'm new to the Social Justice War. I know it doesn't seem like it, but I spent most of my formative years fighting for environmental issues, and I moved immediately into poly issues, which doesn't really feel like "social justice", at least not in the early days because the level of persecution doesn't even compare to any other social justice issue. Feminism, racism, homo- and transphobia issues, these all came to me recently, even though my *feelings* on the subject have always been for equal rights. So bear with me here, because this needs to be fleshed out.
It has come up in several different contexts over the last week that there is a lot of confusion over what an ally is, what an ally should do, intersectionality privilege and oppression, and related topics. Because I'm so late to the game, I'm sure someone better researched and more knowledgeable than I has already come to this conclusion and written about it somewhere. But this is a new concept *for me*, and I wanted to share it as a way to work through it and refine it in my own head.
People with privilege have come to hate the word "privilege" and they have stopped listening when that word comes up. But we *all* have privilege in some ways, and we are all disadvantaged in other ways. I'm female, so I'm disadvantaged. But I pass as white and I grew up middle class, so I'm privileged there. But I'm currently lower / working class and I'm technically an ethnic minority as well as a religious and sexual minority so I'm disadvantaged there too.
And just because I'm part of a class of people who is *structurally* disadvantaged by *the system*, it doesn't necessarily mean that I, personally, experienced the kind of systemic discrimination or oppression that others in my class have, or of other disadvantaged classes. And just because I'm part of a class of people who, as a *group*, are given *group* privileges by that same system, it doesn't mean that I, personally, haven't had some hard times, or even that I haven't had some hard times specifically because of that same class that is supposed to be privileged.
So I want to stop all this bullshit fear of the word "privilege" and instead I want to just recognize *where* we have it and where we don't - because we all do and we all don't. I refuse to play the Oppression Olympics. My oppression is not worse or easier than someone else's - I've had some benefits and I've had some shit in life, that's just how it goes. My oppression is not *equal* to others, either, I just don't think the relative level of oppression is relevant here.
Instead of arguing over who has privilege and who doesn't, I want to recognize where my privileges come from, and then I want to *use* that privilege (to steal a phrase from a different issue) to "punch up". Here's where being an ally gets complicated.
People who pride themselves on being allies often find themselves feeling confused and betrayed when, after all their hard work they've done for underprivileged people, those people turn on them and tell them that they're doing it wrong. Some of us might just cross our arms and say "well, fine, then, if you don't like my assistance, then I'll just stop helping!" Others really want to help, but if they've spent any time at all listening to disadvantaged people, they've probably heard "you can't know what it's like to live my experience" somewhere along the line. And if they've heard that phrase, then they might have no idea what they can even do to help, since the privileged person can't possibly know what it's like to be someone who is in a class that they're not in so they don't feel that they can talk *for* that class.
Here's what, in my opinion, it takes to be a good ally: First, listen to the group that we want to be an ally for. That way, we can learn what their position is. Next, take what we hear, and speak about it. But, here's the tricky part. We have to speak to people *in our privileged class*, but we cannot speak *to that group* that we are defending about their own experience.
So that's what I mean by "punch up". We have to use our status as white, cis, straight, male, whatever to be an amplifier for the voices of the non-white, non-male, non-straight, non-whatever that we are trying to support. We have to say the words that are being spoken by the underprivileged group, and we have to say those words *to the privileged group* that we are a part of, because that group only wants to listen to other members of the same group.
But then here comes the next part ... after listening and after speaking, we then have to go back to listening. We have to be conscious that we aren't taking on the mantle of the White Savior. The words we are speaking are not our own. We are only repeating them to people who refuse to hear them otherwise. But if the people we are speaking for don't like that we're speaking for them, or they don't like *how* we're speaking for them, being a good ally means not arguing or defending ourselves against the people we are trying to support. That would be "punching down". In the end, this is not our fight, so it is not our place to decide that we are the warriors the fight needs or that our fighting style is the proper strategy. THEY are the generals, and if we step out of line, it is our duty to be corrected.
We have to "punch up" by punching a hole in the defenses of our own class or higher so that those from beneath can rise up. It is not appropriate to "punch down" by telling those beneath us how they should run their war. We are the support team. We are not the drivers of the movement. And, as part of the support team who happens to have better armor and weapons, we might end up being put on the front lines to absorb some of the attack while we take the more effective shots from the front while others direct us from behind our human body shields.
As someone in a privileged group, I can afford to be put out in front. They can't. That's why they're underprivileged in the first place. As someone in a privileged group, I have less to lose therefore I have less need for additional defenses or reinforcements to watch my own back. Not zero - remember, I am part of privileged groups but I am also part of underprivileged groups. As a woman, I need men to stand up to other men on my behalf because the men they are standing up to *won't hear me* when I speak. As a white woman, I can afford to face down other white people because they will hear me better than a black person when it comes to issues of race.
I have other, related thoughts on this - stuff about how it's our responsibility to sacrifice for those less privileged but to not expect the same level of sacrifice in return, but I'm going to save those for another post. This one was specifically about punching up. That phrase came from criticisms on comedy. Comedy is a necessary tool for discussing difficult issues in the public sphere. But what differentiates a particular joke on a difficult issue from being funny vs. being offensive is whether it "punches up" or it "punches down". Does it make fun of of the privileged class or the underprivileged class? Making the rapist the butt of a rape joke is funny. Make the victim the butt of a rape joke is offensive. Who is being targeted? Someone above, or someone below? Are we punching out the big guy with muscles and a bullet proof vest or the little guy who is already beaten and bloody on the ground?
In a similar vein, we all need allies in our social justice battles. We need people in higher classes to help us fight our wars. But since people belong to multiple classes, it can sometimes feel like we're trying to rank people when we talk about privilege and who has it worse than whom. And then it can feel like, when we *do* try to help, our help wasn't appreciated. Or maybe we're so conscious about the Savior Complex that we're afraid to help because we don't want to step on anyone's toes.
So I'm proposing some simple rules of thumb to help navigate this complex privilege discussion. 1) We all belong to some classes that might be considered privileged and we all belong to some classes that might be considered underprivileged. Accept that and leave off debating who has it "better" than whom in any area. It doesn't matter if someone is part of 3 privileged classes but only 2 underprivileged classes and someone else is part of 4 underprivileged classes and only 1 privileged class. Pick one category, and if you're in the privileged class, then shut the fuck up and listen to the person in the underprivileged class *on that class experience*. If we're talking about race, leave out your underprivilege-ness in some class that isn't race. That's a distraction. We're talking about race here, and in race (for example), you are not the underprivileged one so shut up and listen. If you belong to some other underprivileged class, then use your experience to develop *empathy* internally for this group that you are not a part of, but we don't need to compare and contrast our various classes.
2) Use whatever privileged status you have to repeat the words of the group you want to be an ally to to others in your same class. Point those people in your class directly to the source of your words as soon as they are finally able to hear the source instead of needing it filtered through your shared class. Your responsibility is to get them to listen. Once they are able and willing to listen, pass them off to the source so that you don't become The Savior. Our job is to *borrow* the words of the underprivileged class, not to steal them. They still get all the credit.
3) Never presume to tell someone in the class you are trying to be an ally for what they ought to do or what their experience is, especially if someone is directly contradicting you. Let them debate amongst themselves the best strategies, if there is any debate to be had. If one of them asks you for advice, and you happen to have information on the subject, you can share what has worked for your other underprivileged classes in those fights, but they may not be directly comparable so don't get too attached to the group you're talking to actually adopting your advice.
4) Retain your humility and always be ready to apologize and change strategies when someone of the group you are trying to be an ally for tells you that your efforts aren't appreciated or are contraindicated. Remember, this isn't your fight and if you're doing it for the social cookies, then you're not really an ally. We've all had to adjust our methods as the groups we're defending have matured and tried different tactics over time. We just have to learn to try and keep up and accept that we are not the experts in their fight.
These are the lessons I'm hearing right now from the various groups that I wish to be an ally to. These are not the lessons I grew up with and I'm trying to change my tactics to accommodate. I hope that I will be a good enough ally, that when the strategies change again as the culture changes in response to all these social justice battles, that I will be able to rewrite these rules of thumb to better reflect the needs of the communities that I wish to ally myself with.
You know what I find highly ironic? The people I knew as children - family, school friends, etc. - those people are, today, complaining about misbehaving teens and supporting police violence against kids and internet shaming their kids as suitable forms of punishment.
Those same adults, when we were kids, were those kids who played their music too loud, who jumped people's fences to illegally horse around in other people's backyards, who mouthed off to cops enforcing the city's curfew, who sat around basements with illegal drugs complaining about "pigs" busting up their good time, and who fantasized about calling the authorities on their own parents for "brutality" and "child abuse" when they were spanked or grounded or publicly humiliated by being yelled at when they misbehaved.
My own sister actually got a noise pollution citation for driving with a stereo turned up too loud (California had laws like that). I got bullied for NOT smoking pot and not getting drunk with the rest of the middle schoolers (yes, ages 12-15). Half of our collective music collection among my high school friends were tapes and CDs stolen from record stores (the other half was taped off the radio, which is still piracy). Our normal weekend activities included sneaking out of our parents' houses way after curfew and breaking into the backyards of people who were on vacation or the fenced-off school yards where it was illegal to be after school hours.
In fact, the thing we did most often was called Ice Blocking. We'd get a giant block of ice from the grocery store, then, about 2 in the morning, we'd scale the fence to a school yard that had a large hill in it somewhere, climb to the top of that hill, and either sit or stand on the block of ice and try to "surf" it down the hill while the rest of our group sat at the bottom getting stoned or drunk out of their minds. That's not even broaching the part where we were hired as lifeguards - literally being responsible for the lives of other people - and the entire staff spent as much time as possible hotboxing the office (closing off any form of ventilation and then smoking pot to fill it with smoke they could continue to inhale even when not then-currently taking a hit), so that their judgement was impaired while on duty. People's LIVES depended on us! But we did what we wanted to do, even at the expense of other people's lives.
Another thing that was very common in my circles was highway racing. We didn't do "street racing" as most people think of it - where two cars start out at one end of an empty street and race to the other end. We raced each other *in traffic*. That's how I ended up rolling my car down a hill at age 16 - I was trying to beat someone's speed record on this particular road, I lost control of the car, but got back control only by moving into the left lane. I lost control again because I had to swerve to miss oncoming traffic, and that's what spun me to the curb, which then tipped my car over and I rolled down the hill into someone's back yard. There was absolutely no concern for the lives or the property of the other people we could have (or did) destroy. And every single person I knew then (and many I know now) blamed the *cops* for writing them tickets when they were the ones breaking the law. Everyone had some excuse why, when *they* did it, it was somehow justifiable, but those other assholes on the road were crazy assholes.
These people doing the complaining about "no respect" and "gotta teach them a lesson" are the same people who tailgate and speed when they're late, because it's somehow "different" when they do it. These are the same people who have a hard drive full of pirated movies and music. These are the same people who go to Google Images and download and repost copyrighted images and who then get all pissy when called on it because they somehow deserve the "right" to use intellectual property that they don't own.
The key ingredient threading all of this together is entitlement. As kids, we felt entitled to use other people's property and to break laws that didn't suit us. As adults, now it's *our* property that people are using without permission, so it's somehow fair, now, to treat those kids exactly the same way that we felt was "abusive" (yes, that accusation was slung out a lot towards parents, teachers, and cops, when I was a kid, when those adults weren't even doing anything remotely as serious as the news articles I see passing around these days) back when we were kids and it was directed at us.
I don't think people remember being kids. They remember getting smacked when they misbehaved and, as adults, they wish kids would behave, so they think that getting smacked is what made them value social etiquette. I don't think it is, because I see them doing all sorts of bullshit as adults (many of which I named above, like speeding and piracy). I don't think they really remember the shame or the humiliation or the anger that these kinds of punishments bred in them as kids. Because they definitely don't recognize that same anger or defensiveness at authority that they continue to have as adults. They only admire and respect authority when it suits them, when they're the recipient of the benefits of that authority. It's all "yay, cops!" now, but still "fuck TSA!" and "fuck Metallica for suing their fans who illegally downloaded their music!" I wish irony actually burned. Maybe then my generation would understand the hypocrisy they're espousing and learn to have some fucking empathy to teach children right from wrong without resorting to the same bullshit that made us resent authority when we were kids.
Pet Peeve: I hate it when people argue against the phrase "it's not all about the sex" by talking about those times when it is about sex. That phrase does not *exclude* being about sex. The keyword there is "all". It means that polyamory is not ALL about sex, it doesn't mean that it's NEVER about sex. It means that the sex is not the single, sole, or only criteria. That's what that word "all" means - all, only, single, solo, there is no other. It means that out of the list of criteria, every single criteria option available is "the sex". Which, of course, means that polyamory is not all about the sex.
That phrase doesn't exclude sex, it only removes the limitation to sex. Which means that yes, sometimes, polyamory is about sex in exactly the same way that monogamy is about the sex. In other words, some relationships are more sex-centric than others, and some situations or contexts within individual relationships are more sex-centric than others.
Monogamy is an extremely widely varied category. There are people who get together pretty much because they have amazing sexual chemistry and not much else. There are people who have emotional or spiritual unions and sex may be a small, or non-existent part of their connection. There are people that have waxing and waning elements of sexuality within their relationship over time.
Newsflash: polyamory is the same thing because we're talking about romantic relationships involving people who have different personal definitions of "romantic" and different sexual needs and identities. Which means, by definition, that it's not all about the sex. Tacking on an addendum like "but sometimes it *is* about the sex" is redundant and a red herring distraction because no one ever said it wasn't about sex.
It's kinda like someone trying to explain that football isn't all about touchdowns, because there are also field goals and strategy and passing and gaining / losing ground and camaraderie and sportsmanship and life skills and leadership skills and teamwork and ... and ... and...; and then someone comes along and says "hey, sometimes it IS about the touchdowns!" Well, yeah, if there weren't any touchdowns ever by any team or any player in any game in existence, then it wouldn't be football. But it also wouldn't be football if the only thing anyone could do was score touchdowns and no one could block or tackle or make a 40-yard pass.
It doesn't contribute anything to the conversation to declare opposition to the statement "it's not all about the sex" because that statement doesn't exclude sex so it's not actually in opposition. Sure, we should be talking about the sexual element in polyamory. It's just that the statement isn't saying that we shouldn't. Contradicting the popular phrase with "it IS sometimes about the sex" is actually a Straw Man argument because no one is saying that it's never about sex and it redirects the conversation to where someone who is trying to talk about the complexity of polyamory or perhaps the distinctions of polyamory now comes across as sex-negative or slut-shaming when, in fact, discussing the multidimensional nature of polyamory is often a very sex-positive position.
So what I'm saying is, that it's really fucking annoying when people don't pay attention to language and then seem to deliberately or willfully muddy the waters by arguing shit that no one is disputing.
No patience anymore. "But what if my husband and his new girlfriend make a decision that takes time or money away from me, the mono partner? Don't I get a say in what they do?"
No, you don't. You never did, even if you made a rule that says you do. That's an illusion. They'll do what they want to do. The only thing you get a say in is how he treats YOU, not how he treats someone else. It's harsh, but reality doesn't really care about our feelings. And the reality is that he is his own individual with his own agency, and so is she, and your opinion of what they do in their relationship ultimately doesn't matter. It only matters for as long as they let it matter, which means, ultimately, it doesn't matter.
If he wants to spend money on her, you could technically get into legalities with common property laws. But, ultimately, if it's something he really wants, he can divorce you and spend his money on her anyway. If he wants to spend time on her that doesn't include you, you don't get a say in that. You don't get a say in how he spends his time that isn't with you. You *do* get request an amount of time that would make you happy, but it's up to him to decide what he has to cut out in order to make that time for you. You also get to request what kind of time he gives you (i.e. if you want some fun date time mixed in with the household duties, etc.), and then the negotiation between the two of you can begin. But he will spend whatever time on her that he wants to spend, and if he doesn't have enough time left over between his girlfriend and his job and his friends and his hobbies to suit you, then the only thing you have any real control over is whether to accept the time he gives you or to leave.
Now, in a caring, healthy relationship, he won't be a dick about it and he'll try to work with you to give you enough of his resources to keep the relationship flourishing. But the bottom line is that, regardless of how caring and loving he is, his resources (his body, his time, his emotions, his intimacy, his money with certain legal exceptions) are his to allocate and his relationship with his girlfriend belongs to the two of them and you get no say in it. If you've chosen wisely and married a caring, considerate man, then he will take your feelings into consideration and try to make decisions regarding his resources and his other relationship(s) that don't tax you too much, but that's not the question. If I were talking to him, I'd be advising him on how to treat *you* compassionately and considerately as he begins new relationships, but I'm not addressing him right now, I'm addressing hypothetical you. And your question is, do you get a say? The answer is no, you don't.
I'm tired of mincing words, which is why I'm vaguebooking instead of addressing anyone directly, because this response would not be well-received as written and I'm out of patience for addressing this question constructively because I've seen this question for the last 18 years and I'm tired of it. At some point we all need to just take a deep breath, be an adult about it, and jump. We do not get a say in our partners' other relationships - romantic, familial, friendship, or work-related. We can advise and we can indicate consequences if their other relationships *directly
* negatively impact our relationship. That's it. Those relationships are not our relationships and we do not have any right to hold power over them. The people in those relationships will do as they will anyway. If they want to be considerate towards us, then a rule making them considerate is unnecessary. If they don't, then a rule won't stop them.
I think the entire poly community would fare much better if they all had the horrible opportunity to experience what it feels like to pull a veto and have their partner just blink at them and say "no". It hurts. But it's like ripping off a bandage. I think that some people will not be able to accept that vetoes and hierarchy and other methods of control are illusions until they experience first-hand that it doesn't matter how much you love someone or they love you, it doesn't matter what rules you set in place in the beginning, that Game Changers happen and there is nothing we can do or say to make someone do what we want when they no longer want to do what we want them to do.
Much like spoiled, entitled children, it would probably do the entire community a world of good to have someone tell them "no" once in a while. I get that it's borne out of fear, but the only way past fear is to face it. The world still turns, the seasons still change, and we continue to march towards the inevitable heat death of the universe. There is much we can't control, so we need to give up trying to control that which we can't, and focus on that which we can.
Atlanta Poly Weekend 2015 is coming up soon! Make sure to get there early, because Sterling and I are giving our Breaking Up workshop first thing Friday afternoon and you don't want to miss it! We've added new content for how the metamours can handle a breakup. Last year, we received rave reviews, including the comment:
"If More Than Two is the General Theory of Don't Be A Dick, then your breakup workshop is the Special Theory of Don't Be A Dick!"
We give practical advice for how to handle a breakup with compassion and grace even in the face of an uncooperative ex, and how to deal with your partners' breakups as the metamour. Given how common breakups are, we believe that we need to shuck the notion that discussing breakups isn't "romantic", and instead, we need to develop relationship skills that will help us to handle the inevitable.
Our culture tells us that we should find our One True Love the first time we try dating and that the relationship will last until we both die. Statistics suggest that this is FAR from true. So, as a culture, we need to take the blinders off and put on the big boy pants and learn how to deal with a situation that we are almost guaranteed to go through at least once in our lives.
Come to our panel at 1 PM on Friday to learn how!
On Saturday at 5:30 pm, come and hear me talk about Polyamory & Skepticism - What's Love Got To Do With It? I'll be revising an updated version of my keynote speech on the intersection between skepticism and polyamory, and why they are so important to go together.
And finally, a brand new, hands-on workshop (yes, you can just observe) just for APW 2015 - Using Lead & Follow Techniques To Improve Your Relationship Communication!
Right before the Masquerade, come hear Sterling and me show you how to apply the partner dance techniques of Lead & Follow to your romantic relationships to improve your relationship communication. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO KNOW HOW TO DANCE! Seriously, you can totally have 2 left feet and still get some important tips for your relationship! We will not be teaching how to dance at this workshop.
Lead & Follow are dance terms for who gives the signals in a dance and who receives the signals in a dance. They are not dance steps and they are not specific to any style of dancing. You do not need a partner to participate in this workshop and you do not need any dance experience or even any interest in dancing. This is a communication workshop that applies certain skills from partner dancing to relationships.
We will tackle issues like consent, invitations, acceptance and rejections, non-verbal signals, trust, and more. This is a fun and interactive workshop that will take place conveniently right before the Mardi Gras party, the Drag Show, and the big Masquerade ball! We'll have a few exercises and play some fun music, plus a couple of dance demonstrations with some fun and sexy dances! We'll get you up and moving and ready to party the rest of Saturday night!
Everyone is welcome - extroverts, introverts, dancers, non-dancers, singles, couples, any relationship configuration and any relationship style, and even lurkers! If "interactive" isn't your thing, you can still come in and observe, take notes, and practice at home using our helpful handout. In fact, the tips we teach in this workshop are intended to be continuously practiced, so *everyone* can take what they learn here and bring it back home with them to keep improving their relationship communication!
You won't want to miss this!
If you can't attend Atlanta Poly Weekend, then share this post to spread the word to those who can!
#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 https://sites.google.com/site/polymediaassociation/trainingpresentations
*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.
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.
"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".
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.
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.
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:
How To Have A Happy Relationship: http://tacit.livejournal.com/280915.html
* 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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...
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.