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.
Jesus fuck people, get this through your goddamn tiny little minds. Men still can't use the motherfucking women's room in Target. The women's room is still just for women. Some women just happen to have penises and they're sick of being beaten to death for using the bloody men's room.
YOUR DAUGHTERS ARE NOT IN DANGER FROM TRANS WOMEN. They're in danger of being assaulted if they don't look sufficiently "feminine" enough according to someone's arbitrary standards of femininity. They're in danger of men who never needed to stroll into a women's bathroom to assault them. They're in danger of law enforcement and friends and family policing their fucking bathrooms in fear of some mythical man waiting to assault them but who don't believe them when they talk about the times they were actually assaulted.
They're in danger of athletes and students assaulting them right out in public with an audience at college parties in full view of cell phone cameras. They're in danger of dying in childbirth now that abortions are illegal again, and hard to obtain even where they're still technically legal. They're in danger of being trapped for years in abusive relationships because there aren't enough resources to help them escape.
Where was all your goddamn outrage on behalf of the safety of women when Cosby or R. Kelly or Woody Allen or Roman Polanski or Josh Duggar or all the athletes and "good students" with "promising futures" or uber drivers assaulted women and young girls? I couldn't see it behind your protestations of "innocent until proven guilty" and admonishments that if women didn't want to get raped they shouldn't wear the wrong thing or look the wrong way or go basically anywhere (but of course, if they do those things, they'll just get yelled at for not being attractive or available *enough*). I couldn't find your outrage on our behalf when we talk about the real threat and you told us that you "never see it" therefore it couldn't be as bad as we say, or that "not all men" therefore we should just "relax" and stop painting "all men" with the same brush. Ironic, now that you think "men" are allowed in women's bathrooms you say that "men" are going to start following women into said bathrooms in droves to assault them. Which is it, are men a danger to women or "not all men"?
Stop using my safety to fuel your faux outrage. You didn't give a shit about my safety until it conveniently lined up with your own personal disgust and confusion over other people's genitals not matching the dress code assigned to them. I do not give you permission to use me to justify your unhealthy obsession of other people's bodies. What the fuck is wrong with you that you are so fucking interested in everyone's genitals?
If you're actually that concerned for my safety, then fucking listen to me when I tell you what makes me feel unsafe - transportation drivers who don't go through background checks; bigots walking around with assault rifles; young white men walking alone into a school or theater; fraternities; my primary source of health care closing all over the country; white cismen on the internet; the economy; drunk men in nightclubs; other drivers; angry ex-boyfriends; chivalry; overprotective men trying to control my environment "for my own good". These are the things that make me unsafe.
I'm more at risk of catching some kind of illness from bacteria in a public restroom than I am of being assaulted by a "man in a dress".
I know this is a complex concept to grasp, requiring a Ph.D level of education and all, but I'm gonna try to explain it in simple terms anyway: It is possible to give a shit about more than one political or social or civil rights issue at a time, even if one is speaking about only one issue at the moment.
It is possible to care about the militarization of our local law enforcement AND people dying of famine in other countries.
It is possible to care about refugees from war-torn nations AND our own veterans not getting adequate post-war care.
It is possible to care about black people being murdered for petty or no crimes AND about the safety of our police officers on the job.
It is possible to care about the harassment, assault, and rape of non-men in our culture and how our politicians enforce and legitimize it with their completely fallacious laws AND about aggressive nations grandstanding and waving their dicks at us or other countries.
It's possible to care about the words and pictures written on government objects like money and buildings AND about our children's education.
It is possible to care about celebrities - who they're marrying, what they're wearing, which ones are dying - AND about the economy.
It is possible to care about street harassment in the US AND genital mutilation / acid attacks / women being stoned to death in other countries.
It is possible to care about and invest in the latest movies / sporting events / books / TV shows to come out AND about cancer.
If you are tempted to tell people that they should stop caring about something they do care about because you think that it's both frivolous and interfering with their ability to care about something you think is important, I'm gonna throw your advice right back at you and tell you to stop wasting your time complaining about what other people care about and get off your ass and actually DO something about those issues YOU think are so important because being concerned with other people's interests is, apparently, interfering with your own ability to care about the important things.
While you're busy whining on social media about how people aren't paying attention to whatever pet issue has your ire up, what you're NOT doing is raising money for that issue, or writing to your elected officials about that issue, or getting a science degree to solve that issue, or putting your life on the line to fix that issue.
By all means, post about the issues you think are important to get people to pay attention to them. Be upset about your issues not getting enough attention. Just don't mistake other people's interest in something that you *don't* care about as an inability to care about other things. It could be that YOU are the one lacking in the information or education or perspective to understand why THEIR topic is also important.
I have a problem with Relationship Anarchy. I'll preface this by clarifying that it's not a problem with RAs themselves, or even the basic philosophy. My problem is that everything that defines RA are the reasons why I got into polyamory in the first place and it irritates me that so many of us feel the need to create a separate space for it.
When I got into polyamory in the late '90s, I was told about this new thing called "polyamory". I was told about it because I was trying to explain to a date why I could never be his "girlfriend". I was trying to explain how I needed the freedom to explore relationships as they happened, organically, and to take them where the relationship itself wanted to go naturally. I reiterated my standard bit about non-traditional gender roles and how I absolutely could not play "the girl" in a relationship and that was non-negotiable. I said that I had some platonic friends who meant more to me and were a part of my life longer and more significantly than any romantic relationship I had ever had. I talked about how difficult it was for me to label various people because they don't quite fit the existing labels since some "friends" were sexual and some weren't, and some romantic partners weren't sexual and some sexual partners were lower priority than some non-sexual relationships, etc. I mentioned that I was very independent and not terribly a fan of cohabiting and was definitely not interested in marriage or having kids. I said all these things to "let him down gently" so that he wouldn't expect a monoheteronormative relationships out of me (although I didn't know that word back then). He said "I know what your problem is - you're polyamorous!"
So I looked it up. Everywhere I looked, hideous Geocities websites and forums with infantile UIs all said the same thing - freedom, independence, naturally occurring relationships, fluidity in relationships, valuing different kinds of relationships for what they are instead of forcing them to all look the same - everything I was looking for and everything that, years later, people started calling "relationship anarchy".
Except the labels thing. I differ from many RAs on the importance of labels. And back then, the poly community was as divided on labels as it is now with one side coming up with all kinds of useful (and some not so useful) terms faster than we could adopt them and the other side eschewing "all labels" because they couldn't be "penned in". I think it's naive to take the position "I don't use labels" because we clearly use labels all the time. This entire sentence is made up of labels. I labeled that string of symbols and grouped them together into an identifiable set and called it a thing that everyone reading this can understand even if they all have a slightly different understanding of what that thing actually means. It's called "language" and it's how we communicate. Labels are important for a variety of reasons, but that's a whole other rant and I don't want to digress here (or in my comments) about it. Point is, I do use labels descriptively, I am emphatically anti-prescriptive labels, and I've been having this same argument about labels with the poly folk since I joined the communities back in the last century.
So, the reason why I have a problem with RA is because, based on my introduction to polyamory back when it was still fairly new, polyamory IS relationship anarchy. My experience with the community says that this whole couple privilege thing, this whole closed triad thing, this whole relationship escalator thing, this whole ranking of relationships based on the categories and usually involving the type of sexuality involved, this whole valuing the Primary above all others - my experience says all that was added to polyamory after the fact and that those people came into what I had started to feel was "my space" and started fucking things up for the rest of us. Maybe, technically, it wasn't "added" after the fact, because it depends on which specific local community one got involved with back in the beginning, but based on my introduction, those couple-based concepts as *defining* poly elements came later. Back when I joined, people may have held those concepts but polyamory itself was much looser, much simpler - it just meant "many loves" and required being ethical about it. That's it. That left a lot of room for a variety of expressions of polyamory and it didn't automatically associate the term "poly" with all that other bullshit that is essentially mainstream monogamy with "permission to cheat" or as essentially religious polygamy minus the religion (or, rather, substituting one patriarchal religion for a goddess-worshiping religion which is technically not patriarchal but I could argue is still misogynistic because it's still objectifying, but that's yet another digression that I don't want to get into here).
I have a problem with RA because I feel like we already HAD a community for exactly that, but couples with their hierarchies invaded, took it over, and pushed everyone else who is like me out. Not that there wasn't room in polyamory for a variety of ways to practice it - back then we did have terms for the spectrum with "family-oriented" at one end and "free agent" at the other. So I'm not even saying that polyamory must be a term to describe exactly what I'm doing and no one else who is doing similar but not the same gets to use the label. There was room for most of us in the community, back then. I'm saying that the couples with their fucking rules and fucking fears and fucking disrespect and fucking disempowerment got so numerous and so loud that they tainted the community to the point that people on the other end of the spectrum felt that it was better to just break off and create their own communities rather than stick around and improve the existing community - a possibly futile exercise.
Not everyone left, of course. Some of them identify as both RA and poly and are trying to drag these couples out of the toxic, abusive programming they've had from mainstream society and into the whole reason why we all came looking for something like polyamory in the first place. And some of us are sticking around and not identifying as RA (even though one could say that I technically am RA, I just don't use it as an identifying label) because we still believe that this is what polyamory *is* and we're still trying to keep those couples from destroying our cultural history altogether by being the only ones left (history is written by the victors, as they say).
So Relationship Anarchy bugs me, not because of the people who choose the label or because of the definition of that label, but because the label reminds me every time I see it that we already HAD a space carved out for us but people with their toxic bullshit came in and filled it with their abusive practices and self-defenses so much that many "free agent" type veterans left in disgust and new people see only These Couples when they look at the community and if they're not like Those Couples, they decide that this community isn't for them so they wander off to find something that fits better.
RA bugs me because I am resentful of what people have done to the poly community that I first joined which resulted in the sorts of people I came here to find splintering off to form, basically, the same community that we started out with only without attracting Those Couples because it costs too much to deal with their insistence of trying something fundamentally in opposition to mainstream society while using all the same mainstream tools.
It kinda reminds me of the A+ community when socially conscious atheists split off from the atheism movement community because of the racist, misogynistic, trans- and homophobic assholes making it a toxic waste dump, only the RAs were more successful in carving out their own niche whereas SJW atheists are still trying to find the right way (i.e. comfortable fit) to label and organize themselves. Also, the RA symbol of a heart and an A in place of the infinity reminds me of the poly atheist symbol, which is the infinity-heart with an A - not sure which came first, but I saw the poly atheist symbol first so that's what I associate with an A in a heart.
So, I have a problem with Relationship Anarchy, but it's not the relationship anarchists - it's the people who drove them to feel that they needed some other community in the first place because the community we had doesn't provide a safe enough space for them and their ideals. So, really, I have a problem with the poly community and I just want it to be better so that RA isn't a necessary thing.
*I am committed to limiting my actions and words which have the intent or goal of harming my partners, although I acknowledge that some decisions I may make for the benefit of myself or my relationships may result in hurt as a consequence, unintentional or not.
This one is complicated and may require its own post as well. This one took the most number of rewrites to get to a point where I felt it was close enough. The original wording was about harm reduction and a promise to avoid deliberately causing harm to my partners. That sounds pretty good - promising to not hurt someone I love, right? But, as usual, Shelly brought to my attention a different perspective.
"Of course I’ll hurt you. Of course you’ll hurt me. Of course we will hurt each other. But this is the very condition of existence. To become spring, means accepting the risk of winter. To become presence, means accepting the risk of absence." ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
You see, Shelly and I had a very difficult experience together. It wasn't the same experience, and I rather think that she got the worst of it by a long shot. I also don't think we quite realized that we were in the experience together. In fact, we started out the experience at odds with each other. I first wrote this commitment to do with avoiding hurt. But conversation with Shelly changed my perspective. Our experience had taught us both, but it really reinforced in her particularly, that sometimes the only available options to us will lead directly to hurting our loved ones. Sometimes, for our own safety, we may have to do something that will cause hurt, and we will have to do it knowing that it will cause hurt because the alternative is to further hurt ourselves.
I balked at this perspective. I had a previous relationship with someone who routinely did things that hurt me because he placed a higher value on meeting his own desires than on choosing to abstain in order to refrain from causing hurt. I hated the feeling that my partner was more invested in experiencing something that he wanted to experience than he was in considering how much pain his experience would cause me. I considered it a fundamentally selfish point of view. But my shared experience with Shelly taught me the darker, evil twin of this point of view. It's possible to use someone's desire to avoid causing you pain as a form of emotional blackmail to prevent them from doing what is necessary for their own emotional or physical health.
Shelly resisted my original wording because she found herself in a terrible position. She found herself in the position of needing to make a choice for her own safety that she knew would cause pain to someone she loved. I slowly came to connect with Shelly's position because I had a partner who looked at my decision to do something for my own good that would result in his pain and responded "how could you hurt me, you evil monster?!" I hesitate to say "cause him pain" because, in my case, much of what hurt him wasn't directly aimed at him. What I needed to do for me were things that were about me and had no direct effect on him, only indirect, but that he twisted into somehow being all about him. Even things that I hadn't actually done but just contemplated doing, the very act of considering them hurt him. I had the potential opportunity to have a sexual experience once that I believed was unlikely but still possible that I really felt was something I needed to experience for my own emotional gratification and my own self-identity. It's a long story why I felt this one experience was so important, but it was. Maybe I'll tell that story sometime. I recognized that it would be discomforting for him and I acknowledged that I would be uncomfortable if our positions were reversed. So, just discussing the situation hypothetically, I tried to show him that I was on his side (see the relevant point [prior]) by acknowledging his concern and being willing to compromise in order to assuage his concern.
For many people, when we have concerns about our loved ones, we just want to be heard. Many times, all we need is for our loved ones to acknowledge that they hear us, really hear us, and we feel better. We feel like a team. But not in this case. In this case, being willing to say "I hear your concerns, I think they are valid, I've already considered your feelings and agree that the likely reaction would be totally appropriate and I accept that reaction as a consequence for my choice" didn't result in relief at being heard and a willingness to bend with me towards a compromise. Instead, what he heard was "yep, I know this will destroy you because I've already thought about it and I'm going to do it anyway with full forethought because I don't care if it hurts you." Instead, my acknowledgement of his concerns was to make my position even worse because I couldn't even use ignorance as an excuse for hurting him. In his mind, what I had proposed to do was now deliberately stab him in the back with intention and malice. Remember, this was all about something that was only hypothetical at the time and, I thought, pretty unlikely although there was a non-zero chance it could happen. I was just discussing the possibility because, as my point [prior] states, I wanted to address it before it became too big to handle. I felt that addressing it before there was any emotional investment in the outcome would result in a more rational, easy-to-tackle decision. I wanted to work it out when I didn't have the possibility hanging over me and the pull of a missed opportunity influencing my position. But even this became a deliberate attack on him.
But I really didn't want to rewrite this commitment in such a way that acknowledging the fact that we would inevitably cause our loved ones harm would leave the door open for the opposite to happen - that which I experienced with the other ex who seemed to blithely go about doing things without concern for how they affected me simply because he wanted to do them. I didn't want to leave room for a partner to read my list of commitments, then go off and do something hurtful, knowingly hurtful, and come back and say "well you gave yourself an out to hurting me like this, so I'm only doing what you want to do to me!"
So I'm trying to limit the ways in which I hurt my loved ones. I want to limit those ways to only unintentional harm, accidental harm, but my experience with Shelly and my observations of her experience with that situation forces me to leave myself a back door where I might have to hurt someone and do so knowingly, for my own health and for the good of the relationship itself. To leave that door open, I have specified that actions with the goal or intention of causing harm are to be avoided when possible. I don't want to hurt my loved ones, but if my intention is for some greater good or need, and harm is the consequence and not the intent, then even if I am aware of the potential to harm, I believe this serves the conflicting goals of needing to do for myself what is necessary and still not trampling over my loved ones on a selfish ride of personal desires. I need to somehow simultaneously prioritize my right to do things that I need to do, being considerate and compassionate towards my partners and how my actions affect them, and not demonizing myself whether I am able to foresee the consequences or am unable to see the consequences. And I need to do it in a way that a partner reading this can't rules-lawyer his way into excusing or justifying his disregard for me. I feel that this wording is the closest I have come to achieving all those conflicting goals.www.theinnbetween.net/polycommitments.html
"If you’re ever going to date a guy who treats you like someone worthy of respect, though, you’re going to have to set about the unpleasant job of alienating the men who don’t." ~ Priscilla Pine (Make A Man Uncomfortable Today - Brooklyn Magazine)
This was from an article that I'm not linking to only because my comments are probably going to be longer than the article and I didn't feel there was much *practical
* advice in the article to share, but this line was really important.
The point of the article was how women who date men need to unlearn all our social programming that tells us to make others comfortable at the expense of our own needs and happiness in relationships and in life. We have to start deliberately doing things to make men more uncomfortable.
Pine defines "uncomfortable" as not violating boundaries, making anyone feel unsafe or threatened, etc. She calls on us to not let people get away with ignoring the impact that their dismissal of us has. In other words, make sure that people who are raised in a culture to feel entitled and privileged start feeling cognitive dissonance when they act on that entitlement and privilege.
It is not your job sit at home and wait patiently and pleasantly for someone who has had something "come up" *again
* without expressing your irritation about being stood up for the 68th time. I try to make space in my relationships for each person to be able to have feelings of disappointment while not infringing on the other's autonomy by making them *responsible
* for that feeling because that can work against us too.
See, in our patriarchal culture (whether you as an individual experience this or not is irrelevant, because I'm speaking of cultural trends now), a man is expected to have this full and busy life while a woman is expected to bend herself around him. He's working late at the office? No problem, she'll just put the roast in the oven to warm and somehow not let it dry out by the time he stumbles home at midnight, ready to eat, and use that time constructively to get other household projects done, pleasantly supporting his job at the expense of her neglect and not feeling any icky feelings about it, ever.
But if a *woman
* has to work late at the office? Regularly? Why, she's neglecting her husband and children! She has her priorities screwed up! So, on the one hand, some people are taught that it is not OK to feel their feelings because that might make the other person uncomfortable (because then he would have to face the fact that he is dismissing the importance of her time / effort / whatever by doing the thing that makes her feel the feeling). But on the other hand, those people are also taught that when the other person has their own feelings, it means that they are *responsible
* for having caused those feelings because they are a Bad Person and they should stop whatever they're doing for themselves to make the other person not have those bad feelings. In both situations, it's the same person who is expected to do the changing and the catering.
So, when I say I make space to have feelings while not making the other person "responsible", I mean that I have to have room in my relationships to feel disappointed if my partner cancels a date, for example. I'm allowed to feel that disappointment without having to squash it in order to now comfort *him
* for his feelings of guilt that my disappointment is triggering. He SHOULD feel guilty about canceling a date with me! That sucks.
But that also doesn't mean that he is necessarily a Bad Person for having something come up as things do. He needs to be aware that his actions have consequences, but it's my responsibility to do something about my feelings. I have to define the threshold, define the boundary, between what is an acceptable amount of "sometimes shit happens and we both make accommodations for each other" vs. "he is not prioritizing me as much as I would like" and I have to decide what is done about that. That is my responsibility, but he also has to know when I'm feeling uncared for so that he can also make decisions about his behaviour that affect me. When this is accomplished between two people who are negotiating and relating in good faith with each other, we have a healthy relationship, even if that relationship doesn't ultimately "work out" or it ends due to conflicting priorities.
The problem is that, for people for who that social programming really took hold and they don't know how to "lean in" to the discomfort they cause other people, or they internalized the messages and making people uncomfortable makes them feel bad themselves, it's not easy to see where those boundaries should be drawn. There is a tendency to draw them too close in, meaning that their partners can avoid the cognitive dissonance too often and therefore not have any motivation to learn or change; or that the boundaries are drawn so far out that they feel isolated and alone because they deliberately keep people "at arms length".
I delight in making people feel uncomfortable. I'm like a kid who sees a giant red button with a label "Don't Push" - when I hear about someone's "buttons", the first thing I do is push on them. tacit
does this too, which is one of the things that attracted me to him in the first place. But I do so with a purpose. What will pushing on that button accomplish? Is it a button for trauma and pushing on it will only cause someone pain? Or is it a button for unrecognized privilege or unspoken assumptions that they will be challenged to face?
One of my favorite stories that I've told several times is the Pegging Story - I was the crew chief this day and most of the crew did not know me (and was mostly men). As usually happens backstage, we start joking and talking about sex, and as usually happens when there are women in this industry, we started taking the conversation further than the guys would. They would have left it to a few raunchy jokes, but the women both topped the jokes and then started actually talking about "uncomfortable" sex stuff.
Eventually we got onto kink, and as usual, the crew were unfamiliar with that world and started asking me questions, which I answered. Eventually, one guy finally had enough cognitive dissonance which was forcing him to challenge his assumptions about what "kinds of people" explore kink and what kinky sex "meant" and he blurted out "I don't need any of that kinky shit! The most I'll do is anal!"
So I, recognizing the unspoken assumptions underlying his outburst (based on other things said and non-verbal signals that I've seen a hundred times before) about just who was expected to be on the receiving end and what anal sex "meant" about the person receiving it, quipped back "oh, you like anal sex? Great! I have a strapon in the car, let's go!"
He backed up, hands in the air, and stuttered "no, no, that's not what I meant!" So I said "well, you didn't specify," much to the amusement of the crew listening. I went on to point out that he shouldn't assume that the girl must necessarily be the one to take it up the ass, he brought up the "I'm not gay" thing so I got to point out that having a woman fuck him kinda by definition doesn't mean he's gay, etc.
He didn't find any allies in the crew because of the humor I used to make him the butt of the joke when he tried to turn it on me to make me look deviant and because of the work I had just done in explaining stuff. He thought, as men who try this shit with me so often do, that making me look "perverted" would get everyone else on "his side" so that he could hide behind his assumptions once more and validate himself at my expense. Instead, I made him look foolish, but I didn't badger or bully him for not being kinky, I only teased him so that his intolerance was the butt of the jokes, which made *him* look small instead of allowing him to force *me* into being smaller than I am for his comfort.
That conversation made him uncomfortable. He was uncomfortable because he was challenged to examine his biases.
Within the context of romantic partnerships, I'm going to assume that the two people actively like each other and desire the other person's happiness, at least abstractly. I realize that's a big assumption, because I've been in relationships myself where that's not true. But I'm going to make that assumption here anyway.
For these relationships, if he genuinely likes her (again, using gendered pronouns because of the patriarchal programming that makes this pervasive and endemic, although this can apply to any relationship) and wants to see her happy, then it is in his best interest to be made uncomfortable in this context. He can't be expected to know how to contribute to her happiness if she swallows herself and makes herself small for him. He doesn't even know her when she does that. He can't see who she is, so he can't reasonably be expected to treat her the way she needs to be treated in order to be happy in a relationship.
**This should be obvious, but I'll say it anyway - if someone is stuck in an abusive relationship and leaving is not an option at this time, then clearly the victim should do what they feel they need to survive. Maybe that means making yourself small so that you don't make him uncomfortable by your presence. Maybe that means he doesn't know who you are, really, because he doesn't want to. I am not qualified to address how people in these situations should get out of them or how to apply healthy boundaries with people who are not operating on good faith with each other.**
It is not in his best interests for her to not draw healthy boundaries. It doesn't help him be a better person and it doesn't help him love her. But drawing those boundaries, making people aware of when they fuck shit up and don't treat people well, makes people uncomfortable and that will likely narrow the dating pool. You might find yourself alone for a while. You might find yourself having to reject a lot of people, or being rejected a lot for being "too harsh" or "too bitchy" or "too needy" or too whatever, or even not "compassionate enough" or not "caring enough" or not "gentle enough" or not "ladylike" or not whatever.
Trust me, I've been on a lot of first dates that had no second date. I've had a lot of conversations with guys that go "before I go out with you, you should probably see my OKC profile and read my FB page for a while to make sure that I'm really the person you're interested in" and then never had a followup conversation where they said "I did all that and you're even more awesome!" Most of the time, people I send to those pages just fade away. They might continue to flirt with me when they see me in person (that's a coworker thing - a product of my industry), but no more specific invitations to dinner.
Yes, making people uncomfortable will tend to filter out a lot of people. It will alienate people who don't respect your boundaries or your values. But that's how you clear the path for those who do to find you and for you to recognize them among the otherwise vast sea of humanity. Your pool will be smaller. Your pool will likely be more long distance (thanks to the internet, but at least it will be possible with the internet).
But your choices are to be alone for a while until you find your tribe who gets you and respects you, or to be alone even while in relationships because those people won't respect you or even know you. I decided long ago that my value is worth the respect of my partners and not a farthing less.
I had a partner once who, when I found out that their pattern of both he and his wife only dating women was partially instigated by his discomfort with having his wife date a man and not fully because she was really more into women than men, I got really upset with him and pointed out the inherent sexism. I went through the usual objections, including the idea of ownership over his wife's body, etc., but right now I want to focus on his reaction to the proposal that the reason why he wasn't bothered by his wife having female lovers but was regarding male lovers is because he, fundamentally, believed that "lesbian sex / women's relationships don't count".
It basically boiled down to "I can't compete with other women and they can't compete with me because we have different parts, so I'm not threatened by them because they offer her something she can't get from a relationship with me, but another man can give her the same thing that I can, therefore she might leave me if she has access to another man" with the further assumption that said other man would necessarily be "better" in some way to facilitate the threat that she would leave if she only had the chance to know some other man.
This idea equates people with their genitals. A) No one can "give her the same thing [you] can" because NO ONE ELSE IS YOU. B) Since your relationship is not purely sexual, a woman can also give her the "same" things that you do, which are good sex, companionship, understanding, support, love, fun times, arguments, and everything else that makes up your relationship in addition to inserting your penis into her vagina. C) Women can also insert penises into vaginas - either the ones that are part of their own bodies or the ones bought in the store.
Since this argument is literally condensing all of human romantic / sexual interaction to which body parts people can mash together, it requires an unspoken assumption that mashing two particular set of body parts together is more important than mashing any other set of body parts together because mashing those other body parts together (or, y'know, any other part about relating to each other) couldn't possibly compare to or threaten the act of mashing that one set of body parts together.
BY DEFINITION, being afraid that someone else's vagina coming into contact with someone else's penis might make that vagina-haver discard everything about your relationship that makes it special and break up with you, but not being afraid of someone else's vagina coming into contact with literally any other body part from some other person will do the same thing is erasing the validity and legitimacy of relationships between women (going with the position of those who defend this policy of equating vagina-having with "women").
I also want to address the idea of using rules with what's called "sunset clauses" - a specific time limit for when the rule will end. This is a legitimate use of rules to work through specific issues and I have used them myself. However, I remain suspicious of them as "rules" - limitations that one person imposes on (or asks nicely of) another person(s) with regards to how they interact with other people to mitigate one's own issues, again, primarily because of this same former partner.
He and his wife also used the excuse of sunset clauses to justify rules, and they used these as "evidence" that they were both "getting better" and experiencing "personal growth". What would happen is that he would have a bad reaction to the idea of his wife doing a thing with a guy, the wife would hold off on doing that thing until the husband felt better, then when he could deal, he allowed her to do the thing. Their position was that, since the wife was building an ever-growing list of specific activities that she could do with men, clearly the husband was "getting better". I thought that sounded like it too.
I was wrong.
Yes, the wife was able to check off additional specific sexual activities over time that she was able to engage in, but neither of them ever got out of the mindset that *he
* had a right to control access to *her
* body or that sexual relationships with other men was somehow inherently more "threatening" than sexual relationships with women. There was never any actual personal growth happening, just a desensitization of specific sexual activities and positions. That is not "working on it" and it is not "getting better". It's basically just moving the goalposts while defending the same basic premise.
There is a time for when people have such a strong emotional reaction to something that the first thing they can focus on is just desensitization. I've used this tactic myself. But the point of desensitizing myself to an idea is to "numb" the emotional reaction enough that I can see through it to the root issue, and then actually do work on the root issue itself, so that I won't *need
* to continuously desensitize myself to something that, ultimately, has nothing to do with me in the first place (i.e. my partner's other relationships).
But too many people stop at the desensitization process and think that, now that they're "numb" to this one thing, problem solved! Then that exact same issue gets triggered by a totally different thing, and they think "well, last time this desensitization made it more bearable, let's do that again!" It's the emotional equivalent, to borrow the pill analogy from the article, of taking shit loads of ibuprofen for my endometriosis. Every month, I'm wracked with pain and forced to spend a day or two in the fetal position, so I take ibuprofen to numb the pain enough to barely function. That is not a solution! A solution would be to attack the endo at the root cause so that I don't have to rely on copious amounts of drugs that may ultimately damage my liver from chronic use ever again!
Unfortunately, our medical industry is also misogynistic and has not put any effort into solving the root cause of endo, so millions of women are stuck desensitizing ourselves just to make it to work every month or ripping out a part of our internal organs which may or may not fix the problem anyway.
So don't let your cultural misogynistic programming work like our cultural misogynistic medical industry - we should not accept as sufficient the mere desensitization of emotional issues or hacking out deep parts of ourselves just to function. Focus on solving the actual problem of not seeing queer relationships as equally legitimate to hetero ones so that you don't need that mental ibuprofen anymore.
Once again for the kids in the back:
* Content & Trigger Warnings aren't laws to prevent people from saying things or ways for college students to get out of being exposed to "controversial" things, they're labels like movie ratings or food labels letting people know what to expect so that those who experienced trauma can properly prepare for the fact that they're about to experience something that is likely to trigger an actual psychological condition resulting from said trauma and to have what amounts to after-care ready and waiting for them at the end.
College students are still responsible for knowing the material and no one is seriously saying otherwise, but war veterans and assault victims are asking for a little advanced notice before wading into literature or history texts that discuss the sorts of trauma they experienced so that they don't disassociate or otherwise have "an episode" in the middle of class, which, btw, can interrupt the learning of the other students too.
If you ever posted anything about taking care of our vets before refugees or burger flippers or starving people in Africa, but get angry at the idea of TWs in colleges, then you're a hypocrite because the G.I. Bill sends a lot of vets to college after their service, many of whom would benefit from TWs in classrooms, especially if they're not getting the adequate medical and psychological care that "take care of our vets" posts are referencing.
* Free Speech means that the government can't imprison you or do otherwise legal hindrances to prevent you or punish you from criticizing the government, not that any private establishment is required to host a platform for whatever fucked up shit you feel like saying. Even college campuses, which should be a bastion for the exchange of ideas, are not obligated to legitimize wacky, fringe, or *harmful* positions by providing them with space and an audience.
A college is totally within its rights, and is not being unreasonable if it refuses to host a speaker whose subjects include topics that demean, oppress, or incite violence upon its students and who would create or increase an atmosphere that is toxic to the well-being of its students or that is contrary to the values of the institution.
We do not need to host a "debate" to hear "all sides" and have a "free exchange of ideas" on the Flat Earth "Theory" on a college campus where its students pay inordinate amounts of money to get a good education, to be exposed to *worthwhile* ideas, and to be trained in future careers and who expect a certain minimum standard of information to achieve all of those goals, nor do we need to provide platforms to people who support bigotry, hatred, discrimination, or intolerance, or who are so ignorant as to not understand how their positions support bigotry, hatred, discrimination, and intolerance.
It's less about feeling "discomfort" and more about the standards of education that we are holding our vaunted institutions to and the amount of money we're paying for the experience and the amount of time we have to cram in as many valuable ideas as possible so don't waste our time and money with bullshit that does not increase the chances of achieving those aforementioned goals of learning new knowledge and career training or that actively distracts from our ability to do so. We come across those ideas in plenty of other places, like our coworkers, neighbors, family, and the internet. Our schools should be held to higher standards of information dissemination than "asshole uncle at Thanksgiving dinner".
A long time ago (in a personality far, far away), I used to hate physical affection. I couldn't stand it when my partners held my hand in public. I hated it when they put their arm around my shoulders. It really bugged me when they wanted to snuggle on the couch while watching movies. I even came to feel anxious about back rubs.
And then I read the book The Five Love Languages
by Dr. Gary Chapman (and I now offer a workshop
on this subject for poly and non-romantic relationships with all the gender role and religious elements removed *shameless plug*). I discovered something about myself that really cemented for me the importance of a communication tool like 5LL: I discovered that Physical Affection is actually one of my primary Love Languages and that's *why
* I had a strong aversion to PDA and other forms of touch. It'll make sense in a moment, I promise.
See, when you imbue extra meaning into something, and then people abuse that thing, it warps how you view that thing. I've written about my difficulty with accepting physical affection in the past, although I don't really feel like actually digging up those articles to link to right now, and how I misunderstood my discomfort with abuse of affection for a dislike of affection but that the reason why it bothered me so much is because of how important physical affection is to me. Now I'm starting to wonder if Gift Giving might have fallen into the same category.
I've never enjoyed the act of gift giving. I have pictures of myself as a kid eagerly opening and holding up holiday and birthday gifts, so at some point I clearly enjoyed at least the *idea
* of receiving gifts. But, for me, gift exchange has always been fraught with expectation, obligation, and dejection. My family, as loving and understanding as they tried to be, nevertheless held pretty rigid (if wider than many) gender role ideas. Every Christmas morning I would rip into my gifts hoping to find some Transformers or Legos or a chemistry set and instead I would get a pretty new skirt or durable jeans or, as I entered my teens, one of those generic "girl gift bags" of bath products and nail polish. My gifts didn't all suck of course, but gift exchange opportunities always ended with a pervasive sense of being let down because, not only did I not get the toys I really wanted, but I also got the sense that people didn't really see me. I came to rely on my wishlists to tell people what to give me so that I wouldn't feel let down and they wouldn't feel unappreciated. Every time someone says they strayed from the list, I feel a spike of anxiety because I expect, based on my history, that they're going to get me something "wrong" and I'll be stuck carting around something I don't really want or can't use because otherwise they'll get their feelings hurt if I get rid of it.
Later, I was given flowers by men when they fucked up, even after I told them that I don't like flowers as gifts because I don't know what to do with them - they die in a couple days, my cats try to eat them and get sick - and because gift flowers reinforced gender roles that I continuously struggled to overcome even within my own relationships with people who should have known better. My second fiance bought me engagement jewelry without consulting me and it was *awful
* (that should have been a huge red flag right there). Then I dropped below the poverty line and trying to navigate through people's hurt feelings when I didn't want to participate in gift exchanges just added onto the shit pile laced with landmines that was the whole gift exchange process. Gift exchanges just seemed so fucking materialistic (and I was also a tree-hugging hippie who snubbed materialism back then, before poverty taught me both the value and the power dynamic in materialism). Throw in some internalized misogyny that turned me into the Chill Girl who looked down on women who wanted gifts as evidence of "love", and you have a recipe pretty much designed to ruin the concept of gifts for me.
I hate gift exchanges.
But then I met one of my metamours. We had a lot of communication issues in the beginning. We just seemed to talk past each other a lot and there was a lot of managing feelings. But she and I stuck it out. One of our issues is that she really needs to feel *seen
* by people - understood - and she also wanted to feel considered. She had a lot of experience as the classic "secondary" whose primary metamours didn't really value her presence and made rules to restrict her relationships. So when she had the opportunity to be "the one who was here first" and have a metamour who wasn't her partner's "primary" and therefore felt she had more freedom to advocate for her needs, what she needed was for me to consider her. Now, from my perspective, I had no idea how to make her feel "considered", because when I "consider" someone, that's all in my head. How does someone else know that I'm "considering" them all the time? Texting wasn't a thing back then, let alone social media, and my cell phone was still charging by the minute, so regular contact was just not practical and not a skill I had developed anyway. How was she supposed to know I was doing a thing that was totally internal?
But then, I was out somewhere in a store (I have no idea where at this point), and I saw something that made me think of her. It was inexpensive, so I impulsively bought it for her and gave it to her some time later. I was not expecting her reaction. She was so effusive and happy over this little nothing gift! She said because it was a tangible reminder for her that I was thinking about her when she wasn't around. Suddenly, the whole gift thing clicked. Suddenly it made sense to me. It wasn't about money, it wasn't about obligation, it was about recognizing another human being for who they are, recognizing and appreciating their presence in your life, actively desiring their joy, and offering symbols of that recognition, appreciation, and enjoyment that will remind them of your recognition, appreciation, and enjoyment. Suddenly, gifts started making sense.
The trick, I've discovered, is in finding other people who can disentangle all that obligation and social programming. That's such a complicated process that I still prefer not to engage in gift exchange in general. But I've developed intimate relationships with some people who are similarly introspective and critical of social norms. We can say "no, you don't have to get me anything" and mean it. We can say "I love it!" and mean it. We can let go of attachment and give gifts without any obligation to reciprocate, or even to keep the gift, because we genuinely understand the gesture behind the act. And, it turns out, when all the bullshit is stripped away, gift giving turns out to Mean Something to me much in the same way that physical affection Means Something even when I thought I hated it.
I've had a handful of memorable gifts, and they all Mean Something. The first gift that I ever got that expressed everything I wanted and hated about gift giving was from a former partner of mine. I went on vacation for a week or something, and his car was out of commission at that time so I lent him my car while I wasn't using it. My car radio wasn't working and hadn't been for a while. When I came back from vacation, my car was washed, detailed, and his old car stereo had been installed to replace my broken one. He took his very nice factory radio out because it had a tape deck and replaced it with a CD player, and then installed that very nice factory radio in my car. I preferred tape decks because I still had cassette tapes, and I had one of those tape-to-audio-jack thingies and a skip-resistant jogging CD player for the very few CDs that I owned anyway. That the radio was technically "used" and didn't cost him anything was irrelevant. Actually, it wasn't "irrelevant", it was a good way to make my point that I didn't care about gifts for the financial investment but rather the consideration that went into the gift. He knew that I wanted a new radio and he knew what kind of radio I wanted specifically. He gave me that exact radio and put in the effort to install it himself. He also cleaned out my car, which I hated doing. That was a *meaningful
* gift that actively made my life better.
All of this musing is because, as I write this, I have a little figurine standing over me made out of melted tools and nuts and bolts to remind me that one partner recognizes my tomboy gender orientation and celebrates it, a practical little assistive tool that another partner had just received for himself and I expressed an interest in that I wasn't really expecting to get but found one awaiting me on my laptop 2 days later, and a giant candy bar that yet another partner made the effort to read through my writing and find is my favorite kind. These gifts came free of any obligation to reciprocate, didn't cost very much money, and represent being *seen
* and *heard
*. My partners are listening and accepting my experience of myself. My partners are listening to my expressed wishes and doing what they can to accommodate. My partners are taking the time to learn *who I am
* and showing it with symbols that they could only know if they were paying attention when I talk about who I am.
I also have some bits and bobs lying around for gifts for various people that I just haven't gotten around to giving to them yet. I still have the jewelry tools and extra materials sitting out from a necklace I made for my best friend because I saw the pendant in a store and thought of her, so I built a chain mail necklace around it and gave it to her on my trip out to see her. I have other pieces, some of which are complete in and of themselves and some are parts that I plan to use to make something else out of (like that necklace), for other people. I feel happy giving these gifts because they go to people who don't expect gifts from me (even on gift-giving holidays), but who feel recognized when I do give them gifts because they are spontaneous expressions of my love for them and my acknowledgement of who they are as people.
I've been telling people for years that I speak 4 of the 5 Love Languages pretty fluently and naturally, but the Gift Giving language was just not something I can quite grasp. However, the other day, surrounded by examples to the contrary, it occurred to me that maybe that 5th Love Language wasn't an aberration after all; that maybe, like with the Physical Affection language, I just had some bad programming that healthy and loving relationships helped to debug.
Sister: There are limited number of slots available for us to see my son graduate from boot camp. Why would she think she can go?
Mom: Well, she's his girlfriend.
Sister: Don't you think Joreth should take priority? She's family!
Mom: Well, yeah, of course!
Sister: Joreth, don't you want to go?
Me: Well, yeah, of course!
Sister: Then you wouldn't be willing to give up your spot for her, would you?
Me: Well, I can see why he would want her there, and his graduation is about him, not me.
Sister: But would you give up your spot?
Me: I dunno, maybe. I want to go, but I might be willing to give his girlfriend my spot because that's important to them. I just don't know.
Sister: Joreth, you're not on my team anymore.
Polyamory teaches me to be compassionate, to stop making things all about me, and to consider how important other people are to the ones I love. I may not be selfless enough, "enlightened" enough to actually give up my privilege, but I'm at least willing to consider it. And who knows, maybe I will.
I have 2 months to learn how to let go of my attachment. But I'm thinking of my nephew, and how this event is *his
* day, not mine, and how I would feel if I couldn't have my own partners with me for something important like a graduation ceremony, or how I would feel if the family of one of my partners deemed me not "family" enough to be included on an important ceremony for my partner.
One of the things I worked really hard to do is to only visit my parents when I had the money to issue ultimatums in favor of my chosen family. I accept my parents' financial assistance and hospitality, but if it ever becomes possible to bring a partner or more along with me and my parents try to use their hospitality as leverage to apply conditions - such as not allowing me to share a guest room with a partner - I only want to visit when I have the money to say "well, Partner(s) is coming with me so if that's inconvenient for you, we will get a hotel nearby," or whatever would be necessary to remove those conditions. The validation of my partners and metamours is important enough to me to make that stand. I wanted to go ballroom dancing with my best friend on a night I was staying with my parents. I asked to borrow a car to get there, they said no, so I said I would rent one because I will not allow them to use their better finances to determine *my
* choices. As soon as I said I would rent a car, they offered to loan me their extra car. It wasn't about the car, it was about who is entitled to my time.
I helped to raise my nephew. My sister was a teenage, single mother, so she lived at home for most of his life, where I was also still living until I moved to Florida. I was another parent through colic and a botched circumcision and many ear infections and learning to walk and learning to read and learning to swim. Not seeing him graduate if the military gives him enough family passes to include me would hurt. But attending wouldn't mean, to me, that those who didn't attend were somehow less important, not as much "family", as I am.
And I know that, even though he would love to have me there, he would *also* love to have his girlfriend there. As a poly person, I understand that wanting his girlfriend doesn't necessarily mean that he wants me there *less
*. I have a different role in his life than his girlfriend, so it's not fair to ask him to rank which one of us is more "important". We have different roles, and different *types
* of importance. I don't envy him the choice.
And he really won't be given the choice. He would never ask out loud for me to be passed over in favor of the girlfriend - his mother has trained him too well in her brand of etiquette, which is All Important
in my family. My sister, his mother, will retain the power of final say in who goes because that's how my family operates - parents have ownership rights over their children. This is one of the many lessons I have rejected from my family even while I've kept many other lessons that have served me well in poly relationships.
But I do know the pain of externally imposed limitations, and the impossible task of choosing who "deserves" to be present when not everyone can be, and the tug of war that my family creates when they rank family of origin above family of choice. My sister has even said that, if they somehow got more spots available, his best friend should be the one to go before the girlfriend. I think that my nephew is the only legitimate authority on who "should" go, particularly when choosing among his peers. I've written before about my family's penchant for not recognizing the legitimacy of romantic relationships without a legal tie. If the girlfriend was the wife, there would be no question that she would go and she would "outrank" me, the aunt.
Meanwhile, all this is going on while my nephew is currently traveling *on the way
* to boot camp. He has only been sworn in for a few hours and there is already a power struggle going on over his graduation two months from now, and two of the most important women in his life are fighting for dominance and validation. Which means that it might fall to me to put my poly money where my poly mouth is and cut through all the shit and remind everyone that none of this is about them - it's all about him and being there *for him
I already know that my sister and parents will not agree with me that this is something that is happening to my nephew. They are experiencing strong feelings, so of course it's about *them
*, right? They don't understand the difference between something being about the individual it's happening to and feeling *affected
* by something that's happening to that individual. Focusing on the thing happening to the individual doesn't mean that no one else is affected, or that being affected by it isn't also important. But, as a poly person, I've had to learn that there will *always
* be conflicts between an individual's agency and their experience vs. the feelings and effects on those around them. I've had to learn that it is ultimately disempowering and dismissing, and therefore unethical, to give more priority to the feelings of the "affected" than to the needs and experiences of the person actually going through it. It is up to the person feeling affected to own those feelings and find a way to work through them so that the person who is actually having the experience doesn't also have to shoulder the burden of emotional management of other people.
I'm just not yet sure that I'm emotionally big enough to walk the walk that I talk. I don't want to give up my privilege of attending. I hope I will be able to do the right thing when the time comes. I'm not entirely sure what the "right thing" is because there are so many variables and so many emotions. I hope I will do what's best for my nephew that will respect him as an adult and a person and that I can evaluate the situation well enough to know what that is.
Of course, there might not even be enough spots for me and this whole thing might be moot.
http://www.theestablishment.co/2016/03/17/you-dont-have-to-love-your-body/"I realized that most days I didn’t love my body—I didn’t anything my body."
A while ago, I was talking with a friend of mine about my ridiculously high self esteem. She pointed out that most people, including herself for a while, think that high self esteem is thinking that you're the shit - that you're awesome and wonderful and that you love yourself.
But that's not true. She said that she learned that high self esteem is about SEEING yourself, honestly and authentically, and accepting yourself as you are, flaws and all. And that's why I have high self esteem - not because I think I'm awesome, but because I know what all my flaws are and I accept myself. That's how I love other people too.
Whenever I make a complaint, or more likely an observation, about my body, people rush in to give me a compliment like they're trying to console me. I have pudge around my waistline that I'd like to get rid of - oh, you do not! You look great! Fine, but that's not what I said. I made an observable fact and expressed a goal that I could accomplish if I really wanted to. I didn't say I was *upset
* about the pudge around my waist, just that it existed.
My body gives me labor pains every month, and tendons so short that I can't touch my toes without bending my knees, and excruciating lower back pain and a chronic cough and occasional migraines and crooked teeth and crooked toes. Some days I really hate my body.
When I dance, or climb, or push road cases, I can feel every muscle in my body. I feel them stretch and flex. I'm aware of my limbs all the way down to the tips. I'm aware of each muscle group and how they interact with each other. I'm aware of my skeletal system and my circulatory system working in tandem. Some days I really love my body.
But most of the time, I don't anything my body unless it's actively telling me something. It's a tool to help me interact with the world. It does some things well and some things not so well. It just is. This is why I have such a problem with our whole cultural focus on gender - I don't really think about my gender at all except when it's brought to my attention (and that happens far more often than is relevant, as evidenced by my rants about it). I don't see myself as having a gender at all, except in certain contexts, which is why I have such trouble picking one. Even genderfluid and other ambivalent terms don't feel right to me because it still requires me to *be
* something, when, in my head, it's nothing until it's relevant. And then, when it's relevant, I have a gender, but not any other time."Nobody tells you that your only options for car ownership are to drive around ashamed that your car isn’t pretty enough, or spending all day talking about how great your car is because fuck the haters. And just like your car, you do own your body."
My body just is. It has good points and bad points, and I'm allowed to decide what those good points and bad points are because it's my body and only my opinion of it matters. I'm pleased that my lovers are pleased with my body, but ultimately it's my opinion that matters because it's my body, not theirs. I'm not fishing for compliments when I either complain about my body or show it off. I'm just experiencing it.
I talk a lot about how the language of abuse gets co-opted by abusers and how they create the narrative that they were the victim. I reference often the article by Shea Emma Fett
and the quote where they say that being victimized by one's control is different from being victimized by another's resistance to one's control. I give a lot of sample examples, with identifying features modified or removed, but they're always simplified or summarized for the sake of analogy or making a point.
I'm going to give a real world example of what it looks like when someone uses social justice language to build a narrative that they were the ones who were victimized when someone attempted to resist their control. So that you can see what it actually looks like and why someone could interpret that position sympathetically.
I was living in a room in a larger house where the owner of the house decided he didn't like me personally and wanted me to leave, but he refused to actually *tell
* me that, so he started messing with the climate control to my room which caused my terminally ill-but-then-stable cat to go into heat stroke and shock and she died shortly thereafter. When I discovered he was deliberately fucking with me / my cats in this way, I hurriedly tried to escape, seeking a new place to live and trying to move out "secretly" so that one day I would just be gone and he wouldn't know where I was or how to reach me. Naturally, I had confided in my then-partner all of my fears and concerns and worries about my cats and how this living situation was unfolding. I was also tweeting about it, and my then-partner obsessively read my tweets.
So, while I was trying to escape and while I felt that my cats were in danger of this person when I wasn't home and while I was trying to vacate without him knowing what stage of moving I was in, my then-boyfriend broke up with me when he insisted that I had agreed to allow him to mandate the speed and progression of any new relationships I had, and I insisted that I never made that agreement. Also, of importance to note, is my position on Dividing Property in a breakup. I have a THING about separating our stuff when I break up with someone. It actually kinda falls into my OCD because of how compulsive I am about keeping track of whose stuff is whose so that we can separate our stuff. I *do not* keep other people's things. I can't stress this point enough. I fucking mark my books, music, and DVDs even when I live alone just in case I might one day live with someone and have our things get mixed up and I will want a way to identify whose things are whose. I have one of those "diamond" pens that scratches into any surface so that I can mark my property, and I'm fucking poor with old, outdated shit that no one would steal unless they wanted to hurt me. I'm not exaggerating about how much this is A Thing for me. I made my fucking *fiance
* mark his books separately so that when he merged our Stephen King collections into one massive library, I could still tell them apart and when he emotionally abused me for months before I escaped, I made damn sure that he got all his books back, even though keeping his books would have made my nearly complete collection more than complete (which was a goal of mine at the time). I'm not exaggerating about how much this is A Thing for me.
So, my ex decided that I couldn't be trusted to return his spare toiletries that he kept at my house for overnight stays or his extraneous DVD burner that he told me I could keep for as long as I wanted because he had no use for it. He sent this house-owner into my room to retrieve his things. Yeah, you know that face you're making right now? That shocked "he did what?!" face? That's how everyone looks when I tell this story. But to this day, he does not see how this action is wrong. This violation into my personal space was the last straw for me in a series of him attempting to insert himself into my personal space (trying to control my other relationships & my emotions). I told him that I did not want him to contact me in any way without first giving me an apology for sending the house-owner into my room and assuming that I wouldn't return his shit. Nothing about our relationship or our breakup, just an apology for this one act. I felt (and still do) that he couldn't possibly begin to understand what went wrong in our relationship unless he could understand how this act was a violation and why it was a violation, and I wanted an apology that reflected this understanding. Without this understanding, I feel that there is nothing more to talk about because we are at an impasse.
He contacted me twice more over the next several months. One time was to express sympathy at the death of my cat, which I told him was not sufficient, I still expected an apology if he wanted to talk to me. So, for those keeping track, that's twice that I laid out the conditions under which I would consent to hear from him - an apology for sending someone I was trying to escape from into my personal space. The third time he contacted me was just to reach out. He felt that "life was too short" to remain angry with each other and we should start rebuilding our friendship. He did say that if he had known how upset I would get at the intrusion of the guy I was trying to escape into my room, he wouldn't have "taken him up on his offer". Since I happen to know that the two of them were not independent friends and did not have a correspondence with each other prior to our breakup (unless he had kept this hidden from me), this means that one of them had to contact the other *for the purpose
* of discussing our breakup and / or my vacating the house, so I call bullshit on that. But, notice that his concession was about how "upset" I was, not any sort of validation for being upset, not an understanding of *why
* I was upset, just that he didn't want to deal with my rage.
"No, it doesn't count. I want an apology that shows that you understand why what you did was wrong and expresses remorse for your behaviour, not a not-pology where you're just sorry I feel hurt without taking any responsibility for having hurt me and where you simultaneously try to defend your actions.
I don't know what's wrong with you that you can't see why I wouldn't feel violated by you sending in the asshole who tortured and killed my cat, for fuck's sake, while I was *in the middle* of trying to escape from him or deeply insulted by the accusation that you couldn't trust me to return your fucking spare hair dryer and extra drive that you weren't using and you said I could use as long as I needed because it was so extraneous to you.
I don't want to hear any more bullshit defense of 'he offered', any more 'I'm sorry you feel bad' not-pologies, or anything else about our relationship or breakup except a sincere apology for the final straw in what was the worst behaviour I have ever personally witnessed during a breakup. Not a single word of 'explanation' or defense. The only possible exception might be if you really don't understand and you sincerely want to understand why you were wrong but then it depends on how you ask for clarification and if I believe you are sincerely trying to make amends and not just trying to get me to spell out my argument so you can better argue your side. I don't want to hear your side and I don't care if you think I'm being unfair.
I've said at least twice now not to contact me without that apology or I'd block your methods of contact and I'm not going to repeat myself again."
So he contacted me a third time, just to get in another defense of how he wasn't really "wrong" and how I'm the villain here:
"I will not consent to a conversation that starts out with restrictions being placed on what I can and can not say. It's wrong of you to make such demands and ridiculous to think that I would accept such terms. Along with your having deleted my last message unread, it's clear that you're less interested in achieving understanding and finding the truth than you are in defending the narrative that you've spun for yourself about the circumstances surrounding our breakup. That's not setting personal boundaries. That's trying to dominate the conversation by threatening to take your ball and go home."
You see that? "I will not consent to a conversation with you". "you're not interested in finding the truth". "That's not setting boundaries, that's threatening to take your ball and go home."
"I will not consent" - that's co-opting the language of the victim. He doesn't *have
* to "consent" to any conversation with me because I'M TRYING TO GET HIM TO STOP FUCKING TALKING TO ME. I don't *want
* a conversation with him, I want him to go away. I left the door open a crack for future conversations by offering him an avenue to start a dialog with me (which, frankly, was more than he deserved), but I am not *asking
* to have any more conversations with him. I am demanding that he leave me the fuck alone, which he ignored 3 goddamn times. He's not so concerned with *my* refusal to consent to talk to him, but tell him he may talk to me under certain conditions and suddenly I'm violating his "consent" because he wants to talk to me without any conditions for what he can talk about. That's entitlement.
He considers himself a rational and a skeptic, as do I. The part about not being interested in "finding the truth" is a jab at that, because it assumes that he has some "truth" that I'm unwilling to acknowledge and I'm just being "emotional", compared to his so much more legitimate "reason" (and you SO don't want to get into the irony of that, considering the whole thing happened because he had an emotional reaction to me beginning a new relationship and I refused to modify my new relationship to suit his emotional state). It's yet another defense of his position, which I said I didn't want to hear. Entitlement - he thinks he has a "right" to be heard. As I told him when I first issued my no-contact boundary, I do not believe that we can even begin to get to the "truth" of our relationship until he understands what was wrong about sending the house-owner into my space. That entitlement into my space and the assumption that I am not capable of making rational decisions or choices that are in my best interest (whether they "hurt" him or not) without his guidance or intrusion is the WHOLE POINT of the conflict in the first place, and an example of his sexist-based abuse that he inflicted on other partners of his who are less resistant to this form of control. This is another point that the blogger Shea Emma Fett said in another piece about how misogyny informs certain types of abusive relationships. He had a pattern, that I had just discovered at that time, of not trusting his partners to make decisions about their lives and he needed to be a part of that decision-making process to ensure that they made decisions that he would approve of.
I know that this is hard for some people to understand, but I, and women in general, am capable of making decisions for myself that are in my best interest including when to not engage with someone anymore. The "truth" of the matter of our breakup is less relevant than the fact that he repeatedly intruded on my boundaries - my physical space of my room, my emotional state, my other relationships - and took personal offense and victim status when I rebelled against his intrusion. There's more to his "truth" claim, but that involves other people and other situations that I don't feel free to share. Suffice to say that I warned him of something that would come to pass if he didn't change his ways, he very condescendingly told me that I had no idea what I was talking about, and then the thing happened. But in this email, a few months later, he still maintains that I don't know what I'm talking about and I'm missing some "truth" about the course of events that I am willfully ignoring (which, of course, he must provide for me).
That bit about taking my ball and going home is just ... it's hard to know where to start with how off-base this is. This email exchange happened 10 months after *he
* broke up with *me
*. The whole reason why I wasn't speaking to him is because he LITERALLY took his shit and left, and I was pissed at him for doing that (or, rather, *how
* he did that). There is nothing left for me to "take" away from him and leave, except myself. And, that's exactly the point - he feels entitled to my attention, my "understanding", and I'm saying that he doesn't get those things, and he stomped his feet and threw a tantrum because I'm taking myself out of his reach.
Also, this phrase is often used as if taking one's toys and leaving are a bad thing. Two little kids are playing ball, one kid owns the ball and the other doesn't, and the kid with the ball gets pissed off at the kid who doesn't own the ball and takes his toy and leaves. We're supposed to feel sorry for the kid who doesn't have a ball to play with now and we're supposed to disapprove of the childish behaviour of the child taking his toy away, but, frankly, more people ought to feel empowered to pack up their shit and go when they're not having a good time anymore. The idea that we owe it to the other little kid to play with OUR toys is a toxic, abuse-apologist idea that needs to die.
This is *different
* from the idea that we should be teaching people empathy and compassion and sharing our privileges, which I suppose is what the analogy is supposed to teach. If we see a homeless person on the street, we should be more willing to share our financial bounty, and not take our cash out of his hands if he mumbles something that we don't like. But the only time I see this analogy actually used is when two adults have a conflict and one adult removes themselves and access to things they own from another. As they should.
Yes, I am taking my ball of my time and energy away from you, because I don't want to share my time or energy on you anymore, and I'm "going home" in the sense that I'm telling you to get the fuck out of my house and stop coming around here anymore, just like THE LAST TWO TIMES I SAID SO.
"I will not consent to a conversation with you" - good, strong, boundary setting and the c-word - consent! Ooh, Joreth is violating consent! Obviously she's the bad guy!
"You're not interested in the truth" - see? Emotional! One might say 'hysterical' even! Joreth isn't reasonable or rational! I'm being abused because she won't hear my side of the story!!
"You're taking your ball and going home" - infantilizing, condescending, paternalistic. Now now sweetheart, you're just not seeing the big picture! Let me tell you what reality really is. What do you mean, you don't want to hang on my every word? You're silencing me!!!
Fuck you and your theft of marginalized people, oppressed people, actual REAL victimized people. You are not victimized by resistance to your control. You are not entitled to anyone else's time, attention, emotions, patience, body, or even their subjective experiences. When someone tells you to go away, YOU ARE NOT VICTIMIZED by that. When someone tells you that you hurt them and they will not engage with you without an apology for what you did, YOU ARE NOT VICTIMIZED by that, even if you personally feel hurt by it. You can feel hurt, you can feel offended, you can feel dismissed, you can feel angry, you can feel misunderstood, you can even disagree about the circumstances, but you are not the victim when someone tells you to apologize or GTFO, particularly after you did something to hurt them. Stop throwing around terminology like "abuse", "victim", "consent", etc. It only devalues it for when we need to use it legitimately.
It's about time other people are making blog posts on this subject. I've been saying this for years (it's even the catch phrase for Miss Poly Manners
), and a handful of people have been saying it in online arguments for years, but there aren't very many articles, blog pieces - reference-able statements that take this position. Some try to be too conciliatory, as if they're afraid to alienate or piss off the people who are using this phrase as a silencing tactic.
We need more literature on this subject, particularly by names with larger audiences, and we, as a community, need to show a growing awareness and a harder stance against abusive tactics. These tactics masquerade as "reasonable", which is how they get entrenched; they co-opt well-meaning but misguided or simplistic philosophies because people who are trying to be well-meaning don't generally consider how they can be taken advantage of by those who aren't so well-meaning. We need to be uncovering them, revealing them for the manipulation that they are, and eradicating them from our lexicon, our philosophy, our communities.
"And for many people who do polyamory in a way that harms others “there’s no right way to do poly!” has become a useful tool to shut down conversation and deflect attention. As soon as someone says “There’s no right way to do poly,” the person confronting them has to defend their right to express their concerns. The conversation becomes about polyamory theory rather than whatever is concerning the person who spoke up.
This tactic can be used to shut down a secondary upset with the way their voice is being silenced, a mono partner who has agreed to try polyamory and is uncomfortable with the direct the relationship is going, other people in the local community calling out abuse or unethical behavior, and much more."
Abuse in polyamory is also a theoretical discussion, and this phrase is a useful tool to shut down conversation about that. When we talk about abuse in poly abstractly or generally, not speaking about a specific relationship, inevitably, someone comes along with "there's no right way to do poly" to justify gaslighting, manipulation, disrespecting of agency in the form of rules & hierarchy
, control, and unequal distributions of power, even racism and sexism and other -isms that find their way into interpersonal relationships.
We are too afraid to say "there are wrong ways to do this", and we need to get over that.
In this article
that was referenced in the previous link, Jessica Burde illustrates Shea Emma Fett
that being victimized by one's control is not the same thing as being victimized by one's resistance to your control.
"In dealing with abusive relationships, it is important to recognize that playing the victim can be an extremely useful tool for the abuser. A classic example of this in polyamory is when one person tries to control their partner’s relationships. When their partner objects to this attempted control, the abuser responds with, “There is no one true way to do polyamory—you are just trying to control me and force me to do polyamory your way because you don’t like rules.”"
I ran into this a bunch of times in my past, but my most recent brush was also my most obvious example. He was so good at manipulation that I couldn't tell that he was doing it to others. I was convinced that he was ... well, not a "victim" because he had built up such a comfortable little power dynamic that everyone within it enabled each other so it didn't look like anyone was a "victim" of anything, but I was convinced that he was not in the driver's seat when it came to who controlled the group. Ask me about poly-by-hostage rules sometime.
So when he employed those same tactics on a new partner and there was more turbulence than their little insulated, co-dependent group usually gave back to him, I, along with everyone else, assumed it was the new person's fault. The new person was the disruptive one, obvs, because things were running smoothly until they came along.
But the new person made large enough waves that the red flags finally started popping up in my field of vision. Not quite enough for me to have recognized it, but enough to have *primed
* me for when he finally had the opportunity to turn his tactics on me. It was only when he accused *me
* of victimizing him for resisting his control that I could finally connect the dots and see what he was doing to everyone else.
The kicker for me was when my life was falling apart by events totally out of my control - my landlord selling the house after my lease was up and not giving me enough notice to move out, the person who "rescued" me by offering me a room until I could find a new place to live torturing my cats while I was at work, a new partner who I was deeply in love with and deeply insecure about deciding to move away before the relationship had even gotten established, shit like that - when things were out of my control and I was flailing around trying to hold onto anything that wasn't sinking, he said to me "how could you do this to me?" It was in that moment that I finally realized that this was not a case of two people with different but valid styles of polyamory. This was a case of one person trying to control another, and the other resisting that control, and the one person then crying "victim!" when he didn't get his way.
Every argument we had where I tried to explain how his rules were hurting other people, he responded with "you're just trying to make me do polyamory YOUR way - this way works for us!" Yeah, in the way that any abusive situation "works" for the people in it - the one in control gets to stay in control and the one being victimized gets gaslighted into thinking that they're being abused for their own good. Every time I saw one member of his group try to reach outside the bounds, and he would freak out and try to reign them back in, every time I called him on it, he would yell at me that everyone in the group "agreed" to this manner of veto and group consensus and it "works for them" and that when I pointed out the pain it caused one of the other members to give up something in order to assuage his hurt feelings at things that had nothing to do with him, he would say that I was trying to "impose" MY way of polyamory onto him - that *I*
was victimizing *him
* and trying to force him into a style of polyamory that wasn't a good fit for them. There are lots of people who seem to think that "agreeing" to disempowerment is always acceptable, that their agreement makes it empowering. This is not a D/s arrangement we're talking about here, this is abuse. By definition, someone who is disempowered isn't *able
* to give informed consent - that's why we have statutory rape laws. We can coerce people to "agree" to all manner of things, it doesn't make their agreement "empowering" or right.
"You don't get to arbitrarily decide how to take new partners without my approval" - uh, yes I do. You have choices you can make based on how I decide to take on new partners, but those decisions aren't about you, they're about me. I do have full control over those decisions that affect me. This should be especially obvious when I'm poly, I'm out, and my policy of no-rules is widely known and published in my online writings, but technically, anyone has that right even if they're in a monogamous or otherwise restricted relationship. Betraying a promise is hurtful, and I don't condone any kind of action where one takes a romantic or sexual relationship without one's existing partner's knowledge and then intends to maintain the ruse that the new relationship doesn't or didn't exist, but they still have that *right
* of bodily autonomy. No one needs another's *approval
* for what you do with your own body, mind, or emotions because those things don't belong to them, you just need their non-coerced informed consent to engage in whatever kind of relationship with *you
* that you're asking them to engage in with you.
"You don't get to decide the terms of how I speak to you or what I'm allowed to say to you" (said to me when I told him he was not to contact me again unless it was to apologize for something) - uh, yes I do. Again, I have full control over decisions that affect me. I absolutely get to decide the terms of how you interact with me and you are not "victimized" when I resist your attempts to control me or your access to me. You are not a "victim" when I fall in love with someone new and our relationship moves at a speed and in a direction we didn't anticipate. You are not a "victim" when you violate my space and I refuse you access to me without an apology for it. You don't have to like my decisions, you can feel hurt by my decisions, but you are not *victimized
* by my decision to not interact with you or when I resist your attempts to direct what I do with my body, my mind, or my emotions.
Things that I do with my body, mind, or emotions are not things that I do TO YOU
. They can affect you (which is why I'm so adamant about building friendly, or at least civil, metamour relations), but they are not done TO YOU
. They are not about you. They are things that are happening to me. And you have no right to control those things or cry victimization when you don't like what happens to me. Manipulation, intimidation, and control are, in fact, the wrong ways to do polyamory.
So ... just FYI, it's possible to defend a person's right to say no while still acknowledging that their *reasons* for saying no stem from internalized cultural bigotry.
Like, they totally have that right to say no to sex with anyone at any time and for any reason. If I ever saw, say, a black person yell "you HAVE to have sex with me, otherwise you're racist!", I'd totally rip them a new one.
But it's also possible for a person to not want to have sex with a particular marginalized demographic (note: not an individual in that demographic, but the entire demographic) *because* the culture of bigotry that they grew up in affected their preferences and tastes as they developed into the adult sexual being that they are today.
Denying that we are products of our culture, that we don't develop in a vacuum, and that it's really difficult, if not impossible, to tease out exactly what parts of us are "nature" and what parts of us are "nurture" (save the false binary comments, I'm making a point here), are contributing factors to exactly that sort of cultural bigotry that usually ends up raising this exact issue.
Maybe if we could learn to accept that people are contradictions, that no one is a Good Person (TM) or a Bad Person (TM), and that we all do both good and harmful shit to people, maybe we could start admitting that bigotry influences us instead of defending ourselves as if our very integrity depended on never ever having a bad thought or bad motivation ever ever, like, ever, and then we could finally get on the road to moving past it.
Also, P.S. - "moving past it" doesn't mean "and now you have to start having sex with people you don't want to".
Here's a surprisingly effective gaslighting tactic that I find in poly groups that is less likely to be appropriate in monogamous pairings:
First, either find people who want desperately to belong to *a
* group or your group specifically, or build a group of people who learn to place belonging to that group as an important part of their identity or goals (i.e. make the relationship more important than the people in it; protect "the marriage" or "the family" at all costs, etc.).
Next, whenever someone does something that you don't like, get the rest of the group to side with you against the other person.
Finally, make the act of disagreement a hinge issue that can affect the other person's inclusion into the group, whether it is or isn't.
This places an additional burden on the person as an "outsider", as someone who could lose, not just this argument or this concession, but their place in the group entirely. Simply by having a disagreement, their position as a member of the group becomes threatened. It's not enough that they have a disagreement with someone they love or that the outcome of the disagreement may mean that they lose something (either the thing they're disagreeing about or the partner in the event of a breakup), but that the very nature of having that disagreement means they *have
* lost something - belongingness.
When the importance of belonging to the group is high enough, individuals will backpedal on the issue they disagree about. They will either make a concession for the "greater good" or they will "decide" that the issue isn't all that important anyway. It becomes more important to maintain group cohesion than it does to protect and maintain one's individuality.
Once one's own individuality is less important than the group, one's own needs and rights are less important. This is how you get people to subsume their identities in a relationship. This is how you can coerce a poly person into an abusive relationship even with "multiple sets of eyes" watching.
Riley: I'd like to start dating someone new.
Quinn: The group doesn't agree. Why would you hurt all of us like that? Don't you care about us? Doesn't all our history and our commitments mean anything to you?
Riley: I'm sorry, I won't date anyone new. It wasn't that big of a deal anyway, just an idea I was tossing around.
Jordan: So, things with Sam have been going pretty well lately. I think we could be taking things to the next level.
Alex: Wait a minute, what about us? Your time with us is already stretched thin. Can't you see how much this hurts Shannon? You made a promise to us to put us first. Between this and your school and your part-time job, you don't have enough time for everyone. Besides, what about safer sex? *We* don't feel comfortable with *you* taking on extra risk. That's not a choice that we would make for the group. You're endangering the people you care about. You need to break up with Sam right now.
Jordan: OK, you're right, I'm sorry, I didn't realize how much I was hurting you. I'll end things with Sam.
In both of these examples, the needs of the group were more important than the needs of the individual, and the otherwise good and wonderful quality of compassion within the individual was exploited to get them to give up something of themselves in favor of maintaining the group. Jordan's relationship with Sam wasn't anything done TO the group, but Jordan was convinced that the relationship was a direct, active action to harm the group. Riley hadn't even done anything yet but was convinced that what they wanted to do wasn't really what they wanted to do because Quinn re-framed the argument to be about what Riley once said they wanted before circumstances or feelings had changed (or to rephrase what Riley had once said to make it seem like Riley had said those things).
Both of these examples are things that I either personally witnessed (as in, I saw the arguments in question, I'm not just "believing" someone's personal retelling of a story that I wasn't there for) as an outside observer or was subjected to myself. Both of these examples represent more than one case. Both of these examples flew under my own radar for a while because I thought I knew what abuse would look like based on my own experience with abuse but I didn't. It took extreme scenarios before I could finally connect dots and see that coercion exists in the very foundations of certain poly community "principles" and "values" - namely those fear-based principles that got grandfathered into the poly community by people still carrying around their Monogamous Mindset.
I am *still
* a proponent of family-based polyamory. I still greatly prefer the network style of poly that includes close friendships with metamours and a balance of group cohesion with independence. But I rail against couple privilege and polyfi and unicorn hunting because those systems are set up from the beginning to undermine that balance. It is absolutely possible to be part of a close-knit poly group and to compensate for the pressures of the group on the individual. But the key here is that you have to *compensate
* for them because they are built into the foundations, between our cultural privileges and our own human tendencies towards tribalism, these are things we have to guard against.
But in poly forums, I see too much protection for these systems and not enough safeguards. This is how abuse runs rampant in our communities.
Here's a poly lesson I learned from my monogamous family:
My parents are of the zero-sum mindset. Time spent with loved ones either "doesn't count" or "counts less" when there are other people they don't consider "family" present. Legal spouses "count", so my aunt could visit when she was single and it would be "quality time", and she could visit with her husband when she got married and it was "quality time", but if she invited her boyfriend (who was the guy she eventually ended up marrying), it would have been rude.
Once someone is a legal spouse, he is immediately part of the family with no reservations. My parents are actually really good about that. They taught me that someone is family because an existing family member brought them into the family, and that new person is family no matter what. Even if my parents didn't like him, he's family because the person they love considers him family.
But this only applies to legal spouses.
They're not hostile or antagonistic towards non-spouse partners. All of my extended relatives' boyfriends and girlfriends were welcomed, and I believe my parents grew to love those partners who stuck around long enough to turn into spouses even prior to the actual wedding date. So I haven't yet figured out that magical moment when someone becomes "family" as opposed to just "someone family is dating". I only know that once it's legal, it's cemented.
My parents have been very good about welcoming my boyfriends too. There's an obvious difference between the polite welcome they gave to the boyfriends they didn't like and the warm welcome they gave to the boyfriends they did like, but they welcomed them nonetheless. However, if there was some kind of milestone special moment, my parents wanted it to be "just family". And a boyfriend wasn't "family", but a spouse was (although they have since learned to make an exception for the father of my sister's kid - they're not married but the kid is a toddler and he's an active parent and my sister loves him, so they've been forced to rearrange their mindset on this one).
My parents were uncomfortable with me having boyfriends over for opening presents on Christmas morning, or sharing Thanksgiving dinner, and they were most definitely *not
* happy about me doing those sorts of things with someone else's family instead of them.
And I have never been able to wrap my head around this. It has something to do with longevity, that much I can grasp. To my monogamous Christian parents, marriage was "for life" (even if they, personally, knew people who were divorced, like my dad's parents), so once they signed that paper, the spouse was now stuck with us "forever". But a non-spouse partner could be here today, gone tomorrow - you just never know. It's like my parents felt a degree of uncertainty without that legal document so strongly that I never felt and it affected our ability to see eye to eye on this subject. It's kind of like that one episode of How I Met Your Mother
where Lily gets pissed off at Ted for inviting a date to her birthday party and she brings out the photo album to show a lifetime of important family milestones with random women in the pictures who are not around anymore. She feels that her birthday party is diminished by the presence of this woman whose name she won't even need to remember the following year.
It's true that my past partners were only partners for a handful of years - a small portion of my lifetime. But some of them remained family even after the breakup, while even more of them at least remained friends, or friendly. Two of those past partners whom I still consider "family" are friends with me here on FB - on my "real identity" account, as opposed to my family-friendly feed which is a heavily censored version of me. Notice that my parents are on the censored feed and my previous partners are on the "real me" feed.
As a teen and young adult when I was still living near enough to my parents for this to matter, every time my parents "suggested" that perhaps I ought not to invite my boyfriend to something because it's "just for family", I was heartbroken. Every negation of that relationship was a slice with a sharp blade into my soul. This was all before giving up monogamy or learning the word "polyamory". This was just a monogamous partner about whom I was made to feel "didn't count". Our relationship wasn't "real" or "serious" because he wasn't part of the "family" yet, and he wasn't part of the family yet because our relationship wasn't "real" or "serious". I had platonic friends who my parents saw as "family" but not boyfriends. Literally - I had a friend who was abused by her father and my parents put in to foster her when we finally got her out of that situation. My parents were "parents" to several of my friends, but not the guys I loved enough to think at the time that I might spend the rest of my life with.
Fast-forward to my post-poly discovery, and I learned that there are some people who see their metamours the same way that my parents see the non-spouse partners of our family. I am already wounded and building up scar tissue from having my relationships dismissed, negated, overlooked, and now I find out that even in polyamory, where the very *premise
* of what we're doing is that we can love more than one, I can't escape this zero-sum mindset. That there are some people who, like my parents, think that time with me (or with their partners) would be lessened, tainted, or diminished simply because of the mere presence of another person - that other person, by the way, who the partner in question (me, in the example of my parents) happens to feel is very important to them.
It should be obvious, but I know from past internet arguments that it isn't, but I am not suggesting that alone-time with intimate people isn't important. I am not suggesting that it is *always
* appropriate to have another person present or that there aren't *any
* times when an intimate moment does, in fact, lose its intimacy because of the presence of someone else. I'm suggesting the opposite end of the spectrum - that there are people who consider any and *all
* time shared with a third (or more) person is *inherently
* diminished in some capacity.
My parents have already taught me the lesson that this idea damages the very relationship that the zero-sum person is trying to protect. Because my parents are resistant to "sharing" me with other people, I have, over the years, become more and more resistant to spending time with them even though I love them very much and consider my upbringing and my family to be good experiences in general. I want to spend time with all sorts of people who are important to me, and the people who make me choose are often the people who lose.
I almost kind of wish that poly people with zero-sum mindsets had the experience I had - that someone they loved refused to acknowledge the importance of a relationship they valued, so that they would know the pain and heartbreak and damage they cause to their relationships when they do it to them. I went *into
* polyamory already understanding how important it is to validate and welcome my metamours because I already knew how hurtful it was to claim a level of superiority or priority and to dismiss the value and importance that someone else might have to someone I love.
Contrary to those who defend their couple privilege, I don't have this viewpoint because I'm somehow more "evolved" or "enlightened" or even because I'm more experienced at poly. I do not cotton to the "training wheel" theory of polyamory. I do not believe that we have to do things "wrong" in order to learn how to do them "right". I believe it is possible to start out as a young, inexperienced person with baggage and cultural programming and still practice the "right" ways from the start. I was young and inexperienced, and I still started out right from the beginning validating and valuing my metamours.
It wasn't always easy and I also made some mistakes that sprang out of internalized couple privilege, but I still *started
* by practicing the skills that I hoped to one day "master", rather than practicing those bad habits that I would have to unlearn after some magical future moment when I was emotionally "mature" enough to do it "right" even though I had been practicing it "wrong" the whole time. I have yet to understand how anyone becomes an accomplished ice skater by practicing piano. If you want to learn how to be an ethical poly person and treat your partners and metamours with respect for their agency, you start out by practicing respect for their agency, not hamstringing their agency. If you want to learn how to trust someone, you start out by trusting them and seeing what they do with that gift of your trust. Nobody can "earn" trust if you don't give them any trust to prove that they're trustworthy.
Anyway, this lesson from my parents is particularly difficult for me because it's not consistent. That's not true, it actually is consistent if you look at it from the right angle. See, in my family, there are certain special milestones that are celebrated *as a family
*, not privately. Anniversaries, for example. My parents never had a *private
* anniversary celebration. Oh, I'm sure they did some "celebrating" in private, but I mean that they never went to an anniversary dinner without taking us kids (unless they got a babysitter prior to when my memories formed). Their big anniversaries were celebrated with as many family members as we could get to come. Anniversaries were group affairs, which is apparently a weird thing to some people and, if I think about it, I can see why. I mean, an anniversary is a celebration of a relationship between two people. So it kinda makes sense that two people might want to celebrate it privately between the two of them, since the *relationship
* is something private between the two of them.
So this is actually another pro-poly lesson I learned from my parents. To me, lots of events are open to the extended family. Most of my relationship anniversaries are open to my metamours to celebrate with us because that's how my parents saw their marriage. But it seems inconsistent with their stance on discouraging non-spouse partners to "important" moments. It seems inconsistent if I view my non-spouse partners as "family", though, because "family" is supposed to be welcome at these events and my parents weren't welcoming them even while they welcomed other family.
But it's not inconsistent when I factor in the fact that they *rank
* people. "Family" is welcome, but boyfriends are not "family" to my parents. I don't have the same ranking system for the people in my life. Is he important to you? OK then he's invited. But to people like my parents, it's not enough for someone just to be "important" to me (or my sister or my aunt or whoever). They have to be "legitimately important" - hence the automatic extension for spouses. So now we're back to bad poly lessons - or rather, lessons on the sorts of damage that bad relationship skills and personal insecurities can have on those and other relationships.
My monogamous parents support the "ranking" system that I see a lot of newbie polys support. Some people "count" more than others (and don't a single one of you derail the comments with talk about *priority
* - if you haven't figured out my stance on power vs. priority
by now, go away and read up on it elsewhere). In my very large and very involved extended but monogamous family-of-origin, I see a lot of parallels between them and my poly network. My parents and their kids were the nucleus of what was the "most important" to them in terms of priority, but cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, even great-aunts and great-uncles and second cousins and first cousins twice removed were all still *family
* to them, and priority was reassigned based on circumstance.
So, for example, my father is now retired. His incredibly elderly aunt has cancer, is a widow, and her only son is mentally handicapped to a point that he can't completely care for himself let alone her. So when she went in the hospital, my dad dropped everything and went down to stay with her. This was 2 months ago and he's still there. If we were to nitpick about "priority", his wife & kids would still have priority over his aunt, but the situation calls for a reassessment of priority and everyone in the family, my mom included, support my father in taking care of my great-aunt, even though my mom technically "loses" my father to my great-aunt.
They would love it if I could visit my great-aunt too. I may never see her again. She's old and has an aggressive form of cancer that has already been taken advantage of by an opportunistic pneumonia infection. If I could afford it, everyone would be thrilled to see me visit her for would would most likely be the last time.
But if I invited a boyfriend to visit with me ... I hardly know the woman, although I did spend a lot of time with her as a kid. She's my dad's aunt, not mine, and I haven't seen her in, what, almost two decades? But she out-ranks a boyfriend, according to my family. Somehow, having a boyfriend present would diminish the amount of quality in our time together. And that's something I just never understood.
Because to someone with a zero-sum mindset, people are ranked, and that rank is built-in to their position in the family, not the actual connection between the people in the family, and that ranking bleeds over onto nearby ranks. Like if you mix a paint color with white paint - the color is "lessened" because the white lightens it. Before you point out that the white is also made "more than" by the addition of the color or that neither is "lessened" or "improved" but rather everything is changed into something new, that doesn't matter, because the color outranks the white, and it's the color that matters to a zero-sum mindset.
So my monogamous parents taught me how important it is for the health of my relationships to value the other people in my friends and partners' lives because I know first-hand how much it hurts to have those other relationships devalued by people you admire and love and desire to have approval of.
They taught me that extended family is important even when different relationships have different priorities.
They taught me that someone becomes family because they are connected to someone who is family and it is not within my power to deny them that welcome because it is not my connection that makes them family or not.
And they taught me that there is very little about polyamory that doesn't apply outside of polyamory so that I don't need to wait until the Relationship Skills Fairy magically endows me with Emotional Maturity and Poly Experience to start treating people with the sort of consideration that I hope to one day actually be good at. Because, chances are, I already do have some kind of experience to draw on that I can apply right now, and I will get better at it with practice. So I don't need to disrespect my partners or my metamours while I'm waiting to somehow learn how to respect them by practicing disrespect.
I don't have time for a full book review, but if you liked 50 Shades of Grey
, then read The Training of Eileen
series. If you hated 50 Shades
because of its abuse romanticism but like female sub fantasy porn, read The Training of Eileen
series by William Vitelli (on Amazon
). It's literally the 50 Shades plot (rich man takes naive young woman to wife & trains her as his sex slave) without the, y'know, abuse. There are *so many
* books with this exact same plot and no abuse that exist, this is just one that I happened to come across that I enjoyed reading.BECAUSE THERE IS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN D/S AND ABUSE.
YES EVEN WITH THE SPANKING AND PUNISHMENTS AND SHAME THERE IS STILL A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN D/S AND ABUSE.
Throughout the series, we are given tantalizing hints and outright evidence that the sub *wants
* to be trained as a sex slave, she just doesn't know it yet. This is not the misogynistic fantasy that all women want their husbands to dominate them, this is a genuine interest in submission that a more experienced Dom recognizes and indulges because A) he wants to; and B) she wants him to and he wants to provide a safe place for her unrealized fantasies. It's that part B that makes it not abuse and not misogynistic.
There is no "you will be my sex slave because I am damaged and only damaged people like hitting their lovers." There is no "you will be my sex slave because I'm the man and I will stalk you into submission." There is no "I am rich therefore my coercion is charming and above the law." There is no "ooh, look, it's a belt, that's so kinky!" There is no fucking inner goddess doing back flips and hula dancing or subconsciousness whispering anything. And there is no "I'm a good girl who doesn't believe in all this kinky sex stuff but I love you so I will save you from yourself and your damage and make you see the value in vanilla sex" bullshit.
This is good ol' "I like hurting and humiliating and dominating people who like to be hurt and humiliated and dominated, and you like being hurt and humiliated and dominated, therefore I will hurt and humiliate and dominate you with actual kinky sex and toys and tools and evil ideas because we both like it" fantasy porn.Disclaimer
: this story is basically heterocentric, which is actually why I'm recommending it. 50 Shades was wildly popular because there is something in the fantasy of a young, innocent girl being dominated by a more experienced man that speaks to a lot of people. I want to provide an alternative to that series by offering a story that has, basically, the same plot to appeal to the same people who liked 50 Shades
, so that they can see the difference between a healthy D/s relationship *even under fantasy conditions
* vs. an abusive one.
I'm sure there are plenty of books with more diversity, more queer-focus, more all kinds of things that are worth promoting. Perhaps even more important to promote. But I'm making a very particular point with this promotion - that for all the millions of people who got something out of 50 Shades
, there's nothing wrong with you having that kind of fantasy, just that there are healthier ways to express it and here is one better way.
Most of the anti-50 Shades
reviews I read are from people who are not actually into kink, so they have to make a bunch of disclaimers about how "kink isn't bad, even though I don't get it". But when they're not into kink themselves, it makes it difficult to explain to similarly-new-to-kink readers why 50 Shades
is bad but they're totally not kink-shaming, no really, they're not, they just don't get it but their bestie who is a pro-Domme promises that there's a difference.
So I'm here to say, as someone who is definitely into some pretty disturbing kinky shit (although still pretty "vanilla" compared to my kinky friends), I really, truly am not kink-shaming and it really is OK to fantasize about D/s even when it's heterocentric male Dom / female sub and even when it's "she just doesn't know she likes being dominated yet but this handsome wealthy man will show her what she likes", but that 50 Shades
DOES NOT GET THIS FANTASY RIGHT. It romanticizes abuse, and there is a difference. Here is an example that is not abusive, and yet it's still fantasy (i.e. people never have bowel problems or headaches or weight issues or disabilities when it's inconvenient for the story) to indulge in. Porn does not have to be so realistic that it's a turn-off in order to be respectful. You can still have fantastic elements that wouldn't be appropriate in real life (as the defenders of 50 Shades
argue) and yet still not romanticize abuse or misogyny (the good girl will save the damaged man with her love myth).
I'm getting awfully good at recognizing people who don't value consent from tangentially related warning signs.
Almost every nightclub I go to (usually that has alcohol - can't say as I've ever been in a nightclub without alcohol, and this never happens in ballroom dance parties, with or without alcohol) has that one lady. She's always drunk, she's always dancing off-beat, and she walks around the edge of the dance floor gesturing to everyone to get them to join her on the floor.
This, by itself, irks me in a way that any individual person approaching me to ask *me* to dance does not. I am flattered and I appreciate individuals asking me, in particular, to dance, even when I don't want to dance with them. It's what happens after they ask me that determines my final reaction to their request. But this action of both hands out, palms up, waving literally everyone in the club to join her on the floor really irritates me for reasons I never bothered to unpack. So I never accept. Even when I'm *already dancing* on the floor, I do not join this person.
But most people do. They're at a nightclub. They're often there to dance. If they're not there to dance, they're back at the bar or at a table, away from the floor, so she can't really see them through her alcohol-induced fog anyway. So most people accept her invitation and go out to the floor, including people who would rather not, but who feel awkward about rejecting her. It's not such a big deal, right? They *are* there to dance, after all. She's just trying to be friendly, and she's a little drunk, so we can give her some leeway, yes?
No. This person is never able to tell where the boundaries are, and she always crosses them. Without fail, this person will come back to me at least once more, usually twice. The final time, she will actually physically put her hands on me and try to pull me out on the floor. The last time someone did that, I yelled over the music not to touch me and she asked why, so I told her that I was armed. She got offended at *me* for "escalating".
Don't fucking touch me without my permission. That is a consent violation. I don't care what gender you are, you do not have permission to touch me until I grant it. Now that we've convinced ourselves that women are these helpless, fragile, delicate little things, it makes it possible to excuse all kinds of violations and abuses because women, apparently, can't violate or abuse anyone. Now that we've convinced ourselves that there are such things as "blurred lines" and that "no means maybe", it makes it possible to excuse all kinds of violations and abuses because, apparently, no one can even tell where the boundaries are anymore (hint: it's before you touch anyone and before you say anything sexual or insulting to anyone and before you look at someone in a sexual way - i.e. while thinking of either sex or power over them - if you haven't received clear, verbal permission to do so).
These things make it possible for *actual* rapists and abusers to push boundaries. Of course not everyone is a rapist (although, judging by the number of people who gleefully admit to rape as long as you don't call it by the r-word, there are more of you out there than it seems), but our culture protects and hides them. It puts the onus on the victims to be "polite", so people accept small boundary violations because they're "not a big deal", the people don't want to "cause a scene", and no one wants to be a "party pooper" when someone is just "trying to have fun".
So, regular people accidentally cross boundaries here and there, because it's more rude for the person whose boundary was just crossed to police that boundary than it was for the person who accidentally crossed it. In that kind of environment, an actual rapist or abuser can "accidentally" cross a boundary to see how easy it is to cross that boundary with that person. They're testing to see what they can get away with. And when their victim is more concerned with being a "bitch" than with enforcing her boundaries, they "accidentally" cross another one.
Baby steps. Small violations. Each one seeming like not a "big deal", especially when the victim has the previous violation to compare it to. "Well, I let him do that, it would be rude not to let him get away with this too." Until suddenly the victim looks up and sees that the rapist or abuser is WAY behind enemy lines and has no idea how they got there or how to get them back on their own side of the fence.
A lady came 'round the dance floor, waving everyone to join her. I declined. Someone next to me responded, but did so with reservations. The lady came back to me a second time and I declined again. The other person, apparently, didn't join this lady to her satisfaction and she assaulted them, grabbing the back of their clothing and actually pulling a fastening off.
Fortunately, the other person was secure enough to reprimand the lady at this point and she wandered off, probably forgetting the whole thing in her alcoholic fugue. But I declined originally because I saw the warning signs and I was put off. As long as everyone acquiesced to her boundary violations, things were fine. She wasn't going to rape anyone, sex wasn't her goal. But she had a goal for what she wanted other people to do, and if anyone did not consent to her goal, she pressed for it. She isn't a Bad Guy, a black-hat villain, she is a product of her culture. Our culture told her that this sort of behaviour was acceptable. You could pooh-pooh her behaviour away because she was obviously drunk, but being drunk and then violating consent is still a part of our culture - still something that our culture teaches is acceptable. Our culture says that everything about this situation is No Big Deal. Which means that someone who really is a Big Deal has a place to hide as long as he makes his Deal a series of little deals first. This lady does not value consent because our culture told her consent is not valuable. And someone always ends up getting assaulted when one does not value consent.
I saw the warning signs. Sometimes I hate being right about people.
I was at a conference recently and one of the evening entertainments was an electroswing (swing jazz + electronica music) event that I didn't know about when I packed for the event. So I didn't have appropriate attire, including shoes.
I did, however, have The DanceSocks with me, which I threw in my suitcase as an afterthought. I packed both pair, my smooth floor socks and my carpet socks. And I'm so glad I did!
The room that the event was in did not have a dance floor set up, so it was just ballroom carpet. I threw my carpet socks on over my Converse sneakers and I was able to swing dance as if I had a new pair of sueded shoes on a smooth wood floor.
For $5 a pair, I highly recommend everyone get some who even kinda thinks they might want to start learning how to partner dance someday. They fit in most purses and in my thigh cargo pockets (which I was wearing the day of the event). They come in multiple colors and fit over almost any size shoe (my partner, Ben, got the pair I gave to him to fit over his hiking boot-type shoes & fairly large male feet).
They're good for any style of dancing, including partner dancing, hip hop, zumba, and many styles of aerobic workouts, where you might want to twist, pivot turn, or slide when your rubber soled shoes might grab the ground and prevent you from doing those things easily. But they don't make your shoes so slippery that it's like walking on ice. I walk normally in mine.
Consent means, when someone doesn't want you to do something to their body, you don't do it. No matter what.
That's it. That's all it means.
A slightly more sophisticated view of consent means that you have to assume, by default, that they don't want you to do that thing unless and until they tell you otherwise in a clear way. If they haven't used their words, and you live in fear of "buyer's remorse" because you don't understand this shit, then get a verbal consent before and during.
GUYS, THAT'S FUCKING IT.
This is preschool level stuff.
There's more advanced stuff dealing with consent of emotions and mind, but for fuck's sake, just start with the lesson that a 4-year old can grasp before y'all confuse them with your sense of entitlement. Just get this lesson down pat. I promise, consent really is this simple.
"But what if she's wearing..." NOPE
"But what if she promised..." NOPE
"But what if there's this vibe..." NOPE
"But what if she's on..." NOPE
"But what if I did ..." NOPE
"But what if I paid..." NOPE
"But what if ..." NOPE
No matter what. As soon as there is a "no", you don't have consent. If you haven't gotten some kind of clear "yes", assume it's a "no". If any of this is confusing or you can come up with "but what if...", then assume that anything other than a verbal "yes" is not a "clear yes" and get confirmation in addition to her "body language" or whatever bullshit you think you can "read" that says "yes" to you.
I can make up a flowchart cheat-sheet that will fit in your wallet to take with you every time you leave the house if this one 3-step rule is too hard to memorize.
I have a question and I need for everyone interested in answering it to assume that I am asking in good faith, not trolling.
Are there any articles that directly compare and contrast the difference between being gaslighted and someone who is *actually
* the horrible things that a gaslighter accuses the victim to be?
Let me expand a bit. OK, a lot.
I've had the misfortune to see a gaslighter work his black magic now in person, right in front of my eyes but on someone other than me, and I've seen the devastation it caused. I've seen it in a poly context, which, for some reason, actually made it harder for me to see at first - easier for the gaslighter to hide. I've been an outspoken critic of what I have eventually come to see as real abuse in the poly community and how our own community standards protect and privilege abusive relationship structures and behaviours. So, in no way do I want to counteract any of the work done to bring awareness and solutions to gaslighting.
But I'm reading a lot of articles on gaslighting lately, and it struck me that, if I switched perspectives in my head and read the article *as if I were
* the gaslighter himself (choosing a gendered pronoun because I am most familiar with male abusers and female victims, and I feel the need to use different pronouns to help keep the illustrations understandable), using the excuses and justifications he gave to make it look like he was the victim, if I took on that mindset for a moment, I couldn't tell from many of these articles who was whom. And a gaslighter or narcissist can find ammunition in these articles to continue their subjugation, and validation in these words.
So, for example, this one article lists several "tell-tale signs":1. Something is “off” about your friend, partner, … but you can’t quite explain or pinpoint what.
So, this gaslighting observation that I mentioned above, in the beginning, he had me (a close but outside observer) convinced at first that he was the real victim. He confided in me his perspective. I do believe that he really did believe the stories he was spinning to me. It wasn't until I talked to the victim alone and then confronted him about the victim's side, and then HEARD him say "no, they don't feel that way, here [victim], tell Joreth that you don't feel that way" and then the victim proceeded to confirm the gaslighter *even though
* I had just had an hour long conversation with them in tears about exactly how they felt. The victim told me that *I
* must have misunderstood or misheard their anguished cries, that it wasn't a big deal, that everything was worked out.
I KNOW WHAT I HEARD. The victim felt a particular way, the gaslighter insisted that they didn't, and then the victim's story changed to match the gaslighter's version.
My point is that I believe the gaslighter is that fucked in the head that he (and most of them) really does believe his (their) version of events. I don't believe that most gaslighters are deliberately plotting to undermine people like in the movie, but I know for a fact that undermining people is the effect that's happening. I was one of his confidants, so I heard what I really believe to be his honest and true view of himself and his motivations. I believe that I understand the view of himself that he holds, at least well enough to read an article from a gaslighter's perspective who doesn't think he is doing anything wrong.
So, when I read articles like this and I put myself in the mindset of that confidante for whom I was on his side before I knew better, I have a hard time telling from these articles that *he
* was the one who was doing the gaslighting. That's how he had me fooled for as long as I was.
He believed that something was "off" about his victim. They kept "changing their story". They weren't consistent. They saw things in strange, corner-turning ways that he didn't understand. I was constantly playing "interpreter" for them because he just didn't understand the victim.4. You feel threatened and on-edge, but you don’t know why.
As the blogger Shea Emma Fett
alluded to, abusers really do feel victimized, but they feel victimized by their victims' resistance to the abuser's control. When this gaslighter attempted to control his victim, and they resisted, the abuser felt personally threatened. I went out on a date once with a guy who I had a history with and I was interested in a future with, and my then-bf, when I told him all about it, accused me "HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO ME?!" Listen here, asshole, I did *nothing
* "to" you. This thing *happened
* to me. It may have affected you, but it wasn't done *to
* you and certainly not with malice. Nevertheless, he, and the abuser I'm talking about, felt threatened. This abuser was *constantly
* fighting with his victim, to the point that he started working as late as possible to avoid being at home where another fight might break out. He was on edge all the time. He didn't understand why this was happening or how to avoid it (because he didn't understand that it was his own doing and he didn't understand the victim's wants - namely the desire to not be abused). He would check off "yes" to this one too.6. You never quite feel “good enough” and try to live up to the expectations and demands of others, even if they are unreasonable or harm you in some way.
The motivation for this gaslighter's behaviour was a massive amount of fear and insecurity. Every time he felt his insecurity crop up and it prompted him to try to control other people to manage his fear, I stuck my nose in to tell him that he should do better. His victim also ineffectually tried to tell him that his attempts to control them was hurting them and he needed to do better. In my own arguments with him, he accused me of being unreasonable for insisting that his attempts to control his partners were harmful. He insisted that *my
* suggestions for not controlling people were actually harmful *to him
* somehow. We argued in circles and I never got a clear explanation for how other men (even men that he didn't like) seeing naked pictures of his wife harmed *him
* (for example), but he clearly believed that it did.
Remember that ex above? He honestly believed that my date, and what we did on our date, with my new prospective partner was something done *to
* him, and that it harmed him in some way, even though he wasn't on that date and he was told about the date both before and afterwards, prior to my seeing that ex in person again so that he could make informed decisions about how to relate to me in the future (and no, I didn't have wild, unprotected, fluid-exchanged sex with some random stranger and come home with an STD or something, which is usually what people point to when they want to defend the position that it's reasonable to be upset about what one partner does outside of a given relationship or to control, or even request, a specific set of behaviour for outside a given relationship).
I insist that a no-rules, boundaries-based relationship is the better relationship standard, and the gaslighter believed that my standards are too high, are unreasonable, and harm him in some way. He's not the only one who thinks that either. I have been told, verbatim, that not everyone is as "evolved" as I am when it comes to relationship and emotional maturity. I call bullshit on the "evolved" part. As far as I'm concerned, respect for agency is the bare minimum. I get that it's not always *easy
*, but it's also not some advanced, high level concept set aside for, I dunno, monks who have reached enlightenment or Clears who have spent millions of dollars to the Church or whatever. Learning to respect other people's agency is something that children are capable of learning, and it's a lifetime of societal reinforcement that causes us to unlearn it (if we learned it in the first place) by instilling a sense of entitlement to other people's bodies, emotions, and minds. When fear has a hold of you, respecting other people's agency may be challenging, but challenging is not the same as "harmful". But because it can be challenging, someone who is an abuser or who is gaslighting someone can indeed believe that the standards their victim might suggest are "too high" and are "harming him". Personal growth is uncomfortable, especially when you resist it. That doesn't make it, necessarily, "harmful", but it can feel that way, so a gaslighter could see this "tell-tale sign" as evidence for his narrative too.7. You feel like there’s something fundamentally wrong with you, e.g. you’re neurotic or are “losing it.”
The gaslighter excused his efforts to control people away by claiming he had PTSD. I do not believe that self-diagnosis, I believe another one made by an actual diagnostician but that's not actually relevant right now. What is relevant is that the gaslighter *does
* believe that he suffers from PTSD and he does, indeed, exhibit several symptoms, including "checking out" (which, I'm told by reliable clinicians, are also symptoms of a handful of other mental illnesses including the diagnosis I believe is more likely to be the correct one). Every time he tried to control his victim and they pushed back, here's what would happen. The victim would insist on their reality, and the gaslighter would go glassy-eyed and catatonic, unable to interact with the world around him. *Until
*, that is, the victim recanted and accepted the gaslighter's reality. Then, suddenly, he would "wake up" and start interacting again. Later, though, he would use that as "evidence" that the victim was "inconsistent" and kept "changing their story" and therefore shouldn't be trusted to know what reality was.
But because he would get "triggered" by his victim's resistance, he would often come to me in distress over how he was "losing it" or that there was something wrong with him. PTSD and other mental illnesses are viewed as "something fundamentally wrong with you" or "neurotic" by society in general, so regardless of which mental illness he might have, he could legitimately think that "something is fundamentally wrong" and he would be "correct" about that. He felt that he was being hollowed out, that he couldn't function in daily life anymore as their arguments increased in frequency. He had trouble concentrating at work because he was always upset about their latest argument. He was stressed and frightened by obsessive thoughts of losing his victim. When I saw only his catatonia and the aftermath of their arguments, it was completely believable that he was the "victim". But that required keeping the victim feeling isolated in an "us against them" tribalism within the group, because as soon as I started talking to the victim themself, and seeing the arguments from the beginning, not just the effect of the argument on him, things looked very different.
My second fiance was a gaslighter. He was very young, though, and clumsy about it, and I'm way too self-confident for those kinds of tactics to work for very long on me. He did things like this too, only he wasn't nearly as believable about it. Whenever we got into an argument, if it looked like I was going to win (or that he was going to lose, since the argument was usually about whether or not he could have sex with me or I could go out in public without him), he would get "sick" somehow. He got "the flu" twice a week on the nights of my ballroom dance class. He got an upset stomach on laundry night if I wanted to do it at my parents' house instead of his parents' house. He got another one of his upset stomachs on the night of a friend's bachelorette party when I told him it was "no guys allowed".
One time, he even "knocked himself unconscious" on a low-hanging pipe in the carport when we walked from the car to the house during an argument. He managed to somehow hit himself in the head hard enough to lose consciousness completely without actually making any sound of impact and while moving at the rate of a slow lumber. I've had someone swing a metal pipe at me with the intention of hurting me and hit me on the head and I didn't go fully passed out. Head injuries don't work like they do in the movies. And when I left his ass lying on the concrete, he also somehow managed to get "robbed" in broad daylight while lying unconscious (that one was the last straw and I called his bluff hard enough that he admitted his lie). His various maladies and misfortunes were intended to distract me from the argument and trigger my compassion so that I would forget why I was mad at him and run to him to take care of him. Fortunately for me, I'm not the "maternal" type and my reaction was to give the benefit of the doubt the first time or two, but then to become contemptuous of an adult who couldn't care for himself. Contempt is the number one relationship killer, and unconsciously developing that emotion as a response to abusive tactics has probably saved my life on multiple occasions.
So, once I saw this gaslighter's tactic from the other side, I recognized it from my own abusive ex-fiance. He would get "sick" and I would have to stop arguing to care for him, because if I kept being mad at him while he was sick, then *I
* was the monster with no compassion. Fortunately for me, I'm not terribly bothered by people I'm mad at thinking that I'm not compassionate because *I
* know better, and that's what matters to me. But this gaslighter was taking legitimate mental health issues and preying on his victim's concern over harming others and their fear of being seen as not compassionate. Again, I believe that he really believes his side of things. I don't think he actually deliberately calculated how to fake PTSD in order to win an argument (whereas I do believe my ex-fiance faked his unconsciousness - which happened more than once - although his upset stomachs were probably a real reaction to anxiety). I believe that he really was "checking out" because I believe there is really something very wrong with him. But it was always just so *convenient
* that it ended as soon as the victim recanted, and then that recanting was used later to further undermine the victim's position and even their standing in the community. If the victim stood their ground, they were "driving" the gaslighter to a mental breakdown, but if the victim backed down, they were unreliable and couldn't be trusted. Either way, the victim was the "monster" who kept "harming" their abuser.
But from the gaslighter's perspective, since these episodes came more and more frequently as the relationship spiraled faster and faster towards its demise, he felt that he was "losing it" and becoming more and more unhinged. And he was becoming unhinged. He was a total wreck of a person by the end. But he was still a gaslighter, and I do not believe the victim was doing it *to
* the gaslighter. I believe it is a consequence of the sort of person the gaslighter is who had to face the sort of person that the victim was.8. You feel like you’re constantly overreacting or are too sensitive.9. You feel isolated, hopeless, misunderstood and depressed.
This is really just more of an extension of the last one. The relationship was spiraling out of control because the victim was doing more and more resisting of the gaslighter's attempts to control them and their own breakdown as a result of the gaslighting working, and that led to daily fights that consumed their every waking moment and also took over the atmosphere of the rest of the immediate community whenever either of them was present. When you feel like your life is going out of control, regardless of why or how, it's not unexpected to feel isolated, hopeless, misunderstood, or depressed, especially if someone is trying to tell you that your behaviour is out of line. When he wanted to control his victim, I told him that he was essentially overreacting. I told him that he needed to dial it back and let his victim (who I had not yet begun to think of as "the victim") have their agency and do their thing. I told him, more or less, that his feelings of fear and the need to control them were too much, out of sync with the reality of the situation, and that the solution was for him to get over his issues, not control the victim's behaviour. In essence, it could be argued that he saw my words as telling him that he was "overreacting or are too sensitive". So, from his perspective, these are a big "yes" also.11. You feel scared and as though “something is terribly wrong,” but you don’t know what or why.
Again, I believe that he believes his own narrative. This gaslighter felt that his life was spinning out of control and he didn't know how to wrestle control back. Every day was fraught with arguments and intense fear. More and more people were becoming unhappy by the splash zone of this one relationship. Life began to look chaotic and turbulent. Not only was this relationship a source of pain and fear, but because the two of them were constantly fighting, all his other relationships started to suffer and he started to fear that he was about to lose his other relationships as well. Then, not a month after he told me that I was the one stable thing in his life, we had our own blow-out that he apparently couldn't anticipate. Everything was "terribly wrong", but because the truth was his gaslighting and he didn't recognize it, he didn't know why everything was "terribly wrong" or how to fix it.12. You find it hard to make decisions.
With his catatonic episodes happening more and more frequently, and the arguments happening constantly, he started to revert to a more child-like mental state. He had trouble making decisions because his brain was just freezing up from all the chaos. He was never good at making decisions anyway, preferring others to take the lead on things, which is actually one of the reasons why it took me so long to figure out that he was controlling the people around him to manage his insecurities. It's hard to believe someone is a manipulator when they appear to be such a follower. But because he felt that his life was out of control and that he was losing his own grip on reality, making decisions became more difficult than usual.13. You feel as though you’re a much weaker version of yourself, and you were much more strong and confident in the past.
This was something he actually told me, more or less. He was so distraught by everything that was happening, that he felt like he was becoming "hollow", which is sort of like saying he is a "weaker version of [himself]". I have absolutely no doubt that he felt like he was losing his mind. His life wasn't looking the way he wanted it to look and the way he had always controlled his life in the past wasn't working with this partner. This partner was resisting his control, and he felt so entitled to controlling them to keep his own mental issues manageable that their resistance to his control was threatening and made him feel harmed. Having those feelings, and the extent to which this whole relationship was disrupting everyone's life, it doesn't matter that he was the one abusing the victim, those feelings still feel real and still affect how one sees oneself and their place in the world.14. You feel guilty for not feeling happy like you used to.
This gaslighter was *known
* for his exuberance for life. In the dictionary, next to the word "happy", you'd see his picture. I've known a bunch of people like that - in fact, it seems to be one of the elements of "my type". tacit
is one of those people for whom "happy" is an integral characteristic too. But, obviously, this gaslighter was not happy all the time during this period. He was stressed and anxious and depressed and angry and sad all the time. For someone whose very *identity
* includes "happy", not being happy can make one feel like one is not oneself anymore. And for some of those people, if part of their identity rests on their ability to be happy and for others to see them as happy, particularly if their happiness makes other people happy and their sadness makes other people sad for them, no longer feeling happy can feel like a personal failure.
So, this gaslighter failing to control his victim, causing them to be miserable, which causes them to challenge the relationship and the attempts to control, which makes the *gaslighter
* unhappy, this can lead to a sense of guilt for not maintaining this happiness in the face of all this loss and misery even though the gaslighter is the one causing the chain reaction in the first place. Since this sort of gaslighter doesn't realize that he's the one setting the spark, he has a difficult time recognizing that his unhappiness is something he can fix because it's something he caused. Or, he might suspect or know (possibly subconsciously) that it's something he caused (even if he believes he caused it but have the wrong ideas on *how
* he caused it), and so feel guilt for knowing that he did it all to himself.
So, this whole long exposition is to explain that I am looking for sources to help explain why, when a gaslighter feels these things, it's *not
* a sign that they are a victim or being gaslighted by their actual victims. When a person is gaslighted, they start to believe that they are an abusive monster who is doing terrible things to their abuser, but an abuser actually *is
* doing all those things. I could write a similar checklist of "how to know you're being abusive" and read it through the perspective of a gaslight victim and that victim could conceivably reach the conclusion that they are, indeed, an abusive monster because of the lens that each is viewing the world through. I know there's a difference, I just don't know how to explain or illustrate that and I'm looking for sources to cite and other people's words to use as analogy or illustration or explanation.
On this most recent episode of Poly Weekly
, on Rules About Beds, cunningminx
shared a story that actually triggered a particular pet peeve of mine, but in a good way. It's this thing about "but it works for us!" That's usually a huge red flag for me, and almost always follows something toxic or harmful that people are justifying. But cunningminx
's story was an example of when it's legitimate.
She told of a compromise that came about between her, Lusty Guy, and Elle regarding morning sex. Elle apparently heard Lusty Guy and cunningminx
having sex one morning in their spare room and she felt, well, I don't want to put words in her mouth, but it sounded like a description of possibly envy - she wanted to do something that other people were doing. So she asked that, from now on, could she have "right of first refusal", where if Lusty Guy wanted sex on Sunday mornings (the day of the week that cunningminx
slept over), could he ask Elle for sex before he asked cunningminx
. This was an acceptable arrangement to everyone involved, so that's what they instituted.
Now, the problem I have is that people are going to hear that story and think it justifies them making rules or giving certain partners "priority" (or, rather, power), over others. Because this arrangement "works for them". But, here's the real distinguishing factor - Lusty Guy then went on to explain *why
* it "works for them". You see, just prior to this story, cunningminx
and Lusty Guy talked about how cunningminx
can't share sleeping space with Lusty Guy because of his snoring, so she always sleeps in another room. That's why they were separated - not because she's the "secondary" and she's not "allowed" to sleep in the primary couple's bed or because he is "required" to always sleep next to his wife. This arrangement "works for them" because it's something that cunningminx
genuinely needs for her health and happiness. She was an equal contributor in building this arrangement, and it was her own preference, not a concession she made to Elle in order to date Lusty Guy.
So, now that it's established that they are in separate rooms, and *why* they are in separate rooms, let's look at why "right of first refusal" is a legitimate use of "it works for us". Lusty Guy and Elle have been together a really long time, and their personal preferences and connection with each other has resulted in a, I guess you could call it efficient form of sex that they are both pleased with. According to the podcast, they can have a very good, enjoyable time in about 15-20 minutes. I totally understand that - I am not a fan of marathon sex myself. I love being teased for a long time (and I mean, *long* time - like start flirting with me days ahead of time if you can, and I won't be able to control myself by the time we finally get together), but then when it gets down to the slippery bits, I'm an in-and-out sorta gal. I want to get to the penetration and hopefully but not necessarily the orgasm, and then either eat something or roll over and go to sleep. Or *maybe*, if I have things to do, I want to get back to those things if I can fight off the post-sex fog.
So, Lusty Guy and Elle aren't likely to take a very long time in the mornings. But cunningminx
says that she's more likely to go an hour and a half or longer. So, if Lusty Guy and cunningminx
had sex first in the mornings, Elle would be waiting all day before she got a turn. But if Elle goes first, they'll be done before cunningminx
is even really awake enough for sex. Add up all these details about their sex life and sleeping habits, and you get an arrangement that "works for them".
But what too many people are actually saying when they say "it works for us", is "I have this insecurity and this is how I want to manage it, how dare you tell me that I'm not being considerate towards other people while in the grips of my insecurity and how dare you tell me that my insecurity is causing me to act in ways that might harm other people!" As I and many others have said before, if everyone naturally just wants to do this thing, then you don't need a rule making people to this thing. If people really don't want to do the thing, a rule isn't likely to stop them, at least not forever. Also, as tacit
say in More Than Two
, it's really really hard to be compassionate when all you feel is fear. When people are managing an insecurity, then they are extremely likely to be inconsiderate towards other people in their efforts to manage that insecurity. They're just not very likely to see *how*
they're being inconsiderate because that fear is whispering nasty little lies in their ear and rationalizing and justifying everything done in service to the insecurity. But just because they manage to find someone willing to agree to their method of managing, it doesn't mean that it's OK. It just means that they got lucky and found someone with boundaries that just happen to not cross the line that the person managing the insecurity is crossing. For now.
So, if a V similar to Elle, Lusty Guy and cunningminx
were to make a "rule" saying that no one in the house is allowed to have sex before the wife has sex with the husband, and the wife, say, was actually more of a night person but the husband and girlfriend were both morning people, then even everyone agreeing to the rule is not "this works for us". Technically, people could say "this works for us", I guess, because of that agreement, but in my opinion, and what those of us who dislike that justification mean when we complain about it is, this isn't "working" for everyone, this is "managing". This is way too likely to lead to coercion, if it isn't already coercive just by its nature.
What would be "working" for that kind of V would be for the wife to work on her insecurity so that it didn't bother her if the husband and girlfriend had morning sex in the first place. That would be the three of them working together, accommodating and accepting the nature of who they are as people, and giving everyone the power to design the relationships that they are in according to their own needs and preferences and natural interests. If the husband and girlfriend didn't *want* to have morning sex, then they didn't have to have morning sex. But deciding that they *can't* have morning sex because the wife wants it first even though she actually doesn't want it (because she'll sleep until noon, whereas the husband and girlfriend will have been up for hours by then, and likely sexually frustrated, as well as lacking in agency because the person with the power to decide what Hubby and GF do is Wife) is not "working for them". Again, even if everyone technically agrees.
This is the difference between "priority" and "power"
that I'm always talking about. No one, and I mean no one, who is complaining about hierarchy or couple privilege or primary/secondary is saying that there is anything wrong with relationships that look different from each other, as long as that difference happens organically. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a married man having a "secondary" if that partner wants to, say, remain living in her own apartment, or only see him one day a week, or has no interest in meeting the wife, or whatever. No one, and I mean no one, is demanding that all relationships must be life-partnerships even when the people in those relationships are not interested in a life-partner arrangement with each other.
If the two people (i.e. Hubby and GF, in this example) are *happy* with GF living in her own place and only seeing him every other Tuesday because she has too many things on her plate anyway and that's all the time and emotional energy she has for him and Hubby has kids and his weekly D&D night and karaoke on Thursdays so that's all he wants to see GF too, then they don't need any rules telling them that they can only see each other on every other Tuesday and GF can't move in. That "works for them". All relationships look different, that's kind of the whole point. The entire reason why it's possible to love more than one person is because everyone is different, and no relationship is going to look exactly the same as any other relationship because the people in those relationships are different people. So yes, by all means, go out and have relationships that have different priorities from each other. No one, and I mean no one, is complaining about that.
When couples (and it's usually couples, but occasionally I hear it from male-headed poly-fi groups too) say "it works for us", they're very rarely describing *priority
*, even though that's almost always the examples they trot out to justify "it works for us". Usually, what they're saying is that the *rules
* "work for them" BECAUSE the people involved have different priorities or needs or whatever. So, to keep using the morning sex example, I almost never hear "it works for us" the way that cunningminx
and Lusty Guy told it - their individual sexual preferences naturally led them to a pattern of first sex for Elle whereas trying it differently is inconvenient for everyone involved. Instead, I hear people saying "we made a rule that the wife should get sex first because she's the primary, and it works for us because our secondary doesn't object".
Can you see the difference? If not, then you're probably part of the problem that so many of us have with the poly community.
Let's try it this way. I don't eat breakfast in the mornings. I have a sleep disorder and waking up before noon fucks with my biology, but of course I have to wake up before noon sometimes because life. So I wake up, but I can't eat food that early or that soon after waking or I'll get nauseated. So I don't eat breakfast. Other people can't function without a good breakfast first thing in the morning. A lot of people try to talk me into trying different kinds of foods for breakfast because they think that not eating must be worse for my health than eating. It's not. Skipping breakfast and having something sugary (like orange juice) about 3 hours after I wake up works for me. I'm not imposing on anyone else, I'm following my own dietary and biological needs within a set of social constraints that I'm forced to accept. There is no need for me to pass a rule on myself *making* me skip breakfast, that's just what I want to do naturally. And every once in a while, when a certain set of circumstances happens (that I'm aware of, but I'm skipping over those details for brevity), I'll feel the desire for food first thing in the morning. So on those days, I eat something. No rule is broken because I don't have a no-eating rule. This gives me the flexibility to have control over my own eating habits as circumstances change and "what works for me" doesn't happen to work under these particular conditions.
If one person is a morning person, one person is a late-riser, and the person in the middle has no strong preference, then the morning person asking to be given the option of morning sex first because it's the option that would inconvenience the fewest people, that's "working for them". That's not eating breakfast in the morning, except on days when I want to eat breakfast in the morning. That's "priority". That's when two different relationships just naturally look different from each other. What that is NOT, is hierarchy, couple privilege, or rules.
But if one person is a morning person, one person is a late-riser, and the person in the middle has no strong preference, and the *late-riser* is the one who *decides* that they get the option of morning sex first, especially if the decision is based on relationship status (I was here first / I'm the legal spouse), which is usually a sign of some deeper, unaddressed insecurity, then even if the other two people agree to it, that's not "working for them" in the sense that those of us who complain about these sorts of things mean by "working". This is me not eating breakfast in the morning because I, or someone else, decided that I shouldn't eat breakfast in the morning even though I'm actually really hungry in the morning and I can't really function until I get something solid in my tummy. Sure, I might have "agreed" to it, but it's not really in my best interest and it inconveniences, not just me, but everyone who has to deal with me not at my best because of this rule.
The big problem that I see in the community is that people look at the end result - not having breakfast in the morning, or getting first crack at morning sex, or living alone, or whatever - and see no difference. Either way, I'm not having breakfast and you're getting the option of morning sex so what's the big deal? Well, intentions and motivation and agency are the big deal. The outcome is *not the issue*, that's why no one is complaining about different priorities or relationships that look different from each other or any of those other things. The outcome is not where the problem is. The problem is in the way we arrive at the outcome, is the intentions and motivation and agency. And if you've never had your agency taken away, particularly when the removal of your agency was justified by shady or hidden intentions and selfish motivations, then it may be difficult to understand why this is such a big deal if the outcome is the same either way.
Consider yourself extremely fortunate and just believe us when we say that it's a big fucking deal. If you can't understand what the big deal is because you've never experienced it, then I hope you remain ignorant for the rest of your life. I hope you *never* have to learn first-hand what the big deal is with having your agency taken from you. But what we need you to do is to just accept that coercive structures, even if you don't *mean* to be coercive or don't understand why it's coercive, accept that coercive structures are not "working" for anyone, even when people "agree" to them, the way you might just accept something Stephen Hawking says about Hawking radiation because he is more familiar with the subject than you are. If your partner doesn't want to eat breakfast in the mornings, they don't need you to make a rule telling them not to eat breakfast in the mornings. Because, maybe one day, they might. Rules only work, until they don't. And you will be a better, more compassionate partner if you design your relationships to accommodate when your partner might someday want to have breakfast in the morning and if you really examine why them not eating breakfast is a big enough problem for you to think you have the right to tell them that they shouldn't, so that when the day comes that they want to eat breakfast in the mornings, it doesn't bother you and they can make the decision for themselves whether to eat that breakfast or not.
* I am committed to accepting assistance from my partners when needed, and sometimes just when it would be nice.
As a tomboy, I have spent my life justifying my tomboy and independent ways by going over and above the call of duty, so to speak. In order to prove to those around me that I am capable, I have had to reject assistance because any acceptance of assistance was "proof" that I couldn't handle the independence or the subject, with the implied "like a man could" tacked on. In my history, men didn't need help, men didn't need comforting, men didn't need directions, men didn't need anything but themselves. Never mind the fact that it was blatantly untrue. Every man I knew couldn't have survived without their female partners performing the various acts that they performed that allowed the men the free time and emotional resources to focus on whatever it was that they did do. Everything that men did had to be "on his own", so anything that the women did to help was either rejected or erased. Her cooking dinner every night so that he didn't starve when he worked 12 hours a day wasn't considered "helping", it was just what she did.
In order to compete with boys and men, I had to be more than their equal. I had to be superior. Otherwise, any potential non-male trait was proof that I wasn't their equal, and, in fact, was representative of my entire gender for why none of us were their equals. So I did not like help. tacit
once said that I was the most competitive person he knew. I didn't see it at the time. But I pitted myself against my male peers as a child and teen in athletics and grades because I had to prove that I was their equal by being better. To this day, I refrain from doing certain things that I don't think I will excel at because my competitive drive makes "losing" too uncomfortable.
But then I became poor. And I started to age. These two things combined are strikingly humbling. Because of how the economy hit my industry, I dropped below the poverty line further than I had ever been. But I had male partners who had more secure incomes. And I started having more trouble lifting and moving than I used to, as well as watching my coworkers age and, consequently, go through surgery after therapy after time-out because they were "men". By that, I mean that, as young men they did stupid macho things like trying to unload trucks singlehandedly. This didn't always result in immediate injury, but as they aged, their bodies broke down rapidly once they hit a physical peak. They got injured more easily, and injuries and near-injuries from their youth made them slower, stiffer, weaker. I saw men my own age and slightly older, looking and acting like "old men" before their time. I learned to ask for help because, as I became fond of saying, I've been in this business for 25 years and I intend to stay in it for another 25 years when my coworkers had to drop out after 5, 10, 15 years in the business because they just couldn't handle the physical demands anymore.
So I learned to ask for help at work. And now I'm learning to ask for help from my partners. Somehow, it hurts my pride more to ask for help from partners. Somewhere along the line, I developed a sense of obligation - that assistance from romantic partners carried with it a form of obligation that I didn't want to incur. Sometimes that obligation was sexual ("since I bought dinner, you should put out"), sometimes it was tit-for-tat ("after all I've done for you, this is how you repay me?"), sometimes it reinforced a gender role situation within the relationship ("I'm the man, it's my job to pay for you"). When a relationship ends, if the sense of obligation is real and not me imposing cultural baggage onto my partners, that's where I'll feel the obligation the strongest. So I have developed patterns designed to reduce relationship obligation. A breakup is also where I'll feel the loss of assistance that I've come to count on, so I tend to avoid relying on anyone because I'm afraid that the assistance will be pulled away from me in a year or two when we break up and then it'll hurt more to have to re-learn my independence than if I had just done without their assistance the whole time.
But I keep maintaining that my relationships are with equal partners. So in order for that to be true, I have to let my guard down, I have to let them in, and I have to be able to accept their assistance. Sometimes I need help and that's what partners are there for - to help and support in times of need. Sometimes it's my partners who need to help me because that's how they express their love and how they feel loved, and it has nothing to do with my abilities. My relationships are not all about me, they're about building something together. I need to remind myself that part of building something together often includes mutual support and that, if there is no obligation attached, being helped feels nice. So that's what this commitment is about.www.theinnbetween.net/polycommitments.html
I was at Gasparilla one year (an official excuse for the city of Tampa to get roaring drunk in pirate garb), watching the parade. I was up against the barricades, as close to the parade as you could get without actually being in it. Some dude was, well, apparently he was attempting to slam dance next to me. I have no idea why - there wasn't any music appropriate for that and no one else was interested in joining in.
So he was throwing himself around the crowd in that mosh pit way, getting a larger and larger circle as people tried to avoid him. But not me. I had a fucking awesome place to see the parade and it was my first Gasparilla goddammit, I was gonna hold my ground.
So he slammed into me one more time and I pushed him back. He stopped, puffed up his tiny chest, and started cussing at me. So I turned to face him and started cussing back. So he said something to the effect of "you better stop saying 'fuck off', bitch, or I'm gonna hit your boyfriend". The "boyfriend" in question was a tall, gangly, computer nerd I had been dating who was standing behind me and desperately trying to hide behind my much shorter frame.
So I looked the dude in the eye and said, slowly, clearly, and loudly, "Fuck. Off."
I could hear my boyfriend whispering to just let it go, we'll move somewhere else and tugging on my sleeve, but I didn't break eye contact. The dude repeated himself "go on, say it one more time, and I'm gonna fucking hit your boyfriend."
"Bitch keep saying it, I dare you.
And on it continued. Notice how he never did actually take a swing at my boyfriend, nor did he address the guy in any way. He focused his entire attention on me, trying to intimidate me. But I don't intimidate, mainly because adrenaline makes me stupid sometimes.
Eventually, he got tired of repeating himself and not seeing the reaction he wanted, so he turned away and melted into the crowd, throwing gendered slurs over his shoulder the whole time. I watched the crowd close up around him, all eager for a front row spot to see the rest of the parade that he had been hogging, and I went back to the parade.
My boyfriend was all kinds of freaked out and worried aloud at what might have happened had the dude made good on his threat because he'd never been in a fight in his life and had no interest to see what it was like.
I said, "don't worry, sweetie, he'd have to go through me first."
I'd like to say this is the only time something like this has happened, but it's not. I have several such encounters of guys completely losing their shit at me, either to back down when a guy came to my defense or to exclusively direct their shit at me instead of the men around me, any of whom could have been the culprit for whatever Angry Dude was mad about.
I've also been fortunate enough to have several guys with me when these sorts of things happen who, when Angry Dude said something about "control your woman" or "you gonna stand up for her or what?", respond "nah, dude, she's scarier than me, you're much worse off dealing with her," who then sit back and, by their confidence in me, show the dude he's in the wrong. That often diffuses situations better than my guys jumping in the fray.
Now, if any of them ever *actually
* took a swing at me and I had guy friends (or any friends, for that matter) nearby, I'd very much appreciate some physical assistance. But usually just their presence scares off Angry Dude as it does in this article, or if he's too amped up to back down, their amusement and willingness to let me fly off the handle confuses Angry Dude and makes him wonder what kind of mess he's gotten himself into and he'll wander off shouting slurs rather than escalate to violence.
"But why do atheists even need a name? If they just don't believe, why do they need communities and conventions? What is there even to talk about if you don't believe?"
My lack of a belief in god is just that, a missing belief. That, by itself, is not really anything worth talking about. I don't have a belief in leprechauns either, and I have nothing really to say about them or things I lack belief in.
But when I look at our world, and I assume there is no deity behind it, I have to question the motivations behind everything - from little daily decisions to big, society-moving decisions. If I don't have a god telling me to give alms to the poor, what should I do about poverty? Why should I do it? What motivates me if I don't have a god telling me what to do?
That's what we talk about when we get together. What is the meaning of life, what is our purpose here on this planet, what should we do if we assume that we will have no reward or punishment awaiting us at death? There are many answers people without god can arrive at, because there are a lot of other philosophies and ideologies that inform positive action, where simply lack of belief is absent any positive action.
So *this* is my atheism. This is where my lack of belief ultimately leads to. Dawkins is primarily responsible for me getting into movement atheism. His outspokenness, his unapologetic attitude for his lack of belief, his horror at travesties caused in the name of religion - these things all spoke to me and all motivated me to look at my lack of belief and decide that, *if* there really was no god, what did that mean for the things I do and don't do in my life and what does that mean for the actions of those around me. What does not having a god mean for the kind of person that I want to be? And all those questions lead me, ultimately, away from Dawkins, the man who brought me into movement atheism in the first place.
This is my atheism. This is the movement that I want to be a part of.
This is something I feel very keenly. I don't quite fit in anywhere. I'm Latina, so I don't belong with white people ("even a drop"), yet I was raised by my white dad in a white neighborhood and a white school so I don't really have any strong connection to my Mexican heritage, and I don't have the accent, and I don't "look" Mexican so I don't really belong in Hispanic cultures either.
I identify currently as "tomboy". As a kid, that was the label applied to me and I felt that it fit. I didn't want to be a boy, necessarily. As a child, I had none of the biological issues I have today being female, and I have no body dysphoria. I don't feel that I'm in the wrong body or the wrong skin. The housing fits fine. It's the definitions that don't fit. But, as a "tomboy", everything I did was excused or explained or accepted. She doesn't like dresses? Oh, she's a tomboy. She likes climbing trees? Oh, she's a tomboy. She doesn't like dolls? Oh, she's a tomboy.
As an adult discovering my sexuality, that's where I got confused. Girls are supposed to "outgrow" being a tomboy, so when they don't, it must mean that they're really "boys". Which means lesbian, of course. Once I hit puberty, if I still don't like dresses or dolls and I still like climbing trees, then I must also like girls, y'know, "in that way".
Except I don't. So, OK, queerness is getting a little more sophisticated since I was a kid, with more labels and more orientations and more gender expressions, so ... she doesn't like dresses or dolls or makeup, but she also doesn't like girls, she must be a guy trapped in a girl's body, i.e. trans.
And that kinda fits. It fits just well enough that I do occasionally identify as a "gay man in a woman's body". But it's also not quite right. Because I also don't fit any stereotype of gay man, other than loves to give head, and I don't really fit into gay male culture. Sometimes I'm flamboyant drag queen, but I'm not really that either because, although I do wear dresses as costumes and learned all my makeup techniques from drag tutorials, I'm really not "big" enough, showy enough. Sometimes I'm effeminate boi because of the dresses but low flamboyancy, but I'm not that either because I cuss like a sailor and wear combat boots and climb truss and I'm way too harsh to be "effeminate". So, sometimes I'm Normal Dude, except I also like dresses now and I definitely move in a soft, effeminate way and I'm quiet and unassuming when I'm not being loud and boisterous and obnoxious.
I made the observation a few years ago that, if we didn't have strict gender roles, would I even identify anywhere on the queer spectrum? Would I actually have any problems just identifying as "woman" if we had no assumptions for what "woman" means? My entire identity is based on cultural constructs. I'm not saying that everyone's identity is, but I really only consider my own gender when I'm faced with questions of gender identity. Otherwise, I have no idea what my gender is - I just know that it's not what other people assume it is.
So, I'm back to tomboy as my gender identity because that one doesn't have any associations with "wrong" genitals. It excuses all my "guy" traits, because I'm a tomboy, but when I break out of the butch stereotype, it still allows for girlie things because tomboys are still "girls".
But I've also grown really attached to the masculine of center identity that I discovered a few years ago. That also seems to fit really well because, like "tomboy", it still assumes "female biology", it doesn't require me to stick with a rigid "guy" code like "butch" can (basically viewed as a girl who has to live up to guy rules), but it accommodates all those "guy" things that make me who I am - fondness for power tools and getting dirty and being physical and cussing and being aggressive and confident etc.
Yes, I know that everything I'm talking about is other people's perceptions of me, and that my own gender identity should be whatever I want to make of it. But that's kinda the point - if other people didn't have perceptions of me based on either my biology or my appearance, then I won't be arsed to have a gender identity at all. *I
* get that someone can be "butch" and still like the color pink, for example. It's other people's expectations of me as a person based on their perception of my gender identity that's causing all the problems for me and forcing me to analyze and introspect and consider and cogitate on what my gender identity is and what the labels mean.
And before anyone says "fuck labels, it doesn't matter what anyone thinks of you, just be you", I've already had that argument. Labels are important for a variety of reasons and I'm convinced that the people who say "we don't need no stinkin' labels" are people with an enormous amount of privilege in that area to not need them. The culture caters to ignoring, excusing, or overlooking whatever it is you're doing so that it doesn't challenge you on the labels you use and it doesn't force you to fit into whatever labels it applies to you from the outside.
Not all of us have that luxury. So I continue to look at labels, at what they mean to me and at what other people hear when I say the label, at how society treats people with that label, and at who else is attracted to that label for finding my communities of like-minded people.
Right now, "woman" is the label I use when I'm using my feminist lens because "woman" is the experience that the world imposes on me, and "tomboy" and "masculine of center" is what I use to describe my behaviour, my preferences, and my attire. I consider myself cis-gender because I don't have any dysphoria over biological sex that I was assigned, but I do not consider myself a "woman" outside of feminist ranting because I think that the external social definitions for "woman" do not fit me. I consider myself "straight" because of being cis-gender and being sexually attracted to exclusively a narrow selection of biologically male humans.
I have a lot of "I am X, except when I do Y" labels, which makes me feel like this article, that many spaces don't include me. Most of the time, I'm fine being the privileged ally - I don't need queer spaces to make room for me as the straight cis-woman, for example. But it does mean that there aren't really any places for the straight cis-woman who doesn't really think of herself as a "woman" and has to stare blankly at her more mainstream woman friends when they talk about "girl" stuff and I get confused about why on earth they would like that or do that or think like that and they wrinkle their noses at my dirty cargo pants when I sit backwards on a chair and talk about fucking some dude just because he's pretty as long as he doesn't open his mouth to say something that would ruin it for me.
I am X, except when I'm not. And there isn't a space for me.
Him: this thing that dehumanizes and objectifies people is wrong.
Her1: nothing is wrong! You can't tell anyone that what they're doing is wrong! As long as it works for them, it's not wrong!!!
Them1: uh, yeah we can, rape is wrong.
Her1: that doesn't count, that's illegal!
Her2: I don't like this thing, it doesn't work for me.
Her1: you can't say it's wrong!!!
Them2: don't worry Her2, she's not allowed to tell you that your preference is wrong :-)
"There is no one Right Way" does not necessarily follow that there are no wrong ways.
Sometimes I just want to smack people upside the head and then shrug my shoulders and say "what? This works for me".
[Image of text: "Being a woman is kind of like being a cyclist in a city where all the cars represent men. You're supposed to be able to share the road equally with cars, but that's not how it works. The roads are built for cars and you spend a great deal of physical and mental energy being defensive and trying not to get hurt. Some of the cars WANT you to get hurt. They think you don't have a place on the road at all. And if you do get hurt by a car, everyone makes excuses that it's your fault."] - photo via Feminists United
I've never been hit by a car or run off the road while cycling. That doesn't mean it's not a real or constant threat or that it doesn't happen often enough to be a problem even if I've never personally experienced it.
Unlike being a cyclist, though, I can't just choose to switch to cars if I want to / have enough money to. And I have been assaulted by men *because
* they were male and I am female. I have been assaulted, not because someone was poor and wanted my money, or because they thought I was rude to them and wanted to teach me a lesson, but because they believed that having a penis granted them rights to my body solely on the basis that they believed my body houses the receptacle for their penises, and some assaults were because my rejection of their entitlement angered them and they believed they had a right to be angry about my rejection and a right to respond to my rejection.
I'm one of the lucky ones. I did not have permanent scarring either physically or emotionally. I'm indignant, sure, and angry at the injustice, but otherwise I got off pretty lucky, considering how often assault of some sort has happened to me.
Other people are not so lucky. They are the broken cycles with the wheel torn off and rolling down the street. Because they are cyclists in a city made for cars, and the odds are that many, but not all, will end up that way because the city caters to the cars.
"My response is that if you think something like this is a minor difference of opinion – that we can differ on this point, and yet our beliefs can still be 99% similar – then you haven’t understood me at all."
This is the basic disconnect between liberals willing to ban, block, or otherwise cut out someone for a "difference of opinion" and conservatives who get offended at the idea that having a "difference if opinion" is a blockable offense.
It's not that we agree on 99% of everything except this one thing. It's that the *weight
* of this one thing is way more than 1%, and that the foundations of thought and philosophy that lead us down our respective roads to our "difference of opinion" are actually radically different, to enable us to have reached this "difference of opinion" in the first place.
If you think we agree on a lot except this one little thing like human rights and equality, then you really don't understand me at all.
From the comments of my FB feed, where I originally posted this link, someone suggested that it was sort of like a meme of Michael Shermer saying "In the past 10,000 years, humans have devised roughly 100,000 religions based on roughly 2,500 gods. So the only difference between myself and the believers is that I am sceptical of 2,500 gods whereas they are sceptical of 2,499 gods. We are only one god away from total agreement.
So I responded, "Kinda, yeah. Atheists feel that one-god-difference is a big difference, big enough to create a movement out of it. I feel that human rights is a big difference, big enough to make a fuss over it." We have "singular" differences of opinion big enough to cause huge rifts all the time. Because it's not a simple arithmetic problem where the difference is 1. It's a variable algebra problem, where the difference is 1x, and the value of x can be small or it can be so huge as to approach infinitesimal, and where x is influenced by the value of other variables in the equation. X doesn't live alone, isolated from the other integers. As someone else said somewhere, it's not like a difference of opinion on whether or not pistachio ice cream is a tasty dessert. Sometimes it's a difference of "opinion" on whether or not other people are even human beings. Skeptics and atheists disagree with believers over "1%" all the time, and we often feel it's important enough to argue about, block, try to change their minds, or write scathing screeds on the internet about constantly.
It's just when straight white cis-male atheists & skeptics are on the receiving end of the weight of one of their value judgements being questioned that suddenly they're all "why can't we just get along? It's just a single difference of opinion when we agree on everything else!"
As it happens, I think this dismissive, minimizing attitude is exactly the problem. When it comes to sexism in the atheist community, the biggest problem isn’t the relatively small (but noisy and persistent) mob of screeching trolls and harassers. The biggest problem is the much larger bloc of people who don’t engage in such behavior themselves, but are willing to tolerate it, and who think that whether a person is sexist should form at most a very small part of your opinion of them. It’s the people who believe that if a celebrity author or scientist is effective at promoting atheism, that’s all we ought to care about, not anything else they say or do. (You may notice the analogy with the way that moderate religion can protect and enable dangerous fundamentalism.)
[Image: tweet screencap that says "If you think sex work is 'selling your body', but athletes, manual laborers aren't, etc. it's a moral hang-up you've got, and that's on you."]
I had this exact argument with an ex, who didn't want his wife to have naked pictures of herself available on the internet (whether she wanted to or not was irrelevant). After pressing him, he pulled the "selling her body" line, to which I responded that I (was at the time) a professional dancer and I worked manual labor which required me to do physical things like climbing and heavy lifting, so how was I *not
* selling "my body"?
He had no good answer for it, but he certainly tried very hard to rationalize it, and we ended up arguing in circles for quite a long time that day. He tried to distinguish using one's body *for sex
*, to which I pointed out a gradation from "respectable" dancers to "sex" dancers, and at what point is the dancer responsible for the sexual thoughts of the audience for her body, and followed up with "what's wrong with making money from sex anyway?" It was fun to hear someone try to explain what was wrong with making money from sex when STDs weren't on the table (i.e. pictures, lap dances, etc. = no possible STD vector) and when the person arguing against them is non-monogamous so he clearly couldn't use the "sex is special and reserved only for your spouse" line either.
He also tried the "it's degrading" bit, so I reminded him that he once worked in fast food, and various other well-worn responses, including my own "respectable" form of dancing still involved drunk men slobbering over me and needing to wear a fake wedding ring or have a male "manager" attend gigs with us, which still didn't prevent assholes from propositioning me after a performance. One such memorable and yet entirely common proposition was at 4 in the morning after a performance when the venue was closed for the night and empty except for employees, contractors (like myself), and people associated with the event. Some drunk dude cornered me to "compliment" me on my dancing, so I plastered my "I am working and can't afford to alienate paying clients or their friends who might hire us again later" smile on my face while he invited me back to his hotel room for what was left of that night. I held up my "wedding ring", and he came up with the oh-so-brilliant line that my "spouse" need never know about it. Because, OMG, that never occurred to me!!! The only thing holding me back from hooking up with drunk strangers after a performance was the thought that I would be obligated to tell my "spouse" about it! This totes changes things!
I almost never feel degraded when I have casual sex. I haven't tried any kind of sex work, but most of the sex workers I know seem to enjoy their jobs well enough. But I very much feel degraded working minimum wage jobs like retail or waitress jobs, because I take home so little pay for so much physical and emotional labor and the clientele automatically assumes that I'm beneath them, that I'm not worthy of being treated with any dignity or respect because I'm there to "serve" them. I can only imagine how poorly service workers like cleaning services, trash collectors, and landscaping workers are treated. You can't tell me that sex work is "degrading" and "selling your body" in one breath and excuse all those other jobs the next. I don't buy it. I've been there.
Just be honest already. You don't actually want "small government", you want no legal repercussions for your business dealings but you're totally fine with a government big enough to invade every bedroom and every vagina and every poor person's pantry, as well as every country that doesn't provide us with cheap labor and expensive imports that you can profit from.
I didn't used to understand pictures of food until I started doing 2 things - 1) got back into baking; and 2) started Eating 'Round The World where my friends and I try a restaurant from a different country every month. Then I understood what other people had tried to explain about food pictures - that food is transient, so we take a picture to remember the event where the food was featured and to celebrate the work that went into such a beautiful and / or tasty meal.
That food represents someone's hard work and time to produce something pleasurable for us, and it's going to be gone in a few moments. That food represents a moment of joy that will be gone almost immediately. That food represents time spent with loved ones that will soon be only a memory. So we record that moment in time the only way we know how - with a picture.
So now, when someone makes a post threatening to unfriend people over food pictures, I'm sorely tempted to start posting food pictures just to spite them.
These are often the same people who give people like me shit for unfriending over such silly things as not wanting to share air space with people who want me dead or who think I'm less human than they are or less deserving of being treated as an equal human being, or even just not wanting to see posts anymore from people who dislike me or my friends and can't help reminding me how much they dislike me. But no, posting food pics is totes worth unfriending people over, whereas I just censor people and live in an echo chamber. Gotcha.
Also, Nickelback - totally worth unfriending over pictures of food and different tastes in music. But I'm just mean, apparently.
You people do understand that when black people ask, or even demand, that cops stop shooting unarmed black people and insist that black criminals & suspects be treated at least with the same level of caution and consideration as rich white criminals, when black people criticize police brutality in general or specifically against black people - you do understand that accusing that message of being "anti-cop" is tacitly acknowledging that police brutality and racism is *inherently* a part of being a cop, right?
Those of us demanding the demilitarization of the police force and better treatment of criminals, suspects, and minorities such as people of color or trans folk are actually saying something very positive about law enforcement. We're saying that racism and police brutality are not necessary elements of being law enforcement. We're saying that it is possible for police to do better, because we say that they ought to be held to a higher standard. If we didn't believe it was possible to live up to a higher standard, we wouldn't insist that we try to force them to live up to that higher standard.
But when you claim that a message of "you can and should do better" is "anti-cop" (just like a message of "you can and should do better" is "anti-men"), you are implicitly stating that "doing better" is opposed to the state of being a cop (or a man). YOU are the ones who believe cops are inherently racist, inherently brutal, because you are telling us that our demands for a more just police force are "anti-cop".
I believe cops can do better. I believe men can do better. I believe we all can do better. That's why I criticize. Resistance to criticism for failing to do better sends a very loud, sad message. You do not believe we can do better because you believe this is the best we can do.
And I hope to all that is good in the universe that you are wrong.
In light of the recent arrests of the militant whackadoodles, I would like to take this opportunity to point out, once again, that the majority of posts that I've seen comparing the Oregon standoff to the #BlackLivesMatter incidents were NOT to encourage law enforcement to start treating white people as poorly as they treat black people, but to point out the discrepancy between how armed, aggressive, and outwardly hostile white men are treated vs. unarmed, non-aggressive, and frightened black people are treated.
While it is true that many liberals wanted law enforcement to do *something* to both hold the militants accountable and to prevent as much damage as they did actually accomplish, most of us were not actually suggesting that we firebomb them like they're innocent civilians in the middle east. We wanted *something* done, but most of us are very well aware that storming the castle would make matters worse.
So far, I'm pleased with how the government has handled the situation, I just wish it could have been done on a sped-up timetable so that the Native artifacts and land didn't have to be ransacked or destroyed first and the cost of repair to the local taxpayers wouldn't be as high as it will given the amount of time they've had to screw things up, and I wish there would be harsher penalties than what seems to be the charges that they're settling for.
I, and all the liberals I've seen who had anything negative to say about how the situation was handled, are interested in *accountability*, not blazing gun "justice". That's what their side wants. That means swift action and accurate sentencing, as well as following through on sentencing (like actually collecting the fines owed), not letting them off the hook with light sentences or not charging them at all for things we know they've done illegally.
It does not, and never has to my knowledge, mean a shootout at the OK Corral . As a matter of fact, most of the people opposed to these militant assholes are generally opposed to violence and firearms - that's kinda why they're opposed to these assholes in the first place. So it doesn't make any sense to accuse them of calling for a Rambo First Strike response. We want peaceful but accurate justice, not The Demolition Man.
#UnicornHunters talk about adding a new girlfriend to their relationship like they're adding on a new room to their house. The house is already built, already has the foundation, the electrical, the plumbing, the layout already designed. All they get is this new room, but the house essentially stays the same up to the doorway where the new room has been added.
The reality is that building a triad is more like building a new house from scratch, or perhaps even simply buying a new one. A married couple decides that their current house isn't meeting their relationship needs anymore - they want something a little bigger, a little different, a little less conventional.
Their old house has a kitchen, a bathroom, a living room, and two bedrooms. It's nice, but they'd like something more. The new house also has a kitchen and a living room, but it has 2 bathrooms and 3 bedrooms and a smaller room billed as an "office". There are lots of similarities between the old house and the new house - lots of the rooms serve the same function, both are made of a wood frame with drywall and plaster and siding and roof tiles and double-pane windows and both have electrical wiring and plumbing. But it's still a totally different house in addition to just having more rooms to accommodate the growing family.
The house is in a different neighborhood, so you have to drive around a bit to learn where the grocery store is and the nearby restaurants and the best path now to get to work and the movie theater. The neighbors, while still human beings, are different people and you have to get to know them and develop new connections that might look different than the ones you had with the old neighbors. You might be a little more inconvenienced in this new house because you have to drive past a school during school hours and traffic backs up making you late for work if you don't start leaving earlier.
It's an adjustment, moving into a new house. Ultimately, it might be the best decision you ever made, and your life will get better for it in the long run. But in the beginning, you might have to make some adjustments, like finding new paths and doing some internal remodeling or redecorating when your old house was already furnished exactly the way you liked it. Or, it might be a mistake and you might find yourself moving again in just a short time.
But if you really wanted the exact same house, only with one more room, I'd recommend you don't make that new room out of a human being. Take up a hobby or a pet. But a person is going to be disruptive. A person is going to change things far more than adding a door at the end of the hall where there used to be a wall - something that makes your house look mostly exactly the same and that you can only tell the difference if you go into that space, but that you can ignore if you just close the door.
Don't think of it as "adding a new girlfriend to our relationship" like she's a rumpus room tacked onto the back end of the house. Think of it more like getting a whole new house that, while it has many similar elements, is still a totally different building that will contain your family.
And wait to build that house until everyone who is going to live in it is present to offer their preferences for what they want in a house that they're going to live in too. Maybe you and the new person all agree that they should live in a separate mother-in-law suite in the backyard, rather than being attached to the main house, but they should still be there to help design that mother-in-law suite themselves, since they're the ones who have to live in it. But if they really are going to be part of the main house, then they really ought to have an equal say in what color the walls are and what kind of layout they want, not just to move into a house that already exists and doesn't reflect their own personality or preferences.
Remember, people are not accessories to your existing marriage, nor are they extra rooms you tack on to your existing house. They are the architects of their own lives, and if you want them to share your life with you, then they need to be collaborators.
#UnicornHunting #polyamory #poly #polyamorous #OpenRelationships
I'm seeing this article making the rounds on FB. It's a story about a married couple at the end of their years choosing how to finish their life. Consider this your content warning both for the article and the rest of my comments.
For most of my life, I have never understood the desire for suicide. Death, or as tacit and my metamour call it, The Void, has always terrified me. I want any and all methods possible to prolong my life. I suppose I could be called a transhumanist, because I'm in favor of radical life extension. I want to live for hundreds, thousands of years. I want death to be *optional*.
And that's what makes me support this couple. I couldn't understand this decision until recently, but I also have always known that it was not my place to decide what was right for other people. Just because I couldn't imagine the sort of circumstances that would make someone embrace death doesn't mean that I would *never* understand that decision, and the thought of longing for death but being denied it was just as terrifying to me as the thought of dying itself.
I have been suicidal twice in my life. The first time, I was a very young teen. That teenager doesn't seem like me. I see her from the outside now. So I was unable to empathize with people who wanted to die, although I supported their right to choose on principle. The second time was much, much more recently, and it was after I discovered words like "transhumanism" and "radical life extension". This time, I was able to experience being in the mind of someone who longed for death and who wasn't able to understand people who wanted to go on living. Now I live with the memories of being both people in my head.
You might think that, having come (mostly) out of a suicidal depression, I would feel grateful that I stuck it out long enough to no longer wish for death, and to find life even more precious for those (and other) close brushes with death. But this makes me even more strongly in favor of the rights of assisted suicide. It's true, I'm glad that I did not have the opportunity to go through with it. Now. But I am even more convinced now that our approach to suicide is wrong. There are far too few resources to help people like me who are having an emotional imbalance, for whatever reason, get past it and learn how to embrace life, and there are far too many laws that are unable to distinguish between people like me and people like those in this article. These are not the same kinds of suicidal tendencies, but in both circumstances, the tendencies are treated the same - as a problem we have to legislate against. Instead of placing benches in the courtyard, we put up signs telling people not to sit on the planter.
These people made a rational decision that they considered from all angles for many, many years. They do not believe in an afterlife, which could (and often does) influence someone's desire to die by convincing them that there's something better waiting for them "on the other side". They had nothing to gain from their suicide, and plenty to lose - including their daughters, their freedom if it failed, their daughters' freedom if they were found guilty of assisting the suicides, but most importantly, they stood to lose that which frightened them more than death - a slow decline into pain and confusion.
I am no longer certain that I can face that kind of future with a stalwart, steadfast commitment to life borne of fear of The Void. I'd like to think that I still love life as ardently as before. But I can't fault them for their choice, and I can understand their fear better than I ever have before. I have always stood for making death optional because my goal is to live forever. But in making life optional, that requires making death itself a valid choice. As the unrelated saying goes, consent is meaningless if you can't say no. Making death optional doesn't mean very much if you can't choose that option when you want it.
Surprisingly, this article actually made me feel hopeful and optimistic. Yes, they died. But they died on their own terms, just as they lived on their own terms. We should all be so lucky.
Unlike, apparently, many men, I do not believe that men are children. I believe that men are rational, adult human beings capable of complex thought and logic. I believe that men have it within them the capacity to evaluate basic spatial dynamics by estimating the size of a door, the volume of space their body takes up, and to extrapolate from these calculations the likely outcomes of potential scenarios offered by a door and another human being approaching it, as well as factoring in more subtle nuances such as gender dynamics and positions of privilege to affect the outcome more positively. I also believe that men have the fore-brain skill of grasping abstract thought to understand that the door is just an illustration and a representation of the more important, underlying foundational value that is consideration for those around them and the effects that their actions and presence has on people in their sphere of influence.
I believe that men are able to follow a simple train of logic that leads one down a path of "If [me] = nice, then [X] action is required; but if [X] action is inconvenient then [me] performing [X] = not nice".
I do not believe that men require coddling to protect them from emotions (ours or their own) or to shield them from the consequences of their actions. I criticize men because I believe they are better than they are told they are and are therefore able to improve themselves when they do not live up to their potential. I believe they are *at least* as capable a human being as I am, and therefore they deserve to be treated better than spoiled, fragile children. They deserve to be treated with the dignity and respect that I demand for myself, which means that I expect them to behave to a minimum standard of decency and to be held accountable for their fuckups.
I believe that men have, at the very least, the amount of self control that my pet dog had, who was able to sit still with a piece of meat lying in front of him and not go after it just because I told him he couldn't. I believe that men are not less human than a pet, not less able to control themselves, not less able to conform to a set of social guidelines for decorous behaviour in public or in private. I further believe that, if I can see the humanity in men, then they have the ability to see the humanity in women and to understand why women are not the same thing as a piece of meat or a tempting car or a wallet full of cash.
Men do not get special cookies for being the bare minimum of a decent human being, and they do not get a pass for failing to be the bare minimum of a decent human being. If women have the mental facilities to constantly consider the comfort of those around them and to work to ensure everyone else's safety and happiness (as we are expected to be able to do, whether we succeed or not), then I think men are, at the *very least*, able to live up to the standards of women.
I also believe that men should be the ones to be irate at the implications that they are less well-behaved than an animal, less cognitively functional than a child, and less capable of logic, reason, mathematics, physics, emotional control, and housework than women.
And I can't believe that so many men don't see the irony that most men who are not irate at these implications also tend to think that women-associated traits are inferior while men-associated traits and interests are superior and yet they fail at both when compared to women.
"But it's not FAIR that I have to give up X / not do X / he gets to do X!"
It's amazing how much more fair the world becomes when you stop feeling entitled to things that were never yours to begin with and when you see your partners are real human beings with their own agency instead of need fulfillment machines.
"But we're *married! It's not fair that she can just come along and start taking up his time! He should be cutting time for her out of everything BUT his time with me!"
"But I was here first, so it's not fair for him to expect to get an equal amount of love that I get!"
"But we made an *agreement* that they would never go to that restaurant together! That's OUR place! It's not fair to go without me!"
My partner's time is not my time. It belongs to them and they choose to share it with me or not as they wish.
My partner's emotions are not my emotions. They belong to them and they choose to share their emotions with me or not as they wish. They choose to allow their emotions to be influenced by me or not as they wish.
That restaurant belongs to neither myself nor my partner and is open equally to our business. While it may be associated with certain memories and emotions for me, it is not, actually, the source of my specialness. My specialness belongs to me. My partner's specialness belongs to them. Our relationship's specialness exists only because we exist in the relationship together. No one can take my specialness away from me because it IS me. My partner's specialness does not belong to me because it is a representation of my partner. My partner can choose to share whatever of themselves makes them special with whomever they wish, and I am fortunate, not entitled, to be one of the people they choose to share themselves with.
My relationships are a gift that I get to open every single day. They are more than fair because they are not anything that is owed to me.
Releasing the sense of entitlement to my partners' bodies, time, emotions, and mind makes my relationships much more fair and tends to give everyone a larger slice of the pie. Because agency is not a finite, tangible resource, so loosening the grip can actually make more of it to go around.
Sometimes, we have to let go of our hold on things in order to better secure our connection to them. There's that saying about letting something go and if it comes back, it's meant to be, but if it doesn't, it wasn't meant to be. I appreciate the sentiment, but it's not *entirely* accurate, because it depends on how you define "let it go". You can't replace codependency or attachment with apathy. If you don't nourish your relationships, they won't flourish. The idea isn't to reign in your feelings for someone and stop caring for them. In fact, letting go of entitlement is an act of caring *more*. It's an act of courage. You have to care so much for them, that you're willing to let them be a fully developed human being without your control to make them act as you desire them to act.
What you're letting go is your fear, your desire for power, your belief in control, your disbelief in their humanity. Those are what you let go of, and those are things you don't want to come back. When you let *those* things go, people are more likely to want to stick around. When you let those things go, everything suddenly gets more "fair".
* I am committed to including my loved ones on the higher ring of priorities in my life (partners / work / pets / family emergencies / etc.) and to not passing them over in favor of other events or people too often.
This commitment has three parts to it: defining "loved ones"; prioritizing partners; and defining "too often". Originally, I had the word "partners" in place of the phrase "loved ones". But I had issues with that. I have several sexual partners who are casual, low emotional intimacy, low effort, low entanglement, not many deliberate intentions, etc. It didn't feel right to me using a word that included some guy that I have sex with maybe once every 3 or 4 months but who I never see outside of booty calls, don't know that much about, and exert no effort to get to know very well (and who reciprocates the feelings). He's a person, so he deserves to be treated with dignity and ethical consideration, but made a priority? Part of the benefit of having a so-called "casual relationship" or fuckbuddy is precisely that we don't have to make each other a priority. Of course, some people have sexual relationships with people outside of big-R Relationships but who are nevertheless people they feel very deeply about (including me), which is why I didn't use the term Friends With Benefits here, because then I'd have to further differentiate between "friends" and "Friends".
The point is that there are classifications of sexual partners that exist in the world, and in which I engage on occasion, that include a mutually reciprocated lack of interest in deep emotional or logistical entanglements and priority (that don't need to be prescripted as such and that don't need to include an imbalance in power dynamic
). I don't wish to erase those partners from my history or web of partners, but I also can't include them in this same commitment because part of the point of our arrangement together is that we don't prioritize each other, at least not on "the highest ring". Then there are friends and family who I do prioritize on the highest ring but who are not "partners" in a romantic, emotional, logistical, or sexual sense who would be left out. When I crowd-sourced the question of what kind of terminology could be used to describe someone to whom one is deeply emotionally attached and who is highly prioritized in life entanglement considerations, other than all the usual labels and semantics comments that were besides the point, "loved ones" was the only term that was suggested that really fit the point I was trying to make here. When I am in a loving relationship, where "love" is a verb
whether I've said the loaded phrase "I love you" or not, part of "loving" them in this sense is in making them one of my top priorities. And that does not require specifying whether or not we have sex or what category label is used to define our relationship, which solved my dilemma of having certain partners who do not, actually, receive this commitment from me.
Second, this is a personal commitment in my life that I made a deliberate effort to change. I have always prioritized my work above anything else. I've always been poor. Some years I've been poorer than others. If I don't prioritize my work, I literally won't survive sometimes. But besides that, I'm also doing my dream job. Choosing this line of work has put me directly in the line of fire of sexism and entitlement. I have spent my entire life justifying my life choices, including my job, to people who think that women shouldn't do what I want to do or that their personal desires and fears should trump my own freedom to make choices in my life. I've spent my whole life arguing with people who insist that my job is too dangerous, or not a suitable environment for women, or that I should choose something financially safe like a nice secretarial job. I've spent my entire dating life arguing with men who think that their desire for my time or their concern for my safety should outweigh the fact that I love my job with a passion and my job is one of the things that makes me feel that life is worth living.
So I've reacted to this lifetime of experiences by prioritizing my job above the people in my life. About a decade ago, I decided that this decision prevented me from other sorts of experiences that also make life worth living. I made a decision to not let my valued relationships take a backseat to my job. These two things didn't trade places; my job isn't now taking a backseat to my relationships. Just like the previous commitment, I have to prioritize on a situational basis. But I did come to realize that consistently prioritizing my job over my partners, much like prioritizing one partner over another, would make me lose those relationships that I also valued. This is one of the other changes in my perspective that I asked tacit
for help with as part of the goals of our budding relationship. So now I take into account my financial situation (to determine how detrimental turning down work would be), the state of my relationship, my own interest in the event, how important the event is to my partner(s), and my partners' general attitude towards my job when I decide how to prioritize any individual situation.
And it's not just about work either. I had a cat that was terminally ill for a couple of years, which caused me no end of stress and re-prioritizing my life. My cat was a dependent being who literally could not survive without my assistance. On top of that, she was a feeling being who had tied her emotional well-being (such as a cat has) to me. I took on that responsibility when I chose to adopt her. Plus, I had emotionally bonded to her just as strongly as she had bonded to me. My thoughts were constantly on her comfort and safety, and my concern for her distracted me to the point where I did not have enough mental resources to handle other responsibilities.
So I have a multitude of loved ones (and I include my job as a "loved one") that I have to allocate my time, attention, and other resources for, and this commitment is a reminder that the people who have trusted me with their vulnerability and intimacy are valuable enough to me that I should make space for them on the top tier of loved ones who get the most of my prioritization.
Finally, the review discussion about my list of commitments generated a lot of reaction to the phrase "too often". I deliberately left this phrase vague and I maintain that position after the discussion. I need to be able to remind myself that my relationships are a top priority without locking myself into some kind of prescripted schedule or definition for what "priority" means. All of my relationships are different types of relationships and each of my partners has different relationship needs. So I can't commit to a specific amount of time or specific actions that designate someone as "priority" because that amount of time or those actions could be too much or too little or not the right kind for any given person or any given moment within our relationship. After much discussion on this point, I am maintaining my phrasing of "too often" because I believe that this phrase can and should be defined individually between myself and each of my loved ones (partners, metamours, family, friends) in conversation with each of them, and it can also be somewhat fluidly defined in the moment based on what we each feel about our relationships with each other in the context of a lot of criteria, such as current needs, current life situations, current patterns, past trends, etc. I feel that leaving in a vague phrase like "too often" necessitates further conversation between me and my specific loved ones to define what that means in the context of our specific relationship, which reduces the likelihood of using this list of commitments prescriptively or contractually.www.theinnbetween.net/polycommitments.html
This video actually made me feel sad, not good. Even after being briefly homeless myself several times in the last couple of years, I still have people who know me personally who keep posting shit on their FB feeds about homeless people and people on welfare being "lazy" or worthless or not pulling their weight in society. And gods forbid one of them turn down a dubious job offer! Then it's *proof* that they're lazy and worthless, even though no one asked *why* they might turn it down. I can come up with a dozen legitimate reasons not to accept some street rando's "offer" of construction work right off the top of my head. But no, they must be lazy and worthless and not contributing to society.
Homeless and poor people are artists, accountants, students, technicians, people in the medical field, parents, mechanics, people with degrees and experiences. Everyone thinks it's "so amazing!" that someone who looks like this man could possibly know how to play an instrument, especially one that isn't a guitar. Why shouldn't he? I do. I played for 10 years. I also played flute and percussion and I can sing. And yet, I spent nights in my car because I had nowhere else to sleep, and even more nights in friends' spare rooms and couches because I still had nowhere else to sleep.
It's not like someone who lost his home because his company downsized or because his medical bills got larger than his income could cart around a piano on the street to play for spare change. What else do people who look like him know how to do that you have no idea because you don't see them as people with pasts, but as worthless, lazy bags of bones that you try to avoid eye contact with so that you don't have to feel guilty about not dropping them a buck or two?
How much you wanna bet that most of the people giving him money for playing wouldn't have done so if he had just been sitting there on the curb? Because he might just go and buy liquor with it? Because he's not "earning" it? I used to only give money to street performers too, because I thought people had to earn the money I was giving them and that, for some inexplicable reason, a performer who "earned" his money would buy food with it whereas someone who didn't "earn" my money would just go buy drugs. This is the same man who, earlier this day, was sleeping on a park bench somewhere that no one would have given a quarter to, but now that he's performing a skill, suddenly it's "amazing" and we should "support" him.
Look, this guy is pretty good at the piano, but this video is just making me angrier and angrier because of the implications behind why this video went viral. If he had been a guy with a hipster beard and carefully gelled Bed Head hairstyle wearing skinny jeans and a hundred dollar flannel shirt playing in some cafe in Portland, no one would have watched this video except his buddies. He's good, but he's not, like, "OMG why hasn't he been signed?!?" good. I work in entertainment, I've seen some legends, I know what "OMG why hasn't he been signed?!?" sounds like.
This video went viral because people are so fucking surprised that this decent talent could possibly come from a man who looks like this, who doesn't have a home, and is starving to death. Like a fucking freak show. And that pisses me off. "If he has that kind of talent, why is he living on the streets?" Because even people with marketable skills can't make a living off them, let alone just playing the piano. Because even talented people have drug or medical problems. Because our economy sucks and our culture sucks and people suck.
So here's this guy, with no home and not enough to eat, who just happens to gain access to an instrument that he happens to play, and suddenly we're all "wow, this is amazing!" like it's a fucking miracle that he can do anything but drool on the sidewalk. He's a human goddamn being and it's a fucking shame that no one pays attention to him until he does something "normal" like it's revolutionary when the truth of the matter is that this IS normal. Homeless people are people, with talents, skills, knowledge, and experiences just like everyone else. It's more luck of the draw than anything you did to separate you from people like him.
I'm not intending to disparage his skill. As I said, he's pretty good. I'm pointing out what's wrong with our culture that is only really impressed with his skill because he's homeless. It's dehumanizing. He's not being praised for playing the piano, he's being praised for being a Homeless Man Who Plays The Piano Well. It's like saying "you're pretty good ... for a girl" or "you look great ... for your age", only it's actually worse because women and old people often rank higher in importance than the homeless (unless you're an old homeless woman, or worse, an old, disabled, homeless trans person of color which is, as far as I can tell, is the worst thing you could possibly be - even our feral animals are treated better than they are).My rant is also not about the people who took the video. Actually, the kid who took the video has started an Indegogo campaign to create a series of videos he calls Humanizing The Homeless, because he wants to do more to help as many people as he can. He seems to realize the seriousness of the situation, and the overwhelmingness of the problem. I think that's admirable and I hope he succeeds. No, I'm upset about our *society* that requires a video project like this in the first place before they can see homeless people as human beings. And still, people only help those individuals who manage to get humanized for them. Most of the people in my FB feed who are complaining about "lazy welfare cheats" are perfectly capable of humanizing certain individuals while denigrating the entire class of person at the same time. Take me for example - because they know me as a person, they're willing to help me out, but they see me as some sort of exception. "All homeless people are lazy drug addicts who just don't want to be helped, except for you, Joreth, you're a decent, hardworking person who just fell on some hard times, but everyone else, they're The Homeless." They all have to prove their humanity first, before people will treat them with dignity and compassion. I've proven my dignity and my humanity to my FB friends, and this guy proved his with his viral video, but everyone else - nah, they're not human, they're Homeless.
There have been some followup videos
of this guy. All because his video went viral, a local news team has been basically sponsoring him. They paid for some new clothes, a new haircut, and have facilitated reconnecting him with his son and getting him into rehab. People have been paying him to come play at their events and he even played the national anthem at an NFL game. He's even being called a "prodigy". As I said, he's pretty good, I'm not suggesting otherwise. But he's actually not any better than me. I've played music at least as complex as the songs he's wowing everyone over, and I also hear a lot of mistakes. He's not *bad
*, not even mediocre. He's pretty good, and he knows way more instruments than I do (he studied music in college, I learned). But the hype is all because everyone is astonished that a *homeless man
* can play well at all.
So, that's wonderful that he's getting help and having experiences that he never dreamed possible. Every video and news story on him barely mentions his drug problem, and when they do, it's only in the context of getting better. "I want to help him clean up his act." "See how his progress goes with rehab." That's fucking phenomenal. I don't think people really understand how important it is that his drug problem is being dismissed over his viral video. I *want
* people to accept him and encourage him in getting help, don't get me wrong. The problem I'm having is that this is *not how we treat homeless people
*, unless they perform for us. What about all the other drug addicts on the street? How often do they get spat on? How often do they get kicked while they sit on the sidewalk with their legs splayed out? How often do people refuse to give them money because "they're just gonna spend it on drugs or alcohol"? This guy hadn't been through rehab yet, hadn't gotten the help he needs for his problem, but everyone's paying him to play anyway. What if he spends all that money on drugs? What if, once his son had found him again, he spent his next gig's paycheck on some bender and dies?
I don't think that's justification for not paying him for performing, but I think it's hypocritical to give this guy special treatment because of a fluke YouTube video while not helping any of the other millions of drug addicts, people with mental illnesses, people with medical issues, and people with just shitty economic luck. Yes, congrats to this dude, and I genuinely, sincerely, hope this is a turning point for him and he gets a decent quality of life that everyone deserves just for being human. But what about everyone else? When you see the next bearded, dirty old white man on the street, are you going to stop and ask yourself, "I wonder what special skill or knowledge this guy has that makes him unique, and can I help him use that skill or knowledge to improve his quality of life?" When you see the fat, old black woman talking to herself and pushing her shopping cart full of trash, are you going to stop and say to yourself, "she is a special, individual human being. I wonder what makes her unique? I wonder who she is and what her story is? I wonder if she has any loved ones wondering where she is or what happened to her? Can I do anything to help her get the medication she needs to stop talking to herself and to hold down a job?" And when you sanctimonously offer someone a job that they're not qualified for or that they don't believe is real or that they have some legitimate hurdle that makes it impossible for them to accept that job, are you going to sit and talk to them about their situation, and *ask them
* what would make their life better, rather than swooping in on your White Knight complex and getting pissed off that they don't fall at your feet and praise you for it? Are you going to spend your time and look them in the eye and listen to their story and really *see
Or are you going to step over them, avert your eyes when they slowly walk past your car window at a traffic light, clutch your purse or wallet, and only think they deserve money if they're "working for it", earing it in a way that impresses you, in a socially approved way, so that you can feel good about yourself by thinking that this situation could never happen to you because you're a productive member of society, unlike these lazy, crazy, sick people? And then feel shocked and amazed at how wonderful humanity is when some other viral video comes across your Reddit feed that forces you to see the humanity in that individual while you ignore the humanity in all the other individuals not lucky enough to be recorded like a sideshow performer when they do show you their humanity?
Hey, guys, can we please stop this "bad things happen in 3" and "death comes in 3"? Just in my Facebook headlines alone, I count 7 famous celebrity deaths recently, and that's without looking any up and relying on Facebook's non-random algorithms that deliberately show me things that are linked together and/or from the same smallish circle of people in my friends list who I interact with most often and therefore my feed has a TON of headlines in common and a bunch of headlines that I'm sure I missed because they're not in the same class as the rock musicians that my friends list apparently all listens to.
Confirmation bias is a logical fallacy that means basically we will find whatever we're looking for. If you think bad things happen in threes, you can take any arbitrary date range and retrofit 3 bad things to make that "true".
There's also the Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy, which is to look at a collection of data points like they are bullet holes on the side of a barn, and then metaphorically draw a circle around them after the fact to say "look, bullseye!"
Other fallacies, cognitive biases, etc. that this falls under or is related to include:
- Selection Bias
- Gambler's Fallacy
- Hot Hand Fallacy
- Clustering Illusion
I recommend looking each one of these up, and then falling down the rabbit hole in whatever way catches your attention from there.
Social Media Site: List your relationship status! Even though we've had "open relationship" as an option for years, now you can link to one partner only!
Poly Person: Oh good, now people can tell that I'm poly because they couldn't tell before when I had "in an open relationship" selected, I named everyone I'm dating in the "about me" section, and said the word "poly" in the description. Linking to only one partner in the sidebar will totally clear up all the confusion!
OKCupid's new "poly" feature is, IMO, a step backwards because we could *always
* link to our partners' profiles (or anyone's, for that matter) in the open text boxes of our own profiles (which begin, BTW, right under the picture & stats header). This actually reduces the poly visibility and accessibility that OKC had previously given us. One person argued that people don't read the profiles and therefore missed the part where she identified as poly in her profile. To that, I submit that anyone not willing to read her profile won't see "open relationship" and her partner's name in the profile either because *they're not reading the profile
*. They also likely won't know specifically what *kind
* of "open relationship" they're in (as there are many types, some of which are not compatible), again, because they're not reading the profile. There's nothing to be done about people who don't read the profile short of either changing the culture to make that practice an aberration or back-end coding on OKC's part to prevent people from contacting anyone without some kind of "proof" that they read it, like passing a quiz or checking an "I have read this profile" box like a Terms of Service agreement with the ability to report people who turn out to have lied on that checkbox which penalizes the account holder, perhaps by removing their ability to contact people at all after a certain number of reports. Come to think of it, that's not a bad idea.
But I digress. Point is, OKC already recognized poly folks exist. It already had "open relationship" as an option. Yes, I know that "poly" and "open relationship" are not interchangeable, but it was always friendly to the subset of "open relationship" that is "polyamory". It already allowed us to link to multiple partners. It even had forums (don't know if it still does because I haven't been there in a while, but I was quite active on them for a time) and some of those forums were poly-specific where you could go chat about polyamory to poly people. It already had hundreds of questions to answer that would weed out non-poly folk. When you answer questions, you rate how important those questions and their answers are to you. Those answers and those ratings contribute to your match score. There are tons of poly and open relationship questions to answer, so how you answer those questions affects how well you match with other people on those specific topics. If you answer enough questions and rate them important enough, eventually you will reach a point where any match above a certain percentage is almost guaranteed to be poly too. On top of that, you can set a filter to hide any match *below
* a certain percentage, so you could use OKC to see and be visible to only people open to non-monogamy. This has been How This Works for many, many years.
I'm actually quite disappointed in the poly community in general for heralding this new feature as some kind of pro-poly feature. It's not. It reinforces couple privilege, it reinforces the trope that poly or open relationships are something that couples do when we ought to be promoting the fact that it's something that *people
* do, and it erases every version of open relationships that don't prioritize one partner above all others or that even don't prioritize romantic relationships above all other types.
This is not a boon to the poly community. This is not actually helpful at all. It does not add *anything
* to our profiles that we didn't already have, but it does take away from our profiles. I've linked to tacit
since we started dating 11 years ago. The earliest other partner that I am confident I simultaneously linked to in the body (and isn't an unreliable memory that could just be wishful thinking) was 8 years ago. I have since edited my profile with each new partner and each new breakup, sometimes even including metamours who had OKC profiles.
Years. Now, suddenly, OKC is all "hey, look, you can link to your partner!" Whatever dude, you're not helping me out any. Not giving me anything I hadn't had before. And, while it's not *removing
* the ability to link to multiple partners in the body text, going from "link to other profiles (multiple) in your body text" to "link to one partner in the sidebar" is still less poly-friendly than its other, preexisting features.
#OKCFail #UnicornHunting #OpenRelationshipsMeanMoreThanOneByDef
Theist: Here's something I don't understand. Why do atheists need a word? I mean, I don't believe in the Easter Bunny, but I don't have a word for not believing in it. Why do they even need to call themselves anything?
Atheist: Because we need language to talk about the subject.
Theist: But if you don't believe in God, why do you need to talk about it? Why can't you just say "I don't believe" and leave it at that?
Atheist: Because theists won't let us. When we say "I don't believe", they want to ask why and what about and how come. We're not allowed to just say "I don't believe in a god" and walk away because y'all won't let us just walk away.
Theist: If you don't want to talk about it, then just don't talk about it.
Atheist: Then stop talking to me about it.
Theist: No, but why...
#ActualConversationsIHave #atheism #HeadDesk #IfYouDoNotLikeTheTopicThenStopPushingTheTopic
Also in that conversation:
Theist: But why label yourselves anything?
Atheist: Because "atheist" isn't a bad word, it's descriptive. It literally means "without belief in deities". It's EXACTLY THE SAME as saying "I don't believe in a god" because it literally translates to "I don't believe in a god".
Theist: But why...
Now, for #ThingsIWishIHadSaid:
Theist: But why do you need a word for something that's not?
Atheist: For the same reason we have words for other things that are not - asymmetry = not symmetrical. Asymptomatic = has no symptoms. Asexual = without sexual desire. Achronological = not chronological. Abiogenesis = the creation of something that doesn't come from something living. We talk about things that are "not" all the time. When one thing is the dominant paradigm, usually its contrary is named by what it's not.
There's this thing that some guys do. I say "guys" because I'm straight and I exclusively date guys, so I have no idea if any other genders do it, but I do know that some guys do it. There's this thing where I'll tell a guy that I don't think we're romantically or sexually compatible because I have certain values that I don't think match his, but those things might not interfere with a possible friendship and he's otherwise cool, so let's be friends. Then the guy proceeds to temporarily turn himself into whatever it is that I think he isn't in order to gain my attraction.
- "No I'm totally all about polyamory!"
- "No, really, I've matured since the last time I flaked out on you."
- "I know it SAID 'libertarian' on my profile, but it's really little-l libertarian and, honestly, I have more socialist leanings than anything else, I just haven't updated the profile to reflect that."
- "I'm sorry, I've gotten over my whole blaming all women for my failings thing. I completely realize that I was wrong."
The point is to sleep with me, so he can then walk away saying "ha! Toldja we weren't incompatible! You said you wouldn't like me, but I proved you wrong and you DID like me!"
Except, no, I didn't. You weren't that person so I didn't like you. And by pulling the Disappearing Act (because it's almost always the Disappearing Act, where the last indication is that things are going great and they just suddenly disappear, unfriend you, block your calls, etc. with no explanation, unless you manage to track them down like a stereotypical psycho ex-gf with a vengeance - and trust me, that never ends well), you actually proved me right because you did not, in fact, have the values that I said would be necessary for a successful relationship with me.
The values I require in an intimate partner are: honesty, transparency, respect for agency, integrity, shared worldviews on religious and social justice topics, a handful of common interests, a personal commitment to polyamory whether they get to date me or not, a similar style of polyamory to the one I do, and likes me for who I am as a person, flaws and all. The values I require in a casual fuckbuddy are: I'm sexually attracted to you and you avoid talking to me about topics that will force me to face the fact that we don't have any of the other values in common. Even with one criteria, you'd be surprised how many people can't meet this one.
The act of not being that person means that I was right about them. The act of trying to have a sexual relationship with me under false pretenses means, by definition, that I was right about them. The act of leaving without the dignity of a considerate breakup means that I was right about them.
They did not successfully "fool" me into having the kind of relationship that I said was unlikely because the relationship ended (usually abruptly and soon after it started) and because it was a farce, which means that we did not, in fact, have the kind of relationship that I said was unlikely. They did not successfully prove me wrong because their attempt to "prove me wrong" is, itself, the proof that I was right.
BTW, this is a huge dick move full of entitlement, and I will find a way to work it into my Breaking Up lesson, one way or another - either in the workshop or in the book or somehow. I've never shied away from outing assholes before, and now I even have a platform specifically for using assholes as illustrations of What Not To Do. This is the very essence of entitlement. These guys can't even have a girl *they don't even like
* not want them, so they *make
* her want them against her consent (because if she knew the truth, she wouldn't like them) just because they don't want her to dislike them. And, as I have learned from those that I did what I say not to do in my Breaking Up workshop when I tracked them down to get "closure", they think of themselves as Nice Guys, who are "misunderstood" and girls only like jerks anyway.
This is going to be long, convoluted, and twisty. This is me trying to work out a concept that I have been unsuccessful at elucidating before, using terminology that is new to me that encompasses what I'm trying to get at.
This is the concept of emotional labor. I've been trying to explain for most of my life that women are expected to do all this bullshit work like remember family birthdays and send thank you cards and maintain the family's religious habits and do the dishes and even know the appropriate attire to wear to social functions to tell the husband and kids when they have to wear a suit and tie and when they can wear a polo shirt. I've been trying to explain for my entire life that it's not "no big deal" or just a few extra details or even that it's "what women are good at". Now, I have a term and research to back it up - emotional labor.
I'm told that "men" just don't "see" a dirty house and I know that's bullshit because my own father was the neat freak of our family. He once threw my homework away *on trash night* because I had left it out on the kitchen table so I wouldn't forget it, but paper doesn't belong on the table so he threw it out and it was picked up in the morning before I was awake, and my homework was just gone (and my teacher didn't buy my story). It's just that men don't *have* to see a dirty house because the women in their lives will get fed up sooner than they will and the mess will take care of itself, feeding the cycle that the longer they wait, the more likely they won't have to do anything about it. The men don't have to see the dirty house because they're told that, as men, they *won't* see the dirty house, and women are socialized *to* see the dirty house and to have it bother them. So the men wait and the women pick up after them, and the gender roles assert themselves invisibly.
I once refused to do the work anymore. I watched my housemates literally step over a pile of trash *in the living room* rather than throw it away. I had long ago put a trash bin in the living room so that no one even had to get up and walk into the ADJOINING kitchen (it was one big room, no wall or counter or bar or island to separate them) to throw anything away and they still couldn't manage it. They'd toss stuff from the couch, and if it missed the can, they'd leave it there. So I stopped picking it up.
I actually broke up with them and moved out of the house before anything got picked up. And I left the trash there on the floor when I left.
In this same household, the bills stopped getting paid. I got tired of nagging everyone to pay their share. The house went into foreclosure and I moved out before anyone started paying (they actually continued to live there until the house got new owners and they had no choice). They were seriously willing to let the bank foreclose on us before either paying their fucking share or working with me to find a way out of the financial mess we were in (including selling). They just. Stopped. Paying.
Fashion is similar, although with less dire consequences. I'm fully aware of the class issues and history regarding social dress codes, particularly anything "business class" or "higher", but *I'm* the one who pays the consequences if my *partners* don't dress appropriately regardless of the class struggle symbolized by those clothes, so I was schooled at an early age to know what the various dress codes were. Men are *expected* to not know fashion, so women are the ones who get the disapproval if "their men" show up dressed inappropriately. In fact, men are *shamed* if they know too much about fashion (see homophobia and misogyny here). Women whose partners do not dress appropriately are either shamed for not getting them to dress correctly (because it's obviously their fault for failing to dress them like children /sarcasm) or pitied for having chosen men who can't or won't dress themselves properly whereas men are rarely shamed or pitied for a woman who dresses "correctly" when they don't, although they might sometimes get a little shame for not dressing up to a woman's standards. The worst that men get is shame or pity for a woman dressing *above* the appropriate dress code, which means she's "high maintenance", but that's yet another rant. *It doesn't matter* that the dress code system is bullshit to begin with and it doesn't matter if the woman herself is a conscientious objector as I am (overlooking the fact that because of those very class issues, many women don't have the luxury of objecting to fashion standards) or if she actively enjoys fashion for its own sake outside of the class issues also as I do, there are still consequences for women whose male partners don't comply with fashion standards, above and beyond any consequences for each given individual not complying with fashion standards (and you really don't want to get me started on women's fashion standards).
Dates, attire, eating meals, shopping, bill paying, caring for guests, housecleaning - all shit that if I don't take care of it, it doesn't get done. So I just stopped living with people so that I don't have to be responsible for it. I have my own difficulty with all this stuff - my OCD makes doing dishes very difficult, for instance, and if I'm not doing dishes and they're not doing dishes, shit gets pretty nasty. Unless I'm baking, I use disposable, or better yet, cook-in-its-own-container stuff so that I'm not making extra waste and I still don't have to do dishes.
But, even now, when I complain about this, it doesn't sound like it's as big of a deal as it is. Like, it's annoying to always do the dishes, but not worth a panic attack or a breakup. But it only seems like it's not a big deal when it's isolated away from the concept of emotional labor.
It's kind of a strange revelation to learn that I would be much less averse to things like cohabitation and even marriage had I not been subject to so much emotional labor over my life. I wonder, even though I'd likely still be just as independent-minded about things like autonomy, would I even consider myself #solopoly if gender-based emotional labor wasn't a thing?
I used to want to date only partnered men because I got burned by so many cowboys. I wanted them to already have a partner so I knew they wouldn't want to dump me as soon as they got another partner. Not only do I now see the flaw in that logic, I'm also very suspicious of guys who cohabit with women, particularly if they married young. They tend to be the worst I've seen for not just expecting women to shoulder the emotional burden but of being totally unaware that they're doing it.
Like, asshole patriarchal men who are still single (probably because they're assholes about it) make it easy to spot and therefore avoid. They're pretty obvious that they want women to shoulder that burden. But liberal men who champion women's rights but who have never noticed how the rent gets paid on time because they went from mommy's house to a dorm paid by mommy and daddy to wifey's house who paid the rent, did the cooking, picked up the trash they step over, and didn't have to remember anyone's birthday because wifey will remind them when it's important - they're something I've learned the hard way to look out for.
They're the ones I get burned by these days, especially before I had this language of "emotional labor" to express this concept. Before, I might talk about each individual chore or responsibility and get "Of course I can cook my own meals [but won't notice that you gradually start taking over more of the cooking duties because I'll just sit here at the computer until you get hungry enough to cook for us and your empathy and hostess training forces you to cook for both of us instead of just getting food for you]" and "I just don't remember dates, that's just how I am, take it or leave it [and I don't recognize the extra burden put on you to "take it" because I think the matter is just a simple "accept your partner for who he is" equation, so by forcing this binary choice on you, I'll also add pressure on you to choose the "take it" option instead of the "leave it" option by resting unintentionally on patriarchal standards that require women to "stand by your man" and making you look like the shrew trying to "change me" or not be accepting enough if you don't - a particularly guilt-laden punishment in liberal circles who espouse acceptance and tolerance of people's differences]."
See, in liberal circles especially, we tend to embrace this idea of accepting people for who they are and not trying to "change" them. Taken to its extreme, this leads to people who actually have very toxic or damaging habits that no one is allowed to confront or address because we might not be "tolerant" or "accepting" enough. I once dated a guy who was extremely emotionally insecure (although I didn't realize how badly at the time). He felt personally rejected every time I turned my back on him while sleeping. He felt that I was metaphorically and deliberately "turning my back" on him. That the act of facing away from him was *about him*. Of course, it wasn't. I have a bad shoulder and lumbar problems. I can only sleep on one side, especially on his hard mattress on the floor. Sleeping on the bad shoulder seizes it up and sleeping on my back or stomach makes my lower back hurt. So I sleep exclusively curled up on my left side. I also don't like sleeping face-to-face with people. That breathing in my face just bothers me. I don't like it when my cat does it and I don't like it when my partners do it. On top of that, I have some trust issues. Turning my back to someone is a sign of either trust or lack of fear. I have to feel very confident about someone (or about myself) to allow them access to me in a vulnerable position. Added to *that* is the fact that, sexually, my backside is very sensitive and is a secondary erogenous zone. So, in my mind, facing away from my partner not only isn't a negative thing, it's a very, *very* positive thing.
So, this guy got his feelings hurt every time I went to sleep. But, instead of talking to me about it, he kept it to himself until a dozen little, correctable things added all up to one big conflict and he broke up with me over it. During the breakup conversation, he admitted that this was one of the reasons he wanted to breakup. When I expressed my surprise that he never mentioned it before, he said it was because he didn't believe in forcing anyone to change for someone else. My turning my back was "just who I am", apparently, and asking for any sort of accommodation, or even asking me to come up with compromises that I would be comfortable with, was intolerant and not accepting of me. O.o
The BDSM community has a similar problem with "Your Kink Is Not My Kink And That's OK". In principle, it sounds like a good idea. It promotes tolerance and empathy and understanding. We don't have to be all alike and we can still get along. But in practice, it ends to work out as a defense for abuse. No one is allowed to say anything negative about another person's sexual proclivities, even if they're harmful and especially if the person in question is a community leader, because that wouldn't be "tolerant". So guys (in general) get away with never having to learn how to use a calendar or run the washing machine because "that's just who I am", and asking them to take on some of their own emotional labor in a hetero relationship would be "intolerant" and "unaccepting" of who they are as a person. When, the reality is that asking for this kind of change is actually *more* respectful of their agency than just mutely taking on the extra burden and not supporting them in taking control of their own life.
I was talking to one friend who found herself recovering from a relationship with an emotionally controlling partner. She's a strong, intelligent, capable, generally secure woman (like me) who nevertheless ended up being controlled and manipulated by someone in extremely subtle and clever ways. No one saw it coming, and no one even saw it happening, until it was too late. So, she asked me one day how she could ever have been talked into giving up so much of herself to this man. How could no one have seen the signs? Neither of us knew or used the phrase "emotional labor" at the time - this was years ago - but she wanted to know how she could have been talked into being responsible for his own emotional landscape. How did it ever get that far? How did none of us see that he made other people shoulder the burden for his emotional care?
This was not something I had thought about before, but sometimes revelations pop out of my mouth without me having consciously considered it, because I see patterns and I connect dots, as I talked about in a FB post that sparked this one. I responded that the reason it had gone so far before anyone recognized the warning signs is because she had been conditioned already to be the one to care for a man. We had both dated men before who had primed us, unintentionally, for exactly the sort of releasing of boundaries that this other man took advantage of. The guys in our past could not care for themselves. One in particular had done the parents-dorm-wife path himself and had never even questioned that life would be managed by the women in his life, mainly because he kept getting involved with women who took their own sense of identity from exactly that role. They *demanded* that role from him, and it suited him, so that's how it was. If someone didn't remind him to eat, he didn't eat. If he finally noticed that he was hungry and there was no food in the kitchen, he didn't correct it by grocery shopping, he bought McDonald's, setting himself up for the same thing to happen the next day because there still wasn't any food in the fridge. He didn't remember anniversaries or dates because he never had to - his female partners controlled his calendar for him and he just showed up when he was told. Although I notice that men in general are terrible at remembering dates like birthdays and anniversaries ... yet they have no problem managing a freelancing schedule that has them going to different cities on different days and different times or part-time jobs with schedules that change at the whim of a boss and not working a set M-F 9-5 job. Some men have secretaries to keep track of client meetings and conference calls and other office type scheduling, but a lot of men, especially freelancers, don't and those also seem to be adequate at managing a calendar. But as soon as they get a girlfriend, it's all "I'm sorry honey, I'm just not good at remembering anniversaries" and "here are some flowers to make up for me forgetting Valentine's Day" and "it's my mother's birthday already? Did you send her a card from us?" Anyway, this partner in question didn't pay attention to fashion requirements because he worked in the tech industry and Steve Jobs brought blue jeans into the office. He didn't even have to cut his own nails or hair because his wife insisted on doing it for him.
My friend had been primed to accept abuse because she, like me, had a long history with man-child partners and a society that says this is acceptable and expected. This past partner who sloughed off the emotional labor onto his female partners, he wasn't abusive. He was loving and considerate and compassionate. He valued the agency of his partners. He is not a bad guy, and he's not even a Nice Guy. He's genuinely a good person who would not *want* to be participating in this system if inequity if he were aware of it. But he *is* participating in this system because no one knew how to make him aware of it - that's how privilege works. The system benefited him so he didn't see that he was benefiting from anything. He dated or married women who embraced the system and considerately let women go who could or would not (rather than abusively making them embrace the system against their wishes). When I dated guys like that, because I didn't have the language to explain any of this, I simply restructured the relationship so that I didn't have to deal with it by not living with him and only seeing him in the capacity where I didn't mind temporarily being "in charge". But even I had simply learned to accept that "men" were just like this, and it was a patronizingly "cute" personality quirk that smart, capable women had to keep the men in their lives fed and clothed. So, with this training in hand, my friend was set up to be taken advantage of by someone who manipulated exactly that training.
You don't want to hurt me, do you? You don't want to leave me when I could hurt myself, do you? Remember your training that says you are responsible for my well-being. If you shirk your responsibility, you are an irresponsible, inconsiderate monster. It's your fault if I get hurt. It's your fault if my life falls apart. You are a compassionate, kind person. You must stay and do what I say, or else your compassion will drive you insane because of how much I am hurting. If you leave, you will not be a kind, compassionate person, and you don't want that, do you?
I'm fortunate in that I'm not particularly bothered by people thinking I'm a cold-hearted bitch. That's not true, I *can
* be bothered by it, but if it's applied when I'm doing something I feel strongly that is for my own good and in support of my own agency, that overrules any concern about being considered a bitch. So the "you don't want to hurt me, do you?" form of abuse doesn't work on me. I just raise an eyebrow and point out that what I'm doing is not about hurting them, it's about supporting me and that any harm they do to themselves for failing to care for themselves is on them. Other people, women in particular, don't have this specific defense mechanism. It seems to be internal to me, not something I learned. It can be learned, but usually at great cost and many just don't have the teachers to show them how to learn it.
But I *am
* particularly susceptible to ignoring or overlooking abusive tendencies under the "I must be tolerant and accepting" banner, as well as overlooking this whole thing of displacing emotional labor that isn't abusive, per se. I have controlling tendencies myself, and I have overcompensated for them by backing WAY off when someone doesn't change in the way that I think they ought to. So, when I fall in love with a man-child who hands off the burden of emotional labor to his female partners, I don't insist that he take up the slack in his relationships. I just let him pawn it off on his other partners while I back away far enough that he can't hand that burden off to me. I can't make sure they eat their vegetables or pay their rent if I don't live with them or see them often enough to judge their diet or get their bills in the mail, and they can't reasonably expect me to.
They also can't reasonably expect me to assuage their insecurities by controlling my behaviour with regards to other partners if they don't see themselves as "entwined" enough to justify doing so. A cohabiting fluid-bonded partner might feel justified in telling me what kind of sex I can have with someone else, but a long-distance partner might be more willing to deal with it by just wearing a condom with me when we have sex and out-of-sight-out-of-mind keeps him from facing that he'd otherwise be willing to infringe on my autonomy if given the chance. However, I have had some try to justify telling me that he deserved to have a vote in whether and when I took a new partner and which sex acts we were allowed to engage in and at what pace we began engaging in them, even though this partner did not live in the same city, hadn't had sex with me in months, and was currently embroiled in a lot of drama with one of his own partners who I warned would likely cause exactly this sort of trouble but didn't try to enforce a pre-dating veto power that he wanted to give me. He wanted to date her and I didn't see myself as having the right to control his decision about it, although I did give my opinion on it.
He was not content to just give his opinion on my new partner (that I could take or leave) and he wasn't even content to notify me of how my behaviour would affect his own boundaries with me to take into consideration when I made my dating decisions. He wanted voting rights because he had insecurities and was not willing to do the work to eradicate those insecurities. Instead, he fell back on some couple privilege as the pre-existing partner, and palmed off the emotional labor onto his partners, who were required to limit their behaviour until he "got comfortable", at which time *he
* would magnanimously declare the behaviour ban lifted. But since it didn't address the underlying issue, he would have to require the same ban the next time, and the next time. Because these bans eventually did get lifted, he offered this as evidence that he was "working" on his issues and making "progress". But the procedure itself never changed - his partners had to limit their behaviour until *he
* felt comfortable, and then *he
* decided they could remove the limitation. Always, his partners had to carry the burden, not him. He never had to sit with the discomfort himself. Oh, but he would insist that he was uncomfortable! But don't let that fool you like it did me - feeling uncomfortable when your partner does something that you don't like isn't the same thing as feeling uncomfortable by facing *why
* your partner's actions make you uncomfortable in the first place. That's a very different sort of discomfort, but easy to confuse.
So, back to the whole pattern recognition thing from the Facebook post
that inspired this post (I complained that I can see social patterns that others can't see, and gave emotional labor as an example of one such set of patterns, the entire text of that example is now the beginning of this blog post). The concept of emotional labor as tied up in the feminist movement and patriarchal society and internalized sexism is a dot that I can now use to connect a bunch of other dots - why it's such a big deal to me when men rely on their female partners for domestic labor and upholding social standards, why I tend to back away and structure my relationships more "casually" or less entwined to avoid shouldering that burden, and even more extreme dots like emotional relationship abuse.
If you saw me blow up on Facebook recently
about dress codes when I was trying to talk about how men don't know the categories and then some men jumped in to sidetrack the conversation about fashion being tied to classism, this is why. I was bruised and sore about carrying my male partners' emotional labor and feeling the social burden and the consequences for it, while men (those who can most afford to ignore the social burden or consequences for dress codes) were dismissing my complaints and instead choosing to talk about economic class struggles, which, frustratingly, are *part
* of the reason why that particular emotional labor is such a heavy load for women, who - all else being equal - are almost always in the lower class than men.
Basically, I was drawing a connection, and I was failing at making myself understood, so I lost my temper as I am wont to do when I get frustrated, and as I am particularly likely to do when someone is "intellectually debating" a topic that affects me very intimately and personally. This idea of emotional labor makes seemingly isolated events like women doing domestic duties or being the sole emotional outlet for men (because men aren't allowed to have emotionally intimate male friends) apparent that they are related to each other. It also shows that these events have more weight than simply doing an extra chore or taking extra time. If all other things in life are exactly equal, having a woman spend an extra 30 minutes doing dishes after dinner doesn't sound like a huge deal, especially if you throw in that the man mows the lawn or something. But add the weight of cultural history and institutionalized misogyny and patriarchy, and those 30 minutes doing the dishes take up more than just the literal minutes of the day in the emotional landscape of the woman's life. Once you factor in that extra weight and see how all these separate activities are connected under the same umbrella, then we see the path light up leading to emotional abuse. It's not the only path, nor is it necessarily the guaranteed destination. But they're connected.
And now I have some language to describe and explain what I'm feeling and those patterns that I can see that no one else seems to see. It will take a few more novel-length blog posts, I'm sure, before I work out some quippy soundbites or before I streamline my ideas based on those take-aways that seem to work for readers most often.
More resources on what Emotional Labor is, how to recognize it, and what to do about it:
* I am committed to prioritizing situations, not partners, because all my partners are a priority.
I don't do hierarchy. I don't know how many times I have to say that to people before it starts to sink in. My partners are human beings with feelings and I have knowingly entered into a relationship where my actions affect them on a deep, intimate level. I cannot possibly prioritize one over another, it would be like prioritizing one parent over another or one child over another. I have to prioritize situations, and I have to consider those situations within the context of our entire relationship and our entire network. There are so many different types of situations and so many variables, that I couldn't possibly even begin to list out anything specific. Everything has to be decided on a case-by-case basis, taking into account everything else in my life.
For example, I might prioritize a live-in partner because we share a daily life so calling to let him know that I won't be home for dinner might be important so that he doesn't waste any effort making dinner for me. But if a long-distance partner comes for a visit, I might spend more time with the long-distance partner than with my local partner because I'll have plenty of time to catch up with the local partner later and the long-distance partner won't have that privilege. But then there are pre-established commitments, like holiday plans or tickets to an event that are already purchased. But then there are one-time-only events or emergencies. And then there are regularly-scheduled events that can afford to be skipped now and then precisely because they're regularly scheduled and something "special" or "important" or "meaningful" might need to take that time slot.
The important part is that every situation gets analyzed both individually and within context, and that every situation gets discussed with all relevant parties. Everyone gets an equal say. Not to each other, no. One of my partners does not get an equal say in what I do with one of my other partners. Everyone I'm in a relationship with is on equal footing to me, not to each other. No one outside of a relationship gets more say about what happens to that relationship than the people in it. That's why priority has to be assigned situationally. I have found that making everyone equal to their own partners in their own relationships yields much better results and more likelihood of everyone being willing to compromise, make sacrifice, and "take turns" with regards to priority because they tend to trust that their turn will come around sometime soon and that it all balances out in the long run. And that fosters far more security, I've found, in relationships than giving any individual top priority all the time, and certainly honors my first commitment far better too.http://theinnbetween.net/polycommitments.html
It boggles my mind how many people conflate "I forbid you" - which is a position of authority over another human being that denies their agency - with "I recognize you as an autonomous individual and I have some steep concerns about this thing in your life, what it represents, and how it affects me as a person and us as partners and I'd like to encourage and support you in moving in a direction where this thing is not a part of your life anymore, and I do so with your full cooperation because you recognize the validity of the claim that your life is better without this thing in it and you take full responsibility for the decision to accept my support and encouragement in your efforts to make this change."
"Forbidding", like "veto", ends the discussion and transfers the responsibility for the decision onto someone else as well as transfers the consequences for said decision outside - usually to a third party who is affected by the "forbidding" or "veto" or whatever.
The second option does not take away autonomy even if the outcome is the same. The second option requires the person who would otherwise be the one "forbidden" to do something to instead say "I have two choices - one where this thing is in my life and this person I care about is unhappy about it, and one where this thing is not in my life and this person I care about is happy that it is not in my life. I am making the choice myself to prioritize the happiness of this person and I agree with them that my life will be better without this thing in it."
There are two kinds of people, I've discovered. One kind of person sees the huge gulf between those two options. To them, these situations are like apples and jet planes. Another kind of person sees that, in both scenarios, the individual loses whatever the thing is and therefore sees no difference between the two scenarios.
These are people who don't understand autonomy or agency. These are people who frighten me. Without being able to understand the difference between agency and authority, they lack the basic, fundamental principles to understand why rape is wrong, why slavery is wrong, and why all the other things I fight against are related to these things, like why abortion is so important and why Planned Parenthood is important and why #BlackLivesMatter is so important and all the other causes big and small that get my ire up. They're all related by issues of agency.
If you can't understand agency, if you can look at the above scenarios and only see similar outcomes and not understand how things can look similar on the outside but have very different foundations underneath, then you can't understand how all these other things I argue about are related to each other and why they're important and I really don't know the right words to make you understand. Even if you happen to agree with me that some of these things are wrong, if you can't see the issue of agency in the two scenarios, you won't understand how all the things I think are wrong (whether you agree with me on them or not) are related and how they affect each other when any are prohibited.
And I noticed those people have a tendency to be the sorts of people for whom their agency is never questioned or never taken away in the first place.
There is a third kind of person, who says, "I forbid people, but it doesn't mean that they're not allowed to do something, it means that we start the conversation and discuss it rationally and they're allowed to make their own decisions, so you're just wrong because I'm making up definitions for words that go contrary to their generally accepted use and I'm going to argue semantics with you just because I feel entitled to make shit up and don't like the cognitive dissonance you're creating by your judgmental posts". If that kind of person feels the need to comment below, I'm just going to delete the comment because fuck you. Also anyone who caveats D/s or M/s relationships because a healthy power exchange is actually an example of the second option where the sub or slave retains the power to make the decision to transfer power in negotiated ways (just with fantasy-based language like "control" and "authority" and "forbid" to set an illusory scene) and also retains the power to amend, halt, or end said power exchange at any time in spite of the superficial trappings of authority - that's what makes it not abuse.
Back to the point. It reminds me of a scene from a movie I just watched again recently. Bedazzled is a remake of a movie where a guy sells his soul to the Devil for 7 wishes, mostly to get a girl he likes to notice him. In the negotiation scene with the Devil, she tries to convince him that his soul isn't worth hanging on to, so might as well sell it for something good.
She says things like "have you ever even seen your soul? What is it good for? What has your soul done for you lately? You won't even notice that it's gone."
Obviously, as an atheist, I don't believe in souls. But agency is a lot like that dialog in principle. When you live in a world that doesn't even question that you have agency, and never tries to take it from you, what is there about agency to notice? Have you ever even seen your agency? What has it done for you lately?
But spend your life fighting to have your agency recognized, let alone have control over it, and you'll sure as hell be aware of it then. To most of the people I've talked to who struggle to see the difference between acquiescing to "I forbid you" and making the autonomous choice to forgo on your own, they tend to be people who, if someone ever *tried* to say "I forbid" and they disagreed, there is literally nothing that could come of that. They recognize "I forbid" as essentially toothless and a command that requires compliance. So they can't see a difference in the two scenarios because, to them, their agency *can't* ever be compromised, therefore this is not a question of agency and but of goals and both scenarios have the same goal when you remove the question of agency - to get rid of the thing and make a loved one happy.
But those of us who are in a position for someone to "forbid" and there are either no options to refuse or the consequences for refusal are worse than compliance, we can see the apples for the jet planes. The goal is *not* the same. The goal is not to get rid of the thing, the goal is power and control - of the body, of the self, of the mind, of the decision-making process, of that which makes us a person. With our very souls on the line, we have to consider carefully if those 7 wishes are worth signing for. And some of us do end up signing away our
souls agency, either because we're manipulated into it by increasingly stepping past our boundaries just a little bit at a time so that we don't really notice until we're in too deep to get out, or because we're held at pitchfork-point and forced to sign using brute force and intimidation.
While some of us fight the Devil even as the rest of the world thinks we're delusional as we scream about things that they aren't even aware exist. Unlike my soul, I'm confident that my agency exists and that I am an autonomous individual and I will continue to point out every time the Devil shows up in a cop uniform that she isn't the good guy she appears to be and she is trying to steal people's agency and the 7 wishes you get aren't worth the price. And some people will continue to ignore me and think I'm crazy because the Devil never made a deal for *their* agency so they don't even know what it's good for but they just assume they have it.
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/2016/01/my-time-at-an-anti-government-summer-camp.html"Over time I came to understand that no citizen is truly independent of every other citizen, that we are all interconnected. I realized that even a private business owner living on their own land and homeschooling their children relies on government roads and government police forces, to scratch the surface. This sort of militia ideology ignores the social contract, the importance of our interdependency and the necessity of the government in providing for the public welfare. This is where the militia movement, and with its anti-government ideology, fails."
This very closely matches my conversations with people of these groups, including a man who, in his late 20s, befriended a bunch of high school boys and created a "role playing" group of sovereign citizens, where they all got dressed up as pseudo-medieval royalty (with himself as King, of course) and went through ritualistic motions designed to cement the group's loyalty (i.e. fealty).
The boys, having been recruited as teens, thought it was harmless fun, like Ren Faire. I, being introduced to it as an adult who had already dated several Libertarians who showed their lack of empathy in some pretty horrific ways, thought it was abhorrent. Because, when they were done kneeling and knuckling their foreheads at his feet while his wife stood mute behind his right shoulder and both gazing down at their subjects while they patronizingly bestowed meaningless honors on them, the revelry started (with lots of beer, of course, only not *American
* beer, but the "real" beer - don't get me started).
And it was during these revelries that he *really
* held court. His rapt audience of now-30 to 40-something men and their eye-rolling but tolerant wives all sitting around a plush living room cooled by central air conditioning provided by the city utility company, having driven there in hybrid cars on city roads, educated by the public school system, listened to him extol the virtues of seceding from the union, drone on about how to avoid paying taxes, lecture on the illegality of a court verdict based on the position of a flag in the room at the time of pronouncement, and snarl at the law enforcement who had never once done anything to them - no harassment, no attitude, no arrests, nothing.
In fact, the person who introduced me to this group would take out a baton from his car door pocket and shake it at police cars when he passed them on the road, shouting "PIGS!" from behind his rolled up tinted windows where the cops couldn't see or hear. One night, we were walking home from an event, having taken public transportation most of the way, and we passed a police officer in the subway. He tensed up, ready for a fight. The cop smiled and nodded at us, and we both smiled and nodded back. As we got out of earshot, he exclaimed how amazing it was the the cop didn't do anything to him and how he passed some sort of cultural milestone by reaching an age that cops no longer think he's a threat.
I looked at him and said something along the lines of "dude, you're a young-looking middle-aged, blond-haired, blue-eyed white man in a suit. It's not age that made the cop treat you with respect, it's that you look like him or his superiors." Except for being a young man obviously causing "trouble" (like the time they bought out a convenience store's entire supply of glow sticks while having a pool noodle fight in the store, causing the cop inside to give them the side-eye - note, not shoot them 14 times in the back), he's never actually had any encounters with cops that weren't pleasant.
Now, I get being pissed at cops on behalf of those who aren't treated well, but he wasn't that. He wasn't irate at the injustice of black lives or the for-profit prison system (although he did eventually come to adopt those causes). He was angry because cops are pigs who want to take your liberty away just for fun. Y'know, like when you break the law, the cops come and bust you for it. The nerve!
This is now a long story. The point is that I've met people like this, and likely still do know people like this although I try to avoid these kinds of conversations with people I will have to continue to come into contact with after I find out that they're horrible people. There is no sense of irony, no self-awareness, and no real understanding of how the world actually works. In order to be internally consistent with their underlying premise, they would have to find unoccupied land, build everything themselves just with materials found on the land (and not with any knowledge gleaned from public schools or library books), and be completely self-sustaining. Nothing could come in from the outside because those materials would have to use public roads and other public services to get there. And / or anything coming in from outside would have to be negotiated with the US government the way that any international trade is negotiated between independent nations, complete with paying import taxes and customs fees all the rest. They want all the fruits of living in a democratic society with public works without any of the responsibilities that come with coexisting with other people.
And where are all those employees supposed to come from to run your small businesses if everyone is their own business owner?* Trust me, as someone who lives below the poverty line and still has to pay 4-digits in taxes this year (keep in mind that I already pay some taxes through those jobs I hold that use W2s instead of 1099), I definitely understand being frustrated at the idea that the government can just come and take my money that I earned with literally my own sweat and blood. And I certainly don't agree with everything my taxes are spent on. But I did survivalist camping as a kid - and I don't mean my dad and I took our arsenal of guns out to the woods in our SUV and our camo tactical gear and lived off the land and a case of beer for a weekend. I mean that I walked myself into the woods with no other people and no gear other than the clothes I was wearing (which were basic jeans, t-shirt, and tennis shoes), knapped a flint knife with rocks I found on the ground, cut branches off a tree to build shelter, and ate what I could identify as non-toxic.
Fuck that shit. It was an important lesson in survival for me, in case of emergency. I often went hiking alone, so these kinds of skills were important to know. But that's what it means to eschew everything the government has to offer and to be self-sufficient (although, I have to note that I learned these skills through a camp offered to me through a program in my public elementary school). The quality of life is vastly higher with running water and a sanitation system and food inspections and safe transportation facilities and the shipping industry to bring in a variety of food for a well balanced diet and medical supplies and *other people
* performing a variety of jobs that aren't all providing materialist, capitalist goods who are all educated to a minimum standard of competency and who are all invested in helping each other out because its in everyone's interest to make sure their neighbors are still there to perform their functions and services every day.
*This is a rhetorical question. I've already read something just today that addresses exactly the implausibility and irresponsibility and unlikeliness to succeed of the rhetoric of venture capitalism that only values small business owners so I'm not interested in more debate on the subject.
http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/07/when-the-boss-says-dont-tell-your-coworkers-how-much-you-get-paid/374467/"Under the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 (NLRA), all workers have the right to engage “concerted activity for mutual aid or protection” and “organize a union to negotiate with [their] employer concerning [their] wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment.” ... the law "means that you and your co-workers get to talk together about things that matter to you at work." Even "a nudge from the boss saying 'we don't do that around here' ... is also unlawful under the National Labor Relations Act," Estlund added."
I see this all the time in my freelance industry. Contractors and employees are told not to discuss pay. The more honest-seeming of employers will explain that the reason is because *you
* are being paid at a higher rate than everyone else, and it would make everyone else feel bad and demand higher pay when they aren't qualified for the higher pay like *you
* are. Backhanded flattery is a good way to get people to comply with shady instructions.
So what happens is that we have a handful of people making a shit-ton of money because they figured out how to leverage their experience into a good negotiation session, the majority of people making decent money but probably below what they're worth compared to the high rollers, and a good portion of newbs who don't know any better taking shit pay and thinking they should be grateful for it but who are actually driving down wages for everyone else.
Why would an employer pay me my regular day rate when they can hire some Full Sail kid at half my rate? Doesn't matter that I'm better, this is a transient kind of industry. By the time someone figures out that the newb sucks, the gig is halfway over and they can't afford to replace him. Then, he has that gig to pad his resume with and he can get the next gig now with more experience but still lower pay, and, again, by the time anyone figures out that he's not as good as me, it's too late to hire me.
So, those of us in the majority middle range lower our rates because we're not in the high demand category of the guys making 3 times what we are for the same work, so we can't afford to just work less and only take the high offers that come around. We have to work *more
*, which means working for *less
So I talk about rates. I tell the newbies what to expect, and if someone reveals that they're getting paid more than me or more than someone else with more experience or seniority, I say so. I know that I don't make as much as some of my coworkers. But thanks to the union losing its teeth here, I haven't had any luck correcting that yet.
So, I work more hours for less pay, and I make a shocking amount "per hour" and I have a minimum wage retail job on the side and yet still live below the poverty line in a little wooden house literally on the "wrong side of the tracks", with no car payment, no smart phone, the lowest bandwidth internet service possible, no cable, and no expenses other than the necessities - rent, utilities, insurance, gas, food. Cost of living has gone up, but I make the same day rate that I have for 10 years and I make the same income per year that I did when I was fresh out of high school and accepting my first full-time job as a secretary 20 years ago. There was a time when that would have been a decent income. Like, when my mom got her first secretarial job 40 years ago.
Because poverty is a trap and the system is designed to keep us here - the system that includes a million large and tiny things like not discussing wages with coworkers so that no one knows that they're not being paid fairly or what their rights are about that, so that no one can demand a higher wage and possibly pull themselves out of the trap.
It's still jarring for me, years later, to see people on my various social media friends lists who maintain friendly contact with my abusive ex. I see comments directed at him even though I can't see "him" anymore since I blocked him, and I think, "WTF, how can you still be on friendly terms with him after what he did? How can you still promote what he says? How can you not see him for what he is?"
And then I think, "Oh, right, you can't tell for the same reason I couldn't tell when we were just friends - his abuse doesn't show up to people he doesn't have under his control and abusers are often quite charming and friendly in general. Charming is exactly what I thought he was too, right up until the abuse was revealed, several years into the relationship, which was a good decade after meeting him. You also can't tell because I can't talk about it publicly because publicly discussing an abuser harms *his victims*, not him**, so you just don't know."
I have to remind myself that it's not reasonable to judge people on the company they keep if they are unaware of the nature of that company, and that it's a completely expected and normal thing to be unaware of someone's darker nature because people are not one-dimensional cartoon villains so there's no reason for the world to see that side that they save only for their targets.
But it's still jarring when I see people who like me and yet who still maintain friendly ties with him. While I think I've healed from a lot of my experiences with him - he doesn't haunt my memories anymore, I can finally look back and see the good times without pain, and I really only talk about him now when I use him as an example in the same detached sort of way I use most of my past experiences to illustrate points that I'm making and not because he's still at the front of my mind - I wonder when that particular scar will fade and when seeing him referenced will stop being jarring and just be part of the landscape again.
**Plus, I don't want to actually *harm* him, I just want to protect other people from him, which he may feel as harmful as a side effect. I want him to not be abusive anymore, but that's not going to happen whether I talk about him or not, so my priority lies with protecting the victims and hoping that my more general warnings of what abuse looks like without singling him out will suffice to protect future potential victims.
But the reality there is probably not as well. I have a feeling that any future partners of his won't be big fans of mine and therefore won't hear the warnings. This whole culture that protects abusers really pisses me off because I am not the only person I know who is stuck in this position - knowing someone is abusive but not being able to warn people or talk about it publicly because it would hurt others and having to choose between the safety of people who are already vulnerable vs. revealing people who are harmful, and choosing to protect safety.