Specifically, it has 1 provision that affects me and 1 provision that could potentially affect me: according to Russian law, any blog or community read by more than 3,000 readers is considered a 'publication' and is subject to State controls on publications, including the provision that the blogger or moderator is legally liable under Russian law for any content posted by any user; and blogs are prohibited from "perform[ing] any other actions contradictory to the laws of the Russian Federation."
I don't think that I have more than 3,000 readers, so I don't think I'm considered a "publication" by their standards, although I might someday have that many readers, or maybe I do and I'm just not aware of it. I don't think of myself as being that big of a name. But Russia does have some laws regarding content. The Russian "gay propaganda law" forbids discussion of "sexual deviancy," which includes LGBTQ issues and "propaganda of non-traditional relationships" is forbidden by this law.
Now, I don't think I'm in any real legal danger here. I seriously doubt I'm going to be arrested or sent off to Russia to stand trial or anything. But my LiveJournal blog could just up and disappear someday. And, frankly, that's been a possibility for a while, although not for reasons of archaic and barbaric "sexual deviancy" laws.
I've been wanting to move away from LJ for some time now, mainly because people keep telling me that it's an outdated platform. Which I think is a shame, because it does everything I ever wanted in a blog. It keeps a running log of my posts, it archives them, it allows comments and gives me control over comments, it gives me design control, it's free, it doesn't take up the limited server space that I pay for on my website, and it also gives me a convenient way to follow the blogs of other people. It's basically Facebook before there was Facebook with more personalization.
But every time I looked into moving my journal over to another platform, I came across technical problems. Until recently, there was no good way to copy everything from LJ (posts, comments, design style, user icons, permissions, etc.) and set it back up on another platform. There were some clunky ways to do it, but I always seemed to hit a wall - this exporter stopped at X number of posts, that exporter didn't get comments, this other platform refused to accept my LJ password even though it's supposed to transfer from one to the other ... stuff like that.
I was able to find an archival service that could back up my posts on my own hard drive, but I had other problems getting that archive to upload somewhere else. And there were a couple of other options that were just above my technical expertise, so when looking at the long set of instructions, my eyes bugged out and I just gave up.
But with this new Russian law thing, I was motivated to look once again and this service was recommended to me. Dreamwidth offered a built-in exporter/importer that grabs all the content I wanted it to grab and actually worked, unlike some other platforms that just kept telling me that my username or password to LJ was incorrect when it wasn't. It's a free service, and it appears to have a similar "friends list" sort of reader for other Dreamwidth users. Not that I really have time to keep up with a blog reader in addition to my FB and Twitter streams (which most people use to link to their blog posts anyway). But still, I like the option. Which means that if you have a Dreamwidth account, hit me up with it and I can follow you back.
So, for now, Dreamwidth is my new blog home and you can find it at http://joreth.dreamwidth.org. I have it set up to cross-post to LJ, which is also set up to automatically tweet links to new entries. If I can figure out a way to cross-post directly from here to Twitter, I will do that instead of tweeting my LJ. But comments are turned off on LiveJournal so if you want to comment, you'll have to come to the Dreamwidth site, which uses OpenID so that even people without a Dreamwidth account can still participate (a plus over LJ). If you choose to link to one of my blog posts, please use the Dreamwidth URL from now on. I *think* I have it set to include the Dreamwidth link on the LJ cross-post, but if not, I will. I still have to go through all my 1,300+ posts and manually update links to LJ posts so that they now go to my DW posts, so that's a long-term project still in the works.
Also, Dreamwidth is still, as of this posting, importing all the comments from my past posts. Their servers have been working overtime lately with the mass exodus from LJ and things are taking longer than normal. As it was, I had to wait in the queue for about 40 hours before the blog posts imported.
As always, my website is www.TheInnBetween.net and links to my blog and my most commonly used social media can be found there. I have accounts on most social media but I only use Facebook, Twitter, and my blog regularly. But if you want to find me somewhere, search for Joreth, Joreth Innkeeper, or some variation on The InnBetween.
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.
New episode! This time I review the classic play-turned-movie Same Time, Next Year with Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn. Can a movie about cheating find a place on the Poly-ish Movie List?
If you subscribe to Poly-ish Movie Reviews on some kind of podcatcher or RSS feed, you probably already got this month's episode in your podcast feed. But the Show Notes & Transcripts page was posted late, so here's the new episode for this month!
And he *listened*. I find that to be admirable and impressive and I think there is a lot of good potential for his future in unlearning all the shit that society has instilled in him.
I think the advice is good, so I'm gonna re-post a modified version of it here as a general post not aimed at a specific person but at a situation that I see play over and over again in the poly community. I've left the gendered pronouns that applied to the OP, because I so often see this playing out with these pronouns and I often speak from my own experience, but the stories and the advice could be found with any mix of pronouns.
So, you're trying this poly thing out for the first time with your partner. You love each other, so naturally you don't want to lose what you already have together, but you also want to explore something new. So you discuss it a lot, and you make some agreements as to how to go about it that you think shows your commitment to and compassion for each other.
Then she comes to you and says that this agreement y'all had? She wants to change the agreement. Right now, because the thing you agreed not to do is about to happen. Or maybe already happened. Or maybe isn't about to happen right this instance, but it's now inevitable and it's *going* to happen and you can't stop it.
And you're afraid. And hurt. You agreed! Now she wants to change the rules! She can't just do that, can she? Well, I'm going to tell you something that you're going to like even less than hearing that. She's allowed to do change things. What she does with herself and with other people who are not you is none of your business. She can change the "rules" (whether you use that term or not) regarding what she does with herself whenever she wants to, and she's not "the bad guy" for doing so, even if you feel bad feels about it.
First of all, don't confuse "it's not your business, she's her own person and can do what she wants" with "don't have any emotional investment in your partner". A lot of mono people and recently-mono people make that mistake.
When your partner goes to work, or hangs out with her friends, is it your "business" to negotiate ahead of time what she does or doesn't do at work? I mean, you're sharing her with her job, right? You're sharing her with her boss. Shouldn't you get a say in what she does? Of course not, that would be ridiculous. You're not "sharing" her with her boss! Even though, technically, she does spend more time with him, the majority of her waking hours, actually. You don't get a say in it, you don't get to "negotiate" about it, and it's none of your business. What she does on her boss's time is between her and her boss. What she does with her best friend when they're out together is between her and her best friend. How she spends her time with her mother is between her and her mother.
But as a loving partner, you might be *interested* in how her day at work goes. You might want to hear all about it, or maybe what she does isn't of interest to you so you don't really want to hear all the details but you care how her job affects her. Her happiness or lack of happiness at work matters to you, so you're "invested" in her well-being at work. But it's not your "business" to know anything about her work, especially ahead of time when shit happens and things come up.
She doesn't have to report to you or notify you or tell you anything to soothe your own feelings. But she might want to share with you because sharing who we are and what we do when we're apart with our partners is part of intimacy and connecting with each other. And she ought to tell you things that could affect your own ability to consent to a relationship (or certain activities in that relationship) with her. But that's about your relationship with her and how *she* affects *you*, not her relationship with other people.
No one is saying that you shouldn't be "invested" in her and even in her other relationships, but this "need" to know that you're expressing *is* a form of control, whether you see it or not. It's scary to not know what's happening, and wanting to be kept in the loop isn't, by itself, a bad thing, but expecting to know, with the (probably subconscious) belief that by knowing you can then affect the outcome, is a drive to control.
If you think that she can't just announce it, and that a conversation or a dialog has to happen before rules or agreements can change, then you're likely believing that you can influence things. Conversation *should* happen so that you can both explore your feelings together, but usually when the person in your position feels *affronted* at the idea that he isn't granted the "right" to this conversation and feels that an announcement is insufficient, if you dig down deep enough, it's based on the assumption that he can control or influence the outcome.
And often, I see people being affronted even when their partner *does* ask for a conversation first. The very fact of "asking permission" is seen as offensive, because you "already agreed!" You had an agreement! Well, now she wants to renegotiate that agreement, and if that bothers you, then you have some issues with control right now.
Maybe you don't realize that's what you're doing, but right now you're not just expressing a desire to know because change is hard to deal with and you want time to adjust. You're also expressing a desire to influence the potential situation, to influence *her* decision-making process. That's control. You might not understand that your underlying, sometimes hidden, assumptions are being expressed, but they are and that's why people in forums jump down your throat when you ask for advice on certain kinds of situations.
The problem is that only people who have made it through to the other side can see what the difference is between control vs. interest, or between "not your business" and "don't get invested". Much like privilege, most of us can't see it when we're in it, but we can damn well see it when we're on the outside of it.
Because most of us, when we're on your side of the fence, can't tell what the difference is between "not your business" and "don't be invested", it probably sounds like I'm suggesting that you shouldn't *care*, because your side of the fence has all these different definitions of "caring" mixed up with each other. I've written before about the story of a friend who voluntarily gave up polyamory on the basis that he couldn't deal with his partner "not caring" about what he did away from her. He couldn't tell the difference between "not your business" and "don't be invested" either.
There are very subtle, but significant, things going on that make "none of your business" and "don't be invested" two very different things, but much like trying to point out to someone their own privilege, it can be very difficult to see what that difference is, until one day you just *do* see the difference.
Second of all, another common rookie mistake is that we often make it unsafe for our partners to be honest with us. Without doing anything intentionally, and without even going so far as "abuse" or "control", when our partners are afraid of how we will react to something, our partners often skirt things because it doesn't feel safe to be totally up front and honest, and they do that *without intending* to be dishonest.
There is a reluctance to admit to themselves what they're really feeling, which becomes a hesitation to admit to us. They try to "ease us in" to situations, they downplay this thing or gloss over that thing. Because they don't feel completely safe in really examining themselves out of fear of how the revelations will affect us. This happens to newbies all. the. time. It's basically the transitional step - if you come from a mono world, you have certain habits and assumptions and expectations built in and getting past them into trusting oneself and one's partner is extremely difficult.
The example of someone who is upset that his partner originally agreed not to have sex with her new partner on a date but then calls to ask permission to change that rule while on that date is a *classic* example and the forums are filled with posts asking for advice on what to do now. He obviously had a problem with her having sex with her partner. She obviously picked up on that, whether he said anything explicitly or not. If he really didn't have any problem with it, even being surprised by a change in plans wouldn't have elicited the all-to-common plea for validation that the poly forums would see the next day, as he plaintively asks "that was wrong of her to change our agreement, right?"
She didn't feel completely safe advocating for her own interest in sex with her partner or in advocating on behalf of her partner's interests, so she hedged and cushioned and tried to ease him into it, until sex was right there, in her face, and she couldn't hide from the possibility anymore without being blatantly dishonest. She had to wait until the cognitive dissonance from the reality of potential sex was greater than her fear of hurting you before she could admit to herself, and then to you, that sex was an option.
This means that *you* have your own share of the responsibility here in setting up the situation you now find yourself in where agreements are changed or broken and you feel "betrayed" because her emotions and desires didn't conveniently followed the path that y'all somehow thought it was possible to map out ahead of time.
She needs to feel that her actions with another aren't going to hurt you, because she cares about you and doesn't *want* to hurt you, and she needs to see that enough times to really trust that it's true, before she'll learn how to let go of this habit of hiding her wants from herself, of downplaying herself, of diminishing herself, of making herself smaller for your comfort. She likely has a *lot* of programming from a multitude of sources over her life instructing her to make herself smaller for the comfort of others, particularly if your partner is female, femme, or socialized as a woman and has male or masculine or socialized-as-men romantic partners.
I've been there. Yes, me, the Internet Flame Warrior, Le Online Bitch, who demands my agency and takes no prisoners in these battles for autonomy and respect. I know the complicated, swirling morass of unnamed and unrecognized feelings, the justifications, the compassion tinged with darker fears, that murky soup inside the head that makes me believe, if only on the surface, that no, I really am not as interested in this guy, no, I really don't want sex this soon, no, I'm totally happy not dating anyone else for a while, so please, honey, take your time and get used to things first.
I know how to shrink myself so slowly that even I won't notice it until the box I'm trying to fit in bursts from the pressure. I know how to put myself on the back burner, how to dismiss myself so that someone else feels better.
I also know that it's a false sense of security. I know that this usually just makes things worse in the long run because my partner starts to get used to this unobtrusive, inconspicuous little package, so when the box suddenly explodes and sends shards and debris everywhere, he feels like a bomb has gone off. Either way he's going to feel uncomfortable with me taking up my full size. I know this.
And yet, I know what it's like to do this anyway, even knowing it. Because I'm trained to do this. Everything in my culture and upbringing says that this is the proper way to behave. To be a "compassionate" person, a "nice" person, a "caring" person, you have to "compromise". You have to "move at the pace of the slowest person". You have to "give and take" and right now you have to "give" first.
She feels that she has to be smaller than she is. She has made herself so small that even she can't see who she really is and what she wants, and she did that because she's afraid of how you will feel if she doesn't. It doesn't even have to be a fear of punishment or retribution or abuse. She could feel afraid because she genuinely doesn't want to hurt you because she loves you.
But she feels that way because she believes that being herself and wanting what she wants *will hurt you*.
You have to set the tone, and you have to do the work before she will feel safe. That may take some time and she will probably stumble over her own bad habits for a while before she learns to trust you and to trust herself.
But it starts with you.
I was once part of a poly group whose focus was on community leadership. They couldn't get *anything* done. They literally debated *for years* about what the group's official definition of polyamory ought to be. Everyone had to have an equal say in everything else, even if they had no experience in the subject.
In another group around the same time frame, I was hired to be the organization's webmaster. The previous webmaster, who hosted the site on their own server, was leaving so they needed to find a new host. I made some recommendations, but if you don't have the ability to host your own, hosting costs money (if you need your site to do things like e-commerce, which they did). I was argued at for *days* over why can't we just make a free Yahoo or Geocities site? Yahoo hosts their email and they've never had a problem with them, so why not use them to host the website too?
Like, just stop. I was brought on for a reason. I have skills that you don't. You should not have input on organizational topics that you have no experience with. That's not how businesses or organizations are run. Not if they want to be successful, anyway.
Both of these groups were poly, and every time I objected to literally every single member having an equal voice on every single topic, I was yelled at because that didn't match their personal philosophy of egalitarian relationships.
THESE ARE NOT ROMANTIC POLY RELATIONSHIPS, these are *organizations* that have goals and shit that needs to be accomplished. You can't run your business the way you run your love life.
Back to the intolerance thing, liberals are often dismissed for not being "tolerant" of intolerant people or ideas. The very idea of tolerance, ironically, is dismissed out of hand if the person holding the idea doesn't provide a platform for literally every single fucked up idea that crosses their path. And "free speech" is often used as a defense when people simply don't like what they have to say.
So, 1) what I advocate for in romantic relationships is not necessarily applicable to other kinds of relationships, particularly business relationships or relationships between groups or entire nations or whatever. Sometimes it is, but sometimes, often, it's not. How groups, organizations, and businesses ought to be run is not how relationships ought to be run and vice versa. Sometimes hierarchy really is the better way to do things. Just not in romantic relationships.
2) What I advocate for in romantic relationships often doesn't hold true for people who aren't operating in good faith, like abusers, rapists, Missing Stairs, misogynists, racists, etc. Yeah, you should be kind and compassionate to your romantic partners, unless he's abusive and then your compassion will be used against you. Yes, you should listen and empathize with your romantic partners, but you don't need to empathize with internet trolls. Shit like that.
And that's not at all internally inconsistent. I never once advocated for unconditional anything. My advice is contextual. Failing to see that is intellectually dishonest.
[deep breath] OK, so when you start going out for job interviews, I want to make sure that you don't choose an employer who is going to come between us or mess up our routine. So I think I should be present on your job interviews. You haven't always made the best decisions in the past. I mean, look at some of your former jobs before we got married! I think you could use an objective opinion. And, after all, I'm also a manager, so I know what these people will be thinking. I think that I ought to meet your potential employers so that you don't get caught up in the excitement of having a new job and miss some of the fine print in the job description.
We should also discuss what kinds of things you can and can't do at work. I know you haven't even started looking for a new job yet, but that makes this the perfect time to decide these things! That way your future employer doesn't get his hopes up. I don't want your new boss to have more time with you than I do, so you should tell him right up front that you have to be off work in time to get home before I do. After all, before your new job, you always made dinner. That shouldn't have to change just because you have a new job in your life. That would disrupt *our* relationship. So, you have to be home in time to have dinner ready for me when I get home like always.
And you can't be in to work until after I've left for the day. I mean, who is going to get the kids ready for school and have my stuff all organized for me if you're gone early? That's not fair of him to cut into your time with the children! They should come first!
Also, the job needs to be far enough away that our friends and neighbors won't notice that you're working for someone, but not so far that it costs too much in gas money. In fact, I think your future employer ought to pay for your gas to get there. If he wants you to be there badly enough, he'll see the benefit in paying for your gas. I would suggest that he pick you up, but then our neighbors might start asking questions.
It's OK to put in a few hours in the evening while I'm out bowling with the gang every week. You should do something for *you*, y'know, when I'm not around to be affected by it. Hey, I care that you're getting your needs met, I'm just that considerate of you. But absolutely no weekends. That's *our family* time together. Remember, the kids come first. And definitely no over-night stuff either. I would feel lonely without you in our bed, and I don't think I can handle that. Our marriage was here first, before your job, so it should take priority.
Speaking of priority, if you're with your new boss and I need you for something, I think you should be able to leave him to help me. Remember, our marriage came first and if your new boss can't respect that, then I don't think you should be working for him. Your new boss can't be calling you after-hours for anything. If he needs someone that badly for more than what we agreed to right now, between us without him present, then he should get more people to do the job.
Also, he needs to offer you a decent salary because you're worth a lot, but it can't be more money than I bring home. I would feel inadequate as a partner if he gives you more money than I make. But he still has to value you!
Now, while you're with him, I think it's OK to answer phones and greet people at the door, but I'm not sure I'm comfortable with you filing things or handling the accounting just yet. You'll have to just work for him for a while until I adjust before you can work up to that. I don't know for how long, I'll decide that when I'm ready.
What do you mean, what if the job isn't for a receptionist position? What if the new employer is looking for a server or a construction worker? Oh hell no! There's no way I'm going to let MY SPOUSE do something as dangerous as construction work! What if you get injured on the job?! You'll bring that injury back home and everything will have to change! No, that's a hard limit for me. I can't handle my spouse working in a dangerous field. That's a boundary for us.
What? Of course this isn't unreasonable. Any employer who wouldn't agree to all this isn't right for us anyway. He wouldn't be a good match, so it's OK to reject him. We need to find someone who is right *for us*. We're supposed to be doing this together, right? That's what you said. So we need to find you a job that will make our relationship better. If the job strains our relationship, it's got to go. I shouldn't have to accommodate something that's coming into our lives after we've been together this long. The job is the new guy here, so anyone wanting to be your employer is just going to have to take us or leave us.
And while I'm thinking of "new guy", maybe you ought to just work for female employers. They tend to be more understanding of relationship obligations, whereas dudes are more territorial. I don't want to get into pissing matches with your new boss all the time, so maybe just stick to women.
But somewhere, out there, is our perfect new employer. She'll be kind and understanding and considerate and respectful of our relationship and our family and your obligations. She'll pay decent wages and have excellent benefits even for part-timers, because of course you can't be with her 40 hours a week if you expect to be home when I need you. She'll never make any demands of us, and if things change, she'll let you go gracefully with a comfortable compensation package because she knew the conditions of hiring you when she interviewed you. Don't worry, I'll write it all down for her and give it to her when we go to your interview.
Oh, honey, it'll be so great having two incomes and more health insurance! We'll have so much more money, and you'll have that sense of purpose you've been looking for since the youngest was born! It'll revitalize our marriage! We'll go on more vacations together, and I can't wait to come home from work and see you there, waiting for me as usual with a candlelight dinner, and you'll tell me all about your day - every detail!
No, really, I mean every detail - a full play-by-play. I need to hear *everything* so that I don't feel insecure by not knowing what you did while you were away. Well, no, I never needed to know every detail while we were apart when you were home and I was at work, but this is different. In fact, just to make sure, why don't you just text me throughout the day every time you do a new task, that way we'll be sure, and then you can recap it all at night when you get home. Your boss is just going to have to deal with you making personal phone calls and text while you're on the clock. That's another boundary for us.
And I promise that hearing all the details of how much fun you're having at your new job won't make me feel left out. And I promise that I won't make you responsible for my feelings. I'm totally responsible for my feelings and you're totally responsible for your actions that cause those feelings. So if I start to feel jealous when I hear *too many* details, you'll just have to quit your job and focus on us for a while. But since you're *agreeing* to it, it's totally egalitarian. Because I love you and I respect that you can agree to these boundaries.
I know it's taken me a while to get on board with your idea here, but I've been doing a lot of thinking, and I think our marriage will be stronger than ever for the adventure we're about to take together. Just as long as we can quit this little experiment if it gets too hard. But it'll be great!
Me: No, I actually don't like the beginning of relationships. I don't like the novelty, the newness, the excitement of dating. Some do. I like the old, comfortable relationships that have been around a long time and you really know each other and you're "settled".
I'm poly because I just keep falling in love with people before I'm done being in love with the pre-existing partners. There are a lot of interesting, wonderful people in the world and I fall in love with some amazing people who all bring value to my life.
There's nothing missing or lacking or broken about any of my relationships. I fell in love with new people while still loving someone else.
Him: Yeah, I can understand that. It happens all the time.
When I have conversations in real life, as when I hashtag #RealConversationsIHave, about polyamory, the conversations are necessarily limited. There's something about verbal speech that makes conversations linear. So I can't get to every talking point in the conversation because my response sparks a particular response in them and I respond to that and we go in a particular direction. This particular conversation even continued in another direction from here.
Plus, a lot of times, I'm at work. For most people, being at work means you can't say certain things, but for me it means that our conversations are interrupted when someone yells across the room for help RIGHT NOW and we have to stop talking to run over and save someone from being crushed by a falling truss or road case. Or, in less dire circumstances, we're just walking in two different directions so the conversation can only last for as long as we're in earshot. A lot of my soundbites were developed this way. That and Twitter, which I deliberately used as a tool to create soundbites for complicated and nuanced concepts. But then the Twitter-created soundbites also come in very handy in these situations at work.
So there are several reasons why I am poly, not just the one I happened to address in this conversation. One of which is my aforementioned falling in love without falling out of love reason. That's why *I* have multiple partners myself. But a big part of being poly, as opposed to some other form of non-monogamy, is in how one feels about one's partner having other lovers, and in how one feels about those other lovers.
I am also poly because I very strongly believe in agency and autonomy. Because of my aforementioned reason, I know that it's possible (and even likely) for my partners to fall in love (or lust) with someone other than me and still love or like or care for me. So, because I value agency and autonomy, I am also poly because I do. not. believe. in restricting my partners' expressions of feelings for other people. If they fall in love with someone else, they should be allowed to explore those feelings because it is not my place to "allow" or "disallow" it in the first place.
The stronger I really internalize this value, the less often I feel things like jealousy. I am not prone to jealousy mainly because, deep down, I honestly do not see my partners as things to feel jealous over. Envy, sure, but a romantic relationship is not required to feel envy of other people. Envy can be felt over any number of other people, even people you don't even know personally. And envy in poly relationships is pretty simple to solve - I want to do that thing that other people are doing, please do it with me too? Boom, solved.
And the third aspect of polyamory - how one feels about metamours - from the very beginning I felt empathy and compassion for metamours. And over time, as I explored the reality of polyamory, I learned the real-life value that metamours bring to my life as friends, confidantes, pillars of support, activity mates, co-conspirators, and sometimes simply other people to share in the emotional labor and the joy that comes with relating to our mutual partner. I am polyamorous because I see my metamours as opportunities, not as threats or competitors or even "other". The people I count among my best and closest friends are people I met through a mutual partner. In fact, if my metamours weren't already going to be the groomsmates, I'd have them as my bridesmates and one metafore is my bridesmate. Their presence in my partners' lives, and by extension in my life, makes my life better.
There are definitely people who like the NRE and some who like it at an unhealthy level (NRE-junkies), but there are those people in monogamy and other relationship styles too. I, however, am not in it for the "thrill". None of the main reasons *why* I am poly involve "thrill" or excitement or novelty or newness. They all involve complex emotions and interactions which are easier to handle and feel better with time under the relationship, with familiarity.
There are some fun parts to "newness", to "the chase", to the uncertainty, to the novelty, to the NRE, but that's not *why* I am poly. I could get a lot of that from being a serial monogamist too, or a cheater, or a swinger, or any number of other relationship styles. That's not the part that attracts me to polyamory. The more complex parts are what attracts me, because those more complex parts have higher returns, for me.
I'm finally getting around to reading "Why Does He Do That" by Lundy Bancroft so expect lots of quotes in the next few days, and hopefully some longer blog posts if I ever get a computer again. I didn't want to wait on this one because it's relevant to the atrocity of a "kinky romance" movie whose sequel just came out.
In addition to being rape and abuse apologia, the 50 Shades trilogy is also extemely classist. Some tweet put it more succinctly, basically that this book wouldn't seem romantic at all if Christian lived in a trailer park. If a guy with tattoos and a construction job behaved like Christian, even the "soft" version in the movie, it would be glaringly obvious how controlling and manipulative he is. But give him a private jet and suddenly it's "romantic"
Bancroft addresses this very thing as early as the first section in the introduction chapter on The Mythology of abuse.
"The social stereotype of the abuser as a relatively uneducated, blue-collar male adds to the confusion. The faulty equation goes: 'Abusive equals muscle-bound caveman, which in turn equals lower class.' In addition to the fact that this image is an unfair stereotype of working-class men, it also overlooks the fact that a professional or college-educated man has roughly the same likelihood of abusing women as anyone else. A successful businessperson, a college professor, or a sailing instructor may be less likely to adopt a tough-guy image with tattoos all over his body [although that stereotype is gradually being overcome these days] but still may well be a nightmare partner.This is Christian Grey. This is Hair Gropenführer. This is even my ex, who is not in the same class as the extremely wealthy, but has the social power of being a white-collar, educated, middle-class, white, likeable, social-justice-conscious, cismale.
Class and racial stereotypes permit the more privileged members of society to duck the problem of abuse by pretending its someone else's problem. Their thinking goes: 'It's those construction-worker guys who never went to college; it's those Latinos; it's those street toughs - they're the abusers. Our town, our neighborhood, [our class of man,] isn't like that. We're not macho men here.'
But women who live with abuse know that abusers come in all styles and from all backgrounds. Sometimes the more educated an abuser, the more knots he knows how to tie in a woman's brain, the better he is at getting her to blame herself, and the slicker is his ability to persuade other people that she is crazy. The more socially powerful an abuser, the more difficult it can be to escape."
The Orangutan-In-Chief has made the "Latino" argument explicitly. One of the reasons he wants to build his security-blanket of a wall is because he claimed that Mexicans are rapists, implying proportionally more often than US men are. My ex uses social justice language to obfuscate and confuse his victims so that they get confused and start believing that their resistance to his control victimizes *him* and that they are the monsters.
Christian uses his money. He can afford to travel literally anywhere and with no notice or preparation to stalk his victim. He buys the company his victim works for so that her income is directly tied to pleasing him. In the movie, they gave him an excuse that he wanted to fire her "abusive" boss, but a non-controlling person would seek legal prosection means to help her, not replacing one abusive boss for another. He buys her a car against her wishes. He consistently thinks that he knows what's best for her in spite of her protestations and buys whatever he thinks she "needs" from clothes to food to transportation to her source of income, regardless of her own preferences.
He uses legalese to obfuscate his manipulation in the form of a non-disclosure contract (and again in his farce of a bdsm contract) and then uses literally the power of the law with those contracts to isolate her and prevent her from communicating outside or having an independent support system.
Healthy kinksters introducing a newbie to bdsm for the first time recommend that the n00b find a local dungeon and/or community for more resources and support during the learning process. One of the red flags in the community, or "lifestyle", is when a dom tries to be the only teaching source, often insisting that he alone is "responsible" enough to properly guide the sub. One example of an extemist who uses this tactic is a cult leader who is the sole source of wisdom (and sex or decisions about sex).
I once had an ex who insisted that only he could be trusted to recognize predators in the community, so all new subbies had to be collared by him so that any dom wanting to play with the newbie sub had to court his permission and approval, so that he could "vet" them. I've also seen "poly" men use this same excuse to infantilize their female partners saying that they have poor judgement so he needs veto power to make sure that she stays safe. Ironically, this is a warning sign that *he* is the one abusing her.
Christian also uses the "I was abused as a child" myth that Bancroft addresses in the immediately prior bullet point. This excuse pulls on a victim's compassion and makes her feel guilty for her resistance because she is then continuing to hurt an already broken person, as well as making her want to stick around to "save" him.
This book and movie trilogy would have actually made a good suspense thriller (if you excuse the poor writing). If the author wasn't such a piss-poor writer and if she hadn't gone on record multiple times defending her tripe as "romantic", I might have thought that she researched abusive relationships and used the domestic abuse checklist as a character outline. And if the Twilight author wasn't almost as shitty of writer, I might have assumed that *she* was the researcher and used the checklist that the plagerizer - er, I mean 50 Shades author just unwittingly copied into her fanfic version.
I'm not even past the introduction chapters yet and 50 Shades can already be seen in the warning signs. Abuse is about power and control. Money, education, job type, and other class markers are all ways that people obtain power. If anything, it seems like it would be MORE likely that Christian and Orangeface McTinyhands would turn out to be abusers.
Don't support the books or movies by spending money on the franchise or watching / downloading through a service that tracks its popularity like Amazon or Netflix. Don't recommend it to newbies or excuse it as a "gateway" into real kink. If you happen to be interested in the erotic fantasy of being controlled or trained, I can recommend better stories that don't neglect the subbie's consent even while she submits to a power exchange dynamic, even ones that include her resistance and him "knowing her better than she knows herself".
To put it simply (yet again), it's not the kink that makes it abuse, it's the manipulation and control, and what makes it particularly dangerous is that it relies heavily on the audience buying into the class myth of abuse. This myth is one of the tools that abusers use to gaslight their victims and convince them that they are not victims. By not taking a hard stance and speaking out against this franchise, our silence contributes directly to the culture which traps women in abusive situations. Women need to know that this is abuse so they can better recognize it when it happens to them.
He is not romantic. He is not sexy. He is not a dom. He is not a broken bird to be saved. He is not your fault. He is not exempt.
When I was about 13, I was so severely bullied that I became suicidal. I gradually lifted myself out of that state without ever once actually attempting to take my own life.
Then, many years passed. So many years, in fact, that I forgot what being suicidal felt like. I'm not naturally depressive. I don't really have the brain chemistry for it on my own. My depression is entirely situational. When the situation is resolved, I go back to being "me".
So I spent the vast majority of my life not being depressed. In fact, I was so in love with life that I was absolutely terrified of death. It was unthinkable. It was unmentionable. It was the thing that could never happen. I was (and am, in my "natural" state) so opposed to death that I would be an Alcor member if I had the money for it. That's one of those cryonics groups that freezes you at the point of death in hopes that they'll cure whatever you died of sometime in the future and bring you back to life. Any hope, even far-fetched hope, that death won't claim me was worth having that hope.
A metamour of mine calls death The Void, and she is so opposed to it that she is dedicating her life to defeating death through science. She is a dragonslayer. I remember being that afraid, and that affronted by death. Or, I should say, I know that I used to be that person, but I don't remember how it feels to be that person these days.
2 years ago, I slipped into a suicidal depression again for the first time since junior high school. I didn't even recognize it at first, because I wasn't me. I kept losing things and I didn't see an end to the loss in my future, so I started longing for death. But I didn't self-harm. I sought help and I worked on my situation and I eventually pulled out of it again.
But unlike my childhood depression, I did not swing so far to the other side that I forgot what suicidal depression felt like. I changed my circumstances but only marginally. The fear of slipping back into those circumstances remained constant, so the suicidal thoughts remained nearby - gone but not forgotten.
With the new Trump presidency, I lost my battle again. I've been in a suicidal depression since the election and it's not letting up because it's not a situation that I can change. But I'm also not in any immediate danger. As this article tries to explain, suicide is not black and white, it's not an on/off switch. I know these thoughts aren't mine, I know what's causing them, and I know how to seek help if the thoughts get louder than my voice.
But this is what it's like inside my head these days. I'm in the grey area. I can laugh, I can have fun, I can orgasm, I can smile, and all of those things are genuine. But there is a layer underneath that doesn't go away. It's like trying to grow a garden on top of permafrost, or like trying to grow anything in this fucking sandbar of a state - It can be done, but the roots don't go very deep and the sand can take over.
The hardest part about living with suicidal depression is the inability to talk about it. I have made a conscious choice to talk about it online, but I know that it makes other people feel bad. That's really what's so hard about having a mental illness. On top of the symptoms of my illness, I also have to manage other people's emotions about my illness. I can't talk about the thoughts in my head because they will hurt the people who care about me. I can't share the emptiness with others because they feel sad for me or frustrated and helpless because they can't fix it.
I have to feel these feelings and also feel the disappointment and responsibility because my inner feelings made someone else feel hurt. So I keep my thoughts to myself except when they start to bubble over and I write a post about it because I just can't contain them anymore.
I don't want pity or to make others feel sad for me. I'm not complaining or seeking sympathy or hugs or anything. I just want to be able to have my feelings, to be understood, and to be accepted that I have depression without taking on additional responsibility of making other people uncomfortable about my feelings. I want for people to, when they hear or read my words of depression, to just go "oh, that's Joreth and her depression," not "OMG it's so sad! I feel so bad that I can't help! Now I have bad feels because you have bad feels!"
So I share these things hoping to make other people understand what it's like, so that maybe they can learn to just hear and acknowledge their loved ones suffering from mental illness without also feeling guilty or pity or sad or frustrated or hurt just because *we* aren't having the positive emotion that *they* wish we would have in this moment.
Depression, even suicidal depression, is a livable state. It's not a comfortable state, but a livable one. We need more nuance in how we approach and interact with people who have mental illness. Many of us don't need hospitalization or extreme care. Many of us just live in the grey area.
Hey filmmakers! I know this is a complicated, nuanced concept that takes years of study in advanced academic institutions, but I'm going to spoil the ending for you now:
It is not only possible, but likely, that two people of complimentary genders can be thrown together in a situation and not want to have sex with each other.I know, I've seen this happen. Like every single mixed-gender office ever. They don't all pair up, even if they're not already married. Even if they genuinely like each other as people. And sometimes, even if they are actually attracted to each other.
Now, some of y'all script writers appear to have advanced doctorates in Non-Trope Writing, because I've seen a couple movies lately where you didn't do this. And I appreciate you. But the rest of y'all need to get your shit together and get some schoolin' because the obligatory romantic subplot that serves to support the male character's story arc is boring, trite, lazy writing, overdone, and way out of proportion to reality. It's like watching a movie set in Harlem around the turn of the last century and seeing only 1 black face (of someone who happens to be in power during Jim Crow and yet not a main character). Like, do you even history bro?
The population is more than 50% "woman" - there needs to be more than 1 female character in a cast of dozens. When you add up all the various ethnicities together, white men are a minority - there needs to be more than 1 or 2 black dudes and possibly that 1 hot Latina in a cast of dozens. And I know that this one will be some seriously high level thesis work for you, but all those women and non-white people have their own stories going on that have nothing to do with supporting some white dude's personal growth, which even white dudes in the audience can relate to if you tell the story well (and if they don't just refuse to relate to on principle).
And when you look at all the times that people don't hook up with each other just because their genitals are complimentary, there needs to be more than 3 movies in the last 10 years that feature a mixed-gender cast that doesn't have the token woman character having sex with the lead male character or any sexual tension leading up to will-they/won't-they subplots.
Because it's totally possible to put an attractive woman and an attractive man* in a room together and have them not want to bone each other.
*I'm not even going to address the problem with body diversity or gendered double standards of age and/or "attractiveness" here - I'm mad enough already.
#Irony: #Polyamory is explicitly supposed to be about "more than two", and yet every resource we have, every discussion, every fear, every relationship rule, everything centers around couples. We have to "protect the primary couple"; we have to "respect the original or preexisting couple"; we have to develop communication so that we can improve our relationships (implied to be between couples); we assuage fears by talking about how the new relationship can improve the old *couple*'s relationship; singles and solo polys wonder how to get into couples "of their own"; and dog forbid we neglect to discuss how to "open up" an existing couple! ...
"The Couple" takes on a life of its own and soon it's a battle between The Couple and everyone who is not part of The Couple. That goes for the single interloper who is a threat to The Couple and yet is also the same person they want to "include in their relationship" and that goes for everyone who has seen this story play out a million times before and tries to warn The Couple that we already know the ending to this story.
Y'know what? Fuck "The Couple". I don't give a rat's ass about your relationships anymore. I certainly don't "respect" your coercive, destructive, exclusionary relationship. I care about the people in the relationships, and that includes everyone that the people in The Couple are about to sacrifice on the alter to The Couple. I have partners of my own. I have life partners. I have entangled partners. I have partners I care deeply about and who share significant portions of my life with me. Fuck those "couples" too.
I want to focus on building *partnerships* with my lovers and metamours and friends and family. A partnership isn't *inherently* limited to a "couple" and no one dyad gets to take precedence over anyone else and certainly no *relationship* gets to take precedence over any *person*. The partnership must always exist to serve the people in the partnership and never the other way around. Sometimes my partnerships do include just two of us, and that's fine, but fuck The Couple as its own entity. I care about the people, even the two who make up The Couple, but I do not care about The Couple as if it were a living, breathing person in its own right. I do not grant The Couple personhood status. People are more important than The Couple.
And fuck those cousins of The Couple who elevate The Triad or The Quad or The Tribe or whatever fucking group name you have to the same status as The Couple. You won't have as much social support as The Couple, so you might think that your little relationship unit deserves to be in a protected class, but a bully is still a bully even among minority groups so fuck your application of The Couple filter over your technically-more-than-two relationship too.
And if you try to argue semantics with me over what you think makes a "couple" and whether that's different from a "partnership" or not, fuck you too, you're missing the point.
I'm fucking exhausted and distressed at the end of work days because I'm forced to coexist alongside of people who I now know to be truly terrible people. So I can cut off all non-essential contact with my coworkers and lose one of the main reasons why I love my job, or I can very carefully manage dozens of relationships per day to stay within very specific parameters so as to be able to laugh with my coworkers and not be reminded that they honestly don't care about my existence on a daily basis.
I used to love my job. It was one of the things that gave me meaning. It wasn't just a paycheck to me, it was a passion. I still love doing the physical act of my job, but I don't look forward to each day the way I used to anymore. I used to say that being at work was where I could be the most "me". I had the fewest filters, was the most authentic, and enjoyed life most often. Even a bad day at my job was better than a good day at any other job (and I've worked in something like 30 other industries, so I can say this with some authority).
I no longer feel that I can be my most authentic self at work. I have more filters now, and I have to put on more of an act. This takes a lot of emotional energy and I'm less happy to be working than I used to.
I once said (OK, more than once) that even if I were to win a lottery big enough to live in style for the rest of my life, I would still work at my job because I love it that much and I like staying busy. I don't think I would do that now. I have enough other hobbies that I also love, and enough other interests that I'd like to try, that tip the scales once we add on the weight of managing coworkers' awfulness.
Now, since I still need an income, this is still the job that I love the most and I'd rather do this than any other job. But if money weren't an object, I no longer love my job so much that I'd do it for free. I'd rather be costuming or photographing something or dancing (as long as I don't have to talk to those people either, because here in the South, the dance community is filled with some awful people too), than putting up with my coworkers' bullshit just to be able to climb some truss or fight for a seat behind a camera watching another talking head lecture about quarterly projections.
And I'm sad that my job is no longer one of the greatest passions of my life, or rather that the passion has been dimmed with prolonged exposure to the reality of my coworkers' bigotry and ignorance. After 25 years in the business, I guess the honeymoon is finally over.
The more I learn about Moana, the more I like it.
I'm about to say a few things that I just learned about the film and the backstory that I like, which aren't *too* spoilery, but if you're really spoiler averse, you might want to not read the rest of the post. It's mostly about the background behind the movie and not so much about movie plot points.
First of all, I just learned that the production team recruited "experts from across the South Pacific to form an Oceanic Story Trust, who consulted on the film's cultural accuracy and sensitivity as the story evolved through nine versions." Seriously, more movies need to do something like this.
Next, I learned that one of those early versions had Moana as the only girl in a family of sons and her character arc was gender-based. Now, I'm usually all in for a good examination of how gender roles are expressed and inhibit characters, but something I've been really into lately is just having characters be fully fleshed characters that get into situations and who might happen to be not straight white males. MRA defenses of mostly white straight male protagonists include the justification that the story isn't *about* being a white male, so girls and POC should have no problem getting into the story because it could apply to "anyone". 1) Totally not true on pretty much every level of that assertion; 2) if they really could apply to "anyone", then it shouldn't matter if the character *is* "anyone", including non-male, non-straight, or non-white; and 3) yeah, having "white male" be the default setting where making a character not "white male" is a deliberate choice IS PART OF THE PROBLEM.
So, I really liked the fact that the story of Moana is not about her being "a girl". She wasn't prohibited from her dreams by her father "because she's a girl", she wasn't being forced into her traditional role "because she's a girl", and her story wasn't about either overcoming her gender or teaching anyone else to overcome gender roles. Her story was just an adventure story. That happened to happen to "a girl". The story could have been anyone. And I absolutely loved that she didn't have to "be a girl" and yet, she was one.
Next, I learned that the scene with Moana, Maui, and the ... well, I'll just say the "pirates" ... was a *deliberate homage to Mad Max: Fury Road*! Take that you fucking MRAs! Even Disney sees the financial incentive and storytelling value of Furiosa. Even "chick flicks" are fucking badass feminist action movies now. Because, here's a newsflash (and to blatantly steal from some other post I don't have the link to), women actually like action movies but particularly when the main character isn't a sexualized woman. Just tell our stories and we'll come see them. It's not that we don't like action films, it's that it's fucking lazy storytelling when the only women in the film are there to fulfill the (perceived) male audience members' wet dreams and we're *bored* and uninterested in lazy storytelling like that. The action isn't actiony enough to make up for the fact that your few women are cardboard flat and BORING.
There are legitimate criticisms about the film with respect to cultural sensitivity, and I was concerned about that happening when I first heard of it coming out and again when I saw it, but not being familiar with the communities of the people in the South Pacific (other than to know that there is no great controversy or ownership battle over who gets to use the term "poly" online and I refuse to White Knight them by making it into A Thing on their behalf), I was not able to anticipate or later to pick out what those criticisms might be.
So, as someone who is not disinfranchised by whatever gaffs the movie makes, the more I see, read, listen, and think about this movie, the more I want to include it in my top Disney favorites alongside Brave (my #1 favorite for the tomboy struggle), Maleficent (#3 for the lack of romantic love driving force and the nuanced look at a villain without ignoring her flaws) and Frozen (#4 for the lack of a husband and romance plot).
If I didn't list your favorite Disney princess movie, chances are it's because I either didn't like it or because I haven't seen it, so you don't have to ask me "have you seen...?" to find out why it's not listed.
I got an amazing compliment last night. I have never danced bal before (balboa, a variation on the original lindy hop swing dance that was developed for really fast music in really crowded nightclubs) and I don't even know what the basic pattern is. But a guy in the local lindy scene who knows bal was at the Gatsby party last night and none of the other follows knew how to dance it either, but a good bal song came on and he wanted to dance.
I've always wanted to learn and, through years of dedication and commitment to learning dance, I have learned how to push through my fear of looking foolish in public and I asked him to teach me right there at the (non-dance-event) party, with dozens of strangers looking on. He showed me the basic step and then led me into the dance. I know I was off-beat the whole time - I could feel it. We weren't in sync and it felt awkward. But he led me and I followed. Afterwards, he gushed, not just to me but to the others in the party, about what a good job I did, that he couldn't believe I had never danced bal before, and that I was able to keep up on some non-beginner steps that he threw at me.
This has inspired me to add bal to my "I will learn these dances this year" resolution. I mean, it's already on my list of dances I want to learn, but I am resolving to actually take lessons in certain dances in the coming year (Argentine Tango being the top of the list, previously the only one on the list). Pushing through my fear of messing up in public has brought me more skills, more enjoyable memories, and more confidence than literally any other thing I've tried. The dance community has been instrumental in that because of the embedded nature of acceptance and welcome for newcomers, especially those who look foolish.
We were all that goofy newbie once, and we are all that goofy newbie again with each new skill we learn. No matter how long we've been dancing, or how good we get at it, we're still always that goofy newbie who messes up on the floor, steps on our partner's toes, bumps into someone else, and generally makes a fool of ourselves in public. I've been that fool so many times, and it still frightens me. But I do it anyway because I have lived through the embarrassment in the past and nothing truly bad happened to me for being embarrassed. And now that I know that, I can tell my anxiety to shut up and I can do it anyway.
I can't always push through my anxiety - as my messy house and full sink will attest. But the more times I do it, the easier it gets to do it the next time. Sometimes I backslide and I just can't in that moment, but I know that I'm a flawed human and that's OK, so I can find the strength to do it next time. It's that "do it next time" that's important, though. Accepting that I'm flawed and then not pushing through next time as every time becomes "I'll do it next time" doesn't make me better. Dancing, because of the acceptance of the community and the knowledge that we are all still beginners at something, makes it easier for that "next time" to happen, to not allow "next time" to become code for "never".
So, I had a good compliment - one that actually makes me feel good about myself as a person and inspires me to be even better. That's what a good compliment should do - not simply notify the other person that you have pants feels for them, but inspires them to be their best self and accepts them for their current self at the same time.
#WordsOfAffirmation #5LoveLanguages #DancingIsLifeSkills #MadFollowSkillz #NewYearsResolutions #RealMenDoNotHarassComplimentWomen #ToDanceIsToLive #JustKeepDancing #IWillLearnAllTheDances
Just like the word "polyamory" itself, there is a person who coined the term "solo poly" who is living* and yet most of the community debates the definition. We seem to like taking words and terms that exist for a purpose and changing them to suit our own preferences. Then we argue over what the words mean and get upset when people misunderstand our non-standard, unconventional, or unique use of the word.
When the term first came out, I had been an outspoken writer and activist in the poly community for many years. I came into the poly community as a single, bi-curious, woman-presenting person. I wasn't trying to "open up" some existing monogamous relationship. Which means that I was immediately beset upon by the unicorn hunters - poly sharks circling the waters after fresh meat. It's enough to put anyone off their feed, to mix my metaphors.
But I'm stubborn. And I'm very secure in who I am and what I want. And I'm also absolutely adamant about what I believe I am entitled to. Some of the things I believe I am entitled to are controlling my agency, being treated as an individual human being, being an equal partner in my relationships, and designing my relationships to suit the preferences of the people in them rather than forcing people to fit into a predetermined relationship mold. Apparently, I'm asking a lot. But I didn't flee the poly community after being treated like something to be consumed. I stuck around to fight back so that I could change the community into something that was more hostile towards those sharks and more welcoming towards swimmers like me, the people who, I had been led to believe, started the community in the first place.
Around 2012, the phrase "solo poly" started getting used, notably by one blogger in particular who is credited with coining the phrase. I became aware of her when we started interacting on Twitter because we seemed to share similar relationship preferences and a similar frustration with the broader poly community being resistant to and dismissive of our visions of respect for autonomy, agency, and living alone. I do not take any credit whatsoever in the coining of that phrase, but I was there in the beginning when it was coined and I had been publicly espousing what turned out to be its definition for more than a decade before its coining.
There were a few other terms floating around at the time and we were trying them all on to see what fit. While trying on several terms, I started the first ever solo poly group, and I put it on Facebook. I invited several phrase coiners to run the group with me, as we seemed to share the same visions and frustrations. Eventually the other terms dropped out of favor and we stuck with "solo poly".
But in my time defending this new phrase, I have discovered that lots of people use the term differently, including those of us who started the whole movement in the first place. As usual, this has caused some confusion. Today, I have come up with a breakdown of the three or four most common variations on the phrase that I think will help to bridge communication gaps when we all start throwing around this term and everyone starts arguing about what it can and can't include.
Before I get to that breakdown, though, there is one misconception that needs to be cleared up. The one thing that solo poly does *not* mean is "unpartnered". Solo polys *can* be without any romantic partners (for however they want to define "romantic partner") but that is most definitely not what the term *means*. Solo polys can and do have partners of all sorts, including deeply intimate, emotional, committed partners. We already had a word for people who don't have any partners - single. The term "solo poly" is intended to address a specific way that they "do" their relationships, not to indicate that they don't have any.
The most commonly cited explanation for "solo poly", in my observation, is the desire to live alone and be off the "relationship escalator". The "relationship escalator" is that culturally defined path that people in romantic relationships are supposed to take, with certain steps progressing in a particular order, all culminating in a particular relationship conclusion. In my culture, we start programming people from a very young age, notably with the children's rhyme "first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in the baby carriage!" There can be some variance in the steps, but in general, the "relationship escalator" involves two people always moving towards a destination that ends with life together, a marriage certificate, kids, a house, entangled finances, and a blending of the self into the relationship unit.
This can even play out in a microcosm of individual relationships, where even sex acts are ranked on an increasing scale of importance, to be done in a particular order in a particular time and imbued with meaning or significance related to its place on the escalator. But with respect to this element, the culmination of the relationship, it's symbol of "success", involves the intermingling of lives.
Many solo polys prefer to structure their lives, logistically, in alternate ways, with living alone or "independently" with housemates being a top priority. Many solo polys expend a lot of energy keeping their lives logistically, practically, disentangled from other people, regardless of the emotional connection they share with others.
The next most commonly cited description that I, personally, see is the elevation of the self as "primary". This is more abstract and involves prioritizing the self over others, usually in terms of self-care and emotional labor. People who use this description will often refer to themselves as their own "primary" and everyone else comes "secondary" to the self. This does not preclude any depth to an emotional connection between the solo poly and others. This is all about priority - who comes first in a conflict of competing priorities (which is usually the alternate definition of "hierarchy" that so often leads us into circular argument over whether hierarchy can be "ethical" or not, where people confuse "priority" for "power" and attach ranking terms to priorities instead of centers of power). No matter how much one cares about another, sometimes priorities conflict and that's just the way of things - just ask anyone with two or more kids who have extra-curricular activities or who have had accidents at the same time. Prioritizing one's own self as "primary" sets the baseline precedent for how to resolve those conflicts.
In practice, many solo polys are fairly adept at what I call "interdependence" - the balancing of priorities so that each person in a relationship can feel secure that their emotional needs will be cared for and that their partners and romantic networks can provide a safety net for them to fall back on when needed. Yet many tend to emphasize the importance of putting the self first in conversation about priorities, so it often sounds like they stray into "selfish" territory (which I have defined in some long-ago blog post as being different from self-interested, where "selfish" is about prioritizing the self to the detriment of anyone else and is inherently a negative trait).
In my opinion and experience, I think some of this emphasis comes as a reaction to abuse. One of the red flags of abuse is in the loss of individual identity and subsuming one's identity into the relationship - in making the relationship itself more important than the people in the relationship. Lots and lots and lots of people see the melding of individuals into a single unit as "romantic" and don't see the danger inherent in losing one's identity separate from the relationship. Because of that, lots of people engage in fundamentally abusive practices without even realizing it (which is where the whole power issue of hierarchy comes in), and in polyamory, the people who feel the pressure and consequent explosion first and most often tend to be people who are not entangled in escalator-like relationships.
In other words, even though losing one's identity into a relationship in an abusive situation hurts everyone, the most visible collateral damage in these situations tends to be the "secondary" brought into an existing dyadic relationship. These "secondaries" are treated as disposable, as crutches to shore up damaged couples, as sex toys, as nannies, as need-fulfillment machines. Even when they aren't supposed to be "secondaries" and are instead supposed to be equal "thirds" to existing dyads, their purpose tends to remain the same - a person is "hired" to fulfill a role for a couple and when it all goes to hell, that third person often ends up with the most visible scars.
So I believe that many solo polys are gun-shy, so to speak, of getting sucked back into these kinds of toxic relationships or have seen the explosions on the poly battlefield and want to avoid being yet another statistic themselves. I might fall into that camp. Many may also be unable to articulate the difference between priority and power, and fearing a power imbalance, they emphasize their priority for themselves. I think a lot of solo polys, even though they are quite capable of building interdependent relationships and may even be practiced at it in their existing relationships, I think a lot of solo polys tend to emphasize their self as "primary" to try and explain the concepts of autonomy and independence to an audience that often sees *any* separation or individuality as a threat to their control over the outcome of the relationship.
I am not at all, in any way, suggesting that solo polys do not feel the way they claim to feel about being their own primaries. I'm suggesting to people who think that these claims mean that solo polys are callous and selfish and unable to care deeply about other people or even work together to form mutually beneficial partnerships that those people misunderstand the importance of the concepts, possibly because of a lack of understanding of that power imbalance and of how deep the threads of abuse go into our collective understandings of relationships where "abuse" and "romantic" become interchangeable.
Closely related to the "self as the primary" but some may view as distinct, is the prioritization of the concepts of "autonomy", "agency", and "independence". This can also be related to abuse. First and foremost, abuse is about control. The way one controls another is by removing their agency - their ability to operate as an autonomous individual. Many solo polys cite "agency" as their motivation, or their priority. Much of what I said in the previous element can be applied here, especially the parts about reacting to abuse, where some solo polys are aware of and concerned about abuse and emphasize the language of "agency" in their descriptions such that people who don't understand the importance can misinterpret solo polys as being "selfish", "afraid of commitment", or unwilling / unable to work together in interdependent partnerships.
Sometimes the people who are most sensitive to a loss of agency or autonomy are part of oppressed categories and understand the loss of agency from a cultural oppression perspective. Many solo polys are drawn to the label because of their closely held beliefs in the importance of autonomy and they seek to build relationships that honor and respect autonomy and agency above everything else, where all the other elements of relationships, such as support and intimacy, exist to serve and protect the partners' respective agency. Some solo polys believe that intimacy and connection can't exist without recognizing and acknowledging agency, because it is only by relating to an autonomous individual can we truly build intimate connections in the first place. Not recognizing the essential agency of our partners is considered a roadblock to intimacy because the participants are not really in relationships with each other, but are in relationships with models of people that exist in one's imagination that are *based* on real people.
There are also a lot of motivations for people who value independence. I'm not going to go into a deep dive over the how and why of this. Some people were raised to be independent. Some people were harmed by being too dependent and learned independence as a survival skill. Some people had bad experiences with codependent partners in the past. Some people are just that way and who knows why? And probably there are even more reasons.
Our culture tends to give us conflicting messages. On the one hand, we're supposed to "pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps" and be a "self-made man" and not take "handouts". On the other hand, romantic relationships are culturally designed to erode that sense of independence. There is also a gender power influence here, where men who have housewives raising the kids and managing the home are still considered "self-made" who become "successful" with "nobody's help" but women who have partners are considered to need help. If she works and he stays home with the kids, he is "helping out with the kids" so that she can pursue her career. But if he works and she stays home, she's not "helping out", she's doing her job and he still built his career "on his own" because it's the charity or handouts or assistance of others that "count" as "help".
The gender differential and power dynamic in relationships is a big enough topic that some people can actually build entire careers out of studying it so I'm going to stop here before I go off on a rant about it. Back to independence, we are taught to be "independent" but that doesn't apply in relationships. In relationships, we are taught to entangle ourselves with other people. It's even written into the law in some places, such as shared property laws where, even if you maintain separate joint checking accounts, legally speaking each spouse is entitled to half of the other's money. Some people, for a variety of reasons, prefer to retain their independence even within romantic relationships, regardless of how much they care about their partner.
The fourth element is about introversion and privacy. Many people who gravitate towards solo poly are introverts. First of all, "introversion" has nothing at all to do with social skills, shyness, or misanthropy. Introversion and extroversion are jungian psychological theories that describe how people feel "energized", or engaged, active, and happy. Introversion and extroversion are also not binary states; they are on spectrums. Everyone has some of both, so I don't want to hear any of this "I'm an ambivert" or "those tests never guess me right because I do both" bullshit in my comments. Everyone does both to some degree and boxing you into a single category is not the purpose of the system. But personality type systems and the public's collective misunderstanding of them is a rant for another time.
Back to the point - introversion is where people feel that they lose "energy" by interacting with some people and they need to "recharge" by being alone. Extroversion is the opposite - people feel that they lose "energy" by being alone and need social contact with others to feel better. Many introverts enjoy social activity, some of us enjoy it a great deal. It's just that we feel tired after the event and it takes some time being alone to start to feel better. Introversion can be a difficult state to adequately care for when someone lives with other people, so polys who are strong introverts often enjoy living alone to care for their introversion. No matter how much an introvert loves someone else, and no matter what they feel or believe about entangling finances or other relationship escalator steps, an introvert still needs a way to get "alone time". So they may be open to such entangled arrangements, but only if they can configure them in the right way. The difficulty of finding such a balance when one is also poly can lead to people identifying as "solo poly".
And then there is privacy. Again, like independence above, there are a wide variety of reasons why people value privacy, ranging from healthy to unhealthy, from "nature" to "nurture" (i.e. being inherent in the personality vs. a reaction to past experiences), and which slide around on the intensity scale. It is much more difficult to maintain one's privacy from within a relationship that is riding the escalator. When people cohabit, especially if they don't have a room of their own, when they share finances, when they share email and online accounts, when they entangle their lives with other people, it becomes extremely difficult to have privacy. This isn't about keeping secrets (and I'm not going to entertain comments about what "counts" as a "secret"). Every mother I know has made jokes about not knowing what it's like to pee without an audience for the first 5 years of a child's life (longer if one has multiple kids within 5 years of age). Some people value privacy more than they value entanglement and these people are often attracted to the label "solo poly".
These four elements - living alone, the self as the primary, autonomy / agency / independence, and introversion / privacy, are not mutually exclusive. Most solo polys I know desire a mix of the four elements. But I would say that each solo poly person has their own blend of these four elements, with certain elements being more important than others. And that is what, I think, causes a lot of confusion. Someone asks "what is solo poly?" and someone with a blend that prioritizes element #1 gives their answer, but then someone who really feels and believes that element #3 describes them but doesn't much care about #1 thinks that they are not solo poly because their blend is different and they're not aware of all these different elements.
My personal stance on this, the position I have always held since I started fighting with hierarchical polys almost 20 years ago that led to me collaborating with those bloggers who started coining all these poly sub-group terms, my opinion is that the first element - the logistics of living alone - is not necessary but is extremely difficult to maintain the others without it. I am of the "autonomy and agency" flavor of solo poly. I believe that maintaining one's individuality and independence, and respecting the autonomy and agency of each person, and prioritizing the autonomy and agency of each individual above the relationship are of the utmost importance and how we reduce abusive structures in relationships.
I have always held that the idea of autonomy is what makes one "solo poly", even before we had the terms to use. I have also always held that maintaining one's autonomy is possible even in relationships that look "primary-like", but that couple privilege is a subtle, insidious thing that takes conscious and deliberate effort to undermine so that people in "primary-like" relationships or escalator relationships would have to intentionally structure their relationships to make space for autonomy.
I tend to see the autonomy / agency element of solo poly as being integral to the definition and the other elements as being either expressions of that element or supportive of that element but not necessarily requirements of solo polyamory.
So when you're talking to solo polys or if you're wondering if you "qualify" as solo poly, keep these elements in mind. Maybe three of them really hit you personally but you couldn't give a shit about living alone, or perhaps you're disabled and need to live with caregivers. You could still be solo poly. Or perhaps you really need to maintain your own money "just in case" and you're opposed to legal marriage because screw the government getting up in your business but you still want to build deeply connected, intimate relationships. You could still be solo poly. Or maybe everything about this sounds awesome except that you want to do it in a commune with two dozen other people who all live in their own huts but on the same property walking distance from each other or in the same apartment complex and you socialize with everyone all the time in the common spaces like the kitchen because you're extroverted. You could still be solo poly.
If you're legally married, live with only one partner, share finances, and co-parent, I think there is still room for you under the label if you hold the other values, but I do think you will be challenged more often because I think it's more difficult to see one's internal values of autonomy and agency when one's life is structured to more closely resemble a system of dependence. If you only date together, have veto power or approval power, access to each other's emails and phone or text conversations (especially if no one outside of your dyad has the same access to these things of yours), have a hierarchy, or otherwise have difficulty separating out where you end and your partner begins, I think I would question your commitment to values of autonomy, independence, privacy, etc.
In my opinion, as long as you value yourself, your partners, *and your metamours* as independent agents and you arrange your relationships to support and encourage that, the rest of it all is more like flavor, or color, shading your own version of solo polyamory to reflect your uniqueness and individuality. Others may disagree, but as one of the earliest pioneers of this style of polyamory regardless of what it's called, this is what I was fighting for from the beginning. Treat people like independent, individual human beings who are more important than the relationship, discourage couple privilege, and separate out the culturally appointed markers of "romantic relationships" from the emotional connection or value that each relationship has for the participants.
This is a work in progress, which is why it's so long. I hope to refine it to a more digestible description in the future.
*Morning Glory Zell is responsible for coining the phrase "polyamory", being the first person to use the phrase "poly-amorous" in print and all other publicly available derivations of the term came later. She died in 2014 but was alive and available to clarify her intent with coining the phrase for the time period in which the definition was being debated and determined. Her intentions were often ignored when people wanted to use the term differently or dismissed under the excuse that another person was the "real" coiner of the phrase even though it was used 2 years later, simply because that other person had the first internet reach. "Who said it first" is an argument for another time.
One of the reasons why I don't identify with the term is because, in the early days of polyamory, those definitions *were* the definitions I was given for polyamory. I feel resentful of what I see as all the couples finding out about us through Montel Williams and the early news articles and invading "our" space. It's more complicated than that, but to me, we anarchists had this space first and the couples with their toxic monogamous paradigms infected it, driving out the later generations of people like me who came looking for community, didn't find it, and created their own space instead. I feel resentful of that and I keep trying to "take back" what I think of as my space so having throngs of people abandon the fight (because they aren't invested in the community like I am) makes me feel angry, and that is one of several reasons why I don't connect to the term.
But, aside from all of that, the whole reason why I gravitated towards polyamory in the first place is because I had all of these relationships that didn't fit into the neat and tidy little boxes that mono-centric culture insisted I must have. I was good friends with most of my exes. I had "best friends" to whom boyfriends had to take a backseat. I had casual partners who were good for a fuck but not good to call on in times of need. I had different ways of prioritizing my relationships that weren't tied to the kind of sexual activity we shared (or didn't share).
Some RAs insist that they don't do any ranking of relationships at all - that absolutely everyone in their contact book is exactly equal to everyone else. But others (and I would fall into this camp) say that it's not about never "ranking" anyone, it's about removing the requirement of sex as the most important ranking factor. It's about acknowledging that we have all these different kinds of relationships that mean different things to us, and romantic-sexual love should not be given the highest rung of priority *just because* it's romantic-sexual. There are other factors that are just as or more important in determining which person is given more of our priority, time, attention, emotional connection, etc.
As Charlotte once said in Sex And The City, "maybe we could be each other's soul mates, and guys can be these great, fun guys that we have sex with?" That's simplistic, sure, and there are tons of problematic things about the show, but even this heteromononormative piece of entertainment understood that sometimes people come into your life who are your anchor, your core, your foundation, and they are not necessarily the same people you have sex with.
My whole life I have struggled to explain my relationships. Part of the problem is because categorization is an inherently ranked system. Look at the words I've used so far - priority, important, more of... On the one hand, I rebel at the the thought of "ranking" anyone, but on the other hand, Dunbar's Number is still a valid theory. We have, essentially, rings of associations, and the closer someone is to the inner ring, the more ... just the "more" they are to us. That's how the brains of social animals work. Once someone is outside of our monkeysphere, they are Other, but inside that sphere, they are Someone and there are different levels of Someone inside the sphere.
I recognize that I have different levels of priority or connection to different people. I just don't associate those priorities or connections with the same markers as mononormative culture (i.e. sex, cohabitation, even relationship labels). Back before I rejected the primary/secondary terminology outright, I described my "primary" relationships in terms of connection rather than logistics. So, my Long Distance Relationships might be "primary" to me because of the strength of the connection I felt, but a local partner might be "secondary" or even "tertiary" because the connection was less, or ... different. Lots of people, particularly those aforementioned couples, in the poly community had a difficult time understanding this redistribution of primary/secondary terminology, which is what first made me reject those terms even before I really began railing against the inherent ranking in them.
So, I can explain all of this, and I have been for years, but it takes a lot of words for me to explain it. Today I read a sentence that explains it in way fewer words than I ever use.
"[H]aving a relationship with someone gives you an insight into how heavy or not heavy an emotional support request may be."
That's it. That's how I categorize my relationships. My "closeness" to someone, how often I talk to them, who gets "priority" and for what, who has sex with whom ... those may be factors that shade the relationship categorization, but those are not deciding factors. What "level" or what ring in the monkeysphere they reside on is based on how heavy an emotional support request of them might be. Can I call on them to vent for an hour on the phone about something or nothing? Can I ask them to perform Acts of Service for me? Which Acts of Service? Can I ask them to drop everything, pay for a last-minute plane ticket across the country or across the world, and just sit with me until I can quell the urge to reach for my gun without help? How emotionally expensive are these requests to them?
How heavy the request is and how not-heavy they feel the request to be is how I categorize my relationships. Not how long we've been together, not whether or not we have sex or what kind of sex, not their physical proximity, not how often we talk to each other, not the relationship label we use for each other, and not the outward markers of our relationship such as selfies together or going on "dates" or holding hands in public.
How much emotional labor is it a mutual joy to share with each other?
I've written before complaining about the amount of emotional labor I often do for others, particularly men. Those complaints are centered around an uneven distribution of emotional labor and the one-sided blindness of who is doing all the labor. By itself, emotional labor is not necessarily a bad thing. It's what partnerships are for - to share the labor to make the load easier for everyone. In happy, healthy relationships, there is a balance of emotional labor - not necessarily an equal division, but a *balance*, where each person feels comfortable shouldering the burden being requested of them and comfortable with the amount and type their partner is shouldering for them, based on their respective needs and desires and preferences.
That one sentence; it's so very simple to illustrate such a complex concept. Having an idea of how heavy of an emotional request I can make and how not-heavy they will receive that request - that's what separates out intimates from acquaintances from strangers for me. It's ranking, but it's not ranking. There's no implications of how many. There's no implied judgement (in my view) of someone being "bad" or "lesser" for the answer being a lighter load than someone else - just a different category, just as valuable, fulfilling a different niche. This request might be "too heavy", but that request might be OK. Not better and worse, just ... different. Not everyone is or can be *or should be* an emotional tank or heavy fighter. We need all kinds of skill sets to make up a good raiding party. So, to me, I don't see an implicit value judgement in this phrase, but some people probably will. There is probably a strong overlap in those people with the people who don't get polyamory in general, with those who *think* they get it but still say things like "I just can't imagine not caring enough about what my partner does with someone else, but you do you!"
But before I go off on another tangent about people's misconceptions of poly, let's wrap up this already long post. My relationships are categorized because that's how the brains of social animals work. But my categorization doesn't match the culturally accepted categorization system. The most important factor, culturally speaking, is sex - you save sex for The One Most Important Person or the sex is a representation that this person is The One Most Important Person. That seems, to me, like a rather shallow way to rank people. I have deemed you Most Important, therefore I will have sex with you (and only you), or I have deemed you Most Important *because* I have sex with you. Making that the defining criterion just seems so ... weird and arbitrary to me, especially when I *see* that it's not true in practice. Even monogamous people have platonic friends and family who are also The Most Important Person. But somehow their sex partner is elevated to this Other No Really The Most Important Person state?
I have lots of important people in my life. They are all important for different ways. They are all important because they are them and I am me and our relationships are a totally, unique organism made up of the blending of them and me that can never be reproduced or replicated by anyone else. And yet, even though everyone is important because they are unique, there is still a difference between them. There is still a difference between intimates, acquaintances, and strangers and even those 3 categories have fuzzy edges and blend into each other.
That difference is based on how heavy of an emotional request can I make and how heavy do they feel that request to be. No value judgement, people are not "bad" or "good" for the amount they can carry for me, they just are. Some people are heavy lifters, some are short burst sprinters, some can only carry certain types of weight and not others. But that's how I see my relationships. That's how I determine who are my core relationships, my satellite relationships, and my comet relationships. That's how my relationship constellation is organized.
The description reads "We can't see them. Bullets don't stop them. The Army is no match for them. Time to try something totally different." The title screen graphics looked ... well, it made me assume that the movie would be a typical anti-science, heavy on the action, light on the plot, sci-fi flick. But tacit seemed interested in the description and saw it had 4 stars, so we watched it.
I was pleasantly surprised. I ended up liking all the characters. I thought even the minor side characters had complex back stories and depth to their character that, even if we didn't get a lot of exposition about them, was clearly demonstrated in the dialog and in their portrayal of the characters. There really wasn't anyone who was a standard trope caricature.
In these sorts of movies, one can usually expect to find the following characters: The gruff old military leader who is either a total dickhead or a lovable but cranky career soldier; the token demolitions expert who is also "crazy"; the scientist who is either the evil guy because science or the wuss who complains all the time and gets in the way of the real business of kicking ass; the chick who is either a badass tomboy "chill girl" with no real personality or the girlie girl outside girl who is thrown in by circumstance and constantly needs rescuing usually involving strategically destroyed flimsy clothing but will likely be somebody's love interest; and the lead character who is physically fit, intelligent, has exactly all the right skills in every circumstance to lead his team to victory, gets the girl, and saves the day with either the smarts to outwit the dumb jarheads who are making things worse with their shoot-em-up mentality or the fists to beat up the wacky super-genius whose intellect is destroying the world.
None of those characters were in this movie.
The lead was a conventionally attractive, physically fit, and yet super smart white male, it's true. This wasn't a flawless movie. He was a scientist who invented a new type of goggles for DAARPA that gave our soldiers some kind of benefit in urban combat because it could see more on the light spectrum than the human eye can. Because of that, they were also picking up something unknown that the soldiers couldn't see naturally. So they send for him to explain what his invention is seeing (justifying his presence in a combat situation by declaring the data from the goggles to be too sensitive to just send back to him to analyze).
There was a lone woman in the movie, but she wasn't the token badass chick and she also wasn't the completely ineffectual girlie girl in the wrong place at the wrong time. She was one of the lead's obstacles, but her opposition to him was reasonable given her background and position (which is so often left out of movies - we're given opposing characters who seem to oppose for no reason other than to be obstinate and give our hero someone to argue with). She was also not a love interest.
Our military guys were angry at the non-military guy coming into their sacred space, but they were given reasonable motive for feeling that way. It wasn't just "grunt, grunt, we big army boys, you pansy ass, leave now!"
Our combat team leader was gruff and tough but also smart with tactical knowledge and good team-building, mediating, and interpersonal conflict resolution skills, as a successful team leader ought to be. Our team was made up of just a bunch of guys, not the Token Bomb Guy, the Token POC, the Token Sharpshooter, the Token I Made A Mistake Joining Guy, the Token Joined Too Young Guy, the Token Irish/German Jolly Drinker/Fighter Guy, and the Token Small But Wiry Communications Officer.
What really sold me on the movie was the commitment to science, critical thinking, and reason. Our hero consistently maintained a pro-science attitude, not a pseudo-science attitude. Everyone wanted an immediate answer to the problem and everyone had an agenda to get confirmation of a specific answer that they wanted from him, but he kept insisting that science (and solutions) required data and it was foolish to go off half-cocked on speculation and bias.
The movie had 2 major flaws. When they finally did the big reveal, everything they said was actually scientifically accurate as far as we understand the concept right now. Except for one thing, which I won't spoil. But it was the very premise from which all the other things happened. The Big Bad Thing is made of This and exists like This and does These Things - that's all true. But it only happens in a particular circumstance that was not present here.
The author of The Martian has been lauded for his adherence to scientific accuracy in his book, and again with the movie based on it. He crowdsourced the book to make sure it was as close to realistic as possible. But he had one major plot hole - because of Martian gravity, storms wouldn't happen like they did in his book, but without that storm, we wouldn't have a story. In an interview, he explained that he knew of this flaw, but that all sci-fi stories had one Gimme - one major plot device that was excused for the sake of the story because the story can't happen without it. As long as the story was internally consistent, that one thing, if handled well, could be forgiven and even overlooked with the suspension of disbelief. He made storms that don't exist on Mars because he needed a way to isolate his character on the planet. But everything he did afterwards conformed to physics as we know it.
So, this plot point - that The Thing only happens in This Circumstance in real life but doesn't have that limitation in the movie - I'm willing to write that off as a Gimme because they otherwise described it correctly and the movie remained internally consistent.
The other plot point is that the writers seemed to have spent all their time researching their major conflict and didn't spend any time understanding the difference between a machine that "reads" light (i.e. a spectrograph) and a machine that *produces* light. These are VERY different things and, generally speaking, you are not very likely to be able to convert one machine into the other.
This movie did have one typical thing that often annoys me - the manufacturing montage. Building things takes time. It's not very common to be able to outfit a squadron with all new weapons from within a combat zone using found items overnight. Not impossible because it depends on the weapons and the found items. Just ... unlikely. I mean, making a bunch of Molotov Cocktails can be done in a single night, for example. But Tony Stark inventing and building Iron Man by himself in a cave in the Middle East in a couple of days? Yeah, yeah, I know that they explained that away by having him be captured by a well-funded terrorist who magically provided all the materials necessary. Still. Welding and soldering complex mechanics takes time and skill, even assuming you're lucky enough to have the right kind of welder in your found items (which, to be fair, the movie did account for by giving an explanation for why they had the gear that they ended up with).
I'm not saying it's not possible. I'm saying that I've built shit. I've even built shit that I personally designed that never existed before because it came out of my head and I had to use unusual materials because the thing never existed before so the parts for it didn't either. I'm saying that prototyping takes time and untested mechanics rarely work right on the first try. As tacit put it, movies make manufacturing look easier than it is. Not impossible, but it's harder than the movies make it look.
There was also one moment in the movie that broke me out of it; one phrase that made me roll my eyes and groan ... "there are some things that science can't answer." While this is *technically* true, this is almost always applied in movies to things that we can, in fact, answer. Often, it's applied to things that we *have the answer for right now*, but sometimes it's for things that are currently unknown but that doesn't mean that they're unknowable.
So, my conclusion is that, in spite of these criticisms, I felt that the movie was engaging and internally consistent (which is my version of "plausible" for movies - maybe it couldn't really happen, but given the pretend movie conditions it likely could), and I found the characters to have depth and understandable motivations and most of them to be likable. I would recommend this movie if you like sci-fi action.
However, as we learned with the next movie we watched, you shouldn't necessarily trust Netflix's star rating system. The next 4-star movie we watched was COMPLETE AND UTTER SHITE ON EVERY CONCEIVABLE LEVEL.
* I am committed to prioritizing the happiness of the individuals over the longevity of the group if / when those two values are in conflict.This is a new commitment. I have always advocated for a family-style of polyamory. The ex I mentioned in a previous post, who prioritized his own desires above my feelings or our relationship, I remember having conversations with him where he was offended and horrified at the idea of "censorship". I remember him demanding of me "so you think it's appropriate to censor me?!" And I remember my answer was "no, I think you should want to self-censor, that this is something you would choose because our relationship is worth making that choice for." The hard part for me is that I still feel this way. I still feel a strong desire for partners who are willing to weigh their options, and who value our relationship so highly that sometimes the other option is not worth the cost, that sometimes the health of our relationship and my comfort or preferences are too valuable to trade for the other option. I still feel this way even though I always have, even as a child, believed that staying together out of obligation (i.e. "for the children") was one of the worst things you could do for a relationship.
In the commitment about refraining from hurting my partners, I discussed a situation that a metamour and I went through separately but together. That story applies here too. That was a situation where, even though she and I both want to build a poly family, sometimes desperately need that family, we discovered just how dangerous desperation for family can be. We each learned the price of family obligation. We each learned that when the relationship is too important, it becomes coercive. It becomes coercive when any member feels that they can't leave, that their individuality and their individual needs are less important than maintaining the group itself. I referenced this point in a previous post, which further linked to an article on this very subject. This kind of coercion sneaks up on you even when you think you're on the lookout for it. With all my talk of autonomy and the new poly term "solo poly" and independence, I still didn't see it coming.
One very effective trait of abusers is isolation. An abuser isolates his victims from friends and family, from anyone who might be able to see what's going on and who might have enough pull on the victim to give them the strength or motivation to leave. Something I never even considered before was that this tactic can also be used effectively from within a family to keep a family together through force as well. That sounds counter-intuitive - isolating a victim from family in order to bind a family together. It's very subtle. What you do is you make the promise of a relationship, or a family, so desirable that the other person feels afraid to leave (the other person can give you a head start by desiring that family fantasy before they even meet you); that being without this family or this relationship is a terrible option they can't even consider. Then you turn everything that they do into them attacking and hurting the family group or relationship, even if what they do is for their own emotional or physical health or has nothing to do with the family.
When everything they do somehow manages to hurt everyone else in the group - the group that they desperately need to belong to - it drives a wedge between that person and the rest of the group. Soon, communication between the individual and the others in the group dries up because the individual feels a constant wash of disapproval. If you can orchestrate this so that the disapproval is coming through you and not the other people directly (because you're the one who said everyone else is mad, not them), and direct communication starts to become affected, then eventually it doesn't even have to be true and the group starts to blame the widening rift on the individual for pulling away because they're not aware that the individual is pulling away because they think the group has positioned themselves in an us vs. them struggle. So eventually, the individual becomes too afraid to do anything for themselves or for their own good because the consequence is losing the relationship. The individual loses their agency and subsumes their autonomy into the group. This makes the relationship more important than the individuals.
I still very much want a close-knit family style of poly. But I also still very strongly believe that one does not have to lose one's individuality to the group. I mentioned this very concept way back with the commitment to respecting my partners' life choices. But this one is less about focusing on my ability to let go of my attachment to my partners' decisions and more of a step back and a look at the bigger picture. This is an acknowledgement that there are two conflicting goals in my relationships - maintaining individuality and autonomy vs. building family. I believe that most of the time, in healthy relationships, these are not directly in conflict and both can be achieved simultaneously. But sometimes, they will come to a head and conflict. I am establishing a baseline for myself that, in the event of a conflict of these two goals, the one that serves the individual must be given more weight right out of the starting gate. Because if the individuals' happiness is not being served, I believe that the health of the relationship cannot be served either. The latter requires the former, but not necessarily vice versa. So the former must come first, and the latter will follow automatically as a result, or it will end in service of the former.
Lots of us don't have much money to be donating or to give a meaningful amount to people we aren't financially entangled with. Or maybe we're not that close to someone and afraid it might be weird to send them cash or gifts. But some of the people we might want to help may be struggling to support themselves with products or services that they provide. If you are going to be spending money on yourself or a loved one anyway, consider looking through the stores that belong to people on your friends lists to see if any of those stores offer the sorts of items you were already thinking of purchasing.
Artists and content creators often live off commission or units sold, so your holiday shopping could not only provide some support to an online friend, but could possibly even contribute to a holiday bonus on top of whatever they make normally from the sale of that item or service.
My stores include:
Poly Tees - www.PolyTees.com
Atheist Tees - www.Atheist-Tees.com
Backstage Tee Shirts - www.BackstageTeeShirts.com
And my entire department at my retail store is up for a cash bonus based on sales for this month. It doesn't matter which employee makes the sale, the whole frame department is credited and the whole frame team gets the bonus. So if you ever wanted custom framing done and have the money for such a high-priced service, now (along with the steep holiday sales) is the time to get them done.
If you live locally to me and want to support my department, but you don't know where I work, PM me. I try to keep my online persona disconnected from my retail place of employment, to avoid any conflicts with the rules regarding social media, so I'd rather not post my store publicly.
Another option is to use someone's Amazon Affiliates link when you buy stuff on Amazon. Some people are Amazon Affiliates, which means that they get a commission when people purchase things through Amazon using special URLs. These people usually have links directly to their products or other people's products on their websites or blogs and those links include the special Amazon Affiliates codes already embedded in the URL for you. There is no additional cost or effort from you. They get a commission from something you were going to purchase anyway and the process is invisible to the buyer. So if you see someone sharing an Amazon link from their website or blog, consider clicking through instead of going to Amazon directly and searching for the items.
And one final option for helping others is a new feature offered by Amazon called Amazon Smile, which donates money to the charity of your choice when you purchase something on Amazon. Their website has more information about how this service works.
"Thanks for sharing your post on how to support you, but is there anything those of us on a tight budget can do that doesn't involve money?"Why yes, thank you for asking! If you know content creators that you would like to support but can't afford to spend money even to buy things for yourself where a cut would go to the creator, a very important way to support them is to periodically share their content (in the manner in which they approve - don't go sharing artwork without permission or a watermark, for instance, that's a copyright violation). You can like their Facebook pages, but liking the page once only helps minimally. What's really helpful is to regularly like and share the posts that they make and engage on their pages.
FB's algorithms eventually stop showing page content in your feed if you "like" something once and then never interact again. So you have to keep going back and doing things with their pages. This will continue to show content in your feed, which you can then pass on to people who read *your* feed, thereby showing this creative content to other people who might be able to spend money to support your content creator friend.
You can also support them on other social media platforms, whether they have an account there or not, by sharing their website directly on your social media platform of choice. Again, this brings their wares to the attention of people who *could* possibly afford to buy them, even if you can't or aren't interested in them.
And here's another thing that you can do that is *really* helpful to certain people - leave reviews for their podcasts or any store that offers reviews as a feature.
Podcasting, for the most part, is a net loss in terms of time and financial commitment. Most of us do it as a labor of love. But podcasting costs money. If we're very, very lucky, we'll get donations or we'll get big enough to have sponsors and make enough from the sponsorships that will at least cover our hosting and equipment expenses. You can help support your podcasting friends or idols by listening to their podcasts, donating to their podcasts, posting positive reviews of their podcast on iTunes and Stitcher (or wherever it's available), and sharing their podcast for others to hear.
So, Facebook pages that I operate that bring me money that you can support by sharing and interacting with are listed above. Pages that do not bring me money directly but that make people aware of me who might eventually find their way towards one of my money-making ventures and that are also labors of love that would just feel nice to be supported:
Miss Poly Manners - www.MissPolyManners.com
Poly-ish Movie Reviews - www.PolyishMovieReviews.com
And the podcast that I would love to see some reviews on iTunes to increase my rankings in the iTunes search engines so that more people will find it is Poly-ish Movie Reviews - www.PolyIshMovieReviews.com (with a link for posting a review on the contact page and at the end of every Show Notes).
So, if you're in the giving mood but not for financial contributions, make a post asking your friends to tell you about their creative endeavors so that you can share those endeavors to a wider audience, or, if you already know about them, you can just go ahead and share these endeavors unprompted.
Gift giving is a complicated social custom with a lot of implicit expectations behind it, and people with different backgrounds often have different (and conflicting) expectations from each other. Some people feel obligated to give, some people feel obligated to accept, some people refuse to give, some people refuse to accept, some people are good at guessing, some people are terrible at guessing, some people feel bad about asking what someone wants, some people feel that it's rude to be asked for specific gift ideas, some people expect others to just magically know or to read hints, some people have monetary limitations, some people have very specific wants and are hard to shop for, some people are easy to shop for ... on and on!
I recommend that everyone creates an online wishlist of things that they want. Many services offer the ability to create multiple wishlists per account and/or "family" accounts so that multiple people in one group can all create (and share) their own wishlists under a single account. I think this is an excellent way for parents to keep an eye on their children's wishlists or to manage the wishlists for the ones too little to manage their own, and for individuals to set up different lists for themselves, such as a personal wishlist and a gift recommendation wishlist, or wishlists with items suitable for different people to view (parents vs. coworkers vs. spouses, for instance) or for different occasions.
This is especially helpful for long-distant relatives wanting to buy gifts for children and who may not know the children well enough to know what to buy or who don't know what the children already own. As a parent, you can create wishlists for your children and just leave them up for holidays and birthdays, periodically coming back to revise the list as the children's interests change over time or as they get things on the list that someone forgot to mark as "purchased".
Here's why I recommend that everyone have an online wishlist - it does several things that I believe help to navigate the complicated expectations behind gift giving:
- You can be as specific or as vague about the sorts of things that you want to make sure that you reduce the number of gifts you have to return or that you are not pleased with. With the right wishlist service you can even list non-material things like hugs or donations to charity in your name. I think online wishlists are especially important for people who really aren't into the whole gift exchange thing because they can keep the gifts down to a minimum with specific items or they can specify those non-material gifts I just mentioned.
- Nobody has to read your mind to get you the perfect gift in their budget.
- If you don't like telling people what you want because it feels too much like you're "asking" for gifts, you can make your wishlist into a "list of things that I want to have someday even if I buy them myself" list, and then other people can choose to look at your list and buy stuff from it or not. But you're not asking anyone for presents. Think of it more like a shopping list that other people can look at and buy from if they want to, rather than a request.
- If you have friends or family who are too embarrassed to ask what you want or don't feel comfortable asking for specific things, this relieves them of the burden. They can just look at your list without saying anything to you and buy something that they know you want if they so choose. And you know that whatever they get you will be something you want even if they refused to ask you what you wanted.
- You can use the wishlist yourself to remember where you saw that cute thing online that you wanted to buy but didn't want to buy it at the time and now it's several months later and you can't remember what it is! Or you can use your wishlist as a reminder of where you did buy that thing that one time and now you need another one but you can't remember where you originally got it. You can even use it as motivational goals - things you want to save up for.
- You don't have to worry about people buying the same item twice like you do when you send out an email to several different people because when something is purchased, it gets removed from the list and other visitors won't even see the item.
I recently lost my wishlist service and had to go hunting for another one. I had been using the same service since about 2002 and it had every feature in a wishlist that I could possibly have wanted. Now that website is down and has been for months. So I had to attempt to find another service that had all the features I wanted and recreate my wishlist from memory!
I never did find a wishlist service that had *all* of the features of my previous one (nor did I remember all the items on my old list). But I did find only one wishlist service that had *most* of the features I wanted - www.myregistry.com/ :
- This service is not attached to any particular retailer and I can add items from literally anywhere. I can add items from online stores with a browser plugin button, and I can manually add items that are not online. It also offers the ability to accept cash donations.
- This service allows me to have several wishlists, so I have a Clothing Wishlist, a Miscellaneous Wishlist, and a Gift Card Wishlist, to make it more manageable to navigate.
- It also allows me to manually order the items in my list so that visitors see the items in the order that I want them to see them. Visitors can also reorder the list by price, store, and favorites as well as the site allowing the visitor to view items by category. I can create my own categories and assign the items to whatever categories I come up with.
- This service shows the list of items with a thumbnail of each item, the price, ordering information like size and color, additional notes that I can enter if I want, and a link to the store where the visitor can view and purchase the item.
- This service offers a browser plug-in and a smartphone app to make it very simple to add items to any of your lists, as well as managing the lists.
- When visitors click to view or purchase the item, this service will open the store's website in another tab or window so that you do not lose the wishlist itself. It then gives you the option to go back to the wishlist and anonymously mark the item as "purchased" so that no one else will buy the same thing you did. Once I share my wishlist for Christmas, I do not look at my wishlist again until the holiday (and my birthday the next month) is over, so that I will be surprised by my gifts. That way visitors can safely mark items as purchased and still keep it a surprise.
The other is priority ranking. My old service allowed me to rank my items on a scale of 1-6 with one being "must have" and 6 being "don't buy for me, I'm just thinking about it", which I thought was a very useful feature. Visitors could sort the list by priority order and only look at those things you wanted the most.
And now, because several people have requested that I do so, I am including a link to my online wishlists for those who want to see them:
What I am going to do is get on my soapbox about the "purity" of music.
YOUR COUNTRY MUSIC IS NOT AND HAS NEVER BEEN "PURE COUNTRY".
Neither has your rock and roll, or any other genre of music, for that matter.
All music has evolved and blended and stolen and shared with other styles of music. That's what art does, as an expression of feelings by people who have experiences. No one lives in a bubble and we are all influenced by other people, but art itself *deliberately* influences other art and *deliberately* allows itself to be influenced.
When pressed, most people who complain about the "pop" in "country" seem to think that Hank Williams. and Johnny Cash are the epitome of "country", as if country music was invented in an isolation lab in the late 1950s and lived on an island until the 1970s, when it got "corrupted" by outside influences and money.
I got news for you - that's not how "country" started, nor is it what "country" music *is*. Even Johnny Cash listened to Nine Inch Nails and appreciated and respected the musical artistry of Trent Reznor. One of Johnny Cash's greatest songs was also one of his last songs and it was a cover of a Nine Inch Nails song. It's hard to think of two genres of contemporary musicians further apart than those two, but because they were consummate musicians, they understood the complex, intertwined relationship that all music genres have with each other.
People seem most offended at the idea of country music and rock music blending, but the two genres (including pop music - I know neither genres' fans are willing to admit any relation to "pop music", but more on that later) are inextricably linked, twisting and spinning and folding and mixing around with each other from day one. "Country" music can be traced to its most heavily influential roots of Irish and other European folk music *strongly* blended with the cultural appropriation of jazz, which evolved out of a massive cultural appropriation of Negro music. Same with rock, btw.
"In the beginning", the music that eventually became known as "country" was a blend. They took some of the favorite musical instruments of poor white people and added the melodies, harmonies, and rhythms of poor black people. "Country" has never been "pure". Later (but not much later), rock and roll came along, which took that poor white music mixed with poor black music and threw in a little urbanization by removing some of the regional "twang", in one sense "sanitizing" the music for popular consumption.
In other words, rock and roll was the first modern "pop" music, a white-washed, pseudo-innovative, stolen version of music originally being made by people "the masses" weren't "ready" to hear.
Don't get me wrong, I love rock and roll music. I'm merely describing it. Because I love it, I won't let myself close my eyes to its origins or its cultural impact. In spite of the controversy and the upper classes trying to ban and block the progress of rock music, it was still originally a toned-down, less creative, less musically *interesting*, more polished version of other people's "edgier" music intended for commercialization. Exactly what rock snobs complain about "pop" music. And none of the modern sub-genres of rock, including disco, industrial, electronica, British Invasion, metal, etc. would exist if it hadn't been for that white-washed, sanitized "pop" music.
But back to country.
Country music, like rock music, isn't a single genre. I have two long-term YouTube projects on the back burner that I may or may never get around to: 1) is playing snippets of songs and having the listener attempt to guess if the song is technically classified as "country" or "rock", and if the listener doesn't already know the songs, I'm willing to bet that most people will find this challenging. A lot of "identifying" music into their respective genres is actually identifying the singer's accent, which is in a sense, a form of racism - if there is a southern twang, it must be country, if there is an urban roughness it must be rock, and if there is a "black" voice it must be R&B or rap or "whatever black people sing" (depending on how blatant the racism of person doing the identifying is), but switch out singers and some of this music becomes identifiable as a different genre by many people, even with characteristic instruments;
and 2) is sharing sub-genres of "country" music (based on my own categorization, not necessarily any "official" categorization, mainly because I don't think one exists, although there may have been other "unofficial" attempts) and giving examples to illustrate the diversity of this genre that so many people think is a single monolithic genre or, at best, 3 sub-genres based on decade ('50s vs. '70s vs. today's "pop country" that somehow "doesn't count").
As a preview, just off the top of my head, some sub-gengres include: Southwestern country (with Native American and "old west" influences), zydeco country, bluegrass country, Caribbean country & its sister "beach" country, jump blues country, slide blues country, old-timey country, country rap, and country electronica, just to name what first popped into my head. I'm quite sure I can think of more distinct categories, as could some of you if any of you listen to country music. If I played music from those categories for you, I guarantee that even non-country listeners could tell the difference. But non-country listeners, by definition, don't listen to country and are likely not aware of all these different styles, even if they have actually been exposed to it at some point before. And some country listeners are too busy trying to preserve the "purity" of whichever version they think is the One True Country to acknowledge the existence of the others or to dismiss them as a few fringe songs out there somewhere rather than a whole genre on their own. But they exist and they have celebrity artists and cultures all their own.
So, Beyonce guest starred at the CMAs. OH NOES! What is country music coming to?!?! Well, I'll tell you. Country music is continuing on the path it has always traveled, by being an incredibly rich, diverse, and complex musical art form that is influenced by and borrows and steals from other cultures and other styles of music. Whether you *like* it or not is a different question and I'm not trying to make people *like* it, but "country" music is an amazingly colorful, intricate, heterogeneous art form, filled with hope and and anger and feminism and misogyny and racism and tolerance and anger and passion and love and deep sadness and great joy and silly fun and everything that makes up the human experience.
As we are not all the same person, so country music is not all the same sound. It is made up of the same conflicting, contradictory mishmash that we are as a species, comprised of the same capacity for transcendence and depravity, for simplicity and complexity, and influenced by the world around it, as we are.
I love taxonomy. I love categories and boxes and neat labels. But if being poly has taught me anything, it's that labels for X and Z may be necessary but that Y is something messy and in between, and *that's OK*.
So, welcome Beyonce, to the racist, sexist, yet beautiful world of country music. Where we are all different, and more the same for those differences.
The really ironic part is that, in the middle of the performance, they broke into a few bars of a Dixie Chicks classic song that literally complains about the "impurity" problem of country music:
They sound tired byt they don't sound Haggard (Merle Haggard)
They got money but they don't have Cash (Johnny Cash)
And for reference, the original song, which is quite Louisiana blues all on its own and lends itself very easily to a "country" version (if you don't count this as "country" to begin with). Certainly the subject matter is a common country trope - lessons from daddy, guns, and women retaliating against domestic violence:
This is fascinating! I also had no idea that other people don't feel cold as pain. I mean, I knew other people had higher thresholds for cold than I do, but I still assumed that their experience of cold was similar to mine, just at higher doses, if you will. For me, cold is *pain*, like stubbing your toe pain, as well. I absolutely can't do ice treatments for injuries because the ice causes a deep ache that I interpret as being "in my bones" and in my joints and aggravates the pain from the injury.
I do sometimes use ice to numb the area around insect bites because I'm allergic and numbing the entire area is the only coping mechanism that works even a little bit. But the ache from the cold hurts so much that I don't know which is worse, the body-aching cold or the mind-maddening itch. Both sensations are so unpleasant that I often wonder if this time will be so bad that I will literally lose my mind in order to escape the sensation.
I also find being wet very uncomfortable. Especially the *transition* from dry to wet. It's one of the things that I associate with my OCD that prevents me from doing the dishes as often as I should. If I get hot and sweaty *enough*, I will start to find the thought of being wet less unpleasant, and once I'm in the water, I'm mostly OK about it. But I'd rather not get wet. I was just talking with Ben the other day about how grateful I am that we all come with electronics on our bodies nowadays because I have a built in excuse that everyone respects for not being thrown in pools (since, y'know, my consent isn't a good enough reason on its own).
Oh, and I don't do caffeine. Like, at all. I went off caffeine some 21 or more years ago as part of the process to diagnose a sleep disorder and by the time we ruled out caffeine as a causal factor, introducing it back into my system started giving me migraines. So I just don't take caffeine. Chocolate, as having something very similar but not exactly the same as caffeine, doesn't trigger the migraines, and also doesn't cause any other similar symptoms such as more "energy" or the ability to fight off exhaustion or sleep deprivation better. It does, however, help keep my mood more even and less volatile, so I eat chocolate fairly often.
But I otherwise *do* inhabit my body. I *feel* myself in my space, almost all the time. I'm acutely aware of where I exist and I believe that's related to being in chronic pain as well as having to compensate for other people (mostly men) being largely unaware of the space that they occupy, with a little bit of "oh no, am I going to sit on my cat?" pet-owner-concerns thrown in. The chronic pain and being acutely aware of my body is why, I believe, I developed the reaction to pain of feeling sleepy. It's the only time I can disassociate from my body so when I hurt, I sleep. This has the drawback, however, of being able to sleep through some discomforts that ought to wake me, like needing to pee or my arm being asleep or whatever. Because, otherwise, I'm very much "living in my body".
What's more, I can also start to "feel" my partners as extensions of myself when I am in close proximity for extended time periods or when I am granted extreme amounts of physical intimacy. They did a study on dancers a while back (I don't have the citation on hand) that showed that partner dancing develops this particular encapsulation of other selves over time, so I suppose it's not surprising that I do it too. Knowing that it's a dancer thing, I now use this to teach people how to deliberately foster this sense of partner-as-extension in relationships through my and Sterling's Simple Steps workshop where we use dance techniques (with no actual dancing required) to improve relationship communication.
I am one of those people who "feels" music the way tacit describes never having understood before. I knew that others didn't have that same sensation because I've tried to teach people how to dance and I've seen the lack of recognition when I try to describe this feeling. Knowing that he has synesthesia, I didn't realize that he also doesn't "feel" music. I sort of imagined the act of "seeing" music as being like "feeling" music only with extra visual stuff. Because of my connection with music, I'm particularly fascinated with how he experiences it and how his experience can be consensually manipulated to better communicate with him through music.
One thing I noticed, though, is that I do have periods where I don't feel like I'm living in my body and I feel like I'm this ball sitting at the top of a meat vehicle. Those periods are my depressions. That description of being a ball sitting on top of a biological vehicle isn't metaphor, it's literal - that's what my awareness of my self actually is in those periods. If you've never been aware of your body yet separate from it, I think it's very hard to understand from the descriptions. If you've *only* been aware of your body yet separate from it, I think the feeling of being connected to your body, of *living within* the body is very hard to understand. In both cases, the descriptions all seem metaphorical to the person who doesn't know those feelings themselves. I know because I am both of those people. When I am feeling connected to my body, the description of a ball atop a meat vehicle sounds metaphorical and I can't quite wrap my head around it empathically even if I grasp it intellectually. But when I'm in a depression, I can't remember what it feels like to be connected and I doubt that I ever really did, and my brain insists that my memories of once *believing* I was "living in my body" are lying to me and that I never *really* felt that way at all, therefore I likely never will again, or if I ever do, it'll just be a return to a delusion. Depression sucks.
I find this particularly noteworthy because Franklin isn't prone to depression that I know of so this sensation is either different from his or isn't dependent upon depression to exist. I don't know if the sensation of not living in my body has a causal relationship with my depression or just a correlated relationship, but they always go together. In fact, that's one of the red flags I use to determine if I'm in a depression. When the depression turns suicidal (thankfully rarely), I don't just feel like a ball sitting inside a meat vehicle, I feel like a ball being *constrained* by the vehicle, limited, like the vehicle is filtering out all the color and warmth in the world and if I could just break free of the body, I would no longer feel the pain of being colorless, of being cold, in a sense, of an absence of life and warmth and color and joy.
Because to me, cold is pain.
Yet another old commitment, this one is best explained by two preexisting blog posts: Thoughts About Truth And Virtue and Radical Honesty. The post on truth and virtue introduces the concept of the Path of Greatest Courage, where courage is best defined at this other post.
The summary is this: "Courage is making decisions that take you closer to what you want, or to the person you want to be, even when you're scared." Courage is a virtue and life rewards those who move in the direction of greater courage. Honesty, in most situations but particularly in romantic relationships, is usually the best method for displaying courage as well as for building intimacy in relationships. But honesty without compassion is often nothing more than cruelty. Framing the discussion as honesty vs. "little white lies" is a distraction. The real discussion is between compassion vs. cruelty because both honesty and lying can be either. Honesty can be tempered by compassion, which serves the goal usually offered by those supporting the "little white lie" side ("I don't want to hurt her, so I'll just tell her a nice little white lie that will make her feel better") without sidestepping the path of greatest courage. I'm setting my bar high to strive for the path of greatest courage, which requires me to be honest in my relationships, but without using my commitment to honesty as a blunt object with which to beat my partners over the head. I am setting a goal for myself that I can and will be both honest and kind in my romantic relationships to the best of my ability.
Some of the videos I have directed are now up online! One of my favorites is this intermission music performance by Shelley Segal: https://vimeo.com/183400692:
This is kind of a big deal to me, but the explanation for why is kinda long so I will explain why its kind of a big deal next. If you just want to see some of my work as a Technical Director / Camera Switcher, visit http://video.skeptrack.org/ and check out the sessions from 2014-2016. I can't remember for sure which videos are the ones I directed in 2014 and 2015 because the producer was letting everyone try their hand at it so we could provide relief for each other and when I wasn't switching, I was running camera, but I did the majority of them. I know for sure that I did the Meyers-Briggs panel in 2014. For 2016, I directed all of them except LeighAnn Lord's comedy show "Unsupervised" and "More About The Skeptics Guide to the Universe", so if you want to see examples of some of my work, there it is.
I used to work for a TV studio in California, but when I moved to Florida, I couldn't find any work in broadcast. So I went back to my roots and worked for live events. The companies that I could find work for were mostly labor companies who didn't offer any high level technical positions. By the time I worked my way up in the ranks to finally catch the attention of some production companies who *do* have operator positions, I had been away from the switcher for so long that I no longer felt comfortable selling myself as a "TD" or "Camera Switcher". Plus, since I worked in a studio, and it as so long ago, I didn't know the specific brands or models of equipment that was being used in live events (even though they all do the same job, they just have their own way of doing it).
But, since DragonCon started out as a volunteer position, no one really cared if I screwed up, so the guy who owned and donated all the equipment for the show sat me down in his chair and asked me to show him what I could do. So I did. And he has insisted that I return every year since.
The entire crew is volunteer and, other than myself and the owner of the equipment, no one has any actual pro A/V experience (although one of our camera operators is at least a professional photographer) and no one is really obligated to be there so we don't always have a full crew to run all the equipment. Therefore, we try to make things as simple as possible, which includes arranging things so that we can get away with no camera operators at all if we have to. In fact, one person can run the lights, video switching, graphics, lower thirds, and audio if absolutely necessary, but probably not very well unless it's only one or two speakers and nothing goes wrong. I usually leave the lights (on and off - one look) and leave the audio to others and I switch between 4 cameras and the presenter's slideshow, operate the lower thirds, speaker timer, record decks, and the remote control Q&A audience microphone all myself.
So that is my situation when I get behind the console.
This year, we had a special treat that brought me back to my broadcast roots. My first actual paid gig was to run a handheld camera for a live band that we had in the studio. I have been in love with that position ever since. This year at DC, A musician was asked to perform in the intermissions between sessions, so I got to dust off my rusty old music video skills and try switching for a live musical performance!
The catch with this is that, because it was in the break between sessions, I had no, repeat that *no* camera operators at all.
Our setup is one stationary camera set to a whole stage wide shot from behind me at Front Of House, 2 cameras on tripods at approximately 45 degree angles to the stage, and one remote contol camera mounted to the ground-supported truss structure on the stage. The RC camera is supposed to be aimed at the Question & Answer microphone out in the audience, so we can record the audience members asking the various presenters questions. But, since I was responsible for operating the RC camera as well as switching, I started playing around with it and discovered that its range allowed me to spin around and capture some interesting angles on the stage as well.
When I found out that the musician would be playing, I hopped down from behind my console, ran to each of the two cameras to pre-set them in what I hoped would be decent shots to capture whatever action the musicians did on stage (no rehearsal, mind you), ran back to my console, spun the RC camera around, and started switching between the three (the wide shot camera didn't have a good shot because of where the musicans chose to play on the stage so I just never used it for the musical interludes).
So, that's why there aren't all that many different shots - I didn't have any camera operators to move the cameras and the RC camera had a limited range of motion from its stationary position attached to the truss. But it did have about 3 or so decent shots from that position, and I used its auto-focus deliberately to get the sort of soft focus pulls that I might have done by hand when I run a hand-held camera on stage.
Given my limitations with lack of crew and camera movement, and my lack of practice switching (seeing as how this is the only show every year that gives me the chance), I'm quite pleased with how the musical interludes turned out. Check them out, and remember that the Skeptrack website will continue to add more videos as the producer finishes editing them.
BTW, if you need some A/V gear or engineering done in Atlanta, I highly recommend contacting Abrupt Media.
To be fair, both sides in all the dramas that I watched *did* do some terrible things to each other. We all hurt others when we are hurting ourselves. But, when all the cards finally got laid on the table, the people I backed as "victims" were solidly, unquestionably, abusive and they were so either first (leading to their victim to lash out in whatever legitimately toxic ways the abuser accused their victim of doing) or were so worse (not that it justifies the other side if the other side was, in fact, abusive, but it does *not* justify my misplaced support of them).
Remember that post I made about abuse being about beliefs, not feelings? Here's the problem: in every case, the abuser honestly, truly, genuinely, sincerely believed that what they did was right and they ALSO honestly, truly, genuinely, sincerely believe, to this day, that they were the victims. Even when I *witnessed*, in person, live, someone gaslighting another, they sincerely believe that they have never gaslighted anyone and that their victim was really a narcissist who abused *them*. In that case, the gaslighter uses science articles about faulty memories as armor and accuses *me* of not seeing what I saw because they keep emails (nevermind that this all happened in person, not in email).
I had someone contact me once, crying, hysterical you might even say, over some disagreement they had. One person accused the other of doing something "wrong". So the one who did the thing was terribly upset over the idea that they had harmed their partner and was a horrible person. What they did, in my opinion, was not "wrong". In my opinion, the demand that they not do the thing is what was "wrong" because it was a controlling act. So, they were upset. Later, I confronted the other person, who tried to tell me that they were totally in the right over demanding to control the other in this way, and besides, the other is OK with it so keep my nose out of their business.
I told them that the other was most definitey NOT OK with the controlling behaviour, I saw how not-ok they were myself. So they called the other person over and said "now tell Joreth that we worked this out and everything is OK." So they said to me "It's totally not a big deal, we talked about it, and I really wasn't all that upset anyway." Uh, yes you were. I SAW you. You had a total and complete meltdown. You were barely even verbal, you were so upset. But no, the abuser had the victim convinced that, not only was the thing they were doing not a big deal, but that the victim wasn't even as upset over it as they really were.
So now, years later, I've had a chance to see how all these different people have evolved after their experiences in these doomed relationships. And here's the problem that I have: without exception, all the people I have now identified as "abusive" still believe that they were the victims and that they were abused. There are even therapists involved! Yet no therapist that I'm aware of in these cases has told anyone that they are using abusive tactics or holding them accountable for controlling behaviour. Although, and here's the really scary part, at least one therapist *has* told a victim that *they* were the abuser. And remember, this is one of the cases where I personally was able to witness and observe the relationship over time, and one of the cases where I originally would have agreed with the therapist until I saw the abuse myself, instead of the rewritten reality that is presented to the public after the abuse happens.
These abusers sincerely believe that they were victims. They hold onto this belief years later. They are attempting to "move forward" as if they are recovering from abuse. They have tons of sympathetic followers on social media, sending them *hugs* and "I believe you" comments. Meanwhile, their victims suffer in quiet isolation, forced to withdraw from social media and to slowly build up their support networks in person again, until they feel that they can creep back onto social media with fake names or locked down profiles or they keep only their work-related profiles active and hide their more personal activity.
How do we tell the difference from the outside? This is a rhetorical question because I guarantee that any answers anyone attempts to post in spite of the fact that it's rhetorical, I guarantee that those methods can be applied towards the abusers' stories and we can still interpret their side in their favor. I guarantee that because I'm watching it happen with these cases. Their friends lists remain large. Their comments remain sympathetic. People still "hear you" and "believe you" and "sending you sympathies" and "understanding" and "it will get better" at them. And the really ironic part? More than one of them have built a reputation for "ethical relating" and still post about consent and abuse in relationships. From the *victim's* point of view. Some of them have quite large audiences. Some of them even still get media attention for their writing about relationships.
So I see all these "they're a narcissist!" posts and I really want to support the victims and provide safe spaces for them, but all I can think of when I see these posts is "how can I trust that this time, your accusation is the real one and not the abuser calling his victim a narcissist?" Because, without exception, every case I have personally observed, the one who I believe is the real abuser, every one of them really and truly believes that they are the one who was harmed.
And I don't know what to do about it. I have no answers for this. Every bit of advice or research I've managed to dig up or had someone share doesn't help the outside observer like me because of those sincerely held beliefs. They honestly believe they have been wronged. So unless I was there to see the gaslighting happen, or to see them attempt to control another, from the outide or after the fact the stories they tell sound totally believable because *they* believe them. They can *tell* me a list of things that their true victim supposedly did, and it will sound exactly like narcissistic abuse or whatever. And their pain will be real. As I said in that other post, abusers are people in pain and fear. Their feelings are *real*, which is why abuse is not about "feelings" but about the belief that it is OK to address their feelings and fears using the abusive tactics that they employ, and why I strongly dislike the phrase "all feelings are valid" because of the slippery definition of the term "valid".
So I don't know what to do about all this, and that's the problem I have with our communities flinging around terms like "narcissism", "psychopath", "abuse", etc. I can look at all the checklists and I can say "yep, these are horrible things" and I can listen to someone tell me their grievances and I can say "yep, that sounds awful". But, if we stop there, then apparently EVERYONE is the victim, even when they're actually the perpetrators.
And THEN, on the very rare occasion when someone does come forward and admit to mistakes and makes changes or seeks help, since they're the only ones admitting to wrongdoing, that just confirms who the villain is and our collective response to villains is to ban them from community support and remove their platorms. And I'm not even saying this is wrong in all cases. I'm saying that we do not have the answers to handle abuse in our communities now that we are attempting to identify it. Now we know what abuse *is*, but we still have trouble identifying it and we definitely don't know what to do about it.
I don't have any answers and, as I said, the answers people keep giving me don't help with the first step, which is in telling apart two conflicting sides. "Believe the victim" is good advice to support victims, but only after we have identified the victim. I "believed the victim" several times when the "victim" I believed was actually an abuser. I am currently watching several abusers have major community platforms with hordes of fans and friends who believe them as "victims". Even they, themselves, genuinely believe themselves to be victims (or, at least, not in the wrong). So I have a problem with all these posts because, when I see them, all I can think now is "yes, that really sucks, but what if I'm wrong again and your sincerely held belief does not match reality? And all you did is just remove the support from someone who really needs it because the article you shared describes a horrible person and we're all supposed to 'believe' you automatically?"
And that's a terrible environment for everyone to exist in, but especially people who are on the receiving end of abusive behaviours.
"Sometimes he can’t tell the difference between him feeling bad because he hurt somebody, and feeling bad because someone hurt him. ... When Kyle is 20, or 30, or 40, or 60, and harms someone by action or omission, where will the ‘parent’ be who can say “you are good and loved and not shameful, and you did this thing, now stop acting like an ass and go make it right.”?"I have an abusive ex that I talk about often. I *think* that I've done most of the emotional repair work so that I'm no longer acutely affected by my past relationship with him, but he makes such a good illustration of the messiness of emotional abuse that I continue to talk about him as a tool (heh, pun intended) to teach ethical lessons. This was basically what he was like. He was unable to distinguish between feeling hurt because someone hurt him and feeling hurt because *he* hurt someone and they reacted to it.
As the blogger, Shea Emma Fett phrased it, being victimized by acts of control is different from being victimized by my resistance to your control. In my most recent blog piece about beliefs vs. actions, I phrase it as raising your hand to slap someone and then having your hand hurt when you strike the arm that they raised to block your slap. Where was the grownup for my ex to say "people love you, and you did this thing, now stop acting like an ass and go make it right"? When I, eventually, tried to take that role, I got punished for it. I was lumped right in with the "bad guy" and we were both seen as "attacking" him. I was called "intolerant" and told that I was a One True Wayist because I told him that his method of keeping his partners small for his own comfort was unethical and hurtful and that *he* needed to do the work to let them grow rather than making them stay small on his own timetable.
"If you harm someone and then make it so that they feel afraid to tell you about it, be aware that women are likely coddling you constantly day in and day out in ways that exhaust them and that you take as normal and do not even notice."He did this too. He made having a difference of opinion to him so intolerable that most of the family just let things go rather than argue. And they didn't make it clear that they were "agreeing to disagree" either. Often, he and I would have an argument, he would go away to complain to the others in the group, then come back and say "I talked to everyone else and we all agree that you're wrong", but then one or more of them would come to me privately to say that they actually agreed with me and disagreed with him but they didn't want to say anything because it was too much trouble to start a fight about it.
People in the group were constantly rearranging things in order to make him feel comforted or to accommodate him. If an argument got too heated, he would shut down, go into a semi-catatonic state, and when things got really tense he even reverted to self-harm and threats of self-harm. People in that group would literally force themselves into situations where they felt physically and emotionally unsafe just to prevent him from having a meltdown. Any attempt to tell him that his actions harmed them was met with said meltdown in which people had to back up and take back what was said. He called it "admitting they were wrong" and "owning their own shit" and he also called it "backtracking" and being "unreliable" which made them afraid because there was no right answer and no way to get out of the quicksand bog of arguing with him. I called it "badgering them into conceding." His victim called it "gaslighting". Whatever it was, he rewrote reality around him so that he was always right and everyone else catered to his "needs".
"Is it possible they have tried to tell you in a nice way, and you have clapped your hands over your ears or made it hard for them, and eventually they lose the capacity to be ‘nice’ while they are getting harmed? If you think back – really think back – how long were they trusting you and quietly asking you for help and empathy and support and compassion and honesty before they lost their buffer of capacity to speak kindly while drowning?"This is what happens when people "blow up" seemingly "out of nowhere". If it looks like someone is "overreacting", there is a very good chance that they are actually acting appropriately if you add up all the times in the past, instead of taking this one instance in isolation. Regardless of how righteous you feel in your position (and believe me, I've seen plenty of people "blow up" at me on things that I'm dead certain that I'm right about - like gently pointing out something mildly racist and having them explode all out of proportion to what I actually said), embed this in your brain - if someone has lost their shit, there is probably something deeper going on. It is likely that they are reacting to an accumulation of things and your most recent encounter is just the straw that broke the camel's back. Now it's *your* job to step back and see if they are reacting to a lifetime of microaggressions and it's not personal to you or if they added together all the times they tried to talk to you about this and they're fed up with you not hearing them.
" if you make it hard for people around you to let you know you have caused harm, you’re going to invoke survival strategies in your friends and colleagues when you think you’re just having a regular hangout with your friend."This partially explains when people of some sort of privilege get on their FB soapbox to preach about maintaining friends of different viewpoints. For someone with privilege, it's not a big deal to have a friend who has a different perspective when that person has less privilege because that different perspective doesn't affect the more privileged person directly. Their "debates" are all "academic" and they can take them or leave them. But the less privileged person is *harmed* every time they have that "debate" because, for them, it's not academic, it's personal. So one person thinks they're just having a friendly, spirited debate and the other person experiences it as one more cut in the death of a thousand cuts. So they have to employ fucking *survival strategies* in order to maintain that friendship, and eventually it becomes too much to bear. Think about that - the person you think of as a friend has to treat you like they're handling live plutonium and put on protective emotional "gear" just to be in your presence. I hope that makes you feel uncomfortable. Now sit with that discomfort because I'm not going to provide the coddling to make you feel better about yourself over it.
"I would actually apologize to him for having felt afraid. Because my hurt and fear hurt his feelings."Being victimized by your control is not the same thing as being victimized by my resistance to your control.
Modified disclaimer: "This is a personal post so it has extra rules. I don't want advice. I don't want condescension about my age or any other aspect of my identity or lifestyle or about not "seeing clearly" precisely because I've been through some fucked up experiences. I do not want devil's advocate. In fact, since this is all completely about lessons I've learned through very painful personal experience, I'm not interested in entertaining any debate over it. You are welcome to believe that I am wrong about my own life and experiences, if you keep that to yourself. If I see anything in the comments section that makes me regret having been open about my life, it'll be deleted without further explanation."
I have an ex-boyfriend. He abuses women. But he didn't abuse me. I'm not the kind to abuse easily. I'm not totally immune to it. I spent several years in my youth engaged to an emotionally abusive person who was successful at it. In fact, that's partially why I refused to believe it when his victim accused my partner of abuse. I had been through abuse, you see, so I should know it when I see it. And I didn't see it, therefore it didn't exist.
In general, I'm not the kind of prey an abuser looks for. I'm loud, aggressive, I have a strong support network, and I'm extremely confident in my memories and in defending my autonomy and my boundaries. Frankly, I'm too much work for an abuser to abuse. But, here's the thing I learned in my most recent lesson with abusive men: abusers aren't comic book villains twirling their mustachios and plotting out their Rube Goldberg-esque schemes to erase their partners' identities for personal gain. The term "gaslighting" is incredibly valuable, but not all gaslighting looks like the movie the name comes from. In fact, most gaslighting does not look like a film noir movie.
Abusers are often people in pain. They don't abuse because they hate their partners. They abuse because they're afraid. They're afraid of being abandoned. They're afraid that they're unlovable and if their partner ever discovers the "truth" about them, they'll lose that love. They're afraid of who knows what else. But a lot of us are afraid of things like that. So what makes them abusers and us not abusers?
They believe that they are right to address this fear by overwriting someone else's identity. There is also not necessarily a sharp dividing line between "us" and "them".
From the an article by Shea Emma Fett called Abuse In Polyamorous Relationships1 (all bold emphasis in all quoted passages in this post are mine):
"Most importantly, abusive behavior arises from beliefs, not from feelings, which is one of the reasons why people who are abusive are resistant to rehabilitation. I think this is a really important distinction, because people who engage in abusive behaviors can be kind and caring and gentle, and happy and wonderful to be around. They are not abusive because they are evil. They are abusive because the abuse makes sense and feels justified to them."And from 10 Things I Wish I'd Know About Gaslighting2 by Shea Emma Fett:
"[Lundy] Bancroft [author of Why Does He Do That?] says, “Anger and conflict are not the problem; they are normal aspects of life. Abuse doesn’t come from people’s inability to resolve conflicts but from one person’s decision to claim a higher status than another.”"
"What is this underlying thinking? Well, it’s all around you. It is the foundation of rape culture. It is the fundamental belief that women do not have a right to their own personal power. It is the fundamental belief that they can retain power over their bodies, minds and choices, only so long as we agree with those choices. ... It is the way we, all of us, men and women buy into the belief that we are entitled to women’s bodies, thoughts and choices. In polyamory, this belief makes it easy for us to treat our partners as things and not people.
But more than that, many of our fundamental beliefs in relationship[s] create a fertile ground for abuse. The goal of marriage is often longevity at any cost, and the presumption is mutual ownership over not just intimacy, but our partner’s choices, feelings and thoughts. And even if we take care to form our commitments outside of these assumptions, we still often carry a powerful sense of entitlement in intimate relationships. In short, intimate relationships often default to the power over model, and the relationship becomes a struggle for this power."
"The purpose of abuse is to erode a person’s ability to make choices for themselves. The abuser feels justified in taking proactive and punitive actions because of a fundamental sense of entitlement to their partner’s choices."
"Gaslighting only requires a belief that it is acceptable to overwrite another person’s reality. The rest just happens organically when a person who holds that belief feels threatened. We learn how to control and manipulate each other very naturally. The distinguishing feature between someone who gaslights and someone who doesn’t, is an internalized paradigm of ownership. And in my experience, identifying that paradigm is a lot easier than spotting the gaslighting."I'm not certain that identifying a paradigm of ownership is easier than spotting gaslighting, at least for me, because I've seen some people who are really good at twisting and using language to appear like they're on our side, but aside from that so, what? I've referenced these articles before, many times. Lots of people are talking about abuse nowadays. Why another essay on abuse that is basically just referencing something that's already been said? Well, because I don't think that the concept of "abuse is about beliefs" has really sunk in yet. I've spent many years yelling on the internet about why hierarchy* and rules in poly relationships are dangerous. People keep insisting that they can be done "non-abusively" or that everyone agrees to it therefore it's not abuse, but I don't seem to be able to get my point across - that it's not whether this specific action or that specific action is "abusive" or not or is "consented" to or not. It's about the underlying mindset and beliefs that allow people to think that hierarchy and rules can be done "non-abusively" in the first place.
From Relationship Rights: Can You Negotiate Them Away?3 By Eve Rickert:
"I believe that if you’ve come to a place in your relationship where someone has negotiated any one of their rights away, that relationship includes coercion, and that invalidates consent."That is the foundation of some later blog posts on whether or not hierarchy can ever be "ethical".
"There are certainly cases where you might choose not to exercise a right. It might be easy enough to say you don’t need the right to leave when, well, you don’t want to leave. But when you decide you do want the right? It’s still there.
And that’s what makes it a right."
From Can Polyamorous Relationships Be Ethical? Part 2: Influence and Control4 by Eve Rickert:
"Healthy relationships are ones in which we can express our needs and desires, but it’s when we feel entitled to have our partners do what we want that things go off the rails. Entitlement makes us feel like it’s okay to overrule our partners’ agency (and that of their partners). If we’re part of a socially sanctioned couple, this is especially dangerous, because we’ve got lots of societal messages feeding that sense of entitlement. And the most damaging parts of hierarchical setups tend to come about when we enshrine entitlement into our relationship agreements."I didn't recognize that my partner was abusive because he didn't *behave* that way towards me, and I didn't *see* him behave that way towards his other partners. So when this one person came forward and said he had abused her, I, along with his other partners, all stood up and said "He can't be! He's not like that! He's never done anything like that to us! The problem must be with you!"
"Once the tower of intimate influence is defended, however, we see the village once again reoccupied. The village is things that a person feels entitled to control in their partner’s relationship, or rules and structures that are put in place to ensure that one person’s needs are always favoured in the case of resource conflict."
But the truth is that he *did* do things like that to his other partners. They just looked a little different because we were all different people so he had to use slightly different tactics. His abuse was expressed differently with everyone so it didn't look like "abuse", but they were all expressions of the same set of *beliefs*. So when his other partners succumbed to his manipulation of them, it looked like everyone was consenting, therefore it couldn't be abuse. Because it wasn't necessarily the behaviour, it was the underlying belief that permitted the behaviour. "[I]f you’ve come to a place in your relationship where someone has negotiated any one of their rights away, that relationship includes coercion, and that invalidates consent."3
"Do abuse victims “consent” to be in their relationships? On the surface, perhaps it looks that way, but that is rooted in a victim-blaming, “why doesn’t she (he) just leave?” mentality and a serious oversimplification of the psychological dynamics of abuse. Abuse relies on tearing down your partner’s sense of self and personal agency to the point where consent is really no longer valid. And it doesn’t take physical violence to make a relationship abusive."3The thing of it all is that this pattern was visible from the beginning. It wasn't invisible at all. It was just camouflaged beneath this community insistence that "anything" that two people "consent" to is A-OK. That whole YKINMKBYKIOK (your kink is not my kink but your kink is ok) mentality that I find so profoundly dangerous. I get why we started that. It's easy for people to place our own biases and judgements on other people even when we're trying to be all liberal and inclusive and shit. Look how often the furries get thrown under the bus by other kinksters, for instance. We had to teach ourselves that we don't have to agree or approve of someone else's preferences for those preferences to still be legitimate and valid and accepted. But instead of opening the door to inclusiveness, the door swung in the other direction and is now being used to bludgeon anyone who tries to critically examine toxic or harmful behaviour. It's like the religious extremists using "freedom of religion" to justify *imposing* their religious values onto other people by granting corporations personhood status to avoid covering contraception.
When I first met my abusive ex, he was in a hierarchical relationship that enforced triad structures only (FMF with bi-women, of course). So I thought "I kinda like him, but there's no way I'm touching that with a 10-foot pole!" Over time, their structure evolved until, many years later as our friendship grew, I was told that they had worked through their issues and they could now have independent relationships without each other and those relationships were allowed to grow on their own. So I thought "Hallelujah! People can change! People can learn and grow and break out of their insecurities!" Boy, was I wrong.
See, he and his wife still had a lot of rules with each other that I found ... disconcerting. But I wasn't told the full scope of all the rules, just that they found what works for them but that they had reached a point in their lives where they could accept that their other relationships couldn't work that way. So, in enters YKINMKBYKIOK - it works for us and we're not imposing it on you, so don't question it unless you want to be seen as intolerant of other people's preferences. So I didn't inquire too much, except to insist that this structure absolutely, without a doubt, no exceptions, would not work for me. They assured me they wouldn't try to impose it, and thus reassured, I entered into a relationship with him.
In the throes of NRE, I saw all the red flags, but I ignored them. Because he wasn't doing them *to me* and the person he was doing them to *said* she was OK with it and even claimed to be her idea in some cases. But they niggled at the back of my brain, so I stored these red flags in my memory (sometimes literally - a lot of our conversations were via chat, so I have the chat logs and I'm not relying purely on my memory) and when things came to a head years later, I was deeply ashamed that I hadn't paid more attention back then. And holy shit, when I learned what some of their rules were much later I was *really* upset with myself that I didn't press the issue in the beginning.
One of the red flags was that his wife didn't allow pictures taken of herself. Not just explicit photos, but any photos. Well, very occasionally she would pose for group photos of social events. But no candids and definitely no sexy shots. At the time, I thought this was just a quirk of hers. And it was, but sort of. She's also a very dominant personality, much like me in a lot of ways. Back in the beginning, when I thought "nope, not ever gonna go there!", I thought it was because *she* was calling all the shots and I didn't want anything to do with any relationship where the wife had more power over my relationship than I did. But they inadvertently introduced me to what I now call Relationship By Hostage Crisis. This is where two people get into a relationship with each other and one of them allows their partner to remove their agency in some way because the first person wants to remove the agency of the other themself. So they basically trade their own agency in exchange for controlling the other person's agency.
Some people seem to think that this is a fair power exchange, that it's not abusive if it goes both ways. But we're not talking about a D/s agreement where someone has the power to concede something. The reason why that's different is because *that person always maintains the power to take it back*. If they don't, it's abuse, by definition. I know this gets a lot of serious edge-players up in a snit when I say this, but kink is all about fantasy and illusion. None of it is real. Sure, it's real *enough* that it triggers the reactions in our brains so that it *feels* real. But it can end at any time. Franklin (tacit) once knew a guy who insisted his wife was his slave in every sense of the word and he owned her in exactly the same way he owned his TV. He insisted that it was a real slave relationship right up until his wife divorced him. You'll note that she wasn't summarily hunted down by the government and lashed or hung for leaving him. But we do see cases where women try to leave their male partners and the men punish them by stalking, harassing, raping, and killing them. He feels entitled to control her agency - her choices - and she is punished when she makes choices he doesn't approve of. She does not have the power to take her agency back. This is not a D/s consensual power exchange fantasy.
Giving up your agency in order to have control over someone else in trade is not a BDSM power exchange fantasy. You may indeed have power over someone else, but you *lose power over yourself* in exchange. This is not something you can renegotiate later when it's not working for you. You have become *powerless*, and it takes a great deal of effort to wrest that power back, if you ever get it at all. As they say, two wrongs don't make a right. Sometimes you can have two bad actors in the play instead of just one.
"Our brains are optimized to seek pleasure and avoid threat. It’s most of what we do. There’s nothing wrong with trying to avoid things that we believe will hurt us. However, most people would also agree that you can’t put a gun to someone else’s head in order to avoid the things you fear, no matter how uncomfortable the consequences. Sometimes we have to face what we fear because all other options require taking actions that we consider to be wrong. Therefore when we harm each other because of fear, let’s recognize that it was not the fear that was the problem. We all have fear. The problem was a belief system that said, well, maybe I can put a gun to your head."1So, the wife wanted control over her husband in some way so she allowed her husband to control her body in this way (among others). He didn't want other people looking at her body in ways he didn't approve of. They held emotional guns to each other's heads. This is not a fair power exchange. No one was empowered by this situation, they were both disempowered *even while* they held power over each other. So, no pictures of her. Except that *he* obsessively took pictures of her. Of everyone. At all times. And I mean at *all* times. I had ample opportunity during group sex to see him actually stop the sex, reach for a camera, and take a dozen pictures, all with her glaring at him in the picture because she didn't like having those pictures of herself taken. *She* wanted to control when pictures were taken and right then was not when she wanted to have pictures taken. But it didn't matter, because *he* wanted them.
I had a conversation with her about this once. This is where I learned that the no-dirty-pictures rule wasn't her own preference. She would have wanted to have posed for something for her own enjoyment, but he wouldn't allow it. She saw nothing wrong with his prohibiting her because, as her husband, he had that right to determine what happened to her body, but he also had that right (she believed) because she gave it to him. But there was no consideration for renegotiating that rule, at least not in practice. He made disagreement with him so traumatic to everyone in the family that everyone avoided disagreement with him at much cost. He literally made it a matter of life and death when people disagreed with him. So it was easier to capitulate than try to talk him out of one of his catatonic or self-harming states, and then they got to believe that it was their "choice" to negotiate that power away.
Later on, some other things were happening regarding her relationship with her boyfriend and my partner and I were arguing over his wife's autonomy and the boyfriend's rights in his own relationship with her, and we circled around to the subject of sex work, which led to the subject of dirty pictures. He was appalled, I mean *appalled* at the idea of a partner of his either "selling her body" or of his wife having nude pictures that someone else could see. We veered into all kinds of tangents, including me demanding him to explain how "selling one's body" through sex was any different from me getting paid to dance or to perform manual labor or how sex work was any more inherently demeaning than my soul-sucking retail job at barely above minimum wage.
I also had to watch him go through a series of mental gymnastics to explain why it was OK to be dating me, who has naked pictures of myself on a public website from when I posed as a tutorial model for tacit's BDSM site, but not OK to have a wife who might have similar pictures. The gymnastics got even more convoluted when I disclosed to him that I had been paid to pose for a nudie calendar years before and that picture is out there, floating around somewhere that I've never even seen and certainly have no control over what happens to it. The takeaway I got from that exchange was that it actually *did* bother him, but he was unable to admit it to himself so his cognitive dissonance forced him to justify on the spot why it was somehow different to be dating someone with that kind of exposure than to be married to someone with it.
But what really stuck in my memory was his explanation of why he believed he was in the right for not allowing nude pictures of his wife on the internet. He told me the story of the bowl of M&Ms. So, let's say you have a bowl of M&Ms on your desk at work. You love your M&Ms. They're your favorite candy. And sometimes you don't mind sharing your M&Ms with your coworkers, but you have this one coworker who you hate with a passion. He's a major asshole to everyone and he definitely doesn't respect you or your M&Ms. He feels entitled to them. You don't want him to have your M&Ms because they're not *his* M&Ms, and, in fact, you hate him so much that you don't want him to have any M&Ms ever because you don't want him to have the pleasure of eating M&Ms at all because he's such an asshole that he doesn't deserve the profound bliss that is the M&M.
I couldn't believe what I was reading (this was a chat argument). I couldn't believe this was coming out of the same person who was otherwise so aligned with all my values and beliefs and philosophies! So I said "but your wife isn't a bowl of M&Ms, she's a person who you can't own and she gets to make up her own mind about what happens to her own body." He tried to handwave away the objectification inherent in his analogy and pushed the "but he's an asshole and doesn't deserve to see the glory that is her body" angle.
He tried to appeal to my sense of justice but I don't actually want people I dislike to not have good things. I might often wish bad things on them, but all the times I can think of when I did that, what I wished was for the bad thing to be relevant to why I disliked them so that they would ultimately learn compassion and empathy from the bad thing, or at least be punished in the same way they were punishing others. I honestly don't give a fuck if Racist Joe in the next cubicle gets a lot of pleasure out of his cold Budwiser while sitting in his favorite recliner watching football at the end of the work day. I don't want to steal his Budwiser just so he can't have one. I'm not bothered by the idea that someone I don't like might actually be experiencing something pleasant or enjoyable or feeling happy. But I am deeply disturbed by the idea that other people are bothered by that.
There are so many other examples, that I have been using my experiences with him as moral tales for years since it all went down and I have yet to run out of examples. Argument after argument, random side comment after pointed discussion, there are a million different ways that he expressed his underlying belief that his partners could not be trusted to make their own decisions about their bodies; that if left to our own devices we would necessarily choose things that were not in *his* best interest; that what was in *his* best interest was therefore what was in *our* best interest; that what was "best" for the group took precedence over what was "best" for the individual; and that he was absolutely entitled, as the romantic partner, to have the power to make those kinds of decisions and to ask, demand, or manipulate his partners into doing what he decided we should.
I didn't see any of this because, for most of our relationship, what I wanted for myself and our relationship and what he wanted for me and our relationship were in alignment. "It might be easy enough to say you don’t need the right to leave when, well, you don’t want to leave. But when you decide you do want the right? It’s still there." Until one day, we weren't in alignment. He had no need to try any of the gaslighting or logic-circling or even more blatantly abusive tactics like threats of self-harm because I wasn't doing anything contrary to his vision of how our relationship ought to be or how I ought to be in our relationship. Until one day, I did. And then I saw it. I saw what his victim had been crying to me about just a few weeks before. I saw the entitlement. I saw the belief that he ought to be able to dictate my actions. I saw the carrot-and-stick game he played with her - using group acceptance as the carrot to get me to fall in line and group shunning as the stick if I didn't fall in line. "I talked with everyone else, and they all agree that you are wrong. You’re hurting the whole group, don’t you care about us?" I saw everything she said he had been doing to her for the length of their relationship, finally, in one day, directed at me.
And then I saw that I had always seen it. It had always been there.
"Therefore when we harm each other because of fear, let’s recognize that it was not the fear that was the problem. We all have fear. The problem was a belief system that said, well, maybe I can put a gun to your head.When we first broke up, it came as a shock to everyone. To everyone on the outside, he and I were the most compatible and stable of all his other partnerships. We were so similar in so many ways. And by the time we broke up, his relationship with the victim who came forward had gotten so tumultuous that all his other relationships were being affected, except, apparently, ours. Everything in his life seemed to be falling apart. He was so wrapped up in the drama with this one person that he had no more resources for maintaining any of his other relationships and they were all in danger of blowing up too. His last blog post prior to our breakup was lamenting the fact that his life was falling apart and I was his one port left in the storm. So no one saw it coming, because no one understood that this box containing his beliefs and fears was still there, informing the health and stability of every relationship including ours.
The prioritization of fear arises when we replace a relationship of mutual support and co-creation, with one of parental protection. ... A relationship that is hostage to fear is one where everything, the relationship, the mental health of the participants, the future, everything hinges on the avoidance of something. Every relationship that forms on top of that avoidance, forms under the premise that the fear is more important than anything else. But just because you’ve agreed to never open the box, doesn’t mean the box isn’t there, informing the health and stability of every relationship that touches it."1
When I told people who had met him or who were privy to my gushings of my relationship with him during NRE, when I told them of how it ended, without exception everyone said that it sounded like I was describing two different people. It was a total Jekyll and Hyde story. His victim once said that she tried to reconcile these two people in her head. Part of what made her stay with him so long is that she kept thinking that she could get back to the nice Dr. Jekyll if she could only find the right way to behave that wouldn't let out Mr. Hyde. But her other partner pointed out to her, "He's not two different people. Your nice, sweet boyfriend is also the abuser. They're the same person."
I keep saying that patterns are important. But I also keep saying that it's the underlying beliefs that are important. People might be tempted to say "but look at all these other relationships he has! She was the outlier! The pattern is that he's a good guy and she's the problem!" But that's not the pattern. The pattern is in his beliefs. Sure, he didn't try to manipulate me or control me ... as long as what I was already doing was something he approved of. So it may have *looked* like there was no pattern of manipulation or control because he didn't seem to try that on me. But the real pattern was that he *believed* that manipulation and control are appropriate methods of dealing with a partner whose behaviour was something he didn't approve of. "It is the fundamental belief that they can retain power over their bodies, minds and choices, only so long as we agree with those choices."
This is why benevolent sexism is still sexism and still a problem. The behaviour, on the surface, might seem like it's not oppressive because it supposedly elevates women. It rewards them. It "privileges" them. But only as long as women toe the line. Only as long as women fall within acceptable ranges of behaviour or dress or thought. A pedestal *seems* like a place of power and enshrinement, until you realize how confining it is to stand in one spot or risk falling to your death for daring to sit down or change positions.
It's tempting to say "he's not an abuser because he didn't abuse me!" I know, I said that at one time. But it's also tempting to say "but abusers don't abuse everyone yet they're still abusers". The thing is that they actually do, we just can't see it behind the camouflage. As tacit, and one of my metafores, are fond of saying, it’s not a problem … until it is. "Every relationship that forms on top of that avoidance, forms under the premise that the fear is more important than anything else. But just because you’ve agreed to never open the box, doesn’t mean the box isn’t there, informing the health and stability of every relationship that touches it." A racist who keeps his mouth shut when a black customer walks into his store is still a racist towards that customer. He's not a racist because he does racist things. He's a racist because he holds racist beliefs. And he holds those beliefs all the time, at everyone. A person who believes that they are entitled to control other people’s bodies, thoughts, and choices still believes those things even when they don't choose to exercise that entitlement, for whatever reason they choose not to in that moment. And those beliefs leave signs. It's not about whether or not he tries to manipulate a partner who is already doing what he wants her to do. It's about whether he *believes* he is right to manipulate her should she ever not want to do what he wants her to do. And that kind of thinking leaves footprints, if we only learn how to identify them.
The reason why this is important is because it is too easy to dismiss abuse when it doesn't look like how we think abuse ought to look. It's also too easy to accuse people of abuse when they are not, in fact, abusing anyone.
I wrote a paragraph in a recent post where I distinguished between "selfish" and "self-interest". That paragraph got quoted, and some people took exception to that distinction because abusers will just turn around and call what they're doing "self-interest" to justify their actions. What these detractors didn't seem to get was that this was my whole point.
What worked on my partner's victim was the accusation that she was being "selfish". That it was *she*, not he, who was the abusive monster. Her story is remarkably similar to the same one I linked to and quoted above. That's why I keep sharing Fett's writing - it really hits home with how similar it is to everything we (mostly she) went through. It all started unraveling for me when she called me crying, desperate that she had harmed him in some way, and how could she fix it? When she told me what she was afraid she had done, I was horrified that she could possibly think that she had done anything wrong at all. But how could she be such a monster? she wondered. How could she treat him so heinously? Are you fucking serious? I asked her. This had nothing to do with her at all. This was all about him.
"If you are being abused, there is a very high chance that you will be accused of being abusive or of otherwise causing the abuse. That’s because this accusation is devastatingly effective at shutting you down and obtaining control in a dispute. However, I also believe this accusation is often sincere. People often engage in abusive behaviors because they feel deeply powerless and that powerlessness hurts. But not everything that hurts in a relationship is abuse, and not everything that hurts your partner is your responsibility. It’s important to be able to distinguish abuse from other things that may happen in relationships that are hurtful, or may even be toxic or unhealthy, but are not fundamentally about entitlement and control."1There are all kinds of things that are problematic to varying degrees. But they are not all about entitlement and control. And this is *very* important to recognize. And they should never be conflated. That harms actual victims of entitlement and control. It's not always just the abuser accusing his victim of being abusive. I see it in communities as well. Now that we're finally talking about abuse in my various subcultures, a lot of terms are getting bandied about - abuse, harassment, consent, violation, predator, narcissism, borderline personality disorder ... just to name a few. Not all of these terms are being applied where they should. When things that aren't abuse get mislabeled as abuse or "rounded up" to abuse, it makes it much harder for actual abuse victims to find proper support. When things that are indeed problematic but not "abusive" get labeled as "abusive" instead of their real problem, then we can't address the problem in ways that are effective for solving the problem.
And when people live in fear that any possible misstep might get them cast out of communities under accusations of "abuser", especially if those people are actually victims who have been told by their abusers that they are the abuser themselves, it makes it way more difficult for anyone to seek help or to seek correction for things that might actually be correctable (or not even offensive at all).
I think we're on the right track now that we're sensitive to abuse and harassment and control in our communities. But I think we're also in danger of slipping off the track too easily. We're not quite at the destination yet and we still have further to travel. One of the dangers is in stopping too soon. Now we know all these words, and now we have started supporting victims and accusers in order to break the previous chilling hold on victims from finding the support they needed when they come forward. But we still don't quite have our finger on the pulse of the problem yet.
Patterns are important, but it's the underlying beliefs that those patterns reveal that are the real key. Those underlying beliefs are what enable abuse and harassment and control and oppression and all the other bad things we're finally starting to look at and combat. Those beliefs set up the foundations that allow abuse and control and manipulation to happen. But not all bad things are about entitlement and control. It's the beliefs that make abusers so resistant to rehabilitation, so it's the beliefs we need to confront. If we don't confront the beliefs but instead attack the behavioural patterns, abusers will simply change their behavioural patterns to continue avoiding detection. It's the beliefs that need to change, and the behaviour changes will follow naturally as a consequence.
At the same time, if those beliefs aren't present, then not only is the attack the wrong way to approach the situation, the behaviour itself also has different chances of correction. It's much more likely to correct someone's behaviour if the behaviour doesn't stem from a deep belief that their behaviour was, in fact, already correct. I’m repeatedly told by those with social anxiety and other social awkward issues that we need to stop excusing bad social behaviour by labeling it some mental illness because people who aren’t predators but legitimately socially awkward often feel horrified when it is brought to their attention that they have done something wrong and they want to learn how to do better. That’s because they don’t have an underlying belief that they were right, they were simply unaware, and they don’t want to do these wrong things. These issues are correctable, but not if we ostracize everyone who does something wrong without first finding out if it was a social awkwardness / anxiety thing or if it was a boundary-pushing predator masquerading as socially awkward thing. One of them believes they didn’t do anything wrong and the other doesn’t. One of them can have their behaviour corrected with guidance and the other can’t because they don’t believe their behaviour was wrong.
How we address the problem needs to be changed if the belief underlying it isn't about entitlement and control, if we want our efforts to be effective. And, as my partner's poor victim learned the hard way, if there are no underlying beliefs about entitlement and control, then there's a good chance that she wasn't doing the abuse she was accused of in the first place. She, like Fett, wracked her brain trying to figure out how to stop this "abuse" she was doing to him, and that only made things worse for her. Fett describes many times about the extreme self-loathing and self-hatred they felt because they believed themself to be an abuser when they weren’t. Because they weren’t actually abusing anyone, the intense searching for the root of non-existent abuse only deepened the wound and left them more and more vulnerable to their abuser’s manipulation.
As Fett says, being victimized by your control is not the same as being victimized by my resistence to your control. His victim wasn't abusing him because, no matter how much he felt hurt, she wasn't the one doing any hurting of him. She did not have any underlying beliefs that she was entitled to control him. In fact, all of his hurt stemmed from her very strong belief that no one was entitled to control anyone else. She was resisting his control and that made him feel hurt. If your hand hurts after slapping someone who raised their arm to block the slap, that person didn't hurt you; you hurt yourself by slapping them.
But *his* underlying beliefs of entitlement were always there, and were always visible. When he first accused her of abusing him, almost everyone who knew her were shocked and suspicious. What do you mean she abused him? She had never exhibited that kind of behaviour before! They had relationships with her that weren't abusive at all! When she later accused him of the same, people said the same thing about him.
But she did not have those underlying beliefs, and her supporters were not wrong to question the accusation. It *was* contrary to everything about her. And because it was so contrary to her very nature, it was a sign that she was actually a victim of abuse herself. When his supporters questioned her accusation of him, well, I don't want to go so far as to say it was "wrong" to question, because serious accusations deserve to be treated seriously, which includes inquiry into the situation. But their dismissal of her accusation in favor of their personal experience with him *was* misplaced because they were looking at the wrong thing - his actions and feelings vs. his beliefs.
When her supporters questioned his accusation of her, they investigated her beliefs. In light of what she believed about entitlement and control, the accusation was patently absurd. The absurdity of the accusation is what led to the situation finally being identified accurately - that he was gaslighting her and emotionally abusing her. He accused her of abuse. Some people who knew her (not me, to my great shame), questioned that accusation. It didn't fit what they knew about her. She had never done anything like that to them. But, more than that, her *beliefs* were so contrary to the accusation, that her supporters were able to start piecing things together for her when she was so mired in self-doubt and illusion that she couldn't do it herself. So they started adding things up and told her "you are not this person he says you are. He is gaslighting you."
She finally broke free and accused him of abusing her. Some people who knew him questioned that accusation. It didn't fit what they knew about him. He had never done anything like that to them. But that's where they stopped. They did not question his *beliefs*. If they had, like I eventually did, they would have discovered that his beliefs are not actually contrary to the accusations at all. And they would have discovered, like I eventually did, that signs of his beliefs had been visible from the beginning. So no one else started adding things up, and to this day people believe that she abused him and that I also abused him because I withdrew my support and then resisted his attempt to control me when I withdrew that support. Because they looked at actions and feelings and not beliefs.
Those beliefs were visible, and showed a pattern, if you knew how to look for them. Without those beliefs, she could not have abused him. Hurt him, sure, because we all hurt people, especially when we are in pain ourselves and especially because the people who are the most vulnerable with us are also the most susceptible to being hurt by us precisely because of that vulnerability. But she *could not* have attempted to control or manipulate him because she *does not* hold any beliefs that she is entitled to his thoughts, his body, his choices. Everything she ever did in that relationship was an attempt to escape his control, not exercise it. But her attempts to escape that control were *felt* by him as "harm". And misunderstood by everyone else as "selfishness". And I, of all people close to that dynamic, should have been able to see the difference, since that is essentially my very existence within the context of romantic relationships - constantly attempting to escape control and being labeled "selfish" for the attempts.
The problem is that this subject is so complex and so nuanced that I don't think I'll ever be done writing about it. And so this post now becomes a mini-novel. All to explain that patterns are easy to disguise or misinterpret if we only look at actions and not at underlying beliefs. When we look at patterns of *beliefs*, things appear very different. Someone who seems totally affable becomes a manipulative monster (everyone's favorite TV dad, for instance). Someone who is accused of being that monster turns out to be a victim themself. And within communities concerned with social justice, it's hard to see sometimes because those monsters learn to co-opt the language of social justice. But the beliefs are still there, and they show up, if you know how to look for them. So when you go looking for them and they don't show up, it's time to wonder just who is the attacker and who is being attacked and maybe all is not as it seems.
When a bunch of people all stand up and say "I looked, and they didn’t perform those actions on me!", maybe we can question the validity of the group defense. But when a bunch of people all stand up and say "I looked, and those beliefs just aren't present", maybe we ought to question the validity of the *accusation*, like when my abusive ex accused his victim of being abusive for daring to resist his control of her. She (and later, I) was ostracized from her community and her support group because everyone automatically believed the "victim", meaning he called dibs on the label first and everyone jumped to his side by default, without critically examining whether his claims were even plausible, given the beliefs of the people involved. Her actions were deemed "abusive" simply because he felt hurt by them, without looking to see if there were any elements of entitlement or control present and, if so, which direction they flowed.
But those who cared enough to look beneath the surface finally saw the truth. Those who took the time to look for patterns of *belief*, not actions or not simply whether someone felt "hurt", when we saw the patterns of belief, we knew that she could not have been abusive, even if she might also have caused harm. And my refusal to see this pattern when it was first shown to me, that led to consequences of my own. Consequences that could have been avoided, and possibly even resulted in better protection for his victim sooner, had I learned to look for belief patterns and had I learned to recognize that internalized paradigm of ownership rather than quibbling over whether or not specific actions "counted" as "abusive".
Maybe, had I done that instead, I wouldn't today be wracked with guilt and self-doubt, all these years later. Maybe his victim would have escaped sooner and healed faster had I not backed the wrong horse and had I not challenged everyone else who said "but she can't be an abuser because our experience of her is different!" Maybe she wouldn't have been so easy to isolate had I listened to *her* other supporters instead of arguing that they just didn't see how much drama the family had only when she was brought into the fold. Instead of questioning their support of her on the basis that they were too close to her to be "objective" and not close enough to the situation to see all the hurt feels he had. Maybe if I had acknowledged that, as people who knew her so well for so long, they might actually have had some insight into her belief structure and been exactly the right people to know if she had the beliefs necessary for her to abuse him. Maybe, if I had known that it was the beliefs that were important, not actions that happened behind closed doors that can be interpreted in many ways or rationalized and not simply “feeling” hurt by someone, things could have been different and we both could have been spared at least some of the damage that dating an abuser left us with. Maybe, had I understood all this back then, I wouldn't today feel like that house with broken windows**.
This is not the only time I made this mistake, either, although I was closer to this situation than to others. There was another time someone cried "abuse", and I believed them automatically because I was told I should, and only many months later did I learn that he was, in fact, an abuser. He was just the one who cried foul first. But, again, it took a confrontation with him personally where his beliefs that it was acceptable to overwrite another person’s reality became visible for me to see the pattern. Two people accused each other of abuse, and I took this side because I now "knew", thanks to my experiences dating an abuser, that abusers often think of themselves as victims. So, obviously, his abuser was just doing that, right? Except that later, he tried to gaslight me too. After telling him multiple times my feelings on something, he continued to insist that I did not feel those things, and to insist on his own narrative of what I felt. Now his "abuser’s" accusations of gaslighting sounded more plausible. He *believed* that he was entitled to control another person’s reality, and patterns of that belief were visible, if you know what to look for. That doesn’t let the other person off the hook for whatever wrongs they committed in this very messy situation. But it does mean that I was wrong to "believe the victim" without treating all the accusations flying around seriously and critically examining the situation even though I thought I did at the time. My bias towards "believe the victim" and my personal experience with abuse telling me that I should now know what abuse "looks like" fogged the matter and I did not examine the situation critically enough, or with enough information (knowing the difference between beliefs vs. behaviours or feelings) to be able to examine it properly.
So I yell on the internet, hoping people can learn very expensive lessons without paying the high price I paid to learn it first. After I believed the wrong "victim" more than once, I'm not positive that "believe the victim" is the right response. *Support* the victim might be a better response, because support allows for the ability to examine the situation and then provide the *right type* of support based on that examination. Had I "supported" all the actors in that messy double-accusation drama instead of "believed" just one of them, I might have been able to provide better support for the actual victims in the story, given that I had some community authority and responsibility in the matter. Had I "supported" my then-boyfriend instead of "believed" him, I might have discovered the truth sooner and been able to support him by holding him accountable instead of inadvertently contributing to the gaslighting of his real victim. Had I "supported" him instead, I might have been able to hear the chorus of "she couldn't have done that because we know her!" and looked into it more clearly instead of dismissing it out of hand, and I might have then learned about this beliefs vs. actions/feelings problem.
And maybe we might both have escaped without breaking first.
* I will not be hosting any debate in my comments about the definition of hierarchy. That’s why I linked to the definition I’m using here. If your definition differs, then you’re not doing what I am calling "hierarchy" and I don’t care. I absolutely refuse to hold space for this endless circular argument because it has managed to keep the entire community derailed for over 20 years. I’m insisting on moving on. Any comments that include anything even remotely resembling "but sometimes hierarchy is…" or "but I don’t do that…" or "but my kids really do take priority!" will be summarily deleted regardless of what other content the comment may have. If you’re feeling the desire to make a comment like that, go read the link I provided for the definition of hierarchy, and then parts 1 and 2 of Can Poly Hierarchies Be Ethical first. If you still feel the desire to make those comments, re-read all three posts. Continue re-reading until you no longer feel the need to make those rebuttals.
** This is in reference to an essay that might not be available. The essay is an analogy to living in a house with windows that aren’t perfect but that do the job. They’re good enough and the house is sound. Then one day, someone comes along and breaks the windows. And you spend a long time ignoring the broken windows, and then working around the broken windows, and then finally learning how to fix the broken windows. One at a time, you repair them. They’re not all repaired yet and some rooms are still unusable because of the broken windows, but the house is getting fixed, the new windows look great, and you learned a new skill. But the windows were fine to begin with. You didn’t need to learn this skill or replace the windows until someone came along and broke them. So you’ve had to spend all these years learning how to fix windows that shouldn’t have had to be fixed in the first place, and all these years ahead of you continuing to fix each window, when you could have been using that time to learn a different skill, to get better at something new, to grow or improve. Instead, you spend all this time just trying to move backwards to get back to a place you were before because you can’t move forward until you get there first. The breaking of the windows was a huge step backwards and now you’re playing catchup. And it all feels unnecessary because the windows were fine to begin with.
1. Abuse In Poly Relationships by Shea Emma Fett - https://medium.com/@sheaemmafett/abuse-
2. 10 Things I Wish I’d Known About Gaslighting by Shea Emma Fett - https://medium.com/@sheaemmafett/10-
3. Relationship Rights: Can You Negotiate Them Away by Eve Rickert - www.morethantwo.com/blog/2015/01/
4. Can Polyamorous Hierarchies Be Ethical? Part 2: Influence and Control by Eve Rickert - www.morethantwo.com/blog/2016/06/can-
Him: You don't even want to get married! Do all girls just naturally like planning weddings?
Me: No, you don't understand, I've had my wedding planned since high school because it was a *required class*! I've had the dress designed since then and even had a version of the dress made as my high school prom dress (which I still have in the closet, I'll show you later if you're interested). Obviously, if I really were to get married today, there would be some changes because I have some very different values since being a teenager (like not believing in marriage, for one thing, and being poly for another), but the reason why so many women have ideas for their weddings even before there is a prospective husband is because we're proactively coached in wedding planning.
Not everyone is forced to actually take a wedding class in high school. Some get it through their cotillion or sweet 16 parties or similar "coming out" parties that are really just mini-versions of today's weddings. Others just get it through their families. But I had sex ed every year from 6th grade through 12th grade, and eventually there's only so much biology to be taught on the subject. So they covered other related subjects.
One semester, our "sex ed" course was a self-defense class where I learned tae kwon do (not that I remember any of it, but I did flip a real assailant over my shoulder once, which was pretty cool). That class doubled as a P.E. credit. Another semester was a marriage and family planning course where we had to actually plan an entire wedding, down to calling venues to find out about how to reserve dates, developing color schemes, and making a budget. We were also randomly assigned various careers with certain incomes and had to plan a household budget with given criteria and limitations. The course ended the semester with one of those flour sack baby projects. And I also learned all the symbolism and significance to all those wedding traditions.
Did you know that the bride is supposed to have two bouquets? One of fresh flowers that she walks down the aisle with and then dries or freezes to keep stored forever and another fake bouquet to throw at the reception?
Him: What? You have to keep the bouquet?
Me: Yeah, along with the dress. That multi-thousand-dollar dress that you only wear once and then put in a box in the closet, never to see the light of day again. The flowers can get preserved and saved too. If you spent all that money on flowers, wouldn't you want to keep it too?
Him: I suppose. I just didn't know you were supposed to.
Me: So it's not a guy vs. girl nature thing, it's that I literally didn't have a choice. And even women who don't have a class to make them plan their weddings don't really have a choice. We're hounded by our family and friends, asked questions about our wedding plans that we have to answer, and when we're segregated into our respective gendered wedding parties, you guys are expected to go out and get rowdy while our "parties" are actually helping the bride prepare for the wedding. So even if I hadn't ever had that class, all I'd have to have is an invitation to a bridal shower or a close relative get married and I'd have been expected to help pick out dresses and florists and taste-test the cake and look at invitation fonts and discuss the hopes and dreams and expectations of the bride and her bridesmaids.
That bridal shower is pretty much all wedding planning and grooming. We give the bride wedding gifts that are supposed to help her with the wedding ceremony or the marriage after. The "games" we all play at these things are basically silly versions of wedding traditions that reinforce the cultural programming of weddings. Like dressing the bridesmaids up in toilet paper wedding dresses. That's dress designing reinforcement right there, even if it's silly.
Do you know the importance of choosing an invitation font? Or the seating chart at the reception? Or the consequences for having a more casual reception where there is no seating chart? How about the order of events? Do you know why, when you were a groomsman and you walked down the aisle with your bridesmaid, your linked arms were "wrong"? Do you know why that's important? And the cake, the topper for the cake is supposed to be saved too, frozen, and then eaten on your first anniversary together. Every little bit of the wedding and reception has to be planned out and it all means something.
Me: We are literally pulled into two different worlds and coached on different things. So, yeah, I have a wedding plan even though I'm ethically opposed to the government regulating my romantic life and philosophically opposed to most of the symbolism inherent in traditional marriage ceremonies (which, as I told Franklin, is subtly but significantly different from being "opposed to marriage" but it's too complicated to say all that so I summarize it as "opposed to marriage", but I'm not quite, not exactly). I have that plan because it's not really very likely to be socialized as "female" in this society without one. Even for us conscientious objectors or conscientious "modifiers", we can't be "conscientious" about it without looking into the whole concept of weddings and marriages and analyzing what we disagree with and why, both for our own introspection and also because we, as women, will be challenged on our objections so we have to really understand the subject in order to defend our position.
You guys just get to show up with a tux, or not. Even if you choose not to, you don't *have* to really examine why. You're guys. You could just be "a bachelor". But I have to defend my protest with reams of historical data, studies of sociological mores, piles of legal precedent or justification, and a degree in biology to counteract the false "evo-psych" bullshit that says I'm supposed to want to get married.
And even then, I'm still supposed to be able to describe the dress I would wear if I ever changed my mind.
Him: Huh. I didn't realize there was that much that goes into weddings.
Me: Yeah, it's not a "girl thing" in that we just like planning weddings. It's way more complicated than that. We don't really have much of a choice in whether or not we "like planning weddings".
In response to the inevitable "but I'm a girl and I didn't take any classes like that in school!" response:
I went to a private Catholic school, which held this class. But many public schools do have flour sack or egg baby projects so I wouldn't be surprised to learn that they also have wedding planning mixed in there somewhere. Maybe in home economics class? I dunno, I'm told they don't have that class anymore, but they did when I was in high school, so it's not that archaic. Not yet anyway.
But, as I mentioned, we do have cotillions and bat mitzvahs and other religious or social practices where wedding planning sort of sneaks in there. Much of our "wedding training" is pretty subversive. A lot of us go to religious or cultural classes in addition to our public school education. I went to Catechism as a Catholic (religious Sunday School), for instance. The Filipino Catholics had cotillion training that I only learned about after I joined a Filipino church and was invited to someone's cotillion, where I discovered it was basically a wedding reception where they dismissed the importance of the "groom" entirely except to be arm candy for the girl whose party this was. She held "court" and everything.
But many, as I said, just learned about wedding planning through attending the pre-wedding events like the bridal shower. It's sort of an informal tribal-school learning session, where the bride is the main attraction and the elder women all gather around to assist and then instruct the younger women and girls on doing the legwork. I can't tell you how many times I sat at someone's kitchen table with a sponge and a stack of invitations, stuffing envelopes and listening to the older ladies all talk about the wedding and the symbolism and the etiquette and fielding off demands from the grannies to know what *my* wedding will one day look like.
So even before high school, it's not like my mother quizzed me on wedding rituals, but I absorbed a lot of this knowledge just through cultural osmosis by being around other women going through their wedding preparations. Which I was required to do as a "girl" as my mother, and then later myself personally, was invited to participate and celebrate in weddings, because the wedding activities were all segregated, with women attending bridal showers and pitching in to help and men attending bachelor parties and pretty much nothing else. Really, sometimes my upbringing looked like a movie from the 1950s without the poodle skirts.
Plus, as I mentioned, even when women do opt-out of the cultural expectations, a lot of the time they still end up knowing about weddings precisely because they chose to opt-out. Either they really looked into the subject and what they saw informed their opinions, or they started looking into the subject for their own weddings and got overwhelmed and just said "fuck it" and deliberately ignored the rituals. Either way, the guys still mostly had the luxury of just showing up without really having to learn much about the process they were either participating in or eschewing.
It should also be noteworthy that people who follow me online are kind of a self-selected group, particularly a group of those who break gender norms, and when I speak of gendered social programming, I'm speaking of cultural trends where it should be obvious that some individuals (especially those who follow me) would be on the outsides of the bell curve. Obviously I wasn't alone in going through these gendered normalization practices. I grew up in one of the largest cities in the world and was raised in one of the most populous religions in the world. While weird to my current friends and followers who follow me pretty much because we're all weirdos in these ways, my experiences growing up were still very common and are typical examples or illustrative of the sorts of experiences that shape the culture in which I live.
In the comments of someone else's share of my post, someone said they were glad they didn't grow up like me. I have a response to that which I think is kind of important. I'm noticing a lot of borderline horrified reactions, and I think that's kind of missing the point.
The point of my tale was not "poor me, I was forced to learn about weddings". The point was "poor men are excluded from this process and women are expected to pick up the slack so here is yet another example of culturally enforced gender discrepancy of emotional labor".
The learning of the wedding process wasn't the criticism. In fact, I believe I benefited from the learning process and that maybe classes like these should be taught more often - just without the gender role enforcement or heteronormative structure. Imagine what kind of cultural awareness we could be teaching our youth in classes that examined popular cultural traditions like weddings in-depth and challenged the students to understand why those practices are used and why they might want to keep or reject any given practice by having them plan and explain their own hypothetical weddings! Imagine how the entire wedding industry might have to change as a result of an entire generation of youth growing into marriagable ages where they have already examined and challenged the gender roles embedded in weddings and already examined the interconnected economic consequences for participating in the wedding industry! Imagine the generation after the "millennials" seeing the economic disaster that their parents are currently facing and learning about how we got to that point and how it affects even day-to-day decisions and larger decisions like the structure of our relationships, and then applying that knowledge to their own creations of their own relationships and futures!
There are much worse things than expecting children to learn and understand the culture in which they are expected to participate as adults.
Here's my comment:
I am glad to have grown up as I did. I learned a lot about my own culture, so that when I choose a different path, I have a very in-depth understanding of what I am choosing, what I am rejecting, and the whys of it all. I have a deep understanding of our cultural history and all the connections made over time and across cultures as imperialism and trade created influences on our own culture.
Knowledge is a good thing and I was fortunate to have grown up with people who embraced knowledge. It wasn't enough for my family and teachers for me to just adopt, say, wedding practices without understanding them and it wasn't enough for them to let me get to the stage where I would have a wedding without learning all the work involved in putting one on. My schools and the elders in my life wanted us to be prepared for adult life. They didn't want us to build these giant, unrealistic dreams of fantasy weddings, they wanted us to know how much they cost and how much work goes into them. They didn't want us to go out into the real world without understanding how checkbooks and credit cards worked and how much of our pay would go to essentials like rent and utilities.
I was better prepared to enter life as an independent adult than most of my friends who went to schools that didn't offer such instruction and I had a better understanding of why we culturally did the things we did than those same peers. No, the sad part is not that I learned all the stuff that I learned, but that men don't also learn these things and aren't expected to shoulder any of the burden while women are expected to know and do all this on our own (whether the women were given instruction as I was or not). As I told the person in the original story, if I ever was to have a wedding, my future husband would be an equal partner in the wedding planning because he would be an equal partner in the marriage. But thanks to culturally enforced gender roles, if I want an equal partner in this, it'll be up to me to educate him to the point where he *can* be an equal partner, and that's the part that is the problem, not that I'm already schooled in how to put on a wedding.
In a completely different context, I have been known to say to my coworkers:
"I can totally tell you're a straight dude, because you've *obviously* never dated another guy. Y'all think you're all rational and logical and shit, and that you're all about the sex and not the romantic stuff, but I know what y'all say to women when your dudebros aren't around. You whine about not 'connecting' and missing the romance and all the fucking talk, talk, talk. After a while, it's like 'do we have to talk about our relationship ONE MORE TIME? Can you please just shut up with all the relationship talking? Is it too much to ask to just come home, have some dinner, watch a little TV in quiet, have a little sex and go to bed? Jesus fuck, you guys with all the talking!' You sit there and complain about girls doing that but as soon as a girl doesn't WANT to do that, y'all turn into the whiny little bitches you complain about! And don't tell me it never happens, unless you've dated as many men as I have, I'm pretty sure I have more experience with how dudes behave in relationships than you do. You're getting the story your dudebros TELL you and the side they want you to THINK. You're not seeing them behind closed doors. I am. Y'all are just as whiny and emotional as any of the girls you complain about."
Now, keep in mind that, when I phrase it like this, I'm talking to dudebros. I'm talking to guys who are working in a masculine industry, talking to other guys, and doing that toxic masculinity bonding thing where they complain about how girly girls can be. But the story under the language is true - I have spent a lot of time in relationships throwing my hands up in the air, yelling in frustration, "what the fuck, dude, I don't want to talk about our relationship anymore!"
Before I started dating tacit, about 13 years ago, just about every relationship I ever had ended in accusations of being a cold-hearted bitch. I've had a few since then too, but he sets a high bar and my tolerance for partners who can't even come close to meeting that bar is rapidly dropping as I age, so my other partners since dating tacit have been a better ratio - with only a couple of outright abusive assholes using that accusation and the rest breaking up for other reasons. By the end of things with those who accused me of being a cold-hearted bitch, I was no longer interested in hearing about their day, in listening to them whine (because that's how I thought of it by the end) about how much they "missed" me, in making them dinner, in sitting with them to watch their favorite show, in, really, doing anything at all kind or compassionate for them. There would come a point in the relationship where I would just ... check out.
And I bought into this idea that I was some kind of borderline sociopathic monster (or, a dude in a girl's body, because the other common accusation is that I act like "the guy" in the relationship, which "forces" them to act like "the girl", because there always has to be one of each? Oh right, if *I'm* not performing the emotional labor, *someone* has to, and it's just not *fair* that it has to be the actual penis-holder!). So I would warn people up front that I'm "the guy" and this is what I do. But, in the beginning of a relationship, I like performing some amount of emotional labor - I like hearing my partner's inner most feelings. I like baking for them. I like validating them. I am actually pretty schedule-oriented so I will keep the calendar and schedule events and remember (or get calendar notifications for) people's birthdays and anniversaries. I even like the cuddling and the sex, in the beginning. So they get used to me behaving in a way contrary to my warning words. Then they start to feel entitled to that behaviour, and that turns me off. So then they're surprised when I start acting exactly like I said I would because they weren't hearing my words, they were seeing my actions which contradicted my words and they put a filter over their interactions with me that projected their own biases onto my actions and filtered out my words. Then they accused me of being "cold" and I would yell right back at them "what part of 'I'm a cold-hearted bitch' that I said in the beginning didn't you understand?"
The Five Love Languages theory claims that everyone has one primary Love Language that they use to express their love for people or that they feel love when expressed towards them. It claims that it's possible to learn the other languages just like it's possible to learn actual languages, but that there is always The One. I disagree. I think that there is no limit (upper or lower) to the number of languages any given person naturally "speaks". Some people have a single language and all the rest will always be a struggle for them. Others, like me, speak all five fluently and naturally. And most everyone else is somewhere in between.
Here's something I learned about the Five Love Languages - if a person has a particular Love Language, and that Love Language gets abused from an early age, and/or often, then that person will develop a strong aversion to the expression of that Love Language precisely because that Love Language is so important to them. It's like touching an exposed nerve almost. Maybe not quite, but touching something sensitive - if you do it exactly right, it will make them melt with pleasure, but if you do it wrong, it'll be a screaming, painful experience for them when the rest of us are all like "I don't get it, what's the problem? This doesn't hurt *me* that much!" (we see this very clearly in the "can't you take a joke?" defense where some people have no problem slinging insults around as signs of affection, but get confused when someone they love takes it "personally"). If that Love Language gets abused early enough, before the person is aware that this is a Super Important Way To Express Love, this person might believe that they are actually opposed to it completely, instead of it being extremely important to them. And then, because they are avoiding the expression of that Love Language out of self-defense, their "love tank" runs on empty for most of their life.
A "love tank" is often compared to a car's gas tank or a bank. It's this metaphorical space that gets "filled up" when you do things that makes the person happy. When the tank is "full", they have a reserve to fall back on when things are tough. When the love tank is full, and you have a fight, they are more likely to be charitable or compassionate during the fight and get over it afterwards because they have this extra cushion to fall on, this extra reserve to draw from, so they can afford to bend more, be more flexible, give more during a conflict. This is why conflict, anger, or arguments are not necessarily a sign of a bad relationship - all relationships have these. It's contempt that is the big warning sign. Contempt, and similar emotions, are what gets brought out when these love tanks are running low. Contempt and disgust lead to a lack of empathy, and that lack of empathy leads to "selfish" behaviour. If you can't empathize with someone's position, you prioritize your own safety or your own security or your own escape route.
These behaviours are labeled "selfish" because you are putting yourself ahead of them. I, personally, make a distinction between "selfish" and "self-interested". "Selfish", when I use it, means putting WANTS ahead of someone else's NEEDS, and doing so either knowing that your actions will harm another and not caring; or thinking of yourself to the exclusion of the other person so that it doesn't even occur to you that someone else might get harmed. When I say "self-interested", I mean that you are putting your NEEDS ahead of someone else's WANTS. I might include "putting your needs ahead of others' needs" as well because sometimes there are situations where two people have legitimate "needs" that are incompatible and someone might have to choose themselves over someone else. I don't consider that to be "selfish" so much as "self-interested". Often, the person putting their own needs ahead of someone's wants is aware that someone else might feel hurt by it, but they feel it is a regrettable necessity. They aren't lacking empathy, they are making a choice about priority.
I think this distinction is very important because the accusation "selfish" is a very powerful tool of abusers to maintain their victims. Being "selfish" is one of the worst things a person, especially a woman or someone coded as "female" or "feminine", can be. So it's easy to keep her in line by grooming her for her entire life to not be "selfish" and then drawing on that grooming whenever she acts self-interested. Meanwhile, the actions of the abuser are, in fact, "selfish", by this definition. I think it's important to note these two similar but distinct actions and belief systems with their own labels. This is not a criticism of the original article's use of the term, but an explanation of my own position on the subject and how I normally use these terms. Regardless of which term is used, I completely agree with the posted article's position on this subject, which is why I'm sharing the article. It prompted me to take a look back on all the times I've been called "selfish" and "cold" in relationships and to be critical of those accusations.
So, back to the Five Love Languages - I apparently speak all 5 fluently and naturally. Which might sound awesome at first hearing, because there are so many ways that people can express their love for me and I can speak naturally to any of their individual ways so you'd think that I'd get along well with a whole bunch of different people. But, as I like to joke, it's actually more like there are so many *more* ways that people can fuck this shit up than those who only speak 1 language. Because there are *5 separate love tanks* that people have to keep filled, not one, if they want me to feel secure in our relationship.
So, I would start out in a relationship with the NRE filling the role of the "cushion" or "reserve" in the relationship. Kinda like how lactic acid works when there's an oxygen deprivation to keep you physically moving, only in reverse - I start *out* with the NRE giving me a boost just long enough for the new partner to start making emotional "deposits" that I will eventually start drawing on when the NRE wears off. So, the NRE makes me all physically affectionate, verbally validating, intensely interested in everything they have to say, interested in doing things for them, and even wanting to give tangible things to represent my feelings for them or to show them that I was thinking of them when they weren't around (in order, the Love Languages of Physical Touch, Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Acts of Service, and Gift Giving).
But here's something that the Love Language theory doesn't cover. I propose that "entitlement" can actually draw *out* any saved reserves from love tanks. So, even if my partner is actually expressing love for me in ways that might otherwise fill up my love tanks, if he is acting *entitled* to any of these expressions of love from me, that entitlement will start to siphon off some of those reserves. So, he may be showing his love for me by wanting to spend Quality Time with me, but if he's also *demanding* that time of me because he feels that I owe it to him as part of our relationship bargain, that Quality Time now starts to act as a deficit instead of a deposit.
"Leaving aside the fact that it’s still her phone and she still gets to decide who gets to use it and for what–a very important fact that I’m only leaving aside because I’m writing about something else–our brother has a pattern of entitled, demanding behavior towards her. He treats her time, belongings, and energy as if they’re his to take. Unfortunately, that happens a lot to selfless and caring people.
Because of that pattern, my sister has stopped being as giving with our brother as she used to be. Often she angrily refuses to do even tiny favors for him, like letting him borrow her phone for a few minutes to take some photos. Occasionally he makes his requests in a more appropriate way, but sometimes she still reacts with knee-jerk irritation and, raising her voice, tells him no."
I have been quoted as saying that I have a long fuse, but a huge blast radius. This means that I seem to have these endless reserves of patience and caring and compassion and empathy ... until you reach the end and then I blow up in what appears to be a totally disproportional way. I have yet to find a way to fix this, because I actually have gotten very good at clearly stating my boundaries and warning people that I'm nearing the end of my rope. But that seems to make it worse for me, because then when they overstep my boundaries, they're doing it *knowingly*, from my perspective, and I take it now as a deliberate blow. But, there's something else that gets added on top, it's just that very few people ever get to see it these days because I've gotten more comfortable with the banhammer and burning bridges.
When I have finally lost my patience with someone on a particular thing, but for some reason I haven't decided to nuke the entire relationship, I never again build up any resources to deal with that particular thing. So, for example, my family. My family doesn't do anything so horrendous that I'm willing to cut ties with them. They're not abusive, they're not racist (at least not all of them, and the ones who are aren't overtly racist), and since I live 3,000 miles away I can enjoy their company in small doses of my own choosing. But when we were kids, my sister used to steal my stuff. My clothes, my cassette tapes, whatever I had, she would steal it whether she liked it or not. One day, I'd had enough and we got into a fight about something probably not even related, and I shoved her bedroom door through the connecting wall. I got grounded forever and I had to do the repair work on the wall when my parents got home. To this day, I am extremely short-tempered about my stuff going missing and I'm incredibly territorial about my stuff.
Another example is my parents not respecting my agency. In a million tiny ways almost too hard to describe, my parents have never respected my autonomy and my desire or ability to make my own decisions or be an independent person. It's hard to describe because any one example is minor enough that many people just don't get why it's a big deal. The big deal is the aggregate. It takes a lifetime of tiny little chips away at my autonomy before I finally blew up about it. I got into a huge fight with my mom and moved out (and into the arms of my first abusive fiance, but that's another story). My mom tried to physically restrain me from leaving the argument and, for the only time in my life, I pushed her back and into the hallway wall. My sister came running down the hall and broke up the fight and I left.
My mom and I have repaired things and I consider her a good friend in addition to being my mother now, but every time she does even the slightest thing to remind me of an infringement on my autonomy, I get red-faced, temperature-raising, pissed off. The most common example is that, every time I visit or they visit, mom asks me if I need her to wake me up in the morning to get to whatever we have to do that day on time. She doesn't believe that I can do it myself just because my sleep disorder showing up in my teen years took me some time to learn how to compensate for. No, I don't fucking need mom's help to wake up. I'm motherfucking middle-aged and I've been getting myself up for two-thirds of my entire life. Don't fucking wake me up before my goddamn alarm. I have a system that works for me, don't fucking do it. See? Totally unreasonable reaction if seen out of context and in isolation. But I have never been able to build up any extra reserves to my mother infringing on my autonomy, so it is *always* that exposed nerve, that empty tank.
"Once I realized that my partners thought that it was my job to do emotional labor for them, I started rapidly losing the desire to do it."
"Even now, even to myself, I sound selfish and cold. But so does my sister, out of context. Neither of us is selfish or cold. What we are is exhausted. What we are is tired of being unable to set any boundaries. What we are is totally done doing things for people who have never, ever asked us what we need."
"When someone’s reserves of compassion get drained like that, they start setting boundaries that are much stricter and tighter than what they would’ve been otherwise. No, you can’t borrow my phone for even a few minutes. No, I don’t want to listen to your feelings at all. No, I honestly don’t even have enough emotional energy to give you a compliment to make you feel better about yourself."
"Because others’ entitlement often shuts down our desire to help them, and when we’re constantly afraid that our boundaries will be ignored, one strategy that many of us feel compelled to use is to start loudly, bluntly stating and defending those boundaries, as if to remove any plausible deniability from the person who continually crosses them."
The author goes on to say that they're not very optimistic about salvaging a relationship after the point at which it has collapsed from one person just flat out giving up on doing any more emotional labor. I can relate there too. Once I "go cold" like that, once I'm just done giving a shit about their feelings in the matter - any matter - I really have no interest in trying to repair the relationship and I don't see it as being very likely that anyone else will have any success in their own relationships after someone reaches that point. I'm reading a book now that claims to be able to help people come back from that precipice, but I'll be honest, I have some reservations about it.
The book I'm reading is all about the scientific research being done about "trust" in interpersonal relationships, and it actually had me for about half of it. I was on board, I was nodding my head as I read, I was already trying to come up with ways to work some of its theories into my Love Languages and Breaking Up workshops. And I *still* think those parts have merit, so I may still reference them. But then I got to this one part where he lumped kink into "impersonal sex", which tells me that he has no fucking idea what kink is, which means that he really doesn't understand what's going on in the minds of people regarding trust at all.
He moved away from kink and went back to just talking about repairing trust and betrayal and I thought, well, OK, the 5 Love Languages is deeply problematic too, coming as it does from a heteronormative, couple-centric, deeply Christian perspective, but I managed to strip it of all that bullshit and find something usable to present to the poly community so perhaps I can pick and choose with this book too. But I'm not entirely sure I agree with his premise for using his research on trust and betrayal to mend broken relationships. He seems, from my perspective as someone who has been thrust down the rabbit hole of abuse in poly relationships, to be fetishizing the couple and prioritizing the needs of the relationship over the needs of the individuals in the relationship - a core axiom of ethics violation in poly relationships.
We go through so much trouble to try and salvage relationships after things have gone sour. There is a point before which things are rocky but there are enough good parts to a relationship that things can be improved and bring value and joy to everyone involved, and there is a point after which I'm not so sure it's worth the effort even if it *can* be turned around and start bringing more joy than suffering again. And that's not a hard and fast point that I can just say "if X happens, it's not worth it anymore, for anyone, no matter what!" I think that's something only the people in the relationship can decide for themselves, and I think it's possible for it to be true for one / some of the people and simultaneously not true for the other(s). But I think that point exists, and I think it's very important that we as a society acknowledge this. Relationships and love are abundant. We can find them all over the place. But we can't *see* them, or won't be open to receiving them, if all of our resources are tied up in Scotch-taping broken relationships back together. Sometimes, we might just be better off by using our resources more efficiently by giving up on a broken relationship and spending those resources in other places that aren't so broken.
In this book that I'm reading, the author talks about this point where someone in a relationship starts comparing what they have to what they could have elsewhere, either a real person / relationship that they know of or a fantasy in their head of something that might exist elsewhere if only they could go look. I really want to expose this researcher to healthy poly relationships where believing there is "someone else" out there who can do or be this other wonderful thing *isn't relevant* to whether or not we choose to stay with our current partners. But there is a nugget of truth in there, that if we are too busy spending all of our resources on a sinking ship, we don't have any resources to maintain or repair all the other ships in our lives, whether it's other romantic partners, family, friends, hobbies, or jobs. This even has a name - the Sunk Cost Fallacy, where we keep dumping in resources after resources into an endless pit because we feel that we have to justify all the resources we have been dumping in so far. To cut our losses and run is to have "failed" and to invalidate all those spent resources. So we keep spending. And that contributes to people staying in abusive or toxic relationships (among other things).
I think we need to stop romanticizing the Forever After and accept that relationships, even successful ones, may not always last until Death Do We Part. I think that it is not necessarily a bad thing to reach this point of No More Fucks To Give and decide that, even if it's possible, it's not desirable to try to "fix" the relationship. I think that, not only is not a bad thing, but it's actively a good thing in many cases, and that it's also not a bad thing to decide it's not desirable *before* reaching that point in order to meet a different goal of maintaining a civil breakup and post-breakup relationship. Better to walk away still remembering the relationship fondly and perhaps even harboring some loving feelings, than to wait until the only feeling you have left for them is contempt, disgust, or anger. Assuming, of course, that you can choose when to walk away, but that's a different discussion.
When we have someone who repeatedly violates our boundaries, or regularly draws upon our emotional reserves in the relationship without putting enough of their own back in to compensate, "selfish", or as I have termed it, "self-interested" behaviour is a valid response. If you're wondering why someone seems to have "checked out" or why they seemed to have lost all their compassion for you, it may be because you've been drawing on their "love tank" reserves instead of filling them up. If you're being accused of being "selfish" and you're wondering why you seem to be this heartless monster around this person in particular but you either remember not being that person or you aren't that monster around other people, it may be because this particular person is crossing your boundaries in small, almost unnoticeable ways or because they're acting entitled to your emotional labor or because they're withdrawing your love tank resources instead of depositing into them.
And if that is the case, it may be for everyone's benefit that you act a little more "selfish", or at least self-interested, and remove yourself from that relationship. If full removal isn't possible at this time, I'd recommend embracing the accusation of being "selfish" and/or looking into ways that you can get away with enforcing as many of your boundaries as possible and acting in your own self-interest in as many ways as possible, as often as you can. If "reclaiming" the label of "selfish" gives you the strength you need to do what you have to do, go for it. If just reminding yourself that "selfish" and "self-interested" are two different things and that people who have a vested interest in keeping you under their control often use the "selfish" accusation when you're really being "self-interested" - if that reminder is enough make you feel better about taking care of yourself in the face of boundary-crossing and entitlement, then hold onto this until you can improve your circumstances and keep reminding yourself of it. It is not a bad thing to take care of yourself in the face of this kind of violation, even if that means you have to "shut down" something in order to cope.
"here is an idea: normalize the idea that adopting kids is a valid option even for parents who could conceive a child themselves, and not just an inferior backup option for parents who can't." ~ monsterkissed
I've been trying to do this since I was a kid. I'm adopted. There is no difference between the love my parents have for me and the love people feel for their genetic offspring. I have maintained from the first time that anyone ever asked me about being a mommy that I would adopt if I were to have any children at all.
To me, it seemed the only thing to do. I was given a home when I might otherwise not have had one. The right thing to do was to pay it forward and give some other child a home who might not otherwise have one. There is nothing wrong with my reproductive cycle. I just believe that children already born should be given a chance at the same kind of decent life I had growing up.
I am ever thankful for the decisions of both my sets of parents that led me to the home I had. Adoption is a valid, noble option for anyone to choose. There are few things more selfless than to either choose another set of parents when you know you cannot give a child the best life it deserves or to choose another person's child to raise as your own.
Not everyone who was adopted had my good experience, of course, but that doesn't make adoption an inferior choice. Adoptive parents, like genetic parents, are a mixed bag. Some genetic offspring are far worse off for having been born or kept, but no one suggests that parenthood is anything other than a "miracle" or "noble" or "the best thing a person can do with their life". It's like monogamists blaming all of polyamory for a poly relationship failing but blaming the couple for a monogamous relationship failing.
The truth is that parenthood and families in general are incredibly complicated and nuanced no matter how those families are formed. So the point should be not that all adoptions are wonderful, but that adoption should be a valid option and if it WAS a valid option, it would have more cultural support than it currently does, which would make it a good option *more often*. Kinda like polyamory.
If adoption had the cultural (and governmental) support that such an incredibly important choice like this deserved, the negative stories would decrease because of the support given to ensure the safety of the child and to care for the emotional needs of the parents releasing their parental rights. More children would have the positive experiences that I had growing up, at least on par with biological parenthood and likely higher simply because adoption requires deliberate, thoughtful choice and planning and oversight and independent approval whereas the decision for biological parenthood can be made after the fact by pretty much anyone.
Kinda like polyamory - if it had the cultural support to be just one option among many, the intense introspection and thoughtfulness required to do it would likely result in higher satisfaction ratings among practitioners than other options if we removed the social pressures, stigmas, and cultural baggage that poly people have to unlearn in addition to learning the extra skills.
And P.S., if you adopt an older child, you are still a "real parent". That comes with its own set of challenges that ought to be acknowledged.
"In a world that embraces the notion that it takes a village to raise a child, why is it so difficult for people to understand my family and Simone’s family? Setting aside the idea that it isn’t anyone’s business for the moment, what makes adoption so confusing? It is not a rare occurrence. Since (at least) biblical times, when Moses’ mother floated him in a basket, babies have been raised by others who aren’t necessarily their biological parents. Each year in the United States, about 135,000 children are adopted."
"DNA was not the defining characteristic of our relationships."
"Ask yourself, what tethers you to your own parents or to your own children? Is it a shared recessive gene that caused you to both have green eyes? ... Rather, isn’t it the time your heart was shattered and your father hugged you tightly and let you cry on his shoulder? ... That is what makes us parents. What makes us sons and daughters. That is what makes us real."
I recently had to block someone because they posted about that common of white privilege memes - anyone can travel if you just commit to it and don't hold out for 5-star hotels! I didn't block them just because they made that post. I had to block them because I and someone else tried to explain the privilege inherent in the position in the comments, and *their friends* flooded the comments with more of the same "you just don't want to travel badly enough because if you wanted it, it could be done" and "you're just afraid". I had to block that person just to stop getting notifications about their privileged friends continuing to gaslight me and tell me what I "really want" or what I'm "really afraid of".
And yes, I *am* afraid to lose what little safety net I have managed to hold onto while the rest slips rapidly through my fingers, by living in the same country that recognizes me as a citizen and where my parents can send me emergency cash overnight. When your only means of survival requires your government to give you assistance and your retired parents to send their hard-earned (and dwindling) retirement funds on bailing you out every so often, the idea of leaving the country and not being able to access that meager safety net because you don't have any cash saved up is terrifying (assuming that "selling everything you own" even adds up to the amount necessary to get a passport and plane ticket in the first place, which my stuff doesn't). And yes, some of my friends are afraid to travel in countries where they can't easily get their insulin because they are so poor that their only travel option is that couch-surfing, get a dishwashing job when you get there option which doesn't exactly provide them with the ability to stock up on insulin in a foreign country. Travel, no matter how cheaply you spin it, is a luxury when it's a choice.
As I told those arrogant people in the comments, living hand-to-mouth and washing dishes and sleeping on someone's couch is not something that a person aspires TO when it is something they are currently trying to escape FROM. I don't care how magnificent the sunset looks over a pyramid, it doesn't mean shit when the only way to see it is to be worse off than I am at home and then, because of that, be too poor to get back home. It's not like the sun doesn't set here too, y'know.
That's actually how I ended up stuck in FL. I spent all my money, traveled as cheaply as possible, even worked odd jobs on the way, made it out here with nothing saved up (because of unexpected emergency travel expenses, I spent all the savings I was supposed to live on once here just to finish getting here) and no job waiting for me and no place to live. And the effort it takes just to survive out here means I have been unable to get back to even my starting point, so I can't afford to leave what was supposed to be a temporary trip. Sure, it takes less money to live in other places so you could conceivably survive somewhat comfortably by traveling cheaply somewhere else. But because it takes less money to live there, you also earn less money while you're there. If you spend all your money getting somewhere, there's no guarantee that you'll make enough money once there to get back. I've been stuck here for 16 goddamn years because I can't afford to get back home, thanks to it being cheaper to live here than back home.
I know EXACTLY what it takes to give up "everything" and "just do it", and I know how hard it is to recover from that and I know what happens when you "give up everything" and never recoup it so you can't ever go back at the end of the adventure. I know what happens after you ride off into that sunset. Life happens and life is a bitch.
"It’s likely, from where I sit, that this back-to-nature and boxed-up simplicity is not being marketed to people like me, who come from simplicity and heightened knowledge of poverty, but to people who have not wanted for creature comforts. For them to try on, glamorize, identify with."
"The drop-offs were happening at a white anarchist collective filled with people who were choosing not to participate in the system of capitalism.
And I couldn’t help but think: that must be nice. To have that choice. "
"the same people of color who may go on welfare out of necessity, out of the systemic oppression that makes it difficult for them to have the same access to upward mobility, are considered socially uncouth and lazy, while white anarchists (in this context) are praised for their radically subversive actions."
"But I do think it’s time to start having conversations about how alternative means aren’t a choice for those who come from poverty. We must acknowledge what it means to make space for people who actually need free food or things out of dumpsters, "
The only people flocking towards all these "live simply" hipster solutions are people who didn't come from a life where "live simply" wasn't a choice. It's easy to give up your extra "things" or space when your background tells you that you can always replace it again in the future. It's easy to look on a life of crawling through dumpsters and living on couches when you had your full vaccination schedule and medical benefits and a history of more or less healthy diet to make you hardy enough to withstand any medical complications that comes from accidental exposure or a poorer diet than normal or a 6-week *choice* of poor sleep on a couch that you can give up and come back to your nice bed when you're done.
It's easy to think all that stuff sounds like "fun" or even "responsible" when you haven't lost someone you know to exposure and malnutrition that could have been prevented had they ever had the "choice" to give it up when they were tired of playacting at being poor.
So, today I'm providing a platform for Jess (Burde) Mahler over at Polyamory On Purpose:
Had a conversation today that pulled into focus some thoughts on “boundaries” “control” and, most importantly, “choice.”
I’ve said in other contexts that every day we choose to be in our relationships. I didn’t decide to be with Michael one day seven years ago and that was it. Every day we have been together, I have decided to be in a relationship with him and to make our relationship healthy(er).
In the same way, every (social) relationship you are in is one you choose to be in. Work, military and political relationships can be forced on us. Who we love, befriend, count as family, and bump bits with cannot. Every day we choose to be in those relationships.
Usually, we aren’t aware of these choices. If you choose to be in a relationship with Wanda, you aren’t going to wake up every day and say “Do I want to be in a relationship with Wanda today?” You default to the established choice. Somewhere in your subconscious a decision tree runs “I decided to be in a relationship with Wanda yesterday and nothing has changed (or things have changed for the better) so I’m still in a relationship with her today.” We only become aware of this choice when things go wrong. "Wow, I can't believe Wanda did that. Maybe this relationship isn't the best idea. No, I'm going to stick it out, we can make it work!" (Or "...Yeah, I'm not sure I can do this anymore. I think it's time to leave this relationship.)
People always have the right NOT to be in a relationship. At any day, at any moment, we can choose to end an existing relationship. Starting a relationship takes agreement, ending a relationship does not. No one can require you to be in a relationship with them.
Okay, so this conversation I had today, someone was bothered by the distinction between controlling and consideration for a partner’s feelings. The specific phrases were “My bf/gf won’t let me….” and “My bf/gf would be hurt if I did ____, so I won’t.” The person I was talking with basically saw the second phrase as emotional manipulation. Emotional manipulation is a way of exerting control on someone and is a form of abuse.
I, on the other hand, saw the second phrase as respect for a partner’s boundaries. My partner will be hurt if I do this, I don’t want to hurt my partner, I won’t do this.
The difference, the critical difference, (and why I still think I’m right ;) ) is choice.
Let’s break those two phrases down a bit.
“My bf/gf won’t let me...” In this statement, you do not have a choice in your actions. Your partner has made the choice for you. This is controlling. It would not surprise me to learn that this relationship is abusive. (Controlling relationships are not always abusive—you can choose to give control to your partner, a la power exchange relationships, but controlling relationships where the control is coercive are always abusive.)
“My bf/gf would be hurt if I did...” In this statement, you have a choice. You may choose to do this thing. You may choose not to do this thing. All your partner has done is give you information. In this case, the information that if you do this thing, they will be hurt. In consent, giving additional information is called making sure your partner is fully informed. Same applies here.
Now, if you choose to do the thing that hurts your partner, and your partner punishes you for it, that is abuse. Your partner is trying to control your choices. The next time you think about doing something that would hurt them, they want you to choose what they pick for you to choose. Not what you would choose for yourself.
Telling a partner what to do: controlling.
Telling a partner your feelings and preferences: informative and important for fully informed decisions.
Telling a partner your feelings and preferences and punishing them if they don’t do what you want: controlling and (outside of consensual power exchange relationship) abusive.
With me so far? Cause the next step is a humdinger.
“If you do ____ I will not be able to be in a relationship with you.”
I’ve been told in the past that this kind of statement is automatically coercive because it is an ultimatum. But if I fill in the blank this way:
“if you hit me I will not be able to be in a relationship with you.”
Suddenly the same people who were saying it is controlling or coercive language agree that you are making a perfectly reasonable statement.
Let’s drop something else in the blank:
“If you talk with your ex I will not be able to be in a relationship with you.”
All of a sudden, those same people will once again see it as controlling or coercive. But it’s the same language, the only thing that has changed is what your partner is talking about.
So the idea really seems to be “asking your partner to do or not do certain things in order to be in a relationship with you is controlling.”
And this is where we come back to where we started. No one can require you to be in a relationship with them. I can break up with you tomorrow because you have a hangnail. I can break up with you because your voice is squeaky. I can break up with you for no reason at all. And you can do the same, in all of your relationships.
It’s not asking your partner to do or not to certain things to be in a relationship that is controlling—they are asking you. The idea that “asking your partner to do or not do certain things in order to be in a relationship with you is controlling” This is controlling and coercive because it implies “you can’t break up with someone because they do something you don’t like.” Fuck no, I can break up with who I want, when I want, where I want. And so can you. And so can your partner. And their partner. Ad the nauseum.
I can hear the objections. “Saying ‘if you do this I can’t be in a relationship with you’ isn’t asking! It’s telling them what to do if they want to be in a relationship with you!”
Rather than argue, which I so could, I accept this framing. And?
Seriously, so what? I have the right to lay out requirements for the relationships I am in. This goes back to (again) No one can require you to be in a relationship with them.
If I want to, I can say that no one can be in a relationship with me unless they shit gold and fart rainbows, while dancing the rumba. That is my right. Deal with it. (It’s also your right. And your partner’s. And their partner’s. Ad the nauseum.) If I say that, chances are I’m not going to find anyone to be in a relationship with. That’s my choice. If I relax my standards to only people who shit and fart while dancing the rumba, I might actually find someone to be in a relationship with. But if I don’t want to relax my standards, I don’t have to. (also, ewwwww.)
So let’s go back to “If you do ____ I will not be able to be in a relationship wit you.” If it’s not controlling, and it’s not asking, what is it?
It’s laying out a decision tree.
It is saying “You have choices. You can choose to do this. You can choose to not do this. Those are your choices. After you make your choice, I get to make a choice. I get to choose (again, just like I do every day) whether or not to be in a relationship with you. If you do this, I will probably choose not to be in a relationship with you. If you choose not to do this, I will probably choose to continue being in a relationship with you.”
In this can, your partner is not taking away your choices. They are not controlling or coercing you. They are clearly stating “These are your available choices. These are the choices I will make depending on what you choose.”
This, like “My bf/gf will hurt if I do ...” is providing information. It is providing information that you need to make an informed decision. You can choose to do this, knowing it will probably end your relationship. You can choose to do this and coerce your partner into continuing to be with you (abuse) or you can choose to not do this because being with your partner is more important than doing this. These are your choices. These have always been your choices. The only difference is, they have now been stated clearly, so you understand them.
“But not letting me talk with my ex is coercive!” Yup. And if your partner said “you aren’t allowed to talk with your ex,” that would be controlling and wrong. (Again, assuming not a power exchange relationship.) However, your partner is allowed to say “I will leave this relationship if you talk with your ex.” Why? Because your partner can leave this relationship at any time. Because you cannot require your partner to be in this relationship. All you can do is choose to be in this relationship with them and make the right choices for you.
What if something your partner wants is harmful to you?
Well, then we have an incompatibility. One of the incompatibilities that gets talked about a lot is children. I want children. You don’t want children. We are incompatible. We have two choices. One of us can give up what we want to keep the relationship together, or one (or both) of us can choose to leave the relationship. Some incompatibilities can be worked around. “I am a vegan, I need to be in a relationship where I don’t need to eat meat.” “I’m not a vegan, I need to be in a relationship where I don’t need to eat tofu.” “Okay, how about we each cook our own meals, and we can make sure our families are on board with us bringing some vegan/non-vegan chow for the holidays.”
Now, someone saying they can’t be in a relationship with me if I talk with my ex would be a major incompatibility for me. I couldn’t give up talking with my ex even if I wanted to (we have kids together). So what would I do? I would not be in a relationship with this person.
What if I’ve been in a relationship with someone for a while and they say they can’t continue the relationship if I talk with my ex?
We go back to that decision tree. Being able to talk with whoever I want is a major deal for me. So I would reluctantly decide “I love you, but if you need me to not talk to people in order for our relationship to continue, I’m afraid I can’t do that. If you need to leave our relationship, I understand.”
Maybe they leave the relationship. Maybe we talk about it and they realize it was never about my ex, it was about their insecurity. Or maybe they tell me that every time I talk with my ex I’ve been picking a fight with my partner and didn’t realize it. (in which case, they kinda could have phrased their boundary better, but hey we’re all human). Maybe if there is an underlying cause of their boundary that isn’t directly about talking with my ex, we can find a compromise. Or maybe not. Maybe this is just an incompatibility that can’t be worked through. Or they aren’t willing to work through it. And they go their way.
And none of this is controlling. Or coercive. It’s just two people making the best of a hard situation and doing what is right for us.
This is another really old commitment and should be as clear as the intention of the commitment itself. I am a direct communicator and it is my opinion that direct communication is the best form of communication between people in romantic relationships. tacit says that we can't reasonably expect to get what we want if we don't ask for it. People suck at telepathy, no matter what those wooager "psychics" say. We just can't do it. I cannot expect my partners to read my mind. However, as established [in previously posted commtments] and elsewhere, I believe that my partners are with me because they love and cherish me, and I believe that part of love includes wanting to meet each other's reasonable expectations whenever possible. But if my partners are not aware of my expectations, then they can't hope to meet them even if they intend to meet them.
Dr. Gary Chapman, of the Love Languages books, says that it's important to tell our partners how best to love us. We need roadmaps and instructions on how to best love each other. That's what my entire Me Manual tag is for - an instruction manual for how best to love and understand me. But even telling my partners about my expectations won't work if I'm not clear about my expectations to myself. Clear communication starts with clear thoughts. In order to clearly communicate my expectations, I need to know what my expectations even are. I am committed to practicing introspection so that I can understand myself and my expectations, so that I can further communicate those expectations to my partners so that those expectations get met whenever possible.
I have ALWAYS known that I did not want to be pregnant. I assumed, when I was a child, that I would eventually become a parent because, with no role models otherwise, it never occurred to me that not having children was even an option. But all my childhood dolls and daydreams were adopted, as I was. My adopted parents provided me with such a loving home that I was convinced that the more responsible thing to do was to be an adoptive parent too, to give other less fortunate children the kinds of opportunities I had been given.
As I have gotten older, starting at about age 21, the idea of parenting even as an adoptive parent became more and more onerous until, now approaching middle age, I can't think of anything culturally expected that I want to do less. I'd even choose monogamy over parenthood at this point, if my life were on the line for picking one cultural milestone that I had to accept that I have previously eschewed. Every year, I keep expecting some magical "biological clock" to start ticking, but every year I am more grateful than the previous year that I do not have children. The closer I get to the age of no return, the more relieved I am that I will one day not be able to change my mind.
I have been refused sterilization, and those who were willing were out of my price range because I don't have health insurance. Perhaps people ought not to be trying to convince someone who lives below the poverty line without health insurance that she should be having children - it's tragic those who are *actually* concerned with "what about the children" are the ones who don't have them, while those who do are more concerned about imposing their values to the *detriment* of those children they pay lip service to. But I digress. Always, the response to my desire to be childfree is that I might change my mind, as if adoption isn't an option. Some day, I might find that "right man" who will make me want to procreate.
Sorry, but the only thing that delaying sterilization did for me was make it more likely that I'd have an abortion, which I also don't regret. Had I been sterilized when I first requested it, I wouldn't have had the procedure that these same people find even more appalling than the sterilization procedure. This is what happens when you withhold contraception - you increase the chances of having abortions.
That is not a procedure I would have chosen, like other elective procedures such as getting a nose job, but I did choose it because it was better than the alternative, which was remaining pregnant. If one is truly interested in reducing abortions, one ought to be the most supportive of access to contraception, including permanent methods. My brief pregnancy and abortion procedure were some of the worst days of my adult life, but you bet your ass I'd do it again rather than carry a parasite around for 9 months or be stuck raising a dependent for the next two decades. And I'd bet *my* ass that you really don't want someone raising said dependent when that person refers to it as a "parasite".
Every day, every year, I am more and more relieved and thankful that I had an abortion. The only negative emotion I feel about it at all is the accompanying frustration that I shouldn't have NEEDED it in the first place if I had just been allowed to get sterilized at an affordable price when I asked for it.
There are all sorts of little things that I do that, by themselves don't really seem like a big deal, but when I'm spending a week with a new partner and nearly every interaction we have involves me saying "so, this thing about me, I do this thing and here's why", the aggregate of all my emotional labor is more apparent.
For example, I cut the bread for the table. I used to sell and demo cutlery and I have always had an affinity for knives. I am also a bread
But I have learned over the years that some men do not like to be schooled on proper cutting technique. I'm not sure if they don't like to be schooled by women or they just don't like to be schooled in general and it doesn't really matter for this discussion. But I have had some men react harshly to what they perceive as criticism of their manly cutting skills, and still more men who just ignore my corrections entirely and continue to mash the bread. I have never had either reaction from any woman I have had this conversation with.
So, in order to avoid hurting feelings or eating smashed bread for the rest of my life, I now automatically reach for any communal bread on a table and slice off two slices for myself and a few more for whoever else is at the table, without trying to teach anyone anything. I just kinda do it as if I just happened, by coincidence, to be the first to reach for the bread and oh, by the way, here are some slices for you too, honey.
So, as I said, this is not a big thing in isolation. But when I tell this story and it is the third story I've told that day that involves me changing my own behaviour in order to manage someone else's feelings or to get something that I want without a confrontation or conflict over it, I am reminded at just how often I shoulder the burden for maintaining my relationships.
That's the thing with emotional labor - it's largely invisible to both sides, the side shouldering the burden and the side not carrying the weight. It isn't usually one giant rock weighing us down, it's a sack full of pebbles that grows over time. One person carries a handful of pebbles while another is bent over double from the sack on their back. They didn't notice how heavy the sack got because each pebble only weighs a few ounces and they were added one at a time over a lifetime. But if you try to split the weight and make the other person carry two handfuls, suddenly it seems "unfair" that they're having to take up so much extra work! Why do they have to do these things anyway? It's just a pebble, can't you just keep holding it?
This is why it's important for adults to know how to do their own fucking laundry. This is why it's important for adults to know how to cook a number of meals that provide for their nutritional needs and not just that tastes good, even if they have the money to pay other people to cook for them. This is why it's important for adults to know how to cry. This is why it's important for adults to have a friend and family network of some sort to turn to for emotional support and celebrations, in addition to their romantic partners. This is why it's important for adults to know how to use a calendar system *of some sort*, whether it's Google or paper or whatever. This is why it's important for adults to know about culturally appropriate dress codes, whether they agree with them or not, and how / when to break those codes along with the consequences for doing so. This is why it's important for adults to pay attention to their bodies, eat as healthy as they can under their given circumstances, exercise as they can under their given circumstances, take their damn medication when they can access it, and treat their mental health as seriously as their physical health (which is to say, treat them both seriously) including utilizing mental health professional services when they can access them. This is why it's important to stop calling what fathers do "babysitting" when they watch their own kids or asking them to "help out" around their own house.
This is why feminism is important, particularly the latest wave of non-TERFy feminism that sees the harm of imposed gender roles and binary systems.
You are not above reproach. You are not infallible. You can one day find yourself at the receiving end of a justice system that you helped to create that will not take into account your special circumstances.
The reason why we have "innocent until proven guilty" as our standard (and why it doesn't always apply to social settings) is because our forefathers knew that even a just system would necessarily be flawed because people are the creators, and so it was therefore more acceptable to err on the side of leniency where some criminals might go free than on the side of harshness where innocent people might be punished. Our current system, even *with* that aphorism supposedly guiding it, has swung too far to the wrong side. And then there's the middle ground where one's innocence or guilt is not in question, but they are nevertheless fully nuanced humans because no one is a cardboard cutout, comic book, black-hat villain.
You cannot see yourself ever being in one of these unfortunate positions because you have convinced yourself that you are a Good Person, and Good People do not do Bad Things. Those people did Bad Things, therefore they are Bad People. You are the problem. You are the reason why people do Bad Things and why people continue to do Bad Things. Everyone thinks that they are morally and ethically right in what they do, because everyone thinks that they are Good People. That kind of thinking is what blinds people to the fact that they fucked up and did something bad. That kind of thinking is what prevents people from learning empathy or from taking responsibility and holding themselves accountable for their actions.
The knowledge that there is no understanding, no forgiveness, no second chances, no contextual exemptions or explanations, no space to repent and do better, is what drives people who do Bad Things underground and what drives them to continue doing them. Why should anyone feel bad about their mistakes? Why should anyone stop making their mistakes? Why should they ask for help in ceasing their mistakes if there is no room for them, if there is no safe space for them to change? They are lost souls. They are cast-outs. They are doomed. So why bother to fix anything? Their situation is your doing.
And you may one day find yourself on the receiving end of your "justice" precisely because you cannot conceive of being in that position so you will be unable to predict or prevent the thoughts that lead to the actions that carry you to that position.
YOU ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM.
There is a very big difference between drawing strong boundaries around ourselves and how we relate to, interact with, or feel about someone who has done Bad Things personally, and giving the government the power to make irrevocable punishments and decisions over people who do Bad Things. While we absolutely need a system of justice to deal with people who do Bad Things and while we absolutely can draw whatever personal boundaries we want regarding other people, setting the same consequences for both personal feelings and the government penal system is very dangerous.
That led to witch burnings and lynchings and a for-profit prison system that punishes black pot smokers because of *personal* feelings towards those kinds of behaviours. The reason for leniency in the penal system is because, at any moment, we could find ourselves on the receiving end of an unjust system with an enormous amount of power. All it takes is either the system being controlled by people who have different value systems from ours, or one of those complicated, nuanced situations popping up where we are able to rationalize how "it's different when I do it".
Look at the no-tolerance laws for drugs and weapons on school campuses! People who can't see themselves in that situation or who think of themselves as Good People don't see how it was inevitable that the law would eventually start penalizing children for their asthma medication or bringing in their homemade clocks to show their teachers. Part of that is because of the Good Person fallacy that they're committing and part of that is because they are part of a privileged demographic who is not likely to be unfairly targeted by ridiculous interpretations of those rules.
We all do shit that other people think is unforgivable or heinous. Most of the time, we feel justified in having done those things, which is why we did them. Those no-tolerance attitudes can be applied back on us. Other times, we might have genuinely learned from our mistakes and grown as people. Had the penalty for our crimes been death, we would not have become the productive members of society that we are now, with people who love us and accomplishments and acts of redemption. Had the penalty been death and we just never got caught, we would be unlikely to have sought help to find accountability or even changed our outlook to one in which we now admit our wrongdoing, because to do so would have meant our death.
Had the penalties been other atrocities like rape or castration or assault, even though we might have lived through it, those things would have damaged us which decreases the chances that we could have found redemption, accepted accountability, or learned empathy or regret. Those penalties would likely have exacerbated the problem. Those penalties would likely have made us worse or more broken people instead of given us a chance to get better.
So, here's what I mean. When he and I broke up, I lost direct contact with that entire branch of my network, even though I was *also* romantically involved with someone in that branch and had what I thought to be some very good friendships from that branch. This was mostly by my action, although I wouldn't go so far as to say it was my "choice". My abusive ex was stalking another one of his exes, with whom I was still in contact, so I and several other people on my side of the network actually blocked his entire side so that "his people" couldn't feed information to him about the ex he was stalking through our contact with that ex.
This sounds like that entire network was in some vast conspiracy to hunt down a single person, but I don't think it was like that. Maybe it was, I dunno. But I still have mixed feelings for some of those people I lost. When I see them some of them in person, I still greet them warmly. But I don't tell them anything personal or intimate about my life now. Someone once questioned me upon witnessing me hug one of them hello why I was still willing to do that but not still date or keep in contact with that person. I said something about how I didn't trust them enough to be intimate with them, but hugging isn't intimate. They thought that was weird, and after I said it, I can understand how someone else might find it odd to hug someone you don't trust.
But, the point is that I knew those people were going to side with him - that's not exactly true, they were going to either side with him on certain specific things or they were going to abstain from taking sides on certain other specific things which *effectively* put them on "his side", given the details of those things. I knew that. I know the dynamic of that group. That's partly why I had to block them too, because I knew that they did not find what happened between us worthy of siding against him. So, when I see one of them out somewhere, it doesn't surprise me or, well, "trigger" used to be an appropriate word but I'm much less effected by his memory now so I don't know if it applies, but it doesn't do that to me when I am reminded that people in that group are still actively in contact with him.
I've long since gotten over my disappointment that they didn't find his behaviour worthy of "breaking up" with him too, and I don't actually feel that abusers need to be left completely isolated and alone. There was an excellent blog post by Shea Emma Fett (whose blog is now taken down but there is a wayback link at http://web.archive.org/web/
Please note that "reintegrating back into our communities" is not a statement on what any specific individual victim ought to do with regards to their abuser. I'm not saying that victims can't make their own choices as to who they allow into their lives, but broader communities need to have different standards and tactics (which I am not personally always able to uphold but I still believe in).
So, back to the point - I'm not bothered that my ex has friends, aside from my early disappointment of losing those same people as friends back when it happened. I *am* bothered that they don't seem to be holding him accountable, but the mere act of there existing people who like him isn't what's bothering me when I get that twinge when I see his name @replied to online. That surprise I feel is always "how can you still be friends with him after what he did to other people?", but now I can see that it's more than that. It's that, but ALSO it's "you're supposed to be MY friend!" and it's also "don't you know about this thing?"
The problem is that A) no, they probably don't know that thing because I don't name him when I talk about him publicly. So if they're not one of my in-person, RL friends who I am close enough to confide in about abuse, then there's a good chance that they don't know who I'm referring to when I say "my abusive ex", even though they're also friends with him. And B) because I haven't confided in them, that means that they're not close enough to "take sides", and consequently to take *my* side.
It's true that several of my communities are pretty gung ho on the "always believe the victim" policy right now, but that's much easier to say when all the people in question are internet-friends or famous people or are otherwise not someone one currently thinks of in intimate terms. I'm not even going back on that policy and saying that we shouldn't. But I am saying that personal emotions and social nuances make things complicated in the minds of individuals and it's not fair to tell other people when to stop being friends with someone when there are all these other influences regarding social ties or intimate connections.
So I'm saying that these twinges are a result of a contradiction, of a dissonance in my head between social justice policies and personal expectations. One the one hand, there's the "burn the abuser at the stake!" anger, while on the other hand there's the "hold them accountable and that requires not shunning them out of the community" compassion (that I am still not very good at). One the one hand there's "how can you still talk to him, I thought you were my friend?" while on the other hand there's "oh, right, we're just acquaintances and you don't know my side of the story".
There's no real point to this. There's no deep lesson to learn from this, no "here's how you can be a better person" morality tale. Just uncovering a little more nuance into my own psyche for my own benefit (hopefully).
* see also http://polyweekly.com/2015/01/pw-418-
"In his mind, he wasn't just stealing music, he was fighting for freedom!"
Coincidentally relevant to my last post (coincidentally in that it happened to cross my feed and my attention right after making my last post).
This is an interesting observation on exactly the points I was making - 3 in particular:
- We are all the heroes of our own stories and we can justify everything we do from within our perspectives;
- That doesn't mean that there is no such thing as "right" and "wrong" just that it's more complicated and the paths to correct people need to reflect that complexity and that understanding; and
- We have to leave room in our communities for people to fuck up and to treat them with compassion and understanding if we want to have any hope at all in changing the culture around us to lead to fewer fuckups with lesser degrees of consequences.
So he starts out the divorce following the script he usually gives to his clients, which is to prioritize self-preservation on the assumption that the other person is his opponent. But she sits him down and points out that the person on the other side of the table is not one of his clients' "crazy ex-wives", but HIS wife. How does he want to handle this one?
He admits that he has no freaking idea. In all his years of being a divorce attorney, it has never once occurred to him that the person he is fighting is a human being with a shared history and complex emotions and that the person on his side of the table also has complex emotions about that other human being. In all his years as a divorce attorney, he has seen people at their worst, fighting for what they believe is their survival against an evil enemy but he has never thought that self-preservation might actually be counter-intuitive and cause exactly the sort of situation where self-preservation tactics are necessary.
So now he's facing his own wife across the table. Preemptively shutting down the accounts to prevent her from retaliatory spending didn't protect him from her vindictiveness, it made things worse. It hurt her and treated her like a criminal. It attacked her very sense of self as a decent person. It created self-doubt in both of them. It tarnished not just the memory of their marriage together, but even the love that they both still feel for each other behind all the pain.
That action actually changed the very nature of their relationship and their feelings towards each other and about themselves. That action was not the result of things changing, it was the catalyst.
But in their future, they won't remember it that way. They will see each other through this new lens, and that action will be representative of this new changed perception of each other, rather than the action *causing* the change. Because that's how our memories work.
What would our world look like today if the entire divorce industry had been built up from a societal foundation of compassion instead of brutal self-preservation? I don't mean that self-preservation was thrown out the window and that everyone just rolled over and let people take advantage of them. I think that self-preservation is a natural extension of compassion, it's just that it takes different roads to reach that destination, and the destination is a prettier landscape than what the other road leads to.
What would our world look like today if divorce attorneys had a background in psychology that believed compassion should form the foundation of every interaction? Would there be more attempts by attorneys to reason with each other and their clients? Would law firms have mottoes espousing compassion, ethics, and dignity? Would law schools teach, in addition to the law, how to see others as fully formed human beings and how to see multiple perspectives?
Would divorce offices have couches and personal end tables for writing instead of large, domineering conference room tables where people square off against each other? Would everyone sit down in these comfortable but not vulnerable seats, and would the attorneys lean in and say to the future ex, "I'm so sorry this is happening. This must be very difficult for you. Let's try to work together to make this as painless and equitable as possible. Would you like some tea? Can I make you more comfortable? How is the temperature in here for you?" and would they make every effort possible to instruct their own clients to reign in their tempers, to give just a little bit more than they're getting, and teach them how to see things from their soon-to-be-ex's perspective?
And if this was the *norm* for the divorce industry, not just individual practices existing here and there, what would the society that spawned this kind of industry look like?
We are all the heroes of our own story. Everything we do seems rational and justified from inside our heads, with the information that we have and the feelings that we have and the experiences that formed us and and the memories that we have created. If other people could only see from that specific perspective, they would also understand how rational and justified our positions are.
That doesn't mean that we are always *right*. Our memories are faulty. Our information is incomplete. Our brains are subject to logical fallacies and flawed premises. The world in which we are operating is the way it is, and within that way, sometimes things have to be done that do not reflect the way we would like to see the world become but the way the world is. But from within that perspective, things look very different from outside that perspective. And, most of the time, with the situation being what it is, people are not unreasonable for making their choices from within that perspective.
When you're on the opposite side of the table from someone with a very different perspective, it can be difficult to remember that. This is not one of my strengths. I got the nickname Flame Warrior for a reason. I have a long history of burning people at the stake and razing forums to the ground. In each and every case, I felt justified in doing so. I have very good reasons for everything I've done. My compassion has always been reserved for the people on whose behalf I was doing the burning. It was from that very deep wellspring of compassion that I acted as I did, because it was held exclusively for the people whose side I was on, much like a divorce attorney going to the mat for a client. I put everything into the best defense for "my side" and fuck the other person for being on the opposite side in the first place. They were clearly wrong, that's why they were on the opposite side.
But what would the world look like if I was better at sitting down in one of those comfy chairs? I'm not naive. I identify far more with the Operative in Firefly than with most of the other characters (although I love the other characters more). He explained that he was there to do the hard, ugly work of creating his perfect world. When Mal snidely accused him of going to live in his perfect world after he's eliminated all the messiness, the operative said quite clearly that the perfect world was not for him. He was a monster. But a monster was what was needed to create the perfection for everyone else.
I don't believe I'm a monster, but I've never literally burned an entire colony of children and peaceful people just to hurt one man and get him to come out of hiding. My point is that there is no such thing as a perfect world and I don't believe that all conflicts can be solved in pleasant rooms with cushy chairs. Just look at any of our upper-tier "diplomatic talks" throughout history - they have plenty of cushy chairs to sit in and yet still they send other people out to die for abstract ideas like power and religion. Sometimes, we need a bulldog to defend us who will keep holding on until he wins.
But just what if? What if we were all taught how to see through different lenses? What if we all learned how to identify with those on the opposite side of a conflict with us? Without giving up a goal of putting more credence and weight to objective facts and metrics, what if we knew how to value other people's feelings and how we affected them? What would divorces look like then? What would political squabbles look like? What would social justice look like? What would our communities look like?
Every time I get into a conflict, if it's bad enough to require me to vent to my partners for some relief, tacit has to butt into my ranting with "well, from their perspective..." It's infuriating. Not just because it's interrupting my momentum for a good rant, but because he's always so fucking right. And I hate having to learn that someone else has reason for what they're doing. It's so much easier to be pissed off at them when they're so clearly wrong and irrational and mean. It's so much easier to work myself into a righteous rage when they're malicious and evil and hateful.
And it's so damn irritating to have to acknowledge their humanity even while the objective facts still bear out that my side is the more correct side. When I'm right, I should be right, goddamnit, and they are just fucking wrong. It's much less satisfying to be right-but...
tacit makes me aspire to be a better person. Which I suppose he ought to, seeing as how he co-wrote the book on how to be an ethical person. And I fail often, but I am ever striving to do better. Which is all anyone can really hope for, honestly ... just to keep doing better. To keep seeing the humanity and the nuance in other people, especially those who I find myself opposite of in a conflict.
It doesn't mean that there are no "right ways" or "wrong ways", and it doesn't mean that even when I can see the other side that I am necessarily "wrong". But it informs how I treat the other side as people. Which makes me a better person for my own sake and the sake of those I interact with, no matter who is "right" and who is "wrong". Because I am not talking about who is "right", I'm talking about how to be *better*. There can still be a "right" and a "wrong" side while the participants are practicing being their best selves. It just makes those sides more complex, richer, nuanced, and messier. And it also opens up the options for solutions because the sides are not black and white. There are more ways out of a conflict when it isn't an all-or-nothing brawl. Yes, even if only one side is seeing the situation in color and the other is still viewing it in monochrome, there are still more solutions available.
If I had taken my Breaking Up workshop as a teenager, what would my future had looked like? What kinds of mistakes would I have made differently? How many flame wars would I have engaged in, and what would their outcome have been? How many more minds could I have reached and more hearts could I have changed? Sure, some people need a bulldog to defend them still. But what could have been, had I started becoming a better person sooner and what could the world have been if we all had started becoming a better person sooner?
Cultural attitudes about seemingly small things can lead to massively different cultures because of their foundational nature, and some of them are simply objectively better than others even with their problems and flaws.
The idea of a collaborative divorce as an institution in the US is laughable. I can't even imagine it catching on as a thing, although I can imagine individual legal firms attempting to offer that kind of service. But divorce is *assumed* to be adversarial, therefore it is. Any individual who bucks that trend is considered an exception, even a sideshow freak on the extreme end!
And I think that's symptomatic of a generally adversarial outlook. All of our conflicts are seen as adversarial, not collaborative. We so often immediately jump to opposing sides rather than individuals with similar goals but differences in opinions on how to obtain those goals.
This is most clearly illustrated in poly relationships when pre-existing partners want to set up hierarchy and rules dictating "outside" partnerships, but this is actually an example of couple privilege because it's true in all kinds of relationships.
Think of the mono-hetero couple whose spouse doesn't get along with one's friends, or the stereotype of the wife and mother-in-law not getting along. Because our culture is set up to privilege the romantic dyad, we are told to take it as a given that a romantic dyad takes precedence over all other relationships. When that happens, some people view their partner's loved ones as problems to work around (or in some cases, like parents and siblings, they view their loved one's PARTNERS as problems to work around, still because of this assumption that romantic dyads come first so it's assumed that they will "lose" the loved one to the new partner and therefore the new partner is a "problem" to work around), rather than remembering that they are human beings who add value to their partner's life.
When you don't like your husband's buddies, it's hard to remember that they add value to his life, because the value system you need to judge by is *his* value system, not yours. The buddy is friends with him for a reason. He doesn't have to be *your* friend, he is still a human being who adds value to your husband's life.
When you can't stand her mother, it's hard to remember that she adds value to her life just because *you* find her annoying and she doesn't like *you* so she makes *you* uncomfortable. Doesn't matter, she's her mother and your partner wants her mother in her life for a reason. You don't have to have the same value system. She thinks her mother adds value, and her mother is a human being.
These people are not *problems to be worked around*. Not getting along with them might *cause* some problems, but they themselves are not problems, they are human beings who add value to your partner's life. The ethical way to deal is to not treat them like an interference that you have to manage. The ethical way to deal is to accept that they are human beings who add value to your partner's life, and that your partner is a human being who is capable of deciding for themselves what and whom brings value to their own lives.
#MetamoursMakePolyamoryWorthDoing #IHeartMyMetamours #MetamoursAreHalfTheReasonToDoPoly #InternationalPolyJusticeLeague #YouAllBringValueToMyLifeToo
L- listen & learn from those who live in the oppression
L- leverage your privilege
Y- yield the floor
To all the people who are shocked and surprised that a tragedy like last night's shooting could occur "in our city", first I want to say that I recognize that your feelings are real and that you are hurting. But now I want to tell you that your shock and surprise is what we mean by privilege.
People get all bent out of shape whenever the P-word comes up, and they think that we mean you are guilty of some transgression and should feel bad or ashamed of having a few benefits, or that we are ignoring your very real hardships in life. That's not what it means.
Privilege means that you have gone this far in life without ever considering that your life or the lives of your neighbors are in danger because of who they love (or fuck). You have gone this far in your life without feeling that fear of your life or your loved ones just for stepping out the front door or existing in spaces set aside just for you.
I don't know why you're so surprised that this happened in "your city". Your queer friends, family, and neighbors have been telling you that their lives are not safe. It was said about bathrooms but you complained about "bigger problems". It was said about gay marriage but you complained about "religious freedom". It has been said in a myriad of different ways. But your privilege is that you don't have to listen, or that you can forget for a while. Their reality is that they can't afford to forget that there are people in this world who do not believe they have a right to live.
There is nothing wrong with you for being surprised, or feeling pain on behalf of the queer community right now. Just remember this tragedy the next time someone talks about privilege, and remember how you were caught unawares, your little bubble of safety pierced, after others have been shouting from the rooftops that they are not safe.
They cannot afford to ever forget that they are not safe. You can. That is privilege. The goal is to find a way to extend your privileges to those who don't have them. The goal is to make the world safe enough that they, too, can forget for a while that bad things can happen even in their own cities.
I'm getting very tired of having this same conversation:
Them: I'm just so shocked that something like that could happen in MY town! We're so tolerant and accepting here with Disney and all!
Me: Those of us in the community aren't surprised at all. We've been saying that lives are in danger forever but no one is listening to us.
Them: What do you mean?! I've never seen any violence towards gays here!
Me: That's the definition of privilege. Next time someone complains about bathrooms or makes gay jokes, remember this day and that we tried to tell you so. Maybe next time you'll remember and you'll say something for us. Maybe next time you'll believe us.
"Straight folks who have overtaken gay clubs with your bachelorette parties and unicorn-finding expeditions, I hope you are donating money and blood and standing in solidarity today." - Julia Burke
Also, don't tell me how helpful you have been if you're straight. Tell other straight people. I'm not handing out cookies for being the bare minimum of decent human beings.
This is why so many of us were not surprised.
We breed hate, and then don't understand how extremists and killers can walk among us. We create them and give them places to hide.
I am not Orlando.
In Orlando, it was a felony to have gay sex until 1971 and a misdemeanor until 2003. The law, while unenforceable, is still on the books.
In Orlando, it was not legal for gay couples to adopt children until last year.
In Orlando, it is legal to pay someone to kidnap your child and torture them until they stop identifying as LGBT.
In Orlando, the people who have been outed when they were shot in a gay night club can, when they get out of the hospital, be legally fired.
If they get out of the hospital at all, since Orlando affirms doctors' "right" to refuse to treat them at all.
In Orlando, a hate crime against me doesn't count.
I am not Orlando. Orlando was not the target. Orlando was the shooter. Orlando is what 49 people like me could not survive. #IamPulse ~ Johann Koehle
No, straight white people, now is not in fact the time to tell me you worry about my/your gay friends' safety. If you haven't been worrying about our safety all along then don't come over here clutching your pearls right now. Some shitnozzle with an assault rifle did not just magically invent homophobic violence last night in Orlando.
If it's just now dawning on you that my life isn't safe because I'm queer? Congratulations, your shock and consternation are part of what straight cis privilege looks like.
I'd like to invite you, while you are thinking about this, to also think about the fact that this violence was not just anti-gay violence. It was racist violence, it was transphobic violence, and it was misogynist violence. No one magically invented those things last night either.
I know it's not comfortable but I'm asking you to just sit with all of this and not turn to me or any other queer person, or any person of color, or any trans person, for comfort or assurance that "we'll take care of ourselves" and "be safe" right now. We've been taking care of ourselves and keeping ourselves as safe as we can for a long long time and that's why we're still here at all.
I'm asking you to think about what YOU will do to help us take care of ourselves and keep us safe. ~ Hanne Blank
Important links I have shared in relation to the Orlando Pulse Shooting:
- Orlando Shooter Was Reportedly A Regular At Pulse And Had A Profle On Gay Dating App - http://gawker.com/orlando-shooter-was-
- We Stand With Orlando Out Of The Blue (JetBlue offers free flights for family / partners for funerals) - http://blog.jetblue.com/we-stand-with-
- Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando To Shelter Victims' Pets - www.petallianceorlando.org/pet-alliance-
- The Long, Tragic History Of Violence At LGBTQ Clubs In America - www.slate.com/blogs/outward/2016/06/12/
- Thoughts And Prayers - Whatever - http://whatever.scalzi.com/2016/06/12/
- How To Support LGBTQIA+ People (with tweets) - https://storify.com/AnaMardoll/what-can-
- Rental property owner offers free lodging for out-of-town family for funerals - https://www.facebook.com/christian.
- City of Orlando official victim list - http://www.cityoforlando.net/blog/
- Fusion lists pictures and personal stories of the victims - http://fusion.net/story/313038/orlando-
When you record stuff vertically, there's a lot of moving side to side to get all the action in the frame. It's dizzying and annoying. You end up missing parts of the action because it moves off-camera quicker than you can follow it. You cut off more than you show. Yes, people are vertical and taller than they are wide, but the orientation isn't for the shape of the subject, it's for the MOTION of the subject.
Your videos look like shit. They're shaky and blurry and annoying. Please, take it from a professional camera operator - someone who people pay a lot of money to make pretty moving pictures - turn your phones to the side when you take a video. I guarantee that your videos will automatically look a hundred times better for doing this one thing alone, even if you never learn another thing about framing or composition or any movie tricks at all.
"But in giving Gilles an ultimatum, was [Elena] prepared for the possibility that he might say no—thus leaving her in the position of having to make good on her promise to end her relationship with him? Or was she working from an expectation that he would say yes—thus making the ultimatum dangerous for only Louisa, and not for Elena? What would her response be if Gilles said no? Would she be angry? Consider his choice a betrayal? Use shame and guilt to try to get him to do what she wanted? Or would she accept his decision—and leave the relationship?"
Eve Rickert follows up with part 2 on the question "are hierarchies ethical?" I pulled this quote out because of my own experience with "accidental hierarchy".
I was not always as secure in my relationships as I seem to be now. Hell, I'm *still* not always as secure in my relationships as I seem to be now. But my security has grown over time, as have my skills in handling my insecurities. In the past, I have taken advantage of Couple Privilege (without realizing it) and I have been in sort of de facto hierarchical relationships, even though I have never approved of hierarchy.
One common tactic I have actually participated in was the pre-approval veto - where any new partner must be pre-approved by the existing partner before any moves are made towards a partnership. This is often seen as an exception to the no-veto rule because the new potential partner often isn't even aware that they are being considered as a potential partner at this point - they might not even be interested, or at least they might not have expressed any interest yet. And if the veto is played, they may never know. I could go on a whole blog post about how that isn't really any different or better from a regular veto, but that's not the point of this piece now.
A long time ago, I dated someone who sought to reassure me about a new partner he was interested in. She wasn't poly. She had never heard of it before. She hadn't even had very many romantic partners at all. I was concerned about how "advanced" her relationship skills were and how this would negatively impact my relatively new relationship with our mutual partner. But I was here first. So my partner volunteered that, because he was committed to *polyamory*, not just me, if this new interest of his started making "enough" trouble, he would break up with her and not just for me, but because he also didn't want any mono-poly drama.
So, fast forward something like a year and a half, and I decided we had reached "enough trouble". So I pulled out my defacto veto. I reminded him of his promise and told him to break up with her. This has always bothered me. In hindsight, I see where I went wrong and I am now opposed to even the pre-approval veto. But it bothers me that I could have been opposed to veto and hierarchy for the whole power imbalance thing and I still pulled rank when I had it.
So that's where this quote comes in. Before I called his hand, I thought long and hard about doing so. I thought of every possible outcome to challenging him to break up with her. And I didn't do it until I had decided what the worst possible outcome was and accepted it. I waited until I was fairly certain that he would *not* break up with her, and that my challenge to him would result in our own break up.
When that's exactly what happened, I wasn't angry. I was sad and disappointed, but not angry. I did not feel betrayed. I felt let down because I felt as though he hadn't lived up to his commitments, but that's actually part of a pattern - he had broken several commitments to me over the course of the relationship and those commitments were *to me*, not about her, but that's what led me to the decision to issue the challenge in the first place. So I felt let down, but not betrayed.
However, many years later, I dated someone who believed that I had violated some agreement that I still do not believe I ever made, and he felt *betrayed*. Based on this partner's reaction, my emotions to that earlier partner choosing not to break up with his other partner were nothing like, and not even in the same family as, the emotions that this later ex seemed to feel towards me and my choices of partners.
I did not shame or guilt my then-partner into breaking up with her and staying with me. I accepted his decision immediately, and I left the relationship. We hugged, and got to work on building a new foundation for a friendship. I'm not saying it wasn't painful, and that I didn't have feelings of resentment, but there was no coercion and no entitlement there.
Later, when the shoe appeared to be on the other foot with that other partner, I worried about consistency. When *I* had a partner who took a new partner that I wasn't happy with, I told him about my unhappiness and I broke up with him when he didn't "do what I want". But then when this later partner was unhappy with my new relationship and this time *I* refused to either curtail or end this new relationship in favor of my existing partner's feelings, how was I any different from this later partner?
I *felt*, deep down, that there was a difference. But of course I did. I am the hero of my own story, after all, as is everyone. Of course it's "different when I do it"! But, was it really?
I think it was. As this article explains, it can be really difficult tell from the outside because often the end result is the same. "An outside observer who did not know Elena would in fact not be in a position to say whether her actions were a veto or not. Why? Because the difference comes down to expectation and intent."
This later partner felt *entitled* to have me choose him. He felt *entitled* to make demands on who I chose as another partner and how that new relationship could progress. He attempted to shame me for not allowing him to dictate the constraints of my other relationship, still trying to shame me even after he broke up with me. He felt betrayed. In fact, that's the exact word he used. He felt it was OK to override the agency of his partners, and not just me. Part of the reason why I refused to be flexible with respect to how difficult this situation was on him was because I saw him override other people.
See, I'm one of those annoying people who, when you back me into a corner, I'll just dig in my heels, bare my claws, and fight back out of spite. I'm working on that, but it's something I do. When I see someone having a hard time with something, and I don't see a good faith effort to own their shit and deal with it, I tend to throw people in the deep end.
Which means, in practice, that when I first start dating someone, I'll be extra considerate to make sure that they're comfortable with all the new poly stuff. I am not a beginner relationship. Even other poly people need a little adjusting when they start dating me. But if I start to notice that they are not making an equal effort to move past the discomfort and grow, if they are instead taking advantage of my consideration, I'll stop coddling them all at once, kind of like throwing ice water on someone. It may not be my best self, but I'm at least self-aware about it and I do warn people up front.
I had witnessed him being unreasonable towards his other partners. I saw him attempting to control their bodies. I saw him even trying to control their minds. He was startlingly successful at it. So I got pissed off. Then I started talking to someone new. This was the first time I had added my own new partner since he and I had started dating, and he was *not* prepared.
Incidentally, this is why I do not subscribe anymore to the principle that you should let your newbie partner start dating first. I mean, if it happens that way, then it happens that way. But I do not believe it is actually doing them any favors to "ease them into" polyamory and I no longer believe that all people need is to experience how it's possible to love more than one and they will magically not be afraid when their partner starts loving someone else.
Personal experience and observation of hundreds, if not thousands, of relationships in the poly community over the last two decades that I've been participating in it have taught me that putting off one's own entry into the dating world, or "easing them in" only makes one's partner comfortable in a fiction. They start to get accustomed to life as it is - with you not dating anyone - and then it's a shock to the system when you finally do start dating someone, because it's a *change* that they never really accepted. How often do we see people have no problem at all dating someone who is already partnered, only to freak out when that someone gets an even newer partner? The existing partner was part of the calculation, but a new partner is a *change*. The kindest thing you can do to someone like that is to show them up front what sort of relationship they can expect from you - and that includes how actively you date others.
Anyway, this partner had become accustomed to me not having any other partners for several years, because I made him a priority. But he added several new partners of his own and his time became more scarce. So eventually I had more time and emotional resources to devote to meeting new people as he dealt with the distraction of trying to control too many women at once. With his time being taken up by all the fires he had to put out with his mismanagement of his other relationships, and his attention definitely not on me or us, I felt alone and was open to considering other partners for the first time in several years.
But I wasn't *just* open to considering new partners, I was also pissed off at him for how he was treating his other partners. So I took off the kid gloves and I just did my other relationships however it felt natural between myself and the new partners and I expected the existing partner to just deal without any coddling from me.
Let me be clear and say that I don't believe I was *cruel*. I don't believe I was *anything*. My other relationships were between me and my other partners. They had nothing to do with him. He and the other partners didn't even live in the same city (or state). What I did was refuse to limit or restrain or shape these other relationships according to *his* wishes even a little bit. Not even the pre-approval veto that I previously believed didn't "count" as hierarchy or infringing on agency. But I'm quite sure that he disagrees with me on whether or not I was "cruel".
So when he confronted me about my new relationships, he was *angry*. He was mad that I wouldn't get pre-approval. He was mad that they progressed at a speed he didn't condone. He was especially pissed that I disagreed that we ever made some sort of "agreement" where he *could* have a say in those things. He called me names. He called me unethical - a sure stab right into my very sense of self. He accused me of betraying him. He accused me of being *unsafe* and putting him and all his other partners in danger, even though A) I had done nothing to put them in "danger" and B) I gave him all the information he needed to make his own safety decisions before we were even in the same city together again.
These are things meant to control. These are things meant to disempower. These are things meant to overrule agency. These are the tower - safety, ethics, consideration for existing partners' feelings. But I saw the village behind them - control, entitlement, fear, disempowerment. And these are not the things that I did with my prior partner, even though the outcome looks superficially similar.
My body isn't special because no other man has seen it, nor is it tarnished because men have seen it. My body is special because it is part of me and *I* am special. It is the vessel which houses my soul, my essence, me. No man is so powerful that he can remove my specialness just by looking at me.
No matter how many men see or touch my body, it remains special because *I* am special. No matter how many men I share the experience of my body with, every experience with me is special because *I* am special. No one, man especially, is powerful enough to remove my specialness.
Just because I exist, I am special. Just because I *have* existed, I will always *be* special.
It's also why I'm not afraid of polyamory. Nothing my partners do or say or think or feel with other people changes my specialness, and our relationship is special because *we* are special and *we* are in the relationship.
With the awareness of abusive patterns growing in the poly community (which is completely a good thing!), I'm also seeing a fairly common correlated pattern of people discovering a new thing and then labeling everything as that new thing, or thinking the new thing is the solution to everything.
So, for instance, often when polys first discover polyamory, we can become a bit evangelical and/or run around yelling about how poly can solve every relationship problem. I've been trying to get better about clarifying that I mean a *society* that embraced poly as one option among many would be a *society* that had fewer instances of certain types of problems, but those two people in particular would not necessarily benefit from poly *right now* as they are in this society because they don't have the skills (or the "nature" or the interest or whatever) to make poly work and, in fact, attempting polyamory from that broken place would only make things worse.
Now that we've done a fairly good job of raising awareness about abuse in poly relationships, I'm seeing a lot of armchair diagnosing of people as "narcissistic personality" or abuse. But, as I've been accused of things like abusing people for things like refusing to accept his control of my body or not tolerating abuse apologetics in certain forums that have been deemed as "safe spaces" for victims, I'm concerned that we, as a community, are throwing around that word too glibly.
And I say that as someone who fully intends to continue to speak out against abuse in poly relationships and to identify certain poly trope behaviours as abusive patterns and to maintain my hard stance against abuse apologetics.
It's a difficult line to walk and I'm not going to pretend to have all the answers. Stray too far down this path and actual victims start to question and doubt themselves. But, as part of one of my activist goals for bettering the poly community's collective skills in breaking up, I think we need to take a more nuanced approach to this problem. In some contexts, I think it's very important to label things as "abuse", but in other contexts, I think maybe it's not so important what we call it, we just need to recognize that it's not for us. Although I'm sure I will continue to argue with people over which side of that issue is the "correct" one for any given individual circumstance.
One of the bad habits from mono culture that we keep dragging into poly culture is the toxic breakup. We are taught to villainize our exes. I believe this is harmful to the community as a whole and to the individuals who go through this process. This makes it easy to switch from "he's a horrible, evil, hell-demon!" to "he's abusive!" when that may or may not necessarily be reality. So I hope articles like these can help bring the nuance back to the conversation without making abuse victims feel too shameful or self-doubtful about their situations. I mean, a bad relationship is still a bad relationship and everyone has every right to not be in a relationship that they don't want to be in, no matter what their reasons. Even if it's a good relationship but it's not meeting something in their life that they feel is important.
Relationships should serve the individuals in them. When individuals serve their relationships, that's when coercion happens.
There is a reason why we throw perfectly good food away instead of giving it to homeless people. It has been tried before but it turned out to be expensive. Remember, I'm still in favor of it. I do not believe the expense justifies the throw-away policy. But I don't think a lot of people who share these memes or complain in their living rooms with like-minded friends understand the framework involved in making the shift towards sharing food.
Here's why it's expensive. It has to be done safely. See, when a society sees a group of people who "deserve" to be fed table scraps, that society, collectively (at least, our selfish, independent, bootstraps society does) thinks less of that group. When that society thinks less of that group, the society, collectively, is willing to do all kinds of awful things to that group even while it's in the midst of supposedly caring for that group. This means that it becomes practice to give them substandard products. They're *table scraps*. It's the shit that we were going to *throw away*. Yes, lots of it is totally good, good enough to sell but for whatever reason, it just didn't sell. But usually, by the time we are ready to throw it away, it's because it's no *longer* "good enough to sell".
There is a window in which the food is still safe to eat, between those "good enough to sell" and "rotten" states. But in order to make sure the food is safely within that window, we need some kind of quality control system in place. That takes money. It takes money to research, to design, and to implement. Either the restaurants have to bear the brunt of those costs (which they will then pass onto the consumers who have a history of complaining whenever costs rise), or the citizens will have to support it through taxes.
Now, I am not anti-taxes. I believe a healthy civilization requires its citizens to contribute to its well-being, which means that it's our civic duty to pay taxes. But I, along with everyone else I know, think that I already pay more than my "fair share" and I don't agree with all the places my money is going. So, threaten to raise taxes, and the society rejects the proposal. Of course we can re-work out current budget so that other things get less money so that we can pay for public works, that's not the point. The point is that everyone has their own opinions about taxes and there will be an outcry and a process (which costs money) to implement this particular solution.
In order to protect the health, safety, and even dignity of the recipients of this particular form of charity, it will take money and it will take *oversight* to institute it on a wide scale. That's something that a lot of the people who believe in this food-sharing idea disagree with. There needs to be *some kind* of regulatory body that can come up with safety standards in the best interest of the recipients and that has the teeth to do something about it when the businesses fail to maintain those standards. Sure, there are some businesses out there that are run by caring, compassionate individuals who will do the right thing. These are the businesses who are already trying to find solutions to this problem around the legal consequences currently in place. This is that one business who put a refrigerator outside for food that anyone can just come up and take something. This is that one pizza joint that just gives away slices to anyone who can't pay.
But *businesses* are not people. They are run by people, but contrary to our current legal opinion, corporations are not people. Businesses, by their very nature, are sociopathic. Good people often run businesses and compensate for the sociopathic nature of these entities, but that is still their nature, and not all of the are run by people with the same value systems.
When considering policies to help the downtrodden, we have to actually consider what's in the best interest of that specific group. In this case, we have to think about how this particular system of giving away dumpster food can harm them and what we can build into the system to protect them.
Most of the people I know who are in favor of this idea but who haven't really thought out the logistics of how it can be done are also opposed to the FDA because it's a governmental agency. But that agency is responsible for why you can go to the grocery store and reasonably expect to not get sick from the food you buy. It's not perfect, but if you got the emails that I get from their warning systems and if you know people who work behind the scenes like I do, you'd be shocked at how much the FDA actually does successfully to protect people. They're kinda like stagehands - if someone notices you at your job, then you're not doing your job well. Precisely because the FDA is so good at protecting people, we have the luxury of not being aware of how good they are at protecting us.
We can't just "give" food away to homeless people. You, as an individual, who goes to the store, buys something with your own money that was intended to be sold to someone like you (a person who has the money to pay for it) and was filtered through a protection agency like the FDA, YOU can just give food away to homeless people because you, personally, are taking your own privileges and extending them like an umbrella to someone who doesn't have those privileges.
To make this a society-wide policy, though, we have to give the homeless people their own umbrellas of protection. We have to include in the system safety checks and quality control. That's actually more complicated than it sounds because it's not as simple as just a guy standing in front of a dumpster looking and sniffing at food to make sure it's still good. Judging food safety is actually a complex technical process, and besides the mechanics of the job, we also have the psychology of the job to fight against.
As I said above, we, collectively, view the homeless as a certain Other group. I know lots of people who argue about giving food to the homeless or making more shelters, but who refuse to utilize certain government services because they might have to sit shoulder to shoulder with one of those smelly, crazy homeless people in the waiting room. We have to "do something" to make the problem of homelessness go away, but we don't want to actually, y'know, MINGLE with them.
Oh, but wait! I was homeless for a while! Oh, but wait again, I'm somehow "different" from all those homeless people, so it's totes cool to loan *me* money or give *me* a couch to sleep on, but not one of those icky gross people on the street - wouldn't let one of *them* in my house because they might steal something. Wouldn't give one of *them* money because they might just buy booze or drugs with it. Wouldn't want to sit next to one of them in a waiting room because they might smell or talk to us with their crazy talk. No, I was homeless because of circumstances, but *they* are homeless because they're lazy or crazy and don't want to work or help themselves. (this whole paragraph was sarcasm, btw)
Even when we really and truly believe that it's our duty to help those who are less fortunate than we are, we still see those people as Other. Even when we *know* someone in that group as an individual, we tend to see that person as an individual and somehow apart from their group. Do you know how many times I've been told "you're pretty cool, for a chick" or "but you don't *act* like a Mexican" or "but you're so ethical, what do you mean you're an atheist?" or "yeah, but you don't really 'count' as one of those homeless"? Let's just say that if I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say that I was somehow an exception to my demographic, I would no longer be in one of those demographics (low income, in case that was unclear, I would have a lot of money then).
I'm not at all doubting the good intentions of anyone who says that we ought to give all our leftover food to homeless people. I absolutely believe that you believe that your intentions are pure and out of the goodness of your heart because you care about people. But I am not naive to the nature of the human brain's ability to compartmentalize and Other people. We can't just "give food away", we have to ensure that it's safe to give, both physically safe and psychologically safe.
Food stamps, welfare programs, handouts, shelter cafeterias - these are places and programs that instill shame. They inspire humiliation. They lower people's self-worth. They shouldn't, but they do, because we all still think of people who need assistance as "taking handouts" and not being good enough. Look at all the efforts made to restrict food stamps to only certain foods? Look at how appalled everyone got when they thought a poor person might actually get a decent cut of meat with their food stamps? And then look at how many people sneer at poor people for eating junk food, because *we took away their ability to eat healthy food*. Poor people don't "deserve" luxuries. They don't "deserve" steak or organic kale (unless they grow it themselves, of course, which they *ought* to do, y'know, in that plot of land they can't afford to own). They don't "deserve" to drink alcohol or carry their EBT card in a designer purse they found at a thrift store or to drive to that store in their Mercedes Benz that they bought before they lost their jobs and homes and dignity.
When we institute programs that promote feeding poor people table scraps, it has to be done very carefully. It has to be done in a way that doesn't further the resentment that people are somehow "getting away" with something. It has to be done in a way that preserves their dignity and treats them as equal human beings, not the pet dog that we're "spoiling" by giving our leftovers to.
And because we have to fight against those conflicting mindsets - that they are something lower than us that we deign to offer our scraps and think we're doing them a favor vs. that they are cheats and sneaks trying to get the better of us - because we have to fight both those contradictory cultural ideas, we have to be super vigilant that policies like this are done *safely*.
*If* we think that they are dogs that we are magnanimously treating with our table scraps, we will be less inclined to make sure those scraps are set to the same standards as what we would eat ourselves. We feed our pets the gristle that we wouldn't eat. We feed our pets the food that isn't cooked to our satisfaction. We do this because our pets are not human and have different digestive standards, and for our pets, it's a luxury that they get the food that we don't think is good enough for ourselves, because they're not human. But homeless people are human.
*If* we think that they are somehow gaming the system and "getting away" with free stuff that we had to pay for, we will be less inclined to make sure that what they "get away with" is the same quality of product that we pay for. All our really expensive stuff is locked up, but the cheapo products aren't behind glass or tagged with RFID chips. Some stores even have certain products placed in certain areas for the purpose of tempting thieves so that they're less likely to try for the expensive products. It's sort of like an insurance policy, a write-off, the cost of doing business. We'll save the good stuff for our paying customers, but this cheap shit, well, if it makes them sick, that's what they get for trying to get stuff for free. If they want quality, they can pay for it like the rest of us.
Again, I am *in favor* of programs that make more things available to more people. One of the things that I love about my job is being able to eat off the carts in the back hallway, because that's one meal I don't have to pay for so I have a better chance of making rent this month. But eating off the cart in the back hallway means eating food that has been sitting out, unrefrigerated, all day long. We very quickly learn in my business not to eat things with mayo in them (no potato salad and no sandwiches with the condiments already on them!). We watch the food to see if flies have been settling, and how long. These foods are destined for the dumpster *for a reason*.
I am in favor of these food-sharing programs. But I understand the logistics involved. At least, I understand that the logistics are complicated and will take a lot of very smart people to figure out. It will cost money. It needs to be done carefully. It will require oversight and regulation. In order to accomplish this humanitarian goal, we will have to institute several things that many of my caring friends are opposed to - regulation, bureaucracy, oversight, money. That is *why* we aren't already doing these things. We can't have it both ways. We are too populous to behave as though we are still a small tribal society that will look out for its own because our survival depends on looking out for others. There are trade-offs to be had. Personally, I think those trade-offs are worth it, or at least acceptable and doable. But many of the people who have noble goals don't like those trade-offs and that's how we got to where we are today.
I still had to remind her that I'm still dating tacit, though, which irritates me because I've been with him for nearly 12 years now (which suitably impressed her when I pointed that out - mononormativity means longevity = success). But she hasn't met him yet so it's harder for her to remember. Couple privilege rears its ugly head in the damnedest places sometimes.
Society places a higher priority on relationships that have met the milestone of "meeting the parents", which is why I actually make a point of introducing my partners to my parents as early and as often as I can even though it's not a big deal *to me*. I recognize that "meeting the parents" legitimizes relationships in my parents' eyes and in the eyes of most other people. When attempting to communicate, more ground is gained when I can speak in the other person's language. So I will often do or say things that mean one thing to me but another thing to someone else, because that *meaning* is what I am trying to convey.
In this case, meeting the parents isn't really a big deal to me because they're across the country and I hardly see them. But when I'm trying to explain to them how important someone is to me, I know that "meeting the parents" expresses "this person is really important to me" in their language, so that's why I do it. It's also why I have started to teach myself how to get comfortable with the selfie and with taking silly "couple" photos when I'm with a partner. That's another thing that society uses as a marker for a "legitimate" relationship, and I have chosen to use that marker as another communication tool that my relationships are real and "serious". It's important to me that my partners feel legitimate, important, and validated in their relationship with me, and part of that includes making sure everyone else understands that my partners are legitimate, important, and valid.
It seems to finally be bearing fruit. Mom remembers at least 2 of my partners and acknowledges them both as "serious" partners. She acknowledges the other one as a serious partner but still has to be reminded that he exists because A) she never met him and B) I rarely see him so I don't have a lot of goofy "couple" photos of us on FB.
Only 15 years after I came out as poly, but, as they say, slow and steady wins the race!
But mixed in with the gleeful "ha! Now let's see you wriggle your way out of this one!" is an overwhelming frustration that this was entirely preventable if they had just listened to us in the first place. If they had just listened to us warn how all the things they were doing would lead to exactly this conclusion - that one of the most vile, hateful, bigoted people in the 21st century could possibly find enough support to get this close to running our entire nation all because other supposedly less bigoted people built the framework for him to stand upon.
Like, you're fucking surprised that encouraging xenophobia and homophobia and sexism might lead to powerful angry white men grasping for more power when they sense the tide turning against them? Like you're fucking surprised that *ignoring* issues of race and gender and orientation for your precious economic issues and ignoring how those other issues tie into the issues of the economy or foreign policy would someday lead exactly to this point?
I'd like to feel some schadenfreude or some petty smugness at watching the official Republican Party scramble to get control of the Trump campaign, but the consequences for having it taken this far and the consequences for their failure to get control back are too high and I can't even indulge in being smug about it.
If an abuser is a dick 24/7 they'll never actually GET ANYONE TO BE IN A RELATIONSHIP WITH THEM in order TO abuse them. Thinking about this logically for .5 seconds would make all the "but he's nice to ME" people realize that OF COURSE HE'S NICE TO *YOU*, HE WAS NICE TO HER TOO BEFORE HE WASN'T
I have this problem with one of my exes. All our old mutual friends are still friends with him because he never did any of his abusive shit *to them*. He never did it where they could see it. His victims were the "real abusers". Not one single person left his friendship over his abuse who wasn't already on the victims' side before the abuse was revealed. Not one. It still throws me for a loop when I see people @reply him on social media or when I run into people I used to care about who are still connected to him (who often say that they miss me when we meet in this manner).
Hell, even *I* tried to defend him at first. It took him turning his tactics on me before I could finally see what his victims were saying was true. He's charming and endearing and so harmless-seeming because he's not attempting to control everyone he meets. Everyone loves him. Except those he has harmed.
I just can't trust people who try to play the "neutral party" with abusers anymore, even though I was one of them and even though I adamantly believe a person who has harmed can still redeem themselves if they show a willingness to be held accountable (and I have put my money where my mouth is and given some people a chance when they showed evidence of accountability).
Consequently I remain apart from my old communities because too many people are willing to throw their hands up, say that they weren't there so they don't know and won't "take sides", and continue to socialize with certain people because Zeus forbid they give up access to parties or events in order to take a stance and not implicitly condone or support abusers' unwillingness to be held accountable for their actions.
Endometriosis is severely understudied. We really don't know that much about an affliction that affects a large percentage of the population, and affects it in a debilitating way. The main reason for this is because it's a woman's issue. I've been told my entire life that my cramps "aren't that bad" and "I have bad cramps too, but I still make it to work every day so you're going to have to learn how to get to school every day" and "does the ibuprofen help? Well, keep taking it then."
Women's pain is not taken seriously, and women of color especially are ignored when it comes to complaints of pain. In fact, women are generally seen as the weaker sex (yes, I'm using both binary and mixing gender and biology because those fallacies are also mixed up in this whole problem) - whiny, unable to handle the sight of blood, unable to bear pain, even though when men are hooked up to machines that simulate labor they can't tolerate it even half as well as women.
Consequently, the only forms of treatment for endo remain copious amounts of painkillers with their own side effects and long-term usage consequences or dangerous invasive surgery that A) most doctors won't even do because baby-making is a priority and women don't know what they want or what's good for them; B) if successful will still likely result in even more long-term consequences, particularly the full hysterectomy which requires the woman to go into early menopause and spend the rest of her life on drugs to treat *that*; and C) isn't all that successful, given the specific details that is endo in the first place.
So, all of that is to prepare the background for some musings I have about my condition - musings which may very well turn out to be incorrect because I am not a medical research professional who specializes in this area but that seem very plausible to me because of the dearth of knowledge that we even have on the subject.
Often, pregnancy can alleviate the symptoms of endo for a few months after childbirth. See, what endo actually does is cause some of the uterine lining to grow outside of the uterus. Most of the time, it means that it grows out past the cervix and into the vaginal canal, but sometimes it also means that random patches of uterine lining are hanging around in various places in the abdomen. So, when it comes times for the monthly cramps, the uterus tries to shed its lining and those contractions used to push the lining out, in essence labor contractions but without the baby, can happen in places where they're not supposed to happen. In addition to other things endo is doing, labor contractions outside of the uterus and lining shedding outside of the uterus can cause pain.
But when someone gets pregnant, sometimes the extra uterine lining that has grown down into the vaginal canal sorta gets sucked back up into the uterus to cushion the fetus. Because there are no periods for 9 months, those specific labor-cramps might not occur when this happens. Then, after childbirth, all the lining is basically used up (I'm summarizing here to make it more understandable in a short-form, obviously my language isn't going to be 100% medically accurate) and sometimes it takes a few months to grow back to pre-pregnancy levels. This means that, if this happens, the endo-caused labor cramps (which are above and beyond "normal" cramps) might not exist for a few months until the uterine lining grows back in those places where it's not supposed to be.
So, for what little we do know about endo, we know that pregnancy can affect the severity of the pain and some of its other symptoms. Unrelated to endo, we also know that many, many, many times a body might reject a fertilized egg for a variety of reasons and miscarry even before the host body is aware that it is pregnant. A rather large number of periods are actually miscarriages that we don't even know about. So now onto my particular case and my musings.
I was pregnant once. It was one of the worst experiences of my life and I hope to never go through it again. I had terrible cramps even without shedding the blood lining. I had the worst "morning sickness" all day long. I became extremely sensitive to smells, which further triggered the vomiting (a permanent side effect, btw - I remain that sensitive to those same smells years later and often have to fight nausea and vomiting when I smell them). And I had my other digestive symptoms common with endo - diarrhea, constipation, severe gas pain, etc. Basically, it was like having my monthly 2-day ordeal at its worst but for every day between the time my period was *supposed* to start and the day I was finally able to terminate the pregnancy.
Then, for the next 3 or 4 months, I had the easiest periods I've ever had. I experienced absolutely none of the digestive symptoms, and my cramps felt more like the early twinges that let me know that I'm about to start a 24-hour cycle of hell. I mean, they hurt, but when your pain scale is parked at 8, pain at 4 feels like a relief. I was downright giddy at how easy my period had gotten! If that's what non-endo people feel during their periods, no wonder they couldn't understand the severity of my situation! No fucking wonder women in commercials could go horseback riding and surfing during their "time of the month"!
Eventually, my cramps went back to normal and life resumed. But then, one month, I had an episode that was so bad, I started to wish for death. And as I had just come out of a suicidal depression, I mean that literally. I was actually hoping that I would just cease so that I wouldn't have to endure the pain anymore. I couldn't even get out of bed long enough to evacuate all the bodily fluids that were causing all the pain in the first place, and I had one bucket next to my bed for the vomit and another for the poop. I stayed in my sweat-soaked bed for 28 hours in a feverish delirium, awaking only long enough to void some cavity and immediately passing out again.
I wrote about that month. A friend even remarked on how hardcore I was to use my own pain like that to further my feminist goals by trying to help normalize the discussion around women's bodily functions and issues. Then I got to thinking. That month, my endo was the worst that it's ever been. It was as if my body had taken my entire few-week pregnancy and condensed into a single day. I did some math. Given the timing, I had a close call that month. It was within the realm of probability to have gotten pregnant given the last time I had unprotected sex with a partner who was still fertile.
So, now I wonder ... can the severity of cramps be related to the frequency of miscarriages or other situations involving failed implantation or fertilization? If so, would it only affect people with endo or could it affect everyone? I mean, non-endo people also have a range of severity for their monthly symptoms too, right?
As I was explaining yesterday, some months I pop a few pills and I'm like "WOOOO!!! Drugs!! I feel fucking great! Let's tear this shit up!" At least, I feel that way for as long as the drugs are in my system. About 5 hours later, if I forget to take my meds because I'm feeling so fantastic, I start curling up into a ball and crying, but as long as I take the meds, I'm floating on air that day. Other months, I pop a handful of pills and the best I can hope for is to be able to stand just upright enough that I can at least get myself from point A to point B without collapsing. The cramps are like a string is pulled taught in my abdomen and the straighter I am, the more tension is on the string and the more the cramps hurt. Some months all I get is just enough tension let out of that string to enable me to not be horizontal, which allows me to be technically functional.
So, since endo is obviously related to my reproductive system and the shedding of my uterine lining, and it can sometimes be temporarily relieved by pregnancy, I have to wonder if its symptoms are also otherwise affected by the variability of the reproductive system. Because the Far Right is hell-bent on reversing Roe v. Wade, some of us are becoming more aware of the complexity of the subject of conception. It's not a binary state - either you are or you are not pregnant / either there is or is not a baby. There are all these other states - an egg can be fertilized but not implanted. An egg can be fertilized and implanted but in the wrong place. The body can spontaneously abort before the host is even aware there is a pregnancy. More and more and more, that I don't feel like researching and listing. Bottom line is that it's not as simple as the anti-abortionists want us to think. It's not "you have sex, and then BOOM, a baby exists".
Throw into the mix alongside the complexity of the human reproduction system a lack of understanding of that system and especially of when that system is not working optimally under its given limitations, and that leads me to wondering how often I may have actually been experiencing a miscarriage? One of the symptoms of endo is the inability or difficulty to carry to term. The reason I am adopted is because my mom couldn't carry to term so she had to adopt in order to become a mother at all (of course, the doctors waited until she had 2 adopted children and at least one hospitalized miscarriage before they'd deign to give her a hysterectomy, knocking her into menopause at age 34 and condemning her to hormonal therapy for the rest of her life).
Since I've always been so careful about timing, I haven't had all that many close calls in my life, and the one time I was confident we were too close really did result in a pregnancy which I terminated, I don't have very many data points about how pregnancy or conception affects my personal association with endo. It makes me wonder, if we could hook up all fertile people with uteruses who have PIV intercourse with fertile people who have penises, if we could somehow monitor the "pregnancy" status of all those people all the time, how often would we see the loss of a fertilized, viable egg? A fertilized but non-viable egg? What would that mean for the fight for abortion rights? And how would that pattern correlate with each person's own patterns in their reproductive cycle?
I have no answers, no directed rant, no challenge, not even any real awareness-raising goal. I'm just pondering my body and wondering what all these things about my body *mean*, and what *that* could mean in the larger cultural context if we had the answers to all my questions.
( Here goes... )
If you want to do something and you don't live in Santa Clara county to sign the actual recall petition being launched by a Stanford professor this week, fill out this form and mail it in to file a judicial complaint against Aaron Persky for showing bias in according such a light sentence to a fellow Stanford athlete.
WHAT TO SAY:
Judge - Aaron Persky
Court - Superior
County - Santa Clara
Name of case & case number - The People of the State of California v. Brock Allen Turner, Case No. B1577162
Action of judge: (feel free to write in your own words, this is just an example) Appearance of bias toward a particular class: Judge Persky sentenced fellow Stanford athlete to an unusually light sentence of just 6 months, in spite of a unanimous jury verdict on three counts of sexual assault. There were two eyewitnesses to the act. Turner being a swimmer has nothing to do with the severity of his crimes and should not have had any influence on Persky's sentence.
Others present: District Attorney Jeff Rosen, Defense Attorney Mike Armstrong, Brock Allen Turner, Jane Doe.
WHERE TO SEND:
Commission on Judicial Performance
455 Golden Gate Avenue, Suite 14400
San Francisco, CA 94102