May. 8th, 2016

joreth: (Self-Portrait)
www.xojane.com/sex/dating-a-social-justice-warrior-made-me-more-vulnerable-to-abuse

"I know that he's going to convince himself that everything that has happened between us was OK and that he is a good guy. He's going to pursue other women with his enlightened talk about feminism, polyamory, kink, and consent."

"Meanwhile, the person I left is sad that our "relationship failed" and will use my story to gain the sympathy and trust of women he can do this to again"


My ex was not this person. He did different things. He didn't do those things to me, he did them to someone else. When he tried to do his usual thing to me, I didn't react the same way he was used to women reacting so he dumped me instead. My anger and rage and confidence has always saved me from prolonged attempts at gaslighting and manipulation.

But these quoted sentiments - I still feel this way as a result of my last brush with an abuser. On paper, everything about him was "right". He was feminist, poly, kinky, secular, he cared so much for other people both those he loved and in the abstract of humanity. I thought he was safe. Instead, it was harder to detect the subtle misogyny that made him believe his female partners were not capable of making good decisions without his input or control, with the assumption that "good decisions" automatically meant "decisions that benefit him and never make him feel icky". Instead, it was harder to see his forms of gaslighting because he sounded so *reasonable* with his talk of science and brain chemistry and independent verification. Instead it was harder to recognize his need for control with his Warrior Woman Worship - a form of objectification of women related to Goddess Worship but specifically aimed at the "strong independent woman" as opposed to more traditional forms of femininity or womanhood in general or, even worse, "female sexual energy" that is more typical with Goddess Worship. How could he feel the need to control his partners if he was so appreciative of women with minds of their own? How does that even work?

I don't have a solution to this. I don't have some kind of checklist or test to weed out abusers who use whatever social constructs are available as manipulation tools. I don't have a way to fix those constructs that we need such as feminism or social justice or even polyamory and kink so that abusers can't warp them for their own use. I just want to add my voice to those saying that we have reasons to be fearful and distrusting. I try very hard not to let my fears shut me down and to begin my relationships with the winning game strategy of "trust first and only defect if they do", but it's hard. Things like this are why.



Just so it's clear to everyone, I'm not asking any questions or trying to understand something or even still processing bad feelings. Anything that ends with a question mark here is rhetorical. I've already done my personal work on my past experiences. This post was made to share with others the dangers and to help illuminate a problem in our communities. The only thing I've seen so far have even a chance of helping is a personal concern and fear of being "that person" and keeping people close who are willing and able to call us on our shit. My ex *thinks* he has people like that in his circle, but his circle has come to me on many occasions to say that they disagree with him but it was too much effort to contradict him, so they don't. So he is unaware this his circle disagrees with him on things, or even that he is viewed as "too much trouble" to disagree with.
joreth: (Bad Computer!)
So, there's a certain type of person for whom my words resonate. I became a pseudo-public figure so those people could hear me, not to gather a large following. It's more like I was just making myself into an available resource. I know that I'm not to everyone's taste, and I'm fine with that. The people who like what I have to say can read what I say, and the people who don't, don't have to.

So I find it interesting that only a portion of my posts get multiple shares. If I'm extremely lucky, the number of shares gets to the 2 digits. Like I said, I'm fine with that because I'm not in this for the numbers, I'm in this to be available to those who want my words and that's it.

But the really interesting part isn't that I only get a handful of shares every now and then. No, the interesting part is that the more angry I get, and the more cuss words I use, the higher my shares go. And the post that I made that starts right out of the gate with cussing and rage? Yeah, over 1,300 shares so far.

So, to those people who think that a message will go further if it's nicer, fuck you. To those people who like the sentiment of an activist, but not the anger, fuck you too. The anger is PART of the sentiment. Even people who were embarrassed by the cussing and preemptively apologized for it in their shares, they still shared it because it was *important*, because it said something that people felt needed to be said.

I know that I'm not going to accomplish very much sitting here at my computer and making Facebook posts. That's why I vote and why I sign reputable petitions and why I contact elected officials. But what I *can* do from my computer is provide people with a voice. I will express that rage and that sadness and that horror that people are feeling even when some people wish I would just shut up and stop causing a ruckus, because I can afford to. I will express anger so that people know they're not alone in their passion, and I will share words for those who need to borrow some.

I don't have very much to give, but I do have my emotions and my words. Those include swear words, ugly words, harsh words, because sometimes, those are the only words appropriate for the depth and the intensity of the emotions they represent. There's a reason why my most angry, most cuss-filled posts get the most shares - they reflect what people are feeling. You can't separate the "bad words" from the emotions. They are the expression of those emotions.

So I will continue to swear when I'm angry. And when I'm happy. And when I fucking feel like it. And you will know that I am offering an honest, raw expression of my emotions. Because I have built a life where I can do that, and since so many people still don't have that luxury, I refuse to modulate my words and my tone on their behalf for the dainty sensitivities of the very people who won't let them do it for themselves. Anyone who is more upset at my use of language than the message itself is part of the problem.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
Dehumanizing, Objectifying Method Of Polyamory:
Quinn, Jordan, and Taylor all meet different needs. Quinn is my activity partner, Jordan is my domestic partner and co-parent, and Taylor is into kinky sex. Together, they all add up to the perfect partner.

Agency-Respecting Method Of Polyamory:
Quinn, Jordan, and Taylor are all different people. Quinn is my Quinn partner, Jordan is my Jordan partner, and Taylor is my Taylor partner. Together, they all enrich my life in their own unique ways.

There are several phrases that the poly community uses that I wish I could erase from the cultural lexicon. "Meets my needs" is one of them. Partners should not be hired to perform certain tasks, they are complex human beings and deserve to be treated as such. I'm not with [livejournal.com profile] tacit because he's into kinky sex. I'm with [livejournal.com profile] tacit because he is [livejournal.com profile] tacit, and because he is who he is and I am who I am, consequently kinky sex is part of our relationship. But if all I wanted was someone to fulfill a kinky sex service, there are any number of people who could fill that role and the person in that role becomes interchangeable. But no one else is [livejournal.com profile] tacit and that's why I'm with him.

I don't find people to fit the spaces in my life. I make spaces to fit the people in my life.

‪#‎polyamory‬ ‪#‎poly‬ ‪#‎polyamorous‬ ‪#‎OpenRelationships‬ ‪#‎EthicalNonMonogamy‬ ‪#‎LoveMoreBeAwesome‬ ‪#‎Frankenpartner‬



The thing is, when a person isn't dehumanizing their partners but still recognizing what role a person plays in their life like "the friend who likes playing poker", they're not doing what I'm talking about precisely because it's not about that one thing. To not recognize that the people in our lives do these things with us, don't do these other things with us, like those things, don't like those other things, etc., is also to not see them as people and is also dehumanizing (related essay: http://tacit.livejournal.com/241568.html).

But to see a person as "fulfilling my poker-playing need" is objectification, as opposed to having a need for connection and shared interests, among which playing poker is one interest that only some people will share, and which is not objectification. The lists of things that we like to do or share with people that too many people list as "needs" usually overlap with multiple people, and they aren't really needs. They're vehicles for meeting a need. That's an important distinction and one that few people ever make.

I have a need to share common interests with people, because of the connection that it builds on shared interests and shared passions. Dancing is a *vehicle* through which that need can be met. But to deliberately look for a *romantic* partner who is "The Dancing Partner", and that trait is the defining element of our relationship - the thing that sets that partner apart from the others, is to dehumanize him. If that partner was instead That Partner With Whom I Dance Among Other Things - a whole and complete person that I see for himself who shares a common interest, that would not be dehumanizing, that would be recognizing his differences, his uniqueness. To relegate him to "my dancing partner" is to ignore the rest of him. The language is important, because it shapes how we think and consequently how we act. This is why hierarchical terminology is so dangerous.

This is not to say that there are never times when it's appropriate to have people in one's life to fulfill a specific role, such as a dance partner that is a business-like arrangement where two people negotiate and discuss to limit their interactions to dancing for some shared goal. But that still makes those people disposable and interchangeable - any number of people could qualify for the role of "dance partner" because that role doesn't depend on the partner being a whole person, just someone whose dance style and dance goals are compatible.

We often enter into limited engagements with other people. I'm saying that it's not appropriate for healthy poly relationships - other types of relationships, perhaps - and is actually the source of the very insecurities that so many poly people try to use this method of relationships to protect against. If I am "The Partner You Kiss On The Lips", then anyone else you kiss on the lips has the potential to replace me. But if I am your Partner, whom you kiss on the lips, then it doesn't matter who else you kiss, because I am me and no one else can be me and kissing is just one trait among many that make up our unique relationship.

One of the big distinguishing markers for when it's dehumanizing and when it's not is to answer the question "if this partner stops doing this thing, will they lose their value and their place in my life?" If my friend who goes to the movies with me stops going to the movies with me, is there anything else to value about that relationship and him as a person? Can I have the same movie-going experience with someone else to replace him if he stops going to the movies with me? Can we flex our relationship to accommodate no longer doing that thing together? Will their Friendship Contract be voided if they renege on going to the movies with me? And will *they* be held responsible for *my* no longer being able to do that thing as long as they remain in that friend slot?

That last one is important. That's what makes someone a need fulfillment machine. We see this with certain types of monogamy, where one partner stops wanting sex and the other partner believes the first is *obligated* to provide that sex because they "need" sex and if the first doesn't *provide* sex, they are no longer useful as a partner and they have "voided" the marriage contract. This is usually the first step on the justification for cheating - "they broke the marriage contract first, so it's not cheating when I have sex with other people without telling them", for instance. But I digress.

When it comes to "needs", the question is, who has the responsibility for getting that "need" met? Is it my movie-going friend's job to make sure that my "need" to watch movies is met? Or is it my responsibility to find some way to watch movies that will make me happy and not infringe on the autonomy of anyone else? And is "going to the movies" *really* a need all on its own, or is it what I said above, which is a need for connection through shared interests and one of those interests happens to be going to the movies?

What I'm talking about above is when people make "going to the movies" a "need" that their partner has to fulfill for them, and deciding not to go to the movies anymore invalidates the relationship and finding literally anyone else to go to the movies with is equally as acceptable. Just having a body there at the theater is the important part, and if their partner won't do it, they'll just find someone else to do it, because there's nothing specific about *that person* that made the experience special or a "need".

What I'm talking about is instead recognizing that "going to the movies" is not a need, in and of itself, but is a representation of a need for connection through shared interests, acknowledging that it is no one else's responsibility to "meet" that need for me because it is my responsibility to find ways to develop connections through shared interests with the important people in my life, then developing relationships with people with many facets to reflect their humanity and our shared relationship so that they are not defined and obligated by the one activity or "need", and finding anyone else to do those things with will produce *different* experiences even though the activities are the same because those other people are *different* people and that will affect the experience.

Oh, and also that last line above "together they add up to the perfect partner" - that's a direct quote that I've heard so many times I've lost count. That's kind of important to the mindset. These people *literally* see their partners as part of a person, not a whole person.

Sure, if you call them on it, they'll backtrack and say something about a metaphor, but as I said, language is important and it shapes how we see things and how we behave.
joreth: (Super Tech)
I'm having mixed feelings about these videos where men have to read actual tweets, comments, emails, etc. that women get.

First, too many men still don't believe us that it happens, or that it happens as often, or that the solution is to "just block / ignore it". It's really easy to say that when you aren't forced to sit there and read them all, out loud, in front of other people who can hear you. It's easy to say that when the quality of the criticisms that one gets differs significantly in scope and tone. It's easy to tell people to grow a thicker skin when you aren't living in the other person's skin.

Second, even when men acknowledge that there's a problem, and even when they acknowledge the scope of it, they are *still not the targets* and they can turn off their caring about it whenever they want to. Most men I know who care about this stuff *don't* generally, deliberately ignore the problem when it suits them. The point is that they don't *have* to care about the problem. They can go about their day not thinking about it, maybe even not being reminded about it for several days in a row.

I have that same problem as a white-passing person regarding racism. I can immerse myself in issues of race, but if I ever get overwhelmed by it, I can shut off Facebook and not read my activist friends' posts for a while because *I don't live in that reality 24/7*. There isn't a solution to this, as far as I know. It's just one of several feelings I have on the subject.

Third, I'm grateful for all the attempts to make men understand the breadth of the problem, but most of these attempts re-centers the issue around the feelings of men. Like, when they read tweets directed at a particular woman and she's sitting right there, they get really uncomfortable (as they should). They understand just how horrific those tweets are because they struggle to read them aloud, many even trying to get out of reading them further. I get that often this is the only first step available to people. I get that many men simply cannot conceptualize what's wrong with rape jokes, for instance, until they imagine someone making a rape joke about or to their daughter or until they remove the safety of anonymity.

But one of the points of those videos is for other men to see them and to empathize with the shame of having that woman watching them say those words - words that aren't even their own words. It's related to that saying that women are afraid of being murdered but men are afraid of being rejected - the shame and embarrassment of saying such terrible things is part of their pain.

Many of these men end up apologizing on behalf of other men, and we get the ‪#‎NotAllMen‬ because generally decent people don't want to be associated with those assholes. It *hurts* them to think that the woman who they are insulting to her face might possibly lump him in with Them. And sometimes, that feeling, that fear of being lumped in overwhelms them and interferes with their ability to actually empathize with the victims or do something actively to combat the problem because they get sidetracked in defending the idea that some of them are not like the rest of them. This is not helpful. Simply the act of admitting there is a systemic, endemic problem automatically sets a man apart from the rest. Their virtue does not need to be defended when they align themselves with the victim. That. Is. What. Makes. Them. The. Good. Guys.

I get that empathy is not usually gained in large leaps but by small steps. So, for that I'm grateful that there are campaigns out there trying to humanize women by associating the entire demographic with an individual whom a man knows. But I'm still upset that a woman's worth is ignored as a default by some unless that man can associate her with an individual first and she isn't granted human status until he builds some kind of connection with her (this goes for pretty much all bigotry - people tend to hold bigoted ideas that they were taught and can only break them down if they know an individual in that class and they can't just afford them human status simply because they exist). Again, I don't have a solution to this problem, it's just one of my feelings about the problem.

Fourth, the comments that the men are forced to read out loud are just *eh*. Like, some are not nearly as bad as stuff I've gotten, but all of them including the really bad ones are just so ... common. I'm upset that I'm so blasé about graphic depictions of torture simply because I've already heard it all before and I'm upset that these men are shocked and horrified hearing them for the first time. I'm bothered that they have the luxury of feeling ashamed and appalled because so many women online already *have* developed that "thicker skin" and have seen that shit so often that most of it really does roll off our backs. So, by the time a woman finally loses her shit over something, she's not some delicate little flower who "can't take a joke" or "can't play with the big boys", it's because her threshold is so low for this that most men (i.e. actual decent people) can't even handle reading the crap that she has learned to ignore and it's reasonable for her to have finally flipped her lid by the time she does.

It's like that video of simulating labor pains on people without uteruses - (and I'm going to use "guys", "men", and "women" here to simplify the language because I don't know how to otherwise do it without making it cumbersome) some of these guys think they have a high pain tolerance, until they are forced to experience something equating labor pains. And even then, they get to stop whenever they want. They aren't forced to go through it for 27 hours straight, or 6 times in 7 years. And their labor pains have virtually no chance of killing them or disfiguring them or taking over the rest of their lives after the physical labor pain ends. And yet, countless TV shows and movies show women going through childbirth and write her as this hysterical demon who breathes fire and whose head spins around and shoots lasers out of her eyes like, whoa lady, just have an epidural already and calm down! Because her delicate lady parts just can't handle pain like a man can, amirite?

Anyway, I'm digressing a bit and that's always an invitation for the Missing The Point Pedants to jump in. Point four is that I'm not even surprised or bothered when *I* hear those blog comments read by men because I've seen them all before and that's *a problem*, whereas men get to feel bad for themselves for feeling so awful having been exposed to those comments for possibly the first time. Yes, sweetie, you feel icky having read them *pats head*. Wish I still did. I know that's condescending, that's one of the feelings I'm having with these videos.

So ... mixed feelings. I'm pleased to see progress, pleased to see more attempts made to fix society, pleased to see this conversation happening more often and in bigger venues. I'm also saddened and upset and angry that we still need this conversation, and that we still have to be delicate about it, and that we still have to cater to people contributing to the harm in order to make any progress at all.

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