Jun. 11th, 2017

joreth: (polyamory)
I've seen this question in several contexts over the years.  The question is to ask if polyamory is "all about sex" or can / do poly people want to eventually "settle down" with someone special?  I've addressed it in a lot of different ways, but all my answers come down to roughly the same thing.

This is a false dichotomy. There are more than two options besides "trying to have casual, emotionless sex with everyone" and "settling down".

I have a life that is rich and nuanced and dynamic and contextual. The number of partners and what our relationships look like is subjective. To a conservative monogamist, a woman who has had only 2 partners ever in her entire life and they have been living together as a family for 40 years with nothing but TV stereotype vanilla, soccer-mom, suburbanite sex is "wild" and "promiscuous".

Focusing on the numbers and ranking emotional connections only encourages the slut-shaming that harms our community as a whole. It's a holdover from the monogamous community, and it's looking at polyamory from the wrong lens.  The problem is the phrase "settle down"and similar phrases like it. Remove that sentence and try to describe the situation without using that phrase at all.

There are several different questions happening when people ask about two binary options like this:

1) Is polyamory all about sex, or is there an emotional connection to it (with the implication that lack of emotional connection in sex is negative).

2) What *structures* "count" as "poly"?

3) Do some people use manipulative tactics to get relationship styles that they want that their partners may not also want?

This is what another commenter meant by "unpack" and "deconstruct" the term "settle down". What are you *really* asking?

Each of these three questions are *separate* questions. The phrase "settle down" carries a lot of baggage with it from a monogamous mindset that ranks relationship structures with some being "better" than others, implicitly judging the people who choose the "lesser" relationship forms, and pretty much completely misses the point of non-monogamy.

The easiest question to answer is #3 - yes, some people use manipulative tactics to get relationship styles that they want. This is true no matter what the relationship style is. People falsely promise monogamy to get casual sex too.

What polyamorists do here is to challenge the monogamous paradigm and all the implicit assumptions that go along with it. Which means that you can't look at what we do through a monogamous lens because then nothing makes any sense. You have to look at it through other lenses.

A person can have lots of casual sex partners with low emotional connection and still lead a life of traditional domesticity. A person can have a life that appears to be "free" and "untethered" and yet still have deep emotional connections to other people.  What a person's daily life looks like, how many sexual partners they have, and what kind of sex they have are all independent variables.

Rather than approaching it from judging the number of partners as a "sign" of all these other, unrelated variables, it's better to look into the implicit assumption of control and restriction that are often being asked about, which we can usually get to if we poke the questioner and they make other comments about not wanting more than 3 people in a family group.

The number of partners is irrelevant. The kind of sex they're having is irrelevant. How respected is each person's agency in the relationship? How much freedom do they have? Are the people in the relationship valued more than the relationship itself? These are the questions you need to ask - both yourself and of others.

"Restricting" other people, whether it's to only 1 partner or to some magic number greater than 1, is a violation of their agency. *That's* the real issue here.

It's OK for an individual to simply not have enough bandwidth to handle emotionally relating on a deep level to more than X number of people, whatever that number is for them. If your bandwidth taps out at only 1 partner (monogamy), that's OK. If it taps out at 3 people, that's OK. If it taps out at 10 people, that's OK too.

If the bandwidth only has room for 1 or 2 emotionally deep connections but there is still a little trickle left over for less-entwined connections, kind of like an internet service that can only handle one device streaming movies at a time but if the other devices only need to check email or use a low-resource network-connected app, that's OK.

But to artificially throttle that bandwidth on other people like a company blocking out certain websites or all streaming activity, that's a problem. That's fine for a company who wants to control the use of its resources, but that's not how individual adult human beings are respected as autonomous agents.

A person who only has enough emotional bandwidth for X number of partners and that's just where they run out of energy can still be in a relationship with someone whose emotional bandwidth accommodates for a higher number than X or for relationships of a different style like kink or casual partners.  Because our own emotional bandwidth is a limitation *on ourselves*, and we can limit ourselves however we want. That's a boundary. But imposing our own bandwidth limitations onto other people - that's an imposition on their agency.

But aside from all this talk of numbers, the more experienced polys discover that there isn't any magic number. Where the limits lie depends on the *people* involved. One of my partners used to believe that he didn't have enough emotional bandwidth to handle more than 2 partners total. ...

Until he moved away and all of his partners became long-distance. And he also started dating solo polys. Suddenly, these relationships, even though they were deeply emotionally connected, were less of a drain on his bandwidth than the live-in, codependent partners he had before and he found he could successfully manage as many as 5 or 6. But it depended on who those 5 were.  If one of his partners required more of his bandwidth, then his total partner limit was reduced in number.

So it's not about the number, and it's not about the "structure". It's way more complicated than that.

It's about *agency*.

At its best, polyamory respects and nurtures every person's agency as a full, individual human being.

What that ends up looking like in terms of numbers of partners, types of sex, or structure of relationship depends on the people in those relationships, and that can change at any given time for any given person.
joreth: (feminism)
There's this pernicious trope in the poly community.  It says "it's OK to restrict someone else's behaviour as long as they all agree to it" and "if one person doesn't want his partner to have sex with other men, and she agrees to it, then it's OK", etc.  For some reason, people seem to think that it's totally acceptable to tromp all over someone's agency, as long as the other person doesn't stop you from doing it.  But I have a BIG problem with this.

If everyone wants to "restrict" themselves, then there's no need for someone else to "restrict" them. If one person has to "restrict" another, that's where coercion comes from. The language is important. It leads to *excusing* abuse.

There's nothing wrong with 3 people who decide together that they all want a closed triad. There *is* something wrong with one person dictating on behalf of all 3 of them that they will be in a closed triad (or 2 people dictating to the third that they will be in a closed triad).  It would be just as wrong for one person to decide that the others *must* date or have sex with people outside the group whether they wanted to or not (or for one or two people to decide that another *must* have sex with that person if the other wants to have sex with this person whether the other is interested in both or not, i.e. the "package deal").

Our language affects how we think and feel and behave. The relationship configuration isn't the problem, the language is.

In studies of other languages and other cultures, they discovered that people's perceptions are actually different and that they are not able to do the same things that other people do simply because of the words that they use and the way they use them.

For example, in English, when we speak about time, we use language that measures physical distances, i.e. "short break", "long wedding". Time is perceived as a distance traveled.  But Greek & Spanish speakers use words referring to quantity - "small break", "big wedding". In Spanish, time is perceived as a unit of volume.

In studies, they found that learning a new language that uses different concepts for things like "time", people actually become aware of perceptual dimensions that people who only speak one of the languages can't perceive. Language and our use of it effects our emotions, our visual perception, and our perception of time, among other things.

In a study years ago, they looked at the language of primitive tribal cultures untouched by industrial societies who didn't have words for things that they had no context for, such as global distances. Because of this, they actually couldn't *see* things that they had no language for.  It's not as simple as holding up a smart phone in front of a tribes person and that phone being "invisible", but their brains literally couldn't see things the way that other people could.

One of the things they had trouble with was perceiving distance, because their concept of "distance" is very different from someone who has seen pictures of the earth from space, for example, and who regularly talks about distance in terms of thousands of miles or kilometers, compared to someone to talks about distance in terms of steps taken or the time to get there on foot.

So, back to the point. Language shapes how we think and what we believe. People who are prone to using language that disrespects the agency of others are *more likely* to have beliefs that disrespect the agency of others, and are therefore more likely to *do* things that disrespect the agency of others.  And they are also therefore more likely to be unable to *see* how they are disrespecting the agency of others.

We see this when people use words like "permission" vs. "checking in".  Some people casually throw out that they need to "ask the spouse permission" to do something, rather than phrasing it like "let me check in with the spouse to see how they feel about that."  That's SUCH a huge implicit difference in how the person being granted "permission" is viewed by the person granting it!

The big difference, I discovered a while back, is that there are basically 2 types of people in these discussions - one who focuses on the outcome and one who focuses on the method of achieving the outcome:

To people who focus on the outcome, it's an "end justifies the means" kind of mentality, where the outcome is the same so it doesn't matter how they got there because the result looks superficially identical.

To people who focus on the method, these aren't even in the same universe. When the method differs, the outcome is irrelevant because that superficial resemblance isn't the POINT. The tools and methods we use to get there is the whole purpose.

And I'm coming to learn that the people in the first group can. not. see. the. difference. 

This is why the language is so important. Their use of language wires their brain so that they are *unable* to see the difference. They literally can't see it, like the apocryphal tale of the South American tribespeople who couldn't see the ships that the Spaniards sailed in when they landed on American soil (of course that's not how it happened, but the tale has lasted as a fable with a moral anyway).

Their use of language is actually limiting their brains' ability to perceive things that other people can see.


The idea that anyone could actually "restrict" anyone else is an illusion. People only follow the "rules" that they want to follow. If 3 people made an agreement to be a closed triad, that agreement is only followed for as long as all 3 people *choose* to follow it. As soon as any one of them doesn't want to follow it anymore, it's over. The "restriction" is an illusion.

I once knew of a guy in a D/s relationship who insisted that his slave was his literal slave in every sense of the word - that it was "real" and that he "owned" her in exactly the same way that he owned his TV. And he kept insisting this right up until the day she served him with divorce papers. His "restrictions" over her only lasted for as long as she allowed them to last. It's all an illusion and he did not actually "restrict" her, she chose to self-limit her own behaviour. It was all her choice and it always was.

If people in a triad use language like "it's OK to restrict someone else", then they are more likely to believe that it's OK to restrict someone else, and that, by definition, is coercion. If the other person willingly "agrees" and *chooses* to self-restrict, then no one in that group is, or even can, restrict her. She is making her own choice. As soon as she decides not to self-restrict anymore, it's over.

Unless the others in the group *actually* have power over her to make her perform actions against her will. In which case, this is abuse and this is exactly the problem people are warning about with the use of language.

Someone will inevitably bring up D/s relationships in these discussions.  I prefer to keep D/s discussions separate - kinda like it's a 201 course and we're still talking about Abuse 101.  You can't get to the nuances of D/s in 201 until you master the concepts in Abuse 101.  But I'll mention why it's different here anyway, but if you don't grasp the underlying concepts, then the subject of D/s and why it's different will only confuse you.

We use the trappings of this kind of language in the context of D/s relationships because some people really want to feel that these things are true for themselves.  If two (or more) people have a D/s agreement, where they will use language like "I forbid you to do X" and the other person obeys, that's an exception to the rule.  But not really.  It's an exception to the rule that you should never use the phrases that imply ownership or that disrespect agency, but that's only because the very act of a D/s agreement is an act of empowerment and agency.

What I mean is that the submissive in a relationship *always* retains ultimate control over what happens to them.  They are choosing to enter into a role-playing agreement where they engage in a fantasy structure of their choice.  The power dynamic is an illusion.  It's called power *exchange* for a reason.  As soon as the submissive loses the power to revoke consent, that's when it becomes abuse.

But the fantasy requires the ability to use this sort of language.  In order to make the brain feel like it's real, we have to make the exception and allow language that is otherwise unacceptable.  The trick, then, is to balance the use of language with the internal respect for agency.  This is indeed a very tricky balancing act and not many people can do it.  So it's usually better to leave out BDSM exceptions when talking about the dangers of language and coercsion.

So, excepting D/s agreements (assuming that D/s agreement truly does value and respect the agency of the people entering into the agreement because that respect and value for agency is what makes it an illusion and therefore not doing what I'm complaining about here), no, it is never, ever, acceptable to "restrict" someone else's behaviour. That is literally the definition of coercion and abuse. If one person has a preference for a certain type of behaviour and another person *chooses* to acquiesce to that preference, that is not someone "restricting" someone else - that is one person choosing to self-restrict. The moment it is not acceptable to say no, that's the moment that consent is violated and that's when it becomes abuse.

The language that implies imposing one will over another is the language that leads to the belief that it is OK to impose one will over another. That belief is what *enables* us to abuse others. Without that belief, one is simply not capable of abusing someone else. Of being a dick in other ways, sure but not of *abuse*. You NEED that belief in order to abuse someone.

And that belief is formed by accepting language that excuses it.

So when we're talking about people who "agree" to various things, it's so important that I can't even stress how important it is, to use the kind of self-empowering language that discourages abusive beliefs and that discourages the community's ability to overlook abuse.  When we promote "but they agreed to it, so it's OK", we open the door to "why did she stay if he was abusing her?  She must have agreed to it."  This is how abuse gets excused.  This is how victims get blamed.  This is how an entire society builds itself on a structure that empowers abusers and disempowers victims.  

The whole reason why victims "stay" with their abusers is because the society around them will. not. let. them. leave.  And part of that is because we give them shit for "staying" even though we have removed any support to help them get out.  When coercion is part of the picture, they aren't "agreeing" to it, they are simply not allowed to not-agree.  And then we blame them for their own abuse because they didn't not-agree.  So we need to change our language so that we center the individual people and their choices over the other people imposing their will.  

She is not "agreeing" to be abused, she was abused and couldn't not-agree.  He didn't "agree" to be restricted by someone else, he chose his own limitations.  These aren't "agreements" between two people, these are things that each person is personally empowered or disempowered to do.  Those words are important.

Just like asking people of privilege to change their language use if they don't really intend to imply whatever racist or sexist or -ist thing that goes along with the words, it is important for our entire community to be cognizant of our own language use and to change it to accommodate belief structures that encourage freedom, choice, and empowerment.

If a white person were to defend his use of the n-word because "it just means a stubborn person" (someone actually told me that not too long ago), I would have to question his motives and why it's so important for him to use that word. Why *that* word, when there are so many other words for stubborn people? Why is it *so* important to keep a hold of *that* one word when people are telling him that it's harmful?

When we say that the language of choice vs. restriction is harmful to the community, I have to question the motives of those who insist "it's just a word" as a defense to keep using it. If it's just "a word", then it should be no problem to give it up.  Because we *know* that words have power. Otherwise it wouldn't be any big deal to switch using that word to another. We know that words are important. So we have to look at why there are even debates at all around people using disempowering language.

So please listen to people who might know a little something about abuse and coercion and disempowerment when we say that this language is problematic, and if you really want to refer to someone who is choosing to self-limit themselves, then say so instead of couching it in terms that imply disempowerment and abuse.

If you don't mean to support abusive and coercive structures, then don't implicitly support them with the language you choose.
joreth: (feminism)
https://t.co/vYkCwB2LDV

I've been having conversations like this all weekend because, legally speaking, in the US, people of Latin American descent are classified as "white". As in, when it was illegal for a black person to marry a white person, it was never illegal (in the US) for a Mexican to marry a white person. We have never been "equal" to whites, but we were still classified as the same species, unlike black people who were literally classified for a time as subhuman.

There has absolutely been oppression and hatred and bigotry directed at any number of nationalities, ethnicities, and skin tones. It has not all been the *same*. I'm not even going to rank any of it - it was just *different* for us all. Our cultural histories are *different*. So when it comes to representation, someone of my heritage, or Gadot's heritage, cannot stand in for all POC, and sometimes not for any POC.

I may be Chicana, but the world sees me (and therefore treats me) as white, so my experiences, especially my successes, can't be used as examples of POC success or representation. As for Gadot, I will let the people most affected by her speak for or about her.

"But what about all the black AND Latinx people who tell me that POC is an umbrella term that includes black people, Latinx, Pacific Islanders, and Middle Easterners? Are you saying I'm wrong to call them all POC?"

You've been somewhat misled. If you look on any census or many government stat questionnaires, "Hispanic" is not a race. We still have to classify ourselves as white in the race category.

"Latin American" was created by white people to replace (and is often used interchangeably with) "Hispanic" because Peru speaks Portuguese and white USians wanted a single word to refer to a dozen different distinct nationalities rather than acknowledge us as all different. People from those regions do not call ourselves Latin American. We usually refer to our country of origin - Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, etc. or even more locally by tribe or indigenous affiliation like other Native American people.

That's like Italians and Irish people all calling themselves "European", except if the US invaded Europe, colonized it, and then said "since we've renamed your continent Europe, you're all just Europeans now because we want to track you all but we really don't care enough about your individual cultures to track you that granularly.  And, not only are you all just "European", you're also all white, because you're not black.  But if you are black, you're not "European", you're still just black."

Because people of South American descent are discriminated against, we are often brought under the umbrella of "POC" because black and brown and red and yellow are all colors of skin and none have the status of "white".

But a success or a representation of one of us is not a success or a representation of us all. Our various histories of oppression are *different* and one group overcoming a hurdle is not representative of all people of color and all their distinctive hurdles.

As, for example, the issue of marriage mentioned above. Mexican children were always able, legally, to go to school with white children, as another example. A Mexican getting a degree from a "white" university is not a "win" for black people, who were legally barred from entry into white schools. That accomplishment does not represent all POC and should not be celebrated as such.

And another point - South America is a colonized continent with an incredibly diverse ethnic and racial background. We are not all brown. For a long time, there was even a strict caste system in place based on how much white or indigenous or African ancestry one had. Being from Mexico could mean that I'm African-Mexican or Native Mexican or Spaniard (which is white) or some mix.

Mexican people in particular, of those with South American heritage, have been trying to gain some control over our nomenclature, but nobody seems to hear us. They just keep calling us "Hispanic" and "Latino/a/x" whether we want to be called that or not.

And then there is a segment of our population who is all about embracing assimilation and our colonizers and invaders. They'll vehemently defend those terms or tell you that its not problematic to use them, that it's not a big deal. Some of these people voted for Hair Gropenführer and made headlines when they were surprised to find their totally legal asses deported anyway.

So whether we fall under the POC umbrella depends on who is speaking and the context of the subject. But a success for one member is not a success for us all. Maybe if all POC finally figure out that we outnumber the white folk when we're all counted as one bloc and we rise up unified, but that probably won't happen.  When it comes to POC rights and being equal, then we can all band together as one group.  But when it comes to specific types of discrimination or specific landmarks and historical progress, we cannot each stand in for us all.  

The history of Jews is not my history as a descendant of Mexicans.  The history of Africans in the US is not my history as a descendant of Mexicans.  And Gadot headlining a successful action film is a huge win for women in film and entertainment, but not a win for "POC", let alone WOC.  Talk to me when a person of obvious African ancestry headlines a successful action film, or when an Asian actor headlines as the romantic lead or a successful action character that isn't a martial arts expert.  Or a Mexican (playing a Mexican character, because there are some women of Latin American descent who occasionally play no specific ethnicity and pass as white) headlines anything not as a villain or in a film not related to drug cartels.

And then come talk to me when those landmark films are a drop in the bucket and we no longer need to point out "well, there was This Film who had This One Actor who did This Thing" to somehow "disprove" that racism doesn't happen in Hollywood.

#ContextualPOC
joreth: (polyamory)
Apparently, threesome romance novels (which means not just threesome sex but also threesome long-term relationships) with at least 2 men are A Thing, and paranormal romance novels are A Thing, and more importantly, paranormal threesome romance novels with at least 2 men (and often with plus-sized women and also often with Latina women) are also A Thing.

If you happen to want to buy any of these books through Amazon, the links I'm using are for my Affiliates Account, which means that I get a very small commission (that doesn't cost you anything extra) if you buy from these links instead of just searching Amazon.

I have not read ANY of these books. I have no idea if they're good or not. But I think I'm gonna try a few out. I am currently adding them to my Polyish Booklist which doesn't have my Amazon Affiliates link.
joreth: (::headdesk::)
Oh Mayim. ::shakeshead:: I was already annoyed with you for your anti-vax position. As a scientist, you should know better, but also as a scientist, you think that just because you're smart, that your conclusions must also be correct. Scientists are NOTORIOUS for being the most fucking wrong they can wrong when they step outside their narrow area of expertise. You just keep proving the rule.

So now you have to shoot your mouth off about non-monogamy. Please sit down and shut up. You're making educated white women look bad. Not that they need any help in that area, but you're just making it worse.

Your biology is outdated, your sex and gender essentialism is outdated, your anthropology is outdated, your psychology is outdated, and your sex education is way outdated.

AND you make the same mistake as so many others before you of believing that, assuming that even if all your so-called "facts" were completely true, that humans stopped evolving millions of years ago around the point at which we split from apes and that our brains aren't incredibly plastic and highly susceptible to non-genetic influences like culture and higher-order thinking.

You're just so wrong on so many points that it would take me forever to correct you on each one. You're not just wrong, you're fractally wrong. Every single thing you said was wrong.

Except the part where you said that you don't get open relationships. That was 100% accurate - you don't get them.

I'll give you this: it's a good thing that you know your limitations. It's excellent that you have discovered that you lack the attention span and the emotional capacity to care for more than one human and one relationship at a time.

I just wish you had discovered that before you had children.



I'm not linking to the original post because I don't want to give her traffic. But if you really need to see it, do a YouTube search for Mayim Bialik and open relationships. She rants and raves about how she "gets" certain "excuses" for open relationships but then goes off the rails on all the things she doesn't "get" that are strawman arguments, using outdated or incorrect "science facts" to back up what amounts to her personal opinion that *she* is not capable of doing these strawman things. And she completely ignores gender diversity, boiling everyone down to biological "men vs. women" sexual dimorphism.

So. Much. Wrong.
joreth: (Spank)
http://www.boredpanda.com/girls-stop-abuse-boyfriends/

Abuse is abuse. In heteronormative relationships, man-on-woman abuse has an additional filter layered over it that is informed by misogyny. The blogger Shea Emma Fett used to talk about this and Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft covers how the cultural power dynamic is inherently embedded in man-on-woman abuse in hetero relationships. It's there automatically because the power imbalance is there automatically, so there always needs to be a conscious effort to fight against power dynamics in romantic relationships.

But in heteronormative relationships where there is woman-on-man abuse, that is ALSO misogyny at play. That's an example of the phrase "the patriarchy backfiring on itself".

What that means is that PATRIARCHY, as an inherently misogynistic system, created two, distinct gender roles to force people into, one of which is required to be submissive and the other as dominant and aggressive.

So if people are only allowed to fit into one of these roles, then when we don't, society simply refuses to acknowledge it. Which leads to women doing abusive things because they don't recognize it as abusive (because of the power structure, they don't believe women *can* abuse), and which leads to men not understanding that they are being abused and so not having any tools to deal with the abuse. Because they don't think they CAN be abused.

So if you participate in any of these behaviours (and let's face it, our culture teaches us that many of these things are OK no matter what your gender is, so we ALL have the potential to abuse others buried in our cultural programming, even if we fight it), if you do these things then you are participating in and supporting misogyny and the patriarchy.

While this is demonstrably worse for our victims, it's also bad for us living in a patriarchal society.
joreth: (polyamory)
Hey! You are not "entering an existing relationship" or finding someone to "enter / join your existing relationship". You are creating a WHOLE NEW SUITE OF RELATIONSHIPS!

Please just fucking stop saying that phrase.

YOU ARE NOT ENTERING / FINDING SOMEONE TO ENTER AN EXISTING RELATIONSHIP

YOU ARE NOT ENTERING / FINDING SOMEONE TO ENTER AN EXISTING RELATIONSHIP

YOU ARE NOT ENTERING / FINDING SOMEONE TO ENTER AN EXISTING RELATIONSHIP

YOU ARE NOT ENTERING / FINDING SOMEONE TO ENTER AN EXISTING RELATIONSHIP

While we're at it:

You cannot protect your existing relationship from upheaval.

You cannot prevent your existing relationship from changing.

You cannot prevent your existing relationship from ending.

You cannot convince someone who doesn't want to be convinced that polyamory will be good for them.

You cannot guarantee that you will all make it out of this intact.

You cannot "go back" if it doesn't work out.

When you change the fundamental nature of your relationship, in any way - be it polyamory, having a baby, separation, moving in, closing it up, whatever - you CHANGE YOUR RELATIONSHIP. It is no longer your existing relationship, it is a brand new one.  But that's never more true than when that change includes the number of people with an active participation in your relationship, such as having kids or getting new partners.

As a matter of fact, when you start adding people, you don't get a brand new relationship, you get 4 new relationships when there are 3 of you, and 11 new relationships when there are 4 of you, and the number goes up geometrically (if I recall correctly the math increase term) from there.

Maybe everything will all work out for the better. Maybe your relationship will change for the better. But it is no longer the same relationship.

If you have a baby, then your relationship *used* to be "child-free couple", but now it's "family". You are no longer a child-free couple and you never will be that same couple again. You might some day be "couple who lost a child", or "couple with grown children who no longer live at home". But you will never again be the same "never had kids together couple" that you were before the baby.

And you did not "add" that baby to your couple. You created a whole new family with a whole new person.

When you "add a third" or "open up", you are, just by virtue of even having the discussion, changing your relationship. You have changed it, and you can never go back to the time before you brought it up.  You can go back to being a couple again, but now you're "a couple who discussed / tried opening up". You will never be that pre-open couple ever again.

You cannot protect your relationship.

You cannot preserve your relationship.

All you can do is hope and work with intention so that your relationship continues to grow in ways that nourish everyone in the relationship. EVERYONE, not just the two of you.

But it might not. It might not grow and nourish everyone, or anyone. That is a possibility, no matter what you do, but it's pretty probable if you keep keep trying to "protect" things.

It's not the same relationship anymore. You are not "adding someone to an existing relationship". Just strike that phrase from your vocabulary and never utter it again.

In fact, don't just strike it, replace it with the repeated phrase above. Constantly remind yourself that you ARE NOT and CAN NOT do that.

If your relationship has any chance of continuing to grow in ways that nourish everyone in it, I promise you that it is through this reminder.
joreth: (anger)
https://wearyourvoicemag.com/identities/feminism/mindy-kalings-brother-slut-shamed-distract-bizarre-race-experiment

There's this thing that some people do. When they belong to a class of people that has some (or a lot) of discrimination against them, some people choose to embrace their oppressors, their oppressors' values, and their oppressors' worldviews.

My mom is a good person, generally speaking, and I love her. I consider her a friend as well as a mother, and I talk to her about almost everything. She grew up a poor Mexican in the '50s and '60s. Her father actually had money for a while, long enough to pay for the eldest daughter's extravagant Quinceañera and send her to private school.

But by the time the other kids were old enough for similar things, my grandfather lost all his money and the family became poor.

My grandparents were immigrants and never did learn English. Oh, they spoke a few words here and there, but they never really picked it up. They deliberately sent their children to English-speaking schools and encouraged assimilation, so that their children would have more opportunities in the US than they had. Which is not a terrible hope to have for children.

So my mom speaks English with no accent (unless she's just back from visiting her sisters who still live in Texas and still speak Spanish at home, and then the accent peeks out again). She also married a white man whose parents were financially comfortable, a little bit racist, and also believed in their children improving on the lives that their parents started them with.

I am a 2nd generation, US-born Mexican descendant. I didn't learn Spanish until high school - in school. And I learned Castilian Spanish (that means, the language spoken in Spain and taught from textbooks with "proper" grammar, not the language of my grandparents).  And my mother still never spoke it to me - she wasn't refusing, she just never remembered to. It was no longer "her" language. She has to convert to Spanish, like a native English speaker, in order to speak it now.  So, to this day, I can't have a conversation in Spanish because I still can't "hear" it and I can only remember a handful of words, mostly cuss words that I picked up in grammar school from my Mexican peers.

My accent, my look, everything about me screams "white & middle class" because that's how I was raised. I went to private school, I was told to expect a bright future full of academic achievements and middle class adventures. I listen to country music for fuck's sake. And metal, back in the '80s.

I wrote before about my recent acceptance of the label "chicana". When I was growing up, a chicana was a lower class Mexican - the 1st generation descendant of immigrants and someone who did not speak proper English, did not live in a respectable neighborhood, dressed slutty, did only "bad girl" things like drinking and smoking and having sex, was probably in a gang, and likely had no future to look forward to other than more of the same - blue collar jobs, lots of children, and an ugly house in an ugly neighborhood.

I was not one of *those* Mexicans.

I grew up in the suburbs in a white neighborhood where a lot of my neighbors probably had that outlook. But I also went to public school whose district zoning was written to include my middle class housing tract as well as those Latino ghettos. So I was exposed to plenty of chicanos in my early days.

And yet, I still had that view of them. Which I got mainly from my parents. They were people who didn't respect themselves. We did. They were people who didn't *want* a better future, because my mom and her parents did want a better future for their progeny, and since they achieved it, obviously it was available there for anyone who wanted it badly enough to work for it. Since they didn't achieve it, obviously they didn't want it badly enough.  My mom embraced assimilation. Being of the light-skinned variety of Mexican and having a white husband, white name (through marriage), and no accent probably helped a lot. But she improved her lot in life by assimilating. So, obviously, assimilation is a good thing, no?

My mom worries about me because I live in a poor neighborhood. She specifically asked me about the racial makeup of the neighborhood as part of her worrying. My parents are the sort who would nod approvingly at Cosby (before his fall from grace) when he declared that black people were hurting themselves by wearing baggy jeans and speaking with their accents. If they just cleaned themselves up (i.e. adopted white values of appearance and decorum), they, too, could reap the benefits that white people enjoyed.

I remember my dad complaining endlessly about baggy pants, especially in the car when he would see "gangbangers" walking down the street. I also remember my mom telling me the story of how, when they were moving from Texas to California while engaged, to start their new life together, my parents were refused service at some establishment or another (a restaurant, a hotel, I don't remember) because the establishment didn't serve "hippies".

Now, my parents were NEVER hippies. But they were married in 1968. So my mom had hair almost as long as mine, and it was very straight, and my dad grew a big mustache when he got out of the military and had that shaggy '70s version of "short" hair, which of course was not short enough for conservatives who were born 20 years earlier. And they drove a van. You know ... one of *those* '70s vans (but it had real seats in it, not a bed).  I also remember my mom telling me about the discrimination she experienced when some establishments recognized that they were an interracial couple. Hateful things screamed at my parents when they were together in public, once someone recognized my mom as Mexican.

Mom even refused to allow me to attend a formal dance at my high school called The Black & White Charity Ball ("black & white" being slang for black-tie, tux-formal) with a guy I was kinda sorta dating who happened to be black.  She was afraid that I would experience discrimination for being in an interracial relationship (the irony that *I* was interracial all by myself was lost on her although I did point it out) and she was so upset by the experience that she was willing to prevent me from having that experience even if it meant hurting me by forbidding me to attend a dance with a guy I liked because of his skin color.

The point is that my parents knew what discrimination felt like, but they also believed that they could *do* things that would reduce or remove that discrimination. As long as they followed the rules, they would be treated like the class whose rules they followed. This is what allows people to tell BLM protestors that the secret to not being murdered while black is to just comply with police. Be a good little Negro, son, and the White Man won't harass you.

Except my parents *could* benefit from following the rules, not because following the rules gets you privilege, but because there are other things beyond their control that determine how willing society is to throw them a bone that they mistake as a privilege. Like whether they're more Spaniard in coloring or indigenous in coloring. Or how much progress has been made in the culture at large.

This goes back to my other post about Godot not being a person of color, and how we are not all the same in our oppression. There are a lot of us with more melanin in our skin or who say words differently than Becky from Wisconsin, but our experiences are not the same as each others'. Some of us are afforded more, or at least different, privileges from the rest.

As was mentioned in the comments of that post on Facebook, this is how That Asshole who killed Treyvon Martin could experience discrimination as a Latino man and still enjoy an enormous amount of white privilege in the killing of Treyvon and his other racist assaults and insults.

People of Latin American descent are *legally* classified as "white", unless they identify as Afro-Latinx (and then they're just "black" like Gina Torres from Firefly, because y'all black people are all the same thing, right?). That gives us some privileges that people who are not classified as "white" don't get. Like being allowed to vote or marry white people before black people could do either.

So here is someone who looks a lot like the US's current favorite whipping boy who still manages to think that Affirmative Action hurts the "more deserving people" (whites and Indians, apparently) and that black people are unfairly privileged in this country.

Because, if part of your culture includes embracing assimilation the way that many Latinx people, especially older people, encourage assimilation of their children to trade for future success, a member of an oppressed class can find some amount of what looks like privilege under your oppressors. This is one of the many (and brilliant) strategies for perpetuating oppression.

It's much like benevolent sexism. "Act like a Lady and we'll treat you like a queen. But fall of the pedestal we put you on, and you'll learn exactly how much we really hate you by the long fall and the hard bottom. You are only deserving of privileges as long as you meet our qualifications for them.

And when we punish you, we'll even tell you that some of your punishments are actually privileges. Like what an 'honor' it is to be a stay-at-home mom. You're just so much naturally better at it than men! What do you need a silly thing like an education or a career or your own income for when you can have babies?!"

"No, but Asians are just good at math! And medicine! They're all doctors and engineers! What? It's a compliment! It can't be racism, I was being nice!" Toe the line, meet white standards, and you'll be thrown some table scraps that you've been convinced are gourmet meals.

"Whose a good boy? Whose a good boy? Do you want a treat? Sit! Speak! Shake! Stay! Good boy! Here you go, here's a treat for you! We love you! Just remember, though, if you ever step out of line and pee in our favorite shoes, it's the pound for you!"*

Keep us all distracted from the white upper class oppression by keeping us looking to the side and down. Engage us in their oppression like a bully finding a shy loner and getting him to do the bully's dirty work in the hopes of one day being accepted by the charismatic and powerful bully.

"Sure, you can join our club. Just as soon as you publicly humiliate your sister, and oh, by the way, the difficulty you're having joining our elite group? Yeah, that's these black people's fault. Might want to go do something about that too."
joreth: (polyamory)
Based on Poly Weekly episode 516: The Art of Three, I bought the book of the same name. This episode is an interview with Racheline Maltese, who wrote a polyamorous romance novel that does NOT include a couple opening up their relationship for the first time and does NOT include unicorn hunters finding their hot, bi, cis-woman love slave / nanny.
It does, however, include some hot bi men, which is automatically a plus for me.

I only just started the book, so I can't give a full review, but I already like that it's not unicorn hunting, it's not "opening up", it's not written for the literature version of the straight male gaze, and the characters don't seem to do the usual irritating-as-fuck foolishness stemming from typical monogamous culture habits like poor communication and objectification.

The authors, Erin McRae and Racheline Maltese, seem to actually know polyamory (and judging by some forum comments, there are self-identified poly people who nevertheless don't understand polyamory, so them understanding it says more about them than just calling them "poly"). The characters are self-aware, have decent communication skills, are respectful of agency, and still manage to have their own personalities, flaws, and foibles. They're not perfect, and they still make mistakes, but they don't make *rookie* mistakes. And even more importantly, they don't make *monogamous people who don't get polyamory* mistakes.

The polyamory seems to go pretty smoothly, at least so far. I have criticized movies and TV shows that make relationships look too easy and that skip over all the hard stuff where everyone just seems to magically be naturally good at relationships. But sometimes I just really need a story where the conflict and plot isn't related to the character's relationship skills. Sometimes I just need them to be decent at relationships so that I don't have to constantly yell at fictional characters that things don't have to be as difficult as they're making them.

Here are some of my reactions while reading it:

  • The book has a tense discussion where the authors, through the wife's character, acknowledge an unfair distribution of Emotional Labor along gender lines! They also make the male characters self-aware enough to be bothered by it when it occurs to them that they do not carry enough of the responsibility or the skill for this labor.
     
  • Love it. The Art of Three points out the sexism inherent in constantly asking if the husband is OK with the boyfriend sleeping with the wife or sharing their "marriage bed" or staying in "their" house, but never asked the same questions of the husband about the wife.

    The book points out that this is behaving as though she is her husband's property and notes the boyfriend's chagrin at the criticism, thereby implying that he is not intending to be sexist and does not wish to be sexist, but is nevertheless a product of his culture and participates in sexist assumptions even against his own better nature.

    To be fair, the boyfriend did ask the wife if she really did have an open marriage and really was OK with him sleeping with her husband for the first time. But he makes a bigger deal out of being in the husband's "place", like their shared bed or "his chair" at the dinner table in their home, when these thoughts never occurred to him about the wife when he was with the husband in their other shared home.

    The boyfriend does handle the criticism well and seeks to change.
     
  • The Art of Three also captures the weight that a long-term marriage has which presses down on newcomers. It reminds the reader of the gravitas that a preexisting relationship imposes on new partners through the boyfriend's occasional insecurity and his constant reminders to himself that he needs to be "respectful" of their marriage, as well as through the married couple's deliberate and conscious decisions to mitigate that weight whenever possible.

    That second part of that reminds the reader of the solidness of a preexisting relationship without enabling any couple privilege such as implying that this solidness and heaviness is as it should be or showing the established couple feeling or presenting as entitled to such privileges.

    These authors also avoided enabling couple privilege by not making the established couple suffer petty bouts of insecurity at the NRE or feeling "threatened" by a newcomer.



    So, if you're looking for a book that shows polyamory in a positive light, written by people who *get* polyamory, doesn't follow the single most overused and irritating trope in all of poly storytelling, and doesn't spend a whole lot of time dragging the characters through Poly 101 Drama, I'd recommend checking out The Art of Three.
joreth: (Kitty Eyes)
Your relationship cannot "grow" if you try to keep everything the same. Even if you try to keep it "the same except this one thing". For growth to happen, you need Change.

Change is scary. Change is unpredictable. Change is inevitable. You can't determine how things will change, but you can be sure that change will happen. The best defense against negative consequences of Change is to embrace Change with flexibility and adaptability, not fight it with rigidity. Change laughs in the face of rules designed to prevent change.

As the old proverb says, a supple willow tree that bends with the winds of change will last, but a rigid, brittle tree will fall before the wind.

"The green reed which bends in the wind is stronger than mighty oak which breaks in the storm." ~Confucius

"The wind does not break a tree that bends." ~Sukuma proverb

"The tree that does not bend with the wind will be broken by the wind." ~Mandarin Chinese proverb

I hate Change. I like my schedules and my plans. So I just learned how to accommodate for Change into my schedules and plans. Because Change doesn't care if I like it or not, and will do more damage the less I like it.

I had a partner once who was very spontaneous and could not be pinned down for plans. Even if he agreed to a plan, he would change it at the last minute. This made me furious, until I learned how to let go of my attachment for what I thought of as "the plan" and I started scheduling my time with him as "anything can happen time". Now it's part of the plan! It's in the schedule!

This sort of strategy needs of be applied to the bigger picture of relationships in general, not just individual dates. Many people have hopes for where they want their relationships to go. Some of us even turn those hopes into plans. And we get attached to those plans.

We need to let go of that attachment and embrace the opportunity and the challenge of Change. We need to take the challenge being offered to us to be flexible and to adapt to new circumstances and to come up with new "plans" on the fly. How quickly and gracefully can we meet this challenge? How can we steer ourselves to turn it into a new opportunity for growth, for experience, for lessons learned, for new skills?

Resistance to change is futile. You will experience Change. The more you try to resist it, the harder it it'll hit you. Your best defense for Change (and even little-c change) is to meet it head on and work with it.

Like my daddy taught me when learning to steer a boat in rough waters or drive car that is threatening to get away from me or my riding instructor when I first learned how to ride a horse - don't fight it. Lean into it. Feel what it's trying to do and work with it until it starts to trust you and gives up control. You collaborate with the turbulance and ride it out.

And then, if you're lucky, you walk away with a triumphant story. If you're a little less lucky, you learn how to rebuild the damage or how to start over. If the Change is just too big for you or you fight it too hard, you won't be lucky enough even for that opportunity. But maybe others can learn from your mistakes and we don't all have to go down the same way you did.

Your rules, your plans, your expectations don't mean shit to Change. It will come for you when it feels like it and in the form it wants. If you don't invite it in for tea, it will break down your door and make itself a 6 course meal.



To address some confusion:

I'm not saying that unpredictability is good or more evolved, I'm saying that it doesn't matter if it's good or bad, it will happen so we need to develop strategies to deal with it.

There were obviously problems in the relationship I used as an example, which is why he's a former partner. But I couldn't control HIS behaviour, and he was going to make changes. I could only control my reaction to the change. Continuing to fight him for control over how the relationship went would be an exercise in futility. I could bend with him, or I could leave, but leaving would be another change. There was no way I could make things stay the same or be the way *I* wanted them to be.

The point is that I can't escape change. None of us can. It's not fair, it's not right, but the universe doesn't give a fuck about "fair" or "right". It does what it does, and change happens.

I could change the example to include a person who has a chronic illness, rather than a spontaneous personality. Someone with a chronic illness can't always keep plans due to health reasons. I wouldn't call them selfish or infringing on my autonomy. That's what being in a relationship with a person like that means.

If we can't adjust to the changes that come with a person who needs to make changes - like someone who has to cancel plans last minute because of health issues or who won't commit to plans until the last minute because of health issues - that relationship will break.

Because the "how" and "why" are irrelevant to the fact that change is inevitable. I used the example merely to explain that a day-to-day skill that I had acquired needed to be extrapolated to the bigger picture, where "how" and "why" don't matter.

"How" and "why" doesn't matter to the number 10 bus that loses is brakes and careens into a loved one. That's a change to your life. Cancer doesn't give a shit about what we think of "how" and "why", it changes your life. A sudden influx of cash, a new baby, a random chance encounter with a person who turns your world upside down - "how" and "why" are irrelevant.

Change happens. We have to learn how to deal with and accept change, not make a bunch of rules trying to keep change from happening.
joreth: (polyamory)
From a tumblr post I made a couple years ago:

aithne
Polyamory for Writers
* Solo polyamory (someone who does not want a primary-style relationship, but rather prefers multiple casual/less committed relationships)

jorethinnkeeper
::HeadDesk::

People have good intentions, but sometimes when people get things wrong, they REALLY get it wrong. I appreciate all efforts to educate the mainstream public on what polyamory is and is not so that the subject can be treated compassionately and with consideration. But sometimes even people within my own subgroups take a misstep.

Solo polys are not people who don’t want a primary-style relationship or who prefer casual / less committed relationships. Solo polys are people who prefer to maintain their independence while in relationships.  This can take many forms. Just like polyamory itself, there are a lot of ways to do it, so we can only ever use the broadest form of the definition if we want to actually include everyone who does it. Polyamory means “multiple loves” and is generally accepted to be limited to “romantic” love.

But attempting to narrow it to sexual love, or to only people who ONLY have relationships that are full-on big-L Love relationships, is to leave out a large percentage of people, such as asexuals who have perfectly happy and healthy relationships but with little or no sex, and people who are indeed poly and have or desire multiple loving relationships but who also have or desire romantic and/or sexual relationships that do not include big-L Love or whose relationships up until now have not lasted long enough to reach the big-L Love stage yet.

Solo polys are a similar varied bunch. Some of us actually do have relationships that resemble “primary” relationships, depending on how you define “primary”. Some of us do have or desire live-in, life-entangled relationships. But they also date as individuals and make relationship decisions as individuals.  Others do not have such relationships but aren’t opposed to them, they just don’t happen to have them right now. Others are opposed to them during certain times of their life and deliberately choose not to have them at this moment. Others are opposed to them as a blanket philosophy.

Solo polys are not opposed to commitment. That’s probably the part that makes this misunderstanding move out of the realm of simple gaff and into offensive territory. This is making the same mistake that monos make about polys - namely that there are only certain things that a person can commit to or else it doesn’t “count”. For monos, that’s sexual fidelity - some believe that if you aren’t committed to sexual fidelity, then you’re just plain old not “committed” to your relationship at all. As polys, we know this for the fallacy that it is.

But then many polys make the same fallacy, just a step or two to the side. They understand that sexual fidelity isn’t the only thing that people can commit to, but some seem to think that, I dunno, buying a house together (because it requires a 30-year mortgage) or raising children together are the only things people can commit to.

I am every bit committed to my partners as any non-solo poly or mono person. I’ve been with my partner, Franklin, for [over] a decade now. We’ve seen each other through happy times and sad. We’ve weathered other partners trying to come between us and trying to control our relationship, we’ve dealt with changing life circumstances, and we’ve re-built our relationship to handle trials and tribulations like distance and mismatched life goals. Just like any other committed relationship.

The difference is that I don’t live with him, and we have no particular compulsion to change that. Sure, we’d like to live closer to each other than we currently do, but our relationship does not feel a pull to buy a house together, have children, mingle finances, and “settle down”. That does not mean that I am any less committed to the health and happiness of our relationship than anyone else.

Another difference is that we each value consent and agency above all else in our relationship. So we each demand the freedom to live our life as would best suit ourselves. We are committed to flexing and adapting and accepting each other when we each make our respective life decisions, including who and when to take another partner, and how those other relationships will look.

Other kinds of relationships do not have this kind of freedom, or they prioritize the relationship above the individuals in it. Our commitment is to the happiness of each of us as individuals, and if the relationship does not make one or both of us happy, our commitment to the other’s happiness gives us the opportunity to change the relationship until it does make us happy, up to and including a breakup. I’ve seen other relationships that try to hold onto the relationship at all costs, including the cost of the participants’ happiness. This is the “staying together for the kids” method, as an example.

There is no lack of commitment in my solo poly relationships. We even commit to many of the same things that other relationships commit to. It’s kind of like that atheist proverb “I contend that we are both atheists, I just lack belief in one more god than you do”. I am committed to many of the same things that other people commit to, I just don’t commit to one or more specific things that certain other people commit to, such as sexual fidelity. Solo polys can even choose to have children if they want, although I don’t.

The key to solo polyamory is the priority on independence, individuality, and autonomy. This doesn’t mean that other relationships don’t place a priority on those things. But it does mean that those things are the *defining* feature of solo poly. Not lack of commitment, not “casual” relationships, not even living alone.

We are defined by our priority on independence, individuality, and autonomy. That’s it. Everything else is variable, just like polyamory itself is about multiple loves but the details vary.

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