joreth: (Misty in Box)
(If you are seeing white text on a black background and the reverse is more comfortable, you can read the Google doc that I used for my final draft here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1jDo84msoBu74TQIW2OM4MLiILCoDIiQyzNllinU_FVg/edit?usp=sharing. The wording is identical.)

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."

"[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."
And from 10 Things I Wish I'd Know About Gaslighting2 by Shea Emma Fett:
"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."

"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."
That is the foundation of some later blog posts on whether or not hierarchy can ever be "ethical".

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."

"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."
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!"

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."3
The 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 ([livejournal.com profile] 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."1
So, 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 [livejournal.com profile] 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.

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 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.

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 [livejournal.com profile] 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."1
There 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-in-polyamorous-relationships-d13e396c8f85

2. 10 Things I Wish I’d Known About Gaslighting by Shea Emma Fett - https://medium.com/@sheaemmafett/10-things-i-wish-i-d-known-about-gaslighting-22234cb5e407

3. Relationship Rights: Can You Negotiate Them Away by Eve Rickert - www.morethantwo.com/blog/2015/01/relationship-rights-can-negotiate-away

4. Can Polyamorous Hierarchies Be Ethical? Part 2: Influence and Control by Eve Rickert - www.morethantwo.com/blog/2016/06/can-polyamorous-hierarchies-ethical-part-2-influence-control
joreth: (Super Tech)
Me: ... I even know what song I'd dance to at my wedding.

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.

Him: !!

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.



*Update*

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.
joreth: (Misty in Box)

http://the-orbit.net/brutereason/2016/08/16/selfishness-valid-response-entitlement-boundary-crossing/

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 [livejournal.com profile] 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 [livejournal.com profile] 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.
joreth: (::headdesk::)
From Tumblr:

"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.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2016/08/09/as-seen-at-the-olympics-there-is-still-a-lot-of-ignorance-about-adoption/


"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."
joreth: (Misty in Box)
www.theestablishment.co/2015/11/23/tiny-home-houses-poverty-appropriation/

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.
joreth: (Misty in Box)
I have, on occasion, offered to host "guest posts" for people I know who wanted to write something they felt was important but didn't feel like their own platform was the appropriate place for it, for whatever reason. I'm not really known as a blogger with a large audience, and LiveJournal isn't really a popular blogging platform these days, but I figure with my history of topics I can probably afford to host certain posts when others can't or would rather not.

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.

Remember that.

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.

But-but-but-

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!”

big sigh

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.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)

* I am committed to be as clear about my expectations as possible, both with myself and with my partners.

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. [livejournal.com profile] 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.

joreth: (Super Tech)
I've said it before and I'll continue to say it until the culture is changed - if girls under the legal age of majority are considered autonomous enough to choose to conceive or keep a pregnancy or raise a child, than women the same age and older are capable of making the choice not to.  With adoption, fostering, step-parenting, and the more extreme pregnancy surrogates as options, the consequences for regretting a permanent sterilization are far less disastrous than the consequences of forced motherhood or regretting childbirth.

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.
joreth: (Misty in Box)
In the course of explaining my quirks to a new partner, it gets bought to my attention just how much emotional labor I perform in my relationships, or at least how many habits I developed from performing this emotional labor and compensating for other people's inabilities to deal with their emotions in the past.

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 addict - er, I mean, aficionado. I have known a lot of people who do not know how to properly cut bread and it ends up smashed in a lump when they grip it to cut or rip it apart. Instead of light and fluffy and we now have to *chew* it instead of lightly chewing it while it also dissolves on the tongue (for those breads that are soft and do that). I can slice the softest breads and cakes with even a fairly dull knife and still retain most of the integrity of delicate pastries and breads.

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.
joreth: (Misty in Box)
The reason why people can hold such harsh views on other wrongdoers is because they can't imagine themselves in that position and needing understanding or leniency or seeing the nuance or contextual complexity of a situation.  This is the very definition of privilege. You can't see how something can possibly affect you so you're willing to excuse poor treatment of others by rationalizing that they "deserve" it.

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.



Further Comments:

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.
joreth: (Misty in Box)
I think I'm zeroing in on why I still get startled when I see people talking at my abusive ex (even though I've blocked him so I can't see his online activity). It's not that I'm upset that people still talk to him - it's more complex than that. It's more like ... I expected that person to be closer to me than to him so I project my own discomfort of him onto those people even though, in many cases, I wasn't actually close enough to that person for them to know enough about the story to choose "me over him".

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/20160211074648/http://emmfett.blogspot.com/2015/01/the-community-response-to-abuse.html) about how abusers *need* friends, but they need friends who can hold them accountable, and we need to find a path to reintegrate people back into our communities after accountability has been held. Otherwise, all we do is shove wolves out to find some other flocks to prey on (www.morethantwo.com/blog/2015/02/thoughts-community-abuse), only now they're also resentful on top of their entitlement that led them to abuse in the first place.

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-emotional-abuse/
joreth: (Bad Joreth)

https://youtu.be/XBmJay_qdNc





"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:

  1. We are all the heroes of our own stories and we can justify everything we do from within our perspectives;

  2. 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

  3. 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.

Burning it all to the ground (as I have been known to do) and leaving no room for tolerance or understanding (as a community - it's still OK for an individual to not want contact with someone or to give up on someone who harmed them) doesn't prevent people from doing bad things. This is why punitive justice systems don't work. If people come to believe that they are Bad People, for whatever reason but often because their society insisted that they were Bad, they tend to think "well, fuck it, if I'm bad, then I'm going out all the way!" There has to be room for redemption. That is actually much more effective at stopping bad things from happening and in limiting those bad things that still do happen to more manageable bad things.
joreth: (Kitty Eyes)
I'm watching a show where a divorce attorney is getting divorced and it's all his fault (and he knows it). I'm sure those of you who have seen it can guess what I'm talking about, but I'll try to keep it vague for those who haven't seen it. Anyway, he's the one who fucked up, he still loves his wife but can't stay married to her, he knows he hurt her, and he hates that he hurt her but that's the way things are.

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, [livejournal.com profile] 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...

[livejournal.com profile] 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.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
"It can be easy to forget that the other people that your partner loves and cherishes are not problems to be worked around. They're human beings who add value to your partner's life." ~ Franklin Veaux

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
joreth: (Misty Sleeping)
A- always center the impacted
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:
joreth: (Bad Computer!)
PSA: Turn your fucking phones sideways when taking video! There's a reason why, when we moved away from a mostly square screen for moving pictures, we moved towards a landscape orientation (there are several, but this is one of them).  For still photos, a portrait orientation (that's the tall, skinny frame shape) works fine with the appropriate composition because it's a static image. But for dynamic images like video, because things move horizontally more often than vertically, you need that extra space on the sides for things to move into.

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.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
www.morethantwo.com/blog/2016/06/can-polyamorous-hierarchies-ethical-part-2-influence-control

"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.
joreth: (Super Tech)
"Our bodies are special so only our (future) husbands should get to see them!"

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.
joreth: (Bad Joreth)
https://thingofthings.wordpress.com/2016/05/30/1433

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.
joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)
So, there's this thing I've seen. Well meaning people talk about and share FB memes about giving our leftover food that restaurants and businesses are going to throw away to the homeless. I want to first qualify my following rant by saying that I absolutely agree that we waste too much food and if something perfectly edible is going to be thrown away, it should instead be given to those who can't afford to purchase it. I work backstage. I watch enormous amounts of food go to waste when the hotels throw away their leftover catering and refuse to allow the stagehands and hotel workers to eat it or take it home to feed our families. So keep that in mind when I go off here for a minute.

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.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
Well, I suppose it's progress. Phone call with mom tonight included telling her about helping Richard move across the country, so she asked how I felt about him and I got to gush for a bit. Then she actually asked about Ben! To be fair, she did ask me if I was still seeing him, but she didn't automatically assume we weren't now that I'm also seeing Richard, and she even said to say hello to them for her!

I still had to remind her that I'm still dating [livejournal.com profile] 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!
joreth: (Bad Computer!)
I'm not sure that schadenfreude is *quite* the appropriate term to describe what I'm feeling now that I'm watching official Republican Party reps recognize the racism in Trump's campaign. Usually, watching cognitive dissonance and mental gymnastics reveal people's hypocrisy and make people finally recognize how their positions are wrong gives me a gleeful feeling at their discomfort and learning process.

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.
joreth: (Bad Joreth)


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.
joreth: (Misty Sleeping)
Very long and rambly post about flawed female reproductive systems and my own personal experiences with my reproductive system with lots of gory details.

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.
joreth: (Bad Computer!)
I had been posting about the Stanford rape case for a few days, and rather than fill up my blog or Twitter feed (which auto-tweets each of these blog posts as I make them) with all the posts I blew up my Facebook with, I'm going to just put them all in a single post, and I'll even put the meat of them behind a cut for the 2 of you who still read LJ like a social media feed.

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.

http://cjp.ca.gov/res/docs/appendix/complaintform%20fillable.pdf

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
joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)
In this latest installment of "real conversations I have with real people, face to face" -

Them: Well I TRIED to be progressive, but people get so angry! I just don't even want to help anymore!

Us: The only way to move forward is for the more privileged person to recognize and acknowledge that the less privileged people have a reason and a right to be angry. Once we accept that they have a right to be angry, we can stop being afraid of saying the "wrong thing" and making someone angry (because their anger is a given and is valid, even if directed at us in the moment), and then we are better able to listen to what they have to say.

Them: But when they get angry and say hateful things, it HURTS ME!

Us: I understand that and, let me take time out of my educational process here to validate your feelings because, goodness knows no one can ever hear that they're wrong about something without first soothing their ruffled feathers, but if you really want to move towards a more inclusive and tolerant society, it's on US to stop being afraid of their anger and to let them be angry.

Them: But they say such mean things!

Us: Yes, but the first step is in accepting their anger.

Them: But I can't even TALK to them because they're so angry! They need to stop being angry so we can have a calm and rational dialog!

Us: No, as the group with the more privilege, it's OUR job to let them be angry and to listen to what's BEHIND the anger.

Them: Well I can't even hear anything but the hateful angry stuff they say. *I* didn't do anything to them! I was trying to help and they just shut it all down by getting so angry!

Us: No, the people who aren't acknowledging and accepting their anger are the ones who are shutting everything down. The first step is on us, to give them the space to be angry.

Them: but... anger! My feels!

Social Justice seems to be little more than an ongoing exercise in circular arguments.

‪#‎SJW‬ ‪#‎privilege‬ ‪#‎WhiteFragility‬ ‪#‎IKnowISteppedOnYourToeAfterSomeoneElseShotYourFootButWhyYouGottaYellAtMeForIt‬?
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
It's kind of amazing how often saying "when you say 'I trust my partner but don't trust other people' it really means that you don't trust your partner" results in other people responding with "that's not true, I totally trust my partner!" and then proceed to give examples that can still be traced down to "I don't actually trust my partner". It's just that sometimes that lack of trust isn't rooted in reality.

I mean, "I totally trust my partner 100% because I absolutely know without a shadow of doubt that they would never cheat but I feel strong emotions anyway" only means that you don't actually trust your partner, you just have no *reason* to distrust your partner - you just feel that insecurity inside your head because of you.

Really, any "no, I totally trust my partner, but..." means "I don't trust my partner". If you trusted them, there is no "but". You can *mostly* trust someone, like trust them enough to get on with life and not be upset over things, but at some point, your trust runs out.

Like, I don't actually *distrust* my partners to be honest about their STI statuses, but I still want to see their paperwork because I have experience that tells me that not everyone has the same understanding of STI tests as I do (I actually had a partner who swore up and down that he got tested for "everything" even after he showed me his paperwork and was surprised a couple of years later to learn that he had never been tested for HSV, which I knew because I read his paperwork).

That means that my trust is conditional. I trust, but only up to a certain point. That point at which my lack of trust kicks in may be entirely in my head due to my own experiences and not because of anything my current partners have done to earn that lack of trust. But I'm owning that this is where my trust for my partners stops. Trust can be gradient and can apply unevenly to different circumstances.

"I trust my partner but..." means you don't trust them, at least not about that thing or after a certain point. But the number of people who, upon hearing that, respond with "that's not true!" and then proceed to list exactly the point that they don't, in fact, trust their partners, is kind of amazing.



*inspired by this post: I Trust My Girlfriend. I Just Don't Trust Other Guys.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
In my effort to eliminate the use of the word "hierarchy" from my discussions about hierarchy, to prevent the usual derailments of people confusing empowerment with priority, I think I'll try on the word "authority" for size.

"I don't do hierarchical" = "I don't do authoritative where one of my partners has more authority over another of my partners."

"Hierarchy is bad, m'kay?" = "Authoritative is bad, m'kay? It disempowers / disenfranchises / disrespects autonomy & agency."

"Why do you need a hierarchy to maintain your priorities?" = "Why do you need to assign authority of one over another to maintain *your* priorities?"

I need to make a page somewhere that I can find and reference for all the alternative terms that I am trying to use. I replaced primary/secondary with core/satellite. And I made a post like this a while ago but fuck if I can remember when or what terms I used to search for it!

Oh! I think it was replacing "needs" with "niche", as in instead of "he meets my needs", "he is in this niche". I've also used the word "permission", as in, "permission-based relationships". It strikes me as bizarre how many people don't mind the infantilizing implications associated with needing "permission" from a partner. But I think that's a cultural thing - we're so indoctrinated with the idea of giving up our autonomy to a relationship or a partner that all manner of disempowering, and frankly abusive, traits in a relationship are seen as acceptable.

But, then again, that's how "hierarchical" got established in the first place. No one saw any problem with the assumption that "of course the spouse comes first!"
joreth: (Misty in Box)
One of my pet peeves is when people straighten something and then laugh and say "OMG I'm so OCD!"  No, you're not.  OCD is not about liking things tidy.  Yes, some people with OCD do express it in ways that include straightening things like crooked pictures or their table settings, but that's not what OCD is.  Look at the letters - OCD is about having intrusive thoughts that you obsess over, and then having compulsive behaviour that you literally cannot stop yourself from doing no matter what.  What makes it OCD is that last letter - D for Disorder.
A psychological disorder is a deviant, distressful, and dysfunctional pattern of thoughts, feelings, or behaviours that interferes with the ability to function in a healthy way.
Let me repeat that:  distressful; dysfunctional; interferes with.

When I was a child, we used to laugh at and tease my dad because he couldn't leave the house without checking that the stove was off and then asking all of us if we checked to make sure the stove was off.  Then, as he drove away from the house, he had to have everyone verify for him that the garage door was closed.  If he couldn't get verification of these things, he would sometimes even drive all the way back to make sure.  We all treated it like some kind of quirk, something worth making fun of.  Dad seemed to take our teasing in good humor, but that may be a survival trait he picked up from his own family growing up.  His family is ruthless about teasing each other.  As much as I loved hanging out with my fun-loving uncles, growing up for me was also torturous because I couldn't escape the harsh insults and criticisms from people who seemed to have a magical laser-like ability to find exactly those insults that would hurt me the most.  So when my sister and mother and I would roll our eyes and say "geez, Dad!" or "there he goes again!", it was probably pretty mild by comparison and something he was able to laugh about himself.

In college, I took my first broadcast class with a teacher who had OCD bad enough that he was, at one time, institutionalized for it.  On the first day of class, he showed us a video he had made called The Touching Tree.  He showed us this video for 2 reasons:  1) it was an example of the kinds of things he would be teaching in his course - composition, lighting, camera movements, editing, etc. and 2) it explained what having him for a teacher all semester would be like.  Watching this video I finally put a label to my father - OCD.  I had no idea that his silly quirk about the stove or the garage door or needing to check all the windows at night or not being able to sleep without a fan running or needing to have a bowl of ice cream before he could sleep or of microwaving his food even if it came right off the stove were all symptoms of a mild form of OCD.  I also had no idea that some of the intrusive thoughts and odd behaviours that I had were also OCD.

Many years after identifying that I probably had some form of OCD, I discovered another thing that explained why my OCD isn't quite the same as either my dad's or my former teacher's versions and not in ways that were accommodated for in the natural variance of expression of the disorder - I discovered that anorexia actually could *cause* OCD.  My own condition wasn't isolated as an anxiety disorder on its own, but a *symptom* of some other disorder!  So there are some specific things about me that don't *quite* line up with classic OCD.  But there are lots of things that do.

For instance, one of the expressions of OCD is getting stuck in a counting loop.  Right now, go ahead and count to yourself from 1 to 10.  If you don't have OCD, you probably just counted 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.  If you do have OCD, there's a good chance that your counting sounded more like this:  1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5...  Imagine if you had a simple task like counting inventory.  Now imagine reaching a particular number, and then thinking to yourself "wait a minute, did I skip a number?  I might have skipped one.  I did skip a number.  I better start over to make sure I didn't skip a number," and having that thought intrude repeatedly while you are trying to count so that you never finish counting.  Imagine not being able to silence that voice and not being able to stop yourself from starting over, even though you KNOW that you didn't skip a number and that this is holding you up from your job.

My version of that is songs.  In fact, while writing that paragraph about counting, in my head I now have the counting song from Sesame Street stuck in my head, but only the chorus.  I constantly have a song playing in my head.  Most people are familiar with earworms.  But what if you have never in your entire life NOT had a song stuck in your head?  And what if it's not the whole song, but one verse stuck on repeat, like a scratched record, and it's playing for hours, sometimes days?  As the song lyric is playing in my head, I'm having parallel thoughts that go like this:  "did I sing that too fast?  Thoughts travel faster than verbal sounds, I might have played that part too fast.  Yep, the tempo is too fast, if I try to sing it out loud, I'm singing faster than the song in my head.  I need to start over.  Did I faithfully recreate the entire song with all the instruments and harmonies or did I just play the lead vocals?  I'm sure I forgot the guitar in there.  I better start over.  Oops, I'm going too fast again, I better start over..."  This is why I'm always wearing headphones, or at least why I try to always have them with me.  I can drown out this broken record player with other music (and it has to be some other song, not the same song).

Sometimes, it's not a song lyric, but a spoken sentence.  If you ever watch a movie with me or listen to a podcast with me, watch my hands.  I will often tap out the rhythm of the last sentence I just heard and I'll tap it out over and over again until some other sentence or phrase catches my attention.  Sometimes I'll mouth the sentence myself just after they did, and I might silently whisper it several times.  This is an outward expression of the same loop in my head and that sentence or phrase will be repeating long after I've managed to still the tapping or whispering.

OCD is expressed in a lot of different ways, so even though it's popular to think of it as neatening up things or washing hands, that's only scratching the surface of ways that someone can have disruptive, intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviours.  Something that I didn't know until I talked with my teacher that first night of class is that people think that germaphobes are neat freaks but sometimes they are incredibly dirty.  It sounds counter-intuitive, but think about it - if you are *afraid* of germs, you might be too afraid to actually clean a surface where you think the germs are living.  That might get you too close to the germs.  So someone with the germaphobic expression of OCD might actually live in filth and squalor because they are too afraid of germs to clean their house.

So, you see, OCD doesn't mean simply that you like things in order.  It doesn't just mean that you like even numbers.  It doesn't only mean that you straighten crooked picture frames or place your books and DVDs all in order.  Does the thought of those things being out of order intrude on your ability to do anything else?  Are you helpless to move onto the next task until the straightening is done?  Do you repeatedly go back and check to make sure you really did straighten it correctly?  Do you know that you're acting irrationally and do you feel a sense of self-loathing that you can't control this straightening behaviour?  Then you might actually have OCD.  But just liking things straight and orderly, even if it will "bug you until you fix it" is not OCD.

My OCD is very light because my anorexia is very light.  I've only had it get out of control twice in my life and both were under extreme duress (which is actually kinda the definition of anorexia - when I feel that my life is out of my control, I seize control over the one thing I know I can control, my diet).  Most of the time, my OCD interferes with my life but in a manageable sort of way.  I'm fortunate, I have found some tricks that work just well enough that people think I'm merely quirky, like my dad, instead of actually making it hard to hold down a job or maintain social ties.  But those intrusive thoughts are still there, always running in the background.  It's a constant struggle to drown them out or channel them into helpful ways.  The compulsive behaviour is always there, interfering with my daily life.  It's a constant struggle to contain them to unnoticeable blocks of time or movements too small to notice.  If your interest in straight lines isn't something you fight with in order to be productive and prevent people from thinking you're weird, then it's probably not OCD, you just like things straight, which a lot of people do.

If you take away only one thing from this, take this:  OCD and other anxiety disorders are not about willpower or preferences.  This is not something that you can just stop if you try hard enough.  By definition, a compulsion is something that you cannot stop, at least not without help.  I didn't eat for a year and I used to do 500 crunches every night before bed, so trust me when I say that I have plenty of willpower.  And yet, I can't stop doing certain other things.  That's because these things don't fall under the category of "willpower".  Willpower doesn't touch these things.  And logicking or rationalizing them doesn't make them go away either.  Most people with OCD are very well aware that they are doing fucked up shit.  We are aware that it's not rational, that our brains are lying to us, and that other people don't do these things.  That's part of the problem - we know the truth but we can't stop anyway.  IT HAS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH WILLPOWER.  I can't stress that enough.  This is not something that a person can just change if you explain how ridiculous they're being.  This is not a character flaw.  This is not a sign of weakness or laziness or lack of trying.  This is a mis-wiring of the brain that mere "willpower" or "strong character" can even touch let alone fix, anymore than having trouble walking on a broken ankle is about "willpower" or having a "strong character".  It's fucking broken, we know it's broken, and it will take outside intervention to correct it and even then it may never be as good as an ankle that was never broken.

Here are some videos that explain OCD.  If you have ever straightened something up and then said to the person next to you "oh, it's just my OCD", then you need to watch these, at least the shorter ones.  And if you only watch one, watch the first one called OCD & Anxiety Disorders: Crash Course Psychology #29.  I'll include near the end the trailer for the video that my old broadcast teacher made, because the whole video is about 40 minutes long but if you have the time to watch the whole thing, I recommend it.  I'll post the whole video just after the trailer.



OCD & Anxiety Disorders: Crash Course Phsychology #29:





Debunking The Myths About OCD (TED-ed):





This Is What It's Like To Be In My Head For 3 Minutes:





A video about OCD:





Preview Of The Touching Tree by James Callner:





The Touching Tree (the full movie) by James Callner:


This movie was my introduction to OCD and it's how I learned that my dad likely has it because I recognized him in the main character.  The teacher in this film is actually *my* first film teacher.  And I don't mean that my teacher was like the film teacher, I mean that the actor who played the teacher was my professor in college.  He showed us this film both as an illustration for the sorts of things we would be learning in class and also to introduce us to his condition so that we would understand what it meant to interact with him.






Just because you like things neat and tidy, it doesn't mean you have OCD, but there is a slight possibility (2%-8% of the population) that you have something called OCPD - Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder. Now, this is really confusing because the names are so similar and even the symptoms seem similar. But OCPD is characterized by a general pattern of concern with orderliness, perfectionism, excessive attention to details, mental and interpersonal control, and a need for control over one's environment, at the expense of flexibility, openness, and efficiency. People with OCPD do not generally feel the need to repeatedly perform ritualistic actions - a common symptom of OCD - and usually find pleasure in perfecting a task, whereas people with OCD are often more distressed after their actions.

According to Wikipedia: "Unlike OCPD, OCD is described as invasive, stressful, time-consuming obsessions and habits aimed at reducing the obsession related stress. OCD symptoms are at times regarded as ego-dystonic because they are experienced as alien and repulsive to the person. Therefore, there is a greater mental anxiety associated with OCD. In contrast, the symptoms seen in OCPD, though they are repetitive, are not linked with repulsive thoughts, images, or urges. OCPD characteristics and behaviors are known as ego-syntonic, as persons with the disorder view them as suitable and correct. On the other hand, the main features of perfectionism and inflexibility can result in considerable suffering in an individual with OCPD as a result of the associated need for control."

Anorexics are extremely likely to have either OCD or OCPD - or both! I likely am one of those anorexics that has both, as I have the distressful intrusive obsessive thoughts like patterns and loops of OCD as well as the satisfying feeling of lists and organization and the rigidity and inflexibility (my mother would say "stubbornness") associated with OCPD.

More about OCPD at Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obsessive%E2%80%93compulsive_personality_disorder and more about OCD at Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obsessive%E2%80%93compulsive_disorder
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
"But what if two of your partners have an emergency at the same time?! Polyamory can't work! You have to have a hierarchy or else anarchy reigns and everyone loses!"

A few days ago, my great aunt, who has leukemia, slipped and broke her hip. My dad, who is retired and spent 2 months last year out of town to care for her when the cancer got really bad and she was hospitalized, went down again to care for her with this latest emergency.

Today, my mom tripped and broke her ankle while my dad was out of town.

My parents are not poly. Yet they also have to answer tough questions like what happens when two loved ones have emergencies at the same time. Who should my dad choose - his wife or his ailing aunt with whom he has previously set a precedent for being her caretaker?

This is a rhetorical question, of course, because the answer isn't anyone else's business. The answer is between these three people, their specific needs, and the agreements that they all come to after all relevant parties discuss it because no one could have anticipated this exact set of circumstances.

Kinda like polyamory.

We already have these scripts. We already have these skills. We already have to face these kinds of challenges. Ethical and compassionate relating doesn't change just because there is sex involved.

‪#‎ThereIsNotMuchAboutPolyamoryThatIsSpecificToPolyamory‬ ‪#‎PolyLessonsILearnFromMyMonogamousFamily‬ ‪#‎PolyPeopleTryToReinventTheWheel‬
joreth: (Super Tech)
Some article somewhere recommended that if I liked some TV show that I do happen to like (and I forget which one), I ought to check out Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries from Australia. Then, after I watched a mini-series about an all-black jazz band in England during the 1920s, Netflix also recommended that I check out several other "historical" epic movies and TV shows, and included among them was Miss Fisher. So I did. And I'm loving it so far.

The article billed the show as a "feminist Sherlock Holmes" whose intelligence and civilian meddling solved crimes and who liked music, partying, breaking social norms, liquor, and sex, especially without monogamy. How could I not be interested in that?

In addition, as I learned from the first handful of episodes, she has no interest in religion (although they have not established whether she actually believes in anything supernatural, her lack of religiosity is established through snarky throwaway comments she makes here and there without focusing on her beliefs), strongly dislikes being around children (although will tolerate and even love certain specific children), is intentionally unmarried and plans to remain so, and also has sympathies for the working class (she is titled) and the alternatively gendered / oriented.

Episodes start right out of the gate tackling issues of abortion, Communism, rape, poverty, class warfare, religious corruption, drug addiction, homosexuality, and sexual freedom.

I wouldn't call her a "lady Sherlock Holmes", because he was a narcissistic, addicted genius who had little to no connection or empathy with other people. Miss Fisher is not a genius, she's just really smart and well educated. She's not narcissistic although she is confident and moves through life expecting things to go her way and people to listen to her. She very strongly connects with and has empathy for other people and that's what keeps drawing her into the various cases she gets entangled with.

The other characters at first seem to fall into certain tropes, such as the naive young constable who assists the more jaded and older detective, and the very naive and "pure" companion to Miss Fisher, along with her unflappable butler and her gritty working class henchmen, but over the course of the first season, those characters turn out to have their own depths of character and they grow along with their experiences. In particular, I really like how the lady's companion character is young, sweet, and almost annoyingly innocent yet turns out to be feminine and proper and also clever and courageous in her own way. She repeatedly steps up to the plate with her quick thinking and bravery at each new challenge without really losing that very prim and proper demeanor that characterized her in the first place.

The show is an episodic series of murder mysteries involving a police detective who is pretty good at his job and a civilian with some skills who keeps butting in and solving crimes with unorthodox methods that exacerbates the local law enforcement who are bound by the same law they are trying to uphold whereas she has no qualms about breaking the law for the greater good. That plot may get a bit formulaic, but it's a formula that I happen to enjoy so it isn't interfering with my enjoyment of the show.

It is also well produced, well acted, and the wardrobe is a-mazing! I have all kinds of costuming ideas now because of this show. It lasted for 3 seasons and there is interest in continuing the series but nothing scheduled so far primarily because of the lead actor's schedule, I believe.

So, if anyone is interested in a female-led TV series with complex and nuanced characters and that doesn't apologize for the women having sex, having multiple partners, choosing their partners deliberately, disdaining religion, being in control of their own lives and bodies, being intelligent, and concerning themselves with social justice issues, based on a book written by a woman and produced by two women, you might want to check out Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, available on Netflix in the US, not sure about elsewhere.

"But Phryne [Miss Fisher] is a hero, just like James Bond or the Saint, but with fewer product endorsements and a better class of lovers. I decided to try a female hero and made her as free as a male hero, to see what she would do." ~ Kerry Greenwood (author)
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
There are some assumptions that the poly community makes that I think bely some faulty premises. I have spoken out in the past against the assumption that we all "need rules" at the beginning of poly relationships just until we somehow magically learn how to be ethical people while practicing being unethical. I have written recently how I wish I had the power to strike certain words entirely from our cultural lexicon like "hierarchy" because it allows people to mask some assumptions that I think are harmful behind the confusion of using a word to mean two very different concepts (priority vs. power) and I want to force people to have to spell out their intentions rather than using this Motte & Bailey Doctrine of hiding their disempowerment of partners behind more reasonable "priority" lip service. I have written even more recently about wishing that I could get everyone to stop talking about polyamory as a source of "getting needs met" because it reinforces the idea of people as need fulfillment machines. And I have another blog post brewing wherein I will be railing against the very existence of the word "jealousy". In other words, I have opinions on certain things that people in the poly community say that I wish they'd stop saying.

This time, however, I am not making the argument that people should stop saying something, although I *can* make that argument in this case too. This time, I just want to talk about something that *I* do that I wish had more representation because that lack of representation is leading to some assumptions that I think are making it harder for people to be ethical - they're struggling upstream.

In the poly community, there is an idea that is taken for granted. We see it in many forms: "No single person can be *everything* to someone"; "Sure, a good steak dinner might be your favorite meal, but you can't live on the same food for every meal - people need variety!"; "I love my partner, but I'm kinky / a dancer / into sport stamp collecting and my partner isn't so I have other people in my life who share these things with me"; "I get to explore different parts of myself with different people"; etc.

I'm not saying that these things are *necessarily*, *inherently* bad, not like how I say hierarchy is fundamentally disempowering at its core so that even if people manage to somehow find a way to engage in hierarchy "ethically", the very structure of hierarchy is unethical. But, to me, all these things are *consequences* of relationships, not causes. When they become causes, that's when people turn into need fulfillment machines. When "I like variety" becomes "I need variety, therefore I will seek out someone who is different from my existing partners to fulfill my desire for variety", that's treating people as things. But when "I like variety" comes *from* "hey, I like you, and you happen to be different from the other person I like in this way, this variety thing is kinda neat!", that's a *consequence* and the partners are not need fulfillment machines or things.

Language is an interesting thing. It turns out, that the words we use and the order in which we use them can affect how we think. There are some fascinating linguistic studies of various cultures (particularly tribal cultures) where the group doesn't have words for certain things and therefore can't even conceive of the broader concept for it, or where the order of the words affects how they perceive time itself, really complicated shit like that which I don't have sources to cite at my fingertips but it's fascinating. This is why I am so particular about the use of words and phrases like the hiearchical terminology - we may *say* that we "love" all our partners and that the ranking terms only mean things like who lives with us, but research suggests that our deep seated beliefs and actions are more affected by the words we use than we might realize even up to and including an inability to see that we can't understand a concept. This is why I'm so adamant about the "I don't believe in labels" argument. Language is probably our most powerful tool and most powerful weapon. Even our actual weapons are conceived of, built, and shared using languages.

When I hear things like the above phrases, one of the implications I hear in them is the subtext that our partners are "not enough". That's one of the biggest insecurities that poly people face - that we are not good enough, deserving enough, that our partners won't love us enough. On the one hand, there is a certain amount of freedom and security that comes with truly accepting that no single person can be "enough" for anyone so we can let go of that expectation either to put on ourselves or to impose on others and that we all, mono people included, have multiple intimate connections in our lives that fulfill different roles. But, on the other hand, there is also a certain amount of danger that we are seeking other partners because our current partner isn't "enough" which further implies that there is something *wrong* with them or the relationship, and I'm not even going to touch the issue that needs aren't usually transitive in this piece.

I know, I know, people are going to get defensive at that and rush to tell me how much not-wrong their partners are even though they say those phrases. Refer to my first two paragraphs above and save the defenses. I *know* there are plenty of people who do not use their partners as need fulfillment machines and I *know* there are plenty of people who do not see their relationships as lacking anything while they are simultaneously open to other relationships. I would like to see more of the people like me in this regard represent this perspective in the poly community so that these phrases are not just a given. People say things like "humans like variety" as if we all understand this is a big-t Truth. The language that we use is important. I have been changing my language over time to reflect exactly this problem with assumptions and flawed premises that underlie certain phrases that we use.

When asked "why are you interested in people outside of your relationship?", instead of responding things like "because I like variety" or "because no one can be someone's everything!", I see my relationships differently. I am interested in other people because people are interesting. There is absolutely nothing wrong or lacking with any of my relationships. They are the way they are because of the people in them. Yes, they are different in some respects from each other, but I am not *seeking out* people who are different in order to fill a raiding team in a role playing game (although I will sometimes joke about my extended poly network being a zombie apocalypse survival team). The relationships are different and encompass different things because the people in them are individuals and I *see* them as individuals, therefore their differences and the different aspects of myself that come out when I relate to them are reflected in the different dynamics of each relationship. Do you see what I mean? It's a *consequence*, not a motivating cause.

If, for whatever reason, I was only with one of my partners, that relationship is whole and complete all by itself. No, not all my partners are kinky. No, not all my partners are dancers. No, not all my partners are local. No, not all my partners are anything other than cismale, which is still a consequence of me being hetero (although that hasn't historically always been the case). But I didn't seek any of them out because the others weren't kinky or dancers or local or whatever. I met people and some of them turned out to be that specific kind of awesome that made me have romantic feelings for them. As a *consequence* of having the freedom to explore those feelings, I happen to have some partners who are kinky, some who are local, some who are learning how to dance, some who share my tastes in movies, some who share my taste in activism, etc., etc. As a *consquence* of having the freedom to explore those mutual feelings, I have learned different things about myself, I get to express different facets of myself, and I get to have "sexual variety", which makes my life richer and more complex than when I can only explore romantic feelings for people serially.

Yes, it happens to be true that no single person can fulfill every single role in someone's life - no one person can be parent, sibling, child, mentor, student, lover, partner, therapist, co-parent, boss, subordinate, platonic friend, Dom, sub, puppy, daddy, cousin, grocer, blah blah blah. But I don't need polyamory to solve that. Monogamous people also manage to have romantic partners while also having parents, siblings, friends, therapists, bowling teams, hiking buddies, or whatever else. Swinging is one of many options to have that sexual variety that people seem to crave. And yes, as I mentioned in a previous post, sometimes it is even appropriate to seek someone out specifically to fulfill a particular role, such as competition dance partner.

But I would like to see more poly people who are recognized for not seeing their partners as a lobster dinner to keep from being bored to death with steak every night (because, really, there aren't very many people out there who take "if I couldn't date other people, you'd bore me eventually" as a compliment). I would like to see more poly people talk about their relationships being fulfilling in their own right rather than filling holes in some other relationship. I would like to see more representation for this way of looking at people and relationships so that the rest of the community, especially the newbies, don't take those assumptions for granted, as if "I like variety" was the *reason* why everyone is poly, rather than "variety" being one happy consequence of being poly.

I am not interested in other people because my current partners are lacking something or not fulfilling some "need" or because it's "boring" to be with the same person every day for the rest of my life. I am interested in other people because people are interesting. And I wish more people talked about polyamory or answered that question like that, as if *that* were a given.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
And, if those two workshops weren't enough, in just 2 weeks from now I will be on a panel with Billy Holder and Tikva Wolf of Kimchi Cuddles and others to talk about poly in the media!
If you have any interest at all in polyamory in either news media or popular media & entertainment, you seriously don't want to miss this panel! Saturday afternoon at Atlanta Poly Weekend 2016, come out and see us!

PLUS!!! Sterling Bates will be back once again at APW to discuss how to use personality type systems to improve your relationship communication! This workshop fills up every time he gives it, and he also improves it every time as new research brings even more helpful ways of understanding ourselves and our partners and metamours. I've never missed one of his personality workshops and I learn something new every time.
He will be presenting FIRST THING on Saturday morning! Again, make sure you get your weekend or Saturday passes and check in EARLY so that you don't miss out!

Visit www.AtlantaPolyWeekend.com for the full schedule of all the awesome presentations and workshops next weekend!
joreth: (Super Tech)
Also in 2 weeks, I will be giving a presentation on how to give a presentation at Atlanta Poly Weekend 2016! Present Like A Boss - this class is for everyone - experienced presenters and never-before-presented newbies! I will teach the different kinds of presentation styles that you can choose from (there's no One Right Way!) and how to choose one, how to build confidence and professionalism, and even the most effective use of your PowerPoint slideshow! There will be a handout. You can use the tips and tricks of the absolute best public speakers to add professionalism and polish to any public speaking endeavor, from business team meetings to poly conferences to TED talks. You might not want to be Tony Robbins, but you can learn a few things from his success no matter what level of public speaking you do.

I will also be teaching little-known tricks that almost no one ever thinks about that will make your presentation look the most professional you can look. How? Because I work in the public speaking industry for a living - yes, it's an industry - and I know all the backstage secrets from how Steve Jobs got to be so awesome at what he does to PowerPoint expertise to the reasons that technology does the things that *it* does and how to exploit it to your advantage.

If you have never presented before, or are new to presenting, and are interested in joining the ranks of poly or alt-sex/relationship educators, this class will help you start right out with a polished stage presence to get your message across to your audience. If you are an experienced presenter, you *will* learn at least one thing about public speaking that you did not know before that can help you step up your own presentations.

Polyamory and other alt-sex / alt-relationship things are getting more and more attention, so we are needing more and more people in the communities to be able to explain and explore these ideas, both within the communities and without. Conferences are expanding and there are requests for a wider variety of topics to discuss and a wider range of speakers to represent the population. People outside the communities are learning about us and asking for more representatives to explain what we do. More and more of us are finding ourselves in positions of authority or educator on these subjects and we can benefit our communities better by giving more effective presentations, lectures, and workshops.

This workshop is on Saturday morning, so get your weekend or Saturday passes and check in early to make sure you don't miss it!
joreth: (Swing Dance)
In just 2 short weeks, Sterling and I will be bringing back our Lead & Follow Communication workshop to Atlanta Poly Weekend! It's the first workshop on the schedule, so you have to get there early!

In this workshop, we will teach you exercises to practice at home with your partners that will improve your ability to:

1) be aware of the physical and emotional space that you take up and how that affects those around you;
2) be conscious and considerate of your actions with your partner and how they affect people outside of the two of you;
3) how to better navigate metamour relations and juggling the emotional considerations of multiple partners while still allowing time to focus on one person at a time (i.e. it's not all everyone together all the time or compartmentalize everyone always);
4) how to get better attuned to recognizing nonverbal communication and expressions
5) how to get more comfortable asking for consent;
6) how to get more comfortable giving clear, verbal, affirmative consent;
7) how to become more comfortable giving clear, verbal rejection to your partner and to potential partners kindly;
8) how to hear a rejection and learn how to not take it personally or to accept it and move on more easily.

These are techniques learned over time in the dance community, but we will be teaching them to you without any dance experience required. In fact, we will not be teaching any dancing at all so you do not need to be good at dancing or even interested in dancing to attend! But we will be having fun with music and movement, so if dancing *is* your thing, whether experienced or not, you will have a good time! If you *are* an experienced partner dancer and are already familiar with leading & following, you may still enjoy learning how we put these skills together with relationship communication.

You do not need to come with a partner for this workshop. You can learn these skills on your own and apply them to your relationships later. You will also receive a handout to help you remember and practice the exercises at home so you can teach your partners on your own time.

I hope to see everyone there!
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.
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: (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: (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!)
Jesus fuck people, get this through your goddamn tiny little minds. Men still can't use the motherfucking women's room in Target. The women's room is still just for women. Some women just happen to not have been born with vaginas and they're sick of being beaten to death for using the bloody men's room.

YOUR DAUGHTERS ARE NOT IN DANGER FROM TRANS WOMEN. They're in danger of being assaulted if they don't look sufficiently "feminine" enough according to someone's arbitrary standards of femininity. They're in danger of men who never needed to stroll into a women's bathroom to assault them. They're in danger of law enforcement and friends and family policing their fucking bathrooms in fear of some mythical man waiting to assault them but who don't believe them when they talk about the times they were actually assaulted.

They're in danger of athletes and students assaulting them right out in public with an audience at college parties in full view of cell phone cameras. They're in danger of dying in childbirth now that abortions are illegal again, and hard to obtain even where they're still technically legal. They're in danger of being trapped for years in abusive relationships because there aren't enough resources to help them escape.

Where was all your goddamn outrage on behalf of the safety of women when Cosby or R. Kelly or Woody Allen or Roman Polanski or Josh Duggar or all the athletes and "good students" with "promising futures" or uber drivers assaulted women and young girls? I couldn't see it behind your protestations of "innocent until proven guilty" and admonishments that if women didn't want to get raped they shouldn't wear the wrong thing or look the wrong way or go basically anywhere (but of course, if they do those things, they'll just get yelled at for not being attractive or available *enough*). I couldn't find your outrage on our behalf when we talk about the real threat and you told us that you "never see it" therefore it couldn't be as bad as we say, or that "not all men" therefore we should just "relax" and stop painting "all men" with the same brush. Ironic, now that you think "men" are allowed in women's bathrooms you say that "men" are going to start following women into said bathrooms in droves to assault them. Which is it, are men a danger to women or "not all men"?

Stop using my safety to fuel your faux outrage. You didn't give a shit about my safety until it conveniently lined up with your own personal disgust and confusion over other people's genitals not matching the dress code assigned to them. I do not give you permission to use me to justify your unhealthy obsession of other people's bodies. What the fuck is wrong with you that you are so fucking interested in everyone's genitals?

If you're actually that concerned for my safety, then fucking listen to me when I tell you what makes me feel unsafe - transportation drivers who don't go through background checks; bigots walking around with assault rifles; young white men walking alone into a school or theater; fraternities; my primary source of health care closing all over the country; white cismen on the internet; the economy; drunk men in nightclubs; other drivers; angry ex-boyfriends; chivalry; overprotective men trying to control my environment "for my own good". These are the things that make me unsafe.

I'm more at risk of catching some kind of illness from bacteria in a public restroom than I am of being assaulted by a "man in a dress".
joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)
I know this is a complex concept to grasp, requiring a Ph.D level of education and all, but I'm gonna try to explain it in simple terms anyway: It is possible to give a shit about more than one political or social or civil rights issue at a time, even if one is speaking about only one issue at the moment.

It is possible to care about the militarization of our local law enforcement AND people dying of famine in other countries.

It is possible to care about refugees from war-torn nations AND our own veterans not getting adequate post-war care.

It is possible to care about black people being murdered for petty or no crimes AND about the safety of our police officers on the job.

It is possible to care about the harassment, assault, and rape of non-men in our culture and how our politicians enforce and legitimize it with their completely fallacious laws AND about aggressive nations grandstanding and waving their dicks at us or other countries.

It's possible to care about the words and pictures written on government objects like money and buildings AND about our children's education.

It is possible to care about celebrities - who they're marrying, what they're wearing, which ones are dying - AND about the economy.

It is possible to care about street harassment in the US AND genital mutilation / acid attacks / women being stoned to death in other countries.

It is possible to care about and invest in the latest movies / sporting events / books / TV shows to come out AND about cancer.

If you are tempted to tell people that they should stop caring about something they do care about because you think that it's both frivolous and interfering with their ability to care about something you think is important, I'm gonna throw your advice right back at you and tell you to stop wasting your time complaining about what other people care about and get off your ass and actually DO something about those issues YOU think are so important because being concerned with other people's interests is, apparently, interfering with your own ability to care about the important things.

While you're busy whining on social media about how people aren't paying attention to whatever pet issue has your ire up, what you're NOT doing is raising money for that issue, or writing to your elected officials about that issue, or getting a science degree to solve that issue, or putting your life on the line to fix that issue.

By all means, post about the issues you think are important to get people to pay attention to them. Be upset about your issues not getting enough attention. Just don't mistake other people's interest in something that you *don't* care about as an inability to care about other things. It could be that YOU are the one lacking in the information or education or perspective to understand why THEIR topic is also important.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
I have a problem with Relationship Anarchy. I'll preface this by clarifying that it's not a problem with RAs themselves, or even the basic philosophy. My problem is that everything that defines RA are the reasons why I got into polyamory in the first place and it irritates me that so many of us feel the need to create a separate space for it.

When I got into polyamory in the late '90s, I was told about this new thing called "polyamory". I was told about it because I was trying to explain to a date why I could never be his "girlfriend". I was trying to explain how I needed the freedom to explore relationships as they happened, organically, and to take them where the relationship itself wanted to go naturally. I reiterated my standard bit about non-traditional gender roles and how I absolutely could not play "the girl" in a relationship and that was non-negotiable.  I said that I had some platonic friends who meant more to me and were a part of my life longer and more significantly than any romantic relationship I had ever had. I talked about how difficult it was for me to label various people because they don't quite fit the existing labels since some "friends" were sexual and some weren't, and some romantic partners weren't sexual and some sexual partners were lower priority than some non-sexual relationships, etc. I mentioned that I was very independent and not terribly a fan of cohabiting and was definitely not interested in marriage or having kids. I said all these things to "let him down gently" so that he wouldn't expect a monoheteronormative relationships out of me (although I didn't know that word back then). He said "I know what your problem is - you're polyamorous!"

So I looked it up. Everywhere I looked, hideous Geocities websites and forums with infantile UIs all said the same thing - freedom, independence, naturally occurring relationships, fluidity in relationships, valuing different kinds of relationships for what they are instead of forcing them to all look the same - everything I was looking for and everything that, years later, people started calling "relationship anarchy".

Except the labels thing. I differ from many RAs on the importance of labels. And back then, the poly community was as divided on labels as it is now with one side coming up with all kinds of useful (and some not so useful) terms faster than we could adopt them and the other side eschewing "all labels" because they couldn't be "penned in". I think it's naive to take the position "I don't use labels" because we clearly use labels all the time. This entire sentence is made up of labels. I labeled that string of symbols and grouped them together into an identifiable set and called it a thing that everyone reading this can understand even if they all have a slightly different understanding of what that thing actually means. It's called "language" and it's how we communicate. Labels are important for a variety of reasons, but that's a whole other rant and I don't want to digress here (or in my comments) about it. Point is, I do use labels descriptively, I am emphatically anti-prescriptive labels, and I've been having this same argument about labels with the poly folk since I joined the communities back in the last century.

So, the reason why I have a problem with RA is because, based on my introduction to polyamory back when it was still fairly new, polyamory IS relationship anarchy. My experience with the community says that this whole couple privilege thing, this whole closed triad thing, this whole relationship escalator thing, this whole ranking of relationships based on the categories and usually involving the type of sexuality involved, this whole valuing the Primary above all others - my experience says all that was added to polyamory after the fact and that those people came into what I had started to feel was "my space" and started fucking things up for the rest of us. Maybe, technically, it wasn't "added" after the fact, because it depends on which specific local community one got involved with back in the beginning, but based on my introduction, those couple-based concepts as *defining* poly elements came later. Back when I joined, people may have held those concepts but polyamory itself was much looser, much simpler - it just meant "many loves" and required being ethical about it. That's it. That left a lot of room for a variety of expressions of polyamory and it didn't automatically associate the term "poly" with all that other bullshit that is essentially mainstream monogamy with "permission to cheat" or as essentially religious polygamy minus the religion (or, rather, substituting one patriarchal religion for a goddess-worshiping religion which is technically not patriarchal but I could argue is still misogynistic because it's still objectifying, but that's yet another digression that I don't want to get into here).

I have a problem with RA because I feel like we already HAD a community for exactly that, but couples with their hierarchies invaded, took it over, and pushed everyone else who is like me out. Not that there wasn't room in polyamory for a variety of ways to practice it - back then we did have terms for the spectrum with "family-oriented" at one end and "free agent" at the other. So I'm not even saying that polyamory must be a term to describe exactly what I'm doing and no one else who is doing similar but not the same gets to use the label. There was room for most of us in the community, back then. I'm saying that the couples with their fucking rules and fucking fears and fucking disrespect and fucking disempowerment got so numerous and so loud that they tainted the community to the point that people on the other end of the spectrum felt that it was better to just break off and create their own communities rather than stick around and improve the existing community - a possibly futile exercise.

Not everyone left, of course. Some of them identify as both RA and poly and are trying to drag these couples out of the toxic, abusive programming they've had from mainstream society and into the whole reason why we all came looking for something like polyamory in the first place. And some of us are sticking around and not identifying as RA (even though one could say that I technically am RA, I just don't use it as an identifying label) because we still believe that this is what polyamory *is* and we're still trying to keep those couples from destroying our cultural history altogether by being the only ones left (history is written by the victors, as they say).

So Relationship Anarchy bugs me, not because of the people who choose the label or because of the definition of that label, but because the label reminds me every time I see it that we already HAD a space carved out for us but people with their toxic bullshit came in and filled it with their abusive practices and self-defenses so much that many "free agent" type veterans left in disgust and new people see only These Couples when they look at the community and if they're not like Those Couples, they decide that this community isn't for them so they wander off to find something that fits better.

RA bugs me because I am resentful of what people have done to the poly community that I first joined which resulted in the sorts of people I came here to find splintering off to form, basically, the same community that we started out with only without attracting Those Couples because it costs  too much to deal with their insistence of trying something fundamentally in opposition to mainstream society while using all the same mainstream tools.

It kinda reminds me of the A+ community when socially conscious atheists split off from the atheism movement community because of the racist, misogynistic, trans- and homophobic assholes making it a toxic waste dump, only the RAs were more successful in carving out their own niche whereas SJW atheists are still trying to find the right way (i.e. comfortable fit) to label and organize themselves.  Also, the RA symbol of a heart and an A in place of the infinity reminds me of the poly atheist symbol, which is the infinity-heart with an A - not sure which came first, but I saw the poly atheist symbol first so that's what I associate with an A in a heart.

So, I have a problem with Relationship Anarchy, but it's not the relationship anarchists - it's the people who drove them to feel that they needed some other community in the first place because the community we had doesn't provide a safe enough space for them and their ideals. So, really, I have a problem with the poly community and I just want it to be better so that RA isn't a necessary thing.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
*I am committed to limiting my actions and words which have the intent or goal of harming my partners, although I acknowledge that some decisions I may make for the benefit of myself or my relationships may result in hurt as a consequence, unintentional or not.

This one is complicated and may require its own post as well. This one took the most number of rewrites to get to a point where I felt it was close enough. The original wording was about harm reduction and a promise to avoid deliberately causing harm to my partners. That sounds pretty good - promising to not hurt someone I love, right? But, as usual, Shelly brought to my attention a different perspective.
"Of course I’ll hurt you. Of course you’ll hurt me. Of course we will hurt each other. But this is the very condition of existence. To become spring, means accepting the risk of winter. To become presence, means accepting the risk of absence." ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
You see, Shelly and I had a very difficult experience together. It wasn't the same experience, and I rather think that she got the worst of it by a long shot. I also don't think we quite realized that we were in the experience together. In fact, we started out the experience at odds with each other. I first wrote this commitment to do with avoiding hurt. But conversation with Shelly changed my perspective. Our experience had taught us both, but it really reinforced in her particularly, that sometimes the only available options to us will lead directly to hurting our loved ones. Sometimes, for our own safety, we may have to do something that will cause hurt, and we will have to do it knowing that it will cause hurt because the alternative is to further hurt ourselves.

I balked at this perspective. I had a previous relationship with someone who routinely did things that hurt me because he placed a higher value on meeting his own desires than on choosing to abstain in order to refrain from causing hurt. I hated the feeling that my partner was more invested in experiencing something that he wanted to experience than he was in considering how much pain his experience would cause me. I considered it a fundamentally selfish point of view. But my shared experience with Shelly taught me the darker, evil twin of this point of view. It's possible to use someone's desire to avoid causing you pain as a form of emotional blackmail to prevent them from doing what is necessary for their own emotional or physical health.

Shelly resisted my original wording because she found herself in a terrible position. She found herself in the position of needing to make a choice for her own safety that she knew would cause pain to someone she loved. I slowly came to connect with Shelly's position because I had a partner who looked at my decision to do something for my own good that would result in his pain and responded "how could you hurt me, you evil monster?!" I hesitate to say "cause him pain" because, in my case, much of what hurt him wasn't directly aimed at him. What I needed to do for me were things that were about me and had no direct effect on him, only indirect, but that he twisted into somehow being all about him. Even things that I hadn't actually done but just contemplated doing, the very act of considering them hurt him. I had the potential opportunity to have a sexual experience once that I believed was unlikely but still possible that I really felt was something I needed to experience for my own emotional gratification and my own self-identity. It's a long story why I felt this one experience was so important, but it was. Maybe I'll tell that story sometime. I recognized that it would be discomforting for him and I acknowledged that I would be uncomfortable if our positions were reversed. So, just discussing the situation hypothetically, I tried to show him that I was on his side (see the relevant point [prior]) by acknowledging his concern and being willing to compromise in order to assuage his concern.

For many people, when we have concerns about our loved ones, we just want to be heard. Many times, all we need is for our loved ones to acknowledge that they hear us, really hear us, and we feel better. We feel like a team. But not in this case. In this case, being willing to say "I hear your concerns, I think they are valid, I've already considered your feelings and agree that the likely reaction would be totally appropriate and I accept that reaction as a consequence for my choice" didn't result in relief at being heard and a willingness to bend with me towards a compromise. Instead, what he heard was "yep, I know this will destroy you because I've already thought about it and I'm going to do it anyway with full forethought because I don't care if it hurts you." Instead, my acknowledgement of his concerns was to make my position even worse because I couldn't even use ignorance as an excuse for hurting him. In his mind, what I had proposed to do was now deliberately stab him in the back with intention and malice. Remember, this was all about something that was only hypothetical at the time and, I thought, pretty unlikely although there was a non-zero chance it could happen. I was just discussing the possibility because, as my point [prior] states, I wanted to address it before it became too big to handle. I felt that addressing it before there was any emotional investment in the outcome would result in a more rational, easy-to-tackle decision. I wanted to work it out when I didn't have the possibility hanging over me and the pull of a missed opportunity influencing my position. But even this became a deliberate attack on him.

But I really didn't want to rewrite this commitment in such a way that acknowledging the fact that we would inevitably cause our loved ones harm would leave the door open for the opposite to happen - that which I experienced with the other ex who seemed to blithely go about doing things without concern for how they affected me simply because he wanted to do them. I didn't want to leave room for a partner to read my list of commitments, then go off and do something hurtful, knowingly hurtful, and come back and say "well you gave yourself an out to hurting me like this, so I'm only doing what you want to do to me!"

So I'm trying to limit the ways in which I hurt my loved ones. I want to limit those ways to only unintentional harm, accidental harm, but my experience with Shelly and my observations of her experience with that situation forces me to leave myself a back door where I might have to hurt someone and do so knowingly, for my own health and for the good of the relationship itself. To leave that door open, I have specified that actions with the goal or intention of causing harm are to be avoided when possible. I don't want to hurt my loved ones, but if my intention is for some greater good or need, and harm is the consequence and not the intent, then even if I am aware of the potential to harm, I believe this serves the conflicting goals of needing to do for myself what is necessary and still not trampling over my loved ones on a selfish ride of personal desires. I need to somehow simultaneously prioritize my right to do things that I need to do, being considerate and compassionate towards my partners and how my actions affect them, and not demonizing myself whether I am able to foresee the consequences or am unable to see the consequences. And I need to do it in a way that a partner reading this can't rules-lawyer his way into excusing or justifying his disregard for me. I feel that this wording is the closest I have come to achieving all those conflicting goals.

www.theinnbetween.net/polycommitments.html
joreth: (Super Tech)
"If you’re ever going to date a guy who treats you like someone worthy of respect, though, you’re going to have to set about the unpleasant job of alienating the men who don’t." ~ Priscilla Pine (Make A Man Uncomfortable Today - Brooklyn Magazine)
This was from an article that I'm not linking to only because my comments are probably going to be longer than the article and I didn't feel there was much *practical* advice in the article to share, but this line was really important.

The point of the article was how women who date men need to unlearn all our social programming that tells us to make others comfortable at the expense of our own needs and happiness in relationships and in life. We have to start deliberately doing things to make men more uncomfortable.

Pine defines "uncomfortable" as not violating boundaries, making anyone feel unsafe or threatened, etc. She calls on us to not let people get away with ignoring the impact that their dismissal of us has. In other words, make sure that people who are raised in a culture to feel entitled and privileged start feeling cognitive dissonance when they act on that entitlement and privilege.

It is not your job sit at home and wait patiently and pleasantly for someone who has had something "come up" *again* without expressing your irritation about being stood up for the 68th time. I try to make space in my relationships for each person to be able to have feelings of disappointment while not infringing on the other's autonomy by making them *responsible* for that feeling because that can work against us too.

See, in our patriarchal culture (whether you as an individual experience this or not is irrelevant, because I'm speaking of cultural trends now), a man is expected to have this full and busy life while a woman is expected to bend herself around him. He's working late at the office? No problem, she'll just put the roast in the oven to warm and somehow not let it dry out by the time he stumbles home at midnight, ready to eat, and use that time constructively to get other household projects done, pleasantly supporting his job at the expense of her neglect and not feeling any icky feelings about it, ever.

But if a *woman* has to work late at the office? Regularly? Why, she's neglecting her husband and children! She has her priorities screwed up! So, on the one hand, some people are taught that it is not OK to feel their feelings because that might make the other person uncomfortable (because then he would have to face the fact that he is dismissing the importance of her time / effort / whatever by doing the thing that makes her feel the feeling). But on the other hand, those people are also taught that when the other person has their own feelings, it means that they are *responsible* for having caused those feelings because they are a Bad Person and they should stop whatever they're doing for themselves to make the other person not have those bad feelings. In both situations, it's the same person who is expected to do the changing and the catering.

So, when I say I make space to have feelings while not making the other person "responsible", I mean that I have to have room in my relationships to feel disappointed if my partner cancels a date, for example. I'm allowed to feel that disappointment without having to squash it in order to now comfort *him* for his feelings of guilt that my disappointment is triggering. He SHOULD feel guilty about canceling a date with me! That sucks.

But that also doesn't mean that he is necessarily a Bad Person for having something come up as things do. He needs to be aware that his actions have consequences, but it's my responsibility to do something about my feelings. I have to define the threshold, define the boundary, between what is an acceptable amount of "sometimes shit happens and we both make accommodations for each other" vs. "he is not prioritizing me as much as I would like" and I have to decide what is done about that. That is my responsibility, but he also has to know when I'm feeling uncared for so that he can also make decisions about his behaviour that affect me. When this is accomplished between two people who are negotiating and relating in good faith with each other, we have a healthy relationship, even if that relationship doesn't ultimately "work out" or it ends due to conflicting priorities.

The problem is that, for people for who that social programming really took hold and they don't know how to "lean in" to the discomfort they cause other people, or they internalized the messages and making people uncomfortable makes them feel bad themselves, it's not easy to see where those boundaries should be drawn. There is a tendency to draw them too close in, meaning that their partners can avoid the cognitive dissonance too often and therefore not have any motivation to learn or change; or that the boundaries are drawn so far out that they feel isolated and alone because they deliberately keep people "at arms length".

I delight in making people feel uncomfortable. I'm like a kid who sees a giant red button with a label "Don't Push" - when I hear about someone's "buttons", the first thing I do is push on them. [livejournal.com profile] tacit does this too, which is one of the things that attracted me to him in the first place. But I do so with a purpose. What will pushing on that button accomplish? Is it a button for trauma and pushing on it will only cause someone pain? Or is it a button for unrecognized privilege or unspoken assumptions that they will be challenged to face?

One of my favorite stories that I've told several times is the Pegging Story - I was the crew chief this day and most of the crew did not know me (and was mostly men). As usually happens backstage, we start joking and talking about sex, and as usually happens when there are women in this industry, we started taking the conversation further than the guys would. They would have left it to a few raunchy jokes, but the women both topped the jokes and then started actually talking about "uncomfortable" sex stuff.

Eventually we got onto kink, and as usual, the crew were unfamiliar with that world and started asking me questions, which I answered. Eventually, one guy finally had enough cognitive dissonance which was forcing him to challenge his assumptions about what "kinds of people" explore kink and what kinky sex "meant" and he blurted out "I don't need any of that kinky shit! The most I'll do is anal!"

So I, recognizing the unspoken assumptions underlying his outburst (based on other things said and non-verbal signals that I've seen a hundred times before) about just who was expected to be on the receiving end and what anal sex "meant" about the person receiving it, quipped back "oh, you like anal sex? Great! I have a strapon in the car, let's go!"

He backed up, hands in the air, and stuttered "no, no, that's not what I meant!" So I said "well, you didn't specify," much to the amusement of the crew listening. I went on to point out that he shouldn't assume that the girl must necessarily be the one to take it up the ass, he brought up the "I'm not gay" thing so I got to point out that having a woman fuck him kinda by definition doesn't mean he's gay, etc.

He didn't find any allies in the crew because of the humor I used to make him the butt of the joke when he tried to turn it on me to make me look deviant and because of the work I had just done in explaining stuff. He thought, as men who try this shit with me so often do, that making me look "perverted" would get everyone else on "his side" so that he could hide behind his assumptions once more and validate himself at my expense. Instead, I made him look foolish, but I didn't badger or bully him for not being kinky, I only teased him so that his intolerance was the butt of the jokes, which made *him* look small instead of allowing him to force *me* into being smaller than I am for his comfort.

That conversation made him uncomfortable. He was uncomfortable because he was challenged to examine his biases.

Within the context of romantic partnerships, I'm going to assume that the two people actively like each other and desire the other person's happiness, at least abstractly. I realize that's a big assumption, because I've been in relationships myself where that's not true. But I'm going to make that assumption here anyway.

For these relationships, if he genuinely likes her (again, using gendered pronouns because of the patriarchal programming that makes this pervasive and endemic, although this can apply to any relationship) and wants to see her happy, then it is in his best interest to be made uncomfortable in this context. He can't be expected to know how to contribute to her happiness if she swallows herself and makes herself small for him. He doesn't even know her when she does that. He can't see who she is, so he can't reasonably be expected to treat her the way she needs to be treated in order to be happy in a relationship.
**This should be obvious, but I'll say it anyway - if someone is stuck in an abusive relationship and leaving is not an option at this time, then clearly the victim should do what they feel they need to survive. Maybe that means making yourself small so that you don't make him uncomfortable by your presence. Maybe that means he doesn't know who you are, really, because he doesn't want to. I am not qualified to address how people in these situations should get out of them or how to apply healthy boundaries with people who are not operating on good faith with each other.**
It is not in his best interests for her to not draw healthy boundaries. It doesn't help him be a better person and it doesn't help him love her. But drawing those boundaries, making people aware of when they fuck shit up and don't treat people well, makes people uncomfortable and that will likely narrow the dating pool. You might find yourself alone for a while. You might find yourself having to reject a lot of people, or being rejected a lot for being "too harsh" or "too bitchy" or "too needy" or too whatever, or even not "compassionate enough" or not "caring enough" or not "gentle enough" or not "ladylike" or not whatever.

Trust me, I've been on a lot of first dates that had no second date. I've had a lot of conversations with guys that go "before I go out with you, you should probably see my OKC profile and read my FB page for a while to make sure that I'm really the person you're interested in" and then never had a followup conversation where they said "I did all that and you're even more awesome!" Most of the time, people I send to those pages just fade away. They might continue to flirt with me when they see me in person (that's a coworker thing - a product of my industry), but no more specific invitations to dinner.

Yes, making people uncomfortable will tend to filter out a lot of people. It will alienate people who don't respect your boundaries or your values. But that's how you clear the path for those who do to find you and for you to recognize them among the otherwise vast sea of humanity. Your pool will be smaller. Your pool will likely be more long distance (thanks to the internet, but at least it will be possible with the internet).

But your choices are to be alone for a while until you find your tribe who gets you and respects you, or to be alone even while in relationships because those people won't respect you or even know you. I decided long ago that my value is worth the respect of my partners and not a farthing less.
joreth: (Bad Computer!)
http://the-orbit.net/brutereason/2016/04/04/one-penis-policies/

I had a partner once who, when I found out that their pattern of both he and his wife only dating women was partially instigated by his discomfort with having his wife date a man and not fully because she was really more into women than men, I got really upset with him and pointed out the inherent sexism. I went through the usual objections, including the idea of ownership over his wife's body, etc., but right now I want to focus on his reaction to the proposal that the reason why he wasn't bothered by his wife having female lovers but was regarding male lovers is because he, fundamentally, believed that "lesbian sex / women's relationships don't count".

It basically boiled down to "I can't compete with other women and they can't compete with me because we have different parts, so I'm not threatened by them because they offer her something she can't get from a relationship with me, but another man can give her the same thing that I can, therefore she might leave me if she has access to another man" with the further assumption that said other man would necessarily be "better" in some way to facilitate the threat that she would leave if she only had the chance to know some other man.

This idea equates people with their genitals. A) No one can "give her the same thing [you] can" because NO ONE ELSE IS YOU. B) Since your relationship is not purely sexual, a woman can also give her the "same" things that you do, which are good sex, companionship, understanding, support, love, fun times, arguments, and everything else that makes up your relationship in addition to inserting your penis into her vagina. C) Women can also insert penises into vaginas - either the ones that are part of their own bodies or the ones bought in the store.

Since this argument is literally condensing all of human romantic / sexual interaction to which body parts people can mash together, it requires an unspoken assumption that mashing two particular set of body parts together is more important than mashing any other set of body parts together because mashing those other body parts together (or, y'know, any other part about relating to each other) couldn't possibly compare to or threaten the act of mashing that one set of body parts together.

BY DEFINITION, being afraid that someone else's vagina coming into contact with someone else's penis might make that vagina-haver discard everything about your relationship that makes it special and break up with you, but not being afraid of someone else's vagina coming into contact with literally any other body part from some other person will do the same thing is erasing the validity and legitimacy of relationships between women (going with the position of those who defend this policy of equating vagina-having with "women").

I also want to address the idea of using rules with what's called "sunset clauses" - a specific time limit for when the rule will end. This is a legitimate use of rules to work through specific issues and I have used them myself. However, I remain suspicious of them as "rules" - limitations that one person imposes on (or asks nicely of) another person(s) with regards to how they interact with other people to mitigate one's own issues, again, primarily because of this same former partner.

He and his wife also used the excuse of sunset clauses to justify rules, and they used these as "evidence" that they were both "getting better" and experiencing "personal growth". What would happen is that he would have a bad reaction to the idea of his wife doing a thing with a guy, the wife would hold off on doing that thing until the husband felt better, then when he could deal, he allowed her to do the thing. Their position was that, since the wife was building an ever-growing list of specific activities that she could do with men, clearly the husband was "getting better". I thought that sounded like it too.

I was wrong.

Yes, the wife was able to check off additional specific sexual activities over time that she was able to engage in, but neither of them ever got out of the mindset that *he* had a right to control access to *her* body or that sexual relationships with other men was somehow inherently more "threatening" than sexual relationships with women. There was never any actual personal growth happening, just a desensitization of specific sexual activities and positions. That is not "working on it" and it is not "getting better". It's basically just moving the goalposts while defending the same basic premise.

There is a time for when people have such a strong emotional reaction to something that the first thing they can focus on is just desensitization. I've used this tactic myself. But the point of desensitizing myself to an idea is to "numb" the emotional reaction enough that I can see through it to the root issue, and then actually do work on the root issue itself, so that I won't *need* to continuously desensitize myself to something that, ultimately, has nothing to do with me in the first place (i.e. my partner's other relationships).

But too many people stop at the desensitization process and think that, now that they're "numb" to this one thing, problem solved! Then that exact same issue gets triggered by a totally different thing, and they think "well, last time this desensitization made it more bearable, let's do that again!" It's the emotional equivalent, to borrow the pill analogy from the article, of taking shit loads of ibuprofen for my endometriosis. Every month, I'm wracked with pain and forced to spend a day or two in the fetal position, so I take ibuprofen to numb the pain enough to barely function. That is not a solution! A solution would be to attack the endo at the root cause so that I don't have to rely on copious amounts of drugs that may ultimately damage my liver from chronic use ever again!

Unfortunately, our medical industry is also misogynistic and has not put any effort into solving the root cause of endo, so millions of women are stuck desensitizing ourselves just to make it to work every month or ripping out a part of our internal organs which may or may not fix the problem anyway.

So don't let your cultural misogynistic programming work like our cultural misogynistic medical industry - we should not accept as sufficient the mere desensitization of emotional issues or hacking out deep parts of ourselves just to function. Focus on solving the actual problem of not seeing queer relationships as equally legitimate to hetero ones so that you don't need that mental ibuprofen anymore.
joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)
Once again for the kids in the back:

* Content & Trigger Warnings aren't laws to prevent people from saying things or ways for college students to get out of being exposed to "controversial" things, they're labels like movie ratings or food labels letting people know what to expect so that those who experienced trauma can properly prepare for the fact that they're about to experience something that is likely to trigger an actual psychological condition resulting from said trauma and to have what amounts to after-care ready and waiting for them at the end.

College students are still responsible for knowing the material and no one is seriously saying otherwise, but war veterans and assault victims are asking for a little advanced notice before wading into literature or history texts that discuss the sorts of trauma they experienced so that they don't disassociate or otherwise have "an episode" in the middle of class, which, btw, can interrupt the learning of the other students too.

If you ever posted anything about taking care of our vets before refugees or burger flippers or starving people in Africa, but get angry at the idea of TWs in colleges, then you're a hypocrite because the G.I. Bill sends a lot of vets to college after their service, many of whom would benefit from TWs in classrooms, especially if they're not getting the adequate medical and psychological care that "take care of our vets" posts are referencing.

* Free Speech means that the government can't imprison you or do otherwise legal hindrances to prevent you or punish you from criticizing the government, not that any private establishment is required to host a platform for whatever fucked up shit you feel like saying. Even college campuses, which should be a bastion for the exchange of ideas, are not obligated to legitimize wacky, fringe, or *harmful* positions by providing them with space and an audience.

A college is totally within its rights, and is not being unreasonable if it refuses to host a speaker whose subjects include topics that demean, oppress, or incite violence upon its students and who would create or increase an atmosphere that is toxic to the well-being of its students or that is contrary to the values of the institution.

We do not need to host a "debate" to hear "all sides" and have a "free exchange of ideas" on the Flat Earth "Theory" on a college campus where its students pay inordinate amounts of money to get a good education, to be exposed to *worthwhile* ideas, and to be trained in future careers and who expect a certain minimum standard of information to achieve all of those goals, nor do we need to provide platforms to people who support bigotry, hatred, discrimination, or intolerance, or who are so ignorant as to not understand how their positions support bigotry, hatred, discrimination, and intolerance.

It's less about feeling "discomfort" and more about the standards of education that we are holding our vaunted institutions to and the amount of money we're paying for the experience and the amount of time we have to cram in as many valuable ideas as possible so don't waste our time and money with bullshit that does not increase the chances of achieving those aforementioned goals of learning new knowledge and career training or that actively distracts from our ability to do so. We come across those ideas in plenty of other places, like our coworkers, neighbors, family, and the internet. Our schools should be held to higher standards of information dissemination than "asshole uncle at Thanksgiving dinner".
joreth: (Kitty Eyes)
A long time ago (in a personality far, far away), I used to hate physical affection. I couldn't stand it when my partners held my hand in public. I hated it when they put their arm around my shoulders. It really bugged me when they wanted to snuggle on the couch while watching movies. I even came to feel anxious about back rubs.

And then I read the book The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman (and I now offer a workshop on this subject for poly and non-romantic relationships with all the gender role and religious elements removed *shameless plug*). I discovered something about myself that really cemented for me the importance of a communication tool like 5LL: I discovered that Physical Affection is actually one of my primary Love Languages and that's *why* I had a strong aversion to PDA and other forms of touch. It'll make sense in a moment, I promise.

See, when you imbue extra meaning into something, and then people abuse that thing, it warps how you view that thing. I've written about my difficulty with accepting physical affection in the past, although I don't really feel like actually digging up those articles to link to right now, and how I misunderstood my discomfort with abuse of affection for a dislike of affection but that the reason why it bothered me so much is because of how important physical affection is to me. Now I'm starting to wonder if Gift Giving might have fallen into the same category.

I've never enjoyed the act of gift giving. I have pictures of myself as a kid eagerly opening and holding up holiday and birthday gifts, so at some point I clearly enjoyed at least the *idea* of receiving gifts. But, for me, gift exchange has always been fraught with expectation, obligation, and dejection. My family, as loving and understanding as they tried to be, nevertheless held pretty rigid (if wider than many) gender role ideas. Every Christmas morning I would rip into my gifts hoping to find some Transformers or Legos or a chemistry set and instead I would get a pretty new skirt or durable jeans or, as I entered my teens, one of those generic "girl gift bags" of bath products and nail polish. My gifts didn't all suck of course, but gift exchange opportunities always ended with a pervasive sense of being let down because, not only did I not get the toys I really wanted, but I also got the sense that people didn't really see me. I came to rely on my wishlists to tell people what to give me so that I wouldn't feel let down and they wouldn't feel unappreciated. Every time someone says they strayed from the list, I feel a spike of anxiety because I expect, based on my history, that they're going to get me something "wrong" and I'll be stuck carting around something I don't really want or can't use because otherwise they'll get their feelings hurt if I get rid of it.

Later, I was given flowers by men when they fucked up, even after I told them that I don't like flowers as gifts because I don't know what to do with them - they die in a couple days, my cats try to eat them and get sick - and because gift flowers reinforced gender roles that I continuously struggled to overcome even within my own relationships with people who should have known better. My second fiance bought me engagement jewelry without consulting me and it was *awful* (that should have been a huge red flag right there). Then I dropped below the poverty line and trying to navigate through people's hurt feelings when I didn't want to participate in gift exchanges just added onto the shit pile laced with landmines that was the whole gift exchange process. Gift exchanges just seemed so fucking materialistic (and I was also a tree-hugging hippie who snubbed materialism back then, before poverty taught me both the value and the power dynamic in materialism). Throw in some internalized misogyny that turned me into the Chill Girl who looked down on women who wanted gifts as evidence of "love", and you have a recipe pretty much designed to ruin the concept of gifts for me.

I hate gift exchanges.

But then I met one of my metamours. We had a lot of communication issues in the beginning. We just seemed to talk past each other a lot and there was a lot of managing feelings. But she and I stuck it out. One of our issues is that she really needs to feel *seen* by people - understood - and she also wanted to feel considered. She had a lot of experience as the classic "secondary" whose primary metamours didn't really value her presence and made rules to restrict her relationships. So when she had the opportunity to be "the one who was here first" and have a metamour who wasn't her partner's "primary" and therefore felt she had more freedom to advocate for her needs, what she needed was for me to consider her. Now, from my perspective, I had no idea how to make her feel "considered", because when I "consider" someone, that's all in my head. How does someone else know that I'm "considering" them all the time? Texting wasn't a thing back then, let alone social media, and my cell phone was still charging by the minute, so regular contact was just not practical and not a skill I had developed anyway. How was she supposed to know I was doing a thing that was totally internal?

But then, I was out somewhere in a store (I have no idea where at this point), and I saw something that made me think of her. It was inexpensive, so I impulsively bought it for her and gave it to her some time later. I was not expecting her reaction. She was so effusive and happy over this little nothing gift! She said because it was a tangible reminder for her that I was thinking about her when she wasn't around. Suddenly, the whole gift thing clicked. Suddenly it made sense to me. It wasn't about money, it wasn't about obligation, it was about recognizing another human being for who they are, recognizing and appreciating their presence in your life, actively desiring their joy, and offering symbols of that recognition, appreciation, and enjoyment that will remind them of your recognition, appreciation, and enjoyment. Suddenly, gifts started making sense.

The trick, I've discovered, is in finding other people who can disentangle all that obligation and social programming. That's such a complicated process that I still prefer not to engage in gift exchange in general. But I've developed intimate relationships with some people who are similarly introspective and critical of social norms. We can say "no, you don't have to get me anything" and mean it. We can say "I love it!" and mean it. We can let go of attachment and give gifts without any obligation to reciprocate, or even to keep the gift, because we genuinely understand the gesture behind the act. And, it turns out, when all the bullshit is stripped away, gift giving turns out to Mean Something to me much in the same way that physical affection Means Something even when I thought I hated it.

I've had a handful of memorable gifts, and they all Mean Something. The first gift that I ever got that expressed everything I wanted and hated about gift giving was from a former partner of mine. I went on vacation for a week or something, and his car was out of commission at that time so I lent him my car while I wasn't using it. My car radio wasn't working and hadn't been for a while. When I came back from vacation, my car was washed, detailed, and his old car stereo had been installed to replace my broken one. He took his very nice factory radio out because it had a tape deck and replaced it with a CD player, and then installed that very nice factory radio in my car. I preferred tape decks because I still had cassette tapes, and I had one of those tape-to-audio-jack thingies and a skip-resistant jogging CD player for the very few CDs that I owned anyway. That the radio was technically "used" and didn't cost him anything was irrelevant. Actually, it wasn't "irrelevant", it was a good way to make my point that I didn't care about gifts for the financial investment but rather the consideration that went into the gift. He knew that I wanted a new radio and he knew what kind of radio I wanted specifically. He gave me that exact radio and put in the effort to install it himself. He also cleaned out my car, which I hated doing. That was a *meaningful* gift that actively made my life better.

All of this musing is because, as I write this, I have a little figurine standing over me made out of melted tools and nuts and bolts to remind me that one partner recognizes my tomboy gender orientation and celebrates it, a practical little assistive tool that another partner had just received for himself and I expressed an interest in that I wasn't really expecting to get but found one awaiting me on my laptop 2 days later, and a giant candy bar that yet another partner made the effort to read through my writing and find is my favorite kind. These gifts came free of any obligation to reciprocate, didn't cost very much money, and represent being *seen* and *heard*. My partners are listening and accepting my experience of myself. My partners are listening to my expressed wishes and doing what they can to accommodate. My partners are taking the time to learn *who I am* and showing it with symbols that they could only know if they were paying attention when I talk about who I am.

I also have some bits and bobs lying around for gifts for various people that I just haven't gotten around to giving to them yet. I still have the jewelry tools and extra materials sitting out from a necklace I made for my best friend because I saw the pendant in a store and thought of her, so I built a chain mail necklace around it and gave it to her on my trip out to see her. I have other pieces, some of which are complete in and of themselves and some are parts that I plan to use to make something else out of (like that necklace), for other people. I feel happy giving these gifts because they go to people who don't expect gifts from me (even on gift-giving holidays), but who feel recognized when I do give them gifts because they are spontaneous expressions of my love for them and my acknowledgement of who they are as people.

I've been telling people for years that I speak 4 of the 5 Love Languages pretty fluently and naturally, but the Gift Giving language was just not something I can quite grasp. However, the other day, surrounded by examples to the contrary, it occurred to me that maybe that 5th Love Language wasn't an aberration after all; that maybe, like with the Physical Affection language, I just had some bad programming that healthy and loving relationships helped to debug.
joreth: (Misty in Box)

Sister: There are limited number of slots available for us to see my son graduate from boot camp. Why would she think she can go?

Mom: Well, she's his girlfriend.

Sister: Don't you think Joreth should take priority? She's family!

Mom: Well, yeah, of course!

Sister: Joreth, don't you want to go?

Me: Well, yeah, of course!

Sister: Then you wouldn't be willing to give up your spot for her, would you?

Me: Well, I can see why he would want her there, and his graduation is about him, not me.

Sister: But would you give up your spot?

Me: I dunno, maybe. I want to go, but I might be willing to give his girlfriend my spot because that's important to them. I just don't know.

Sister: Joreth, you're not on my team anymore.

Polyamory teaches me to be compassionate, to stop making things all about me, and to consider how important other people are to the ones I love. I may not be selfless enough, "enlightened" enough to actually give up my privilege, but I'm at least willing to consider it. And who knows, maybe I will.

I have 2 months to learn how to let go of my attachment. But I'm thinking of my nephew, and how this event is *his* day, not mine, and how I would feel if I couldn't have my own partners with me for something important like a graduation ceremony, or how I would feel if the family of one of my partners deemed me not "family" enough to be included on an important ceremony for my partner.

One of the things I worked really hard to do is to only visit my parents when I had the money to issue ultimatums in favor of my chosen family. I accept my parents' financial assistance and hospitality, but if it ever becomes possible to bring a partner or more along with me and my parents try to use their hospitality as leverage to apply conditions - such as not allowing me to share a guest room with a partner - I only want to visit when I have the money to say "well, Partner(s) is coming with me so if that's inconvenient for you, we will get a hotel nearby," or whatever would be necessary to remove those conditions. The validation of my partners and metamours is important enough to me to make that stand. I wanted to go ballroom dancing with my best friend on a night I was staying with my parents. I asked to borrow a car to get there, they said no, so I said I would rent one because I will not allow them to use their better finances to determine *my* choices. As soon as I said I would rent a car, they offered to loan me their extra car. It wasn't about the car, it was about who is entitled to my time.

I helped to raise my nephew. My sister was a teenage, single mother, so she lived at home for most of his life, where I was also still living until I moved to Florida. I was another parent through colic and a botched circumcision and many ear infections and learning to walk and learning to read and learning to swim. Not seeing him graduate if the military gives him enough family passes to include me would hurt. But attending wouldn't mean, to me, that those who didn't attend were somehow less important, not as much "family", as I am.

And I know that, even though he would love to have me there, he would *also* love to have his girlfriend there. As a poly person, I understand that wanting his girlfriend doesn't necessarily mean that he wants me there *less*. I have a different role in his life than his girlfriend, so it's not fair to ask him to rank which one of us is more "important". We have different roles, and different *types* of importance. I don't envy him the choice.

And he really won't be given the choice. He would never ask out loud for me to be passed over in favor of the girlfriend - his mother has trained him too well in her brand of etiquette, which is All Important in my family. My sister, his mother, will retain the power of final say in who goes because that's how my family operates - parents have ownership rights over their children. This is one of the many lessons I have rejected from my family even while I've kept many other lessons that have served me well in poly relationships.

But I do know the pain of externally imposed limitations, and the impossible task of choosing who "deserves" to be present when not everyone can be, and the tug of war that my family creates when they rank family of origin above family of choice. My sister has even said that, if they somehow got more spots available, his best friend should be the one to go before the girlfriend. I think that my nephew is the only legitimate authority on who "should" go, particularly when choosing among his peers. I've written before about my family's penchant for not recognizing the legitimacy of romantic relationships without a legal tie. If the girlfriend was the wife, there would be no question that she would go and she would "outrank" me, the aunt.

Meanwhile, all this is going on while my nephew is currently traveling *on the way* to boot camp. He has only been sworn in for a few hours and there is already a power struggle going on over his graduation two months from now, and two of the most important women in his life are fighting for dominance and validation. Which means that it might fall to me to put my poly money where my poly mouth is and cut through all the shit and remind everyone that none of this is about them - it's all about him and being there *for him*.

I already know that my sister and parents will not agree with me that this is something that is happening to my nephew. They are experiencing strong feelings, so of course it's about *them*, right? They don't understand the difference between something being about the individual it's happening to and feeling *affected* by something that's happening to that individual. Focusing on the thing happening to the individual doesn't mean that no one else is affected, or that being affected by it isn't also important. But, as a poly person, I've had to learn that there will *always* be conflicts between an individual's agency and their experience vs. the feelings and effects on those around them. I've had to learn that it is ultimately disempowering and dismissing, and therefore unethical, to give more priority to the feelings of the "affected" than to the needs and experiences of the person actually going through it. It is up to the person feeling affected to own those feelings and find a way to work through them so that the person who is actually having the experience doesn't also have to shoulder the burden of emotional management of other people.

I'm just not yet sure that I'm emotionally big enough to walk the walk that I talk. I don't want to give up my privilege of attending. I hope I will be able to do the right thing when the time comes. I'm not entirely sure what the "right thing" is because there are so many variables and so many emotions. I hope I will do what's best for my nephew that will respect him as an adult and a person and that I can evaluate the situation well enough to know what that is.

Of course, there might not even be enough spots for me and this whole thing might be moot.
joreth: (Nude Drawing)
http://www.theestablishment.co/2016/03/17/you-dont-have-to-love-your-body/

"I realized that most days I didn’t love my body—I didn’t anything my body."

A while ago, I was talking with a friend of mine about my ridiculously high self esteem. She pointed out that most people, including herself for a while, think that high self esteem is thinking that you're the shit - that you're awesome and wonderful and that you love yourself.

But that's not true. She said that she learned that high self esteem is about SEEING yourself, honestly and authentically, and accepting yourself as you are, flaws and all. And that's why I have high self esteem - not because I think I'm awesome, but because I know what all my flaws are and I accept myself. That's how I love other people too.

Whenever I make a complaint, or more likely an observation, about my body, people rush in to give me a compliment like they're trying to console me. I have pudge around my waistline that I'd like to get rid of - oh, you do not! You look great! Fine, but that's not what I said. I made an observable fact and expressed a goal that I could accomplish if I really wanted to. I didn't say I was *upset* about the pudge around my waist, just that it existed.

My body gives me labor pains every month, and tendons so short that I can't touch my toes without bending my knees, and excruciating lower back pain and a chronic cough and occasional migraines and crooked teeth and crooked toes. Some days I really hate my body.

When I dance, or climb, or push road cases, I can feel every muscle in my body. I feel them stretch and flex. I'm aware of my limbs all the way down to the tips. I'm aware of each muscle group and how they interact with each other. I'm aware of my skeletal system and my circulatory system working in tandem. Some days I really love my body.

But most of the time, I don't anything my body unless it's actively telling me something. It's a tool to help me interact with the world. It does some things well and some things not so well. It just is. This is why I have such a problem with our whole cultural focus on gender - I don't really think about my gender at all except when it's brought to my attention (and that happens far more often than is relevant, as evidenced by my rants about it). I don't see myself as having a gender at all, except in certain contexts, which is why I have such trouble picking one. Even genderfluid and other ambivalent terms don't feel right to me because it still requires me to *be* something, when, in my head, it's nothing until it's relevant. And then, when it's relevant, I have a gender, but not any other time.

"Nobody tells you that your only options for car ownership are to drive around ashamed that your car isn’t pretty enough, or spending all day talking about how great your car is because fuck the haters. And just like your car, you do own your body."

My body just is. It has good points and bad points, and I'm allowed to decide what those good points and bad points are because it's my body and only my opinion of it matters. I'm pleased that my lovers are pleased with my body, but ultimately it's my opinion that matters because it's my body, not theirs. I'm not fishing for compliments when I either complain about my body or show it off. I'm just experiencing it.
joreth: (Misty in Box)
I talk a lot about how the language of abuse gets co-opted by abusers and how they create the narrative that they were the victim. I reference often the article by Shea Emma Fett and the quote where they say that being victimized by one's control is different from being victimized by another's resistance to one's control. I give a lot of sample examples, with identifying features modified or removed, but they're always simplified or summarized for the sake of analogy or making a point.

I'm going to give a real world example of what it looks like when someone uses social justice language to build a narrative that they were the ones who were victimized when someone attempted to resist their control.  So that you can see what it actually looks like and why someone could interpret that position sympathetically.

I was living in a room in a larger house where the owner of the house decided he didn't like me personally and wanted me to leave, but he refused to actually *tell* me that, so he started messing with the climate control to my room which caused my terminally ill-but-then-stable cat to go into heat stroke and shock and she died shortly thereafter. When I discovered he was deliberately fucking with me / my cats in this way, I hurriedly tried to escape, seeking a new place to live and trying to move out "secretly" so that one day I would just be gone and he wouldn't know where I was or how to reach me. Naturally, I had confided in my then-partner all of my fears and concerns and worries about my cats and how this living situation was unfolding. I was also tweeting about it, and my then-partner obsessively read my tweets.

So, while I was trying to escape and while I felt that my cats were in danger of this person when I wasn't home and while I was trying to vacate without him knowing what stage of moving I was in, my then-boyfriend broke up with me when he insisted that I had agreed to allow him to mandate the speed and progression of any new relationships I had, and I insisted that I never made that agreement. Also, of importance to note, is my position on Dividing Property in a breakup. I have a THING about separating our stuff when I break up with someone. It actually kinda falls into my OCD because of how compulsive I am about keeping track of whose stuff is whose so that we can separate our stuff. I *do not* keep other people's things. I can't stress this point enough. I fucking mark my books, music, and DVDs even when I live alone just in case I might one day live with someone and have our things get mixed up and I will want a way to identify whose things are whose.  I have one of those "diamond" pens that scratches into any surface so that I can mark my property, and I'm fucking poor with old, outdated shit that no one would steal unless they wanted to hurt me.  I'm not exaggerating about how much this is A Thing for me. I made my fucking *fiance* mark his books separately so that when he merged our Stephen King collections into one massive library, I could still tell them apart and when he emotionally abused me for months before I escaped, I made damn sure that he got all his books back, even though keeping his books would have made my nearly complete collection more than complete (which was a goal of mine at the time). I'm not exaggerating about how much this is A Thing for me.

So, my ex decided that I couldn't be trusted to return his spare toiletries that he kept at my house for overnight stays or his extraneous DVD burner that he told me I could keep for as long as I wanted because he had no use for it. He sent this house-owner into my room to retrieve his things. Yeah, you know that face you're making right now?  That shocked "he did what?!" face?  That's how everyone looks when I tell this story.  But to this day, he does not see how this action is wrong.  This violation into my personal space was the last straw for me in a series of him attempting to insert himself into my personal space (trying to control my other relationships & my emotions). I told him that I did not want him to contact me in any way without first giving me an apology for sending the house-owner into my room and assuming that I wouldn't return his shit. Nothing about our relationship or our breakup, just an apology for this one act. I felt (and still do) that he couldn't possibly begin to understand what went wrong in our relationship unless he could understand how this act was a violation and why it was a violation, and I wanted an apology that reflected this understanding. Without this understanding, I feel that there is nothing more to talk about because we are at an impasse.

He contacted me twice more over the next several months. One time was to express sympathy at the death of my cat, which I told him was not sufficient, I still expected an apology if he wanted to talk to me. So, for those keeping track, that's twice that I laid out the conditions under which I would consent to hear from him - an apology for sending someone I was trying to escape from into my personal space. The third time he contacted me was just to reach out. He felt that "life was too short" to remain angry with each other and we should start rebuilding our friendship. He did say that if he had known how upset I would get at the intrusion of the guy I was trying to escape into my room, he wouldn't have "taken him up on his offer". Since I happen to know that the two of them were not independent friends and did not have a correspondence with each other prior to our breakup (unless he had kept this hidden from me), this means that one of them had to contact the other *for the purpose* of discussing our breakup and / or my vacating the house, so I call bullshit on that. But, notice that his concession was about how "upset" I was, not any sort of validation for being upset, not an understanding of *why* I was upset, just that he didn't want to deal with my rage.

I said:
"No, it doesn't count. I want an apology that shows that you understand why what you did was wrong and expresses remorse for your behaviour, not a not-pology where you're just sorry I feel hurt without taking any responsibility for having hurt me and where you simultaneously try to defend your actions.

I don't know what's wrong with you that you can't see why I wouldn't feel violated by you sending in the asshole who tortured and killed my cat, for fuck's sake, while I was *in the middle* of trying to escape from him or deeply insulted by the accusation that you couldn't trust me to return your fucking spare hair dryer and extra drive that you weren't using and you said I could use as long as I needed because it was so extraneous to you.

I don't want to hear any more bullshit defense of 'he offered', any more 'I'm sorry you feel bad' not-pologies, or anything else about our relationship or breakup except a sincere apology for the final straw in what was the worst behaviour I have ever personally witnessed during a breakup. Not a single word of 'explanation' or defense. The only possible exception might be if you really don't understand and you sincerely want to understand why you were wrong but then it depends on how you ask for clarification and if I believe you are sincerely trying to make amends and not just trying to get me to spell out my argument so you can better argue your side. I don't want to hear your side and I don't care if you think I'm being unfair.

I've said at least twice now not to contact me without that apology or I'd block your methods of contact and I'm not going to repeat myself again."
So he contacted me a third time, just to get in another defense of how he wasn't really "wrong" and how I'm the villain here:
"I will not consent to a conversation that starts out with restrictions being placed on what I can and can not say. It's wrong of you to make such demands and ridiculous to think that I would accept such terms. Along with your having deleted my last message unread, it's clear that you're less interested in achieving understanding and finding the truth than you are in defending the narrative that you've spun for yourself about the circumstances surrounding our breakup. That's not setting personal boundaries. That's trying to dominate the conversation by threatening to take your ball and go home."
You see that? "I will not consent to a conversation with you". "you're not interested in finding the truth". "That's not setting boundaries, that's threatening to take your ball and go home."

"I will not consent" - that's co-opting the language of the victim. He doesn't *have* to "consent" to any conversation with me because I'M TRYING TO GET HIM TO STOP FUCKING TALKING TO ME. I don't *want* a conversation with him, I want him to go away. I left the door open a crack for future conversations by offering him an avenue to start a dialog with me (which, frankly, was more than he deserved), but I am not *asking* to have any more conversations with him. I am demanding that he leave me the fuck alone, which he ignored 3 goddamn times. He's not so concerned with *my* refusal to consent to talk to him, but tell him he may talk to me under certain conditions and suddenly I'm violating his "consent" because he wants to talk to me without any conditions for what he can talk about. That's entitlement.

He considers himself a rational and a skeptic, as do I. The part about not being interested in "finding the truth" is a jab at that, because it assumes that he has some "truth" that I'm unwilling to acknowledge and I'm just being "emotional", compared to his so much more legitimate "reason" (and you SO don't want to get into the irony of that, considering the whole thing happened because he had an emotional reaction to me beginning a new relationship and I refused to modify my new relationship to suit his emotional state). It's yet another defense of his position, which I said I didn't want to hear. Entitlement - he thinks he has a "right" to be heard. As I told him when I first issued my no-contact boundary, I do not believe that we can even begin to get to the "truth" of our relationship until he understands what was wrong about sending the house-owner into my space. That entitlement into my space and the assumption that I am not capable of making rational decisions or choices that are in my best interest (whether they "hurt" him or not) without his guidance or intrusion is the WHOLE POINT of the conflict in the first place, and an example of his sexist-based abuse that he inflicted on other partners of his who are less resistant to this form of control. This is another point that the blogger Shea Emma Fett said in another piece about how misogyny informs certain types of abusive relationships. He had a pattern, that I had just discovered at that time, of not trusting his partners to make decisions about their lives and he needed to be a part of that decision-making process to ensure that they made decisions that he would approve of.

I know that this is hard for some people to understand, but I, and women in general, am capable of making decisions for myself that are in my best interest including when to not engage with someone anymore. The "truth" of the matter of our breakup is less relevant than the fact that he repeatedly intruded on my boundaries - my physical space of my room, my emotional state, my other relationships - and took personal offense and victim status when I rebelled against his intrusion. There's more to his "truth" claim, but that involves other people and other situations that I don't feel free to share. Suffice to say that I warned him of something that would come to pass if he didn't change his ways, he very condescendingly told me that I had no idea what I was talking about, and then the thing happened. But in this email, a few months later, he still maintains that I don't know what I'm talking about and I'm missing some "truth" about the course of events that I am willfully ignoring (which, of course, he must provide for me).

That bit about taking my ball and going home is just ... it's hard to know where to start with how off-base this is. This email exchange happened 10 months after *he* broke up with *me*. The whole reason why I wasn't speaking to him is because he LITERALLY took his shit and left, and I was pissed at him for doing that (or, rather, *how* he did that). There is nothing left for me to "take" away from him and leave, except myself. And, that's exactly the point - he feels entitled to my attention, my "understanding", and I'm saying that he doesn't get those things, and he stomped his feet and threw a tantrum because I'm taking myself out of his reach.

Also, this phrase is often used as if taking one's toys and leaving are a bad thing. Two little kids are playing ball, one kid owns the ball and the other doesn't, and the kid with the ball gets pissed off at the kid who doesn't own the ball and takes his toy and leaves. We're supposed to feel sorry for the kid who doesn't have a ball to play with now and we're supposed to disapprove of the childish behaviour of the child taking his toy away, but, frankly, more people ought to feel empowered to pack up their shit and go when they're not having a good time anymore. The idea that we owe it to the other little kid to play with OUR toys is a toxic, abuse-apologist idea that needs to die.

This is *different* from the idea that we should be teaching people empathy and compassion and sharing our privileges, which I suppose is what the analogy is supposed to teach. If we see a homeless person on the street, we should be more willing to share our financial bounty, and not take our cash out of his hands if he mumbles something that we don't like. But the only time I see this analogy actually used is when two adults have a conflict and one adult removes themselves and access to things they own from another. As they should.

Yes, I am taking my ball of my time and energy away from you, because I don't want to share my time or energy on you anymore, and I'm "going home" in the sense that I'm telling you to get the fuck out of my house and stop coming around here anymore, just like THE LAST TWO TIMES I SAID SO.

"I will not consent to a conversation with you" - good, strong, boundary setting and the c-word - consent! Ooh, Joreth is violating consent! Obviously she's the bad guy!

"You're not interested in the truth" - see? Emotional! One might say 'hysterical' even! Joreth isn't reasonable or rational! I'm being abused because she won't hear my side of the story!!

"You're taking your ball and going home" - infantilizing, condescending, paternalistic. Now now sweetheart, you're just not seeing the big picture! Let me tell you what reality really is. What do you mean, you don't want to hang on my every word? You're silencing me!!!

Fuck you and your theft of marginalized people, oppressed people, actual REAL victimized people. You are not victimized by resistance to your control.  You are not entitled to anyone else's time, attention, emotions, patience, body, or even their subjective experiences.  When someone tells you to go away, YOU ARE NOT VICTIMIZED by that.  When someone tells you that you hurt them and they will not engage with you without an apology for what you did, YOU ARE NOT VICTIMIZED by that, even if you personally feel hurt by it.  You can feel hurt, you can feel offended, you can feel dismissed, you can feel angry, you can feel misunderstood, you can even disagree about the circumstances, but you are not the victim when someone tells you to apologize or GTFO, particularly after you did something to hurt them.  Stop throwing around terminology like "abuse", "victim", "consent", etc.  It only devalues it for when we need to use it legitimately.

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